Wednesday, March 28, 2007

2007 Hugo Nominations

Michael F. Flynn, Eifelheim (Tor)
Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon (Del Rey)
Charles Stross, Glasshouse (Ace)
Vernor Vinge, Rainbows End (Tor)
Peter Watts, Blindsight (Tor)

Robert Reed, “A Billion Eves”
Paul Melko, “The Walls of the Universe”
William Shunn, “Inclination”
Michael Swanwick, “Lord Weary’s Empire”
Robert Charles Wilson, “Julian”

Paolo Bacigalupi, “Yellow Card Man”
Michael F. Flynn, “Dawn, and Sunset, and the Colours of the Earth”
Ian McDonald, “The Djinn’s Wife”
Mike Resnick, “All the Things You Are”
Geoff Ryman, “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter”

Short Story
Neil Gaiman, “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”
Bruce McAllister, “Kin”
Tim Pratt, “Impossible Dreams”
Robert Reed, “Eight Episodes”
Benjamin Rosenbaum, “The House Beyond the Sky”

Related Book
Samuel R. Delany, About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews
Joseph T. Major, Heinlein’s Children: The Juveniles
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice Sheldon
John Picacio, Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio
Mike Resnick & Joe Siclari, eds., Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Children of Men
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
The Prestige
A Scanner Darkly
V for Vendetta

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Battlestar Galactica, “Downloaded”
Doctor Who, “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”
Doctor Who, “Girl in the Fireplace”
Doctor Who, “School Reunion”

Editor, Short Form
Gardner Dozois
David G. Hartwell
Stanley Schmidt
Gordon Van Gelder
Sheila Williams

Editor, Long Form
Lou Anders
James Patrick Baen
Ginjer Buchanan
David G. Hartwell
Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Professional Artist
Bob Eggleton
Donato Giancola
Stephan Martiniere
John Jude Palencar
John Picacio

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet
The New York Review of Science Fiction


Banana Wings
The Drink Tank
Science-Fiction Five-Yearly

Fan Writer
Chris Garcia
John Hertz
Dave Langford
John Scalzi
Steven H. Silver

Fan Artist
Brad W. Foster
Teddy Harvia
Sue Mason
Steve Stiles
Frank Wu

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not a Hugo)

Scott Lynch
Sarah Monette
Naomi Novik
Brandon Sanderson
Lawrence M. Schoen

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Future of Manned Spaceflight

SciFiDimensions has just posted a virtual panel discussion on The Future of Manned Spaceflight. Moderated John C. Snider asks noted panelists Geoffrey A. Landis (science fiction author and actual NASA scientiset), M.M. Buckner (novelist and winner of the 2006 PKD award) and our own Adam Roberts (author of Gradisil and professor of 19th Century English Literature) about NASA's current Constellation Program, "a comprehensive package of development aimed at regaining the ability to put astronauts into space after the Shuttle is retired."

I encourage everyone to read the whole discussion, but here's a clip from Adam Roberts to whet your appetites:

"The problem isn't that space exploration isn't a noble, or a necessary, human aim. It clearly is. The problem is that enormous boondoggle governmental programs to put people into space are exactly the wrong way to advance that aim. What we need is a genuinely popular and ground-up move into space, not a top down one; something that taps into the groundswell of popular fascination with space travel. The technologies NASA are using to put people into space can be thought of this way: at the time of Apollo it cost as much to put a man in orbit as that man's weight in gold. Chemical propulsion is the same technology, and the costs haven't come down very far. Now, the USA would never have come about if it had cost that much to ship colonists over from Europe. There needs to be serious investigation of: cheaper models of space elevators; next-generation high altitude zeppelins as launch pads; re-jigged and less polluting Spaceship Orion nuclear-propulsion projects, boosting spaceplanes with electromagnetic effects from the earth's magnetosphere; and anything else that people can think of."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Last Colony

Last night, I finished reading John Scalzi's third novel in his Colonial Defense Force series, The Last Colony. As some of you may recall, I was a big fan of The Ghost Brigades, which I only read recently as well. And though it took me until long after it had been published to read that one, I'm thrilled to have actually read The Last Colony pre-publication, and especially to have been able to read both works so close together, as events and characters from the middle book return in interesting ways in the finale.

(Hey, how does the busy editor find time to read another book, you ask? Well, I read about a third on the flight out to John & Traci Picacio's wedding, a third on the flight back, and the rest of it in fits and starts until giving it one late night yesterday.)

But back on the book, which - I won't hold you in suspense any longer - I thoroughly enjoyed: What Scalzi wisely does in this trilogy is that he introduces a very interesting future world in the first novel, veers off with some new characters for a deeper look at the workings of this world in book two, in which he pulls back the curtain a little bit on the darker side of his future's politics as well as raising some questions on the nature of identity, and then brings back the central character from the first novel - John Perry of Old Man's War - in a novel in which the political underpinnings of his universe are front and center. The complexity & moral ambiguity of the novels build with each one, though they all retain his very readable and distinctive narrative voice. I also think that I like each novel better than the one before, though it may be that I simply like returning to the universe of the Colonial Defense Force and am carrying my previous joy forwards and compounding it with new joy. Joy squared. Joy to the third power.

Now, some things of possible interest (possibly only to me) have occurred between my reading of Old Man's War and The Last Colony. One is that when I read Old Man's War, I hadn't a clue who Scalzi was. Since then, I've become a dedicated reader of his blog, Whatever (one of the few blogs I check every single day) and I've spent a good deal of time talking with John himself, both online and recently in person. Now, John's said many times that the character of Jane Sagan is based in part on his wife Krissy, no secret there. Add to this- minor spoiler coming up - the fact that his daughter Athena keeps popping up on Whatever in hysterical YouTube shorts like this, where she's seen by the myriad of John's readers, and it's hard not to see her as sharing certain similarities with the character of Zoe - minor spoiler now - who shares her life experiences with an entire devoted alien race. With the result that in my head as I read, John Perry, Jana Sagan and Zoe simply are John Scalzi (slightly taller), Krissy (slightly more indestructable) and Athena (slightly older, and, inexplicably, with shorter, darker hair). Now, nothing wrong with this, and of little relevance to most of the readers of these books - it just strikes me as interesting. I know a lot of writers and I read a lot of books, but none of them were ever the exact stand-ins for their characters in my mind before. (Certainly, I never conflated Chris Roberson with Akilina Chirikova, for example.) I found myself, towards the end when John Scalzi was saving the universe in a moment not un-reminiscent of the close of the fourth season of Babylon 5, wondering how I would have read this book if I'd never met John. I am sure my enjoyment and appreciate level would have been the same ("tremendous"), I just wonder what the lead character would have looked like. Perhaps a dashing, blue-eyed bald-headed man with two hoop earrings in the left lobe? Alas, I'll never know.

The other thing is that I read the manuscript for the third book in Mike Resnick's Starship series Starship: Mercenary (after the previous books Mutiny and Pirate) right between The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. And I suddenly realized that I like both Scalzi and Resnick for very similar reasons. They both have a distinctive, easily-readable narrative voice. They both write a damn good story well told and peopled with interesting, likable characters. They are both reasonably quick reads (important for the busy editor). And, as I realized when I read Mercenary the week before Last Colony, they both have written military SF space operas that grow in complexity with each book. I definitely think my reading experience was enhanced by reading Last Colony on the heels of Mercenary. Unfortunately, since we won't be publishing till next December while The Last Colony is out next month, there isn't much you can do with that! Sorry, you'll have to wait.

But there you have it. Lou on The Last Colony. I came, I read, it kicked ass.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Infoquake: A Dangerous Vision?

David Louis Edelman's Infoquake has racked up praise beyond my wildest expectation, being called "a triumph of speculation" by Bookgasm (who listed it in their top five novels of 2006) and "the science fiction book of the year" by SFFWorld. It prompted Ian McDonald to proclaim, "So fresh and good I shamelessly stole an idea from it: the whole premise of a future corporate thriller.... Buy Infoquake, read it.... Give him the Philip K Dick award." Alas, they did not, but Barnes & Noble chose it as the number one book of the year in their list of the Top SF&F Books of 2006. Needless to say, we are more than thrilled. (And hey, there's still the Locus poll.)

But it's this review in the April/May 2007 issue of Asimov's, that may be the most interesting analysis of the book that I've read thus far. In the latest of his always enjoyable On Books columns, "Whither the Hard Stuff?", Norman Spinrad praises Infoquake as a "high-speed, high-spirited tale of high-powered and low-minded capitalist skullduggery, corporate and media warfare, and virtual reality manipulation. It’s the sort of thing that would make a perfect serial for Wired magazine, given the nature of its ad base, if it ever decided to publish fiction."

He further praises Edelman for his skill in crafting hard SF, saying "Edelman seems to have convincing and convincingly detailed knowledge of the physiology and biochemistry of the human nervous system down to the molecular level. And cares about making his fictional combination of molecular biology and nanotech credible to the point where the hard science credibility of the former makes the questionable nature of the latter seem more credible even to a nanotech skeptic like me. And after all, let’s not kid ourselves too far, that’s really the nature of the hard science fiction game; otherwise it wouldn’t be hard science fiction."

Here I have to warn you there's a spoiler in the review as to what the MacGuffin of the book is (or seems to be), but Spinrad finds all of this struggle for verisimilitude erected around a core concept that he feels is a "'doorway into anything'—superpowers conjured up at will out of the bits and bytes, infinite replay of actions in order to come up with the desired result—in other words, magic" to be disturbing. Yes, disturbing!

He concludes, "I have no quarrel at all with the use of magic as a literary device in fantasy or surrealist fiction, where it has produced masterpieces. Magic masquerading as science and/or technology is another matter, and a graver one. And the better the masquerade, the more successful on a literary level, the more disturbing the transliterary consequences."

Unfortunately, or fortunately, or both, I doubt a great many of today's readers will get hot under the collar about "transliterary consequences," a state of affairs that is part of the lament of Spinrad's broader article. As he says, "Literarily and commercially, the question of whether or not such a novel could be considered 'hard science fiction of the post-modern kind' is ridiculously irrelevant. " But it is nice to imagine a world where the debate might reach titanic proportions, like the shouting matches once provoked by the New Wave. I'd love to hear reports from Nippon 2007 that there were knock down drag outs between the Mundanistas and the Infoquakers. As well as constituting a healthy sign of the state of SF, that would be high praise indeed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Life Imitates Art

Okay, first go read this. It's an article from New Scientist which begins, "Future spacecraft may surf the magnetic fields of Earth and other planets, taking previously unfeasible routes around the solar system, according to a proposal funded by NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts. The electrically charged craft would not need rockets or propellant of any kind."

Now go read this. It's a book by Adam Roberts, of which Starburst says, "the magnetic boost technologies he uses to put planes into orbit has the smack of an SF trope that’ll become a universal cliché in a few years."

Or just a reality.

Update: Technovelgy has picked up on the story. Although the post mentions not having heard back from Adam, we are putting them in touch.

Chronological Dissonance on FF1

The blog Chronological Dissonance likes Fast Forward 1. They call out stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, Kage Baker, Stephen Baxter, A.M. Dellamonica, Ken MacLeod, Ian MacDonald ("One of my three favourite stories in the book"), Mary A. Turzillo, John Meaney and Paul Di Filippo. And I love their concluding remarks:

"If Sturgeon's Law (ninety percent of everything is crud) is true, then there are nine other anthologies filled with dreck, because this one is excellent. I look forward to more Fast Forward anthologies."

Also worth noting: A previous story in the world of A.M. Dellamonica's "Time of the Snake," caleld "The Town on Blighted Sea," is available online at Strange Horizons. And, of course, Paul Di Filippo's "Wikiworld" is still online here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

This is Interesting: Lethem's Film Option

I've just discovered (via GalleyCat) that Jonathan Lethem is giving away a free film option on his novel You Don't Love Me Yet to a filmmaker to be selected March 15th, in exchange for a percentage of the budget should the film ever get made. What's more, the plan is for all ancillary rights to characters and "the plot and situations, the notions and conceits and milieu of the book" will be launched into the public domain five years after said films release, where they will be available for anyone to make spin-off works in a variety of media. I hope someone takes Lethem up on this, because I'd like to see what happens in five years. I think it's an inspired idea. My only questions are - why only one filmmaker? Why not let as many filmmakers as want to have a shot? And why wait five years? Why not throw it out there now? But my discover of this announcement follows right on the heels of a long discussion I had with a friend in LA about collaborative filmmaking. I'm very interested in this experiment, as I also am in this one.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Shades of Grey

So I sat in a chair in Barnes & Noble today and read the first chapter of Jon Armstrong's Grey. Definitely something I plan to pick up and read at the very next available free reading slot. Very impressed by what I read. In the meantime, I'd love to see David Louis Edelman read Grey and Jon Armstrong read Infoquake, then have the two of them have a conversation and post a transcript to their respective blogs. I'd also like to hear opinions from folks who've read both, not to see which they liked better, but to see if these two original glimpses into the future of business and fashion, each by debut authors, each the first of a planned trilogy, compliment each other as I suspect they might.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tolkien On Acid

Entertainment Weekly weighs in on Justina Robson's "teeming" sci-fantasy, Keeping It Real.

I love this line:

"For fans of
Tolkien, had he gone electric, dropped acid, and discovered tantric sex."

What more could you ask for?

Battlestar Galactica: Episode 17 "Maelstrom"


Well, I guess slamming your daughter's hand in a door is alright as long as you are preparing her to be tough so she can do something special like pointless suicide and the casual destruction of a rare, expensive, and vital ship necessary for the defense of the fleet.

And I see that tonight it looks like Lee, who's never had an ounce of legal training, is going to step in as Baltar's defense counsel. Why is the show that promised us an end to television cliches borrowing one that was old when Riker went after Data's humanity? "Let's pretend we're lawyers" should be left on Gilligan's Island where it belongs.

Oh god, make it end.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Just heard the upsetting news that Paul "Goat" Allen, the editor of B&N's Explorations newsletter, is being let go. Goat's been doing the newsletter for ten years, has logged over 3,500 reviews and author interviews, and provides an in-my-opinion much needed human face for B&N's SF&F section. I agree wholeheartedly with Jason Stoddard that, "Success in this new era demands wholehearted participation. It requires an ability to think of your publication (or yourself) as a public persona." Companies should be finding more ways to build community, not cutting back on the ones they have. In the meantime, Goat has a unique knowledge pool, having read more books - from all publishing houses - than most anybody in the industry, and that's a pretty unique skill set. Somebody give him a job.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Death of Episodic Television

Because I was already thinking of doing this, and not because Chris Roberson beat me to it, or because our blogs are going to become a forum for a personal argument, I'm going to post some thoughts I shared with Roberson and Sean Williams in an email this morning on why I think NBC's Heroes is my favorite show on television currently and may emerge over time as my favorite show of all time. Note this is NOT a rebuttal to Chris - I long sense gave up on trying to get him to watch. This was a digression into what I think Heroes is doing that is notable in the history of evolving TV narrative:

What it's doing that is making it for me is that it seems to be leaving the episodic nature of television behind completely. Sometimes they'll run a "To be continued" and this just blows my mind, because in a show where everything seems to be carried forward and thru, I can't figure out when they decide something is "to be continued" and something isn't. I think it's just to give us a break from the horrid voice overs, since the TBC episodes don't have one at the end and
start. What Heroes is doing to me and my wife is showing us the absurdity of dramas that start out at the beginning of the hour with a problem and resolve it by the end.

I am actually very distrubed by this.

Because that's how most television has been written since the medium's inception.

I always prided myself on not being one of those people who can't watch black and white film or refuse to watch things because they are old or the special effects aren't up to today's standards. My excuse was always that it's the story that matters, not the set dressings. But Heroes is doing fundamentally different things with story. I know this began with St Elsewhere and Babylon 5 and a dozen other shows over the last decade, but the level of inter-connectivity, non-episodic format is to an entirely new degree. Rome does this too - they are really neck and neck for my affection and it's probably just that I'm more into comics than history that puts
Heroes ahead - but Rome feels just a touch more episodic.

What I'm realizing is that changes in the sophistication of narrative may forever remove me from the garden and I'm not sure I can go back.

Now, back on B5 - I started on season three and went back, having hated it when it first aired. [And the weaker] Season five's not Joe's fault. He thought he had to end the show on season four, so he hurried to do so, then got the extra year after all and had to stretch it out. Then a major cast member quit between seasons, and he'd planned to hang a huge arc on her. But I often wish B5 had been 5 books instead of 5 years of tv so that the story he meant to tell
from the beginning could get told.

Meanwhile, I am expecting the next truly brilliant, paradigm shifting SF epic to show up sometime in the next five years, not from US television at all, but from another corner - either Asian tv or YouTube or bittorrent or elsewhere. I'm expecting that whoever is behind it is working on it right now and that when it arrives it will be mind-charringly brilliant, as it is able to tell exactly the story it sets out to tell, in exactly however many segments that entails (and no more), without being beholden to the time and commercial constraints of tv, and that once it arrives the real era of SF filmmaking will be well and truly underway. Godspeed!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Help Us Keep It Real

Beginning tomorrow, 3/6, and running fourteen days through 3/19, Justina Robson's magnificent sci-fantasy novel Keeping It Real (Quantum Gravity, Book 1) will be on a "quality paperback table" in every Borders Books store in the US. This is a table display with other books and, I believe, we're talking outside the SF section and mixed with general fiction. I've very excited (very!) by this promotion and very curious to see how it goes. (That a major media outlet is publishing a review of Keeping It Real three days into this effort doesn't hurt either - nice coincidence that!)

So, the fact that there isn't a Borders Books in my entire state is a bit of a downer. In view of this, I would very much appreciate hearing of any and all sightings in various Borders around the US of A. Please let me know where you saw the book, how it was displayed, how many were on hand, what you thought of it, etc... I'd love to post some pictures to this and the Pyr blog too, so feel free to put those digital camera phones to good use and email me the results!

Update: And just in time for the promotion, Justina Robson writes to let me know she has a brand new livejournal blog, beginning with a thoughtful entry on writing for elves and fairies and the snobbery of the literary elite. Everybody go check it out.

Some Things of a Cool Nature

So, a few things here of possible interest:

1. Just got my own copies of Gradisil and Keeping It Real and I'm really struck by how gorgeous these books look, even moreso in real life then they did on my screen. Gradisil is already available for ordering on Amazon, so my guess is it will be in stores any day now. Keeping it Real will follow shortly. That one is a different look for us but I'm really proud of how it came out, so would love to know what others think.

2. Via Chris Roberson - I am just astounded by this.

3. The parent company has been having some real success with a title called
Hooking Up: A Girl's All-out Guide to Sex And Sexuality. Author Amber Madison just appeared on the Today Show this morning, in a spot called ""Is Hooking Up Unhealthy for Teens?" which can been seen online at MSNBC's website here.

4. Oh, and go to Locus Online and see the cool banner at the top of the page, courtesy of Lisa Risio.

Friday, March 02, 2007