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June 23, 2009

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As for Chabon... I just won't get out of my way to read his stuff.

For one thing, I don't think Chabon will notice. For another, I've already acquired lots of books awaiting my hungry eyes. And I'm building up a list of books I want to look for when I go to the Bay Area in late September. I'm currently going thru Locus issues that have been piling up since the beginning of the year, and I keep adding titles to my list as a result.

I don't understand how that Resnick story wound up on the final ballot when there is much superior stuff out there.

Take your pick:
1. You, I, and Chad have out-of-the-mainstream tastes; remember, it's a popularity contest.

2. Resnick's stuff is published in more prominent places and seen by more nominators. Perhaps nominators tend to read the Big Three and little else.

3. Resnick is coasting on name recognition.

Susan...

(1) Regarding the popularity contest, a few people I talked to said something along those lines to explain why Gaiman won for the best-novel Hugo. I haven't read his book so I can't tell.

(2) Publication in Asimov's definitely makes a story more noticeable. Being in Realms of Fantasy? Not so much even though they have published damned good stuff. I can't recommend MK Hobson and Richard Parks too highly.

(3) That reminds me of something I read a few years ago when they had the Retro Hugos, where the winners didn't necessarily win because their 1950s work was better than that of the losers, but instead because the winners since then had acquired greater name recognition.

Serge: Popularity is my theory for why the Gaiman won. Graveyard Game certainly isn't a *bad* book, but I found it very slight. Not even YA, but children's.

Mary Aileen... That's pretty much what others told me too. Even Gaiman appeared to be surprised when he won.

Serge,
(3) as you describe it certainly applied to some of the Retro-Hugos. I regard them as an unfortunately joke rather than real Hugos.

I think Gaiman's win was in large part a case of people voting for the name. The situation was not helped by the fact that the book I (and Gaiman) expected to win was Anathem, which is not particularly accessible and probably scared off a lot of people just by its near-1000-page heft. Perfect illustration of the difference between good and popular, though I did enjoy Graveyard Book. I just don't think it was Hugo-competitive against any of the three books I ranked above it.

Susan:

I'll probably give Anathem a try when it comes out in paperback or in trade. Mind you, I still have to go thru the rest of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. Reading the first tome was such a dense experience (in a good sense) that I had to switch to something completely different.

Susan... out-of-the-mainstream tastes

This reminds me I should probably take a close look at web-based magazine Strange Horizons. Its fiction often gets recommended in places like Locus although I don't think any of its stories have ever made it to the Hugo finalists, or even with the Nebulas. Mind you, it's not like I don't already have plenty of paper-based short fiction to read.

Speaking of Nebulas, I was pleased to no end when the SFWA Bulletin recently published this year's nominees, and there was my name among those thanked by Lisa Goldstein for their help. Woohoo!

I wonder if they can bring Anathem out in mass-market paperback. It might be more pages than that style of binding can handle. Two volumes, perhaps?

I thought they might have to release Anathem in trade, like they did for the Baroque Cycle, but I just checked and it's coming out as an actual paperback. Next week. After all, Shogun was over 1200 pages and it was released in paperback. Meanwhile Anathem is barely more than 1000 pages.

The late Charlie Brown (no matter what one thinks of his fighting the elimination of the semipro mag's category from the Hugos) made an interesting point about the novel category's nominees in the April issue of Locus: he felt that Doctorow's book shouldn't have made it to the final list because, in 10 years, it'll be incomprehensible.

I'm not sure I agree. I mean, it'd be like dismissing Gibson's Neuromancer or the movie Colossus: the Forbin Project when they came out because their depiction of technology was going to be rendered mostly obsolete one or two decades later.

Should a story be judged on far its posterity will last? Or should it be judged based on the influence it had at the time it was published?

Resnick also edits tons of anthologies, so his name is more noticeable that way, too.

I wonder if the Nebulas are less of a popularity contest than the Hugos. It'd be interesting to compare the winners of both awards.

My secondhand understanding is that the Nebulas are even more prone to campaigning, logrolling, vote-trading, and such. But I have no personal experience of this, not being a SFWA member.

Susan... My wife is an SFWA member, but she's not invovled in the politics, or in the campaigning. There was a time early in the 21st Century when members would be mailed books for their consideration when voting. Not anymore, alas.

Susan, it does unfortunately seem like you and I won't get to meet on this trip :( Next year I hope to have at least 1 full weekend there, which should help a lot.

Mary Aileen, evenings are a little iffy, but I think I could make a strong case for breakfast/brunch on Wednesday. One thing I love about Long Island is all of the diners -- it's a lot harder to get a decent breakfast here in Tucson. I'll talk with my husband tonight and see if he knows if we're free on Weds. If nothing's planned yet, I'll push for that to be our annual bead-shopping day :D

I certainly enjoyed Graveyard Book but I wouldn't call it the best book I've read this year.

Regarding books being judged on their posterity... I don't think they should be. There are quite a few books that are out-of-date/obsolete that people still read, either because they love the writing, its still a good story, or they like the window into how people viewed the world then. And if a book is powerful now, it shouldn't be penalized because it won't be as powerful 10 years from now.

AJ... I'm with you on not judging a story according to its posterity potential. It's one thing to dismiss a story because it's a flash-in-the-pan cashing in on something that's popular. On the hand... Take Robert Reed's novella "Truth" that came out last year. It has been robbed of some of its power by the election of Obama (disappointing as he's been in some respect), but, to quote you, it was a window into what the 21st Century was in 2008 and into an even more dismal future. That's why I voted for it.

AJ: Sounds good. You can email me at mabuss@themousehole.org to set up plans.

Should a story be judged on far its posterity will last? Or should it be judged based on the influence it had at the time it was published?

It's a fair criteria to judge a story on, but not the most important. I think it's a valid point to bring up, and not a bad way of deciding between two books of similar merit.

I've only got round to reading Saturn's Children so far off the short list. I suspect that will not change in readabilty (and continue to be problematic and generally an interesting failure) in 10, or indeed 25 years time.

Neil... not a bad way of deciding between two books of similar merit

Good point, and certainly more valid than tossing a coin, or basing one's vote on the author's name.

Meanwhile, there are some interesting novels that came out this year. For example, Jay Lake's "Green", a fantasy set in a culture that's a mix of steampunk with Indian gods thrown in. So says the review anyway.

"Green" is the third book set in Lake's steampunk world... I just finished the second one last night (me: "Should I go to bed now like I planned, or read the last 40 pages of this book?" you guys should not be surprised by my decision). It is also the first one of his books that I looked at, because green is my favorite color, but then when I saw it came after some other books, I figured I should read them in order. I was not disappointed. I'll probably be picking "Green" up soon.

AJ... Are you sure that "Green" is related to Lake's "Mainspring" and "Escapement"? The reviews I read made no mention of that, but I did read that Lake has contracted to write 2 more novels related to "Green". Well, I'll find out next time I go to the bookstore.

And how was "Escapement"? That you decided to stay up to finish it seems to be a good indication as to what your answe is.

Serge, I'm pretty sure. I'll double-check next time I'm in a bookstore (may be a bit).

"Escapement" was pretty good, but not quite as good as "Mainspring." Less epic in scope, and the narrative was split between three characters, instead of focusing on one. I liked the characters, but I didn't feel like they really grew much over the course of the story, and the plot felt a little less involved than the last one. Still very engaging, though, and it has submarines!

Amazon thinks Green is a fantasy, and not related to the other two.

I finished the first book of a trilogy last night and I read it in three nights where I'd expected six. I kept thinking "This is a new chapter" and then I'd be into it.

I looked up Green's review again in Locus and there's no indication it's related to Lake's earlier novels. What drew my atention wasn't so much the word 'green' although I like that color, but rather that the cover showed the heroine hanging upside down from what may be a tree branch.

Ok, I apparently made a mistaken assumption :) Still looking forward to reading the book.

*stumbles off sleepily to pack some more before bed*

I'm done with Locus's pile of issues. The latest had this review.

George Mann's The Affinity Bridge is a perfectly adequate steampunk rehash. There are dirigibles, clockwork men, opium, and fog. Queen Victoria is still around, kept alive by machines. There is a mysterious plague that turns its victims into zombies. There is an investigator/academic, Sir Maurice Newbury, and his beautiful assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes...

They then go on to compare the plot to a competent Doctor Who episode written by Russell T Davies instead of one by Blink's Steven Moffat. Also, they feel that the attitudes of the main characters are too modern for 1901. Oh, and the prose is described as workmanlike.

I'll probably buy it.

I have a copy of The Affinity Bridge. I'm sure I'll get around to reading it sometime soon.

Neil... What got me intersted in The Affinity Bridge in spite of its tepid review is that it appears to be science-fiction steampunk without any fantasy. I don't mind the mixing of genres, which is a good thing because there's a lot of that going on these days, but I've been wishing there were more steampunk stories thaht stick with science, as fanciful as the science may be, and yes it may even include zombies.

Serge, did you see that Girl Genius has a new airship pin?

(Something really odd is going on. In the last 20 minutes, at least once a minute, a car has come into the development on the street next to mine, turned onto mine, and left the development on my street. Usually they come in on my street, turn around using a parking space, and go back out. Plus it usually only happens about five times a day. I asked the director of Public Works for a "No Outlet" sign on the road that feeds three developments back here, but he said there's no money for it.)

Marilee... I hope that the strange vehicle hasn't shown up again. As for the GG airship pin, I haven't seen it. I do have the Heterodyne Family's trilobite pin though.

No, it's stopped doing it. We have weird street numbering (thanks to the post office), so maybe they were just too prideful to stop and ask.

Here's the new pin. I have the winged trilobyte and the chibi Agatha pins. Plus the books.

Nice pin, Marilee. Here's the one I already have. What I'd like now are goggles I could wear over my real glasses. Maybe I should look into making my own. No, I've never done this. I should probably go to the hardware store and see what kind of copper pipes are available.

Besides Fledgling, I also bought The Affinity Bridge. I was quite amused by the backcover's list of some of the "Vexing News" to be found inside. My favorite warns us that the "...glowing policeman strikes again!"

I saw The Affinity Bridge at the bookstore last month, but didn't pick it up yet.

I did pick up a book called Clockwork Heart that looks like it might end up leaning a bit towards romance, but we'll see... I've got a couple other books to read first.

(if anyone wants to see what I'm up to in NY, my link is now pointing to my personal blog, where I'm posting daily updates)

A good time to you, AJ... Meanwhile, I am beginning to think I should buy a proper teakettle set so that I can enjoy your giftea while exchanging wit with others. Besides that, I am now reading Larklight and, yes, it will make an interesting movie.

AJ and I just had lunch together. We had a nice chat, about books and related topics. Now I'm at work at she's off to the bead stores.

Mary Aileen... Glad to hear the two of you were able to meet.

I've recently read and enjoyed Catherynne Valente's short story "The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew". I'm not going to Australia's worldcon next year, which means I can't vote, but, having attended this year's worldcon, I can nominate the story.

May I draw your attention to Catherynne Valente's short story "The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew", published by online magazine ClarkesWorld?

I feel like giving myself a treat today... I normally wait for a novel to come out in paperback, but I think I'll acquire Lake's "Green" in hardover.

Serge, some conventions offer a less-expensive membership option for people who won't be able to attend but still want to support the convention and/or acquire any attendant voting rights. Does Worldcon not do that?

Paul A... I think they do, but it may still be a bit pricey. Also, none of those I voted for this year won, except in the graphic-story category. The gall of the universe to deny me...! Seriously, I'll probably stick with trying to put some well deserving people on the initial ballot. Besides, would writers prefer my spending money on voting, or on books?

You can always get a supporting membership in a worldcon. The easiest way to do it is to vote in the site selection, which gets you one automatically. I'm a supporting member of Aussiecon, though I still hold out a faint hope of actually going.

I see that a supporting membership is $50. Not too bad. I'll have to think about it.

Is anybody else here considering attending NASFiC next year? It's in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Is anybody else here considering attending NASFiC next year?

Unlikely, though not impossible. It's inconveniently timed and it's just a NASFiC. I don't usually travel significantly for cons other than worldcons.

Same here, Susan, but we may go after all, if only for professional reasons, what with my wife's plans to write a straight fantasy novel.

Serge: I'm going. I already bought my membership.

Mary Aileen... It's not absolutely certain for us yet, but it IS likely.

I got back from NY yesterday afternoon, though I'm still waiting for my luggage to catch up with me :P They just called and said it should be delivered to us by 1:30, over 24 hours after we got home.

Overall, my trip was a lot of fun, though! I enjoyed my brunch with Mary Aileen, saw Wicked in NYC, and spent a very muddy Saturday at the Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, where I danced on stage with the band Wolgemut ;D

AJ... The RenFaire is in a town called Tuxedo?

Hey, I used to work at the Tuxedo faire a long (loooong) time ago! As a merchant, selling chainmail.

I have yet to see Wicked. Obviously I need to get it together.

Good luck on the luggage thing. My luggage was chasing me around Michigan during my trip back in May.

Susan... My luggage was chasing me around Michigan

That sounds like the premise for a very silly Terry Gilliam cartoon on Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Serge, yep, Tuxedo, NY... though AOL weather thinks it's Tuxedo Park, and Google thinks it's Tuxedo, Orange, NY. Apparently there's also a Faire in Sterling, which I believe is nearby, and their running time overlapped a bit this year, so if I had planned things better and had more time, I could have gone to TWO Faires.

Susan, Wicked was a little silly at times but pretty fun. We've been trying to go for years, but it's always sold out. My favorite part was definitely the costumes, especially all the shades of green in the Emerald City scenes.

My luggage finally caught up to me at 10:30am today, only slightly battered but otherwise intact.

The Tuxedo-area faire, unless it's changed locations (possible; I haven't worked or been since 1992), takes place in a place called Sterling Forest.

I keep meaning to see Wicked and not getting around to it. Maybe in September or October on my one in-NYC weekend each of those months. Everyone tells me it's great. I'm rather sorry I missed the very talented original cast.

Joel Grey was the Wizard in Wicked's original cast, wasn't he? I once had the chance of seeing him do his famous Cabaret number live. That was neat.

If I have it straight, the men's-wear was named for the town and not the other way around.

Susan, I think it is in Sterling Forest, but there's also a separate one in Sterling. I picked up a catalog from a vendor I really liked (pricey dance clothes, probably won't buy any until I'm closer to going pro), and they listed themselves as exhibiting at both Faires.

I don't have any other casts to compare it to, but the cast seemed pretty good when I saw Wicked. I especially liked the guy playing the wizard, he seemed to just hit all the right marks with his character.

AJ,
There is one in Sterling NY, but it's nowhere near Tuxedo - it's so far north it's practically in Lake Ontario. Maybe an eight-hour drive from the NYC area.

Oh, ok! I assumed that Sterling would be near Sterling Forest

Hey, I used to work at the Tuxedo faire a long (loooong) time ago! As a merchant, selling chainmail.

chainmail... Tuxedo... I suspect there's a joke there, but I'm too lazy to look for it.

Pal A... I suspect there's a joke there

Tuxedos.
Chainmail.
Susan.

Nope.
I don't see any joke.

I don't see a joke, but this just gave me a very cool costume idea. If anyone were strong enough to wear a chainmail tuxedo, that is...

Is that a hint, Susan?

Susan, what if it was aluminum? It's surprisingly light-weight. Titanium is, too, but much more expensive and harder to work.

Could also just accent the tux with mail.

Back to yesterday's musical-related comments... Today I received the DVD of Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible. On Sunday, I saw Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues at the local rep theater.

The October issue of Realms of Fantasy landed in my mailbox today. Joy! More wonderful short stories to be enjoyed by yours truly.

I am in the process of reading Asimov's October/November issue. The book reviewer this time is Norman Spinrad. I had made comments on this site some months ago that I was planning to skip the mag's reviews next time Spinrad would be the one in the chair, but I decided to give him one more chance. Well, that was the last chance. I can do without someone who sneers at the kind of SF I like, and who displays his sneering in a magazine whose contents he probably sneers at.

I never read Spinrad, either. He's just abysmal.

I read a couple of Spinrad's novels, back in my college days, but that's about it. Maybe he's bitter that the SF field didn't realize how brilliant he was.

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