Great to see that Ian Sales’s BSFA Award winning Adrift on the Sea of Rains has made it to another awards short list, this time the Sidewise Awards; which are for Altered History (or Alternate History as they affect to call it.)
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Whippleshield Books, 2013, 80p.
This is the second in the Apollo Quartet, the first of which, Adrift on the Sea of Rains, has just won the BSFA Award.
Once again we have an Altered History. Here, Alexei Leonov was the first man on the Moon but the Russians quickly gave up going there to concentrate on Space Stations. Our hero, Brigadier General Bradley Elliott, USAF, though, was the first â and only – man on Mars, in 1979. What he found there drives the plot as he is recalled to NASA twenty years later to undertake a faster than light trip to Gliese 376 to investigate what has happened to the colony there.
As in Adrift, there are two strands interleaved with each other (which is not unusual) and tricks with typography but again the Glossary which follows rounds out the tale – even if one part of it appears to contradict a piece of dialogue in the text. That latter could have been a deliberate misdirection, though and a Coda explaining the central conception and the FTL drive is a less successful addition to the formula.
With his utilisation of the glossary Sales seems to have found a new way to tell the space exploration story. It is of course a species of info dumping but he has arguably turned the necessity into a strength.
He is very good on the nuts and bolts of space travel, especially if you can thole the alphabet soup of NASA terminology. A list of abbreviations is given to help with this. Elliott is a complex enough figure though the other characters are less fleshed out; but in an 80 page book only 47 of which are actual story it could hardly be otherwise.
Posted in Science Fiction at 12:00 pm on 2 April 2013
The Hugo is effectively the world’s Science Fiction award but it’s usually a North American fiefdom. The awards are presented at the World Science Fiction Convention, which, this year, is Lone Star Con 3 on whose website all the nominations can be found.
Unlike the BSFA Awards the Hugo splits non-novel SF into three categories as below.
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit)
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (Tor)
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (DAW)
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
“The Stars Do Not Lie” by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)
“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
“Fade To White” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
“In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
“Rat-Catcher” by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)
Best Short Story
“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
“Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“Mono no Aware” by Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)
Remarkably I have read two of the novels, but that is thanks to Interzone and its reviews editor, Jim Steel.
It is notable that only one novel (2312) and one short story (Immersion) appear both on the BSFA short list and the Hugo.
Jack Glass by Adam Roberts won for best novel. (I have not yet read this.)
Best short story was Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales.
I’m delighted for Ian.
Best Artwork was Blacksheep for the cover of Jack Glass
Best Non-Fiction winner was The World SF Blog, Chief Editor Lavie Tidhar.
Congratulations to all the winners.
Edited to add:- I have now added the World SF Blog to my sidebar.
Cosmos Books, 2008, 304 p.
A drug called slip allows people, shifters, to move between parallel universes – which are arranged in a tree shape. Charles Bowen is an immigration officer in a universe (not ours) where his main job is to deal with shifters in an effort to eradicate the problem they represent. Here the poor and unemployed are kept in sink estates known as Social Inclusion Zones from which it is difficult to break free. Unusually, and all the more welcome for it, the main setting for the novel is the Bristol area. Bowen likes to think of himself as a guardian of the borders – between universes in his case – the âMarcherâ of the title. He is himself attracted to shifting without at first quite knowing why.
Shifters are treated as criminals because they can do what they like and then evade capture by shifting. To be fair some of them follow the cult of Dunner, based on Norse mythology, and are dedicated to mayhem. These misfits commit a massacre in Clifton which allows the government to crack down hard on Social Inclusion Zones and any shifters – cultees or not – who are captured.
In the chapters written (in first person) from Bowenâs viewpoint his relationship with a social worker called Jazamine and his part in her shifting are treated as haunting him but the relationship itself is only portrayed at its beginning, its end (her shift) and otherwise in snapshots. Other sections are written in third person but as narrated by Bowen.
The proofâreading is at times inadequate. At various points a word required to make complete sense of the sentence is missing, âHe was (a) decent man,â âHe looked as if heâd (be) more comfortable,â âBut (it) was hard to turn away,â and there are places where the author has clearly changed one part of a phrase or sentence but not another where sense requires it, âIâve never understand this bit,â âCarl that he had always known that acts of courage would lead to something new,â âhe had been moved him to another high security unit.â
Beckettâs previous book The Holy Machine was a treat despite suffering from the same issue with words missing. Marcher is less focused and also has too much telling rather than showing plus some not too well integrated info-dumping. His latest novel, Dark Eden, has been nominated for this yearâs BSFA Award.
Yesterday the booklet containing the short listed stories and artwork for the BSFA Awards for works from 2012 landed on my doormat.
It’s a handsome enough thing, seeming thicker than in previous years.
I’ve already read Ian Sales’s Adrift on the Sea of Rains (my thoughts on that are here) and three others of the stories on the internet which I was going to post about soon.
I’ll now be able to complete the set before voting.
The BSFA Award shortlist for stories published in 2012 has been announced.
For best novel we have:-
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (Corvus)
Empty Space: a Haunting by M. John Harrison (Gollancz)
Intrusion by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
Jack Glass by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit.)
Unusually I have read three out of the five already, two of those courtesy of Interzone and its kind reviews editor. Thank you, Jim.
My views on 2312 I posted on this blog only two days ago. Those on Empty Space will be forthcoming.
Intrusion I reviewed here.
As for the short stories I have read only one of them so far, the last on this list; and very good it was too.
Three others, though, are available to read on the net. Doubtless the BSFA will be producing its usual booklet.
Immersion by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld no. 69)
The Flight of the Ravens by Chris Butler (Immersion Press)
Song of the body Cartographer by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Phillipines Genre Stories)
Limited Edition by Tim Maughan (1.3, Arc Magazine)
Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville (Rejectamentalist Manifesto)
Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales (Whippleshield Books)
Newcon Press, 2009, 95p
The Push is the freebie book included in my BSFA August mailing in lieu of the usual magazine.
I realized when I was reading this that it was a story that had been nominated for the BSFA award in 2010 and appeared in the BSFA booklet. My thoughts on it at that time are here.
I may have been a trifle harsh on that occasion. Re-reading it I found the characterization again fine, the humour agreeable and not overdone and the plot satisfying. Perhaps it being in book rather than booklet form had a subliminal effect, lending it more gravitas; maybe I was just in a better mood. As its appearance in book form suggests The Push is not really a short story, more a novella. Itâs a fine example of Science Fiction, worthy of its nomination.
Tor, 2004, 333p.
Chiang has won a slew of awards in the SF field but his output is small and restricted to stories short of novel length. His short story Exhalation won the BSFA Award in 2010. This is his only collection so far published.
Tower of Babylon is set in ancient Babylon where a group of miners is called in to ascend the eponymous tower and mine into the vault surrounding the world. The tower is so high it takes them four months to reach the top before they can begin the task. The cosmology of this Earth seems at first to be Ptolemaic – they pass the moon and the sun on the way up (not to mention stars) but in the end is even weirder.
In Understand a brain-damaged man has been given a drug called Hormone K to take him out of a coma. Tests reveal his memory and brain-processing power to be enhanced. This is reminiscent of âFlowers For Algernonâ but Chiang takes the story arc in a different direction.
Division by Zero has a mathematician discover a proof that threatens to undermine the reality of maths. The story is structured in numbered sections 1, 1a, 1b, 2, 2a, 2b, etc in which the first in each subsection is always a description of a theorem from the history of maths.
Story of Your Life. A linguist is employed to understand the language(s) of heptapodal aliens newly arrived to Earth. Their written and spoken languages differ radically as their worldview turns out to be non-sequential. The turning point in her discovery comes through the use of diagrams (reproduced in the text) showing the refraction of light. The storyâs narration – as if to the linguistâs daughter – reflects non-sequentiality, employing usages such as âyou will sayâ and âyour father is about to.â This story is an example of the type of speculative narrative which can only be achieved through the medium of Science Fiction.
Seventy Two Letters is a kind of steampunk story (but not quite) set in a Victorian type society where sexual reproduction is different from in our world (both sperm and eggs contain homunculi which have to merge before a fÅtus can form) and automata can be activated by sliding names into slots. It turns out that naming – or at least its encoding – is very important in this universe. The story draws on a wide variety of fields for its inspiration and is admirably worked out. But the characters are wooden.
The Evolution of Human Science. In a world featuring metahumans utilising digital neurotransfer the story is couched as a scientific report commenting on the differences and similarities between ordinary and meta-humans. Diverting but no more.
Hell is the Absence of God. Angels manifest themselves on Earth, each visitation accompanied by devastation of some sort. Hell is visible through brief transparent openings and there is visible evidence of souls ascending to Heaven when people die. Neil Fiskâs wife dies as a result of a visitation. He spends the rest of the story trying to love God.
Liking What You See: A Documentary. The narrative is couched as transcripts of interviews and video clips from a documentary about the use of calliagnosia, a procedure whereby its recipients no longer react to the beauty (or ugliness) of peopleâs appearance.
Chiangâs stories are always well delineated, thoughtful, thought provoking and frequently impressive. Intellectual even. They do however have a tendency to be told rather than unfolded. There is a dryness to the delivery, a distancing. Readers looking for engagement may be disappointed.
Science Fiction is dead – again.
Actually I have some sympathy with parts of his argument – which does chime with what I said about this year’s BSFA Award short story nominees.
I also agree that when the SF tips over into Fantasy or wish fulfillment, the “six impossible things before breakfast” scenario, we might as well give up.
He may also have a point about a lot of modern short story – or novel length come to that – SF being retreads of well-worn themes. (But the writer in me says that if I nevertheless have something to say, a newish angle on a trope if you will, doesn’t that story deserve to be told? We can’t all be dazzlingly inventive all the time. And while of course SF ought to harbour, even showcase, the experimental the virtue of a story starting at the beginning and going right through to the end is often a relief as a reader.)
Where we really differ, though, is in Kincaid’s seeming request for optimism. I don’t know about Paul but I can’t see much to be optimistic about right now; nor for the foreseeable future.
I obviously can’t say often enough SF is never about the future. It’s about now. And the here and now is profoundly depressing.
I suppose a little hope would not go amiss but where is it to come from? The Arctic ice is melting at a rate of knots, extreme weather events are multiplying and we haven’t been back to the Moon for 40 years.
We might not deserve it perhaps but we may be getting the only SF that is presently possible.