Friday, 29 April 2011

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

Arthur C Clarke/Angry Robot Books: South African author Lauren Beukes won the 25th annual Arthur C Clarke Award with the excellent Zoo City. Set in Cape Town, this is a Science Fictioner in which people are plagued with their guilt hanging around in animal form, like a His Dark Materials universe where every daeman is a physical manifestation of some horrendous crime. I’m sometimes intimidated by books that win awards – not so with Zoo City – this is an accessible, intriguing and well-oiled read. On accepting her prize (complete with wrap-around Sloth), Beukes said the speech she’d planned went something like this: ‘Curse you, McDonald!’ As Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House originally looked set to win (having been nominated for a Hugo and as it won the British Science Fiction Association’s annual award). But Beukes can prop her books up with her new ornamental bookstand with pride, and in the knowledge that she and her shelf deserve it. Check out the article in the Guardian where it refers to Angry Robot Books as ‘tiny UK press’, which is both adorable and probably soon-to-be inaccurate after this win.

British Library: you know you’ve made it in history when you’re featured in a British Library exhibition, just ask the dinosaurs. Now Lauren Beukes, thanks to her Clarke win, along with China MiĆ©ville, George Orwell and Audrey Niffeneger, will be part of an incredibly exciting exhibition on Science Fiction called ‘Out of this world: Science Fiction, but not as you know it’. Available from 20 May through to 25 September this year, the exhibit’s blurb grandly states that ‘Science Fiction is revealed not merely as a popular literary genre but as a way of looking at today’s world and presenting alternatives: radical ideas about science, politics, society, the future… and the nature of reality itself.’ Asking questions like ‘Who are we?’, ‘What is reality?’ and, perfect for a Sunday afternoon pondering, ‘When and how will the world end?’, from earliest writings to modern film, this is bound to be a thrilling, insightful look into a genre that demands limelight, but doesn’t get it nearly often enough. I can’t wait.

Hugo Awards: the nominations were announced at Eastercon last weekend. The full list is on the Renovation website, but the Best Novel category is as follows:

Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra)
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Gollancz; Pyr)
Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Orbit: I bet you’ve been thinking ‘Hey, that A Genteel Black Hole hasn’t been talking about Jim Butcher for a while, I do hope she’s OK.’ Luckily, Orbit have presented me with the perfect opportunity for me to hammer the fan girl love home. They’re currently marketing his Dresden Files short story compilation Side Jobs, which I read this week. These short stories are mostly from existing compilations and slot in-between his main titles, including (insert squeal here) Changes and Ghost Story. Squeal. Side Jobs is a much-needed filler in the extended wait for the next instalment of The Dresden Files, Ghost Story. Aside from the usual prerequisite moments of arousal at inappropriate times of battle (can no one see a bare neck without biting back a primal roar of need?), this was a superbly written master class in the short story form, with the final original novella (I won’t spoil whose POV it is) showing off Butcher’s increasingly developed talent (insert wizard’s staff pun here). Highly recommended.

Voyager: there has been much love for Voyager author George RR Martin in the last few weeks with the airing of the HBO TV adaptation of A Game of Thrones, the first in his acclaimed A Song of Ice and Fire series. Unfortunately, in the past this hasn’t stopped the deplorable torrent of abuse Martin suffered at the hands of so-called fans for the long waits between books (how dare he eat/sleep/breathe when there’s writing to be done?! etc). The sharp Martin cut to the quick, blogging back: ‘You don’t want me to pull a Robert Jordan on you.’ You probably won’t have missed the continued confusion over whether he’s finished/ about to finish/ will never finish A Dance with Dragons, although Voyager have announced a release date of 12 July 2011 (yes, 2011). As for me, I’m currently reading A Feast for Crows in preparation, and, while not a rabid fan (loving, yes, but not foaming at the mouth), I do wonder how short this series would be if he cut out the names of all characters not relating directly to the plot. I am torn between wanting the richness and depth of the universe these names and histories convey, and just wanting the story to shine through without being bogged down by Ser Wainwright of Gallinfry whose claim upon the Bronze Throne was waylaid in 1044 by the damned Water Voles, lead by Ser Hillary the Waterlogged, who came up the river Blessed, following in the footsteps of his great uncle Baldric the Befuddled, whose voyage was doomed when he travelled 217 miles in the wrong direction on the shady advice of Dudley the Duplicitous, his fourth cousin twice removed. Basically I’m just moaning because he forces my brain to function instead of offering me the plot on a plate. Damn him. Meanwhile, oh look, Sean Bean!

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