Monday, June 1, 2015

A Note About John C. Wright

When I decided to read and vote on all Hugo nominees, I also decided that politics would not have a place in my decision making process. No looking if the work was on a slate. No looking at the author's website or blog to see what thoughts they have on this year's Hugos. Often, not even looking at the publisher of the work in case it happens to be Castalia House.

When I was initially reading about the slates for this year's nominees though, I kept coming across two assertions. One, that Vox Day is a despicable human being for reasons I will not get into here. If you have a couple hours, a bottle of hard liquor and the desire to feel like humanity is doomed, you can read his blog. The other is that John C. Wright is a gigantic homophobe.

That is a weighty accusation, and not one that I could easily ignore.

Even a cursory google search shows a treasure trove of articles about a few prominent instances of gay bashing on Mr. Wright's part. I did my due diligence though and made sure to track any quotes of his back to his own website (sometimes with the aid of The Wayback Machine). I'm comfortable enough with the evidence to say that I think that Mr. Wright certainly holds homosexuality in contempt and uses hateful speech to get that point across.

I cannot support Mr. Wright's actions. As such, I cannot, in good conscience, support his business.

So, this once, I will allow something other than the quality of the work determine how I vote.

Across the board, I will be voting No Award on Mr. Wright's nominated works.

A reminder about comments: Comments will be moderated with an iron fist. Discussion is healthy and heartily encouraged by this blogger, but respect will reign supreme. If you can't manage that, this is not the place for you.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Single Samurai by Steven Diamond

 Warning: Spoilers ahead. 

This story follows a samurai's attempt to kill a monster the size of a mountain that is terrorizing his country.

I thought that the premise of this story was interesting.

There was nothing else about this story that really drew me in. The writing style was neither amazing nor terrible. The setting was glossed over. The story was almost painfully straightforward. It did not inspire any real emotions. I just did not find anything about this story that was memorable.

Part of why I was not drawn in is that I did not feel any real connection with the main character since he made choices that I thought were dumb. I could not figure out why he thought it would be a good idea to spend any time in a cave. Keep in mind that the monster is the size of a mountain and in fact has layers of dirt and rocks and even trees growing on it. Every step of this monster causes the dirt, rocks and trees to fall off. There is a high chance of that cave collapsing or falling off entirely. Why would you choose to stay there for hours on end?

Although I tried, I was not able to put my annoyance at this aside completely. Then he ducked into another cave and happened to find the brain of the monster. Which, of course, is the key to killing the monster.

I had a really hard time with the ending. Not the way that he kills the monster - that was clearly set up previously and followed logically (once I figured out what was going on). More that when the samurai saw the brain, he had no idea what to do. His mind was a blank slate. The next sentence, he had shoved his sword into the monster's brain and that was, of course, the correct action. Since there was no preface to the action and almost no explanation afterwards, I had to read it a couple times to make sure that I really understood what was happening. I finished the story feeling annoyed with the main character again.

Overall, it was just another short story that I can say that I've read.

Do I think A Single Samurai by Steven Diamond is award worthy?
Current rankings for Best Short Story:
1. Totaled
3. On a Spiritual Plain
5. No Award

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

This is yet another category that I am not going to vote in.

In this case, not because I can't judge quality but because I don't have access to the episodes that have been nominated.

None of the shows are on Netflix streaming. In the instances that the shows are on Hulu, the right episodes were not available. The exception is The Flash pilot, but only for people with Hulu Plus which I don't have.

I even checked my local library. The correct seasons for Doctor Who, The Flash, Grimm and Orphan Black aren't even available. Game of Thrones is there, but with a mile long wait list.

To make it worse, I have no cable of any kind. Our TV isn't even set up to receive local cable. So even if there were reruns, I would not be able to see them.

If anyone has a suggestion for how I can (legally) watch these episodes for free, I'd welcome it. Otherwise, I just will not be voting in this category.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Totaled by Kary English

 Warning: Spoilers ahead.

In this story, the main character is in a car accident that kills her body. But, we quickly find out, her brain is being kept alive through a method that she and her partner developed. She figures out a way to communicate with her partner (difficult since the only part of her left is her brain) and together they keep working on their project. Among other things, they figure out a way to allow a brain to "see" using another person's eyes.

Tragically, from the beginning the partners know that they have very limited time - they know how to keep a brain alive after the body has died and to slow the deterioration of the functionality of that brain, but not to keep it alive indefinitely.

There is some science talk in this story, but it was unobtrusive and easy to understand. It was just enough to give the story weight without pulling attention away from the storyline.

The writing is beautiful. Descriptive, but concise. It really drew me into the story in a way that I was not expecting.

I love this idea that although this woman died a very sudden death, she was given a little bit of extra time. Time to finish up what would be her life's work. Time to see her sons one more time, even if they were unaware of her presence. And time to accept her soon to be permanent death.

The fact that she had the strength and dignity to choose to die before her brain deteriorated completely is beautiful to me. And the fact that her partner held the picture of her family so that her last thoughts would be of them was utterly moving. I may have been fighting back tears on public transit.

Not only do I think this piece is absolutely award-worthy, but I will be seeking out more of Ms. English's work. I can't wait to see what else she has done.

Do I think Totaled by Kary English is award worthy?
Current rankings for Best Short Story:
1. Totaled
3. On a Spiritual Plain

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Best Fan Artist

Ninni Aalto's work can be found on her website here. The calendar of movie and literary characters as bunnies can be found here.
Brad W. Foster's eligible work can be found here.
Elizabeth Leggett's full work can be found here.
Spring Schoenhuth's eligible work can be found here. She does paintings and jewelry.
Steve Stiles' website is here. I can't easily find the pieces that were submitted to the Hugos voting packet and honestly, I don't really want to spend any more time trying to figure out where the eligible stuff is. If you are interested, it's there. The pieces that were submitted were cartoons of various authors with aliens.

Fun fact: I almost voted No Award for this entire category.

Now I'm voting for Elizabeth Leggett and No Award for everything else.

I went looking at each nominees website to make sure that I was looking at everything that is award eligible. Ninni Aalto, Brad W. Foster and Steve Stiles all have similar styles (to my very untrained eye) that just does not appeal to me. Add in that I didn't find the subject matter that interesting, and there is no reason for me to vote for any of them.

I like that Spring Schoenhuth's work consists mostly of jewelry. I don't really recognize most of it though, and again the style doesn't really appeal to me, so I won't vote for her.

Which brings us to Elizabeth Leggett. The works submitted for the Hugo voter packet are Nymph, Glashtyn Shanty and Nightmare. I think Nymph and Glashtyn Shanty are okay - no strong positive or negative feelings. Then I looked at Nightmare and I definitely liked it. Initially, not enough to want to vote for Ms. Leggett. But then I kept coming back for a second, a third and a fourth look. Each time I pulled it up, I noticed something new that I really liked - the style, the colors, the composition. The fifth time that I went to pull up Nightmare, I realized that maybe it was a sign that I should be voting for Ms. Leggett in this category.

Rankings for Best Fan Artist:
1. Elizabeth Leggett
2. No Award
3. No Award
4. No Award
5. No Award

On a Spiritual Plain by Lou Antonelli

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

I thought this was a very interesting piece.

The idea is that on earth, we have a weak magnetic field. Because of this, a person's soul is not able to stick around. When a human dies on a distant planet with a much stronger magnetic field, the soul appears to the base's chaplain.

The base's chaplain goes to the spiritual adviser of the local alien race to ask what can be done for the lingering soul. They take a pilgrimage to the pole of the planet to allow the soul to be released.

I think that it's a very interesting way to explain what happens to souls on earth. I could have used a little bit more explanation why the souls can't stay (instead of just weak magnetic field). Also, I didn't like that the alien spiritual adviser implied that ghost stories are proof that something more is happening on earth. To me, that didn't make sense. Either the earth's magnetic field is too weak to keep a soul there or it's not or there is something different about certain souls that keep them grounded on earth. No explanation was offered. I did try to put that quibble aside, since I know that wasn't the point of the short story, but it continued to bother me through to the end.

To preface the next paragraph, the short version of the ending: The pilgrimage to release the soul was successful, another person dies and appears before the chaplain, the alien adviser comes to the chaplain to offer his help once more and the chaplain declines. The end.

I have to admit that the ending made me so mad that I put aside the story for about two days. I felt the ending was so bad that I had wasted my time reading the story. Since then, I've come around. I'm still not a fan, but I don't hate the ending with a fiery passion anymore. I still feel the chaplain was rude to the alien adviser for no particular reason, but I accept that I may have either missed the point or that no rudeness was intended. Either way, it didn't really work for me.

I liked the writing style. Not overly wordy but descriptive enough to ground the reader.

I do also like that the story made me confront the idea that I decided what the story was about when I was halfway through and then got mad when it didn't follow like I thought it should. While I'm a bear to be around when that happens, I like to be reminded that authors can do whatever they please without catering to my idea of what it should be.

More than anything else, this story has provoked a line of thinking that has persisted for more than a week since I read the story. Do souls really exist? Is there a scientific reason why we can't interact with them on Earth? Would death be different on another planet? I find that it's a rare story that triggers that kind of internal debate, and I love On A Spiritual Plain for doing so for me.

Overall, I liked it a lot. That being said, I would not necessarily want this book to win as I had one too many problems with it, but I would not be upset if it did win.

Do I think On a Spiritual Plain by Lou Antonelli is award worthy?
Sort of - Good enough to rank, but not to be at the top.
Current rankings for Best Short Story:
3. On a Spiritual Plain

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Best Editor, Long Form and Best Editor, Short Form

I had to think about this one for a long time, but I decided that this is a category that I should not vote in.

I kept trying to figure out how to judge editing. There aren't really metrics around good editing that I can see other than "the story was good". But is the story good because the author did an amazing job that didn't require much editing, or because the editor saw the potential in a story and did an amazing job whipping that story into shape? Unless you saw the story before it was edited, there isn't a way for the reader to really know.

Since I do not want to vote for an editor without really knowing anything about their ability, I'm choosing to bow out of voting in those particular categories.