Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Music!


If this works, I have embedded a YouTube video of a couple of YouTube "stars" singing a medley of some of the best villain songs from Disney movies. As I thought they did a great job, and I don't have a Hugo review to post, I figured this was worth putting up to amuse you.

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Fan Writer - Natalie Luhrs

I'm not sure I'd ever heard of Natalie Luhrs before the Hugo finalists were announced, although the chances are good I've run across her at some point in my readings just like most of the other fan writers. I enjoyed her packet, which included a piece on Hamilton, an analysis of the Locus Recommended Reading List, a rant about people who review Romance without understanding the genre, an overview of silencing tactics, and thoughts on the World Fantasy Convention.

The Hamilton piece made me want to check out the Hamilton soundtrack, just to see what my brain will make of it. The Locus analysis reminded me why statistics are so nasty to deal with - there's just so much information there that can be read different ways. And in the comments, she notes that some people are upset because of the dataset she used. But you have to draw a line somewhere, and the Locus list is at least an accepted "best of" list in the field, even if it isn't all-inclusive. As an aside, I recognized quite a few names in the comments sections of her posts - so people I know and like follow her writings.

I didn't really understand the romance piece, except in the broadest terms - it's dumb to criticize an entire genre when you object to certain examples from it and aren't even familiar with the vast majority of the field. I don't go to the World Fantasy Convention, and probably never will, so - while I was sympathetic - I didn't really understand the specific issues she referred to except - again - in the broadest terms.

The most informative piece in her packet was probably the overview of silencing tactics, and I spent some time wondering if I'm guilty of any of them and trying to think of concrete examples that I might need to apologize for. I felt more informed coming out than I did going in, and that's a good piece of writing.

Conclusion: Yet another good writer... this is really gonna be a tough category for me to judge.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Sunday Doctor Who Review

SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT

I will be discussing my thoughts and feelings of the Doctor Who episode "The Eaters of Light" after the cut. I will not worry about spoiling the plot, so read at your own risk.

SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT

A Sunday Comic Books Review

DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Dec 21st
  • Aquaman #13 - Huh. So the Justice League tries to help but it's politics that kill the chance. I'm still seeing no real solution to this, but it's really nice to see that the league is on Arthur's side and not assuming he's gone rogue. But then, he made that point to Superman earlier in the series, didn't he? I do wonder how bringing Tula along helped at all with the Justice League. As for Mera - who's to say that doing nothing isn't the reason the prophecy comes true? The ancient Greeks had many tales of how futile it is to try to avoid fate. Just go out and do what you were going to do anyway, because otherwise you are falling into a trap.
  • Justice League #11 - I just can't get past the ridiculous premise of this book to enjoy the annoying fight scenes. In short, nothing about it impresses me. The solution - a child hacking into Amazo, makes even less sense than the rest. If this is what the Justice League is going to be like, I don't know if I want to read it any more.
  • Justice League vs Suicide Squad #1 - I find it hard to believe that Batman wasn't aware of the Suicide Squad a long time ago. I also find it a little surprising that the Justice Leagues' reaction to the team is to confront the team, and not Amanda Waller. Sure, they don't know how the criminals are being controlled, but it's evident they ARE being controlled, so confronting the Suicide Squad directly seems to be bad tactics. Then we've got the third team in this, and the once upon a good guy leading them. I sense conflict and massive fight scenes coming up.
  • Green Lanterns #13 - The history of Volthoom and Rami, the new GLs overcoming their fears, and Jessica once again showing compassion that could save the day... followed by a cliffhanger splash page of a phantom ring barf? I feel like 90% of the book is padding.
  • Teen Titans Go #19 - Sometimes I'm reminded that I'm not in the target audience for this book. This was an ok issue, but I didn't like it all that much. Ok, Robin getting stuck in a plane seat between two very large men got me cringing - not laughing - along with him, but other than that, I could take or leave it.
  • Star Trek/Green Lantern V2 #1 - We start with a new status quo from the last crossover - the lanterns are stuck in the Star Trek universe and are adjusting to new lives. It's not a bad premise, especially when one of their biggest problems is the lack of any way to recharge their rings. So this series immediately goes off to the races, and I'm actually interested in it for the moment.
  • Back To The Future #15 - This is turning out to be a complicated plot against Marty, who still hasn't figured out how to deal with memories of a timeline that doesn't exist. He's attacked by several other versions of himself - but where did they come from? There's a bit of introspection on Marty's part as he monologues to the pair, while Doc Brown is busy fighting a third one. This could have been a much shorter issue, but eh... it wasn't horrible.
  • Doctor Strange #15 - Another day, another villain, another death threat? Until all the baddies meet up and now we have to figure out who is going to kill and who is going to die. This one was actually kind of fun.
  • Doctor Who 9th #8 - Rose is arrested, which allows the Doctor to put his plan into action. Of course, Rose doesn't just sit around once she's imprisoned and with her help the plot by a for-profit defense company is turned around. After thinking about how many pieces the Doctor had to move around to get the situation he desired - well, this is the Doctor, using people sometimes unthinkingly. But hey, bonus at the end with a potential new travelling companion.
  • Doctor Who 10th #2.17 - Once again, the Doctor is ready to make a big sacrifice, but someone else has a solution he avoided looking at even as a possibility. This was a long and strange arc, and I hope it's over for good, but it was fun along the way. I wonder if we'll get new companions soon, since the story implies this pair are ready to stop travelling?
  • Torchwood #4 - My hopes that the plot of this would become clearer as the story moves along were not quite met. While some parts are becoming a little more understandable, most of the book still makes little to no sense at all.
  • Usagi Yojimbo #160 - A lovely done-in-one story with a backup feature, along with some bad news. The main story was a great little murder mystery featuring our favorite new fish-monger (did Usagi ever get his meal?) and Inspector Ishida. I love the fact that both Usagi and Toto-san recognize the knifework on the fish as a big clue. The backup, with a chibi Usagi, was very silly. And the bad news is that we won't get issue #161 until September! However, in the meantime, there will be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Usagi Yojimbo crossover in July.
  • Dec 28th
  • Titans #6 - Manhattan? Surely that doesn't mean - nah. Ok, this was a pretty straightforward tale of fighting off the baddie and Wally finding his way back home through an anchor of love. It's all fairly neat and squared off. But that word at the end, and that whole final page... interesting stuff.
  • Batman Beyond #3 - You know, I sort of doubted that was actually the Joker, but I really didn't expect the actual identity of the person there. As for the rest, nice levels of tension building up.
  • Justice League vs Suicide Squad #2 - Yup. Bad tactics on the part of the Justice League. Taking out the pawns, even super-powered pawns, is only going to give you more grief. Now, how does Batman get the league out of this mess he's created? And what kind of idiot is Waller to take the league captive?
  • Super Powers #2 - This book is awfully abrupt. I'm so used to padded storytelling that jumps like Wonder Woman suddenly appearing and rescuing Superman seem strange. I'm not sure what to make of that thought. Still, it's cute.
  • Future Quest #8 - Wow, the art is really different in this issue. I like Olivetti's art, but it's a big change from what came before. The plot is moving along nicely, with more allies finding each other and figuring out the danger. Those poor cops... shows what happens when you don't listen to superheroes.
  • Scooby-Doo Team-Up #21 - Harley Quinn. Harley. Teaming up with Scooby-Doo and friends. And giving them all new nicknames. And solving the mystery easily, because, hey, it's Harley. This was really amusing from start to finish. I particularly like Velma's logic at the end on why the Joker came after Harley. Cute.
  • Love Is Love - I'll confess. I haven't finished reading this. It's going to take me a long time to finish. The anthology is filled with one or two page stories, each one a tribute to love and acceptance. The inside front cover lists the names of the 49 people who died at the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. Many of the stories are raw emotion, which is why it's going to take me a lot longer to finish reading this. The introduction is by Patty Jenkins, who directed Wonder Woman. The writers and artists involved are literally a who's who of the comics industry. The money from the book benefits the survivors. If you haven't got a copy, you should go get one. If you have one, keep it handy and reread it every once in awhile. We all need a reminder of love.
And that's the end of 2016's comic books! I have finally caught up to this year, just as it's halfway through... *sigh*

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hugo Review Status Update

I now have 22 more days in which to vote. Of the 100 finalists I plan to review and vote on, I have reviewed 83, leaving 17 more to go. Among those 17, though, are all six finalists in the Best Series category, which is a special category this year and involves multiple books per category. Yes, I'm still a bit panicked, but not as much as the last three weeks. I'm sure that will change.

Due to having fewer things to watch and read, my pace of reviews will definitely slacken a bit. I read really fast, but I'm not sure I will be able to manage a review a day, especially not with some travelling I'll be doing next week. I'll continue to try, but no guarantees.

After the fold, my current rankings with links to my reviews. A dash means I'm leaving it off my ballot. No number means I haven't reviewed it yet. I also removed the puppy poop entirely and will be putting "No Award" at the bottom of each category that has poop in it. Rankings are all subject to change right up until July 15th, and I do NOT promise to post my final rankings.

A Hugo Review: Best Novella - The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson is about a woman in the dream realm going on a quest to the "real" world.

Another story that takes H.P. Lovecraft on from a different angle. In this case, the story looks at the dream worlds he wrote about and tackles the distinct lack of women. Again, having recently read all of Lovecraft's works, I was familiar enough with the setting and creatures to enjoy this without wondering what the heck I was trying to read. In this tale, we revisit Ulthar and Lovecraft's other dream cities on a quest.

The good: Wow, I really like Vellitt. A strong middle-age woman whose adventures are behind her, but she's up for one last necessary trip. The understanding that there are people among those who live in this realm who come from another reality altogether is an interesting aspect of Lovecraft's creation - when I think about it, I believe it was there in the original as well. I love that people from that realm are, in fact, able to cross into our realm, and was both amused and distressed at what happened to the gug.

The bad: I can't really find all that much to criticize. It's a great story, and I enjoy the thought of the ending, but it isn't my favorite of the finalists.

Conclusion: I'm going to be rethinking the order I'm putting the novellas in, but I think this is up there with the best of them. Every single one of these finalists is good enough for a Hugo, and while my heart belongs to Bujold, I won't be disappointed if any of them win.

Best Novella: I've read all the entries. Check them out in my Reviews of 2017 Hugo Finalists.

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Novel - Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer is about political intrigue and miracles.

I struggled to read this book. Had I been reading it for pleasure alone, there's a decent chance I wouldn't have finished it. I find the writing style to be immensely irritating, enough to throw me out of the story repeatedly even when the narrator isn't breaking the fourth wall, which the narrator does too much. That said, there are a few compelling characters and situations - enough that it might have been worth it to read, IF this had been a complete novel, and not something that ended on a virtual cliffhanger.

The good: The premise is extremely interesting, and the narrator is a fascinating study who is exposed slowly, explaining the reactions of other characters to him. There are some truly mind-twisting concepts, from the cars to the miracle, that take some getting used to. The society structure is fascinating, and just believable enough - I almost wish floating citizenship was a thing.

The bad: The writing style just does not agree with me in the slightest. I wanted to reach into the book and slap the narrator around until he spoke plain English instead of aping a classic novel. The book slowly got more and more sexual - starting out with a slightly innocent world until we get a scene that's only a step or two from outright pornography. I get the reasoning, but it still felt gratuitous and made me roll my eyes. But the biggest fault is the utter lack of any type of closure. The book ends just as we're getting to some answers to some of the bigger questions. If I know ahead of time that's going to happen, I'm not as annoyed as when I struggle through a book only to find I will have to read another to get the end of the story.

Conclusion: While it's irritating, it's not bad enough to leave off the ballot - like I said, the ideas were mind-bending in some ways. But it gets the bottom spot.

Best Novel: I've read all the entries I plan to. Check them out in my Reviews of 2017 Hugo Finalists.

NOTE: Ada Palmer has also been nominated for the Campbell award based on this work. Because I haven't read any of the other finalists, she's currently at the top of that list, but I will not be surprised if she drops down after I get through other authors' works.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Fancast - The Coode Street Podcast

The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan, is an hour-long podcast that features discussion of science fiction and fantasy, and frequently has guests.

Just to get my unfair biases out of the way, I had difficulty downloading these to listen to - they weren't in the feed on my podcast app, and for whatever reason the links in the PDF didn't go to a page where I was able to download. Fortunately, I'm tech savvy and was able to figure it out. The packet linked to three episodes: 282, 288 and Roundtable 3. All three episodes featured guests doing what seemed like the majority of the discussion.

The good: Extremely in-depth and intelligent commentary on each topic, with people who are clearly experts. I really enjoyed the podcast recorded at Kansas City Worldcon, featuring Michael Swanwick and Kij Johnson. I haven't read the story they dissected, James Tiptree Jr.'s novelette "The Women Men Don't See", but now I really want to. The episode with Kai Ashante Wilson answered a few questions I had regarding "A Taste of Honey" and made me like the story a little bit more. I wasn't as interested in the roundtable, partly because I found the sound quality annoying.

The bad: There were far too many issues with sound. At least one of the hosts seemed to be a few decibels louder than any of the guests in one podcast. Also, a guest's microphone kept cutting out, as well. I am not a big fan of live discussion, especially in a podcast where it ought to be easy enough to edit pauses and confusion about who is speaking. The podcast is a bit longer than my preference, although I do seem to be in the minority for wanting shorter 'casts.

Conclusion: This one will be toward the bottom of my ballot. That said, all five of the entries I've reviewed are good, and while I have a preference, I won't be upset if any of them win.

Best Fancast: I've listened to all the entries I plan to listen to. Check them out in my Reviews of 2017 Hugo Finalists

A Hugo Review: Best Novella - A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson is about a critical choice made in the name of love.

While I liked the characters in this, I felt like I couldn't mentally pronounce any names, which somehow confused me. It's was a strange sensation - one I've had before - of not being able to connect with the characters because I couldn't figure out how I would say their names. I wonder if I'm alone in having this problem, or if naming conventions in fiction sometimes bother other people as well.

The good: It's possible to get a complete sense of the main character and his motivations through the story. There's also a nice sense of the entire world and the various nations in it. The fact that there are "gods" and that mathematics is considered women's work are both interesting, and a little strange. But then the reader learns that there's even more to the world.

The bad: And that's the bad, sort of. I felt the ending was far too abrupt, with a soap opera sensibility. It wasn't truly "just a dream", but enough of it was to make me feel slightly betrayed. I wanted more of the first relationship, more of how it turned out, but didn't get it because it didn't work in the narrative.

Conclusion: As good as it was, it wasn't the best I've read. It'll be fourth on my ballot for now, I think.

Best Novella: I've read Penric and the Shaman, The Ballad of Black Tom, Every Heart a Doorway, A Taste of Honey, and This Census-Taker. I need to read The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Fan Writer - Mike Glyer

I've never made a secret of the fact that I enjoy File 770 and read it regularly. That said, I sometimes think of Glyer as the teacher of a class of rowdy high school students being clever in the comments, and forget that he does a lot of writing, too. So I had to adjust my brain a little to examine his status as a finalist in this category.

Fortunately, Glyer provided an excellent packet that picked out a few good pieces of writing, including a post on Hallmark ornaments, a movie review, some news articles and far too many obituaries. If I hadn't already been familiar with his work, this would give a good overview. Because I have read his website/fanzine for a few years now, it simply reminded me of what types of posts I should be thinking about.

I didn't find Glyer's writing quite as compelling as Foz Meadows' work in her packet - which is slightly ironic in that Glyer included a news piece on a Meadows article. I feel like Glyer is more of a pure reporter - he manages to present information without too much bias, making it great for learning and getting information, but not as great for getting a feel for him as a writer. I consider this a virtue, not a fault, but it does make it harder for me to give him the top spot on my ballot.

Conclusion: I'm going to have a very tough time deciding the order of writers on this ballot, aren't I?

A Hugo Review: Best Fancast - Galactic Suburbia

Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, features discussion of a variety of genre topics from an Australian point of view.

There was a single episode linked in the packet as the featured episode, but I also downloaded a couple of other ones in the hope that I would get a better representation that way. I'm going to have to say, these are REALLY long podcasts, each one at least an hour with some approaching two hours. I'm a short podcast fan, so I really do have to count the length of these against them.

The good: All three voices are very nice and knowledgeable. It's also easy to tell the speakers apart, which is good. The subjects are varied enough to find something you like among the podcasts. The discussion is very interesting, with the presenters delving deep into each subject. The podcast is also not afraid to introduce the listener to different shows, books, conventions or whatever.

The bad: The featured episode, while interesting, had a little too much about the personal lives of the presenters for a first-time listener. While I don't particularly object to any of what was discussed, I also had very little interest because I had no context.

Conclusion: I enjoyed listening to this podcast, for the first half hour or so, but I eventually had to pause and find something else to do because the length of this was just ridiculously long. I think this moves into third place on my ballot.

Best Fancast: I've listened to Tea and Jeopardy, Ditch Diggers, Fangirl Happy Hour, and Galactic Suburbia. I still need to listen to The Coode Street Podcast.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Fanzine

So, after dealing with the Semiprozines, this is much the same process. I'm looking through the packet to see what's been provided and see if it matches what I want from a 'zine.

  • Journey Planet - Each issue of this fanzine focuses on a different subject, and all five issues published in 2016 (#28-32) are included in the packet. The single focus aspect makes it difficult for me to love this mag, because any given issue might be about something I have no interest in. The 'zine is nicely done, but I have always found it difficult to "get into" it because of the themes. Of the finalists, this is by far the most traditional 'zine.

  • Lady Business - Why do you torment me with a lack of a table of contents? Ahem. The packet includes a representative sample of articles and reviews. I like the format of the reviews, with a spoiler-free section followed by a clearly marked section with spoilers. I generally like Lady Business, anyway, and I'm happy to see it as a finalist.

  • Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together - This packet came with a nice introduction and a table of contents (thank goodness!). The rating system is terribly amusing to me (in particular I love how they treated "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child") and fairly original, with points being added and subtracted in the final summary for each review. A nicely solid website.

  • Rocket Stack Rank - I'm not impressed with the PDFs in the packet, which are basically just flat-out screen caps of the website with no formatting adjustments (like removing the sidebar) that might make it easier to read. While I get that this is a website, that doesn't mean I want to read it like a website in PDF format. They might as well have just included a set of links and nothing more. That annoyance aside, there's a lot to look at on the website. There are some interesting articles, including a numerical look at the impact the slates had on the Hugo finalists. The reviews are particularly useful, containing a quick summary and star rating. There are sometimes more details, but the whole point of the site is to give readers an at-a-glance way of picking stories to read from a variety of sources. A typical "issue" simply lists stories by ratings. I'm not really sure how this fits into my concept of fanzine, but there is absolutely no doubt it is a useful tool for finding fiction to read.

  • SF Bluestocking - Another packet entry with no table of contents. PLEASE include a TOC, 'zine editors! I know you don't have to on your websites, but it makes perusing the packet much more pleasant. Ok, now that I've got that out of the way... there's a lot here, but unlike the other selections, it appears to be the work of a single writer. There are book and television show reviews, and while the writing is blunt and has good perspectives, from a reader point-of-view it almost doesn't fit my concept of fanzine, which includes more than a single perspective. I'd rather see this nominated in best fan writer, instead.
Conclusion: None of these are unworthy, but none of them stand out to me as the best of the best. I think I like the contents I read in Lady Business the best, but Nerds of a Feather is also great. Rocket Stack Rank is probably the most useful, but if Journey Planet covers a subject you love it would be fantastic. I honestly am not entirely sure how to rank these. At the moment, I'm putting Lady Business in first with Nerds next. RSR is third, Journey Planet fourth and SF Bluestocking fifth. The ever popular "No Award" will take the sixth spot. The order I put these in is more likely to change than other categories.

I will not be disappointed if any of these five entries win.

A Hugo Review: Best Semiprozine

After some consideration, I decided that I cannot judge the 'zines independently, solely on their own merits. I haven't read every issue of every 'zine, and won't be able to in the time left. Which means I'm going to have to judge them by the information and samples in the packet. And, with that in mind, it makes more sense to me to compare what each 'zine offers and doesn't offer in a single review post.

I feel a bit bad relying so heavily on the packet, but there's not a lot of other options - and with a 'zine, a good packet probably indicates the creators put out a good product.

I'm going to start with the Semiprozine, then do the Fanzines in another post. Of the five finalists I'm considering in this category, I'm subscribed to Uncanny Magazine. The others I'm familiar with only due to their online presence. I'm a demanding magazine reader - I want articles, stories, poetry, editorials, reviews and the whole lot in a single package. That said, I know that at least two of these 'zines specialize... which I will try not to hold against them.

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies - This is pretty much all fiction. The packet is a single issue, #200, featuring four stories and a link to the website for audio stories. I've always liked this 'zine and enjoyed quite of few of their stories, and skimming through the 2016 works there's a few I've read and enjoyed - so nothing strange there. I would be happy if they win, but I'm not sure they will be on top of my ballot.

  • The Book Smugglers - Some serious thought went into this packet, and I appreciate the work. There are stories, reviews, essays and a lovely article on Where To Start With the X-Men, which is a neat idea for almost any comic book any more. Solely from the sample packet, I'd want to read more of this 'zine. The reviews are solid, even when I disagree, and the essays are great. I particularly loved N.K. Jemisin's essay on researching for The Fifth Season and Carlie St. George's treatise on the Mary Sue trope. This is definitely at the top of my ballot for the moment, and certainly the one to beat.

  • GigaNotoSaurus - I really like having a table of contents. And that's what's missing from this packet. It's a generous packet; I think it has all the stories from 2016 in it. But I can't really tell for sure because there is no table of contents. And there's not much of a TOC on their site, either. It's a nitpick, for sure, but you don't win awards by annoying the judges. Ok, with that out of the way, this 'zine is a one-trick pony that publishes a single "longish" story every month. It does what it says on the label, and the one story I know I read from 2016 was good. But the mag as a whole is not my cuppa.

  • Strange Horizons - The packet appears to contain four issues, all published in July. The works include editorials, fiction, interviews, poetry, columns and reviews. While I loved this, I didn't find it quite as delightful as my current top pick. But this 'zine is certainly Hugo-worthy.

  • Uncanny Magazine - This 'zine contains almost all the stuff I love in a good mag, including interviews, fiction, essays, and editorials. It doesn't have reviews, which I also enjoy, but that's fine by me. I particularly loved Alyssa Wong's essay on villains, partly because I bounce off her work and don't know why, so it comforted me to read about her take on the universe in a less symbolic way. Perhaps the connection forged by reading that will make it easier for me to enjoy her next story? I can hope. Monica Valentinelli's essay also hit me, since we're about the same age and have shared some of the same experiences with being non-existent. Anyway, rather than get bogged down in details, I'll just say I adore this 'zine.
Conclusion: Every single one of these five finalists is worthy of the Hugo award. If I could say "give them all a Hugo!" I would. But since I have to rank them, I'm going to put Book Smugglers at the top with Uncanny a micro-step below it. Strange Horizons is next on my list with Beneath Ceaselss Skies and GigaNotoSaurus finishing it out. No Award will take the sixth spot on my ballot.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) - Rogue One

Rogue One is about rebels trying to find hope in a hopeless situation.

I saw this in the theater and, while I liked it, I was very depressed after seeing it. I kind of didn't want to watch it again because I knew I would feel the same way. Well, it was easier knowing exactly what was coming. I felt less of a shock. Don't get me wrong, it was still painful, but it wasn't the same sort of grief as when I first saw the movie.

The good: Great characters that you slowly attach yourself to, and feel for deeply as the movie goes along. "I am one with the Force, the Force is with me." Chirrut and Baze stole the show with their incredible friendship and trust. The hopelessness of the entire situation is constantly brought home with all the various problems. And every time you think they've solved it, something else goes wrong - just as it ought to in a good movie. Good triumphs in the end. There's plenty of nostalgia for people who grew up with Star Wars - lots of little references and nods that were enough to take my breath away at times. The uniforms and clothing, in particular, were great. I was also amused by the appearance of a couple of baddies that Luke meets early in his first movie, too. I like the inclusion of the crystals and their importance to the Death Star's weapon - the same thing that powers a lightsaber destroys worlds. But it also was used in Jedi temples.

The bad: Everybody dies.

Also, I think there was something odd with Felicity Jones' makeup in some scenes, as her mouth really bothered me. It's not the same throughout the movie, though, so I think it had something to do with lighting and makeup.

The other thing that annoyed me was the CGI of Princess Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin. Both were overly stiff and clearly CGI. Tarkin was more annoying because there was more of him on-screen, but Leia's wide-eyed look was just wrong. Peter Cushing was a nuanced actor, and the CGI did not do him justice even a fraction.

Conclusion: While I certainly enjoyed this movie, it's far from my favorite of the year. I think it just slips into third place, above Arrival, purely on nostalgia power.

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): I've seen Ghostbusters, Rogue One, Arrival, Stranger Things and Deadpool. I need to see Hidden Figures.

A Hugo Review: Best Fancast - Fangirl Happy Hour

Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams, features reviews and commentary on genre media and pop culture.

I really appreciate the team putting together a sampler to give Hugo voters a quicker overview of their work than a full listen to the nearly 40 episodes they dropped in 2016. They picked a discussion on genre starter packs (episode 32), talk about The Core (episode 47), discussion of the original Ghostbusters (episode 49), discussion of the new Ghostbusters (episode 52), a review of The Vision (episode 54) and a review of The Obelisk Gate (episode 64). With the exception of their review of The Vision, which was a cliche-filled boredom fest and they thought it was great, I mostly agreed with their opinions on stuff I am familiar with.

The good: Both presenters have good voices and talk passionately about their subjects. Both aren't afraid to go a little far in their thoughts to reach a satisfying conclusion. They don't delve so deeply that the listener gets bored, but bring up enough good points to make their podcasts worth listening to.

The bad: I will confess that my prude alert went off a bit due to Ana's language, but only a bit. I was also uncomfortable with the talk of 'shipping - I felt it sometimes detracted from the reviews to have the hosts giggling over their own imaginative pairings of characters. A tiny bit of 'shipping talk is fine, but they seemed to make it a central point in some cases. Other than those nits and the fact that they are completely in the wrong about The Vision, not much bad here.

Conclusion: I enjoyed it, but not as much as my top pick. They are in second place on my ballot now.

Best Fancast: I've listened to Tea and Jeopardy, Ditch Diggers, and Fangirl Happy Hour. I still need to listen to The Coode Street Podcast and Galactic Suburbia.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Sunday Doctor Who Review

SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT

I will be discussing my thoughts and feelings of the Doctor Who episode "Empress of Mars" after the cut. I will not worry about spoiling the plot, so read at your own risk.

SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT --- SPOILER ALERT

A Sunday Comic Books Review

DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Dec 7th
  • Aquaman #12 - Things going from bad to worse... this is the kind of comic that just works because it's hard to imagine any good solution. And yet, we know because of the nature of the comic book business that it's going to work out somehow. It may not be perfect, because the comic book companies aren't resetting every storyline to status quo any more, but it's going to be ok somehow. Still... hard to see how with all the horrible things that fall on our hero in this issue.
  • Green Lanterns #12 - This issue didn't really move the plot along much. The Phantom Lantern tries to control himself while Jessica makes some points that Simon didn't think of... otherwise, not much going on in here.
  • Justice League #10 - It's even worse than I thought. Super-duper magic code wasn't even being used by sad husband, it was a mistake. I just about threw the book across the room in disgust. Sorry, no, this just doesn't work at all for me. I almost didn't bother finishing the book, the plot annoys me so much.
  • DC Comics Bombshells #20 - I really like this version of Vixen. That said, the ending of this issue with the robotic animals confused me. I'm not sure how they fit into the story. I may need to reread - too bad there's no Mera to make me want to reread.
  • Batman '66 Meets Steed and Mrs Peel #6 - Surprise twist ending! Well, it should have been a bit of a surprise. In any case, it was a good little ending and reading it so soon after the death of Adam West, I felt a lot of sad nostalgia at that very last page when he gets a reward. This was a fun book.
  • Wonder Woman '77 and Bionic Woman #1 - I watched both shows as a little girl, and yes, they were my heroes. That said, I remember very little about the Bionic Woman except the intro and the bionic sound effect. I was very amused to see the sound effect in the comic. I was also amused that Jamie recognized Diana so quickly. There's an implication there that the men just aren't looking closely. Ha. Fun start.
  • Spider-Man 2099 #18 - Oooh, a bad situation getting worse. But at least Tempest woke up. Miguel is already pretty messed up, now he's gotta fight tech geeks turned into zombies? I enjoyed this issue, looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.
  • Dirk Gently: Salmon of Doubt #3 - If I hadn't seen the TV show, I'd be mystified by this issue. There are a ton of callbacks to the show and its characters - before the show started. I think I mentioned before that this book seems to be pulling the different versions of the character together in a holistic way... which is only natural. I'm just worried about Bernice now. I wouldn't want my cat to be in that situation.
  • Dec 14th
  • DC Rebirth Holiday Special #1 - Ah, reading a Christmas special on a hot and muggy day in June. Gotta love it. This is an anthology, and like all anthologies it was slightly uneven. The framing story was Harley Quinn throwing a big party - and that was fairly amusing. I liked the Titans story the most, since it involved Garth, with maybe the Wonder Woman/Constantine story coming in second. None of the tales were bad, but some were certainly weaker than others. Overall, a decent package for the holiday. Hrm... now I'm feeling a bit chilly. Strange.
  • Earth 2 Society #19 - I really don't know if I like that a sacrifice was apparently made in vain. Yes, a great world - with an underground freedom force trying to break the control of a central power. I feel like Fury's efforts were for nothing, which kind of defeats the purpose of the last few issues. Maybe. I'll wait and see, but I don't like the direction this is going.
  • Scooby Apocalypse #8 - So this adds more to the mystery - what did happen in the hospital? Obviously, something was going on that made no sense from Velma's point of view, but Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby clearly saw it. So does that mean the nanites did something even more strange than Velma believed possible? What, exactly, did the Four accomplish? And did the group grab enough supplies before they went looking for the victim that they are ok for the moment? The book kind of cut to the action, there, but I hope they packed up some supplies in the Mystery Machine while they had the chance (thinking too hard about a silly book).
  • Spongebob Comics #63 - Oh yeah! A Mermaid Man tale featuring Mermaid Girl! And a mystery! And a one-armed shark! And a back cover by Ramona Fradon! I love when they pay tribute to classic comics with these stories, even though Mermaid Man is really a bad joke in all of them. He's still fun enough to enjoy. Anyway, this is part one of two, and Sandy, of all characters, is trying to find out who Mermaid Girl really was. I'm actually looking forward to the next issue. The rest of the stories in the book were amusing - nothing special. The back cover is fantastic.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Hugo Review Status Update

I now have 29 more days in which to vote. Of the 100 finalists I plan to review and vote on, I have reviewed 64 - leaving me with only 36. That would be a great number if six of those weren't series - five of which I haven't read. panicpanicpanicpanic.

Still, I'm not doing too bad, all things considered. I am nearly through the novels and have only two novellas left. There are four works in the related category, but I've started the reading there. I've got two more movies to review, and one of them I've seen. The 'zines will be tough, but I've got some familiarity with some of them, and every little bit helps (I may have to do them as categories, though). Fancasts just require me to listen while doing something else, and I've been enjoying that. In short, this is doable. Tough, but doable.

After the fold, my current rankings with links to my reviews. A dash means I'm leaving it off my ballot. No number means I haven't reviewed it yet. I also removed the puppy poop entirely and will be putting "No Award" at the bottom of each category that has poop in it. Rankings are all subject to change right up until July 15th, and I do NOT promise to post my final rankings.

A Hugo Review: Best Novella - This Census-Taker by China MiƩville

This Census-Taker by China MiƩville is about a boy and a history that created a horrible future for him before he was born.

My first reaction after reading this was annoyance at the dangling plot threads that I felt hadn't been addressed properly. Then I thought that maybe they'd been addressed, but I'd missed them and would have to reread to find them. Then I thought that I really didn't want to reread this story, since I didn't like it much in the first place. Then I spent a difficult night of restless sleep, and every once in awhile my thoughts turned back to the story and started to oozily fill in the blanks, until by morning I felt like I'd read a different story than the one I didn't like.

The good: There's almost a murder mystery, and I think by the end we know it's solved. But more than that, there's a mystery about what exactly this world is and how the father does his work. Is this a world of magic? Is there some advanced technology involved? What, exactly, is the job of the census-taker (who only shows up toward the end, really)?

The bad: The bad about this is exactly the same as the good. There's a lot of mystery because we're being told a tale sideways by a person who was a child when the biggest parts happened, and who doesn't have a completely clear memory of it all. And while there is a lot of mystery, it feels like huge chunks of the story and of the world-making are missing - maybe not deliberately - which pulls me away from the tale and frustrates me.

Conclusion: This is a story that really ought to be discussed with others. It's a story that leaves itself open to interpretation. I can't say I love it, but it grew on me despite myself. Still, it's earned the bottom spot on my ballot for now.

Best Novella: I've read Penric and the Shaman, Every Heart a Doorway, This Census-Taker, and The Ballad of Black Tom. I need to read The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, and A Taste of Honey.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Hugo Review: Best Editor, long form and short form

As a writer, I know the impact a good editor can have on your work. My first proper editor was a teacher in middle school, who was amazingly good at making small suggestions that brought out the finest aspects of my work. I had another great editor in high school, who challenged me to write differently and think in different ways - again, as a teacher, but also as an editor. Most recently, I had a fantastic editor at the newspaper who questioned my word choices, fixed up my typos and made every story I wrote better. When he left the paper, I had a crappy editor who rewrote my stories without my permission, changing the meaning of them. Since he was supported by the new publisher (who had driven the previous editor into retirement), I didn't last long there.

Ahem.

When all is said and done, the importance of a great editor cannot be understated. But, in my experience, it's REALLY hard to tell the difference between a fantastic author working with a crappy editor and a mediocre author working with a fantastic editor. Unless you are there, in the trenches, doing the writing yourself, it's difficult to see the impact an editor has. Which makes these the absolute most difficult categories to judge of all the Hugo categories. For me, at least.

To judge this category, I'm looking at the works in the packet - how many works are there, how are they presented as credits. If selections have been provided, I will skim through them. I wish I had time to read everything, but there is just too much of it! I'm also looking at the number of writers the editors have worked with, and if those writers are familiar to me at all. I don't consider this adequate, really. I almost feel like a fraud voting in the category, but I also very much want to have a complete ballot.

So here goes...

Best Editor – Short Form

  • John Joseph Adams - A couple of anthologies and more than 20 issues of short fiction magazines. The packet includes a TON of stories from Lightspeed magazine. Lots of recognizable names in the list, and lots of different writers along with many repeats, which speaks well for ability to pick talent and keep it. Certainly a top contender.
  • Neil Clarke - An anthology and more than 20 magazine issues of short fiction. The packet includes a list of all works edited, a list of which works are award nominated and which appeared in the "Year's Best" anthologies. It also includes a list of works appearing on the Locus Recommended Reading list, and an issue of Clarksworld Magazine in full. Lots of names I recognize on the list, including a few of my favorites. Lost of different writers and many repeats. I appreciated the inclusion of a list of works that were picked out as outstanding, and felt the presentation of a complete issue of the magazine gave me a better sense of how it works as a whole, and included an editorial by Clarke. Another top contender.
  • Ellen Datlow - Several anthologies and a lot of short fiction at Tor.com. The packet includes 11 separate works from Tor.com, each in their own files (mobi, epub, pdf). Two of the anthologies appear to be reprints, and I'm not sure how to judge those in this category, so I'll assume that's fine and include them. I'm slightly less impressed by the names on this list, but only slightly - there are some great writers in here.
  • Jonathan Strahan - Several anthologies and short fiction from Tor.com. The packet includes three stories, one of the anthologies and an editorial from Locus magazine. Lots of great names on the list, and the editorial is well-written and gives a nice review of fiction that came out in 2015. The choice to include the editorial gives a voice to this finalist, which I appreciate.
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas - Six issues of Uncanny Magazine. As a subscriber, I enjoy Uncanny and am familiar with many of these works already. The selections in the packet include an editorial about the magazine along with a representative sample of the best works in the last year. This is probably my top choice due solely to familiarity.
  • Sheila Williams - Ten issues of Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Lots of great names of the field are included. The selection is the October-November issue of the magazine, which has a "slightly spooky" slant and includes a descriptive editorial by Williams.
Conclusion: Every single one of these editors deserves accolades, based solely on the packet. Every single one of them could win and I wouldn't be at all upset. But I'm going to rank them based on how much I, personally, enjoyed their packets. At the top of the ballot is Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, then I'm going to have to put Neil Clarke next. Sheila Williams gets the third spot and Jonathan Strahan will take the fourth. John Joseph Adams and Ellen Datlow will be the final two. But they ALL deserve an award, so it's difficult to complain.

Best Editor – Long Form
  • Sheila E. Gilbert - A good selection of works and authors in this credit list. Gilbert also included a selections file with a very useful introduction and chapters from many of the works. I still think that's a brilliant way to introduce Hugo voters to works they might not have otherwise read. In short, this was the perfect packet for an editor.
  • Liz Gorinsky - Not as nice a packet... and the list includes at least one work I really didn't like. Still, a good selection of authors. There's a link to Gorinsky's editorial bio, which provides more information. No samples.
  • Devi Pillai - A list of five books, no samples. The fact that The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin is one of the five works doesn't quite offset the lack of any further information, for me.
  • Miriam Weinberg - A list of seven books, no samples. I'm not really impressed, sorry.
  • Navah Wolfe - A list of seven books, but this one has some samples. No explanation or editorial, but at least there's something there.
Conclusion: Based on the packet along, Gilbert is the clear winner. She not only gave voters enough information to judge her by, she provided a little more than strictly necessary. Wolfe and Gorinsky come in second, with both of them providing enough information to get a feel for the editor's work without having to go hunt down books. Wolfe provided actual samples, while Gorinsky gave more direct information. Pillai will be next on my ballot due to her editing Jemisin, while Weinberg will take up the rear. The final slot will go to "No Award". I will not be disappointed if any of these five win, although I have preferences based on what they provided in the packet.