Tag Archives: awards

Angry career reviewers, penitent genre bloggers, the Salami Award, and more

Well, well. You think us genre reviewers and critics are a stroppy lot, you should see at the literary reviewers from US newsprint media getting all hissy about their platform being eroded away from underneath them. The Print is Dead blog has this to say:

“And when Winslow himself writes that the loss of book review sections will “[choke] off such discussion of books,” he couldn’t be more wrong. There is now, because of the Web, probably more discussion of books than ever before. But what really infuriates Winslow, and many of the other critics, is that all of this discussion is happening without them. So it’s not that books are being burned; instead, what’s happening is the self-importance of book reviewers is going up in smoke.”

That really underscores why I’m glad to see the genre scene thriving online – I think we may get over that particular hump before the ‘straights’ do. I can’t think of any reviewers in sf/f who I think of as being self-important – but then (with the obvious exception) I can’t think of anyone who has made it their sole career and source of income, either. There’s a corellation there, I think.

Meanwhile, Gabe Chouinard has come back in response  to Jonathan McCalmont’s post that I mentioned yesterday. Señor Chouinard argues that a new critical venue should strive to build a new audience from scratch with innovatory approaches, rather than trying to entice away established readers from other venues:

“… street-level criticism is going to open up the genre dialogue to once and for all include people from outside of genre, rather than excluding them from the discussion. Our approach is meant for a NEW kind of audience, an audience that we have to manufacture from the ground up. There’s plenty of room for all kinds of readers in street-level criticism, and it’s my assertion that, by treating reviewing as a subset of the greater literary critical dialogue, we’re in effect opening the ghetto walls to allow outsiders to come in and have a good look around, without fear of stigma and without fear of rejection.”

Someone else responding to Jonathan (or rather, apologising for a response he neither finished or posted) is Andrew ‘SFBC’ Wheeler. After having had a while to ruminate on the matter, Mr. Wheeler has decided that his reaction to Jonathan’s post on the aesthetics of fantasy had roots in other things:

“Eventually the Clue Stick descended heavily on my head and I realized McCalmont was exactly the same sort of blogger as I was, and that was what annoyed me. (A similar realization hit me about William Lexner, previously — though I think Lexner really is trying to be incredibly obnoxious, while people like me and McCalmont just come off that way sometimes.)

So I’ve moved McCalmont into the mental category of “curmudgeons who occasionally annoy me but who I want to take seriously,” joining such excellent company as Barry Malzberg and Norman Spinrad (mostly for his book reviews, which I don’t read as often as I should these days). That doesn’t mean that I won’t post a “look at this stupid thing someone said” essay about any of them — that seems, for better or worse, to be a lot of what I do here — but I hope it means that I’ll take the idea seriously first…and only then reject it out of hand.”

As back-handed compliments go, they don’t come much bigger than that. I think.

A few other things of note, while I’m at it:

Matrix Magazine (another fine product of the BSFA stable) has an article featuring soundbite interviews with the shortlist nominee authors for the 200 Arthur C. Clarke Award. Ironic understatement award goes to Brian Stableford, talking of the importance of genre awards:

“It’s obviously better to have such reference-points than not to have them … [e]specially if they can occasionally whip up a little controversy.”

Controversy, Mr. Stableford? Surely not …

(Which reminds me, I wrote an essay ages back about the value of genre fiction awards, and it’s probably high time I looked at it again in the light of the huge amount I’ve learned since I first published it.)

As far as good reviews of the Clarke shortlist are concerned, you could do an awful lot worse than let the ladies from Eve’s Alexandra take you through them. Their take on M. John Harrison’s Nova Swing went up yesterday.

Last but not least, I propose the creation of a new award, to be given for ‘most laugh-out-loud metaphor deployed in a serious review of a serious genre novel’. The first winner for this award (which can be given out whenever I or anyone else decide it’s time for one to be announced) is Adam Roberts, for this genius line from his review of Ian McDonald’s Brasyl:

“Brasyl’s 2006, 2032, and 1732 are not, it turns out, part of the same timeline, but salami slices from different places on the sausage of the multiverse.”

As this is the inaugural award, the recipient sentence will provide the name for it; feel free to confer a Salami Award on any piece of critical writing you encounter and feel worthy.

Locus Awards 2007 – finalists list

They’ve closed the polls, and announced the Locus Award finalists. I’m not going to ‘do a Niall’ on this, because I’m just not widely read enough to be able to do a worthwhile assessment of what should or shouldn’t be in there. But personal feelings? You bet.

Best Science Fiction Novel

Blindsight, Peter Watts (Tor)
Carnival, Elizabeth Bear (Bantam Spectra)
Farthing, Jo Walton (Tor)
Glasshouse, Charles Stross (Orbit; Ace)
Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge (Tor)

Very happy to see Vinge and Watts in there; likewise Stross, though I’ve not read Glasshouse yet. Opinion seems divided on Elizabeth Bear, at least among people I know well enough to talk to about such things, so it’s probably high time I read something of hers, too. I seem to remember people talking about Farthing, but what I heard obviously didn’t lodge in my brain enough to make me interested in learning more.

Best Fantasy Novel

The Jennifer Morgue, Charles Stross (Golden Gryphon Press; Ace)
The Last Witchfinder, James Morrow (Morrow)
The Privilege of the Sword, Ellen Kushner (Bantam Spectra)
Soldier of Sidon, Gene Wolfe (Tor)
Three Days to Never, Tim Powers (Subterranean Press; Morrow)

I’m not much of a fantasy reader these days (and when I was one, I only ever read RPG tie-in novels), so I’ll decline to comment much on this, except to say that the little of Gene Wolfe’s work I’ve read was excellent, and that describing The Jennifer Morgue as a fantasy novel seems a bit of a cop-out (despite not being personally able to supply an acceptable alternative categorisation).

Best First Novel

Crystal Rain, Tobias S. Buckell (Tor)
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, Gordon Dahlquist (Bantam; Viking UK)
The Green Glass Sea, Ellen Klages (Viking)
The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch (Gollancz; Bantam Spectra)
Temeraire: His Majesty’s Dragon/Throne of Jade/Black Powder, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Voyager); as Temeraire: In the Service of the King (SFBC)

Crystal Rain is the only one of those I’ve read, but I’m more than happy to see it in there. In the spirit of intarweb transparency and so forth, I should mention that Toby is a friend and co-blogger at Futurismic, but I stand by my assertion that I’d still have really enjoyed the book if I’d never heard of him before. Good writing is good writing.

Skimming a few categories, we see not one but two Doctorow shorts in the running – free online availability a factor there, perhaps? Ryman’s Hugo-nominated “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” gets a look-in also; not the sort of thing I usually read, but it moved me to tears when I finished it – which, as Mr. Ryman was most amused to hear, was a rather embarrassing thing to happen – given that I was sat on the last train home from London with a carriage full of drunk football fans at the time.

Very proud to see Interzone in the Best Magazine category (although I believe that, historically, it gets nominated for things all the time but never wins anything). Very interesting to see Strange Horizons in there too – an all electronic no-fee publication, no less.

Best Publisher … how curious that Baen makes the list, but there’s only one piece of Baen-published fiction in the other categories. Is this something to do with the sheer number of books they publish each year? Tor is the inevitable shoo-in, I’m guessing. Good to see Subterranean and Night Shade in there, though; the ‘small’ in small press is starting to be a real oxymoron, which can only be a good thing.

I’m not a great art fan, but I am somewhat shocked to see Stephan Martiniere didn’t make the grade. I think he did almost every cover I really liked in the last year, too – does this mean that I’m secretly a shiny-rocketship skiffy lover? To be fair, Picacio’s a fine artist as well, but while having an identifiable style is all well and good, I’m a little tired of the ‘head/face with stuff coming out of it’ thing.

As for the non-fiction prize, the possibility of that going to anything other than the Tiptree biography seems ludicrous. I’ve not read it myself, but the virtually unanimous acclaim heaped upon it by all and sundry speaks volumes – and I get the feeling that the subject matter is a large part of its appeal, defining it as ‘one of those books that needed to be written’. I hadn’t heard there was a book by Delaney about writing; I may have to hunt that one down through the library system.

There’s my two pence worth. What do you think?

The value of science fiction awards

It’s Worldcon weekend, which means that the Hugo award winners have been announced – congratulations to all who picked one up, and commiserations to those who did not. I’m going to take this opportunity, however, to ask a topical question – do awards like the Hugos really mean anything, from the point of view of the average reader? Continue reading The value of science fiction awards