The Hugo Awards: Let’s Talk Puppygate

044602139-ibm-electronic-data-processingSince 1953 the one award science fiction writers have valued is the Hugos. Previous winners include Issac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Arthur C Clarke, and Ursula K. Le Guin. Over the last few years, there has been tension as a voting bloc has tried to move the awards towards how they think science fiction should be.

The Sad Puppies first appeared in 2013, as an attempt to get a particualr novel to win. It failed. Since then, the Sad Puppies have put forward their ideas for nominations. Recently, the founders of the Sad Puppies have tried to distance themselves from the splinter group, known as the Rabid Puppies. Whilst both groups do seem to be wanting the same idea – a popular competition, not one based on the writer’s political, gender, racial or sexual leaning – the Rabid Puppies do seem to lean a little more to the right.

(If you want to do a deep dive into the whole issue, this Wired article is an excellent place to start – Ed.)

Seems rather confusing doesn’t it ? It also misses the point.

Science fiction is a wonderful genre. Within it, there can be thought provoking ideas, philosophies, and inspiring characters. It tells stories that can be intellectually stimulating but also be good old fashioned pulp fun. Asimov’s original Foundation trilogy showed that the two can live together. For people to say that the genre should lean one way or another is to avoid one of the major selling points of science fiction:  it is a genre that can be everything.

This debate shows that the genre is still a living, vibrant entity that is being supported by people with a real passion for it, and how they see it evolving. So long as the debate stays in the background, then this is good. When it comes to the fore, then we end up with no award being given in many categories as happened this year. This denies those of worthwhile merit not being recognised.

What’s your take on the matter?

 

The Hugo Awards: 2015 Winner Prediction

Cursor_and_The_Hugo_Awards___The_Official_Site_of_The_Hugo_AwardsSince 1953, the Hugos have been an award that those in the Science Fiction and Fantasy fields have prized. Over the years, many novels have won that have gone on to become classics. That’s not to say that the awards are just about novels. Magazines, movies, television shows, podcasts, even fan activity are all recognised amongst the awards. Locally, Andromeda Spaceways In Flight Magazine was nominated this year in the Best Semiprozine category.

This year’s nominations for novels have shown the range of the field, with Space Opera, Hard Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Urban Fantasy all getting nominations. To read all of the nominated novels has been something I have been wanting to do for a few years, and this year, I managed to achieve that goal.

The quality of the overall writing I have found to be of high quality, and anyone wanting to write in the field could do worse than to read the five nominated novels to see where the genre is right now.

With almost six thousand ballots recieved, it will be interesting to see which of the novels is being seen as the best . For myself, a novel in the science fiction and fantasy genre has to be entertaining, imaginative , original, thought provoking, and painted with a small brush on a grand canvas. While most of the novels certainly ticked all these boxes, some did more than others. Skin Game was entertaining,  Ancillary Sword was imaginative , Three Body Problem was thought provoking, and  The Goblin Emperor was certainly a grand canvas.

Kevin Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars ticked all the boxes for me. A grand space opera, played over a galaxy-wide stage with characters that felt real and a pacing that kept the pages moving. All that remains now is to see if a majority of voters feel the same.

Results will be announced on the 22nd of August in Spokane, Washington.

Review: Skin Game

skingame_lgWhen a novel is the fifteeth in a series, there is one thing you can bank on: the author is comfortable with the setting. In Jim Butcher’s Skin Game, he is sitting in the ezy chair, kicking back with a beer and watching the game on television.

The world of the book will be familiar to any readers of urban fantasy. Creatures of myths roam the modern city street, in this case Chicago. In the middle of it all is a human who is tormented in some way, usually by circumstance. They are chosen, or are a human/ mythical half breed. For Harry Dresden, the torment comes from being the “The Winter Knight”, which is a power to be controlled. Further torment comes from being manipulated by the various creatures around him. Demons, Angels, and Fairies from various cultures all combine to make for an interesting world, and Dresden is certainly one of the more interesting characters in the field. His world-weary cynicism adds a hardness that is often lacking in this genre.

Harry is co-opted by Queen Mab to help with a break in to Hades, so you know this is not going to end well for all those involved. Along the way, Harry becomes a likeable character, with his full geek showing. Anyone willing to make a reference to 1979’s “The Black Hole” is definetly an out of the closet geek. Being so far into the series, it would be possible to create a book that anyone new to the series would not be able to follow. However, Butcher is able to put in background information as needed, without slowing the pacing. This is my first Dresden file and I was able to keep tabs of what was going on.

I felt the final reveal was a bit out of left field. This is more to do with the betrayal to the reader. If you are going to go with the first person narrative throughout a book but not reveal everything that you do, then that’s what happens. While Harry may go through the story playing characters and twisting the truth, at the end of the experience the person holding the book is the one that he has to trust with everything.

That said, I did find Skin Game an enjoyable, easy read. Jim Butcher is certainly one author I will read if he crosses my path again.

I Love A Funny Time Travel Film

Aussie podcasters and film-makers Lucas Testro and Larry Boxshall have put together a funny short film with the help of a Kickstarter.

Titled ‘I’m You, Dickhead’, it’s 11 minutes of great fun that covers the best bits of the time travel genre.

Enjoy!

Review: The Goblin Emperor

goblinemperorFrom Tolkien, to Donaldson and into the Dragonlance series, fantasy novels have followed a tried and true formula – go under the mountain, defeat the evil, collect treasure. With Tad Williams’s Sorrow, Memory and Thorn a greater empahsis was placed on political intrigue and world building; something George Martin has recently hit the mainstream doing.

Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor is a new entry into the fantasy / political intrigue setting, which is based in a steam punk world rather than a medieval setting. It tells the story of Maia – a half Goblin , half Elf child living in near exile – who becomes the Empreror following the death of the rest of the royal family. From there, Maia becomes involved in the strange world of the Emperor’s court, as he deals with his new responsibilities, the intrigues, and to find the cause of the death of his family.

The characters are charming enough to keep the book entertaining, and the audio presentation by Kyle McCarley is able to differentiate between characters. The only draw back with the characters is the sheer number of them, and in the audio version it can be difficult to remember how characters are connected. The world building is sufficient enough to be interesting, but filling a book with strange sounding locations can be confusing, especially when locations start sounding similar.

Under all this, there is the uncovering of the plot to kill the royal family. This is something that pops up every now again, but in some places doesn’t seem urgent . The solution of the conspiracy was something that left me feeling a little underwhelmed.

Overall, The Goblin Emperor is an enjoyable, charming read, especially for those into the court intrigue in a fantasy setting. The book is let down more by its world than anything. Perhaps there might be more depth in the sequel the genre almost certainly demands.

Five of the Best: Rock Sax Solos

A friend on Facebook asked around about the solos that you couldn’t help hum note for note when you heard them. When I had a think of my favourites, I realised there was a healthy dose of sax solos in there. I did some trawling and here are five hot sax solos that I think rate pretty highly. Don’t hesitate to make your own suggestions below!

1. Bruce Springsteen: Badlands

You could have a whole list of Springsteen songs that have killer sax solos, and Jungleland is probably considered the signature sax offering from Clarence Clemons. It’s also hard to go past Born to Run, but for mine, Badlands has the best rock ‘posership’ of the lot.

2. Eddie and the Cruisers 2 Soundtrack: Runnin’ Through The Fire

I’m really pushing it putting this right under the Springsteen pick, but there you have it. The movie wasn’t up to the standard of the original but it still had some great music thanks to John Cafferty and Co. If you ignore the mullets, this little ditty has a damn good sax solo.

3. Billy Joel: You May Be Right

Short, sharp and damn catch – it’s what every sax solo should be.

4. INXS: Never Tear Us Apart

Another sign of a great solo is not being able to imagine a song without it. This is one such song.

5. Men At Work: Who Can It Be Now?

Greg Ham – you are missed.

There’s a lots of others that deserve honourable mentions, but I’m keen to hear your picks. Which sax solos stand out the most for you?

Review: Three Body Problem

three-body-problemIn the past my exposure to Chinese culture has come mainly from sauce jars and movies, so it was with some interest that I approached Liu Cixin’s The Three Body Problem. It’s the first in his Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy and was originally published in 2008, with this English translation published in 2014 by Tor Books.

The story is that of a researcher approached by a secret military group to discover why scientists have recently started committing suicide. His investigation has him playing a computer game that opens the way to other events.  I felt the book was saying that while Chinese society has solved many social problems, it still seems to have some issues with The Cultural Revolution. The novel deftly moves between the near future and the Revolution as the truth is slowly revealed.

Characters do seem to be a little shallow, but this may have been the result of the audio presentation by Luke Daniels. The hapless scientist is presented with a light voice, while the world weary police officer sounds almost New York tired – imagine Sargent Bullock from the 1990s Batman animated series.

This is not to say that the story is not engaging. It moves along at a nice pace, with a story of science fiction that does grab the attention. The translation is well done, and doesn’t feel clunky – you can feel the spirit of the words, not just the translations of the phrases. More importantly, the science in the book is explained.  I was not thrown immediately into the world of Quantum Theory, I was bought in through a three body collision, nanotechnology, and  microwave astronomy. So the ideas behind quantum theories and some of the other esoteric science did not come as a surprise that had to be understood beforehand. In this style of novel, it  can be easy for the science to be overwhelming, but it isn’t in this case here.

Given that this is an audio book of a translation, there are many places where this could be a dry, introductry novel with a lecturing tone. Instead, I found it to to be enjoyable, interesting and thought provoking. Hell, I wish that the next volume would get here already. For fans of aliens and laser guns science fiction, this is one to probably avoid. However, readers of Asimov, Reynolds or Baxter will find their reading time won’t be wasted.

Review: The Dark Between The Stars

The_Dark_Between_the_Stars__Saga_of_Shadows___Kevin_J__Anderson__9780765332998__Amazon_com__BooksAny fan of the modern space opera would have come across the name of Kevin J. Anderson. Having written novels for the expanded universe of Star Wars, and helping Brian Herbert flesh out the Dune saga, Anderson has developed his chops in the field. The novel The Dark Between the Stars shows that he has paid clear attention as to how to operate in this genre.

This novel is the first of the Shadows of the Seven Suns trilogy,which in turn is a sequel to the seven book cycle The Saga of the Seven suns, which I have not read. This first novel introduces characters, old and new, and handles back story without large info dumps. Showing us the humans, the gypsy clans called Roamers, the alien Ildrians and the tree worshipers on Thorac,  there are a lot of characters to get through. To make this easier, Anderson has each chapter dedicated to an individual character. When reading a chapter with the Ildrians, I did tend to wonder if his apostrophe key was faded from the constant use.

With this chapter structure, Anderson is able to move around the narrative without it getting bogged down. In fact, for an opening salvo in a trilogy it does start off at a fair pace. Although with an ancient enemy returning to the galaxy, shooting to an infidelity did tend to make me briefly wonder what it was all about. .

Once the foe is revealed, the remaining pieces are bought together very well. Characters are well developed, and Anderson is able to show us how much more important narrative is to character survival. Be warned, having a number of chapters named after you is not a sign that you will see the end of the book.

Overall, a well paced book, for fans of grand space opera, from a writer who has worked with some of the most respected franchises in the field.

How To Find More Movies on Netflix

NetflixIf like me you find Netflix’s movie browser a little frustrating, here’s a nice tip that can help you dig a little deeper. Below are links to a bunch of movie sub-genres you otherwise may not stumble across.

To see the movies display in your web browser, just paste in this: http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/

and then after that last forward slash type in the number correlating to the section you want to browse.

Example: Comic Book Movies are at http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/10118

There’s lots of sub-genres you may not have realised exist, so have a slow trawl though.

Here’s the full list – enjoy:

 

1365 = Action & Adventure5977 = Gay & Lesbian Movies
77232 = Asian Action Movies7120 = Gay & Lesbian Comedies
46576 = Classic Action & Adventure500 = Gay & Lesbian Dramas
43040 = Action Comedies3329 = Romantic Gay & Lesbian Movies
43048 = Action Thrillers8243 = Foreign Gay & Lesbian Movies
7442 = Adventures4720 = Gay & Lesbian Documentaries
10118 = Comic Book and Superhero Movies65263 = Gay & Lesbian TV Shows
7700 = Westerns
10702 = Spy Action & Adventure8711 = Horror Movies
9584 = Crime Action & Adventure8195 = B-Horror Movies
11828 = Foreign Action & Adventure6895 = Creature Features
8985 = Martial Arts Movies10944 = Cult Horror Movies
2125 = Military Action & Adventure45028 = Deep Sea Horror Movies
8654 = Foreign Horror Movies
7424 = Anime89585 = Horror Comedy
11881 = Adult Animation947 = Monster Movies
2653 = Anime Action8646 = Slasher and Serial Killer Movies
9302 = Anime Comedies42023 = Supernatural Horror Movies
452 = Anime Dramas52147 = Teen Screams
3063 = Anime Features75804 = Vampire Horror Movies
2729 = Anime Sci-Fi75930 = Werewolf Horror Movies
10695 = Anime Horror75405 = Zombie Horror Movies
11146 = Anime Fantasy6998 = Satanic Stories
6721 = Anime Series
7077 = Independent Movies
783 = Children & Family Movies11079 = Experimental Movies
6796 = Movies for ages 0 to 211804 = Independent Action & Adventure
6218 = Movies for ages 2 to 43269 = Independent Thrillers
5455 = Movies for ages 5 to 79916 = Romantic Independent Movies
561 = Movies for ages 8 to 104195 = Independent Comedies
6962 = Movies for ages 11 to 12384 = Independent Dramas
10659 = Education for Kids
67673 = Disney1701 = Music
10056 = Movies based on children's books52843 = Kids Music
51056 = Family Features1105 = Country & Western/Folk
11177 = TV Cartoons10271 = Jazz & Easy Listening
27346 = Kids' TV10741 = Latin Music
52843 = Kids Music9472 = Urban & Dance Concerts
5507 = Animal Tales2856 = World Music Concerts
3278 = Rock & Pop Concerts
31574 = Classic Movies
31694 = Classic Comedies13335 = Musicals
29809 = Classic Dramas32392 = Classic Musicals
47147 = Classic Sci-Fi & Fantasy59433 = Disney Musicals
46588 = Classic Thrillers13573 = Showbiz Musicals
7687 = Film Noir55774 = Stage Musicals
48744 = Classic War Movies
52858 = Epics8883 = Romantic Movies
32473 = Classic Foreign Movies502675 = Romantic Favorites
53310 = Silent Movies36103 = Quirky Romance
47465 = Classic Westerns9916 = Romantic Independent Movies
7153 = Romantic Foreign Movies
6548 = Comedies1255 = Romantic Dramas
869 = Dark Comedies35800 = Steamy Romantic Movies
4426 = Foreign Comedies31273 = Classic Romantic Movies
1402 = Late Night Comedies5475 = Romantic Comedies
26 = Mockumentaries
2700 = Political Comedies1492 = Sci-Fi & Fantasy
9702 = Screwball Comedies1568 = Action Sci-Fi & Fantasy
5286 = Sports Comedies3327 = Alien Sci-Fi
11559 = Stand-up Comedy47147 = Classic Sci-Fi & Fantasy
3519 = Teen Comedies4734 = Cult Sci-Fi & Fantasy
4922 = Satires9744 = Fantasy Movies
5475 = Romantic Comedies6926 = Sci-Fi Adventure
10256 = Slapstick Comedies3916 = Sci-Fi Dramas
1694 = Sci-Fi Horror Movies
7627 = Cult Movies11014 = Sci-Fi Thrillers
8195 = B-Horror Movies6485 = Foreign Sci-Fi & Fantasy
1252 = Campy Movies
10944 = Cult Horror Movies4370 = Sports Movies
4734 = Cult Sci-Fi & Fantasy5286 = Sports Comedies
9434 = Cult Comedies180 = Sports Documentaries
7243 = Sports Dramas
6839 = Documentaries12339 = Baseball Movies
3652 = Biographical Documentaries12803 = Football Movies
9875 = Crime Documentaries12443 = Boxing M10499ovies
5161 = Foreign Documentaries12549 = Soccer Movies
5349 = Historical Documentaries6695 = Martial Arts, Boxing & Wrestling
4006 = Military Documentaries12762 = Basketball Movies
180 = Sports Documentaries9327 = Sports & Fitness
90361 = Music & Concert Documentaries
1159 = Travel & Adventure Documentaries8933 = Thrillers
7018 = Political Documentaries43048 = Action Thrillers
10005 = Religious Documentaries46588 = Classic Thrillers
2595 = Science & Nature Documentaries10499 = Crime Thrillers
3675 = Social & Cultural Documentaries10306 = Foreign Thrillers
3269 = Independent Thrillers
5763 = Dramas31851 = Gangster Movies
3179 = Biographical Dramas5505 = Psychological Thrillers
29809 = Classic Dramas10504 = Political Thrillers
528582748 = Courtroom Dramas9994 = Mysteries
6889 = Crime Dramas11014 = Sci-Fi Thrillers
4961 = Dramas based on Books9147 = Spy Thrillers
3653 = Dramas based on real life972 = Steamy Thrillers
6384 = Tearjerkers11140 = Supernatural Thrillers
2150 = Foreign Dramas
7243 = Sports Dramas83 = TV Shows
500 = Gay & Lesbian Dramas52117 = British TV Shows
384 = Independent Dramas46553 = Classic TV Shows
9299 = Teen Dramas26146 = Crime TV Shows
11 = Military Dramas74652 = Cult TV Shows
12123 = Period Pieces72436 = Food & Travel TV
6616 = Political Dramas27346 = Kids' TV
1255 = Romantic Dramas67879 = Korean TV Shows
5012 = Showbiz Dramas4814 = Miniseries
3947 = Social Issue Dramas25804 = Military TV Shows
52780 = Science & Nature TV
26835 = Faith & Spirituality10673 = TV Action & Adventure
52804 = Faith & Spirituality Movies10375 = TV Comedies
2760 = Spiritual Documentaries10105 = TV Documentaries
751423 = Kids Faith & Spirituality11714 = TV Dramas
7462 = Foreign Movies83059 = TV Horror
29764 = Art House Movies4366 = TV Mysteries
11828 = Foreign Action & Adventure1372 = TV Sci-Fi & Fantasy
32473 = Classic Foreign Movies9833 = Reality TV
4426 = Foreign Comedies60951 = Teen TV Shows
5161 = Foreign Documentaries
2150 = Foreign Dramas
8243 = Foreign Gay & Lesbian Movies
8654 = Foreign Horror Movies
6485 = Foreign Sci-Fi & Fantasy
10306 = Foreign Thrillers
7153 = Romantic Foreign Movies
3761 = African Movies
5230 = Australian Movies
262 = Belgian Movies
5685 = Korean Movies
1613 = Latin American Movies
5875 = Middle Eastern Movies
63782 = New Zealand Movies
11567 = Russian
9292 = Scandinavian Movies
9196 = Southeast Asian Movies
58741 = Spanish Movies
61115 = Greek Movies
58886 = German Movies
58807 = French Movies
5254 = Eastern European Movies
10606 = Dutch Movies
58750 = Irish Movies
10398 = Japanese Movies
8221 = Italian Movies
10463 = Indian Movies
3960 = Chinese Movies
10757 = British Movies

[URL IDs via DocDroid]

Vinyl From The Vault: Oscar Cartier – Down Under And Way Out

An ongoing series showcasing less common albums and their covers

IMG_4636

Catalog Number: ALP 1004

Appears to have been an Australian recording and pressing from when Oscar Cartier toured Australia.

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