Guillermo del Toro will be directing The Hobbit.

Guillermo del Toro has officially signed up to direct The Hobbit, according to reports leaking out from a film premiere in France. The Pan’s Labyrinth creator will oversee a double-bill of films based on JRR Tolkien’s fantasy adventure, which paved the way for The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson, director of the Oscar-winning Rings trilogy, will serve as executive producer.

Interesting choice. I can actually see this being better than if Jackson was directing, in some ways.

P.S. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles — best new show of the 07/08 tv season? I love me some Pushing Daisies, but Sarah Connor is actual science fiction, so I am biased towards it. Particularly when they have John Connor mention the singularity.


Out Now or Coming Soon

Per my reading resolutions, I was hoping that quite a bit of my reading in 2008 will have some other date on the copyright page. Then I sat down and started making notes for this post. No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy, it seems.

January: Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo


Long-time readers will remember that I rather liked Guo’s previous, Orange-shortlisted novel, so this, when I saw it on the shelves in Borders, was an automatic purchase. Unlike A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, Twenty Fragments is set entirely in China, being the story of a girl who moves from the country to Beijing to find a job in the film industry. It looks like Guo’s semi-autobiographical tendencies are still in force, then, but if Fenfang is anything like as engaging as Z, this should be a winner. (In other news, according to this profile, “her next book and film […] are about UFOs and aliens, loosely inspired by China’s place in the world.”)

February: Mushishi, volume 3, by Yui Urushibara


Or, at any rate, so claim Amazon. I hope they’re right, because Urushibara’s series is one of the two best comics I discovered last year (or more accurately, was introduced to by Micole, the other being Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, which is its opposite in many ways). I keep trying to write something about the first two volumes and failing. I get as far as explaining that mushi are an entire kingdom of living beings half way between a sort of microorganism and a sort of spirit, that each volume collects five or six short stories about the travels of a mushi master (mushishi), that the setting is rural Japan, and that the artwork is beautifully textured — but then I don’t know how to capture the tone of the stories, the poignancy of them. Maybe I’ll have another go when I get my hands on volume three.

Also out in February: Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut collection, Pump Six and Other Stories (having read very nearly all of the intense science fiction stories that make up this book already, it seems likely that it’s going to be one of the best collections of the year; maybe reading them all together will reveal weaknesses not previously obvious, but I doubt it); Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago; a new Victor Pelevin novel, The Sacred Book of the Werewolf; Paul Melko’s interesting-looking debut, Singularity’s Ring; and Weaver, the conclusion of Stephen Baxter’s Time’s Tapestry sequence, which looks like it will actually tip over into full alternate history.

March: Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell


Godawful cover, but it’s a new novel by Mary Doria Russell! This one looks to be a posthumous fantasy set behind the scenes at the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference, but really that’s irrelevant, because it’s a new novel by Mary Doria Russell; it gets bought. Also in March, Swiftly by Adam Roberts (set in a world in which, after Gulliver returned from his travels, others went after him and enslaved the various races he found; the short story that makes up the first chapter of this novel is possibly my favourite of Roberts’ short fiction, so I have high hopes for the rest of the book) and, according to Locus at least, Ian R Macleod’s Song of Time, which “tells the story of this century through the eyes of a great musician as she unravels the mysteries of her past, and contemplates making the ultimate leap into life beyond the body.” I have my doubts as to whether it will actually show up in March, since PS novels have a habit of appearing a bit later than advertised, but I have my fingers crossed.

April: Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn


This is the book which elaborates on the taxonomy of fantasy that Farah Mendlesohn started using a few years ago (portal fantasy/immersive fantasy/intrusive fantasy/liminal fantasy); it should be a book to get one’s teeth into. I’m looking forward to it not least because I understand it actually engages with examples from contemporary fantasy, in all its diversity. Also this month: Jonathan Strahan’s YA anthology The Starry Rift (complete with gorgeous cover, and Kelly Link sf story); a UK edition of a new Michael Marshall Smith novel, The Servants (I read a couple of the Michael Marshall thrillers, but never found them as satisfying as the MMS books); House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds, which sounds as though it will be epic in scope even by Reynolds’ standards; and a new Philip Pullman novella set in the world of His Dark Materials, Once Upon a Time in the North.

May: Incandescence by Greg Egan


’nuff said.

June: Flood by Stephen Baxter


Isn’t that a good cover? This looks, on the face of it, like Baxter does global warming, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be an update of The Kraken Wakes (given that the Amazon description begins “Next year. Sea levels begin to rise. The change is far more rapid than any climate change predictions; metres a year”, which sounds like external intervention to me). Either way, I’m ready for another hefty Baxter science fiction tome, now that he’s done with the historicals. Also this month a brace of notable debuts (Superpowers by David J Schwartz, Principle of Angels by Jaine Fenn, and The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway — the last of which really sounds like it’s got a bit of everything, although the comparisons to Douglas Adams that have cropped up in a couple of places make me nervous) and Ellen Datlow’s Del Rey Book of SF & Fantasy.

July and beyond

The Locus forthcoming books issues and Amazon’s advance listings will only take you so far, and this is the point at which the future becomes misty. I’m sure there are many books scheduled for the second half of the year that I’ll want to read just as badly as the ones mentioned above. In August, the ones I know about and know something about are Ken MacLeod’s The Night Sessions (which, set “after the Middle East wars” in a time when “terrorism is history”, looks like a complement to The Execution Channel in a number of ways), Jo Walton’s Half a Crown (although I have some catch-up reading to do before I can read it), and Benjamin Rosenbaum’s collection The Ant King and Other Stories (which may give Bacigalupi’s book a run for its money); there’s also Sarah Hall’s next book, The Bottles, about which I only know the title. After that, there’s a new Kelly Link collection, The Wrong Grave and Other Stories; Lydia Millet’s new book How the Dead Dream (yes, I know it’s out in the US already — don’t tempt me); and, dare I hope, the fifth volume of Scott Pilgrim?

In short, it seems there’ll be enough to keep me out of trouble. What’s everyone else looking forward to?

No Sneer Here

Andrew Wheeler said:

SF Awards Watch has the full list of [BSFA Awards] nominees; all we need now is the American version of Niall Harrison to come into the comment thread and sneer at it.

For the record, my reaction to the Nebula preliminary ballot wasn’t intended to be a sneer, though I suppose I can’t really fault Andrew for getting that impression. It was, rather, a scream of frustration and disappointment.

I realise that I care more about literary awards than the average sf reader, never mind the average person on the street, but I do care. There are two general categories of awards I find useful: those awards that identify books I’m likely to be interested in (or am interested in an am pleased to see recognised), and those awards that represent the tastes of groups of readers I’m interested in. Awards in the first group tend to be juried — the Clarke, the Tiptree, the World Fantasy Awards. Awards in the second group tend (not entirely by definition) to be popular vote awards — the Hugo, the BSFA Awards.

The Nebula Awards, by all rights, should be in both groups. I’m an avid reader of sf, so I respect sf writers and am interested in what they, as practitioners, consider to be good sf; and the early Nebula winners are a pretty good list of essential science fiction. And yet, increasingly, they’re not in either group, to the point where my only response is bafflement. Readers who prefer Joe Haldeman’s Camouflage to Geoff Ryman’s Air and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell — readers who prefer Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas — are not readers I have much in common with. It’s not even that the shortlists are horrible; it’s just that the winners seem to be the mediocre (yes, in my opinion) choices. Hence, frustration.

But enough of this looking back! Tomorrow, the books I’m looking forward to reading in 2008.

P.S. In the same post, Andrew comments on the nomination of Alice in Sunderland, and Saxon commented here. I haven’t read it yet, but I’d be interested in other thoughts.

P.P.S. Following my thoughts on cover art, a couple of interesting comments from Tom Abba:

. If the likes of Atwood, Palahniuk, McCarthy and Winterston do any long term good, it might be to persuade publishers to revisit what counts as ‘SF artwork’. Fantasy publishers, for example, could do a lot worse than commission Sam Taylor-Wood, Matthew Barney, Chris Anthony or even Stefan Sagmeister rather than relying on the ‘richly painted dragon’ motif that’s been done to death.

P.P.P.S. For those who didn’t see the comment on the main shortlist announcement post, there’s now a livejournal community for the discussion of nonfiction about sf and fantasy (which is of relevance to the Hugo Best Related Book category as well as the BSFA Awards).

London Meeting: Robert Holdstock

At the request of a certain Vector editor, who forgot to post this before going to work, I’m here to take over Torque Control make the following announcement:

The guest for tonight’s BSFA meeting will be Robert Holdstock, interviewed by Paul Kincaid.

Venue (for the last time):
Upstairs room, The Star Tavern
6 Belgrave Mews West

As usual, the interview is due to start at 7pm, but the room is open from 6, and fans will be in the downstairs bar from 5.

There’s a map here.

Hope to see you all there,

Mystery Guest Poster x

BSFA Awards: Shortlists

Announced last night:

Best Novel:
Alice in Sunderland – Bryan Talbot (Jonathan Cape)
Black Man – Richard Morgan (Gollancz)
Brasyl – Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
The Execution Channel – Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
The Prefect – Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz)
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Michael Chabon (Fourth Estate)

Not much I can say about this category, for obvious reasons, except that I called five out of the six nominees ahead of time, and I only didn’t call the sixth (the Talbot) because the shortlist usually has five items on it (ie there must have been a tie this time). Clearly, BSFA members, you are too predictable.

As has been noted elsewhere, in a friendslocked livejournal post I can’t link to, this and all the other lists are all-male. That this list is all-male doesn’t surprise me in the slightest: taking a broad view of “science fiction”, there were a grand total of eight science fiction novels by women published in the UK last year, and only five of those were published as genre science fiction, compared to about sixty science fiction novels by men, of which about fifty were published as genre science fiction. Fantasy novels, of course, are also eligible for the award, but we all know that BSFA members don’t read fantasy.

Best Short Fiction:
Lighting Out‘ – Ken MacLeod (disLocations; NewCon Press)
Terminal‘ – Chaz Brenchley (disLocations; NewCon Press)
The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate‘ – Ted Chiang (F&SF, September)
The Gift of Joy‘ – Ian Whates (TQR)
‘The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter’ – Alastair Reynolds (Interzone #209)

Not, it has to be said, the strongest list in the world. Chiang should obviously win.

Best Artwork
Cracked World‘ – Andy Bigwood (cover of disLocations anthology, published by NewCon Press)
H P Lovecraft in Britain‘ – Les Edwards (cover of chapbook by Stephen Jones, published by the British Fantasy Society)
Lunar Flare‘ – Richard Marchand (cover of Interzone #211)
‘Metal Dragon Year’ – Kenn Brown (cover of Interzone #212)

An ok list; suspect I’ll be voting for the Marchand.

BSFA Fiftieth Anniversary Award: Best Novel of 1958:
A Case of Conscience – James Blish (first published by Ballantine)
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel – Robert A Heinlein (first published in F&SF, August – October 1958)
Non-Stop – Brian Aldiss (first published by Faber & Faber)
The Big Time – Fritz Leiber (first published in Galaxy, March/April 1958)
The Triumph of Time – James Blish (first published by Avon; subsequent UK title A Clash of Cymbals)
Who? – Algis Budrys (first published by Pyramid)

Quick! To Amazon marketplace! I’m really looking forward to reading these, and will try to post my thoughts before Eastercon.

You may have noticed that the non-fiction category is missing. The reason for that is:

Nominations were also invited for the best non-fiction of 2007, but although a number of works were nominated there was no consensus and so no shortlist could be formed. A non-fiction award will therefore not be presented this year.

So it goes. Paul Raven isn’t thrilled, but says:

I suppose there are a lot of ways to look at that – I’m going to take the charitable view and assume they knew that the limited number of us who care about such things would rather thrash it out for ourselves than submit to a consensus we couldn’t agree with.

In which case, ladies and gentlemen – start your engines!

I do find it a little disappointing that BSFA members can come up with a shortlist for novels published fifty years ago, but not non-fiction published last year. So: I already mentioned some of the non-fiction I liked; if I get a chance this weekend, i’ll mention some of the individual articles, essays and reviews I rated, as well. If the limited number of the rest of you who care about this category would like to chime in with the things you nominated, and why, that’d be neat.

No Country For Old Links

… but some of these are pretty old. Still, that only means you’ll be able to find something to read, right?

The Gates Between the Kingdoms are Infinitely Wide and Always Open

At some point today I will try to put together a proper links post, since I have a hugenormous accumulation of links to deal with. But I have to get my head around this first: according to Jason Sanford, who got it from the SFWA Bulletin, Michael Chabon has joined the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

On the one hand, how cool is that? On the other hand, given SFWA’s recent and rather public string of cock-ups, and the disillusionment that seems to have pervaded large parts of the sf-writing community as a result, it seems downright surreal to see someone joining the organisation out of (I assume, since I can’t imagine that he needs to do it) principle.

BSFA Awards: Cover Art

I’m finding this category the most difficult to nominate for. The rules say:

The Best Artwork award is open to any single science fictional or fantastic image that first appeared in 2007. Again, provided the artwork hasn’t been published before 2007 it doesn’t matter where it appears.

First, establishing whether or not artwork has been previously published is, well, challenging. I do like some of Clarkesworld’s covers, for instance — particularly those for issue 5 and issue 8 — but I’m almost certain I remember seeing that the cover of issue 12 is a reprint, and I have no idea about the others. Second, this doesn’t seem to have been a particularly exciting year for sf artwork on book covers. You’d really be hard-pushed to tell, from the covers, that recent books by Paul McAuley, Ken MacLeod and Richard Morgan are sf, and while the covers of books like Splinter and the “Future Classics” edition of Fairyland are terribly pretty, I’m not sure they’re science fictional or fantastic images. (Although the award has taken a pretty broad view of what that means in past years, it has to be said.)

Here are the other nominations listed on the BSFA website:

Cover of Dark Benediction – Dominic Harman (novel by Walter M Miller; Gollancz SF Masterworks edition)
Cover of Interzone #209 – Jim Burns
Cracked World’ – Andy Bigwood (cover of disLocations, ed. Ian Whates; Newcon Press)
‘Dada Jihad’ – Chris Nurse (Interzone #212)
It Will Never Fly Again’ – Alexander Kruglov (cover of Albedo One #32)
‘Looking In, Looking Out’ – Martin Deep (Murky Depths #1)
Lunar Flare’ – Richard Marchand (cover of Interzone #211)
Transcendance Express’ – Vincent Chong (cover of Hub #2)

I quite like the Dark Benediction cover, and “Lunar Flare” is a very fine spaceship, but beyond that I’m not being particularly inspired. What else can I think of? The cover of Interfictions, which I think probably can be justified under “fantastic image”; the cover of The Fade, although to an extent that is just Edward Miller (I assume) doing what Edward Miller does; and I’m quite fond of the cover of In War Times. But I feel I must be missing something. Any suggestions, anyone? Remember, the deadline for your nominations is midnight tonight…