Author Archives: Liz

Revamping the Plain – or not

In 2013 Oxfordshire County Council bid for, and were awarded, a Cycle City Ambition Grant to redevelop the Plain roundabout. The Plain is a pretty complicated 5-exit roundabout which lies between the major routes out of East Oxford and the main route into central Oxford over Magdalen Bridge – alternative routes are lengthy detours and/or flooded, depending on the time of year, so the Plain is a pretty key junction. The nearest DfT count, on the bridge itself, shows over 17,000 bikes use this road every day – more than all motor vehicles combined.

The original design was not terribly good:
The Plain design, original grant

Basically, it builds out pavement everywhere to tighten up the corners and slow traffic down, and reduces the High Street approach to a single lane, making it easier for cycles to take the right-hand exits. There’s no segregation, there’s nothing but some paint and the hope that making cars and bikes go round together will slow everything down and make everyone happy.

Today the county council released the final version, due to be approved at a meeting on Thursday morning:
The Plain, March 2014

It is in fact worse than the original version, as the single-lane approach from the High Street has been ditched to improve traffic flow. Instead there is a centre cycle lane, which does nothing to make it easier to pull out into traffic to turn right, but does give you a special bit of tarmac to sit on between buses. Instead of taking any measures to separate cycles from other traffic, the strategy is to build out pavements a bit, slow everything down, and hope that everyone will co-exist happily.

I appreciate that there are difficulties for this project – buses to be accommodated which you want to keep moving, a short timescale to perform the work, some historical features in the way, and I don’t even know if you can plan a Dutch-style roundabout yet or if it’s still waiting on the TRL trials. But it’s incredibly unambitious for a scheme which aims to grow the numbers of cyclists. It assumes that the only thing holding back an inexperienced cyclist is that cars are going too fast, when the problem is that they have to co-exist with cars and buses at all. I’m not aware that there is any evidence to support these claims, as opposed to the evidence supporting segregated infrastructure as a key feature of cycling in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark – but it’s OK, we might get some segregation in the future, maybe:

However, given that this scheme is stage one of a two stage scheme (when funding allows) that would address the wider approaches to the junction, the concept of some sort of semi-segregated cycle lanes on the roundabout could be revisited at a later stage.

But not on this scheme, which will cost £965,000 for, as far as I can see, some pavement. Honestly, if this is the sort of thing they’re going to do with £965,000, they should give it back.

There is one bright spot in this scheme – the plan to remove the cycle exemption on the left turn into Longwall Street is gone in favour of allowing the few cyclists who use it to use a bit of shared footway instead, and they’re going to apply for early-start lights for cyclists at this junction. Of course, the cyclists will then be heading towards the Plain, but at least you get five seconds to get ahead of the buses.

Predict the Hugos

And as a Hugo encore, I thought I’d have a go at publicly predicting the nominees so I can look smart/stupid in ten days’ time.

Best Novel
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold
Blackout, Mira Grant
The Killing Moon, NK Jemisin
2312, Kim Stanley Robinson
Redshirts, John Scalzi
Scalzi hasn’t always made the ballot, but Redshirts did well, seemed to have a lot of buzz, and as a bonus had a UK edition. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance isn’t great, but Cryoburn was worse and that got nominated, so I think it’s the unstoppable Bujold vote in action (similar to the unstoppable Willis vote). Mira Grant got the second book in a trilogy on the list, I see no reason the concluding volume won’t make it. Robinson is good, well known, and a nice traditional SF pick. I dithered between Jemisin and Saladin Ahmed for the last slot, but I think Jemisin has more buzz and Ahmed has faded. Dark horse: China Mieville. Also wouldn’t be surprised to see James S. A. Corey on there.

Best Novella
“San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats”, Mira Grant
On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress
“Let Maps to Others”, K.J. Parker
“Legion”, Brandon Sanderson
Dark horse: Robert Reed. He wrote 3 this year, so I’m hedging my bets. Darker dark horse: Ian Sales.

Best Novelette
“The Grinnell Method”, Molly Gloss
“Swift, Brutal Retaliation”, Meghan McCarron
“Arbeitskraft”, Nick Mamatas
“Fade to White”, Catherynne M. Valente
“The Waves”, Ken Liu

Best Short Story
“Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson
“Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard
“A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight”, Xia Jia
“Peacekeeper”, Mike Resnick and Brad R. Torgeson
“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”, Ken Liu

Best Related Work
A Feast of Ice and Fire, Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sarianne Lehrer
The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James
Chicks Unravel Time, L.M. Myles and Deborah Stanish
Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones, Brian Cogman
Writing Excuses season 7, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal

Best Graphic Story
Saga, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Hawkeye, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pullido
Saucer Country, Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly
Fables: Inherit the Wind, Bill Willingham and a bunch of artists
Schlock Mercenary, Howard Tayler
Note my optimism in assuming that Girl Genius will not hop straight back in and win again now the category is permanent.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Game of Thrones season 2
The Avengers
The Hobbit
The Hunger Games

Pessimistic choice: swap out one of the last two for Prometheus.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Who, “The Snowmen”
Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan”
Doctor Who, “Asylum of the Daleks”
My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, “Read It and Weep”
Fringe, “The Bullet That Saved The World”

Best Editor, Long Form
Lou Anders
Anne Lesley Groell
Malcolm Edwards
Jane Johnson
Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Best Editor, Short Form
Jonathan Strahan
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Stanley Schmidt
Sheila Williams

Best Professional Artist
John Picacio
Stephan Martiniere
Michael Komarck
Daniel Dos Santos
John Howe

Best Semiprozine
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Escape Pod

Best Fanzine
SF Signal
The Drink Tank
Banana Wings
Journey Planet
World SF Blog

Best Fancast
SF Squeecast
The Coode Street Podcast
SF Signal Podcast
Galactic Suburbia
You may notice this is the same as last year’s ballot. This is because I think it might very well be the same, but also I have no idea about podcasts.

Best Fan Writer
Christopher J. Garcia
Adam Whitehead
Stephen H. Silver
Abigail Nussbaum
Requires Hate

Hugo Recommendations – Everything Else

I had the best of intentions this year: I was going to read lots and blog lots and give lots of Hugo recommendations in good time for everyone to read them. Complete fail. I managed a thorough post for Graphic Story, here’s my scattered and incomplete suggestions for the rest of the categories:

I’m not particularly well-read this year, and there have been some disappointments among the 2012 books I did read. I’m almost certainly going with Jack Glass by Adam Roberts, which is another clever, interesting SF novel from an author who writes a refreshingly different book every single time, and Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, which similarly plays to my tastest by being smart and fun and thought-provoking. And I’m probably going with Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, which I only just finished, but is an interesting take on religion and faith and where they collide with modern technology and social change.

“Fade to White”, Catherynne Valente
“One Little Room an Everywhere”, KJ Parker
“Arbeitskraft”, Nick Mamatas
“Good Hunting”, Ken Liu

Short Story
“Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson
“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” Ken Liu (again)

Related Work
It’s been pointed out to me at the last minute that Red Plenty by Francis Spufford is a 2012 book in the US, which makes it eligible; and it’s not exactly fiction or non-fiction but a non-fiction book which feels like a science fiction novel. That’s sufficient to get it in Best Related for me, and no weirder than much of the stuff in this catch-all category.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Let’s face it, this is the Avengers vs Game of Thrones vs Hobbit bunfight with Looper as an outside bet, so I’m nominating Mass Effect 3 and Dishonored.

Best Professional Artist
We can nominate comic artists here, right?
Stephanie Hans, for the gorgeous painted covers and interiors for Journey Into Mystery
Yuko Shimizu, for the covers of The Unwritten, and The Future is Japanese
Butch Guice, for the dark and noir-y art which is the the best thing about Brubaker’s slightly disappointing run on Winter Soldier

Fan Artist
Noelle Stephenson/gingerhaze, for a lot of Avengers and Hobbit comics. Poor Hawkeye, so objectified.

Ferretbrain. A mix of reviews, longer articles, opinions pieces, and a lively comments section.

Fan Writer
Lots of possibilities here – Martin Lewis deserves a nomination for his continuing argument with The Space Opera Renaissance, and Genevieve Valentine for funny and perceptive reviews of the worst film have to offer – but my main message is that we should be nominating Abigail Nussbaum, who gets closer to a nomination every year but never quite makes it, and reading through even a fraction of the commentary on her blog over the past year should convince you how wrong that is.

Short version: Abigail Nussbaum, Red Plenty, Ferretbrain.

My Ballot for the Best Graphic Story Hugo

In no particular order except the first:
Journey Into Mystery, Kieron Gillen, Matt Fraction on the crossovers, and a dozen artists
aka, how Kieron Gillen took a lesser-known Marvel title and filled tumblr with ALL THE FEELS. Right, back up. Journey Into Mystery is the story of Loki, who, in a previous arc I never read and don’t care about, was killed, and has cheated death to be reincarnated as a child. It’s all part of his older self’s larger plan, which Kid Loki chooses to ignore and forge his own path. It isn’t easy because he might be a kid but he’s still the God of Mischief and no one feels like trusting him, even if he’s trying to help. He spends 30 issues building up what cleverer people than me called “Ponzi scheme heroism” (spoilers in that link), pulling off a win each time but pushing the reckoning further down the road. He does it with a supporting cast of disdainful best friends, a foul-mouthed hellhound named Thori, the shirtless son of Satan, and Tony Wilson as the arch-druid leader of the mechanized cities of the industrial revolution. Kid Loki is funny, engaging, occasionally infuriating, and you root for him to win, because everyone deserves a second chance, right? And it fits all this into the constraints of the occasional comic-spanning crossover – the crossover with New Mutants feels unneccessary, but the issues where they fit Loki into the Fear Itself arc manage to work not only in the comic, but as part of the wider story (unlike Invincible Iron Man, which sets up a plot to be resolved off-screen, THANKS). It wraps up in a big crossover with The Mighty Thor as Loki’s pigeons come home to roost, and then upends it all with a final epilogue with Stephanie Hans’s amazingly gorgeous art throughout (which is so good it makes me forgive some of the less-good artists from the middle section). It’s that comic series where I heard it was good and planned to pick it up someday and got sucked into reading all of it just in time for the last issue to crush me, like it crushed all of tumblr (and fortunately someone already wrote the post on JiM’s fanbase and why it garnered the fans it did), and you should all nominate it before I take to Twitter and go on about my epic feels or something.
Hugo nerdery side note: So what do I nominate for a 31-part story which has collected shorter arcs but forms a complete whole? Do I nominate Manchester Gods, as an arc which finished in 2012? Everything Burns, the final crossover story which also finished in 2012? Just issue 645, which is a spectacular standalone? I count it is as one complete story so I’m going to nominate that. Let’s all do the same, yes?

Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Everyone loves Saga – I think it was on every best-of-2012 list I read – and so I feel out of step by saying I only think it’s pretty great so far. It’s the story of Alana and Marko, star-crossed lovers from either side of a galactic war, and their newborn daughter (and narrator from the future) Hazel, and how they try and stay ahead of the different factions trying to catch up with them. And everything with Alana and Marko is pretty great – they bicker and disagree and make up, like you might if you were on the run with a newborn child, and it feels like a relationship in progress. What is a little more hit-and-miss is everything else. There’s magic and future tech and spider-legged bounty hunters and ghosts and spaceships and people with television sets for heads and a cat that can tell if you’re lying (actually, lying cat is pretty great), and having all that appear in the first 6 issues is a bit throw it all at the wall and see what sticks. And as ever I could have done without the side-plot which adds some grim and gritty via child abuse. When it’s not cramming everything in, it’s great – the art is great in a non-flashy way (I apologise in advance for my lack of ability to describe art), not particularly stylised or playing around with layouts, it’s just excellently drawn people looking like people. With wings and horns and sometimes a television set for a head.

Prophet, Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis
This is a revamp of a past Rob Liefeld comic, not that you can tell or care once they’ve booted the action ten thousand years into the future. It is the kind of off-the-wall SF that I think Saga is going for, but Prophet has fully committed to the weird, to the point where I’m not quite sure what is going on some of the time but I’m compelled to read on anyway. The first mini-arc follows John Prophet, a human who awakes in the far future and follows the mysterious instructions which compel him to cross an alien landscape so he can climb a tower and awaken an empire. He fights his way through a mold city and a caravan of elephant-like creatures, disrupts the rebirth of the caravan king, loses an arm and gains a living carapace that forms external lungs… It’s the same throw everything at the wall approach, but there’s no relatable characters having snarky discussions, only bleak, weird landscapes, narration instead of dialogue, played in a much more serious tone. The end of the first arc reveals that there is not one John Prophet, but some unknown number of clones, and the grandaddy of them all may be back. The art feels like the little I’ve seen of French comics and Moebius’s planetscapes, lots of weird alien detail and sound effects (both those examples by Simon Roy, my favourite of the artists in volume one), and it’s not like anything else I read this year.

The Manhattan Projects, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra
The Manhattan Project, with a twist. Lots of twists. Evil twins and interdimensional portals and aliens and Wernher von Braun with a robot arm. You might be sensing a theme by now, which is that I like my comics with lots of big off-the-wall ideas, and you’d be right, but that’s not all I like. There’s a column by Chris Sims, which of course I cannot find right now to link, that talks about the way comics can be awesome because so many of them were jam-packed with amazing ideas, but that that wasn’t enough to make a good comic, you needed the rest of the book to back it up. The Manhattan Projects has a first arc which piles up the new mythology, brings in interesting new characters, sets up a neat cliffhanger for every issue, and ends with a bang. I wasn’t a huge fan of the art initially but it’s grown on me, and when you’re depicting real people it’s nice that they look like them. I should also credit the colourist Jordie Bellaire, for some great vibrant colours, and a smart use of red and blue to tell some key bits of the story..

Hawkeye, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pullido
This could so easily have been an attempt to cash in on the Avengers movie. That’s got Hawkeye in it, right? And everyone loves Jeremy Renner’s arms, never mind that Hawkeye in the film gets the least personality or development of any of the Avengers. (The Comixology Hawkeye blurb calls him “the breakout star” of Avengers, lol.) Maybe that’s why they are free to totally ignore this and write a fun story about Clint Barton aka Hawkeye, sometime Avenger but mostly just a guy who has barbecues with his neighbours and looks after his dog and sometimes gets abducted by helicarrier. And then there’s Kate Bishop, who is also Hawkeye, and not Clint’s student or girlfriend or sidekick but partner in having adventures and mostly making it out alright except for Clint sometimes getting punched in the face. This is the least sure of my nominations, because I haven’t read the latest volume of Chew yet, but volume six of a long-running series doesn’t really have a chance of a nomination, and Hawkeye has this panel. Dd I mention the art is excellent? Neat panel layouts, lots of stripped-down purples and blues, I’m not quite as fond of Javier Pullido’s two issue run but we have previously established that I am a sucker for a good sound effect.

tl;dr: I like big ideas, bad science, art that makes people look like actual people, and superhero comics that mess around with the idea of superhero comics.
My Best Graphic Story ballot is:
Journey Into Mystery #622-#645, Kieron Gillen, Matt Fraction, Doug Braithwaite, Richard Elson, Pasqual Ferry, Whilce Portacio, Mitch Breitweiser, Carmine di Giandomenico, Alan Davis, Stephanie Hans
Hawkeye, Volume #1: My Life as a Weapon, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pullido
Saga, Volume #1, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
The Manhattan Projects, Volume #1: Science Bad, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra
Prophet Volume #1: Remission, Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis

Cycling in Oxford

As anyone who follows my twitter feed will know, I commute to work every day on my bike. In fact I go nearly everywhere on my bike, with trains and the occasional lift for long-distance travel – Oxford is pretty small, pretty flat, and pretty well designed for cyclists compared to many places, and it has a pretty high number of people who cycle to work like me. (Not as many as Cambridge, but Cambridge really does have no hills.)

But even in a place which is pretty well-designed by UK standards, there are some poorly designed roads. Here’s one particular road which annoys me on my commute every morning, to the point where I wrote this blog post in my head while cycling up it: Morrell Avenue. It starts as a two-lane road with advisory cycle lanes on each side, you sometimes have to play spot the cycle lane but it’s not too bad.

Further up, we keep the wide pavements and grass verges, but the cycle lanes disappear in favour of car parking, swapping from side to side.

View Larger Map

It’s not completely obvious from the street view, but this is a hill, and I’m generally not cycling too fast up it. So I have two options when cycling up Morrell Avenue – I can sit outside the line of the parked cars, going well below the speed of the car traffic even on a 20 limit road so everyone sits behind me.Believe it or not I don’t want to slow down everyone in a car, and it just leads to someone overtaking me too closely anyway. So option 2 is to swing in and out around the parked cars, checking every time that no one is coming up behind me or trying to overtake, hoping they don’t pass too closely when I’m going round the parked cars anyway.

Why can’t we get rid of the parking and put in a cycle lane? The houses have driveways, often with room for two or more cars, so there would still be parking for residents. Or if we really can’t do without losing some parking, why not remove one of the grass verges and put in a cycle track? You’d probably have to cut down some trees, which would be a shame, but it might be possible to fit a lane in without losing them, and a cycle track even only on one side of the road would be useful. I would be happier because there aren’t cars inches from my elbow, car drivers would be happier because they don’t have to sit behind and wait for a gap, everyone is happy with the better use of space.

And then I reach the top of the hill and head onto Warneford Lane, where they have helpfully painted bicycles in the bit of the road where I shouldn’t be cycling in case someone opens a door on me. Actually, it’s even better – last week they resurfaced the road, or rather they have resurfaced exactly half the road, so the cycle lane is now half shiny new tarmac, half old tarmac, and a neat line of tar in the middle.

The Humble Ebook Bundle thoughts

The Humble Indie Bundle is branching out into ebooks, and their first set is now up. The Humble Bundle is the reason I own about forty-seven indie videogames I haven’t played, so it’s nice to have the opportunity to buy some books I will never read or have already read and have a warm fuzzy feeling about it. That’s how I view the Humble Indie Bundle – as a way to get games/books/music as a reward for charity donation.

That’s not how everyone sees it. I had some back-and-forth on twitter about this tweet, from publisher Marcus Gipps who finds the low price depressing. But I don’t think of it as buying 8 books, and I’m not sure that the buyers do either. Looking at the history of the Humble Bundles, over $11 is actually a pretty good average, and higher than any of the previous bundles. And the choice of books fits that, because they’re not new or particularly expensive books, they’re just good ones which are available cheaply or for free anyway. At least three (the two Link collections, and the Lackey) are freely available online anyway, Old Man’s War was free when they launched, I got Zoo City for £2.25 and Pump Six for $6. A lot of dedicated readers will have some of them already, but they might get the bundle to buy the rest – Signal to Noise is probably the big draw, and that’s one of the books they’re using to push the average up. They are great books, and I don’t think this would work if they weren’t, but I don’t see it as devaluing the books as much as using a heavy discount to push some older books back into the spotlight, which would otherwise never have sold 15,000 copies. You could keep them at £5 each and sell a trickle of copies, or put them in a big, well-publicised bundle where you get to feel like you’re helping people when you pay for them. Selling books as loss-leaders is not new, but doing it for charity and using older books feels like a difference to Amazon discounting the latest bestseller to draw you in, since they don’t have anything else to sell me but future indie bundles.

And sales seem to be going pretty well. It’s at $175,000 right now and ticking up fast, at the default split it’s about $97,000 to the authors, or somewhere over 10k each. (I’m presuming this goes direct to the authors, and not via a publisher.) That’s not a bad payday, and if it ends up doing as well as even the least popular previous bundle it will double that figure and hit 50,000 sales. The most popular indie bundle ever sold nearly 600,000 copies. I don’t know how many copies will end up languishing on ereaders much like my indie games languish in Steam, but if even a fraction of them turn into sales of your next book that’s a fair few sales.

Captain America #11

Public service post: Captain America: Winter Soldier: Ultimate Collection has one page where the speech bubbles are duplicated from a previous page. This is the correct version of that one page, in the hope that the next person to google for something like “Error in Captain America Winter Soldier corrected speech bubbles” will have an easier time of it than I did.

Captain America #11, final page

Eastercon reports

A mega Eastercon link roundup (seriously, I thought this would be shorter when I started it):

The BSFA Awards

So. That BSFA Award Ceremony, eh?

John Meaney was this year’s host, and after the presentation of the James White Award, he fired up his Powerpoint and launched into his introduction. You can follow the rest of the story on Twitter, where what would in the pre-social media age have been people nudging their neighbours to check they weren’t alone in their bafflement became a running back-channel commentary on what was unfolding. At first I thought it was just going to be not funny[1], but in hindsight the picture of Meaney holding a gun and joking about it was a sign of things to come, and we moved into putting up pictures of Lauren Beukes to show she was not only a great writer but so very gorgeous, and a story about Lavie Tidhar and how Israelis like martial arts, and you can see how the tweets moved from bafflement into being actively offended and pissed off. When he started to discuss gender parity and a panel on women in SF I decided that life was too short and walked out, and I wasn’t the only one to leave.

(The main hall at the Radisson Edwardian is huge and I was sat near the back of the audience, and when the hall lights go down and the stage lights go up it’s almost impossible to see the audience from the stage. So walking out was less a protest that I expected anyone involved to notice, and more a self-preservation instinct.)

There’s a response from an attendee who was not a BSFA member here, and Rose Fox rounds up some more comments on Genreville. Cheryl Morgan has some wise commentary, and if you want to watch the ceremony yourself it’s available online, because not only was there an audience at the con it was streamed live on the internet. James Nicoll and his commenters discuss it here. Meaney has also responded, rather disappointingly to my mind.

I am hoping that the BSFA will respond with an apology – people were offended and upset, and the organisation as a whole needs to take responsibility for what was said on their watch. I know that it’s a volunteer organisation, and it’s not fun to put time and effort into a hobby and to have people respond with unhappiness and anger and tell us when we’re being sexist and racist, but we can’t use the fact that we are volunteers to shield ourselves when we fuck up. An apology, and a promise that in future they will try to do better, will go a long way. They’ve done it before, they can do it again.

There’s a wider point I want to make, though – one reason why this went down so poorly is the context of a convention where there seemed to be a concerted effort to work on the issues we have about diversity and inclusivity and to stop riding the failboat, reflected in some incredibly positive coverage in the mainstream media. I’m not saying we are anywhere near finished working on our issues – we’ve barely started – but I felt more positive than I have at any previous events about both our ability to actually work towards these goals and also our ability to hold our hands up, apologise when we get it wrong, and keep the process going until we get it right.

And into this environment came a speech which relied on stereotypes and terrible Powerpoint, and the defence is that it’s not so bad because everyone is friends and can take a joke. I had no idea that “Meaney-Lally insults are a con tradition” and I’m hardly new to conventions, and while there is a place for in-jokes and poking fun at our friends, I would suggest that maybe the place to do this is not at the flagship event of the BSFA, with a large audience who aren’t familiar with your jokes. The impression it gives is that the BSFA is a cliquey bunch of mates who are out of touch with what was actually happening at the convention and in the wider world, and that’s not going to attract new members to the organisation. Even if the jokes were funny and non-offensive, I’m wondering if a different strategy wouldn’t be better – do as the Clarke Award does, and talk about the nominees, introduce them and the organisation to the audience, and look like we’re a set of professionals who care about what we do and the image we present.

[1] I did chuckle at a picture of Christopher Priest in a funny hat, because I am 12.

My 2011 Hugo Ballot

I am comically last-minute sorting out my Hugo ballot, and despite having three days left I still aspire to read an impractical amount of stuff before the deadline (and that assumes I don’t get sucked straight into Mass Effect 3 this weekend). A few scattered thoughts:

Best Novel

  • Embassytown, China Mieville
  • By Light Alone, Adam Roberts
  • God’s War, Kameron Hurley

… and two others. One of them will probably be The Magician King, in spite of my disagreements with the ending. The other might be David Anthony Durham’s The Sacred Band, but I have to read it first; I’m probably missing something obvious, but I can’t think what it is. Notable 2011 books I haven’t read include Zoo City, Mechanique, The Islanders, and The Testament of Jessie Lamb, and that’s just counting the ones I own. Fail.

Short Fiction
I read most of my short fiction online, which means I’ve read very few novellas as online fiction tends to the short and sweet. I can’t work out if Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s Utopia is a novella or not, but I don’t think it would make my novel ballot cut and my novella ballot is mostly empyu, so it will go in novella. In novelette and short story, I’ve read a reasonable amount this year, but nothing in particular has really stood out, except for one story which will definitely make my novelette ballot: “Not the End of the World” by Sophia McDougall, from Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke. I haven’t read a lot of terrible stories this year, but I’ve read a lot where I thought they were pretty good but failed for one reason or another, and a few where I couldn’t say there was anything exactly wrong with them, they just didn’t work for me. “Not the End of the World” just clicks everything into place: pacing, characters, slowly unfolding plot and revelations, it all worked.

Other stories which will probably end up on my ballot:

  • “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu from Clarkesworld
  • “Semiramis” by Genevieve Valentine from Clarkesworld
  • “Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders at
  • “Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky in Eclipse Four
  • “Tidal Forces” by Caitlin Kiernan in Eclipse Four
  • “Widows in the World” by Gavin Grant from Strange Horizons
  • And some other stories, depending on how much I get through of my timely purchase of The Year’s Best SF&F.

    Dramatic Presentations Short and Long
    Do you remember when The Guardian decided The Wire was the best thing ever, and wouldn’t shut up about how great it was in completely unrelated posts until you were sick of it? That is me and Community right now. Nominate “Remedial Chaos Theory” for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, because let’s face it, nothing can stop the juggernaut that is Doctor Who and Neil Gaiman combined, so we may as well get something fun on the ballot. I’ll wear a black goatee!

    As for BDP:Long Form, I plan to nominate Portal 2, because it is brilliant and provided me with more entertainment than almsot anything else from last year. Let’s go to space!

    Best Fan Writer
    Let’s nominate Abigail Nussbaum. Here is a selection of her excellent writing from the past year: book reviews from Terry Pratchett’s Snuff to the work of Gwyneth Jones and a fascinating review of MJ Engh’s Arslan (and be sure to read the comments on that one), and equally brilliant writing on SF&F TV and film. Whether I agree or disagree with her opinions, it’s never less than interesting to read them.

    In summary: “Not the End of the World”, “Remedial Chaos Theory”, Portal 2, Abigail Nussbaum.