Friday, May 22, 2015

Dave Freer Hugo Fanwriter Nomination Samples

Another Best Fanwriter nominee from the Puppies.

There really isn't much to say. A larger sample than Amanda Greens, 21 pages, but if anything there is even less here. All the hate-spewing at "SJWs" and "GHHs", plus misogyny, plus a heaping helping of self-congratulation for being fair, open-minded, and helpful to aspiring writers.

Not recommended.

Big Boys Don't Cry, by Tom Kratman

Castalia House, February 2014

Another Hugo nominee from the Puppies.

Magnolia, a.k.a. Maggie, is a Ratha, an armored war machine in the military forces of a starfaring and aggressive Earth culture. It is gradually revealed to us that pretty much everything about this Earth culture is bad. When first attacked by aggressive aliens, Earth takes a while to gear up to fight effectively because the government is so corrupt and bureaucratic. We meet Maggie when she's been irrecoverably damaged and will be dismantled for parts, and we learn her story, and Earth's, as she sorts through her memories. This includes memories that had been locked from her conscious awareness for security reasons, but which are somehow freed up by the damage to her machinery.

And Maggie is pretty much the only decent being in the story.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Amanda S. Green Fanwriter Samples

My latest venture into reading the Hugo voters' packet. Another Puppy nominee.

The sample provided is sixteen pages, several different selections of Green's fanwriting. Except that they are not all different. One selection, the last, four pages long, is a fairly straightforward piece of fanwriting on the subject of worldbuilding, tropes, and keeping your characters consistent even while letting them grow.

The other twelve pages are equally straightforward spewing of hate at SJWs (social justice warriors), GHHs (glittery hoo hahs) and pretty much anyone a bit to the left of Attila the Hun. There is no interest or willingness to engage with anyone with whom she disagrees, or even to extend the most basic of respect to fellow human beings. If she disagrees with you, she must also make clear that she disrespects you.

A complete waste. This has no place on the Hugo ballot.

A Single Samurai (in The Baen Big Book of Monsters), by Steven Diamond

Baen, ISBN 9781476736990, October 2014

The only short story Hugo nominee that had to wait until the Hugo packet was released. Let it be noted that Baen, always a leader in trusting the reader with ebooks, included the entire Baen Big Book of Monsters in the Hugo packet, not just the nominated material.

Which makes it a shame that I can't like this story better. It's not terrible, but at no point does it really grab me. A samurai finds an awakened kaiju, the size of a mountain, and climbs it in order to find a way to kill it before it has destroyed the entire country. We get a great deal of Tell about the samurai's weapons, mystic significance, and his father's death, There's a bit of action involving some large, cat-like creatures, and then more Tell about why slicing up the creature's brain won't be sufficient. And then the mystic stuff helps bring us to an end.

It's not a rip-roaring good story, and the writing, the use of language, is more pretentious than elegant.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pale Realms of Shade (in The Book of Feasts & Seasons), by John C. Wright

Castalia House, November 2014

Another Puppy entry on the Hugo ballot.

The surprise twist here is that this one isn't bad.

A dead gumshoe finds himself pulled back to Earth for a conversation with his widow. She's having trouble collecting on his insurance policy because the company is arguing that he committed suicide. He didn't, but he's not all that interested in manifesting to the judge to say so.

Subsequent manifestations spill out more bits of the story of his death, plus his frustrations with the afterlife, and very soon to an encounter with real temptation. We learn that he got himself into this mess with decisions made not only along the course of his life, but at the very moment after death. He's now a poltergeist, and the tempting and only "easy" course is revenge on his partner.

Based on reading all the other Wright fiction nominees, I kept waiting for this to go bad places. It didn't. It's a solid story that, given it is explicitly religious fiction, expresses beliefs and values that have a strong and positive resonance for me. It won't work for other people for the very reasons it does work for me, and it's not so good that it blows me away, but this is the first of the Puppy nominees whose placement on my ballot I will have to think seriously about.

Make of that what you will.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Plural of Helen of Troy (from the collection City Beyond Time), by John C. Wright

Castalia House, June 2014

Another Hugo nominee from the Puppy slates.

The city of Metachronopolis is ruled by the Time Wardens, and peopled by historical figures the Wardens find interesting, entertaining, or useful. One of them is Jacob Frontino, now working as a detective. There are multiple copies of Helen of Troy, most of them actually copies of Marilyn Monroe.

There's a plot here, but time travel can make even a simple plot complicated, and Wright has no interest in people following the story. The nonlinear storytelling was a "feature" I didn't need in a story where I already had difficulty caring what happened to the characters.

It has so much potential to be interesting, and so much fail in the execution.

Monday, May 18, 2015

One Bright Star to Guide Them, by John C. Wright

Castalia House, September 2014

This wants so badly to be an allegorical fable in the manner of C.S. Lewis's Narnia. And it fails so, so badly.

Years ago when they were children, Tommy and his three friends went on an adventure to a magical land and helped defeat evil and restore the true king, to the benefit of Earth as well as the magical realm. Now, with a boring job in the City, he's just gotten a promotion that he doesn't want, and a momentary encounter reminds him of his forgotten adventure. Suddenly, the magical cat Tybalt is with him again, with the Key that will send him off on a new adventure to confront a worse crisis.

This could have been so promising.

There's nothing especially original here, but that's the least of it. Tommy goes to see one of his old friends, Richard, and the initial conversation is downright painful. The Tommy we've seen so far can't be this naive and oblivious. Then he starts being wise and experienced again. And when things continue to spiral out of control as Richard betrays him to the evil powers, the chapter ends with Tommy flat on his back, unable to see or move.

The next chapter starts several months later, with Tommy visiting another old friend, Sally, and telling her what happened.

It's a perfect example of Tell rather than Show, and things don't get better from there. Altogether frustrating.

Not recommended.

The Sound of Glass, by Karen White

Penguin Group, ISBN 9780451470898, May 2015

Merritt Heyward survived a painful seven-year marriage to Cal Heyward, and two years after his tragic death in a fire, she hasn't healed and hasn't forgiven herself. It's a complete surprise when she is notified that she has inherited Cal's family home in South Carolina, on the death of Cal's grandmother.

Cal had never told her much of his family history, which was fine with Merritt. She didn't want to discuss her own family history, and her estrangement from her father after his remarriage to a woman only five years older than Merritt. Inheriting the house, as much of a surprise as it is, seems like an opportunity for a fresh start, away from Maine and her old life. Almost immediately on arriving in Beaufort, though, she meets Cal's younger brother, Gibbes, the town's pediatrician. Not long after, there's another surprise. Her estranged father died recently, and his widow, Loralee, arrives on Merritt's new doorstep with her half-brother, ten-year-old Owen, whom she's never met.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, by Neil deGrasse Tyson (author), Donald Goldsmith (author), Kevin Kenerly (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, September 2014 (original publication 2004)

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith giving us the lowdown on what we know about the origins of--everything. The universe, the solar system, our own planet, life, and a good deal else. This book was written in 2004, so some things have already changed. For instance, Pluto and Ceres are now officially dwarf planets, and we know more about the moons of Jupiter and Saturn than we did eleven years ago. This is still a good, solid, interesting book, that will expand your knowledge of the universe we live in. It's a great read, or a great listen. I don't think I'm off base in saying that while Kevin Kenerly's voice doesn't really sound like Tyson's, he does have Tyson's speech patterns down, and for me that enhanced the listening experience.


Flow, by Arlan Andrews

Rist is a young man of prosperous and high-ranking family in the frozen north. His family sells icebergs to ice merchants who guide them south to the Warm Lands and sell them there. Rist and his twin brother Rusk have traveled north to see the source of the icebergs; Rist decides to travel south with the ice merchants to see the Warm Lands and what they do with the ice.

He's a likable young man, with a lively curiosity, and as he sees lands, sights, and people he's never seen before, his mind opens wider, and he makes notes on everything he sees, and his thoughts about it, to take home to his father and brother. In the tradition of science fiction travelogues, it's a good one.