Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Classic Ace Double: Big Planet/Slaves of the Klau, by Jack Vance

Ace Double Reviews, 73: Big Planet, by Jack Vance/Slaves of the Klau, by Jack Vance (#D-295, 1958, $0.35)

by Rich Horton

I'm dipping again into my reserve of Ace Double reviews written a long time ago, as I haven't finished my latest Old (non)-Bestseller. But this book seems important to me, as it's by one of SF's greatest writers, and it features a couple of fairly interesting early works. Also, as I have lost my web host for my home page, and haven't found a new one yet, it's nice to get some of the older posts back online.

Jack Vance (real name John Holbrook Vance) was born in 1916, and died in 2013. He was one of the most original of SF writers, and had a remarkably characteristic prose style. He has been one of my favorite writers for a long time.

(Cover by Ed Emshwiller)

Somehow right from the beginning Don Wollheim decided that Jack Vance books should be backed with Jack Vance books. Did he think Vance so individual an author, so unique in appeal, that he was best marketed as a unit? At any rate, this is the first of 7 Ace Doubles (not counting reprints and repairings) to feature Vance, and all but one of them had Vance on both sides. This book features two novels originally printed in single issues of Standard Magazines/Better Publications pulps: Big Planet in the September 1952 Startling Stories, and Slaves of the Klau, under the title "Planet of the Damned", in the December 1952 Space Stories. Both original magazine publications were full-length novels, in fact, both were longer than the subsequent book versions. Big Planet was abridged for its hard cover publication by Avalon in 1957, and this shorter version is the one reprinted in this Ace Double. It is a bit over 50,000 words long, while the magazine publication was at least 60,000 words. Slaves of the Klau is more like 42,000 words in this edition, and it was somewhat over 50,000 words in the magazine. The original versions of each were restored in the Underwood-Miller limited editions of 1978 and 1982 respectively, with Slaves of the Klau retitled Gold and Iron. (Its third title.) For the Vance Integral Edition Vance's original, darker, ending to Gold and Iron was restored (I'm not sure if that's the case with the Underwood-Miller book.) I have also read somewhere that a longer manuscript version of Big Planet, cut for first publication, was later lost -- I'm not sure if that's true, or if that's someone's garbled version of the the way it was cut for the early book editions.

Big Planet is one of Vance's best remembered early novels, and justifiably so. He had not yet quite developed his mature prose style (except for much of The Dying Earth), but traces of it definitely shine through in this book. And his delight in inventing odd societies is fully evident, as well as his usual hint of misogynism. (The latter present too in Slaves of the Klau.) Moreover, while Big Planet is to some extent a travelogue (one of Vance's most preferred modes), it also has a decently constructed plot with a satisfactory resolution.

Big Planet is a very large metal poor planet, fully inhabitable by humans. It has become a sort of repository for misfits tired of the regimented life on Earth, and a vast array of oddball groups have settled there over the centuries. The lack of long distance communications, and the sheer size of the planet, have meant that most societies have stayed fairly independent and isolated. But now it appears that one ruler, the Bajarnum of Beaujolais, has designs on conquering a large part of the planet. A new commission has been sent from Earth, led by Claude Glystra, to try to stop the Bajarnum, who is actually an Earthman named Charley Lysidder. But their ship is sabotaged, and they crashland near Beaujolais, but 40,000 miles from the Earth Enclave.

Glystra and his fellow survivors decide to try to make it to the Enclave -- but they have only local transport for their journey. Joined by a beautiful local girl, they begin the long journey. The novel, then, consists of this perilous trip, during which member after member of the group meets his death. They encounter some of the Bajarnum's soldiers amid a forest inhabited by men living in treehouses, nomadic raiders, a dangerous river crossing menaced by a plesiosaur-like monster, a town called Kirstendale with a delightful economic system that seems to allow everyone to live in luxury, an elevated sail-propelled sort of train (an idea he reused in one of his much later Anome books), and finally the Oracle of Myrtlesee. Glystra quickly realizes that one of their number must be a traitor, but who he cannot guess.

(Cover by Ed Valigursky)
Finally, at the Oracle, Glystra is able to make use of the Oracle's remarkable properties combined with a fortuitous discovery to take control of the situation. And too he encounters Charley Lysidder ... and also the traitor in their group. Things are resolved nicely enough: a very entertaining, clever, and colorful story, if not the equal of his best novels.

Slaves of the Klau is not as good, and indeed it is surely one of Vance's least-known novels. Though I still enjoyed it fairly well. As the story opens, Earth is occupied, very benignly, by a few members of the Lekthwan race, a very humanoid (to the point of being typically beautiful, if unusually colored) people who have given humans the benefits of some of their advanced tech. But Roy Barch, an employee of one of the Lekthwan administrators, is suspicious -- he believes the Lekthwan influence, even if well-intended, will stunt Earth's development. He is also somewhat hopelessly under the spell of the beautiful daughter of his employer. One night he takes her on a date -- resulting only in frustration as she makes it clear that she regards him as a hopeless primitive -- but on returning to the Lekthwan estate he finds all the residents murdered. He and Komeitk Lelianr, the Lekthwan girl, are rounded up by the attackers, the brutish Klau. It seems the Klau are evil slavers, trying to take over the galaxy, and given only token resistance by the virtuous but ineffective races such as the Lekthwan.

The course of the rest of the story is predictable -- upon arriving at the slave planet, Roy finds a way to escape with "Ellen" (as he calls Komeitk Lelianr), despite her ennui and her conviction that resistance is hopeless. After hooking up with a grubby bunch of escapees, Roy eventually hatches a desperate plan to make a spaceship from scratch and head back to Earth. Vance elaborates this rather routine plot pretty well -- Roy's efforts are far from fully successful according to his plans -- though they do end up having the desired effect; and Komeitk Lelianr doesn't immediately jump into Roy's arms. It's not a great novel at all, but it's enjoyable in the terms of early 50s pulp SF, and it prefigures later Vance pretty well, particularly in the character of Komeitk Lelianr, who is the standard late Vance aloof, superior, woman. The only departure is that at the end she comes back to Roy (admittedly somewhat hesitantly), while in later Vance she would have been more likely to meet a bitter end. (And I don't know how his preferred version, Gold and Iron, ends, but I suspect this is one aspect that changes.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Old Bestseller: The Fortune Hunter, by Louis Joseph Vance

Old Bestseller: The Fortune Hunter, by Louis Joseph Vance

a review by Rich Horton

Here again a "novelization" of a popular play. The Fortune Hunter, by Winchell Smith, was a big Broadway hit in 1909. (Smith (1871-1933) was an actor, director, and producer, of both plays and films, as well as a writer, and ironically his most famous play might be Brewster's Millions (1906) which was first a novel (published in 1902 by George Barr McCutcheon, originally as by "Richard Greave")). Vance's novelization of The Fortune Hunter appeared from Grosset & Dunlap in 1910, with illustrations by Arthur William Brown.

Louis Joseph Vance (1879-1933) was a successful writer as well. He was best known for creating the Lone Wolf (Michael Lanyard), the protagonist of eight of his novels, who also appeared in plays, many movies, and in radio and TV adaptations. His novels The Brass Bowl (1907) and The Black Bag (1908) appeared on Publishers' Weekly's list of the bestselling novels of those years.
(cover by Arthur William Brown)

The Fortune Teller opens with the hapless Nat Duncan getting fired again. Duncan had grown up rich, and so was unable to cope when his father lost his family's fortune shortly after he (Nat) graduated from college. Only the intervention of a successful college friend, Harry Kellogg, has kept him from complete disaster -- Harry's recommendation has led to several jobs, but he's lost them all after only a few months. Now he's determined to refuse further aid from his old friend, but Kellogg insists he try one last thing -- to marry a rich woman. Kellogg's scheme is that Duncan move to a country town, and find the wealthiest marriagable woman there, and impress her by his city ways, not to mention that fact that the most ambitious young men from those towns will have headed to the big city. Kellogg will bankroll Nat -- and he insists on some rules: no drinking, no smoking, no slang or vulgar language, weekly church attendance, and wait for the woman to propose. They agree to try this for a year.

This introductory section, I suspect, is one of Vance's additions. After this point the third person narrative is dropped, and the rest of the story is told by Homer Littlejohn, an aging and somewhat cynical newspaperman in Radville, PA. The exciting news of the day is the arrival of a Mysterious Stranger from New York. This of course is Nat Duncan, who quickly takes rooms.

Nat follows Kellogg's rules carefully, and after a couple of weeks is bored stiff. He finds that he actually wants to work, and starts looking for a job. He ends up somehow offering to work for Sam Graham, a widower who runs a drugstore with the help of his daughter. Sam is a very nice man, but a completely hopeless businessman. He only wants to tinker away at his inventions. And of course he has no money to actually pay Nat.

Despite the resentment of young Betty Graham, Nat is soon effecting unexpected improvements in the store, at first simply by tidying it; then by spending some of Harry Kellogg's money to buy some much needed supplies. His person attracts some custom from the curious young ladies in town -- but before long the real improvements in the store lead to some money being made. Meanwhile Nat has become the target of the richest girl in town, Josie Lockwood, also regarded as the prettiest. Alas, she's rather annoying, and her father isn't a nice man (he is about ready to foreclose on Sam Graham when Duncan fortuitously turns the store's fortunes around). But Kellogg's rules are strict -- so Duncan plays along, getting closer and closer to the inevitable engagement.

Meanwhile Roland Barnette, the young man who thought he was Josie's intended, is very jealous of Duncan, and is looking for a way to oust his rival. And one of Sam Graham's inventions appears to actually be very valuable -- and only Nat's quick thinking prevents Sam from all but giving it away to a sharp operator. And Betty, relieved of the drudgery of trying to save her father's failing business, and given a chance to go to school, blossoms into a beautiful young woman. It's obvious where this will lead -- Duncan is forced into accepting Josie's offer of marriage (it was part of Kellogg's rules that he promised to follow, after all) -- even though he is ironically a success on his own merits now (and has more than made Harry's money back by giving him a tip about investing (on fair terms) in Graham's invention). Worse, Duncan realizes he is truly in love with Betty. But he can hardly throw over Josie! Luckily, Roland's schemes bear fruit -- and he accuses Nat Duncan of being an escaped criminal. False identification of course -- but Josie is quick to break the engagement, so all is well ... (And Nat, of course, realizes that he actually likes going to church, and doesn't like drinking or smoking any more ...)

It's obviously frothy and implausible as all get out, not to mention predictable. As with the previous play to novel I reviewed (Bayard Veiller's Within the Law) I suspect it worked better as a play. The long introduction too firmly establishes Nat as a hopeless (if pleasant and honest) loser, and so his sudden transformation into a maven of the drugstore business simply can't convince. But despite all that it's pleasantly enough presented, with some reasonably comic moments, so I enjoyed it enough to pass the time.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Another Forgotten Ace Double: The HEROD Men, by Nick Kamin/Dark Planet, by John Rackham

Ace Double Reviews, 105: Dark Planet, by John Rackham/The HEROD Men, by Nick Kamin (#13805, 1971, 75 cents)

a review by Rich Horton

Honestly I don't intend to make the Ace Double subset of these reviews into the "John Rackham Show". But here's another "John Rackham" novel. (Years ago on the much lamented Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written I did a small series of posts on the "Novels of ..." a few writers -- a couple of major ones (Gene Wolfe, Charles Harness, and Avram Davidson) and some lesser known writers (Tom Purdom and Laurence M. Janifer). I'd been meaning to cover Damon Knight as well, but haven't got to him. Now I have the insane notion of doing something like that for Rackham/Phillifent!) Anyway, as I've said before, "John Rackham", real name John T. Phillifent, was a fairly prolific SF writer under both the "Rackham" name and his real name. He was born in 1916 in England, and died in 1976; and published something North of 20 novels, fully 16 of them Ace Double halves.

The other writer this time around is one of those who published very little, though as opposed to the likes of, say, Jeremy Strike, he did publish more than one novel. Two, actually, the other being also an Ace Double (Earthrim (1969)). "Nick Kamin"'s real name was Robert John Antonick, born in Chicago in 1939. He attended the University of Dayton, and seems to have settled in the Dayton area, working in advertising. He was also an artist. He died in 2011.
(Covers by John Schoenherr and Jack Gaughan)

The HEROD Men (I give the key word of the title in all caps as that's the way it's always spelled in the text -- the cover and title page don't make it at all clear) is the longer of these two novels, at about 60,000 words. It's set in the fairly near future, in a world where overpopulation has led to the formation of an extra-governmantal organization, HEROD, devoted to controlling population by killing excess babies (and their parents). The novel's hero, Matter, is an ex-soldier who joined the organization partly because he's good at killing. His latest job is to investigate a free love commune run by his old friend and colleague Philip, up in Manitoba. The commune is suspect in itself (free love equals the potential of excess babies, right?), but they are also suspected of being in cahoots with FROG, a Fundamentalist religious organization devoted to unfettered reproduction, which is trying to build a spaceship to colonize an empty planet.

(All this detail, by the way, takes a long time to emerge. That can be a canny authorial strategy, but in this case it seems mostly just to obfuscate.)

Having escaped one attempt at his life, Matter finds his motel room invaded by a fetching young lady. He insists that she strip, the better to see her concealed weapons (not to mention the better to inspect her voluptuous body), and then, I suppose convinced that she's a plant from Philip's commune, he lets her lure him into a trap, and he's knocked out and taken to the commune.

The upshot is that Matter spends weeks in the commune, discovering that they seem mostly innocent. They do have a lot of sex, but not a lot of babies. But there are some odd things, particularly the technologically advanced barrier around it ... And then there's Matter's increased obsession with the fetching young woman, Stuckey, who had lured him there -- before long they are sleeping together -- but chastely, to his considerable frustration.

In parallel, we see the FROGs working on their spaceship project. It turns out that only 400 people will fit in the ship -- there is room for 2000, but the FROGs intend to keep procreating on the long journey, so by the end 400 people will have ballooned to enough to use up the resources needed by 2000. But wait -- a young nun, despite medical evidence that she is fertile, and despite being "serviced" by numerous priests of the order, has not got pregnant. Does she have the secret of willed contraception?

The identity of this nun is easy to untangle. And so too is what happens when she finally wilfully gives herself to a man she truly loves. And this happens as Matter, finally allowed out of the commune, starts to get closer to the secret of who is after him -- at the cost of some collateral damage. The resolution, obviously, turns on his coming to terms with his violent past, and with his love for Stuckey, etc.

It's kind of a mess, very sloppily plotted. That said, it reads engagingly enough. The (mostly implied) sex is not badly handled, if somewhat '70s-style sexist. There is a pretty broad homophobic streak as well. It's a pretty weak book, but at least a book that entertains one tolerably.

As for Rackham's Dark Planet (much shorter at about 40,000 words), well, it's kind of the same in a very different way. That is to say -- it's quite sexist, and often rather silly, but it's a good fast read (and sometimes pretty exciting), and I'm happy enough to have read it.

It does display some of Rackham's apparent obsessions, the most obvious being having his heroes fall in love with exotically-colored alien (but very humanoid) women. And it quite overtly resembles the last Rackham novel I read, and reviewed in this series, Flower of Doradil, in that it features a human trio (two men and a voluptuous woman with martial arts skills) penetrating a "dark planet", coming into contact with a "primitive" humanoid race, after which they meet a much superior also humanoid race, and a gorgeous female representative of said race. (That presentation, to be sure, exaggerates the similarities between the two novels.)

Dark Planet opens with Stephen Query on a trip outside the Earth base on the inimical planet they call Step Two. This is a jungle planet on which humans have established a small base to serve as a waystation between Earth and the front of the war they are fighting with a human colony trying to become independent. Stephen is an artistically inclined young man who has been exiled to Step Two for insubordination (i.e. telling his superiors, correctly, that they were wrong). He has discovered a fascination with the terribly dangerous natural surface of the planet, outside the human dome. And one day he sees a humanoid figure ...

But then he is suddenly promoted to work for the very General Gareth Evans who had previously punished him. Worse, Evans' daughter Christine, a Lieutenant, and an extraordinarly beautiful (and voluptuous) young woman, will be his only fellow crewman. But as they leave the planet, their ship explodes (sabotage!), and only Query's quick thinking saves them, at least to the point of parachuting to the planet's surface. There they discover that though the planet is indeed dangerous -- and all "dead" material, such as clothing, is eaten away, so that Stephen and Christine are quickly naked -- humans can survive. Soon they have encountered the same humanoids Stephen saw before, and Stephen realizes he has an empathic connection with the natives.

The natives take them in. Stephen and Christine get together briefly, but rather quickly the natives welcome a special visitor -- a Helsee, in their word. This is an ethereally beautiful woman, colored as white as a pearl. Her name is Azul, and she summons Stephen to her, and takes him flying away -- her powers are such that she can levitate. Several months follow in which she heals him and enhances them -- a process which seems to involve mostly sex. But then it is time for one important task -- to cleanse the world of the Earth base: humans are not welcome on this world, not even Stephen, because of their war. But even that ends up conflict free -- Stephen fetches the General and Christine, both much improved by their months with the natives (and lots of sex for them, too), and, voila, the war is over and the base is being abandoned anyway. Which frees Stephen -- who has finally learned to fly himself -- to rejoin his beloved Azul.

So, another fairly silly male fantasy, really. Rackham's professional ability, and some decent action sequences, make it a quick and moderately entertaining read, but not much beyond that.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Old Bestseller: Penrod, by Booth Tarkington

Old Bestseller: Penrod, by Booth Tarkington

a review by Rich Horton

Here is a true Old Bestseller, despite being to some extent a children's book: Penrod was #7 on the Publishers' Weekly list of bestselling novels of 1914. Booth Tarkington was a very successful writer, and showed up on that list a lot. He had the bestselling novel overall in 1915 (The Turmoil) and 1916 (Seventeen), and he also was in the top ten in 1902 (The Two Vanrevels), 1922 (Gentle Julia), 1924 (The Midlander), 1927 (The Plutocrat), 1928 (Claire Ambler), and 1932 (Mary's Neck). Curiously, his most famous novel (besides perhaps Penrod), Pulitzer Prize winner The Magnificent Ambersons (1918), did not make the list, and neither did his other Pulitzer Prize winner, Alice Adams (1921), though doubtless both sold well enough.

Booth Tarkington (1869-1946) was born in Indianapolis, and was a lifelong partisan of Indiana (his first novel was called The Gentleman from Indiana). He was named after a Governor of California (Newton Booth). He attended both Purdue and Princeton (where he became friends with Woodrow Wilson). He served one term in the Indiana House. He was a truly major author in his time, but his reputation has, it seems to me, diminished a great deal. He is now mostly remembered for The Magnificent Ambersons (and that in great part because of the famously botched Welles film) and for Penrod, and both of those books are much less read now than they once were.

(drawing by Gordon Grant, photograph of Wendell Berry as Penrod)
My copy of Penrod is a Grosset & Dunlap reprint (the original publisher was Doubleday, Page). It includes the original Gordon Grant illustrations, and also a few photographs from the 1922 silent film version, suggesting that this reprint dates to about then.

I said above that Penrod is to some extent a childrens' book, and that is true -- to an extent. But it is definitely a book that appeals to adults -- or did at the time when adults saw nostalgic echoes of their own childhoods in Penrod's. When I was young, my mother recommended Penrod to me -- it was one of those books boys were thought likely to like -- but though I remember getting it out of the library, I didn't read it.

Penrod is a very episodic book, depicting a number of comic adventures of Penrod Schofield, "The Worst Boy in Town" (presumably the Town is Indianapolis). Much -- perhaps all -- of the book originally appeared as separate stories, or sketches, in Cosmopolitan (and perhaps elsewhere). Penrod is 11 throughout most of the book, turning 12 at the end. The other major characters are his family, especially his older sister Margaret (whose love life is much disrupted by her younger brother), his best friend Sam, his two black friends Herman and Verman, his "bow" Marjorie Jones, and a few other schoolmates. And of course his dog Duke.

The incidents depicted include Penrod's agonized and disastrous role as Childe Lancelot in "The Pageant of the Table Round"; Penrod assuming that his Aunt is visiting because she is fleeing Uncle John, whom he presumes to have fallen victim to drink; Penrod and Sam putting on a show featuring numerous attractions including Herman and Verman as Tattooed Wild Men, and (much more funnily) rich boy Roderick Magsworth Bitts, Jr., as the ONLY LIVING NEPHEW oF RENA MAGSWORTH THE FAMOS MUDERESS; Penrod getting Marjorie's younger brother terribly sick; Penrod skipping the dance; Penrod deciding to become a bully; Penrod reacting to the new minister in town, a terrible bore who seems interested in Margaret; Penrod's 12th birthday; and many more.

A lot of this -- most of it -- is really very funny. Penrod is not really terribly intelligent (and he truly is a bad student), but he does have an active imagination. (And he likes to spread paint and tar quite liberally!) Bores and phonies tend to get their due. Penrod himself gets his due, some of the time -- and at other times, such as after his embarrassment of the Bitts family, he unexpectedly gets a reward. So -- I enjoyed it, and I can easily see why it was such a big success. (There were two sequels, Penrod and Sam (1916) and Penrod Jabsher (1929).)

But -- what about the elephant in the room? Which is to say -- racism. And let's face it, the depiction of Herman and Verman, Penrod's friends, is undoubtedly condescending, steretypical, and racist. For all that, Herman and Verman come off as basically good kids, and Penrod really does treat them as friends. Worse, I think, are Tarkington's authorial comments -- his declarations about the true nature and abilities of black people -- are really offensive. I have little doubt that these observations were more or less consistent with fairly mainstream views at that time. But that doesn't excuse them, and certainly it is easy to understand why many people might prefer not to read a book like Penrod any more -- or especially not to have their children read it.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A first look at the Hugo Shortlist, 2017

A first look at the Hugo Shortlist,

By Rich Horton

The Hugo Shortlist for 2017 has been announced, and I thought I’d give the off the top of my head comments on it. First, let me sincerely congratulate all the folks on the shortlist – you did good work, and I’m happy for you. That said, I obviously don’t agree 100% -- or even 50% -- with the shortlist, as a look at my earlier nomination thoughts will reveal. Of course, that’s hardly unusual – in fact, it’s common. In most cases, my complaints – such as they are – merely mean that I think a good story was chosen over a better one. So – I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade! But I do want to say what I really think.

Best Novel
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, translated by Ken 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)

So, anyway, I really don’t have any complaints in this category! Partly, perhaps, that’s because I haven’t read as many novels as I should have. But in reality, I think this shortlist looks very impressive indeed. I had already read All the Birds in the Sky and Too Like the Lightning before my previous article, and I had suggested that I’d nominate All the Birds in the Sky (which I did). I also praised Too Like the Lightning, but suggested that I wanted to see its completion (which looks like it will take two more books!) before I was sure of it. Still, I liked it, and I’m happy to see it here. Since then I’ve gotten to Ninefox Gambit, and I very enthusiastically support its nomination. (I’m working on a review post about it.) Ninefox Gambit is complicated Military SF, which sort of teaches you how to read it as you go along. It’s got a fierce moral core, which is slowly revealed, and it opens up beautifully at the end, so that I don’t think the second book in the trilogy will be a “middle book”. And – this novel is reasonably speaking complete in itself.

I haven’t read the other three. But everything I’ve seen about A Closed and Common Orbit suggests I’ll like it – and also suggests that I really need to get to Chambers’ previous novel, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. The other two novels are sequels to the past two Hugo winners, and I have no reason to doubt their quality as well. This is probably the Best Best Novel shortlist in at least 5 years.

And, hey, three first novels! Is that the first time that’s ever happened?

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

I don’t have serious problems with this shortlist either. There is one serious snub, in my view: Lavie Tidhar’s “The Vanishing Kind” seemed the second best novella of the year to me. But the best novella of the year is here, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe. Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom is a strong novella too, as I noted in my previous post. I was less pleased with Penric and the Shaman, which to me is the weakest Penric story so far. But it’s at least enjoyable.

I didn’t get to A Taste of Honey nor Every Heart a Doorway until after they made the Nebula final ballot, but I have read them since. I really enjoyed A Taste of Honey – it will probably end up second on my Hugo ballot. (I’d still rank it behind “The Vanishing Kind”, mind you, and in the same range as Suzanne Palmer’s more adventure-oriented “Lazy Dog Out”.) But it’s a lovely story, and very original, if somehow sort of small-scale – but that’s not really necessarily a bad thing. Every Heart a Doorway, however, didn’t really work for me. I expected to like it a lot, but it really dragged – I thought it significantly too long. Some nice ideas, however.

As for This Census Taker, I haven’t yet read it. (I chose to read Mieville’s other book-length novella from last year, The Last Days of New Paris, on the recommendation of a friend who really liked it, and who thought This Census Taker an interesting failure.)

Best Novelette
Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock (self-published)
“The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan ( , July 2016)
“The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, by Fran Wilde ( 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)

No comment on the Hiscock story, a Rabid Puppy recommendation that seems very unlikely to be worth reading – though I dare say I’ll give it a look to be fair. Aside from that, there are three stories I liked a lot. One of them is “The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, which I mentioned in my nomination thoughts as a potential entry for my nomination ballot. I didn’t mention either the Allan or the Gilman stories, but both are really very good, and while I miss the stories I had on my list, these are worthy nominees.

As for “The Tomato Thief” and “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, these strike me as well-written stories, solid work, that didn’t wow me. That, really, didn’t interest me that much. Very possibly the fault is mine. I will reread them, to be sure. But in all honesty, on almost every ballot there are going to be a couple stories in this category – stories I think are nice work, that I can see how other people chose to nominate, but that just don’t stand with my personal favorites. I dare say that’s a feature, not a bug.

And I really really regret that magnificent work like, most especially, Genevieve Valentine’s “Everybody From Themis Sends Letters Home”, did not make the shortlist. But, hey, that happens every year.

Best Short Story
“The City Born Great”, by N. K. Jemisin (, September 2016)
“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, by Alyssa Wong (, 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 (, March 2016)
“An Unimaginable Light”, by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

OK, I haven’t read the John C. Wright story. As I’ve said before (the last time he got nominated!), he has done some very good work in the past. He has talent. I don’t think he gets the editorial attention he needs these days. And he has some obsessions that don’t match mine. But I can’t reject his work out of hand. So, we’ll see.

I really like Carrie Vaughn’s story, and indeed it was on my nomination ballot. So no complaints there. All the other stories strike me as – stop me if I’ve said this before! – nice work that isn’t quite Hugo-worthy. Again – maybe my fault. I just reread Brooke Bolander’s story, and it is pretty darn good, in a very short space. It probably stands second on my putative ballot right now. But I have more rereading to do.

I have less to say about the remaining categories. In many cases I’m just not familiar enough with all the works. Some of my nominees made the ballot – Traveler of Worlds in Related Work, Arrival in Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, pretty much the entire Best Editor Short Form ballot, Rocket Stack Rank in Best Fanzine,  Abigail Nussbaum in Best Fan Writer, and Ada Palmer for the Campbell. My only strong regret, really, is that Black Gate didn’t get a Fanzine nomination, and obviously I’m prejudice there. And the only other nomination (besides the Rabids) that really really annoys me is the Chuck Tingle nomination. Frankly, I think that’s a slap at the many many real fanwriters out there. (And, frankly, I don’t find Chuck Tingle all that funny. YMMV, of course.)

So I present the rest of the ballot for information purpose. And I apologize for the wonky formatting – I started by copying from io9, but they chopped off the list in the middle of Best Fancast. So I finished with the official list from the Hugo site – which is really where I should have started!

Best Related Work
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 (
Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

Best Graphic Story
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)
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)
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
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow
Jonathan Strahan
Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form
Vox Day
Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Devi Pillai
Miriam Weinberg
Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist
Galen Dara
Julie Dillon
Chris McGrath
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine
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
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
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 cast for 275 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 80 to 152.
§  Mike Glyer
§  Jeffro Johnson
§  Natalie Luhrs
§  Foz Meadows
§  Abigail Nussbaum
§  Chuck Tingle

Best Fan Artist
528 ballots cast for 242 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 39 to 121.
§  Ninni Aalto
§  Alex Garner
§  Vesa Lehtimäki
§  Likhain (M. Sereno)
§  Spring Schoenhuth
§  Mansik Yang
Worldcon 75 has elected to exercise its authority under the WSFS Constitution to add an additional category for 2017 only:
Best Series
A multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, appearing in at least three (3) volumes consisting in total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the previous calendar year, at least one volume of which was published in the previous calendar year. If any series and a subset series thereof both receive sufficient nominations to appear on the final ballot, only the version which received more nominations shall appear.
Note that there is a pending amendment to the WSFS Constitution that, if ratified by the 2017 WSFS Business Meeting, will add Best Series as a new permanent category. The definition above is based on the wording of the proposed new category.
1393 votes for 290 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 129 to 325.
§  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)

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2014 or 2015, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.)
933 votes for 260 nominees.
Votes for finalists ranged from 88 to 255.
§  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)