Friday, November 30, 2012

Water on Mercury

While space exploration of Mars tends to get the lion's share of media attention, I'm riveted by the news that NASA's Messenger spacecraft has detected strong evidence that the planet Mercury harbours water ice at its poles, and possibly even organic matter. It seems hard to believe that a planet with temperatures that can reach nearly 500 degrees Celsius could have ice anywhere, but Mercury's poles get very little exposure to the sun so temperatures are much, much lower. Apparently the shade of deep craters also helps preserve the ice.

As we learn more about our solar system, it seems more and more likely that we'll find extraterrestrial life somewhere within Sol's orbit - probably only microbes, but even that would be a stunning new paradigm for human beings to accept. I am profoundly grateful to live in an era when humanity's best and brightest are discovering so many new wonders.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

And the Winner Is...

I figure 48 hours is enough time to wrap up a contest on a little-seen blog with no real prizes, so I'm happy to announce that Menage a Jeff, the only entrant, came the closest to identifying all the various bits of ephemera found in my Pop Culture Diorama. Here's MaJ's winning entry, with my comments in bold:

"Ménage à Jeff" said... Lots of clues you give, but maybe I don't have them all:

Upper row - promo insert for The Road Warrior

promo insert for The Searchers


I would call these "lobby card reproductions," but close enough
Superman's cape (not a step)
Correct
Earl's toy army man, green army (rifleman)
This was actually a promo army man from the Army Men PC came of the 90s, but close enough
3D glasses, red/blue anaglph, so old-fashioned... I am guessing from Creature From The Black Lagoon
Almost - they were boxed with Robot Monster on VHS
Promo model Daily Planet building, Superman Returns
Not quite; it came with a DC Direct Perry White action figure
Mid row - Hallmark NCC 1701 7 Galileo shuttlecraft Christmas ornament with Spok voice
I wish! It's a Johnny Lightning Galileo with no lights or sounds
Enter The Dragon promo insert
Same notation as The Searchers and The Road Warrior, above
I want to say the thing on the far right is a lirpa, but I'm sue it isn't. But it should be.
It's the spear from a Tarzan action figure set
Bottom row - promo insert for "The Wild Bunch"
Close enough
Ear'ls toy army man, chartreuse army (rifleman)
See note for green army man
7 poker ships from Fallout: New Vegas (Left top to bottom: Vault 21, Atomic Wrangler, Ultra Luxe, Lucky 38 Platinum Chip; Right top to bottom: Tops, Steve Bison, Gomorrah) - you lucky bastard, by the way
Correct
Green Lantern action figure green lantern
Correct
Green Arrow action figure green handcuff arrow
Correct
How The West Was Won promo insert
Close enough, see above
King Kong
Incorrect. It's actually Cheetah, Tarzan's chimp pal, part of the same action figure set that included the spear
Captain Kirk action figure Type 3 Phaser Rifle (possible prototype used by Kirk on Gamma Hydra)
Correct
Now for the flat-out guesses:

Lex Luthor's chair (maybe Perry White, or JJJ, but my guess is LL)
Soooo close! It's J. Jonah Jameson's chair
Hawkman helmet
Correct
Six pearl-headed steel pins from Sylvia's sewing kit (or maybe your mom's - does Sylvia sew? I do not know.)
They came with the frame
Olive Green broadcloth background, probably came with box
Correct

Congratulations, Menage a Jeff! As promised, you may now choose three items from the above list to be featured in a (no doubt ridiculous) short story penned by yours truly. Choose wisely!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hero Histrionics

Bob Haney was the true master of histrionic comics melodrama! Poor Batman, so distraught over the death of Batman Jr. that he starts speaking like Lois Lane. And just look at how Superman reacts! The anguish, the pathos! "BATMAN!"

Thank goodness it was all a big mistake.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pop Culture Diorama

Last year I assembled this diorama to decorate the theatre room. Since then I've rearranged the whole room, and I've moved the diorama to my office, jiggling several pieces out of place in the process. Rather than put the whole thing back together the way it was, I think I'll switch out some pieces and create a new display.

For fun, can you identify each item I've enshrined in this temple of pop culture? If you think you can, post your answer in the comments. Whoever scores the highest earns the right to direct me to write a short story featuring any three of the items in question, said story to be finished before Christmas day.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ghost Rally 1 & 2

I really love scanning my old negatives and discovering photos I never even knew existed. Some of these photos are wonderful, but many are frustrating: out of focus, underexposed. One such shot features an unknown volleyball player, probably one of my friends, but the image is too dark to make out his face, even with extensive photomanipulation. So instead I started playing around and seeing if I could transform the image into something interesting. The results are above; the original image, below.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pitfall Sean and Earl

"The garden - filled with alligators, just like a pit in Pitfall Harry!"
"We'll have to jump for it!"
"GO!"

Friday, November 23, 2012

Not Green Arrow's Finest Moment

While Superman has long been one of my favourite comic book characters - if not the favourite - I often prefer the stories featuring second-tier characters such as Green Arrow (aka Oliver Queen) and Black Canary (aka Dinah Lance), mostly because it seems like the writers and artists feel more comfortable taking chances and exploring the boundaries of the medium.

For example, during the "Dollar Comic" era of World's Finest, when each issue was super-sized and featured a half-dozen characters in four different stories, I looked forward to the Black Canary/Green Arrow stories most, because I enjoyed their tempestuous relationship.

When I first read this issue - #253, cover-dated November 1978 - I was only nine years old, and I thought Black Canary was being kind of mean to her boyfriend. I took their argument at face value, missing the nuance entirely, because I hadn't learned about the birds and the bees yet...nor the menstrual cycle:
"This Earth 2 deal, going home, finding yourself, all of it's part of the mood you get in. A few days, you'll be over it." 

"Do you seriously think my problems are biological? That I'm like a faucet you can turn on and off?" 
It seems pretty clear to me that Oliver is attributing Dinah's current feelings to her period - edgy stuff for a comic book allegedly targeted at kids! From an adult perspective, Green Arrow's dismissive behaviour is revealed as almost hilariously sexist and blockheaded; my sympathies now lie entirely with Dinah. No wonder their on-again, off-again relationship didn't work out in the end.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mission: Unfashionable

Today I watched both the last episode of the original Mission: Impossible TV series, followed by the first episode of its late 80s revival. The original series ended on March 30, 1973; the revival premiered on October 23, 1988. Watching the two episodes back to back was an interesting exercise in observing how the show's formula remained the same while all the aesthetics had evolved dramatically.

While watching the finale of the first series, I noted with some amusement the loud home decor and fashions that so typified the era. One of the bad guys wore a shocking ensemble comprised of loud white, red and green pants, a pink fishnet tank top, brown leather coat and porn-star mustache. He worked in an apartment with truly regrettable wood paneling and a bright orange shag carpet.

The revival's premiere, on the other hand, featured far more spartan aesthetics; the men all wore professional-looking business suits, and decor was muted, angular, less cozy and more stark. The contrast was striking.

The producers, however, clearly enjoyed the original series and did their best to respect it. They brought back Peter Graves to reprise the role of Impossible Missions Force team leader Jim Phelps, hired Phil Morris, son of Greg Morris, to play the son of his father's character, kept Bob Johnson as the always unseen voice who provided Jim with the mission of the week, and they even rehired Lalo Schifrin to update the iconic music. So perhaps it's no surprise that they also kept the so-called "dossier scene," in which Phelps selects which agents are to be used for the current mission. Of course, instead of a paper dossier Phelps as in the original, in the revival Phelps used a high-tech (for the time) computer and wall screen to choose the team. The apartment colour scheme, though, remains the same: black, white and silver, though the furnishings and decor reflect 80s style rather than that of the 60s or 70s.

The first few episodes of the revival series were remakes of scripts from the original series; the revival initially began as an effort to create new content for the 1989-90 television season despite a writer's strike. But the strike ended sooner than anticipated, allowing the show to truly pick up where the original had left off, though with big 80s hair, fancier computers, blander clothes (except perhaps on the women), CDs and a lot more neon.

I watched the revival on and off while attending university, but I don't remember the series well enough to render final judgement. I do find it interesting that on DVD the picture quality of the original series far outshines that of the revival; I can only assume that the revival was shot, or at least edited, on video rather than film. It remains entertaining.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Amazon Recommends

To be fair, I haven't watched Prometheus yet, so perhaps there's a vital scene featuring tart tins...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Near Miss

On November 12, Sylvia and I drove to Tim Horton's for drinks. On our way back, travelling south on 178th street just north of the 98th avenue intersection, we began to slow for that intersection's red light. I try to maintain situational awareness at all times while I'm driving - checking my mirrors, glancing around as much as possible - so I don't like to say that another vehicle "came out of nowhere."

But the white sedan that suddenly screeched by on our right hand side certainly seemed to come out of nowhere. It was going far too quickly to avoid rear-ending the last of the vehicles waiting at the light, and I grimaced, expecting the worst.

The driver veered onto the snow-covered median. His momentum was so great that despite the piled snow he plowed down the length of the median, six or seven car lengths, popping off the end and into the intersection, swerving right, cutting off the first car lined up at the light. He then nonchalantly drove west on 98th avenue as if nothing had happened.

It was either an impressive (if reckless) feat of automotive skill or profoundly lucky happenstance. Either way, I'm grateful and somewhat dumbfounded that no one was hurt. Stay careful out there.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Industrial Artist

While it's true that Mr. Pottinger destroyed my bowl on the lathe, I still think he was a pretty good teacher. Despite my struggles with leather working and ceramics, he was patient and did a good job of explaining key concepts. And I still enjoy recalling his recitation of the five senses, delivered in a singsong Caribbean accent:

"What are the five senses? Taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight. But there is a sixth sense, the most important sense of all! What is this sixth sense? COMMON sense!"

One day I endured a personalized version of this short lecture. Bored and distracted, I placed a leather punch in a shallow pool of water (used to cure the leather, or some other arcane process) and started tapping it with my mallet just to see the water ripple. Mr. Pottinger caught me and said sternly, "You are not using your common sense!" He was right, and I guiltily returned to making my leather bookmark.

Mr. Pottinger's wife was a librarian, a very joyful woman, and I went to school with their children, Clayton and Nevin. Strangely enough Nevin and I wound up on the same dorm floor - Main Kelsey - when we studied at the University of Alberta a few years later. I've always been a little sad that I didn't talk with him much; he seemed like a cool guy, but our interests were fairly divergent so we never really hung out together.

I haven't thought about the Pottingers for years, but of late I find myself contemplating the past more than usual - more than is healthy, probably. But when the future seems uncertain (speaking only in terms of my career), I suppose it's natural to take comfort in what's gone before.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Woodsturning

I snapped protective goggles over my eyes then leaned forward, carefully balancing my detail gouge on the lathe's tool rest. With my free hand I snapped the lathe's power switch into the ON position; the block of dark wood mounted on the spindle began to turn, slowly at first, then faster and faster, the revolutions transforming the wood into a hazy blur of barely restrained motion.

Brow furrowed, I slid the gouge along the tool rest, closer and closer to the spinning block, heart pounding, beads of sweat breaking out on my teenage skin. I took a deep breath and pushed the gouge that final millimetre, its tip scoring the wood with a screech, curls of oak and a rain of sawdust spraying in small arcs as I carved away the excess matter to release the bowl that my teacher claimed lay waiting to be released.

Hesitant at first, my confidence grew as the lathe's noise and the hijinks of my fellow students faded into the background, blocked out by my steadily intensifying focus. There was only the spindle, the gouge, my hands and most importantly, the dark wood. Second by second, I was writing my will upon the wood, whittling away at nature.

I turned my attention to the centre of the wood, resetting the lathe, switching to a hollowing tool to carve out the block's centre, friction heating the dark oak, my nostrils filling with the scent of burning forest. My eyes flicked to the old black-and-white analog clock high on one wall of the lab; only a few minutes until the dismissal bell would ring. But I was calm. With the bowl's cavity hollowed out, I was ready for the last step: fine-tuning the detail on the outer rim.

Just as I was switching tools, our instructor, Mr. Pottinger, approached, shaking his head. He yanked the gouge from my hand and I stepped back, startled, unable to mouth a word of protest as he examined my work.

"No, no, no," he said. "This is all wrong. Look, watch - "

And he slid the gouge forward, a little too hard, a little too fast. The bowl exploded into several large pieces and an innumerable number of fine chips. I stood in shock, staring at the now-empty spindle, still humming away obediently though relieved of its burden.

Mr. Pottinger shrugged. "Oh well," he said. "You'll have to start again from the beginning." No apologies, no explanations.

I was too deferential to the teachers I revered to protest. I swallowed my anger and humiliation and began again two days later. I finished that second bowl, and it remained in my parents' China cabinet for years, storing knickknacks. But all these years I've always believed the first bowl would have been better.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Waikiki Lights

Sylvia and I honeymooned in Hawaii back in 2008. I took a few minutes one night to photograph the busy street outside our Waikiki hotel, setting a long exposure to capture the flickering torches and whizzing traffic. I think this turned out fairly well.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Black House of Blahs

For many years, I've wanted to own a black house - black inside and out. Black paint on the outside, black trim, black stairs, smoke-black windows, black interior walls, black floors, black ceiling, black rugs, black carpets, black furniture, black paintings, black dishes and cutlery, black handrails, black doors, black fixtures, black appliances, black window coverings.

I would also affix black mannequin arms and legs to the walls, floors and ceilings at random intervals, like ebony ghosts slowly emerging from the crawlspaces. My theory is that robbers would be utterly blind in such a house, and they'd wind up clobbering themselves on the mannequin limbs, which would be completely invisible in the blackness.

Unfortunately Sylvia vetoes this plan whenever I raise the issue. But I think I'll win her over eventually.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Battered by Baseballs

Even though Sean is doing his best to give me a good push on the swing, I don't seem terribly impressed in this photo. Perhaps it's because of the painful memories associated with the Leaf Rapids Blue Jays shirt I'm wearing. 

In one game, I stepped up to the plate thrice and earned a walk each time. Not because I had a good eye, but because the pitcher nailed me in the genitals with fastball pitches not once, but twice. I took my base doubled over each time, trying not to vomit. Third time up I tried to dodge the final wild pitch by thrusting my hips forward, but the ball wound up smacking me in the left buttock, which at that speed was almost (though not quite) as painful as the groin hits. It was only then that our coach had mercy on me and allowed me to sit out the rest of the game.

To the opposing pitcher's credit, I don't believe he deliberately aimed at my delicate bits; I still remember his tear-streaked features as he watched me stagger to first base. But as much as I appreciated his empathy, I would have appreciated better aim even more.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

American Science Fiction: Five Classic Novels 1956-1958

As happens more often than I care to admit, I went out shopping today for gifts only to find something I just had to purchase for myself: this extremely handsome volume of five classic science fiction novels from The Library of America. The included novels are Robert Heinlein's Double Star, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, A Case of Conscience by James Blush, Who? by Algis Budrys and Fritz Leiber's The Big Time.

I have about a dozen Library of America collections across a variety of genres, but they're all uniformly gorgeous. Most volumes sport fairly simple covers, but some of their newer offerings, such as this one, feature beautiful genre-appropriate artwork and graphic design. Even though I already own two of the novels in this five-book collection, I just had to have this.

UPDATE: I was reading the CBC news website and realized that I was in the store while this was going on - the Make-A-Wish Foundation made it possible for a 13 year old with thyroid cancer to enjoy a shopping spree at Chapters. There was a moment where I wondered idly why there was such a commotion in the next aisle, but otherwise I was completely unaware that there was a news story being filmed. When I'm browsing for books my attention is pretty focussed!I hope the girl featured in the story enjoys a full recovery.

Monday, November 12, 2012

One Mayan Leap

While looking through images of our trip to Mexico, I was inspired to create this little tableau. The scale of the lunar landers is probably all wrong, but I was eyeballing it. Perspective is really tricky.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Skyfail

My review of Skyfall would have appeared in this space today, but the AVX theatre projector at Windermere died a sputtering death and couldn't be fixed quickly enough to screen the film before the next exhibition was scheduled to begin. Sylvia and Claire and Alan and I waited in the dark for nearly an hour before theatre staff regretfully sent us on our way. However, they did give us two pairs of free passes, so we got an extra movie out of the deal.

This is the first time I can recall being in attendance during a projector failure since the 1980s at the latest, back in the days of actual film. I've seen the stereotypical "film melting on the screen" image two or three times in my life, and it's certainly more romantic than what we witnessed today, just some digital noise and choppy bits of a trailer's dialogue.

Sometime in the mid to late 1970s, my cousin Carol Ann came with me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey at the theatre in Leaf Rapids. The film didn't break, but the projectionist played the reels out of order; the film began with the astronauts on the way to Jupiter and ended with the guys on the moon discovering the monolith. As if 2001 wasn't confusing enough to kids our age to begin with..!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Earl the Daft Punk

When I ran for the Public Relations spot on Student Council at my local high school in June 1985, a couple of my female friends thought I needed to sport various looks to appeal to each segment of the school population. They helpfully made me up into a sort of combination Adam Ant/Billy Idol in an effort to garner the punk vote. I guess it worked, since I was elected to the position. Other posters featured me as a jock and a nerd, one of those being less of a stretch than the other.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Signposts of an Earlier Era

Back when we lived in northern Manitoba, our crew cab, camper and motorboat allowed us to take full advantage of the few recreational opportunities available on the edge of nowhere: fishing and camping. I'm fascinated by the little details in this photo that hint at the era: the stubby beer bottles, the huge Ford truck, the brown and beige colours of the truck and camper, my "XXI Olympic" shirt, the package of Rothman's cigarettes. I wish the photo were sharp enough to reveal what I'm holding up in front of my face. And if I'm not mistaken there's a toy machine gun on the picnic table in the background.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Still Nearly Famous


Back when I landed the co-hosting slot of the CBC pilot "If Your Parents Split," one of the actors gave me a very nice card and a simple button that read "I'm Nearly Famous." I wore that button for years and it remains in my collection, though I don't wear it around town anymore. I thought the sentiment was cute and it helped keep me grounded during those heady teenage days of near-fame. It was and is a good reminder not to take myself too seriously.

The pilot wasn't picked up, but it did earn a couple of awards, and since then I've had a series of medium-profile jobs and activities that haven't exactly catapulted me to fame, but have put me in the orbit of a few reasonably famous people. I've certainly never wanted fame for its own sake, but it some degree of notoriety goes hand-in-hand with the careers and activities I've pursued: acting, politics, writing. I'm drawn to these activities for a number of reasons. I like writing and other creative pursuits because, well, they're creative; I enjoy exercising my imagination and bringing something new into the world. I gave politics a try because I thought perhaps I could help people. I never pursued acting or the theatre seriously, but I did dabble from junior high school to university and quite enjoyed it.

My greatest dream has always been to have my name in print, something I technically accomplished back in 1997 with the publication of my first freelance article. Of course the BIG dream was to be listed as the author of a book - again, something I almost accomplished with Herbs & Edible Flowers, in which I'm listed as the co-writer with (the much more famous) Lois Hole. But that wasn't quite enough either. In truth, my biggest dream remains to finish a novel and have it published. It could sell five copies for all I care; I just want that book on my shelf with my name on it. Why? Well, for whatever reason I decided at a very young age I wasn't going to have children, and on some level I want to leave something of myself behind; a novel would fill the bill very nicely.

But given the slow demise of traditional publishing and my own lackadaisical habits, I doubt I'll ever see that dream fulfilled. I still have hopes of selling another short story, but a novel...well, that dream is more distant now. By the time I finish I'm sure traditional publishing will be dead and gone and I'll have to settle for e-publishing, which I'm not knocking at all...it's just not the dream I had in mind.

On the other hand, this blog hit a new high of just over 8,000 page views last month. When I started this project I assumed I'd be writing just for me and maybe a few friends; it was really just a way to experiment with new media. Now it appears I have a much larger audience than I ever intended, and it's frankly a little intimidating. Now I know how cartoonists feel, trying to craft something funny 365 (or 366) days a year. It's a grind and some days you know you're disappointing your readers.

Like tonight, maybe...some nights insight comes easily, some nights you ramble.

Fame? I guess I'd like just a little - just enough that maybe fifty or seventy-five years from now - it would be the height of hubris to hope for more - a few people will know that I existed. Why that should be important to me I honestly don't know, but there it is.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Arrow Continues to Surprise

Given the genre's history, one can hardly blame television viewers with reasonably sophisticated tastes to expect much from shows about super-heroes. Sure, The Adventures of Superman was fun kiddie fare and The Flash provided some reasonable action-adventure thrills. But for the most part, live-action superhero television has ranged from embarrassing to abysmal.

To my complete shock, the CW's Arrow is far more ambitious than I ever expected. The show uses a standard trope: man has traumatic experience and becomes a better person for it, vowing to fight for justice so others won't suffer as he did. And while much of Arrow does indeed focus on the crimefighting exploits of its titular hero, the show runners place as much or more emphasis on the consequences of Oliver Queen's choices, particularly in tonight's episode, the appropriately-titled "Damaged."

In "Damaged," Oliver Queen weaves an elaborate web of lies to convince his friends, family and enemies that he is not, in fact, the masked avenger killing bad guys with arrows. The scheme works, but in the process Oliver lies to his mother and stepfather, his ex-girlfriend, her father, his little sister, his best friend and, in fact, all of his peers save the one man he's taken into his confidence: his bodyguard Diggle, who he puts in harm's way to accomplish his goals.

In a surprisingly mature and moving coda to the episode, Diggle berates Oliver for his lies even as viewers are presented with a montage of scenes showing how Oliver's choices - dating back to those he made before and during his shipwreck - have damaged himself and his loved ones. Though the show's protagonist, Oliver lies without apology over and over, and he is a master of deceit, playing on the sympathies of those closest to him to hide his dark secret. Meanwhile Quentin Lance, Oliver's ex-girlfriend's father, is determined to put Oliver in jail because he rightly suspects him of being the vigilante and the murderer. Oliver even hires Laurel Lance, his ex, to defend him in court, betraying her trust in two ways - as an ex-lover and as a client.

Meanwhile we find out that Oliver's stepfather seems to be a decent man, while his mother is somehow in league with the criminals on Oliver's master list of bad guys - a very neat reversal of cliche that's wringing further emotional drama from an already tortured cast of characters.

Indeed, the tragedy approaches Shakespearean levels as Quentin is forced not only to save Oliver's life, but to drop all charges against him because Oliver's scheme to exonerate himself worked. Frustrated beyond belief and still grieving over the death of his other daughter (Laurel's sister), a death he blames with some justification on Queen, Quentin winds up mourning and drunk at a local bar and has to be half-carried home by Laurel.

None of this sounds particularly compelling when hastily summarized, nor does it capture even a fraction of the episode's pathos. This isn't drama on the level of The Wire or Breaking Bad, but for a show about a masked vigilante it is surprisingly mature and challenging. It may be the most realistic show about superheroes ever made, at least when it comes to the legal, physical and psychological consequences of vigilantism. 




Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Night

Sometimes I resent the way American elections dominate the news cycles even beyond the borders of the United States. Certainly I could have done without the poisonous rhetoric of the last 18 months or so: the fear mongering, the hate and lies that grow more egregious with each passing year.

Unfortunately, the United States remains the most powerful country in the world, and the choices of its citizens have huge impacts on every human being. A multipolar world would be healthier than the one we now inhabit, but that will require more time. Until that day, we observe on the sidelines, hoping for sanity from our American cousins even as we struggle to cultivate more of that quality here at home.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Swag from 2112

Today the postman delivered my Tweets from 2112 prize package - the officially listed grand prize of a new iPod Touch, but also a copy of Robert J. Sawyer's newest book and - the big surprise - a really lovely Canada Writes leather-bound notebook, which, oddly enough, pleases me most of all. While I'm thrilled with the other two prizes, I certainly could have bought them on my own (and in the case of the book, I would have). But the notebook makes a better memento, and I'll use it to outline my entry for next year's Canada Writes short story contest.

Unfortunately, I inadvertently broke my promise to enter this year's contest. Despite Neil's reminder, the due date simply crept up on me and by the time the contest entered my consciousness I was already up to my ears in freelance deadlines. No excuses next year!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Reading the Hugo Nominees



Second in prestige in the science fiction and fantasy community only to the Nebulas, the Hugo Awards have been handed out every year by the World Science Fiction Society at Worldcon. Unlike the Nebula, Hugo awards are voted on by members at that convention. For the first few years, only the winners were announced; after the late 50s, winners and nominees were revealed. Winners are listed first, but three years ended in a tie: 1966, 1993 and 2010. There are a couple of other weird anomalies: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress appears twice because it was published in magazines over the course of two years, and Dune World, also appearing in magazine form, was re-nominated as Dune when it appeared as a standalone novel. In the late 90s the society started awarding Retro Hugos at significant anniversaries.

Winners and nominees I’ve read are highlighted in bold. Of the 293 total nominees, I’ve read 117, or about 40 percent of them. I’ve definitely read more Hugo nominees than Nebula nominees, although it should be noted there is some crossover between the awards so reading certain titles allows you to come closer to completing both lists.Thanks to Jeff for reminding me that I have indeed read The Left Hand of Darkness; hence, it's marked as read here.

Hugo Award for Best Novel

1946 (Retro Hugos)
The Mule, Isaac Asimov
The World of Null-A, A.E. van Vogt
That Hideous Strength, C.S. Lewis
Destiny Times Three, Fritz Leiber
Red Sun of Danger, Edmond Hamilton

1951 (Retro Hugos)
Farmer in the Sky, Robert A. Heinlein
Pebble in the Sky, Isaac Asimov
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
First Lensman, E.E. “Doc” Smith
The Dying Earth, Jack Vance

1953
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester

1954 (Retro Hugos)
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon

1955
They’d Rather Be Right (AKA The Forever Machine), Mark Clifton and Frank Riley

1956
Double Star, Robert A. Heinlein

1958
The Big Time, Fritz Leiber

1959
A Case of Conscience, James Blish
We Have Fed Our Sea, Poul Anderson
Who?, Algis Budrys
Have Space Suit – Will Travel, Robert A. Heinlein
Time Killer, Robert Sheckley

1960
Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
Dorsai!, Gordon R. Dickson
The Pirates of Ersatz, Murray Leinster
That Sweet Little Old Lady, Mark Phillips
The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut

1961
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller Jr.
The High Crusade, Poul Anderson
Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
Deathworld, Harry Harrison
Venus Plus X, Theodore Sturgeon

1962
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
Dark Universe, Daniel F. Galouye
Sense of Obligation, Harry Harrison
The Fisherman, Clifford D. Simak
Second Ending, James White

1963
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
The Sword of Aldones, Marion Zimmer Bradley
A Fall of Moondust, Arthur C. Clarke
Little Fuzzy, H. Beam Piper
Sylva, Jean Bruller

1964
Way Station, Clifford D. Simak
Glory Road, Robert A. Heinlein
Witch World, Andre Norton
Dune World, Frank Herbert
Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

1965
The Wanderer, Fritz Leiber
The Whole Man, John Brunner
Davy, Edgar Pangborn
The Planet Buyer, Cordwainer Smith

1966
Dune, Frank Herbert
…And Call Me Conrad (AKA This Immortal), Roger Zelazny
The Squares of the City, John Brunner
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein
Skylark DuQuesne, E.E. “Doc” Smith

1967
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein
Babel-17, Samuel R. Delany
Too Many Magicians, Randall Garrett
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
The Witches of Karres, James H. Schmitz
Day of the Minotaur, Thomas Burnett Swann

1968
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
The Einstein Intersection, Samuel R. Delany
Chthon, Piers Anthony
The Butterfly Kid, Chester Anderson
Thorns, Robert Silverberg

1969
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
Rite of Passage, Alexi Panshin
Nova, Samuel R. Delany
Past Master, R.A. Lafferty
The Goblin Reservation, Clifford D. Simak

1970
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
Up the Line, Robert Silverberg
Macroscope, Piers Anthony
Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
Bug Jack Barron, Norman Spinrad

1971
Ringworld, Larry Niven
Tau Zero, Poul Anderson
Tower of Glass, Robert Silverberg
The Year of the Quiet Sun, Wilson Tucker
Star Light, Hal Clement

1972
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. LeGuin
Dragonquest, Anne McCaffrey
Jack of Shadows, Roger Zelazny
A Time of Changes, Robert Silverberg

1973
The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov
When H.A.R.L.I.E. Was One, David Gerrold
There Will Be Time, Poul Anderson
The Book of Skulls, Robert Silverberg
Dying Inside, Robert Silverberg
A Choice of Gods, Clifford D. Simak

1974
Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
Time Enough for Love, Robert A. Heinlein
Protector, Larry Niven
The People of the Wind, Poul Anderson
The Man Who Folded Himself, David Gerrold

1975
The Dispossessed, Ursula K. LeGuin
Fire Time, Poul Anderson
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Philip K. Dick
The Mote in God’s Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Inverted World, Christopher Priest

1976
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Doorways in the Sand, Roger Zelazny
Inferno, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Computer Connection, Alfred Bester
The Stochastic Man, Robert Silverberg

1977
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm
Mindbridge, Joe Haldeman
Children of Dune, Frank Herbert
Man Plus, Frederik Pohl
Shadrach in the Furnace, Robert Silverberg

1978
Gateway, Frederik Pohl
The Forbidden Tower, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Lucifer’s Hammer, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Time Storm, Gordon R. Dickson
Dying of the Light, George R.R. Martin

1979
Dreamsnake, Vonda N. McIntyre
The White Dragon, Anne McCaffrey
The Faded Sun: Kesrith, C.J. Cherryh
Blind Voices, Tom Reamy

1980
The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke
Titan, John Varley
Jem, Frederik Pohl
Harpist in the Wind, Patricia A. McKillip
On Wings of Song, Thomas M. Disch

1981
The Snow Queen, Joan D. Vinge
Lord Valentine’s Castle, Robert Silverberg
The Ringworld Engineers, Larry Niven
Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, Frederik Pohl
Wizard, John Varley

1982
Downbelow Station, C.J. Cherryh
The Claw of the Conciliator, Gene Wolfe
The Many Colored Land, Julian May
Project Pope, Clifford D. Simak
Little, Big, John Crowley

1983
Foundation’s Edge, Isaac Asimov
The Pride of Chanur, C.J. Cherryh
2010: Odyssey Two, Arthur C. Clarke
Friday, Robert A. Heinlein
Courtship Rite, Donald Kingsbury
The Sword of the Lictor, Gene Wolfe

1984
Startide Rising, David Brin
Tea with the Black Dragon, R.A. MacAvoy
Millennium, John Varley
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, Anne McCaffrey
The Robots of Dawn, Isaac Asimov

1985
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Emergence, David R. Palmer
The Peace War, Vernor Vinge
Job: A Comedy of Justice, Robert A. Heinlein
The Integral Trees, Larry Niven

1986
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
Cuckoo’s Egg, C.J. Cherryh
The Postman, David Brin
Footfall, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Blood Music, Greg Bear

1987
Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card
The Ragged Astronauts, Bob Shaw
Count Zero, William Gibson
Marooned in Realtime, Vernor Vinge
Black Genesis, L. Ron Hubbard

1988
The Uplift War, David Brin
When Gravity Fails, George Alec Effinger
Seventh Son, Orson Scott Card
The Forge of God, Greg Bear
The Urth of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe

1989
Cyteen, C.J. Cherryh
Red Prophet, Orson Scott Card
Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold
Islands in the Net, Bruce Sterling
Mona Lisa Overdrive, William Gibson

1990
Hyperion, Dan Simmons
A Fire in the Sun, George Alec Effinger
Prentice Alvin, Orson Scott Card
The Boat of a Million Years, Poul Anderson
Grass, Sheri S. Tepper

1991
The Vor Game, Lois McMaster Bujold
Earth, David Brin
The Fall of Hyperion, Dan Simmons
The Quiet Pools, Michael P. Kube-McDowell
Queen of Angels, Greg Bear

1992
Barrayar, Lois McMaster Bujold
Bone Dance, Emma Bull
All the Weyrs of Pern, Anne McCaffrey
The Summer Queen, Joan D. Vinge
Xenocide, Orson Scott Card
Stations of the Tide, Michael Swanwick

1993
A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge
Doomsday Book, Connie Willis
Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
China Mountain Zhang, Maureen F. McHugh
Steel Beach, John Varley

1994
Green Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Moving Mars, Greg Bear
Beggars in Spain, Nancy Kress
Glory Season, David Brin
Virtual Light, William Gibson

1995
Mirror Dance, Lois McMaster Bujold
Mother of Storms, John Barnes
Beggars and Choosers, Nancy Kress
Brittle Innings, Michael Bishop
Towing Jehovah, James Morrow

1996
The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
The Time Ships, Stephen Baxter
Brightness Reef, David Brin
The Terminal Experiment, Robert J. Sawyer
Remake, Connie Willis

1997
Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Memory, Lois McMaster Bujold
Remnant Population, Elizabeth Moon
Starplex, Robert J. Sawyer
Holy Fire, Bruce Sterling

1998
Forever Peace, Joe Haldeman
City on Fire, Walter Jon Williams
The Rise of Endymion, Dan Simmons
Frameshift, Robert J. Sawyer
Jack Faust, Michael Swanwick

1999
To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
Children of God, Mary Doria Russell
Darwinia, Robert Charles Wilson
Distraction, Bruce Sterling
Factoring Humanity, Robert J. Sawyer

2000
A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge
A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold
Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
Darwin’s Radio, Greg Bear
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.J. Rowling

2001
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin
Calculating God, Robert J. Sawyer
The Sky Road, Ken MacLeod
Midnight Robber, Nalo Hopkinson

2002
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
The Curse of Chalion, Lois McMaster Bujold
Passage, Connie Willis
Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
The Chronoliths, Robert J. Wilson
Cosmonaut Keep, Ken MacLeod

2003
Hominids, Robert J. Sawyer
Kiln People, David Brin
Bones of the Earth, Michael Swanwick
The Scar, China Mieville
The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson

2004
Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold
Ilium, Dan Simmons
Singularity Sky, Charles Stross
Blind Lake, Robert Charles Wilson
Humans, Robert J. Sawyer

2005
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
River of Gods, Ian McDonald
The Algebraist, Iain M. Banks
Iron Sunrise, Charles Stross
Iron Council, China Mieville

2006
Spin, Robert Charles Wilson
Learning the World, Ken MacLeod
A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin
Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
Accelerando, Charles Stross

2007
Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge
Glasshouse, Charles Stross
His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik
Eifelheim, Michael F. Flynn
Blindsight, Peter Watts

2008
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Michael Chabon
The Last Colony, John Scalzi
Halting State, Charles Stross
Rollback, Robert J. Sawyer
Brasyl, Ian McDonald

2009
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
Anathem, Neal Stephenson
Saturn’s Children, Charles Stross
Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi

2010
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi
The City & The City, China Mieville
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest
Wake, Robert J. Sawyer
Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente
Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson

2011
Blackout/All Clear, Connie Willis
Cryoburn, Lois McMaster Bujold
The Dervish House, Ian McDonald
Feed, Mira Grant
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin

2012
Among Others, Jo Walton
A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin
Deadline, Mira Grant
Embassytown, China Mieville
Leviathan Wakes, James S.A. Corey