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Posts Tagged ‘Hugo and Nebula’

Nebula 2013 Nominees: short stories

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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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And the winners of the Hugo 2011 are…

What a disappointment this year, you can find the winners here. It’s not a big surprise that Connie Willis won the award for best novel but people are seriously talking about the worst books ever that got it and Willis easily makes it into the top 5.

The other sections aren’t much better. I didn’t like The Lifecycle of Software Objects, found the name dropping in The Emperor of the Mars annoying and stopped reading For want of a nail after a couple of awful pages.

Looking back at the last years, there were usually 2 out of 5 nominees that I enjoyed, and often they didn’t win. Some time ago I have started to read the best short stories of the genre and used best-of lists and awards as a guideline. Instead of focussing on the winners I should change my strategy and include the nominees as well. A great resource are the posts from Jo Walton on tor.com and the comments from the readers.

If you are interested, take a look at  my take on the SF stories until 1999. The page is still work-in-progress but feel free to leave your comments.

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Hugo 2011 nominees

For all SF fans: it’s Hugo time again and a nice list with links can be found at SF Signal. Last year I didn’t manage to read a lot of the stories, but this year I am in a good mood and will try again. All novelettes and short stories are available online and from the novellas only 2 are missing.

I have already read the novella The Lifecycle of Software Objects but wasn’t much impressed. It’s well written with some good ideas but the plot was too thin. I missed the mind blowing stuff that Ted Chiang is able to deliver, what a pity.

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Hugo Time again – 2010

It’s Hugo time again! Last year I managed to read all nominated stories and I will try to do it again. Even the novel section looks very interesting, I already own (but haven’t read yet) The City & The City and The Windup Girl – and Palimpsest has been on my reading list since I first read about it. These are exciting news.

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Just finished “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman and I am slightly disappointed. It’s not a bad book but it isn’t outstanding neither. Young adults are definitely going to enjoy it but what about adults? Coraline and Neverwhere from the same author put more pressure on the characters. Without using all their wits there was no way to escape the rather cruel reality they were suddenly facing. In Graveyard Book it’s different. The characters are still great but the sense of real danger is not there.

If this book wins the Hugo then only to acknowledge what Neil Gaiman has done for the genre.

NB, John C. Wright wrote in his blog about his reading experience with Anathem:

The middle contained some of the best science fiction writing I have read in years. On the strength of that alone, I would recommend this book to any fan of SF. In case you missed it, let me repeat: The Best SF I’ve Read in years. Just the description of the Orion-drive space vessel is worth the price of the book.

This sounds interesting and I am tempted to start reading the book, however, Wright also mentions an incredible slowness at the beginning and a confusing and unresolved end. I guess this book will have to wait a little bit longer.

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Hugo 2009 – Final ranking

Here is my final ranking for the Hugo. It was an interesting experience to read all the finalists and I am sure that I will do it again next year. I have put together the reviews from the different blogs on one page.

In each category there were two entries that I really enjoyed and which I would recommend to other readers. Almost all other finalists failed to impress (with the exception of the stort story ballot, where I would recommend at least one more story). This is a poor ratio for an award ballot or an indication that my taste doesn’t align well with the taste of the normal SF and Fantasy reader. There are some interesting writers whose work I will follow closely in the future (Ted Chiang, Robert Reed, Paolo Bacigalupi) and a newcomer to pay attention to (Mary Robinette Kowal).

The Novellas

The nominees below made me think about when I should stop reading a story. How crazy does that sound to you?! 3 of the 5 finalists I couldn’t finish though many readers seem to like them. The Political Prisoner is my favourite and a very engaging story. Truth is almost great and I enjoyed reading it. The other 3 were not my taste.

  1. (A) The Political Prisoner
  2. (A) Truth
  3. (C) The Erdmann Nexus
  4. (C) The Tear
  5. (C) True Names

The Novelettes

A similar picture as above. One great story and a very good one, the other three covered topics I wasn’t interested in. Well written, yes, but they simply don’t shine.

  1. (A) The Gambler
  2. (A) The Ray-Gun: A Love Story
  3. (B) Pride and Prometheus
  4. (B) Shoggoths in Bloom
  5. (B) Alastair Baffle’s Emorium of Wonders

The Short Stories

This time there are only 2 disappointments. Evil Robot Monkey is my favourite, a short but stunning story. Exhalation fails to engage but is well written Hard SF. From Babel… has many interesting ideas but the narrative can’t glue them together efficiently. 26 Monkeys is okay but nothing more and Article of Faith made me angry.

  1. (A) Evil Robot Monkey
  2. (A) Exhalation
  3. (B) From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled
  4. (B) 26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss
  5. (C) Article of Faith

See you next year!

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