Hugo reading 2018: No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula Le Guin

Well, this is definitely the last of the related works, anyway!

No Time to Spare, by Ursula Le Guin is, I believe, a collection of her blog posts, and it’s pretty delightful.  I read her Earthsea books when I was a child, and they didn’t particularly make an impression on me, so I don’t think I ever read anything else of hers.  (My general impression as a child of the 80s was that Science Fiction and Fantasy was all either post-apocalyptic or too scary or weird and unpleasant, or all of the above [Looking at you, Z for Zachariah].  I think Earthsea came into the Too Scary category.)  And now I’m thinking I really should, because I like her writing and the way she thinks.

The book is divided into four sections, Going Over Eighty, The Lit Biz, Trying to make sense of it and Rewards.  In between each of these sections, we will have The Annals of Pard, which are stories about Le Guin’s cat, and are absolutely charming.  Clearly, Le Guin understands cats very well.

I’m not sure how to usefully review a book of short essays of this nature, so I might try to say a little about each section and just assert overall that this was really an enjoyable read – I like blogs which are well-written and eclectic, sometimes thoughtful, other times facetious and humorous, and this is all of these things.

Going Over Eighty is a series of reflections on ageing, but even more so a reflection on the way ageing gets viewed by individuals and culture generally.  The ‘No Time to Spare’ quote comes from this, as Le Guin is bemused and irritated by a questionnaire from her alma mater to graduates from 60 years ago asking what they do in their spare time.  Most of them will be retired; and everything Le Guin has done with her life is in the ‘things you do in your spare time’ category anyway.  It was a thought-provoking collection.

The Lit Biz was probably my favourite section, other than the Pard stories.  There were so many fun and interesting essays here – the ones about letters from readers (especially children) were hilarious, especially the letter from the poor child old to write to Le Guin by his teacher whose best shot was ‘I have read the cover. it is prety good.’, leaving both author and child with no possible place to go.  There was a fascinating post about Homer, which reflects on how he and others write about war, and how this interacts with and critiques the idea that might makes right.  She is very taken with the idea of the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal, and talks about prizes, politics, integrity, and the prize that she chose to refuse, and what became of it.  And she reflects on the idea of the Great American Novel.

In Trying to Make Sense of It, we get a more random selection of Le Guins thoughts on politics, gender, religion, belief, military uniforms, science and many other things.  I liked some of these and was less interested in others.  The Rewards section was similarly random, but more delightful.  I loved her comparison of a food bank to a cathedral – Our Lady of Hunger, and her reflection on a breakfast in Vienna and the proper way to eat a soft boiled egg, which almost convinced me that I should have a soft boiled egg for breakfast every day (and maybe I will tomorrow, at that).

All in all, I really enjoyed this collection.  I think I still want to put Crash Override first, because while I hate that it needs to exist, I am glad that, given the need, it does; but this will certainly be second on my ballot.  I’ll put Sleeping with Monsters third, Luminescent Threads fourth, the Ian Banks book fifth, and the Harlan Ellison book last in this category.

And so ends another category!

At this point, I’m hoping to finish the Best Dramatic Presentation – short form today, after which I have only YA, Best Series, Best Semi Prozine and the various best Editors to go.  I won’t be reviewing the Best Dramatic Presentation long form ones, because I don’t enjoy watching films enough to watch six in the next month.  And I’ll probably not write about the Best Editor Long Form here, since that’s mostly going to be me looking at the list of books they’ve edited and voting on that basis.

(I must admit, while I’m enjoying the Hugo reading much more this year than in previous ones, I’m rather looking forward to some nice, lazy re-reading of favourite romance novels once this is done…)

Hugo reading 2018: Crash Override, by Zoe Quinn

Crash Override, by Zoe Quinn is the sort of book that makes you want to delete all your blogs and internet accounts and go live in Antarctica. It is a deeply, deeply upsetting book to read.

The Hugo Voter Pack provided us with an excerpt – about 100 pages – not the entire book, which has the subtitle ‘How Gamergate (nearly) destroyed my life and how we can win the fight against online hate’, so I can only assume it gets less depressing and more inspiring as it goes, but I’m not sure I’d be able to read through to get to that point.

The part we get is the beginning of it all – how Gamergate got started, how it escalated – and it’s really terrifying. Reading it, I really felt her sense of helplessness in the face of the online horde (made far more frightening by the fact that it quickly grew into offline threats, not just to Zoe, but to her friends and family). Nothing is safe, really.

Clearly, she has survived to write the tale, and I understand that she has even started a website, http://www.crashoverridenetwork.com, that provided advocacy and support to victims of online abuse, so well done her, but I’m feeling traumatised just from reading an extract of her story.

I have no idea how to rate this. It shouldn’t be a related work for the Hugos – and yet it apparently needs to be. I didn’t enjoy it – but I don’t think I was supposed to. I’m not going to finish it, but I probably am going to put it at the top of my list and make a donation to the website, because nobody should have to deal with this sort of thing.

(Also, the PDF kept breaking my kobo, which started becoming a source of concern in its own right – had Gamergaters somehow infiltrated the Hugo voter downloads and put a virus in this document? Only time will tell, but I have to say, I was getting super paranoid.)

Hugo reading 2018: Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal

Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal, is not an easy book to review.  It is a collection of about 50 letters written to Octavia Butler after her death by people who were influenced in one way or another by her work.  The letters are personal, and also political, as is appropriate.

I have not read any of Butler’s work (it always sounded like the sort of stories that were guaranteed to give me nightmares), and don’t know many of the authors of the letters in this book, so the threads, such as they are, are very tenuous for me.  The Hugo Voter Pack gave me the entire book, which may not have been doing me a real service – I understand that there was, at the launch, a sampler booklet, containing two letters from each section for the reader to review, and I think this would have been helpful here.  Rather than attempt to review 50+ individual letters, or try to find some sort of narrative or argumentative arc for them in my head, I decided to choose, somewhat randomly, two letters from each section of the book myself, and review these.

And… that didn’t really work either. How do you review 50 essays by different authors, linked not by a theme, but by a person?  There are certain recurring themes – racism, representation, grief, politics, feminism, and the way these things are reflected in literature generally and the work of Butler in particular.  They are good essays.  They feel a lot like reading the sorts of blogs I like reading – political, left-leaning, concerned with race and gender and intersectionality and occasionally just really good books.

And they are kind of depressing, because the internal evidence suggests that a lot of these letters were written very soon after the election of Trump, and, unsurprisingly, the sorts of people who would be writing letters to Octavia Butler are also the sorts of people who find Trump’s presidency deeply upsetting.

This is, I think, a book to dip into, rather than to read from cover to cover.  I’ve liked the bits I’ve read, but right now, I don’t feel as though I’m going to take much more in if I keep going.  I may come back to it later.  I think I’m putting it second on this ballot for now, after Sleeping with Monsters, and ahead of the Ellison and Banks books.

Hugo reading 2018: Best Fan Writer category

I’ll be doing this whole category in one sweep, so settle in, because this might take a while.
Mike Glyer has provided a series of links to representative work on File 770 (usually he provides a mini fanzine, but this year he has caring responsibilities that made this difficult).

The first three are in the realm of SF politics.  “Axanar Lawsuit Settled” is a straightforward report of the settlement between Axanar, creators of a fan-made Star Trek Film, and Paramount and CBS, the producers of Star Trek itself.  It seems that Paramount and CBS decided to let Axanar keep showing their film, provided they made no profit from it.  We then have “Jon Del Arroz Off BayCon 2017 Program, Claims Decision Is Politically Motivated”, in which he presents Jon Del Arroz’s statement, alongside BayCon saying “well, actually, we just wanted to have different speakers some years, rather than having the same speakers every year, so we declined to invite a bunch of our regulars, and in fact we’ve already invited Del Arroz back for next year, though we’re kind of reconsidering that now.”  It seems to be a reasonably even-handed story, quoting each party substantially and in context, with a small amount of commentary, but the comments go ballistic because anything with US politics in it tends to do that now.  The final piece is “Saying No”, which I’d describe as being Puppy-Adjacent, and in part addresses those comments.

There is a fun article called “Oscar Gaffe Brings Back Memories of SF Award Blunders” which reminisces about various times when the wrong names were read out at the Hugos and the Nebulas (the one about Gene Wolfe is particularly wrenching).

We then have obituaries for Peter Weston, Ed Bryant and Milt Stevens, none of whom I knew, but they are again well-written pieces.

“Pixel Scroll 12/31/17 Another Scroll Over, a Pixel Just Begun” is an end of year round-up of interesting articles which are mostly other people’s end of year round-ups.  Recursive!

Basically, I’d characterise Glyer’s work as good, straightforward journalism.  It doesn’t set my world on fire, but he’s very reliable and I tend to think of him as my trusted source of fandom news.  He’s certainly worthy of being on the ballot, but it will be interesting to see what the other writers in this category are like.

Next up is Bogi Takács, who has provided six essays to review.

“The Mutant’s Apprentice: Superhero registration tropes, power fantasies and Western-centrism”  talks about why superheroes and magic users tend to be subject to compulsory registration or guild memberships.  Takács’ thesis is that this was intended to be a way of talking about racism and anti-semitism without having to do so directly (or in ways that censorship boards would object to) – but that this became subverted in the minds of (white, male) fans as being about people being oppressed because they were exceptional, just as many fans of comics view themselves as oppressed by the mainstream… thus leading to the opposite effect to that intended by the artists.  It’s a depressing thesis, but Takács writes about it convincingly.

“[Novel review] A Jewish State in Germany? Judenstaat, Or Historical Speculation in the VHS Era” is a review of a novel by Simone Zelitch in which after World War Two, a Jewish state was established in Saxony.  It sounds bizarre and fascinating, actually – the novel is apparently very much steeped in Jewish culture, and also knows its Eastern European / life under the Communist Regime tropes, with Chasidic Jews living in Soviet-style apartment complexes and the tension around the fact that many Communists were secular Jews.  (Takács is Hungarian, and expresses appreciation of the fact that Zelitch got so much right, which is unusual for novels by Americans set behind the old iron curtain).

“[Novella review] The Kid from Hell by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky (multiple translators)” was apparently such an effective and moving anti-war book that it was banned in Hungary, its country of origin, for many years, and could in fact be read in translation in English well before it could be read in Hungarian. It is set in a ‘utopian’ far future where Communism has triumphed and is trying to ‘progress’ new cultures to make them happier.  As the authors of this were Jewish (a community which the Communists also tried to progress), the ambiguous nature of this help is made clear.  It sounds like an unpleasant book – the viewpoint character is a deliberately horrible person – but I’m fascinated at this window into works written in Communist Hungary.

“[Novelette review] Alone, on the Wind by Karla Schmidt (translated from the German by Lara Harmon), Clarkesworld #88, August 2016.” is a brief, fairly negative review of a book that it well-written and well-translated but has some fairly problematic tropes.

The last two pieces, “[Short story collection review] So You Want to be a Robot – 21 Stories by A. Merc Rustad” and “[Comics review] Mirror: The Mountain by Emma Ríos & Hwei Lim. Image Comics, 2016”, were perfectly good pieces of writing but didn’t do so much for me – perhaps because they are more standard, straightforward reviews, and so there is less of a point of difference here between Takács’ writing and the writing of other reviewers.

Overall, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading Takács’ work.  Having grown up towards the end of the Iron Curtain era, I’m fascinated by these sorts of internal glimpses of what was behind it – the cultural history, if you like.  It’s not a perspective you get a lot of in SF written in English, and I’m very glad to have it.  Takács definitely winning so far for me.

Next, we have Sarah Gailey, who has provided three articles.

Facing Facts: American Identity is Based on Alternate History” is a very compelling piece pointing out that the history we tend to learn in schools is already alternate history – it’s a history where everything was fine, where wars were only fought for good reasons, where exploring the world was about discovery and bringing civilisation, not about greed or gold, where slavery didn’t exist, or where it did, slaves were treated well, where racism was solved in the 1960s.  It’s a provocative point of view, and one that will stay with me.

It’s also a strangely frustrating view, in the light of her own alternate history fiction – because while she certainly had a diverse cast in her story, she didn’t seem to me to be doing a lot with her alternate history setting.  I realise that this is harder to do in a novella format, and particularly if what you want to write is a light-hearted caper, but given how creatively she thinks about history and alternate history when writing an essay, I can’t help feeling a bit sad that she wasn’t more creative when writing a story set in an alternate America.

Next, we get an essay from Uncanny magazine – ‘City of Villains: Why I Don’t Trust Batman‘.  This is a lot of fun.  It’s about living in Gotham city if you are just a regular, poor person, who grew up in an orphanage after your dad got killed by a supervillain and your mum ran off to become a supervillain.  The trouble is, the kind of jobs you get if you have a limited education and money tend to be pretty basic – building, painting, a bit of security.  And if your boss happens to turn out to be a supervillain, guess who suffers the consequences?  The story does a nice job of interrogating the Lone Vigilante Hero trope – as well as the Beneficent Billionaire trope.  It’s nice that the billionaire funds orphanages, but why does Gotham City need so many? It’s nice that the vigilante hero fights crime, but how is it fair that he can do so outside the law, and with no regard for bystanders?  Might there not be better ways to ‘save’ the city, if one doesn’t have to be seen as the hero at all times?

I’m sure there are holes in this argument.  I’m sure that Andrew will come here and pick them.  But as someone who isn’t all that invested in the Batman mythos, I found this a delightful deconstruction of the idea.

The third article provided by Gailey is “This Future Looks Familiar: Watching Blade Runner in 2017“.  I have not seen Blade Runner.  I don’t know what it is supposed to be about.  Gailey hasn’t seen it before either, and is a bit horrified by the familiarity of what she is viewing – boiled down to sheer plot, we have a man who takes the job of tracking down and killing escaped slaves.  There is one slave he doesn’t kill – he keeps her for his own, instead.  And – at least to Gailey’s viewing, the protagonist is the character we are meant to feel sympathy with.  We are meant to see him as a good man making difficult choices, and the slaves as not fully human.

Not having seen Blade Runner, I have no way of knowing what the intent of the directors and writers was.  But reading the synopsis… yeah.  That does seem to be what it’s about.  The replicants are AIs, not human, but it does still seem to have some really disturbing parallels to the sort of racism and police brutality that has been getting so much news coverage in the last few years.  And I can certainly see being unable to see anything *else* in the movie once one has seen that.

Gailey is definitely a worthy nomination for this Hugo.  At present, I’m having a hard time choosing between her and Takács for best writer, because while I love Gailey’s work so far, her worldview is more familiar to me and similar to other things I read – Takács has perspectives I don’t encounter often.

Moving on to Charles Payseur, we get five articles to read.

“Mapping Smutty SFF – Part 1: Getting Started” is about writing fun SFF with queer characters, and the difficulty of genre and market boundaries, where ‘serious’ SFF is willing to have ‘sex, but not erotica’, and queer sex or relationships tends to get automatically branded erotica.  And also about being someone who tends to fall between the SFF and the Romance / Erotica categories with his writing, with a side dose of sheer irritation at people who turn up their nose at romance/erotica on principle without having read any of it.  It’s a little rambling, but an enjoyable article with a few bits of practical advice and suggestions about publishers for this sort of work.
“MAPPING SHORT SF/F: Part 2: Fun Short SFF” is about finding SFF that is fun, which Payseur defines as inspiring joy in the reader.  And the way ‘fun’ is often undervalued in SFF, because of a desire to be considered a serious genre (and is thus easier to find in YA SFF, perhaps because fun is also associated with being childlike).  And then he helpfully lists a lot of places where you can find fun fiction, with examples.  I think this review would be a lot more use to me if I wasn’t in the middle of my massive Hugo Reading Project, but I might keep it for later, since fun, escapist fiction is generally what I”m in the market for.
“Year of Garak, part 10: “When It Rains…” “Tacking Into the Wind” “Extreme Measures” “The Dogs of War” & “What You Leave Behind” is part of a series where Payseur has been following Garak through Star Trek.  I skimmed this one, because I think one does need to care significantly more about Star Trek than I do (i.e., to have seen more than two episodes ever) to get much out of it.

“LIVER BEWARE! You’re in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #12: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR”.  What it says on the box.  It’s a review of what turns out to be a really terribly bad Goosebumps books, which Payseur hates quite thoroughly.  I’m enjoying his writing style while drunk and infuriated, but that’s about it.

For a contrast, “PRIDE 2017 GUEST REVIEW: THE ART OF STARVING BY SAM J. MILLER” is a sober, thoughtful review for a book that Payseur likes very much.  Again, it’s a good, well-written review, but I must admit, I’m reaching my limits for reading reviews of books I haven’t read.  I really want to finish this category today, because it will be a pig to read on my Kobo (too many PDFs – I’m home from work with horrible cramps, so now’s the time to read things on my computer), but I’m hoping very much that the other two writers aren’t too review heavy!

Overall, I enjoyed Payseur, and am ranking him about equal with Mike Glyer.  Which means I have two ties in my lineup, and that’s going to be great when I go to vote, but I’ll deal with that then!

Camestros Felapton provided a kind of anthology of bits and pieces from his blog, which initially made me groan at its length, but I was so very wrong.  This was great fun, and turned out to be exactly what I needed to read today.

There was a really fun and spoilerific review of The Last Jedi, which I have not seen yet, but I love spoilerific reviews of things I haven’t seen, so that was fine, which particularly looked at how it plays with and subverts tropes from earlier films.  He made the interesting and quite plausible argument that once one sets aside the purely political criticisms, many of those that remain in fact spring from people who hated the prequels but nonetheless internalised them in particular ways that have shaped their expectations.

Other reviews in the area of science fiction were a discussion of whether Hidden Figures can be counted as science fiction (it’s about science, it isn’t a documentary, it’s fictionalised…), and an article about the ways in which he thinks the new Star Trek just doesn’t work (mostly because it can’t quite decide what it’s trying to do.).  Another article was a little piece of research about Henry Still, who was nominated for a Hugo in 1956  alongside Ellison, Silverberg and Herbert in the category of upcoming writers, and then disappeared off the radar.  He tries to discover what happened to him and may well have succeeded.

Ask a Triceratops had several columns about writing.  I especially enjoyed the article about use of the first, second and third person, followed by a description of fourth person in its many variants. This is apparently the preferred triceratops style, and consists of the perspective of somebody discussing events indirectly.  I liked the playfulness of it, with grammar and literary tropes being the toys of choice. I also enjoyed the discussion of Triceratopian sub-genres and literary tropes, which mostly involve drunken T-rexes climbing trees.

Timothy the Cat has a few pieces.  There is a review of La La Land which is a dialogue between Camestros and Timothy.  Timothy thinks that he is going to see a Star Wars film, and takes a while to be disabused of this notion.  Having found that it is not, he decides that, fine then, it’s really just like Inception.  He seems to mostly find this in order to annoy Camestros.  This made for a highly entertaining and surprisingly insightful review, which also managed to include the main critiques I’ve heard of the film. Nice work.  Timothy also goes to WorldCon, which turns out to be the vet.  This is also funny and sarcastic and endearing.

There were several nice creative pieces.  I adored the review of Great Britain (“While the deeply amoral but wonderfully costumed historical series of “Great Britain” won huge ratings in the past, critics have claimed that this was “largely due to a hugely powerful navy forcing us to watch”.), and the piece on How to Cook a Frozen Pizza the Hugo Way, which gently parodied each of last year’s Best Novel nominees

“The witch Frisby approached the oven, her humanist boots clipping the floor in a rhythm like the spears of Menelaus approaching the walls of Illium.

 
Must thou once again use such words, Mycrust? We have had words on this thou and me already. Speak more on the cooking of this ‘pizza’ and less on witchcraft.

Speaking of Mycroft, Camestros’ review of Too Like the Lightning was particularly thought-provoking.  He likes it, but can’t recommend it – he agrees more with its detractors than its fans, and thinks that it is woefully incomplete, but he still likes it.  I found myself agreeing with a lot of his review, while still loathing the book itself.

All in all, this turned out to be the ideal reading for someone lying around feeling miserable with cramps – a pot-pourri of light but relatively serious articles, quirky humorous pieces, and strange little cartoons or poems – nothing requiring too much concentration, but all entertaining and with plenty of variety.

Also, he’s an Aussie! Yay for Aussie writers!

I’ve added his blog to my feedly, and he’s going to the top of my ballot.

Foz Meadows provides us with 5 articles to read.  The first, “Westworld: (De)Humanising the Other” is a review of the HBO show Westworld, which sounds absolutely horrific, frankly.  Apparently it’s very well acted and directed, but… well, the very premise of people being able to go to this theme park where all the hosts are AIs who behave like humans and can pass a Turing test but basically exist for tourists to act out their Wild West fantasies on or with (mostly on, apparently) is pretty repellant.  Meadows deconstructs this further – beyond the inevitable (and gratuitously sexualised) abuse of the AIs, there is the treatment of LGBTQI characters (who are either villainous, doomed, or both), and the extra level of degradation dealt out to Hosts who appear to be people of colour.

To be fair, I’ve never heard of the show, but if the premise is as written, it’s hard to imagine how it could be anything other than deeply squicky.

Her next article is called “Shin Godzilla: Disasters, Tropes & Cultural Memory”.  This is a Japanese disaster film, and Meadows’ review centres around how different the tropes are to the sort of tropes found in American disaster movies.  Japan is a country that puts a fair bit of effort into disaster preparedness and values cooperation and knowledge, and the movie reflects this, with the disaster/monster itself as the main antagonist to be defeated – American disaster movies tend to reflect an idea that if disaster strikes, it will be every man for himself, and any sort of organised structure or authority (the government, the army) will in fact be adding to the problems and be something the heroes have to overcome.  This is a troubling cultural insight – libertarian ideals seem to be baked into US culture at an even deeper level than I’d have thought, even in the so called ‘liberal’ media.

“YA Discourse: Witch vs Vulture” deconstructs a recent controversy among YA readers and reviewers over Laurie Forest’s book, Black Witch; a review that quoted it extensively, claiming that it was deeply toxic and bigoted; and the inevitable flustercluck in response to that review.  The key sentence, I think, is this one:

Which is what Sinyard means when she says The Black Witch “holds no regard to the feelings of marginalised people” – the big emotional reveal is seemingly predicated on the reader either learning from, being surprised by or sympathising with Elloren’s transformation, which means caring enough about her – caring more about her than those she victimises – to feel invested in the first place. And if you, as a reader, are one of those she victimises, then that’s unlikely to be a fun experience.

She moves on from the book and the general controversy around it (which takes the shape of pretty much every controversy I’ve seen around a book in the last decade) to thinking about cultural change online and the intersection of this with young people who are just beginning to make their own literary judgments online.  There are so many obnoxious folk out there who like to pretend to want to be educated on Diversity 101 that people have been burned out on helping them, and start defaulting to rudeness in answering those sorts of questions, which is rough on young people who genuinely are trying to figure things out (and possibly the goal of some of the obnoxious folk in the first place.)

The essay also discusses issues of censorship, of how we respond to ‘bad’ books and what makes books ‘bad’ in the first place.  It’s a very thought provoking essay, and well worth reading.  Also, I love a good fandom drama dissection, and this was a very good one indeed.

I didn’t really engage with the last two essays, “Movie Thoughts: SF, Pulp & Grit”, which is about Alien: Covenant, and “Final Fantasy FXV: Thoughts”.  I think they are perfectly good examples of their type, but of limited interest to me.

This is a hard category to judge, because everything was pretty good.  Camestros Felapton is definitely getting my first place vote.  After that, I think I have Sarah Gailey and Bogi Takács (final order may change), the first for some really interesting essays, and the second for a really interesting perspective; Foz Meadows, Charles Payseur and Mike Glyer are kind of equal fourth for me, but will probably go in that order.  I feel bad about putting Glyer last – I feel bad about putting ANYONE last.  Really, there was nothing bad in this section, so I may still mess around with my votes down the track.

Felapton was a real find, however.  I’m very glad I read him.

Hugo reading 2018: Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), by Paul Kincaid

Having done one excerpt today, I thought I might as well tackle Paul Kincaid’s Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction). We only get one chapter of this biography (Chapter 2, which mostly revolves around the Culture books), which is probably for the best as I haven’t read any Iain Banks and am unlikely to be a useful audience. It’s thirty pages, and I thought I could knock this one off very quickly, but oh dear, it was dull. I think you have to be a very engaging writer to write extended literary criticism of an author and make it interesting to people who haven’t read that author, and… this doesn’t manage it.

Andrew has actually read some Banks (though not the ones reviewed in this chapter), and he actually reads literary criticism for fun (why?), so he obligingly read the chapter when I gave up on it, and provided some comments.

Behold, the wisdom of Andrew!

Paul Kincaid’s book about Iain M. Banks appears to be a mixture of literary biography and critical history. It’s represented in the Hugo voter’s packet by Chapter 2, which seems an appropriate choice as it is largely focused on his best-known (and most strongly SF) works, the Culture series. Taken by itself, the chapter begins a little shakily as Kincaid introduces himself into the work and looks at a scattering of critical response to Banks’ early career – I assume that in the context of the whole book this would form the connective tissue between the first and second chapters, but here it just seems unfocused.
 
After this it reads more smoothly, with Kincaid spending most of the chapter looking in detail at the first four Culture novels (1987-1991), with some reference made to later instalments in the series. He provides a good survey of the range of critical response to these four books – one of the things I found most interesting was the difficulty some US critics had in accepting the viability of a successful civilisation developed along communistic lines. Kincaid also includes his own analysis of the books and contrasts the more nuanced ways in which Banks explores the complexities of the Culture with the more simplistic statements he has made about the Culture in interviews.
 
Although the book purportedly covers Banks’s work as a whole, both SF and non-SF, this chapter provides very little evidence of that. Espedair Street and Canal Dreams, both published during the period covered by this chapter, receive a few paragraphs each but are ultimately irrelevant to what Kincaid wants to talk about. Whoever was responsible for choosing this extract really should have included Chapter 1 as well (covering his first three non-genre novels) in order to allow for a more accurate assessment of the work.

I don’t know how to rank this one. I imagine it is doing what it is trying to do, and this is probably a worthwhile thing, and Andrew enjoyed it, so it clearly wasn’t a bad book, but it was fairly unreadable from my perspective. I sort of want to rank it above the Ellison book, because apparently I’d rather be bored than aggravated, but this is probably not fair. Part of me wants to leave them both off the ballot, but that doesn’t seem right, either.

Fortunately, based on Andrew’s review, I feel that I *can* now put it above the Ellison book, which is very pleasing, because did I mention that I really took against Ellison?

(All of this begs the question, how do we judge quality, in any case? Readability for the widest possible audience? Quality of writing – not a useful category when there is no actual bad writing to be seen here –? Personal enjoyment? I’m hoping that the last three related works will just blow me away so that my votes for these two don’t matter.)

Hugo reading 2018: Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Liz Bourke

I wasn’t going to do the Related Works in one big batch, but I accidentally opened Liz Bourke’s Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy on my Kobo and it was engaging enough that I kept reading.

For the Voter Pack, Bourke provided a 90-page extract from her book – the first two sections, I believe.  The book is a collection of reviews and reviewish essays, focusing on women SFF authors.

The first four reviews all talk about Susan R. Matthews’ novels, which centre around characters who do horrifying things because the situation is horrific and the alternatives appear worse. There is a lot of conflict between duty and honour and ethics in her work. Bourke’s reviews are tantalising – they make it crystal clear to me that I never, ever want to read the books, but she brings out elements that sound so fascinating that I wish I could. (Doubly frustratingly, the last, Avalanche Soldier, sounds as though it might be really my style – but evidently one simply can’t trust Bourke not to torture her characters, sometimes literally, so I’m not game to read it…)

The next three reviews are of books by RM Meluch. On the whole, Bourke wants to like them, but doesn’t – they have fun premises (Roman Empire fighting the USA – in space!), but many problematic elements – sadistic homosexuals seems to be a common theme; rape culture is another, alongside male gaze; and a certain background level of denigration of non-western cultures. Also, it sounds like Meluch hasn’t thought through the history that would give you Romans versus the USA in space, something that mildly irritates Bourke but would drive me batty… Jerusalem Fire, though, escapes these issues, and does sound interesting.

We then get reviews of two books she really likes – Slow River, by Nicola Griffiths, and Trouble and her Friends, by Melissa Scott. Both featured strong female main characters who were lesbians. Both went out of print shortly after publication and have only been republished recently. Bourke does not think this is a coincidence.

Part two is a lot of individual reviews. Reviewing reviews is beginning to feel silly, so I’ll just say that these were, by and large, books that Bourke really enjoyed and she sells them well and usefully – I got a good sense of whether or not I’d enjoy a particular book or not from her writing, which is the gift of a good reviewer. It helps that Bourke’s idea of a good book is character-driven, with complex emotional journeys and diverse characters. She’s more drawn to science fiction and darker themes than I am, but she writes about them very well and usefully, and, be it good or bad, everything she writes about sounds *interesting*.

Overall, Liz Bourke is a very engaging writer.  I enjoyed this collection of her work, and will keep an eye out for her reviews generally.

Hugo reading 2018: A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff

I’ll be doing the Related Work stuff interspersed with fiction categories over the next few weeks, because if last week is anything to judge by, this section can be somewhat hard work to read, because it’s lots of essays. And, like last year, I’ll probably give myself permission to skip a bit through some of the books of essays, just because there are only so many essays I can read in a row and get much out of them.

So, the first item on my list for this year was A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff (NESFA Press). I went into this with low expectations. The only thing I knew about Harlan Ellison prior to reading this was that he is a big name in SF and that he groped Connie Willis at the Hugos and then made a particularly egregious series of non-poligies. So I started with a certain bias against him, and that did tend to colour my thinking.

The introduction by David Gerrold did not help. It is cringe-inducingly fulsome. (Also, when translated to an ePub on my Kobo, it is in haiku. This didn’t help, and I resigned myself to reading in an incredibly tiny font again, sigh). There are, we are told, two Harlans: Authentic Harlan, who is wonderful and compassionate and witty etc, but only revealed to the Select Few, and Performance Harlan, who is just too, too, provocative and iconoclastic for words, but really, if you are offended by him, that’s probably a reflection on your own lack of understanding or whatever.

I am unimpressed. Frankly, he sounds like a tosser. I tend to feel that if you are only kind, charming and delightful to those you deem worthy, and are rude and obnoxious to everyone else, thenyou are probably not a very kind, charming or delightful person…

The author of the biography, Nat Segaloff, has also drunk the Harlan Ellison Koolaid, but at least provides more content. Though I found his cheery acceptance of the fact that Harlan ‘tests’ people by behaving badly and seeing how they handle it before letting him into his inner circle somewhat disturbing.

The Hugo packet for this book consisted of the aforementioned introduction, and Chapters 1, 5, 6, 10 and 16.

Chapter 1, “Morning in the Sunken Cathedral”, is about Ellison’s early life, which was characterised by a lot of childhood bullying, some of it anti-Semitic in nature, some of it because he was a self-acknowledged brat right from the start. There’s a rather illuminating quote from Harlan here:

“When you’ve been made an outsider, you are always angry. You respond to it in a lot of ways. Some people get surly; some people get mean; a lot of people become serial killers. I got so smart that I could just kill them with their own logic or their own mouth.”

I find this interesting because I was absolutely an outsider and bullied for most of my school life (and certainly used cleverness as a weapon, it being the only one available to me), but while I carry a fair bit of social anxiety and insecurity from that, I wouldn’t say I am particularly angry. Both Ellison’s reaction and the fact that he assumes it to be universal give a fascinating insight into how his mind works…

His family is dysfunctional in some fascinating ways; while his parents were clearly a unified and loving team, his relationship with his sister was toxic from the get-go, and it sounds like there was friction with all his parents’ siblings, too.

The other interesting bit about this section is that his childhood sounds pretty unpleasant, and he is still clearly very angry about a lot of people and things from his childhood (he is still holding grudges and making his childhood bullies into characters in his stories so that he can torture them in literary form), yet he describes his childhood as a happy one. This is an interesting disconnect, and may explain a certain amount about him.

Chapter 5, “Science Friction”, is mostly about Ellison’s attitude to writing, both his own and other people’s.  This didn’t grab me, but the most interesting aspects of it were his dislike for both the term science fiction and for genres generally (he views them as ‘laziness’ on the part of publishers and booksellers), and his very pragmatic view of writing as skilled labour, rather than an art form.

Chapter 6, “Teat for Two”, is probably the most fun chapter.  It mostly discusses his work as a film critic and occasional columnist.  There are extensive excerpts from his reviews, and I feel like he probably found his calling there – being a snarky, superior sort of git with a flair for writing seems to be a good fit for film criticism.  (Actually, this reminded me of the Babylon 5 novels featuring Bester, where he winds up spending a number of years living in Paris and becoming an extremely popular literary critic.  You don’t have to be a delightful person to be a gifted critic – it’s probably easier if you aren’t…) He also expresses his optimism about the human race, which is lovely, until he mentions that people who read romance novels undermine this.  Cheers, Harlan!  If it helps, you undermine my optimism about the human race, too.

Chapter 10, “The Snit on the Edge of Forever” is mostly about an argument about a Star Trek Episode.  Ellison wrote it, the director changed it, and it was interesting to read about the process of this, but having never seen the episode (or indeed much of Star Trek), it was a bit lost on me.

Chapter 16, “The Flight of the Deathbird”, is about ageing, mental illness, his stroke, and diagnosis with bipolar disorder. In fact, this is the most sympathetic chapter, perhaps because it’s the only time where Ellison shows any weakness – he is usually far too self-satisfied and superior for me to want to do anything other than throw rocks at him.

I’m sorry, he really irritated me.

So, here are some things I noticed throughout the book that bugged me, but which I don’t know if I would have noticed without the Connie Willis stuff.  On the one hand, Ellison clearly views himself as a champion of progressive values.  He was a strong supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, and in fact did a very public boycott of a state that was refusing to ratify it by living in a caravan during the convention, in order not to give any money to the state.  (Notably, this also gave *him* a lot of good publicity, which evidently didn’t hurt).  He was anti-Vietnam, and pro Civil Liberties.

His intentions were good.

But I can’t help noticing that all his most vitriolic criticisms – at least quoted in this book – are reserved for women, and they are just a little bit gendered.  I doubt he is conscious of this, but I suspect there is some baked-in, unconscious sexism there.   He also uses racial epithets like ‘Chinks’ – not viciously, but casually, in passing, when talking about going to the Chinese restaurant that his family went to when he was a child.  It’s hard to imagine that nobody has ever mentioned to him that this is not really OK any more – but it’s also hard to imagine him apologising or changing what he does for the sake of something as minor as someone else’s feelings.  He strikes me as someone who views intellectual superiority as the chief virtue, and doesn’t see why he should change his phrasing if *he* doesn’t mean it offensively.

I could be being unfair, but after reading this biography, I really don’t find myself liking Ellison any more than I did when all I knew about him was the groping incident.

I realise that this review is more about Ellison than the book, but the book is, in fact, mostly composed of quotes and descriptions of interviews with Ellison – it’s a fairly transparent look into how Ellison sees himself and the world, almost a memoir by proxy. In that sense, it succeeds; as a critical biography, it does not, since no attempt is made at criticism.  I’m not really sure how to judge it.  I think it probably does succeed in what it set out to do, but I don’t think it’s doing anything particularly interesting or striking.  And my antipathy for Ellison isn’t selling it to me, either.

Hugo reading 2017: Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley

And this brings us to the last of the Related Works, which is Kameron Hurley’s essay collection, Geek Feminist Revolution.  Hooray!  Or, as Courtney Milan would probably say, Huzzah!  Suffragettes!

I enjoyed this one a lot.  I was also rather pleased by the shout out to LiveJournal in the introduction, because I’m really very easy to please.

This essay collection is divided into four parts.  The first is about writing, and about being a woman on the internet.  Honestly, she makes it sound like very thankless work, especially in her essay about how persistence is the whole game, and in the recurring theme that yes, if you are a woman on the internet, people are going to say vile things to you, and while you shouldn’t have to deal with this, you are pretty much going to have to.  She also talks about sexism in the writing industry (apparently there is a perception that women only write werewolves and vampires, hard SF work written by women gets covers that looks like tampon ads, and of course the there is the predictable business about contracts that are less than what men get for similar work).  Hurley does talk about why she is still here, which is largely, I think, down to being inspired by Joanne Russ, and realising when she died that someone had to keep the torch burning, and that it was better when many people can share the load.

Reading these essays feels very much like reading one of the more fannish feminist blogs. This is probably because Hurley writes a fannish feminist blog.  Since I like reading fannish feminist blogs, this is right up my street.

I think one of my favourite essays in this section is called Taking Responsibility for Writing Problematic Stories. Hurley talks about a story she wrote where the only gay male character died.  She realised that this was problematic and tried to rearrange story to find a way that rescued the character without killing the story, but realised that she couldn’t do it.  So then she decided that she could at least improve representation of gay male characters in the story. But it still isn’t necessarily enough:

And though I stood there talking to the reader about all the things I’d tried to do both here and in later books to mitigate that problematic death, the gay guy still dies. I still played into the stereotype. And that stereotype still hurts people…

How we respond when someone tells us a trope or a story is problematic… is vitally important. It doesn’t always mean “Burn it all down”. It means this piece is broken and needs to be addressed. And if you are willing to live with that broken piece, it means owning up to it, saying yes, I know it’s damaging to people, and I own that.

I’m going to have to chew over that one, I think.

The next section is called Geek.  It starts off by and large being reviews of various movies and shows, rather in the tradition of problematic faves – pointing out misogyny and objectification of women but also pointing out where a show is good enough to capture her and even get her on side despite this.  I especially liked her review of Fury Road (which she does not, in fact, find problematic).  She does, however, believe that problematic stories – stories that are full of sexism and racism are economic dead ends.  Where there are stories available that don’t punch you in the face with things that you really don’t want, people will choose them.

The section then moves on to a collection of essays about gender roles and fictional characters, and what fictional characters are allowed to be.  Women, for example, can be strong, but not scary; they can be complicated, but not unlikeable in the ways men can be.  But men, while being permitted to be more complex, are also expected to cope with levels of violence and just absorb this in some way and not be traumatised it.  She also talks a bit about how a lot of the ideas we have about primitive humans come from 1950s fears and propaganda.

“Let’s be real. If women were “naturally” anything, societies wouldn’t spend so much time trying to police every aspect of their lives.”

She writes a lot of interesting things about assumptions we make about sexuality, including our own, and tells a rather striking story about how when she first had a crush on a girl she had no way to conceive of this outside a heterosexual narrative, and so she daydreamed about being male and thus able to flirt with this girl.  The idea that she could be a girl flirting with a girl didn’t cross her mind, because she liked boys, too, ergo she couldn’t be gay.

There is also a great essay on the importance of not becoming resigned and deciding that the world can’t be changed, which becomes a defense of dystopic fiction.  I hadn’t thought of dystopias as driving positive change – people see the place where they don’t want to go and are driven to fix things.  But you can’t have only dystopias, because people need hope, too.

“When you believe people can’t change the world, they win. Of course people can change the world. Who do you think got us here in the first place?”

Section three is called Let’s Get Personal, and it’s where we get a lot of essays about Hurley’s own life and the things that shaped her and made her who she is, from her weight and chronic illness, to her upbringing in a very white suburb (and subsequent studies in South Africa), to her life on the internet, both as herself and in a second persona who she created to be the things she couldn’t be.  This was one of my favourite parts of the book.  I especially enjoyed the article on Inspires Hate (which is a shitstorm I was never part of, though I knew a lot of people who got drawn into the many iterations of it, so I watched from afar as it all unfolded).

There is a particularly powerful piece on the Affordable Health Care Act, which seems both sad and timely in the current political environment.  I was also struck by Hurley’s view that tragedy is comforting to read about, because one can actually take the time to emote and have all the feelings that one doesn’t actually have the time or space for when one is actually dealing with awful things.

Honestly, this was the point where I gave up on analysing.  There were so many good articles in this section and in the final one, Revolution – on trolls on the internet, on reviewers and authors, on GamerGate and the Sad Puppies, and of course the wonderful We Have Always Fought essay – and it’s much less fun to read them when you have to keep on stopping to write about them.  Besides, at this point, I know that this book will be getting my top spot on the related works ballot, and you probably know enough to know whether you’ll like it too, so I’m allowed to stop.

Geek Feminist Revolution is timely, well-written, and I enjoyed reading it.  And I’m particularly glad I wound up reading it last in its section – it’s always nice to end on a high note!

Hugo reading 2017: The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher

Before I even opened The Princess Diarist, I was predicting that it would win its category this year. Princess Leia is such an iconic figure, Carrie Fisher seems to have been an absolutely lovely person, and with so many people so devastated by her recent death, it seemed like a shoo-in.

Having now read the excerpt provided in the Hugo Voter Pack, I’m even more certain that it will win, because it is really delightful – funny, insightful and a bit cheeky. I’m actually a bit sad that we only got an excerpt (a 60-page excerpt, but still), because it is a real pleasure to read.

The subtitle of this work is ‘a sort of memoir’, and Fisher based it on the diaries she kept as a young woman around the time when she starred in Star Wars.

The first section we get is Fisher reflecting on the suddenness of her Star Wars fame, and how she and her co-stars dealt with it. Apparently, nobody expected the film to do so well, so they had booked the three lead actors in for this rather extensive promotional tour which turned out to be entirely redundant. Fisher talks about trying to figure out what her personal style would be for interviews – Harrison Ford was apparently given to quoting from philosophers, something which Fisher, who had dropped out of school in year eleven, was unable to do, so she decided to take philosophy tutorials from a local university. But having done so she quickly ‘determined that to have two actors spouting philosophical gems to the moviegoing public was a bit much – a bit of smuggler monkey see, princess monkey do.’

“So after a very short while, I gave up on looking intelligent, thank God, and I continue that to this day. I would make it look like a devious plan when I seemed less than effervescent and approaching pedestrian (without a cross-walk). You couldn’t accuse me of doing a less-than-stellar job on the Johnny Carson show without my insisting that you had forgotten my telling you that that had been my attention all along.”

This is characteristic of Fisher’s style – self-deprecating, charming, and very much like someone I would like to be friends with.

She is also quite irreverent and not afraid to mince words.  The second chapter in the excerpt is called ‘Leia’s Lapdance’, which is how she refers to paid signings, talks, photographs – essentially the ways in which one earns a living by being an object of fandom’s adoration.  It’s an odd sort of piece, because it mixes a sort of fondness for her fans with what almost feels like contempt for herself for making a living from them.  There are lots of little quoted monologues – probably not reproduced exactly, but clearly quite typical in style – from fans trying to make a connection without tripping over their tongues, which seem both affectionate and a bit bemused – why are these people doing this?  And then she will say something like this:

“I need you to know that I’m not cynical about the fans. (If you thought I was, you would quite properly not like me, which would defeat the purpose of this book and of so much else that I do.)  I’m moved by them.

There’s something incredibly sweet and mystifying about people waiting in lines for so long. And with very few exceptions, the people you meet while lap dancing are a fine and darling lot…”

Fisher also talks about the weird realisation that she was a sex symbol (“It’s truly an honour to have been the first crush of so many boys.  It’s just difficult to get my head around having spent so much time in so many heads – and that time was of a certain quality.”), and the disappointment she gets from people on realising that she no longer looks like her 19-year-old self.

The final section we get in the voter pack is Fisher talking a little about Leia and her relationship with Leia and reflecting on who she might have been without Leia. Again, there is a theme of having been almost overwhelmed by her fame, and by her Leia persona, and resenting this, even as she realises that it was career-defining and career-launching.  There is also a certain amount of reflection on why, precisely, it is always the bikini outfit she is immortalised in.

So there you go.  I’m eschewing all critical thought and putting this one at the top of my ballot for now, simply because I enjoyed reading it,.  It’s just more fun to read something that is a coherent memoir than a collection of essays, at least for me.  Though I may yet change my mind and put Ursula Le Guin at the top again.

One left to read in this category, but you’re going to get some more Campbells first, because I’ve realised that if I read one more short story, that will give me my next batch of two authors to write about.

My goal is to finish the Campbells and Related Works Categories, and then I’m hoping to get through Best Novel and Best Series (the latter because I’ve already read three of the six series, and do not feel compelled to read more than the Hugo packet for the other three).  I think the films and TV episodes will be going by the wayside, as will the Zines.  Ooh, and I do want to read the Fan Writer category for Chuck Tingle.

All in the next nine days.  I may be a trifle over-ambitious here…

Also, I have to finish writing this week’s short story.  I’m doomed.

Hugo reading 2017: The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman

Hooray, only two left after this!  Which probably tells you a lot about how much I am enjoying this section.

I decided to bite the bullet and read the longest work in this section next – Neil Gaman’s collection of non-fiction writing, The View from the Cheap Seats.  It’s 544 pages long, and was the Puppy contribution to the ballot, but to be fair, this is almost certainly trolling, and I suspect it would have got up anyway.

There’s some good stuff in here.  I like the way the essays are grouped into different sections, starting with the basics, where he talks a lot about the things he values and his childhood and the bookshops he loves, then continues on with sections about writers, about music, about comics, about film, and about life in general.  There is a fair bit of humour in the essays, but probably the thing that stands out most for me is the palpable affection with which he speaks about authors and artists he knows – Diana Wynne Jones, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Tori Amos, and of course, Amanda Palmer.

But bloody hell, it’s long.

He starts with an essay called Credo, which is about the importance of ideas and of free speech, even (especially) the kind you don’t like.  It ends: ‘I believe that in the battle between guns and ideas, ideas will, eventually, win. Because the ideas are invisible, and they linger, and, sometimes, they can even be true.’

It’s a good place to start the collection.  There are some impassioned defenses of libraries and of reading and of escapist fiction – he quotes CS Lewis (an author who I really had not expected him to like as much as he does) a couple of times pointing out that the only people who are against escape are jailers.  I’m going to remember that one.

There are some nice anecdotes from his childhood – including one aboutf him reading Lord of the Rings and realising that it’s the best book that could possibly be written, which is a problem, because he wants to be a writer, and now what is he to do?  I also like his article about Halloween, and how it is an entirely different and creepier thing in England than it is in the US.  The article is interspersed with tiny, creepy, modern ghost stories.

I’m also interested in his idea of stories having genders.  He feels that all of his do, at any rate.  I’m trying to work out what gender, if any, my stories have.  I’m not sure that all of them have a gender, actually…

We move on to authors, and this section starts with an enjoyable piece about how photos of writers don’t show their true faces.  Writers can only truly be seen in their stories.  But if you see a writer writing, you might see his true face, and then you might never be seen again.

He then talks about authors and their books.  I especially enjoy his love of Diana Wynne Jones’ work.  He talks about always having to read her books two or three times to work out what she did, and comments that Diana Wynne Jones told him that children never seem to need to do that with her work – they read more closely.

I also enjoy his tips on how to read Gene Wolfe, which start by telling you to trust the text, because everything you need is there, and then in the very next line tell you not to trust the text further than you can throw it.

I especially liked his introduction to Poe, and was totally charmed by his introduction to Dracula, where he talks about starting to read it as a seven year old, then turning to the end of the book where he ‘read enough of it to be certain that Dracula died and could not get out of the book to harm me’.

I read books like that, too, only I’m 41.

I’m… a little uncomfortable with some of his introductions of people like, say, Lovecraft. He acknowledges the racism appropriately, but it seems a little too easy for him to set it aside and consider the positive literary aspects of the work. So that was a little something.

But overall, the intros to authors and their books are great – affectionate, informative, and with a real knowledge and love of the work.

I enjoyed his section on fairy tales, but his section on science fiction, while perfectly workmanlike, didn’t do a lot for me.  Bizarrely, I quite liked his reviews of films I have never seen and never will seen, especially his review of Bride of Frankenstein.  The reviews are very lively and thoughtful in considering what makes a film work and what constraints it has compared to other media.  Having written books and comics, some of which were turned into films, he has a very good grasp of this, of course.  Weirdly, I also really liked his essay on Dr Who, and a lot of his essays on comics, which again, I’m never going to read.  Bizarre.

My notes on his section on fairy tales seem to have been deleted – I know I enjoyed that section, but can’t say more.

I was unexpectedly delighted by his section on music, which was, again, a lot of bands I just don’t know and probably won’t see.  It’s particularly fascinating reading what he wrote about Amanda Palmer before he met her, and then after, and I loved his piece about the first time he saw her singing as part of Dresden Dolls, on their reunion tour (the band had broken up shortly before they started dating).  And Evelyn Evelyn, in which Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley sing as conjoined twins sounds fascinating and disturbing and bizarre.

There are a number of anecdotal pieces scattered throughout.  I liked Six to Six, when he was given the assignment of spending a night out in the streets of London.  And nothing happened, continuously, and for twelve hours.

5:40 – Ponder the touching concern in My Editor’s voice when I told her I’d wander the streets, her obvious worry that terrible things were going to happen to me. I should have been so lucky…

There was also a fun piece about going to the Academy Awards as a very unimportant person, a very serious piece he wrote for The Guardian about visiting a refugee camp in Jordan.

It’s a good collection, and a worthy Hugo nominee, with quite a bit of insight and moments that delighted me.  I like Gaiman’s voice, but that was always probable.   But I skimmed quite a bit of it, and I think if I hadn’t been reading it for voting purposes, I’d have given up early on.  It’s going third on my ballot, for now, after Le Guin and Harry Potter, but before the Silverberg.