Monthly Archives: November 2005

The Hugo Fantasy Awards

I got an email from Gregory Benford the other day, referring his new website(s), and commenting about the current state of the Hugo Awards and SF fandom in general as indicated by the fact four of the last five Hugo Awards for novel have gone… to fantasy novels.

I hadn’t realized that. I haven’t seen it pointed out anywhere. Four of five? That would be the fourth Harry Potter novel… then American Gods… then Paladin of Souls last year… and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell this year. The one SF winner during this period was Robert J. Sawyer’s Hominids which, while a respectable enough book, hardly represents any kind of cutting edge SF.

I remember some hullabaloo over the Harry Potter nomination and win, but that was partly due to its being a YA novel, IIRC. I haven’t seen anyone remark on this string of more recent fantasy wins, much less express any kind of consternation about it. Should SF partisans be concerned? What might their leading candidates be for next year..? Hmm…

Plenty More Lists to Come

But that doesn’t mean — my previous post doesn’t mean — that future features won’t contain lists and statistics. Just that the next one won’t. My very own background project (long-time readers will know what I mean) will include all sorts of statistics and lists and rankings and whatnot. Even if they’re not entirely the point. Any year now.

I may or may not show up at LosCon, LA’s annual local convention, this weekend; that it’s held each year over Thanksgiving weekend, when many sociable people have family things to do instead, is the reason I’ve not attended in many many years. (The first time I did attend, way back in the ’80s, I witnessed a memorable on-stage mutual roast between Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg.)

Now, I’m pre-baking a dish for tomorrow’s feast. And listening to the new Philip Glass CD (Symph. #6). I’ll download tonight’s episode of Lost and watch it later. Today I received a big box of books from Amazon UK… my quarterly or so order, supported by website visitor orders via my online link… and will list received books in due time. Behind as always. Happy Thanksgiving.

Next Time No Lists

Have seen some varied reaction around the web to the latest Locus Online feature, Gary Westfahl’s essay about compiling quotations. I will say that I’m pretty sure the *next* feature, unlike his and the previous one, will contain no lists, no statistics.

I’ve become distracted in the past week or so by a background project, which is why I’m a bit late posting a couple Monitor pages. Hope to catch up this weekend.

It’s 2006

A few days ago I created a 2006 subdirectory for the website — in which to place the cover image of the January ’06 issue of F&SF, for the magazines page posted earlier this week. And today I added the first 2006 event to the author events pages (for a reading by Rob Sawyer, who likes to plan ahead). Time flies. As someone who grew up in the ’70s, this is the deep future.

It might seem suspiciously coincidental to have posted three announcements just today about 2006 writers workshops, but in fact all three e-mails/press releases arrived in the past week.

Magazine subscribers note that rates rise January 1st. Renew now. Or subscribe, for the first time!

Within the next couple days I will be posting Gary Westfahl’s essay about the process of assembling his SF Quotations book. And in December I have planned reviews of King Kong and of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. And maybe more.

Oh, and today’s LA Times has an op-ed, Fiction into fact into fiction, about a forthcoming Lost tie-in novel, purportedly written by a Flight 815 passenger who did not survive, and which manuscript is found in the wreckage during an episode to be broadcast next Spring. The writer, David L. Ulin, book editor of the Times, is deeply cynical about this blurring of fact and fiction, citing Bradbury’s interactive soap operas in Fahrenheit 451. Chill, I say; I think the idea’s pretty cool.

Brief Period

I’ve come down with the flu bug that seems to be going around, which means that my past couple days have consisted mostly of sleeping interrupted by brief periods of wakefulness, during which I try to read or check email before growing sleepy again…

Re: my previous post, this recent John Scalzi post illustrates the point much more vividly than I did; you’d almost think I’d read his post (which I hadn’t) or he’d read mine (which I doubt). What were those time-stamps again?

Via iTunes we here on Medina Road are now caught up completely with both Desperate Housewives and Lost. I have to admit DH isn’t quite as compelling this season, in that there’s no overarching plot to unify the various character threads, as there was with the mystery that drove season one. The emerging issue this season seems to be how long the Evil Pharmicist will keep getting away with things. And those closing narrations are getting a bit perfunctory. Lost, with last night’s episode (that recapped the first 48 days of the survivors from the tail section, over on the other side of the island), maintains a considerable dramatic edge, even if revelations about the central mystery of the island and the ‘Others’ are increasingly scant. Was last night’s ‘Nathan’ a clue (there was a suspicious Nathan in the first season, IIRC), or just a clever bit of misdirection?

Today’s mystery is why a book came in the mail packaged as a free enrollment bonus from a book club that I didn’t enroll in… a book that I already bought and read a year ago, so even if I had enrolled in that club and forgotten about it, I wouldn’t have selected that book as my freebie. Hmm.

Into the Aether

There’s considerable consternation in the SF blogosphere and among members of a newsgroup I subscribe to about the demise of Sci Fiction. The aspect that fascinates me is what happens to defunct websites. Ellen’s earlier sites Event Horizon and Omni Online eventually vanished; what will happen to her section of Presumably the corporate entity that runs the cable TV channel will be around a while, so at least the domain will be around a while, but still.

Some have pointed out the existence of internet archival sites, e.g. the Wayback Machine. I’ve found old content of Locus Online there occasionally, but some people report that the coverage is spotty and the site difficult to use.

I can’t help but think of the consequences of various apocalyptic scenarios, the plague, the war, the collapse of the biosphere, leaving us all huddled in pre-industrial hovels. In such cases moldering paper magazines and books might still be found. But the electronic infrastructure will have vanished into the aether. I suppose in such cases, that will be the least of our worries.

Several Kinds of Brilliant

We finished watching (via DVD rentals from Netflix) the first season of Desperate Housewives last night, and I have to say, it’s several kinds of brilliant. It’s far, far from the prototypical TV sitcom (which I read a while back described as unpleasant people saying sarcastic things to each other — as in, e.g., the Emmy winner, Everybody Loves Raymond), and as much drama as comedy. In particular, it’s an almost David Lynchian expose behind an apparently perfect upper-class suburban street, involving the mystery behind a suicide that occurs in the first moments of the first episode, and which is not fully explained until the last episode of the season, in such a way that clearly benefits from the writers having planned the story arc in advance… as opposed to making it up as they went along, stretching it out as the ratings permitted. (Which isn’t to say they haven’t planted the seeds of some intriguing developments; I’m especially interested to see what happens to the Evil Pharmacist.) The writing is sharp, the plot surprises frequent but not arbitrary, the acting first-rate. The closing montages of most episodes, narrated by the suicidee of the first episode, in a manner both ironic and compassionate, are at turns philosophical and heart-wrenching. TV was never like this when I was growing up.

Still Bare

Entreaties to Norton have gone unreplied.

Terrible news about SciFiction, though perhaps not totally surprising, since the site was always (presumably) a non-profit-earning prestige corner of the cable channel’s online presence. Still, a shock.

Next round of books — notable small press items seen at World Fantasy Con.

Norton, Barely

I’ve spent most of this evening trying, again unsuccessfully, to install an update to my Norton Antivirus software; I first tried a week and a half ago, on the weekend before World Fantasy Con, and ended up then submitting a support request to Norton. Now that my Antivirus software has expired, I tried again this evening to install the update, per the response from Norton; again it didn’t work, the install program hanging, the removal program provided by Norton apparently ineffectual. As of this moment I have no antivirus software installed on this computer at all; I’m living dangerously.

I mention this, despite my promise a while back not to whine in this blog about computer problems, only as an explanation for the 100+ emails still in my inbox, and the tardiness of the next ‘new books’ page. Everything is in work, time, and mundane constraints, permitting.

Madison WFC Sunday

I forgot to mention the other day that the day I left Los Angeles, there were copies of George R.R. Martin’s A FEAST FOR CROWS in a bookshop in Terminal 7 at LAX… five days before the official lay-down date of Tuesday, November 8th (i.e. the date before which booksellers, including Amazon, are not supposed to sell the book). I suspect the reason is simply that airport bookshops are not as careful about these things as are the large chains, and/or that the diligence with which publishers chase down such infractions varies from case to case…

Today I had breakfast with Mark Budz and Marina Fitch in the hotel coffee shop, then perused the dealers room one last time before its closing later in the afternoon. I had a nice chat with Carol Emshwiller, and also met Michael Blumlein (a person I’d never even seen a photo of), Lois Tilton, and Brandon Sanderson. And I bought a couple last books. Doors to the banquet hall opened at 12:30 and people slowly drifted in, found seats, and settled. I sat between Gary Wolfe and Amelia Beamer at a table just behind the HarperCollins table. The food was marginal — dry chicken or dry pork, covered in either case by a gluey cherry sauce.

The awards ceremony was spirited and efficient. Toastmaster Peter Straub gave a genial introduction that included tantalizing hints about the kind of secret knowledge possessed by people of increasing fame, with examples serving to illustrate how far down Straub is in the fame chain. The other guests of honor — Graham Joyce, Bob Weinberg, Terry Windling, Kinuko Y. Craft, and April Derleth & Walter Derleth for Arkham House — made brief statements that varied in polish and tone but which were all sincere expressions of thanks and appreciation for the convention’s invitation and the community’s support.

Then came the announcements of the awards themselves, notable first in that only two of the winners were not present, and remarkable second for comprising a set of acceptance speeches of almost uniform eloquence, some short and some long, but none veering into incoherence or rambling asides. Of them the highlights were surely John Picacio’s impassioned and moving tribute first to the other artists nominated in his category and then to his parents, who were present and stood up for applause, and at the very end Tom Doherty’s generous reflection on the people who helped at various steps of a long career that has led to Tor Books.

The photo session went quickly and smoothly, except that I discovered when I returned to my room that only a single photo of those I’d taken was usable, apparently due to a flash malfunction or missetting. (A cute pic of Susanna Clarke holding her award with Colin Greenland’s cap perched on top was too blurry to post.) After the photos I hung around to attend the Judges’ Panel, with Jeffrey Ford, Kate Elliott, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Tim Lebbon, and Jessica Amanda Salmonson debriefing the process that led to their decisions. Key points: there was no controversy, no e-violence this year; no feuds or resignations. They saw over 300 books total, and there were only about 75 reader ballots in the first round that determined two finalists in each category (which is why John Douglas always urges members to join next year’s con and nominate!). Ford created a ranking scheme that combined preferences from each judge into a single combined list in each category to determine both the shortlist and winner, though along the way discussion among the judges caused some of them to reconsider works they’d previously dismissed. And in the ‘special’ categories, while they made a point of confirming that candidates had eligible work in the award year, they also took into consideration the quality of their long-term work.

After that I trekked back to my hotel to post the winners and salvage what I could from my digital photos, and while I was at it post a few ‘blinks’ from the day’s email.

Then back to the con hotel, where I joined a group in the bar that included Ellen Datlow, Chris Lotts, Ted Chiang, and Paolo Bacigalupi (whom I’d not previously met). Dinner groups were reportedly forming in the lobby to trek to one eating destination or another, but since we missed the early group we ordered a snack and had another drink and chatted. Finally an enormous group gathered in the lobby (the five of us; Walter and Hal and Graham and Jay; Kelly and Gavin; John P and Chris R and Lou A; Mark and Martha, and another dozen at least) and headed out into the chilly evening, along mostly deserted streets and around the capital to a pub called the Great Dane, where tables were reserved for us downstairs. We ordered various shades of ale and pub food, burgers, fish and chips, brats and mash, etc., and at my table compared impressions of Lost, of Battlestar Galactica, of Alias and Doctor Who. Then back out into the night, to the hotel, the group dispersing quickly… some to the dead dog parties; I to my hotel, to update the ‘future history’ pages on the site (and add one more bit of awards news), and write this blog entry. End of convention… tomorrow morning I drive to O’Hare and then fly home.