August 2015 Reading in Review

TheKappaChildOr maybe September should be the beginning of the year. Because August is death. Death by sun, death by heat, death by school traffic, death by Hugos. It’s like one long, drawn out, miserable, 106 degree New Year’s Eve, where I awkwardly stand next to a plant, feeding it my drink, and waiting for the night to be over. In comparison, September feels like a fresh beginning.

I must be getting older, looking forward to fall like this.
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Back to the Hugos: Back to The Future

The Hugo Awards are tonight.

But time-travel Hugos are much more fun.

So let’s go back to… oh, we’re here.

[insert public domain photo of a dog I can’t be bothered to locate.]

So what have we learned?

Well, for one thing, much as I complain about the Hugos, my Hugo winner choices are only slightly different:

ThePlanetBuyerTheDispossed(1stEdHardcover)Neuromancer1BrittleInningsJonathanStrange1
1965           1975          1985             1995               2005

1955 was just no. 1965 and 1995 Hugo voters disagreed with me, awarding the Hugo to Leiber’s The Wanderer and Bujold’s Mirror Dance. 1995 was a seriously backwards year.

*****

And what else have we learned? No matter who tries to take over, not much has changed.

1955: The Hugos have long celebrated crappy books.

1965: The Hugos have long been influenced by the weird, the progressive, and the literary.

1975: The Hugos have long recognized conservative works by conservative authors… and they do “message fiction,” too.

1985: The Hugos have long recognized non-literary, fun novels. Especially in recent decades.

1995: There is no such thing as Affirmative Action at the Hugo Awards. It’s called fandom. (Though the Hugos could definitely benefit from some sort of positive action system. Let’s World Cup it!)

2005: The Hugos have only very recently returned to their roots (hello again, 1965!) by going all progressive and literary and messagey and that’s awesome, but they’re still white as hell. And, oh, you’re back, Pew-Pew-Space-Cadet. The Stuck Puppets seem to think you died after 1985.

2015: *sigh* I’m sad.

I’m sad that this controversy has given a platform to a bunch of racist, intolerant pricks with terrible taste. Continue reading

Back to the Hugos: 2005!

The Hugo Awards are this weekend! But time-travel Hugos are much more fun! So let’s go Back to the Hugos: 2005!

The member vote for Best Novel:

JonathanStrange1RiverofGods2TheAlgebraistIronSunrise2ironcouncil2

Susanna Clarke wins! Booyah!

And look. At that. List. It’s so British. It’s so Leftist. I bet when these books get together, all they do is argue about Jeremy Corbyn.

(This WorldCon was held in Glasgow, btw.)

My pretend, retro ballot for Best Novel:

JonathanStrange1RiverofGods2ironcouncil2TheAlgebraistIronSunrise2

Hugo voters, we almost agree again! That’s twice! In six decades!

Susanna Clarke won my heart long before I had even heard of the Hugo Awards, and, upon reread, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell—  despite having a title I can never remember– maintains its status as one of the best novels I have ever read. River of Gods is another of McDonald’s gorgeous feats of culture, technology, and depth, and would have been my top pick, if not for Clarke’s presence on the list. Love him or hate him (or sometimes both), genre readers may have suffered Miéville fatigue by 2005 thanks to overexposure and the endearingly annoying style of SF’s little brother, but I enjoyed the chug-chug meditative nature of Iron Council, and I wish it had been my first Miéville. It kept me soothed during a grim trip to Atlanta and the bumpiest return flight I’ve ever had in my life. As for The AlgebraistI think I need to read a better Banks.

I had an odd, parallel experience with Iron Sunrisewhich accompanied me on a long bus ride during which I was assaulted by Hollywood blockbusters in the form of mall security personnel and a J-Lo sex-thriller. (Don’t cheat on your husbands, ladies. You’ll be stalked and assaulted and you’ll find your best friend’s body stuffed in a fridge. Men are scary, so you should behave.) Iron Sunrise (and its predecessor, Singularity Sky) seems to mimic these lame Hollywood cliches with its bumbling male protagonist and its femme fatale heroine who uses sex as a weapon. I wasn’t impressed.

*****

It’s a good thing the Schmuckies keep changing their argument, otherwise they’d have me pretty well defeated right now. But even so, as we have learned, this uber-progressive list is a throwback to the old days of Hugo shortlists. This liberal preference is nothing new. And complaints about a literati invasion aren’t valid when I can’t think of two books that better represent a fun, meaningless space romp than Iron Sunrise and The Algebraist. And finally, the 2005 shortlist, like over 90% of the 66 previous shortlists is completely and utterly white.

As for this year’s shortlist, where a space opera, an alien invasion story*, and a throne inheritance drama will battle one another for the top spot. The only real difference is that a few other bought, but irrelevant titles have crowded the discussion. It should be a bland night for THE BEST SF NOVEL IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.

Okay, snarkasm done. This week has earned me a few titles:

And:

And:

Well, I’d rather be Ranty and Snarky than Rabid and Sad. Or Pathetic, more like.

But back to 2005, how about a hollah for this non-American, progressive-leaning list! Maybe do that again some day, Hugo voters! Maybe with fewer white people next time!

*A previous version left off the alien invasion story. Let us not forget that it was not on the original list, making the 2015 shortlist even more unbalanced.

Back to the Hugos: 1995!

The Hugo Awards are this weekend! But time-travel Hugos are much more fun! So let’s go Back to the Hugos: 1995!

The member vote for Best Novel:

MirrorDance1MotherofStorms1Beggars&Choosers1BrittleInnings2TowingJehovah1

Oh, Hugo voters… AYFKM? I thought we had finally reached an understanding after last decade.

 

MY pretend, retro ballot for Best Novel:

BrittleInnings2TowingJehovah1Beggars&Choosers1MirrorDance1MotherofStorms1

(Interesting note: Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower made the shortlist but was deemed inelegible.)

 

Wrong, Hugo voters. You got it ALL wrong.

Allow me to explain:

Brittle Innings is a rich, full-bodied tale about humanity and its monsters in the pre-Civil Rights era South, and involves brilliant literary interplay. It’s gorgeous. Towing Jehovah is an intelligent, biting, religious satire that offends everybody, even the intended audience. Beggars and Choosers is brimful of imaginative near-future technology with (often over-involved) philosophical ponderings, and its problematic nature makes analysis even more worthwhile. Bujold’s Mirror Dance is the “Give your sociopathic clone son a starship” edition of the “Save-yo-fetuses” series, which always puts my deeply internalized pro-choice sensibilities on edge, not to mention the elevation of uberwealthy characters undermines difficult moral quandaries by making them easy, fun to read, and not really a big deal. And Mother of Storms is a kitchen sink filler-thriller about superficial character cliches surviving a global weather disaster.

SPANALYSIS

If the Spaz Clumpies are correct about post-1985 SF, 1995 should be an ideal indicator of a liberal and literary hijacking of the Hugo Awards. Continue reading

Back to the Hugos: 1985!

The Hugo Awards are this weekend! But time-travel Hugos are much more fun! So, let’s go back to the Hugos: 1985!

The member vote for Best Novel:

Neuromancer1emergence1ThePeaceWar2JobAComedyofJusticeTheIntegralTrees1
The Winner: Just a little book called Neuromancer. 

 

My pretend, retro Hugo ballot for Best Novel:

Neuromancer1emergence1TheIntegralTrees1ThePeaceWar2JobAComedyofJustice

Hugo voters, we actually almost agree! Neuromancer is tops, now that I’m accustomed to the wacked out, cyber megatext, and Gibson’s shifty show-don’t-tell-wait-don’t-even-show style. And Emergence became an instant favorite of mine, thanks to the insane plot twists, and despite the Russian-commies-are-evil gag. (Eh, it’s the eighties.)

As for the bottom of the ballot, all three books were just okay. I enjoyed The Integral Trees for those sexy sex scenes– haha, just kidding, those sex scenes were awkward as hell, but the weird physics and flying whales were pretty cool. The Peace War is a story I could easily picture on FX or USA or Lifetime television networks, and you can interpret that however you like.

I would probably No Award Heinlein. If I had grown up reading him, I’d be ready to tell him to fuck off by ’85. Probably sooner. (Definitely sooner.)

*****

According to some Schmuck Fuppy commentary I’ve seen around, 1985 was the death knell of the Hugo Awards– the final year that Hugo voters recognized deserving fiction, and just before the bleeding-heart libs Affirmative Actioned the fun out of science fiction, while the snooty lit-crits meta’d themselves. ‘Twas the year that Pew-Pew-Space-Cadet died… so many sadz…

But so many wrongz.

Pew-Pew-Space-Cadet died decades before 1985, and if anything is dead in the eighties, it’s the (liberal) (wild) (metatastic) New Wave movement, which left behind a great, big stink of drab, commercial fiction, and a regular rotation of reliably conservative authors (and some equally drab, commercial, liberal authors, let’s be honest). 1985 is certainly a conservative-heavy list, but that is more likely to repeat after 1985, rather than before.

So what are the Schmucks actually mourning after 1985? Is it an arbitrary, made up date, or, perhaps, is this misdirected sadness because they just happen to miss Neuromancer‘s “particular flavor”?

WARNING: Conservative enjoyment of Neuromancer may indicate latent liberal tendencies. Side effects include being sad, manufacturing controversy, and avoiding space opera throwbacks because feminine pronouns are scary.

Back to the Hugos: 1975!

The Hugo Awards are this weekend! But time-travel Hugos are much more fun! So let’s go back to the Hugos: 1975!

The member vote for Best Novel:

TheDispossed(1stEdHardcover)firetime4FlowMyTears1themoteingodseye1InvertedWorld

Le Guin wins, but I can’t believe Inverted World placed last. That’s insanity.

My pretend, retro Hugo ballot:

TheDispossed(1stEdHardcover)InvertedWorldFlowMyTears1firetime4themoteingodseye1

I’m having a hard time deciding between the anarchic experiment The Dispossessed and the mind-bendy Inverted World as a first pick. Both are delicious; I love them so much. Maybe they should tie. In comparison, Flow my Tears and Fire Time are pretty forgettable, with misplaced identity and Middle East allegory being the only things I much remember about them. (And for those who haven’t read either, I’ll let you guess which is which.) And people, I know you LOVE the Moties, but it’s lame and stiff and boring, and I don’t think readers-of-color would appreciate the all-too-familiar social hierarchy of Larry and Jerry’s alien society. That ain’t no racial commentary, it’s just lazy characterization. *aggressively shakes finger at Larry and Jerry*

Not that anyone is keeping score or anything, but there are three well-known conservative authors on this list. (And who knows about Dick. We didn’t study the politics of the fifth dimension in my comparative politics classes, but I’m pretty sure that’s where that dude resides.) However, both books by those conservative authors can easily be classified as “message fiction,” with Fire Time advocating land sharing between hostile groups, and The Mote in God’s Eye addressing unsustainable population growth… with a rather severe Malthusian solution, permeated by an ugly anti-immigrant message. And let’s not talk about the “good girls don’t use birth control” message.

Message fiction: a favorite technique of SF writers from all political persuasions! (Not that anyone is saying otherwise. Because that would be dumb and nonsensical.)

Did you know: Manufactured controversy = Free advertising

See you tomorrow for *shock* and *gasp* a year I just might almost agree with… 1985!

Back to the Hugos: 1965!

The Hugo Awards are this weekend, but time-travel Hugos are much more fun! …And there’s less drama when you’re several generations removed.

So let’s go back to the Hugos: 1965!

The member vote for Best Novel:

TheWanderer1Davy1ThePlanetBuyerTheWholeMan
Leiber wins, and Brunner gets the shaft. (It’s okay, Brunner kid. Maybe you can recycle some of those ideas for something really cool later on.)

 

MY pretend, retro vote for Best Novel:

ThePlanetBuyerTheWanderer1TheWholeManDavy1
Smith, then Leiber, Brunner, and Bangporn, er, Pangborn, I mean.

A colorful Hugo shortlist full of imaginative, vibrant, yet structurally flawed stories. The Planet Buyer‘s lack of story requires a reread to be fully appreciated, but it’s more impressive than the fun, but schticky disaster novel, The Wanderer. Brunner’s The Whole Man might have been a tad more interesting if I hadn’t already read Brunner’s brilliant Stand on Zanzibar (1968). As for Bangporn, as he is now called in my house, well, I can see how Davy‘s themes of sexual liberation in a post-apocalyptic setting might have been tantalizing at the time, but I have a hard time reconciling the “women are people, too,” message with the “stallionizing” that begins a few pages later. You mean, “women are people, too, as long as they are my playthings,” right?

Oh, oh, oh! AND, all four of these novels involve highly experimental literary elements, liberal philosophizing, non-white characters, and ZERO pew-pew-space-cadet heroics. They are all VERY WEIRD BOOKS THAT STODGY WHITE DUDES WHO STARCH THEIR SOCKS PROBABLY WON’T LIKE AND IT MAKES ME WONDER IF PEOPLE WHO COMPLAIN THAT NEW SF IS TOO LIBERAL AND EXPERIMENTAL ACTUALLY BOTHERED TO READ VINTAGE SF, OR DID THEY JUST SEE A PICTURE OF A 1930’s-ERA COMIC BOOK AND ASSUME ALL VINTAGE SF IS LIKE THAT. AHEM, I’M SAYING THAT I THINK THE PAD SUPPIES DON’T ACTUALLY READ MUCH SF OUTSIDE OF THEIR OWN CIRCLE JERK.

I’m sorry, that’s probably incorrect. I meant to say “WHOSE WIVES STARCH THEIR SOCKS.”

Tune in tomorrow for 1975… when some real masterpieces show up!