Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Nebula 2013 Nominees: short stories


When I look at the Nebula nominees this year I get the feeling that something is different. Has my taste changed and is now in line with the jury’s or has the quality increased? Whatever it is, reading the short stories nominees was a great pleasure this year!

The ratings are A for great, B for good and C for “didn’t like it”.

  • (C) “The Sounds of Old Earth” by Matthew Kressel (Lightspeed 1/13)
    Earth is completely messed up and dying but an old man doesn’t want to give it up. I am glad that I read this story last because otherwise I would have dismissed the Nebula as another wasted year. I am sure that other people will like it as we get some nice descriptions but I didn’t care about what was going on.
  • (B) “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons 1/7/13)
    A mildly interesting story with a somewhat surprising ending that, in my opinion, doesn’t fit.
  • (A) “Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer” by Kenneth Schneyer (Clockwork Phoenix 4audio version)
    This is a very unusual story in which the narrator is the curator of an art exhibition who, according to the author’s notes, misunderstands the meaning of the paintings. Very innovative although it requires some work from the reader to figure out what’s going on.
  • (A) “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky (Apex 3/13)
    A marvelous and very poetic meandering with some great metaphors. It’s one of the stories that you either love or hate so I suggest you go out and read it on your own.
  • (A) “Alive, Alive Oh” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (Lightspeed 6/13)
    A couple decides to live for 10 years on a planet that is some lightyears away. They have to face some unexpected challenges… This is another great story with a very human touch. We often only get to see the male viewpoint (strong, logical) and it was a pleasure to experience the events from a different perspective. I loved it!

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As every year I am looking forward to the nominees of the various SF and Fantasy awards, especially the Nebula and Hugo. It often ends with a lot of disappointment as you can see in my old reviews but I find it exciting to see what the current generation of authors is capable of.

SF Signal has a good overview with links to free fiction.

This time special care has been taken to balance male and female contributions. The novel category is even dominated by women! Maybe I will manage to read one or two of the longer works, they all sound pretty interesting.

A very pleasant surprise is the winner of the latest Tiptree award, which I am currently reading:

There aren’t many reviews available yet so I suggest you go to Amazon and read some pages to see if this book is for you. The prose is just beautiful:

The past is like the dream of a stranger who wakes and tells you of oceans deeper than time, of creatures so monstrous he cannot describe them – creatures with a thousand eyes and forty sets of wings, feet of stone and hair of fire: cities without streets, cities without walls. You can listen to the tale of what he saw, but you cannot walk through the streets of his dream or hold in your hand the blossom of a dying tree that smells like burnt cinnamon, like a sleeping child’s breath.

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Writers earning money

Writing books is a tough business. There are a few who have made it and gazillions who need a real job to survive. I am glad to see that Jeff Vandermeer got an excellent deal for his upcoming trilogy, which should feed his family for at least a year or two. He definitely deserves it! I can’t wait to hold the new books in my hands. I loved every part of his excellent City of Saints and Madmen collection, already the cover is a piece of art with an embedded vignette. The link will lead you to Amazon where the “Look Inside” provides a larger image. If I find the time I will scan my own edition.


Check it out. 🙂

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This year I am in good shape and found enough time to read the nominated short stories for the Nebula Award.

As usual, the rating system is A for great, B for okay and C for “didn’t like it”.

Short Stories

  • (C) “Robot“, Helena Bell (Clarkesworld 9/12)
    This story didn’t impress me. An old woman gets a robot to help her with her life. She uses strong words to show who the boss is but ultimately it might be the robots who run the show on earth. One day.
  • (A) “Immersion“, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
    This was an excellent story covering many interesting topics and featuring great characters. I won’t say more, the story isn’t that long so see for yourself!
  • (A) “Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes“, Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 4/12)
    Another great story that covers the question if virtual reality can be the same as what we experience right now? Do you really want to live in a virtual habitat that someone has made up for you instead of saying goodbye to your life how it was?
  • (C) “Nanny’s Day“, Leah Cypess (Asimov’s 3/12)
    This is about a nanny trying to get custody for the child in her care. Looking at the current laws that strongly protect the parents and especially the mothers, I found the plot to unbelieving to really care. What’s the point, really? There will always be better mothers and fathers but this doesn’t mean there is nothing that you can give to your child. Competition is … stupid. And next time I would prefer a text without underlined words.
  • (C) “Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream“, Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed 7/12)
    I don’t mind unusual fantasy story but it needs something that is able to touch me. This one had nothing. The protagonists are too far away from our world so that I didn’t care for them. I liked the passages about the monster, they are very well written and hint at something bigger. A full story in that style would have been more interesting.
  • (C) “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species“, Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/12)
    This one wasn’t for me. The author shows some fantasy but there was nothing I could relate to. Alien species making books? Who cares…
  • (A-) “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain“, Cat Rambo (Near + Far)
    An unusual story about the people on the planet Porcelain. The beginning was a bit slow but when Cat Rambo started to tell more about how to fall in love and how it means for the natives I couldn’t put it down anymore.

I have stopped wondering how nominated stories are selected and why I can’t get into most of them. Having found 2 remarkable and 1 very enjoyable one easily makes up for the other 4.

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Tired of chess

I guess I played too much chess in the last weeks. With no new OTB tournament in sight and the upcoming spring I am not really in the mood to spend much energy on anything chess related. Playing from time to time is fine but no study. Instead I will read more short stories and books in the next weeks. One plan is to continue with my various projects, e.g.

Now that the weather finally gets better I think I will add a new toy to my collection:

My friends got me hooked on Geocaching and I will give it a try. Going on a treasure hunt will boost the motivation to explore more of the surrounding area and it has the positive side effect that one spends more time outside and less time in front of the computer.

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SF Award season 2013

When you love Science Fiction and short stories, the announcement of the nominees for the two biggest genre awards (the Hugo and the Nebula) means that a lot of good stuff becomes freely available online. My taste isn’t really in line with the community’s and out of 5 stories I usually only enjoy 2 but these are often so great that it’s worthwhile digging through the big pile.

The Nebula nominees have already been announced and a story that completely blew me away was Immersion from Aliette de Bodard. If you only read one story, that’s the one you should pick. Trust me. 🙂

The Hugo nominees will follow in March. As every year I will try to read as many of them as possible, you will find my reviews here.

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Life is hard. When you don’t do any kind of chess training for some time, it’s almost back to start. Mistakes start to creep in again and things that worked smooth last year don’t work out anymore. This is no reason to despair though and together with my chess buddies I have started a new trainings season. Nothing really special but we found a good way to keep us motivated and to do some serious work.

Let’s see if the results get better! I can definitely need it, almost lost against a 1280er last night after too many piece exchanges and trying to hard to win. The endgame was actually even lost for me but I managed to squeeze out a win.

This position is won for Black if he plays 48…Ke5. The point is to slowly push back White’s king and to win the g-pawn under favorable circumstances. Fortunately my opponent fell for the trap and played 48…Kg4. What’s the difference? After 49. b4 Black will promote earlier but White is in time and does it with a check.

A perpetual can’t be avoided and I was almost ready to offer a draw but then I thought that my opponent might be a bit annoyed by missing this variation. I decided to play on to see if he makes another mistake. The point in this position is that if the king can be pushed to the queen side and if Black allows the exchange of queens by a careless king move, White will win. The h-pawn is  doomed and having the g-pawn on g2 gives the required tempo to get the opposition.

And this is exactly what happened (the opposition wasn’t needed, the king was already too far away to stop the pawn). A very lucky win!


It’s Hugo time again! The Hugo is one of the most important awards in the Science Fiction scene. Similar to last year I will try to read all the nominees for short fiction. You can find the reviews and also the past reviews on this special page.

Finally, after a long time in the making, Pinball Arcade is out for many platforms. Virtual pinball never looked better and I am looking forward to many new tables that will be released in the next months.

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