Yesterday, I brought you my thoughts on the 2015 Kitschies Golden Tentacle shortlist (the newbie award). Today, I bring you my thoughts on the Red Tentacle shortlist (ie the established writer’s award).
This year’s breakneck pace between shortlist announcement and award ceremony made it impossible for most people to play along at home with The Kitschies’ search for the most progressive, intelligent, and entertaining speculative fiction. A full list of ten novels, five book covers, and five digital creations (one of which is another novel), is a lot to digest in a matter of weeks. Without a chance of making the deadline, I opted to string out my Kitschies reading for most of the year.
So, ten months later… I give you my impressions of the Kitschies RedTentacle list. In short, this is a good list, notwithstanding a couple of odd inclusions.
When Eleanor Lerman’s Radiomen won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year back in August–out of ten other much more widely talked about, publicized, and celebrated SF novels–it absolutely caught my attention. Compared to its shortlisted peers (even Linda Nagata’s initially self-published series), Radiomen seemed to come out of nowhere, having appeared on zero other SF shortlists–not even the 218-item Tiptree recommendation list!– and absent from any of the SF discourse I usually observe. Even after winning the award, the book seems to have drifted back into obscurity, despite having won against an impressive and critically solid shortlist (not counting the few bits of gristle I’m choosing to ignore). I don’t know how this small press gem wound up on the shortlist, but the Campbell Memorial Award jury did us a service to bring it out into the open like this.
I enjoyed a momentary snicker at that quote from a local newspaper a few weeks ago when it addressed our own local epidemic of painted jokers who were creeping in parks at midnight and scaring kids, prompting superfluous arrests and increased weapons sales. (Not that it takes much to do that around here.) But it also marked a moment of fiction-reality overlap that spun my own rational stability into a tailspin.
My sense of estrangement occurred just before the peak of public hysteria, when I pulled into the parking lot of my place of work at 7:30 am and nearly collided head-on with a swerving red car driven by a blue-wigged, red-suited individual. Naturally, I forgot the incident just seconds after they zoomed by, and went about my day, only recalling it hours later, just after the explosion of local and national headlines, arrests, and pepper spray kiosks, prompting me to wonder if I had really seen what thought I had seen, or if the day’s events had somehow transformed the memory in my mind.
Perhaps most indicative of the mood surrounding the 2016 Clarke Award shortlist is that most of the discussion is about the Clarke Award itself, rather than the mostly baffling list of novels the jury selected this year. It’s a fairly cut-and-dry list that doesn’t garner much debate or consideration; each book seems to inspire unequivocal feels from most readers, but they do make a odd collection when taken together. After much thinking, and some discussion with Jonah Sutton-Morse and Maureen K. Speller on the Cabbages & Kings podcast, it seems some themes of kinship have emerged from what is an otherwise unfocused and random-looking award list.
There is more than one way to slice this, but I think the following pairings seem to suit: Surface. Contrivance. Salience.
Based on reviewer response so far, I expected this to be like City of Stairs, by which I mean it would be very popular within its subgenre, stir the passions of many a blogger friend, but have very little effect on me. Between last year’s insipid The Goblin Emperor and this year’s heft of shortlisted fantasy, it’s time I admit the unforeseen and reluctant truth that I’m just a sci-fi/realism reader now.
But it’s hard for even a fantasy detractor like me to not recognize good, solid fantasy when I see it. Continue reading →
I seem to have a knack for complementary book serendipity, so naturally I would commit to reading Philip K. Dick’s snaky and reality-dissecting output, including his delusional Exegesis, around the same time as the release of Adam Roberts’ latest, Kitschies-nominated novel, The Thing Itself (2015). Among other things, The Thing Itself has helped me to understand Dick’s delusional approach to reality better than The Exegesis ever could, for although the Gollancz cover and blurb would have you believe this is Roberts’ The Thing or Who Goes There? tribute– and it’s there, it’s there– the foundational strand of the The Thing Itself is much more Dickian in nature, in tone, and in the way it messes with the reader’s head.
There’s the scene where reality appears to slip away from the protagonist during a peak moment of suspense: Continue reading →
The 2015 BSFA Award winners were announced this weekend! Here’s my rundown on the Best Novel shortlist.
After discovering new favorites on previous BSFA award lists, and thoroughly enjoying five-eighths of the BSFA Best Novel shortlist last year, I finally got myself a BSFA membership, perhaps becoming the only Texas member of the British Science Fiction Association. I didn’t nominate or vote because it just doesn’t feel right to do so as an outsider, but I do like to play along and support things I like. Call me a shadow member.
I didn’t experience as much delight with this year’s BSFA Best Novel list, (and no, I haven’t yet touched the short fiction nominees, though I might do a rundown of the really fab nonfiction nominees later on), but this selection of novels is way more interesting than this year’s Hugo list that hasn’t been determined yet but I’m probably right.
Anyway, here are my thoughts on the 2015 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel shortlist: Continue reading →
With a title that recalls Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), but with a structural concept that’s more reminiscent of the Mrs. Dalloway-inspired novel, The Hours (1998), Anne Charnock’s latest employs a layered, parallel structure that follows three generations of women whose divergent lives converge at the presence and suppression of art, addressing the erasure of female artists from historical memory. A low burn, yet smolderingly feminist, Sleeping Embers highlights the progress of change in women’s lives over the centuries, as well as the hidden corners of stagnation.
The central narrative is that of Antonia Uccello, the real-life daughter of renowned Renaissance painter Paolo Uccello. Antonia is an artist herself, though we only know that by the occupation listed on her death certificate, as none of Antonia’s works have been discovered to this day. Charnock takes advantage of this lack of information about Antonia’s life to fictionalize her story and to advance her argument about the willing social neglect of women artists—and women, in general. Continue reading →
We are well into the 11 months of SF Book Award Season. Adding to the PKD Award shortlist, which I didn’t cover because it’s always a weird list that I never know what to make of it, and the BSFA Award shortlist, which I talk about all the time, the Nebulas and the Kitschies have now arrived.
It’s no secret that Ian McDonald’s latest novel, Luna (2015), is an interrogation of a certain specimen of canon clogger, the kind I complain about all the time, and I suspect, though I have neither read nor heard this, that it’s also a kind of submission to criticism that his work too often represents White literary appropriation of non-White cultures. Fine, fine, I’ll go elsewhere, McDonald seems to be saying, backing away from the third world, placating the critics with a book about the moon. In space, no one can hear your appetite for third world exoticism. Continue reading →