I’ve been meaning to post about the Hugo Awards, which were recently announced. Usually with awards, we tend to post a note highlighting any writers of international interest (if any) and leave it at that, but I feel it might be worth saying a few more words this time, so please bear with me.
There seems to be a conversation about the Hugos every year, of roughly the same nature. A good example is this recent one, which takes them to task by saying:
Although the Hugos present the image of something more cosmopolitan or representative than the standard convention award, it’s becoming increasingly apparent every year that, despite being the most recognizable award in science fiction and fantasy cultural awareness, the Hugos are nothing more than an amalgamation of like minded WorldCon members, or agendized voting blocs, bent on vociferous back patting.
I have sympathy with this sort of argument, though it’s worth noting neither the Hugos nor the “WorldCon” were ever meant to be international or all-inclusive. “WorldCon” gets its name from the World’s Fair that took place in New York in 1939, and the “Hugos” take their name from a Jewish immigrant to the United States, Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the first science fiction pulp magazine. Moreover, the Hugos do reflect popular taste – a quick look at the sales figures of the shortlisted novels suggests they are very popular indeed, and are recognised as such.
I think a part of the sense of – disaffection – we get every year is the very real sense that science fiction [ETA: I'm using this as an umbrella term for speculative fiction, including fantasy] itself has profoundly changed over the decades. Some terribly ambitious novels had won the award since it began in 1953, a period during which science fiction was in a very real sense an avant garde literary movement. The first novel to win was Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man, and the 1960s saw such novels as A Canticle for Leibowitz, Stranger in a Strange Land, Dune and Lord of Light winning – surely some of the most remarkable and ambitious examples of American science fiction ever written.
But the nature of genre publishing itself changed. It is now a massively successful, commercial genre, with thousands of titles published annually, multiple franchises and diverse fandoms. William Gibson’s Neuromancer, a winner in 1985, still seems to me to represent a watershed moment for SF, a when-it-changed – less the arrival of a new era as the death of an older one, and it is suggestive that is was followed, a year later, by Ender’s Game, a novel that very much stands for the new kind of SF.
Ambition, experiment, a sense of being at the vanguard are not necessarily the qualities one looks for in a Hugo winner, though certainly ambitious and challenging work continues to be recognised – Mieville’s The City and the City, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to take two.
And science fiction fans, globally, continue to be invested in the Hugos, whether they vote for them or attend a Worldcon. It is not seen as belonging to the thousand or so people who vote for it, but to anyone who is a fan of SF. And they are not easy to vote for. Attending a WorldCon is an expensive proposition, and even a supporting membership, purely for voting, can be a massive expense for someone not earning “First World” salaries.
The arguments, I suspect, will continue for years to come, but I thought it valuable to highlight just what I see as so remarkable in this year’s shortlist.
And the thing is this – this is perhaps the first year in the award’s history (and the Campbell, a “Not a Hugo” award) where we see such a strong representation of international voices. I’m not sure I can highlight this enough. Saladin Ahmed‘s Throne of the Crescent Moon, for instance, is the first novel by a Muslim writer ever to be nominated for a Hugo. The first by an Arab-American, for that matter. (And this is when being Muslim in SF is still cause for a lot of nasty sniping, to put it mildly). Ken Liu, a Chinese-American author doing amazing work, amongst others, in translating Chinese science fiction into English, is nominated for Best Short Story. Aliette de Bodard, a French author of Vietnamese ancestry, is nominated for both Best Novella and Best Short Story, while Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a surprise nominee with a translated story in the Best Novelette category.
Even more exciting, the Campbell Award, recognising emerging writers, has author Zen Cho as a nominee – the first time a Malaysian author is so recognised.
The Hugos are changing, I think. Or SF as a whole is changing. The surprise is not that popular American writers are nominated for a Hugo – but that diversity is increasingly represented on the ballots.
And frankly, for all my love of 1960s American SF, this seems to me to be the more exciting time to be involved with the genre.
Aliette gave us permission to repost this here, from her blog:
Mixed-race people in SFF
By Aliette de Bodard
OK, because I’ve seen one too many %%% storylines about mixed-race people in fiction (expanded for SFF to include the children of humans and aliens/magical creatures, etc.). For your information:
We are not psychopaths, terminally maladjusted, forever torn between two cultures in a way that will inevitably destroy us. We are not freaks or hybrids or mongrels or circus animals, forever exhibited as examples of what can go wrong in human/alien/magical creatures relationships; neither are we featureless saints exhibited as examples of interracial/interspecies harmony.
We are not special, magical or possessed of numinous powers by virtue of our non-white/non-human blood; we are not the tamed Other, made acceptable by an infusion of white blood and white customs, the “safe” option with only a hint of fashionable exoticism and none of the raw difference of “true” foreigners. We are not a handy, non-scary substitute for diversity in fiction.
We do not have pick sides unilaterally. We do not have to share the identity of our mother or of our father to the exclusion of the other parent (and most of us will find it quite hard to completely reject one half of our heritage); and our parents are not perpetually locked in some cultural war in which there would only be a single winner. We can be raised with love and respect and in a meld between two cultures: we do not have to be orphaned/single-parent/neglected/abused to exist.
Our parents are normal beings, and so are we.
If you’re using mixed-race people in your fiction and feature ANY of those tropes, do please think for a moment of what it is that you’re saying (and I wish I could say it’s not the case, but I’ve seen all of these–yes, even the hybrid/mongrel–at some point in recent SFF, either in print or in other media).
Disclaimer: this is based on my experience and on those of friends growing up (mostly in Europe, and most Asian-white mixed-race). I tend to think a lot of it applies elsewhere, though…
I’m delighted to say we’ve been nominated for a BSFA Award in the non-fiction category!
And very happy to see two international writers, Aliette de Bodard (France) and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Philippines) in the short fiction category.
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (Corvus)
Empty Space: a Haunting by M. John Harrison (Gollancz)
Intrusion by Ken Macleod (Orbit)
Jack Glass by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)
2312 by Kim Stanley-Robinson (Orbit)
Best Short Story
“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld #69)
“The Flight of the Ravens” by Chris Butler (Immersion Press)
“Song of the body Cartographer” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Phillipines Genre Stories)
“Limited Edition” by Tim Maughan (1.3, Arc Magazine)
“Three Moments of an Explosion” by China Mieville (Rejectamentalist Manifesto)
“Adrift on the Sea of Rains” by Ian Sales (Whippleshield Books)
Ben Baldwin for the cover of Dark Currents (Newcon Press)
Blacksheep for the cover of Adam Roberts’s Jack Glass (Gollancz)
Dominic Harman for the cover of Eric Brown’s Helix Wars (Rebellion)
Joey Hifi for the cover of Simon Morden’s Thy Kingdom Come (Jurassic London)
Si Scott for the cover artwork for Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden (Corvus)
“The Complexity of the Humble Space Suit” by Karen Burnham (Rocket Science, Mutation Press)
“The Widening Gyre” by Paul Kincaid (Los Angeles Review of Books)
The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge University Press)
The Shortlist Project by Maureen Kincaid Speller
The World SF Blog, Chief Editor Lavie Tidhar
Aliette de Bodard‘s latest book publication is the novella, On A Red Station, Drifting, published by the UK’s Immersion Press in hardcover.
Here, Aliette talks about the genesis and process of writing the novella, based on the Chinese classic Dream of Red Mansions:
So, it’s occurred to me I didn’t actually provide this for my latest release–accordingly, there you go, author’s notes for On a Red Station, Drifting.
I started writing On a Red Station, Drifting after one too many readings of the Chinese classic Dream of Red Mansions, and musing on old literature.
It’s no secret that “classical literature”, at least the brand taught in French schools, is overwhelmingly male and concerned with “male” affairs: wars, violence, fatherhood, father/son relationships… I found the same preoccupation prevalent in SFF, to a point where it became unsettling–it’s a subject covered by Ursula Le Guin in her Language of the Night and by Joanna Russ in many of her writings. One of the things that drove this home for me was seeing the statistics compiled by Martin Lewis for the Clarke Award (among the highlights: around 90% of the books had at least a male protagonist, a good quarter featured no women main characters at all, and a good 81% of the books had the protagonist kill someone, while only under half the protagonists were in a stable happy relationship).
Dream of Red Mansions, meanwhile, a novel that was written in the 19th Century, has 12 central female protagonists (and an effeminate, somewhat ineffective male protagonist who often wishes he was a girl), a slew of relationships from husband-wife to various degrees of family closeness. Its Twelve Beauties of Jinling are very different women, from the fierce and domineering Wang Xifeng to sickly and grudge-prone Lin Daiyu. It is explicitly written as a homage to those women; and its focus is resolutely domestic. It concerns itself with the affairs of two related households (the Rongguo and the Ningguo houses of the Jia family), their day-to-day intrigues and relationships, while the great events of the period are relegated to the background (the very strong political upheavals of the time period are only alluded to when they impinge on the family’s everyday life). I thought it was an awesome way to write a book, and I decided I wanted to try my hand at a domestic plot. – continue reading!
The Utopiales Awards were announced in Utopiales, Nantes, France.
Utopiales European Award: “Biting the Shield” (Mordre le bouclier) by Justine Niogret (France)
Utopiales European Youth Award: “Blood Red Road” (Saba ange de la mort ) by Moira Young (UK)
Grand Prix : “Eega” (Fly) by S. S. Rajamouli (India)
SyFy Public Award & Special Mention: ”Iron Sky” by Timo Vuorensola (Finland)
Special Mention : “The Human Race” by Paul Hough (UK)
Jury Award : ”Apnoe” by Harald Hund, Paul Horn (Austria)
Audience Award : ”The Elaborate End of Robert Ebb” (La Mysterieuse disparition de Robert Ebb) by Francois Xavier
Goby, Matthieu Landour and Clement Bolla (France, UK)
Special Mention : “Robots of Brixton” by Tavares Kibwe (UK)
Special Mention : “Error 0036″ by Raul Fernandez Rincón (Spain)
Special Mention : ”Tvillingen” (The Twin) by Gustav Danielsson (Sweden)
Utopiales Comics Award: “Daytripper” by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba
Jury Special Award : ”Big Crunch” by Remi Gourrierec
Tie: “Thanks for Playing” and “2012 Game”
Best Screenplay : Victor Bret for “War Hero”
I was horrified to find out that French writer Roland C. Wagner had died unexpectedly in a car crash on Sunday in Gironde, France. Wagner’s wife, the science fiction writer Sylvie Denis, was in the car along with the couple’s 18 year old daughter. Both were taken to hospital with injuries but are recovering.
Roland e-mailed me only a few weeks ago to let me know about a new English-language blog on French science fiction that he was planning to publish.
Our thoughts are with Roland’s wife and daughter.
Roland C. Wagner, 1960-2012
Wagner wrote more than 50 novels and 100 stories. His series Les Futurs Mystères de Paris (The Future Mysteries of Paris) combined elements of noir, near-future SF, and fantastique. Other notable works include near-future political thriller La Saison de la sorcière (The Season of Magic, 2003), space opera Le Temps du voyage (Time of Travel, 2005), and several alternate histories, including HPL (1890-1991) (1997), an alternate-history biography of H.P. Lovecraft, and Rêves de Gloire (Dreams of Glory, 2011), about Albert Camus and the French-Algerian war. Wagner also edited anthologies, and translated a great deal of English-language SF into French.
Several of the short stories nominated for this year’s SF&F translation Award are now available for free online.
From the award website:
We are pleased to report that a number of the short fiction finalists for our awards are being made available online. Currently you can find the following stories:
“The Fish of Lijiang” by Chen Qiufan, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld #59, August 2011)
“Paradiso” by Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud, translated from the French by Edward Gauvin (Liquid Imagination #9, Summer 2011)
“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, translated from the Dutch by Laura Vroomen (PS Publishing)
“The Short Arm of History” by Kenneth Krabat, translated from the Danish by Niels Dalgaard (Sky City: New Science Fiction Stories by Danish Authors, Carl-Eddy Skovgaard ed., Science Fiction Cirklen)
“The Green Jacket” by Gudrun Östergaard, translated from the Danish by the author and Lea Thume (Sky City: New Science Fiction Stories by Danish Authors, Carl-Eddy Skovgaard ed., Science Fiction Cirklen)
Out thanks to the various publishers who have made these stories available. We are in discussions with Comma Press and PIASA Books regarding the other two stories and hope to have good news soon.
The latest issue of Clarkesworld has a major new story by Aliette de Bodard, Immersion:
In the morning, you’re no longer quite sure who you are.
You stand in front of the mirror—it shifts and trembles, reflecting only what you want to see—eyes that feel too wide, skin that feels too pale, an odd, distant smell wafting from the compartment’s ambient system that is neither incense nor garlic, but something else, something elusive that you once knew.
You’re dressed, already—not on your skin, but outside, where it matters, your avatar sporting blue and black and gold, the stylish clothes of a well-travelled, well-connected woman. For a moment, as you turn away from the mirror, the glass shimmers out of focus; and another woman in a dull silk gown stares back at you: smaller, squatter and in every way diminished—a stranger, a distant memory that has ceased to have any meaning.
Quy was on the docks, watching the spaceships arrive. She could, of course, have been anywhere on Longevity Station, and requested the feed from the network to be patched to her router—and watched, superimposed on her field of vision, the slow dance of ships slipping into their pod cradles like births watched in reverse. But there was something about standing on the spaceport’s concourse—a feeling of closeness that she just couldn’t replicate by standing in Golden Carp Gardens or Azure Dragon Temple. Because here—here, separated by only a few measures of sheet metal from the cradle pods, she could feel herself teetering on the edge of the vacuum, submerged in cold and breathing in neither air nor oxygen. She could almost imagine herself rootless, finally returned to the source of everything.
Most ships those days were Galactic—you’d have thought Longevity’s ex-masters would have been unhappy about the station’s independence, but now that the war was over Longevity was a tidy source of profit. The ships came; and disgorged a steady stream of tourists—their eyes too round and straight, their jaws too square; their faces an unhealthy shade of pink, like undercooked meat left too long in the sun. They walked with the easy confidence of people with immersers: pausing to admire the suggested highlights for a second or so before moving on to the transport station, where they haggled in schoolbook Rong for a ride to their recommended hotels—a sickeningly familiar ballet Quy had been seeing most of her life, a unison of foreigners descending on the station like a plague of centipedes or leeches.
Still, Quy watched them. They reminded her of her own time on Prime, her heady schooldays filled with raucous bars and wild weekends, and late minute revisions for exams, a carefree time she’d never have again in her life. She both longed for those days back, and hated herself for her weakness. Her education on Prime, which should have been her path into the higher strata of the station’s society, had brought her nothing but a sense of disconnection from her family; a growing solitude, and a dissatisfaction, an aimlessness she couldn’t put in words.
She might not have moved all day—had a sign not blinked, superimposed by her router on the edge of her field of vision. A message from Second Uncle. – continue reading!
- Rêves de Gloire, Rolanc C. Wagner (L’Atalante)
- Avant le déluge, Raphaël Albert (Mnémos)
- Léviathan : La Chute, Lionel Davoust (Don Quichotte)
- Bankgreen, Thierry Di Rollo (Le Bélial’)
- Narcogenèse, Anne Fakhouri (L’Atalante)
- Loar, Loïc Henry (Griffe d’Encre)
- D’Or et d’émeraude, Éric Holstein (Mnémos)
- L’Ardoise magique, Anne Lanièce (Souffle du rêve)
- La Vestale du calix, Anne Larue (L’Atalante)
- Bloody Marie, Jacques Martel (Black Book)
French Short Fiction
- Boire la tasse, Christophe Langlois (L’Arbre Vengeur)
- Dans la forêt des astres, Timothée Rey (Les Moutons Électriques)
- “Journal d’un poliorcète repenti”, Ugo Bellagamba (Galaxies #14)
- “Le Paradoxe de Grinn”, Thierry Di Rollo (Bifrost #61)
- “Faire des algues”, Jérôme Noirez (Bifrost #64)
- “Les Hérauts d’Hier”, Michel Pagel (La Vie à ses rêves)
French Young Adult Novel
- La Route des magiciens, Frédéric Petitjean (Don Quichotte)
- Le Cas Rubis C., Gaël Bordet (Bayard)
- Nuit tatouée, Charlotte Bousquet (L’Archipel)
- Imago, Nathalie Le Gendre (Syros)
- Les Hauts-conteurs (series), Patric McSpare et Olivier Peru (Scrinéo)
- Le Dernier hiver, Jean-Luc Marcastel (Hachette jeunesse)
- Terrienne, Jean-Claude Mourlevat (Gallimard jeunesse)
- Afirik, Lorris Murail (Pocket jeunesse)
- Le Tertre des âmes, Ludovic Rosmorduc (J’ai lu)
- Passage en Outre-Monde, Muriel Zürcher (Éveil & Découvertes)
There seems to be a sudden explosion in international SF magazines, with the latest being International Speculative Fiction - check it out, they’ve just published Aliette de Bodard’s Butterfly, Falling at Dawn!
The first such magazine, however – the guys who inspired me to eventually edit The Apex Book of World SF and start the World SF Blog – is InterNova, edited by Michael Iwoleit from Germany. InterNova was first published in print, with only one – yet revolutionary – issue, but has since been relaunched as a web magazine.
It publishes a wide range of fiction and non-fiction from all over the world, and is looking to continue to grow. Michael writes:
The international science fiction e-zine InterNova (inter.nova-sf.de) is facing a major upgrade. In recent months the magazine has almost doubled its audience. To provide a better service for its readers editor Michael K. Iwoleit plans a design and functionality rework of the site and more regular uploads. To make the best of the magazine, however, InterNova is looking for further volunteer collaborators. Especially wanted are native English proofreaders who are willing to read two or three stories each months. There are also plans to open a Spanish and a French section of InterNova to provide part of the magazine’s content in these languages too. To make it happen, the support of volunteer English-to-Spanish and English-to-French translators and of proofreaders in both languages will be required. InterNova also appreciates contacts with correpondents who could provide news about the sf production in their country or region. If you’re interested in a collaboration please contact editor Michael K. Iwoleit at <firstname.lastname@example.org>