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DMS

Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

2017 Hugo Ballot - Best Editor, Short Form

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.

 

For me, this category is way easier to evaluate than it's Long Form equivalent. Below are this year's finalists, listed in the order they appeared on the official announcement, with my notes on each.

 

  • John Joseph Adams - Edits two solid magazines and some anthologies. He has one coming out this year that I'm interested in, but not in 2016.
  • Neil Clarke - Love Clarkesworld and always enjoy his blog posts.
  • Ellen Datlow - Edits (mostly horror) anthologies, but also edits some of the short fiction published on or by tor.com - including my favorite novella in this year's ballot. I think she has great taste in fiction.
  • Jonathan Strahan - Edits anthologies, but also edits some of the short fiction published on or by tor.com - including my least favorite novella. His taste and mine don't tend to overlap much.
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas - Love Uncanny.
  • Sheila Williams - She edits a solid publication, but not one I keep up with.

 

So, Clarke and the Thomases will likely be at the top, followed by Datlow, Williams, and Adams, with Strahan at the bottom. 

2017 Hugo Ballot - Best Semiprozine

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.

 

I can never remember the definition of semipro and probably mess up on my nominating ballot every year, but I refuse to learn. Below are this year's finalists, listed in the order they appeared on the official announcement, with my notes on each.

 

Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews - Great selection, great covers, a strong contender.

 

Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, edited by P. Alexander - This seems okay, but not really for me. No disrespect on quality here, my tastes just aren't this.

 

GigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith - Interesting, but not at the top of the pack.

 

Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff - I donate to this one, and am a huge fan of their work. This is a strong publication, but I don't think it will get the first slot on my ballot this particular year.

 

Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky - Great selection, great covers, a strong contender.

 

The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James - I've read reviews on their blog, but never picked up one of the almanacs. I am blown away by the quality of this entry. I expected it would be good, but goddamn. This is edging out the competition just barely.

 

To sum up, Booksmugglers are at the top of my ballot. Uncanny and Ceaseless Skies are edging out Strange Horizons, but are all top notch in my opinion. The other two just don't seem as strong, but everything in this category has merit.

2017 Hugo Ballot - Best Editor, Long Form

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.

 

I typically leave this category blank, because I don't know anything about it. I recently had a conversation with a friend about it, and am taking her suggestion to treat acquisitions as a means of evaluating entrants. Which makes sense since that's a part of how I think through Short Fiction Editors, but isn't going to help with nominations next year. Alas, at least it's a metric to vote in the current ballot.  Below are this year's finalists, listed in the order they appeared on the official announcement, with my notes on each.

 

Vox Day - Fuck no.

 

Sheila E. Gilbert - Well, I've read none of the works listed for her in the packet. Great. One author on here I consistently like, one I'm consistently meh on, and 2 whose short fiction I've bounced off of, hard. 

 

Liz Gorinsky - The packet lists a wide range of genres, with the few entries I've read being very good books. Ghost talkers is a really interesting concept, good on Gorinsky for acquiring it.

 

Devi Pillai - Obelisk Gate is one of the best books published last year, and this is the editor. 

 

Miriam Weinberg - The packet includes a list of conceptually interesting books, one of which I did not love. Hmm.

 

Navah Wolfe - Borderline is listed in Wolfe's credits, and that's a rather fresh kind of urban fantasy. I'm not familiar with most of the rest of the list though.

 

In summary, my metric sucks. I don't know what I'm going to do. How does anyone vote in this category?

2017 Hugo Ballot - Best Fan Writer

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.

 

Another category chocked full of awesome. Fan writer has several very strong entries. Below are this year's finalists, listed in the order they appeared on the official announcement, with my notes on each

 

Mike Glyer - I read File 770 frequently, and have been a contributor rarely. Mike puts in a ton of work every day, pulling together a links list with summaries. And yet he's still going to be towards the bottom of my ballot because god damn is this tough competition.

 

Jeffro Johnson - I am aware of this guy's work largely through File 770, and I am not a fan. I'll either not include him or drop him below No Award.

 

Natalie Luhrs - I follow Luhrs on twitter and read her blog frequently. She's always up to date on what's happening in fandom. There are definitely years where she'd be at the top of my ballot, but this year she'll just be near the top.

 

Foz Meadows - Meadows does epic reviews and essays dissecting tropes, narratives, anything that sticks in her craw. Another very strong fan writer I've followed for years, she'll also be near the top.

 

Abigail Nussbaum - Consistently insightful and interesting, Nussbaum will probably be at the top of my ballot. It's really a close call, though. 

 

Chuck Tingle - Tingle has quite the sense of humor, and I really appreciate him setting up donation links as part of trolling the Puppies. Ultimately, though, his contributions as a fan writer are largely trolling, which I just don't want to reward with a rocket. So I guess he'll be at the bottom, but above No Award.

 

This is legit, the hardest category for me to order. Today, Nussbaum is leading Meadows and Luhrs, but all three have done great work in the last year. Glyer is a strong contender, but not quite as competitive this year. The other two may or may not even appear on my ballot, and that will be a tough call to.

2017 Hugo Ballot - Best Professional Artist

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.

 

Another category with strong competitors, and I'm going to make some truly absurd criticisms to try to figure out what order to list them in. Below are this year's finalists, listed in the order they appeared on the official announcement, with my notes on each.

 

Galen Dara - The packed includes covers from magazines, anthologies, and novels, along with some game art. All of it is gorgeous. So hard to pick a winner, but the range of subjects covered may prove an advantage.

 

Julie Dillon - The packet includes 9 entries, two of which I don't love. The rest are gorgeous, and I have been a fan of her work for years. But I don't think she'll be quite at the top this time. Because I don't love everything, that's how hard this is.

 

Chris McGrath - Great art, but a little too 'all the same' to lead the pack. Not just in color and style, but 5 of 9 covers provided in the packet can be described as 'woman faces camera, man faces away and slightly down.'

 

Victo Ngai - Also quite good, and with a wide range of subjects, but not my favorite.

 

John Picacio - Good, but not my favorite. And I know I've liked his work more in previous years.

 

Sana Takeda - I loved this art in Monstress. Wonderful, gorgeous, but not as much range as some of the others since it's all from the same book.

 

In summary, it's going to be a coin toss for me between Takeda and Dara, with everyone else only slightly below. 

2017 Hugo Ballot - Best Graphic Story

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.

 

Graphic novel is a category I've gotten more familiar with over the years. I don't think I nominated anything the first 3 years since this format just wasn't part of my regular reading and what few I did read tended to be too old to be eligible. This year, I had read 2 before getting the packet, and owned a 3rd that I just hadn't gotten to yet. I've reviewed each entry as a post on this blog already and will include those links. Below are this year's finalists, listed in the order they appeared on the official announcement, with my notes on each.

 

Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel) - I rated this 4 stars. Basically my criticism is a construction issue, not a plot or art one. 

 

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image) - This is the one I owned, but hadn't gotten to, and I rated it 4 stars as well. I'll definitely read the next volume. This also had the worst issues with the watermarking applied to all the graphic stories in the packet. I'm glad I had a physical copy for reference.

 

Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel) - This one I read before getting the voter packet. I also rated it 4 stars

 

Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image) - I nominated this, because I fucking love this series. 5 stars

 

Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks (Image) - As discussed in my review, I'd stopped reading this series, but this volume is so good, I may go back. 4.5 stars.

 

The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel) - This one just did not work for me. Nothing bad about it besides not being for me, though. 3.5 stars.

 

So, in summary, Paper Girls will go at the top, obviously. Followed by Saga. Even though I rated each 4 stars, I think Black Panther will be in slot 5 with the other two a close call for 3rd and 4th. And Vision will be at the bottom of my ballot, but, again, not because it isn't good. I just liked everything else better. 

Review: A History of Glitter and Blood

A History of Glitter and Blood - Hannah Moskowitz

If this keeps up, I'm going to have to stop saying I don't like books about fairies. A History of Glitter and Blood is ambitious, warm, funny, and a great read. 

 

The central concept for the format is that a fairy is writing a history, which fairies never do. This leads to a somewhat experimental format that some negative reviews indicate some readers did not grasp. 

 

Thematically, this is taking on race and class intersectionality and knocking it the fuck out of the park. In particular, this explores what types of violence are acceptable against what types of people.

 

And I don't think it's unfair to interpret the unreliable narrator's depictions of women as a nuanced response to Rothfuss' blog post about The Hobbit.

 

So, basically, this is doing a billion different things and succeeding at all of them. Basically, the only thing that didn't work for me were the illustrations of written ephemera, but that's an issue with the size of my e-reader, not the illustrations themselves. 

 

I look forward to trying more by this author.

2017 Hugo Ballot - Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.

 

Short form is for features less than 90 minutes. Typically TV episodes, but not always. I don't know if I've ever seen an album in this category before, though there has been at least one music video. Below are this year's finalists, listed in the order they appeared on the official announcement, with my notes on each.

 

Black Mirror: “San Junipero” - We made it 3 episodes into the first series and just stopped. Like, mid-episode. Because every episode was too long. I'll watch this on Netflix if it's available, but if it isn't, I am just going to ignore it. 6/17/17 UPDATE: I watched this and while it is by far the best episode of Black Mirror I've seen, it still suffers from being a Black Mirror episode. Finally seeing an episode that had a story and characters I loved has helped me figure out what I don't like about this show. It isn't just that the episodes are long, it's that they all presume an audience with no knowledge of science fiction. They all spend the first half on a long, slow introduction of their premise even though they are not using particularly novel settings. 

 

Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” - While the episodes Moffat wrote in the Davies era are some of the best individual episodes, I do not care for his style of character arcs. So I stopped watching Who a few years ago. I bailed on Sherlock as well. I know, I am the worst person because of one or both of these things. If there is a free and legal way for me to watch it, I might, but I am not aware of one. 

 

The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes” - Season finale of the first season of The Expanse. This is definitely a solid episode and a lot of fun for this fan of the books to see. 

 

Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”- Hands down, the most tedious, over-long fight sequence of the show, but also the best Sansa scene ever. After the shit show of season 5, the writers let her have some agency and own the things done to her.

 

Game of Thrones: “The Door” - I only remember the end of this episode? I had to look up the IMDB summary and now I'm still mostly fuzzy. The scene I remember was pretty solid, though.

 

Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping - Interesting, and not something I'd have come across if it hadn't been on the ballot. Hmm.

 

In summary, some entries were more memorable than others and I may not even watch 1 of them. So that will be fun to figure out on my ballot.

2017 Hugo Ballot - Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.

 

I'd love to see a Hugo for games, and usually include at least on on my ballot, but much like "YA novels are already eligible as Novels," this is the category where video games are technically already eligible. Of course, in practical terms, it's almost all movies, with the occasional full season of a TV show. Here are this year's entries with my thoughts: 

 

Arrival - It's so rare to get this kind of thoughtful scifi. Even rarer for it to have a female lead who isn't sexualized (in case you were going to be all "but Ex Machina"). I'm really glad I got to see this in the theater, and have that experience of various parts of the group figuring out the thing at different parts. Of the movies on this list, this one has probably lead to the most interesting conversations as well.

 

Deadpool - It was fun to see in the theater, but not something that really stuck with me. Also, really hammered home the gender bias in superhero movies. Remember, kids, a female lead superhero movie flops, and we don't get another for over a decade. A male lead superhero movie flops, and the lead gets another gig as a superhero! 

 

Ghostbusters - I think the most impressive part of this movie is that my spouse actually suggested watching it again when it came out on video. That's staying power. Very funny, quite entertaining. My only complaint when watching it was that the final battle seemed too long and the length only served to over use special effects, rather than support narrative or character. Which basically means it was a movie, right? I would totally watch a sequel.

 

Hidden Figures - I really wish the book had gotten a nod in Best Related Work. The movie dramatizes these events, but includes one unfortunate fictional part: the totally made up white savior moment. Is voting for the movie celebrating the accomplishments of black women or praising the director's bad decision? 

 

Rogue One - The background of one of my work laptops is still a celebration of this movie. I loved it. I'm annoyed that my favorite line from the trailer wasn't in the film, and there are definitely some issues with the plot (and with that bs at the beginning where her mom pointlessly kills herself - hard time considering that a spoiler when it happens in the first few minutes), but my reaction was overwhelmingly positive. 

 

Stranger Things, Season One - I . . . never actually finished season 1. I think we got through 6 episodes? It's just not quite the right bit of nostalgia for me. It seemed well put together, and all, but not my thing.

 

In summary, Arrival will be at the top of my ballot and Stranger Things at the bottom. I'm not sure about the list in between those two.

2017 Hugo Ballot - Best Fan Artist

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.

 

What consistently makes this category a challenge for me is the range of mediums that get included. Best professional artist tends to be mostly covers, with the occasional interior illustration or graphic novel. This year's Fan Artist category includes jewelry, illustrations, comics, and photography. Below are this year's finalists, listed in the order they appeared on the official announcement, with my notes on each.

 

Ninni Aalto - The 6 pages of Aalto's work in the packet include 2 comics and several sketches, including a delightful unicorn farting a rainbow. Her art displays both a sense of humor and love of that fandom. Not being at the top of my ballot is more an indication of how strong the competition in this category is than any commentary on her work.

 

Elizabeth Leggett - I think Leggett will end up at the top of my ballot. Her work is gorgeous. There are are two prints in here I'm seriously considering buying. Learner's Permit and Wisdom's Wing.

 

Vesa Lehtimäki - Star Wars lego photography. Whatever you're picturing probably isn't as good as this. Very cool and will likely be high on my ballot.

 

Likhain (M. Sereno) - Rather evocative illustrations, this is also a strong contender, but not among my favorite.

 

Spring Schoenhuth - How am I even supposed to rank jewelry against the rest of these? Technique and subject matter wise, these are interesting, but I'm not in love with any specific piece.

 

Steve Stile - This is the weakest of the bunch for me. The illustrations aren't speaking to me, and the color choices are not to my taste. 

 

So, in summary, I think Stiles will be at the bottom, but that's as sure as I am at the moment. My top two will likely swap back and forth between Leggett and Lehtimäki right up until the deadline, and the remaining 3 could really end up in any order depending on what mood I'm in at the moment. A very strong category with a wide range to consider.

 

 

Review: Black Panther, A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 1

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 1 - Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze

More ambitious than a lot of comics I've read recently, but also not as enjoyable. Specifically, the multiple story lines are broken up so that just as I was getting into one, the narrative swapped to another, preventing me from becoming invested in any of them. I feel like an animated feature with this book as a storyboard would be great, but I don't think I'll continue reading it. 

Review: Mostress, Volume 1

Monstress Vol. 1 - Sana Takeda, Marjorie M. Liu

The art is stellar and the characters are intriguing, but I feel like I want to love this more than I do. Like, if it was just a little funnier, or just a little more poignant, it would be amazing. But instead it is just very good. I'll have to pick up volume 2, for the art if nothing else. I don't even know how long I spent just staring at some of the panels in wonder.

Review: Vision Vol. 1

Vision Vol. 1 - Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Tom King

I feel like I've read or seen variations on this concept many times. This is a fairly funny envisioning of the premise, but I'm just not in love with the writing or the characters. 

Review: Saga, Volume 6

Saga, Volume 6 - Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

I read the first 3 volumes a couple years back, and thought it was a very well put together story for an audience that didn't include me. This volume is on this year's Hugo ballot, which is the only reason I read it. 

 

Turns out this is amazing. The art was always great, the writing was always solid, but now I'm digging the narrative so much I may have to go back and read the 2 volumes I skipped. 

2017 Hugo Ballot - Campbell

This is part of a series of posts reviewing categories in this year's Hugo ballot. I'll be discussing the entries, the voter packet, and my ballot. I've nominated and voted most years since 2011, when I figured out that all I had to do was join Worldcon to get to do so. Not only that, but if you participate in one year, you still get to nominate the next year. This year, thanks to a rule change, we nominated up to 5 entries, and the final ballot included the top 6.

 

The John W. Campbell Award is technically not a Hugo, but gets voted on by the same population and awarded at the same ceremony. It's intended to honor new professional sff writers. Authors are only eligible if their first professional sale was in the last 2 years. Below are this year's finalists, listed in the order they appeared on the official announcement, with my notes on each.

 

Sarah Gailey (1st year of eligibility) - The voter packet included one short story (Haunted) and a hyperlinked list of this story plus 4 more. I follow Gailey on twitter and have read several of her essays, but not her fiction. Turns out her fiction is interesting and well written, but Haunted reminded me a little too strongly of a Daniel Abraham short story I read a few years back. She'll be high on my ballot, but may not be the top.

 

J. Mulrooney (1st year of eligibility) - Not impressed by the prose, interested by the narrative, or really drawn to anything about the included "An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity." I didn't finish it. I don't think I'll include Mulrooney on my ballot. 

 

Malka Older (2nd year of eligibility) - The voter packet includes 3 short pieces and a novel. I'm impressed enough by the short fiction, Rupture in particular, for Older to easily hit the top of my ballot. Solid prose, great characters, interesting content. I haven't yet read Infomocracy as I'm trying to fit in everything on the ballot before the Mid-July cut off, but I'm sure I'll come back to it.

 

Ada Palmer (1st year of eligibility) - I tried to read Too Like the Lightning last year, and it was not for me. Palmer is clearly quite good, but not my kind of thing. She'll rank high, but not at the top of my ballot.

 

Laurie Penny (2nd year of eligibility) - Four interesting, but not amazing works were included in the voter packet. I didn't find Penny's prose particularly compelling, but thought her work was fun and imaginative. She'll likely be towards the bottom of my ballot. 

 

Kelly Robson (2nd year of eligibility) - The packet included 3 works, of which I finished zero. Really nothing here for me. I don't think I'll include Robson on my ballot. 

 

So to wrap up, pretty sure I know who goes in positions 1 and 4, and who I'm just not going to include. The middle positions, though, will probably get reordered on my ballot a good dozen times before the deadline. 

Review: Lord of Scoundrels

Lord of Scoundrels - Loretta Chase

This was published back in the mid '90s, a time friends kept trying to get me into romance and failing miserably. I really wish one of them had given me this. This book stars an alpha-male and the heroine has sensibilities more in line with modern times, but spends the narrative critiquing its genre trappings and celebrating its wonderful leading woman.

 

Also, so many passages are laugh out loud funny. 

 

Compared to the other Romance I've read this year, it feels dated. Compared to the Romance I read when I didn't have the internet to research what to read, this is a brilliant book. So of course, the internet brought it to me. As a recommendation in this article from last February, from Hugo Nominee for best fan writer, Natalie Luhrs.

 

I don't know what else I can say about this book that wouldn't just be dragging the Romance genre. I'm glad I've read it, and glad I'm finally figuring out how to access books I like in this genre. I once did a statistical analysis of my book ratings that showed Romance was the reason I rated female authors lower than male authors. It was a robust argument against reading more Romance, but instead I just did more research before reading. I suspect that if I run the numbers again next year, that conclusion will no longer hold true.