August Books

Non-fiction 3 (YTD 38)
F in Exams, by Richard Benson
F in Retakes, by Richard Benson
The Making of Doctor Who, by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke

Fiction (non-sf) 8 (YTD 30)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
Vernon God Little, by DBC Pierre
A Winter Book, by Tove Jansson
Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis
Battle for Bittora, by Anuja Chauhan
The Waves, by Virginia Woolf
The Life of John Buncle, Esq: Containing Various Observations and Reflections, Made in Several Parts of the World, and Many Extraordinary Relations, vols 1 and 2, by Thomas Amory

SF (non-Who) 6 (YTD 73)
Brontomek!, by Michael Coney
A Guide to Tolkien, by David Day
The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Starry Messenger: The Best of Galileo, ed. Charles Ryan

Doctor Who 4 (YTD 42)
Tomb of Valdemar, by Simon Messingham
Bad Therapy, by Matthew Jones
The Crooked World, by Steve Lyons
Engines of War, by George Mann

Comics 1 (YTD 14)
With The Light… vol 7, by Keiko Tobe

~6,600 pages (YTD ~56,500)
5/22 (YTD 49/197) by women (Jansson, Chauhan, Woolf, ξ1, Tobe)
2/22 (YTD 15/197) by PoC (Chauhan, Tobe)

Reread: 2/22, counting the Day book about Tolkien as essentially the same as the other one I'd read, and also The Making of Doctor Who (YTD 8/197)

Reading now:
A Sentimental Education, by Gustave Flaubert

Coming soon (perhaps):
The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
The Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar
Race Of Scorpions, by Dorothy Dunnett
Rob Roy, by Sir Walter Scott
La Galère d'Obélix, by Albert Uderzo
Lost At Sea, by Bryan Lee O'Malley
King's Inns and the Kingdom of Ireland, by Colum Kenny
Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes
Harlequin, by Bernard Cornwell
Eva, by Peter Dickinson
The Strangest Man, by Graham Farmelo
The Professor, by Charlotte Brontë
Wool, by Hugh Howey
Up the Walls of the World, by James Tiptree
Edward Gibbon and Empire, ed. Rosamund McKitterick
Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt
Beach Music, by Pat Conroy
Liberal Language, by Graham Watson
The Jonah Kit, by Ian Watson
Tree and Leaf, by J R R Tolkien
Wages of Sin, by Andrew M. Greeley
The Balkans, by Misha Glenny
The English Way of Death, by Gareth Roberts
Eternity Weeps, by Jim Mortimore
History 101, by Mags L. Halliday
Home by Marilynne Robinson

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August Books 12) Starry Messenger: The best of Galileo, ed. Charles Ryan

A 1979 collection which I picked up at Boskone thirty years later. Galileo lasted only another year after this was published. These are generally good pieces, and I was a bit surprised that only one story published in Galileo ever became a Hugo or Nebula finalists (and that was in 1980, Connie Willis’s first ever nomination). The contents list begins with Ellison, Aldiss and Willis, and then goes on to authors who I haven’t heard of like D.C. Poyer and John Alfred Taylor. The standout pieces for me were “Where the Lines Converge” by Brian Aldiss, which has not appeared in any of his subsequent collections, and “The Best Is Yet To Be” by M. Lucie Chin, her first story in a writing career that appears to have ended in 1988.

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August Books 11) The Crooked World, by Steve Lyons

A hilarious yet dark mixup of the Eighth Doctor, Fitz and Anji with the Hanna-Barbera cartoons of the 1970s (and a dash of Roger Rabbit). The Scooby-Doo sections are particularly good at getting under the skin of what is really going on there. It would be very easy for a story with this premise to misfire completetly, but Lyons is an effective writer who keeps it on track throughout.

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Doctor Who / Northern Ireland

So, am I right that Michael Smiley as Colonel Blue is only the third character ever in Doctor Who with an Ulster accent?

The other two that I can think of are Harry Towb as McDermott in Terror of the Autons (1971) and Declan Mulholland as Clark in The Sea Devils (1972). Both appeared in other Who stories with non-Ulster accents.

(The daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor was pretty visible in Who at one stage, but she sounds pretty English these days.)

Edited to add: I had forgotten Jonjo O’Neill as McGillop in Day of the Doctor (2013).

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August Books 10) Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis

Famously the basis for a film which won three Oscars (and which I haven’t seen), it’s a novel published in 1946 but mostly set in the early 1930s, about an intellectual young chap who gets put in charge of a mine in Crete and becomes friends with the sensual older man he chooses as foreman, Alexis Zorba. While our narrator struggles with deep philosophical issues and his relationship with Buddha, Zorba enjoys the landscape, the food, the drink, the dancing and the women of Crete and shames the narrator into taking himself a bit less seriously while favouring him with nuggets of folk wisdom – though death and violence (both political and domestic) are never far away. Zorba ends up in Skopje during the second world war, which is where the bloke he is based on is buried; Serbia and Macedonia also claim links to him. I enjoyed the lyrical descriptions of the setting (and the food), though I felt the central narrative point of brain vs heart was rather overdone in the course of the 350 pages, and our manly central characters’ attitude to women is pretty unenlightened.

My strangest memory of the syrtaki dance comes from much later, when I attended a NATO conference in Belgrade in 2001. This was the first NATO event in Serbia after the Kosovo war, held in the InterContinental Hotel (where Arkan had been gunend down in January of the previous year), two blocks from the Ušće Tower which was still standing despite having been hit by several Tomahawk missiles in 1999 (this was September 2001, so collapsing tower blocks were on everyone’s mind). Rather surprisingly, the atmosphere between the local military and the NATO visitors was rather cordial, and I vividly remember, as the band struck up Mikis Theodorakis’ music at the conference dinner, the somewhat rotund chaps from Brussels and the Yugoslav officers draped arms across shoulders and danced together as the rest of us clapped in time. (Except the Russians, who were looking very grumpy indeed.)

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August Books 9) A Winter Book, by Tove Jansson

Lovely collection of Jansson’s short fiction, arranged loosely by age of the protagonist who in most cases clearly reflects Jansson herself. There’s a vivid picture of her war with a squirrel on her island; there are poignant letters sent to the author by Moomin fans; there are vignettes of family life. It’s all very absorbing as we celebrate her centenary.

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August Books 8) Bad Therapy, by Matthew Jones

I very much enjoyed Beyond the Sun, Jones’ contribution to the Bernice Summerfield range, and I enjoyed this book too: the Seventh Doctor and Chris, still grieving the loss of Roz, land in 1950s Soho, and are involved in a series of murders taking them through the hidden worlds of organised crime and homosexuality, and rather unexpectedly reuniting the Doctor with Peri Brown. Chris gets some very good bits of story for a change, and this is one of the better of the various confusing endings for Peri.

It’s only on reflection now that I realise it shares a major element with Michael Coney’s Brontomek! – the artificial life forms which adapt to appear like the person desired or needed by the human whom they adopt – but the two books are otherwise so difference that I guess this is a complete coincidence.

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August Books 7) The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Like, I guess, a lot of people I was intrigued by the announcement four years ago that Pratchett and Baxter, two authors whose styles are not exactly next adjacent to each other, were to collaborate on a series of books set after the pathways between universes have been discovered; and now anyone with a problem can just run away to a parallel world. It reminded me a bit of Chris Beckett’s Shifter stories, and a bit less of Poul Anderson’s There Will Be Time, and a bit more of Charles Stross’s Merchant Princes.

The style does end up somewhere less exciting than either Pratchett’s zany parables or Baxter’s hard-sf prose, without quite taking off until quite near the end (with a couple of mis-steps towards humour). But I felt that compared to, say, Orbitsville or Ringworld, the authors did manage to convey the grandeur of the multitude of settings, and the potential variation of worlds from a common start. This is the first of the novels, so there’s quite a lot of scene-setting, because there are an awful lot of scenes; but clearly something is being set up for later delivery. I won’t rush to get the others in the series, but I will keep en eye out for them.

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The Arthur C. Clarke Award and me

I am very happy to be able to say that I will be one of the judges of the Arthur C. Clarke Award next year, nominated by the British Science Fiction Association. The award is given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom in the last year (ie next year’s award is for books published this year). There are five judges, plus Andrew Butler as Chair and Tom Hunter as Director, and novels are already being submitted to us. It’s very exciting.

Arthur C. Clarke was one of those writers who dragged me into sf, through Of Time And Stars, A Fall of Moondust, Imperial Earth, Earthlight, Rendezvous with Rama, The City and the Stars, The Fountains of Paradise, Childhood’s End, 2001, 2010, and the various other short stories around the place. His writing style is lucid, ironic, occasionally passionate, usually infused with sensawunda. I’m really honoured to be part of the award that celebrates his legacy.

This will mean some reduction in book-blogging here (which is anyway a couple of weeks behind). The keen-eyed among you will have noticed that I’ve been coding some recent sf reads by Greek letters rather than writing them up; those represnt books which have been, or might be, submitted for the award. I shall be a bit quieter (though not absolutely quiet) about next year’s nominees for other SF awards as well, consistent with the rules. However, that still leaves plenty of other books to write about.

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August Books 6) A Guide to Tolkien, by David Day

I’m sorry to say that this simply recycles text from Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia without even the benefit of the illustrations. As before, separate entries for (eg) Amon Amarth, Mount Doom and Orodruin despite all being the same thing, with no cross-referencing internally or to the actual works. The introduction promises to bring in some of the material from the History of Middle Earth but I didn’t spot it. Robert Foster did this better in 1978.

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August Books 5) Brontomek!, by Michael Coney

Won the BSFA award for Best Novel for 1976; I confess I knew nothing else about either book or author before picking it up, and it probably qualifies as one of the most forgotten winners. It's an interestingly British novel; if the cover and all details of the author had been removed, I might have identified it as by Brian Aldiss on a slightly off day, perhaps in the early rather than mid-1970s. It's a story of the little guy against the corporation which is corroding the traditional company town culture of the human settlers; the setting is oddly reminiscent of Leo's Aldebaran series, lots of beach and seafaring and port city scenes. There is a bizarre attempt to prove manliness by sailing around the planet single-handed, while at the same time the issue of manliness and humanity is confused by the artificial people who adapt to take on the characteristics desired by their human owners. It's a bit unfortunate in places and doesn't quite gel, but an interesting insight into the neuroses of the time. The Hugo winner that year was Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang, and the Nebula went to Man Plus.

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Wednesday reading

A Sentimental Education, by Gustave Flaubert
The Life of John Buncle, Esq: Containing Various Observations and Reflections, Made in Several Parts of the World, and Many Extraordinary Relations, v. 2 by Thomas Amory

Last books finished
Starry Messenger: The best of Galileo, ed. Charles Ryan
Battle for Bittora, by Anuja Chauhan
Engines of War, by George Mann
F in Exams, by Richard Benson
F in Retakes, by Richard Benson
The Making of Doctor Who, by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke

Next books
The Waves, by Virginia Woolf
The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar
The English Way of Death, by Gareth Roberts

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Predicting the Hugos, etc

Paul Cornell, God bless him, was introducing me to passers-by at Worldcon as the guy who predicts the Hugo winners. I retaliated by accusing him of writing fiction, of course. I don't actually claim to do any more than analyse the statistics already available to us, and those statistics are few and misleading.

The two tools I have been using are the Goodreads/LibraryThing stats of nominated books and the prominence of the contenders on blog posts. The former measure had a bad year this year. Ancillary Justice was third of five on the Goodreads list for the Kitschies' Golden Tentacle (second on LibraryThing, but a long way behind Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreNebula shortlist by both systems; and was far behind all of the Wheel of Time volumes for the Hugos (third on Goodreads, second on LibraryThing). Having said that, Ancillary Justice was top on Goodreads, and second on LibraryThing, for both the BSFA and Clarke shortlists and won both (the former jointly with the novel which placed third on Goodreads and fourth on LibraryThing).

My conclusion is that the Goodreads/LibraryThing stats are a decent guide to what has already sold well, but only the vaguest of indications as to what will actually win. (NB however that the Kitschies' Red Tentacle winner, A Tale for the Time Being, was also the clear leader on Goodreads/LibraryThing stats.)

The bloggers were a much better guide this year. Ancillary Justice was far ahead in my blogging tally for Best Novel, and "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" similarly for Best Short Story; "Equoid" was joint top for Best Novella, and "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" in a strong second place for Best Novelette. So that's two and half hits, and a near miss, out of four; better than my blogging surveys for last year (two hits, but two distant misses) or 2011 (one clear hit, three clear misses).

The sample size was anyway for too small to try any such tally for the other categories, or the Retro Hugos, and I also wonder if, because so many people are writing up their commentary these days in places that I can't see (or rather that Google can't see), my sample may be skewed by search algorithms. When it comes down to it, a survey of blogs about the Hugo shortlists will reveal only the preferences of those surveyed, which may (or may not) be a good guide to the preferences of the voters overall.

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August Books 3) Vernon God Little, by DBC Pierre

I know this won the Booker Prize, but it didn’t really work for me; I don’t find capital punishment or spree shootings terribly funny, and I’ve been close enough to media frenzies in real life to know what they look like from the inside and get irritated by inaccuracy. I could see that the author was trying to extract humour from the American Condition, rather like Saul Bellow in Henderson the Rain King, where I had a similar humour failure.

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Affirmational and Transformational Doctor Who Fan Videos

This was a brilliant Worldcon talk (one of only two single-speaker events I was able to attend, the speaker at the other one being me). It was the keynote speech for the academic track of programming, and basically involved Karen Hellekson talking us through a theory of fanvids – comparing and contrasting (as I had never thought to do) the various attempts to reconstruct lost episodes with some of the reinterpretations of the Whoniverse undertaken by the fan community. These were my favourite three of the dozen or so that she showed:

An alternative trailer for the 50th anniversary, by VG984:

“Papa Don’t Preach”, the story of Jack Harkness becoming pregnant by the Master but staying with Ianto despite the Doctor’s disapproval (36MB download)

and Wholock, which speaks for itself.


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August Books 2) With The Light… vol 7, by Keiko Tobe

As she reached the (premature) end of her efforts, Tobe started use the ongoing manga series of a boy with autism to look at other issues in Japanese society. Hikaru’s mother must still deal with him hitting puberty; the entire family has to move to his unsympathetic grandmother’s house, which means re-enacting a lot of her earlier hostility to his very presence in her life; but there are also some diversions into her right to to lead her own life without scrutiny from the younger generation, and the question of providing contraception for underage women (the latter feels somewhat pasted in, and was presumably a reaction to something going on in Japan at the time). As always, Tobe’s art and prose are nicely observed and convey what it’s like to live in a society I don’t know with a problem that I do know.

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August Books 1) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

Must have been decades since I read this; I had forgotten how episodic it is, but it adds up to a sympathetic portrayal of a community from the point of view of a teenager whose active imagination sometimes spills over into reality with dramatic effect. High points for comedy are the two particularly religion-related scenes, the sermon and rthe prize for Biblical knowledge; for human drama, there are the two occasions where Tom’s wandering off base, to the island or to the caves, has serious real-world impacts. I’m a bit surprised that it’s generally remembered as a book for children; it seems more like a book intended to be read aloud by adults in a family setting.

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Media coverage of Worldcons: Loncon 3, 2014 and Seacon ’79, 1979

This fascinating 25-minute documentary about the 1979 Worldcon, Seacon '79 in Brighton, was flagged up to me by Alastair Reynolds on Twitter (he being one of the dozens of people who I had hoped to see in person last week and shamefully failed to link up with). It is a bit grainy but very watchable for those of us who are interested.

Compare and contrast with Channel Four News' five-minute piece from the Friday of this year's convention, which veered rather close to point-and-laugh, but ended up just about at bemused admiration:

(And, if you like, the decent coverage we got this year in the Guardian: a leading article welcoming us to town the day before, a sympathetic article and photographs which made the front page splash on Saturday, and coverage of the Hugo Awards ceremony. There were also various BBC radio journalists running around, interviewing Farah Mendlesohn, etc, but I have not been able to track down those pieces yet.)

I couldn't help but be struck by the difference in how Worldcon and the media interact over the course of 35 years. I think the biggest lesson is that we have got bigger, and become more mainstream, which paradoxically means that we are less newsworthy, qualifying only for a five-minute filler rather than a full documentary. Whereas a 3,000-member specialist convention in 1979 was big stuff, those numbers are dwarfed not only by the 10,000 members (and 7,500-odd warm bodies) of Loncon 3 itself, but even more so by the commercial media events run by Comic Con and the BBC. (There is also an unfortunate point of timing – a lot of arts correspondents for the media spend the whole of August in Edinburgh.)

Celebrity has become less accessible as well. In 1979 the world was still small enough that Worldcon could get both Christopher Reeve and Tom Baker, Superman and Doctor Who; this year we had George R.R. Martin (who is a focal point of the Channel Four piece) as a major presence, but none of the cast were able to make it; two former Doctor Whos discreetly slipped into the Hugos, and their newly appointed successor will have his convention appearances fairly rigorously programmed. There were no media cons in Britain in 1979 (Longleat was still four years in the future).

But other things haven't changed. TV cameras will always be drawn to costumes, and by a mysterious gravitational force will also always be drawn to breasts. I didn't attend the Masquerade this year, so I don't know if anyone attempted to emulate Kate Solomon's famous 1979 butterfly costume, but I think I would have heard by now if they did. However, I did like that fact that Channel Four presented cosplay as something that essentially everyone can try; it is perhaps the moment when their piece tips decisively to being sympathetic.

We still, thank heavens, have the best authors in the field coming to speak. (Though these days, thank heavens again, they are not quite so predominantly male and white – having said which, Vonda McIntyre won the Hugo for Best Novel in 1979 with Dreamsnake.) It was great to see Brian Aldiss, aged 54, holding forth, less than a week after I had the pleasure of meeting him in person, 35 years on. Robert Silverberg is instantly recognisable too.

I was very pleased to get one report that the 2014 press office had been operated "by professionals for professionals". I should be very interested to know if Seacon '79 had a dedicated press officer – a list of people on the committee is given in Dave Langford's Rob Hansen's reminiscences but without roles being identified. The decent outputs conceal of course some desperate scrambling and a few unforced errors, but I had a great team led by the wonderful Alison Freebairn.

One media approach perhaps deserves to be reported. On the very morning that we were setting up, we received an email from a TV production company who are making a new show "offering expert advice to singletons, who are unlucky in lust. [We] will help both single men with their pulling problems & send them back in the world of pulling – armed with new techniques." They wanted to come to Loncon 3 to recruit potential participants in the show; but, do you know, I'm afraid that we may not have replied to them in time. Apologies to any singletons, unlucky in lust, who were actually at the convention and might have relished the chance to get televised advice on their pulling problems.

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July Books 21) The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch

I’m coming late to this one, which was the source of one of the original slapfests and which also made it to joint 15th on the Locus poll of Best Fantasy of the 21st century. Big fantasy novels are often not my thing, but this was generally pleasing after a slow start – our hero, Locke Lamora, flits between underworld and ruling classes in the city where we lay our scene, attempting to pull off audacious scams which sometimes fail and sometimes succeed, risking and indeed losing friends along the way. The end of the book has a couple of spectacular twists. Those who generally like this sort of thing will really like this (see for instance Patrick Rothfuss334!

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July Books 20) 334, by Thomas M. Disch

I’m far behind with bookblogging (though hoping to catch up now) and it’s several weeks since I read this. I must say that it wasn’t a brilliant choice of holiday novel; the disjointed narrative failed to engage me, and I felt that the stories never quite concentrated sufficiently on either near-future world-building or interesting characterisation. It was interesting that Disch correctly saw the politics of reproduction as being so prominent in the twenty-first century, although the detail has turned out rather differently.

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Deep Breath

We went to the cinema in Leuven to watch it this evening (thanks to the powerful lobbying of Belgian Whovians United, who welcomed us to the event partly in English though mainly in Dutch) and so got the full big screen, super sound system version (not in 3D this time). We also got the Doctor Who Extra at the end, and at the beginning an excellent cinema-only piece with Strax talking us through the twelve(ish) previous Doctors in Sontaran fashion.









I am an easily pleased soul, and I was very happy with it. It felt right to have a confused post-regeneration Doctor, not overplayed as with Six and Ten, and then the new title sequence is the best we’ve had in Moffat’s time (already four years on – longer than anyone except Letts, Nathan-Turner and Davis). Capaldi is very good; his performance feels very much under control, with the sense that the grownups are in charge now. This is a man who watched the very first episode when it went out in 1963; this is also a man who has won an Oscar.

I generally love the Paternoster Gang and Clara, but felt they were not quite as excellent this time round; Jenna Coleman obviously loves being in scenes with Capaldi (and we got a sense of how this is working behind the scenes with the readthrough in Doctor Who Extra) but seemed a bit less certain otherwise, and I suspect that the tabloid rumours are correct (she’ll have done two calendar years by Christmas, after all). But I did like the many shout-outs to Old Who, and the nod to English accents being foreign to a lot of us, including native speakers. I also thought it was good to have another look at the Girl in the Fireplace robots (gosh, their builders do seem to have made the same mistake at least twice) and the climatic underground battle scene, while to be honest not a strong point of the episdoe, would certainly have been done worse by Davis. And Matt Smith got the chance to do a more satisfactory take of his farewell to Clara.

The tramp looked eerily familiar to me. Of course, it was Brian Miller, Elisabeth Sladen’s husband.

Just thinking about that for a moment.

So, next week it seems we may get Daleks. (And once the thought has been raised in one’s mind that “Missy” may be n srznyr vapneangvba bs gur Znfgre, it’s impossible to shake.)

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The three coolest things that happened to me at Worldcon

As some of you know, I was Director of Promotions for Loncon 3, the recently concluded World Science Fiction Convention. If I have the energy, I will write up longer thoughts about the entire event, but just here and now I want to record the three coolest things that happened to me – all on the same day, Sunday 17th.

The Third Coolest thing That Happened To Me On Sunday: As I emerged somewhat bleary-eyed from a panel in the morning, someone who I had never physically met before (and you know who you are) came up to me and said that they liked this blog. My dear Livejournal, I have been neglecting you of late; Worldcon and real life have both been deflecting me from writing here as much as I used to. It was reaching the stage where I seriously was wondering if I could come back and pay you a sensible amount of attention again. So this encouragement was timely, and also immensely cheering, because the person it came from was the person I had nominated and voted for for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Having my modest and frankly faltering efforts praised by someone who I think is at the top of their game meant a lot to me. (You know who you are, but I won't embarrass you by outing you!)

The Second Coolest thing That Happened To Me On Sunday: I met two Doctor Whos. Obviously, we all knew that one of the Hugo nominees was The Five(ish) Doctors Rebooted, written and directed by Peter Davison and produced by his daughter Georgia Moffett. I spotted Davison and his wife Eizabeth in the pre-Hugo reception, and was chatting to her when her phone rang – it was Georgia, who had been dropped at the wrong end of the building along with her husband. I heroically offered to meet them and make sure they came to the right place, and so it fell to me to escort David Tennant onto the premises. Both Doctors were very good-humoured about posing with members of the team – I was unfortunately too busy to get in on the act myself. I had more of a chance to talk to Davison, who confessed that the only drama he had previously written were a couple of skits to introduce himself to the Gallifrey conventions in California.

The Coolest thing That Happened To Me On Sunday:  Had you asked before Sunday morning, it would have been very difficult to imagine that anything cooler than meeting two Doctor Whos might happen that day. But Worldcon is a place where the unimaginable happens. In the morning, as I walked along the boulevard post-panel, I spotted an unassuming elderly man sitting on one of the uncomfortable benches by the side.

It was Brian Aldiss.

Brian Aldiss

I don't think that there is a living author whose work has meant so much to me for so long, since I discovered him in my teens, more than thirty years ago. (Ursula le Guin comes pretty close, I'll admit, but she wasn't there.) He was more than happy to discuss and explain the thinking behind many of his early and his more recent books – we talked about Greybeard, we talked about Non-Stop, we talked about Hothouse, we talked about Helliconia, we talked about The Finches of Mars, we talked about Cities and Stones. We talked about politics and we talked about families. The day before his 89th birthday, 49 years after he was Guest of honour at the last London Worldcon, he was still sharp as a knife. I didn't want to stretch his tolerance, so we spoke for only 20 minutes or so. But it was the high point of the convention – possibly of the year – for me personally.

A peculiar postscript happened at lunchtime today. As I wandered out of the office to buy my sandwich, I happened to encounter a Balkan friend – one of the best known journalists in his country, who has a personal history of exposing state atrocities and state-linked crimes, has been prosecuted for "spreading disinformation" and has had his house bombed by disgruntled underworld figures. He had spotted my post of the picture above on Facebook, and told me that his first professional job had been translating Helliconia into his native language, adding that he is "green with envy" that I met Brian Aldiss and he didn't. I recommended Cities and Stones (which he hadn't read) to him, very warmly. I must replace my own copy (given as a permanent loan to another Balkan journalist friend, many years ago). Edited to add, 24 April 2019: The journalist, of course, was the great Dejan Anastasijević.

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Wednesday reading

Battle for Bittora, by Anuja Chauhan
Engines of War, by George Mann
The Life of John Buncle, Esq: Containing Various Observations and Reflections, Made in Several Parts of the World, and Many Extraordinary Relations, v. 2 by Thomas Amory

Last books finished
A Winter Book, by Tove Jansson
Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis
The Crooked World, by Steve Lyons

Next books
Starry messenger: The best of Galileo, ed. Charles Ryan
Diplomatic Baggage, by Brigid Keenan
The Making of Doctor Who, by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke

Books acquired in last week
Riding the Unicorn by Paul Kearney
Worlds Apart, by Richard Cowper
Cloud on Silver, by John Christopher
Le Mariage de Figaro, by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
Tangle Of Fates, by Leslie Ann Moore
HWJN, by Ibraheem Abbas
Somewhere! (Hunaak!), by Ibraheem Abbas
Memory of Water, by Emmi Itäranta
Earth Girl, by Janet Edwards
Battle for Bittora, by Anuja Chauhan
The Painted Man, by Peter V. Brett

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Hugo Awards 2014: A bit more detail

Details here.


  • Sarah Webb crushes all opposition for Best Fan Artist.
  • Closest result among winners is 16-vote margin putting Apex Magazine ahead of Strange Horizons for Best Semiprozine.
  • Other close results:
    • John Picacio and John Harris tie for 3rd place in Best Professional Artist;
    • Coode Street Podcast takes 2nd place for Best Fancast by 1 vote
  • Vox Day defeated by No Award for fifth place in Best Novelette.
  • No Award also does well, topping the poll at almost every stage, but ultimately fails to place, in Best Fancast.
  • Also in Best Fancast, Tea and Jeopardy is runner-up for the first, second and third spots, eventually coming fourth.
  • Toni Weisskopf gets most first prefs in counts for first, second and third place in Best Editor Long Form, but overtaken by transfers each time and wins only fourth place.
  • Doctor Who episodes are 2nd and 6th in Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), with the two Who-related plays coming 4th and 5th.
  • Neil Gaiman declined nomination for The Ocean At The End Of The Lane for Best Novel.
  • missed getting on the ballot by one vote:
    • The Night of the Doctor (BDP SF);
    • Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Best Editor LF);
    • Joey Hi-Fi (Best Professional Artist);
    • Maurine Starkey (Best Fan Artist).
  • missed by two votes:
    • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (Best Novel);
    • The Time of the Doctor (BDP SF);
    • Chris Hadfield's perfomance of Space Oddity (also BDP SF).

Note to self: remember to nominate in all categories – it does make a difference!

Best Novel (3137 votes)

1) Ancillary Justice way ahead on first count (1335 to 658 for Wheel of Time, 445 for Neptune's Brood, 332 for Warbound, 279 for Parasite and 88 for No Award). Ancillary Justice wins on fourth count, 1497 to 853 for Wheel of Time and 586 for Neptune's Brood.
2) Neptune's Brood, 3) Parasite, 4) Wheel of Time, 5) Warbound. Warbound slips behind No Award in race for fourth place but squeaks into fifth by 1161 to 1052.

Neil Gaiman declined nomination for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which had the second highest number of nominations (Ancillary Justice was top there too).
The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes, missed being a finalist by 2 votes.

Best Novella (2699 votes)

1) "Equoid" was narrowly ahead of Six Gun Snow White on the first count, by 787 to 736. Six Gun Snow White actually overtook "Equoid" on transfers from "Wakulla Springs", but transfers from "The Chaplain's Legacy" pushed "Equoid" back on top to win by 1221 to 1138.
2) Six Gun Snow White, 3) "Wakulla Springs", 4) "The Chaplain's Legacy", 5) The Butcher of Khardov.

Six Gun Snow White got most nominations, 143 to "Equoid"'s 127. There was a substantial gap of 17 votes between "Wakulla Springs" and "How Green This Land, How Blue This Land", by Mira Grant.

Best Novelette (2785 votes)

1) "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" convincingly ahead with 1037 first prefs to 680 for "The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling", winning by 1482 to 1022.
2) "The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling" narrowly ahead of "The Waiting Stars", 1019 to 1003 on first prefs, 1250 to 1144 at the end.
3) "The Waiting Stars" takes the third spot in the first count, 1682 to 486 for "The Exchange Officers", 262 for "Opera Vita Aeterna" and 146 for "No Award".
4) "The Exchange Officers" far ahead of No Award, which is ahead of "Opera Vita Aeterna".
5) No Award beats "Opera Vita Aeterna" by 1232 to 855.

"The Lady Astronaut of Mars" also got the most nominations. There was a big, 20-vote gap between "Opera Vita Aeterna" and "The Litigation Master and the Monkey King", by Ken Liu.

Best Short Story (2684 votes)

1) "The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere" convincingly ahead, 861 first prefs to 654 for "If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love", winning by 1278 to 971.
2) "If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love" ahead on first prefs but loses by 11 votes to "Selkie Stories are for Losers".
3) "If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love", 4) "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket".

"The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere" got 43 nominations; "Dog's Body" by Sarah Hoyt missed by 5 votes with 38 – with a 4% rather than 5% threshold it would have been on the ballot too, and then "A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel", by Ken Liu, would have missed by one vote with 37.

Best Related Work (2148 votes)

1) "We Have Always Fought" got 597 first prefs to 525 for Wonderbook, and kept that lead to win by 879 to 795.
2) Wonderbook, 3) Writing Excuses, 4) Queers Dig Time Lords, 5) Speculative Fiction 2012.

Afrofuturism missed being a finalist by 10 votes.

Best Graphic Story (2344 votes)

1) Time got 715 first prefs to Saga's 566, and won by 1027 to 810.
2) Saga, 3) Girl Genius, 4) The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who, 5) The Meathouse Man.

Locke and Key vol 6 missed being a finalist by 4 votes.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (2891)

1) Gravity had 1016 first prefs to 568 for Pacific Rim and 543 for Frozen, winning by 1508 to 1037 for Frozen.
2) Pacific Rim had 807 first prefs to 793 for Frozen, but lost on transfers (particularly from Catching Fire) with Frozen taking the second place spot by 1260 to 1189.
3) Pacific Rim, 4) Iron Man 3, 5) Catching Fire.

Ender's Game missed being a finalist by 6 votes, and The Desolation of Smaug by 8.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (2667 votes)

1) The Rains of Castamere had 744 first prefs to 630 for Variations Under Domestication and 539 for The Day of the Doctor, and won by 1221 to 1063 for The Day of the Doctor. The Name of the Doctor got fewer first prefs than No Award.
2) Variations Under Domestication had 894 first prefs to 634 for The Day of the Doctor. Whovian transfers pull The Day of the Doctor ahead by 1096 to 1075.
3) Variations Under Domestication, 4) An Adventure in Space and Time, 5) The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, 6) The Name of the Doctor.

The Name of the Doctor and Variations Under Domestication tied for fifth place in nominations. The Night of the Doctor missed being a finalist by 1 vote, and The Time of the Doctor and Chris Hadfield's performance of Space Oddity by 2 votes.

Best Editor, Short Form (1621 votes)

1) Ellen Datlow gets 470 first prefs to 312 for John Joseph Adams, winning by 762 to 518.
2) John Joseph Adams, 3) Jonathan Strahan, 4) Sheila Williams by 5 votes from Neil Clarke, 5) Neil Clarke.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt missed being a finalist by 6 votes.

Best Editor, Long Form (1545 votes)

1) Toni Weisskopf got the most first prefs, 384 to 359 for Ginjer Buchanan, but lost by 474 to 678.
2) Toni Weisskopf got the most first prefs, 435 to 363 for Liz Gorinsky, but lost by 520 to 657.
3) Toni Weisskopf got the most first prefs, 477 to 391 for Sheila Gilbert, but lost by 520 to 574.
4) Toni Weisskopf got the most first prefs, 568 to 526 for Lee Harris, and won by 576 to 535.
5) Lee Harris

Patrick Nielsen Hayden missed being a finalist by 1 vote.

Best Professional Artist (2007 votes)

1) Julie Dillon led from the first count with 438 first prefs to 383 for John Harris, 349 for Daniel Dos Santos and 343 for John Picacio. Picacio pulled ahead of Dos Santos and Harris to finish on 720 votes to Dillon's 934. Galen Dara got fewer first prefs than No Award.
2) Daniel Dos Santos
3) tie between John Picacio and John Harris, the latter well behind on first prefs but picking up on transfers
5) Fiona Staples, 6) Galen Dara

Dan dos Santos and Fiona Staples tied for fifth place in nominations with 49 votes; Joey Hi-Fi missed by one with 48.

Best Semiprozine (1598 votes)

1) Strange Horizons had 401 first prefs to 386 for Lightspeed Magazine, but transfers from Apex Magazine in particular pulled Lightspeed ahead to win by 645 to 629. Beneath Ceaseless Skies had fewer first prefs than No Award.
2) Strange Horizons
3) Apex Magazine by 590 to 583 for Interzone, though Interzone had more first prefs
4) Interzone, 5) Beneath Ceaseless Skies

There was a 14-vote gap in nominations between Clarkesworld and Daily Science Fiction.

Best Fanzine (1372 votes)

1) A Dribble of Ink had 335 first prefs to 278 for Journey Planet and 255 for The Book Smugglers, and won by 509 to 425 for The Book Smugglers. Elitist Book Reviews had fewer first prefs than No Award.
2) The Book Smugglers, 3) Pornokitsch, 4) Journey Planet, 5) Elitist Book Reviews

Banana Wings and The Drink Tank both missed nomination by 4 votes.

Best Fancast (1177 votes)

1) No Award topped the poll with 237 first prefs to 209 for SF Signal Podcast, which eventually won by 393 to 319 for Tea and Jeopardy.
2) No Award topped the poll with 258 first prefs to 211 for The Coode Street Podcast, which eventually won by 341 to 340 for Tea and Jeopardy.
3) No Award topped the poll with 267 first prefs to 207 for Galactic Suburbia Podcast, which eventually won by 345 to 289 for Tea and Jeopardy.
4) No Award topped the poll with 271 first prefs to 247 for Tea and Jeopardy, which eventually won by 491 to 299 for No Award.
5) No Award topped the poll with 280 first prefs to 267 for The Skiffy and Fanty Show, which eventually won by 475 to 303 for No Award.
6) Verity! had 322 first prefs ahead of 291 for No Award, and went on to win by 443 to 308.
7) The Writer and the Critic won by 398 to 296 for No Award.

SF Signal Podcast, the winner, tied for fifth place in nominations with The Writer and the Critic and Tea and Jeopardy. Sword and Laser missed being a finalist by 6 votes.

Best Fan Writer (1438 votes)

1) Kameron Hurley topped the poll with 426 first prefs to 263 for Abigail Nussbaum, winning by 653 to 408. Liz Bourke, Mark Oshiro and Foz Meadows got fewer first prefs than No Award.
2) Abigail Nussbaum beat Foz Meadows by 494 to 478 on the final count.
3) Foz Meadows, 4) Liz Bourke, 5) Mark Oshiro

There was a 19-vote gap in nominations between Mark Oshiro and Justin Landon.

Best Fan Artist (1522 votes)

1) A crushing victory for Sarah Webb with 831 first prefs to 175 for No Award, the other nominees all coming lower. By far the most one-sided result of the 2014 Hugos (though a couple of the 1939 Retros were even more clear-cut).
2) Mandie Manzano had 383 first prefs to Brad W. Foster's 344, but lost by 503 to 520.
3) Mandie Manzano, 4) Spring Schoenhuth (by 486 to 473 for Steve Stiles), 5) Steve Stiles

Maurine Starkey missed being a finalist by 1 vote, and Ninni Aalto by 3.

John W. Campbell Award (1770 votes)

1) Sofia Samatar got 488 first prefs to Max Gladstone's 423, and won by 727 to 647.
2) Max Gladstone got 499 first prefs to Wesley Chu's 475, and won by 668 to 662.
3) Wesley Chu, 4) Ramez Naam, 5) Benjanun Sridangkaew

Marko Kloos received enough votes to qualify as a finalist, but was deemed ineligible due to the time constraints. There was a nine-vote gap in nominations between Ramez Naam and Frank Chadwick.

See you next year!

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1939 Retro Hugo results in detail

Summary of results here, PDF of full results here.

BEST NOVEL (1196 ballots)

1) The Sword in the Stone had a convincing lead on the first count, 473 to 273 for Out Of The Silent Planet and 267 for Galactic Patrol, finally winning by 690 to 419 for Galactic Patrol.
2) Out of the Silent Planet, 3) Galactic Patrol, 4) The Legion of Time, 5) Carson of Venus all by clear margins.

The Silver Princess of Oz missed nomination by 7 votes. The Hobbit received enough nominations to be a finalist, but was ineligible due to 1937 publication.

BEST NOVELLA (1042 ballots)

1) “Who Goes There?” far ahead of a split field, 508 to 168 for "the Time Trap" and 162 for Anthem, and wins after elimination of No Award and "A Matter of Form".
2) “The Time Trap”, 3) “Sleepers of Mars”, 4) "A Matter of Form", 5) Anthem – this last by 394 to 302 for No Award, which was No Award's best performance of the evening.

"Tarzan and the Elephant Men" missed being a finalist by 2 votes.

BEST NOVELETTE (839 ballots)

1) “Rule 18” ahead on first count by 388 to 197 for "Pigeons from Hell" and 183 for "Werewoman", and beats Pigeons from Hell" by 435 to 297.
2) “Pigeons From Hell” narrowly ahead of “Werewoman”, finally taking the spot by 353 to 338,
3) “Werewoman”, 4) “Hollywood on the Moon”, 5) “Dead Knowledge”

"Secret of the Observatory" and "Seeds of the Dusk" missed being a finalist by 1 vote. "Reunion on Ganymede" and "The Men and the Mirror" missed by 2.

BEST SHORT STORY (963 ballots)

1) “How We Went to Mars” with 306 first prefs to 237 for "Helen O'Loy", finally winning by 503 to 368.
2) “Helen O’Loy” narrowly but convincongly head of  “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma”, 3) “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma”, 4) "Hyperpilousity", 5) "The Faithful)

Two H.P. Lovecraft stories, "Azathoth" and "Beyond the Wall of Sleep",  received enough nominations to place but were ruled ineligible due to prior publication.

"An Experiment of the Dead" and "The Merman" both missed being a finalist by 1 vote, and a lot more missed by 2.


1) The War of the Worlds by a massive 813 first preferences, numerically the most convincing win of the evening. R.U.R. was second with 126.
2) R.U.R., 3) Around the World in 80 Days, 4) A Christmas Carol, 5) Dracula.

The Brave Little Tailor missed being a finalist by 1 vote; Porky in Wackyland by 2.

BEST EDITOR – SHORT FORM (786 ballots)

1) John W. Campbell with 636 first preferences, in percentage terms even better than The War of the Worlds.
2) Farnsworth Wright, 3) Ray Palmer, 4) Mort Weisinger, 5) Walter H. Gillings

No Award placed second on first preferences in every single count here.

Forrest J. Ackerman was ruled ineligible due to insufficient publcations in he qualifying year.
T. O'Conor Sloane missed being a finalist by one vote.


1) Virgil Finlay, with 242 first prefs to 176 for Margaret Brundage, winning by 337 to 250
2) Margaret Brundage, 3) Frank R. Paul, 4) Alex Schomburg, 5) H. W. Wesso

Howard V. Brown missed being a finalist by 3 votes.

BEST FANZINE (471 ballots)

1) Imagination! got 206 first prefs to 86 for No Award, winning with 271 to 91 for Novae Terrae.
2) Novae Terrae, though No Award got the most first prefs and Novae Terrae only beat Fantascience Digest by 133 to 125 on the last count.
3) Tomorrow beat Fantascience Digest by 126 to 116 on the last count.
4) Fantascience Digest, 5) Fantasy News

Another good category for No Award, which got the second highest number of first prefs  in every run except second place, where it got the most.

Le Zombie, Spaceways and FAPA ruled ineligible for various reasons.
Science Fiction Newsletter missed being a finalist by 1 vote.

(I was sorry to see Fantascience Digest not doing better; its editor, Bob Madle, is the only living nominee in any category.)

BEST FAN WRITER (812 ballots)

1) Ray Bradbury with 397 first prefs to 142 for Forrest J. Ackerman, easily winning on the second count;
2) Forrest J Ackerman, 3) Arthur Wilson “Bob” Tucker, 4) Donald A. Wollheim, 5) Harry Warner Jr.

Sam Moskowitz missed being a finalist by 2 votes.

Special Committee Award

Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster for Superman.

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Wednesday reading

The Life of John Buncle, Esq: Containing Various Observations and Reflections, Made in Several Parts of the World, and Many Extraordinary Relations, v. 2 by Thomas Amory
A Winter Book, by Tove Jansson
Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis

Last books finished
Tomb of Valdemar, by Simon Messingham
Brontomek!, by Michael Coney
A Guide to Tolkien, by David Day
The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Bad Therapy, by Matthew Jones

Next books
Starry Messenger: The Best of Galileo, ed. Charles Ryan
[Doctor Who] The Crooked World, by Steve Lyons
Diplomatic Baggage, by Brigid Keenan
The Making of Doctor Who, by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke

Books acquired in last week
The Accident, by Ismail Kadarë

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