Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ancillary Mercy is Sooooooo Good

I first read "Ancillary Justice" last fall after hearing some good buzz online (I was late to the party). I liked it, but wasn't blown away. I read the sequel, "Ancillary Sword", this summer and really liked it. In anticipation of the trilogy's conclusion, I reread Justice and it greatly improved upon reread. So, the trilogy is complete: did Ann Leckie stick a "Return of the Jedi" (or better) landing or did she stumble to a "Matrix Revolutions" (or worse)? I can happily say that she, at worst, went "Jedi"*. It was the best kind of satisfying ending -- plots are wrapped, characters change, and I'm excited to read more in the same universe (though it will be hard to let Breq go).

I like my sci-fi to both entertain and enlighten/inspire me -- books like "Anathem", "Snow Crash" (I LOVE Neal Stephenson), "Ender's Game", "Spin" -- big ideas, engaging characters and a plot that has some surprises. And a few laughs wouldn't hurt (or a bunch, like "Starship Grifters"). The previous two Imperial Radch books did almost all that, but were pretty short on humor. Mercy rectified this.**

Each of the Ancillary books has a different flavor -- Justice was Breq's single-minded pursuit of revenge, Sword saw her struggling with being in command and contact with her decades that approaches that she had as an AI, and Mercy has her trying to find a viable future (first she has to even accept that there can be a future for her beyond revenge). Of course, this isn't just chatting over tea (though there is plenty of that, and lots of chatting over fish sauce). She is faced with all the threats, implied or overt, from previous books: Mianaai, rebellious citizens, the Presger, other AIs and her own crew (and their feelings for her).

What stood out the most from the previous two was the humor; I laughed out loud several times, and each of the major characters shows a distinct sense of humor (though at least one, the Presger translator, may not be intentional humor).

So, it's funny, filled with big ideas and complex characters, and it's got some great action. What more do you want from your space opera/sci-fi?

If you haven't read Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Mercy already, you should do so, then prepare yourself for an even better treat. Leckie stepped up her game for the final volume.

* First, it's sad that RoTJ is the best SFF trilogy we have. Return of the King had potential, but the 13,000 different "endings" killed it.
** The rest of this post is copied shamelessly from my own reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.***
*** See that? With one footnote, I go from autoplagiarism to efficient use of social media. Booyakasha!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Another Day, Another Scam

Just as I'm about to get into the bath (I'm sick, cut me some slack), the phone rings. Worried it might be family (expat problems FTW!), I rush to pick it up. This follows...

Hello, this is Windows Technical Support, from New Jersey. We're calling because your computer has been sending out a lot of emails.

Ok, I thought I detected a hint of Jersey in your accent (This is a mocking, bald-faced lie. He couldn't sound more Indian if he was extolling the virtues of cricket while claiming India has never started a war).

Yes, I'm not from New Jersey. (Apparently he has learned to detect SOME sarcasm. Which isn't hard, as I'm already laying it on so thick that I'm using a goddamn Sarcasm Trowel)

What's the problem? Will you be able to help me? And how much will it cost? (Using the Trowel for this line)

It won't cost anything, unless there's a problem we need to fix. Then there's a small, one-time fee.

That's great to hear, what do we do?

At this point, he mentions that the fee is "only" 100-150 Euros, then leads me through opening up the Event Viewer on Windows. Which is difficult for me to BS, since I'm not using Windows. Which he would know, if he were even vaguely real. But he's a scammer, so he doesn't.

What program that I registered for gave you my information? I just want to be sure you're for real. (I back off the Trowel so that he thinks I'm just a sucker. It works.)

I'm from Azure, not Windows. (This is a relief? I've heard of the color, not the company.)

OK, I was worried, because Windows is actually a Microsoft product and not a company. But I never registered for Azure. (I'm getting bored, so I give another hint. It's untaken.)

We do support for Windows, so that's how you registered. Now, tell me what you see in the events window. (Whatever, jackhole.)

I see a list of events. But, let me ask you, how would it look if I was using a Mac? (I'm now ready to end this, so I drop a much bigger hint)

(Long Pause) You are the biggest motherfucker I have ever met. (He hangs up. Score! He finally took the hint! And I earned quite the compliment.)

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Oh, India, You SCAMp

I got a call from "Anonymous" this morning. Before I moved to Germany, I wouldn't pick up Anonymous's calls, but Germans love their privacy, so quite a few people block caller ID. So, I picked up, in case it was someone I knew that liked to keep it on the DL.

In this case, it was "Microsoft, from London". Which was odd, because the caller didn't give his name AND had a very strong Indian accent, with nary a hint of London. In the background? LOTS of other Indian accents, very loud. Which was another red flag, since I've called Microsoft (in London, or at least the UK) and 1) the rep introduces him/herself right off, 2) the reps had clear English accents and 3) I couldn't hear a bunch of chatter in the background. I was skeptical, to say the least, but I wanted to hear how this would play out.

He told me that my computer had been hacked and that it had been sending out emails (he didn't say my email account had been hacked, just my computer). He was going to tell me which folders to clear out on my computer to fix it. First, he wanted to know what key was next to the "STRG" key on my computer. I told him there was no such key, and he argued with me. "Yes, there is. It is left of the space key." He finally accepted that a Mac might not have such a key and decided to move on. He had me open a browser, "Do you use Mozilla?" and search for "validator". Which leads to a "Markup Validator Service" which is a real thing used to debug HTML.

At this point, I'm tired of the BS and ask for some confirmation that he's really from Microsoft. He hands me off onto the next guy, who also doesn't introduce himself. When I ask for validation, he assures me that he's "Microsoft, from London". I tell him that if he really is, he'll have my product registration information. "I'm just a technician, I'm not with Sales." Sigh. I ask a few more times, politely* and he finally blurts out, in a huff, "you're registered with the... beauty salon!" and hangs up. Burn! You Stay Classy, Indian scammers.

* Shocking!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hugos 2015 No Awards Reaction

The Hugo winners were announced today/last night (depending on your time zone), and there were some surprises. First, the completely awesome Ms. Marvel won best Graphic Story, as I said it should :) However, that's not the big news. The big news is that FIVE! of the categories had NO AWARD as the winner. That's (I think) unprecedented and pretty bad news.

My source for this is the official Hugo Statistics file, found at
  I voted for No Award in one category, Best Novella, but in the other categories I had at least 1 work that I thought was worthy. But the massive numbers of votes for No Award makes me wonder if the various calls to automatically put anything on a Sad/Rabid Puppy slate were the driving force. From what I read, most people used the list by Deirdre Saoirse Moen (to be fair, she says in her post that it's up to each vote to use or not use the list). I used this list to sort out the finalists/nominees into Puppy/Non-Puppy groups.

Personally, I think it's bullshit to automatically vote against something because of a list someone else made. Regardless of your opinion of the people, methods or views behind the Puppies, they didn't break any rules, and so their nominees should be treated the same as any other. Read* 'em, rank 'em and move on. The key there? READ*.

The only reason I noticed this was because of the Best Novelette winner, which I ranked near the bottom of my ballot. I thought it was easily the worst of the stories**, but one-third of the voters thought was the best. Which is fine, tastes and all that. However, the work closest in theme/tone (but far, far superior, IMHO) to it was "Totaled", which was hammered in Short Story. This seems fishy to me (fishy in the sense of the votes given, not the tally -- I think the counts were/are totally above board)

So I looked a little closer, and it seems like there were large numbers of voters who followed the puppy-free guide (obviously, it's impossible to tell this from the totals, or even from the votes). 14 of the 16 categories with at least 1 Puppy nominee/finalist had the non-Puppy noms at the top, then No Award, then the Puppy noms. The exceptions? Best Dramatic Long/Short Form, i.e. Best Movie/TV episode. I think (with no data to back me up) that these are least affected, because Hollywood blockbusters & TV are seen as above the fray (and, for TV, GoT is a juggernaut). And I am certain, based on nominee counts, that both Puppies and non-Puppies voted for Guardians of the Galaxy and Interstellar (as they should have, since they were both great, in very different ways).

For the 14 categories where the final placement was: non-Puppy noms (if any), then No Award, then Puppy Noms, I added the votes for No Award + No Preference as a percentage of the eligible votes for the category. Numbers below, but some thoughts:
  • In the 14 categories, at least 2000 people voted No Award above any Puppy nominee/finalist, and it was 51% or more of the eligible votes in each category. If half of these (not necessarily the SAME 2000 people -- info only the votes could give) were voting strict non-Puppy, that's almost 20% of the voting population and 10% of the year's members. That's HUGE.
  • Since 1038 of the 1966 non-GOTG voters for the non-Puppy Marvel movie (Captain America: Winter Soldier) preferred No Award to the Puppy Marvel movie (Guardians of the Galaxy), the above 1000 hardcore non-Puppy guess gains some weight. This is likely coincidence, but it makes me more curious about the actual votes
  • Based on the nominee data (at the bottom of the Stats pdf), there probably weren't more than about 200 Puppies nominating out of 2122 ballots in any given category (most finalists had fewer than 200 noms), and were almost definitely fewer than 400 (no non-movie had 400 noms). Puppy noms dominated for the simple reason that NOT MANY PEOPLE NOMINATE. I'm in that group, and both Puppy supporters and opponents have a very simple solution to their gripe: NOMINATE good works.
  • Personally, my reading tastes are closer to non-Puppy than Puppy, but I STRONGLY feel that one should weigh the nominees/finalists equally and fairly. The numbers below give strong circumstantial weight to a large number of voters that dropped the NO PUPPY hammer. It's disappointing, but not surprising, given the level of vitriol on both sides over the last few months. So, thanks to BOTH hardcore Puppy and anti-Puppies: THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS. Stop calling people SJWs, neo-Nazis, commies, racists, etc. and just discuss the damn books POLITELY. The anonymity of the Internet is not a license to be an asshole (TBH, I've forgotten that a few times). Ugh.
There is a clear trend:
  • Best Novel: Position 4 is No Award vs the 2 Puppy nominees: No Award + No Preference = 2674 + 387 = 3061 possible non-Puppy votes of 5653 eligible (54%)
  • Best Novella: All are Puppy Noms , Winner is No Award, so 3495 possible non-Puppy votes of 5337 eligible (65%) (I voted No Award here, but didn't follow the non-Puppy guide, so there's 3 basis points explained :D)
  • Best Novelette: Position 2 is No Award, the non-Puppy won, so there are 3089 + 89 = 3178 possible non-Puppy votes of 5104 (62%)
  • Best Short Story: All are Puppy Noms, Winner is No Award, so 3053 possible non-Puppy votes of 5267 eligible (58%)
  • Best Related Work: All are Puppy Noms, Winner is No Award, so 3259 possible non-Puppy votes of 4901 eligible (66%)
  • Best Graphic Story: 1 Puppy Nom, Position 5 No Award + No Preference = 3722 possible non-Puppy votes of 4412 eligible (84%). Personally, I thought this was the weakest Puppy offering, and the
  • Best Dramatic Long Form: The lone Puppy winner. Honestly, I'm not sure how to sort out the non-Puppy vs other voters, and I don't want to waste more of a sunny Sunday going through the minutiae of voting order. Of course, with the full voting data, I could get this with no problem :) Which means I'll need to email the Hugo people after I finish basking in the sun.
  • Best Dramatic Short Form: This is category where the Puppies have been clear in their boredom with Doctor Who's dominance***. People love the top Puppy nom, GoT, so that will muddy the waters (non-Puppy noms got slots 1 & 2). So I used it in Position 3 -- No Award + No Preference = 381 + 1194 = 1575 of 4705 eligible (33%)
  • Best Editor, Short Form: Personally, both Editor votes were tough for me, as I've never dealt with an editor (like most voters, I'd bet). Still, an all-Puppy slate. 2672 for No Award out of 4850 eligible (55%)
  • Best Editor, Long Form: Another all-Puppy slate. 2496 for No Award out of 4907 eligible (51%)
  • Best Pro Artist: Full discretion: I didn't vote, because I knew nothing about anyone here. Won by only non-Puppy nom, so Position 2 No Award + No Pref = 2350+271 = 2621 of 4354 eligible (60%)
  • Best Semiprozine: 3 non-Puppy noms were top 3, so Position 4 No Award + No Pref = 2021 + 479 = 2500 (ROUND NUMBER ILLUMINATI/PENTAVARATE ALERT!) of 3880 eligible (64%)
  • Best Fancast: 2 non-Puppy noms were top 2, so Position 3 No Award + No Pref = 2098 + 219 = 2317 of 3384 eligible (68%)
  • Best Fanzine: Only non-Puppy nom won, so Position 2 No Award + No Pref = 2356 + 148 = 2504 of 3818 eligible (66%)
  • Best Fan Writer: Only non-Puppy nom won, so Position 2 No Award + No Pref = 2687 + 224 = 2911 of 4183 eligible (70%)
  • Best Fan Artist: No (Edited: had incorrect "non" here) Puppy noms (so, the opposite of Short Story/Novella), so no relevant data. Interesting to note that 485 votes for No Award -- upper bound for (completist****) hardcore Puppy-only voters
  • Campbell Award: The only non-Puppy nom won, so Position 2 No Award + No Pref = 2381 + 377 = 2758 of 4388 eligible (63%)

* By "read", I am including watching the dramatic presentations, listening to podcasts, etc. Basically, "experience" or "consume".
** It ranked with/above 2 stories that I downgraded as clearly excerpts of novels, rather than being a novelette. I liked the other 2 better, but I didn't think they should be eligible.
*** A boredom I share. Dr. Who is good, occasionally great, but 3 episodes nominated in each of the previous 5 years? C'mon. And beating Community's Remedial Chaos Theory? Whovians need to put down the Kool-Aid and try something new. Rant over.
**** What an ugly word. With or with out a second "e", it looks wrong. English spelling is the worst. 

Food Waste Update Week 1

It's been a "week" since I posted about limiting my food waste. Here's what I tossed, uneaten since then:
  • Anchos and pasillas -- I had these in the oven to dry before i ground them, and I forgot. They made EXCELLENT charcoal powder, but I opted to pass on that. This happened about 5 minutes after my original post, so lesson learned -- don't blog while cooking
  • 1 massive green onion-leek hybrid (I'm assuming; it might've just been the largest green onion I've seen). The bundle of these had 4, i used 3, this one went bad before I could use it. A partial victory, though, since I previously would only use one or two
  • A handful of strawberries -- out of a kilo, losing a small handful isn't too bad. Especially as they were moldy after 1 day in the fridge.
  • 1 annoying blackberry -- this had some seriously overachieving mold spores on it. It was completely covered in white mold 5 hours after I put it in the fridge. I don't feel bad about this at all.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Me Vs Food Waste

Several of my friends, and John Oliver*, have recently gotten interested in the topic of food waste. This has gotten me to thinking** about how much food I waste. The amount is embarassingly large, mostly veggies that I buy with the best of intentions that go uneaten as those intentions die a quiet death. This is a waste of money & food, and that pisses me off.

I'm going to try to change my ways! How, you ask? The way that all the world's problems have traditionally been solved*** -- by blogging about it. I'm going to track (almost) all the groceries I buy and all I throw away. Here is this weekend's haul from the farmer's market & Rewe:
So, my rules:
  1. Any fresh food I buy gets logged, unless I forget or eat it right away. C'est la vie.
  2. Meals at restaurants, food stands, etc. don't count unless I waste a bunch, which will be logged.
  3. Any food wasted inadvertently (berries on the bottom that are already moldy the day I buy them, an egg I drop, etc.) aren't counted as waste.
  4. The non-food parts of the food (egg shells, stems, cherry pits, etc.) aren't counted as waste. It'd be great if I could compost that, but it's not currently an option.
  5. Wine and other beverages won't be listed unless they're wasted.
Here is the first meal:
  • ALL of the bacon (I only bought 3 strips, knowing I could inhale that) I bought today from the Fleisch Frauen****
  • Some fresh homemade pico de gallo (I outdid myself, it was real AND spectacular)
  • Two eggs (organic, bought last week) with the leftover green onion, jalepeƱo and cilantro from the pico.
  • A G&T on the side to use up some of the lime ;-).
Hopefully the rest of the food will be as tasty & fully consumed!

* Just for you, Steve
** Shocking!
*** For my tongue to be any further in my cheek would require surgery 
**** My name for the two women who run a butcher stand at the Rheinische Bauern Markt.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hugo 2015 Reads -- What I Learned

Now that I'm finished with my reading for the Hugo award voting, I can look back on the experience and reflect. Because, to quote Shakespeare, "forsooth, what good is a blog, if not to gaze at one's navel?"*
  • Too Much Short Fiction: I understand the motivation behind 3 categories of shorter fiction (it's a great way for new authors to get attention/experience and can give interim revenue between longer works to new and established authors), but as a reader, the divisions seem arbitrary. Especially as at least 3 of the 10 novellas/novelettes were clearly subsections of larger works. From a pre-vote reading perspective, I hope that these two categories are combined before next year.
  • So Many Beards and Hats: Everyone has their own personal style (mine is "meh"), but plenty of male SFF authors are rockin' the "beard and wide-brimmed hat" in their photos. I'm not sure why it's so popular, but it certainly seems like it is. If anyone is looking for a subject for a "Related Work" for next year's voting, investigating the rise of this phenomenon will get a nom from me (I'm betting Robert Jordan's popularity is partly responsible).
  • So Many Apostrophes: When SFF authors want to make a word or name sound exotic, their favorite method is to toss in an apostrophe or two. Some authors are more consistent with this than others, but it's played out. Unless an author explains (in an appendix, I don't need in-story pronounciation guides) how it sounds, just skip it. It's distracting and a bit annoying.
  • And Where's The Fantasy: While both sci-fi and fantasy are eligible, the nominees in each category have more sci-fi. I'm not sure if this is a trend (and I don't have enough interest to do the googling & counting) or the result of a personal Hugo nominations sample size of 1, but I'm curious about what it looks like next year.
  • Everyone Needs to Chill: The big controversy of the Sad/Rabid Puppies and their calls for more pulp-y fiction/unsung writers (Sad) and more works published by the leader of the Rabid Puppies (Rabid) has caused quite the Internet shitstorm. As always, this was handled on all sides with polite, measured discourse that never crossed the line. Or, not -- people were doxxed, the cops were warned of potential violence at WorldCon, etc. In other words, the same crap idiots do everyday on the Tinterwebs. Why people feel that anonymity is an assholery license, I do not know. Ugh. And lots of people online claim they automatically put Puppy noms below No Award without reading them. They were nominated without breaking the rules, read them and then rank them -- give them a fair chance. If you still think they're pedestrian* works riding a slate, then vote them below No Award (which I did with most, but not all). Don't punish the authors for something that they may not control***.
  • Don't Wait And Binge: I read most of the works in two short binges bookending my vacation, and this was a mistake. A lot of the short fiction was similar in style, and I think my ratings were lower because of it. Next year I plan to spread it out a bit, and hopefully have already read some of the noms.
  • There's Just So Much: I didn't vote in a bunch of categories (fanzines, art, etc.) that I didn't have any opinion/experience with, and I didn't have time to search it all out. Maybe next year, but maybe not. I don't feel that one has to participate in all aspects of SFF. It should be enjoyable, not a chore!

So, will I do it again? Definitely! Overall, I'd give the experience a 3.5 out of 5 (4.5 for novels, 3 for the rest), and I'm excited to participate again next year.

* I wouldn't waste a lot of time search for this quote in your Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
** Not literally pedestrian. Though that would be impressive, if they wrote the stories while walking.
*** I can see doing this for nominees whose behavior, on- or off-line, is far beyond what you consider acceptable, but I think one should generally only rank stuff you are familiar with.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hugo 2015 Reads - The Dark Between The Stars

OK, I didn't post this earlier, mainly because I was hoping my interest would be rekindled after some time away. It was not. I didn't finish it, but I gave the ol' community college try and read a fourth of it. Is this entirely fair to Kevin J. Anderson (whose Star Wars books I enjoyed)? No. But it's life, and I hope to finish it later in the year. My mid-book grade would be 2 of 5.

The Good:
  • It was fast-paced, with short chapters. This seems like faint praise, but it moves the pace. I think it's underrated, especially in a Kindle book. Seeing "1 min more" means I'm finishing the chapter.
  • Some cool ideas among the various interstellar races and tech. But trying to introduce so many leads to... 
  • It's fun space opera! Not too serious, good ideas, not obsessed with tech. Which is what I'd expect given his above-average work on the Art Formerly Known As The Star Wars Exanded Universe (sniff, sniff. We'll always miss you, Mara).

The Bad:
  • He just has too many balls in the air. There are a bunch of alien races, some very cool, a few human factions and it's just a bit much. I think he'd have been better served by starting with fewer POVs and branching out more later.
  • Speaking of the humans, they're pretty flat. Now, I am only partway through the book, but several felt more like stereotypes (especially the driven, vengeful career woman and the ethically-challenged CEO) than people. Again, this can change later in the book, and I'll definitely post a full review when I'm done. 
Current Ballot (Pending 1 Vote):The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman (Not a nominee, but amazing)
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Not a nominee, but very good)
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
No Award (this is an option in the rather complicated, but logical, voting process)
The Dark Between The Stars by Kevin J Anderson 

2015 Hugo Reads - Novellettes

Almost done! This is my last fiction category, and another dominated by Sad and Rabid Puppies nominees. However, this was one category where a Puppy nominee beat the field (for me). Of course, most of the field was Puppy nominees, so it's not exactly triumphing over the forces of liberal mediocrity forced upon us by the Great Tor Conspiracy*.To be fair, I'm pretty tired of short fiction, especially the crop that's in the list. So most of these probably deserve an extra half-star from me. But that's what they get for waiting until the last 2 days for me to finish them**.

Once again, in the order listed on the Hugos website:

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium, Gray Rinehart - 3.5 of 5 A short look at a human colony that's been overthrown by some late-arriving reptiles. A quick, easy read, fun with a nice sense of closure. The characters were very familiar, but it all worked for me.

Championship B’tok, Edward M. Lerner - 1 of 5 This one has promise -- interesting worldbuilding, but the characters are flat and it's blatantly only the start of the story -- clearly the first chunk of a novel, not a novellette. Had it been the same quality but an actual full story, I'd have rated it a few points higher (probably my second favorite of the 5 until I reached the end and said, "wait, that's it?!?). I'll probably read the full-length version, but this one was a sample, not a complete story.

The Day the World Turned Upside Down, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt translator - 1.5 of 5 This was just too on the nose, too cute. After a man is dumped by his girlfriend, the entire world... turns upside down. Get it? I liked the author's/translator's prose, but i couldn't get past the annoying elephant/metaphor in the room. I might read more by him, but this was not my cuppa.

The Journeyman: In the Stone House, Michael F. Flynn - 1.5 of 5 Another story that is part of a larger tale, this one stands basically alone. Still, it's not my bag; it's an odd mix of cultural archetypes -- Plains indians (with South Asian names), Arthurian lords, and a crashed spaceship with a working AI. A lot going on, but the pidgin English got old fast. The sword fighting was well-done, but I needed more.

The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale, Rajnar Vajra - 2 of 5 Not a bad idea (and some cool ideas about the applications of the ability to control inertia), but the resolution fails to live up to the buildup. Adding in that 2 of the 3 characters were flat and fairly stock, and I have to pass.

Final Ballot:
Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium
The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale
The Day the World Turned Upside Down
Championship B’tok
The Journeyman: In the Stone House

* I am joking here. The Puppies claim that Tor (Books or Dot Com, I'm not sure which) has a conspiracy of mindless drones that are driving the awards. Given Tor's record the last few years (single digit noms, 3 or fewer wins), it's an odd claim. Especially when the Sad Puppies have 51 of their 60 noms on the list and Rabid Puppies have 58 of 67, with only 12 from either or both list not making it -- and only 24 not on either list. Counts from File 770. (linked without permission, but will remove if asked!)
** OK, fine, that was my fault.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

2015 Hugo WATCH

Soooooo... the Hugos also do movies and TV! I actually thought Big Hero 6 should've been on the list, as it was great.

Once again, in the order listed on the Hugos website: 
Long Form (what the unwashed masses call "movies")
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 4.5 of 5 LOVED it, but it just didn't feel like sci-fi/fantasy to me, so it gets...below NO AWARD
Edge of Tomorrow - UNRANKED! I refuse to pay $5 to rent a movie online. When they come to their senses, I'll watch it.
Guardians of the Galaxy - 4 of 5 LOVED it, but not as much as...
Interstellar - 5 of 5 I'm sorry, but how can you be a sci-fi fan and not love a movie where time dilation is a legit plot point?
The Lego Movie - 3.5 of 5 Really shocked, but this was great.Not quite as the raves I heard, but close!

Doctor Who: “Listen” - 3.5 of 5 Dr Who is great, but this didn't blow me away. Love the new guy, though. Matt Smith was... not my fave.
The Flash: “Pilot” - 4 of 5 Shocked by how good this was, especially on a TV budget.
Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”- 3.5 of 5 Easily the most disturbing thing I've ever seen on TV, this would be at least a point better if they'd kept the book's version of the Tyrion-Jaime chat.
Grimm: “Once We Were Gods”- UNRANKED/UNWATCHED Sadly, No time for this. Blame all the crap the puppies put on the short fiction ballots.
Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” - 4.5 of 5 (UNWATCHED) This is shady, but I love Orphan Black but didn't have time to finish season 2 (see above) in time for the vote. But it's awesome, so it's getting my vote.

2015 Hugo Reads - Short Stories

This will be a short one, befitting the shortest of the fiction categories. I'm a very rare reader of short fiction, so these are definitely not part of my normal reading. The links in the titles lead to online versions of the stories, except for the Wright & Diamond stories, as I couldn't find those online, so the links are to the collections containing them on amazon.

Once again, in the order listed on the Hugos website:

On A Spiritual Plain, Lou Antonelli - 3 of 5 Interesting to read a new story by the guy from "Letters to Gardner", and he has an interesting idea here. The first human death on a world where the magnetic field causes consciousness to linger, it reminds me of an idea i read in Warren Ellis's Planetary (not sure if it originated with him). I think he could've done more with it, but not bad.
The Parliament of Beasts and Birds, John C. Wright - 1 of 5 This is a post-Rapture/Armageddon tale told in an Aesop's fables style of animals trying to decide what to do in the absence of Man. It mixes Old Testament and Greek lore (some pretty obscure), and it comes off as an odd read. Wright just is not my cup of tea, and his usual inconsistently-archaic dialogue doesn't help.
A Single Samurai, Steven Diamond - 1.5 of 5 This story of a single samurai walking up the back of a Godzilla-ish kaiju didn't do it for me. It was the first thing I read in the reread months ago, and I have little memory of it, aside from a pretty eyeroll-inducing ending. Not bad, just didn't do it for me.
Totaled, Kary English - 4 of 5 Some near-ish future sci-fi, this is an interesting and moving short story about the aftermath of a life-altering car crash. The setup for the small bit on insurance rules seemed out of place and a bit forced, but overall it was fascinating and surprisingly moving.
Turncoat, Steve Rzasa - 2 of 5 Military SF about a ship's AI in a battle between a human govt and one run by former humans uploaded to machine consciousness. The ending is pretty obvious and the characters flat, but the basic idea wasn't bad.

Final Ballot:
On A Spiritual Plain
A Single Samurai
The Parliament of Beasts and Birds

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hugos 2015 Reads -- Novellas

This will be a short one -- I was polishing my final draft before my vacation when the window went blank and Google "helpfully" auto-saved... with no recourse. So, just a sentence each for Novellas, in the order listed on the Hugos website:

Big Boys Don’t Cry, Tom Kratman - 2.5 of 5 military SF about a sentient tank looking back on its training and career. I thought the idea of simulated battles to train/indoctrinate an AI was pretty cool, but it just didn't do it for me. Military SF has to be pretty great to float my boat.
Flow, Arlan Andrews, Sr. - 2.5 of 5 Sci-Fi/Fantasy of a future Earth (maybe?) where humans have split into pretty different phenotypes. This is a pretty basic newbie-to-a-culture story, with a few cool ideas (a group of farsighted people use carvings instead of writing to overcome their eyesight), but it seemed like an excerpt more than a full story.

One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright - 0.5 of 5 A Narnia homage, this one is overfilled with references to past events in unknown places in a fantasy world and nods to various CS Lewis writings. The ending is just bizarre. Bold choice to make all the best action offscreen... and then blithely describe it in dialogue.
Pale Realms of Shade, John C. Wright - 1 of 5 At first, it's a film noir crossed with urban fantasy. And then it takes a turn to be... message fiction. Which is hated by the Rabid Puppies -- unless they're publishing/nominating it, apparently.
The Plural of Helen of Troy, John C. Wright - 2 of 5 Some great ideas on time travel bogged down in flat characters and more messaging. Also some very odd mixing of fictional and "real" characters. Easily my favorite of any of Wright's works among the nominees, though.

I was hoping I wouldn't vote NO AWARD in a category, but here I just didn't feel any of the stories were Hugo-worthy (I currently vacillate between 3 & 3.5 of 5 as "Hugo-worthy").
Final Ballot:
Big Boys Don’t Cry
The Plural of Helen of Troy
Pale Realms of Shade
One Bright Star to Guide Them

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hugos 2015 Reads - Related Work

After a three-week vacation, I'm back to trying to finish my reading before Hugo votes are due on Friday. Doh! 

Related Work is a kind of catch-all category for non-fiction related to SFF, criticism, etc. As such, it's a pretty diverse selection. I've listed the works in alphabetical order by author's last name.

Letters from Gardner by Lou Antonelli -- 3 of 5 This is the one I was most interested in, as it's about the actual mechanics of writing. It's a series of short stories, starting as he's trying to break into publishing short science fiction, and follows his career. Each of the stories is paired with an intro and follow-up about the changes the stories went through, including his interactions with famed editor Gardner Dozois. Unfortunately, the included sample was only just getting into the interesting part of his correspondence. It was good enough that I'll be buying it soon enough.

The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF by Ken Burnside -- 2.5 of 5 This is not my cup of tea, but it was an informative look at the restrictions that our current understanding of thermodynamics has on hard SF, specifically military SF. If you're an author trying to do worldbuilding in a SF world that is fairly realistic, this is your bag, baby. I'm not in this situation (nor plan to be), so I appreciate the usefulness, but that's about it.

Why Science is Never Settled (there are two parts, hence the gap in the link) by Tedd Roberts -- 2 of 5 This is a basic intro to what the actual practice of science is -- the scientific method, what a theory means, etc. It's informative, but he does have a pretty massive error. He lists "Climategate" as an example of "abuse of pre- publication peer-review to publish some articles and block others". Unfortunately, this had been thoroughly debunked YEARS before the article was written, and such a mistake makes me take a point off my rating.

Wisdom from My Internet by Michael Z. Williamson -- 1 of 5 This is mainly a collection of tweets (maybe other work?), the majority of which have nothing to do with SFF. Some of these (assumed) tweets are mildly amusing, but when read in bulk, they're tedious. Adding in the fact that it's only tangentially "related" (the majority are politics, current events, or other non-SFF material), you get the low rating (in general i'd give it a 1.5, not a 0.5).

Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth by John C. Wright -- 0 of 5 This was just brutal. To be fair, I didn't read the whole thing, but I did read all of "Transhuman and Subhuman", "The Hobbit, or The Desolation of Tolkien", "John C. Wright's Patented One Session Lesson in the Mechanics of Fiction", and most of (the extremely long -- over a third of the kindle edition in the voter packet) "Saving Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters" (I gave up after realizing he was never going to back up any his statements with anything more than... more of his statements). This one gets its own coverage!
Wright has several axes to grind, but it all flows from assigning female characters what he sees as "masculine" traits. He starts there and links it into a web that rails against Leftists (he never specifies if he means socialists, communists, liberals, or some other version), Political Correctness, and other bogeymen. His technique for these arguments is to make a bold, unsubstantiated claim ("Women, it must be noted, complain more than men"), then build upon it until he restarts the process.The essay is filled with his statements on what is "masculine" and "feminine", the goals and beliefs for "Leftists" and the "Cult of Political Correctness", none of which are backed by any reference to data or a source. He can't quote a source, as he's (apparently) assigning views to an undefined group. His random statements offered as fact include:
  • "The strategy of picking up an attractive stranger of loose morals, or hiring her for a fee for sexual favors, is so repugnant to prudence if not to human nature as to induce vomiting." The Bold is mine to highlight what a laughable statement this is.
  • "after the fall of the Soviet Union, it was discovered that each and every person McCarthy accused was guilty of exactly that which he accused them" Well, after an extensive google search lasting almost 10 minutes, there's 0 evidence for this. Some he named were Communists, but most of his accusations were bullshit. If not? Give a reference.
  • "the cultists will claim credit for something they opposed, such as the Civil Rights Movement, which was a Republican movement" You can argue that is was MORE a Republican movement, but giving all the credit isn't sloppy, it's intellectually dishonest -- it is easy to argue it was a regional movement. Basic statistical analysis is not Wright's strong point. 
I could go on, but this was easily the worst-argued essay I've read in a very long time. It's rambling, misleading, poorly researched (or at least completely incompetently referenced) and reads like a mediocre blog post rather than a serious look into what makes female characters "strong" and the impact on culture.
My final ballot (which coincidentally is in alphabetical order by author's name!):
Letters from Gardner
The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF
Why Science is Never Settled
Wisdom from My Internet
Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hugos 2015 Reads - Best Graphic Story

I am, and have long been*, a MASSIVE comics fan. My tastes generally run to superhero comics, though I've dipped my toe into the more "serious" waters -- Maus, Persepolis, Blankets***, Logicomix****, and the AWESOME Cartoon History of the Universe. But this year's noms are a pretty nice mix -- One Marvel, 3 Image (Hooray for creator-owned!) and one webcomic. DC was too busy planning its semi-annual reboot to generate nominees*****.

Best Graphic Story -- As a long-time reader of superhero, especially Marvel, comics, I'm definitely biased toward the capes. But this year's noms only have one (which I have already read, and loved). Here are my thoughts, in reverse alphabetical order:

Zombie Nation -- As the only one NOT included in the packet, I'm going to judge this one based on the most recent month of comics (it's a webcomic). And I have to say... meh. It's occasionally funny, but it's just not in the league of the other noms. 1 out of 5

Sex Criminals -- You had me at "sex"! And "criminals"! Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky's highly acclaimed comic lives up to its reputation. Funny, touching and it left me wanting more; what more could you want from a comic? Any other year, and this would most likely be my pick. but it's up against the force of nature that is Kamala Khan. Sorry, criminal fornicators, maybe next year! 4 out of 5

Saga -- I started reading Saga from the beginning, but I quickly grew tired of the seemingly endless churn through ideas with little follow-through. Not bad by any means, but this is my baseline for an award (for this year). 2.5 out of 5

Rat Queens -- I was pretty psyched to find out this was in the noms/packet, as I've heard a lot of raves about it. Fun, funny, sword and sorcery action. Boozing, fighting, this is balls/ovaries-to-the-wall action. An excellent read and a worthy winner, but unfortunately they brought a sword to a catapult fight. 4 out of 5
Ms. Marvel -- Kamala Khan is all kinds of awesome. She's firmly in the classic Marvel teen hero mold, following Peter Parker, Ultimate Peter Parker******, Kitty Pryde, The Runaways, Miles Morales, etc. She's smart, trapped between wanting to be a good daughter and fit in, and secretly dreaming of being a superhero. And, because it's a Marvel comic, she becomes one. She's a muslim teen in New Jersey, but none of those traits defines her (though the Jersey bit comes the closest) -- she's fully rounded, as is her best friend/wannabe suitor Bruno. Highly recommended. 4.5 out of 5 (had they included the Wolverine story, it might've been 5 out of 5).

So, my final vote:
Ms. Marvel
Sex Criminals
Rat Queens
Zombie Nation

* Seriously, as long as I can remember. One of my first book(ish)-buying memories was to get comics at the pharmacy in scenic** Fairview, TN.
** "Scenic" here is a synonym for "redneck and boring"
*** Soooooooooo overrated. Ugh.
**** Soooooooooo underrated. Ah!
***** I kid because I love. And because DC has been selling the sizzle, not the steak, since DiDio took over.
****** Confession: Ultimate Spider-Man is probably my favorite long-run of any comic, ever. Bendis and Bagley were AMAZING.

Greece to Ireland: You Paid, We Shouldn't

The Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, wrote an editorial for the Irish Times on Sunday, where he said:
Irish readers need no reminder of the indignity that befalls a people forced to forfeit their sovereignty in the midst of an economic depression. They may, however, be justified to look at the never-ending Greek crisis and allow themselves a feeling of mild superiority, on the basis that the Irish suffered quietly, swallowed the bitter pill of austerity and are now getting out of the woods.

The Greeks, in contrast, protested loudly for years, resisted the troika fiercely, elected my radical left-wing party last January and remain in the doldrums of recession.

While such a feeling is understandable, permit me, dear reader, to argue that it is unhelpful in at least three ways. First, it does not promote understanding of the current Greek drama. Second, it fails to inform properly the debate on how the euro zone, and the EU more generally, should evolve. Third, it sows unnecessary discord between peoples that have in common more than they appreciate.

This is just so money. He doesn't deny that Greece has fucked around for 5+ years and refused to implement reforms that they promised they would make*. Instead he says, "hey, we could've made these reforms when we got the money, like Ireland did. But we didn't, because that would've been hard, like it was for Ireland. So if we make the reforms now, that's really a threat to democracy. It wasn't a problem for democracy when Ireland did it, because, you know, you're not Greece. But now? Europe's democracy is at stake."

I actually agree with the reforms he suggests, as do most European leaders. So did the various Greek governments over the last 5 years (incl a least one stint with the current idiots in charge) , when they were proposed and Greece ignored them or passed them (with a late 2015 implementation date). After the February 2015 bailout talks, Greece gave a summary, and 17 of the first 23 reforms were due by... June 2015 (or Q2 2015, same thing). Are these done? Fuck, no. And the rest? Almost uniformly, these were scheduled to start in... June 2015 -- when the next tranche of bailout funds were due. Greece has been stringing Europe along for years, constantly promising, then passing reforms, but never actually implementing the majority. If they get this bailout, those June 2015 dates? Expect them in August, December or whenever the next tranche comes.

Maybe Greece gets the money and maybe they don't. What's certain, based on their recent behavior, is that they won't make the necessary reforms and they will be back begging for more money.

* Instead they passed the reforms with an implementation date after future bailout payment were due.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The REAL Hugo Controversy

The Sad and/or Rabid Puppies may try to convince you that there's a bias at work in the Hugo Awards*, and they may be right. However, they've overlooked the REAL shameful secret of the Hugo Awards. That secret? No novel written in a language other than English has ever won. Do you really believe that the best sci-fi/fantasy novel of the year was originally written in English... for SIXTY consecutive years? This stretches credulity.

Solaris, The Night Watch, 1Q84, The Shadow of the Wind, ... there are others. But Hugo voters don't seem inclined to read (or, if they do, to nominate) works in translation. I'd love to get on my high horse, but I don't read many works in translation, either, so I'd be a hypocrite to fault them for this. My solution? Create an award for work in translation. It doesn't have to be given every year, but it would help raise awareness AND it would genuinely broaden the scope of the awards to an overlooked** group of books/authors. So, Hugo committee, get on it!

* The bias is NOT that voting is done by the members of Worldcon -- that's the definition of the population, not a bias.
** By the Hugo community in particular, and also English-language genre fans.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Hugo 2015 Reads - The Goblin Emperor

I first picked up The Goblin Emperor in December, but I didn't have a chance to get into it while home for Christmas. This, it turns out, was a good thing, as I was completely enthralled once I started in earnest, and I would have given either it or my family visit short shrift :)

The book is (spoiler alert!) about a goblin emperor. Maia has been raised in a remote location by an abusive, disgraced former courtier of his father. Maia's mother, a goblin (the emperor was a lighter-skinned elf), was sent away from court almost immediately after her wedding night. She raised Maia without any contact from his father, and the only time they met was at his mother's funeral when he was 10. Not great preparation for 8 years later, when Maia is woken by the news that an airship accident killed his father and three older brothers -- he's emperor.

The book details Maia's journey to becoming emperor and adjusting to his new role. He faces internal and external challenges, racism, provincialism (he had spent no time at court) and isolation because of his status. His general good nature, intelligence and a handful of loyal servants are all he can count on.

The Good:
  • Maia! He's the rare, truly good person in fantasy (really, in fiction/non-fiction). He fights to be fair to all, even his enemies.
  • The prose. Addison writes with a light touch -- it doesn't read as a fairy tale, nor is it grim. There's a light sense of humor and wonderfully descriptive passages throughout.
  • The very low level of magic (it's used only a handful of times, almost as an aside) is part of the world, not the focus. This is a world at the start of an industrial revolution, with all that entails. 
  • While it does leave open room for a sequel (which she says will not happen), it stands alone. This is a rare accomplishment in fantasy.

The Bad:
  • There's not going to be a sequel
  • It's a very light read, so it's not quite as thought-provoking as some of the others on the list, nor is the prose as intricate as, say, Station Eleven
  • The book is told entirely from Maia's perspective, so the other characters don't get as much development. It's there, but the structure restricts us from getting too much of those around Maia.
4.5 out of 5
So, it was an excellent read, and it currently is tied with Ancillary Sword for the lead in my vote. I'm not sure if ties are allowed, but if not, I'll rank it first, since Ms. Leckie won last year.

Where I rank it in my Read of the Hugos:
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman (Not a nominee, but amazing)
(Tie) The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison 
(Tie) Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Not a nominee, but very good)
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
No Award (this is an option in the rather complicated, but logical, voting process)

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Hugos 2015 Reads - Ancillary Sword

I read, and enjoyed, last year's winner, Ancillary Justice,* and so I was excited to see the sequel also garnered a nom. And this time, it wouldn't take me the majority of the book to realize that feminine pronouns were used for everyone (I wasn't reading carefully and just assumed that everyone was female before that. D'oh!).

Breq, the main character of the books, is a former ancillary of the Radch empire. Ancillaries are human bodies of POWs who have a ship AI's consciousness uploaded (via a process that is horrible for both) into their body, thereby killing the "person" over a few days. Breq is the only surviving ancillary out of thousands of a now-destroyed AI, and she continues to adapt to only having one body rather than thousands plus access to thoughts of the crew of her ship. She is now captain of a ship, and is regaining a larger sense of her crew via implants and her interaction with this AI.

This 3000+ year old empire spans a large chunk of space and is opposed by at least 3 non-human sentient species, including the ludicrously more advanced Presger (who may, or may not, be working to undermine the Radch). The Radch is ruled by Anaander Mianaai, a former(?) human whose consciousness is uploaded into bodies across the universe (but that are not instantaneously linked). And that consciousness is split into at least two warring factions. The empire is controlled via massive, AI-controlled ships, previously crewed largely by ancillaries, but now with humans. The crew all have implants that allow the ship's AI (and its captain) to observe their vitals and hear and see what the crew members do**.

But that's just worldbuilding - the actual plot follows Breq as she goes to try to make amends to the sibling of a friend she had to kill. This does not go well. She then gets caught up in the local politics of the system while also trying to figure out if either of the Mianaai factions or the Presger are influencing events there. I've managed to make a fairly fast-paced, character-driven novel sound dry and bland, but it's not. There are explosions, political intrigue, a super-creepy "human" grown by aliens, and more. I really enjoyed it and will be reading the final book in the trilogy as soon as it's out.

The Good:
  • Breq is just awesome -- she has a rigid code of honor and doesn't have any fucks left to give if that bothers people. She uses her new position of power to right wrongs, regardless of whether that would please Mianaai... or the people involved.
  • More Presger weirdness! They were hinted at in the first book, and they come into play a bit more here. A massively powerful, mysterious culture that can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants is clearly terrifying to all involved. And the humans have no idea what the Presger consider good or bad, so all they can do is avoid them and hope they haven't pissed them off. I've worked for bosses that were Presger, sans technology.
  • Leckie does a great job of letting us inside the captain-AI interface and how this reflects on their differences and similarities. And by comparing her with another captain, we see how she differs from a standard human. The concept of identity carries over from the first book.

The Bad:
  • Not much, really. I was pretty bummed that it was over so soon.

I enjoyed it even more than its predecessor; and I unreservedly loved it. The lack of gendering can be frustrating at first, but that's part of the immersion into the culture (and a bit of a shock when a conquered culture that retains gendering in their language pop up).

I give it 4.5 out of 5. Highly recommended!

Where I rank it in my Read of the Hugos:
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman (Not a nominee, but amazing)
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Not a nominee, but very good)
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
No Award (this is an option in the rather complicated, but logical, voting process)

* Commas were on sale this week.
** The NSA data gatherer reading this just had an orgasm at the thought of so much surveillance ability. 

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Hugo 2015 Reads - Station Eleven

I'd read the rave reviews, saw the Clarke award and the National Book Award Finalist, and finally sat down to read Mandel's novel of the aftermath of a rather nasty epidemic (as opposed to, I guess, all the nice epidemics?). And, so, even though it wasn't nominated for a Hugo, I'm including it in my list.

The story follows several characters whose paths intertwine throughout the book, all linked by the self-published titular comic. Large portions of the book concern a Canadian actor's life and loves before the epidemic, with the remainder mostly focusing on a traveling theater/music group that plies the areas around Toronto. There they face the usual post-apocalyptic threats: religious extremism, the elements, hunger, despair, etc.

The Good:
  • Mandel's prose is beautiful and her descriptions of the comic made me want to see it
  • The pacing and mood in the post-epidemic world is excellent. There's a strong sense of dread as the group slowly falls apart.
  • Several story threads are hinted at early on, and gradually develop. And several are left dangling, which added to the mood of being part of a world,.

The Bad:
  • The increasingly implausible series of coincidences that link the characters eventually reaches absurd levels. Almost every survivor has multiple links to the aforementioned actor.
  • The religious leader and his minions are underdeveloped. And, of course, part of the series of coincidences.
  • The book often feels like a series of of barely-connected short stories, similar to Khaled Hosseini's And The Mountains Echoed. One character, in particular, feels shoehorned in.

I enjoyed it and recommend it
Where I rank it in my Read of the Hugos:
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman (Not a nominee, but amazing)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Not a nominee, but very good)
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
No Award (this is an option in the rather complicated, but logical, voting process)

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Hugo 2015 Reads - The Three Body Problem

This is the first in my series of reviews of the 2015 Hugo Awards Best Novels Nominees. For background on this, read my post about it

Reading "The Three-Body Problem" was... an interesting experience.I read the translation, so I honestly have no idea if the stylistics concerns I had are the author's or the translator's. But as an English reader, it's irrelevant :)

When I thought about the good and the bad of the novel, the bad outweighed the good in my list -- but I was still driven to finish (and only partially due to hoping for a character to get her VERY well-earned comeuppance). Most of my negatives bothered me because I enjoyed it -- it could've been a classic, but there were some pretty glaring flaws. Still, a good read, and I'll definitely read the 2nd installment!

The Good:
- Great pace, some intriguing science in the last 1/4 of the book
- The effects and impacts of the Cultural Revolution on scientists, especially physicists, was fascinating. I'd read before, but forgotten, that relativity was considered counter-revolutionary. Which was doubly impressive, as it predated any major communist revolution by 10 years!

The Bad:
- It read like a fairy tale. Not the content, but the style -- lots of passive voice, just an odd read. Of course, this may be normal in Chinese sci-fi (actually, based on my almost-twenty-year-old knowledge of Chinese, I think this was a translator choice), but it was very off-putting
- Very few characters were well-developed, most were more archetypes -- concerned scientist, hardboiled cop (I loved Da Shi!), etc. Some work, some don't.
- The level of science performed during the Cultural Revolution is suspect -- the development of a microwave weapon in the 60s that could take down satellites?
- At one point Mao (or a direct subordinate) rejects a SETI-ish message as "too political". There's just no way this would have happened during the CR. "Too political" didn't exist as a concept. Any subordinate that did that would be immediately served up for reeducation, or worse.

Where I rank it in my Read of the Hugos:
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman (Not a nominee, but amazing)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Not a nominee, but very good)
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
No Award (this is an option in the rather complicated, but logical, voting process)

My Hugo Awards 2015 Read

After 3 decades of reading sci-fi and fantasy, I've finally gotten around to signing up to be a Hugo Award voter. In case you don't know, the Hugos are one of the 2 big awards for sci-fi fantasy. The Nebula Awards are closer to the Oscars, in that they're voted on by pros, but the Hugos are nominated by, and voted on, by fans.

The last few years have been controversial, as a group of conservative readers feel that "their" award has been stolen by "Social Justice Warriors". Google Sad/Rabid Puppies (or read this) and you'll learn far too much. To fight this, they campaigned to their social media followers to nominate a "slate" that they put together (the two groups have similar, but not identical slates). These did very well, especially in the short fiction categories. In general, these are military or action sci-fi that they feel is "their" sci-fi/fantasy. This being the Internet, though, they and their followers and their opponents immediately started acting like complete asshats to anyone that opposed them. People are the worst

I'm going to read all (or part, in case the samples sent to voters aren't complete) of the novels and at least try some of the novellas and short stories (I rarely read short fiction, so no promises).
Here are the nominated novels, in the order I'm reading them (also close to my order of anticipation):
The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books) 
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Roc Books)