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Posts Tagged ‘hugo award’

“None So Blind”, by Joe Haldeman

“None So Blind” is a 1994 science fiction short story by Joe Haldeman.  It won the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1995.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“None So Blind” is the story of a young polymath who excels in neurosurgery and computer science and wants to apply some of the techniques that work well to computers to the human brain.  So he hoodwinks his wife into allowing his team to operate on her.

Why should you read it?

Haldeman writes in several styles.  One of them is very condensed, with summaries of action instead of dialog.  A very tell, don’t show, style.  Sometimes it doesn’t work that well, and sometimes it does.  This is one of the times when it does.

The events that take place in this story are uncomfortable enough that if the author didn’t keep us at a distance, I’m not sure that many of us would be able to finish the story.  Cletus, the medical wunderkind, is also ethically challenged, to put it mildly, and the choices he makes are ones we can observe, not ones we can participate in.

He repartitions the human brain. In this particular case, by removing the need for the need for the visual cortex to be used in processing vision.  By removing the subject’s eyes.

The effects on people and on society are . . . unexpected.

Where to find “None So Blind”

This story was available online, on Haldeman’s web site.  

“A Walk in the Sun”, by Geoffrey A. Landis

“A Walk in the Sun” is a 1991 science fiction short story by Hal Clement.  It won the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1992.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“A Walk in the Sun” is the story of an astronaut who was supposed to get just close enough to the moon to see it. . . and then crashed.  And how she survives.

Why should you read it?

This is some good hard science fiction.  The limits placed on this character are non-negotiable.  She’s crashed on the moon.  She’s got food to eat.  She’s got a working space suit, that can recycle her air as long as she has power.  She’s got photovoltaic “wings” on her suit to generate power.  Rescue is coming in thirty days.

Now all she needs to do is stay in the light.  All the time.  For the next thirty days.

She can walk faster than the moon rotates.  On day one, anyway.

How long can she keep it up?  Long enough?

Where to find “A Walk in the Sun”.

The story is available online courtesy of Asimov’s.

_Feed_, by Mira Grant

Feed is a 2010 science fiction/horror novel by Mira Grant, a pen name of Seanan McGuire.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Novel of 2011.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Feed is the first book of the Newsflesh trilogy, the story of a group of bloggers who are the first citizen journalists to accompany a major party presidential candidate on his campaign travels.  So it’s a political story.  But the main campaign issues are all effects of the Kellis-Amberlee virus, which has caused a condition of post-death animation.  Zombies.  So it’s a horror story.  And someone’s trying to interfere with the political campaign.  So it’s a thriller.  And it succeeds brilliantly at all of these.

Why should you read it?

Zombies aren’t what this book is about.  It’s about people.  Real people.  Georgia Mason and her brother Shaun are the leaders of the first news blog that is invited to accompany a senator on his presidential campaign.  The zombies are there to put pressure on people.  To cast America and the world in a new light.  And to allow Grant/McGuire to talk about fear and what it does to people.

This book is brilliant.  The author is merciless with her characters, like you must if you’re writing about a world with such danger in it.  There is risk and it is real and people suffer.  I just finished rereading Feed for the fourth time, and it made me cry in public again.  Three times.

Georgia and Shaun love each other very much, and have a trust that is palpable.  These characters are more vivid as a team than they are individually, which is saying a lot considering that I feel like I could have a conversation with either one of them.  The rest of their team of bloggers are also drawn beautifully; several of the characters have such distinctive voices that it’s easy to tell who’s speaking just from the dialog.  The culture of bloggers is also fascinating; they’ve subdivided the news into factual, action, and creative, and call themselves Newsies, Irwins, or Fictionals.

The book is horror, but it’s not the zombies that will scare you.  It’s the deformation of our culture that they have caused, and we have allowed.  Privacy is gone, just gone.  Fear is endemic, and people don’t fight it.  They’ve just given up.  Entire states have been yielded to the dead, and this is a divisive issue between the parties.

It’s appalling.  And understandable.  How would you feel if your elderly father with the weak heart was going to get up after he died and try to eat you?  Someone else’s elderly father?  Strangers on the street?  Every living person is a time bomb, and sometimes they don’t even have to die first for the virus to take over.

Fear.  Horror at ourselves for feeling the fear, and for living with it, and changing to accomodate.  And terror about what it means for humanity.

Feed is not an easy book, and it is not for children, in any way.  When asked recently, I hesitated before recommending it for a fifteen-year-old I didn’t know.  It is, however, a book I have never forgotten from the moment I started it.

Although I recommend the entire trilogy whole-heartedly, I am  not going to review books 2 and 3, Deadline and Blackout, because there is absolutely no way to do so without spoiling Feed.  Just trust me when I say that the series only gets better from this book, which I’m already recommending very highly.

Where to find Feed

Feed is available in print or in all major digital forms.  It is not freely available. 

“Ponies”, by Kij Johnson

March 20, 2013 Leave a comment

“Ponies” is a 2010 fantasy short story by Kij Johnson.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 2011.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Ponies” is the story of a party held by some popular girls, the less popular girl who is invited, and the damage they cause to their ponies, who seem to be created, yet intelligent, creatures

Why should you read it?

I’m not sure you should.  You’ve heard me wax rhapsodic about Kij Johnson’s work before–I adore “The evolution of trickster stories among the dogs of North Park after the Change” and “26 Monkeys, Also The Abyss”.  However, this story is about pain that’s inflicted on innocent friends–the ponies.  While I understand the nomination, and I appreciate the craftsmanship, I’ve now read “Ponies” three times and I still don’t like it at all.  It reminds me of watching one ten-year-old beat up another, and wishing I could intervene.

I’m  not completely against innocents being harmed in fiction.  I read horror; I live in the world.  I can take this type of plot.  What I object to, I think, is the fact that the ponies are hurt. . . as a result of peer pressure.  Because the girls want to either maintain their status, or gain new status.  This makes me uncomfortable, intensely.

It’s quite possible that that’s the point.  If so, it’s brilliant.  I still don’t think it’s any fun.  I started this blog to recommend stories that I enjoyed, and I knew when I turned the corner to reading and posting about Hugo nominated stories, I might find some stuff I didn’t like. I’m not sure I expected it to come from an author whose skill I admire so much and whose work I have so enjoyed.

New rating: Well done, no fun.

Where to find “Ponies”

It’s available online on Tor.com.  It doesn’t appear to have been collected yet, but there is also a podcast on Tor.com.

 

“Uncommon Sense”, by Hal Clement

March 14, 2013 Leave a comment

“Uncommon Sense” is a 1945 science fiction short story by Hal Clement.  It won the Retro Hugo for Best Short Story of 1946.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Uncommon Sense” is the story of an amateur exobiologist whose ship is taken from him by his two assistants upon landing on a planet circling Deneb, a very bright star.  He uses his wits and his knowledge of exobiology to recapture his ship from the mutineers.

Why should you read it?

Now, see, this is the stuff.  The writing, by today’s standards, is absolutely terrible.  For example, there’s a moment when an omniscient narrator jumps into the middle of the story and tells you how stupid the main character is for not seeing the revelation sooner.

The core idea, oh, my god, it’s jaw-dropping still, over sixty years later.  While outside his captured ship, he encounters native life, all of whom have very strange eyes.  But Deneb is so bright that the differential between “daylight” and “shadow” is so great that he can’t figure out how these eyes can work.  And as he waits in his space suit for the mutineers to make a mistake and take his ship back, he realizes… they’re not eyes.  In microgravity and no atmosphere, a particle that is excited off the surface of an object travels in a straight line.  So the sensory organs?  They’re not eyes.  They’re noses, set up like pinhole cameras.  These creates “see” by smelling the things that are in front of them, and can make an image of what’s in front of them this way.

That’s all well and good. . . but how is he going to use these amazing facts to get his ship back?

Where to find “Uncommon Sense”

This story was re-published in 2000 in The Essential Hal Clement, Volume 2: Music of Many Spheres, which is currently available from the King County Library System.  

“Think Like A Dinosaur”, by James Patrick Kelly

February 28, 2013 2 comments

“Think Like A Dinosaur” is a 1995 science fiction novelette by James Patrick Kelly.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1996, and won.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Think Like A Dinosaur” is the story of a man who is helping a woman through the difficult process of teleporting to the stars, and the conflict between his humanity and the . . . dinosaurity of the aliens who actually control this gateway to the universe.  And they haven’t decided it we should have it yet, because we don’t think like them.

Why should you read it?

The old Campbell chestnut: “Write me an alien who thinks as well as a man, but not like a man.”  What if the price for humanity joining aliens in the stars. . . is thinking like them?  What do we give up by changing ourselves to match the way they think?  Would it be an individual decision?  An offer that can be accepted by one person alone?  Or would it be forced on the unwary by others?  And what’s left of the core of humanity inside a person once they’ve looked at this change?

This is an amazingly good story that I am hampered in recommending because I can’t answer any of these questions for you.  If you can, read it.  I have rated over a thousand stories in my database; this got the thirteenth 10 out of 10.

Where to find “Think Like a Dinosaur”

There is no free online version. [UPDATE: there is!  It’s at Mike Resnick’s new Galaxy’s Edge!]  The story can be found in several anthologies.  There is an audio version available online, which I have not listened to.

“Four Short Novels”, by Joe Haldeman

February 10, 2013 Leave a comment

“Four Short Novels” is a 2003 science fiction short story by Joe Haldeman.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Short Story of 2004.

Non-Spoiler Summary

“Four Short Novels” is four pieces, condensed in the J.G. Ballard style, talking about immortality in four different futures.  What if love made you immortal?  What if money did?  What if immortality led to a desire to return to childhood?  What if if led to a desire to not be?

Why should you read it?

Haldeman is one of my favorite authors; I reread some of his works, including The Forever War, every few years.  “Four Short Novels” isn’t one of these works.  It is consistently amusing, but not something that yields wisdom on repeated examination.  Fortunately, it only takes fifteen minutes to read, so I can recommend that you spend the time unreservedly.

Where to find “Four Short Novels”

The story was recently reprinted in Lightspeed Magazine, which still has it available online.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

February 3, 2013 Leave a comment

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a 2001 fantasy movie.  It won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation of 2002.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Eight assorted people help a short guy go on a trip to get rid of some jewelry.  (Seriously, I’m not summarizing this one.)

Why should you watch it?

I’ve recently watched most of this series with my boy, who is eight, so I’m focussed on a lot of details that I wasn’t absorbing in 2001, when I first saw it.  Joshua makes a lot of “why?” questions, that really help me see the movie for what it is.

And what that is, is an introduction to a larger story.  There is so much to set up in this movie that it is almost entirely prelude to the events of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

However, it is so lovely.  To see these characters visualized and inhabited so vitally by the actors. . . there is no hint in my mind of machete’ing this movie out of the trilogy.  It is lovely, even though it is largely setup for the events of the later movies.

And to see Bilbo’s 111th birthday party visualized, to see Gandalf on the screen for the first time, were delights as WETA and Peter Jackson proved that this movie wasn’t going to be a disaster.  That it was going to be a delight.

Where to find The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The movie is not available freely, but at this point, even the expanded editions can be had on Amazon.com used for $8.

“One Perfect Morning, With Jackals”, by Mike Resnick

January 31, 2013 1 comment

“One Perfect Morning, With Jackals” is a 1991 science fiction short story by Mike Resnick.  It won the Hugo for Best Short Story of 1992.

Non-Spoiler Summary

Mike Resnick has written a series of stories, with the overall title of Kirinyaga.  They are stories about a group of Kikuyu–an African tribe–who have retired their civilization to an asteroid in the asteroid belt.  This story is also the preface to the fix-up novel called Kirinyaga, made up of the first eight stories from the series.

Why should you read it?

Mike Resnick is an amazing author, capable of working emotion out of robots and monsters, but I consider the Kirinyaga stories to be some of his greatest.  Koriba, the formerly Europeanized man who is about to leave for Kirinyaga, is “abandoning” his “civilization” to be the mundumugu, or witch doctor, of the Kikuyu on Kirinyaga.  His son, who is very firmly Europeanized, believes that his decision is silly and unnecessary… but is taking this opportunity to talk to him for the last time.  And give him a gift.  Of jackals.

Where to find “One Perfect Morning, With Jackals”

The publisher, Baen Books, has generously allowed us to read it online.

Being John Malkovich

January 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Being John Malkovich is a 1999 . . . slipstream movie, written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze.  It was nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation of 2000.

My first movie review!

Non-Spoiler Summary

A puppeteer with an. . . odd filing job discovers a portal, a literal door, into the brain of the actor John Malkovich.

Why should you watch it?

This movie contains ideas and moments that are not, and actually can not be, examined in any other movie.  The nature of the conceit is absolutely unique in fiction as far as I know, and the fact that they were able to get John Malkovich to star is amazing, considering the script was written focussing on him on spec, without having him on contract.

This was one of the very first movies I ever saw twice on opening weekend–the material was that compelling.  I had spent enough of my first viewing with my jaw dropped that I wanted to see it again immediately, and my partner felt the same.  I have seen it a couple of times since, making this perhaps my fifth viewing.  I continue to watch the mixture of humor, deadpan delivery, and . . . insanity with amazement.

That said, I have enough distance now to see that this is a very flawed movie, that in my opinion should have been recut and the entire first half hour to forty-five minutes either removed or integrated into the body of the movie.  And many parts that are, sadly, just not very good.  But the parts that are good are so, so good.

The portal allows the puppeteer Craig Schwartz to first experience what Malkovich is experiencing, quietly riding along for fifteen minutes, before being ejected.  He and a partner start a business using Malkovich as a “thrill ride”, selling fifteen minutes in Malkovich for $200.  However, Schwartz and his wife both experience time in Malkovich, and begin a very odd relationship with Maxine, his partner.  During this time, Schwartz discovers that his skill as a puppeteer actually allows him to control Malkovich, and not to be ejected.  And he steals Malkovich’s body and life, using his new host’s fame to further his own agenda and make puppeteering a vital, popular art-form.

(I am deliberately not summarizing the last third of the movie, as I can neither do it justice nor do I think a description would increase your interest in the movie.  While it’s fascinating, it’s as much about the delivery as the ideas.)

Where to find Being John Malkovich

The movie is not available freely.  It is available on Netflix and several other streaming services.

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