Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My favorite looks back at 2015 of 2015

Well, another year has gone by, and at the end of that year, a month has gone by, and boy what a month it's been for blog posts initially just looking back at what were then the past eleven months and then, just when you thought the round-ups couldn't get any more rich, at the past eleven-and-a-half months until today, when posts began to appear looking back at a whopping eleven-and-30/31sts months. I thought I'd take the time to look over some of the very best looks back at 2015 of 2015.

See below for Aargh posts this year (plus 2015 recommendations in the new Interzone, & I wrote two bits of fiction: here & here)

Roundups, Recaps, Recollections, Reccs, Reccies & Wrecks

1. More sort of "What I Wrote"-ish

Carrie Patel
Natalie Luhrs
Sofia Samata
Emma Newman
Susan Gray
Alyssa Wong (recap & sneak preview also see eligibility post)
Peter Newman's filler episode (I love filler episodes, bring back filler episodes)
Fran Wilde
Rose Lemberg
Amal El-Mohtar
NK Jesmin
Cat Rambo
Bogi Takács
A.C. Wise
E. Catherine Tobler
Isabel Yap
Nin Harris
Alexis A. Hunter
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Sunil Patel
Andrea Phillips
Arkady Martine
Kate Elliott
Carmen Maria Machado
JY Yang: the year I quit writing
Sarah Chorn
Mur Lafferty

2. More sort of "What I Read"-ish + misc. / uncategorized

Another busy copyright year
Nina Allan
Fran Wilde
Peter Sutton's books read in 2015
Joseph Tomaras's worst book of 2015 (plus year in review plus Tentative Nebula Nominations)
Joanne Hall ("The Year in Reading Stats")
Andrew Liptak / io9
Ken MacLeod
Books Ethan Robinson read in 2015
Strange Horizons (incl. like Nina Allan, Sofia Samatar, Carmen Maria Machado, Abigail Nussbaum, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Paul Kincaid, Christina Scholz, Aishwarya Subramanian & many more)
Adam Roberts / Guardian (notable pubs in 2015)
Elizabeth / Books & Pieces (YouTube)
Three books that disappointed Nick Mamatas this year
Jeff VanderMeer (facing the wrong direction: looking forward to 2016) (see also)
Rosie Oliver (likewise)
Yoon Ha Lee (favorite new-to-Yoon books of 2015)
Jodie's Reading Roundup at Lady Business
Sofia Samatar's books read in 2015
Cecily Kane ("Obligatory year in review/awards recommendation post. Virtually all I read was short fiction and nonfiction, so at least it’s brief!")
Ian Sales (books / films / albums experienced in 2015)
Charles Payseur
Books loved by Kat Howard in 2015
Abigail Nussbaum (Best Books of 2015)
SJ Higbee's Outstanding Reads of 2015
Rinn's Top Reads of 2015
Peter Tennant's Best in Class

Come home 2015, you're drunk. Please come home. We need you. We need you.

*   *   *

Earlier: Aargh in 2015

Listicles Updated
SFF about gamification
SFF about economics

New Genres Invented in 2015
Utopian Science Fiction
Not the Chosen One
See also earlier new genres

Hypotheses Hypothed in 2015
See also three mini-theses on epic fantasy and raceThesis on Witches' Cats, earlier hypotheses

Naming Names
Benedict Cumberbatch
George Lucas's Luke Skywalker (according to Samuel Delany)
Emma Newman's Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver (in progress)
Neal Stephenson's Bobby Shaftoe
Ann Leckie's Justice of Toren One Esk Nineteen 
Ursula LeGuin's Ged
Ursula LeGuin's Shevek
Cory Doctorow's Buhle
Tom Pollock's Parva "Pen" Khan 
Tom Pollock's Beth Bradley (& one more, probably Reach, still to do from the same book)
Lucy (incl. e.g. Amal El-Mohtar's Lucyite)
Samuel Beckett's Winnie

Full text of "It's OK to Say if You Went Back in Time to Kill Baby Hitler"
Acknowledgements for "The Internet of Things Your Mother Never Told You"
Excerpt from "Interpellation" (in progress)

(See also Games tab)
Drama & Dice - free, generic, rules-lite tabletop RPG
Dreams & Dystopias - a free diceless tabletop RPG (in progress) which uses Chess mechanics (& Reddit thread)
Daiquiris & Demigods - free, generic, rules-lite tabletop RPG that uses drinking instead of dice
Signal-boosted call for submissions: How to Win at Ultravision
Sad Chess (Ten Laws is out of print for now, but email me if you want a pdf)
Sample campaign material, since been incorporated into Daiquiris & Demigods as an appendix
Skycrawl: text-based RPG created in Twine (in progress)
See also Sad PuppiesExcerpt from "Interpellation", excerpt from "Integration"gamification SFF listicle (updated)

Disjecta Membra
Hinkley Point
Star Wars tweak
Crouching Dire Haggis, Hygge Grue
Lady Windermere's Chatterbutler
From a WIP (Swift / 1001 Nights)
Jonesing (see also Nugget of Pratchettology)
The Gold Touch
Excerpt from Popular Magic
Excerpt from How to Behave

Writing, Narrative, SFF Studies, SFF Poetics
Today, Tomorrow - a talk on near future sf (direct link)
Story Sludge Redux - link to a Galen Strawson article, plus an attack on stories
Marxist Science Fiction - "... while science fiction studies has got comfortable with the idea that science fiction doesn't predict the future, the study of future-predicting practices has started investigating the ways in which they are science fiction ..."
What is a spoiler?
Also, how would you ever know how long it took you to write a book?

Economics / Money
Unequal Pricing - long post loosely based on Georg Simmel's "perfect money" thought experiment
Quick thought about Carl Menger and the social construction of economic value
Thesis on Witches' Cats
See also Note on Mieville's The City & The City, Sales-Fieconomics SFF listicle (updated)
& elsewhere: Economic Humanities scrapbook

Notes on Terry Pratchett
Nugget of Pratchettology - toward the establishment of Pratchett Studies
The ambivalent figure of the pig not-pig in Terry Pratchett's Thud!
What kind of satire is the Discworld?

Other Reviews / Notes
Sales-Fi: on David D. Levine's "Tk'tk'tk" and Cory Doctorow's "Chicken Little" (in progress)
Naomi Foyles's Seoul Survivors
Lauren Beukes's Moxyland

BristolCon - links to reports, my report on the last bit
BristolCon Fringe with Joanne Hall and Jonathan L. Howard
WorldCon 2017 site selection ballot
See also Happy Puppies

Publishing, Publicizing, Social Media
Star Star Star Star Star - a collapsing nebula of questions about reviews and ratings
What counts as "published"?
Elsewhere: five suggestions for Making Twitter Better
Podcasts - any recommendations?
Elsewhere: my Patreon
See also Happy Puppies

Prizes, Voting, Democracy
BSFA nomination process suggestion: six per member? (& see also BSFA & Hugo noms ruminations. Can you nominate a blog label?)
My Obligatory Eligibility Post
Thoughts on Eligibility Posts - if you believe in #dontselfreject, then don't let your vote get split either
Hugo Nomination Ruminations (& Nebula murmuration)
Happy Puppies: my suggestion for an improved voting system (for the Hugos or any literary prize)
Quick Hugo Thought & Stupid Obvious Hugo Question
Sketch for a new bottom-up SFF award, friendly to indie publishing
PR under FPTP: "hacking" the existing parliamentary to emulate direct democracy, probably catastrophically

link list, and some thoughts on epic fantasy and race
Big list of some short SFF I liked in 2014
See also gamification SFF (updated), economics SFF (updated)

Will try to do better next year :/

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fuck Grimdark

Cecily Kane's Storify, Fuck Grimdark.

I haven't read a lot of Grimdark.

Two quick questions (to myself really):

* How does something like Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, or even Cervante's Don Quixote, dovetail with Grimdark? I.e. how should Grimdark be located within the larger history of chivalries and cynicisms?

* Does Mary Gentle's Ash (2000) ever get mentioned in the context of Grimdark? It doesn't have a presiding spirit of nihilism or anything like that. But it has a lot of horrible, entirely unromantic violence. It has some rape. It has a lot of dragging chivalric romance into the mundane details of managing a company of mercenaries. It has, alongside the telepathic pyramids, a lot of gratuitous realism. It has nihilistic and morally ambiguous characters, and dry sarcasm. It has people shitting themselves and things like that. I see two possibilities:

(a) it is Grimdark, and if the Grimdark canon is expanded with a few more works like it, suddenly it's more interesting and complex than its critics have been hitherto justified in says; OR
(b) perhaps fans of Grimdark aren't being entirely honest about what defines the genre?

But I haven't read a lot of Grimdark.

Pre-1950 Utopias and Science Fiction by Women

An annotated reading list of online editions, created by @MMOckerbloom. Cool resource, via @Sybylla_.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

And I Nearly Spoiled Myself

"If you don't want to negate the proairetic code, look away now."

One of the things I'd like to write, although it's a bit down the list, is something academic on literary critical terms which are used by SFF fans and writers but don't have wide circulation within academia. Any suggestions, by the way? Reboot, genderflip, relatable, squee, fangirl/fanboy, awesome, a thing. (Maybe even problematic, which has different nuance in academic contexts).

But for me the most intriguing term is spoiler. Academics don't use the term much. Or at least, it can be something of a boundary-stone, a word that suggests that the writer isn't in full scholarly mode.

What's the first spoiler you can remember? I remember mine very clearly. It was inflicted on me by my high school English teacher about sixteen or seventeen years ago. I could actually deduct weregild stars from him now if I wanted to. In our first class on Measure for Measure, he explained the entire plot of the play.

No spoiler alert, you guys.

The pedagogy behind it was quite sensible, and he was quite open about it: Shakespeare's language is difficult to understand. We were about to slowly read through the play over the course of the term, and it would be best if we were thinking about detailed meaning line-by-line -- well, some lines -- not getting distracted by detecting, assembling, remembering and/or anticipating the play's plot.

There was what I now suspect to be a faint air of New Criticism about this teaching tactic: as if the plot structure was really a bit like a biographical sketch, something pupils would seize on as an external proxy for the play itself; and/or something that would license all kinds of tangential rants about "issues arising" from the play, instead of the play itself. But damn, I still felt the dismay of luminosity extinguished. And I still think I must have been on to something.

You can spoil a joke. Why shouldn't you be able to spoil a play? (See Note 1).

Adam Roberts's meticulous Force Awakens review awakens with a brief meditation on spoilers. Critics such as Roberts, Key and Peele, and Portlandia must also be on to something. Spoiler panic is not just a techno-sociological trend driven by the shift from simultaneous broadcasts to on-demand webcasting, more intense fandom connectivity, and algorithmically curated social media intent on surfacing "content" it tactlessly imagines is "relevant" to you.

Spoiler panic does tell us something important -- spoiler alert, I don't know quite what it is! -- about this cultural moment, and about the virtues and vices of cultural production and consumption. It reflects, perhaps, certain mutations in what Barthes called the proairetic and the hermeneutic codes. It reflects certain rebalancings and redivisions of how we do collective imaginings: what kinds of things we expect to be imagined/hoped/desired/feared/etc. for us so, that we can imagine/hope/desire/fear/etc. certain other kinds of interwoven things.

I suspect, for instance, that it indicates shifts in how we react to character death. But park that for now.

The hunch I want to follow here is this. I suspect that spoiler panic indicates shifts in where we tolerate certain kinds of -- for want of a better term -- recreational avant-gardeism. Formal innovation, as well as political content, and satiric relief, are largely outsourced to post-post production. The Force Awakens and then The Farce Awakens: with a big cultural-economic event like a new Star Wars, the primary cultural producers of the event have a stake in providing appropriate grist to the mills of secondary tier of freelance remixers, parodists, shippers, pundits, curators, conspiracy theorists, fansplainers, Photoshoppers and general meme-makers. Maybe Star Wars: The Force Awakens is actually one of the weirdest and creative and most risky and hit-and-miss Star Wars yet, but only if you count the post-post production. Of course, we tend not to count it, so we're probably left just making the assessment that The Force Awakens is stylish but derivative. We don't really have a critical vocabulary for how well it handles the knowledge that it will also be derived from.

I am interested in that post-post production space, of course, including the role that spoilers play in managing it. But lots of people are talking about Internet culture and remix culture. And what I'm actually more interested in is what spoilers might reveal about changes within that traditional production space. How the productive responsibilities and affordances and pitfalls are altered for J. J. Abrams et al. by the presence of an "audience" whose cultural fruitfulness matches or overpowers their own. (See Note 2).

After all, we would probably be skeptical of a big budget movie like The Force Awakens if it started trying to do the things that the secondary, symbiotic cultural producers are so good at doing. It would be a bit Jar-Jarring, really. There is already a kind of expertise or at least proficiency implied whenever a cultural producer recognizes where their remit ends, and crowdcomplexification starts. So I'm interested in how, if you're a big cultural producer, in order to plant the right seeds, you need to cultivate knowledge of what's growing there already.

Or in other words.

How does the spoiler relate to the anti-spoiler -- to those fragments of prior knowledge that supply, rather than stifle, the audience's pleasure and other libidinal investments? It's as if a spoiler is a subatomic particle which implies another kind of particle, the anti-spoiler, whose existence has yet to be experimentally proven.

Could we say that, if this is a cultural moment where the influence of spoilers is weirdly gigantic within consumption, it is also a cultural moment where the influence of anti-spoilers is weirdly gigantic in production? The Marvel Cinematic Universe is partly an enormous exercise in quasi-improvisational foreshadowing, AKA, the mass production of anti-spoilers. The importance of anti-spoilers is also particularly clear with Abrams et al. -- goodness, this has just turned into another fucking Star Wars post hasn't it, ha ha! -- because Abrams et al. had an unusually narrowly circumscribed forest in which to hunt for anti-spoilers: it is about 70% Episodes IV, V and VI; 10% Episodes I, II and III; 10% EU and SW fandom penumbra; 10% Misc. Essentially the first three Star Wars movies contain anti-spoilers for The Force Awakens.

One way of thinking about the anti-spoiler is, of course, as a constituent of genre literacy -- perhaps a little like what TV Tropes calls a "trope." A trope is an atom of culture. Just because it's citational doesn't mean it's trite. It could be trite, of course. But it doesn't necessarily have to get subverted, "averted" or "lampshaded" to avoid that triteness -- the way it works as an ingredient is highly relational, depending on how all the other ingredients fit around it, as well as the minutiae of its own execution.

Spoilers, like anti-spoilers, and perhaps also like "tropes," have a peculiar aura of apodicticity. When they've happened, they've happened. You can't unknow a spoiler, can you? And you can't degrade the validity of a semiotic code: it's there, "behind" the pattern of more or less valid meanings, structuring meaning in the first place. Here's a little discussion I had once with Sam (whose Guilty But Insane is a spoiler-respecting academic book about crime fiction, btw) which is still totally a running joke with us:

"And at the end she's dead. Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead!"
"-- haven't seen it --"
"... or is she?!"

Suggestion for a First World Problem charity: Fake Spoilers Society. They go around spreading their damn beautiful fake spoilers till they're really, really prevalent. So if you've picked up a spoiler somewhere, you have the glimmer of hope it's one of the fake ones.

*   *   *

*   *   *

Some final thoughts / questions.

Is "buzz," whether deliberately marketed or not, another kind of anti-spoiler? How about the salt-sugar/sugar dialectic of popcorn and fizzy drinks?

Does "spoiler" relate at all to the notion of spoiling a child or a pet, perhaps via treating it with a kind of supposedly pathological sensitivity?

Is literary criticism, insofar as it is meant to illuminate and/or enrich its objects, a kind of post factum anti-spoiler?

What's the difference between a fake spoiler and an anti-spoiler? And can you have a fake anti-spoiler and/or an anti-anti-spoiler? What is the ultimate Antman ante-despoiler? What is the good life?

If an anti-spoiler is a kind of knowledge, maybe a spoiler is actually some kind of loss or lack of knowledge? It is a tempting thought. To be able to do something is a kind of knowledge, a savoir faire. To be able to enjoy a book is surely a kind of knowledge. Why is it that certain people can re-read and re-read certain books, and be entirely invested and immersed in them, despite knowing everything down to a fine grain?

Spoilers as illocutionary acts?

I have been saying "we" a lot. Perhaps readers are individuated by what counts as a spoiler. I mean, they definitely are: but perhaps that's a good way of individuating them, a way which maps instructively onto the categories of intersectional analysis: class, gender, et al. This what starts to get the discussion a little political. What is the relationship between possessing an armamentarium of anti-spoilers -- all that prior tacit knowledge which turns on the pleasure tap, which helps the text to just flow over you -- and the inalienable, constitutive experience which we try to recognize by honoring people's self-identification with larger groups? And what is the relationship between a spoiler and a GamerGate bro's experience of a woman or a person of color in a particular role "spoiling" a game for him?

*  *  *

Note 1: Hypothesis. Spoilers are real. Exposure to one typically quite short text (the spoiler) can render a reader who was previously capable of fully realizing part or all of a second typically longer narrative text (the book or movie or whatever) in some sense incapable. Why, how, what are the implications? By repute, stories are rather toward the "immortal" end of the spectrum. Does this fragility of fruitful relationships between text and reader actually require us to re-assess what is going on when a story is read, or when someone is absorbed or enchanted by it? Are spoilers real because learning is dialectically implicated with stupefaction, as explored by Natalie Pollard and Keston Sutherland and others? And if spoilers are real, how good are we at recognizing them? Could we be systematically mistaken about them in some ways? How reliable an instrument is introspection? When someone tells you something that "sounds like a spoiler" while insisting it isn't, how do you feel about it, and what happens to your experience of the text? How do spoilers fit in with Kant's suggestion about the universal communicability of aesthetic judgment? If you can't prove to me that Jessica Jones is boring by rational argument, but you can actually make it boring for me, and you and I share a structure which makes it possible for you to do that, what would Kant make of that? How do spoilers relate to, for instance, eye-gouging?

Note 2: These are such crude distinctions. What I'm really interested in is how "suitability for the remix-o-sphere" plays out at as a quality of the interface between the text and the audience in the first instance, rather than (or as well as) how a movie literally begins to accumulate all kinds of interesting detritus. And how "suitability for the remix-o-sphere" takes on an ethical dimension, something to do with exemplifying the virtues of public speech. Maybe something to do with sovereignty. Hmm. Captain America: Civil War drops in 2016. Carl Schmitt, as far as I am aware, did not argue that the Sovereign is "he who decides the spoiler." Perhaps the circumstances of the contemporary large cultural producer, mindful of its hyperproductive prosumers, can be considered a kind of sovereignty, with a Hobbesy/Schmitty vibe to it: Marvel and/or Disney and/or Whoever is the sovereign insofar as it decides the exception, making slight, lumbering veers from established tropes, ideally to keep one particular version of the peace, and ensure the collective prosperity of innumerable private actors. Marvel and/or Disney and/or Whoever is the sovereign insofar as it decides the spoiler: what goes in the trailer is by definition a "glimpse" not a "spoiler." If you feel it spoiled the movie for you personally, you can't appeal to Heaven for legitimacy: although if everybody agrees, you could maybe reboot your fandom's social contract.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

BSFA noms

Just real quick: haven't fully checked out eligibility etc. but will probably nominate Sandra Newman, Country of Ice Cream Star, Adam Roberts, Rave & Let Die, Steve Aylett, Heart of the Original & others tba. Here is the list of suggestions (& here is where you can suggest eligible works).
Might try to squeeze in some haphazard short fiction reading before the end of the year: AC Wise has a pretty intriguing looking list & Ethan Robinson looked at hundreds of stories in half the year. Nina Allan has some short sf recommendations and some great non-fiction recommendations (to which you should add something by Nina Allan).

Update: Oops, Ice Cream isn't actually eligible -- seems to have been published in 2014 in the UK and 2015 in the US. I wonder about the eligibility of Adam Roberts's The Thing Itself, which was published at the very end of 2015 but says it was published in 2016? (UPDATE: It's on the longlist). Also have fixed the AC Wise link, and this from Wise is a hella useful hub.

Update: Okay, I have to admit the BSFA process confused me a bit. I am easily confused. I think this is how it works, although I sound kind of paranoid and weird even to myself.

Suggestions and round one
There is a window for both suggestions and nominations from 1 September to 31 December. Anyone can suggest anything, so long as it is eligible. Suggestions are different from nominations. You don't have to be a BSFA member to suggest something. Suggestions basically go into a big crowdsourced eligibility list, which is this Googledoc spreadsheet. Updates are more-or-less live. You could suggest your own writing if you want to. You make these suggestions using this form.

At the same time as suggestions are being gathered, BSFA members can make up to four round one nominations in each category. This is done using the form at the bottom of this page. I assume (but I can't find anything to confirm it) that the output will be a longlist of all nominations received, in order of popularity. Perhaps it will also say exactly how many people nominated each work. (UPDATE: No, it's just a big list in alphabetical order).

Round two
Then, from 1 January to 31 January, BSFA members can vote for works on the longlist to determine what actually gets onto the ballot. I'm not sure how that works: perhaps each member has four unranked votes per category, or perhaps some other system. (UPDATE: yep, the four votes thing). I assume the output will be a ballot of five works per category (unless there are ties, and/or some of the most-nominated five works get fewer than the minimum of three second round votes each). The form and the instructions will appear when they are needed, on the same page which currently hosts the round one nominations form.

Then the shortlist is assembled for each categories, the ballots are sent out, and BSFA members have until Eastercon (in April) to vote using a ranked preference system.

If I have got it right, there are some things I quite like about it. It's useful to throw a wide net at the suggestions stage. Then seeing the slightly more filtered longlist might be productive and fun: if there are some much-nominated things you've never heard of, you've got enough time to check them out; if something absolutely fantastic has slipped onto the lower reaches, you might have time to hose everyone down with your zeal. (UPDATE: the first bit holds true, but not really the second bit, since it's not in order of popularity after all).

An obvious question is how it would stand up to Puppy-style slating etc., though the UK doesn't really do that, or school shootings, in quite the same way yet. While we're at it, here's my proposal for reforming the Hugos. Last year, when there was only one round of BSFA nominations, I suggested four nominations per member was too few: with a small membership, and diffuse voting in the short story category, only three stories got three or more nominations. (I think that's what happened). The tweaks this time round should go some way to fixing that, if people who nominated the lower reaches in round one generally drift toward the upper reaches in round two, or seriously drum up support for their original nominations. We'll see. Maybe Marine le Pen will do really well on the longlist, but not on the shortlist. (The BSFA don't seem to be using the word "longlist," so some of this may be wrong. (UPDATE: OK, now everyone's talking about the "longlist")).

tl;dr: I think I like the new system!

Update: I've already made my noms but it just occurred to me, too late, that maybe I should have nominated this post, by Édouard Brière-Allard, a fairly numbingly persnickety and studious response to Laura J. Mixon's even more numbingly persnickety and studious Hugo-winning take-down of the collected trolls and criticism of Requires Hate. Whatever you think of the controversy, or wherever you are placed in it, or whatever personal suffering you've -- oh Gawd, I can't really avoid bringing this up without having a Stance, can I? For what it's worth, I've no clue how to navigate the huge mass of claim and counterclaim, and I basically just tend to fall back on the heuristic that Requires Hate's politics feel far more sensible to me than what I reasonably presume Mixon's politics are, together with the presumption that the conflict was surely political as well as interpersonal and/or literary-critical and/or about "how you should treat people" -- the three of us should hang out and get to the bottom of it! -- so, whatever you think of the controversy, it's possible you might admire Brière-Allard's handling of the overblown and Grand-Guignol idiom of contemporary online social justice, and the bewilderment or bad faith in which it is frequently received by liberals, and his gently relentless dismantling of Mixon's scientism and tacit claims to objective systematicity. Of course, it's a sly piece too: because its own scientism can always be disavowed as a knowing, quasi-satiric pseudo-scientism. Anyway, like a lot of us, I was brought up to believe that you can always show any tacit claim to objective systematicity to be hooey, but I think Brière-Allard has gone ahead and done it here.

But I don't know? -- I guess the only good I can really imagine coming from Brière-Allard's piece sliding onto the BSFA longlist, or even the ballot shortlist, would be if it got a few more hits, but maybe not gazillions, and if the piece's getting mildly valorized were mediated through that fairly pervasive, though probably not pervasive enough, USian perception of British eccentricity, where that perception is intermixed with a vague suspicion that those Brits might just be onto something, with their Monty Python and their anarchism and their Grimes and their NHS, as well as with the concrete comfort that if they are onto something, it will never matter, because they will always insist on "communicating" it through the discursive equivalent of a post-supernova star collapsing in under its own gravity and, especially, its own awkwardness. Because if it weren't softened in some way, it might just be reviving old griefs and fanning the wrong kind of flames. Oh I'm just vice-signalling here basically. (UPDATE: it's on the longlist).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Names in SFF #12: Luke Skywalker

From Samuel R. Delany's review of Star Wars which appeared in Cosmos Science Fiction and Fantasy in 1977:

"Etymologists take note: the relation between Lucas and Luke is obvious. But note too that the name George comes from the Greek work [word] georgos: farmer, i.e., "earth man," or "earth walker." George Lucas / Luke Skywalker, dig? The film is a blatant and self-conscious autobiographic wish fulfillment on the part of its ingenious director.


"In addition to the play Lucas makes on his own name to generate Luke, the very texture and play of the film tells us Lucas would like to live in the future. Whatever the lessons this future has to teach us, about good and evil, about growing up or accepting courage, no matter how painful or unpleasant those lessons, this future is seen as a good place to learn them, a place where one will have a chance to apply them. It is not the future so many sf films depict, where things are so inhibited that, even if we learn something about life, we never have a chance to utilize that knowledge -- short of the place's falling completely to pieces within seventy-two hours of our learning it. And assuming we are lucky enough [to] survive. In short, there are many ways in which Star Wars is a very childlike film. This is to the good.

"[...] wouldn't that future have been more interesting if, say, three-quarters of the rebel pilots just happened to have been Oriental women -- rather than just the guys who didn't make it onto the Minnisota Ag. football team. [...] In the film world in the present, the token woman, token black, or what-have-you, is clearly propaganda, and even the people who are supposed to like that particular piece of it smile their smiles with rather more tightly pursed lips than is comfortable. In a science fiction film, however, the variety of human types should be as fascinating and luminous in itself as the variety of color in the set designer's paint box. Not to make use of that variety, in all possible combinations, seems an imaginative failure of at least the same order as not coming up with as interesting sets as possible.

In any case, Star Wars is a delight. (For those people who like literary parallels, it brings the sf up to about the Lensmen stage.) But perhaps the most delightful thing about it is that it brings so forcefully to the imagination the possibility of sf films that are so much better in precisely the terms that Star Wars itself has begun to lay out."

SFF names #11: Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver
SFF names #10: Bobby Shaftoe
SFF names #9: Justice of Toren One Esk Nineteen
SFF names #8: Ged
SFF names #7: Shevek
SFF names #6: Buhle
SFF names #5: Parva "Pen" Khan
SFF names #4: Beth Bradley
SFF names #3: Rumpelstiltskin
SFF names #2: Lucy
SFF names #1: Winnie

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New Genre Wednesdays: Utopian Science Fiction

I have invented a new kind of science fiction which I am calling "utopian" science fiction after its inspiration, Thomas More's Utopia.

Utopian science fiction is a very open-ended genre, except that it must include some complaining about how difficult it is to be a courtier nowadays, a whole bit about the best way to punish thieves, and an argument between a friar and a jester.

Toward the end of utopian sf some of the characters may go on holiday somewhere nice.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hustley Tuesdays: Storybundle

One of my favorite things pubbed in 2015 was Berit Ellingsen's Not Dark Yet. It's part of Ann & Jeff VanderMeer's "Winter Mixtape" Storybundle, which also has stuff by Eugen Egner, Leena Krohn, Michael Cisco and many others. And which is pay-what-you-want-but-you-want-to-pay-$15. Here's a review of Not Dark Yet by Bruno George.



Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New Genre Wednesdays: The Not Chosen One

In the first act, an apparently normal teen discovers that unlike pretty much every other teen, they don't have any special ability, mutant power, magic destiny, eldritch lineage, extradimensional familiar, or the like.

In the second act, this apparently normal and also actually normal teen, who is fortunate enough to be untroubled by the numerous ethical, emotional, physiological, logistical and ontological supernormal problems facing most of this teen's peers, in relation to their abilities, powers, destinies and so forth, untroubled by supernormal problems including, but certainly not limited to, the existence of various nemesis figures with approximately equal although different supernormal abilities, powers, destinies and so forth, and who is fortunate enough to be instead troubled only by a range of normal problems, many of which can be rapidly be teased out by in a quick account of the teen's geography, legal situation, physical and mental health, wealth, sociological class, gender, education, race, religion, sexuality, familial and wider care context, and other such identity characteristics, finds that they are able, through having been so curiously skipped by all supernormal attributes, to actually work wonders upon the world, wielding quite extraordinary influence, and imposing their will by a variety of incrementally accumulating mundane means, and generally eventually improving the lives of everybody in the universe, and the lives of those closest to the teen, and their own personal life, probably either in that order of priority, or the reverse.

In the third act, it becomes apparent that this teen's power is actually "the power of having no power at all," which brings with it an attendant set of ethical, emotional, physiological, logistical and ontological supernormal problems, more-or-less undoing all the gains which were made in the second act, such that the lives touched by the teen are eventually restored to about the level they were at the opening of the short novel, and then, within the very last one or two chapters, start to slide into a still worse condition.

Obligatory Eligibility Post

In 2015 I authored the following Hugo-eligible listicles, playlists and thought lists:

Top Ten Meta-Meta Listicle Entries of 2015
Top Ten Just in Case You Know this Isn't Real Right of 2015
Top Ten Utopias It Would Just Be Okay but Nothing Special to Go Live in of 2015
Top Ten Titles that Look Really Weird if You Lowercase All Articles, Conjunctions and Prepositions of 2015
Ten Unbelievable Hexes which these High Fantasy Authors ACTUALLY Predicted! of 2015
Top Ten Indistinguishabilities of Magic and Technology of 2015
The Ten Least Influential SF Writers of 2015
Top Ten Republican Presidential Candidates of 2016 of 2015
Top Ten Recommended This Actual Specific Blog This One My Own Blog The One Called Aaaargh Or Something of 2015
Greatest Ten Popes of 2015
Top Ten Algae Bear Batchelards of 2015
Best Ten BristolCons of 2015
Greatest LonCon 2014 of 2015
Top Ten Animals That It Would Be Great If They Came Up To Bernie Sanders In A Rally Sometime Next Year of 2015
Greatest Ten Bristols of 2015
Top Infinite Ook Vloggers of 2015
Top Ten Glitterbombed Bards of 2015
Top Ten "Did You See Which Way That Elf Ran? / You're Only Lying To Yourself Fam"s of 2015
Recommended Greatest Ten Proposed Hugo Awards Nomination Systems of 2014 You Have to Try of 2015
Recommended Top Ten Interzones of 2015
Recommended Top Ten Tor.coms of 2015
Recommended Top Tentacles of 2015
Greatest Ever Ten Flights of Rapturous Passion Formally Arranged as Debunking of Thomas Piketty of 2015 of all time of 2015
Top Ten of Some Thing it is Hard to Imagine Experiencing More than about Ten Instances of During a Single Year of 2015
Top Ten NaNoWriMos no not a Book Written Then the Actual Month Itself Top Ten of Those in 2015
Top Ten Non-Complications of Sexual Consent of 2015
Top Ten No-Longer-Honored Racist Heads of 2015
Top Ten Remember Poetry of 2015
Top Ten Books of 2015 that were Published after Final Top Ten Books of 2015 List Was Finally Finalized
Top Ten Somewhat Quick Attribution of Trollhoods of 2015
Greatest Ten Suffixes for Troll to Suggest in One Word the State of Being a Troll of 2015
Top Ten Identity Characteristics Excluding Economic Class of 2015
Top Ten Nuggets of News Discovered in Actual Mainstream Newspapers like Some Kind of Ultra-Rare Drop Items in Some Kind of MMORPG of 2015
Top Ten Cory Doctorows of 2015
Best Ten Women Writers (plus one bonus fella-legion!) of 2015
Top Ten Twelve Tomorrowses 2016 with Only Eleven Tomorrows in Them of 2015
Best Ten Movies of 2015
Top Ten Names of ISIS in 2015
Ten Unmissable Trojan Relatabilities of 2015
Top Ten Elif Batumans of 2015
Top Ten Jules Verne Diesels of 2015
Top Ten Purposeless Advisory Nuggets from a Suctionless Nan of 2015
Favorite Ten Liberticides of 2015
Top Ten Small Back Gardens whose Most Rotting Qualities Strike Your Heart in a Moment of Generalized Sensory Derangement as a Kind of "Blossoming" of "Winter Foliage" this "Winter Foliage" Comprising Mud and Desiccated but Soaking Plant Matter of 2015
Top Ten Non-Twitters of 2015
Top Ten Forrealthoughs of 2015
Ten Unmissable Social Atomizations of 2015
Top Ten Neutropic Noons of 2015
Greatest Ten Handfuls of Nuts before Morning Ketamine Yoga of 2015
Top Ten Newmans of 2015
Greatest Ten Netflix Passwords of 2015 of All Time
Top Ten Views of the Time of 2015
Unbeatable Ten Named Unnameables of 2015
Favorite Ten Groups of Ten Steve Ayletts for a Total of One Hundred Steve Ayletts of 2015
All Georg Simmels Ranked from Best to Worst of 2015
Top Ten Cis Clinaman of 2015
Top Ten Lone Wolf Shooters of 2015
Top Ten Lives that Mattered in 2015
Most Perfect Ten Complete Gene Sequencing of a Micro-Aggression of 2015
Top Ten Youtube Videos that You I Found Funnier than Anything I Had Ever Experienced in my Life and Yet Still Somehow not Funny Enough for the Person who was Showing them to Me in 2015
Top Ten Terry Pratchetts of 2015
Top Ten Father Goroits Joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2015 of 2015
Top Ten Qualities of 2015
Top Ten Unaccountable Euphorias of 2015
Top Ten Mortality Mornings of 2015
Best Ten Sepp Blatters of 2015
Top Ten Totally Bizarre Reviews Written by Me whose Deformations are Partly Attributable to an Exponentially Growing and Ratcheting Fear of Spoilers and whose Subjects' Authors are Moreover Almost Certainly Talking about Even the Most Unarguable of those Spoilers to their Vast Fanbases by way of Promotional Activity on Social Media at this Very Moment
Best Ten Carious Unicorns Predicted by Charlie Stross in Equiod That Actually Came True! of 2016
Top Ten Storybundles Curated by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer Featuring Among Others Berit Ellingsen and a Bestiary with Like China Mievelle of 2015
Top Ten Start-Ups Whose Idea is that Storybundle Could be Unbundled of 2015 of Dune of 2015
Best Ten Black Vein Votives of 2015
Top Ten China Mievelles of 2015
Top Ten This is When I Admit I Always Do the Acute Accent by Copy-Pasting it of 2015
Best Ten Recommended Books I Loved this Year about a Laseriferous Organelle Cocked in a Beneficent 3-Dimensionally Convex Dalek like a Little Hatching Sun in Hammock Slingshot of 2015
Top Ten OK I Don't Know Much About China Mievelle but I Did Really Really Like The City & The City & Perdito Street Station and he is a Trotskyist or at Least Leftist in Some Way but also Someone I Can't Remember Who But I Think it Was Someone whose Judgment I Trust in Such Matters Did Mention he was Problematic for Some Reason I Can't Really Remember Either so a Balanced Attitude for me to Take Given All That Is Probably to Pretty Much Contemptuously Refuse to Spell his Name Properly from Now On at Least till he Clears this Whole Thing up of 2015
Top Ten Pig Ceremonies of 2015
Top Nine Tens of 2015
Top Ten Medical Humanities of 2015
Top Ten Powers of Storytelling of 2015
Best Ten People Getting Healed by a Kind of Misunderstanding of 2015
Favorite Ten Twitters of 2015
Top Ten Grout Crystal Klout Gris-Gris of 2015
Top Ten Landscaping Change a Series of Talks, Art, Poetry, Free Wine and More Here in Bristol the Next One Being 10 December on the Theme of "Route!" of 2015
Top Ten Favorite Ideas that the Idea is Being Creative of 2015
Top Ten Raptures of Relaxation Upon Realizing How Prohibitively High the Level of Labor Required to in Good Conscience Offer an even Tentative Semi-Informed Opinion upon Some Subject of Some Pretty Serious Moment of 2015
Top Ten Contexts of 2015
Top Ten Bit Lips of 2015
Top Ten Vin Diesel Natural 20 Critical Hits of 2015
Greatest Ten Busted Superviral Satires of 2015
Top Ten Simple Laughs With Which a Seraph Fell Tremblingly Apart in 2015
Best Ten Microscopic Gills Seething on the Sensual Margin of 2015
Best Ten Bad Sex Awards of 2015
Best Ten Bad Love Awards of 2015
Top Ten a Man
Top Ten a Face
Top Ten a Bus
Top Ten Climate Chaos
Top Ten Credit
Top Ten War

As these were all published in qualifying markets, mostly National Geographic in the Murdoch era, I would appreciate if you would consider them for nomination!