Sunday, June 26, 2016

Reading for the Hugo awards, part 3: novelettes

"And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead" by Brooke Bolander: I think I actually tried to read this during the nominating process. It's cyberpunk, so it should be right up my alley, but something about the story just wasn't speaking to me. I pushed myself through it this time. The language gets a lot cooler about 1/3 of the way in, and the ending wraps things up nicely. A very strong story.

"Folding Beijing" by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu: really cool concept. Story goes unexpected places. Ultimately, I found it really depressing, but that kind of emotional pull means it was a good tale.

"Obits" by Stephen King: it will surprise exactly nobody that Stephen King can write the heck out of a story. This is a nice little creepy tale, with the expected unexpected consequences to having power, and a surprisingly humane ending.

"What Price Humanity?" by David VanDyke (in There Will Be War Volume X): A nice slow burn for the first 3/4 of the story. The foreshadowing was too heavy and the last couple pages were a ridiculous let-down... there was definitely a better way to end this story than just chopping it off like that! I was impressed while I was reading it, but afterward, I realized that I was irresistibly reminded of  "The Cookie Monster" by Vernor Vinge, which did the same concept better and a dozen years ago.

"Flashpoint: Titan" by CHEAH Kai Wai (in There Will Be War Volume X): A huge space battle followed by a huge infodump followed by another huge space battle. There's absolutely no character development. There's more than a whiff of racism: it's Japanese + Americans vs. Chinese, with the latter as the bad guys. There's nothing very new here, either in terms of science or plot.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Reading for the Hugo Awards, part 2: short story category

"Cat Pictures Please" by Naomi Kritzer: not quite what I consider Hugo-quality (I didn't nominate it, which means that I found five stories I liked better), but a good short story and certainly one that will not embarrass the Hugo award process. Edited to add: this just won the Locus Award, so clearly many people like this story even more than I do.

"Asymetrical Warfare" by S. R. Algernon: great SF concept, but far too short. I really wish the author had gone for a longer take on this, because this was easily my favorite concept of the five. But there just isn't enough to the actual story for me to list it first.

"Space Raptor Butt Invasion" by Chuck Tingle: this started out as a cool idea (solo astronaut on a distant planet, watching over the terraforming machines) but then took a turn for the weird with the gay dinosaur dom showing up and seducing our hero.

"Seven Kill Tiger" by Charles Shao: wow, the sheer level of racism being described by various characters in this story is appalling. The execution of the story wasn't bad, but also wasn't particularly stunning. As a science fiction idea, this is neither original nor innovative. The story itself had almost no tension, and neither of the main characters was memorable nor compelling.

"If You Were an Award, my Love" by Juan Tabo and S. Harris, wasn't included in the voter package, but I found it online. It's pretty clearly a fanfic of the very lovely and famous (infamous?) short story by Rachel Swirsky. Another reviewer has pointed out that this might be the first time a piece of fanfic got nominated for the Hugo... no idea if that's actually correct. Unfortunately, the writing on this was clunky, and required so much back-story that I gave up trying to decipher it.

Stories listed in the order I plan to vote them, although I may change my mind with further thought.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Reading for the Hugo Awards, part 1

I finally got my Hugo voting packet in the mail, so it's time to start keeping track of what I like, what I hate, and what I still need to read/view.

Novels: I've already read (and nominated! go me!) three of the five: The Fifth Season, Uprooted, and Ancillary Mercy. My voting currently would also go in that order. I now have Seveneves and will try to get The Aeronauts Windlass from the library, although I would not balk at paying paperback prices for it if necessary. Updated to add: comes out in paperback on July 5th.

Novellas: Of the five, I have only read Penric's Demon. It was great and I nominated it. I own Binti and The Builders but haven't read them yet. I would love to read Slow Bullets but frankly balked at the price - I am NOT paying novel prices for a novella, no matter how good. If it goes on sale, I will acquire it. My husband has a copy of Perfect State, so I shall borrow his phone some evening and read it.

Novelettes: I haven't read any of them yet. That will nicely fill up an afternoon.

Short Story: I read, and enjoyed, "Cat Pictures Please". I haven't read the other four, and they don't look very promising to me. Still, I don't feel right about not giving each one a chance. Fortunately... short story... not a huge time investment. I hope.

Best Related Work: I haven't read, or even heard about, any of these books. I gather that at least excerpts of all are available in the voter package, so I shall look at them and hope they do better than their titles imply.

Best Graphic Story: I read, and nominated, Sandman: Overture. I see that two others are in the packet, and two are not. Grrr.... I shall have to call around my friends to see if anyone has a copy and will let me borrow it.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): I've watched, and enjoyed, all five of these. Mad Max: Fury Road is definitely my first choice. I have to think about the other four.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): I've seen none of these. I'll have to see what's available on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Best Professional Editor (Short Form): I'm familiar with all the names, but will have to look over their included work to make a final ranking.

Best Professional Editor (Long Form): Once again, all the names are familiar. I have very little sense of how to judge an editor of a book, so I'll be doing some reading online to see how more experienced voters analyze these works. The lack of information from Toni Weisskopf probably means that she's going to get rated last, unless I'm willing to do some serious digging online.

Best Professional Artist: Not one of these names is ringing a bell, so I'll have to hope for included material, or a strong presence online.

Best Semiprozine: I regular read, and enjoy, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, and Strange Horizons. I haven't read Daily Science Fiction or Sci Phi Journal  but both are available online, so I'm looking forward to catching up.

Best Fanzine: I regularly read File 770. I've heard bad things about Castalia House Blog but the first three entries I just read were quite entertaining. I shall have to read more. I used to read Tangent Online but drifted away from it; I no longer recall why and will gladly go look at it again. Lady Business and Subversive SF don't ring a bell, but once again... easily available... voting responsibilities... plenty of free time... will read.

Best Fancast: I don't generally do podcasts. I will try to remedy that situation.

Best Fan Writer: I'm a big fan of Mike Glyer and I sometimes read Jeffro Johnson. I've heard the other names go by before.

Best Fan Artist: I've got no familiarity with this category. Four of the five submitted sample work in the voter packet.

The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo): I nominated both Alyssa Wong and Andy Weir for this category, and I'm delighted to see that they made it. I've heard of Pierce Brown, author of the Red Rising trilogy, but haven't read his books. Neither Sebastien de Castell nor Brian Niemeier is ringing a bell right now, but I see that they both were kind enough to include samples.

Updated to add: I have carefully avoided discussion of the "Rapid Puppies/Sad Puppies" controversy. However, a good summary of nomination patterns is provided here

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ten on Tuesday: 10 things on this summer's bucket list

I'm a school teacher, so having a bucket list for the summer really means accomplishing all the things I don't have time to do during the school year. That involves a lot of reading, movie- and TV-watching, cooking, knitting, etc. I also plan to watch as many hours of the Olympics as humanly possible...

Books I want to read:
1) Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
2) Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
3) The God Stalker Chronicles by P C Hodgell
4) The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
5) The Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin
6) Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace
7) Fire Bound by Christine Feehan
8) The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
9) Lamentation by Ken Scholes
10) Black Wine by Candace Dorsey

Movies I want to see:
1) Star Trek Beyond
2) Independence Day: Resurgence
3) Southside with You
4) Cafe Society
5) Suicide Squad
6) Finding Dory
7) Now You See Me 2
8) Florence Foster Jenkins
9) Ice Age: Collision Course
10) Jason Bourne

Recipes I want to try:
1) Fish Cakes with Herbs and Chilies by the NYT
2) Lamb Wellington by Yotam Ottolenghi
3) Dal by Smitten Kitchen
4) Limeade by Serious Eats
5) Lasagna Soup by A Farm Girls Dabbles
6) Baked Chicken and Leek in Turmeric Coconut Sauce by She Simmers
7) Whole Wheat Milk Bread by Two Red Bowls
8) Fresh Rice Noodles by Grace Young
9) Shanghai Soup Dumplings by Epicurious
10) Ceremonial "Pigeon" Pie by Bon Appetit

TV shows I hope to watch:
1) the Olympics
2) Mentalist (yes, the TiVo has some old stuff on it)
3) Quantico
4) NCIS New Orleans
5) The Expanse
6) The Magicians
7) Crossing Lines
8) Scream Queens
9) Luther (late to the party and thank you Netflix)
10) Person of Interest

And, of course, I will spend tons of time with this little guy:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Recipe Round-up (May and early June)

I made a few great things recently (and a bunch of mediocre things.) Being on summer hols really does help with giving me the time to tackle more complex recipes...

Shortcut Moussaka from the NYT: fairly easy and very delicious

Grilled Shrimp by Kenji from Serious Eats: a little extra work but an excellent outcome. These were also great stuffed into homemade sushi the next day

Lychee Martini from Food Network: delicious way to use up the juice in the can after you've used the lychees

Best Vegetarian Chili from Serious Eats: a huge hit with my guests but it's probably a good thing I only used half the chilies

Smokey Eggplant Dip from Smitten Kitchen: a little less intense than true baba ghanoush, and amazingly delicious

Almond Jello from Chew Out Loud: I've made it so often that I've now started to modify the recipe, including more milk. It's a childhood favorite that still delights.

Cheese Blintzes with Roasted Strawberries from King Arthur Flour: Time consuming but so good... so good...

Oatmeal with an Egg from the Lean Green Bean: a nice way to add protein to your breakfast