Monthly Archives: March 2009

I Feel a Redesign Coming On

The balance of competing sections’ priorities isn’t right .. what with the new Roundtable and News Blog boxes. And the site doesn’t look enough like, say, the CNN or Slate of SF sites. More visual punch? Have been experimenting with a new layout this past week. You’ll see something soon.

Hugos, Awards Index, ICFA

I seem to have correctly anticipated three of the five Best Novel nominees for this year’s Hugo Awards — by Stephenson, Doctorow, and Stross. I should have guessed Scalzi, just based on his general and internet presence and popularity… I did read his book, found it perfectly pleasant, though not in my mind especially exceptional. I’m rather happier with the Arthur C. Clarke Award finalists, which includes MacLeod and Reynolds and McAuley, though I haven’t read the Tepper and Wernham titles there.

Other categories? As I wrote previously, I haven’t kept up with short fiction in the past year, though I intend to sit myself down and read all of these finalists pronto, so I can vote on them. As for most of the graphic story and dramatic presentation finalists — I’m clueless. I very rarely read graphic novels (though I will be very interested to hear whether the Hugo smofs determine if this category is viable, considering their decisions about past try-out categories), and I’ve only seen one of the short form nominees (the Lost episode), and three of the films.

And of course, congrats to semiprozine and short form editor nominees Brown, Gong-Wong, Trombi, and Strahan.

As an Awards Index compiler, I’m a bit consternated about the Hugo ballot’s generosity with nominee credits; if, say, METAtropolis wins, will the Hugo admins really hand out six trophies? In compiling past years’ dramatic presentation winners, I’ve followed apparent Hugo admin policies in awarding only a single trophy for each winner, meaning all the associated credits (for director, writers, producers, studio) are comments, not nominees. I’ve alluded to that in the second para of my Hugo nomination analysis post on the Locus News Blog earlier this evening. I’m willing to change my policy in the Awards Index if there is any evidence to do so.

Meanwhile, I am not at ICFA, where all the cool people are gathering this weekend, mostly due to the current economic climate — my employer has first deferred routine merit raises, usually given in April, by six months; and then announced a corporate-wide furlough of five days without pay through the end of 2009. I’m sure I should count myself lucky; at least I still have a job. But then there’ve been the $4000 in repairs to my car, a year and half out of warranty, over the past three months. Things happen. Maybe next year.

My First Ring

I’m attending my first Ring, beginning last weekend with Das Rheingold, and continuing next month with the second opera in the series and next season with the third and fourth. I’m a relatively casual opera fan, and I’ve never seen the four operas in Wagner’s cycle, or even listened to them more than casually. I did know that the elaborate, mythologically-based plot had similarities to another famous series about a ring, and that Anna Russell did a famous humorous send-up of its plot. It was fascinating last Sunday to read the synopsis and hear the pre-concert talk by conductor James Conlon and then see it all play out on stage — maidens, dwarves, giants, rings, magic helmets. I’ve been a bit disappointed with the Los Angeles Opera in that it’s chosen in recent years to stage revisionist and even experimental versions of standard repertoire works — with modernist or abstract stage and costumes designs. That was true to Madama Butterfly and The Magic Flute earlier this year, and again with the Ring — see here for a pic. It’s not that I’m opposed to the modern or the abstract, it’s just that I’d have preferred to see traditional stagings for my first experiences of these operas — but of course, I have only myself to blame for not having gotten around to seeing them until now.

I’ve always thought it odd how certain brilliant people are nevertheless indifferent, or tone-deaf, to music. Isaac Asimov; Roger Ebert. And apparently Greg Egan, judging from recent posts on the blogosphere.

Current work behind the scenes involves timelines.


I’ve been advised by the editors of Sci Fi Wire, per my February 15th post, that there is “MORE content related to books on the new Wire, not less” — though actually I’d been comparing the new Wire to the old SF Weekly, perhaps not a fair comparison. As I browse today’s Wire homepage, I do see five items tagged Books, even if four of them are about movies being made from books; the fifth is a review by Cynthia Ward. Still, I’m not sure that makes it a daily link for the top row of Links Portal.

Just a Few Remarks about Awards

So I submitted my Hugo nominations on Saturday, a few hours before the drop-dead deadline, and as usual left some categories entirely blank — including, I’m a bit ashamed to admit, all the short fiction categories; I simply haven’t read any current short fiction this past year. I did much better keeping up with current SF (and a few fantasy) novels, though even there a few key titles I still mean to get to — Stephenson’s Anathem, McAuley’s The Quiet War, Wolfe’s An Evil Guest — remain unread pending project work on the website… I did nominate, for Best novel, Egan’s Incandescence, Banks’ Matter, Reynolds’ House of Suns, and Baxter’s Flood (In contrast, I *predict* that both Anathem and Doctorow’s Little Brother will make the final ballot, just based on general buzz. And I wonder, will Charles Stross make it a sixth year in a row with a novel on the ballot, with Saturn’s Children? Wouldn’t be surprised. Those would be three spots. Banks might make it; I doubt Reynolds, Egan, or Baxter will; at least one slot, I expect, will go to something I would never guess.)

Anything anyone associated with Locus has to say about being nominated for Hugos, or the continued existence of the Semi-Prozine category, is bound to seem colored by self-interest, though in my case I can wish Jonathan and Charles and Liza and Kirsten best of luck, noting that at least they have categories to be nominated in! (For this year at least.) I do think Charles makes a valid point in his March issue editorial, when he points out that if the motive for eliminating the Semiprozine category is to keep Locus from winning it, then this amounts to not trusting the voters to vote for something else if they wish. It’s analogous to term limits — the electorate voting someone into office while simultaneously deciding that he’s not to be re-elected in 8 years, making the decision now rather than trusting themselves to make the decision later.

On the other hand, the Hugo categories have long struck me as an inconsistent mish-mash, some categories for works and others for roles, that have apparently evolved out the desires at various times by some portion of the electorate to adjust the system so that some target group of candidates either does, or does not, have the chance to win an award. It’s about who gets it, not for what. If it were up to me, which of course it isn’t (I’m not even so concerned as to dare get involved in Hugo politics) I would take two or three big steps back and re-align all the categories by works:

best novel
best novella
best novelette
best short story

best nonfiction book
best magazine (fiction/nonfiction)
best drama (short/long)
best publisher
best book or magazine cover art

and perhaps even
best anthology
best story collection

…Almost, in fact, like the Locus Awards categories (which I have never had any role in defining, I hasten to add). (I also don’t mean to suggest that the Locus Awards are not with their problems — but let’s not go there just now.)

Even now, I don’t feel I have sufficient insight into the book or magazine *editing* process to judge who does it best…other than by the products that editing produces…which is more than just result of one person’s editing (in most cases, I would think). We don’t have a Best Writer category, do we? Again, a mishmash.

I have no strong feelings about ‘fan’ categories, one way or another, other to note that unlike the other categories they are obviously specifically intended to reward members of voting audience, rather than the works that have brought those voters together. It’s almost like a separate set of awards, and I wonder if it’s unprecedented. (Imagine a People’s Choice Award for best movie fan.)

And best website? I’ve made the case before that websites are works quite unlike print magazines or books (link), in that they can do very different things well (even if some of them are merely electronic counterparts of periodical ‘issues’). So why not? Well, I suppose I understand the reasons why not, just as I understand why the other Hugo categories are the way they are. (As an aside, if Locus Online is ever nominated for any award ever again, I suppose it will have to be credited not only to me but also to Liza Trombi, who runs the news blog and who so far at least has supervised the Roundtable blog. Increasingly, I’m less the editor of Locus Online than the co-editor/webmaster.)