Out with the old …

Oh, I had such plans. As a member of Anticipation (even if it’s not certain that I’ll actually be attending) I get to nominate in the Hugos; given that, why not wait until I nominate before writing any kind of best-of-2008 list? I get a couple of extra months to catch up on 2008 books and stories that I missed, and plenty of time to write a detailed summary of my reading.

Well, so much for that idea. Instead, here’s my Hugo ballot, mere hours before the nominating deadline, with some abbreviated commentary.

Best Novel

Flood by Stephen Baxter [discussion]
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway [review]
Lavinia by Ursula K Le Guin
Song of Time by Ian R MacLeod [review]
Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell [review]

I am nothing if not quixotic. I thought it might be hard to fight the temptation to nominate books I liked but also thought had a chance of getting enough nominations to be shortlisted; I also thought I’d have a much harder time actually narrowing it down to five books, because my overall feeling is that 2008 was a year with many good genre novels, but few if any great ones. As it is, the process was relatively straightforward. These are books that (a) I want to read again, and (b) I want other people to read, even if the result will only be that more people tell me Dreamers of the Day isn’t really a fantasy, and even if only Lavinia is a real shortlist prospect (Flood might have a shot next year, I suppose, because the US edition will be out). Ironically, I’m actually pretty ambivalent about Lavinia; I only finished it today, but the problem might be that Cecelia Holland and Gary Wolfe are both right, which I didn’t reckon on being possible. But like my other nominees it’s a book that provokes me to think about it, and that at least is a good thing.

Best Novella

“True Names” by Cory Doctorow and Benjamin Rosenbaum (Fast Forward 2)
Gunpowder by Joe Hill (PS Publishing)
“The Surfer” by Kelly Link (The Starry Rift) [review]
“Truth” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s, October/November 2008)
Distances by Vandana Singh (Aqueduct)

This category, on the other hand, I thought would be a struggle, and it was, although in the end I’ve got five nominees I’m happy with. The standout, though, is “True Names”, which as Abigail says combines its authors’ strengths to brilliant effect.

Best Novellette

The Gambler” by Paulo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2)
“The Ice War” by Stephen Baxter (Asimov’s September)
“The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm” by Daryl Gregory (Eclipse 2)
“Special Economics” by Maureen F. McHugh (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy) [review]
“Legolas does the Dishes” by Justina Robson (Postscripts 15) [review]

As for novella, I have a clear favourite here — “The Gambler” — but unlike novella, winnowing myself down to only five nominees was tricky.

Best Short Story

“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse 2)
“The Goosle” by Margo Lanagan (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy) [review]
“An Honest Day’s Work” by Margo Lanagan (The Starry Rift)
The Small Door” by Holly Phillips (Fantasy Magazine)
“Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment” by M. Rickert (F&SF October/November [review]

I spent quite a while going back and forth between “An Honest Day’s Work” and “The Goosle”; I’ve read enough good short stories this year that I felt I should only nominate one by any given author. But in the end I decided that was a silly rule; they both deserve their nominations.

Best Related Book

Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon (McSweeny’s) [review]
The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr (Wesleyan)
What it is we do When we Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid (Beccon)
Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan)

I’m missing a book in this slot, and in fact these are the only four books of related non-fiction I read in 2008; but they all deserve nominations.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Hellboy 2

Mongol is only just touched by the fantastic; Hellboy 2 is beautiful but flawed; and I’ve watched Wall-E three times. (And The Dark Knight isn’t science fiction or fantasy.)

Best Dramatic Presentation — Short Form

Battlestar Galactica, “The Hub” (4×09), by Jane Espenson
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog by Maurissa Tancharoen, Jed Whedon, Joss Whedon and Zack Whedon
Pushing Daisies, “Frescorts” (2×04), by Aaron Harberts, Gretchen J. Berg, and Lisa Joy
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, “Alpine Fields” (2×12), by John Enbom
The Middleman, “The Sino-Mexican Revelation” (1×03), by Javier Grillo-Marxuach

There’s a certain amount of closing my eyes and sticking a pin in it going on here. Let’s see: I think Galactica‘s fourth season was a big step back up in quality, and wanted to recognise that, but those first ten episodes are essentially serialised; so I’ll go for the one with the big space battle. I haven’t caught up with Pushing Daisies, and all the episodes I’ve watched so far have been good, but “Frescorts” is probably the best, narrowly. And there are half a dozen episodes of The Middleman I could have nominated, but this was the one that fully won me over to the show. “Alpine Fields”, though, I feel pretty sure about; although Sarah Connor had a lot of good episodes, that’s the one I feel works best as a showcase, and aside from the pilot, it’s the one I’d pick to show someone why they should watch.

Best Editor (Long Form)

Pete Crowther (PS Publishing)
Jo Fletcher (Gollancz)
Simon Spanton (Gollancz)

Alas the SF Editors wiki isn’t even close to being up to date. So Fletcher and Spanton get nods because I think Gollancz had a good year, and Crowther gets one for publishing Song of Time.

Best Editor (Short Form)

Lou Anders (Fast Forward 2)
Ellen Datlow (The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy)
Susan Marie Groppi (Strange Horizons)
Jonathan Strahan (Eclipse 2, The Starry Rift)
Sheila Williams (Asimov’s)

As ever, short fiction editors are easier to judge. Most of these follow on from my short fiction nominations; the exception, Susan Groppi, gets a nod because what I read of the Strange Horizons fiction this year was good, even if none of it made it to my ballot.

Best Semiprozine

Interzone, ed. Andy Cox et al.
The New York Review of Science Fiction, eds. David Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer and Kevin Maroney
Foundation, ed. Graham Sleight
Strange Horizons, ed. Susan Marie Groppi, Jed Hartman and Karen Meisner

Interzone had a definite uptick in quality in 2008 compared to the previous couple of years, I thought, so I’m happy to give them a nod; and the other two were reliably good. Locus misses out on a nomination for the way they handled their awards, and a couple of other bits of bad behaviour.

Best Fanzine

Asking the Wrong Questions by Abigail Nussbaum
Banana Wings, ed Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Coffee and Ink
The Antick Musings of GBH Hornswoggler, Gent
The Internet Review of Science Fiction, ed. Stacey Janssen

Best Fan Writer

Claire Brialey
Graham Sleight
Abigail Nussbaum
Mark Plummer
Micole S.

These two categories go together, for obvious reasons. With the exception of Antick Musings and IROSF (which does say it’s a fanzine, for now), they’re also stuffed with people I know personally as well as admire. I make no apology for that; fan writing, so far as I’m concerned, is to a large extent about personal connection, and most of the people I’ve nominated are people I know either first or best (or both) through their writing. But, you know, they put out some damn good writing last year.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo)

J. M. McDermott
Patrick Ness
Gord Sellar

This one, thankfully, does have an up-to-date website to help you out, although of course it’s not fully comprehensive. Annoyingly, I believe that Mr Harkaway’s eligibility got burned by a couple of stories published in Interzone in the mid-nineties (although Interzone is no longer a qualifying market, it was then).

And that’s your lot (except that I’ll also be nominating Stephen Martiniere for Best Professional Artist). Tomorrow: 2009 begins.

Hunt the Centre

Jeffrey Ford:

Lord knows I’m not exactly an astute observer of the ebb and flow of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, but I have been looking, if sometimes with glazed eyes, for more than ten years, and in recent months, maybe over the past year, it strikes me that the genre(s) are re-centering. The energy in publishing and I suppose a good deal of the writing and reviewing seems to be flowing back to classic forms and styles. I don’t take this as either positive or negative but merely an evolutionary development. I mean scientific evolution, devoid of the concept of perceived social “progress.” Just as environment shapes organic evolution, I suppose the current fiscal environment is responsible for a part of this. It just makes sense that publishers, in order to stay viable, have to bet on projects and books that they feel certain will have a chance of bringing in some income. The ready cash to take chances has dried up as it has in the greater economy. I see this in the themes of proposed anthologies, in the popularity of certain novels, etc. I’d like to be more specific, but I don’t really give a shit enough about the issue to do the leg work. It’s just a perception I figured I’d throw out there and see what others thought. I’m not of the mind that this says anything about the quality of the fiction being published. It strikes me that there are as many great writers around as there ever were, and many of the newer writers (this is anyone younger than me, and at this point that’s a lot of writers) generally amaze me with their abilities. There are still writers traveling the marchland at the boundaries as there always have been and always will be, but the general energy seems to be flowing again to the center. What do you think? Is this one of those instances where I’m finally getting what has been evident to pretty much everyone or in my own addled way am I on to something? Maybe even the idea that the energy of the genre(s) has ever been anywhere else has been an illusion or delusion. What say ye?

What I say is: how would you go about establishing whether or not this is the case? On the one hand, I guess, you could look at something like the SF Site “Reader’s Choice” lists, comparing, say, 2001 and 2002 with 2006 and 2007.The first two of those lists, which include Kelly Link, Maureen McHugh, China Mieville, Jeff VanderMeer, Carol Emshwiller, Kelley Eskridge, and M John Harrison, to my eyes do perhaps look less “centred”, than the latter two. On the other hand, Robin Hobb is there in both 2001 and 2006, and Steven Erikson is in all four lists. You could look at Hugo award shortlists, though I can’t discern any great differences there — and, of course, last year Michael Chabon won with a book that is, for all that it uses a classic form (several forms, even), arguably a boundary case. You could attempt to analyze a list of forthcoming books: I suppose you’d have to control for publisher as well as genre (and sub-genre).

The idea that something of the kind Ford suggests might be happening chimes with three things in my head, though. One is the discussion of “normal” and “revolutionary” sf that Gary Wolfe kicked off on the Locus blog; another is Jonathan McCalmont’s column about a new generation of British sf writers; and the third is the ongoing background concern about “entry-level” sf, or the lack thereof (which overlaps with the ongoing discussion about YA sf, I think). Which is to say, I think, that I’m as interested in what might be driving such a shift — readers or writers or publishers — as I am in the fact of it happening or not. Ford suggests it might be publisher-, and ultimately economy-driven; on the other hand, there are many more sf-focused blogs now than a few years ago, and most of them focus on core genre books, which may give a sense that that aspect of the conversation has got louder. My gut-level response is that, to the extent I see a degree of re-centring in my reading and in the spread of books I’m looking forward to, I see it in the output of genre publishers, but I also see, if anything, an increasing number of mainstream-published sf novels to look forward to: Xiaolu Guo’s UFO In Her Eyes, Toby Litt’s Journey Into Space, and Bernard Beckett’s Genesis, for instance, not to mention a new Margaret Atwood sf novel later this year. All of which is to lead up to an inevitable question: what do you think? We’re probably too close to the issue to really know one way or the other, but let’s speculate.

London Meeting: Nick Lowe

The guest at tonight’s BSFA London Meeting is Nick Lowe, film reviewer for Interzone. He will be interviewed by Graham Sleight.

As usual, interview will start at 7pm, though there will be people in the bar from 6-ish; the meeting is free, though there will be a raffle (with sf books as prizes), and it is open to any and all.

The venue is the upstairs room of The Antelope, 22 Eaton Terrace, London, SW1W 8EZ. The closest tube station is Sloane Square, and a map is here.

BBC Radio SF Season

All the sf your heart could desire, starting yesterday. Far more, in fact, than I would have thought any one person could listen to in two weeks. However, I will try to make time for these:

28 Feb 2009, 21:00
BBC Radio 3 — The Wire
Salmonella Man on Planet Porno
A group of male researchers, on a quest to discover the secret of the bizarre planet Porno, become sexual objects themselves.

[Based on the story, I assume]

1 Mar 2009, 15:00
BBC Radio 4 — Classic Serial
Rendezvous with Rama
An adaptation of the late Arthur C Clarke’s novel. In the 22nd century an enormous alien spaceship hovers over the earth.

2 Mar 2009, 10.45
BBC Radio 4 — Womans Hour Drama
The Death of Grass
All the grass in the world has been attacked by a deadly virus. The world’s staple foods are dying. The Custance family flee to a safe haven in the Lake District and descend into barbarism as they try to escape starvation and civil war.

[If only because I want to see how they manage this in fifteen minutes. Unless the idea is that it runs for the whole week.]

3 Mar 2009, 11:00
BBC Radio 7
Drama about a computer so powerful, and so all-knowing that it may be said to have an independent life of its own – despite the fact that it is a man-made creation.

Alpha, won a Sony Radio Academy Award in 2001 for Best Drama.

4 Mar 2009, 11:00
BBC Radio 7
A sister play to Alpha, Omega takes us into a fascinating and disturbing vision of the near future, where the most human and endearing character we meet has, it transpires, no real existence at all.

5 Mar 2009, 14:15
BBC Radio 4 — Afternoon Play
The State of the Art
Dramatisation of an Iain M Banks story in which the Culture, a spacebound utopian civilisation, encounters Earth.

[As adapted by one P. Cornell.]

08 March 2009, 20:00
BBC Radio 3 — Drama on 3
Bring Me The Head of Philip K Dick
A darkly disturbing and surreal vision of contemporary America where faith, national security and the very fabric of time are under attack from an unlikely and terrifying weapon.

Invented by a shadowy research unit inside the Pentagon, the android head of Philip K. Dick is on the loose and wreaking havoc.

I do not feel the slightest inclination to make time for a “re-imagining” of Blake’s 7, however.

Ten Things I Want From The Locus Blog

Martin draws my attention to this post by Liza Groen Trombi at the recently-launched Locus Roundtable blog, and this quote in particular:

While most have welcomed the blog and the launch discussion, we have clearly annoyed a few people by not conforming to their ideas of what we ought to be doing. I’m sure this blog will be many things in its time, and all in all I’m very pleased to have it up and running.

I’m among those to have found the “2008 in review” discussion much less time-worthy than I would have expected, though I would describe myself as more frustrated than annoyed; a Locus blog should be a good, interesting and useful thing, but what we’ve had so far has been those things only in brief flashes. But what do I think they should be doing? Well:

  1. Not moderating comments. There has already been some discussion on this point, but at present the fact that every comment is moderated, and that it takes hours for said comments to be approved and appear on the blog, makes something of a mockery of the idea of actual discussion, and is thus rather a disincentive to commenting at all.
  2. Showing complete posts on the blog home page. I can’t be the only one who finds the current brief snippets and “read more” view irritating; I’ve already come to your blog, don’t make me click through to a separate page for every post, please. (If there’s a good reason to hide something — spoilers, for instance — then fine, but I see no reason to make it standard.) On the upside, the full text is syndicated, so I can read it all as long as I don’t actually visit the blog … but of course, that’s another way of driving me away from engaging in discussion.
  3. Discussing specific works of sf. As Jeff VanderMeer pointed out, the paucity of such discussion was (bizarrely, given the people involved) a problem with many of the 2008-in-review posts. But more generally, this is surely something Locus is very strong at, and while I appreciate that most of the contributors’ thoughts about books will be channelled into reviews for the print magazine, I’ve never yet written a review that manages to say everything there is to say about a good book (particularly when writing in a word-limited context). (Actually, there’s something else I’m not clear on: now that the blog exists, will the posting of sample reviews from the print magazine cease and desist? I think it would be nice if it continued.)
  4. Demonstrating awareness of a world beyond Locus. God bless Graham, who is so far the only person to link to anything of substance beyond the Locusosphere, and even linked here! (Paul Witcover did manage some Amazon links, I suppose.) The rest of the posts seem to exist in a sort of splendid isolation, though.
  5. Interacting with said world. This is, surely, part of what blogs are for. Lord knows I’m not always the best at this myself — I frequently find myself contemplating a post in response to something elsewhere, only to find myself without time to write the damn thing, and reduced to lumping it into a link round-up — but it would seem more worthwhile to go over to the Roundtable and post a comment and wait for said comment to appear if there was an indication that they had any interest in listening to what other people are saying.
  6. Providing critical commentary — the history, theory and practice of sf (and fantasy) criticism. This is what they’ve done best so far, up to and including Graham’s post about advocacy and recognition in sf. More please.
  7. Providing publishing commentary. This should be another area a Locus blog could excel in, in part on the news front (I’m sure I’m not the only person to make a beeline for the “books sold” and “books delivered” listings in each issue), but more relevantly for the Roundtable, I would have thought, in terms of commentary — Locus has a unique perspective on the sf market.
  8. Providing other commentary relevant or of interest to the sf community. Which is, basically, code for allowing the bloggers elbow room to talk about whatever catches their fancy.
  9. Failing all of the above, setting up an “about” page wouldn’t be a bad idea. At the moment, there’s just a link from the Locus home-page, with no explanation of what the Roundtable is or what it exists to do; so it’s perhaps not surprising that people have formed opinions about what it should be doing. A line somewhere along the lines of “The staff of Locus discuss X, Y and Z” would do it.
  10. Last but not least, they should be posting pictures of the Locus cat. If there is one. Because, as is well known, no blog is complete without cat-pictures.

If you detect a subtext in my list to the effect that I think they should be writing a blog that’s a bit more like Torque Control, well, there’s probably an element of truth in that; I try to maintain the sort of blog I want to read, after all. But it also boils down to this: a Locus blog, it seems to me, should be the first online stop for intelligent commentary on sf literature and related topics and at present, unfortunately, I don’t think it is. Fingers crossed for the future, though.

Best Graphic Story

There’s a new Hugo category this year, Best Graphic Story, which means I can stop nominating graphic novels in Best Related Book. I can’t claim a huge knowledge of the field, but I have read some stories released in 2008 which I think are award-worthy. (As to whether they are eligible, that’s a bit trickier – I am counting it as a 2008 work if a story arc or miniseries was concluded, or released as a collected graphic novel.)

Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares
Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

Writing the first big Iron Man series to come out after the film isn’t an easy task: how do you ease the film fans into the character’s extensive continuity without either overwhelming them with backstory or ignoring the past storylines? Matt Fraction’s first arc on Invincible Iron Man does a pretty good job. The five nightmares of the title refer to Tony’s greatest fears, that the Iron Man armour becomes cheap, disposable, and available to someone else, a thoroughly modern threat to deal with, although at the end the big showdown with the villain is another “two guys in power armour have a big punchup”. My main issue is with the artwork, which looks great when it’s a metal suit, and not so great when it’s real people – everyone is strangely shiny, and I’m not sure what’s going on with Pepper’s face on this page. Still, this is a fun action-filled comic with a high level of things exploding, and Larroca’s art is definitely suited to that.

All-Star Superman
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

I’m not a big Superman fan – he just never seemed that interesting compared to Batman, or most other superheroes. He’s too powerful, too upstanding, a bit too dull. Which makes it even more impressive that I like All-Star Superman as much as I do. Maybe because it barrels through the origin story in a single page, and gets down to business, which in this case is Supes flying next to the sun and saving astronauts from a mutant creature which is going to explode. The ideas get bigger and madder from there on, and since this is not bound by the main DC continuity anything really can happen. The art is good but the colours are even better – it’s bright and primary-coloured and fits a character who wears a blue suit and is powered by the sun.

Abe Sapien: The Drowning
Mike Mignola and Jason Shawn Alexander

A solo outing for Abe Sapien, his first mission alone, to find a mysterious dagger last seen embedded in the chest of a mysterious warlock off the coast of a small strange island. Yes, it is another Hellboy-universe story where some weird supernatural shit happens, and there’s not so much that we haven’t seen before, but it’s a well-done story about weird supernatural shit. Alexander’s style is very different to what you get from Mignola, plus it has a zeppelin and creppy little monks, and watching the younger Abe feel his way through his uncertainty on the way to becoming the confident character of later years gives it a twist on your standard Hellboy smack-it-in-the-face approach.

Hellboy: Darkness Calls
Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo

Back to the story arc for Hellboy after a few standalones, and this is pretty continuity-heavy if you haven’t read the previous volumes. The Baba-Yaga is still upset that Hellboy shot out her eye in 1964, so she drags him into her world based on Russian folklore and traditions of the past. Then he fights a guy who can’t die and makes a lot of wisecracks, and this is volume 8 so you know the drill. Mignola wrote this but didn’t draw it, and while Duncan Fegredo’s art is pretty good when he’s drawing a simpler scene, the fight scenes are a bit busy (and there’s a lot of fighting in this one).

Penny Arcade
Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulic

So technically this is a webcomic about video games, but it’s quite surreal and fantastic at times, especially with strips like The Fangspire (man fights giant bird) and fantasy stories within the story like the Songs of Sorcelation, and it is the comic which has most consistently made me laugh this year so I think it’s worthy of a nomination. The question of what to nominate is trickier – my favourite storyline is Paint the Line, which is alternate history if you squint a bit, but the collection released this year was The Case of the Mummy’s Gold, and that’s what I’ll go for.

If you want more ideas, the Comic Book Resources Best of 2008 list recaps their favourites of the year.

Dollhouse: “Ghost”

Scattered thoughts on this:

1) The biggest surprise, I think, is the tone, which is very different to all of Whedon’s other TV shows. There are almost no overt jokes (indeed, the most Xander/Wash-like character is described in the casting notes as someone “whose talents exceed his morals”), and the whole episode reeks of unease, and not just in the new-show-finding-its-feet way. The show’s premise — set within an organisation that reprograms beautiful young women and men (“actives”) to meet the needs of exclusive clients — unavoidably draws your attention to, and makes you question, what it is you’re enjoying about what you’re seeing, and why.

2) That, of course, is what’s not a surprise about Dollhouse — it was clear from the first announcement of the show that the whole thing was going to be a metaphor for how social roles are imposed on everyone — but I’m impressed that they made as much as they did of the tension between exploitation and empowerment offered by glossy action-adventure TV. When Echo takes on a new assignment, she’s essentially being transformed into the omnicompetent protagonist of a new show (and I did appreciate that what Whedon chose to showcase in the pilot is a thinking protagonist), but the constant, nagging undercurrent that refuses to let you embrace events on the screen is that the whole thing is a dishonest fantasy.

3) The trajectory for the first few episodes at least is plainly going to be Echo discovering her own identity, which could water down that tension somewhat; but a more immediate problem is that until that happens, Dollhouse is a show with no central character. This had sort of occurred to me beforehand, but it’s one thing to think about it academically, and another thing to see it on screen. At the moment, Echo is a blank. We get a couple of glimpses of the person she was before signing up for the Dollhouse (something she clearly did out of desperation), and one of the sub-plots of “Ghost” is the induction of a new Active into the team, so we get a sense of how Echo’s origin story might have looked, but other than one moment of inquisitiveness, there’s no sense of her, right now, as a person in her own right — which of course contributes to the unsettling nature of the episode.

4) I guess the question I’m circling around is, what on Earth does Whedon thinks is going to bring a mass audience back for a second episode? Dollhouse doesn’t even have a clear style of its own at this stage — while I think there’s a decent chance I could recognise a frame from one of his other shows on the basis of the lighting and framing, and I know I can recognise the score music, this seemed much more generic. (The Dollhouse itself looks a bit like Wolfram and Hart’s office in season five of Angel, for instance.)

5) This is not to say I didn’t like it; I did, or perhaps more accurately, I was intrigued by it. Though apparently set in the present Dollhouse is, in a way that even Firefly was not, actual science fiction. Nic called it a thought experiment, and I think that’s right, to the extent that that’s the level you on which you have to buy into it in order to want to watch more. Given I often read on the level of idea, rather than character or story, that’s not a problem for me — I want to see Whedon’s takes on all the problems of identity that this sort of sf traditionally deals with; one thing that strikes me, for instance, is that given Doll technology exists, there is a level on which none of the characters can be trusted to be who they appear to be, which could, if Whedon and the other writers want, make Dollhouse an even more destabilizing show to watch than it already is — but I’m only too aware that most other people don’t consume narrative in that way.

6) Judged purely as a single episode of TV? It was OK. None of the cast amazed me, though Dushku was better than I’d expected. In principle I approve of the fact that it’s “Remote-free TV“, but in practice I’m not sure it made the best possible use of the additional minutes; indeed it felt a little slow at times. I liked the little moment of dissonance when Echo-as-negotiator claims “I’ve been doing this all my life”, and I appreciate that her force of personality is meant to outweigh the obvious incongruousness of someone so young making such a claim, but I’m not sure it quite came off. And the choice of an abduction/abuse plot was perhaps a little more heavy-handed than was required; in a way something more obviously glossy might have been more effective.

7) So yes, it’s doomed. Half a dozen episodes, maybe? But I’ll watch them all, and hope that I’m wrong. I enjoy, and think I understand, the grammar of a Joss Whedon TV show more than is the case with most other TV; as is perhaps obvious from the fact that I’ve written this post at all.

8) Of course, I could just be over-thinking it.

2009 Arthur C Clarke Award Submissions

Spring! And a young fan’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of the Arthur C Clarke Award. This year’s shortlist is due to be announced in mid-March, but for the first time the Award is officially announcing the list of submitted works, and very generously they’ve decided to do it through Torque Control. Administrator Tom Hunter writes:

The Arthur C. Clarke Award was originally created to celebrate science fiction literature at its best. One of the things that most struck me when I became the Award’s administrator was the volume of creative and original talent we were seeing submitted every year.

Speculation and active debate have always surrounded the announcements of the shortlists and the eventual winner. By announcing the full list of eligible books for the first time I hope we can also highlight the strength and diversity of current science fiction, create more conversation and debate and show the awesome challenge that faces the judging panel every year.

And so, without further ado, here are the submitted books:

Clarke submissions 2009

This image is deliberately tiny because last year, certain people had too much fun reverse-engineering a list of submissions from a similar picture, and have indicated that they would like to play the game again. Far be it from me to stand in the way of people having fun, so: have at it!

(For everyone else, I’ll update the post with a proper-sized image and the full list later.

Here you go, all forty-six books, in alphabetical order by author:

The Ashes of Worlds by Kevin J Anderson (Simon & Schuster)
Line War by Neal Asher (Tor)
The Heritage by Will Ashon (Faber & Faber)
Man in the Dark by Paul Auster (Faber & Faber)
Neuropath by Scott Bakker (Gollancz)
Matter by Iain M Banks (Orbit)
Flood by Stephen Baxter (Gollancz)
Weaver by Stephen Baxter (Gollancz)
City at the End of Time by Greg Bear (Gollancz)
Kethani by Eric Brown (Solaris)
Necropath by Eric Brown (Solaris)
Sputnik Caledonia by Andrew Crumey (Picador)
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (HarperCollins)
Incandescence by Greg Egan (Gollancz)
Infoquake by David Louis Edelman (Solaris)
The Broken World by Tim Etchells (William Heinemann)
Omega by Christopher Evans (PS Publishing)
Blonde Roots by Bernadine Evaristo (Hamish Hamilton)
Principles of Angels by Jaine Fenn (Gollancz)
Eve: The Empyrean Age by Tony Gonzales (Gollancz)
The Temporal Void by Peter F Hamilton (Macmillan)
The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway (William Heinemann)
Template by Matthew Hughes (PS Publishing)
The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt (Harvill Secker)
Song of Time by Ian R MacLeod (PS Publishing)
The Night Sessions by Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
The Affinity Bridge by George Mann (Snowbooks)
The Quiet War by Paul McAuley (Gollancz)
Dark Blood by John Meaney (Gollancz)
The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan (Gollancz)
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Walker)
Debatable Space by Philip Palmer (Orbit)
House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz)
Swiftly by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
Going Under by Justina Robson (Gollancz)
The Last Colony by John Scalzi (Tor)
DogFellow’s Ghost by Gavin Smith (Macmillan)
Anathem by Neal Stephenson (Atlantic)
The Dog of the North by Tim Stretton (Macmillan)
Halting State by Charles Stross (Orbit)
Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross (Orbit)
The Margarets by Sheri S Tepper (Gollancz)
Blue War by Jeffrey Thomas (Solaris)
Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber (Tor)
Martin Martin’s on the Other Side by Mark Wernham (Jonathan Cape)
Winterstrike by Liz Williams (Tor)

As I posted in the thread below: 13% of this year’s submissions are by women, and 17% are ‘mainstream’ in origin, both figures down slightly (I think) from the last few years. And as Nick asks: what would your shortlist be?

Today’s Free Book

Is The Heritage by Will Ashon, who reports that:

So, the good burghers of Faber & Faber have decided against publishing a mass-market paperback edition of “The Heritage”. I would’ve been pissed off, anyway, I guess, but I think would have understood this hard-headed business decision. After all, if you wanna kiss the ring of the Leather Pope then corporate capitalism’s where it’s at and fuck any of the considerations (art, literature, quality) you may pay lip service to. But I think my sense of fair play was piqued by being told less than two weeks before said paperback edition was supposed to be out. I mean, really, how shit is that? Sorry? Pardon? What was that I heard about putting authors first? Anyway, as the only way left to me to build any sort of a readership for what I think is a pretty good book (not a great book by any means, but not as bad as a lot of the shit out there), I’m posting it here for you to download. The file is only 853.5 KB and it downloads as a pdf direct from this link.

There are reviews here by Colin Greenland and here by Martin Lewis. I haven’t read it yet — indeed, I now feel slightly guilty for not having got to my dead-tree copy yet — but I liked Ashon’s first novel, Clear Water, and this sounds like it has similar virtues. So, as the man says, give it a go.

In Link Waters

Well, here I am at Montreal airport, waiting for my flight home. Time for some overdue links:

And now it’s time to board the plane, so time for me to sign off.