Predictions: Number of Award Nominations Per Season of Heroes

award-nominations-heroes-graphjam

Heroes, Season 1, was nominated for the following awards with cute names (and nominated for many more awards not covered here):

Emmy Awards

  • Outstanding Drama Series
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Masi Oka

Golden Globes

  • Best TV Drama Series
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Masi Oka

Hugo Awards

  • Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

Saturn Awards

  • Best Network Television Series
  • Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series: Greg Grunberg
  • Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series: Masi Oka
  • Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series: Hayden Panettiere
  • Best Television Series on DVD

Spaceys

  • Favorite TV Show
  • Favorite TV Show Character: Hiro, played by Masi Oka

No word on Season 2.

And with the… interestingness of Season 3, I suspect we’ll see at least one nomination: Fugly Worst TV Show. Doesn’t mean the show deserves the award, just that it may get successfully nominated. Um. Yes, I’m aware that’s not really logic.

(Note on spelling: the plural of Emmy is apparently Emmys, not Emmies. I did the same for the Fugly, but apparently the plural of Fugly is Fuglies, not Fuglys.

Go figure. I decided to go with rule 1, since Emmy is a proper noun and so is Fugly.)

Interpreting the Hugo Votes, or: Hugo Thunderdome!

For those still tuned into the Hugos and Worldcon, the full results—including counts, 1st/2nd/3rd/4th/5th placement, and such, are here:

http://www.denvention3.org/hugos/Final-Report.pdf

The interesting part for most people starts on page 10, where the results of the “instant-runoff” voting algorithm is posted. Some of that triangle of numbers may be a bit confusing (like “why does Brasyl not place second when it kept ranking second through all those numbers until the end…?”) so here is a very Hugo-specific guide to the voting mechanics.

This may not interest everybody on the front page, so the guide and example analysis is under the cut.

Continue reading

2008 Hugo and Campbell Award Winners!

2008-hugo-award.jpg

Congratulations to all the winners!

(I really like the Hugo Award statuette this year. It’s actually quite big, but really pretty. It’s the black wood and stars, I think.)

You can find the list of winners at the official Hugo site, and also at Tor.com.

Cheryl Morgan and John Joseph Adams live-blogged the Awards ceremony itself. Bring me the URL of whoever has the video and is posting it to YouTube.

In the meantime, I’m reprising the information from my 2008 Hugo Awards Countdown and the related novel thoughts series for the winning entries here, along with a new and pretty cool link for the Best Novel, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.

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Tideline – Elizabeth Bear

Excerpt

They would have called her salvage, if there were anyone left to salvage her. But she was the last of the war machines, a three-legged oblate teardrop as big as a main battle tank, two big grabs and one fine manipulator folded like a spider’s palps beneath the turreted head that finished her pointed end, her polyceramic armor spiderwebbed like shatterproof glass. Unhelmed by her remote masters, she limped along the beach, dragging one fused limb. She was nearly derelict.

The beach was where she met Belvedere.

Hard Copy
Asimov’s June 2007
Electronic Copy
http://www.elizabethbear.com/tideline.html
Author Website

http://www.elizabethbear.com/
Blog
Excerpt from latest post, I did not go to school today…

I was talking with another friend last night about the single worst stage of trying to break into print. It’s the “there’s nothing wrong with this story but I’m not going to buy it” stage. (Actual words (or a paraphrase thereof) from an actual rejection letter written by [info]ellen_datlow to me, circa 2004.) It’s the stage where you’re competent, but you haven’t yet found your voice. The snap isn’t quite there, the pop, the narrative drive. It’s the garage-band stage.

http://matociquala.livejournal.com/

Excerpt

O MIGHTY CALIPH AND Commander of the Faithful, I am humbled to be in the splendor of your presence; a man can hope for no greater blessing as long as he lives. The story I have to tell is truly a strange one, and were the entirety to be tattooed at the corner of one’s eye, the marvel of its presentation would not exceed that of the events recounted, for it is a warning to those who would be warned and a lesson to those who would learn.

My name is Fuwaad ibn Abbas, and I was born here in Baghdad, City of Peace. My father was a grain merchant, but for much of my life I have worked as a purveyor of fine fabrics, trading in silk from Damascus and linen from Egypt and scarves from Morocco that are embroidered with gold. I was prosperous, but my heart was troubled, and neither the purchase of luxuries nor the giving of alms was able to soothe it. Now I stand before you without a single dirham in my purse, but I am at peace.

Hard Copy
Subterranean Press
F&SF Sept 2007

Electronic Copy
http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/fiction/tc01.htm
Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Chiang
All Seated on the Ground – Connie Willis

Excerpt

I’d always said that if and when the aliens actually landed, it would be a let-down. I mean, after War of the Worlds, Close Encounters, and E.T., there was no way they could live up to the image in the public’s mind, good or bad.

I’d also said that they would look nothing like the aliens of the movies, and that they would not have come to A) kill us, B) take over our planet and enslave us, C) save us from ourselves à la The Day the Earth Stood Still, or D) have sex with Earthwomen. I mean, I realize it’s hard to find someone nice, but would aliens really come thousands of light-years just to find a date? Plus, it seemed just as likely they’d be attracted to wart hogs. Or yucca. Or air-conditioning units.

I’ve also always thought A) and B) were highly unlikely since imperialist invader types would probably be too busy invading their next-door neighbors and being invaded by other invader types to have time to go after an out-of-the-way place like Earth, and as to C), I’m wary of people or aliens who say they’ve come to save you, as witness Reverend Thresher. And it seemed to me that aliens who were capable of building the spaceships necessary to cross all those light-years would necessarily have complex civilizations and therefore motives for coming more compliated than merely incinerating Washington or phoning home.

What had never occurred to me was that the aliens would arrive, and we still wouldn’t know what those motives were after almost nine months of talking to them.

Hard Copy
Asimov’s Dec. 2007;
Subterranean Press
Electronic Copy
http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0805/allseated.shtml
Author Website

http://www.sftv.org/cw/

Writers:
Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Charles Vess
Director:
Matthew Vaughn
Studio:
Paramount Pictures
Official Website:
http://www.stardustmovie.com/
Video Clips:
http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1809426615/trailer

Writer:
Stephen Moffat
Director:
Hettie Macdonald
Studio:
BBC
Official Website:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/episodes/2007/310.shtml
Hard Copy
at Amazon.com; Oxford University Press
Author Website and Blog
Excerpt from post The lexicographer responds to his critics, or, A defense of fanspeak:

Several reviewers have commented, in less than glowing terms, on my inclusion of fannish words in Brave New Words. (It’s also worth noting that some reviewers liked the fannish entries. I wonder, but have no way to really determine this, if the response has anything to do with the relative fannishness of the reviewer.) Generally speaking, one of the main things people like to do with dictionaries is complain about words that aren’t included that they think should be, or about words that are included that they think shouldn’t be.

http://jeffprucher.com/

David G. Hartwell – Tor/Forge
Senior Editor

david-g-hartwell Sampling of Books in 2007

rollback Rollback
Robert J. Sawyer
2008 Hugo Nominee
gods-and-pawns Gods and Pawns

Kage Baker
★★★★★

book-of-joby Book of Joby
Mark J. Ferrari
★★★★½

SF Editor Watch Page
http://www.sfeditorwatch.com/index.php/David_G._Hartwell
Website/Blog
david-g-hartwell
http://www.davidghartwell.com/

gordon-van-gelder Magazines

fsf The Magazines of Fantasy & Science Fiction

SF Editor Watch Page
http://www.sfeditorwatch.com/index.php/Gordon_van_Gelder
Wikipedia
gordon-van-gelder
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Van_Gelder

Sample Art from 2007

brasyl2 Brasyl
Ian McDonald
mainspring Mainspring
Jay Lake
dragons-of-babel The Dragons of Babel
Michael Swanwick
Website
stephan-martiniere-site
http://www.martiniere.com/
Locus
– Charles N. Brown
– Kirsten Gong-Wong
– Liza Groen Trombi
Website
locus-online-science-fiction-news-reviews-resources-perspectives-20080701
http://www.locusmag.com/
Sample 2007 Issues (TOC only)
Locus December 2007
Locus November 2007
Locus October 2007

Sample Articles
Joe R. Lansdale: Little Horrors
Kelly Link: The Uses of Boredom
John Scalzi: Color in the World
Archives
1974 – current
File 770
– Mike Glyer
Website
efanzinescom-mike-glyer-file-770-20080701
http://www.efanzines.com/File770/
Sample 2007 Issues
File 770 #151, October 2007 [pdf]
File 770 #150, June 2007 [pdf]
File 770 #149, March 2007 [pdf]
Archives
1978 – current

john-scalzi

About
A Brief Biography of John Scalzi
Out of This World: John Scalzi by James R. Winter

James R. Winter: Last year, you won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. This year, you’re up for a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. We always hear it’s an honor to be nominated, but does the attention ever get overwhelming?

John Scalzi: Not generally. Fame in a literary genre is not comparable to actual, genuine fame, the sort where you can’t go to the grocery store without people staring. In order to get any sort of attention, I have to go somewhere where science-fiction fans hang out, like a convention. I get a couple of days of people being happy I’m around, and then I go back home. It’s single-serving-size fame, basically. I think that’s doable; I’m not sure I’d want to be any more “famous” than that.

As for the awards themselves, they’re nice, and I don’t want to pretend that they can’t be useful to one’s career — particularly a Hugo, if you’re a science-fiction writer. But I also think worrying about awards is a fine way to mess with your own head. In any event, winning awards is not the right way to win a reputation as a writer; writing books that people want to read is.

[continued]

Writings

The Scalzi Creative Sampler

Blog
http://scalzi.com/whatever
Sample Art
winterwolf Winter Wolf
buildbetterdragon Building a Better Dragon
parkingorbit
Parking Orbit
Website
jabberwocky-graphix-the-art-of-brad-w-foster-and-more-20080704
http://www.jabberwockygraphix.com/
Mary Robinette Kowal [2nd year of eligibility]
Sample Works from 2006, 2007
emrah_cello For Solo Cello, op.12
And more from Mary’s official free fiction sampler
Website
mary-robinette-kowal-website
http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/
Blog
http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/
Excerpt from entry My Take on Elevator Pitches:

I’ll start by saying that I learned about elevator pitches from booking theater shows, so an agent or editor might tell you that I’m totally wrong. This is not a “how-to.” This is just my theory on elevator pitches.

As I understand it, the term “elevator pitch” comes from the idea that you should be able to sum up your novel in the ride between floors at a convention. You might only share the elevator for one floor, so the shorter the better.

Think of the elevator pitch as verbal cover art. In an ideal world, it should be attention grabbing, give them a sense of the type of the book, and — most importantly — make them want to know more.

[continued]

More links
Jon Armstrong interviews Mary Robinette Kowal
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon

Excerpt
Chapter One excerpt at USA Today
Hard Copy
Amazon.com
More Links

Borders Book Club Feature Video, complete with separate chapters such as: “The Story Behind The Yiddish Policeman’s Union“, “The Imaginary Metropolis of Sitka”, “Ditching the First Draft”, and more.

Thoughts on the 2008 Hugo Nominees for Best Novel: The Yiddish Policeman's Union

ypu-cover.jpg

Non-fiction writers think the fictioneers have the easy jobs; after all, in non-fiction, you have to figure out how to portray what happened in an engaging manner, and almost everything you write is the refinement of many, many hours of research.

Fiction writers, on the other hand, think that the non-fics have it easy; after all, they already have reality to lay a framework on, while a fiction writer, even with research, must forge the body of the work from imagination—a hard meal to grind indeed.

Alternate history writers must have it pretty bad…. because now you have to imagine, fiercely, what could have been built upon the major excavation sites of what was. You have to really love (and/or strongly hate… strongly something, anyways) the history you’re going to unravel and re-weave.

Indeed, I think the best alternate history fiction pieces drop you into the world, such that you feel every pulse of it. In its way, alternate history is the epitome of world building, because in its pure essence, the world is the main character—and without a writer who can cup this world in his hand and show you all the little facets, there is little point to being alternate history. (In some ways, you could even regard Lord of the Rings as alternate history, and that would actually be a fitting classification for its style and heft.)

All those words preceding are my attempt to frame exactly the kind of magic the best alternate history throws upon the reader. I remember Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, the winner of the 2005 Hugo for Best Novel, a story of an alternate history Victorian England where magic works, written in the style of that age. There was some serious atmosphere there. Working alternate history seems to mean working your prose to its highest degrees possible; refining fire to burn words of an unreality against the reality of what’s gone before.

Which is what The Yiddish Policemen’s Union does. I find myself re-reading the book and trying to figure out how Chabon does it. From the first page to the last, when I read this novel I feel that I am in this odd world where Yiddish never died, where an entire city is Yiddish, where black hats are the Yiddish mafia, complete with serious young men with automatics and neatly trimmed beards and four-corners. It’s not anywhere near as “magical” a world as Strange & Norrell, but there is some fantasy in it—the Tzaddik Ha-Dor, the potential Messiah, is real in a way that the magical science in Susanna Clarke’s world is real; just a touch left of sense, the formula for miracles.

I think a key ingredient in the mix of a good alternate history is language. In Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Chabon constantly uses some of the oddest metaphors and similes, sometimes reflecting back into Yiddish and Jewish culture in the choice of words and allegory, sometimes playing upon the expectations of the reader of the noir work (even if said reader has never seen any noir apart from The Maltese Falcon). Linguistics was a favorite tool of Tolkien’s, too; the right words and the right meter shift the world just a touch left, enough so that you notice, but not enough so that you don’t think it’s real. Your thinking changes as you read the words—something pervasive, almost subliminal, a kneading of your world view that happens oh-so-craftily as you read and read.

The plot of YPU by itself leaves much to be desired. But it’s merely the framework for something more—it’s a mood piece, a mural of another history painted in words and impressions and verbal texture; a love song for another world in another place, where Say It in Yiddish would actually have a use apart from inspiring a cheeky writer to pen a Yiddish alternate history noir novel.

On re-reading, I think I made a mistake by voting for Brasyl in the top spot, with YPU in second. They really should be reversed.

Further links:

Thoughts on the 2008 Hugo Nominees for Best Novel: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union

ypu-cover.jpg

Non-fiction writers think the fictioneers have the easy jobs; after all, in non-fiction, you have to figure out how to portray what happened in an engaging manner, and almost everything you write is the refinement of many, many hours of research.

Fiction writers, on the other hand, think that the non-fics have it easy; after all, they already have reality to lay a framework on, while a fiction writer, even with research, must forge the body of the work from imagination—a hard meal to grind indeed.

Alternate history writers must have it pretty bad…. because now you have to imagine, fiercely, what could have been built upon the major excavation sites of what was. You have to really love (and/or strongly hate… strongly something, anyways) the history you’re going to unravel and re-weave.

Indeed, I think the best alternate history fiction pieces drop you into the world, such that you feel every pulse of it. In its way, alternate history is the epitome of world building, because in its pure essence, the world is the main character—and without a writer who can cup this world in his hand and show you all the little facets, there is little point to being alternate history. (In some ways, you could even regard Lord of the Rings as alternate history, and that would actually be a fitting classification for its style and heft.)

All those words preceding are my attempt to frame exactly the kind of magic the best alternate history throws upon the reader. I remember Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, the winner of the 2005 Hugo for Best Novel, a story of an alternate history Victorian England where magic works, written in the style of that age. There was some serious atmosphere there. Working alternate history seems to mean working your prose to its highest degrees possible; refining fire to burn words of an unreality against the reality of what’s gone before.

Which is what The Yiddish Policemen’s Union does. I find myself re-reading the book and trying to figure out how Chabon does it. From the first page to the last, when I read this novel I feel that I am in this odd world where Yiddish never died, where an entire city is Yiddish, where black hats are the Yiddish mafia, complete with serious young men with automatics and neatly trimmed beards and four-corners. It’s not anywhere near as “magical” a world as Strange & Norrell, but there is some fantasy in it—the Tzaddik Ha-Dor, the potential Messiah, is real in a way that the magical science in Susanna Clarke’s world is real; just a touch left of sense, the formula for miracles.

I think a key ingredient in the mix of a good alternate history is language. In Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Chabon constantly uses some of the oddest metaphors and similes, sometimes reflecting back into Yiddish and Jewish culture in the choice of words and allegory, sometimes playing upon the expectations of the reader of the noir work (even if said reader has never seen any noir apart from The Maltese Falcon). Linguistics was a favorite tool of Tolkien’s, too; the right words and the right meter shift the world just a touch left, enough so that you notice, but not enough so that you don’t think it’s real. Your thinking changes as you read the words—something pervasive, almost subliminal, a kneading of your world view that happens oh-so-craftily as you read and read.

The plot of YPU by itself leaves much to be desired. But it’s merely the framework for something more—it’s a mood piece, a mural of another history painted in words and impressions and verbal texture; a love song for another world in another place, where Say It in Yiddish would actually have a use apart from inspiring a cheeky writer to pen a Yiddish alternate history noir novel.

On re-reading, I think I made a mistake by voting for Brasyl in the top spot, with YPU in second. They really should be reversed.

Further links:

Thoughts on the 2008 Hugo Nominees for Best Novel: Rollback

I’ve never really thought about what it must feel like to be old. You know how it is; I’m decades away from even retirement, so why worry? I imagine that even if I’m 50 I probably wouldn’t think much about being old—that would involve actually accepting the possibility I’d grow old.

More so: I’ve never even thought about what it must mean to be old. I always kind of imagined that you’d be the same, except wiser and creakier. To some extent that’s true, but in others… it’s not. You lose mobility. Your mind becomes slower. The senses—taste, sight, hearing, even touch—aren’t what they used to be. And then there’s the full body of meaning behind the word “creaky”, which is pain.

Damn scary stuff. It’s not death, but we hate to think of it all the same. So of course we come up with stories that bring along procedures to extend life, bring back youth. Right now as I write this in the dawn of the 21st century, we even think we have the beginnings of the key to actually do this (even I know about all the telomere stuff).

I thought about those stories as I was reading Rollback. Usually the narrative structure of these things go: someone is 40 and wants to be young for-evahs, then they do get young, then bad things happen and we learn that you shouldn’t mess with God’s time schedule, the end.

It’s kind of uncool to toss your reader straight into what it feels like, what it means, to be 90. To be so aware of the end; the final destination approaching as you sit on the train of mortality, watching your life go by. To be so frail. To accept death. You are drenched in those feelings, that life. To be old with a partner who’s also old, in faithful lockstep to the grave.

And by uncool, I mean pretty cool. And Rollback is very much a people book; the science of getting young again is plausible but on the way-side. The questions are not about the science; the questions are about how the science affects the main characters—both the success and the failure of science, for the “rollback” works for Don but not for Sarah. The exploration is on the human side of the equation.

The question of “what happens when you’re suddenly young again?” is explored in shades of reality. By which I mean science, and not religion; the damnation of the ages does not land on Don’s head (though he probably wishes it would at some points) simply because he’s rolled back the years. Instead, he has the rather more ignoble indignity of going through youth with an older eye, both wise and foolish in what he remembers and forgets about lessons and consequences. (I wanted to smack him a few times, actually.)

And if that’s all there was, it still would have been a touching book. Out of all the nominees, it’s the only one that made me cry.

However, that’s not all there is to Rollback. The plot also involves a First Contact story, which makes you think, “Whut? Is this some kind of random distraction?” But of course, the first contact story ties into the theme of aging, because the contact is made through radio signals, which take many years to traverse space. The aliens specifically want to talk to Sarah—the only problem being that Sarah can only get out barely two replies before she expires, and the aliens live much longer than that.

(This part of the plot is amusing to me, because Sawyer made some of the techniques that would actually go into decoding an alien reply understandable and engaging. Even though there were equations dripping down the page at one point. Neat trick.

Also? The pizza and the late night research and the collegy stuff? I’m not too far away from it. It was so very real. I could taste the cold manky pizza and remember not caring because I was too busy hacking. Not at alien codes, mind you, but still.)

Rollback is not clearly just one thing (rejuvenation) and not clearly the other (first contact), but is obviously both, which might make you conclude that it’s unfocused. But if you forget about trying to classify Rollback and just think of it as a yarn about being old, then being young and being old, then being young, with aliens, it’s more than just quite alright (although I think the future’s word for “cool” is lame, so I’m just going to put “cool” here).

But man. I so do not want to get old.

Further links:

Thoughts on the 2008 Hugo Nominees for Best Novel: The Last Colony

the-last-colony.jpg

They say that John Scalzi has the brain of Robert A. Heinlein in a tank somewhere, or is channeling the spirit of RAH, or even is the next incarnation of RAH (how does that work?).

Well, it’s all true, but then again not true. I discovered this on a trip to another convention, a few days before the hardcover of The Last Colony was released.

For me, trips involving planes, due to living on an island, last anywhere from 12 hours to, one unfortunate time routing through O’Hare, over 24. During one of those stretches where you sit in some random airport and wait for the next (ultimately late) flight to come in, I ran out of reading material. And had no Kindle at the time.

It was a horrifying moment.

So I hit the Barnes and Noble—which I usually avoid like the plague—in the airport. I saw RAH’s Starship Troopers sitting next to Old Man’s War. This seemed to be a sign, so I bought them together.

I read the RAH first. I thought it was pretty neat. I had never been exposed to military SF before. The ending seemed abrupt, which kind of spoiled it all.

Then I started Old Man’s War, and was completely blown away. Not in the same sense of being blown away by, say, Brasyl or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell; but in the sense of a kind of reading comfort I only get from authors I can re-read constantly and enjoy. The last ones were Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

I loved the characters; the SF was reachable for me, a non-SF kind of gal; I loved the words; I loved the plot. And damn it. He’s just better than Heinlein, or at least better than Starship Troopers, by far. The ending was perfect, and there was even a little romance—a very unconventional one, but all the more lovely for its oddness.

On the next layover, I made a beeline for the nearest airport Borders and was thankful that Ghost Brigades and The Android’s Dream were there.

I ate them up. Ghost Brigades was unusual, in that it broke away from first person and used third person, and there wasn’t any John Perry around. Still enjoyable, and very much like Heinlein, but turned to 11.

At the convention, everything was fine until I finished both Ghost Brigades and The Android’s Dream. Fortunately the hotel lets you have packages sent to your room. I visited Amazon’s site and bought The Last Colony. In hardcover. Overnight delivery.

And I was very happy. The Last Colony still has a dash of military fiction, but it morphs strongly into what I now think of as space colonization fiction (a la Heinlein’s Red Planet for instance). Perry and Sagan are in charge of starting a brand new space colony, which is a natural continuation of their original roles in holding the fort on other planets so that colonies can be started at all.

Everything that can go wrong does go wrong, of course, resulting in an intergalactic conflict that might leave all of humanity dead—after all, when you have 412 races joined against you in the form of the Conclave, it’s going to be a bit hard. And the really interesting bit is that humanity probably deserves large parts of that, as opposed to being innocent and helpless and, this is important, the absolute good guys.

From what I’ve scanned of Heinlein’s bibliography, nothing of his really comes close to that.

And General Szilard is so cool, although the main characters are John Perry and Jane Sagan, whom I enjoyed seeing together after the space of Ghost Brigades. I think, though, that Hickory and Dickory, Perry and Sagan’s daughter Zoe’s alien escort, are wonderful secondary characters. The whole concept of the Obin (an intelligent race without individual consciousness) is wonderful. The whole thing is re-readbly wonderful.

Then came the Hugos. And while I love The Last Colony, by itself it doesn’t blow me away. It’s the series that blows me away. I don’t know what to think about that; do you vote based on the book alone, or based on the series? It’s like trying to vote on Battleship Galactica’s Razor mini-series, also nominated for a 2008 Hugo in a different category. Is it the series as a whole—or just the mini-series? I mean, the entire season of Heroes got nominated. Then again, “long form” is more flexible than “novel”, since it leaves out novel series.

It was a difficult vote, but in the end The Last Colony was not a top scorer for me. (On the other hand, I hope that Scalzi totally sweeps the Fan Writer award.)

Now the question is: will Zoe’s Tale have an impact that will go beyond the series? Does that even make sense? When I think about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, I find a few that stand out—such as Night Watch—but most of them are series-impactful, not stand-alone-impactful. Perhaps Zoe’s Tale will be Scalzi’s Night Watch.

In the end, no matter wht happens, I enjoy all of the OMW series, just like I enjoy all of Discworld, or all of Neil Gaiman’s works. I buy them all in multiple formats, because paper versions wear out, audio books are so keen, and I can’t read eBooks with peace of mind in the bath.

And you know—writers write to be read.

Further linkage:

Thoughts on the 2008 Hugo Nominees for Best Novel: Halting State

Halting State is about virtual reality, but not so much about the marvel as much as about the societal and cultural implications of working in or playing outside of the real world—or, indeed, walking with one foot in both the real and virtual worlds. In the world of Halting State, virtual reality and reality aren’t just mirrors of one another—they interact and are inseparable (without breaking down into “nothing is really real!” nonsense). When a story starts with a bank robbery in, essentially, World of Warcraft, you know you’re in for a ride down the real and unreal, so to speak.

If I had to name one thing that I love about Charles Stross’s work: he can really speak to the cubicle monkey in all of us. Although the story is told through three different main characters, the heart of Halting State is Jack Reed, a video games programmer who’s just been laid off. The theme of isolation hand-in-hand with virtual reality beats through all three view points, but they circle hardest around Jack.

Which is not to say that Sue Smith, a police officer, and Elaine Barnaby, an insurance lawyer, don’t play important roles; when the former operates in virtual CopSpace with her peers, and the latter engages in medieval re-enactment and spy LARPing as hobbies, there’s no question that the motif of their encounters with the crossings of “real” reality and virtual reality is set up as distinct counterpoint to Jack’s theme most of the plot—and the climax where the motif and the theme collapse into one state is unexpected.

Some people have noted the use of second person and present tense throughout the novel seems weird and even off-putting, but those mechanics fit neatly into the theme of the work—as well as the fact that Stross has the writing chops to carry it off. Stross’s use of second person both seats the reader intimately in the story—and yet he makes it clear that the reader and the point of view character are distinct. Virtual reality, in other words. I like that he started off with Sue’s Scottish accent, because that’s a clear signal that the second person POV and you-the-reader are not to be confused with one another.

The ending of Halting State (which begins and ends with impish emails) felt a bit rushed to me; not enough cleaning up after the climax. Still, the book is brilliant, and very much a contender in the 2008 line-up.

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Thoughts on the 2008 Hugo Nominees for Best Novel: Brasyl

Some books are adventures; real people living lives we drink deeply and intimately of, and on the day that is different running up against a tangible danger of beyond-our-fields-we-know scope, the clash leaving us breathless. Some books are dreams; philosophical questions about existence, Plato’s allegory of the cave writ fantasy or sci-fi, a spiraling narrative of ideas ascending to the disappearing reaches of the universe we all imagine. Brasyl, like the best of the field—like the best of any field—manages to be both.

Brasyl is strongly spiced with South-American flavor, a passionate novel whose three story lines in three different eras interleave and dance around a core conflict of what seems to be the usual time-traveling, multiple possible universes, one side against the other stuff that is, these days, pretty mainstream. Even parallel story lines in multiple eras has been done to death—so what’s different about Brasyl?

First and foremost, the pulse of Brasyl is the heartbeat of Brazil, from the primal rainforests and the encroachment of Europeans and religion upon the Amazon Indians; to the modern day fury of futebol, reality shows, and telenovelas; to a future whose echoes might be Blade Runner but is still through and through Rio. Immersed to the point where it’s handy to know of the existence of the glossary in the back, you are pulled along headfirst into a complex history and culture that is both disorientating and wondrous. It’s the kind of world-building that fiction, SFF or not, often takes for granted.

The other half is a unique treatment of what could otherwise have been a very cliche plot. There is a tendency, in books that address this sort of thing, to make the spectacle of multiple worlds not just the cornerstone of the story, but also strongly threaded through almost every moment. Brasyl still embraces this most science fiction of tenets, but does so in an entirely disarming way. The characters are all coping with their worlds, their times—even if it’s the 18th century, even if it’s the 24th century—and then must wrestle with the space-time-reality puzzle with their knowledge of their times. We see the impositions of the “real” reality through their eyes, the gradual development of their understanding of the true shape of things, and the final battle unrevealed until nearly the end.

The ending is superb, not consisting of multiple disparate endings that easily befalls a plot repeatedly crossing the 21st, 24th, and 18th centuries in parallel. Instead, each ending ties neatly into the next, with the biggest climax still saved for last—and when you’d least expect it to be.

There’s no getting around the fact that Brasyl is a difficult read—and yet I think it’s also one of the most accessible of these time-bending, alternate-universe-bending stories. Brasyl is not so much about the existence of multiple realities and the implications thereof, which it has an interesting interpretation of as well, but also about the discovery by normal people of its existence. And Brasyl does it while being Brazil.

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