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Jack Vance

I see from Locus and The Guardian that one of SF’s luminaries, Jack Vance, has died.

I can’t say I’ve read a lot of his work – I picked up his Araminta Station on the raffle at the BSFA stall at an Eastercon once and I have the “tribute albumSongs of the Dying Earth on my tbr pile so have that to look forward to.

He was prolific, though.

Jack Vance (John Holbrook Vance.) 28/7/1916 -€“ 26/5/2013. So it goes.

Best of 2012

Vector, Spring 2013

Last week the latest edition of Vector, the review journal of the BSFA, dropped through the letter box.

The spring issue is traditionally the one where its reviewers say which books most impressed them in the previous year.

I was a bit surprised, then, to find Ian Sales including my novel A Son of the Rock in his list. It was after all published in 1997.

He says it’s, “the sort of character-led, considered and very British SF which rarely seems to be published these days.”

That’s going straight onto the “Praise for A Son of the Rock” part of the Buy My Book page in my sidebar.

I know Ian only read the book recently – he reviewed it here, in a post published in January this year, but his review wasn’t overly extravagant.

I am therefore now extremely chuffed.

BSFA Awards Time Again

BSFA Awards Booklet 20122013

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.

BSFA Awards 2012

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 Miéville (Rejectamentalist Manifesto)

Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales (Whippleshield Books)

The Push by Dave Hutchinson

Newcon Press, 2009, 95p

The Push

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. It’s a fine example of Science Fiction, worthy of its nomination.

Clarke Award Stushie*

It seems Christopher Priest, whose BSFA Award listed novel The Islanders I am reading as we speak (or read, or converse, or whatever-the-hell-it-is-we-do-on-the-internet,) has attacked this year’s Clarke Award shortlist.

Go on. Read it. It’s an entertaining rant however unfortunately open to the charge of sour grapes at not himself being on the Clarke list it may be. (Priest tries to cover this angle by saying he would withdraw his novel from any consideration if the Clarke list were to be rethought as he proposes.)

I would insert the turbulent Priest joke here but someone used it decades ago in one of the BSFA’s journals and I actually think Priest has a point. Perhaps several.

My impression of the BSFA shortlist novels I have read is that last year wasn’t a particularly good one for SF novels – though my sample is admittedly small. And I agree that to have China Miéville win the Clarke Award for a fourth time would suggest that no-one else need bother writing SF (nor fantasy) as we could all then give up and go home.

I disagree, though, with his interim assessment of Adam Roberts’s By Light Alone. See my review here.

Charles Stross (whom Priest castigates in his piece) has linked to a comment thread engendered by Priest’s rant and has also seized upon the criticism as a marketing opportunity (see link to Stross’s post.)

Among other things Priest complains Stross writes “och-aye” dialogue. “Och-aye” dialogue. What’s wrong with that? People do not necessarily speak RP, or estuary, or USian, now or in the future. Get over it.

By the way, I used to receive a yearly invitation to the Clarke Award do but I could never go – it’s in London and I always had work that day and the next. Those invitations dried up some while ago now, though.

*Stushie is a Scottish word for contretemps.
stushie [ˈstʊʃɪ], stishie, stashie
n Scot
1. a commotion, rumpus, or row
2. a state of excitement or anxiety; a tizzy. Also spelled stooshie, stoushie.

BSFA Awards Short Stories

Over the past few weeks I have read the short stories nominated for this year’s BSFA Awards. I am assuming that, as in the past couple of years, the BSFA will be producing a booklet containing them but since each has been posted on the internet (there is a link from the BSFA’s Awards page to the online versions which is how I managed to read them – though I found off a screen is not the most comfortable of ways to do so) perhaps that might not happen.

The Silver Wind by Nina Allan, from Interzone issue 233, is a kind of time-travel story mixed with parallel worlds. It tells of the encounter of a man from a fascistic future Britain with a genius who makes clocks (which he refers to as time machines.) To begin with there is too much info dumping and throughout a lot is told rather than shown. Perhaps the story needed more space to breathe but I felt the sureness of touch of an accomplished story teller was missing. There is a use of words that is not quite precise – eg “hoping one soldier would not see me” rather than “hoping none of the soldiers would see me” – and twice we are treated to the peculiar phrase, “It was growing dusk,” but at least Allan knows the use of “nor” as in, “not for love nor money nor any of these new-fangled gadgets.”

The Copenhagen Interpretation by Paul Cornell, from Asimov’s, July2011, is set in an altered future where European monarchies strive to keep the balance of power throughout the Solar System, souls have weight that is aligned to dark matter and Newton came up with a kind of relativity theory which allows space to be folded – all amenable to a tale of espionage and derring-do admixed with betrayals of various sorts. This stretches suspension of disbelief at times but overflows with ideas and is excellently written.

Afterbirth by Kameron Hurley, from Kameron Hurley’s website, is about a woman in a backward-leaning religious society which is engaged in a never-ending war, whose rulers have deliberately cut it off from the stars – originally as an escape from whatever’s out there but now to prosecute the war better. In her forbidden astronomical observations she finds God in a torn filter laid across the night sky. Again there is a fair bit of info dumping – perhaps inevitable in stories of short length.

Covehithe by China Miéville, from The Guardian, 20/4/11, features sunken oil-rigs returning to land to drill into the earth and lay – eggs? seeds? – from which smaller rigs later emerge. Atmospheric, but again info-dumpy. The human involvement in Covehithe – a father and his daughter observing one such landing – doesn’t really overlap with the SF background. Another scenario where society has suffered extreme breakdown and the military has a strong presence.

Of Dawn by Al Robertson, from Interzone 235, has a woman whose soldier brother has been killed being inspired by his poetry, the music of a long neglected composer, an all but forgotten TV documentary and a figure from Greek myth to produce a synthesis of poetry and music by bringing all those strands together. The final part of the jigsaw is provided by a shadowy figure in a village commandeered by the army long ago, but which had inspired both poet and musician. The story contains echoes of the Green Man myth and illustrates that English fascination with the pastoral. The info dumping here is well embedded.

The futures shown by the five stories are all bleak, having in common repressive regimes of either military or religious stamp. SF is never about the future, though. These stories tell us a lot about where we are now.

As stories though, rounded works of fiction, I found most of them unsatisfying. The only truly successful one was Paul Cornell’s. If these represent the best of last year the SF short story is in a bad way.

BSFA Awards Shortlist

It’s that time of year again. The BSFA Award nominations are out.

The full lists can be found here.

The fiction nominees are:-

Best Novel:-

Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith (Newcon Press)

Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan)

The Islanders by Christopher Priest (Gollancz)

By Light Alone by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)

Osama by Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)

Of which I have (so far) read one.

Best Short Fiction:-

The Silver Wind by Nina Allan (Interzone 233, TTA Press)

The Copenhagen Interpretation by Paul Cornell (Asimov’s, July)

Afterbirth by Kameron Hurley (Kameron Hurley’s own website)

Covehithe by China Miéville (The Guardian)

Of Dawn by Al Robertson (Interzone 235, TTA Press)

I have read none of these as yet but only The Copenhagen Interpretation is not available online via the BSFA page linked to above. Presumably the booklet of nominated stories that the BSFA has produced for the past two years will be repeated this time around, too.

Pickerel Meeting

On one of our two nights in Cambridge I had agreed to meet up with Eric Brown who lives nearby.

He arranged for other SF writers from the area to join us. They were Chris Beckett, Una McCormack, Philip Vine, BSFA chairman Ian Whates and Rebecca Payne, most of whom I had not met before. The six of them have semi-regular meetings in the Pickerel Inn in Cambridge.

The good lady and I had a meal in the Pickerel before everyone else arrived. Our plates groaned. So many peas were heaped on them we must have been served about half a kilogram between us.

I had meant to take some pictures of the gathering but such a good time was had by all that I forgot.

(No. I wasn’t drunk. I had to drive back to the hotel.)

BSFA Awards Winners

Over at Science Fiction Awards Watch the results of this year’s BSFA Awards have been posted.

The novel award went to Ian McDonald for The Dervish House and the short story to Aliette de Bodard for The Shipmaker.

Congratulations to all the winners.

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