Nominees Named for 2012 Hugo Awards and John W. Campbell Award

Jo Walton's Among Others (book cover): nominated for a 2012 Hugo Award for Best NovelScience Fiction Fandom Speaks with the Hugo Awards: Latest George R. R. Martin Opus, Yet Another Zombie Novel Up for Best Novel

Again with the zombies — but then given the fact that the Hugo Awards are determined by fans, perhaps not surprising.

If you’re like me – middle-aged and cranky – you’re done with vampires and zombies. This is the most horrible aspect of aging, even more so than entropy gradually mucking up your chromosomes and causing your body to fall apart: it’s how everything in popular culture gets recycled. Again and again. And again — ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

And the thing of it is, each time there’s a new generation of people for whom it’s all new and wonderful. I remember when I was that guy, a few decades ago. But now I’m 43, and I’ve seen the vampire thing come and go and come around again. Ditto with the zombies; done with that trope.

Unless the author has come up with something startlingly original – or at least so rarely recycled that it’s original to me – I don’t want anything to do with vampires or zombies. And obviously, I’m in the minority when it comes to popular culture, including popular literary fiction. To wit: the Stoker Award and the Hugo Awards.

Among the five novels nominated in the Hugo Awards category for Best Novel is Mira Grant’s Deadline (see what she did there?), yet another zombie apocalypse novel (this one is part of a series, naturally). Now, before you get your knickers twisted, I’m not knocking it, as I haven’t read it – I’m just saying once more, I’m not interested in zombie and vampire novels anymore – aside from some old friends that I like to reread once in a while.

It’s one thing if you bring something original to the table, but based on the blurbs I’ve read for Grant’s Newsflesh series, it sounds like the same stereotypical zombie stuff. Engineered viruses mutate and just happen to raise the dead, who want to eat the living. Nope, no one’s ever used that idea before. There is some mildly interesting sounding stuff about the evolution of the media, the Internet and politics in the wake of the zombie apocalypse – I guess it’s only a partial apocalypse – but not enough to interest me in reading it.

Again, I’m not knocking Ms. Grant; she may be the authorial bees knees and I’m missing out. So be it; call me when she gets over the zombie thing.

George R. R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons (book cover): Nominated for a 2012 Hugo Award for Best NovelNo Surprise Here: A Dance with Dragons Among Hugo Awards Best Novel Nominations

The fifth book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, his gritty fantasy magnum opus, titled A Dance with Dragons is also among the five novels nominated for the Hugo Awards. Released in July of 2011, it came out nearly six years since the previous book, A Feast for Crows. The lengthy interval became so onerous to some fanboys and girls that they resorted to browbeating Martin on the Internet, including on his own blog.

I guess they all forgave him, given the fact that fans nominate and subsequently chose the winners of Hugos.

While I have mixed feelings about Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, as expounded upon at length here on Barking Book Reviews, generally (and shortly) speaking, I like it – enough to keep reading, at any rate. I read A Dance With Dragons shortly after it came out – naturally it was a best seller the moment it was released – but that was right before I returned to Southeast Asia, and I consequently never wrote a follow-up review. But I will say that it shares the same strengths and weaknesses with the previous books, and that I’ll read the next one when it comes out.

The most interesting sounding novel on the list is Jo Walton’s Among Others, which has already garnered recognition: it was named one of School Library Journal’s Best Adult Books for Teens for 2011, as well as one of io9’s best Science Fiction and Fantasy books of the year for 2011. Walton has previously won a Prometheus Award in 2008 for the novel Ha’penny, and a 2010 Mythopoeic Award lifelode, among other accolades.

After perusing this excerpt of Among Others at publisher Tor’s site, methinks I’ll be adding that to my own shortlist of books to read and review.

The rest of the Hugo Awards list, along with the other major categories; you can find a more complete list of 2012 Hugo Award nominees over at Locus, from which I cadged this short list. Or you can go straight to the Hugo horse’s mouth. Also, again, if you are like me, you have perused that list and thought, “what the hell is a novelette? How does it differ from a novella? And why do we need further, arbitrary distinctions? Follow that link for an answer to the first two questions; as to the latter question, we’ll save that for another time.

On other interesting thing to note about the list for Best Novel: it includes British author China   Miéville’s Embassytown, which is also nominated for an Arthur C. Clarke Award. This Clarke Award nomination, among others, got fellow British science fiction author Christopher Priest’s panties in a bunch.

Wondering about Cambell Award? Scroll down, dear gentle reader.

BEST NOVEL
Leviathan Wakes, James S.A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Deadline, Mira Grant (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin (Bantam; Harper Voyager UK)
Embassytown, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)

BEST NOVELLA
“The Ice Owl,” Carolyn Ives Gilman (F&SF 11-12/11)
“Countdown,” Mira Grant (Orbit Short Fiction)
“The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” Kij Johnson (Asimov’s 10-11/11)
“Kiss Me Twice”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s 6/11)
“The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary,” Ken Liu (Panverse Three)
“Silently and Very Fast,” Catherynne M. Valente (WSFA)

BEST NOVELETTE
“Six Months, Three Days,” Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com 6/8/11)
“The Copenhagen Interpretation,” Paul Cornell (Asimov’s 7/11)
“What We Found,” Geoff Ryman (F&SF 9-10/11)
“Fields of Gold,” Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)
“Ray of Light,” Brad R. Torgersen (Analog 12/11)

BEST SHORT STORY
“Movement,” Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s 3/11)
“The Paper Menagerie,” Ken Liu (F&SF 3-4/11)
“The Homecoming,” Mike Resnick (Asimov’s 4-5/11)
“Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City (Prologue),” John Scalzi (Tor.com 4/1/11)
“The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees,” E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld 4/11)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY
The Unwritten, Vol. 2: Leviathan, Mike Carey, art by Peter Gross (Vertigo)
Locke & Key, Vol. 4: Keys To The Kingdom, Joe Hill, art by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing)
Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication, Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (www.schlockmercenary.com)
Digger, Ursula Vernon (www.diggercomic.com)
Fables, Vol. 15: Rose Red, Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)

BEST PROFESSIONAL EDITOR LONG FORM
Lou Anders
Liz Gorinsky
Anne Lesley Groell
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Betsy Wollheim

BEST PROFESSIONAL EDITOR SHORT FORM
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Sheila Williams

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST
Daniel Dos Santos
Bob Eggleton
Michael Komarck
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio

Karen Lord's debut novel, Redemption in IndigoKaren Lord Among Authors Nominated for John W. Campbell Award

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science-fiction novel of the year honors the late editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, now named Analog. Many would say that he is the founding father of modern science fiction; if anyone can be said to be such a thing, it is Campbell. Writers Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss established the award in Campbell’s name some decades ago..

Unlike the Hugos, it is a more traditional sort of award; you can read more about it at the University of Kansas’ Center for the Study of Science Fiction. This year’s nominees are:

Mur Lafferty
Stina Leicht
*Karen Lord
*Brad R. Torgersen
E. Lily Yu

*authors in their second year of eligibility.

Check out the Barking Book Review of Karen Lord’s excellent Redemption in Indigo here.

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Random News on Books: Vol. I

Links a’ Poppin’

All sorts of interesting stuff out there today, kids. So rather than make a bunch of wee lil’ posts – which would probably better from an SEO standpoint, but from a my usual lazy standpoint, not so much. Thus without further ado, I present to you: the inaugural volume of this semi regular feature produced by Barking Book Reviews (from lot 17 of Gecko’s Park Studios): Random News on Books from Teh Interwebz.

From the Books Section of the New York Times:
Two Potential Airplane Books

The New York Times books section is always a good place for the literary minded; I’ve rarely been steered wrong by a reviewer here. These two books below I doubt I would ever get around to reading, however, they are definitely, at least to my mind, worthy airplane books.

What are airplane books, you ask? These are books that, as stated above, I ordinarily wouldn’t bother to read – not because they are bad or uninteresting, per se, but are nevertheless found lacking when compared to the always-growing list of books I actually do want to read. But I would read these books if I were half hour away from getting on a long transatlantic flight and suddenly realized I forgot to pack a book in my carry-on. I’ve been faced with this dilemma, and the ensuing panic made me realize for the first time that my reading habit perhaps approaches obsessive-compulsive levels.

I was more than mildly freaked out about it, this not having a book to read. So much so that I ran back through the terminal in search of a book store, and ended up purchasing Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, a fictional yet thinly-veiled account of the life of Laura Bush (!)

I know, right? But it was the only book in the airport bookstore that either  a) I hadn’t read; b) was pop-culture dreck; or c) otherwise didn’t insult my intelligence. And as it turned out, it’s actually an entertaining read – I actually researched the life of the actual Laura Bush after I finished it; it was that interesting. I wouldn’t have bothered with American Wife otherwise, to be honest – again, not because there is anything wrong with it, just not something it would have occurred to me to read under ordinary circumstances.

So, that’s an airplane book. And so are these, at least with regard to me. You, of course, may think otherwise.

Rusty Chapman Leads the Serial Murder Leagues in Left Handed Decapitations on Cloudy Days in Months Beginning with ‘R’

The New York Times reviews Popular Crime, a nonfiction piece that looks at famous crimes over the course of American history through the lens of baseball-like statistics. As spectator sports go, I confess baseball ranks up there with watching paint dry. In other words, almost as boring as watching golf.

As others have observed before me: baseball is 15 minutes of action squeezed into three or four hours. As such, I’ve never understood the true fan’s fascination with the statistical minutia of the sport.

The author of Popular Crime, one Bill James, is apparently some sort of legend among the baseball statistician cognoscenti; he has written books on the subject according to reviewer Nathaniel Rich, who cops to being one of those statistically analytical fans of both baseball and James. Despite this admission he seems to be fairly objective of James’ foray into the statistical analysis of crime. And in spite of finding baseball statistics as exciting as driveway root removal, Popular Crime sounds somewhat interesting – thus its status as a potential a airplane book.

Lost Horizon for American Ovaries

Is Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder a Heart of Darkness for the reading-popular-fiction-on-the-beach set? Er, maybe not, says the New York Times’ Janet Maslin. Nevertheless, State of Wonder sounds just interesting enough that it could likely serve as an adequate airplane book.

Fertility drug research; cranky, old-but-still-brilliant researcher in the heart of the Amazon jungle; unexplained deaths – as I say, potential for a tolerable diversion on a long flight, at the least. I would have made several Heart of Darkness jokes here, but Maslin already took care of that in her review.

A Pseudopodic History of Science Fiction

A rather interesting graphic history of Science Fiction by artist Ward Shelley.Over at Worlds Without End there is a new review up on Feed, a novel by Mira Grant – the review is by one Allie McCarn, who actually has her own book review site, Tethyan Books. Bias admittal: normally, I would not have anything to do with any book that has zombies in it, at this point.

Not that I don’t like zombies as much as the next person, but they are kind of like the Stairway to Heaven of horror and science fiction. I like Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven – or rather, the first 10 million times I heard it. Now, I’m done with it. I don’t ever need to hear it again. The rest of the Zepplin catalog? Sure. But not that. I feel that way about zombies, too.

But Feed is a Nebula Award winner, so it must not be completely without merit. After reading McCarn’s review, it even sounds like I might be able to stomach the zombie conceit in the novel given the right circumstances – it sounds like it would be a pretty good airplane book.

Incidentally, Feed was the Io9 bookclub book for May.

Also noted on Worlds Without End: the effing sweet history of science fiction diagram, which you see pictured here – originally from artist Ward Shelley – is now available as a print. I rarely spend money on such things, but I’m trying to talk myself into this one. It’s more justifiable than much of what I piss my money away on, to be quite frank.

Also, if you click on the graphic to look at it full size, it’s pretty big. If you’re on a pokey connection, it’s gonna take awhile.

Q: What Does it Take to Transcend Twighlight’s Onerous and Creepy Ending?
A: Getting Head from a Dragon

Cover of Touched by Venom by Janine CrossSpeaking of Io9, there’s a couple of interesting posts over there on science fiction and fantasy literary genres. First off, contributor Jess Nevins – described by Io9 as a librarian, pulp fiction historian, and comic book annotator (would that I could ever attain that level of cool – cool being a relative term, I know, but I’m a nerd) – discusses the portrayal of the mad scientist in fiction throughout the ages. And that’s just part one.

There is also a very amusing post for the Io9 Daily 10 today: Fantasy Sagas That Are Wronger Than Twilight. I have mixed feelings about the fact that of the 10 books or series of books listed in the top 10, I’ve only partaken of two of the respective authors (not to mention this abuse of innocent grammar in that headline from media professionals that should know better) One is Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series (I read the first one, many moons ago, but never got around to continuing); the other is Laurell K. Hamilton’s Narcissus in Chains. I read several of the Anita Blake novels back in the day, until the characterizations and plotting just got to too stupid to bear; I bailed out long before this one.

Anyway, the rest of the 10 sound interesting, as in “interesting.” There are a couple that even sound worthy of airport book status though, and one I might even add to my Possibly Maybe pile. The Cat’s Fancy by Julie Kenner is one I wouldn’t hesitate to read on an airplane (again predicated on the idea that I forgot to include a book in my carry-on). Although to be honest, that’s only if there is a Kindle edition; as self secure as I am, I’m not sure I’m confident enough to be seen reading such a book in public.

Of course if I have my Kindle, I can download whatever I want. But you get the idea.

Then there is Grunts by Mary Gentle. This is parody of Tolkien; I love Tolkien, so all I have to hear is the words parody and Tolkien, and I’m all but sold (National Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings is absolutely brilliant). To quote Io9:

This parody of Lord of the Rings and its many imitators is generally very well-regarded and has a loyal following — but even this brutal novel’s biggest fans say it’s not for everyone. For one thing, this is the book that gave us the phrase, “Pass another elf. This one has split.” And then there are the S&M Hobbits, who roam around in BDSM gear killing people, while their mother is doing other naughty things with all comers.

This. Yes.

But as far as this list goes, I don’t see how Janine Cross’ Touched by Venom isn’t in the top 5 at least. Dragon-on-woman oral sex:

[the dragon’s] mouth a thumbnails length from my sex, [and] his firm gums brushing my buttocks …

And we’ll end this post with that vision in our heads.

Postscript. Hi John.