Monday, October 16, 2017

Musical Monday - Southern Accents by Tom Petty


Tom Petty was a Southerner. Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Petty's life was steeped in Southern tradition and a love for where he came from. In this video, he is singing in his hometown and you can see just how much this song, sung in that place, meant to him. I defy anyone to challenge Petty's bona fides as a proud Southerner.

But Petty was not going to put up with any of the "heritage not hate" bullshit about the various Confederate flags that people associate with the South. He knew what they really represented, and knew that it wasn't "Southern pride", but rather Southern racism. And he wanted nothing to do with it.

Petty didn't always think that way. Like many people who grew up surrounded by symbols, he never really thought about what they truly meant. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Petty said:
The Confederate flag was the wallpaper of the South when I was a kid growing up in Gainesville, Florida. I always knew it had to do with the Civil War, but the South had adopted it as its logo. I was pretty ignorant of what it actually meant. It was on a flagpole in front of the courthouse and I often saw it in Western movies. I just honestly didn't give it much thought, though I should have.
The element that sticks out here is the unthinking nature of his acceptance of the battle flag of the Army of Tennessee (which is what most people think of when they hear the words "Confederate flag") as a symbol of Southernism. He even used it in his tour in support of his album Southern Accents, putting it on stage when he performed the song Rebels, a decision he came to regret later. When Petty thought about the flag, and what it really meant, he stopped using it, asked his fans to stop bringing it or wearing Confederate-themed clothing to his concerts, and had it removed from subsequent releases of his albums. That doesn't mean he stopped being proud to be from the South, he just stopped using a racist symbol to represent that pride. He said as much in the interview:
That Southern pride gets transferred from generation to generation. I'm sure that a lot of people that applaud it don't mean it in a racial way. But again, I have to give them, as I do myself, a "stupid" mark. If you think a bit longer, there's bad connotations to this. They might have it at the football game or whatever, but they also have it at Klan rallies. If that's part of it in any way, it doesn't belong, in any way, representing the United States of America.
Petty criticizes himself here - he just didn't think about the meaning behind the flag when he used it, and he offers others a way out of their devotion to a racist symbol. If you are Southern, you can still love where you are from even if you shed the symbols of the Civil War. From the interview with Rolling Stone:
Again, people just need to think about how it looks to a black person. It's just awful. It's like how a swastika looks to a Jewish person. It just shouldn't be on flagpoles.
Petty understood that no matter how pervasive the symbol was, and no matter what he associated it with, the reality was that it was, and is, a symbol of racist oppression and violence. Here's the thing: If someone as proud of being Southern as Petty could get it; if someone who loved his home as much as Petty did could get it, then no one else has any excuse.

Previous Musical Monday: Learning to Fly by Tom Petty

Tom Petty     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Blogger Hop October 13th - October 19th: The Sassanid Dynasty Was Founded by Arshadir I in 224 A.D.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Who is your favorite horror/suspense author and why?

I don't read much horror or suspense, so I'm going to have to pick someone who kind of sidelined in that area. Perhaps Ray Bradbury or Robert Bloch would be good choices. I'd pick Bradbury on the strength of stories like Mars Is Heaven, and Bloch on the strength of stories like That Hell-Bound Train, The Hungry Eye, and Space-Born. Neither of them were primarily horror or suspense writers, but they were both really good writers in general, and so when they turned their work in the direction of horror and suspense, they turned out really good stories.

On reflection, there is a lot of science fiction that tends towards horror - encounters with inscrutable, mysterious, and hostile aliens frequently take on a horrific tone with stories like Opening the Door by Philip José Farmer, or You'll Never Go Home Again by Clifford Simak. Sometimes science fiction touches on the terrifying with horrible dystopian visions of the future such as Wake Up to Thunder by Dean Koontz or That Only a Mother by Judith Merril. And sometimes science fiction just provides creepy stories such as Its a Good Life by Jerome Bixby or The Dark Room by Theodore Sturgeon. No matter the exact format of horror story they choose, science fiction authors dip into the genre so often that seeing a horror-ish science fiction story is an ordinary occurrence. It happens so often that most science fiction authors are actually fairly good at writing horror style stories.

The only real difficulty this situation poses with respect to this week's question is that while there are a lot of authors who I like who have written some pretty good horror or suspense stories, none of them make it their primary focus, and their horror output represents only a tiny fraction of their work and only a small part of why I like them as authors. I suppose this is a really long-winded way of saying that while I don't have a "favorite" horror and suspense writer, I have an array of authors that I like who have waded in that pool from time to time.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ad Astra Review - Apple Crumble by Chet Gottfried

What Is It? Sliced apples with a brown sugar and ginger sauce topped with a buttery cinnamon flavored crust.

Haiku
Delicious apples
Made even better with some
Cinnamon and crust

Review: I know I said that I was going to make, try, and review all of the recipe's in the Ad Astra cookbook in the order they appear in the book, but I needed a dessert recipe for a gathering of my game group, so I skipped ahead a bit.

I am glad I did. This is a really good apple crumble.

Apple recipes are, in my experience, surprisingly tricky. Some recipes call for far too much seasoning - too much cinnamon, too much ginger, or too much nutmeg, and the resulting mix overpowers the apple flavor. Others call for too little, and the result is bland. This recipe, on the other hand, strikes almost exactly the right balance, with just enough cinnamon and ginger, and a crumble topping that is perfectly balanced by the apple base.

The other thing about this recipe is that it is really quite simple and easy to make. The entire recipe only has nine ingredients, and two of those are apples and water. The recipe only takes about ten or fifteen minutes to make - and most of that time is taken up peeling and slicing the apples. If you had an apple peeler, you could probably cut the prep time down to five minutes or so.

The recipe says to eat it warm and with vanilla ice cream, so we did. It was glorious. This is easily one of the best apple recipes I have had, and as one might guess, I highly recommend it. If you like apple dishes, you should try it out.

Previous recipe in Ad Astra: Wizard's Piglets in Blankets by Rosemary Jones
Next recipe in Ad Astra: Pudding Course: Apple Fritters by Gail Carriger

Chet Gottfied     Ad Astra Cooking Project     Home

Monday, October 9, 2017

Musical Monday - Learning to Fly by Tom Petty


Petty was an amazing performer who always seemed older and wiser than his years. When he died, one of my coworkers said that she was surprised he was only 66 years old - she had always thought he was much older than that. Part of this misapprehension may have been because his friends were mostly older then he - Petty was the youngest Traveling Wilbury for example. But I think the real reason for this was that his music so frequently had a weatherbeaten, almost weary feel to it.

Born in 1950, Petty was still a Baby Boomer, but only just barely. He was born at the tail end of that generation, and didn't rise to prominence until the mid-1970s, with the meat of his career coming during the 1980s and 1990s, after the burst of youthful Boomer exuberance of the 1960s and early 1970s had passed. He was never really a Boomer icon, but rather a figure that loomed large for people my age - who came of age in Reagan's America and were disillusioned from the get-go. His music hit the country when it was tired and worn down, and often, his lyrics speak to that part of us that feels overwhelmed but still refuses to stop fighting.

Now he's gone, and far too soon. There was more music left in him, and we won't ever have it now. But we can be grateful for what we do have, and remember.

Go and fly Tom. You'll never have to come down again.

Previous Musical Monday: The Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog
Subsequent Musical Monday: Southern Accents by Tom Petty

Tom Petty     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Book Blogger Hop Halloween Edition! October 6th - October 12th: The Chinese Scholar Xi Kang Was Born in 223 A.D.


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein are both considered classics. Have you ever read either of them?

I have read Shelley's Frankenstein.

I have not read all of Stoker's Dracula. I have read excerpts of the book, and I have read so many derivative works built upon it that I almost feel like I have read it, but I haven't. I'll rectify that one of these days.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ad Astra Review - Anouchka's Grandmother's Salmon Pâté by Cat Sparks

What Is It? Salmon blended with cream cheese and spring onions covered with chopped pecans and chives.

Haiku
This needs a kick of
Cayenne pepper for flavor
And use red salmon

Review: The second recipe in the Ad Astra Cookbook under the heading "Savory Snacks" is one for salmon pâté from Cat Sparks. I tried this recipe out on my regular game group, and it got mixed reviews from them, mostly because they didn't like the texture (and one just doesn't like fish, which I did not know until then, but didn't surprise me at all).

The redhead and I, on the other hand, found this to be quite good. The recipe is basically canned red salmon, cream cheese, sour cream, spring onions, and cayenne pepper blended together with a coating of finely chopped pecans and chives. The recipe is pretty easy, and doesn't require an oven or any equipment other than bowls, knives and some sort of blending equipment - the recipe says to use a food processor, but I used a stick mixer which worked just fine. We ate it on crackers, which seems like the ideal way to eat it, although the redhead suggested possibly adding it to pasta with an alfredo sauce, a suggestion that seems like it would be worth investigating.

The instructions say that the recipe makes a lot more than one might expect, and that seems to be accurate. When I blended the cream cheese and salmon, the volume of the mixture ballooned quite noticeably. I suggest being generous with the spices, especially the cayenne pepper, as the mix is just a little bland unless one does so. Even though you are using red salmon which has more flavor than pink salmon, the mix of fish and cream cheese doesn't really have much kick on its own. The recipe says to shape the mixture into a log, but it was so sticky that the best I could manage was an kind of half sphere. The pecans and chives also add a lot to the dish, with their crunch adding a needed break from the creamy texture of the pâté itself.

Overall, this was a really good recipe. I can see this being something that I'll bring to family holiday gathering as an appetizer. If I was going to make this for anything less than a large gathering, I would definitely halve the recipe. The redhead and I have been eating it for three days now and we still have some left. On the other hand, it is good enough that we're not tired of it yet, so you could take that as an endorsement.

Previous recipe in Ad Astra: Ajvar by K.V. Johansen
Next recipe in Ad Astra: Bastilla by Erin M. Hartshorn

Cat Sparks     Ad Astra Cooking Project     Home

Monday, October 2, 2017

Musical Monday - The Rainbow Connection by Kermit the Frog


59 people dead.

527 wounded.

This is the world we live in. The world that Americans have made for themselves, piece by piece and decision by decision. We didn't get here all at once. We got here using baby steps. Chipping away one protection here, preventing another there, all in the name of the insane ideology that has consumed modern conservatism.

It didn't have to be this way. We had people who envisioned a better world. People like Jim Henson. Listen to this song, which seems to me to be the one piece of music that best captures his worldview. He was a dreamer. He believed in a better world than the one we had. A world in which people loved one another. In which artists were valued. In which humanity was the most important thing.

We could have had the world Jim Henson saw. We still could. We just have to choose it.

I really wish we would.

Previous Musical Monday: Learning to Fly by Tom Petty

Kermit the Frog     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Book Blogger Hop September 29th - October 5th: "222 (Live & Uncut)" is the Unedited Version of Patton Oswalt's Album "Feelin' Kinda Patton"


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Have you ever slept with a favorite, beloved book under your pillow, or cradled in your arms?

While I have unintentionally fallen asleep while holding a book more than once, I can't recall ever doing so by design. I'd be too worried about damaging a book to ever purposely choose to sleep with one under my pillow or while holding one.

Previous Book Blogger Hop: Sherlock Holmes Lived at 221B Baker Street

Book Blogger Hop     Home

Friday, September 29, 2017

Review - 99 Stormtroopers Join the Empire by Greg Stones


Short review: Ninety-nine stormtroopers join the Empire. Then they all die.

Haiku
Many stormtroopers
Die in lots of funny ways
And then, the Death Star

Disclosure: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. Some people think this may bias a reviewer so I am making sure to put this information up front. I don't think it biases my reviews, but I'll let others be the judge of that.

Full review: 99 Stormtroopers Join the Empire is an absolutely adorable little Star Wars-themed picture book. The book opens by introducing the ninety-nine stormtroopers who have joined the Imperial forces, and the succeeding pages show how, in groups from one to thirty-six, they meet their demise. The various deaths are played for humor, with the troopers dying from a variety of causes that will be fairly recognizable to anyone who has seen the Star Wars movies. The entire book is illustrated in a cute, kind of whimsical style, with cartoonish and somewhat surprisingly (given the violence inherent in many of the deaths) bloodless artwork.

The entire book has kind of the same tone as Ed Gorey's Gashleycrumb Tinies, mirroring it somewhat with the creative ways the stormtroopers die. It is also somewhat reminiscent of the old children's song Ten Little Indians, especially since the book keeps a running account of how many stormtroopers are left as each page goes by. One the other hand, such comparisons aren't entirely accurate. Unlike Gorey's Gashleycrumb work, there is no rhyme to the text, and unlike both of the aforementioned works, there is no apparent pattern to the forms the stormtroopers' deaths take or how many stormtroopers die per page. I suppose the fact that the deaths are so completely random is part of the joke - disposable stormtroopers dying in completely unpredictable ways highlights the casual, almost offhand manner in which the characters in the movies treat these fatalities.

One question that comes to mind when reading this book is exactly who is its intended audience. At first, one might think that this is a cute Star Wars book aimed at young children, but I suspect it really wouldn't work for them. The "jokes" are really only funny if you know what the author is alluding to: "One stormtrooper fails to shoot first" isn't really funny unless one has seen the cantina scene from the original Star Wars (and followed the ensuing controversy as the scene was cut and recut in various editions of the movie). "Two stormtroopers think the security droid is on their side" is really only funny if you have seen Rogue One. And so on and so forth. The problem is, kids who are still in the "picture book" stage generally won't have latched on to the Star Wars movies yet - they are just too young to appreciate them, at least in my experience. Some of these sorts of works, such as Darth Vader and Son, work as humor even if one doesn't really get the references. They are enhanced when one knows what the author is alluding to, but that is unnecessary for the enjoyment of the book. Without the references, 99 Stormtroopers Join the Empire is just a bunch of guys dying creatively, and that's probably not all that interesting. I can only surmise that the true intended target for this book are people who grew up on the film series who want something cute they can put in their infant's nursery because it looks cool to have it there, or possibly leave on the coffee table as a conversation piece.

Overall, 99 Stormtroopers Join the Empire is a cute little book that delivers exactly what one would expect. Ninety-nine stormtroopers enlist, and then amusingly die as a result of a combination of the Empire's callous indifference and their own ineptitude. The book is not really much more than silly fun, but it is fairly clever silly fun, chock full of Star Wars references that are used to humorous effect. This book is unlikely to change anyone's life, and probably won't occupy anyone for more than ten or fifteen minutes, but it will be a joyful and goofy ride while it lasts.

Greg Stones     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ad Astra Review - Ajvar by K.V. Johansen

What Is It? A roasted eggplant and bell pepper spread flavored with garlic and chili sauce.

Haiku
This is really sweet
Much sweeter than expected
But still good on bread

Review: The first recipe in Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook is one that K.V. Johansen discovered when some of her books were translated into Macedonian and she began traveling to the Republic of Macedonia, presumably to promote her work.

Ajvar is an eggplant and bell pepper concoction flavored with garlic, cider vinegar or lemon juice, and hot sauce that can be served as a spread on naan or bread. I have to say that this recipe really doesn't taste anything like I expected it to. The roasted eggplant is almost completely overwhelmed by the sweetness of the roasted bell peppers, and even though the recipe calls for a quite generous amount of roasted garlic, it isn't really noticeable either.

After roasting all the vegetables, peeling the eggplant, garlic, and bell pepper, and then puréeing the lot (I used a stick mixer rather than a food processor), the end result was a lot runnier than I had thought it would be. I don't think I added too much liquid - I didn't add any more olive oil than had been used in the roasting process and I only put in a little bit of cider vinegar and hot sauce. I was anticipating something more hummus-like in thickness, but this turned out to be more "uncooked pumpkin pie filling" in texture.

The flavor of the ajvar is basically that of a sweet bell pepper. I was expecting more of a kick, but even when I went back and added more hot sauce, salt, and pepper, the flavor of the mixture was still mostly just bell pepper sweetness. This isn't bad, but it is blander than I was prepared for. The redhead and I ate it with naan bread, and she had a similar reaction to mine. Her exact quote was "That was a lot of work to eat puréed bell peppers". I can't really disagree. It wasn't really all that much work compared to many other recipes, but the end result seemed kind of underwhelming. It might be improved by increasing the amount of garlic in the recipe (although the recipe itself calls for the reasonably generous amount of eight cloves of garlic), or reducing the number of bell peppers used.

Overall, this was decent, but it didn't knock my socks off. I might try it again, but if I do I'll probably add some extra spices or garlic or something. The redhead suggested adding a can of chickpeas to thicken it up, which might be a good adjustment as well.

Next recipe in Ad Astra: Anouchka's Grandmother's Salmon Pâté by Cat Sparks

K.V. Johansen     Ad Astra Cooking Project     Home

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Ad Astra Cooking Project

I recently acquired Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook, a collection of recipes from members of the Science Fiction Writers of America edited by Cat Rambo and Fran Wilde. As with all things, I intend to review it, but reviewing a cookbook poses a challenge that most other books do not: There is really no way to accurately review the book based upon reading it. Cookbooks are interactive - you can only appreciate them if you cook the recipes and eat them. So that is exactly what I am going to do.

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of two hundred recipes in the book, so I'm not going to make them all at once, or even in the near future. I'm planning on making, trying, and reviewing about one recipe a week for as long as there are untried recipes in the book, starting with the first one and going through them in order. As I review the recipes, I'll post links to them here, adding to the list on an ongoing basis. I'm saying that I'm planning on doing that, but it is unlikely to be a hard and fast schedule: Some weeks I might review more than one recipe, in some weeks I might not be able to review any, but that's the plan.

The book was created to raise funds for the SFWA Legal Fund to support writers in need. The overall theme of the recipes in the book is supposed to be "party", working on the theory that writers know how to throw a party. A lot of the recipes were solicited for this work, but some were originally collected by Astrid and Greg Bear for a cookbook that was never published. The introductory material includes Connie Willis passing on some excellent cooking advice from Charles Brown, and Carrie Vaughn explaining how to create a cocktail laboratory, including a couple of recipes for some classic cocktails to try. Larry Niven contributes a chapter on how to serve hundreds of cups of Irish Coffee to eager convention-attendees, an essay that is clearly informed by lots of experience.

Jennifer Stevenson describes how to throw a pig roast, which is an involved process that should only be attempted by those with lots of room, sufficient handyman skills to do a lot of nuts and bolts work as part of their cooking, and lots of time to cook. The end result does seem like it would be delicious. Ken Schneyer and Janice Okoomian give a detailed account of how they hold a Prancing Pony party ever year in late September to commemorate Frodo's arrival in Bree, complete with three recipes. These recipes, like the cocktails in Vaughn and Niven's chapters, aren't listed in the table of contents, but I'll get to them and try them anyway.

Esther Friesner gives some opinions on cake, mostly extolling its virtues. Ricia Mainhardt gives just over a dozen recipes for sweets for one, designed to be cooked in a mug in a microwave. I don't actually have a microwave, so trying these out will have to wait until I do, but as I estimate that it will probably take me something on the order of four years to work through all of these recipes, I figure I have plenty of time to get one. The final introductory piece is by Michael J. Martinez, and discusses the joys of home brewing beer, with some loose instructions on how to go about it. Just as I don't have a microwave, I don't really have space to let a five gallon bucket sit for two to four weeks at a time fermenting beer, but there's a decent chance I will at some point in the future, so I might be able to give home brewing a try.

That's all the introductory material. Here are the recipes. There will only be a few at first. I'll be adding to this list as I get to each one in turn:

Savory Snacks
Ajvar from K.V. Johansen
Anouchka's Grandmother's Salmon Pâté by Cat Sparks
Bastilla by Erin M. Hartshorn
Big Bang Brussel Sprouts by Sean Williams

Sweet Snacks and Desserts
Apple Crumble by Chet Gottfried
Pudding Course: Apple Fritters by Gail Carriger
Apricot Mascarpone Poppers by Julie Jansen

Cat Rambo     Fran Wilde     Home

Monday, September 25, 2017

Musical Monday - Can You Picture That? by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem


Yesterday was Jim Henson's birthday. He would have been 81. He died in 1990 at the age of 53 from toxic shock syndrome that probably could have been treated if he had just paid attention to the signs his body was telling him and gotten medical attention earlier.

I am the exact right age to have been influenced by Jim Henson. Sesame Street debuted in 1969, the year I was born, and by the time I was ready to watch it, it had hit its stride. When he made The Muppet Show, I was seven, which is pretty much the perfect age to first watch that series. When The Muppet Movie came out, I was ten, and once again, the perfect age to watch it. When he followed that up with The Great Muppet Caper, I was twelve, and despite the movie's odd flaws, I was in overjoyed to have it. When he put out the somewhat surreal Dark Crystal movie in 1982, I was thirteen, and ready for the quirky fantasy story. I even liked The Muppets Take Manhattan. I didn't really appreciate Fraggle Rock when it was first aired, but in 1986 when he put out the movie Labyrinth, and in 1987 when he made the Storyteller series, I was primed and ready.

The Storyteller series was essentially the last major work we got from Henson.

Between 1969 and 1990, Henson produced one of the most magnificent bodies of work in the entertainment world. Under his guidance, puppets became a major force in the entertainment world. He gave us educational children's entertainment, snarky humorous shows and movies, surreal fantasies, all which was packaged with vibrant, beautiful music, and a perspective on how people should live that was joyful and optimistic. Even his "failures" (such as, for example, Labyrinth, which lost money at the box office) were brilliant.

He contributed more than just the Muppets though. He was instrumental in so much of what Sesame Street was: He appeared in several stop-motion pieces that were regularly aired on the show, and one recurring "counting" feature always ended with a chef proudly presenting a number of confections as he walks, and then fell, down a small set of stairs. The triumphant voiceover announcing what the chef was carrying was Jim Henson's voice. Every day I am grateful that Henson hit his high points during my childhood, when I was of the age to be able to truly appreciate them. Even things I discovered later, such as his production of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, are so good that I wish I had first seen them when I was younger. It is hard for me to explain the influence Henson has had on my life, in part because I am almost certainly not aware of the full extent of it. I grew up awash in Henson's life philosophy, and I am certain I wouldn't be who I am without that.

And yet, every year when his birthday rolls around, I am also angry. Henson's primary creative career spanned a period of twenty-one years. (Yes, he did stuff before Sesame Street, but that show marks the beginning of the explosion of creative output from him). He's been gone for twenty-seven years now. Even if you assume that he would have retired at some point between then and now, there is no question but that we have missed out on years and years of fantastic work that he could have done. I know it sounds greedy, and I am grateful for all of the work we have of his, but I will always wonder about what might have happened had he just taken some time out of his workaholic schedule and gone to see a doctor a couple of weeks earlier.

Previous Musical Monday: Walk Away Renee by the Left Banke
Subsequent Musical Monday: The Rainbow Connection by the Kermit the Frog

Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Book Blogger Hop September 22nd - September 28th: Sherlock Holmes Lived at 221B Baker Street


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: In regards of Banned Books Week (www.bannedbooksweek.org/), what are your favourite books that has been banned or challenged?

Given my love of science fiction, one might think that my favorite banned book would be a classic work of science fiction, such as Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, or even George Orwell's 1984. However, my favorite banned book is none of those. Instead, my favorite banned book is, and likely always will be, Harper Lee's To Catch a Mockingbird. I suppose it isn't really a big revelation that the book in which a lawyer is the hero would be my favorite banned book, but given that it was one of the primary influences that made me decide to become a lawyer, it seems almost inevitable that this would be my choice.

I also quite like Joseph Heller's Catch-22, which is a very different book from To Catch a Mockingbird in almost every way possible. I'm not sure what that juxtaposition means, but there is probably some deep insight into my psyche that could be gleaned from figuring that out.


Book Blogger Hop     Home

Monday, September 18, 2017

Musical Monday - Walk Away Renee by the Left Banke


By now, pretty much everyone should know the drill on these. I know a woman named Renee. She is, in fact, one of our best friends and part of the most badass couple we know. As usual, the lyrics of the song have no relationship to the actual person other than the fact that her name is in them.

On a more song-related front, I picked the recording by the Left banke because it is my favorite version of the song, but it has been recorded by a surprising number of artists. The most famous other version of the song was performed by the Four Tops, but it has also been done by Linda Ronstadt, Herman's Hermits, and Cyndi Lauper among others. It seems kind of odd that so many much more famous artists have covered the song, as the Left Banke really only had two hits (this song and another titled Pretty Ballerina), and has mostly fallen into obscurity now. Their song lives on though.

Previous Musical Monday: Melissa by the Allman Brothers

The Left Banke     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Book Blogger Hop September 15th - September 21st: Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus Married a Vestal Virgin in 220 A.D., Which Was a Huge Scandal in Rome


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Have you ever bought a more expensive edition of a book, when a cheaper edition was available, just because you preferred the cover of the more expensive one?

I buy most of my books second-hand, so I generally take what I can find. I have been known to buy a book that is more expensive if it is in better condition, or if it is a hardback instead of a paperback, but I can't remember a time when I bought a more expensive edition of a book simply because the cover art was better. Of course, my idea of better artwork might not match up with that other people have - I've always been partial to a lot of the art style used on science fiction novels from the 1960s and 1970s, and I know a lot of people think they are terrible, so I might not be buying a more expensive copy to get my preferred artwork. I won't rule out ever buying more expensive copies for better cover art in the future, but it isn't something I recall actually doing.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: Sherlock Holmes Lived at 221B Baker Street

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Musical Monday - Melissa by the Allman Brothers


So, after a brief break on these, I'm back to the "name songs" with one that is just a little bit off. The song isn't off - the Allman Brothers produced a classic with this one, but the person who triggers this song to run through my head is not actually named Melissa. Actually, it is two people, who each have different (although very similar) names who make this song run through my head when I run across them when I am going about my day. As usual, the content of the song other than the name is irrelevant to the association. It seems weird to have a song associated with someone's name that isn't actually their name, but there you have it. My brain apparently works in strange ways sometimes.

Previous Musical Monday: Heaven by Warrant
Subsequent Musical Monday: Walk Away Renee by the Left Banke

Allman Brothers     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Book Blogger Hop September 8th - September 14th: The "219 Restaurant" Is a Creole Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Have you ever bought a book because you liked its cover art?

I can't say that I have. I will admit that cover art on a book can draw my eye, but unless there is something I like about the book on the back cover, or on the inside of the dust jacket, or an introduction or when I read through the first couple of pages, I'm not going to buy it no matter how pretty the cover is. Cover art is kind of a nice bonus, but on its own it doesn't make me want to buy a book.


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Monday, September 4, 2017

Musical Monday - Heaven by Warrant


This song is quite obviously not intended as a song about a daughter, but the redhead insists that it actually is, so I'm using it as a song for Jim this week.

On an entirely different note, I think that this video may be peak 80s hair metal. I almost shudder to think how much Aqua Net was used for the hair in this video, and the volume of white leather is almost to high to be comprehensible. The band itself is seemingly the apotheosis of hair metal bands, with their treacly power ballad coupled with synchronized jumping, spinning, and falling to their knees. The only band I can think of that could compete with Warrant for the "peak 80s hair metal" title would be Poison, but that's a question for another day.

Previous Musical Monday: The Universe by The Doubleclicks
Subsequent Musical Monday: Melissa by the Allman Brothers

Warrant     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Book Blogger Hop September 1st - September 7th: A Total of 218 Votes Are Needed in the U.S. House of Representatives to Achieve a Majority


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Do you participate in The Bloggiesta?

No, I don't. Actually, I had no idea what the Bloggiesta was until I looked it up to answer this question. Now that I know what it is, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to participate mostly because I don't blog very well on any kind of schedule - which is one of the reasons I never participate in blog tours.


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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review - Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey


Short review: The Royal Charter Energy company has a claim on the mineral rights to New Terra. Unfortunately, colonists from Ganymede have gotten there first, and Holden finds himself sent to try to resolve the dispute.

Haiku
An alien world
Two competing colonies
A deadly mixture

Disclosure: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. Some people think this may bias a reviewer so I am making sure to put this information up front. I don't think it biases my reviews, but I'll let others be the judge of that.

Full review: Cibola Burn is the fourth book in the Expanse series, and as such it depicts the next step in the extended story that has been threaded through the books: The first attempt to colonize one of the new planets made accessible by the ring gates that resulted from the alien protomolecule's actions in the first three books. Or rather, this book is about two competing efforts to colonize one of the new planets, because if anything has been made clear in the previous books, when the denizens of Corey's universe have been faced with inscrutable alien technology, they make sure to bring their petty human conflicts with them when they try to deal with it. Consequently, when presented with more than thirteen hundred new solar systems to explore, humanity almost immediately falls to fighting over a single one.

The central conflict in the story revolves around the competing claims for the planet known as either New Terra or Illus, depending upon who one asks. The Royal Charter Energy company has been granted the right to exploit the mineral resources of the planet, and has sent the ship Edward Israel with a complement of scientists, engineers, and other workers with the aim of studying the alien ecosystem, setting up a permanent settlement, and beginning mining operations. This plan is complicated by the fact that a group of refugees mostly from Ganymede and other parts of the belt arrived some years before the Edward Israel on the Barbapiccola and set up shop themselves, mining the abundant lithium ore to be found on the planet and loading it into their ship with the intent of investing the profits from the sale of the ore back into their embryonic colony and securing a better future for themselves. These competing claims set the two groups on a collusion course, with explosive and deadly results.

The book follows the established pattern of rotating between a number of viewpoint characters, each providing a window into the events of the story from their unique perspective. As in the previous books in the series, Holden is one of the viewpoint characters, and to the extent that there is a protagonist in the story, Holden holds that place in the narrative. The other viewpoint characters feature two characters who also appeared in previous books, and one new face. The first returning character is Havelock, who was last seen as Miller's partner on Ceres, and who is now the deputy chief of security on the Edward Israel who mostly just wants to do his job and get paid. The other returning character is Basia, last seen fleeing Ganymede as a refugee during the events of Abaddon's Gate, and now settled on New Terra (known to the squatter settlement as Illus), and determined to make a home there for himself and what remains of his family. The new viewpoint character is Elvi, a scientist from the Edward Israel who spends much of the book on the ground trying to do the job she came to do while everything goes to hell around her. A few of the chapters are told from the perspective of "the Investigator", which is more or less what is left of Miller's personality after he was absorbed by the alien protomolecule. This choice of viewpoint characters has both benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, seeing the return of familiar faces is somewhat comforting, and allows the authors to essentially update the reader on what has happened to Havelock since he was last seen in Leviathan Wakes and Basia since he was last seen in Abaddon's Gate. On the other hand, their serendipitous presence in a book set light-years away from Earth makes the world of The Expanse seem, well, not very expansive.

The plot kicks off when the Edward Israel arrives in orbit around New Terra/Illus and the squatter colony sets explosives on the shuttle landing pad, intentionally destroying the pad and unintentionally destroying an incoming shuttle that arrived earlier than they thought it would. Upon learning of the tragedy, Chrisjen Avasarala and Fred Johnson agree to jointly appoint a mediator to attempt to negotiate some sort of compromise between the two factions on New Terra/Illus. For somewhat underhanded reasons, they agree upon Holden as their choice of mediator, and he and the crew of the Rocinante are dispatched to try to resolve the situation. The fact that Holden is completely unqualified for the job is readily apparent, but he is technically an Earther who had worked with the OPA, although he is not currently in Johnson's employ, which makes him both a politically palatable and expedient choice. Although the conflict isn't explicitly one pitting Belters against Earthers, the squatter colonists are pretty much all refugees from Ganymede, and the Royal Charter Energy company's mandate comes from the U.N., which is more or less the government of Earth, so despite the lack of formality, the conflict plays out like one between the interests of the inner and outer planets.

Even though Holden is supposed to be a neutral mediator, the representatives from Royal Charter Energy almost immediately start treating him as hostile - or at least Murtry, the head of Royal Charter Energy's security does. Murtry regards the Royal Charter Energy claim to the planet as inviolate, and treats Holden like an unwelcome interloper who is just getting in the way of his efforts to remove the squatter colonists by any means necessary. One oddity is that when Holden asserts that Murtry is overstepping his legal authority, Murtry responds that they should "wait until there are post offices", a reference to the Old West before civilization arrived to impose law and order. The only problem with this stance is that Royal Charter Energy's superior claim to Illus/New Terra is based entirely upon the rule of law, so by making this argument, Murtry is essentially undercutting his own employer's position and nullifying the authority he claims to have. Strangely, no one ever points out that Murtry's entire claim to legitimacy relies entirely upon the rule of law that he disdains, which seems like something of a plot hole. The situation escalates with some back and forth with the one constant being that Murtry pushes the violence to ever increasingly new heights, almost driving Holden and his crew to side with the squatters as a result of Murtry's intransigence and unreasonableness.

In any event, the human squabbles are quickly overtaken by larger issues, as the entire planet more or less begins to turn against both the squatters, the Royal Charter Energy people, and Holden's crew. Two of the long-running themes in the Expanse are that humanity is ill-equipped to deal with inscrutable alien technology, and that even in the face of alien technology-caused Armageddon, humans will continue to squabble among themselves for petty gains even while the world burns around them. These themes take front and center in this volume, as first a worldwide disaster threatens to wipe out everyone on the surface of the planet, and then a change to the laws of physics places everyone in orbit in mortal danger as well. As if that isn't enough, the local flora and fauna unexpectedly turn out to be the source of still further lethal problems. To a certain extent, these disasters cause the humans to rally together for mutual survival, but all too soon the cracks start showing through and before too long they are all at their throats again, which, given the way the books in this series have gone thus far, seems almost inevitable. What is most interesting here is the extreme, almost insane, loyalty shown by Murtry towards his employers during these disasters, as he plots to secure Royal Charter energy's claims to the planet even if doing so means that he and all of his crew on the surface of the planet will certainly die in the process, which is a level of commitment that seems pretty intense for a man who is essentially a hired mercenary.

There are only two real weakness of the book. The first is that as the danger ramps up, the story starts to become a bit predictable. Each of the various conundrums facing both the colonists on the surface and the crews in space are confronted and dealt with, one by one. The ghost of Miller enlists Holden to try to figure out what has gone wrong with the alien machines that make up Illus/New Terra, and this investigation prompts the inevitable confrontation between Holden and Murtry with the expected deadly results. The second is that Murtry is almost cartoonishly over-the-top evil, as are a few of his followers, and the ridiculousness of these characters gets to be a little hard to take seriously at times. In some cases, the plot only moves forward because Murtry (or one of Murtry's minions) does something villainous that is almost as pointless as it is ludicrous. The action all wraps up with a rather satisfying conclusion, a fact that somewhat paradoxically causes Avasarala no end of heartache.

With Cibola Burn, the Expanse series both pushes forward and turns inward. On the one hand, the story turns somewhat back on itself, bringing back characters who we have seen before to provide supporting appearances in somewhat unlikely places. On the other hand, the larger story, having started with humanity confined to our Solar System in Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War, expanded to a mysterious "between" space in Abaddon's Gate, now moves to distant star systems as people begin colonizing alien worlds while bringing all of their usual baggage with them, with the expected unfortunate results. This is, to my mind, the brilliance of the Expanse: No matter how far humans get from our home, no matter what wonders we find, or dangers we face, we are still merely human and still subject to the same frailties, failings, and prejudices that we have always had, but some people still keep trying to be better nonetheless.

Previous book in the series: Abaddon's Gate
Subsequent book in the series: Nemesis Games

2015 Locus Award Nominees

James S.A. Corey     Book Reviews A-Z     Home

Monday, August 28, 2017

Musical Monday - The Universe by the Doubleclicks


So, the redhead and I went to see the Doubleclicks in concert this past Sunday. It was Jim's first concert ever. She slept through most of it, but from someone her age that is pretty high praise. They were double-billed with Danielle Ate the Sandwich, which is relevant here because this song is a cover of one of Danielle Ate the Sandwich's songs.

There are so many songs that, even though they are probably really about a romantic relationship, actually work out just as well with respect to having a child. The lyric in this song "I've got all I need right here" is one that really resonates with me right now whenever I have Jim and the redhead with me. Given that Jim more or less had such long odds against her very existence, "The Universe is big and wide, and when you least expect it, she provides" seems to be the perfect description of the events that got her to me. Sometimes the Universe works in your favor. Not often, but sometimes.

Previous Musical Monday: Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler
Subsequent Musical Monday: Heaven by Warrant

The Doubleclicks     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book Blogger Hop August 25th - August 31st: 217 Is the Sum of All of the Factors of 100


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: Have you ever read a book written in a foreign language you might be fluent in, and then read the same book in English?

I have only ever read three books in a language other than English. They are Rhinocéros by Eugene Ionesco, Les Jeux Sont Faits by Jean-Paul Sartre, and L'Etranger by Albert Camus, all of which I read in high school when I was much better at reading French than I am now. I have never read any of these books in English.


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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting

As a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association, I may vote on the WSFA Small Press Award. Although the stories are presented to members of WSFA anonymously, with the intent being that all of the members vote based solely on the text of the story, as uninfluenced by the identities of the authors as possible. Unfortunately, as one of the stories was nominated for a Hugo Award this year (which seems to be a pattern for the nominees for this award), I went into the voting already knowing who had written it. Nine stories were nominated this year, and as usual with the WSFA Small Press Award nominees, the overall level of quality for the field as a whole was quite high, making voting fairly difficult. Most of these stories are quite good, even the stories I ranked sixth or seventh are still pretty good stories, I just thought that the ones in the higher slots were simply better. My rankings of the stories are as follows:

1. Radio Silence by Walter H. Hunt: This is a story about the world not ending. Two scientists working at the Solar Observatory notice the Sun giving off an unusual burst of neutrinos normally associated with stars that are just about to turn nova, and then a countervailing change to the cosmic background radiation that seemingly stops the Sun from self-destructing. Their subsequent inquiries lead them to identify an unusual pattern of stellar activity and a strange anomaly in the asteroid belt, which leads to an expedition that has some fairly unexpected results. Radio Silence has the feel of a classic science mystery from the Golden Age of science fiction, and packs an investigation, a space voyage, an alien encounter, and a revelation concerning the nature of stars all within the length of a work of short fiction. In the hands of many authors, having as much going on in a story as takes place in this one would make the resulting narrative seem uncomfortably crowded, but this story manages to include all of this and feel almost roomy. The only weakness in the story is that the starship captain is something of a caricature of a military officer and has an almost entirely unexplained and out of character change of heart that seems pretty serendipitous. Other than that one element, Radio Silence is a well-written science fiction story with a good old-fashioned science mystery at its core.

2. The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon: As I mentioned earlier, I went into the voting already knowing the identity of the author of one of the stories. This is that story. Not only had this story been nominated for the Hugo Award (among other honors), it is also pretty much a direct sequel to Vernon's 2015 WSFA Small Press Award winning story Jackalope Wives. Grandma Harken returns in this tale featuring tomato sandwiches, enchanted thieves, a train god, and an evil sorcerer and is just as cranky, irascible, and ultimately kind-hearted as she was before. Even though I knew who wrote this story, and even though it is set in the same fictional world that Jackalope Wives was set in, I don't think that the familiarity particularly helped the story much, as I was continually mentally comparing this story with its predecessor, and to be honest, this story is not quite as good as Grandma Harken's first adventure. That isn't to say that this is anything less than an excellent story, it just doesn't have the almost mythic feel that Jackalope Wives had. This story feels like a constructed fantasy story, with the little stitches that hold it together poking through at times. Even though this is the longest story among the nominees, it feels rushed in places, as if Vernon felt the need to pack all of the background mythology into too few pages to hold it and denouement feels like it was cut a bit short. Some stories manage to be good, while at the same time feeling like they should have been expended into a longer format. This is one of those stories.

3. The Mytilenian Delay by Neil James Hudson: Even though they are a staple of science fiction stories, interstellar empires are really quite silly. In any story that confines itself to our understanding of physics, the vast distances between the stars coupled with the relative slowness of communications and travel make such an empire not only impractical, but entirely implausible. Alternatively, authors that want to feature such governments include some hand-waving magic technology to overcome the practical limitations of reality. In The Mytilenian Delay, the author takes the inherent contradictions in a vast star-spanning empire and plays with them, carrying them to a potentially deadly but decidedly absurdist conclusion. In the hypothetical empire, individual star systems annexed by the empire are forced to have a device placed into their planet that can be used to destroy the entire world if that planet rebels. In the story, a starship captain has been given the order to destroy a rebellious planet, and spends the entire story waiting for the Myletenian Delay to elapse, which will mark the point of no return after which the order cannot be countermanded. The fact that, so far as anyone knows, this is the first time this order has been given yields a bit of tension and uncertainty to the process, which the characters stoke into a raging bonfire of doubt by the end of the convoluted twists and turns of the plot.

4. Foxfire, Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee: This story, itself an unlikely blend of magical fantasy and hard-edged science fiction, tells the tale of an unlikely alliance between a murderous magical fox and a deserter from a civil war who drives a "cataphract" high-tech war machine. Told from the point of view of Baekdo, a mischievous and utterly selfish fox, the story follows as the creature attempts to complete the final step to becoming fully human - killing his one-hundredth human victim. The fox's efforts are complicated by the fact that the human world around him has descended into the chaos of war and his control over the form-changing magic that allows him to shift between fox and human shape is slipping. Intending to kill the driver of the disabled machine, Baekdo finds himself at a disadvantage when the pilot turns out to be more capable then he thought, and the two enter into an uneasy accord secured by an oath on the blood of the tiger-sages that soon has them battling their way out of the city to what they hope is freedom using both technical skills and magical invocations to get them through the various dangers that interpose themselves in their way. Things don't go as planned, and the two find themselves in desperate straits with no good solutions. There is a bit of a twist at the end, an ominous and ambiguous finale, and just enough mythic background to tie everything together in a fairly satisfying manner. The only real flaw in the story is that most of the details concerning human culture are essentially hand-waved, although given that the story is told from the perspective of a magical fox, this is somewhat understandable. Like The Tomato Thief, this story probably could have been better if it had been expanded into a longer format so as to more fully flesh out the mythology and the setting, but it is still an interesting and engaging tale.

5. A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard: While I knew for certain that Ursula Vernon had written The Tomato Thief, I merely suspected that Aliette de Bodard had written A Salvaging of Ghosts, mostly because thematically it fits so very neatly into her ongoing Xuya series of stories. A story of loss, regret, and coming to terms with grief, this tale features Thuy, a diver who works in the dangerous places in deep space salvaging gems from shipwrecks. Except it turns out that the gems are actually the remains of the human crews of the ships compressed into tiny crystals and one of the sets of tiny crystals that is out there belongs to Thuy's dead daughter Kim Anh (which makes the practice of dissolving gems into rice wine and drinking them a form of ritualistic cannibalism that is creepy and weird and never commented upon by anyone). The story has an ethereal, almost underwater feel throughout, as Thuy tries to grapple with both the loss of her child and the stirred up memories of the almost as tragic story of the death of her own parents. Thuy's despondency is somewhat out of step with her fellow divers, who all seem to display a fatalistic attitude concerning their deadly profession. Somewhat predictably, Thuy goes on an almost foolhardy dive, and somewhat unexpectedly she finds something there she did not anticipate. Unfortunately, after setting the stage so beautifully, the story seems to almost rush through the payoff, as if trying to wrap everything up as quickly as possible although this is a minor flaw on an otherwise beautiful story.

6. Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left by Fran Wilde: This is a lovely little magical realist tale involving people who turn into plants when they dream. It is beautifully written, with the language giving each of the loosely connected vignettes that make it up an almost dreamlike feel as the story flows languorously from one vividly painted scene to the next. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that the phenomenon is world-wide, with some embracing the change and others desperately doing everything they can to stave off sleep. The tale eventually circles back to the initial protagonist in the final paragraphs, showing a last lingering look at a world that has transformed into a verdant wilderness. The frustrating thing about this story is that just about sums everything up. No reason is given for the change, and there is no real conflict or character development. People start turning into trees and bushes, and they keep turning into trees and bushes until in the end everyone has transformed. To a certain extent this feels almost like a prose poem, but even taking it in that form, there just doesn't seem to be enough in the way of character or plot despite the exquisite writing.

7. Vengeance Sewn with Fey Cord by Christine Lucas: This is an almost by-the-numbers fantasy story of revenge, with the only real twist being that the central character plotting the bloody demise of the evil monarch is a seamstress. There is nothing really wrong with the story, but there isn't a whole lot that makes it stand out either. The evil Queen Thelda is a pretty standard issue evil queen with a fairly standard issue evil Lord Commander who pops up into the story a number of times. At the outset of the story Saya, the vengeance-seeking seamstress, informs the reader that she is going to secure her revenge by making a suit constructed from stitched-together animal parts and fueled by fairy magic and then she proceeds to do so. There is even a prophecy provided to guide her in the suit's construction. As far as vengeance-seeking goes, "sewing a terrifying magical animal suit" is moderately original, but given that Saya explains what she is doing in the early going, the actual execution of the rest of the story feels fairly predictable.

8. The Witch's Knives by Margaret Ronald: The shortest of the stories nominated, The Witch's Knives is a fairy-tale inspired piece about love, curses, abuse, and knives. Told from the perspective of Leah, a woman married to a man under a Beauty and the Beast-like curse, the story itself details the final scene in Leah's months-long odyssey to track down the witch responsible for her husband's malady. When she confronts the witch, Leah is convinced that she must only show her love for her husband and the witch will relent, but the conversation doesn't go the way she was expecting, and by the end it turns out that what Leah thought she wanted wasn't actually what she wanted at all. The story uses the curse as a metaphor for an abusive spouse, or at least an incompatible spouse, and the knives in the title feature as a metaphor for letting go of unhealthy relationships. The story's themes are presented alternatively either in much too heavy-handed a manner or much too opaquely, and despite being so brief, the whole never really quite comes together in a satisfying manner.

9. Jupiter or Bust by Brad R. Torgersen: Most of the nominees for the WSFA Small Press award were quite good, with most of the exceptions being stories that one can see what the author was trying to do, even if they weren't able to pull it off in the end. This story, on the other hand, can only be described as lazy and sloppy. The idea behind the story seems to have been an updated version of Robert A. Heinlein's story The Man Who Sold the Moon, only this time the goal of the commercial venture featured in the story is Jupiter rather than the Moon. The story can be broadly divided into two parts. The first part is essentially a meeting, told in excruciating detail. Actually, much of this section isn't even the meeting, it is just the preparations for the meeting, as Debra Galston, the inventor of a revolutionary new thruster, is set to meet with a pointlessly mysterious potential benefactor. After a midnight telephone call that begins with an entire paragraph describing someone picking up a telephone, the story lurches into detailing just how many seats there are in the conference room and the arrangement of the pads of yellow paper and pens on the table. At one point Galston inquires as to whether she might ask who she is meeting with and is met with a smirk and a "you may ask" in response. The big reveal is that the benefactor is a Ted Turner analogue who wants to finance Galston's new space ship with a reality television show. This is kind of an interesting idea, but it is presented in the middle of so much pointless fluff that it almost gets lost. The second part of the story is the construction and launch of the Jupiter-bound ship. This part comes complete with the requisite number of jabs at NASA and ESA, but the real let-down here is that the science in this somewhat hard-science story is so sloppy: As an example, at one point a basic high-school level error crops up in the text in a description of the effects of constant thrust. These sorts of signs of simply sloppy work crop up at a number of points in the story, and give the feel that the writer just didn't care enough to check. This is where the comparison to The Man Who Sold the Moon really hurts this story, because no matter what other flaws one might think Heinlein had as a writer, he would never have mailed in the details of a story like that. The mission turns out to be a failure, which is something of an interesting twist, although it fails due to a pretty basic engineering oversight and by the time I got to that part of the story all of my interest had already been dissolved away by the author's apparent indifference. There is a good story to be had with the idea of the commercial exploration of space, but this isn't it.

2016 WSFA Small Press Award Winner: Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker (reviewed in 2016 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
2018 WSFA Small Press Award Winner: TBD

2017 Hugo Award Finalists

2017 WSFA Small Press Award Nominees     Book Award Reviews     Home

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2017 WSFA Small Press Award Nominees

Location: CapClave in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Comments: Just like last year, there are nine WSFA Small Press Award nominees. Just like last year, the overall field of nominees is quite strong, with numerous stories deserving of the honor. On the other hand, 2017 is the first year out of the last couple of years in which the WSFA Small Press Award nominees were not, when taken as a group, better than short fiction Hugo Award finalists taken as a group. This isn't because the WSFA Small Press Award nominees became any worse, but rather because the Hugo Finalists this year were a lot better than they were in 2015 and 2016. There was one cross-over between this set of nominees and the list of Hugo finalist - The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon - and there is more than one other story on this list would not have looked at all out of place as Hugo Finalists.

As usual for the WSFA Small Press Award, there are several outstanding nominees in the mix, a couple of pretty good ones, and a few that make me scratch my head and wonder why they made the list. Overall, this is a pretty good group of stories with a couple of real gems in the front, an impressive peloton just on their heels, and only a few laggards dragging along in the back.

WSFA Small Press Award
(My Votes)

Winner:
TBA

Other Nominees:
Foxfire, Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
Jupiter or Bust by Brad R. Torgersen (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
The Mytilenian Delay by Neil James Hudson (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left by Fran Wilde (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
Radio Silence by Walter H. Hunt (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
Vengeance Sewn With a Fey Cord by Christine Lucas (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)
The Witch’s Knives by Margaret Ronald (reviewed in 2017 WSFA Small Press Award Voting)

Go to previous year's nominees: 2016
Go to subsequent year's nominees: 2018

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Musical Monday - Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler


I know, everyone is using this song to commemorate the solar eclipse, but it isn't going to happen again in the United States until 2024, so I'm not at all sorry to jump on and do it too. Besides, this version of the song comes packaged with a video that features the tenth Doctor and his ill-fated romance with Rose.

Previous Musical Monday: Roly Poly Baby by Doris Day and Perry Blackwell
Subsequent Musical Monday: The Universe by The Doubleclicks

Bonnie Tyler     Musical Monday     Home

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Book Blogger Hop August 18th - August 24th: According to Ken Burns, There Are 216 Stitches on a Baseball


Jen at Crazy for Books restarted her weekly Book Blogger Hop to help book bloggers connect with one another, but then couldn't continue, so she handed the hosting responsibilities off to Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. The only requirements to participate in the Hop are to write and link a post answering the weekly question and then visit other blogs that are also participating to see if you like their blog and would like to follow them.

This week Billy asks: When you enter an unfamiliar house or apartment for the first time, do you feel disappointed if you don't see any bookshelves, or books on the coffee table?

I have to admit that I judge people based upon how many books they have in their homes. If someone has no books in their home, then I seriously have to question whether I can be friends with them. I consider books to be so essential that if someone doesn't have any, then I really don't think I could possibly have anything in common with them. I simply cannot comprehend how someone could live in a house devoid of books.

I also judge people based upon what kind of books they have, but that's another story for another time.

Subsequent Book Blogger Hop: 217 Is the Sum of All of the Factors of 100

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017 Hugo Award Longlist

Over the last couple of years, the various Puppy factions have packed the lists of Hugo finalists with works and people who were mediocre to miserable in quality, which meant that the longlisted nominees were often a far superior collection of books, stories, editors, magazines, writers, and artists. This year, with a handful of exceptions that all came from the Rabid Puppy slate, this wasn't the case - even though the longlisted nominees are, by and large, a strong group, the set of finalists it, taken as a whole, generally even better.

This was the first year in which the E Pluribus Hugo voting system for nominations was implemented, and it seems to have worked as well as one could possibly hope to expect. The change in the voting rules, coupled with their waning ability to whip their adherents into a frenzy after being shellacked in the voting in 2015 and 2016, resulted in the Sad Puppies kind of slinking away after not even putting a token effort into putting together a voting slate. The Rabid Puppies continued their Quixotic quest, but changed tactics, putting forward only one or two candidates in each category in order to try to get someone on the ballot via "bullet voting", and that seems to have had mixed results. They managed to get eleven finalists on the ballot, while five more appear on the longlist. They could have had five more finalists, but Rabid Puppy leader Theodore Beale is apparently really terrible at understanding the eligibility rules, so those five potential finalists were all disqualified as ineligible. The Rabid Puppies were able to get no more than one finalist per category.

As usual, the Rabid Puppy offerings included the worst crap on either the finalist ballot or the longlist, ranging from the intentionally insulting nomination of Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex to the usual array of self-promotion of Castalia House's dreadful products. One thing that is interesting to note is that Beale didn't even try to offer lip service to his previous alliance with the Sad Puppies and their favorite publisher Baen Books. Instead, he simply promoted his own business at every possible opportunity save for the one intentional "joke" nominee and a handful of "hostage" nominees - which are essentially slated nominees with widespread credibility. The idea seems to be a kind of Xanatos Gambit to get "worthy" works on the ballot in order to "trap" the Hugo voters into either voting against something they like or handing Beale a "win" by voting for a "hostage" to win. Like all of Beale's plots, this one is based upon his having no understanding of how normal people behave, and has been a complete failure thus far.

On a side note, one claim that is sometimes made is that because the Puppy slates on occasion include items that have some merit, one should be okay with those finalists because "they likely would have made it onto the ballot even without Puppy support". I've always been suspicious of those claims, in large part because in every year there are so many more good works in every category than there are spaces on the ballot. The notion that any work "probably would have been a finalist anyway" seems to vastly overstate the chances that anything has of getting onto the list of Hugo finalists. This year, the works that had merit on the Rabid Puppy slate were the "hostages", specifically This Census-Taker by China Miéville, The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman, Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie by Ralph McQuarrie, Deadpool, and Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter. The McQuarrie book didn't make the finalists, so we can set it aside.

Based upon a review of the items that made the list of finalists that only Rabid Puppies would likely vote for (a list that includes Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by a T-Rex, An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity, An Unimaginable Light, P. Alexander, Theodore Beale, Jeffro Johnson, and Castalia House Blog), there appear to have been between 70 and 90 people voting as Rabid Puppies. if we deduct that amount from the totals garnered by the "hostages", we can get a rough estimate of whether or not these works would have reached the list of finalists without Rabid Puppy assistance. We can't be exact, because the E Pluribus Hugo voting system means that to do so we would need to be able to look at the individual nominating ballots to get an accurate count, but we can make an educated guess. To be conservative, we'll drop seventy votes from each finalist.
  • Deducting seventy votes from This Census-Taker by China Miéville drops it behind The Dispatcher by John Scalzi which would replace it on the ballot.
  • Removing seventy votes from the total garnered by The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman puts it well behind Writing Women Characters by Kate Elliott, which would knock it off the ballot.
  • Pulling seventy votes out of Deadpool's total still puts it ahead of Kubo and the Two Strings and it would stay on the ballot.
  • Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter was removed from the ballot due to the rule that prevents a single series from having more than two finalists in a category and the producers of Game of Thrones elected to have this one taken off. If one removes seventy votes from this episode's total, it would still have been ahead of Splendor and Misery, which means the producers of Game of Thrones would have still had to make a decision as to which two episodes of the show should remain on the ballot.
So that's a fifty percent "would have made it anyway" rate, which doesn't seem all that great to me. Having these nominees on the ballot isn't terrible, and absent the spamming of the other shitty Castalia House products onto the list of finalists having a group push for these "hostage" works to be on the ballot wouldn't be an issue. There is no doubt though, that even when it comes to the "hostages" the Puppies warp the ballot. That they warp the ballot in an inoffensive way doesn't mean that it is warped any less than when they do it to put crap onto the list. That said, with the Sad Puppies looking like they are an entirely spent force, and the Rabid Puppies increasingly looking like they are heading that way, this is probably not an issue that we will need to really worry about much in the future.

Best Novel

Finalists:
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Death’s End by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu)
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin [winner]
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Longlisted Nominees:
Babylon's Ashes by James S.A. Corey
Borderline by Mishell Baker
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett
The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo
An Equation of Almost Infinite Complexity by J. Mulrooney [rabid puppy pick]
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
Infomocracy by Malka Older

Best Novella

Finalists:
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
This Census-Taker by China Miéville [rabid puppy pick]
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Longlisted Nominees:
Chimera Gu Shi by S. Qiouyi Lu and Ken Liu
Cold Forged Flame by Marie Brennan
The Dispatcher by John Scalzi
Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal
Hammers On Bone by Cassandra Khaw
The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville
The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell
Penric's Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold
Runtime by S.B. Divya
The Vanishing Kind by Lavie Tidhar

Best Novelette

Finalists:
Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex by Stix Hiscock [rabid puppy pick]
The Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan
The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
The Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon [winner]
Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong

Longlisted Nominees
Blood Grains Speak Through Memories by Jason Sanford
A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djeli Clark
Everyone from Themis Sends Letters Home by Genevieve Valentine
Foxfire, Foxfire by Yoon Ha Lee
Kid Dark against the Machine by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Red as Blood and White as Bone by Theodora Goss
Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
The Venus Effect by Joseph Allen Hill
The Visitor From Taured by Ian R. Macleod

Best Short Story

Finalists:
The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar [winner]
That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn
An Unimaginable Light by John C. Wright [rabid puppy pick]

Longlisted Nominees
Lullaby for a Lost World by Aliette de Bodard
Razorback by Ursula Vernon
Red in Tooth and Cog by Cat Rambo
A Salvaging of Ghosts by Aliette de Bodard
The Story of Kao Yu by Peter S. Beagle
Terminal by Lavie Tidhar
Things With Beards by Sam J. Miller
We Have A Cultural Difference, Can I Taste You? by Rebecca Ann Jordan
Welcome to the Medical Clinic . . . by Caroline M. Yoachim
Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands by Seanan McGuire

Best Related Work

Finalists:
The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman [rabid puppy pick]
The Women of Harry Potter posts by Sarah Gailey
Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Archive of Our Own by the Organization for Transformative Works
Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer
#BlackSpecFic by Brian J. White, et al
Making Conversation by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Octavia E. Butler by Gerry Canavan
Speculative Blackness by André M. Carrington
Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie by Ralph McQuarrie [rabid puppy pick]
THEN: Fandom in the UK, 1930-1980 by Rob Hansen
The Tingled Puppies by Chuck Tingle
Writing Women Characters by Kate Elliott

Best Graphic Story

Finalists:
Monstress, Volume One: Awakening written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda [winner]
Saga, Volume 6 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

Longlisted Nominees:
Clean Room, Vol. 1: Immaculate Conception by Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt
Descender, Vol. 2: Machine Moon by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
Injection, Volume 2 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire
Lumberjanes Vol. 4: Out of Time by Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Shannon Watters
Mockingbird, Vol. 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk
Oglaf (Bodil Bodilson) by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne
Stand Still, Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe! by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
The Wicked and the Divine, Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide by Kieron Gillen and Matthew Wilson

Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

Finalists:
Arrival [winner]
Deadpool [rabid puppy pick]
Ghostbusters
Hidden Figures
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Stranger Things, Season One

Longlisted Nominees:
10 Cloverfield Lane
Captain America: Civil War
Doctor Strange
The Expanse, Season 1
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
Star Trek: Beyond
Westworld, Season 1
Zootopia

Best Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

Finalists:
Black Mirror: San Junipero
Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio
The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes [winner]
Game of Thrones: Battle of the Bastards
Game of Thrones: The Door
Game of Thrones: The Winds of Winter [no more than two finalists may come from the same series, rabid puppy pick]
Splendor & Misery (album) by Clipping

Longlisted Nominees:
The Expanse: Salvage
Luke Cage: Manifest
Person of Interest: Return 0
Stranger Things: Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers
Stranger Things: Chapter Seven: The Bathtub
Stranger Things: Chapter Eight: The Upside Down
Steven Universe: The Answer
Westworld: The Bicameral Mind
Westworld: The Original

Best Professional Editor: Short Form

Finalists:
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow [winner]
Jonathan Strahan
Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
Sheila Williams

Longlisted Nominees:
P. Alexander [rabid puppy pick]
Sana Amanat
Scott H. Andrews
C.C. Finlay
Lee Harris
Toni Jerrman
Mur Lafferty
Lynne M. Thomas
Ann VanderMeer
Trevor Quachri

Best Professional Editor: Long Form

Finalists:
Theodore Beale [rabid puppy pick, racist sexist homophobic dipshit]
Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky [winner]
Devi Pillai
Miriam Weinberg
Navah Wolfe

Longlisted Nominees:
Anne Lesley Groell
Jane Johnson
Beth Meacham
Joe Monti
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Jonathan Oliver
Bella Pagan
Marco Palmieri
Toni Weisskopf
Betsy Wollheim

Best Professional Artist

Finalists:
Galen Dara
Julie Dillon [winner]
JiHun Lee [ineligible, rabid puppy pick]
Chris McGrath
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Tomek Radziewicz [ineligible, rabid puppy pick]
Sana Takeda

Longlisted Nominees:
Tommy Arnold
Rovina Cai
Donato Giancola
Michael Komarck
Todd Lockwood
Reiko Murakami
Likhain (M. Sereno)
Fiona Staples

Best Semi-Prozine

Finalists:
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine edited by P. Alexander [rabid puppy pick]
GigaNotoSaurus edited by Rashida J. Smith
Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams [ineligible]
Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff
Uncanny Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke
Daily Science Fiction edited by Elektra Hammond: Elektra Hammond, Sarah Overall, and Brian Whit
Escape Pod edited by Mur Lafferty and Al Stuart
Fireside Fiction edited by Brian White
Interzone edited by Andy Cox
Mothership Zeta edited by Editor Mur Lafferty, Sunil Patel, and Karen Bovenmyer.
PodCastle edited by Graeme Dunlop and Rachael K. Jones
Shimmer edited by E. Catherine Tobler, Nicola Belte, Sophie Wereley, Joy Marchand, Suzan Palumbo, Josh Storey, Lindsay Thomas, and Laura Blackwell
Tähtivaeltaja edited by Toni Jerrman

Best Fanzine

Finalists:
Castalia House Blog edited by Jeffro Johnson [rabid puppy pick]
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer [declined nomination]
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Helena Nash, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, and Erin Underwood
Lady Business edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan [winner]
nerds of a feather, flock together edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
Rocket Stack Rank edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
SF Bluestocking edited by Bridget McKinney

Longlisted Nominees:
Ansible edited by David Langford
Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Black Gate edited by John O’Neill
Chunga edited by by Andy Hooper, Randy Byers, and Carl Juarez
Galactic Journey edited by Janice Marcus
James Nicoll Reviews edited by James Nicoll
Quick Sip Reviews by Charles Payseur
Women Write About Comics edited by Megan Purdy
Young People Read Old SFF edited by James Davis Nicoll

Best Fan Writer

Finalists:
Mike Glyer
Jeffro Johnson [rabid puppy pick]
Natalie Luhrs
Foz Meadows
Abigail Nussbaum [winner]
Chuck Tingle

Longlisted Nominees:
Cora Buhlert
Alexandra Erin
Camestros Felapton
Sarah Gailey
Crystal Huff
Morgan (Castalia House) [rabid puppy pick]
James Nicoll
Mark Oshiro
Charles Payseur
O. Westin

Best Fan Artist

Finalists:
Ninni Aalto
Alex Garner [rabid puppy pick, ineligible]
Elizabeth Leggett [winner]
Vesa Lehtimäki
Likhain (M. Sereno)
Spring Schoenhuth
Steve Stiles
Mansik Yang [rabid puppy pick, ineligible]

Longlisted Nominees:
Liz Argall
Galen Dara
Lauren Dawson aka Iguanamouth
Ariela Housman
Megan Lara
Richard Man
Simon Stålenhag
Kathryn M. Weaver

Best Fancast

Finalists:
The Coode Street Podcast presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
Ditch Diggers presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
Fangirl Happy Hour presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
Galactic Suburbia presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
The Rageaholic presented by RazörFist [rabid puppy pick]
Tea and Jeopardy presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Down and Safe presented by Michael Damien Thomas, L.M. Myles, Scott Lynch, and Amal El-Mohtar
Fansplaining presented by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minke
Midnight in Karachi presented by Mahvesh Murad
The Skiffy and Fanty Show presented by Shaun Duke, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, Mike Underwood, David Annandale, Rachael Acks, Trish Matson, and Jen Zink
StarShipSofa presented by Tony C Smith
Storyological presented by E.G. Cosh and Chris Kammerud
Superversive SF presented by Dawn Witzke [rabid puppy pick]
Sword and Laser presented by Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont
Vaginal Fantasy presented by Felicia Day, Veronica Belmont, Bonnie Burton, and Kiala Kazebee
Verity! presented by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Best Series

Finalists:
The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone
The Expanse by James S.A. Corey (first volume in the series: Leviathan Wakes)
October Daye series by Seanan McGuire
Peter Grant/Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (first volume in the series: His Majesty's Dragon)
The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold [winner]

Longlisted Nominees:
Arts of Dark and Light by Theodore Beale [rabid puppy pick]
Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh
The Laundry Files by Charles Stross
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Newsflesh by Mira Grant
Remembrance of Earth's Past by Cixin Liu (first volume in the series The Three-Body Problem)
Thessaly by Jo Walton
World of the Five Gods by Lois McMaster Bujold
Young Wizards by Diane Duane

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Finalists:
Sarah Gailey
J. Mulrooney [rabid puppy pick]
Malka Older
Ada Palmer [winner]
Laurie Penny
Kelly Robson

Longlisted Nominees:
Charlotte Ashley
Scott Hawkins
Cassandra Khaw
Sarah Kuhn
Arkady Martine
Sylvain Neuvel
Sunil Patel
Natasha Pulley
Tade Thompson
K.B. Wagers

Go to previous year's longlist: 2016
Go to subsequent year's longlist: 2018

Go to 2017 Hugo Finalists and Winners

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