Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hugo Nominees, Read Some Online

Drop by SF Signal to see the full list of Hugo Award nominees, and check back as they update to add links to the free reads of nominees online.

Here's a partial list:

BEST NOVEL

* The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
* Brasyl by Ian McDonald
* Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer
* The Last Colony by John Scalzi
* Halting State by Charles Stross


BEST NOVELLA

* "The Fountain of Age" by Nancy Kress (Asimov's July 2007)
* "Recovering Apollo 8" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Asimov's Feb. 2007)
* "Stars Seen Through Stone" by Lucius Shepard (F&SF July 2007)
* "All Seated on the Ground" by Connie Willis (Asimov's Dec. 2007, Subterranean Press)
* "Memorare" by Gene Wolfe (F&SF April 2007)


BEST NOVELETTE

* "The Cambist and Lord Iron: a Fairytale of Economics" by Daniel Abraham (Logorrhea, ed. John Klima, Bantam)
* "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang (F&SF Sept. 2007)
* "Dark Integers" by Greg Egan (Asimov's Oct./Nov. 2007)
* "Glory" by Greg Egan (The New Space Opera, ed. Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan, HarperCollins/Eos)
* "Finisterra" by David Moles (F&SF Dec. 2007)


BEST SHORT STORY

* "Last Contact" by Stephen Baxter (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, ed. George Mann, Solaris Books) [See SF Signal review]
* "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov's June 2007)
* "Who's Afraid of Wolf 359?" by Ken MacLeod (The New Space Opera, ed. by Gardner Dozois, and Jonathan Strahan, HarperCollins/Eos)
* "Distant Replay" by Mike Resnick (Asimov's April/May 2007)
* "A Small Room in Koboldtown" by Michael Swanwick (Asimov's April/May 2007, The Dog Said Bow-Wow, Tachyon Publications)

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Blessings on This Resurrection Day!



Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom:

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gratitude for the Gift of Good Friday


I went outside this morning and it's really beautiful here in Miami. Breezy. Warm, but with that edge of coolness that is so fleeting here. The light is lovely--silvery-gold. And I thanked Christ for his sacrifice and the mercy that has poured on me and billions because of that great, great offering of his own body and life.

I'm still coughing and recovering. My breath comes with some effort. But with that broken breath, I praise Him, I give Him glory, and I weep to think that a bum like me obtained such manna.

If we are to live, something must die. For physical life, we must crush the carrot or lettuce or beans or wheat or animal flesh between our teeth. For spiritual life, we must ingest the Bread of Life and drink the Water of Life.

We remember today the blood that flowed, the words of forgiveness, the ultimate sacrifice of the Son of God.

These are rough times for so many all over the world--war, disease, hunger, droughts, floods, dispossession, crime, economic woes. And yet, we can't just focus on the evils of the day. We must remember that after the crucifixion, the resurrection. After the sorrows, the joy.

I hope you go outside, look at the vast sky, and utter a heartfelt thanks for the hope that His death offers to us in our lives.

Eternity is ours, because mortality was His.

From the gospel of John, chapter 19:

16So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. 17They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. 18There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. 19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, "JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS." 20Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews'; but that He said, 'I am King of the Jews.'" 22Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."

23Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. 24So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"; this was to fulfill the Scripture: "THEY DIVIDED MY OUTER GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS." 25Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

26When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" 27Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" From that hour the disciple took her into his own household. 28After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty." 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. 30Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.


31Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; 33but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. 36For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, "NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN." 37And again another Scripture says, "THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Been Sick & "Green" Toilet Paper

I caught some germie from hubby a couple weeks ago. I'm still battling it. When anything gets into my upper respiratory, it's a big fight. The asthma, as expected, got nasty. My voice is all hoarse and funky, and I'm gaspy like a fish out of water. How attractive is that?

Prayers welcome, as I'm really tired of this bug and clearing sticky mucus out of my pipes.

On to the TP: In the continuing quest for greenness in my home, I've been purchasing/using Seventh Generation t.p. I'm not wild about it. After years of being spoiled by Charmin and Angel Soft and such, this is just not up to the softness level one has come to expect. But, oh, well. I can live with it, just not with bathroomy joy.

I did go online to see if there was another recycled tp that was recommended by consumers as 1. soft and 2. safe for septic systems and 3. good with low-flow toilets. While I haven't settled on anything else yet, I did get a kick out of this, a product with a totally snarf-inducing name:


Oh, just click.

If they had it in my local organics store, I'd try it. Come on, how would you love to have company see that brand name in your bathroom? ; )

Monday, March 10, 2008

Romance Readers & the Increasing Popularity of Urban Fantasy

Over at the blog of the Smart Bitches, a blog entry considers the surge in popularity of Urban Fantasy and the possible reasons for it.

Is it the romance? Is it the strong heroines? Is it both?

For me, it's more about the setting. I've only lived in "big cities." I have no memory of the small town of my birth. I have no experience with rural or smaller city living. I only know NYC and Miami. So, urban fantasy was fantasy within my own milieu, one that was vivid for me. I don't care if the protagonist is female or male, frankly (and my fave urban fantasy series has a male lead character). I like the weird juxtaposition of elements of fantasy within a modern, tech-touched setting. Old magic in a new world.

I am somewhat surfeited on vampires and werewolves, but wizards and women with unusual powers, or cities within or below or around cities (Underworlds, neverwheres, borderlands, faelands, etc) they're still bount to get my attention.

But the allure of female-centric stories with strong romantic sub-plots, yes, as a former romance genre junkie, I totally get why urban fantasy would please a nice subset of the romance world. I remember Silhouette Shadows--about 15, 16 years ago--with the paranormal mixing in with the romantic. And some other titles in other lines offered (and I'm sure still do) super-powered or mythical elements (a selkie hero, a genie, a fire-generating hunk, vampires, werewolves, visionaries, aliens). Futuristic fantasies melded mild sci-fi with strong relationships of the smoochy sort.

And we have readers who did, in fact, grow up with the kick-butt Buffy and the seductive Angel (and Spike). I can imagine those readers wanting to experience similar adventures in print.

Wanna see what the Smart B's had to say about it:Read it.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Worth Reading in "Heated" Times

NY Climate Conference: Journey to the Center of Warming Sanity

The IPCC report is here.

Hubby and I have been trying to be greener, reduce our footprint, so to speak, partially to be good citizens, partially as a conviction that being excessive in consumption is actually not a virtue in the Christian sense. Stewardship of the planet is a God-given mandate, and we should ponder how to be better stewards, if not obsessively and compulsively, at least with some intent and action. We pay more to support local organic farmers. We pay more to use non-toxic ways to eliminate pests, weeds, and diseases from our lawn, shrubs, and trees. We try not to water, letting things brown a bit, if needed. Less aesthetic, but, hey, water is scarce down here. When we can gather the moolah (after more urgent repairs and renovations), I'd like to xeroscape to eliminate the need for extra water. I'd like to see our local government facilitate comprehensive recycling.

But I am not convinced that the political agenda has not overwhelmed the press and some scientific judgment. Obviously, warming is the trend. But it may be a trend mostlly out of human culpability (again, look at the info about warming throughout the solar system). Is it a correction from the little ice age? Has it been warmer in the past and we are on a normal cyclic upswing? Is there some cosmic phenomenon that we simply haven't figured out? Some natural, non-human factor on top of the greenhouse gasses we put out in our industrialized acceleration and auto-dependence?

I dunno. But these are questions that need to be asked, because if making radical changes brings only negligible temperature correction to less heat (if correction is even possible), the price to humans may not be worth it if it means devastating economies and encouraging, as one global leader said was necessary, more poverty and slowing population growth (which, given the urgent tone, I guess would involve some Draconian measures, not simply asking nicely.)

At minimum, let the debate continue, and the skeptics be heard and not ridiculed outright, even as we all examine how we can consume less and protect the land and water and our neighbors more.

Pixy's GOLDEN

Everyone's favorite "pixy"--Rachel Marks--has done an outstanding job of mixing her artwork with her fiction at her website. Check it out: GOLDEN, teaser

Is that sharp or what?

A link at the bottom of the page takes you to an excerpt of her as-yet-unpubbed fantasy novel, with some cool music to read by;. If you like romance and futuristic fae--and enjoy Evanescence, Breaking Benjamin, or Muse for reading music--well, check it out.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

SYM in the Land of Sexual Plenty, or Why I'm Very Glad I'm Not a SYF

I suddenly appreciate my mensch hubby even more than usual after reading "Child Man in the Promised Land" by Kay S. Hymowitz in City Journal. (hat tip to the ever-delightful John C. Wright for the link.)

It's not that the article hasn't said anything I haven't seen for myself (and seen how it has affected the parents who support these men-children and the girlfriends--with or without children--who cannot get these men-children to grow the F up). It's that it brings in the threads--the gaming, the magazines, the stupid ass movies that seem to be constantly featured in ads--to paint a more condensed and horrifying (to me) view of young manhood (or boyhood) today:

But this history suggests an uncomfortable fact about the new SYM: he’s immature because he can be. We can argue endlessly about whether “masculinity” is natural or constructed—whether men are innately promiscuous, restless, and slobby, or socialized to be that way—but there’s no denying the lesson of today’s media marketplace: give young men a choice between serious drama on the one hand, and Victoria’s Secret models, battling cyborgs, exploding toilets, and the NFL on the other, and it’s the models, cyborgs, toilets, and football by a mile. For whatever reason, adolescence appears to be the young man’s default state, proving what anthropologists have discovered in cultures everywhere: it is marriage and children that turn boys into men. Now that the SYM can put off family into the hazily distant future, he can—and will—try to stay a child-man. Yesterday’s paterfamilias or Levittown dad may have sought to escape the duties of manhood through fantasies of adventures at sea, pinups, or sublimated war on the football field, but there was considerable social pressure for him to be a mensch. Not only is no one asking that today’s twenty- or thirtysomething become a responsible husband and father—that is, grow up—but a freewheeling marketplace gives him everything that he needs to settle down in pig’s heaven indefinitely.

And that heaven can get pretty piggish.


When I was a teen who was sure she'd never marry and didn't see herself as a future mother, listening to my girlfriends (all virgins, all planning to go to college, all career-minded as well as marriage-minded, most wanting to be moms, too, and looking forward to it) go on about what they wanted in a future husband, a term used to come up a lot among the Latinas: "hecho y derecho." A literal translation, which would be inept, is "made and straight." The connotations would be off if you took it as a straight translation. A better translation would be "finished and upright." Finished meaning complete, mature, with all his life in order. Upright meaning he was a good guy, someone you could depend on, someone who was admirable. It was the totality of maturity in one phrase.

Notably, men were expected to be "hecho y derecho" by their early twenties, mid-twenties latest. Someone who wasn't a MAN by the quarter-century mark had something wrong with him, a particular weakness of character, a sort of self-indulgence that rejected taking the reins of the carriage of full manhood.

Full manhood implies commitment, duty, and the payoff--truly deep relationships, deep caring.

The frustration of single women in search of a man who is right and will commit got highlighted in Chick Lit novels, a genre which may not be so fresh anymore, but which certainly touched a big nerve in female readership. The article refers to novelists of Lad Lit--the other side of the story, the man-boys themselves. Even male authors noticed the slacker, commitment-phoboc members of their own sex--think of ABOUT A BOY by Nick Hornsby. One author is quoted in the article, coming to this conclusion:

In a world of serial relationships, SYMs “fail to sublimate their libidinal energies in the way that actually makes men attractive,” Kunkel told a dismayed female interviewer in Salon. With no one to challenge them to deeper connections, they swim across life’s surfaces.

The superficiality, indolence, and passionlessness evoked in Hornby’s and Kunkel’s novels haven’t triggered any kind of cultural transformation. Kunkel’s book briefly made a few regional bestseller lists, and Hornby sells well enough. But sales of “lad lit,” as some call books with SYM heroes, can’t hold a candle to those of its chick-lit counterpart. The SYM doesn’t read much, remember, and he certainly doesn’t read anything prescribing personal transformation. The child-man may be into self-mockery; self-reflection is something else entirely.

That’s too bad. Men are “more unfinished as people,” Kunkel has neatly observed. Young men especially need a culture that can help them define worthy aspirations. Adults don’t emerge. They’re made.


But the article doesn't focus on why they don't need to sublimate their libidinal energies. After all, if that's at the root, as suggested, then what changed.

Well, John C. had something to say on it:

Once it was, in the name of freedom and women's equality, stigmatized rather than lauded for women to remain chaste until marriage, the supply of available demimondes and nymphs increased. A similar cultural shift away from duty-based morality toward moralities based on enlightened self interest ushered in intellectuals (ranging from the sincere to the truly strange) who then supported the pursuit of unenlightened self-interest. A decline in religious sentiment and a general contempt for marriage and family formed an coincidence of interests, a meeting of minds, so to speak, between the Hugh Hefner like exploiters of women and the Gloria Steinem like defenders of women's equality: both hated each other, but both were allied against marriage.

It is marriage and childrearing, more than any other single factor, that turns boys into men.

When marriage is optional, and man can philander or move in with concubines without benefit of marriage, moving out whenever his enlightened or unenlightened self-interest might prompt him, then manhood is optional as well. Since they have the advantages of marriage, the bed, without the commitments of marriage, the ring, and since they have the advantages of manhood, a job, without the commitments of manhood, a household to mind, a township to serve, why should these boy-men not beguile away the hours playing online games?


I remember when we used to be told about the value of saying NO to sex--the religious value (purity, physical holiness), the social value (to be seen as a virtuous woman and suitable wife, to be respected for self-control by others and self, and to not add to the burden of the community as done by unwed moms on welfare), the familial value (no premarital pregnancies stressing family finances), the psychological value (self-esteem, sense of innate vallue that told us we were worth the full commitment of marriage before relations), and the medical value (no sexually-transmitted diseases).

Make sexual purity and sanctified marriage seem laughable and antiquated, and leave someone with what the culture alone offers (no stigma for unwed sexual activity of every possible kind), and there's no reason to control those "libidinal energies." They feel good. If there's nothing standing in the way other than latex, then gung ho, let's go.

And you get your child-men. And child-women, too, no doubt, keeping them company. But that's for another article.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Give Becky Your Suggestions

Becky, over at Spec Faith today, has resurrected the idea of a CSFF award.

Drop by and engage her in discussion and offer her your brilliant suggestions. If this is something you want to volunteer for, leave a comment to connect.

It's doable. But it will require folks wanting to do it, then doing it.

I, personally, don't like naming it the Clive Staples. Too person and culture specific. I prefer CS, which gives a nod to the venerable author and apologist, but also stands for "Christian Speculative" and echoes the phrase we've been using for the blog tours: CSFF for Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy.

But you go and chime in.

Resources for Newbie SF Writers

I'm sick. Bleh. So, nothing special to say. Did want to share this nifty post by Nancy Fulda, an author and assistant editor at Baen's Universe:

Resources for New Writers

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Dorchester and Fantasy

Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency blogged about delays and trends a couple of days ago. She mentioned that one Dorchester editor is looking for fantasy, but within the following subgenres:
1. Blends of historical with fantasy (C.L. Wilson’s LORD OF THE FADING LANDS did well—and was quite long to boot)

2. Urban fantasy with a strong romance.


And Kristen says this to fantasy authors:
Folks, it’s not the paranormal element that makes your story fresh or original, it’s the amazing world you build within your paranormal romance that makes the difference. From the slush stuff Sara and I have seen lately, a lot of writers haven’t quite learned that distinction.


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