A few weeks ago I grazed an elderly couple’s car as I came out of a side road too soon – entirely my fault, nobody hurt, very little damage to my massive Renault Espace (rented as part of my package deal from work), big dents in their smaller vehicle. I assumed it would be painful but that insurance would cover most of it. Got summoned by management yesterday to hear that the insurance policy won’t cover the first €1000 of repairs! Management were pretty outraged on my behalf (particularly since they have an identical deal and are worried it could happen to them) and promised to try and negotiate me a better outcome. But still, Ow.
We watched the 6th season finale of Buffy on BBC2 on Thrusday night. Excellent. I wonder what it says about us that a few years ago the programme we had to watch together was Friends and now it’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer? (Probably it says that Buffy is much better but wasn’t around when Friends started.)
My latest package from Amazon arrived including Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Paul Di Filippo’s A Year in the Linear City. I’d already got hold of the latter free from Fictionwise and read it on my Palm Pilot earlier this week (mostly while stuck in traffic jams), but it’s always nicer to have it on paper. I read Coraline last night. This means that for the first time ever I have read all the Hugo nominees for fiction (having bought all the novels and got hold of all the short fiction on-line except the two that arrived today).
Well, I plan to do a full web-page on my site on this as I did last year. In brief, though:
Best Novel: Four good books here (and one bad one, Hominids by Robert Sawyer). I think that Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick had a slightly shaky structure – the plot seemed to only get going halfway through, though the setting of course was very well done. Kiln People by David Brin was very enjoyable as well. But I think it’s between the richly realised landscapes of The Scar by China Miéville and The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. Am rereading the latter to decide whether I like it more than the Miéville.
Best Novella: “Breathmoss” by Ian R. MacLeod – I couldn’t work out what was happening, maybe I should read it again when I’m not trying to go to sleep. “In Spirit” by Pat Forde – an almost successful attempt to write a good sf story about 9/11. “The Political Officer” by Charles Coleman Finlay – interesting setting but I couldn’t quite work up enthusiasm for it. Coraline by Neil Gaiman – Diana Wynne Jones predicts this book will displace Alice in Wonderland – come on, it’s good but not quite that good! “Bronte’s Egg” by Richard Chwedyk – lovely lovely story, already won the Nebula. But right now I think it must be A Year in the Linear City by Paul Di Filippo – Brian Aldiss’ The Malacia Tapestry meets Christopher Priest’s Inverted World – as with Bones of the Earth I felt the plot took a while to get going but I was prepared to wait around for it.
Best Novelette: None of these made a huge impression on me (not to the extent of The Scar, The Years of Rice and Salt or A Year in the Linear City). “Presence” by Maureen F. McHugh is yet another cure-for-Alzheimer’s story. All the other nominees dealt with spirituality and religion in some way. “Slow Life” by Michael Swanwick had an excellent human/alien encounter but was rather spoiled by the rather silly human/human encounters. “The Madonna of the Maquiladora” by Gregory Frost – richly realised setting but didn’t quite grab me; only got onto the shortlist because Ted Chiang withdrew his story “Liking What You See”. “Halo” by Charlie Stross – like “Slow Life, an outer planets (well, asteroids) setting; generally good but I thought the ending a little rushed. “The Wild Girls” by Ursula Le Guin – not her best but I think the best of this lot.
Best Short Story: “Hello, Said the Stick” by Michael Swanwick – Oh, come on, this is just silly. The others are all good though. “The Little Cat Laughed to See Such Sport” by Michael Swanwick – also fun, and would have been a sure winner in a less impressive year (as was the first story in this series last year). “Lambing Season” by Molly Gloss – got on the ballot when another story was disqualified – a thoughtful and understated little gem. “Creation” by Jeffrey Ford – again a lovely inversion of the Frankenstein story. In the end I think my tip is for “Falling Onto Mars” – Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles updated for the horrid realities of our 21st century, and as a lapsed historian I very much liked the story’s motto, History is not necessarily what we’d like it to be….