Five Faves: Space Opera Books — #MonthofJoy

It's Five Faves time! Throughout the month of June, I'll be diverting attention away from the things I'm supposed to be doing in order to spend a little time babbling about the things that I love. This feature will do exactly what it says:  list five of my favorite things in a category. Most of the lists will be "on topic," which is to say "related to SF/F in some way," but some lists will be on my other ancillary interests, such as reptiles, books of theory, pies, and...wait...pie? Oh my god, I love pie! Anywho...today's post, as the title suggests, will list 5 of my favorite space operas. I will use the following criteria for this list:
  • Books will be taken to mean "narrative fiction at novel length" rather than the broader definition we use today. Comics and graphic novels deserve their own list anyway. That means no movies either.
  • I'm using my personal definition of space opera. I'm happy to talk about that definition at another time, but for now, I just want to share some things I love!
Here we go: Read More

5 Lesser Known SF/F Cold War Films

It seems Ian Sales and I are playing a list challenge game, and this list is sure to disappoint him this round.  Why?  Because I'm pretty sure two of the options on my list don't actually qualify except in my head.  But we do what we can, no? This time around, I was challenged to come up with a list of 5 lesser known Cold War films that fit roughly in the sf/f genre.  The rules were as follows:
  • The film must be sf/f-ish (duh)
  • The film must be set in the historical period called the Cold War OR
  • The film must directly engage with the Cold War via alternate or future history (metaphors and obscure allegories do not count)
  • The film must be "lesser known" based on my interpretation of that phrase
Now for the list: Read More

My Top 12 Books Read in 2014

I said on Twitter that I would make this list because I had such a hard time picking a winner for the 2013/2014 WISB Awards.  Basically, this list is my guilt getting the better of me, because I love so many things and hate having to pick.

So, in no particular order (because I cannot rank these books without feeling as though I have committed a great atrocity against these authors), here are my top 12 books read in 2014:

Breach Zone by Myke Cole (Ace Books)

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar (Hodder and Stoughton)

Hurricane Fever by Tobias Buckell (Tor Books)

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta (Harper Voyager)

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway Books)

Zero Sum Game by SL Huang (Self-Published)

The Three by Sarah Lotz (Little, Brown, and Company)

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (Jo Fletcher Books)

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (Orbit Books)

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar (Small Beer Press)

Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan (Candlewick Press)

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot Books)

Now this is the part where everyone piles on in the comments and tells me how wrong I am.  How could I have missed X book?  How could I have loved Y so much?  Bring on your questions and accusations.  I dare you!

------------------------------------------

Honorable Mention:  I Am Spock by Leonard Nemoy (Hyperion)

The 10 Best Science Fiction Movies Since 2000

I recently challenged Ian Sales* to name 10 films since 2000 that were better than Interstellar (2014).  OK, that's not entirely true.  I challenged him to create a top 10 list of the best SF flicks since 2000; for Ian, they're basically the same thing. He's already released his list here.  It contains some interesting choices, to say the least.  While I disagree quite strongly with some of his selections, I do have to give him credit for not creating another boring "usual suspects" top 10 list; sadly, I'm probably going to disappoint people on that front.

My list will only contain feature length productions, as short films should probably be discussed on their own.  I've made no other distinctions with regards to format (live action, animated, adaptation, etc.) or delivery method (theater or straight-to-DVD).

Alright, here goes:
  1. Inception (2010)
    This film continues to haunt me. Though its concept may not be original (Duck Tales, FTW), its clever use of the heist format to tell a dream-laden scifi action thriller with an ambiguous ending left me clamouring for more.  Inception forced me to rethink about the soundtrack's engagement with the narrative, too; the collaboration of Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan has produced some of the most experimental scores in blockbuster cinema (listen to the film next time you watch it; really listen).  Through and through, this is my favorite movie from this period.
  2. Children of Men (2006)A beautiful, yet grungy examination of an infertile human culture struggling to survive.  Much like the other films on this list, Children of Men examines humanity's variant responses to catastrophe.  Alfonso Cuarón's direction, however, gives this one an edge over other dystopias.  The single-shot chase scene is easily one of the most impressive moments in SF film since 2000.
  3. The Place Promised in Our Early Days (Kumo no Mukō, Yakusoku no Basho)(2004)
    Makoto Shinkai's alternate history allegory for the Cold War remains one of my favorite animated films of all time.  Crafted with a certain minimalist style in terms of its characters, PPOED's teenage protagonists are nuanced sides to a coin resting on its side.  Even the science fiction premise -- an experimental tower which has the ability to re-map our Earth with the landscape of an alternate, barren one -- gives the film a beautiful symbolic resonance that I cannot stop thinking about (which may explain why I published a paper on this flick).
  4. Interstellar (2014)
    I contemplated placing this higher on the list, but the more I thought about it, the less sure I was that Interstellar fit the #1 SF film since 2000 rubric. Regardless, the epic character drama and visual spectacle that is Nolan's almost-magnum-opus will continue to resonate with me for years. McConaughey's performance alone is enough to break your soul, and the concentration of themes, though heavy-handed at times, left me physically affected.
  5. Cloud Atlas (2012)
    Easily the most ambitious film on this list, Cloud Atlas is as much a theme-movie as Interstellar.  The Wachowski brothers managed to take a complicated, almost unfilmable novel and translate it into a multi-layered, multi-themed dramatic epic.  Though the film may have taken a misstep in its racial presentation, the overall product is a thing of beauty that will probably be forgotten -- a great tragedy of our time. 
  6. Her (2013)
    Of the films on this list, Her is probably the most character-oriented of them all.  This nuanced examination of near future Millenials interacting with their AIs takes pains to give us an honest look at what that might mean.  How would our relationships progress?  Could you love an AI?  Could an AI love you?  The film's ending provides an almost somber answer, demonstrating the real violence inherent in artificial intelligence:  that they might abandon us entirely.
  7. The Dark Knight (2008)
    Heath Ledger's performance deserved its Oscar; here, Nolan strips Batman completely from his comic book roots (something I think Batman Begins failed to do) and injects the gritty reality of larger-than-life crime into a franchise that had for so long been about visual spectacle (of the Gothic variety).  From the Joker's social experiments to Bruce Wayne's questionable actions, The Dark Knight offers a landscape within which we should think about the interaction of morality and law.
  8. Sunshine (2007)
    The first Danny Boyle film on this list, Sunshine is one of those films which gets a lot of flack for its "twist ending."  I, however, love the ending if only because it resonates with the film's opening shots of Cliff Curtis "communing" with the Sun.  Personally, I am a fan of films which can bring a little philosophical depth to an otherwise standard "save the world" narrative.  Boyle delivers with a diverse cast and a whole lot of gorgeous shots of space.
  9. Pacific Rim (2013)
    The only CGI festival blockbuster on this list, Pacific Rim is the kind of film that you love unless you're someone with bad taste or a desire to be punched (I kid).  Guillermo Del Toro's mecha vs. giant monsters spectacle gave me everything I had hoped for in a film of that type, but then layered on a decent character-oriented plot to give the film a little bit of soul.  Unlike other giant robot movies which shall not be named, this one seemed to care about the main cast and their trials rather than giving all of the attention to overblown action sequences with no purpose other than to make our eyes bleed.  I've seen this film multiple times now, and I'd see it again in a heartbeat.
  10. 28 Days Later (2002)
    A novel engagement with an otherwise tired horror concept. The opening scenes of Cillian Murphy wandering the dilapidated streets of London are chilling, but it is the terrible cost of humanity which makes 28 Days Later my favorite zombie-themed film of all time.  There is a certain beauty in Boyle's direction, which may explain why he appears twice on this list.
Honestly, the ranking is meaningless.  I don't think I'd put things in the same slots if you asked me to look at this list in a year.  So do with that what you will.  It's also worth noting that only one film from this year appears on the list, and that's for a good reason.  Films need time to sink in, to find their place within the SF field; they also need time to get away from their hype or anti-hype.  I feel weird about including Interstellar here before it has had that time, and if you asked me later whether I'd still include it, I'd probably tell you "no."  Not because I don't love it (I do), but because I don't feel I can actually assess the film outside of the context of its release.  But Ian and I disagreed about how good Interstellar was, and so I had to include it on this list.

In any case, you're free to disagree with me in the comments.  If you think I missed something, let me know!

---------------------------------

*Ian Sales is the author of the exceptional "Adrift on the Sea of Rains," which I've been meaning to review since I could walk.  I'm a terrible reviewer who deserves no love...That said, you really should read that story (and the ones that follow it).

5 Annoying Author Habits on Twitter

I spend far too much time on Twitter, which means I read a lot of tweets from a lot of authors.  Some authors are great at interacting, carving out their little niche and creating a kind of Twitter persona to represent them.  Others, however, are kind of like social media bacterial infections who must do everything they possibly can to sell their own work; they basically turn into walking spam monkeys.  And still others present themselves as bitter, rage-infested monsters fit for the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars.  Neither of these latter two groups are particularly fun to engage, which might explain why the five things I've listed here haven't actually helped many of these individuals develop a steady writing career.

Here goes:

Constantly Complaining About Your Career
There are two kinds of career complaints:

  1. Legitimate grievances which occasionally happen and need to be addressed in a public forum (or privately in a different context)
  2. Unsubstantiated complaints about why your work isn't doing as well as you'd like

Whether or not it is actually true that there's a conspiracy to keep you from being successful, constantly harping about such things makes you look less like a victim and more like a bitter failure.  I have seen authors rant and rant about how their careers aren't going the way they want, but it's not their fault; someone else is responsible for the fact that their books don't sell.  It's certainly possible that you're being sabotaged by individuals or an -ism, but it is more likely your work isn't selling for reasons within and beyond your control:  your writing isn't good enough, you don't know how to market your work, you are writing X when the market is tired of it, nobody actually knows who you are because you're published by a nobody, the previous book sold better than the second because it got into more bookstores, many of which are now closed, and so on an so forth.

A lot of the times, the first two are the most likely culprits.  Not everyone is a great writer.  Some authors have pushed ahead too soon, expecting that their writing will meet the demands of the market.  There's no easy way to tell these folks that they need to spend more time developing their writing style and learning the craft.  If you say anything, they'll go back to the conspiracy theories about how you're out to ruin their career or whatever.  I've yet to see one of these conversations go well on Twitter, which I suppose is to be expected.  Regardless, this perspective on the world of publishing is an annoying one, as the individual who believes it tends to become engrossed in the conspiracy against themselves, turning bitter, angry, and sometimes rude.

Inserting Yourself Into Every Vaguely "Relevant" Hashtag
Hashtags are a great Twitter tool.  They're useful for spreading opinions about a topic among a wider range of users.  I've started running a hashtag called #monthlyreads, which is designed for a once-a-month sharing of the things you read.  I expect this hashtag to get abused.

Most people are pretty good about hashtags.  They understand that they are for having a conversation or sharing information, and so they use it for that single purpose.  But then there is that minority of people who believe every hashtag that is vaguely related to their work is a perfect place to insert said work.  This happens most often in hashtags for sharing works of literature that fit within a category (diversity, for example).  Everyone else shares their favorite books while some random author pops up to suggest their own work.

There's nothing inherently wrong with mentioning your own work on Twitter, but there is something tacky and downright annoying about constantly inserting said work into these hashtag conversations.  Hashtags are not exclusively promotional in attitude, and so it is blatantly obvious that an author is trying to hawk their work when they join these conversations.  Authors who do this are also rarely good writers.  There's something off about their work, either because it is substandard and has been self-published on the cheap or it is released through questionable means or the author is simply desperate and doesn't know how to properly advertise.

Hashtags are not about you.  They are communal.  Using them incorrectly is, frankly, irritating.  It doesn't bode well for you as an author if a portion of your potential readers identify you and your work with negative emotions.

Constantly Being Angry About Stuff
It doesn't matter what you're angry about:  local politicians, racism, bad food, the fact that monkeys stole your wallet, sexism, liberals, how much you hate Country X, conservatives, gerbils, people who tweet about their cats...doesn't matter.  If your Twitter account is a long stream of angry tweets about anything in particular, it gives me the impression that you are an insanely angry person and, therefore, unapproachable.  In my mind, that's a bad thing.  I'm an aspiring author and a podcaster.  If I have little interest in interviewing you because you seem bitter and angry all the time, then I can assume other podcasters, interviewers, and so on might feel the same way.

This isn't to suggest that you shouldn't complain about things that bug you.  Twitter is a social network, after all, and that means you should use it to, well, be social.  Anger is part of our social culture.  But it should be clear that you also like things.  Movies, hamburgers, recycling, the smell of new books...whatever.  If the entire world pisses you off all the time, maybe you need to re-evaluate your entire life.  There are good things on this planet, and your social network presence should show more than just the things that drive you up the wall.

There's also a separate issue here:  people who are bitter and angry all the time (or most of the time) are also more likely to fall into the confirmation bias bubble.  This can lead to a kind of absolutist bandwagon wherein anything vaguely related to your anger trigger, well, triggers you.  Most of us get trapped in a confirmation bias bubble at some point, but those who are truly embedded within one are almost impossible to extricate.  There are plenty of examples in our community of this very thing, on both sides of the political aisle.  Everything is about X and Y, and A, B, R, Q, and Z all confirm it.  Also J, K, and P.  And G, I, and O.  And on and on and on.

Sometimes, it's best to take a break and try to explore the things you love.

Complaining That People Aren't Helping You and That People Suck For Not Doing So
I have seen authors complain on Twitter that somehow it's our fault that they didn't raise enough money for that thing they were doing.  Another author once claimed that because not enough of us would support then through Patreon, it was somehow our fault that there isn't enough diversity in genre (a specious claim, for sure).

In both cases, the author has translated "failure" into an attack on potential readers, which is rarely a good thing.  Brian Bendis can get away with calling some of his readers sexist turds because he has a lot of readers; losing one jackass who thinks comics shouldn't include women as the protagonists isn't going to hurt his career.  But not all authors have his readership, and so any attempt to blame the reader for the failures of the author in their attempts to fund or promote a work is akin to blaming the nurse for your heart condition.

There are all kinds of reasons why a Kickstarter or Patreon thing didn't work.  Maybe your project wasn't interesting enough.  Maybe it was poorly put together or too expensive.  Maybe you caught potential readers in a time of financial scarcity, which you couldn't have predicted.  Maybe not enough people know about you to give their money, or they don't feel like they know your work well enough to warrant donation.  After all, short of a medical condition, the fact is that people support Kickstarters or Patreon accounts either because they like the project, the person in question, or the person's work.  Exceptions exist, but let's not pretend that dozens of people will randomly come out of the wood works to support a project on the basis of having heard about it.  They have to have a reason.

When I see an author using Twitter to bash readers for their own failures, it puts a bad taste in my proverbial mouth.  How dare you blame me for the fact that not enough people supported your Patreon thing... I know for a fact I didn't have the spare change to toss in $50 to your "fund my writing for a month" cause, so the idea that it is somehow my fault that you didn't raise enough is patently absurd.  It is equally absurd to claim that my inability to fund your thing means I am somehow against diversity or gender parity or whatever.  What incentive do I have to support you in the future if I will be accused of horrible things when I'm unable to help?  None.  Don't bite the hand that feeds you, as they say.

To sit there and blame everyone but yourself is disgusting on so many levels.  Grow up.  You know what I did when my Worldcon fundraiser didn't have the success I had hoped?  I asked some of my friends (three of whom had been involved in a crowdfunding adventure before) for advice.  I looked at the way the thing was set up and considered whether I needed to make changes.  I consider, per a note from a friend, that maybe I had caught people in a time of financial scarcity (the U.S. still being in a sort-of-recession).  I thought about all the ways I might have failed instead of blaming everyone on Twitter for the lack of interest.  The fact of the matter is that it's more likely I had failed than random people on Twitter had decided to vindictively screw me over.

Auto-DMs or DMs of Any Kind for Promotional Purposes
Most of us who use Twitter have faced this thing before.  I don't need to explain how annoying auto-DMs are.  You probably know.  They are also lazy.  An author who uses an auto-DMing system to peddle their work to a new follower is an author who just wants to sell books, not interact with potential readers.  That will always rub me the wrong way.  My response:  I immediately unfollow that person.  I'm on Twitter for the social aspect.  I'm not there just to buy your stuff.  An author who doesn't get that is an author who doesn't deserve my attention.

What about you?  What Twitter habits bug the hell out of you?

Top 10 Posts for April 2014

Here they are:

  1. Movie Review: Riddick (2013) (or, I'm Going to Mega Rant Now)
  2. A Cereal Metaphor for the SFF Community
  3. Speculative Fiction 2014: Announcement and Call for Submissions!
  4. Top 10 Overused Fantasy Cliches
  5. Top 10 Science Fiction and Fantasy Movies Since 2010 (Thus Far)
  6. Kim Stanley Robinson and Exposition (or, No More James Patterson, Please)
  7. Movie Review Rant : Catching Fire (2013)
  8. Adventures in Teaching Literature: David Henry Hwang and the Ethnic Debate
  9. Top 10 Cats in Science Fiction and Fantasy
  10. 2014 Hugo Nominee Ballot: The Full List + 1939 Retro-Hugo Nominees
An interesting mix, don't you think?

Top 10 Blog Posts for March 2014

Here they are:

  1. Movie Review:  Riddick (2013)(or, I'm Going to Mega Rant Now)
  2. Great SF/F Books by Female Authors:  A Massive Twitter List! #sffbywomen
  3. Oh, John Ring and Your Silly Fantasies About People (or, I Now Like Redshirts)
  4. Post-Post-Event Thoughts on LonCon3 and Jonathan Ross
  5. Top 10 Overused Fantasy Cliches
  6. Top 10 Science Fiction and Fantasy Anime Movies
  7. Top 10 Science Fiction Movies Since 2010 (Thus Far)
  8. Movie Review Rant:  Catching Fire (2013)
  9. 2014 Hugo Nominee Ballot:  Best Novel
  10. 7 SF/F Books by Female Authors to Pick Up on International Women's Day
Anything you missed?

Great SF/F Books by Female Authors: A Massive Twitter List! #sffbywomen

Earlier today, I posted seven sf/f books by women worth checking out for International Women's Day.  This led to a tweet asking folks online to list a single sf/f work by a woman that they think is exceptional.  Folks promptly ignored the "single" part and sent me a lot of suggestions.  You can add your own suggestions in the comments here or via the #sffbywomen tag on Twitter.

In any case, if you're looking for something new to read and care about gender parity, here's a massive list of great works of sf/f by women (note:  the list may be edited later; I may send the question to Facebook and Google+ to make things interesting).

Enjoy!

Alexander, Alma. Midnight at Spanish Gardens
Alexander, Alma. Secrets of Jin Shei
Alexander, Alma. The Worldweaver Books
Anderson, Laura S. The Boleyn King
Andrews, Ilona. The Kate Daniels Series
Aquirre, Ann. The Perdition and Sirantha Jax Series
Arakawa, Hiromu. Full Metal Alchemist
Armstrong, Kelley. The Cainsville Series
Armstrong, Kelley. Women of the Otherworld Series
Asaro, Catherine. The Last Hawk
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale
Baker, Cage. The Company Novels
Baker, Kage. The Anvil of the World
Baker, Kage. The Garden of Iden
Bear, Elizabeth. Carnival
Bear, Elizabeth. Chill
Bear, Elizabeth. Dust
Bear, Elizabeth. Grail
Bear, Elizabeth. Hammered
Bear, Elizabeth. Range of Ghosts (and sequels)
Bear, Elizabeth. Scardown
Bear, Elizabeth. Undertow
Bear, Elizabeth. Worldwired
Bennett, Jenna. Fortune’s Hero
Bernobich, Beth. Allegiance
Bernobich, Beth. Passion Play
Bernobich, Beth. Queen’s Hunt
Bernobich, Beth. The Time Roads
Beukes, Lauren. The Shining Girls
Beukes, Lauren. Zoo City
Bishop, Anne. Black Jewels Trilogy
Bishop, Anne. Ephemera Series
Bishop, Anne. The Others Series
Bobet, Leah. Above
Bodard, Aliette de. The Xuya Series
Bond, Gwenda. Blackwood
Bond, Gwenda. The Woken Gods
Bradley, Marion Zimmer. The Avalon Series
Bradley, Marion Zimmer. The Sword of Aldones
Brennan, Marie. A Natural History of Dragons
Brennan, Marie. Tropic of Serpents
Briggs, Patricia. The Mercy Thompson Series
Brook, Maljean. Heart of Steel
Brook, Maljean. Riveted
Brook, Maljean. The Iron Dukes
Brown, Rosel George. Galactic Sibyl Sue Blue
Bujold, Lois McMaster. Barrayar
Bujold, Lois McMaster. Curse of Chalion
Bujold, Lois McMaster. Komarr
Bujold, Lois McMaster. Memory
Bujold, Lois McMaster. Mirror Dance
Bujold, Lois McMaster. Paladin of Souls
Bujold, Lois McMaster. The Vorkosigan Saga
Bujold, Lois McMaster. Warrior’s Apprentice
Bull, Emma. War for the Oaks
Butler, Octavia. Kindred
Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Sower
Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Talents
Cadigan, Pat. Synners
Caine, Rachel. The Weather Warden Series
Carson, Rae. Girl of Fire and Thorns Series
Cashore, Kristen. Bitterblue
Cawkwell, Sarah. The Silver Skulls Books
Cherryh, C.J. Downbelow Station
Cherryh, C.J. Foreigner
Cherryh, C.J. Fortress in the Eye of Time
Cherryh, C.J. Pride of Chanur
Chng, Joyce. Starfang
Clarke, Susanna. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Cooper, Brenda. The Creative Fire
Cooper, Brenda. The Diamond Deep
Cooper, Elspeth. The Wild Hunt Series
Cooper, Karina. Tarnished
Cooper, Louise. The Indigo Series
Cooper, Louise. The Time Master Trilogy
Cooper, Susan. The Dark is Rising Sequence
Czerneda, Julie. A Thousand Words for Stranger
Czerneda, Julie. In the Company of Others
Downum, Amanda. The Drowning City
Elgin, Suzette Haden. Communipath Worlds
Elgin, Suzette Haden. Native Tongue
Elliot, Kate. Crown of Stars
Elliott, Kate. Cold Magic
Engh, M.J. Arslan
Eskridge, Kelley. Solitaire
Files, Gemma. A Book of Tongues
Fisher, Sharon Lynn. Ghost Planet
Flewelling, Lynn. Luck in the Shadows
Forsyth, Kate. Bitter Greens
Foster, M.A. The Morphodite Trilogy
Frohock, Teresa. Miserere: An Autumn Tale
Gentle, Mary. Golden Witchbreed.
Goldstein, Lisa. A Mask for the General
Goldstein, Lisa. Red Magician
Goldstein, Lisa. Strange Devices of Sun and Moon
Goldstein, Lisa. The Dream Years
Goldstein, Lisa. Tourists
Goldstein, Lisa. Uncertain Places
Goodman, Alison. A New Kind of Death
Graham, Ellen. Lana’s Awakening
Grant, Mira. The Newsflesh Series
Griffith, Nicola. Hild
Hall, Sarah. The Carhullan Army
Hambly, Barbara. Dragonsbane
Hamilton, Laurell K. Bite
Hamilton, Laurell K. Carvings
Hamilton, Laurell K. Never After
Hamilton, Laurell K. Strange Candy
Hand, Elizabeth. Winterlong
Hartman, Rachel. Seraphina
Henderson, Zenna. Ingathering: the Complete People Stories
Hobb, Robin. The Liveship Traders Trilogy
Hopkinson, Nalo. Sister Mine
Hopkinson, Nalo. The New Moon’s Arms
Höst, Andrea K. The Touchstone Series
Jemesin, N.K. The Broken Kingdoms
Jensen, Liz. The Rapture
Jensen, Liz. The Uninvited
Jones, Diana Wynne. A Sudden Wild Magic
Jones, Diana Wynne. Black Maria
Jones, Diana Wynne. Conrad’s Fate
Jones, Diana Wynne. Deep Secret
Jones, Diana Wynne. Homeward Bounders
Jones, Diana Wynne. Islands of Chaldea
Jones, Diana Wynne. Magicians of Caprona
Jones, Diana Wynne. Ogre Downstairs
Jones, Diana Wynne. The Dalemark Quartet
Jones, Diana Wynne. The Merlin Conspiracy
Jones, Diana Wynne. Wilkins’ Tooth
Jones, Diana Wynne. Year of the Griffin
Kane, Stacia. The Personal Demons and Magic Series
Kellog, Marjorie B. The Lear’s Daughters Series
Kennedy, Leigh. Journal of Nicholas the American
Kerr, Katherine. The Deverry Series
Kiernan, Caitlin R. The Drowning Girl
Kittredge, Caitlin. The Black London Series
Kowal, Mary Robinette. Glamour in Glass
Koyanagi, Jacqueline. Ascension
Kress, Nancy. Probability Moon
Kurtz, Katherine. The Deryni Series
L’Engle, Madeleine. A Wrinkle in Time.
Larke, Glenda. The Last Stormlord
Le Guin, Ursula K. Lavinia
Le Guin, Ursula K. The Dispossessed
Le Guin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness
Leckie, Ann. Ancillary Justice
Lee, Yoon Ha. Conservation of Shadows
Leicht, Stina. And Blue Skies From Pain
Leicht, Stina. Of Blood and Honey
Lindholm, Mega. Cloven Hooves
Link, Kelly. Magic for Beginners
Loenen-Ruis, Rochita. “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life
Lord, Karen. Redemption in Indigo
Lord, Karen. The Best of All Possible Worlds
Lowachee, Karin. Burndive
Lowachee, Karin. Cagebird
Lowachee, Karin. Warchild
Lowe, Helen. Heir of Night
Lynn, Elizabeth. The Northern Girl
MacAvoy, R.A. Damiano
MacAvoy, R.A. Damiano’s Lute
MacAvoy, R.A. Raphael
MacAvoy, R.A. Tea with the Black Dragon
Marks, Laurie. Fire Logic
Marley, Louise. The Terrorists of Irustan
Marr, Melissa. Carnival of Souls
Marshall, Helen. Hair Side, Flesh Side
Matthews, Susan R. The Jurisdiction Series
Maurier, Daphne du. The House on the Strand
May, Han. Star Sapphire
McCaffrey, Anne. The Dragonriders of Pern Series
McCaffrey, Anne. The Ship Who Sang
McGuire, Seanan. One Salt Sea
McIntyre, Vonda N. Dreamsnake
McKillip, Patricia A. The Riddle-Master Trilogy
McKinley, Robin. Chalice
McKinley, Robin. Hero and the Crown
McKinley, Robin. The Blue Sword
Meadows, Jodi. The Incarnate Series
Misha. Red Spider White Web
Moffett, Judith. The Holy Ground Trilogy
Monette, Sarah. The Goblin Emperor
Moon, Elizabeth. The Serrano Legacy Series
Mundell, Meg. Black Glass
Murphy, Pat. Women Up to No Good
Nagata, Linda. The Red: First Light
Nesbit, Edith. Five Children and It
Nesbit, Edith. The Phoenix and the Carpet
Nesbit, Edith. The Story of the Amulet
Newman, Emma. The Split Worlds Series
Norton, Mary. The Borrowers
Novik, Naomi. The Temeraire Series
Okorafor, Nnedi. Who Fears Death
Pearce, Philippa. Tom’s Midnight Garden
Pierce, Tamora. Terrier (and its sequels)
Pierce, Tamora. The Keladry of Mindelan Quartet
Priest, Cherie. Boneshaker
Rawn, Melanie. Dragonprince
Redwine, C.J. Defiance
Richards, Jess. Cooking with Bones
Richardson, Kat. Greywalker
Robb, J.D. The In Death Series
Robertson, Freya. Heartwood
Rogers, Jane. The Testament of Jessie Lamb
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn. Boneyards
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn. City of Ruins
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn. Diving into the Wreck
Russ, Joanna. The Female Man
Russell, Karen. Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Saintcrow, Lillith. The Dante Valentine and Jill Kismet Series
Samatar, Sofia. A Stranger in Olondria
Saulter, Stephanie. Gemsigns
Saxton, Josephine. Queen of the States
Schanoes, Veronica. Burning Girls
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus
Slonczewski, Joan. The Highest Frontier
Smith, Sherwood. Crown Duel
Snyder, Maria V. Poison Study
Spurrier, Jo. Black Sun Light My Way
Stevrmer, Caroline. A College of Magic
Stevrmer, Caroline. A Scholar of Magic
Stewart, Mary. The Crystal Cave
Stewart, Mary. The Hollow Hills
Sullivan, Tricia. Maul
Swainston, Steph. The Castle Series
Swendson, Shanna. The Enchanted Inc. Series
Tallen, Tara. Galaxion
Tambour, Anna. Crandolin
Tepper, Sheri S. Beauty
Tepper, Sherri S. Raising the Stones
Thruman, Rob. The Cal Leandros Series
Traviss, Karen. City of Pearl
Viehl, S.L. The Stardoc Series
Walton, Jo. Among Others
Walton, Jo. Farthing
Walton, Jo. Ha’penny
Walton, Jo. Half a Crown
Wecker, Helene. The Golem and the Jinni
Weis, Margaret / Hickman, Tracy. Dragons of Autumn Twilight
Weis, Margaret / Hickman, Tracy. Dragons of Spring Dawning
Weis, Margaret / Hickman, Tracy. Dragons of Winter Night
Wells, Martha. Death of the Necromancer
Wells, Martha. The Cloud Roads
West, Michelle Sagara. The Essalieyan Empire Series
Williams, Jen. The Copper Promise
Willis, Connie. Bellwether
Willis, Connie. The Doomsday Book
Willis, Connie. To Say Nothing of the Dog
Wilson, G. Willow. Alif the Unseen
Winstanley, Cam. B-Spine
Winterson, Jeanette. The Stone Gods
Wrede, Patricia C. The Raven Ring
Wren, M.K.. Gift Upon the Shore
Wurts, Janny / Feist, Raymond. The Empire Trilogy

Wurts. Curse of the Mistwraith

7 SF/F Books by Female Authors to Pick Up on International Women’s Day

If the title didn't make it clear, today is International Women's Day!  In celebration of that, here are seven wonderful books by female sf/f writers that I think you should check out, if not now, then certainly before the weekend ends.  Consider it homework...the fun kind...

Here they are:

The Female Man by Joanna Russ (1975)
As the only classic on my list, Russ' incredible feminist narrative is easily one of the most important sf/f books by anybody written in the 20th century.  The use of alternate realities to explore sexism is part of what makes this book truly a masterpiece.  If you haven't read it, you really should.  It's challenging, sometimes disturbing, sometimes confusing, but endlessly compelling.
The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (2013)
There are two Caribbean authors on this list.  I'm biased because of my academic interests.  Regardless, Lord's interesting exploration of extinction, genetics, relationships between disparate peoples, and future cultures is worth checking out if only because you're a fan of social science fiction.  It'll also amuse those of you who love fantasy, as there are certainly some "fantasy" elements here.

For the curious, we interviewed Lord on The Skiffy and Fanty Show here.
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson (2013)
Nalo Hopkinson is one of my favorite writers.  Her novel, Midnight Robber (2000), is easily one of the best novels of the last 20 years.  Sister Mine is nothing like Midnight Robber, but it does offer a fascinating look into the lives of a pair of formerly-conjoined twins, one of whom lost her magic when they were separated.  Orishas, magic, music, and a little punk attitude make this one of my favorite reads from 2013.

I interviewed her about Sister Mine here.
Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee (2013)
Lee is by far one of the greatest short story writers publishing today.  Conservation of Shadows is an incredible collection of stories.  They feel original, deep on a metaphorical level, and stunning in their visual brilliance.  I cannot begin to do the stories justice here.  So I'll leave you with this:  kiteships.  If that doesn't entice you, then I will just have to throw things until you read this book.  Go on, test me.

Or you can check out this interview.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (2013)
I've been a fan of Lauren Beukes since Zoo City (2010), which I think belongs on a "best of the 2010s" list.  The Shining Girls, however, is a very different kind of book.  Following a time traveling serial killer and one of his surviving victims (among other POVs), this book is a twisted narrative about survival, psychosis, and time.  If you're a fan of Beukes' work and missed this one, shame on you.

We interviewed Beukes about The Shining Girls here.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (2013)
To hell with the gender binary, amaright?  Leckie's Ancillary Justice tosses old standards of sf out the window and explores a far future empire where gender pronouns are fluid and ships are manned by thousands of minds.  It's one part gosh wow and two parts sf power.  Expect this one on the Hugo Awards ballot.

We interviewed Leckie about Ancillary Justice here.
The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (2011)
Rogers won the Clarke Award for this novel.  It was well deserved, too!  The Testament of Jessie Lamb may not be everyone's cup of tea, but its aggressive treatment of a post-disaster future in which women die when they become pregnant is noteworthy.  The point of the book isn't to agree with the narrator, but to understand her.  Fans of Joanna Russ should definitely check this one out.

We interviewed Rogers about The Testament of Jessie Lamb here.

--------------------------------

There you go.  Who would you add to the list?

The 86th Academy Awards: My Oscar Predictions

They're happening tonight.  Some of us will be watching (me).  Some of us will have expectations and hopes and dreams (me).  Some of us will probably be very disappointed (me).

Post-Awards Tally (I'm live updating this post):  11/24

So, without further adieu, here are my predictions for tonight's awards:
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
"American Hustle," written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell (the winner)
"Blue Jasmine," written by Woody Allen
"Dallas Buyers Club," written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
WON "Her," written by Spike Jonze (the one I want to win)
"Nebraska," written by Bob Nelson

Personally, I think Her is the best original screenplay of the lot (caveat:  I haven't seen all of these).  It's not every day that we get a truly exceptional treatment of a cliche science fiction, particularly when that treatment is smart, compelling, and "real."  But I also realize that American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club are favorites here.  I suspect the folks who pick the winners will take a safer route and go with American Hustle rather than the sometimes deliberately awkward Her.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
"Before Midnight," written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
"Captain Phillips," screenplay by Billy Ray (the winner)
"Philomena," screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
WON "12 Years a Slave," screenplay by John Ridley (the one I'd like to win)
"The Wolf of Wall Street," screenplay by Terence Winter

The above is a completely soft prediction.  I have no idea how to read the Oscars in this category, so what I think will win and what I'd like to win will probably look like alien monkeys to those who have some idea what to expect.  Regardless, of the films on this list, the ones I enjoyed the most were the two I picked, though the better of the two is probably 12 Years a Slave only because I think the Captain Phillips adaptation basically discards the source material in favor of a story that makes sense (you can read my review of the novel here).  But I think it's possible The Wolf of Wall Street or Philomena could take it in the end.  I just have no idea what to think...

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
WON "Gravity," Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould (the winner; the one I want to win)
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
"Iron Man 3," Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
"The Lone Ranger," Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
"Star Trek Into Darkness," Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Honestly, Gravity is the only film on this list that deserves to win.  Iron Man 3 had solid visuals, but Gravity is by far the superior film in terms of its treatment of its subject matter.  As for the others:  I refused to see The Lone Ranger (cause redface); I thought The Hobbit was a CG masturbation festival a la George Lucas in the prequel trilogy (the best scenes involve the dragon, which is bloody gorgeous, but so much of this particular franchise is just...too much); and I thought Star Trek Into Darkness was decent enough, but still a tad short of the mark.  I'll be shocked if I'm wrong on this category.

Curious parties might want to check out these Shoot the WISB segments on Gravity and Star Trek Into Darkness.  My review of Iron Man 3 can be found here.

BEST SOUND MIXING
"Captain Phillips," Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
WON "Gravity," Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro (the winner; the one I want to win)
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
"Inside Llewyn Davis," Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
"Lone Survivor," Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

Caveat:  I have not seen Inside Llewyn Davis or Lone Survivor, but of the three I have seen, the one that once again takes all the top marks is Gravity.  Not much else to say here (well, except that Smaug was pretty much the best part of The Hobbit; he should have his own movie -- a sitcom with Bilbo Baggins as the sidekick called Welcome Back Smaug).

BEST SOUND EDITING
"All Is Lost," Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
"Captain Phillips," Oliver Tarney
WON "Gravity," Glenn Freemantle (the winner; the one I want to win)
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," Brent Burge
"Lone Survivor," Wylie Stateman

Gravity again.  Maybe The Hobbit.  But it will be Gravity, I suspect.

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
"Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me)"
"Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)"
WON "Helium"
"Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)"
"The Voorman Problem"

I have no idea.  I have seen none of these, so I'm going to pick one at random based on whether I think the title sounds interesting.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
"Feral"
"Get a Horse!"
WON "Mr. Hublot" (the winner)
"Possessions"
"Room on the Broom"

I have seen none of these either, so I'm just going to have to throw a random choice in...again.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
"American Hustle," Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler (the winner)
"Gravity," Production Design: Andy Nicholson; Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard (the one I want to win)
WON "The Great Gatsby," Production Design: Catherine Martin; Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn
"Her," Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena
"12 Years a Slave," Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Alice Baker

It'll probably go to American Hustle, though I suppose The Great Gatsby deserves a little love, too.  The rest are good in terms of the set design, but I suspect their minimalism or association with genre or some other stupid reason will get them knocked off.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
"Happy" from "Despicable Me 2"
WON "Let It Go" from "Frozen" (the winner)
"The Moon Song" from "Her" (the one I want to win -- because it's quirky)
"Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"

Honestly, I'm shocked that "Oblivion" by Susanne Sundfør isn't on here.  I'm also shocked that Oblivion is nowhere to be found on the list.  If you ask me, it should have been on the lists for effects or something.  At least once.  Come on...

In any case, I'll just pick the one from Frozen, because that's probably what will win.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
"The Book Thief," John Williams
WON "Gravity," Steven Price (the winner)
"Her," William Butler and Owen Pallett
"Philomena," Alexandre Desplat
"Saving Mr. Banks," Thomas Newman

M83's soundtrack for Oblivion isn't on this list either.  Dumb.

In any case, I have no idea here.  None of these soundtracks stood out to me, so I'll just pick one at random.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
WON "Dallas Buyers Club," Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews (the winner)
"Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," Stephen Prouty (the one I want to win -- because it would be hilarious)
"The Lone Ranger," Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

The fact that Jackass is on this list makes me laugh.  That it could actually win also makes me giddy with joy.  But we all know it's going to go to Dallas Buyers Club.

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM 
"The Broken Circle Breakdown," Belgium
WON "The Great Beauty," Italy
"The Hunt," Denmark
"The Missing Picture," Cambodia
"Omar," Palestine (the winner)

I haven't seen any of these.  However, I suspect the rather left-leaning-ness of Hollywood will put Omar in the winner's slot.  Either that or The Missing Picture.  Or I'll be completely wrong and you all can mock me for it later.

BEST FILM EDITING
"American Hustle," Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
"Captain Phillips," Christopher Rouse
"Dallas Buyers Club," John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
WON "Gravity," Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger (the winner; the one I want to win)
"12 Years a Slave," Joe Walker

Gravity pretty much deserves to win all of the technical awards.  It is easily one of the most ambitious films of the year in terms of film style and form.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
"CaveDigger"
"Facing Fear"
"Karama Has No Walls"
WON "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life"
"Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall" (the winner)

No idea.  Random choice.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE 
"The Act of Killing"
"Cutie and the Boxer"
"Dirty Wars" (the winner)
"The Square" 
WON "20 Feet from Stardom"

I think it comes down to The Act of Killing and Dirty Wars.  I'm picking the latter just because of the political climate and Oscar history.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
"American Hustle," Michael Wilkinson (the winner)
"The Grandmaster," William Chang Suk Ping
WON "The Great Gatsby," Catherine Martin (the one I want to win)
"The Invisible Woman," Michael O'Connor
"12 Years a Slave," Patricia Norris

This is another one of those categories that could go to The Great Gatsby, but which is likely to go to something else entirely.  In this case, I'm picking American Hustle for no reason other than "yeah, it'll probably win a lot of things."

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
"The Grandmaster," Philippe Le Sourd
WON "Gravity," Emmanuel Lubezki (the winner; the one I want to win)
"Inside Llewyn Davis," Bruno Delbonnel
"Nebraska," Phedon Papamichael
"Prisoners," Roger A. Deakins

Do I need to explain this?  No?  Good.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
"The Croods"
"Despicable Me 2"
"Ernest & Celestine"
WON "Frozen" (the winner; the one I want to win)
"The Wind Rises"

Honestly, I think Frozen is going to take it just on the strength of its presence in the public discourse.  That's all I have to say on this because I was mostly disappointed by animated films this year...

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins, "Blue Jasmine"
Jennifer Lawrence, "American Hustle" (the winner)
WON Lupita Nyong'o, "12 Years a Slave" (the one I want to win)
Julia Roberts, "August: Osage County"
June Squibb, "Nebraska"

Lupita Nyong'o was absolutely brilliant, and since this is one of her first performances, I desperately want her to win.  That said, I know Lawrence is the favorite here.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi, "Captain Phillips"
Bradley Cooper, "American Hustle"
Michael Fassbender, "12 Years a Slave" (the winner; the one I want to win)
Jonah Hill, "The Wolf of Wall Street"
WON Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club"

I'm torn on this one.  Part of me really wants Abdi to take it, even though I know his performance was not nearly as strong as many of the others.  But a part of me also thinks Fassbender's portrayal of a corrupt plantation master was by far one of his best performances.  And then there's the part of me that thinks Cooper or Hill will snatch the award because they're Cooper and Hill and loved.  In other words, my vote is crazy confused.

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams, "American Hustle"
WON Cate Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine"
Judi Dench, "Philomena" (the winner)
Meryl Streep, "August: Osage County"
Sandra Bullock, "Gravity"

I don't even know.  I have a fond spot for pretty much all of these women, so I'm taking a shot in the dark on this one...

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale, "American Hustle"
Bruce Dern, "Nebraska"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "12 Years a Slave" (the winner; the one I want to win)
WON Matthew McConaughey, "Dallas Buyers Club"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Wolf of Wall Street"

There is only one choice here.  Only one.  If they do not give it to Ejiofor, I will forever mock the Oscars for being the most irrelevant awards in the history of awards.  He was amazing.  That is all.

BEST DIRECTOR
WON Alfonso Cuaron, "Gravity"
Steve McQueen, "12 Years a Slave." (the winner; the one I want to win)
Alexander Payne, "Nebraska"
David O. Russell, "American Hustle"
Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street"

I loved Gravity and understand that most of these are great films in and of themselves.  However, Steve McQueen deserves it here.  12 Years a Slave was brilliant in its direction.  Visceral.  Real.  Minimal.  Powerful.  McQueen not only deserves it, but I think he'll win.  Otherwise, I have no idea about the world anymore...

BEST PICTURE
WON "12 Years a Slave" (the winner; the one I want to win)
"American Hustle"
"Captain Phillips"
"Dallas Buyers Club"
"Gravity"
"Her"
"Nebraska"
"Philomena"
"The Wolf of Wall Street"

I loved most of these films.  I really did.  But I consider 12 Years a Slave to be one of the top 10 films released since 2000, and easily one of the top 100 films of all time.  I believe that is self-evident.  It must win in this category because it is the only logical choice.  It...must...win.

And that's that...