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Hugo Award Nominations

As on the Locus website where the full list of nominees can be found. There’s a lot of “the usual suspects” here:-

Best Novel

The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Six Wakes, Mur Lafferty (Orbit US)
Provenance, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Raven Stratagem, Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
New York 2140, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi (Tor US; Tor UK)

Best Novella

River of Teeth, Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
Binti: Home, Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
“And Then There Were (N-One)”, Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny 3-4/17)
All Systems Red, Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
The Black Tides of Heaven, JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette

“Children of Thorns, Children of Water”, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny 7-8/17)
“Extracurricular Activities”, Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com 2/15/17)
“The Secret Life of Bots”, Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld 9/17)
“Wind Will Rove”, Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s 9-10/17)
“A Series of Steaks”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld 1/17)
“Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time”, K.M. Szpara (Uncanny 5-6/17)

Best Short Story

“The Martian Obelisk”, Linda Nagata (Tor.com 7/19/17)
“Fandom for Robots”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny 9-10/17)
“Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™”, Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex 8/17)
“Sun, Moon, Dust”, Ursula Vernon (Uncanny 5-6/17)
“Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand”, Fran Wilde (Uncanny 9-10/17)
“Carnival Nine”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 5/17)

I’ve read two of the novels and will read the Jemisin at some point. Not so much the shorter fiction.

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Orbit, 2017, 443 p

 Provenance cover

This novel is set in the same universe as Leckie’s highly successful “Ancillary” books but this one is in a far-off corner well away from the Imperial Radch fiefdoms though a Radch ambassador makes an appearance at one point.

In an attempt to impress her foster mother Netano, and so improve her own chances of succession rather than have that bestowed on her foster brother Danach, Ingray Aughskold has travelled at great expense to the planet of Tyr Siilas to try to extract Pahlad Budrakim from a state of imprisonment known as Compassionate Removal. Budrakim is the son of the Prolocutor, an elected official on Ingray’s home of Hwae. Netano is a former Prolocutor who will be seeking re-election soon.

Pahlad is delivered to her in a suspension pod but Tic Uisine, the captain of the ship Ingray has paid to travel home in, is unwilling to carry any passenger without that person’s express approval. When the pod is opened its occupant denies being Pahlad but after some toing and froing agrees to go on the ship.

On arrival at Hwae they become embroiled in a diplomatic contretemps with the ambassador of the Geck – a race in contact with the mysterious Presger who are an incipient menace to humans. Though he has all the necessary papers the Geck believe that Tic Uisine has stolen his ship from them (more than one in fact) and want him for restitution.

Meanwhile the Omkem, from the next interstellar gate to Hwae, are manoeuvring to gain access to Byeit, the system one on from Hwae with whom Omkem used to have gate access before a revolution on Byeit broke the link.

Hwae society has an exaggerated respect for vestiges, each household seems to have its own repository of such things, called a lareum. Hwae’s most venerated object is a copy of its original independence document kept in the system Lareum. (I liked the use of this word, with its echoes of a Latin term for Roman household gods, for a vestige repository.) However it turns out that “copy” may be the precise word. Provenance you see. Though does that actually matter if everyone agrees that what the document represents is all that counts?

A bunch of Omkem soldiers invades the Hwae Lareum, taking schoolchildren hostages in the process, and Ingray offers herself instead. There is also some byplay about the disturbance of a possible vestige site and the death of an Omkem ambassador.

Leckie throws personal pronouns about with abandon. Unlike in the Ancillary books she does not use she exclusively. Ingray is a she, Danach a he, but others are designated e. This indeterminate pronoun necessitates the use of em and eir as possessives, plus emself and eirself. From a British perspective a phrase such as, “she told em,” reads a little awkwardly at first as plural.

Leckie also makes much of Ingray’s full skirts and her uselessness with hairpins. The text is also riddled with information dumping – a lot of which is unnecessary, Leckie telling us about her universe because she can’t resist doing so. There is far too much of Ingray’s inner monologue and a degree of prurience about sexual relationships straying very close to, if not over the border of, Becky Chambers territory. Yes, the narrative has a chatty style but at times it seemed as if Leckie might be being rewarded for a high word count as whatever strengths she may have, economy isn’t one of them. See Pedant’s corner for an example.

Provenance is on the BSFA Award short list this year for best novel. I’ve not read any of the others yet but I think it’s safe to say it won’t be my number one.

Pedant’s corner:- Sat (sitting.) “‘They are disquieting, aren’t they.’” (is missing a question mark,) “since she’d waked” (woken.) “One small child turned their head to look at Ingray. Sniffled. Opened their mouth.” (what’s wrong with “one small child turned its head? Opened its mouth?) “‘Does she.’” (Again, missing the question mark,) “and besides, both Dicat and Chenns very probably knew what they were doing. She would only be in the way, and, besides, she’d caused this, it was her fault that Nicale was hurt” (like so much else in the book this needs a damned good editing; get rid of at least one of the “besides”, and either the “she’d caused this” or the “it was her fault” as they both tell us the same thing.)

BSFA Awards for 2017

The shortlists for the BSFA Awards for last year went live while I was traipsing about down south.

They are:-

Best Novel

Nina Allan – The Rift (Titan Books)

Anne Charnock – Dreams Before the Start of Time (47North)

Mohsin Hamid – Exit West (Hamish Hamilton)

Ann Leckie – Provenance (Orbit)

I have read the Leckie (and will post a review on Saturday.) Two others are in hand.

Best Shorter Fiction

Anne Charnock – The Enclave (NewCon Press)

Elaine Cuyegkeng – These Constellations Will Be Yours (Strange Horizons)

Greg Egan – Uncanny Valley (Tor.com)

Geoff Nelder – Angular Size (in ‘SFerics 2017’ edited by Roz Clarke and Rosie Oliver, Createspace Independent Publishing Platform)

Tade Thompson – The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Tor.com)

I’ve read none of these so far.

Best Non-Fiction

Paul Kincaid – Iain M. Banks (University of Illinois Press)

Juliet E McKenna – The Myth of Meritocracy and the Reality of the Leaky Pipe and Other Obstacles in Science Fiction & Fantasy (in ‘Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction’ edited by Francesca T Barbini, Luna Press)

Adam Roberts – Wells at the World’s End 2017 blog posts (Wells at the World’s End blog)

Shadow Clarke Award jurors – The 2017 Shadow Clarke Award blog (The Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy). The 2017 Shadow Clarke jurors are: Nina Allan, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Victoria Hoyle, Vajra Chandrasekera, Nick Hubble, Paul Kincaid, Jonathan McCalmont, Megan AM.

Vandana Singh – The Unthinkability of Climate Change: Thoughts on Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement (Strange Horizons)

Best Artwork

Geneva Benton – Sundown Towns (cover for Fiyah Magazine #3)

Jim Burns – Cover for ‘The Ion Raider’ by Ian Whates (NewCon Press)

Galen Dara – Illustration for ‘These Constellations Will Be Yours’ by Elaine Cuyegkeng (Strange Horizons)

Chris Moore – Cover for ‘The Memoirist’ by Neil Williamson (NewCon Press)

Victo Ngai – Illustration for ‘Waiting on a Bright Moon’ by JY Yang (Tor.com)

Marcin Wolski – Cover for ‘2084’ edited by George Sandison (Unsung Stories)

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Orbit, 2015, 340 p. Borrowed from a threatened library.

 Ancillary Mercy cover

Fleet Captain Breq Mianaai, once an ancillary of the AI spaceship Justice of Torren, the only surviving fragment thereof, starts this third in Leckie’s Imperial Radch sequence effectively in charge of Athoek Station, trying to do the opposite of what her enemy, Anaander Mianaai, Lord of the Radch, would in similar circumstances. Things are complicated here by the arrival of Translator Zeiat from the alien Presger, whose incomprehensions and misunderstandings of human customs provide moments of humour – as does the ancillary Sphene, a remnant of a ship survived from a long ago war with the Radch. What in Ancillary Sword had seemed the apparent sideshow of Athoek Station becomes here the setting for the unfolding of Breq’s wishes as ships under the command of that half of the Lord of the Radch which hates Breq come through the gate from an adjacent system.

As in the previous two Radch books the narrative viewpoint is firmly fixed with Breq. This makes the transition to (recorded) viewpoints of Lieutenants Seivarden and Tisarwat when Breq is injured and cannot go on the final mission herself a piece of authorial legerdemain that seems a little clumsy: but it also highlights how much Leckie’s mode of story-telling, taking in the experiences of all those connected to ship as seen by Breq, had been assimilated (easily) by the reader.

This gives Leckie the opportunity to examine what effects such dissemination of consciousness might have on those who experience it and on what it means to be human, or, indeed, a Significant Being, more generally. Within the book Leckie also addresses the impossibility of endings. Whether this presages further Radch instalments, only time will tell. Breq doubtless has her ardent admirers who would be delighted with more of this universe. The wider conflict to which Breq’s story is a minor component remains unresolved at the end; yet her (its?) actions have the potential to change relations with the Presger.

I must say the emphasis on tea-drinking gets stranger and stranger the more these books progress. Were it not for this (or perhaps because of it? – within the book it is an Imperial/Radch custom – ) I might have idly wondered whether the trilogy may have been a thinly disguised rewriting of the American War of Independence – though the word Radch may hint at a different historical inspiration.

No matter. Leckie can write, has psychological insights and focuses more on personal relations and feelings than the average Space Opera author. It will be interesting to see what she does next.

Pedant’s corner:- As in Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, Leckie uses the feminine form of personal pronoun throughout but the utility of this choice seems to be undermined by the one instance where she employs “him”. Like with the two previous books, appended at the rear are 25 pages from a novel by another author entirely.
At the beginning of Ancillary Mercy – no doubt for the benefit of those who haven’t read Justice and Sword – several things were mentioned twice – I submit unnecessarily.
Then we had “Translator Zeiat scoffed ‘She would,’” (it doesn’t seem like a scoff to me,) off of (USian but still awful,) complacence (complacency.)

2015 Hugo Awards

Old news now I suppose. The results are here.

The Hugo Awards are, or at least have been, arguably the most prestigious in Science Fiction.

This year is notable for “No Award” coming first in five of the categories: thus equalling the total of “No Award” for all previous winners in the entire history of the Hugos. This would therefore be an odd phenomenon.

The explanation, for those who are unaware of the stushie, is that two groups of fans calling themselves Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies tried to game the system by creating lists of recommendations in the various categories and asking those of like mind to nominate these and vote for them in the final ballot. All of which is perfectly within the rules.

The beef of the puppies appears to be (I summarise) that they think the Hugos have in recent years been taken over by political correctness with people of colour, other minorities and women being (in their view) disproportionately represented on award lists. One faction of the puppies ascribes this as due to the actions of what they call “Social Justice Warriors.”

Another viewpoint is that since they failed to win in previous years the Puppies are just bad losers.

An overview of the controversy is here.

The Puppies claim that the stories which have been winning have been unreadable. This is certainly not true of last year’s novel winner Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I have this year’s novel winner The Three-Body Problem by Chinese writer Cixin Liu sitting on my bed-side cabinet awaiting reading for review in Interzone. I understand that had another nominee, put on the Puppies’ list without the author’s agreement, not withdrawn from the contest The Three-Body Problem would not have made it to the final ballot. This looks ironic given the Puppies’ view of minorities. (In Hugo terms a Chinese author is definitely a member of a minority.)

To counter the Puppy strategy some people had advocated voting “No Award” in every category in this year’s ballot. Quickly scanning the results it seems to me that the voters have taken their responsibilities seriously. The nuclear option of blanket “No Award” has been eschewed. Instead “No Award” seems to have been used in the sense for which it was intended; that if the voters considered no nominee merited the award they placed “No Award” first, otherwise they placed it after nominations considered worthy.

It may be, though, that the Hugo Awards are now damaged beyond repair.

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

Orbit, 2014, 360 p.

 Ancillary Sword cover

Anaander Mianaai, Lord of the Radch, is still at war with herself through the intermediacy of the countless bodies her persona inhabits. As in Leckie’s previous novel, Ancillary Justice, our narrator is Breq, the sole surviving part of the ship AI Justice of Torren, one of its auxiliaries, now promoted by one faction of the Lord of the Radch to Fleet Captain in charge of the ship Mercy of Kalr and despatched to the Athoek system to protect it from incursion by the Lord’s other faction and a possible threat from the Presger, aliens bound by treaty to the Radch and therefore to all humans. Due to the civil war all gates between systems have been closed – only military ships can jump between worlds. At Athoek, Breq finds various local rivalries, evidence of illicit trade through a “Ghost Gate” of bodies in suspended animation – the type of bodies used for auxiliaries – and indentured labourers who are all but slaves. Had I not read Ancillary Justice this might have been well enough but, given the background of war between the Radch, it all seems to be a bit of a sideshow. Then again, there are human stories to be found in the byways of any conflict and it is possible Breq is being placed to take part in a wider resolution. It does, though, give Leckie the opportunity to explore more of the Radch and its culture(s).

Leckie’s use of the female pronoun to describe all her characters is not problematical here except in one instance where a character’s sibling is referred to as a brother on entering the story. If the pronoun is gender neutral would not the word sister always be used? That males exist within Leckie’s universe is shown in a scene of attempted comedy when Breq arrives at Athoek Station to find its walls bedecked with paper penises, in a festival deriving from a misunderstanding during the Radch takeover of Athoek.

Ancillary Sword won the BSFA Award for best novel published last year. (I’ve now read all but one of the nominees.) It’s good, but I wouldn’t have voted it first.

Pedant’s corner:- Written in USian so among others we get the horrible “off of”. None were (none = “not one” and so requires “was” as its verb,) metric tons (tonnes then,) waked (wakened,) pry the gun (prise?) There are, too, 15 added pages containing an extract of a book written by another author altogether. This is utterly pointless.

BSFA Awards for 2014 Announced

The winners were announced yesterday at Eastercon and are:-

Best Novel: Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit)

Best Short Fiction: The Honey Trap by Ruth E. J. Booth, La Femme (Newcon Press)

Best Non-Fiction: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers and the First World War by Edward James

Best Art: “The Wasp Factory” after Iain Banks by Tessa Farmer

Congratulations to all. Commiserations to all the runners-up.

Top Ten Space Operas

Another list.

According to Wikipedia “Space Opera is a subgenre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, weapons, and other technology.”

Partly as a comment on the sub-genre and also as an attempt to subvert it I provided my own novel A Son of the Rock with the tagline “A Space Libretto” mainly because – while it roamed the spaceways and deployed technology – advanced abilities and weapons were largely, if not completely, absent.

As to Space Opera itself, Gareth Powell has posted a list of what he considers a Top Ten of Space Operas on his website. It leans heavily towards relatively recent works.

As you can see I’ve read all but three of them.

Nova by Samuel R. Delany
The Centauri Device by M. John Harrison
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

The Reality Dysfunction By Peter F. Hamilton
Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey
Space by Stephen Baxter
Excession by Iain M. Banks

BSFA Awards (for 2014)

This year’s nominees for the BSFA Awards have been announced.

As far as the fiction is concerned we have the unusually high total of eight novels on the ballot form, of which I have read three*. (Edited to add: so far.)

The Race* by Nina Allan (NewCon Press)
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan)
Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
Wolves by Simon Ings (Gollancz)
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August* by Claire North (Orbit)
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder)
The Moon King* by Neil Williamson (NewCon Press)

The short fiction has only three contenders – all of whom are women it seems; for the second year in a row. I have read none of them as yet (but hope the BSFA will produce the usual booklet.) Though it’s totally irrelevant I was on a panel at last year’s Eastercon with Ruth Booth.

The Honey Trap by Ruth EJ Booth (La Femme, Newcon Press)
The Mussel Eater by Octavia Cade (The Book Smugglers)
Scale Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Immersion Press)

This Year’s Hugo Awards

These were announced at the SF Worldcon in London.

(I know I really ought to have gone but it was in Docklands rather than London proper and I don’t even like London much. Perhaps I’m tired of life.)

The winners for fiction were:-

Best novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Best novella: Equoid by Charles Stross

Best novelette: The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Best short story: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu

Of these I’ve read only the novel winner but congratulations to all.

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