Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 01:03 on 21-08-2014, Chris A
@Pear - I didn't read "Ink Readers," but I did read the other three nominees in the short story category, and found them all really underwhelming. I thought "If You Were a Dinosaur" was fun, but I can see why it ending up on the ballot earned so many raised eyebrows. "Selkie Stories" was a great concept that fell utterly flat for me. And the winning story, "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere," was a coming-out story I've read a hundred times before, done neither particularly well nor particularly poorly by John Chu. With a cool but superfluous (heh) SF twist.

I don't read a lot of SF short stories, so it's possible that the field was unusually weak and these really did represent four of the best things published this year, but Kelly Link at her least inspired writes better stories than any of these.
at 22:00 on 20-08-2014, Robinson L
I read Ancillary Justice over the summer, convinced to do so by a mixture of the Vox Day/Larry Correia Hugo Ballet Controversy (i.e., several of the commentators praised it) and the now-defunct chiusse wordpress blog. I even remember one of the former bemoaning their prediction that Wheel of Time was going to win out over it simply because more people have read WoT.

It's a fine book, and by the end I was quite enthralled, but it took me a looooong time to get really invested in the story; I think because Leckie took so bloody long establishing Breq's character. In her first few chapters, her long- and short-term agendas are kept hidden, and they're interspersed with flashbacks where she plays a completely passive observer role. Only the high praise and my own bull-stubbornness got me through to the point - around halfway through - where it started getting really exciting for me. (Also, I still feel like a society like the Radch appears to have plenty of opportunities for a reasonably conscientious being to say "this shit be wrong, yo; to hell with you!" without having to make it as personable as "
you made me murder my best friend
.") Mind you, when I did finally get really into it, the book was a fun ride, and the climax I found downright riveting - one of the most thrilling climaxes I've read in a while.

So, Ancillary Justice, my take: is it a good book? Yes. A great book? Quite probably. Does it showcase great worldbuilding, charaterization, plotting, and engagement with complex ideas and important themes without being wank-y about it? Again, I'd say yes. Do I think it deserves a Hugo Award over The Wheel of Time (the only other nomination I've actually read)? Almost certainly. Did I enjoy it as much as Wheel of Time? Absolutely not. (That's slightly unfair, as I was unable to listen to an audio version of Ancillary Justice, unlike the Wheel of Time books, and an audiobook might have smoothed over some of my issues - but I doubt that was the deciding factor.)

So there you are, *shrug*

I also remember one of those commentators arguing, re: Vox Day's contribution "Yeah, he may have mustered enough support to get his story on the ballot, but now it will have to contend with the general Hugo readership," whom said commentator predicted would be a lot more difficult to win over. I guess they were right.
at 12:19 on 20-08-2014, Pear
I'm also glad that Ancillary Justice won!

I read one of the short stories in the running and wow, it is... something. Carried in the arms of embarrassingly musty prose are exoticism and hilarious inaccuracies, which we so totally need more of when reading white people writing about South East Asia. (Ink Readers of Doi Saket).

(also, lol @ Vox Day for ever.)
at 04:21 on 20-08-2014, Michal
The awards, all of 'em, were a bit disconnected from me this year because I don't appear to have read any novel recent enough except Hild (nominated for the Nebula). Hild was excellent, if not an sf novel at all, but I'm just not keeping up with what's buzzing on the blogs for the most part.

2013 was the only year when I'd read most of the books on the Hugo best novel shortlist, and was also unique because I thought they were all depressingly mediocre.

Much more happy with this year's results despite my ignorance. By all accounts Ancillary Justice looks like a great space opera and I'll get around to reading it soon.
at 04:06 on 20-08-2014, Adrienne
I am SO GODDAMN THRILLED that Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice swept the awards this year. (Clarke, Nebula, Locus Award for Best First Novel, and the Hugo.) It was my favorite SF novel of last year and it deserved every one of those awards.
at 02:03 on 18-08-2014, Chris A
Well deserved!

I would have liked Abigail Nussbaum to win best fan writer, though.
at 17:56 on 16-08-2014, Michal
Wow, I completely missed that detail. That makes a lot more sense.
at 14:29 on 15-08-2014, Ibmiller
Well, only Hero is supposed to be 15 in Nothing Much To Do (almost 16). The rest are 17-18, in their final year of high school. According to their blogs, they are all about that age in real life as well. As far as high school, I agree that it doesn't seem to have an affect on the plot, but I'm assuming they're taking the Rian Johnson's Brick approach to setting a formerly adult story in high school - high school was pretty forgettable in terms of the actual school part. Which makes the teacher in me sad, but it is apparently a thing that happens.

I couldn't really get into New Adventures of Peter and Wendy - mostly because I'm still wedded to the Jason Isaacs/Jeremy Sumpter/Rachel Hurd-Wood 2003 film, and while I appreciate what the series is doing, it's not connecting to me in a way that allows me to forget the other version (or the play).
at 06:48 on 14-08-2014, Melanie
Holy crap, guys: Ice-Pick Lodge might be remaking Pathologic. They've already got a teaser trailer up and a countdown site; whether it's to a Kickstarter or a release I can't say.

Hot damn! ...fingers crossed that someone does an LP of it.
at 02:40 on 14-08-2014, Michal
I'm caught up on Nothing much to do and I'm still having trouble with the supposed age of the characters. They neither look nor act like 15/16-year-olds to me, and the high school setting, so far, has had little to no bearing on the plot.

(Similarly, I'm really enjoying The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy except for the fact that Wendy's brothers have such exaggerated personality traits I have difficulty imagining them actually functioning in day-to-day society.)
at 14:24 on 13-08-2014, Arthur B
Double holy crap: new Silent Hill game is being made by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. If any auteurs are going to make the series worth paying attention to again it'll be those two.
at 01:02 on 12-08-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Holy crap, guys: Ice-Pick Lodge might be remaking Pathologic. They've already got a teaser trailer up and a countdown site; whether it's to a Kickstarter or a release I can't say.
at 19:49 on 02-08-2014, James D
Maybe the Evil Islamic Empire is actually awesome, and the time traveler is just sad that westerners aren't the kings of the world anymore.
at 12:32 on 02-08-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
I haven't read the story, but perhaps it is so that time travel is only possible because of the Evil Islamic Empire, which has obliterated everything that is rational and good. Perhaps you need to eliminate rationality for time travel to work? Whether eliminating good is needed as well is I think a more important question, since most people would likely prefer a good or neutral Islamic Empire.
at 20:28 on 01-08-2014, James D
Well that much made sense - at least within story's parameters - because it was heavily implied that the time traveler was the writer's future grandson, and he says that it's not really possible to change the future except in small ways. I think the point of him coming back was to save some family member or something.

That makes sense as far as it goes, but you have to wonder, despite all this Evil Islamic Empire nonsense - is a world in which someone like the time traveler can use a time machine at his leisure and take vacations in the past really all that bad? The time traveler doesn't seem to be rich or important or a scientist or anything. The implication seems to be that it's free (or at least affordable) to anyone, and the time traveler comes back not once but twice during the course of the story. Even if there is a religious government in some parts of the world, that seems pretty awesome. Couldn't historians visit the actual Mohammed during his own time? Maybe they did, and discovered that Mohammed actually was the prophet and Allah is provably real! Really, the story's ridiculous premise raises way more questions than it answers.
at 22:51 on 31-07-2014, Alice
Not that there was anything about Simmons's posts that would allow me to take them at all seriously, but the thing that almost made me headdesk the most was the idea of a time traveler coming back to warn a science fiction writer about the impending obliteration of all that is good and rational by the Evil Islamic Empire -- as if that would in any way make a difference!
at 11:43 on 31-07-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Are you a Europe of warring and divided nations whose one common thread is an expanding pool of Muslims who won't obey civil law?

Just to chime in on this weird sort of historical amnesia, or obliviouness(since Simmons was born in 1948), but I've read and excuse me that I'm not referring to anything more concrete, that some 70 years ago the situation in Europe was really impolite and we had actual horrific wars which did not really involve islam in a significant way at all. Genocide and firebombing and almost every bad thing imaginable. If disagreements and strife in the face of economical problems and cultural friction is to be described as warring and divided, I think I still prefer that to what I suppose must in comparison be called hell.
at 18:06 on 29-07-2014, Robinson L
I just finished reading through that post of his on Flashback the other day (the one where Islamophobia is a side dish - I read the other two, where it's the main point, a couple years ago), and now I'm half-tempted to do a Reading Canary of the bloody thing. He's kind of asking for it with the amount he trots out the canary metaphor in the post.
at 16:07 on 28-07-2014, Tamara
Dan Simmons is one of the sad ones, for me. I really liked Hyperion (not so much the sequels, of course) and enjoyed The Terror quite a bit as well, because "stranded ship full of people slowly dying on the ice with meticulous historical accuracy" kind of outweighed the dodgy politics (it helped he couldn't seem to find a way to get any Muslims to the north pole to be evil, I imagine.) But then Illium/Olympos were just a mess and his latest, The Abominable is flat out terrible. I picked it up because it seemed to promise more people slowly dying in period detail in snow (yay!) and instead it turned into this awful slog of everything being about the Nazis and truly risible denouement.
at 07:23 on 27-07-2014, Ibmiller
That is exactly what it is!
at 22:30 on 25-07-2014, Robinson L
Ooh, just to be clear, this is a video diaries-style retelling of "Much Ado About Nothing"? I think I know a certain someone who'd be all over that shit. Thanks for sharing.
at 20:44 on 25-07-2014, Ibmiller
So, I don't know how many people are interested, but I know that the Lizzie Bennet Diaries had some fans here while it was going on, and also that Shakespeare (he of the Many Themes) is at least interesting, so I thought that my latest obsession, which combines the two, might be something to share -

Apologies for the really long sentence. :)
at 02:27 on 21-07-2014, Arthur B
Ah, that definite is absent from UK Amazon so there may be rights issues there.