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Sometime soon I hope to find enough brain to post something other than news, but in the meantime:

2010 Hugo Award winners announced!

I’m excited to see a Bacigalupi/Miéville tie for best novel, and possibly even more excited to see that Clarkesworld won for best semi-prozine. Also, Moon for best dramatic presentation, long form, over Avatar. (If you’ve ever wanted to hear Kevin Spacey voice a robot that expresses itself using emoticons, go see Moon. Strictly speaking, it’s crummy sci-fi, but as a character study it’s terribly moving. Also, Kevin Spacey.)

– E

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2009 World Fantasy Award nominees announced
Nebulous destiny (2010 Nebula winners)
2010 Hugo nominations

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Here they are!

As usual, I’ve read a depressingly minute fraction of the list, but it does include a good chunk of Black Letters favorites – notably, Caitlín Kiernan‘s The Red Tree (my review here), one of our favorite reads of 2009.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

– E

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And the 2010 Nebula winners have been announced!

I think I never got around to posting about the nominations here, but there was, of course, a lot of overlap with the 2010 Hugo nominees, and the winners included some familiar faces. Kij Johnson’s “Spar” won for Best Short Story, and Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making won the Andre Norton Award for best young adult novel, which marks the first time that a self-published novel has won a major literary award.

Woo hoo!

Also, I really really want to read Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl

– E

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2010 Hugo nominations are out! Whoo!

…and yet again, remind me of the extent to which I don’t have time to keep up with current reading. Boo.

Between the two of us, I think Kakaner and I have read 5 things on the ballot (Boneshaker, The City & The City, Palimpsest, “Spar,” and Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader), which I suppose isn’t thaaat unrespectable… but still. I’d love to make it my goal to read everything on the short story ballot, at the least.

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Hugos a go-go
Awards season

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Date read: 11.06.09
Read From: Asimov’s, July 2008
Reviewer: Emera

This post originally segued into an extremely long-winded discussion of what makes readers perceive fiction as “genre” versus “non-genre,” but two hours and >1100 words later, I got uncomfortable with some/all of what I had written. So, it’s been hacked back and all that’s left is a thematic discussion/analysis of Kij Johnson’s “26 Monkeys, Also The Abyss,” which, you might have noticed, Kakaner also just reviewed. (Later edit: But here’s the most expeditious compression of what I had been meaning to say about genre: if you like speculative fiction that makes a point of explicating mechanism – how the AI or the FTL drive or the summoning spell works – you’ll probably be disappointed by this story. It’s more of an absurdist fable.)

To make a mildly spoilery summary, the grief-embittered, formerly rootless heroine, Aimee, comes into possession of a strange miracle: a troupe of performing monkeys who, without any visible explanation, can disappear and reappear at will. She wonders endlessly at the miracle, and where it brings her to in life, but she never really does find out how it works.

The monkeys know, obviously, and one even agrees to show her the trick firsthand – but she still can’t see what the trick is. Despite the monkeys’ transparency (PUN) – here’s what we do, here’s us doing it, nothing hidden, just a bunch of monkeys in a bathtub – there’s a veil she can’t penetrate, something she can’t see beyond, can’t participate in. There’s just no way for her to “get it,” to seize the heart of the mystery, no matter how close she is to it and how clearly it’s laid out for her. It’s deliciously slippery and absurd, a mystery that’s all the more impenetrable for its almost banal apparent obviousness.

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Date Read: 11.03.09
Read From: Asimov’s July 2008
Reviewer: Kakaner

Well, after reading “Spar”, I was mighty curious to see what all the fuss with Kij Johnson was about so I searched up her most famous story. “26 Monkeys, Also The Abyss” won the 2009 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction and is currently nominated for the 2009 Hugo and Nebula Short Story awards.

The story is about a girl with little-to-no prospects who buys a traveling monkey act from the current owner. The act makes her rich and famous, but she is never quite satisfied mainly because she isn’t able to figure out how the monkeys perform their disappearing act. I was drawn in by so many aspects of this tale– the circus, monkeys with personalities, magic, and the very bizarre human-human and human-monkey relationships.The implied imagery is actually eerily haunting, from 26 brilliant monkeys pursuing pastimes in their cages to the scene in which they disappear one by one into a suspended bathtub. However, I was very disappointed by the ending. I felt like Johnson did a fantastic job keeping me guessing throughout the entire story but failed to deliver an ending of the same caliber, and I didn’t come away with much food for thought. Once again, one of those “What was the point?” moments for me.

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Kij Johnson
Asimov’s Science Fiction

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The winning Hugos have been declared, and I suspect that no one was too surprised by the results. For one, Neil Gaiman‘s The Graveyard Book did indeed take best novel, making this Gaiman’s fourth Hugo win, out of six nominations – one of which, for Anansi Boys, Gaiman actually turned down. Not a bad record, eh?

Other familiar names on the winning list included Ted Chiang, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Ellen Datlow, Doctor Horrible, WALL-E… I was also very happy to see that Weird Tales won for best semi-prozine only two years after its reorganization/makeover, and that Electric Velocipede won for best fanzine.

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I can’t say I’m qualified to blog about genre fiction awards season, given that I generally straggle at least one year behind current offerings in the field, but I’m still having fun following the buzz surrounding the 2009 Hugo Awards and World Fantasy Awards, the shortlists for which have been released.

SF Signal has an interesting panel feature asking a dozen-odd genre folk the following questions about the Hugo Awards:

1. How would you rate the track record of the Hugo Awards at directing readers to the best that the genre has to offer?
2. How well do you think the Hugo shortlist, year over year, represents to the outside world what speculative fiction has to offer?
3. Which of this year’s finalists do you predict will receive the Hugo award for Best Novel?
4. Which of this year’s finalists do you think should receive the Hugo award for Best Novel?
5. Which books do you think were missing from this year’s list of Best Novel finalists?

It went on a bit long for me, so I stopped halfway through, but of what I read, I found Paul Graham Raven‘s answer to #2 particularly interesting and well-articulated. Steve Davidson’s responses were also useful in considering the history, scope, and overall “purpose” of the awards – mainly, that the Hugo Awards were not primarily conceived of as writing awards, but as gestures of recognition to a variety of figures in fandom. I guess that the idea of “best” is compelling enough that that ends up being the focus, as with all awards.

The top two trends in responses:

  • The Hugo Awards, being based on the votes of a small subset of people, are more likely to reward a particular sort of popularity than, necessarily, literary merit. This is expressed with varying degrees of resignation and ire by nearly every panelist.
  • Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book seems the top pick for best novel, with potential but unlikely competition from Neal Stephenson’s Anathem. (It’s a battle of the Nei/als, as one panelist put it.)

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Hugo Awards nominees
World Fantasy Awards nominees

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