11 June 2014

2014 Hugos: novelettes

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang: This story had the potential to be a cliche, but Chiang's skill avoided that. The narrator describes his somewhat estranged relationship with his daughter and relates it to a technology that allows you to record and remember everything that you've ever done. He weaves it together with a story of a young African man who learns to read and write from a Christian missionary, who discovers that the truth he learned about his tribal ancestry isn't the facts. It's an excellent look at both the advent of technology & its effect on memory and at relationships.

OVA by VD. I'm not going to type out the full name of this, because I don't want his fanclub to descend on my blog. To be quite frank, this story does not deserve to be on the Hugo ballot. The writing is like a twelve-year-old who really loves Terry Brooks or Terry Goodkind and wants to write a story just like theirs. It's painful to read, and exceptionally dull to boot.

The Waiting Stars by Aliette de Bodard: Another entry in her Dai Viet universe (aka the Xuya universe), this one is about the ship Minds and the Outsiders who separate the Minds from the ships, only that isn't quite obvious from the beginning. It's also about colonization, as many of the Xuya stories seem to be; this one is about the loss of culture and self and memory.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal: Elma is an aging former astronaut, resident on Mars, whose husband has a fatal disease and who gets a last chance to go into space on a mission that a young astronaut couldn't do. It's a story about love and aging and caring for a dying loved one.

"The Exchange Officers" by Brad Torgersen: Every time I read one of his stories, I think, "Well, maybe this one will do something for me." This isn't it. this story is about people who Operate remote-controlled spacecraft from a space station, which is then attacked by Chinese space soldiers. It is competently written, extremely dull, and jingoistic as fuck.

09 June 2014

Shatterdome Atlanta recap

It's been a week since the first con I chaired ended, and I'm mostly recovered.

It went very well. The core con com was experienced and worked well together. I bought some cute art prints from the artists in artist alley. When it was all over, I drank a lot of Scotch and also Bärenjäger. And a little bourbon.

The highlight of the con was entirely unexpected. At one point, an attendee noticed that one of the stars of Pacific Rim tweeted that he was in Atlanta. So an "everybody tweet at Rob and let him know about the con" campaign was launched. I didn't think much more about it, because as if he'd show up, right?

me, Rob Kazinsky, Ben
This is me, Rob Kazinsky, and Ben.

He showed up. He was very nice (the complete opposite of his character!), and he was a guest judge for the costume contest (which was about to start when he arrived). On behalf of LOCCENT Atlanta, thank you so much, Rob!

I want to say how nice the attendees were. It was a very supportive, friendly environment, and so many recaps on tumblr were full of appreciation for the atmosphere. We wanted to make it a safe space for everyone, and it seems to have worked. The harassment policy wasn't violated, and I haven't heard of any ickiness. This was the best part of fandom--and it was diverse. This is the future of fandom.

In a month or so, LOCCENT Atlanta will reconvene and discuss whether we want to do this again. After half of the con com gets back from their respective international trips.

02 June 2014

2014 Hugos: Ancillary Justice (novel)

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

This book got a lot of buzz when it came out. I borrowed a friend's copy recently so I could read it for the Hugos (since Orbit has decided not to put the whole book in the packet, just an excerpt).

In the far-distant future, humanity has spread throughout the galaxy. The Radchaai Empire has expanded for millennia, but the Lord of the Radch has decreed that a particular annexation will be the last.

The narrator, Breq, was present at the final annexation as the starship Justice of Toren and its ancillaries (AIs in human bodies that act as soldiers). She is separated from her ship, and when she stumbles across an old captain of hers, lying face-down in the snow, she cleans her up and drags her along on her quest.

The Radchaai language doesn't have a gendered third person pronoun, so the narrator uses she as the generic term. (Which leads to sentences like "she was probably male.") It's an interesting linguistic trick, which mostly works. Breq has trouble using the right pronouns for people when speaking languages other than Radchaai, which is too Sapir-Whorfian for me to believe. But it's an interesting conceit.

There is a lot of politics going on, which Breq is wrapped up in, of course, and it's different from your standard-issue space opera. (I like standard-issue space opera, but change is always good.) Class issues are discussed front and center several times.

It took a while for me to get into it (Leckie dumps terminology on you and expects you to run with it, which I generally find frustrating), but once it was explained how the narrator could be in multiple places at once and what Esk and Amaat and all that meant, I found it a much easier read. Then I read the hell out of it.

If you like space opera, you should definitely read this book.