January 25 2012

Hugo Nominations 2012

It is time to nominate for the 2012 Hugos. You have until January 31 to register and be eligible for placing a nomination. You have until March 11th to actually do the nomination. The rules are that you may nominate up to five works in each of a number of categories. You don’t need to feel obligated to fill out five (or any) for every category.
Rather than frantically searching through lists of works, I decided to stick with things I had actually read (or watched) already. If I didn’t feel strongly or hadn’t read or watched something in a category I didn’t vote for it. That doesn’t mean there weren’t worthy candidates–I just didn’t see them. When the nominations come out I’m sure I’ll have plenty to read and watch that I hadn’t seen before. Here are the nominations I have submitted:

Best NovelA science fiction or fantasy story of 40,000 words or more that appeared for the first time in 2011. I had a very hard time narrowing this list down. There were a lot of very good SF novels released in 2011:

Best NovellaA science fiction or fantasy story between 17,500 and 40,000 words that appeared for the first time in 2011.

  • Countdown” — Mira Grant, orbitshortfiction.com

Best NoveletteA science fiction or fantasy story between 7,500 and 17,500 words that appeared for the first time in 2011.

Best Short StoryA science fiction or fantasy story of less than 7,500 words that appeared for the first time in 2011.

  • “THE MAINSPRING OF HIS HEART, THE SHACKLES OF HIS SOUL” by Ian Tregillis in Human for a Day
  • “CINDERELLA CITY” by Seanan McGuire in Human for a Day
  • Ghost Hedgehog” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, tor.com

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)–Any television program or other production, with a complete running time of 90 minutes or less, in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects that has been publicly presented for the first time in its present dramatic form during 2011.

  • The Doctor’s Wife — Doctor Who

Best Editor (Long Form)–The editor of at least four (4) novel-length works primarily devoted to science fiction and/or fantasy, published in 2011 that do not qualify as works under Best Editor, Short Form.

  • Betsy Wollheim — DAW

The John W. Campbell Award

January 24 2012

Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey is a highly enjoyable novel set a couple of hundred years in the future. It is the first book of the planned “”The Expanse” trilogy. Mars and “the Belt” have been colonized. The Belters are generally loosely at odds with the inner planets and Earth and Mars have an uneasy alliance. All the pieces are pretty much in place for some bit of flame to send everything over the edge into a solar system wide conflict.
The story is told from two quite different points of view. One is Holden, an ex-Earth navy man who we meet as the executive officer of a freighter carrying ice from Saturn’s rings to Belter communities. Holden is somewhat of an idealist. The other is Miller, who we meet as a police detective on the asteroid community of Ceres. Miller is a realist who’s had his dreams kicked down a few to many times and has assuaged that kicking via frequent trips to the bottle.
The book has somewhat the feel of a good “old fashioned” solar system yarn but with all of the science and politics updated to current levels of understanding. Holden and Miller do meet up eventually as the result of looking following both ends of a mystery. Along the way we get to see some of the reasons Belters, Mars and Earth don’t particularly get along, a mutli-way war and a different mystery than either started out looking at.
We get a good overview of the general state of the Solar System and parts of it seem filled in quite nicely. The book does its world building as a nicely integrated part of the story.
As Jo Walton said over on Tor.com, “more like this please”. I thoroughly enjoyed this and recommend it to fans of space fiction anywhere.

January 19 2012

Stuck in This Tree in Fae Blues

Here are some thoughts I had about the Cthaeh in Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear (To the tune of Folsom Prison Blues):

I see those futures comin’; they seem without end,
If you ask your questions, your answers I will bend.
‘Cause I’m stuck here in this tree, til the stars fall down.
But the future keeps unfoldin’; no way to skip this town.

When things were just startin’, a Wise Man told me, “Son,
Always be truthful; don’t ever hurt no one.”
But I de-winged a butterfly, just to bring you nigh.
I keep those mortals comin’, just want to make them cry.

I bet there’s people walkin’, out there in the sun,
They think that they’ve got free will, they’re havin’ lots of fun,
WELL I had to see it comin’, I ended in this tree,
But I keep the game on movin’, it sets my tortures free.

Well, if I could travel in the sunshine, if the future was just mine,
I’d play a different game, maybe drink some wine.
Far from this tree, that’s where I should be,
And when those doorways open, I will laugh with glee.

January 17 2012

The Coldest War Audiobook is Out

The Coldest War audiobook is out on audible.com. They are trying a bit of an experiment in that the audible form of the book is coming out now and the print form comes out in July. I’ve never listened to an audio book before, so this is also an experiment for me. So:
Step 1 — go to audible.com.
Step 2 — get the iPhone app. Hmm, need an audible account to get books.
Step 3 — create an audible account.
Step 4 — purchase book. Hmm, it tells me something went wrong, but it is in My Library. Hit download and see that I need audible installed. Install some things, clear my cookies, and we have it downloaded.
I see there are two parts for just over 13 hours of listening. So, the first thing I see about audio books is that they are slower than my normal reading speed. But, onward! I’ll post a review of the book and the experience once my listenification is done. 🙂

January 16 2012


We’ve been on four cruises. Two to Alaska, one Caribbean and one from Venice to various Grecian islands. The Grecian island cruise was aboard the Costa Mediterranea. We had a marvelous time and so recent tragedy of the Costa Concordia is a bit too close to home.
If you haven’t ever been on a cruise, it is probably difficult to really envision just how enormous these vessels are. It is truly mind boggling to see one lying on it side. In looking at the pages I can see that the Mediterranea is a somewhat smaller ship with 12 decks and a capacity for 2100 passengers while the Concordia has 17 decks and a capacity of 3700 passengers.
Exactly how the Concordia wandered as far off its planned route (I have seen a figure of 2.5 miles off course) would seem to be the key element.
We also saw that the passengers had not yet had their safety briefing. This seems odd as on each of the cruises we were on, the evacuation briefing was one of the first things done, soon after leaving port on the first night.
It appears that Costa is being pretty forthcoming with answers as they emerge and has stated that there appears to have been “significant” human error. Well, yeah–there pretty much had to be.

January 16 2012

The Magician King

The Magician King by Lev Grossman is the sequel to The Magicians. It picks up two years (or thereabouts) after the events in the first book. I’ll presume you have read the first book for the rest of the review.
We rejoin Quentin, Juliet, Elliot and Janet in Fillory where they have settled down as kings and queens and are currently merrily hunting a prophetic rabbit. Things quickly become more complicated and Quentin continues to be not quite satisfied. He still wants an adventure. One main thread of the book then is involved with Quentin’s adventure(s) and the consequences thereof.
The second major thread (told in not quite alternating chapters) concerns how Julia was able to get magic. Thus, these threads happen in the time-span of the first book. As you know Bob, in the first book Julia had failed the exam to get into Brakebills. Unlike most of the test takers who failed, Julia remembered some of the experience and it gnawed away at her. She then delves into the seedy world of underground magic in a journey of discovery of both magic and herself–and the consequences thereof.
The fact that all of these actions have consequences–good and bad are what sets these tales apart from the “imaginary” Filory (and Narnia) books. You don’t just get to return to your comfortable life in England.
Quentin’s thread seemed to lag a bit at the beginning, but by the end everything ties back to that beginning and so it works out quite nicely as a reading experience. Julia’s thread was very interesting stuff–well told and (I thought) engrossing.
I thought this was a very well done sequel. It had a very good story all of its own and wasn’t just a bridge book to a future volume. If you liked the first book, then you should enjoy this one. Nicely done.

January 10 2012

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Luckily for me, I didn’t read the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson until it was all out. It was lucky because once I did start I devoured them all. Sure, they could use some tightening up but I found the character of Lisbeth Salander to be so fascinating and wonderful that I had to know what happened next and what she was going to do about it. Terrible things happen to Lisbeth but she is not a helpless waif. She has mad hacking skills, an eidetic memory, genius level math skills and a propensity not to take crap. So, in other words I really liked the books, especially the character of Lisbeth. Hopefully the legal disputes over the fourth unfinished manuscript can be resolved and it will come to light.
For the rest of the review, I want to talk a bit about the new film and some of the choices it made. Ian Tregillis has put up a very good review here and Melinda Snodgrass has another good one here. I wanted to say a bit more and there will be some spoilers, so the rest is continued after the cut.

Continue reading

January 9 2012


A full blown oracle can be quite a challenge in fiction. Historical oracles are usually vague enough that people misunderstand what they are trying to say or (like Casandra) they are ignored or have some other flaw. If, however, we have a true oracle i.e. one who really does know the future (including possible branches) we can have some trickiness. If there is no possibility of the oracle being wrong or being defeated (if the oracle is evil), then there can’t really be any tension in the plot. I thought it might be fun to look at a few ways in which modern works make use of an oracular character and what methods are used to create tension. There are some spoilers ahead for Watchmen, Bitter Seeds, The Wise Man’s Fear and Singularity Sky/Iron Sunrise. Each of these works has an oracular entity and each deals with those entities in interesting ways. If you want to remain completely unsullied on these works then it is best not to proceed. If you don’t mind being sullied a bit, then proceed after the cut:

Continue reading

January 6 2012


What does it mean to be conscious? Silly question, right? We all know what it means–at least I do but how do I know about you? And how can I be sure about me? Therein lie a million questions.
Luckily, there is an increasing tide of research that is looking into what is really going on with the phenomena that we call consciousness. I think I’ll do a few posts on this through the year as it is a subject that really interests me. We’ll start with a very interesting experiment performed by BENJAMIN LIBET, CURTIS A. GLEASON, ELWOOD W. WRIGHT and DENNIS K. PEARL in the early 80’s and presented in a paper called “Time of conscious intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness-potential). The unconscious initiation of a freely voluntary act.” in Brain, 106:623-642.

The experiment is:
Electrodes are placed on a subjects scalp and hooked to an EEG to measure cortical neuronal responses.
Electrodes are also placed on the skin over the activated muscle of the forearm. The timing of this is measured with an EMG.
An oscilloscope whose face displays a dot moving in a circle with marks is shown to the subject.
The subject is asked to perform a task like pressing a button. The subject is also asked to note the position of the dot upon the oscilloscope when they first became aware of the intention to press the button (for example).
The actual time of the button press is recorded electronically and the position of the dot is also recorded at the same time.
On average it was found that about 200 milliseconds elapsed between when the subject claimed intention to when the button was pushed. Of even more interest was that approximately 500 milliseconds before the button was pushed, the EEG would record mounting neuronal activity. In other words, prior to “you” deciding to push the button, subconscious processes have already made the “decision” and the “you” in the process is just along for the ride as an observer.
I’d say that qualifies as pretty interesting.