I’ve agreed to be a judge for this year’s Lambda Literary Awards, and today my first box of books to consider arrived — 16 books in all, only 1 a hardcover, all the others trade paperbacks. Only 3 are from familiar publishers.
I’ve never been a judge before; the closest I’ve gotten has been, for over a decade now, to be invited to submit short fiction suggestions to the Sturgeon Award committee, suggestions which are then compiled along with others’ suggestions by the administrators and forwarded to the actual judges for their consideration. Not quite the same as being a judge, wherein I, along with four others, are tasked with considering all the eligible candidates, narrowing them down to a list of finalists, and then determining the winner.
The task of being a judge is potentially a huge undertaking, entailing the reading of dozens or hundreds of books, not to mention dickering with the other judges about what should prevail, but I only accepted the offer because of the informal lore I’ve gathered about how such judging actually works. Meaning that, no one actually reads through every candidate, or even a majority of them. Rather, a sort of triage process takes place, rather like ploughing through a slush pile — you *start* every book, read a few pages, and are able to quickly dismiss many right away, perhaps setting aside a few for possible consideration, and actually reading through to the end only a small minority of titles. I’m certainly *hoping* this will be the case, because otherwise the prospect of reading even 16 whole books in the next few weeks would not be plausible, not with other commitments and constraints. In any case, I’ll give it my best.
We saw Casino Royale and I thought it a perfectly enjoyable action-adventure thriller. I’ve not been a James Bond aficionado especially; somewhat as with H.P. Lovecraft, James Bond has been a cultural phenomenon I’ve been aware of my whole life without having been particularly attracted to. The outre gizmos and villains, perhaps, rubbed me the wrong way. The only complete Bond movie I think I’d seen until recently was that one about the space shuttle… Moonraker… way back in 1979.
Yet now, as with HPL, I feel a compulsion to check in, to catch up, to come up to speed. I’ve Netflixed the first couple Bond movies. My reaction to Dr. No is to sense its similarity to original-series Star Trek episodes, complete with its formal dinner with the villain and its papier-mache rock wall underground quarters. And the opening scene of From Russia With Love surely prefigures the mask-disguise shtick of the Mission: Impossible TV series.
As for the current Bond film, I was tickled to hear Daniel Craig recite that recipe for the cocktail he dubs a Vesper, which I’d come across before — 3 parts vodka, 1 part gin, 1/2 part Lillet blanc, twist of lemon. Not bad; I’ve made it. But restaurants seem not to have heard of it.
Little Children benefits from its novelistic origins — it’s cowritten by the author of the source book, and features intermittent arch narration to provide background that would normally be difficult to film. The portrait of several residents of an urban neighborhood surrounding a playground, involving infidelity and the threat of a sex ‘pervert’ (scarily played by Jackie Earle Haley), the film traces several plot threads that, just ten or fifteen minutes from the end, threaten to converge in potentially catastraphic ways. It’s a tribute to the non-Hollywood-esque protocols of the film that they do not resolve in any gratuitous tragedy, or formula happy ending, but a resolution that derives satisfactorily from the motives and circumstancies of the characters. Still, I’m not sure the portrait of the victimized sex offender, who ends up demonized anyway, is entirely fair.
I liked The Fountain better than I thought I would (after one of my reviewers dismissed the opportunity to cover it, on the basis of trailers, as new age hokum); it did make sense and have a story for most of its length. All about three eras of questors of immortality, with Hugh Jackman in the central roles; the parallels between eras were easy enough to follow, metaphorically or metafictionally if not literally. Still it does not add up to much, as far as I could tell; the bottom line, about that quest and the possible need for the acceptance of death, seemed merely vapid. Yet, nice acting, beautiful cinematography and effects, and a compelling score by Clint Mansell — minimalist, dark, compulsive; the sort of thing I like but wouldn’t assume most others would.
I’ve given up — given up on trying to haystack all the mis- and mal-addressed email sent to locusmag.com. It seemed a reasonable thing to do, to skim through it all in order to find the occasional legitimate email sent to Locus but somehow not sent to any valid address, and I’ve done this for several years now, but as it’s increased to 10K such emails a day, taking an hour to skim every two or three days, I’ve decided it’s not worth it. Life is too short. I’ll miss a few. Sorry.
Re: comment to a previous post: of course I realize that the ‘intermediates’ are automated robots. At the same time, I’ve always assumed that a fair fraction of the ‘visits’ to the website each day aren’t people with eyeballs, but just such robots. It’s because I’ve assumed that, that I’m surprised the compilations of active e-mail addresses and comment forms aren’t updated more often than they seem to be. Obviously one of my premises is flawed…
It’s curious to see gibes from Andrew Wheeler about publications who’ve already released ‘best of year’ lists in November, since November isn’t yet the end of the year — what are they thinking? Surely Andrew realizes that reviewers for such publications get advance galleys of virtually everything, and have in fact seen every book worth considering for a best of the year list by October or November. Just as Locus reviewers, for example, are now, in November and December, busy reading books to be published next March or April…
By the same token, I’ve always admired the efficiency of the National Book Award process, which manage to consider eligible books from a given year and announce its winners in… November. Note that two of this year’s winners, Richard Powers’ THE ECHO MAKER and M.T. Anderson’s THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING, VOLUME I: THE POX PARTY, had official publication dates of October! The books were barely in the stores by the time the awards were announced. The extreme contrast, of course, is the protracted nomination and voting process behind the Nebula Awards, which allows a trophy to go to a book published more than two years previously…
Here’s another odd thing about spam. In recent weeks Locus has gotten a trickle of comment spam — submissions via comment forms on the website, submissions that are full of generic comments (“Great site!”) and reams of URLs. Typically these come in pairs, one via the comment form on the Locus Online ‘contact’ page, and the other via the comment form on the Cory Doctorow essay from Locus Magazine’s September issue.
The odd thing is, these spam are still attacking the *September* Cory essay page, but not the more recent November Cory essay page.
It’s as if the spammers aren’t each trolling the website (or by extension, all websites) for easily accessible email addresses and comments forms. It’s as if some intermediate does such a troll periodically, and passes on the available contact links to a bunch of other spam providers. The interval the former updates means the latter are still using a September comments form and not a November one.
Isn’t that interesting?