Science Fiction’s big digital pivot

Over the past month or so, the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) has been hosting a series of livestream readings from SFF authors in the UK and beyond. We’re calling them the Lockdown Solidarity Salons or, if you prefer, Very Extremely Casual Tales of Optimism and Resilience (VECTOR). Authors, you are all such charmers!

You can find out more about the series on the Facebook page or YouTube channel. We hope you’ll join us this Thursday (8.15pm UK time) for Chinelo Onwualu, Fiona Moore, and on later dates for Naomi Foyle, Lauren Beukes, Temi Oh, Ian R. MacLeod, and more. Here’s Adam Roberts:

See below for Foz Meadows, Stew Hotston, Valerie Valdes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Malka Older, Tiffani Angus, Stephen Oram, Geoff Ryman, Wole Talabi, and Andrew Wallace. This Sunday, the BSFA will be holding our annual BSFA Awards ceremony (usually held at Eastercon, the UK’s annual national SF convention) on YouTube at 7pm BST.

And of course, we’re not the only ones.

Continue reading “Science Fiction’s big digital pivot”

The Decade That Women Won

By Cheryl Morgan.

When the history of science fiction fandom in the 2010s is written, the key event to be discussed will doubtless be the Puppy War. That a group of right-wing fans should attempt to take over the Hugo Awards is perhaps not surprising. The 2010s are, after all, the decade in which it was conclusively proved that democratic systems are vulnerable to attack by malicious actors. That the attack failed is perhaps a testament to the strength of community sentiment within the SF&F community. But what is really surprising is what happened afterwards.

For the last three years of the decade, every single written fiction-related award in the Hugos was won by a woman.

Continue reading “The Decade That Women Won”

The Astounding Award

With admirable swiftness, what was the John C. Campbell Award for Best New Writer has been re-named The Astounding Award for Best New Writer.

Named for Campbell, whose writing and role as editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later renamed Analog Science Fiction and Fact) made him hugely influential in laying the groundwork for both the Golden Age of Science Fiction and beyond, the award has over the years recognized such nominees as George R.R. Martin, Bruce Sterling, Carl Sagan, and Lois McMaster Bujold, as well as award winners like Ted Chiang, Nalo Hopkinson, and John Scalzi.

However, Campbell’s provocative editorials and opinions on race, slavery, and other matters often reflected positions that went beyond just the mores of his time and are today at odds with modern values, including those held by the award’s many nominees, winners, and supporters.

The full statement can be found here. Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech, which sparked the change, can be found here. It began something like this: Continue reading “The Astounding Award”

2018 BSFA Awards Shortlist

Best Novel

  • Dave Hutchinson – Europe at Dawn (Solaris)
  • Yoon Ha Lee – Revenant Gun (Solaris)
  • Emma Newman – Before Mars (Ace Books)
  • Gareth L Powell – Embers of War (Titan Books)
  • Tade Thompson – Rosewater (Orbit)

Best Shorter Fiction

  • Nina Allan – ‘The Gift of Angels: an Introduction’ (Clarkesworld)
  • Malcolm Devlin – ‘The Purpose of the Dodo is to be Extinct’ (Interzone #275)
  • Hal Duncan – The Land of Somewhere Safe (NewCon Press)
  • Ian McDonald – Time Was (Tor.com)
  • Martha Wells – Exit Strategy (Tor.com)
  • Liz Williams – Phosphorus (NewCon Press)
  • Marian Womack – Kingfisher (Lost Objects, Luna Press)

Best Non-Fiction

  • Nina Allan – Time Pieces column 2018 articles (Interzone)
  • Ruth EJ Booth – Noise and Sparks column 2018 articles (Shoreline of Infinity)
  • Liz Bourke – Sleeps With Monsters column 2018 articles (Tor.com)
  • Aliette de Bodard – ‘On motherhood and erasure: people-shaped holes, hollow characters and the illusion of impossible adventures’ (Intellectus Speculativus blog)
  • Adam Roberts – Publishing the Science Fiction Canon: The Case of Scientific Romance (Cambridge University Press)

Best Artwork

  • Ben Baldwin – wraparound cover for Strange Tales slipcase set (NewCon Press)
  • Joey Hi-Fi – cover for Paris Adrift by EJ Swift (Solaris)
  • Sarah Anne Langton – cover for Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon Publications)
  • Sing Yun Lee and Morris Wild – artwork for Sublime Cognition conference (London Science Fiction Research Community)
  • Likhain – In the Vanishers’ Palace: Dragon I and II (Inprnt)
  • Bede Rogerson – cover for Concrete Faery by Elizabeth Priest (Luna Press)
  • Del Samatar – artwork for Monster Portraits by Sofia and Del Samatar (Rose Metal Press)
  • Charlotte Stroomer – cover for Rosewater by Tade Thompson (Orbit)

Congratulations to all those shortlisted. More information about the awards is available on the BSFA website. Please direct any queries to the Awards Administrator Clare Boothby.

BSFA members will later receive a souvenir booklet with extracts from many of the shortlisted works. If you would like to vote in the awards, you can do so by becoming a member of the BSFA and/or Ytterbiumcon, the 2019 Eastercon.

WSFA Small Press Award

The WSFA Small Press Award is now open to submissions of short SFF works published in the small press in 2018. Eligibility guidelines.

And, while we’re talking awards, the first round of BSFA Awards voting closed at midnight 31 December. The longlist will be announced tonight.

UPDATE: Here it is! Fabulous pickings. The second round of voting (for the shortlist) is now open to BSFA Members. If you’d like to join, you may do so here.

Robotics, science fiction and the search for the perfect artificial woman

File 20171024 30565 p2y72k.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Ociacia/Shutterstock.com

Irena Hayter, University of Leeds

Three photographs have been shortlisted for 2017’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, hosted by the National Portrait Gallery in London. But there is something out of the ordinary about one of this year’s contenders for the prize. One of the portraits – by the Finnish artist Maija Tammi – is not of a human, but a female android.

The android in the photograph is Erica, described by her creator, Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, as “the most beautiful and intelligent” robot in the world. The hardware beneath her silicone skin helps her achieve facial and mouth movements, but these can be rather unnatural, out of sync with her synthesised voice. She is cognitively sophisticated, though still unable to work out answers to complex questions from first principles, and she cannot move her arms and legs.

If this seems like something out of science fiction, you’re not far off. One of Ishiguro’s first female robots was named Repliee Q1 and he himself has said that the name derives from the French for “replicate” and from the “replicants” in Blade Runner: science fiction and robotics have always been entwined. Indeed, in a documentary made by the Guardian about Erica, Ishiguro reveals that he wanted to be an oil painter and insists on the similarities between his work and artistic creation.

It is difficult not to see here a masculine Pygmalionesque desire to create the perfect artificial woman. “Ishiguro-sensei is my father and he understands me entirely,” Erica pronounces in the documentary. Her vaunted autonomy seems more like a projection on the part on the roboticists who programme her thoughts, but also occasionally anthropomorphise her: the scientist who introduces himself as Erica’s “architect” also thinks that she is “really excited to interact with people”.

One of Them Is a Human #1 by Maija Tammi (Erica: Erato Ishiguro Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction Project).
© Maija Tammi

Continue reading “Robotics, science fiction and the search for the perfect artificial woman”