The Hidden Dimensions, by Alex Lanier

The Hidden Dimensions, by Alex Lanier

This one was a trip, like a flu induced fever dream. Storywise think early David Cronenberg body horror + Alice in Wonderland + Saga + The Boondocks + 70s Sexploitation. I’m very surprised this isn’t being published by Image Comics, who are currently in the middle of a creator-owned renaissance of adult themed, fantastic storytelling. This would fit right in over there.

The story starts out with some great Science Fiction intrigue and escalates as the characters learn the darker truth lurking beneath the surface of their hometown and their own personal past. They find themselves in stranger and stranger situations while journeying through realms of reality previously unknown to them. There are some cleverly subtle undertones that highlight the kind of marginalization / abuse of populations that can occur when there’s too much power in the hands of too few. I’d recommend this for fans of Saga, Sex Criminals, and adult themed cosmic horror narratives. I don’t want to be too specific with story details, because that would ruin half the fun of discovering this for yourselves. But be warned, it is definitely a Mature comic with a capital M.

The dialogue can be a little clunky at times, and the characters are fairly one dimensional (albeit, very imaginative and unique) but this does read like the first several issues of an ongoing story, so there’s room for them to grow and become more fully realized as the story continues.

Lanier’s artwork is the real standout here. It’s fantastic, grotesque and disturbing at times, and done in a truly unique style that I haven’t seen before. It modulates effortlessly between hyperreal and a colorful caricaturesque style. I really love it. He plays with the framing a lot, rendering scenes using angles that are so beautifully cinematic, they feel like they’re drawn through virtual camera lenses. There is also a lot of work here that emphasizes what can only be done so well in the graphic novel medium.

The Hidden Dimensions can be previewed / purchased on Alex Lanier’s site here.

My Struggle Book 1, by Karl Ove Knausgaard

My Struggle, Book 1

 

Memoirs are fascinating to me, because we know how truly fallible memory is. It is demonstrably unreliable. It’s completely insane that eyewitnesses and line-ups are such a fundamental part of our criminal justice system. But the cool thing about memoirs is that it really doesn’t matter if it’s a legitimate telling of events or not. I think that David Shields said it best in his book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto: “Memoir is a genre in need of an informed readership. It’s a misunderstanding to read a memoir as though the writer owes the reader the same record of literal accuracy that is owed in newspaper reporting. Memoirs belong to the category of literature, not journalism. What the memoirist owes the reader is the ability to persuade him or her that the narrator is trying, as honestly as possible, to get to the bottom of the experience at hand.”

This is literature, it’s a story, it has characters, etc but for Knausgård it’s all about form: “For several years I had tried to write about my father, but had gotten nowhere, probably because the subject was too close to my life, and thus not so easy to force into another form, which of course is a prerequisite for literature. That is its sole law: everything has to submit to form. If any of literature’s other elements are stronger than form, such as style, plot, theme, if any of these overtake form, the result suffers. That is why writers with a strong style often write bad books. That is also why writers with strong themes so often write bad books. Strong themes and styles have to be broken down before literature can come into being. It is this breaking down that is called ‘writing.’ Writing is more about destroying than creating.”

The characters have the same names as real people, and the story is based around Knausgård’s recollection of events, however accurate/inaccurate they may be, but these events, and this story was broken down and rebuilt to serve the form of literature. And it is really, really good stuff. It took about 20-30 pages until the prose clicked for me, and then it became difficult to put down. I found myself coming back to it again and again, “Oh, I’ll just read another page or two while I’m waiting for such-and-such.”

Karl Ove KnausgaardI think it’s something to do with the method that Knausgård uses to jump around in his story. He’ll write toward an event, we know what the event is, we know that it’s important. And then the Karl Ove ‘character’ in the story will think back to something, and we’re instantly back with him, experiencing a different event. We eventually forget that we’re in the past-past, and that’s right when he goes back to just before that event that’s coming up. The story progresses with some forward trajectory, but skips right over the event, to 20 years later, and he describes the room in which he’s sitting writing his second novel. Its marvelous.

The story itself is simple, brutally honest, and relatable. It’s also very foreign for me, having known very little about life in Norway until this small glimpse has expanded my knowledge slightly. It’s the first thing I’ve read that I would count as both literature, and a comfortable, easy read.

2017 Hugo Award Finalists

Hugo Award

The 2017 Hugo Award finalists have been announced. Final voting closes on July 15th and the winners will be announced August 11th during the 75th World Science Fiction Convention in Helsinki, Finland. Here’s the full list:

Best Novel (2078 ballots)

  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)
  • A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
  • Death’s End by Cixin Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
  • The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
  • Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

Best Novella (1410 ballots)

  • The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing)
  • This Census-Taker by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador)

Best Novelette (1097 ballots)

  • Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex by Stix Hiscock (self-published)
  • “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan (Tor.com, July 2016)
  • “The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde (Tor.com Publishing, May 2016)
  • “The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
  • “Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)
  • “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)

Best Short Story (1275 ballots)

  • “The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)
  • “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)
  • “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
  • “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
  • “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)
  • “An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

Best Related Work (1122 ballots)

  • The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (Tor Books)
  • The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press)
  • Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood)
  • The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow / Harper Collins)
  • “The Women of Harry Potter” posts by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com)
  • Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

Best Graphic Story (842 ballots)

  • Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel)
  • Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
  • Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image)
  • Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks (Image)
  • The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form (1733 ballots)

  • Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)
  • Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)
  • Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)
  • Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)
  • Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form (1159 ballots)

  • Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)
  • Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)
  • Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Door”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)
  • Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

Best Editor – Short Form (951 ballots)

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form (752 ballots)

  • Vox Day
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Devi Pillai
  • Miriam Weinberg
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist (817 ballots)

  • Galen Dara
  • Julie Dillon
  • Chris McGrath
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine (857 ballots)

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, edited by P. Alexander
  • GigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
  • The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

Best Fanzine (610 ballots)

  • “Castalia House Blog”, edited by Jeffro Johnson
  • “Journey Planet”, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Helena Nash, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, and Erin Underwood
  • “Lady Business”, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
  • “nerds of a feather, flock together”, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
  • “Rocket Stack Rank”, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
  • “SF Bluestocking”, edited by Bridget McKinney

Best Fancast (690 ballots)

  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
  • Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
  • Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
  • Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
  • The Rageaholic, presented by RazörFist
  • Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

Best Fan Writer (802 ballots)

  • Mike Glyer
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Natalie Luhrs
  • Foz Meadows
  • Abigail Nussbaum
  • Chuck Tingle

Best Fan Artist (528 ballots)

  • Ninni Aalto
  • Alex Garner
  • Vesa Lehtimäki
  • Likhain (M. Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Mansik Yang

Best Series (1393 votes)

  • The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone (Tor Books)
  • The Expanse by James S.A. Corey (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
  • The October Daye Books by Seanan McGuire (DAW / Corsair)
  • The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz / Del Rey / DAW / Subterranean)
  • The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Harper Voyager UK)
  • The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (937 ballots)

  • Sarah Gailey (1st year of eligibility)
  • J. Mulrooney (1st year of eligibility)
  • Malka Older (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Ada Palmer (1st year of eligibility)
  • Laurie Penny (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Kelly Robson (2nd year of eligibility)

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

Scalzi is accessible science fiction, and this is Scalzi (the storyteller) at his best. He’s improved at structuring a story over the years, and this is more evidence to support that claim. You can tell how much fun he’s having writing a space opera in a universe very separate from the Old Man’s War series. My one complaint would be with Scalzi’s prose, and only because I know he can do better than this. See the codas at the end of Redshirts, or the novella The Sagan Diary for perfect examples of just how good his prose can be when he really goes for it).

Very much the first book in a series, The Collapsing Empire resolves the main plot expertly while simultaneously paving the way for a lot more stories that will undoubtedly come. This series really feels like it has legs. There is a lot of stuff going on here, and I need at least 3-4 more books in this universe.

John ScalziThis is basically Scalzi’s Dune. Several powerful houses competing for power and resources, an Emperox (Emperor) that control a planet called Hub, which resides at the epicenter of The Flow, a trade network of one-directional interstellar wormholes that humanity found a thousand years ago, religion and politics intertwined, etc. Using The Flow we branched out into the galaxy and started living in some areas that were not so hospitable. Each colony is dependent on the others for resources they do not have available locally. So what happens if this network doesn’t always function the way it has in the past? What happens if Hub isn’t always where all paths in The Flow lead?

With the exception of a fantastic interlude, the story is told through the point of view of three main characters (and mostly through dialogue): a representative of a powerful family aboard a trade ship, a Flow physicist living in the ass end of the empire, and the new Emperox who didn’t ask for, and doesn’t want the job or the responsibilities it entails.

The allusions to the impending issue of Climate Change are apparent, but not so heavy handed that it becomes preachy. I enjoyed it a lot, and I’ll definitely be checking out the next ones in the series. Still, I know that Scalzi can write more elegant prose, and it would drastically improve his novels if he did.

 

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal — but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals — a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency — are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), by Paul Kincaid

Modern Masters of Science Fiction: Iain M. Banks, by Paul Kincaid

A concise yet comprehensive literary analysis on the works of the late Iain Banks. Kincaid’s writing functions primarily through illustrating and deconstructing the thematic lineage and interplay between Banks’ novels published with and without the M, but also delves into the deeper political and societal backdrop in which Banks’ wrote and lived. The bits of history that Kincaid feels influenced Banks are particularly illuminating for myself, someone who knows little of Scottish or UK life, especially concerning the 70s and 80s.

Iain M. BanksNot as obviously praising of Banks’ writing as Simone Caroti’s The Culture Series of Iain M. Banks: A Critical Introduction, and in a lot of ways it does feel like a response to it. Caroti called for a need to examine Banks’ entire catalog of writing, not just the M or non-M work as had previously been done. Kincaid’s book takes exactly this approach, but with an emphasis on his science fiction work. It is also a much more balanced examination of the strengths and weaknesses at play in the novels. That being said, the rabid Banks fan inside of me enjoyed Caroti’s book quite a bit more because it more closely aligned with my own reading and interpretation of Banks; which is of course an admittedly subjective, masturbatory reason.

Caroti’s book started a new conversation; addressing the ways in which Banks had been grossly ignored, misunderstood, and misinterpreted in literary circles and criticism over the years. It posited a much better interpretation of Banks’ work than had previously existed. I’m please to see that it appears Caroti’s contribution had it’s desired effect, because this continuation of the conversation seems to have benefited greatly from it. Gone are the misreadings and general sloppy analogies in the pre-Caroti analyses. Of course, as a result, Kincaid is much more objective and more in line with a standard literary analysis, which is more intellectually pleasing, but it remains thoughtful to the corrections and additions that Caroti made previously.

Paul KincaidThe bulk of this analysis deals with Banks’ writing chronologically, but also takes into account the order in which the novels were written, rewritten and released. Since so many of them — the Culture novels specifically — were written very early and then reworked later in Banks’ career before being published, this method helps to trace the evolution of themes and thoughts throughout the novels as they changed and adapted. There are quite a few biographical details and quotes interspersed throughout, which I always welcome, especially considering that there is still no extant proper biography on Banks. The book then comes to a close with an illuminating interview between Banks and Jude Roberts, who received her P.h.d. on The Culture series.

This book is something I’ve been waiting a long, long time for, and I am extremely pleased that Kincaid has not only continued the conversation on Banks’ work and legacy that Caroti jump started, but also added so much to it in the process. This is a fantastic addition to the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series and I look forward to seeing where we go from here. Personally, I feel that Banks’ work needs to endure the test of time, and welcome future writings on him as a subject.

Paul’s book is available to purchase from the University of Illinois Press, and will be released on May 30th, 2017.