Tag Archives: hugos

Hugo Awards: the novellas

… and now we get a little controversial…

As mentioned previously, I decided to read all the Hugo nominations. Because.

The novellas: I am… more torn than I have been previously.

“Big Boys Don’t Cry,” Tom Kratman: an AI battle-ship type thing, who is gendered female because of her call sign, is nostalgic for the Good Old Days when she had real soldiers instead of drones (*cough* Leckie *cough*). She is especially nostalgic because she so liked to cook for them… ?!? I’m sure it’s meant to ‘humanise’ the AI, but STILL. Anyway. The rest of the novella is Maggie (the ship) reminiscing as she’s torn apart for scrap. Hard to keep timelines straight, harder still to care about the characters; not Hugo worthy.

“Flow,” Arlan Andrews: actually kinda clever; young man goes on a journey and dicovers that the world isn’t as he always assumed it was. Andrews has done a passable job of thinking through some of the issues of not knowing about the sun and moon (our hero lives under a perpetual cloud bank). But the story itself was nothing of interest, the attitude towards women was decades old, and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters.

“One Bright Star to Guide Them,” John C Wright: I didn’t hate the premise (this is where I start getting controversial, FWIW). Yes it’s using CS Lewis and maybe some Susan Cooper; no it’s not especially original (there’s even a lion, for eye-rolling astonishment). It’s too long, and definitely drags in the middle. As a story, I don’t actually mind it. But is it worth a Hugo? Sometimes, pastiches or homages are. I don’t think this one lifts enough, or gets different and interesting enough, to fall into that category.

“Pale Realms of Shade,” John C Wright: again, I actually didn’t mind the premise (ooh, see me keep on being controversial!). Told from the perspective of a dead PI, it’s a ghost telling its own story about figuring out who done the deed and why. It’s a story of self-discovery and repentance – maybe a bit late when you’re dead, but oh well. I imagine that some readers got peeved at the religious aspects; this is not a problem for me. As with the previous story I found it quite passable… spoiled by this line: “There were no steeples in that future, no church bells, just thin, wailing cries from thin, ugly minarets.” Uh. No.

“The Plural of Helen of Troy,” John C Wright: ready for me to get actually controversial? I’m not sure about this one.

That’s right. I actually liked this story and would consider putting this on my ballot. But it was published by Castalia House, and that sound you just heard? That was my politics running smack bang into my reading enjoyment.

The story is told backwards; another PI, this time working in a city outside of time somehow – I’m generally quite capable of reading time travel stories without the paradoxes doing too much to my brain, as a rule, although I know that’s not possible for many readers. (What can I say, it’s a gift. Like reading Greg Egan science.) He’s contracted to help a man whose girlfriend (?) is apparently going to be attacked by someone, and they have to stop it. Of course things get messier than that, and there are iterations and variations as the story progresses (…which means going backwards…). There are some neat moments – I was quite amused by the realisation of who the man and the ‘Helen’ were, and some funny enough moments of these people completely out of their times living together. Including Queequeg. QUEEQUEG LIVES.

Anyway. Now I have to figure out how to vote in the novellas and it HURTS. I’ve got a couple of weeks, right? I can figure it out in that time…

Hugo Awards: the novelettes

As I said in the last post, I decided to read the Hugo-nominated fiction because I wanted to be able to comment on their merit, as well as the politics.

The novelettes: no, no, no, no and no. Again, nothing worthy of a Hugo nomination in my opinion.

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium,” Gray Rinehart: I kinda liked the concept, but the characters were nothing and there was no fleshing out of consequences either physical or metaphysical. Could probably (can’t believe I’m saying this) make an interesting novel if some effort was put in to the characters, especially.

“Championship B’Tok,” Edward M Lerner: a somewhat interesting premise although not at all original. Some military speak, some boring characterisation.

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down,” Thomas Olde Heuvelt: I feel like this definitely owes something to “The Water that falls on you from nowhere” – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it did win a Hugo after all, but it doesn’t make itself different enough. I didn’t like the main character, which isn’t a problem necessarily, although I think we are meant to sympathise and I just couldn’t do that. Better than the other nominees buuuuut still not award material.

“The Journeyman: In the Stone House,” Michael F Flynn: did not finish. Excruciating to try and read, characters utterly unappealing.

“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale,” Rajnar Vajra: plucky young things manage not to get themselves killed or thrown out of the service by being obnoxiously cleverer than people who’ve been on the ground for some length of time. Weird aliens are weird and not developed enough.

Galactic Suburbia 123

In which classics, what classics, we’ll pick our own canon thanks, and reading Heinlein becomes less and less compulsory every year, so try not to worry about it. Actually, no books are compulsory. Read what you want to read. Book-shaming is the worst. Don’t do that. You can get us at iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Introducing The Wimmin Pamphlet: serving you a diverse range of feminist thought since this fortnight.

Strange Horizons essay by Renay – Communities: Weight of History

Renay, we are with you! Anti-Impostor-Syndrome Reading and Life Support Group Is Go!

James Nicoll’s reviews of Women of Wonder, the Pamela Sargent books Tansy refers to as her SF education, highly recommended: 1 & 2

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: The 100 Season 1; Tiptree Bio, Julie Phillips, Sens8

Tansy: Rocket Talk Ep 53 on Spec Fic 14 & online writing in the spec fic scene, Loki: Agent of Asgard; Fresh Romance #1

Alex: Hugo fiction reading: short stories, novelettes, novellas, novels. OMG the decisions! The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie.

Also New Horizons!!

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Hugo Awards: the short stories

I decided that I was going to read the Hugo-nominated fiction works despite the whole Rabid Puppies thing because for me, it seemed important that I have read them and be able to comment on their worth, as well as the politics around their nominations. I don’t expect everyone to agree with this stance; I’m not suggesting other people should do the same, or need to. This is very simply MY perspective.


The short stories.

No, no, no, no, and no.

In my opinion, none of these stories are worthy of a Hugo nomination.

“On a Spiritual Plain,” Lou Antonelli: I don’t mind the premise, of a world somehow able to keep part of a ‘soul’ after death. But the execution (…heh…) is just boring. A great big meh.

“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds,” John C Wright: an attempt to be the new CS Lewis? Gets a bit grandiose at points and quite eye-rolly at points and made me hope that other Christian writers could be a bit more subtle – either that or not try at all to be subtle and just come right out and examine ideas less circuitously (Wright does kinda get there in the end).

“A Single Samurai,” Steven Diamond: there is no story here.

“Totaled,” Kary English: interesting idea – a woman’s brain used after a car accident in an experiment – but no character development, no explanation for how or why this came about (that made sense, I mean), and only average prose.

“Turncoat,” Steve Rzasa: I didn’t loathe it. It’s still not Hugo material, but it’s an interesting enough take on the AI/ human / how you live together question. I can see why it speaks to some: it is after all basically two battle set-pieces with a wee bit of philosophising/ religious musing along the way. Competent… but not award-winning

The Goblin Emperor

… There’s going to be more, right?

UnknownThis is really not the sort of book I would have been likely to read immediately off my own bat. 15 years ago, perhaps, but I haven’t really read secondary world fantasy like this for ages… and not necessarily for a reason I can put my finger on, aside from I Like Spaceships More.

Still, it’s on the Hugo ballot in The Time Of Rabid Puppies, and a lot of people whose opinion I generally respect have raved about it, so I wasn’t too sad to be sitting down with it as part of my Read The Hugo Ballot binge.

And I really liked it.

This stills seems improbable to me. Lots of ‘thee’s and formal ‘you’s and so on – the sort of thing that sometimes makes me break my eyes in the rolling. It’s goblins and elves for… no reason I can see? The elves have non-human ears which you only know because they’re described as doing things like flattening when the person is annoyed, and goblins just seem to have darker skin and maybe grow bigger than elves? But goblins and elves do intermarry; Our Hero is a product of just such an (unhappy, arranged) alliance.

And it’s not like the book is startlingly original in its plot. Emperor and his sons all die together, leaving one nearly-forgotten son by aforementioned unhappy marriage to inherit the throne. There are political machinations, palace intrigues, quandaries over who to trust, questions over whether someone in such a position can have real friendships… y’know, the normal things that happen when an unlikely heir takes the throne. We’ve all been there.

And yet. And yet. It works. Much of this is down to Maia, Our Hero. He may be the forgotten heir but he’s not completely stupid; clueless at times but not a Garion figure; possessed of a brain and determination and a desire to do some things his own damn way, thank you very much. I’m reminded somewhat of the story I heard once about Queen Victoria: that when she was crowned (I think?), one of the first decisions she made was to sleep in her room by herself – without her mother – for the first time ever. Maia isn’t just led around by the nose. But neither is he super arrogant, thinking he can do anything he likes and deciding to do just that; nor is he super capable in an impossible period of time. Addison strikes a good balance of learning the ropes and being actually, like, capable.

I liked many of the other characters (Csevet for the win), and the variety of female characters is really nice. I like the honesty with which Addison confronts the issues of arranged marriages, and the different ways of thinking about things like duty and honour.

Basically, when I finished reading it (in one day), I wrote that opening sentence: there
is going to more, right?

The Three-Body Problem

What on earth can I say? If I said “Liu Cixin is like a Chinese Greg Egan” that gives some idea of the complexity of the science… and I cannot imagine what it must have been like for Ken Liu to translate those sections.

UnknownThe focus of the novel is split over a few characters and periods:
Some of it is set in the Cultural Revolution of the 60s, and explores some of the consequences of this for academics in particular, via one woman and her family. I have taught this era (only once, but that’s better than naught), so I have no idea what the average reader would bring to this – and especially not what an average American reader would think. Ken Liu has done a good job of providing some footnotes with explanations, without (I thought) interrupting the flow of the narrative too much. A young woman, Ye, whose family was targeted ends up working at a mysterious scientific/military outpost…

Some is set in a ‘present’ that I don’t remember being identified, but is not one of William Gibson’s ‘tomorrows’ – it felt perfectly normal. Here, a scientist starts encountering weird things and gets drawn into an investigation that turns out to be even weirder than expected, and involves the whole world (there are scenes involving the Chinese military brass and NATO officers which had me shaking my head at the possible ramifications).

Some it is set in-game: the scientist, Wang, starts playing a game called Three-Body Problem – which it took me ages to realise is the conundrum of how to figure out the physics of three bodies interacting with each other gravitationally (it’s been a while since I thought physics, ok?). The game is connected to the investigation and also allows Liu to write THE most hilarious description of people physically being a computer ever, and this from someone whose knowledge of computational logic is non-existant (NAND and NOR gates? I admit my eyes glazed over somewhat…).

Some of it is set… elsewhere… not telling where.

I liked Ye a lot; the complexities of being first condemned, and then being considered useful but still politically unreliable, then rehabilitated into society – it’s done very nicely. I didn’t like Wang as much, which I think was mostly to do with his attitude towards his wife and son: basically he ignored them, and I found this quite unpleasant. Da Shi, a policeman involved in the investigation, is magnificent and is the character I would most like to see in a mini-series version of the book.

I had heard that some people thought there was a lot of emphasis on the Cultural Revolution, so I was surprised to find that for me, at least, it’s not actually a very big part of the story – page-wise anyway. It’s certainly of fundamental importance in Ye’s development, don’t get me wrong, but there’s definitely far more time spent in the present (and probably more time spent in-game by one of the characters, although I haven’t checked the page numbers to confirm that).

I am beyond impressed that this made it on to the Hugo ballot (yes yes after one of the Rabid nominees pulled out). I’m really glad it did, since it made me read it sooner than I otherwise would have. I really enjoyed it. There are some parts where, as with a Greg Egan novel, I skimmed over some science because I just can’t come at the physics anymore. But that wasn’t a problem with understanding the plot or the characters, and actually – especially considering this is a translation – much of the science-speak was quite accessible. (Ken Liu has an interesting discussion of the issues of translation at the end of the version I read, which was in the Hugo packet; it’s a very thoughtful essay about staying true to the vibe of the thing as well as/instead of staying true to the actual words and phrases used.) I discovered only when I got to the end that this is the first in a trilogy… I believe I may well be reading the rest.

But who am I going to put first on my Hugo ballot?!?

Galactic Suburbia 88: Hugos

chrome_rollerIn which, Hugos. Get us at Galactic Suburbia or iTunes.

Tansy, Alisa and Alex gather only minutes after the Hugo ceremony to discuss the results! Because, HELLO: Tansy won one!!

Hugo winners
The Stats, Statbadgers!
Tansy’s Hugo Post

Culture Consumed:

Alex: The Adventures of Alyx, Joanna Russ; BSG rewatch yet again; The Memcordist, Lavie Tidhar; Firebugs, Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Alisa: KickAss 2; Enchanted Glass, Diana Wynne Jones; Ugly, Robert Hoge

Tansy: Fringe Season 1, Dorian Gray Season 2, Ugly, Robert Hoge

Plugs: Splendid Chaps Nine/Women, featuring Tansy: September 15

Glitter & Mayhem released and partying, glitter skate style.

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 86

In which we feed the feedback, unpack the Hugo packet, and put Jane Austen on a bank note. You can get us from iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia.

What Caught Our Eye:

Twitter… the abuse of Caroline Criado-Perez

Chief Commissioner – Have a look at yourself

Mary Beard Will Tell Your Mum How You Behave on Twitter


We appreciate every email sent to us, even if we very rarely do this thing we are doing, and read them out. But this time we did that thing!

Culture Consumed:

Alex: Eternal Flame, Greg Egan; the rest of the Alanna books, Tamora Pierce; Pacific Rim

Tansy: Hugo packet reading – short story, novelette, novella, also Splendid Chaps Seven/Religion, & new social justice pop culture Aussie blog No Award.

Alisa: Hugo Packet including novels

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 85

In which we talk about gender stuff in publishing and gaming, Alex votes in the Hugos and Alisa’s thesis starts coming together. A good week! You can get us from iTunes or over at Galactic Suburbia.

Caught Our Eye

Sexism in genre publishing: A Publisher’s Perspective

JK Rowling and Robert Galbraith – An Open Letter to Writers & Would Be Writers

The Mary Sue & gaming culture: What we aren’t talking about when we talk about inclusion and representation, and what we are

Culture Consumed:

Alex: Hugo reading (novellas and novelettes)

Alisa: Publishing and Reading as Dissent: Resistance, Literary Tourism and Arsenal Press, Casey Stepaniuk (The Word Hoard Vol 1, Issue 1)

Tansy: Alanna the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, All-New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men, Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen; Red Sonja #1 by Gail Simone; Much Ado About Nothing!

The Galactic Suburbia Road Trip – we have fun over at the SF Signal Mind Meld!

Tansy’s review of The Other Half of the Sky is up at the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Kaaron Warren won a Shirley Jackson for “Sky”!

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Some Hugo thoughts

I’ve been doing reading towards voting in the Hugo Awards, so these are some thoughts on what I’ve read recently – all in the shorter fiction categories:


“Fade to White,” Catherynne M Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012) – DAMN, man. This novelette is astonishing. Non-linear structure, with advertising copy complete with snarky editorial commentary interspersed throughout the stories of two adolescents living in a post-WW2 alternative America: alternative because things have clearly gone from defeating Germany straight to Hot War with Russia, and that war has come to American soil. Not only is this a fascinating and chilling look at the repercussions for adolescents growing up in such a world, it’s also a frightening and perceptive look at how gender and race issues might play out, too, in an America so threatened. A bit like Handmaid’s Tale in that respect. I should have talked about this one last because much as I liked Pat Cadigan’s “The Girl-Thing who Went out for Sushi” (Edge of Infinity), I think this gets my vote.

“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications) – a really lovely story. One of those stories that uses a fantastical idea but makes it normal (well, ish) in the society: in this case, a boy made of glass. The eponymous character is regarded as a freak for having no shadow; the two form a friendship based on their bizarreness. This is poignant and lovely; I’m very happy I got to read it

“In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire (Self-published) – I read the first October Daye book and was completely unimpressed. I had no idea that this was connected to that series until I saw someone mention it on Goodreads. So, with no background at all, I actually really liked this story. Selkie stories are so hot right now (and it’s pretty funny reading this after recently reading Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories are for Losers,” which I adored) – this one felt like it did something a bit new with the mythology, which I enjoyed.

“Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire ( A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean). Meh. Cat-fae in 1660s London.


After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications) – totally my pick. Again with the non-linear structure, as the title suggests. Bits of the story happen in a world recognisably our own where one of the main characters is trying to figure out a series of kidnappings. Bits of it happen in a very weird future world where some cataclysm has occurred and a small remnant population is trying to get on with. And there’s a bit during the fall as well, of course… and by that stage everything has started to come together, and both of the main characters really make sense and are utterly captivating. Very, very nice.

The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications) – haven’t managed to finish it yet. Possibly shouldn’t therefore comment.

On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press) – I don’t know anything about this universe of de Bodard’s, so I have no idea whether I’ve missed important character references or whatever. Nonetheless the story was highly engaging, and made basic sense – war isn’t hard to understand, and the repercussions for refugees are of course familiar. The intricacies of family entanglements are taking to an extreme and fine degree, but again the basic notion isn’t hard to grasp. It’s beautifully written and very absorbing.

San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Mira Grant (Orbit) – have not read, won’t bother because I haven’t read the Newsflesh series (and don’t like zombies).

“The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012) – interesting idea. Would have been a whole lot better if it wasn’t transparently a Galileo/scientists in general vs Catholic Church story, with little effort to develop an interesting take on the religion.

So, for what it’s worth – those are some of my thoughts!


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