Aug 20, 2011

Pick the Hugos!

I thought I'd throw out my predictions for tonight's Hugo Festivities which you can actually watch live at 8pm local Reno time here. [Note if that doesn't work, check the Hugo Award Site here for help]. I don't know enough about the editors, artists, semiprozines, to even hazard a less-than-informed guess so I'm limiting my picks to the major fiction categories. I'm also running out the door at the moment so I don't have the time to fully explain the rationale behind my picks. Feel free to make up some reasons for me.

Best Novel
  • Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra)
  • Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
  • The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Gollancz; Pyr)
  • Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

What Should Win: The Dervish House
What Will Win: Blackout/All Clear

Best Novella
  • “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2010) - Read Online
  • The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (Subterranean) - Read Online
  • “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” by Elizabeth Hand (Stories: All New Tales, William Morrow) - Read Online
  • “The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s, September 2010) - Read Online (PDF)
  • “Troika” by Alastair Reynolds (Godlike Machines, Science Fiction Book Club)
What Should Win: "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window"
What Will Win: "The Liefcycle of Software Objects"

Best Novelette
  • “Eight Miles” by Sean McMullen (Analog, September 2010) - Read Online
  • “The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele (Asimov’s, June 2010) - Read Online
  • “The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s, July 2010) - Read Online
  • “Plus or Minus” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, December 2010) - Read Online
  • “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone (Analog, September 2010) - Read Online
What Should Win: "That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made" 
What Will Win: "That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made"

Best Short Story

  • “Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed, June 2010) - Read Online
  • “For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, September 2010) - Read Online
  • “Ponies” by Kij Johnson (, November 17, 2010) - Read Online
  • “The Things” by Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, January 2010) - Read Online
What Should Win: "The Things"
What Will Win: "For Want of a Nail"

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
  • Saladin Ahmed
  • Lauren Beukes
  • Larry Correia
  • Lev Grossman
  • Dan Wells
Who Should Win: Lauren Beukes
Who Will Win: Lauren Beukes

Who you got? Tune in tonight at 11pm EST to find out.

Aug 16, 2011

Covering Covers: The Kingdom of Gods - N.K. Jemisin

Cover Artist: Lauren Panepinto & Friends

Tuesday brings us another knock out from Lauren Panepinto & the fine folks in the Orbit Art Department, closing out N.K. Jemisin's The Inheritance Trilogy with a bang.

If I ever wrote a trilogy, I would love to get a set of covers as good as these. Also, if I ever wrote a trilogy, I would love to have it be as good as these books. If you haven't checked these books out, do yourself a favor and catch up before the final book comes out in October.
The incredible conclusion to the Inheritance Trilogy, from one of fantasy's most acclaimed stars.
For two thousand years the Arameri family has ruled the world by enslaving the very gods that created mortalkind. Now the gods are free, and the Arameri's ruthless grip is slipping. Yet they are all that stands between peace and world-spanning, unending war.
Shahar, last scion of the family, must choose her loyalties. She yearns to trust Sieh, the godling she loves. Yet her duty as Arameri heir is to uphold the family's interests, even if that means using and destroying everyone she cares for.
As long-suppressed rage and terrible new magics consume the world, the Maelstrom -- which even gods fear -- is summoned forth. Shahar and Sieh: mortal and god, lovers and enemies. Can they stand together against the chaos that threatens?
Includes a never before seen story set in the world of the Inheritance Trilogy.

Aug 11, 2011

YetiStomper Picks for August

I think I'm actually getting worse at this whole writing thing as I go along. Fortunately, these eight authors seems to know what they're doing.

Southern Gods - John Hornor Jacobs

Stand Alone - Remind me to never visit Arkansas. Any interest I may have had in visiting that fine state is now completely and utterly gone, thanks to genre newcomer John Hornor Jacobs. His debut horror novel, Southern Gods follows war veteran and hired hand Bull Ingram as he tracks down Ramblin' John Hastur, a blues player rumored to have made a deal with the devil himself. Jacobs mixes Lovecratian Horror, Americana, and sweet tea in a unique tale of obsession and redemption on par with the best horror has to offer. (July 26 from Night Shade Books)

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Stand Alone - If SDCC is known for one thing, it's the generation of hype. But geek love is often a fickle bitch, and she rarely leaves with the one who brought her. At this year's comic-con, one of the most talked about properties was Ready Player One, the debut novel from Fanboys director Ernest Cline. Cline offers hope to every geek by creating a world in which encyclopedic knowledge of twentieth century pop-culture isn't just acceptable - it's the key to unlocking untold power and riches within OASIS, the virtual utopia that has come to dominate life in 2044. This is a must read for any child of the 80s. (August 16 from Crown)

Low Town - Daniel Polansky

Low Town, Book 1 - Is historical urban fantasy a thing? It might be soon, if copycats latch on to Daniel Polansky's excellent noir fantasy debut. Magic and murder combine in a gritty adventure that should surprise fantasy fans, even those familiar with the darker tones the genre has adopted over the past few years. Drug dealers, hustlers, brothels, dirty politics, corrupt cops . . . and sorcery. Welcome to Low Town. (August 16 from Doubleday)

The Urban Fantasy Anthology - Peter S. Beagle & Joe R. Lansdale, eds.

Urban Fantasy Anthology, duh. - With what appears to be the least boldly titled anthology since Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio edited Stories, Beagle and Lansdale prove that looks can be deceiving. Split into three parts, the surprisingly eclectic anthology examines each of the literary definitions that have been linked to the term "Urban Fantasy" over the years. Neil Gaiman, Jeffrey Ford, and Beagle himself contribute to the group of "Mythic Fiction" stories while Lansdale joins Holly Black and Tim Powers in composing tales of "Noir Fantasy." "Paranormal Romance" rounds out the trio of interpretations with contributions from heavy hitters Carrie Vaughn, Kelly Armstrong, and Patricia Briggs as well as YetiStomper favorite, Norman Partridge. Whatever you assumed this book would be, you're probably wrong. (August 15 from Tachyon Publications)

Kitty's Greatest Hits - Carrie Vaughn

Kitty Norville, Short Fiction Collection - Jim Butcher's Side Jobs and Charlaine Harris's A Touch of Dead have proved that the notion that "short fiction anthologies don't sell" doesn't exactly apply to NYT Bestselling Urban Fantasy Series. Now it's Carrie Vaughn's turn as Tor collects 14 of her Kitty Norville shorts in a single hardcover volume. (August 16 from Tor)

The Magician King - Lev Grossman

The Magician Series, Book 2 - Lev Grossman continues his meta-tacular dissection of fantasy tropes with The Magician King, a book that does for the quest fantasy what its predecessor, The Magicians, did for the coming-of-age tale. Grossman's self-aware series is perfect for those who wonder how a real person might react if they discovered an entire world hidden in the armoire. (August 9 from Viking Adult)

Bluegrass Symphony - Lisa Hannett

Short Fiction Collection - You might call Lisa Hannett's first collection "hard to find." I'd call it "a future collector's item." Published by Ticonderoga one hemisphere over and another down, Bluegrass Symphony highlights one of Australia's up-and-comers with 12 strange stories that will delight and disturb. (August 1 from Ticonderoga Publications)

The Black Lung Captain - Chris Wooding

Tales of the Ketty Jay, Book 2 - In the second of Wooding's adventurous tales, we return to the airship Ketty Jay and it's inscrutable captain, Darian Frey. Many people have drawn comparisons between Wooding's motley crew and that of the tragically canceled Firefly. I'd be hard pressed to disagree. (July 26 from Spectra)

YetiStomper Pick Of The Month: I've heard a lot of people harping on Lev Grossman. "He's a literary wolf in genre clothing." "The Magicians is a Harry Potter rip-off. And a bad one." "Isn't it funny how the book critic for Time magazine writes the same filth that they would never review." "He pushed my grandmother down the stairs. On her birthday." Okay, I might have made that last one up but for whatever reason, there's a vocal contingent of people out there hell bent on giving Grossman a bad name. Maybe they don't get his books. Maybe they're jealous. Maybe they see him as the enemy, the type of person who sits in a high castle and claims the Chabons, the Gaimans, and the Niffeneggers as his own. Grossman might work with the "establishment" day in and day out but he's more than willing to take off the tweed jacket to come play in the mud. But just because your idea of playing pretend involves more magic and less angsty introspection doesn't mean you enjoy a dirt sandwich. Grossman champions a combination of plot and purpose - the profound notion that books can say something worth saying and be worth reading, all at the same time. With The Magician King, my selection for YetiStomper Pick of the Month, Grossman continues his grim exploration of fantasy from within. After all, just because your life feels like a fairy tale doesn't mean you get to live happily ever after.

YetiStomper Debut Of The Month: For a relatively calm month [Aside: when did 8 books become a "calm" amount?], there's still no shortage of debuts to choose between. Polansky [Low Town], Cline [Ready Player One], Jacobs [Southern Gods], and Hannett [Bluegrass Symphony] are all first timers and they've got plenty to be proud of. I'm really intrigued by Cline's premise - it sounds like a Cory Doctorow novel written by Scott Pilgrim or a Goonies reboot scripted by Charlie Stross - but at the same time, I've been burned by hype before. I'm definitely excited for the book but I can't in good faith give it top billing without having read a single word. Then there's the Wunderkind, Daniel Polansky, who at 26 has published one more book that I probably ever will. There's part of me that wants to eliminate Low Town on spite alone. Fortunately, I don't have to - as impressive a debut as Low Town is, it's outshined by the polished prose and seductive story contained in John Hornor Jacobs' premiere. The YetiStomper Debut of the Month, Southern Gods, is Chicken Fried Lovecraft - sheer terror breaded in mystery and malice and deep fried in the muggy backwoods of 1960s Arkansas. I dare you to take a bite and walk away without wanting more.

YetiStomper Cover Of The Month: Hmmmm.... Where did this go? Stay tuned to find out...eventually

As always, if you are interested in more detail regarding any of the above books, just click on through the Amazon links. And don't worry, thanks to new state legislation, I don't get a single penny, nickel, or dime from it. It's been hard restructuring my budget without that extra $10 a year but I think I'll survive. Be sure to let me know if there is anything I may have missed in the comments.

You can view previous installments of YetiStomper Picks here.

Aug 3, 2011

Covering Covers: The Fractal Prince - Hannu Rajaniemi

Cover Artist: Kekai Kotaki

"Jean le Flambeur, posthuman thief, is out of prison, but still not free. To pay his debts to Oortian warrior Mieli and her mysterious patron the pellegrini, he has to break into the mind of a living god. Planning the ultimate heist takes Jean and Mieli from the haunted city of Sirr on broken Earth to the many-layered virtual realms of the mighty Sobornost. But when the stakes of the pellegrini’s game are revealed, Jean has to decide how far he is willing to go to get the job done."
Kekai Kotaki is quickly becoming one of my favorite cover artists. Between The Quantum Thief, The Unremembered, and this gem his work is colorful without being cartoony, evoking a sense of action and adventure without resorting to spaceships or dragons. And anyone who has read the The Quantum Thief knows that's exactly how Rajaniemi operates. He's doesn't slow down, he doesn't explain, and he's not going to apologize.

Rajaniemi's style is difficult to explain. You read it and you like it, but you're not exactly sure what you read or why you like it. At least, not after the first time through. It's complex, peculiar, captivating, and just plain good.

Don't believe me? Have a sample from The Fractal Prince.

Drathdor the zoku elder liked to talk, and it wasn't that hard to get
him to explain what a Box was (without letting on that I had stolen
one from their zoku twenty years ago, of course).

Imagine a box, he said. Now put a cat in it. Along with a death
machine: a bottle of poison, cyanide, say, connected to a mechanism
with a hammer and a single atom of a radioactive element. In the
next hour, the atom either decays or not, either triggering or not
triggering the hammer. So, in the next hour, the cat is either alive
or dead.

Quantum mechanics claims that there is no definite cat in the box,
only a ghost, a superposition of a live cat and a dead cat. That is,
until we open it and look. A measurement will collapse the system into
one state or the other. So goes Schrödinger's thought experiment.

It is completely wrong, of course. A cat is a macroscopic system,
and there is no mysterious intervention by a magical observer
needed to make it live or die: just its interaction with the rest
of the Universe, a phenomenon called decoherence, provides the
collapse into one macrostate. But in the microscopic world --- for
qubits, quantum-mechanical equivalents of ones and zeroes --- the
Schrödinger's cat is real.

The Box contains trillions of ghost cats. The live cat states
encode information. A mind, even, a living, thinking mind. The Box
qubits have been rotated into a limbo state between nothingness and
existence. The mind inside would not notice anything--- a set of
quantum gates can let it continue thinking, feeling, dreaming. If it
stays inside, all is well. But if it tries to get out, any interaction
with the environment will bring the Universe down on it like a ton of
 bricks and collapse it into nothingness. Bad kitty, dead kitty.

"So what do you put in a Box like that?'' I asked Drathdor.

"Something very, very dangerous,'' he said.

Elegantly perplexing, no?

The Fractal Prince, the 2nd entry in The Quantum Thief trilogy, will be published on September 4, 2012 by Tor.

Aug 2, 2011

The Least Definitive "Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels" List Ever!

NPR released their list of Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels today. Or at least, sort of.

While they definitely released a list, I don't know if it represents what it claims to.

The list itself is referenced as "Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Titles" but it has some peculiar eligibility criteria. For "works that tell a more or less continuous story", the series title is used rather than an individual book. However, "in cases where connections among series members are looser" they "tended to list some of the more prominent titles in the run." All entries considered, you've probably got a list of 200 or more individual books, many of which are included under a "lifetime of work" type policy than any individual achievement. Explain to me why Ender's Game comes in as a novel and Dune comes in as a series? I've read the core of both  and there is not a pair of Dune novels that can rival the triumph that is Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. You could make the argument that the Enderverse Sage is comprised of more self-contained novels, but I'd argue they share a similar composition, at least when comparing Dune to Ender's Game.

And that's not even the strangest aspect of the list. That honor goes to the arbitrary standards by which the judges eliminated "Young Adult" novels from the list, even ones read and loved by millions of adults. I wouldn't recommend ignoring undeniable classics popular with all ages - Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, Redwall - but if you insist upon such a ridiculous rule, at least enforce it consistently. Watership Down, Stardust, The Princess Bride, all make the list despite being widely regarded as Young Adult fiction. 

You know it's literature when the talking bunnies get divorced because her affair with a squirrel leads the former carrot detective into a vicious cycle of strawberry juice, mushrooms, and easter eggs.
The YA ban seems to be the only thing keeping Coraline and The Graveyard Book off the Gaiman heavy list. Every other one of his works made the list including the Sandman graphic novels, which while seminal, seem like a strange inclusion given such stringent guidelines. Though it's not the only graphic novel - Alan Moore's classic Watchmen also made the list. 

There's also sizable contingent of extremely modern novels, including some series which haven't even hit the 3 book mark. At a quick glance, I see at least 6 series whose stories have yet to conclude.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles - Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Inheritance Trilogy - N.K. Jemisin
  • The Newsflesh Trilogy - Mira Grant
  • The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch
  • The Magicians - Lev Grossman
They're good books all but I don't know if I'd go so far to include them without seeing a little bit more of the story. I certainly wouldn't go so far as to nominate an entire unfinished series.

A cover so epic, I didn't even need to read it. 5 stars! - Robert Stanek & Harriet Klausner
And then there's an arbitrary line between Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance and regular Fantasy, that I won't even begin to delve into. Suffice it to say, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files should be on any best of list before any of his Codex Alera books.

And the inclusion of Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth? As a series?! For shame, NPR. For shame.

So check out NPR's list of the "Top 187 or so Science Fiction and Fantasy [but not Urban Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, or Horror because vampires are scary] Novels For Self-Respecting Adults Who Won't Venture Into The Children's Section For Anything More Than A Stand Alone Novel But Who Also Aren't Too Self-Respecting to Be Seen Reading Comic Books And A Inexplicable Nod To Terry Goodkind" [#fixeditforyou] and let me them know what you think.

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