Sun
Aug 7 2011 10:30am

Hugo Nominees: 1995

The 1995 Hugo Awards were presented at Intersection in Glasgow, the first Worldcon I attended. The best novel winner was Lois McMaster Bujold’s Mirror Dance (post) one of the best of the Vorkosigan saga. It’s a book about a clone finding family and identity, and a man who knows he cannot fail failing, it’s utterly dependent on the social and technological matrix of the characters and the planets that shaped them, but it’s a novel of character. It’s also the kind of book that makes you think. I think it’s an excellent Hugo winner. It’s in print, and in the Grande Bibliotheque (hereafter “the library”) in English.

There were four other nominees and although I was voting in the Hugos that year I have only read three of them.

Nancy Kress’s Beggars and Choosers is the sequel to Beggars in Spain, and I was disappointed with it. It seemed like just more story, rather than exploration of anything new. It’s in print as an audiobook but not as a book, and it’s not in the library.

Michael Bishop’s Brittle Innings is a fantasy about baseball. It had no UK publication and I couldn’t get hold of it in time to read it. I can’t imagine I was the only British voter with this problem, and I expect it suffered accordingly in the voting. I still haven’t read it — Bishop’s a really excellent writer who often gets too close to horror for my comfort, and it’s about baseball. It’s not in print and it’s not in the library.

John Barnes Mother of Storms was a terrible introduction to John Barnes for me, although he went on to become one of my favourite writers despite it. It’s a near future disaster novel about global warming and a hurricane, written in bestseller omniscient, with really nasty sex scenes. It is, unfortunately, deeply memorable. It’s in print as an e-book, and it’s in the library in French and English.

James Morrow’s Towing Jehovah is brilliant but weird. The enormous body of God is floating in the Atlantic and a tanker has to tow it away. It’s not at all the book you’d expect from that description either. Terrific nominee. I put it in second place after the Bujold and would have been happy to see it win. It won the World Fantasy Award. It’s in print and it’s in the library in French and English.

So, three men and two women, all Americans despite the Worldcon being in Scotland, one near future disaster novel, one baseball fantasy, one theological SF, one near future innovation novel, and one planetary SF.

What else might the nominators have considered?

SFWA’s Nebula was awarded to last year’s Moving Mars, because of odd eligibility rules. Non-overlapping eligible nominees were Jonathan Lethem’s Gun, With Occasional Music, Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October (post by Rene Walling) and Rachel Pollack’s Temporary Agency.

The World Fantasy Award picked the Morrow. Other non-overlapping nominees were The Circus of the Earth and the Air, Brooke Stevens, From the Teeth of Angels, Jonathan Carroll, Love & Sleep, John Crowley, Waking the Moon, Elizabeth Hand.

The John W. Campbell Memorial Award went to what I thought at the time and still believe to be the best book of 1994, Greg Egan’s Permutation City (post). The runner up was Brittle Innings. Permutation City hadn’t yet had a US release, and wasn’t eligible the next year when it did have one. It does seem like a real injustice that it didn’t make the Hugo ballot.

The Philip K. Dick Award was won by Robert Charles Wilson’s excellently strange Mysterium. There was a special citation for Inagehi, Jack Cady. Other nominees were: RIM: A Novel of Virtual Reality, Alexander Besher, Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone, Ian McDonald, Summer of Love, Lisa Mason, Tonguing the Zeitgeist, Lance Olsen.

The Tiptree Award was won by Nancy Springer’s Larque on the Wing. It was a year where they didn’t separate long and short form, the other winner was Le Guin’s short “The Matter of Seggri.” Other shortlisted works not previously mentioned were Amazon Story Bones, Ellen Frye, Cannon’s Orb, L. Warren Douglas, The Furies, Suzy McKee Charnas, Genetic Soldier, George Turner, North Wind, Gwyneth Jones, Trouble and Her Friends, Melissa Scott.

The Locus SF Award was won by Mirror Dance. The other nominees not previously mentioned were: Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler, Foreigner, C. J. Cherryh (post), Heavy Weather, Bruce Sterling, Worldwar: In the Balance, Harry Turtledove,  Rama Revealed, Arthur C. Clarke & Gentry Lee, Caldé of the Long Sun, Gene Wolfe, The Dolphins of Pern, Anne McCaffre, The Engines of God, Jack McDevitt, Furious Gulf, Gregory Benford, The Stars Are Also Fire, Poul Anderson, Shadow’s End, Sheri S. Tepper, Necroville (US title Terminal Café), Ian McDonald, Tripoint, C. J. Cherryh (post) The Voices of Heaven, Frederik Pohl, Feersum Endjinn, Iain M. Banks, Half the Day is Night, Maureen F. McHugh, Ring, Stephen Baxter, Climbing Olympus, Kevin J. Anderson, Random Acts of Senseless Violence, Jack Womack (post),  Wildlife, James Patrick Kelly, End of an Era, Robert J. Sawyer, Solis, A. A. Attanasio, Pasquale’s Angel, Paul J. McAuley, The Jericho Iteration, Allen Steele.

Of these, Parable of the Sower, Foreigner and Random Acts would have been excellent nominees, and there are some other really good books there as well.

The Locus Fantasy Award was won by Brittle Innings. Other nominees not already mentioned: Lord of Chaos, Robert Jordan, Finder, Emma Bull, Memory & Dream, Charles de Lint, Love & Sleep, John Crowley, Five Hundred Years After, Steven Brust (post), Storm Warning, Mercedes Lackey, Summer King, Winter Fool, Lisa Goldstein, Merlin’s Wood, Robert Holdstock, A College of Magics, Caroline Stevermer, The Warrior’s Tale, Allan Cole & Chris Bunch, The Forest House, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Slow Funeral, Rebecca Ore, Shadow of a Dark Queen, Raymond E. Feist, Rhinegold, Stephan Grundy, The Dubious Hills, Pamela Dean, Exiles 1: The Ruins of Ambrai, Melanie Rawn.

The Mythopoeic Award was won by Patricia McKilkip’s Something Rich and Strange. The only nominee not previously mentioned was Robert Holdstock’s The Hollowing.

Was there anything all these awards missed? All I can see this year is Robert Reed’s Beyond the Veil of Stars and S.P. Somtow’s Jasmine Nights.

So this strikes me as a disappointing year — a couple of very good nominees, and certainly an excellent winner, but also some disappointing nominees and a large number of really good lasting books left out — Permutation City, definitely, but also Foreigner and Parable of the Sower.

Other Categories

NOVELLA

  • “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge”, Mike Resnick (F&SF Oct/Nov 1994)
  • “Cri de Coeur”, Michael Bishop (Asimov’s Sep 1994)
  • “Les Fleurs du Mal”, Brian Stableford (Asimov’s Oct 1994)
  • “Forgiveness Day”, Ursula K. Le Guin (Asimov’s Nov 1994)
  • “Melodies of the Heart”, Michael F. Flynn (Analog Jan 1994)

I remember I put the Le Guin first and the Flynn second, and I remember having a terrible time trying to find the F&SF and not actually finding it in time to vote. It was awful before the stories went up online!

NOVELETTE

  • “The Martian Child”, David Gerrold (F&SF Sep 1994)
  • “Cocoon”, Greg Egan (Asimov’s May 1994)
  • “A Little Knowledge”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Apr 1994)
  • “The Matter of Seggri”, Ursula K. Le Guin (Crank! #3 Spring 1994)
  • “The Singular Habits of Wasps”, Geoffrey A. Landis (Analog Apr 1994)
  • “Solitude”, Ursula K. Le Guin (F&SF Dec 1994)

For this year only, Novelette is my favourite category. “Solitude”! And “Cocoon”!

SHORT STORY

  • “None So Blind”, Joe Haldeman (Asimov’s Nov 1994)
  • “Barnaby in Exile”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Feb 1994)
  • “Dead Man’s Curve”, Terry Bisson (Asimov’s Jun 1994)
  • “I Know What You’re Thinking”, Kate Wilhelm (Asimov’s Nov 1994)
  • “Mrs. Lincoln’s China”, M. Shayne Bell (Asimov’s Jul 1994)
  • “Understanding Entropy”, Barry N. Malzberg (Science Fiction Age Jul 1994)

NONFICTION BOOK

  • I. Asimov: A Memoir, Isaac Asimov (Doubleday)
  • The Book On The Edge Of Forever, Christopher Priest (Fantagraphics)
  • Making Book, Teresa Nielsen Hayden (NESFA Press)
  • Silent Interviews: On Language, Race, Sex, Science Fiction, and Some Comics, Samuel R. Delany (University Press of New England/Wesleyan)
  • Spectrum: The Best In Contemporary Fantastic Art, Cathy Burnett & Arnie Fenner, eds. (Underwood Books)

I’ve read all of them except the art book, and any of them would have been a splendid winner. I. Asimov isn’t as exciting as the Nielsen Hayden or the Delany, but it’s an excellent autobiography. But I didn’t vote in this category because I hadn’t been able to get hold of any of them.

DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: “All Good Things…”
  • Interview with the Vampire
  • The Mask
  • Star Trek: Generations
  • Stargate

No Award. Fire the category.

PROFESSIONAL EDITOR

  • Gardner Dozois
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Mike Resnick
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Stanley Schmidt

I voted for Gardner, as Asimov’s was my favourite magazine by miles at this time, and his Year’s Best was (and remains) one of the most exciting books of any year.

PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

  • Jim Burns
  • Thomas Canty
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Don Maitz
  • Michael Whelan

ORIGINAL ARTWORK

  • Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book, Brian Froud (Pavilion UK)
  • Michael Whelan, Cover of Foreigner (by C. J. Cherryh; DAW; Legend)
  • Michael Koelsch, Cover of Gun, With Occasional Music (by Jonathan Lethem; Harcourt Brace/NEL UK)

I voted for the Foreigner cover, which I still really like.

SEMI-PROZINE

  • Interzone, David Pringle
  • Locus, Charles N. Brown
  • The New York Review of Science Fiction, David G. Hartwell, Donald G. Keller, Robert K. J. Killheffer & Gordon Van Gelder
  • Science Fiction Chronicle, Andrew I. Porter
  • Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, Algis Budrys

That was the year Interzone had two stories I liked, one by Egan and one by Ryman. No wonder I emigrated.

FANZINE

  • Ansible, Dave Langford
  • File 770, Mike Glyer
  • Habakkuk, Bill Donaho
  • Lan’s Lantern, George “Lan” Laskowski
  • Mimosa, Dick & Nicki Lynch

And speaking about Glyer and Mimosa, I’ve been meaning to link to this very funny piece about Hugo Awards Ceremonies, and this seems like as good a time as any.

FAN WRITER

  • Dave Langford
  • Sharon Farber
  • Mike Glyer
  • Andy Hooper
  • Evelyn C. Leeper

FAN ARTIST

  • Teddy Harvia
  • Brad W. Foster
  • Linda Michaels
  • Peggy Ranson
  • Bill Rotsler

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER (Not a Hugo)

  • Jeff Noon
  • Linda J. Dunn
  • David Feintuch
  • Daniel Marcus
  • Felicity Savage

Noon’s first novel Vurt had just come out to great acclaim. Noon has gone on to write more books that are published as mainstream, but which have SFnal or fantastic elements. I really disliked Vurt, so I haven’t kept up with his career especially as it has been mostly outside genre, but I understand that he looked like a nova at the time.

Dunn and Marcus seem to have written short work before and after nominations, without ever having a breakout or much attention — I hadn’t really been aware of them. Feintuch won in 1996, so let’s leave him for then. Savage had just published a well received first novel, Humility Garden, but nothing since.

Other people who may have been eligible: Jonathan Lethem, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Terry Goodkind, Maggie Furey, Jane Lindskold and J.R. Dunn. Not a very good year for the Campbell.

 


Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently Among Others, and if you liked this post you will like it. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

98 comments
CarlosSkullsplitter
1. CarlosSkullsplitter
No one yet? hell, I was *out* last night.

1995 continues the decline in nomination quality. We're not quite to the years of Sawyer and Wilson, but we're on our way there!

The Bujold is an installment. A very good installment, but I don't think it works by itself as a novel without the emotional resonance from prior books in that setting. The Kress, on the other hand, is a sequel, and a boring one at that. Brittle Innings is a very good book which would be regarded as slipstream today, I think. Baseball is the American pastoral -- we once had a Spenser scholar as baseball commissioner, did you know? -- and Bishop does something very clever to shake it up. On the other hand, I found Towing Jehovah asinine, like the whole cultus around Flying Spaghetti Monster and his noodly appendage. Yes, I get the joke. How many pages of this are there to go? But then, I find all of Morrow's work like that.

John Barnes: we're back to the pure product of America, aren't we. There is something about Campbellian science fiction that attracts this type. I pity people who use his world-building article, but not as much as I pity people who pay for his "semiotic" analysis (especially how Barnes claimed Scott Beauchamp was making up his account of life in Iraq based on Beauchamp's literary style, as opposed to Beauchamp being in a unit with actual criminals and murderers, which turned out to be the case).

Meanwhile: Butler, Egan, Ore, Reed, Sterling. Who are they?
David Levinson
2. DemetriosX
The only one of the novels I've read is Mother of Storms. It was decent enough, but mega-disasters tend to be a bit limited in what an author can do and only have a couple of possible arcs. Towing Jehovah just turned me off from the concept for some reason. Wasn't there an excerpt published or maybe an earlier short form? In any case, I hadn't really liked much of what I'd read from Morrow at that point. And hadn't Fred Saberhagen done something similar to Brittle Innings already?

"Seven Views" didn't really work for me. I would probably have gone for Bishop or Stableford. Resnick recently announced that "Seven Views" has been optioned by the director of The Italian Job. We'll see if anything comes of that.

I also never really liked "The Martian Child" all that much. OTOH, out of all the novelettes and short stories, it's the only one I remember at all, even though I've read most of them.

Dramatic Presentation is another weak field this year. "All Good Things..." has become a rather iconic story and Trek in all its forms hadn't overused the unstuck in time plot yet, so it isn't a bad winner. But most of the rest, yeesh. I admit that I've never managed to read more than a few pages of Anne Rice, so Interview never appealed to me and I've never been interested in seeing it. I've also never seen The Mask, because Jim Carrey makes me want to throw things at him whenever he does comedy. Oddly, I quite like the few serious things he's done. Generations was incredibly weak and poorly served both the old and new franchises. Stargate was OK and launched almost 20 years of material, but I'm not sure it was really award-worthy.
Niall Harrison
3. niall
"Was there anything all these awards missed?"

Fools by Pat Cadigan, which won the Arthur C Clarke Award (which I'm surprised you're not including in your awards roundup).
Niall Harrison
4. niall
Oh, wait, I see that's one of those cases where the UK publication trailed the US edition by a few years.
Melita Kennedy
5. melita
I was blah about Foreigner when I first read it. The usual Cherryh male, scrambling to keep up, while shenanigans are going on all around. I liked Invader much better, where Bren begins to gain insight and power.
Michal Jakuszewski
6. Lfex
Not a good year for novel nominees (and also not very good for novels, IMHO). Mirror Dance is one of the best Miles novels and makes a decent winner, but no other nominee appeals to me. Beggars and Choosers is an inferior sequel, and Mother of Storms and Towing Jehovah are just weak. I didn't try to read Brittle Innings since it is about baseball and therefore probably incomprehensible to non-Americans.

As of other novels i really liked Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand which was my favorite book of the year. Foreigner, Parable of the Sower and Permutation City also should make the list. I wanted to like Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks, but since I am not a native English speaker this sort of writing is close to incomprehensible to me (The same goes for Riddley Walker)

For once, I remember reading almost all novella and novelette nominees. I liked Resnick, but I would go with "Melodies of the Heart" as a winner. Gerrold I didn't like at all. My favorite story on this list is clearly "Solitude".
Kristen Templet
7. SF_Fangirl
Hmmm ... I need to reread Mirror Dance. It's not one that I just pick up and reread, but its certainly one of her meattier/deeper installments. I think it's because I haven't become a fan of the character of Mark and if I recall correctly I think he gets the biggest POV time. OTOH given the choices it would have been my pick.

I don't recall anything about Beggars and Choosers except it was very disappointing and weak. It was such a disappointment that it makes me wonder if it got nominated by people who had only read its prequel. The first, especially the novella was incredible, and the third improved on the second and had some interesting ideas. Beggars and Choosers was so weak that I wouldn't have read the third except that I already owned it.

Towing Jehovah always sounded kind of silly to me - not to my taste - but it has remained well known. I can't say I've even heard of the other two nominees so they haven't really lingered in the consciousness. (I wouldn't have read or voted for a fantasy anyway.)
Jo Walton
8. bluejo
Niall: I'm not comparing awards from other countries because very often their awards list books that would have been Hugo eligible years before
(Declare this year is an especially egregious example), or which are technically Hugo eligible but had no US publication. In these cases, it's just not a very useful. If you look at the Clarke, BSFA. Ditmar and Aurora shortlists over time you'll see some great books, but often not drawn from the same pool as Hugo nominees -- and if you start looking at the Seiun and the Prix Imaginaire etc. this gets even more obvious.

Having said that, Fools is a really good book.
CarlosSkullsplitter
9. Derryl Murphy
You know, blowing off Towing Jehovah because it sounds "silly" or Brittle Innings because it's "about baseball" is, IMO, a sign you may be closing yourself off to all sorts of great potential reads. They are both great books, and I will point out that the Bishop is not just about baseball. Indeed, its roots go back to the beginnings of science fiction.

That said, I offer the mea culpa that I still have yet to read anything by Bujold. So take anything I say with a healthy dose of salt.
CarlosSkullsplitter
10. James Davis Nicoll
I still have yet to read anything by Bujold.

Have we had a go-round on the recent (post-Disco) F&SF books every SF fan would benefit from reading?

(Yes, yes I finally read "A Rose For Ecclesiastes" and I think this Zelazny kid could go places. Did he write anything else of note?)
CarlosSkullsplitter
11. James Davis Nicoll
three men and two women, all Americans

This will change and the era when Americans could expect to dominate the novel category will fall into faint memory. Admittedly the Junkbond Republic is only a small part of l'anglosphere (1) but in the mid-1990s it would have seemed inconceivable that there be years when the American nominees would be a minority on the Best Novel slate.

1: The enmiddleclassification of India may produce interesting results, given how many authors they produce already and how many people in India speak (and more importantly write) in English. Anyone else want to see Ashok Banker's Hugo acceptance speech? Anyone else want to arrange for Norman Spinrad to MC while ensuring Banker gets a look at Spinrad's essay (now mysteriously vanished from the original website) on foreign SF?
Kristen Templet
12. SF_Fangirl
Derryl @9 This not apply quite so much to Jo who is a reviewer on Tor and therefore some professional responsilbity, but I think the average reader makes judgements based on the front and back covers of books. There's way too many books I want to read because I think I'll like them to force myself to read something that I won't enjoy. Life's not long enought to read all the books I want to anyway.
CarlosSkullsplitter
13. James Davis Nicoll
Derryl @9 This not apply quite so much to Jo who is a reviewer on Tor and therefore some professional responsilbity,

There isn't enough time in the day for a professional reviewer to read everything. Trust me, I've tried and failed; I think the highest I ever get is around 20% of the novel-length F&SF published by major publishers in the US and reading novel-length F&SF published by major publishers in the US is what I do for a living.
john mullen
14. johntheirishmongol
Mirror Dance was a really good story. If I had voted this year, I would have gone with it. Mother of Storms was pretty stupid, since even then the whole global warming thing was overblown nonsense. Never even heard of Brittle Innings.

I suspect in the movies, Generations would have won if it wasnt for the silly Kirk death. When you think about what Stargate spawned, who would have predicted from the movie. Actually, except for the paranoia of the nuke going thru on an exploration trip, it's a pretty solid scifi movie.
CarlosSkullsplitter
15. Scotoma
I really liked Barnes Mother of Storms, but then I like most of his books. A thematic sibling to that was Sterling's Heavy Weather, which shares many elements with Barne's book and is still entirely its own thing. Also less bombastic. But both managed to be quite good.

The best book of the year was IMHO Egan's Permutation City, if you're into idea-driven crazyness.

If you're less dependent on pure sciency ideas, than Michael Marshall Smith's Only Forward with it's odd mix of science fiction/horror/noir might do. Or Jonathan Lethems science fiction/noir mix Gun with occasional music. Bot great and memorable reads.

The only other Hugo nominees I read where the Bujold, which was great and which even as an installment managed to be great SF in its own way (and thus I have no real problem with it winning) and the Kress, which managed to be even worse than the first part.
Jo Walton
16. bluejo
Derryl: I made a good faith effort to get hold of Brittle Innings before voting and failed. Beyond that, what it takes to get me to read something that sounds boring is sufficient people telling me how great it is. In contrast, reproaching me for how narrow my tastes are seldom works.

(Baseball is the game that's a bit like rounders? Really doesn't sound promising.)
Jo Walton
17. bluejo
SFFangirl: Even if it were possible, I'd need to be paid an awful lot more to accept a professional obligation to read everything! And in 1994 I was just a fan looking at the fronts and backs of books -- I'd not been paid for anything relevant yet.
CarlosSkullsplitter
18. James Davis Nicoll
Jo, does this mean you've not read The Iowa Baseball Confederacy or Shoeless Joe? You know as a Canadian you are obligated to read Kinsella, along with WO Mitchell, Margaret Lawrence, Robertson Davies and at least one of Farley Mowatt, Stephen Leacock or Mordecai Richler. We all had to suffer* through them in school and now so do you.

In any case, Brittle Innings is worth tracking down.

* No, in fact I don't care how Boy Staunton died.
jon meltzer
19. jmeltzer
Brittle Innings would have worked as well if it had been about cricket. The game itself isn't really the point. I can't say more without massive spoilers.
Sherri Nichols
20. snichols
James, as a baseball fan but not a Canadian, I'd say Jo could get by with Kinsella's short story The Last Pennant Before Armageddon, or at most the novella Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa.

Based on this thread, I just ordered a used copy of Brittle Innings.
CarlosSkullsplitter
21. James Davis Nicoll
WP Kinsella's Frank Fencepost stories could provide a nice example for the next cultural appropriation flamewar.
CarlosSkullsplitter
22. James Davis Nicoll
* No, in fact I don't care how Boy Staunton died.

As I recall, the reason I have a shelf of Davies is for two reasons:

1: I read Tempest Tost about the time I was stage manager of a local amateur production. The stage manager's reaction to the (rot13 foor spoilers) nggrzcgrq fhvpvqr spoke to me.

A: Samuel Marchbanks is one of my role models (accordingly, I avoid rereading him because I fear the Suck Faeries), although I hope to some day be somewhat less self-effacing than Marchbanks.
CarlosSkullsplitter
23. CarlosSkullsplitter
16: I have very little interest in baseball as a sport, and yet there's plenty of baseball writing I find engaging. Baseball produces passionate and thoughtful responses among a wide range of writers. And isn't that a major point of reading? To experience the unfamiliar, or the familiar through new eyes? Especially for a science fiction reader.

It seems... odd to cut oneself off from an interesting subgenre simply because, well, I am not sure why. I don't want to say snobbery, although it looks like snobbery. On reflection, it seems more like a form of self-punishment. After all, you certainly aren't punishing the writers! And their readers know better.
Jo Walton
24. bluejo
James: I've read at least one of each of Mowett, Richler and Davies, and I own a book by Lawrence but I've never actually read it. However, I get bonus points for having read everything by Marian Engel and Margaret Atwood, and since I live in Quebec I'm hoping that reading enough Vonarburg will let me off any baseball novels.

JMeltzer: But I hate cricket! The thing that cricket and baseball share though is an assumption by their fans that of course you know the rules.
David Levinson
25. DemetriosX
@24 Jo: The difference being that the basic rules of baseball can be explained to a neophyte in just a few minutes with relatively little dificulty. As far as I can think of, it has only one rather arcane rule (the balk), but then most sports do. The only thing I've ever understood about cricket is that the most important thing is what's for lunch. And yes, rounders is essentially the Homo habilis of baseball.

Anyway, I think JMeltzer's point was that the sport itself doesn't matter that much. It's a framework or a backdrop rather than being utterly crucial to the plot. It could easily have been sculling or race walking or badminton.
CarlosSkullsplitter
26. Doug Muir
Heavy Weather should have been on the ballot. It's maybe Sterling's (counts on fingers) fourth best book? But it's still clearly better than at least three of the five that made it, and it's certainly in the top five of the year.

Note that it's a near-future book -- Sterling doesn't give dates IMS, but it's in the second quarter of the 21st century -- that still holds up just fine. That has nothing to do with literary merit, of course, but it's got plenty of that too.

It's set in a somewhat chaotic North America much afflicted by global warming and resource depletion. That comes across as flat and boring but, oh my, it is not. There's a sweet (for Sterling) coming-of-age story in there, a truly creepy global conspiracy subplot, and smart lasso that ends up being both fun and important.

It's a great little book, and highly recommended.

-- I'm in the "not catching the excitement about James Morrow" camp. What made this book awesome again? I'm sure some kind person can explain.


Doug M.

Doug M.
CarlosSkullsplitter
27. patebooks
I just stumbled on this conversation and was amazed how many of these books I read when they came out. I do read a good bit of SF and fantasy but I tend to go in spurts with long breaks in between. (Among Others reminded me of how much I haven't read or want to reread). That being said, I remembering liking a lot of the fantasy then, including Elizabeth Hand and Brooke Stevens. Mirror World, too, which I also would reread. Towing Jehovah not my thing.
Meanwhile, I've had a terrible time narrowing down my 10 votes on the NPR list. Wish SF and fantasy different categories.
jon meltzer
28. jmeltzer
@25: Exactly. Brittle Innings is about baseball in the same way Agyar is about college town life. And now I've _really_ said too much.
CarlosSkullsplitter
29. nlowery71
@ Doug M. #26 -- don't know if you actually wanted this, but here it is:

I've enjoyed all of James Morrow's books, though Towing Jehovah is a little lower on my list of favorites than, say, Only Begotten Daughter or Blameless in Abaddon. His fiction comes with a healthy dose of satire and some people don't like satire at all. For my taste, Morrow wears his heart on his sleeve a little more than some other satirists; I think that is one reason I love his books, that tension.

And, of course, Morrow's books are really, really weird, and not as invested in science fiction and fantasy tropes.

I started reading Morrow's books in my teens, so I never really thought about it, but if I squint at his stories, I would probably throw them into the category of "things I love but I bet most people don't." I felt that about Gregory Maguire's Wicked, and despite its success I think that is true.

Morrow is also seriously secular humanist, so readers with different philosophies/religious inclinations might find his books grating, though I think he deals with religion pretty sensitively.
CarlosSkullsplitter
30. Bruce A.
I don't think it's really necessary to be so coy about the identity of a character in Brittle Innings. It's not a murder mystery, for gosh sakes. And even knowing in advance that it's a kinda-sorta sequel to an early classic sf novel didn't spoil it for me. (Is that coy enough to pass for a non-spoiler?)
CarlosSkullsplitter
31. Derryl Murphy
I'm sorry, Jo. The joys of communicating via the internet strike again. I was actually commenting on other commenters, knowing full well that I had done the very same thing they had done. Different reasons, same results. You made it very clear that you couldn't get ahold of a copy.

As far as I'm concerned, nobody should be blamed for not reading a book (unless, of course, they don't read any books); it takes all sorts to make the world go round. Different reasons just amuse me, is all.
CarlosSkullsplitter
32. Gardner Dozois
A weak year for novel. I'd have given it to HEAVY WEATHER, which I liked quite a bit, and which is coming to look more and more predictive all the time as more and more really strong tornados rake the American Midwest every year, and are beginning to be seen more frequently in regions that rarely got them before. I also liked the Egan, and it probably would have been between those two books for me. Probably the Robert Charles Wilson and the Paul McAuley, maybe the McDonald, should have been on the ballot as well.

As has been pointed out, BRITLE INNINGS isn't really about baseball, baseball is just a framework to hang the plot on, and almost any other sport would have served the purpose as well. It's an early precursor of what we'd now call a "mash-up," and my only problem with it is that I think it would have worked as well or better as a novelette than a novel, being the kind of idea that it's hard to get to stretch well that far.

Of course, there's a culturial bias involved (although I didn't grow up paying any attention whatsoever to baseball either, not getting interested in it until a few decade back), but I do think the rules of baseball are considerably easier to understand than the rules of cricket. I once read an entire novel about cricket, FLASHMAN'S LADY, by George Macdonald Fraser, and was no closer to understanding the rules by the end than I'd been in the beginning. I once asked a table of five or six British SF writers to explain the rules of cricket to me, and none of them could, admitting that they didn't understand them either. They challenged the Americans to tell them a baseball joke, and, without missing a beat, Peter Heck said, "What do you do with an elephant with three balls?" The answer being: "You walk him, and pitch to the giraffe."

Blank stares. Baffled silence.

I then asked them to tell us a cricket joke, but none of them could come up with one.

The short fiction categories are a lot stronger than the novel this year. In novella, I'd go for Ursula K. Le Guin's "Forgiveness Day," one of the best of the new Hanish stories that she started to write about then, after a lapse from that setting of some years, although Brian Stableford's "Les Fleurs du Mal" is also excellent. The Bishop, the Flynn, and the Resnick are also good, but not as good as the Le Guin and the Stableford. R. Garcia y Robertson, a writer who produces good, intelligent, often funny adventure stories year after year without ever drawing much attention, had "Werewolves of Luna."

The David Gerrold story was a controversial winner that year, with many, including me, arguing that it wasn't really a science fiction story at all. I rejected it for ASIMOV'S, and in spite of it going on to win the Hugo, never regreted the decision. Strongest story there is probably Le Guin's "Solitude"; Le Guin was really having a wonderful year that year, with not only the two stories already mentioned but "The Matter of Seggri," very strong itself, and other strong stories such as "Another Story," "Betrayals," and "Unchosen Love." Greg Egan's "Cocoon" is also first-rate, one of his first major stories, and one of the first in those days to feature an openly gay man as the hero (something we heard about from readers, too). Maureen F. McHugh's "Nekropolis" is also very strong, and a story that I always thought deserved more attention than it got. Robert Reed's "The Remoras" was I think the first of his Great Ship stories, a series still running to this day, and very strong. Steven Utley's "Edge of the Wind" is a strong Silurian story, George Turner's "Flowering Mandrake" is a powerful First Contact story, John Brunner's "Good with Rice" was one of his last major stories, and Terry Bisson's "The Hole in the Hole" is very funny. Kandis Elliot, who seems to have subsequently disappeared, had a brief run of good biological mystery stories in ASIMOV'S. Gregory Feeley's "Aweary of the Sun" is a good Shakespeare story, although, as I recall, one with a slight fantastic element.

In short story, I have no problem with the Haldeman, although Stephen Baxter had one of his strongest stories, "Cilia-of-Gold," there was the wry but bleak "Dead Space for the Unexpected," by Geoff Ryman, and Howard Waldrop's funny, folksy "The Sawing Boys."
Slipping through without much notice is Joe Lansdale's "Bubba Ho-Tep," which would later be made into a movie that many regard as a cult classic. Michael Swanwick's "The Changeling's Tale" is also good. as is Nancy Kress's "Margin of Error."

Movies were very, very weak this year, one of the few years I couldn't really find anything I could justify voting for.

The Campbell Award is also very weak. I might have given it to Kathleen Ann Goonan, if she'd made it on to the ballot.
CarlosSkullsplitter
33. CarlosSkullsplitter
32: almost any other sport would have served the purpose as well.

... with the gridiron, though, how could you tell? (I say this as a Packers shareholder.)

I know Jo likes stories that explore working life from interesting angles, and among other things, Brittle Innings does that. Minor league baseball is sort of the migrant farm work of American sports. An odd thing, to be a hero for a few hours in a strange town and at the end of the day sleeping in the back of a truck.

This conversation has made me recall that gorgeous Tony Earley story about professional wrestling, "Charlotte". No bad thing that.
Rich Horton
34. ecbatan
Carlos -- apologies, I was researching the locations for the (non-fantastical) movie Winter's Bone, and have only just returned. (Actually I got no closer than about a half hour from Cassville, MO ...)

And I still haven't had time to research the SF of 1994 ... so it'll be an hour or two yet before I comment.

--
Rich Horton
CarlosSkullsplitter
35. Petar Belic
I remember enjoying Heavy Weather quite a bit - it was a lot of fun. While I also enjoyed Permutation City, and thought the ideas were a lot more interesting, I think Egan was a little too cerebral here and has since written with a little more sympathy for his characters since then.
Heavy Weather was another 'just around the corner' style story which could have almost - with a few changes - be set in the present day, and I remember seeing the movie Twister which came out a few years afterwards and thinking how many similar plot points there were...
Michael Burke
36. Ludon
All this talk about baseball leads me to suggest Arthur C. Clarke's take on the game in chapter 32, Ball Game, of his The Lost World's Of 2001. I'm not a big fan of the game but this little passage has stuck with me over the years.
CarlosSkullsplitter
37. beerofthedark
@32. v old, v poor cricket joke for you (it is the only one that springs to mind other than commentator blunders, of which there are many).
A man walks into a psychiatrist:
Man: Doc, I think I'm going crazy, everyone thinks I'm a cricketer!
Doctor: How's that?
Man: Don't you start!

Thank you, I'm here all week, don't forget to tip your waitress...
CarlosSkullsplitter
38. Doug Muir
nowery@29, I'm still waiting to hear what's wonderful about Morrow. Satire, fine; I love me some good satirical writing. But I don't think Morrow is all that good at it. Secular humanist, fine -- but, again, neither here nor there to why he's So Awesome.

Insofar as I like Morrow -- and I don't, much -- I like his earlier stuff better than his post-1990 work. The one with the river of liquefied violence was okay, as was the one where nobody could lie. But the later stuff... well, the quality of the writing is a little better. But Morrow himself comes across as a bit of a smug know-it-all, and the conclusions he reaches seem to be either trite or slight. YMMV.


Doug M.
Brian R
39. Mayhem
To all those wondering about cricket, I give you the classic humerous explanation, that will only make things worse.
It actually makes perfect sense, so long as you already know how the game is played.

Cricket explained:
You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.
Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out.
When they are all out, the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.
Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.
There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.
When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.


To be fair, cricket is a relatively simple game, most of the complexity
comes from the arcane terminology used to specifically describe every action by a player. Strip out that, and at heart it involves two teams of 11, a point for each run between ends, and bonus points for hitting the ball out of the park. Side with the most points wins.
Generally speaking you get out for being caught, or for the ball hitting the three sticks behind you, or for standing in the way of the ball hitting the sticks if you swing and miss.
You don't get to be the second most popular sport in the world by being hard to learn :)
CarlosSkullsplitter
40. Doug Muir
@Carlos, "it's an installment": Bujold has said on more than one occasion that she views the Vorkosigan books as part of one big semiserial, a macronovel stretching across over a dozen books. They're /all/ installments, though perhaps that's more obvious with some than others.


Doug M.
Alain Fournier
41. afournier
I probably would not of voted for Mirror Dance. I enjoyed it but it definitely has more impact if you read the prior Miles novels. Among the contenders my favorite is Brittle Innings. An excellent novel and is well worth reading if you come across it. A deep understanding of baseball is not necessary but I found the milieu of the story quite interesting. A very nice thoughtful book like all of Bishop’s novels. The only nominee I haven’t read is John Barnes. I wasn’t a huge fan near future disaster novels. It also did not feel very science fictionish to me at the time which probably explains why I did not bother with it. I read the Kress and like the consensus I too felt it was a disappointment. I also read the Morrow. This is a case where I prefer the author’s short fiction over his novels. I thought it was good but over long.

Among the non-contenders I enjoyed Mysterium by Robert Wilson but did not think it was up to his usual standards. Furious Gulf by Gregory Benford was also a book I enjoyed but it has more impact if you read the previous two novels of the series. The funny thing is I have yet to read the conclusion of the series. I also thought that Permutation City by Greg Egan was excellent although I did find it tough sledding the first time I read it.

I was writing my Chartered Accountants exam in 95 so I spent most of 94 and 95 studying which meant I did not have a huge amount of free time to read. I don’t think read any of the short fiction save for the Stableford and there quite a few novel by writers that I enjoy which I did not read at the time and still haven’t read.
Marcus W
42. toryx
I really like Morrow and Towing Jehovah was my introduction for him. I'd have been happy if he'd won the Hugo for it as well.

I actually enjoyed Mother of Storms, even though it certainly isn't anywhere near the best of his books.

I need to go look up Brittle Innings. I'm not a baseball fan really but for some reason I enjoy reading novels about it (Kinsella is a case in point) and something that's genre sounds really good to me.

And now, clearly, I need to go look up Heavy Weather.
CarlosSkullsplitter
43. Derryl Murphy
Two other baseball books (aside from the Kinsella) that may be appreciated by genre fans are If I Never Get Back by Darryl Brock (kind f Time After Time-ish) and Home Game by the late great Paul Quarrington, which is about a ball game between a religious sect and a circus troupe, IIRC during the depression.
Pamela Adams
44. Pam Adams
Hmmm.... Mother of Storms is the John Barnes that I haven't read. I never heard of Brittle Innings, but since it's available through my university library, I will give it a shot.

I think Mirror Dance was the right choice- we got to see Mark become a hero and started to see Miles as a tragically-flawed one.
jon meltzer
45. jmeltzer
@30: Point taken about coyness. So, it's time to ask our hostess: Jo, do you want the big spoiler about Brittle Innings revealed here before you have a chance to read it?
CarlosSkullsplitter
46. James Davis Nicoll
44: As I recall, Mother of Storms led to Pete's Law, formulated by Pete McCutchen on rasfw: "Avoid Barnes books if they involve sodomy." Inexplicably the publishers refuse to put the appropriate warnings on the covers of Barnes' books.
CarlosSkullsplitter
47. Aaron Hughes
I disagree with the notion that Brittle Innings isn't really about baseball. It's cross-genre baseball/SF, and wouldn't work as well without either element. Baseball is central to the plot and provides a metaphor for the protagonist's coming of age.

That said, you don't have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it, any more than you need to be a big quidditch fan before starting Harry Potter.
Jo Walton
48. bluejo
JMeltzer: As I haven't read it in all this time, I'm probably more likely to read it with an interesting spoiler. But that doesn't go for everyone. Rot13, or whiteout?
jon meltzer
49. jmeltzer
The big spoiler for BI:

"Whzob", gur frira-sbbg-gnyy svefg onfrzna, vf Senaxrafgrva'f zbafgre.
CarlosSkullsplitter
51. Gardner Dozois
As I said earlier, BRITTLE INNINGS is one of the first examples of what we'd today call a mash-up. Easy enough to say what it is in one line, but harder to do and avoid spoilers at the same time.

If you want, I can email you and tell you.
Kevin Maroney
52. womzilla
Realizing that the Miles books are all part of a whole, but also realizing that I don't read quickly and will not live forever: Is there a specific Miles book that anyone here would recommend as THE don't-miss volume of the series?

Re James Morrow: I've not read Towing Jehovah, but Blameless in Abaddon is one of my favorite fantasy novels. There are points where it is a bit smug, but also long passages which are laugh-out-loud funny; and others which are so deeply full of well-earned anguish that they are hard to read. It's a thoughtful, complex, uncomfortable and uncomforting look at the single biggest problem of monotheism, and I love it deeply.

I've still never read Brittle Innings, but I'm glad someone said that yes, the baseball is important. Baseball holds a very specific place in 20th century American literature--not the game itself, but the institution around the game--and from what I know of it, Brittle Innings is very solidly dependent on its special placement.
And man, yes, what a terrible list of Dramatic Presentation nominees. SF film and television had gone through an effloration of slick presentation in the preceding decade, but the writing was still trailing far behind. None of these has the spirit or imagination of 1994's self-made Plan 10 from Outer Space (which is still, to the best of my knowledge, the only film to quote NYRSF on the box).
Evan Langlinais
53. Skwid
My gosh, what a weird year for the novel! I've read none of the nominees but the winner, and only a small handful of the potential nominees mentioned here! In my defense, I was almost certainly preoccupied with reading the Wheel of Time novels over and over again, around this time in my life. Anyway...I can't even imagine enjoying a baseball fantasy novel, it's inconceivable to me that that won the WFA!

The rest of the award slate seems decent to me, though. Strange year!
Pamela Adams
54. Pam Adams
womzilla@52,

Is there a specific Miles book that anyone here would recommend as THE don't-miss volume of the series?

No, I would say just start reading them! Chronological or publishing order both work.
AlecAustin
55. AlecAustin
@ womzilla: Start with either Shards of Honor and then Barrayar (collected as Cordelia's Honor) or The Warrior's Apprentice and then The Vor Game (collected as Young Miles).

My personal recommendation is to start with Shards, but the latter also works.
Hugh Arai
56. HArai
womzilla@52: Personally I'd recommend the novella Mountains of Mourning. It's available for free online. If Miles doesn't grab you there, I don't know that any one novel in the series would grab you either. If he does grab you there, you may come to agree with me that reading the whole series is well worth it even taking finite reading time into account.

ETA: My favorite novel of the series is probably Memory, but it wouldn't have nearly the same impact by itself.
AlecAustin
57. AlecAustin
@ womzilla again:

Harai is probably right about "The Mountains of Mourning" being a good litmus test of if you want more Miles.

To answer the question you actually asked, though, I would say that Memory is unmissable. (That said, it loses a lot of its emotional weight when it's read out of context of the rest of the series.)
Rich Horton
58. ecbatan
Short fiction first for me this time (as I come late to the party):

In novella, "Forgiveness Day" was certainly my choice as the best of the year. But two stories not yet mentioned were also well worth a look: Alex Jeffers's "Composition With Barbarian and Animal", and the Nebula winner, oddly enough from 1994, Elizabeth Hand's "Last Summer at Mars Hill".

In novelette, I did indeed like Le Guin's "Solitude" a lot. Also Egan's "Cocoon". And I enjoyed Gerrold's winner too. But I thought the best novelette of 1994 was another Ursula Le Guin story, to me long underappreciated, perhaps in part because it appeared first in Algis Budrys's small press magazine tomorrow. This is "Another Story; or, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea", probably my single favorite "New Hainish" story of hers.

A host of other novelettes seem worth a mention from that year:
"Cretaceous Park", by Kandis Elliott (who indeed seems to have disappeared -- alas -- she was both a promising author and a pretty good artist)
"Going West" and "The Valley of the Humans" by Philip C. Jennings
"Nekropolis", by Maureen McHugh (I agree with Gardner -- this story has not got the notice it deserves)
"The Lovers", by Eleanor Arnason (one of many magnificent Hwarhath shorts from her)
"The Blackery Dark", by Wil McCarthy
"Ylem", by Eliot Fintushel
"The Wild Ships of Fairny", by Carolyn Ives Gilman

In short story I have little to say -- "None So Blind" was a good winner, the nominees a good set. I'd like to also mention "Ash Minette", a striking Cinderella retelling by the then very young Felicity Savage (another seemingly disappeared writer!); and, from the mainstream, Nicholson Baker's "Subsoil", from the New Yorker, but reprinted by Datlow and Windling in their 1995 Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. (Baker is one of my favorite writers -- I recommend in particular his first novel, The Mezzanine, with the warning that in some ways it may appeal most to writers of his generation (he was born in 1957, me in 1959). (He's done genre only one other time (besides "Subsoil"), in perhaps my least favorite of his novels, The Fermata.)

--
Rich Horton
John Adams
59. JohnArkansawyer
“Melodies of the Heart”, Michael F. Flynn (Analog Jan 1994)


That was just an exceptional story.
I think Mother of Storms is an early sign of some of Barnes' writing's later problems, but I also think it's pretty good though not great. Of course, I read The Wanderer when I was very young and have a soft spot for big mosaic disaster novels.
Rich Horton
60. ecbatan
And in novel -- I certainly have no great objection to Mirror Dance winning, it's one of the best Miles novels.

I also really like Feersum Endjinn (and I like the phonetic sections!). Jonathan Lethem's first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music is quite good too. (It was, by the way, the first book I tried to review (semi-)professionally.) And Caroline Stevermer's A College of Magics is a fine novel as well. And of course Egan's Permutation City, fascinating stuff.

From the mainstream, A. S. Byatt's "The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye" was a novel length story that concluded the collection of the same name -- and it's very fine work.

The Campbell Award doesn't seem so bad viewed from that time's perspective -- Jeff Noon was doing some exciting stuff (in the mainstream, mainly, but still!) And Felicity Savage was a good nominee, so too Daniel Marcus. None of them have quite fulfilled that early promise. Feintuch was never to my taste but was very popular for a while. And Linda Dunn did some nice work. Goonan wasn't eligible -- her first story appeared in Asimov's in 1991.

I wish it was easier to find out who else might have been a good nominee.

--
Rich Horton
CarlosSkullsplitter
61. Gardner Dozois
I second Rich's recommendations for "Another Story" (boy, what a year Le Guin was having!), and for "Going West," "The Valley of the Humans"--Jennings, who did some really weird but good stuff also seems to have largely disappeared--and "Ylem" (Fintushel is another weird but good writer who doesn't seem to be around much anymore), and especially for Arnason's "The Lovers," one of my favorite Hwarhath stories.

In short story, M. Shayne Bell's "Mrs. Lincoln's China" was a quiet but moving story, and Bell is another writer who has disappeared; since he was majorly sick at one point, I wonder if he's even still alive.
Soon Lee
62. SoonLee
@ AlecAustin & womzilla:
Except that "The Mountains of Mourning" though explaining *a lot* of what makes the Miles character tick, feels quite different to the rest of the Vorkosigan saga. I'd start with "The Warrior's Apprentice" myself.

My personal favourite is "A Civil Campaign" but that should only be approached after having read the preceding books. For me it is the quintessential "spearpoint" (http://papersky.livejournal.com/143157.html?thread=1468213 ), and would have been a fitting end to the saga.

As for the 1995 Hugos, I hadn't started reading Bujold then, and would probably have voted for "Permutation City". I retain a soft spot for Zelazny's "A night in the lonesome october", which though a late-period Zelazny, is tremendous fun.
CarlosSkullsplitter
63. hapax
Anyway...I can't even imagine enjoying a baseball fantasy novel, it's inconceivable to me that that won the WFA!

In fact, it happened again in 2003, with Michael Chabon's lovely and joyous SUMMERLAND.
Kevin Maroney
64. womzilla
Thanks for the pointers, all; Cordelia's Honor seems the most practical (though I already have a copy of "At The Mountains of Mourning").
CarlosSkullsplitter
65. CarlosSkullsplitter
Thanks, Rich!

My main objection to Mirror Dance is that I think without the weight of previous books, it loses much of its impact. Within the series, it is very good. The rise of the extended series poses problems with judging books on their individual merits.

(I dislike the casual and, dare I say it, the fannish assumption which can be seen in this thread: "Hey, why not read all the books in an extended series to see if the one installment is worthy?" I have to say, it's a marketer's dream. But how many Benjamins will the casual reader have to shell out to see if The Final Contract or Miles To Go is worth the hype? Not to mention the time investment.)
Hugh Arai
66. HArai
CarlosSkullsplitter@65: The catch is womzilla actually asked for the "one don't-miss novel of the series". That complicates the issue because most people's favorites, the ones they would pick as the best of the series are the ones requiring the context of the prior parts of the series.

What should one say to avoid what you call fannish assumption? I could lie and say Warrior's Apprentice or Cordelia's Honor are that one don't-miss novel but I don't think they are. What else can I say but that I think Memory is the best but you have to read the preceding ones first?
CarlosSkullsplitter
67. CarlosSkullsplitter
66: I'm not actually replying to Womzilla but in general about my opinion of Mirror Dance as an installment. I don't know if any of the books individually are "don't miss" as such. They depend on their effects by referring to each other in small and large ways.

That's the problem with judging these sorts of series by single books. Shards of Honor reads like a very well done but somewhat slight romance novel, The Warrior's Apprentice like a very well done but somewhat slight coming of age novel, and so forth. The hints of a broader universe that one person might find thrilling, another reader -- one without genre sensibilities, say -- might find curiously incomplete.

Even more generally, setting aside the time and money investment, many readers -- both fan and non-fan -- are less willing to start series that are unlikely to have a fulfilling resolution. I hear this concern all the time about Mr. Martin's fantasies. I would say that, in my experience, the non-fan reader is less willing to swim through an ocean of mediocre words to get to the breathtaking moment where everything comes together. Since Bujold is a good writer by non-genre standards, there isn't so much of that question in her Vorkosigan series -- although I wonder what a non-fan would make of A Civil Campaign as a standalone novel and first experience of Bujold.

So I agree. I think the honest answer is to say, it's something you need to read several if not most of the preceding novels before you can understand the depth (or lack) of any given installment -- and I will note that Cordelia's Honor is already two books packaged as one: that's still not enough?

But this makes Mirror Dance's award for Best Novel problematic.
James Burbidge
68. jsburbidge
On the question of giving awards to novels in series:

My personal position is that series novels should be considered as worthy as standalones for awards such as the Hugo, based on the accomplishment of the author in that novel. I suspect that there are many series novels which fare worse in the Hugo nomination process (specifically) precisely because of the investment in time which many readers may feel they need to make to read (for nominating) the nth book of a series, no matter how good reviews and word-of-mouth make them appear. Mirror Dance is one of the better Bujolds (certainly one of the better Miles books), and at least in the same class as its competitors, and I don't think its status as an installment should be held to make it less worthy of the award: if anything, it probably raised an extra barrier to its getting the award. (On the other hand, I really can't see how Cryoburn managed to get the nomination this year: it's a relatively slight Bujold, even if enjoyable, and one can't help but think that it benefits from the extra weight it carried via its penumbra of past Miles books.)

The real problem comes with series where none of the individual works have the weight to make a nomination, but the series, because of its plot arc or its overall concept, seems to stand out. Should a novel get an award as a stand-in for the series? However, I'm trying to think of examples that don't fall into the category of "older series which were formative of the genre" (Skylark, Lensmen, Foundation) and I can't find many.
Pamela Adams
69. Pam Adams
I don't know about anyone else, but my suggestion to start at the beginning was based on the idea that if someone doesn't like the Vorkosigan series, they can quit long before getting to Memory, which is, in my opinion, the best book of the series. However, no reader is going to truly appreciate it without having read a reasonable number of 'prerequisite' books.

Now if someone asked for my 'must-read' Heinlein juvenile, I would have a much easier time answering. (Citizen of the Galaxy)
Soon Lee
70. SoonLee
@Carlos:
At some level the nominated work must be able to be read as a stand-alone and be award-worthy in and of itself. But I think requiring it to be completely stand-alone is too much.

Even stand-alone books are part of the ongoing conversation with earlier works (by the same writer or others) and that is the context in which works are judged. For example "Julian Comstock" is better if the reader is familiar with "Julian the Apostate" but is still excellent if the reader is unaware of the connection.
Vicki Rosenzweig
71. vicki
And once again "Best Nonfiction" (a.k.a. Best Related Book) could be labeled "None of these things is like the others." Yes, they're all nonfiction, but how do you compare the Priest, Asimov, Nielsen Hayden, and Delany?
CarlosSkullsplitter
72. CarlosSkullsplitter
70: that's perhaps not the best example, since I'm familiar with Julian the Apostate, and yet I thought Julian Comstock was... well, the most charitable thing I can say about it is that it's unknowingly derivative of a far better book, Theodore Judson's Fitzpatrick's War -- I hope it's unknowing -- and at least Wilson didn't write the same book again.

More seriously, Julian the Apostate is part of the general culture, unlike knowledge of Barrayar. One is expansive, linking to the wider world. The other is insular, linking to an enclosed fiction. There's a point where the latter merges into the former, but Bujold is very far away from it. Should a conversation be spoken in impenetrable code?
AlecAustin
73. AlecAustin
@CarlosSkullsplitter: I think I actually agree with you (in general) about the problematic nature of granting awards to books that require knowledge of previous books in a series to be fully appreciated. (And let's not even talk about the nested issues with Blackout/All Clear this award year...) Unfortunately, because of how awards like the Hugos and the Nebulas work, there's really no way to avoid books receiving votes based on an audience's reaction to a work based on its place in a series, or because they like the author and expect to like the book once they read it, or any other number of non-textual factors.

Arguing that series books shouldn't win awards on the strength of other installments in the series is a point that can be defended in critical terms but seems unlikely to get much traction in the actual world. I wouldn't be at all surprised if, say, Feed or The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms got more votes on the Hugo ballot than they otherwise would because of the release of follow-up volumes in those series, for example.
John Adams
74. JohnArkansawyer
I've got Brittle Innings on hold at the library (have to finish China Mountain Zhang and Cyteen first, I think), if for no other reason, then because most of the best sports fiction is about baseball. One which should be better known to SF readers (I don't hear it discussed) is 1968's The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., by Robert Coover. It's the earliest book I know about how gaming can take over the life of the gamer and how detailed and intimate and tragic that game can become.
M F
75. Madeline
Though womzilla is answered, my take on it is: you're trying to get to Memory. I'd hit The Warrior's Apprentice and then The Borders of Infinity, and that should be enough of a skeleton that you can see where things have come from and gone before you get there...

One of the things I liked about Mirror Dance was that a major plot point was solved by being left alone to meticulously go over and over the evidence. That is a necessary part of work, and I don't see it getting enough shoutouts. Introverts unite! And also, man, the screwup that causes the plot is enormous. Not one of those casual "oh noes, however will our heroes deal with this crazy random happenstance" plot drivers. Show how it's done, Bujold!

However, like SoonLee, I love A Night in the Lonesome October. One of Zelazny's best books. Fun, and well-woven. One of perhaps three stories ever that get the right tone when including Sherlock Holmes as a character. Would have been better on the list of nominations than some.

I read Barnes's Mother of Storms and haven't ever read another Barnes. I found it drably sexist.
Interesting to hear that they're not all like that.

Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone had neat ideas and I remember liking it... I just went to find what happened to Ian McDonald and found that I didn't even recognize his style when I tried to read Brasyl and couldn't get past 50 pages. Dang.
CarlosSkullsplitter
76. Gardner Dozois
With taste and scent, no argument, as Avram Davidson used to say, but my own take is that Ian McDonald has really come into his own in the last five or six years, is at the peak of his powers and writing better than ever before, and is producing some of the best current work in SF.
CarlosSkullsplitter
77. James Davis Nicoll
most of the best sports fiction is about baseball.

Although nobody has mentioned it, allow me to pre-emptively warn you against trying Robert Browne (AKA, I think) Marvin Karlin)'s 1980 SF/baseball book The New AToms Bombshell.
Brian R
78. Mayhem
@womzilla
One other point if you're just dipping into Bujold, Baen books released a bound in CD with the hardcover of Cryoburn that contains ebook versions of all the preceeding Miles books except Memory.

Which was how I finally got to read her earliest works as until a couple of years back, most were out of print in my part of the world so I never got around to actually reading her.

And now they've rereleased the back catalogue so if you like em, they're much easier to physically get hold of.

All the Baen bound in cds are freely available from http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com/
a site fully endorsed by the publisher.
John Adams
79. JohnArkansawyer


Madeline @ 75: I really liked Brasyl, and have The Dervish House also waiting to be read, plus I like John Barnes no matter what, so maybe I'm not the right person to be making this suggestion, but consider One For The Morning Glory as the Barnes you try next.

Probably the safe suggestion is Orbital Resonance, which you'd probably like, but that would lead you to Kaleidoscope Century, which you probably wouldn't like and to which some readers have a violent reaction, and which might put you off Barnes for good.

There's a lot of violence, some of it sexualized, in much of Barnes' writing, and it puts a lot of people off. The old ultra-violence isn't exactly my cup of tea, either, but I find Barnes to be a writer with enough else to show me that I'm willing to accept it.
CarlosSkullsplitter
80. CarlosSkullsplitter
74: most of the best sports fiction is about baseball.

I know, and it's a little peculiar. Boxing I think has had the best overall writing, and chess has had more than a few good books (some of which fake it, which is amazing to me). But there are weird exceptions: e.g., where are the great basketball novels? American football has its preferred form in film -- Sabol, Facenda, etc -- which is proper, considering how play footage has shaped the game. But some of the gaps puzzle me.

75: I read Barnes's Mother of Storms and haven't ever read another Barnes. I found it drably sexist. Interesting to hear that they're not all like that.

... yes, some are worse. If memory serves, what appalled Pete enough to make his remark was a scene involving a high heel.
John Adams
81. JohnArkansawyer
Carlos SkullSplitter @ 80: My great teacher, Jim Whitehead, wrote a wonderful, football-drenched novel, Joiner, about which I am unable to be objective. It's not as difficult as Faulkner, but the comparison needs to be made.

But I find this interesting:

If memory serves, what appalled Pete enough to make his remark was a scene involving a high heel.


Yet that scene cannot be read as anything but a criticism of sexualized violence for pleasure. The woman believes she is initiating a consensual sex act, the man knows she is not, and the end result is that she is sickened by her own actions.
Rob Munnelly
82. RobMRobM
Womzilla - you've been answered over and over but I still have to weigh in.

IMO there is no single irreplaceable Vorkosigan book. They are all of high quality with an upper tier that depends on your taste. One can look to the Hugo/Nebula winners (Barrayar, Mountains of Mourning, Vor Game, Mirror Dance); or at Miles at his key mid career crisis point (Mirror Dance, Memory) or the romantic comedy Miles (A Civil Campaign). My top tier is Mountains of Mourning, the first half of the Vor Game ("the Weatherman" section), Mirror Dance and Memory; with a second tier of Barrayar, the rest of Vor Game, Borders of Infinity, A Civil Campaign and Diplomatic Immunity; and sentimental favorites being Shards of Honor, Warrior's Apprentice and Komarr. The remaining works (Cetaganda, Brothers in Arms, Labyrinth, Winterfair Gifts, Cryoburn) are all solid, fun reads - I don't dislike any of them. Note that there are two additional works in this world - Falling Free (which won Nebula and is set a hundred-plus years earlier) and Ethan of Athos (in which Miles does not appear but he is discussed and some of his supporting cast plays key roles). Both are good, but with Ethan being comparatively the weakest work in the Vorkosiverse.
Pamela Adams
83. Pam Adams
but consider One For The Morning Glory as the Barnes you try next

Second this motion!

but with Ethan being comparatively the weakest work in the Vorkosiverse.
I only wish I could write something this good.
Rob Munnelly
84. RobMRobM
@83 - I'm with you all the way, Pam. It's good, just there's a bit more plot that develops through coincidence than in the other books. It also wins bonus points for being ahead of its time on gender/sex roles issues.
CarlosSkullsplitter
85. CarlosSkullsplitter
81: thank you for the recommendation of Joiner! it looks exactly up my alley.

Barnes writes about social problems by intensifying them to a breaking point and graphically depicting their effects on his characters. It's not a method I like personally, but I understand its use. The problems I have with Barnes in that aspect of his production are threefold:

First, it's often apparently gratuitous. To change forms briefly, it reminds me of the tendency to have "extreme" characters in comic books in the 1990s: ultraviolent, hypersexualized, psychologically unaccountable. E.g., yes, this is a culture where *everyone* is a sadistic child molester. How shocking! He's used that one in four separate settings, I think.

Second, his psychology at those extremes of the human condition is unconvincing. It feels a little like "fake primitive", and it tells me more about how Barnes thinks his characters should act (and how he thinks his readers should react), than it does as an imaginative extrapolation. Occasionally he does hit the mark -- the alcoholic in one of his Thousand Cultures books (one of the tells is that she eats classic hangover food, and it would have been better if the narrator hadn't noticed that) -- but more often it feels like a manipulative puppet show.

Third, I am unconvinced he isn't at some level pandering to an audience who appreciates ultraviolence and unpleasant sexual content. He has been associated with writers who quite clearly do (the ex-Canadian non-gentleman in New Mexico whom I will not name, for example). Unlike them, however, I don't think it is necessarily a fully conscious decision.
Jo Walton
86. bluejo
I think what Barnes is quite often doing is bringing the revulsion of his horrible sex front and centre. This is perfectly encapsulated in the scene in Mother of Storms where the camera-eye-woman deliberately visualises herself as a sexualised sacrifice barely clothed, and then sends a pulse of nausea over that. So when you read the heel scene in Finity, or the serbing in Kaleidoscope Century it's quite deliberately written to be erotic and revolting simultaneously, with the kind of treatment and wording and lingering view sex gets when it's intended to be erotic writing, but always with the overlay of revulsion.

It's really not very surprising that many people don't care for this.

I think it's all artistically justifiable except when he did it in the second volume of a YA series.
CarlosSkullsplitter
87. Shireling
I read Barnes' A million open doors on the strength of these Hugo-related blogs, and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the memorable aspects was seeing a faux-medieval, highly sexist society from the inside, then from the outside, from the viewpoint of the same character. So is it worth combing the used bookstores for Earth made of glass and the other sequels?

@85: A notorious ex-Canadian? Just give a tiny hint to a curious Canuck.
Jo Walton
88. bluejo
Shireling: My post on A Million Open Doors is called "A brilliant stand alone novel". So my opinion would be no.
John Adams
89. JohnArkansawyer
Shireling @ 87: I'm going to disagree with Jo, somewhat. I think Earth Made of Glass is as good as or better than A Million Open Doors, although the further sequels are not. Earth Made of Glass and A Million Open Doors balance each other in a way I find necessary. They are very different books, and I make no guarantees that you'll like Earth Made of Glass. I know a fair number of people who don't, some of whom say it ruined A Million Open Door for them. Possibly it would do the same for you. It didn't for me, but sequels never have.

It's my opinion Barnes changed his mind about where the series was going to go between writing the second and third books.

The third, The Merchants of Souls, has some fine parts in it, mostly flashbacks to Giraut's youth, but is disappointing overall. The fourth, The Armies of Memory, is much better, but Barnes had by this point written himself into a corner and did not, I think, fully write his way out.

One scene in The Armies of Memory is, I think, the most poignant and sad and perfect in the entire series.

I found them all worth reading. You may not.
Andrew Love
90. Andy Love
I found them all worth reading. You may not.



I enjoyed them all as well, and am looking forward to the next one.
Rich Horton
91. ecbatan
I agree with John, and Andy. While for me the high point of the series was the opening section, "Canso de Fis de Jovent" (eventually part 1 of A Million Open Doors), the rest is fine as well, and Earth Made of Glass, harrowing as it is in multiple ways, is particularly good.
CarlosSkullsplitter
92. CarlosSkullsplitter
They're the classic curate's egg for me. Barnes obviously has thought deeply about his artistic intentions, but are those intentions worth the thought? In the later Thousand Culture books, you can see chunks that are cod-Delany (e.g., those sweeping generalizations from a single piece of data meant to show the wisdom of the future are very Delany-esque in their execution) or even worse, cod-Spider Robinson (the AI war).

You can see him ride his hobbyhorses almost to the point of exhaustion. Jo rightly knocks the books for their treatment of the silly "problem of leisure," but I happen to know one of his major sources for the idea, and he's actually toned it down some. (It's related to his "statistical semiotics" gig.)

There are beautiful little bright points, and I think Barnes knows it, because he actually mocks that tendency in his writing overtly (e.g., the passage from the Great Lunar Novel). I would guess he thinks it gets in the way of whatever he's trying to do: there's a didacticism throughout Barnes's writing -- clearly taken from Heinlein -- but it may not teach what he thinks it does.

I think the classic Barnes-ism in this series is how readers thought that Earth Made of Glass was clearly Barnes's divorce novel, and Barnes repeatedly denied it -- I would have been annoyed too, Doug -- and then got divorced soon afterwards and said the novel, oh I forget how he said it so I will paraphrase it in hippy-dippy language and say it must have picked up on his negative energies in a bad situation, man.
CarlosSkullsplitter
93. Doug M.
Shireling@87, it's the guy who wrote the Dr@ka books. He used to have a habit of grepping or googling his own name and then popping up on comment threads to respond. Don't know if he still does that, but why take chances.

One of the nicer bits in A Million Open Doors is where the narrator, or someone close to him, observes that the isolated human societies respond to Recontact by suddenly expressing aspects of their cultures that had long been suppressed. Thus (IMS) the Randian / libertarian / selfish rationalist world rediscovers sentiment, kindness and humor. Which is fine, and mildly amusing -- but then at the end of the book the narrator abruptly realizes that his home culture is going through the same thing. That was middlin' neat.

Carlos@92, IOW we were quite right -- it was his divorce novel.

We've discussed the drawbacks of the biographical approach. But in this case, the book has THIS IS MY DIVORCE NOVEL embossed on the spine. The letters are in a vaguely Gothic font and give off a faint, sad luminescence.


Doug M.
CarlosSkullsplitter
94. CarlosSkullsplitter
93: problem is, do we extend that to Barnes trapped in a world of hostile memes, fighting the shams of this world through theater arts and statistical analysis, and nobly going to his own self-destruction in the hopes his example will inspire the yoot of tomorrow?

... well, perhaps. It seems fairly clear Barnes is using the page as an outlet for the storms inside his head -- multiple lines of evidence, including interviews. Of course not all art is like that. Not even all SF is like that. The novel as a form of romantic self-expression has never predominated, although SF is (much) more prone to it than other genres.

The main problem with the biographical approach is that false positives give people a mistaken sense that they know what really happened. The psychological literature is filled with people being convinced of incorrect things by similar effects. Most of the time, the approach demonstrates how people deploy their pre-existing set of beliefs about the composition of art, and rather less how the person actually lived and translated their experience onto paper.

E.g., would anyone really want to read Patterson's original draft of his Heinlein biography? it's already a bizarre hagiography; imagine what it must have been like when Patterson let his skill and insight into the human psyche at it. We know he was asked to revise his subjective biographical interpretation.

In fact, I would be shocked if some academic psychologist hasn't already tried a double-blind version of this experiment: random (or fake) biographies associated with passages of prose. Maybe in a study of "guess the gender"?
Andrew Love
95. Andy Love
One of the nicer bits in A Million Open Doors is where the narrator, or someone close to him, observes that the isolated human societies respond to Recontact by suddenly expressing aspects of their cultures that hadlong been suppressed. Thus (IMS) the Randian / libertarian / selfish rationalist world rediscovers sentiment, kindness and humor. Which is fine, and mildly amusing -- but then at the end of the book the
narrator abruptly realizes that his home culture is going through the
same thing. That was middlin' neat.


Yes. He pulls that same trick of showing cultures that are superficially pleasant or understandable and contrasting with a culture that is less so, and then showing that things aren't quite so simple, in both "Orbital Resonance," and "Earth Made of Glass." (Also there's the bit in the most recent Thousand Cultures book in which they visit a world that is superficially a hyper-conservative version of Giraut's homeworld, which turns out to be nothing of the sort). I get a kick out of that kind of culture clash (another example is in McLeod's "Newton's Wake").
CarlosSkullsplitter
96. jekni
@39 - but I have to say that the amusingly arcane rules of cricket you quote are also exactly the rules of baseball with the numbers in the last point adjusted to match. Is that not true?
CarlosSkullsplitter
97. Alan Heuer
Here is how I voted in 1995:

Best Novel
1. Mother of Storms John Barnes
2. Brittle Innings Michael Bishop
3. Mirror Dance Lois McMaster Bujold
4. Towing Jehovah James Morrow
5. Beggars and Choosers Nancy Kress

Best Novella
1. "Melodies of the Heart" Michael F. Flynn
2. "Forgiveness Day" Ursula K. Le Guin
3. "Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge" Mike Resnick
4. "Les Fluers du Mal" Brian Stableford
5. "Cri de Coeur" Michael Bishop

Best Novelette
1. "Solitude" Ursula K. Le Guin
2. "A Little Knowledge" Mike Resnick
3. "The Matter of Seggri" Ursula K. Le Guin
4. "The Singular Habits of Wasps" Geoffrey A. Landis
5. "Cocoon" Greg Egan
6. "The Martian Child" David Gerrold

Best Short Story
1. "None So Blind" Joe Haldeman
2. "Understanding Entropy" Barry N. Malzberg
3. "Barnaby in Exile" Mike Resnick
4. "I Know What You're Thinking" Kate Wilhelm
5. "Mrs. Lincoln's China" M. Shayne Bell
6. "Dead Man's Curve" Terry Bisson
Aaron V. Humphrey
98. alfvaen
Was skimming through the comments, but decided to just skip to the bottom instead...

This was the second time I actually voted for the Hugos, since I had bought a membership for the Winnipeg Worldcon (though I ended up not being able to attend, and don't remember how I voted there) and decided to get a voting membership for Glasgow as well. I read all of the nominees...except for Mirror Dance, because at that point I had only read one or two Vorkosigan books (The Warrior's Apprentice and possibly Falling Free).

I loved Mother of Storms, which was my leading contender, and prompted me to buy a bunch of John Barnes books, which, true to form, I haven't read yet. Towing Jehovah I found quirky, starting with a bizarre premise and following it through fairly logically. Brittle Innings...well, there's only so much you can say about it without spoiling it, which I see nobody else has done here yet. As Derryl said earlier, there is a tie back to the earliest days of SF, and one of the characters has a secret past. But considering I usually find Michael Bishop not to my taste, I don't blame you for skipping it. Beggars and Choosers...well, I loved Beggars In Spain, but the sequel felt like it trampled all over it, and I never bought my own copy. (Since most of these books were still in hardcover, I read them from the library.)

At the time, I was annoyed that Mirror Dance won, since I hadn't managed to read it, and I was convinced that Mother of Storms was cheated. I've gotten to know the Vorkosigans quite well since then, and since I consider it one of the high points of the series, I have well and truly forgiven it.
CarlosSkullsplitter
99. NullNix
afournier@41, I'm surprised you found _Mother of Storms_ not-science-fictionish. I mean, sure, it has horrible horrible sex (explicitly described as horrible by the participants, too), and it has disasters and megadeaths, but it also has N gevc gb gur bhgre fbyne flfgrz gb pncgher n pbzrg naq oevat vg onpx,pneevrq bhg ol na vapernfvatyl genafuhzna fhcrevagryyvtrag hcybnqrqnfgebanhg naq uvf rabezbhf nezl bs frys-ercyvpngvat znpuvarel. You really cannot get more science-fictional than that plot thread: it was fairly pure late-90s posthuman SF. (It's just a shame about the rest of the novel. I reread that plot thread on occasion, but not the rest.)

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment