The Book of Job

One of my reading challenges at present is to get through the entire Bible in a year. (This is not actually all that tough as an assignment – yer average Bible has around 1400 pages, so we're talking 4 pages a day.) I have to say that some of it has been a bit of a slog, even at that pace, particularly the one-sided propaganda of the history books and then the not terribly profound fables of Tobit, Esther and Judith. (I am reading the Catholic version, so I get these extras that Protestants miss out on.)

And then you hit Job. And gosh, it's a breath of fresh air in some ways. For the first time in the Bible, we have a structured dialogue between several different philosophical viewpoints, without the person who is wrong being smitten by fire from heaven. I think you have to ignore the framing narrative (the first two chapters, and most of the last), and just jump in at Chapter 3, on the basis that Job is a person to whom awful things have happened, and he doesn't really understand why. Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, attempt to get him to accept that the bad things that have happened to him are his fault, divine punishment for something he did wrong, and Job steadfastly refuses to accept that he deserves it, while describing his own mental state of suffering in eloquent detail. Chapters 32 to 37, an obvious later insertion, introduce a new character, Elihu, who argues that Job should accept that sometimes suffering happens to the innocent as part of a bigger divine plan. Elihu then shuts up and is not heard from again.

And then God speaks directly to Job from the whirlwind, or from the storm (מִן הַסְּעָרָה in the original, min ha-sə‘ārāh), and says: there is a bigger picture. Consider the wonders of nature and of the universe (it’s a very astronomical book), and measure the problems of your own life against those. Try to get some perspective. This isn’t a cuddly personal incarnated God speaking soothing words of love and compassion; this is the somewhat impersonal guiding force of creation, briefly given voice to speak to someone who foolishly thought they knew what was going on in the world. The answers aren’t comfortable. There is no magic solution. Bad things happen in life, but there is a bigger picture. (God’s argument here is a bit like Elihu’s earlier, but doesn’t insult Job or the reader by claiming that there is a Loving God Behind It All, and is also better written.)

It’s not a comfortable answer, and it’s not a comfortable book. (Apart from the obviously grafted on ending.) But it is at least an intelligent and well-crafted discussion of the philosophical problem of why bad things happen to good people, and perhaps the earliest such discussion, dating from about 2,500 years ago.

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May Books

Non-fiction 6 (YTD 22)
The Word in the Desert, by Douglas Burton-Christie
The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, by Thich Nhat Hanh
How to Sharpen Pencils, by David Rees
The Great O'Neill, by Sean O'Faolain
Tickling the English, by Dara O'Briain
Unpublished manuscript

Fiction (non-sf) 0 (YTD 11)

sf (non-Who) 7 (YTD 32)
Leviathan Wakes, by "James S.A. Corey"
Deadline, by "Mira Grant"
The Moon and the Sun, by Vonda McIntyre
Countdown, by "Mira Grant"
Silently and Very Fast, by Catherine M. Valente

Surface Detail, by Iain M. Banks
Unpublished manuscript

Doctor Who 5 (YTD 33)
The Taking of Chelsea 426, by David Llewellyn
Bay of the Dead, by Marc Morris
Invasion of the Cat-People, by Gary Russell
St Anthony's Fire, by Mark Gatiss
Shadows of Avalon, by Paul Cornell

Comics 0 (YTD 3)

Running totals:
~5,700 pages (YTD 30,800)
5/17 (YTD 25/101) by women ("Grant"x2, McIntyre, Valente, author of unpublished manuscript)
1/17 (YTD 2/101) by PoC ( Thich Nhat Hanh)
Owned for more than a year: 7 (The Moon and the Sun [reread], The Word in the Desert, The Shadows of Avalon, St. Anthony's Fire, Invasion of the Cat-people [reread], The Great O'Neill, Tickling the English)
Other rereads: 0 for a total of 2 (YTD 7/101)

Big 2012 reading projects:
May 31 takes me to Book VIII, Chapter VII of War and Peace, and the end of the Book of Job in the Bible.

Also started:
The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
Autonomy, by Daniel Blythe

Coming next, perhaps:
Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Hard Times, by Charles Dickens
The Flowering of New England 1815-1865, by Van Wyck Brooks
The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, by Selma Lagerlöf
The Best Science Fiction of the Year #4, edited by Terry Carr
Sphere, by Michael Crichton
Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand
A Good Hanging and other stories, by Ian Rankin
Sauron Defeated, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Lust, Caution: And Other Stories, by Eileen Chang

Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding
Elizabeth I, by Alison Plowden
The Bible: The Biography, by Karen Armstrong
Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
The Orthodox Church, by Timothy Ware
Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
Postscripts, edited by Peter Crowther
Dracula, by Bram Stoker
The Stories of Colonel Twit, by Will Powell
Parable of the Talents, by Octavia E. Butler
Dying in the Sun, by Jon De Burgh Miller
Falls the Shadow, by Daniel O'Mahony

The Fall of Yquatine, by Nick Walters
The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself, by Harriet Ann Jacobs
Code of the Krillitanes, by Justin Richards
(struck through = read in June.)

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Those Russian Eurovision lyrics then

Ӝӧккышет тазьы вӧлдӥсько, пиосме возьмасько
Котэм нянь буй-буй будэ, сюлэмы керектэ

Party for everybody! Dance!
Come on and dance! Come on and dance!
Come on and… Boom! Boom!

Корка тыр ик нылпиосы, бертӥзы, мусоосы
Корка тыр ик нылпиосы, бертӥзы, мусоосы
Вож дэремме дӥсяло но горд кышетме мон кертто
Вож дэремме дӥсяло но эктыны пото

Кырӟалом жон-жон-жон, мӧзмон мед кошкоз али
Кырӟалом жон-жон-жон ваньмы ӵошен


NB that the letters ӝ, ӥ, ӟ and ӵ are used only in the writing of the Udmurt language. The Cyrillic ӧ is used in Altay, Khakas, Komi, Mari, Udmurt and the Cyrillic version of Kurdish.

On the night I tweeted that the Estonian entry was brave in using a language with only 1.1 million speakers; but the Russian entry was actually twice as brave, in that Udmurt has only 550,000 speakers. (Though of course significant parts of the Russian entry were also in English.)

It should be added that the Бурановские Бабушки are not the only famous musicians from Udmurtia; Tchaikovsky was born there in 1840.

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April Books 9) The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I remember starting this book when I was a sixth-former, the memorable opening chapter introducing us to the fragile Prince Myshkin (the ‘idiot’ of the title) returning to St Petersburg by train after long years of ill health abroad. He finds himself at the centre of other people’s familial and romantic intrigues; as an innocent, he rarely looks for dishonesty or manipulation and is forgiving when he encounters it. I got a bit tired of some of the other characters (especially the other men, who are almost all pretty unpleasant) but enjoyed it through to the ambiguous end.

Interested to note that the only French-language periodical mentioned by name as circulating among the top salons in Russia is L’Independance Belge.

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2012 Hugos: Best Novella

My reading of this year's nominated fiction for the Hugos did not end particularly well. Although I very much liked my favourite in this category, I was disappointed by the other five and indeed found three of them rather poor.

7) “Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal. I really hate stories with cute anthropomorphic artificial intelligences, and this one has a police computer that thinks it is Mae West. And when it gets captured by bad guys in the first couple of pages, the police department does not treat it as a class one emergency, mobilising all resources to regain its most strategically valuable piece of equipment, but leaves it to our hero’s lonesome plodding to solve the mystery. There is an interesting twist at the end but I had lost sympathy long before.

(I would add, though this did not much affect my view of the story, that the ebook version was also rather sloppy, preserving original page headings and numbers from the magazine publication which interrupted the text.)

6) [May Books 12] Countdown, by “Mira Grant”

This is a prequel to the zombie apocalypse trilogy whose first two volumes got Hugo nominations last year and this; here we have the story of how the zombie infection came to pass. Apparently some stoned activists drove across two states to vandalise a secure laboratory. One of them, while being held in protective custody by the police, is interviewed by an investigative journalist. I’m afraid the story lost plausibility for me on those two points. (Also I thought that Grant’s zombie virus couldn’t manifest in mammals weighing less than forty pounds, so the infected raccoon at the end of the story must be an impressive specimen.)

5) “The Ice Owl”, by Carolyn Ives Gilman. I’m sorry about this, because I really liked the first 90% of the story, a coming-of-age tale of an immigrant girl in a future city of an alien world and her elderly tutor who turns out to have both a sinister past and a set of present enemies. But the ending completely ruined the story for me; the heroine’s rapid turnaround in her attitude to her mother, and her mother’s unnerving ability to be in the right place at the right time, fatally eroded the emotional (and astronomical) parameters of the narrative for me and was a crushing disappointment after such a good start. Without the ending, I might have put it in second place.

4) No Award. I might wobble this up or down a ranking on mature reflection.

3) [May Books 13] Silently and Very Fast, by Catherine M. Valente. More anthropomorphic artificial intelligences, but at least these are not meant to be cute, but re-enacting various foundational human myths in their efforts to become more than human. Lots of lush description, but there did not seem to be much going on and I did not warm to any of the characters.

2) “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu. As discussed earlier, this is a tremendously detailed and sparsely emotional tale of second world war atrocities which did not quite work for me as an sf story, educating rather than entertaining or enlightening. Still better than most of the others.

1) “The Man Who Bridged The Mist”, by Kij Johnson. This won the Nebula Award earlier this month, and as five of the six nominees were the same, I suspect that the Nebula voters made the right choice. I thought this was a brilliant story of a world not quite our own, with a hero-engineer dealing with the challenges of a river of deadly mist and of facing up to his own emotional needs – an odd but effective mixture of immersive fantasy and basic technology. Excellent stuff, which I really hope wins the award.

So, that’s it for the written fiction categories. But I see that vast amounts of new material in the other categories has just been posted to the Hugo Voter Pack site, so this will not be the last post in this series.

See also: Best Novel | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist | Best Fan Artist

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May Books 11) St Anthony’s Fire, by Mark Gatiss

An enjoyable book in the New Adventures series, with the Doctor and Bernice Summerfield getting involved in an ancient dispute between two groups of lizard-men and Ace embroiled in the external force which may destroy their planet. Benny gets some particularly good character moments.

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“The Man Who Ended History” by Ken Liu

I have nearly finished my reading of the Hugo nominees in the fiction categories, and reached Ken Liu's fascinating story, "The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary" (available here in PDF). It is a sparsely told but emotionally wrenching tale of a Japanese-American/Chinese-American couple who develop a technology that allows one to experience historical events, and use it to allow relatives of the victims to revisit the horrors of Unit 731, where Japanese scientists performed horrible experiments on Chinese and other human subjects during the second world war. It's an effective piece of writing, but I tripped over two details and one big issue.

First detail: Liu has a diplomatic wrangle between Japan and China over who has exploration rights over what was then the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. In fact, it's pretty clear that any reasonable extrapolation of current international law and practice would conclude that Japan would not have a leg to stand on, having recognised the People's Republic of China as having jurisdiction over the present day site since 1972 (coincidentally the same year as the UNESCO convention to which both are party, China since 1985 and Japan since 1992). No doubt a rhetorical case would be made in internal Japanese media commentary and political debate on the issue, which would then be reflected inaccurately in international coverage especially in China and America, but the legal situation is crystal clear.

Second detail: Liu's scientists quite deliberately choose to send only victims' relatives rather than professional historians or journalists. The point of this in the context of the story is to illustrate the flawed decision-making of the central characters, under the awful pressure of an awful history. But it's unrealistic from many points of view, particularly that of the victims' families. Having been involved around the edges of a number of such situations, what I observe is that victims want a) the opportunity to testify and to tell their own stories and b) independent documentation as a confirmation from an authoritative, possible even neutral source that the evils to which they were subjected actually happened. What Liu's scientists offer doesn't really satisfy either of these requirements. There are other reasons to find this plot element unrealistic – would the Chinese government really allow American scientists such a free hand in choosing the people who would experience the time-travel technique? – but for me the killer is that I can't see that many of the people most concerned would be really attracted by this approach.

But the big point is this: I'm not sure that a story about time-travel is really an appropriate or tasteful way of dealing with atrocities like Area 731. I have nothing against the principle of being educated while I am entertained, but I think that there are also boundaries that can be crossed and have been in this case. I felt the same about Terry Bisson's Nebula-winning story "macs", which took a real-life tragedy and monstered the victims' relatives to make a point about capital punishment; though I agreed with the point, I thought it was done in very bad taste. Back at Eastercon, a panel on the potential range of settings for Doctor Who stories agreed that the Tardis can never visit Auschwitz (see also Rebecca Levene on "Let's Kill Hitler"). I would add that on screen it has never even been to Ireland. No doubt like many other readers, I learned about Area 731 for the very first time from this story, but I fear that presenting those awful facts in a work of speculative fiction potentially undermines their importance as facts. So while I applaud Liu's detailed research and imaginative transposition of the events of Area 731 into a narrative of scientific research and personal tragedy, I won't give it the top vote on my Hugo ballot.

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2012 Hugos: Best Professional Artist

This is another category that I don't think I have ever voted in before, but the Hugo Voters Package has enabled me to educate myself. I found this very difficult to choose; while I didn't much care for any of the Don Dos Santos pieces, each of the others had submitted at least one work that I found breathtaking, and I rearranged the order of my top four several times. In the end, my ranking is as follows:

5) Don Dos Santos. Four sexy people looking more or less combative. My favourite was the slightly improbably dressed heroine of J.A. Pitts' Forged in Fire. I found the zombie girl with a cigarette a bit disturbing and the other two a bit derivative. Nothing very surprising in any of them.
4) Next up is Bob Eggleton, who has won eight times before, presumably because he tends to deliver what the punters want; this is from the Analog cover illustration for Brad Torgersen's story "Ray Of Light", and whatever the other faults of the story and editorial process, the front cover did it proud. The cover for Heinlein's Starman Jones is also excellent, though I was less convinced by the monsters and dinosaurs of the other two entries.
3) John Picacio. Three interesting pictures of people, two of them illustrations of two of the Stark kids for the GRRM Song of Ice and Fire calendar, and also this excellent cosmic front cover for a Poul Anderson collection, Admiralty. (I did not much like the other piece, a cluttered cover for Ian McDonald's Planespinner.)
2) Michael Komarck's pieces are all about people either readying themselves for combat or actually fighting. But they are beautifully done of that sub-genre, with lavish attention paid to the protagonists and both foreground and background detail. I've chosen the cover from the new edition of Wild Cards II: Aces High, which has the only woman and the only urban setting of the submitted works, but the other three are all good action pieces with misty backgrounds and swirling debris.
1) Stefan Martinere. There's a good bit of sensawunda and fantastic detail in all four of Martiniere's peices; this is his cover for the Nelson / Rutti comic Rage, where an inverted alien and a young woman seem to accept each other's presence in a sparsely realised structure. Two of the other pieces feature vast futuristic machines; the last shows the hero of Diane Duane's Omnitopia series contemplating his lot. I'd be tempted to buy all of them based on the cover art, which I guess is the key test. (Martiniere has won once before, in 2008.)

So, once again I have been educated by the Hugo Voter Package and will vote in a category I would previously have left blank..

See also: Best Novel | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Fan Artist

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May Books 10) The Great O’Neill, by Sean O’Faolain

Like most kids growing up in Catholic Ireland, I “did” some of O’Faolain’s short stories at school. I guess I hadn’t appreciated how big a figure he was in the (admittedly small) world of the arts in mid-century Ireland, constructing the literary self-image of the new state as it found its way to becoming the Republic. This book was his third history book in five years, coming after his edition of Wolfe Tone’s autobiography in 1937 and his biography of Daniel O’Connell in 1938; he claims not to be attempting a serious academic history, but this is disingenuous; he must have realised that a book on such a subject by a writer of his profile would establish received wisdom for decades to come.

I’m more interested in the subject than the writer. O’Neill was the leader of the Irish side in the last struggle between the old Gaelic order and the London government; surrendering after nine years of war in 1603, he slipped away to exile in Rome and died there. For O’Faolain’s purposes, he is of course a hero in that he tried but failed to establish an independent Irish state. But there were a couple of interesting slants which prevent it from being a hagiography.

Hiram Morgan has disproved one of the key planks of O’Faolain’s narrative, that the young O’Neill was fostered in England, and Morgan is rather better on the overall politics and culture of the era. It’s a bit of a shame, actually, because O’Faolain is big on the importance of communication and even compromise with the English, and O’Neill’s (fictional) early life in England equips him to be the right man for this job. Where O’Faolain does better than Morgan is on the human level. His sixteenth-century Ireland is a rather sexy place (certainly in comparison to the repressed de Valera / McQuaid state). O’Neill’s marital history is explained in great detail, including the elopement with Mabel Bagenal, the daughter of one of his regional English rivals. O’Faolain is fairly neutral rather than scandalised about this; I guess that he hoped his readers would draw their own conclusions.

And his account of the end of the war is rather good, though here he does slip into moral lessons from history a bit. Though a proud Cork man himself, O’Faolain admits that Kinsale was practically the worst place for the Spanish to land; had they come anywhere in the north or northwest coast, O’Faolain reckons they would have won the war fairly quickly. As it was, a less good English leader than Mountjoy could easily have screwed up the siege. But it’s impossible to find a positive description of the way the arriving Irish soldiers blundered into a catastrophic and decisive defeat, and O’Faolain goes into splendid descriptive detail about it. O’Neill is in the end the victim of a bad Spanish decision, unusually good English command, and a lack of discipline among his own supporters and allies. My memory is that Cyril Falls, writing only a few years later and as an avowed Unionist, is actually a bit more even-handed in his assessment.

Anyway, not an essential book for historical understanding of the period, but an important book for understanding more recent perceptions of the events. And quite a good read.

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May Books 9) Invasion of the Cat-People, by Gary Russell

Russell is generally one of the better writers of Who spinoff fiction (the novelisation of the TV movie, the Torchwood novel The Twilight Streets, the Tenth Doctor / Wilf novel Beautiful Chaos) but this early Missing Adventure is not a hit. Aliens who look exactly like cats plan to tear the earth in half, as you do, but are stymied by the fact that continental drift has moved crucial equipment out of alignment over a few dozen millennia (when continents would only have drifted by about a kilometre). Some nice descriptive passages, especially about Cumbria and Polly, admitted by the author to be particular interests in the foreword, but otherwise the narrative is confused and cluttered. You can skip this and I did not really need to reread it.

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Links I found interesting for 25-05-2012

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2012 Hugos: Best Novelette

Once again, thanks to the Hugo Voters Packet, I have been able to read the five nominees in the Best Novelette category and decide how to rank them.

6) “Ray of Light”, by Brad Torgersen. This actually has a better plot than my last-place picks in the Best Novel and Best Short Story categories – the Earth has been largely destroyed by aliens who arbitrarily block out the light of the Sun, and our hero is part of a small underwater community surviving on geothermal heat from continental rifts – but is delivered in excruciatingly basic style with occasional solecisms. It is the only story in this category that fails my embarrassment test.

5) No Award. I might not agree with people who vote for three of the other four, but I could at least see that there are points in each that are worthy of merit.

4) “Fields of Gold”, by Rachel Swirsky. I feel a little sad at putting this fourth, because I did quite enjoy it. The central character, having died, finds out the truth about his wife and his other past lovers from the superior vantage point of the afterlife. However, I couldn’t decide whether or not we were supposed to think it was funny – perhaps a mis-match between American humour and that of the rest of the world; the line about President Garfield particularly struck a dissonant note for me. So into fourth place it goes.

3) “The Copenhagen Interpretation”, by Paul Cornell. I had read this for the BSFA Awards (which it won) and read it again this week. This is mostly jolly good fun, with a gonzo reinterpretation of scientific and political history, centred around a British intervention in Denmark in a steampunkish universe with folding spacetime. Lots of Stuff Happens, though not to a completely satisfying conclusion. Still, I enjoyed the ride.

2) “What We Found”, by Geoff Ryman. This won the Nebula in this category last weekend, against much the same competition, a story of a Nigerian scientist who discovers a scientific effect whereby your experiments basically stop working, amid much more detail about his extended family. Judged as a piece of prose, it is probably the best of the nominees. I mark it down, however, because the sfnal element is actually rather minimal – the narrator’s researches are barely counterfactual and I did not really feel they were crucial to the family history. Great style, not quite so sure about the substance.

1) “Six Months, Three Days”, by Charlie Jane Anders. Sometimes I am an unashamed romantic, and I just loved this story of two people in contemporary New York who are both attuned – but perhaps differently so – to the passage of time throughout their entire lives, and whose love affair lasts for six months and three days. It may be thirty years since I last read F.M. Busby’s “If This Is Winnetka, You Must Be Judy”, whose protagonists are in a similar (but not identical) situation, but it remains a vivid memory for me of time travel and lost love. Anders has I think successfully updated that brilliant tale for the 2010s, including giving the same name to her female protagonist. The lovers’ personal dynamic also reflects different philosophies of predestination, choice, and responsibility, and grabbed my heartstrings. An enthusiastic first preference from me.

See also: Best Novel | Best Short Story | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Fan Artist

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“Ray of Light”, by Brad Torgersen

A couple of extracts from this Hugo-nominated novelette for your enjoyment. At one point our narrator writes of:

…risking my life and the old sub to chase a wild hair through the vast, dark ocean.

This would be a jarring enough metaphor if "hare" had been spelt correctly, as a waterlogged animal would not get very far once submerged in the vast dark ocean. With the incorrect spelling of "hair", the entire sentence is nonsensical.

Later on, when we first encounter the ray of light of the title of the story, it appears thus:

…there was a gloaming light in the very far distance. Only, gloaming wasn't the right word.

Indeed it wasn't; "gloaming" is not an adjective, but a noun which means "twilight", often more specifically "dusk". The narrator / the author may have meant "dim" or "gleaming".

This one will not be at the top of my ballot paper.

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Worrying statistic: hare vc hair

I am alarmed to discover that Google has 51 hits for the phrase "chase a wild hair [sic]" but only 39 for "chase a wild hare", which, it should go without saying, is very obviously the correct spelling. Life is very strange.

Edited to add: Per in comments I tried again and got 403 hits for "hare" and 59 for "hair". Which is a little more reassuring.

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Links I found interesting for 23-05-2012

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Links I found interesting for 22-05-2012

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2012 Hugos: Best Fan Artist

I don't think I have ever voted in this category before, but after last year's debacle when I failed to vote for Randall Munroe of xkcd, and he missed winning the award by a single vote, I have decided to educate myself thanks to the Hugo Voters Package. There are five artists in this category (none of them Randall Munroe, for some reason) and I have heard of only one, so I am judging the others purely on the basis of the four pieces submitted for the Package; if they have done better (or worse) work over the last year I'm not aware of it.

Edited to add: I now realise that Randall Munroe is in fact a nominee but that none of his work has been included in the Hugo Voter Package. He is getting my top vote anyway, and I have revised the others down a place.

Without very much hesitation, I rank them as follows:

6) Steve Stiles. Three of the pieces submitted are weak jokes; the fourth is more interesting, a bloke looking out of the frame with a screaming face reflected in his sunglasses. But not interesting enough to shift him from the bottom spot on my ballot.
5) Brad Foster. This was the one artist whose work I did already know, in that he provides cover cartoons for Ansible. Nothing seriously wrong with any of the pieces but they are pretty basic. The best is the logo for last year's CONDFW, excerpted here.
4) I hesitated a bit about Taral Wayne, because the first two pieces are a gnome joke and a jack o'lantern leering at a furry creature of some kind. But the other two are both rather good, a planetscape crowded with fannish references and a lovely long-focus landscape, nicely realised, with a trademark furry explorer. I like both better than I like any of the Foster or Stiles pieces, so Wayne goes above them.
3) We are in a slight chalk and cheese situation with Spring Schoenhuth, whose medium is metalwork rather than graphic art. The jewellery photographs we have been given to judge her work on are all beautiful pieces which one would like to own; there's a sense of consistent attention to detail. It may be slightly quirky of me, but I put her third.
2) That brings us to Maurine Starkey, three of whose four pieces impressed me as having a story to tell; I was underwhelmed by her Close Encounters fanzine cover, but her Sherlock Holmes homage, her skeleton resting in flowers, and especially the weird children on the cover of Askance #24 would all make me want to pick up whatever they adorned and also look for more from that artist.
1) Randall Munroe. A consistent cause of delight and entertainment, and occasionally education and enlightenment.

So, the Hugo Voter Package has successfully educated me about the Best Fan Artist category, though slightyl misled me by the absence of one of the nominees' work. More to come.

See also: Best Novel, Best Short Story, Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

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Nebula Awards

Best Novel: Among Others, by Jo Walton – HOORAY!!!!
Best Novella: “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” by Kij Johnson
Best Novelette: “What We Found,” by Geoff Ryman
Best Short Story: “The Paper Menagerie,” by Ken Liu
Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation: Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife,” written by Neil Gaiman, directed by Richard Clark
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book: The Freedom Maze, by Delia Sherman

Grand Master Award to Connie Willis.
Solstice Awards to John Clute and posthumously to Octavia Butler.
Service to SFWA Award to Bud Webster.

Congratulations to !!! (And to the others of course.

Jo Walton, Ken Liu, and (slightly to my surprise) Geoff Ryman are all first-time Nebula winners. Kij Johnson had won twice before, making this her third. (Years of birth: 1951, 1960, 1964, 1976; but not necessarily in that order.) Neil Gaiman had of course won two Nebula Awards for written fiction, but this is his first Bradbury Award (he had been nominated for Best Script for Princess Mononoke.

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Supercalorific banana chocolate cake

Banana-chocolate chip cake

100g butter

200g sugar

2 to 3 medium size ripe bananas, pureed

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g flour

1 tsp baking soda

125 ml natural unsweetened yogurt

½ tsp salt

100g chocolate chips

Grease a cake pan with a little butter and flour. Preheat your oven at 180°C.

Whip the butter and slowly add the sugar until the mixture is creamy. Add the banana puree, the eggs and the vanilla. Mix well.

In a big bowl, mix the flour, the baking powder, the salt and the chocolate chips then add this to the first mixture. Mix everything together.

Slowly add the yogurt and mix well. Pour the batter in the cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a knife point comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, remove from the cake pan and let the cake cool a little bit more before serving it.

With many thanks to Laura Carre-Diaz.

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Links I found interesting for 18-05-2012

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Links I found interesting for 16-05-2012

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On this day in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007

A couple of people have been looking back at their blog posts on this day over the last five years, so I thought, why not?

15 May 2011: I commemorated the death of Peter Grimwade (among other Whoniversaries), wrote up a Doctor Who audio starring Mary Tamm and quoted Neil Gaiman on Who.

15 May 2010: I gave a grudging yes to the new British coalition government, reported that Northern Ireland's local government reform was to be delayed yet again (it has just been restarted), and reviewed a Hugo-nominated novel that didn't much impress me.

15 May 2009: I complained about twitterbots from British Columbia, reviewed Shakespeare's The Tempest and The Wizard of Oz, and added a thought about the links between the Tin Woodman and the Cybermen.

15 May 2008: I wished my wife a happy birthday (I was in Albania I think), and mourned the demise of the daily RFE/RL news bulletin.

15 May 2007: I reviewed the second volume of Proust's In Search of Lost Time, an Iain Banks novel and an early Doctor Who story.

So, what about you?

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Links I found interesting for 15-05-2012

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