Sometimes I feel like Bart Simpson when he keeps on reaching for the doughnut Lisa Simpson has electrified. Each year, I eagerly await the shortlists for the Arthur C Clarke and Hugo Awards; each year, I’m disappointed by the novels or short fiction chosen by one or both. I have already written about the Clarke (see here). I’d like The Testament of Jessie Lamb to win, but I expect Embassytown will. (Incidentally, it occurred to me reading Adam Roberts’ excellent report on the Clarke shortlist books here and here that his response to The Testament of Jessie Lamb mirrors mine to Embassytown; and vice versa. Sort of.)
Then there’s the Hugo Award shortlists…
The less said about the novel shortlist, the better. Oh, all right…
- Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)
- A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin (Bantam Spectra)
- Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)
- Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
- Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey (Orbit)
My thoughts on Leviathan Wakes are laid out quite clearly in my review on SFF Chronicles here. I am quite angry it has been shortlisted. I gave up on A Song of Ice and Fire several years ago after reading one of its humungous installments in which fuck-all happened. I gave up on epic fantasy as a genre a couple of years ago after getting sick to death of its shallowness, its use of rape as a trope, and its general lack of invention or innovation (though I will acknowledge there are some worth reading – RA McAvoy’s Lens of the World trilogy, Steph Swainston, KJ Parker, Carolyn Ives Gilman, A Princess of Roumania, for example). Deadline is the middle book of a trilogy about zombies. Zombies are passé, they have been done to, er, undeath. It’s time they were put to, um, rest. The world has moved on, it’s all krakens and sea monsters now. I think. Among Others I have heard mostly good things about, but I have not read it. And Embassytown, while I think it does not entirely succeed (see here), is probably the one book that does belong on this shortlist.
And the short fiction shortlist:
- “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E Lily Yu (Clarkesworld April 2011)
- “The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s April/May 2011) – PDF
- “Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s March 2011)
- “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2011) – PDF
- “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (Tor.com)
The Resnick is old-fashioned crap. As have been every one of his shortlisted stories in recent years. Clearly he has his fans; clearly they need to read a lot more widely. The Liu is what I think of as a “clarion-style story”. It is sentimental, uses a metaphor to illustrate its core emotional argument, and then beats that metaphor to death. I do not like such stories. The Scalzi is a jolly jape and does not belong within five thousand kilometres of a shortlist. Unless said shortlist was posted on April 1st. This one was not. Shortlisting Scalzi’s spoof does not prove that fandom has a sense of humour, it proves only that it thinks one of the best five stories written during the previous year was a stupid spoof knocked off in a weekend by a popular writer. That’s not only dumb, it’s a perversion of the whole concept of “best short story”. Nancy Fulda’s story is another “well-meaning parents try to use tech to cure autistic kid” story. There’s usually half a dozen of them published in any one year. Fulda’s is no better and no worse than most but, crucially, it brings nothing new to the trope. It’s also sentimental; I don’t like sentimental. The Yu is a piece of whimsy which threatens to mean more than it seems but never quite does so. It at least has some claim to a place on the shortlist.
My votes, had I paid to vote, would be: 1) E Lily Yu, 2) No Award.
I shall whinge about the novelettes and novellas in another post. I shall not bother with the other categories. I still don’t understand why fandom bothers with the dramatic presentation Hugos. The film and television industries have their own awards ceremony, and they spent a shitload more money on them than sf does. As for the remaining categories…
Did I say “bah humbug”? If I haven’t, take it as, er, read…