Friday, July 03, 2015

Hugos Round-Up

Multiple topics for this post. First up is my "How did I do?" on whether or not I found the slate works to be worse than the non-slate stuff and to answer Denise's standard question (Any of the nominees on the Puppy's slate?). Then up is my overview of the E Pluribus Hugo proposal to depower slates in the Hugo Award Nominations with a lame story/example provided.

I also thought I'd mention that I'm finally listed as a supporting member on the Sasquan membership list, which makes me very happy. I wish I could attend, but life being what it is, I'm just glad I was able to become a supporting member.

Just as a reminder, you can go to Renay's 2016 Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom or the Hugo Nominees 2016 Wikia to look for works that will eligible for a Hugo in 2016 so you can read them for possible nomination. Both the spreadsheet and wiki allow submissions, as well, so add your own favorites to get them a little more widespread attention.

The main content is after the cut for those of you viewing this on my main page (I'm trying to spare my usual 30 or so readers, who may not be all that interested).

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Hugo Reading - Novelette

For some reason I thought this category was of works longer than novellas, or I would have done this one earlier. Anyway, these are not-as-short stories, so I'm hoping for some good stuff.

  • "Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium", Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, 05-2014)
    I quite liked this one. It felt like it needed one or two more go-rounds with an editor to finish polishing it, but it had good ideas, a functional and nasty threat and a character I liked as the lead. It was a good length for what it was trying to do. There were some questions and plot holes, but the set-up was good enough I didn't really worry about them until thinking about the tale in reflection. In short, a solid story. I'm not sure it's Hugo worthy, but it was good.
  • "Championship B'tok", Edward M. Lerner (Analog, 09-2014)
    This story made me very upset. Not because it wasn't good, but because it was moderately ok and interesting... and then it just ended. No conclusions, no solutions, no answers. It just ended. I don't know, but I kind of expected the novelettes to be self-contained, or at least be the end of a chapter and not stop before any resolution. I wouldn't call this the best story even before the abrupt ending, but with that ending? No. Just no.
  • "The Day the World Turned Upside Down", Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt translator (Lightspeed, 04-2014)
    A charming little story with a little bit of whimsy along with some very odd science. It's also a romance story gone bad. It's an ok story, but I'm not sure it really deserves the Hugo.
  • "The Journeyman: In the Stone House", Michael F. Flynn (Analog, 06-2014)
    I tried to read this. I started it three times but just couldn't get into it. The language turned me off, I guess. I just couldn't do it. I'm seeing people referring to this as "bouncing off" a work. I suppose that's descriptive enough. This work was not for me and will not be on my ballot.
  • "The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale", Rajnar Vajra (Analog, 07/08-2014)
    This one came oh so close. It's almost there. It was a good tale, written with a lot of sarcastic wit. It was the wit that amused me the most, but it almost went over the top multiple times (which I guess would mean for some folks it did go over the top). It almost nailed the landing, but the impact wasn't nearly as great as I expected. I'm not sure where it stumbled, but it missed something in there that made it not quite as good as it ought to have been. Hugo worthy? No, not really.
There's a bunch of good stories here, but not one of them is what I'd call great. Two of them won't be on my ballot at all, B'tok and Journeyman. The other three might just rank themselves below "No Award". I'll be thinking hard on this one.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Hugo Reading - Novella

I had some serious problems with this category. Three nominations are works by a single person? Any decent person would have withdrawn the two weaker nominations in order to give someone else a chance and to consolidate the vote. The fact that he didn't makes me less than enthused about even reading one of his works. Add in the fact that this is the same guy that wrote that truly awful short story, and I find myself dreading reading, or trying to read, the works in this category. Still, I swore I'd give every work a chance on its own merits, so here I go.

  • Big Boys Don't Cry, Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
    This is a story about a sad artificial intelligence. This became predictable pretty early on, and then it repeated itself quite a bit. There was also a couple of bits of faulty math early in the story that make no sense for an A.I. to make. It got boring and repetitive extremely fast, although it started out promising enough. It would have made an ok short story, despite being on a well-trodden subject with an extremely predictable ending. As a novella it was just too much of the same thing going on and on. Not something I would consider for an award.
  • "Flow", Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog, 11-2014)
    I was fascinated enough to read this one in a single sitting. It had an interesting lead character, some different kinds of culture to explore and it drove forward nicely. I was both disappointed and satisfied by the ending. I could have enjoyed a book that finished out his adventures, but it also made a certain kind of sense to finish where it did (a literal cliff-hanger!). I think this one will stay with me, which means it's probably something I would consider award-worthy.
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright (Castalia House)
    It started out slightly promising, with clear descriptions and a bit of mystery. But it turned into a bad rehash of Narnia in just a few pages... right down to the number of kids. If it had been less derivative, I could have stomached it, but it honestly felt like the writer was also trying to ape the writing style of Lewis and failing miserably. The attempts at symbolism fall far short, and everyone seems to be a stereotype of some sort. Not something I would read by choice.
  • "Pale Realms of Shade", John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
    Well, it started with pretty good, set up an interesting premise, and then veered all over the place like it wasn't sure what it wanted to say. I read this one longer than the previous two stories by this guy, but eventually it started to get boring and mildly offensive. Finally there's the whole angel thing that felt like someone wanted to send a "very special message" to his readers, but honestly, by then I no longer cared about the characters, the story or whatever moral the writer believed he was trying to send. Certainly not as bad as some of his writing, but again, not something I would want to read in general.
  • "The Plural of Helen of Troy", John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)
    Another attempt at writing pulp. It's mostly incomprehensible and hardly worth trying to read. I got four or five pages into the PDF before I realized my mind was wandering. I tried again later and got the same result. So I think it's safe to say this wasn't something I'd generally be interested in. I skimmed the rest and it was as strange and unreadable as the beginning. I suppose there must be somebody out there who likes this kind of writing... I don't.
I only was able to complete one of the stories in this category from start to finish, the rest just don't deserve to be on the ballot at all. I guess I'll give "Flow" a ranking, probably below "No Award", and leave the rest off. It's sad, though. There must be some better works out there, but having three pieces by the same writer in one category? That's just pathetic. Perhaps that's what they mean by "sad" puppies?

Seriously, though, I really want to hear from the people who nominated these works. I want to hear why they thought these stories deserved the Hugo. I want to know what it is about these particular works that makes them literally the BEST things they read in 2014. I need to know what criteria those readers were using to pick these works, because for most of them I cannot fathom what would possess anyone who actually read the stories to say, "Yes, this is the best of the year." And I particularly cannot believe all three of those Wright stories were seriously considered that good by anyone, much less by enough people to get them nominated.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hugo Reading - Fan Writer

So, the fan writer category is about the person as a whole, based on their writing, and looks at pieces in fanzines, "semiprozines, and even on mailing lists, blogs, BBSs, and similar electronic fora." My presumption is that the work will be about science fiction and fantasy works, maybe reviews and commentary. I'm looking forward to seeing what's in the packet...

  • Laura J. Mixon
    The Hugo packet contains a couple of Mixon's pieces, one of them a well-researched study of a person who was/is causing havoc online with a particular type of poisonous campaign designed to drive people out of forums and break up friendly groups. There's another piece as well that I found to be well-written and compelling, but again, it was about fandom itself and not so much about works. It's very complete writing... is it fan writing? I suppose works about fandom certainly count... but I guess I was expecting something more about the works themselves and not just about the people in it.
  • Amanda S. Green
    I started to read the first piece, and it's all about "SJW"s, which is a term that some people conjured up to describe other people whose politics they don't like, regardless of whether or not any of those other people actually fall into the "Social Justice Warrior" category. In short, it's name-calling. Further, the piece provides almost no context for what the writer's complaints are about, using cutesy names for people instead of explaining the situation. Given that this is the Hugo Award, someone who starts out their sample packet with a piece filled with name-calling and lack of context is, in my opinion, not worthy to be on the ballot. So this person is chucked from my list. I skimmed through the other pieces and they were almost as bad or even worse. Sorry Charlie, Mixon's stuff wasn't on the topic I expected, but it wasn't filled with childish name-calling either.
  • Cedar Sanderson
    I find some of what is written in these excerpts to be repellent repetitions of other noxious nonsense, but other bits are well-written even if I disagree with them. This person and I would no doubt never see eye-to-eye on most subjects, but some of it is good enough to read. Good enough for a Hugo? No. But not as horrible as the previous entry. I'm not really sure that's a compliment. Only one of the pieces was more about works than personalities, but that one wasn't terribly good. I'm really feeling completely let down by this category. Every one of these samples has been depressing to read.
  • Dave Freer
    Overall, the sample packet contains fairly poor writing that isn't well-supported. I'm seeing a lot of assertions and assumptions and blithe statements of truthiness without a hint of Colbert's wit. I supposed it all feels right to this guy. But I'm beginning to despair that any of these works are by fans. Every one of them attacks other fans, many in the most childish ways possible. This guy... I just can't believe this guy was actually nominated for these blatherings.
  • Jeffro Johnson
    Oh thank goodness! A fan writer who's actually talking about and analyzing works of science fiction and fantasy instead of just attacking other fans! Some of these are pretty good pieces, too. Overall, this is the only entry, in my opinion, that fits the category comfortably. There are parts I find problematic (particularly the Derai piece), but at least this person has made a genuine effort. And after the pap I've read from the others, this was a fresh breeze to blow away the stink.
Johnson is the clear winner here, since he seems to be the only one that really fits what I think of as the category. I might put Mixon on the ballot as well, but that is a difficult choice. Both of them are going below "No Award" I think. The other three do not deserve awards for the writing in their packets. In fact, they really shouldn't have been nominated at all. My guess is that all three must have been on the slates, since I do not believe they could have been nominated by the merits of the writings they provided.

If I sound a little bitter, it's because I'm feeling bitter... How can people who clearly hate fandoms not their own be nominated for a Hugo Award? My concept of fandom is a big umbrella under which all of us can hang out and do our own thing in a non-judgmental setting. To read screeds against other fans is depressing. To see those screeds nominated for awards? Gah. Seriously, did any of the people voting on the slates actually read these works and say, "Yes, this is the best writing about fandom I saw in 2014." and, if so, why? How? How can writing that rips someone apart be the best? Why all the hate?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hugo Listening - Fancast

I am completely a visual learner. I have a lot of trouble sitting still and listening to people unless I'm taking notes, like I do at meetings. I don't enjoy podcasts unless I'm doing something else while I'm listening, and I'm usually too busy to download a podcast and get it set up for times when I could listen to them. So, while I know what I like, I don't listen to much. Working through these looked to be a challenge... and I fear I may give the shorter ones higher consideration because the length spares me. That said, in I go...

  • Tea and Jeopardy, Emma Newman and Peter Newman
    It certainly started out very nicely with a Doctor Who reference. The whimsy of having this podcast set up as a visit to a magical tea room makes for a little bit of interesting nonsense, whether the guest is crazy or not. In the sample episode (26:58), Ramez Naam visits the secret tea lair and talks about Microsoft and science. The chickens clucking softly in the background was hardly distracting, but there was something very odd about them singing "O Fortuna". The hostess had some good questions prepared, and included questions from Twitter. Overall, it was charming and cute. The length was just about enough without going on and on. Visit the Tea and Jeopardy website to have a listen.
  • Dungeon Crawlers Radio, Daniel Swenson (Producer/Host), Travis Alexander & Scott Tomlin (Hosts), Dale Newton (Host/Tech), Damien Swenson (Audio/Video Tech)
    The sound quality on this sample episode (1:56:33) one was miserable. I turned it up as loud as I could and still couldn't hear all the people on the 'cast. The intro of the show's subject didn't happen until 5 minutes in, and a lot of what came before was incomprehensible crosstalk. It eventually managed to sort out into a conversation instead of a mess, and it became clear it's a live streaming show. But I couldn't help feeling like I was sitting the next table over from the cool kids, listening in on a private chat with tons of in-jokes. The audio broke up a couple of times during the 'cast, which was annoying, but part of the nature of the beast, I guess. There was some music, not my cuppa. The interviews were fine, just not really of interest to me in particular. Overall, it was a fairly normal podcast with sound problems. Nothing award-worthy... I've heard better. Check them out for yourself at Dungeon Crawlers Radio.
  • The Sci Phi Show, Jason Rennie
    This is the shortest podcast of the bunch (11:27), so I figured it would be the best for me. However... it's just a guy talking about philosophy with some intermittent sound effects; in the sample episode he punctuates his talking with an extremely repetitive clip of deep laughter. At one point he gets interesting when he talks about the Batman movie, but mostly this is a fairly boring 'cast with some ideas that would be just as interesting and a bit less cheesy written down (like in the transcript, something I like). It does not take advantage of the medium. Not a podcast worthy of a Hugo, although some people will no doubt like it. Go check out the website to judge for yourself.
  • Adventures in SciFi Publishing, Brent Bower (Executive Producer), Kristi Charish, Timothy C. Ward & Moses Siregar III (Co-Hosts, Interviewers and Producers)
    The sample podcast is about 50 minutes long (52:34), and features a single long interview with Jennifer Marie Brissett regarding her first novel, Elysium as well as how her career ran, including some interesting advice on her bookstore. The interview was well-conducted and the discussion was good. The sound quality was poor at times, but that's clearly due to the guest's microphone... and there's not a lot that can be done about it. There was an ad in the middle of the 'cast for an unrelated book, which I found only mildly irritating. There was also a "framing" bit from the "studio" that covered recent books with quick reviews/mentions. Most of that content was at the end, and a good way to wrap it up. Personally, it was about a half hour too long for my tastes, but otherwise I had no problem with it and actually quite enjoyed it. Hugo worthy? Yes, I think so.
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
    This is an Australian podcast, and the accents in the sample episode are delightful from the start for me. It's one of the longer ones, coming in at 1:41:20. There appear to be three main hosts (presenters) who are funny and fairly distinct. I can't don't believe this is a puppy nominee because Gamergate comes up within the first 10 minutes and not in a good way. Sound quality is average, and it's definitely a few people playing off each other in a way that takes advantage of the format of audio. There are discussions, con reports, reviews and even a little fundraiser. The conversation is good, Doctor Who and Aquaman are mentioned, hitting my favorite fandoms. My only problem with it is the length, which is far too long for me. I'm not sure that's a valid reason to take a point off, but I probably will rank it a little lower because of it, sorry.
Of these choices, Tea and Jeopardy is definitely the best. It takes full advantage of the format, uses sound effects to improve the atmosphere and has whimsy that appeals to me. The interview was well-conducted, and the questions were perceptive and enlightening. It's also short enough to listen to but not so long I start to think, just get on with it already! Next up, despite the length, is Galactic Suburbia, which is information-filled and fun. The trio clearly love what they are talking about and range far and wide on a variety of subjects while still pulling in the audience. I find the length problematic, but the diversity of subjects makes up for it. Adventures in SciFi Publishing is the third place winner, and the last to make the ballot for me. It's a polished production, but went on just slightly too long on a single subject.

The next best is Dungeon Crawlers Radio, which is average but not great. I do wonder if there is a better example than the one in the sample, but due to the length, I can't be bothered to listen and find out. At the bottom is the Sci Phi Show, which really didn't take advantage of the audio format at all. The cheesy laughter sound effect detracted, rather than enhanced. If that was the best available, the podcast doesn't deserve an award.

...

Just as a reminder, you can go to Renay's Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom or the Hugo Nominees 2016 Wikia to look for works that will eligible for a Hugo in 2016 so you can read them for possible nomination. Both the spreadsheet and wiki allow submissions, as well, so add your own favorites to get them a little more widespread attention.

Glenn Hauman hurt me with this parody. I laughed so hard I snarfed some water up my nose and it hurt a bit. Now, I'd never read the original If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love, but now that I have, I can understand why some people thought it was Hugo-worthy. There's an intensity there that shallow people could never comprehend. Yes, it's a silly title, but there's so much more to it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Sunday Review

It feels really odd to read and do quick capsule reviews of single issues of comic books in the midst of trying to work through all the Hugo nominations. On the other hand, the comic books are self-selected by me to be stuff I suspect I'll enjoy while the Hugo nominees... aren't. Indeed, in the coming days you'll no doubt see that there's quite a few on the Hugo nomination list that I really don't enjoy at all... Anyway. Back to comics.

DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • May 13th
  • Convergence #6 - It took all the way to issue #6 before we got to a decent part of the story? This is much more like it. But really, that gathering fight scene at the end needs a LOT more versions of various characters to be truly fun.
  • Convergence: Aquaman #2 - I'm not sure what Deathblow is, or where he comes from. I do find Dane's solution to be a little... gross. Definitely harkens back to the Silver Age and the one-hour limit and what Aquaman sometimes did to save himself back then.
  • Convergence: Green Lantern Parallax #2 - Another day, another fight. Now that I know heroes are trying to stop this whole thing, the city by city fighting isn't as interesting.
  • Convergence: Justice League International #2 - I'm not sure I like the Wonder Woman in this one. It is something... the fight is over after the earthquake. Is that why the losing city didn't vanish?
  • Arrow: Season 2.5 #8 - Another tale that's hard to read knowing how the rest of the season went. I'm wondering when and if the comic will catch up to the tv series, now.
  • Astro City #23 - As usual, this is one of the best comics this week. Sticks just wants to play the drums, but as a talking gorilla, life in Astro City isn't going to be so simple for him.
  • Spider-Man 2099 #12 - A pretty good issue, with Miguel dealing with a terrifying not-foe. I love this book, so of course it's going away. My tastes apparently don't line up with the paying public.
  • Doctor Who 10th #10 - A quick done-in-one story that takes Gabby home after her recent adventures, which are referenced in the book. I'm not really sure about this. It was ok, but nothing amazing.
  • Rebels #2 - Our main character gets more caught up in the rebellion, to the consternation of his wife. I'm enjoying this as a history story, but I wish there was a bibliography in the back so I could look up some of the real history and compare. It's sparking my interest.
  • Spongebob Comics #44 - SpongeBob goes to LegolandBlockville AND I get a Mermaid Man story. Awesome issue.



How did I do?

So, I've been asked on Facebook each time I've posted a Hugo review which of the nominees were on slates (Hi, Denise). I have been answering as I go, and sometimes the results have startled me a little.

I'm going to round up the four categories I've reviewed and figure out which ones have slate nominees and what I thought of those nominees.

Short Stories

I started with Short Stories. All five of the nominees were on slates. Two of them, "On A Spiritual Plain" and "Totaled" were on both slates. "A Single Samurai" was only on the Sad Puppies slate. "Turncoat" and "Parliament" were only on the Rapid Puppies slate.

I found "Totaled" to be the only one worthy of an award. It is on my ballot, but I left the other four off. Yes, "No Award" is also on my ballot... right above "Totaled". While it's a good story, I'm not convinced it's Hugo-worthy and could not bring myself to rank it first.

Fan Artist

My second category was Fan Artist. None of the nominees were on the slates. I'm not sure why, but that's what happened. I haven't filled out the ballot for this category yet, but I was inclined to put all five on it.

Professional Artist

Four of the five nominees in Professional Artist were on the slates. Kirk DouPounce is only on the Rapid Puppies while Nick Greenwood, Alan Pollack and Carter Reid all are on both slates. Julie Dillon is not on a slate.

I loved Dillon's work. It spoke to me and I enjoyed it immensely. The others were kind of "meh" for me. I had intended to put Dillon first and "No Award" second, then rank the others below. I will probably still do that.

Graphic Story

There was only one slate nominee in the Graphic Story category, and that was Carter Reid's zombie book. That was also one of the two nominees I was considering leaving off the ballot. The other was Ms. Marvel. I'm still dithering about that. I may just rank them both below "No Award" instead.

So, to sum up, trying very hard to judge these works entirely on their own merits, not by whether or not they showed up on a slate, I still managed to pretty much pick the non-slate stuff for higher on the ballot. Granted, this is only four categories out of 16, not including the Campbell. So I'm only a quarter of the way through and there's a lot more to decide.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Hugo Award Recommendations

Oh bliss! In the comment section at File 770, Ultragotha pointed me to this lovely spreadsheet of recommendations for the 2016 Hugo award. These are works that came out this year and will be eligible for next year's Hugo.

The spreadsheet asks for submissions, which is basically what I've been asking for here, so if you've got anything that might be eligible and you think people ought to read, send it in!

I've read one of the Novel suggestions, Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. And yes, it's excellent. So yes, I'll probably nominate it. Amazingly, I haven't read any of the graphic novel suggestions, but I'll be making my own suggestions soon. I've seen the two Flash episodes in the dramatic, short form category, although I'd have to look them up to remember which ones they are. My husband is a huge fan of the Verity! podcast and would be delighted to see it nominated for a Hugo... I'll have to listen to a couple of episodes and see if I agree with him.

For fanzine, I'm already seriously considering nominating File 770... Mike's been doing an incredible job not only keeping up with the current Hugo mess, he's also posted things like this list of recommended short stories that came from the comment sections of the Hugo posts. And the non-Hugo posts are usually of interest to me as well.

The rest are going to be stuff I'll be looking for after I finish dealing with this year's nominees, which have gotten particularly problematic in some spots. I'm nearly banging my head against the wall reading some of these... pieces. I suppose some people's definition of "best" differs dramatically from mine. I've been trying to intersperse reading from one section with reading from another, but that can be difficult. There are some pieces that just make me want to chuck the whole effort and reread Bujold books until I don't feel icky anymore (I can hardly wait for the new Chalion novella, that might be a nominee next year, too).

That said, I'm mostly enjoying myself. I would pitch in the money for next year in an instant if I had it to spare right now. Same with the supporting membership for 2017. I'd buy it and vote on the best pitch for location if I had the cash, knowing I'd be getting the perks of doing this again next year and the year after at a more leisurely pace.

...

One last thing... I'm not a social justice warrior, but I am anti-slate. If someone wants to refer to "my type" of people, then "Anti-Slate" is the name I have selected for myself. Any other label will be considered name-calling. I don't mind descriptive adjectives applied to me... I've used adjectives to described the self-proclaimed puppies many times and I no doubt will in the future. But my "group" is Anti-Slate. That's why I started to pay attention, and that's why I got a Hugo membership. That's why I'm reading the nominations and that's why I plan to nominate next year. I oppose slates.

The Week in Review

Ranch Sorting

Right after finishing up my week in review last Saturday, I headed out to the Sort-4-the-Cause event I was covering. This is an annual ranch sorting contest held literally two blocks from where I live at a small local arena. Being from the wetside, I didn't know about small local arenas until I came out here.

There are quite a few of them, although fewer now than years ago. Arenas generally have a announcer's stand, various pens to hold cows or other animals, a main area and sometimes stands for people. More likely, there is a fence and people back up their pick-ups to the fence, drop the gate and sit in the back with a beer, watching the fun.

I arrived at about 5 p.m. in the humid heat. I tried to stay out of the sun, because that drains me so fast I hardly can function. As it was, I got tired much too quickly. I was there to get photos of the live auction and then the sorting event. But the auction started a little late and went on a little long.

Even the horses were unhappy with the time they were waiting. I saw a horse tied to a trailer, pawing at the ground and looking generally very agitated. It had a shade across its eyes so it couldn't see much. There was another horse tied near it, and as the first horse swung around on the rope it bumped up against the back of the other horse. To my surprise and horror, the first horse kicked out with both rear legs, slamming the leg of the other horse. Several folks saw it and gasped, and someone went to find an owner. The second horse didn't appear too injured, but it had a look like "what did I do?" I have seen horses kick before, but never seen them make contact. There are many reasons to avoid the rear end of a horse... I witnessed a very important one on Saturday.

Hubby-Eric had ordered a pizza, and I asked him twice to delay it... only to learn the restaurant never got the first message. So the pizza arrived at 6:30 p.m. and, considering that the auction was still going, I headed home and ate. It was a small risk, but I was hungry and I knew they had to do the Calcutta auction before the sorting even started, so there was time. I got back to the arena as the Calcutta was finishing up... perfect timing.

Ranch sorting is a timed competitive event. A pair of riders is given a minute or so to take 10 calves, which have numbers on their backs, from one pen to another. The trick is that the calves have to be in order and the pair doesn't get the starting number until they enter the pen. It takes a little bit of talent, a lot of attention to detail and good riding skills to compete. I certainly know I would have fallen off the horse the first time I tried to get a calf to split from its herd. I actually enjoy watching it quite a bit... but the arena hasn't got the most comfortable seating...

In order to get good pictures of the sorting, I had to be close. In order to get close, there were two options. I don't have a pick-up truck, so that option was closed to me unless I borrowed somebody else's. Since they were all filled with people with beer, I decided to climb up an outside fence and sit on a fence post. It was a fairly large post, and I stayed up there for awhile getting my shots, but I was sure glad to come down and head home for the night.

I had to go back Sunday morning to get the names of the riders from the previous day. While I was waiting to talk with someone, I got up on the back of a pick-up, thanks to a nice guy who said I could, and took some video of a sorting run.

I was able to rest much of the rest of Sunday, including an epic nap that I hope caught me up on the sleep I've been deprived of, and then it was time for the regular workweek again.

Monday

Monday deadline wasn't too bad. It wasn't too good, but when you only have a photo page to get done it's not nasty. There was a difficult moment. My co-worker, out of the blue, said "Caitlyn Jenner can't celebrate Father's Day!" and I snarfed an M&M I'd been eating up my nose, then wrenched my neck trying to get it out. I don't know why I found that hilarious, but I did, and it hurt. (Hubby-Eric later said, when I told him about it, that she can't very well celebrate Mother's Day).

I was a little worried about the Tuesday assignment I needed to get done Monday, because the person who had promised me an email with all the information hadn't responded by 1 p.m. Just as I started to go into low-level panic mode, she sent the information. More than I was expecting, actually, and I was happily able to start in on the story, which is about Bank of America shutting down a couple of local branches.

With that story done, I headed home an hour early to cut time, since I had city council Monday night. Once home I learned I had received my Hugo Packet, so now I had to decide whether or not to read/watch all the Hugo nominees and vote, or if I was just going to nominate for next year. It took me maybe ten minutes to decide I was going to read as much as I could in the packet and vote on any category I felt I could legitimately judge. I started in on the short stories immediately, and glanced at a few other pieces as well.

I was hard to tear myself away from my newest obsession to go to council, but I did it. Council was surprisingly calm. Three members were absent, including the one who talks a little too much while often failing to add anything to the conversation. The result was a relatively quick meeting on most counts, only two hours. I can live with that. If every regular meeting were only that long, I'd be satisfied.

After I got home I started to read more of the Hugo nominees, and ended up to bed a little later than I had planned. Still, I accomplished a lot, including prepping a post with quick reviews of all five short story nominees. I also got through the fan artist works and made some preliminary judgments on those.

Tuesday

Inkwell decided to wake me up about a half an hour before the alarm on Tuesday, which was annoying. In retaliation I closed the bathroom door on him so he couldn't leave when I started my shower. He was annoyed. All was apparently forgiven when I gave him breakfast, as it often is.

Deadline on Tuesday was also quick and gentle. There wasn't a huge amount from the meeting to write about, but I filled out two stories and some brief pieces anyway. There was a hint of a much bigger story in one item, but we didn't get a lot of detail. Overall, there wasn't a lot for me to do, and I started on Wednesday's stuff as soon as I finished deadline. First up was the Word Nerd, which I decided had to be about Sort-4-the-Cause. I've been meaning to write a column about it since last year when I went, so the timing worked out. I also had a piece on blueberries that refused to write itself no matter how much I tried to coax it. It was one of those "I don't know where to start!" stories.

I headed home for lunch, play with the cat, say hello to Eric, then it was back for the afternoon. I had to get the blueberries story written, and it finally came together. Which was good, since it was mostly cut and paste, it just needed the opening.

I ditched work early because of night events, and went home again. More Hugo nominee stuff, yay! Then at 3 p.m. I had to get two cavities filled at the dentist, yikes. I don't mind going to the dentist, but I hate the numbness after that makes it hard to drink until it wears off. As my teeth were being drilled I pondered whether I'd rather have my teeth worked on or read that really bad short story in the Hugo packet and decided the drilling was more comfortable because at least I was numb.

After the dental appointment I was happy to see that I had a full ten minutes to spare before I had to be at the baseball game to take a photo. I leisurely drove up to the school, marveling at how numb my jaw was, and then took my time getting out of my car and walking to the field. As it was, the home team only had 8 players, but took the field anyway. The visitors provided a right fielder, which was nice of them. I got a couple of ok images, and headed home pleased with my afternoon work.

With another hour and change before my last night event, I continued to read Hugo nominees. Then I went out to a concert in one of the city parks to take a couple of photos. The group is a bluegrass band and it was a fun event that was well-attended even before I arrived, and I got there ten minutes before the start of the concert. I roamed and circled to try to get two good shots, talking with some of the folks who were out enjoying the music. It was a pleasant event. I left a bit early, but only so I could have dinner with Eric.

That night Eric and I listened to the first Hugo fancast in the packet together. I am dismayed that two of the fancasts are almost two hours long, and another is about an hour. I picked the half hour one to listen to with Eric. The final one is about 12 minutes long. During the fancast I finished up my post on the fan artist nominees, and then hit the hay within my optimal bedtime range.

Wednesday

Wednesday was far easier than it had any right to be, with me finishing deadline an hour early and starting work on stuff for Friday, because I didn't have much for Thursday. The editor assigned a few last-minute cut-n-paste press releases to me for Thursday, but most of them were done before lunch. The other thing he asked the reporters to do was find a photograph for Thursday's paper that says "HOT!" as in, the weather is really too hot.

For lunch I headed back out to Cactus Juice because the special of the day was egg salad sandwich and I've been craving an egg salad sandwich. Once there, I learned the dessert of the day was "almond joy cake" and had to give it a try. It turned out to be a light spongy cake with a chocolate icing that tasted like a candy bar, but wasn't overpowering. It was so good I sank into food bliss.

Once back at the office, the editor told me to cut some hours. So I went home for a nap, then headed back out in the afternoon to get my "HOT" photo. Eric decided to tag along with me, and we went through downtown looking for children playing in sprinklers or something. Nothing. I finally decided to hit the ice cream shop, and there was a perfect family outside, resting in the shade of a truck, eating a variety of ice cream. I asked if I could take their photo for the paper, and they were cool with it. Mission accomplished, I dragged Eric into the ice cream shop and we had a cone each before heading home.

I continued to go through Hugo nominees once home, getting through another fancast since I had all evening (one of the two-hour ones) and starting in on the graphic novels after writing down thoughts on all the pro art. It was a nice relaxing evening... I even made a pizza with biscuit crust, and we settled down early enough for a good night's sleep.

Thursday

Because I've been a little amiss in getting exercise lately, I decided to walk to work Thursday morning. As a reporter, I need my car. Eric was game to bring the car along and walk home, so I set out at about 6 a.m. and did the short walk (about 1 1/4 miles). It took me way longer than I expected, but I got to work in time because I allowed for being slow. Eric rolled up in the car right when I needed my bag from it, and it worked out perfectly.

Thursday was a fairly quick morning and then the editor suggested I cut some hours by going home except for my appointments. I was due to meet a group of Jesuits for lunch, then I had the school board meeting, which is always late in the evening. So I went home and started to relax.

I have asked the front desk at the newspaper to e-mail me my phone messages, since I check my work e-mail obsessively while at home. To my surprise, one of them texted me to alert me to a message from the Jesuits. Good thing she did. The Jesuits needed to delay the appointment. That meant I got to stay home with Eric for lunch, and it also meant I got to enjoy the Twitch stream live. I was happy. I had a really long and restful afternoon and then went to the school board meeting feeling mostly refreshed.

I expected a moderately long meeting based on the agenda and an embargoed piece we'd received. To my surprise, they kept the meeting to almost exactly an hour long, didn't discuss the embargoed story at all, and, in short, made my job really difficult because there just wasn't much to write about.

Friday

Friday morning was frustrating, partly because I learned I'd gotten another message and no one had emailed it to me, and partly due to the lack of stuff to write about. I wrote anyway. I got it done. At one point the editor asked me if I'd gotten the news, saying I must get pinged when the Supreme Court makes a decision. I told him I hadn't set anything like that up, and he told me about the marriage ruling. Because I live in a conservative area I've learned to shut down reactions to neat events like that when I'm around people who are conservative... but I didn't quite manage completely there. Almost. I think. The editor did seem a bit disappointed in my lack of response.

The editor wanted me gone because he thought I was over my hours, but I wasn't, so I stuck around. I also bought some tamales from a co-worker's dad. Eventually I took off to see the Jesuits, and had a good discussion with them. My biggest fear was looking stupid in front of them, but they were kind and didn't make me feel like an idiot, though I'm guessing they easily could have. Every one of them highly educated and completely dedicated to making the world a better place.

Ahem. Once home, that was it for the evening. I watched Game of Thrones for the Hugos then listened to a podcast. I read a bit and relaxed. Had tamales for dinner. Played with the cat. It was a nice evening.

This morning I have work to do. A couple of different events will be starting at the same time, then I've got an evening festival to attend. I hope I can manage to survive the heat, as it's supposed to get really hot today, up to 110F at the warmest, about the time I need to be at the festival. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Banana!

Hugo Reading - Graphic Story

This is my category, being a comic book fan. I've even got a graphic novel writing credit to my name (one of the stories in True Cat Toons by Roberta Gregory). I read a lot of comics every month, but none of the nominees are on my pull list. These are all new to me, but I know exactly what I look for in a comic book story. So here goes.

  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)
    So this is a book I wasn't aware of... from a company I don't usually buy much from. Kamala Khan is an interesting character and the origin story was fine, but not so unique or interesting that I was impresed with it. There are a few minor plot holes and gaps, and the book seems to jump a little in parts instead of flowing from scene to scene. The art is ok, but not fantastic. Overall, it's a fine little book, but I've read better things in the past year. The packet version also had an annoying "Hugo Voters Packet" watermark across every single page that sometimes obscured the text. I didn't mind that it was there, but it needed to be slightly lighter to not interfere with reading the book.
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, written by Kurtis J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
    This reads like a particularly goofy D&D campaign... which it's clearly based on. It's vulgar and funny and disturbing, and there's an actual plotline with twists and turns and romance. The art ranges from merely competent to pretty good, but isn't a style I enjoy much. For that matter, I'm not really all that much into the vulgar side of things. It didn't go too far, although I wouldn't go showing it to some of my friends. There were bits that I really liked, such as the Four Daves, and the bluebirds in the beard. This is a fun book, but not one I'd be inclined to get for myself.
  • Saga Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
    Um, wow. This is a complete package, despite being volume three of a series. The book starts with a kind of framing sequence that gets the reader up to speed very quickly, and that framing sequence even gets a conclusion of sorts before the end of the volume. There are a couple of main plotlines and in each one the characters are introduced carefully and as completely as needed. There's plenty left out, much of which can be deduced from context, the remainder of which makes me want to go read more. The art is good, although I have lots of questions about the people that inhabit this universe. For a bit, I doubted the wings were actually wings. Overall, an excellent book. I've never read Saga before, though I'd heard of it, so it was all new and interesting to me.
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick, written by Matt Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
    So, I said Rat Queens was a little too vulgar for me... this one is... problematic. I can't even explain the premise without blushing. That said, it's a really interesting premise and one that has a lot of promise for storytelling. Stopping time is an old trope of science fiction, the method is what's unusual. The story hangs together nicely, introducing the characters with only a couple of twitches that made me say, "huh?" For the most part this was a well-plotted storyline with decent artwork. Anyone easily offended would want to avoid it, but it's not bad at all.
  • The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate, Carter Reid (The Zombie Nation)
    Because this wasn't in the packet, I looked online and found the webcomic. I attempted to figure out what strips were in the collection, but there doesn't appear to be any handy listing, so I'm not entirely sure. What does seem clear is that the zombies in this aren't mindless, they are basically normal folks with odd quirks. The strips themselves are jumbled into a variety of different types, some of which aren't bad while others are just strange. There appears to be an ongoing plot, constantly interrupted by other stuff. Put up against the competition, this really doesn't stand well.
The top spot has to go to either Saga or Sex Criminals. I'm more impressed with what Saga managed to do in what is clearly a single volume of a long ongoing story, so I think I'll probably give the top spot to Saga and the second to Sex Criminals. The clear third-place winner is Rat Queens, which is much more amusing than the top two, but just not quite as good. The Ms. Marvel volume is solidly in fourth place while Zombie Nation will take up the rearguard of the five nominees. If I wasn't a charitable sort, I'd leave Ms. Marvel and Zombie Nation off the ballot entirely. But I'm inclined to include them.

...

So, $40 got me all this short fiction, four graphic novels I wouldn't have normally read, three novels, and a reason to seriously review instead of do my short opinionated capsules... In addition, I've been obsessed enough that my husband told everyone on Facebook that I'm dating Hugo. So far I'm really enjoying this, even though some of the work isn't what I'd call award-worthy. I may just have to do this next year. I'm also considering voting in the site selection for 2017, which apparently requires me to buy a supporting membership for that year... which I'm not opposed to doing.

File 770 is continuing both round-ups of the Hugo debates and ongoing ideas for how to prevent slates from dominating in the future as well as a proposal to add "series" to the Hugo award categories. The debates are interesting just to see where everyone stands on the current dust-up, and if there's a current dust-up. The proposal for a new category is... well, I don't see the need for it, personally. As I noted above, a really strong book in a series can often stand on its own. And if it can't, I'm not convinced it deserves an award. But that's just me. I suppose other people will have completely different views.

There's also a proposal, called E Pluribus Hugo, to change the nomination process in order to prevent slates from dominating the nominees. It's an intriguing study in mathematics, with nominations getting point values depending on how many works a person nominates in a category as well as how many people nominate it. Personally, I don't believe the Hugos are broken. I think fandom is a little messed up, and fans need to step up and decide what they want to do. That's the entire reason I bought the supporting membership: so I can nominate works next year and help offset any slates. I am guessing that what happens in this year's final vote tally will have an impact on whether or not rule changes are made.

Well, I think I've gotten through every category I could get through quickly. Unless something strange happens, I'm not sure I can keep up the one-category-a-day pace of reviewing. I may just have to do some regular blogging tomorrow. I will say, it's fun to have my husband on my side, looking for the nominated movies so I can see them all in time to vote. In short, despite how it came about, this has been a fun experience for me.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hugo Reviewing - Professional Artist

Like the fan artists, I accept that this category is very much a matter of taste and that every person's taste is going to be completely different. Again, perhaps my main criteria is "would I buy it for myself?" My other criteria include technical skill and choice of subject matter.

  • Carter Reid
    Nothing in the packet for this guy, so I looked at his webcomic, and while it's technically not bad art, it's not really my kind of work. I don't dislike it, I just don't love it and wouldn't be inclined to buy a piece to hang on my wall, which is one of my criteria. It's also completely mismatched against the other artists in this category, to the point of being a ridiculous comparison. This wasn't apples to oranges, it was apples to lugnuts.
  • Alan Pollack
    Although there are three sample pieces in the packet, I also checked out his website. Technically nice stuff. Judging strictly from the packet materials, good cover art type work. It doesn't grab me, but I could see other folks loving it. Again, I don't like it enough to buy it.
  • Nick Greenwood
    Eight pieces in the packet. He also has a website. This is another artist with good technical skills who can convey ideas through cover art. However, I'm not really excited by this art. It doesn't do anything for me. It's good, but I don't gasp and say, "I gotta have a commission by this guy!"
  • Kirk DouPonce
    Eight pieces in the packet. I also hunted down his website. Very nice pieces that are technically great and definitely have the potential to draw people to check out a book. There are a couple of pieces that spoke to me, but there was always something a little off about them that means I probably wouldn't buy them... but I might. This art wouldn't be high on my want list, but it might make the list. Not bad.
  • Julie Dillon
    There are 14 pieces in the packet from this artist, a veritable plethora of work to look at. The artist also has a website to look through. The pieces in the packet include themes involving water, cats, and women... which obviously appeal to me far more than the comparatively staid works of the other artists in the category. This is an artist that I would buy from and would love to get a commission from, although my guess is that I could never afford this work. There were several pieces I'd love prints of in the packet, including "Downtime", "Menagerie", "Scholars' Tower", "Sun Shepherdess" and "Treetops".
It's not hard to figure out that Dillon's work impressed me the most, by a fairly large margin. I'd then go with DouPonce for my second-place choice. Pollack and Greenwood rank about the same and Reid is last, not because he's worst, but because his art doesn't seem to fit for me. I might even mix it up and put Reid above the other two. This is another one I'm going to have to sleep on.

With the exception of Dillon, whose subjects I enjoyed, and Reid, who had a wide variety of subjects, the choice of imagery was fairly standard for the artists. They were cover art for the most part, but they were fairly static. As a comic book reader, I like my art to flow and have some sense of movement... like your mind will fill in the next scene. Pollack, Greenwood and DouPonce had art that felt like it was posed. Dillon's work was more natural. Reid, of course, is a sequential artist, so he didn't have that problem.

Whew. Three posts on reviews in three days. I really doubt I can keep up this pace.

Note: I am also always looking for anything you have run across that will be eligible for a Hugo next year, so if you've seen something you liked, drop a note in the comments about it. I'll also be regularly posting my own suggestions for stuff to consider for next year.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hugo Reviewing - Fan Artist

Judging any creative work is subjective, judging artwork is really a matter of taste. I honestly wasn't sure how to make a decision here, so I decided that one of my criteria would be "would I buy it for myself?" Other criteria include technical skill and choice of subject matter. I'm sure that other people, using the exact same criteria, would come up with completely different choices.

  • Ninni Aalto
    While there is nothing particularly wrong with this artist's work, none of it appeals to me in the slightest. The subject matters don't impress me and the art itself creeps me out a bit. The two pieces in the Hugo packet were a complete turn-off, so I visited the listed website to see if it was a fluke. Nope. I just don't see anything appealing in this art.
  • Brad W. Foster
    Another artist which I don't see any technical problems with, but has almost no appeal to me. I like it better than Aalto's work, but only just. Again, I wondered if the sample work just wasn't enough, but looking at the linked work convinced me that it's just not for me.
  • Elizabeth Leggett
    Now this is more my speed. Nice subjects, well composed works, good colors. I visited the artist's page to check out more work, and was impressed by the scope of works produced solely in 2014 (the eligible works for this year's Hugo awards). If I had the cash, I'd certainly see if I could get this artist to do a custom piece for me. That's pretty much highest praise from me.
  • Spring Schoenhuth
    I fear I may be shallow. I laughed aloud when I saw the LonCon piece in the samples, and I admit the TARDIS jewelry made me look a second time. I also visited the Facebook gallery of 2014 art. Being a jewelry artist and not a 2D pen and paper artist makes a difference... the two drawings are not nearly as impressive technically as the jewelry. But this is an artist I would buy from, which means I would like to see these works on a daily basis.
  • Steve Stiles
    Another artist whose works don't really appeal to me. They aren't bad, per se. In fact I think they are fine technically and in subject matter. It's just nothing I'm interested in. There is more of his work at his website, including stuff on his tumblr. Again, this is stuff a lot of comic book fans would love. It's just not what I'm into.
In the end it's a toss-up between Leggett and Schoenhuth for me. I like them both a lot, but I'm not sure how to decide between them. I'll have to sleep on it. The other three are distantly behind, but none of them are so bad they don't deserve an award. I think Aalto is on the bottom of my ballot, but the order of the other two is also up in the air for me. Again... I'll have to sleep on it.

Note: I am also always looking for anything you have run across that will be eligible for a Hugo next year, so if you've seen something you liked, drop a note in the comments about it. I'll also be regularly posting my own suggestions for stuff to consider for next year.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hugo Reading - Short Stories

Well, the short story category seemed like a good place to start, being nice and... um... short. So here's my thoughts on the nominees.

  • "On A Spiritual Plain", Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, 11-2014)
    A fascinating concept, but the writing jerked me out of the story repeatedly. It's not that it was bad, it just wasn't very smooth or polished. It felt like it needed another draft to clean it up. The idea behind the story is thought-provoking... what if a human died on a planet upon which the dead stick around as ghosts as a matter of course? But I felt like the story never quite gelled. While the concept is good, I'm not sure the package as a whole deserves an award.
  • "A Single Samurai", Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters, Baen Books)
    Oh, I want to like this one. It's strong in many places, and has a sense of whimsy I really enjoy. But in order for me to really like it, the story had to nail the landing, and in my opinion, it didn't manage it. I think I get what the author was going for, but it didn't hit that mark for me. I love the idea of the samurai being guardians against the demons and darkness, and I love the idea of a samurai having to fight a monster as big as a mountain. But it just didn't quite work for me.
  • "Totaled", Kary English (Galaxy's Edge Magazine, 07-2014)
    Wow. I wasn't expecting that. Well-written, nicely defined. It was a solid story from start to finish. I was particularly moved by the way the narrator's "voice" started to break up at the end. When I heard this described as a brain in a bottle story, I wasn't sure what I would get. But I think it was good. Nice and touching.
  • "Turncoat", Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
    Another almost great story. There are some great moments and great thoughts, but the story is betrayed by weak writing and a predictable ending. It certainly could have used another draft with a strong editor to make it fantastic instead of just good. I liked it, but I doubt I'll be thinking about its details tomorrow... if I even remember it at all.
  • "The Parliament of Beasts and Birds", John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
    I only got a few pages into this one before I found myself wanting to do something, anything, else except read it. It has a fable-ish, pretentious writing style that takes a very skilled writer to pull off, and this writer doesn't seem to fit that category. I skimmed through the rest, which went on far too long, and didn't see any conclusion worth reading toward. In short, this is not something I would read for pleasure. It would have to be assigned to me by a particularly sadistic teacher.
The best story of the five by a few lengths was definitely "Totaled", although it wasn't perfect, nor even the best I've read from 2014. It was just very good. In descending order of quality I would rank "A Single Samurai", "On A Spiritual Plain", "Turncoat"... and then "The Parliament of Beasts and Birds" a distant last. Four of the five have something to recommend them, but only one was good enough to even be considered for an award.

Note: I am also always looking for anything you have run across that will be eligible for a Hugo next year, so if you've seen something you liked, drop a note in the comments about it. I'll also be regularly posting my own suggestions for stuff to consider for next year.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hugo Packet

I mentioned that I decided to go in for a Hugo membership after all, and this morning I got my link to the Hugo packet. I was just intrigued enough by the comments and reviews to go ahead and take the plunge. If I enjoy the process, I'll do it again next year.

Before I dive into the packet, I attempted to cleanse my brain of which ones were slate nominees and which ones weren't. I intend to give each piece a chance on its own merits. I was a little surprised at how much is in the packet. There are samples or complete works for every nominee in the novels, novella, novelette, short story, related work, editor (short form), semiprozine, fancast, fan writer and fan artist.

The graphic story category is only missing The Zombie Nation Book #2. None of the dramatic presentations are available, but those can be found elsewhere without major difficulty. There is no submission for Jim Minz or Vox Day in the editor (long form) category and no submission for Carter Reid in the professional artist category. There is nothing in the packet for Elitist Book Reviews for the fanzine category and two of the John W. Campbell award nominees, Rolf Nelson and Eric S. Raymond, have nothing in the packet to judge.

If I can somehow find the time and energy, I can certainly see myself getting through many of the nominees in order to cast votes. I will probably go by category, starting with the complete categories (although it would kill me not to vote in the graphic story category, considering my background, so I might go hunting a zombie book). I will post reviews of the works as I complete them.

If anyone has any suggestions for my quest, please leave a comment. I'm particularly interested in where to find some samples of stuff missing from the packet (I suspect some are available freely and legally online, a link would be nice).

Hugos 2016

For the moment, I'm also concerned with nominating items for next year... and I hope to start gathering ideas of stories to look for from my regular 30 readers and whoever else drops by. On any post I make about the Hugos, feel free to mention something that you've recently read or watched that will be eligible for a Hugo in 2016. It might be something you really enjoyed, or something you just thought was interesting.

One that I decided I ought to mention is J. Michael Straczynski's 12-issue run on Twilight Zone. The final issue shipped in February, which I think makes it eligible for the graphic story category as a whole. It was impressive from start to finish, with various threads coming up in seemingly unrelated stories over the course of the 12 issues, until the final issues blew everything apart. Definitely something to consider as a nomination when the day comes.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Anglicon: The Regeneration Report

No Sunday review this week because I've just been too busy to get through the latest shipment of comics. So instead, here's my report of Anglicon.

To say that Anglicon weekend was amazing does not even come close to how it felt to me. I'm still reeling from everything that happened. This post will probably be too detailed, but I hope to remember as much as possible in the future... and so, after the cut...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Week in Review

After leaving Anglicon during the closing ceremonies, and the fun that accompanied that, we got to my parents' house quickly. My mom had made a nice dinner for me, and then it was time to pack the car. The cat was unwilling to go in the carrier, but we wrangled him into it and I said my good-byes and started home.

Now, I don't know *exactly* how many miles it is from my folks' house to my house (a quick check of Google maps says 172), but I generally tell people it's a three-hour drive. That usually includes a stop at one of the rest areas and sometimes even a break for dinner. Well, I'd just eaten and Inkwell hates being in the car, so I didn't stop except to get gasoline until I was home. It took me almost exactly two and a half hours.

Once home, I was too exhausted to deal with unpacking. I fed the cat, popped online to let folks know I was alive, then attempted to go to sleep.

Ha.

I was wired from the convention. I was still flying high from the afternoon's events. I couldn't sleep. I lay down repeatedly in the bed, but it was too warm and my mind kept going over everything that had happened, unable to process it all. I ended up repeatedly getting up and getting on the Twitch chat to squee, until finally I started to really run out of steam and got to sleep after midnight, with Inkwell disapprovingly herding me upstairs to bed.

Waking up Monday morning was not hard. It was nearly impossible. If I didn't keep my phone, and thus my alarm clock, across the room at night I would not have gotten out of bed. As it was, I had to fight every instinct in my body not to head right back and fall asleep again. After zombie-ing around for a half hour, I realized I was going to be late to work. So I called up my boss and asked for an hour, just an hour. He agreed, since I had very little to do (just two police logs) and plenty of time. So I slowly built up my speed until I finally managed to get out the door an hour later than usual, pumped up on painkiller and happy memories.

I got hyper again. Really hyper. In retrospect, it might have been the only way to get through the morning, but it was embarrassing. I felt an overall sense of wonder and euphoria that is exceedingly rare. I just felt good.

I didn't start to come down until lunchtime, and by then I was thoroughly embarrassed by how hyper I'd been. Fortunately, I had little to do Monday morning and managed to come down from my euphoria slowly and gently instead of crashing. I was worried Monday morning when I realized just how pumped up I still was. But I didn't crash.

My boss decided to give me two baseball games to take pictures at Monday afternoon. That was a little difficult, but I managed it. The biggest problem was going from cool Seattle weather (and an indoor environment) to the heat on this side of the mountains. Inkwell was irritated that I was late, especially after all the confusion he went through over the weekend.

Monday night was much more restful, but I still felt a little odd. Particularly since my hubby wasn't home yet. He'd spent the day with Sophie Aldred and Jon Davey touring Seattle.

Tuesday was a little better, but I still was tired. It can sometimes take a long time to recover from a con. My assignment for the day was a mobile science demonstration setting up at a park downtown. I enjoyed the event, although it was still hot.

I also wrote up my column for the week and a quick piece about the status of net neutrality.

Eric came home Tuesday afternoon, and it was delightful to be able to hug him again. It had been a long week and a half in which we barely saw each other.

Wednesday was another slow wake up day, but I got to work on time. I had a morning Rotary meeting to attend with a story for the same day, so that was a little bit stressful. As it happened, we didn't run the story that day, but I had it done by deadline anyway.

Another goal for Wednesday was to get my photo page done. I had the idea, but I hadn't taken the pictures. So after deadline I walked around town and snapped photos of various murals. Then I drove out to ones that were further away. Once back, I had to narrow down which ones we put on the page. Eventually I got it down to nine photos, which was three more than the normal max. But I figured with the larger page size, maybe we could cram a couple more in.

Fortunately, Wednesday afternoon was pretty calm and I got more stuff done for future days. I had a couple more assignments that required extra effort, including a story on some large trees that were being taken down, much to the consternation of many people.

Thursday was again a big day, with a golf photo right after deadline. I couldn't leave well enough alone after getting a few shots close to the clubhouse... no, I walked out to the far side of the course with the group I was following. It was quite a hike back.

After lunch I was informed that I was going to a company workshop on Friday. I had not wanted to go, since the last one had been... less than effective. And I was annoyed it was a last-minute thing. But the timing mostly worked out. I still had to go to the groundwater meeting Thursday night and write it up Friday morning before I left, but that was doable, if unpleasant. I tried to get the publisher to go to the groundwater meeting instead, but he declined.

Several interesting things happened at the meeting, from my point of view. If you read the story, I hopefully gave enough background to understand that this group is utterly disfunctional as a large group. The workgroups seem to be making progress despite the committee as a whole. What amazed me about this meeting was that the facilitator... the supposedly neutral moderator, was the one who lost his temper and started to rant before he was cut short. Tempers were hot, but then... that lawsuit is not just a sore topic, it's a raw bleeding wound in the side of the committee.

The other thing that impressed me was the warning by Vern about his email. It's clear that some members of the committee have been writing down stuff Vern does not feel comfortable with. By reminding them that he's a public official and thus ALL of his documents are subject to public information requests, he basically said, "You guys are going too far, be careful or we'll have another lawsuit."

In any case, the meeting went a few minutes longer than it was scheduled due to the fighting. I was happy to get home and a little shellshocked by the nonsense. I wasn't sure how I was going to write it up. I still think my story has a serious structural flaw, but I didn't have time to make it right.

So on Friday I wrote the story, then as soon as we were both done, Julia and I headed to Pasco for the company workshop. We both were a little less than enthusiastic about it, knowing that the previous meeting had essentially been a waste of time. Fortunately, this one wasn't. The first speaker was great... and I somehow earned five bucks because I know baseball cliches.

We left several hours later feeling better about the meetings. We enjoyed talking with some of our colleagues, who are awesome but we only get to see them once a year or so at these events. Once back in town, I headed home and almost immediately went to take a much-needed and long overdue nap.

Eric woke me a couple of hours later for dinner, then I stayed up for awhile trying to finish writing my convention report, which has been unexpectedly difficult to write. I went to bed at about 11 p.m. and got up at about 11 a.m. Since then I've been writing convention report, writing this, and watching Adi on his Twitch stream. In about two minutes I'll be back out the door for my Saturday assignment, so I'll wrap this up and go.

I hope to have the convention report for Monday. We'll just have to see if I make it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Attitudes sure have changed...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I sometimes love my office...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hugos, another angle...

I'm mostly a pop culture movie/TV watcher, and heavily into the comic book world. So I don't actually have a great idea of what is happening in the rest of the science fiction/fantasy world. I tend to pick up books and short stories years after they've been published, instead of keeping up with the current works. So, rather than stare some more at the train wreck around the Hugos this year, I'd like people to tell me about some works they've seen lately that will qualify for next year's Hugo awards. If it's not obvious, tell me where it was published/how to get it.

I just want to hear about stuff you enjoyed, not every single work. It doesn't have to be Hugo-worthy, but if it was fun and interesting, I want to hear about it. For instance, I enjoyed Galaxy Quest:The Journey Continues, which was published as a four-issue mini by IDW Comics. I am not certain it is Hugo-worthy, but I did like it.

I've also enjoyed the recent Aquaman series by Jeff Parker. I'm not sure any of it qualifies for the Hugo ballot (I'm not really clear on the rules with graphic stories, honestly), but I would probably nominate some of Parker's work, Aquaman or Batman '66... and for that matter, I probably will.

As of ten minutes ago, I have become a supporting member of Sasquan... not to vote in this year's Hugos, but to be part of the nominating process for next year. If I read/watch all the entrants in any particular category this year, I will consider voting in that category. But I suspect I won't have the time to go through all of them. We'll just have to see.

Because I plan on nominating for next year, this post and any that follow it with the "Hugo Suggestions" tag, will be my ongoing journal of what I'm looking at and what I like. I encourage you to post a comment with ANYTHING you think is eligible that you enjoyed, whether you think it's Hugo-worthy or not. In the meantime, I'm going to go read up on the Hugo categories and try to work out what I've already read this year that both qualifies and deserves a Hugo.

So, c'mon people... give me some suggestions.

note: My comments are moderated. I check them about three times a day, once in the morning, once at lunchtime and also in the evening. Please don't submit multiple times. I get an email each time and it fills up my box when I'm away.