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2006 Nebula Awards

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the in-the-news-today dept.

105

Embedded Geek writes "Locus is reporting on the winners of the 2006 Nebula Awards (as determined by voting by fellow SF authors). Joe Haldeman picked up the Novel award for Camouflage while Kelly Link took home both the Novella ("Magic for Beginners") and Novelette ("The Faery Handbag"). Off the printed page, Joss Whedon beat out Battlestar Galactica with his script for Serenity. You can check out the final ballot here or look at past winners here."

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105 comments

Meh. (2)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 8 years ago | (#15284799)

Unexciting year, imho. Look at the winners, look at the ballots...Meh.

Glad Joss Whedon got something for Serenity.

Re:Meh. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15284846)

Both stories by Kelly Link are IMHO excellent. I'd even say that they are among the best I've ever read.

They are also available online:
- Magic for Beginners [sfsite.com]
- The Faery Handbag [lcrw.net]

Re:Meh. (0, Offtopic)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 8 years ago | (#15284873)

Huh. I'll check 'em out.

Re:Meh. (1)

Malakusen (961638) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285374)

That faery handbag story is pretty good so far. Bit simplified for my like but no problem. Reads like it would translate well to a Neil Gaiman graphic novel published by Vertigo. I could easily see it as a stand-alone or as a story in Sandman.

Yeah, if by excellent you mean (0, Troll)

C32 (612993) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286585)

completely nonsensical.

Hunter S. Thompson (RIP) produced more coherent narratives than this broad.

"Magical realism" my foot.

Re:Yeah, if by excellent you mean (1)

Mprx (82435) | more than 8 years ago | (#15288594)

Yes, and I don't see how "magical realism" qualifies for a a Nebula award. There's nothing science fiction or fantasy about it.

... Insightful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15288197)

Errr, did anyone read these before moderating this? I couldn't actually finish Magic for Beginners, it sounded so Generic Bad Fantasy Complaints Here (seriously, what's this crap about Generic Shopping Malls or whatever?)

The last time I read something like that, it was Dave Barry spoofing the DaVinci Code (which "will be fleshed out once I have a publishing contract") and that was actually funny...

Re:Meh. (1)

Mprx (82435) | more than 8 years ago | (#15288551)

I read The Faery Handbag and I'm not sure if it's supposed to be a joke or what. It's slightly clever, but nothing happens, it's like the story is one big troll. I got to the end and it feels like the ending of Lost in Translation, like I've been mugged and had a big chunk of free time stolen. Maybe only females can understand these types of stories.

Re:Meh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15291754)

nah, it's just that you actually need a brain.

Re:Meh. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15285646)

Joss Wheadon is a worthless hack. "Serenity" wasn't even as good as "Buffy In Space", which would be utterly unwatchable, considering the dreck that "Buffy In Sunnydale" was.

Once more for emphasis : Joss Wheadon is a WORTHLESS HACK.

Re:Meh. (1)

trewornan (608722) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286806)

Joss Whedon's done some great stuff but Serenity certainly isn't his best work. Very disappointing if you ask me - "Buffy in Space" is about right.

Re:Serentiy (1)

RespekMyAthorati (798091) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286912)

Too bad it sucked.

Did they grab people off the street and
say "Hey, wanna be in a movie?"
Worst acting I've ever seen.

Great visuals though.

Battle Network Refrence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15287315)

Chaud: Lan...I'll say it again. Join our team! Together, we can defeat Nebula, the DarkChip Syndicate! Lan: Nebula! Oh yay, thank you Crapcom for making a another stupid game! But seriously, Dr. regal gets no awards? :(

Haldeman stories in COMICS. (2, Informative)

gedeco (696368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15284811)

Based on the novel "The forever war" of Joe Haldeman
Marvano is responsible for the artwork.

http://www.bibliotheek.haacht.be/Mijn%20afbeelding en/eeuwige%20oorlog.jpg [haacht.be]

You know... (2, Funny)

lobotomir (882610) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285417)

A møøse once bit my sister.

Uhhhhh .... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15284822)

Re:Uhhhhh .... (0, Offtopic)

sammyo (166904) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285041)

Well I wish that were fiction.

"Requium for a Cool Software Company"

Re:Uhhhhh .... (1)

sammyo (166904) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290218)

Just a bug note: I posted this in the article
about SGI enterinng Chapter 11. The article that
I responded to seemed in the wrong place and this
has mysteriously drifted into the Nebula thread.

Buggy software or I'm on drugs, take your pick.

Haldeman deserves it for sure... (3, Informative)

danigiri (310827) | more than 8 years ago | (#15284862)

Haldeman is a very good writer (read Forever War) and I think quite 'underrated' as well. I will definitely buy 'Camouflage' to read what this fuss is all about. I wondered at the content of the Forever War novel until I knew he is a Vietnam veteran (if anyone is interested, you can read a bio here [earthlink.net] and at the usual places [wikipedia.org] ).

Reading the finalist listing though, I've seen that there is the damn fine novel 'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell' by Susanna Clarke. Very amazing book, superbly written, it even has annotations in essay style, definitely a contender which I recommend to anyone interested in reading a good novel and as a fantasy genre initiation (though I would never define it as 'fantasy').

Even though I put off my judgement until I have read Camouflage, if S. Clarke lost to Haldeman, then it must be a damn fine novel indeed.

(Speaking of runners-up, John C. Wright is also quite good, his Golden Age series give some needed fresh-air to the hard-sf speculative fiction genre.)

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (4, Informative)

Goncyn (472930) | more than 8 years ago | (#15284914)

Reading the finalist listing though, I've seen that there is the damn fine novel 'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell' by Susanna Clarke. Very amazing book, superbly written, it even has annotations in essay style, definitely a contender which I recommend to anyone interested in reading a good novel and as a fantasy genre initiation (though I would never define it as 'fantasy').

I recently finished reading this novel, and it was outstanding. I highly recommend it. Incidentally, it won several other awards, including the Locus Award, the 2005 World Fantasy Award, and the 2005 Hugo Award. You can find out more about it here: http://www.jonathanstrange.com/ [jonathanstrange.com]

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286685)


Thirded! Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a brilliant piece of work. The writing is great and surprisingly sinister. Felt a bit sorry for his wife, though.

Jonathon Strange etc. (0, Flamebait)

PGillingwater (72739) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287430)

This is an amazing first novel for a woman writer, with believable characters and interesting approach to world deconstruction. To really appreciate it, you should be somewhat familiar with the works of English 19th Century fiction, including Thomas Hardy, the Brontes, and especially Jane Austen. In some ways it's a cross between Jane Austen and Tolkien, but with a little Pratchett-esque humour.

Once you've finished it, and if you've acquired a taste for historical fiction with an SF&F spin, then check out Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver (first volume of the excellent Baroque Cycle trilogy.) It's got everything from cryptography, alchemy, monadism, pirates, hangings, torture through to sword fights, exciting chases and doomed love stories in world-wide adventure. Great stuff!

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 8 years ago | (#15284984)

(though I would never define it as 'fantasy')

Why not? In my mind it's pretty clearly one half fantasy and one half alternate history.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285008)

Reading the finalist listing though, I've seen that there is the damn fine novel 'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell' by Susanna Clarke. Very amazing book, superbly written, it even has annotations in essay style, definitely a contender which I recommend to anyone interested in reading a good novel and as a fantasy genre initiation (though I would never define it as 'fantasy').

Agreed, great book, and it's not so much a fantasy as a normal story with a counterfactual history that involves the presence of magic within the real world. What I really love about it is that it puts you in this world with a rich history that happens to involve magic, and it builds a whole English myth that impacts events like the Napoleonic Wars. I'd recommend it to folks even if they weren't into stuff like Elric, Dragonlance, etc.. 'cuz it's really not that type of story. It's more of a Georgian-era drama/tragedy that assumes the presence of magic as it would assume the presence of, say, gunpowder or steam power.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286267)

If there's magic in the story, it's fantasy. If there's a consistant world built around the magic, and what the magic can and can't do is clearly defined, that just means it has the potential to be good fantasy.

Poorly-defined magic is just a crutch for bad writing. There's so *much* bad writing in the genre that people can't believe that anything well-written is actually "fantasy". That's not the case.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286975)

I still think that magic in that novel is so much part of the basic fabric of its world, and yet people are so recognizably realistic (whether human, faery, or 'other') that this qualifies it to be more of a counterfactual historical novel (along the lines of Turtledove [amazon.com] ).

And you're more likely to find Jonathan Lethem [barnesandnoble.com] not in a fantasy or scifi section since the fantasy does not define the narrative, it only informs it.

Perhaps you're right, that the mere presence of magic means it's a fantasy, like how the mere presence of a time machine would make it science fiction, but I still feel that the book transcends its genre, and would be palatable to a larger audience that would balk if it were compared to some of the standards of that genre.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15286299)

a normal story with a counterfactual history that involves the presence of magic within the real world.

In other words, fantasy.

I'm not so sure.... (2, Interesting)

supercrisp (936036) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285009)

I love Haldeman, and I loved the Strange and Norrell novel. BUT, I can't really trust taste when Serenity beats out BSG. That seems so klazy to me. I've read a lot of Haldeman, and his stuff is damn good, but it just seems to lack the psychological depth of the S&N novel. Like a lot of male-written SF, Haldeman's characters often seem to be little more than mouthpieces for an ideology or polemic, but no one is as transparent in that way as Orson Scott Card.

Lost meets the west wing in space != good SF (3, Interesting)

cargoculture (929867) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285186)

I'd take Serenity over the nonsensical mysticism of BSG any day of the week. Sure the miniseries started out with some interesting SF concepts - I particularly liked the idea that Cyclons put out so much viral spam that any open network is doomed - but subsequently it;s mishandled every single one of them. It's competantly made and everything, but it's SF aspects are it's weakest.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (0)

BJH (11355) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285018)

Really? I for one find it hard to believe that we're in 2006 and Joe Haldeman is still winning Nebulas.
I'm not saying he's a bad writer, because he's not; I'm just wondering what has been happening in science fiction that a man whose career started 35 years ago managed to beat out everybody who came after him for one of the top awards.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (3, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285843)

I don't get it. Are you implying that young science fiction authors must be better than new? Or that age somehow makes one a poorer writer? Honestly, I just don't understand your point. Personally, I would think age would bring a certain amount of perspective, particularly in the science fiction arena. Not to mention the additional time to refine one's writing style.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

BJH (11355) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286840)

I'm not saying they "must" be better. It just seems a bit disappointing that the genre couldn't muster up anybody to beat out someone who's been at it as long as Haldeman.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285023)

The golden age had to be the worst book I have read in years. I strongly urge everyone not to waste their $6 on the paperback. Read the first couple of chapters at Borders if you just have to know just how bad it is. The premise isn't bad, but the writing quality is horrible, and the universe is so painfully self inconsistent that I couldn't bring myself to read the follow up books, and I read all the way through Donaldson's Gap series. Read Alastair Reynolds if you'd like a similar far future premise with characters that are more than a half inch deep, and a writing style that won't leave you thinking you could easily have done a better job.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285457)

Read Alastair Reynolds if you'd like a similar far future premise with characters that are more than a half inch deep, and a writing style that won't leave you thinking you could easily have done a better job.

To show the variety of people's opinions, I recently picked up Mr. Reynold's Revelation Space. I've only stopped reading two sci-fi/fantasy books that I purchased in my life, and this one I managed to get to page 138 before I hit that realization of: "Why am I reading this?" The writing was poor, stilted...it almost felt like the author sent it to editing, and the editor told him it was boring and stilted, so the author throws in a one sentence, poorly dropped "hook" at the end of chapters. The characters were terrible with no development, no interesting emotion (not because it wasn't possible within the book's story, but because the author didn't, apparently, know how to bring it out).

And to top it all off the revelation (no pun intended) at the end was a hack job and had a glaring plot hole which made it seem ridiculous that you could've read all these pages just for a kludge of an ending. (I skipped to various points in the book, 10 pages in the middle, the last 15 pages just to see what the back cover was talking about).

So I'll never touch another book by Alastair Reynolds, but that's just one man's opinion.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285557)

I think the interesting question would be whether or not you liked Golden Age better. I wouldn't have claimed Revelation Space was a great novel, but I did feel like it was at least an adequately competent one. But I would find it hard to imagine that anyone with a critical eye could compare Golden Age and Revelation Space and not find Revelation Space the better of the two.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

Jett (135113) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285956)

I would say Golden Age is better than Revelation Space, although I have read Revelation Space twice so it may be that it's issues or more glaring to me. Gold Age took a lot of effort to understand - it's in such a weird setting with so many weird things and ideas and people, I think it is a very unforgiving work - it doesn't cut the reader any slack. Once I had a solid understanding of wtf was happening though...

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (2, Insightful)

Jett (135113) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285915)

Try Chasm City - I think it's his most polished novel (if not Century Rain). Reynolds is one of my favorite authors but he seriously does need a new editor, I'm convinced his current editor only edits every other 10 pages or so because way too many mistakes are getting through but then big chucks of the book are completely error free). His short stories are consistently excellent so you may want to check those out too.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

Jett (135113) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285839)

The Golden Age takes a bit to get into - but once you do, it is seriously some of the best SF of the past decade (or more). I strongly urge you to give it a second chance - I am not sure what you are talking about re:writing quality or inconsistency - as much as I love Alastair Reynolds' work I think he is a better target for your allegations. Absolution Gap in particular could have used another round of editing - that said I do highly recommend Reynolds to anyone, he has a fair number of short stories on the web so google his name and check some of them out - Spidey and the Queen and a Spy in Europa are his two best (in my opinion). Diamond Dogs is damn clever too even though it's self-consciously based on a classic SF premise.

Re: Camouflage - it was very well written, although the ending was a tiny bit on the cliche side of things. It's definitely above the average quality of most contempory SF.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286082)

Problems I had with Golden Age (some spoilers):

Characters were utterly flat. Could the main character be any less interesting? He's a moralizing jerk who thinks he's better than everyone else, and not only does his viewpoint not evolve, we're apparently to imagine that in this far future society he's actually right!

Storyline was self inconsistent (slight spoiler): why didn't he jump? The main character is both implausibly smart and implausibly dumb, as it suits the story. His armor is also conveniently powerful enough to do whatever the story line requires, but can do less when it isn't needed to advance the story.

There were also a number of bizarre inconsistencies in the ways the computer minds decided to act, though I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume he at least tried to explain this in the later stories through computer virus problems, though many of the strange acts come before the supposed release.

Finally, there is the core basis of the book, the memory erasure. It's totally inconsistent: did he do it because he was in total inconsolable grief, or because he was a moral man and knew he would recover his loss through morality, or did he do it because he was completely immoral, but knew that with the proper deletions he could scam everyone? But if he was previously utterly evil and conniving, could he not forsee the problems he would cause himself by becoming such a moralizing jerk? (Not to mention it is hard to see why he would care enough to go through with things in this version). And if we are instead to believe he was good all along, why was his plan so manipulative and evil? And if he was just acting stupid because of inconsolable grief, why the heck didn't he try the emotional filters he later felt perfectly reasonable to use?

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

Jett (135113) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289282)

Well, I think pretty much all of your questions/problems are in fact answered or explained by the end of the trilogy and/or are the kind of ambiguity that is intentional and beneficial to the overall quality of a story. Playing with these questions become central to the later elements of the plot and are, in my opinion, what really pushes the Golden Age from just being good to being great. It's not just mindless action SF - it's dealing with fundamental questions about morality, justice, and progress.

Re: implausibly smart vs. implausibly dumb - I took it more as Phaethon being naive in many ways, he is a product of a sheltered existence (in his own weird way). A great example of this is when he is exiled and is climbing a giant staircase because his society has denied him use of the elevator - he thinks nothing of spending his finite supplies on what is, from our perspective, an insane and weirdly extravagant campsite - to him though he is slumming it because he has never experienced scarcity or real adversity. Imagine how Bill Gates' kid will react the first time he gets a flat tire driving alone in his $200K sports car...

Guardian (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285053)

I'm actually reading Guardian by Haldeman now. It's very different than his other pieces, reading more like historic fiction for the bulk of the story. It's okay, though I'd recommend folks start with things like Forever War and the Worlds series.

I find his writing style very accessible and his themes compelling. A fine author indeed.

Re:Haldeman deserves it for sure... (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285626)

I ran into the same thing myself just a minute ago while looking for who his agent is (Ralph Vicinanza). My favorite part:

"Ted sensibly didn't bring out the marijuana until after the last day's work. One time we indulged rather more than we should have, and everyone else was overcome by the traditional "munchies" and swarmed down to the local ice cream joint, but I went upstairs to my typewriter to see what kind of writing I would do, profoundly bent. The story just poured out of me, incredibly fast and smooth, six pages in about ninety minutes. When I woke up the next morning I found I'd written six pages about a man who's a garbage truck; all of his friends know he's a garbage truck, but they don't tell him because they know it would embarrass him. So every day he puts on a coat and tie and goes chugging down the alley. And so forth. In retrospect, I can see it's a good thing the story was so irredeemably bad. It was such easy writing that if it had been any good I would have bought a bale of the stuff, and ultimately wound up slouched in a corner with William Burroughs, shooting up peanut butter."

camouflage (0, Offtopic)

lovebyte (81275) | more than 8 years ago | (#15284875)

Pretty typical of /. editors to mispell the title of a book!

Misspell (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15285560)

Pretty typical of a Slashdot poster to point out a spelling error and simultaneously make one....

Re:camouflage (1)

Embedded Geek (532893) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287171)

First, I know it's everyone's favorite hobby, but don't flame the editors on this. I submitted the story and to the best of my knowledge, they posted it as I submitted it. If there was an error (see below) and you want to flame anyone, fire on me, not them (and, no, I don't want to hear any "That's what editors are for" whining. It's great if an editor catches a mistake by an author, but the responsibility for any work rests on the author).

Second, was the story corrected at some point or something? I see "Camouflage" on the story and I see "Camouflage" at the awards page [locusmag.com] and I see "Camouflage [webster.com] " at Webster's. Is your concern with "Camouflage," or was there another (incorrect) spelling on the original piece? This is driving me nuts. Please let me know. Thanks.

Re:camouflage (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287842)

"EDITOR", it's a word that means something not just a bunch of letters thrown together to look pretty. Sure, you screwed up but there's lumps enough to go around.

Rich

I wonder about the Nebulas (4, Interesting)

edremy (36408) | more than 8 years ago | (#15284967)

I look over the list and see two contenders that shouldn't even be on an awards list, much less win (Haldeman and McDevitt, the former is slipping and the latter hasn't had a decent book since The Hercules Text), yet another in an unending series (give it a rest Terry), and one that's so obscure that even Amazon doesn't carry it (Ryman).

I haven't seen Wright's fantasy anywhere (despite living in Virginia about an hour from his home), although I'd buy it based on the wonderful Golden Age, so I can't speak to it.

At least to me the only entry on that list worthy of the award is Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but I suspect it's simply too strange for most of the folks to vote for. But it's everything an award like this *should* recognize- beautiful world building, wonderful characters and a prose style that really sets the tone for a different world. (I can't remember the last piece of fiction with laugh-out-loud footnotes). It's not an easy read, but it's a *great* read nonetheless.

There's simply so many other good books published in the last year to have this list. If you want fantasy, where's The Prince of Nothing series? I don't know if Banks' The Algebraist is eligible since it was published in England earlier, but even though it's not Banks' best it still outclasses almost the entire list. Olympos wasn't perfect, but again should have been up there.

Too strange? (1)

mandrake*rpgdx (650221) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285029)

Have you read Magic For Beginners? Strange and Norwell are pure normalcy compartively speaking.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285197)

It's not an easy read, but it's a *great* read nonetheless.

And in this sentence, we have everything I dislike about literary criticism in a nutshell.

Not everything that's easy to read is good, of course; most of what's easy to read is crap. But pretty much everything that's hard to read is crap, because if you have to struggle to read it, then its other qualities just don't matter.

The critical world has pushed for almost a century now the idea that good writing has to be difficult -- which has led to a glut of truly awful, highly praised mainstream fiction, and the marginalization of good storytellers into genre fiction. Folks, the writers who created the literary canon of the 19th century and before weren't trying to show off their distinctive prose style. (For the great stylists, that was just what came naturally.) They were telling stories, and they wanted lots of people to read those stories.

Now, I haven't read Norrell, but people whose judgement I trust have told me that it's exactly the kind of pretentious crap that has ruined mainstream writing and is now invading SF, thickly layered language games that distract the reader from any virtues the story itself might have. In contrast, Haldeman's prose is always elegant and concise. I voted for Camouflage, and I'm glad it won; it's not his best ever (I'd say that's actually All My Sins Remembered, not The Forever War, as good as that was) but it's very good stuff.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (0, Troll)

bung-foo (634132) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285243)

You are an idiot.
"But pretty much everything that's hard to read is crap, because if you have to struggle to read it, then its other qualities just don't matter."

let me fix that for you.

"But pretty much everything that's hard to do is crap, because if you have to struggle to do it, then its other qualities just don't matter."

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285302)

Your comment would only make sense if the purpose of reading fiction were to accomplish some other goal. Can you really not see the difference between, say, reading a textbook and reading a novel?

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

bung-foo (634132) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285446)

So, doing something that's fun but challenging isn't worthwhile like say, cycling, learning how to fix a car, weight lifting or carpentry? Only things that are easy to do and pose no challenge are fun and worth doing?

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (3, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286412)

Doing something that's "fun but challenging" isn't the issue here. Doing something that challenging and *not* fun is just stupid, unless there's some payoff. Pretending that reading something boring for entertainment is somehow rewarding is just that: pretentious.

Reading a textbook that's challenging and not fun may be worthwhile if it teaches you some valuable skill. Reading (or even worse, writing) "literature" that's a struggle to get through is not "worth doing". It's merely pretending that you're doing something worthwhile - it's neither entertaining nor valuable; it's just stupid.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15287663)

Have you considered the possibility that people who aren't you might find it entertaining or enjoyable?

Have you even considered the possibility that there are people who aren't you?

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286210)

>Can you really not see the difference between, say, reading a textbook and reading a novel?

Hey, both should be readable. If a textbook is difficult it should be because of the subject matter, not because the author wanted to preen as the next James Joyce. Anyone who writes a textbook that reads like Finnegan's Wake or Gravity's Rainbow should go to Nerd Hell where all the coffee is decaf and all the operating systems are Windows ME.

Textbooks fall within your argument just as well as novels do.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (2, Insightful)

pavon (30274) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285494)

No, he's not.

I certainly plan on reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell after the recomendations here, and can't speak for it in particular, but I agree with Daniel's sentiment. The foundation of good writing is suspension of disbelief, and anything that detracts from becoming absorbed in a work harms its effectiveness. I don't expect authors to write to a grade-school level, and I don't mind having to look up a word every now and then. But when I am constantly having to reread sentences or passages because they simply don't parse the first time through, then the author is being too clever in his wording.

"But pretty much everything that's hard to do is crap, because if you have to struggle to do it, then its other qualities just don't matter."

It's not that the other qualities don't matter, it's that these exercises in verbal complexity don't add any value to the story. Sure a book may be good in spite of the language games, but if so, how much better then would it be without them?

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

bung-foo (634132) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285640)

I submit that you are confusing vague and flowery wording for challenging writing. In straight science fiction, see "Dhalgren" by Samuel Delany and the "Dune" books by Frank Herbert for examples of challenging writing that isn't vague or flowery. Outside of SF, see pretty much anything by Louis-Ferdinand Celine although I personally recommend both "Journey to the end of the night" and "Death on the installment plan". "Gravity's Rainbow" by Thomas Pynchon is a good example too.

Some novels aspire to be more than something to be consumed, pooped out and forgotten.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285995)

Well, I'm wasn't confusing those things. I never complained about complex concepts, nor did the original GP post:

Folks, the writers who created the literary canon of the 19th century and before weren't trying to show off their distinctive prose style.

Now, I haven't read Norrell, but people whose judgement I trust have told me that it's exactly the kind of pretentious crap that has ruined mainstream writing and is now invading SF, thickly layered language games that distract the reader from any virtues the story itself might have. In contrast, Haldeman's prose is always elegant and concise.

We were both complaining merely about complex language from the start. I agree with you about challenging stories, and I imagine Daniel might as well.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287144)


Of course complex language can be a pleasure in itself - read Finnegan's Wake or At Swim Two Birds.

But all this is academic where JS&N is concerned as the novel isn't difficult to read at all!

Challenging... (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289215)

<PERKS_HEAD_UP>
  • The Last Ship [wikipedia.org] -- "Challenging and entertaining."
  • Finnegans Wake [wikipedia.org] -- "Projectile Logorrhea. Unfortunate at best."
</PERKS_HEAD_UP>

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

Savantissimo (893682) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287460)

I agree with your overall point - challenging, "literary" style is sometimes not pretentious, but Dhalgren is a bad example. I love the other fiction Delany wrote, but Dhalgren is all but unreadable - and unrewarding, too. Better examples of notably fine styles which further substantial plots and characters are those of Gene Wolfe, Ursula LeGuin and China Mieville.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

bung-foo (634132) | more than 8 years ago | (#15288713)

Well glad to see we cleared this up ;-)

Although I disagree on dhalgren. I've read it too many times to count over the last 20 years. I love that book but I understand why people don't like it. I just meant that his prose is gorgeous and concise.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

edremy (36408) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285483)

Now, I haven't read Norrell, but people whose judgement I trust have told me that it's exactly the kind of pretentious crap that has ruined mainstream writing and is now invading SF, thickly layered language games that distract the reader from any virtues the story itself might have.

Do yourself a favor and try it. I put it as the clear winner because of one thing: it has believable *people*, not cardboard cutouts. Strange and Norrell aren't very likeable, but they are believeable, and that puts the book above 99% of all SF writing from the very beginning. Haldemann only occasionally manages it, which is why I've stopped buying his stuff even though The Forever War is one of the top ten SF books of all time. McDevitt managed it exactly twice so far as I can tell- after that I was wasting money. The last two books of his I read were so bad I've sworn him off. (Chindi is up there with Baxter's Titan in the "How the Hell did this crap get published" sweepstakes) If you want a quick, fun read there are plenty of good novels out there right now that didn't appear in this list: try Salzi's Old Man's War which came out last year- I loved it, but it's not in Norrell's class.

The language games are simply to create an atmosphere, and frankly she succeeds- it feels like something written 100+ years ago. I normally hate tricks like this, but she does it so well it is deserving of the Hugo it won and the Nebula it didn't.

Not all "difficult" reads are great literature- I fully agree with you that most is pretentious crap. But that doesn't mean that none of it is.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287113)


I wouldn't describe it as a difficult read at all. It certainly doesn't worry about excluding those with limited english skills or fifteen second attention spans, but difficult makes it sound as if you have to make an effort to read it. The opposite is true. Goes down like chocolate!

As to word games, the book is absolutely poetic! In the hands of someone else, the plot could still be compelling, but the atmosphere and the writing are pleasure in and of themself. If you don't appreciate a well-drawn atmosphere or descriptive passage, then no, you wont find the book 'easy'. But don't knock it until you've tried it. Three chapters in (the Canterbury scene) you'll know if it's good or not.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

bob_herrick (784633) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287659)

I'm with you on this one. Enjoyed most everthing Haldeman has done; forgot my copy of Strange et al on a plane 3/4 of the way through it and have not regretted that loss since.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285508)

You're the second person to call Wright's Golden Age good. That makes the rest of what you wrote suspect for me, because frankly, that was the worst book I've read in many years. Terrible writing. Flat characters. Self inconsistency. Lots of errors (though those I tend to credit to the editor/publisher not the author). It was an awful book. Awful enough I doubt i'll ever read another book by the author, award nominated or not. I will give it credit for being somewhat inspiring though: reading that book made me believe that I could get my own work published.

The Golden Age and *really* bad books (1)

edremy (36408) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285610)

The Golden Age series was an odd one for me to like. I'm very big into characterization- if I can't believe the characters are real I generally lose interest rapidly, which is why I have such a short author list. Wright never managed this, but I still really enjoyed the series (although it was wildy uneven in places) probably because his world-building was good enough for me to overlook the fact that the characters were more or less lifeless props that he moved around to forward the story.

That said, if you *really* want bad stuff, try Baxter's Titan, McDevitt's Chindi or anything at all by Peter Hamilton. I know I can't write very well, but those books make me think I could be an editor. At least I could tell Baxter to burn some works, McDevitt to learn to write an ending (he *used* to know) and Hamilton to stop jamming random scientific words together to make something sound sophisticated- those of us with more than a high school science education simply choke on the stupidity.

Re:The Golden Age and *really* bad books (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287044)

I'll step in and provide a half-way defense of Hamilton. Night's Dawn trilogy were excellent, as was Fallen Dragon. His other stuff (I'm looking at you Misspent Youth) was pretty awful.

Re:I wonder about the Nebulas (1)

Markus Registrada (642224) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287790)

My brother gave me McDevitt's "Chindi". It was easily the worst I had read in years, right from the very first line. Can't a survey ship ever find something interesting right in the middle of anything? Or is there some union regulation that says it has to be "at the extreme limit of its survey territory"? Maybe we need an SF equivalent of the Bulwer-Lytton award, named after McDevitt.

But I have to disagree about Pratchett: he's still getting better, (but don't read decide based on Monstrous Regiment.)

opinions are like... (1)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 8 years ago | (#15288764)

HEADLINE ALERT: some random guy on slashdot disagrees with a large collection of professional writers on the art and aesthetics of writing--obviously the writers are wrong, and the random slashdot guy is right!

Opinions are like noses--most people have one, but some are more snotty than others! :)

I strongly disagree with you about Haldeman and McDevitt--all writers have ups and downs, but Camouflage was one of Haldeman's best in years. And McDevitt keeps steadily getting better and better; in the last couple of years, he's moved from my "keep an eye on" column to my "must-buy" column. The Hercules Text is actually one of my least favorites of McDevitt's works. (If you want a good early McDevitt, try A Talent for War).

As for your personal choice, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell, that was, I admit, a decent work and well-written, but also somewhat flawed and uneven. And, frankly, I found the topic, setting and story uninteresting and unoriginal. The surprising thing was how much I liked it despite all that. I did NOT find it "too strange"--much the opposite. Compared to China Miévelle, Gene Wolfe or even Tim Powers, it was downright pedestrian! And I am so tired of psuedo-Victoriana! I hoped the craze for this sort of thing would burn itself out fairly quickly, like the fascination with voudon that sprung up after Gibson's Count Zero, but unfortunately, it hasn't. Anyway, JS&MN already won the World Fantasy Award, so quicherbichen! :p ;)

If you don't agree with the Nebula voters (and I admit that I often don't), then ignore the awards! Writers are strange beasts, and have different criteria for what they like than you or I. I've frequently been perplexed at what wins the Nebula, but I just chalk it up to "writers are odd". :)

Re:opinions are like... (1)

edremy (36408) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289548)

HEADLINE ALERT: some random guy on slashdot disagrees with a large collection of professional writers on the art and aesthetics of writing--obviously the writers are wrong, and the random slashdot guy is right!

Who said I'm right? It's obvious from the discussion that people have different tastes. Personally, I think this was a weak ballot that left off a lot of good stuff. Judging by comments, it seems that some people agree with me, others don't. Ah well.

And McDevitt keeps steadily getting better and better; in the last couple of years, he's moved from my "keep an eye on" column to my "must-buy" column. The Hercules Text is actually one of my least favorites of McDevitt's works. (If you want a good early McDevitt, try A Talent for War).

Oh come on. Tell me with a straight face that Chindi was good- it's utter and total tripe. I look at my collection of McDevitts and see a writer who has really forgotten a lot of how to write, especially endings, in his quest to write a ton of stuff- too many ideas, not enough polish. (Alistair Renyolds is another that's writing too fast for his own good.) A Talent for War is the other McDevitt I think is actually good, with Engines of God in the not bad category. But over and over he just lets books die at the end (Eternity Road, Ancient Shores). It's a shame because I really like his archeological take on SF.

Haldeman is wildly uneven- I read the first few dozen pages of Camouflage but couldn't get into it, so I assumed it was one of his misses. Perhaps it's better than I thought at first.

The surprising thing was how much I liked it despite all that. I did NOT find it "too strange"--much the opposite. Compared to China Miévelle, Gene Wolfe or even Tim Powers, it was downright pedestrian!

Perhaps, but the really odd stuff isn't usually on the ballot. Mieville, Wolfe and Powers managed once each since 2000, and of the three only Wolfe has won, back in 1973. I've got far wierder than S&N- try The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad sometime.

If you don't agree with the Nebula voters (and I admit that I often don't), then ignore the awards! Writers are strange beasts, and have different criteria for what they like than you or I. I've frequently been perplexed at what wins the Nebula, but I just chalk it up to "writers are odd". :)

Oh, I do ignore them- I find I generally read less than half of what's on the ballot. I have a very short list of authors I actually buy- Banks, Mieville, Simmons, Morgan, Vinge, Stross, Gaiman and a few others. I find that I usually prefer the Hugo winner over the Nebula, although both have given awards to Sawyer which is just beyond me.

Met Joe (and Jack) (1)

bdclary (663568) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285042)

I had the pleasure of meeting Joe at his brother Jack's birthday party back in 2001 (I worked with Jack for almost five years at IFAS [ufl.edu] while at school). Joe is a great guy, very friendly, and a great cook - he served a delicious bean soup with Piri Piri sauce at the party. Unfortunately, Jack passed away shortly after; I still miss him terribly.

Nebula == waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15285113)

Only TWO nominations for "best script" (which these days must mean "all radio/tv/film/dvd/internet broadcast" I guess), and one of them SERENITY? These guys have some serious blinders on. Must be hard for them to not be able to nominate two or three token star trek episodes, now that Enterprise has finally been cancelled.

ok I'm stupid what's the difference between... (5, Informative)

stry_cat (558859) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285246)

What's the difference between a NOVELLA, NOVELETTE, and a SHORT STORY?

From:
http://www.sfwa.org/awards/faq.htm#6 [sfwa.org]

        * Novel -- 40,000 words or more
        * Novella -- 17,500-39,999 words
        * Novelette -- 7,500-17,499 words
        * Short Story -- 7,499 words or fewer
        * Script -- a professionally produced audio, radio, television, motion picture, multimedia, or theatrical script

Re:ok I'm stupid what's the difference between... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15286009)

Excellent form of karma whoring. Answer a question that no one asked.

Re:ok I'm stupid what's the difference between... (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287075)

I asked it in my mind. I appreciate not having to ask it in a post. So STFU.

Re:ok I'm stupid what's the difference between... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15288410)

Apparently I touched a nerve.

Some of those word counts are soft, btw. The Hugo and Nebula awards have a relatively short word count for a novel; other associations may consider 40k to still be a novella. The borders between short stories/novelettes and novelettes/novellas are also soft; one can also consider the style of plot organization (parts, chapters, etc) as important as the word count.

A quick google search turns this up.

Re:ok I'm stupid what's the difference between... (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 8 years ago | (#15288577)

You apparently can't follow your own advice - giving clearification that no one asked for.

This award is bogus... (0, Flamebait)

Kerago (811845) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285403)

No China Mieville? The judges are on crack.

Re:This award is bogus... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15285459)

They're on crack, but not because they neglected China. He's a smart guy and really personable, but I made it halfway through Perdido Street Station before just giving up. There wasn't a single interesting or new thing going on in any part of the story. Ugh.

Re:This award is bogus... (1)

Jett (135113) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286033)

I'd suggest The Scar - it's far superior to PSS, a lot more consistently paced.

Re:This award is bogus... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15286815)

Thanks, I'll check it out. Maybe me and PSS just didn't get along.

Re:This award is bogus... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289738)

While I've never gotten around to reading any of the books, my impression from others is that people are quite polarised over Mieville's work. Everyone I know who has read them either loved them or hated them - nobody seemed to be indifferent.

The Nebulous Awards (5, Funny)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285424)

The Nebulous Awards were also announced today:

Best Whatever - Whats-his-name
Best Ya Know - That one guy
Top Thingamajig - Some hot chick
Honorable Mention - Whoever

Re:The Nebulous Awards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15285735)

Hey, weren't those the same winners as last year? What's up with that?

Kelly Link (3, Interesting)

X_Caffeine (451624) | more than 8 years ago | (#15285575)

I'm thrilled to hear that Kelly Link did so well, maybe this will translate into some new readers.

For the uninitiated, I like to describe her as a sort of "female Neil Gaiman" for her similar fairy-tale sensibilities. But really I find her writing much more mature and abstract.

Her first short story collection, Stranger Things Happen, is now available as a free download [lcrw.net] under the Creative Commons.

This is the problem with having only americans (1)

Alterion (925335) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286144)

no Ian M Banks, no Alastair Reynolds, Battlestar losing to serenity. While the novella and novel winners are good they by no means represent to pinacle of sci-fi. I'll be waiting for the winner of the british science fiction award instead. IMHO while we have less excitng writers here we have better ones. I was rooting for men are tourble which was availible as a free CC licensed podcast from http://www.jimkelly.net/pages/free_reads.htm [jimkelly.net] .

Re:This is the problem with having only americans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15286443)

Blah. The only Brit writing worthwhile SF/Fantasy is Jeff Noon.

Re:This is the problem with having only americans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15288743)

Well, here's a hint: the Nebula's are voted on by the members of SFWA, Science Fiction [and Fantasy] Writers of America. Although it is open to qualified writers of other nationalities.

Personally I find Ian Banks and Alastair Reynolds somewhat overrated. I love their concepts and sweep, but the writing tends to get bogged down. Give me the British writers of yesteryear, like Arthur Clarke and John [Beynon] Wyndahm [Harris].

Re:This is the problem with having only americans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289313)

I gave James Kelly a try. I really did.

But he is one author that shouldn't read his own work out loud - it just aggravated me to listen to his voice. I couldn't even concentrate on the story.

Now there are other authors that read their own works - and in their cases it works well. But James Kelly should get someone else to read his works.

Re:This is the problem with having only americans (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289565)

I concur!

Charles Stross.... (1)

citizenklaw (767566) | more than 8 years ago | (#15286848)

I certainly expected to see him up there. Accelerando and Singularity Sky are one of the best novels I've read in a long time. I can root also for Richard Morgan, but Charles Stross takes the cake.

Re:Charles Stross.... (1)

spot35 (644375) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291860)

I tend to agree with you. Those were two of the best books I read last year. The best books I read last year have to be a toss up between Olympos and Judas Unchained. Olympos simply for the grandness of the whole story and the ability of Dan Simmons to always enable me to suspend my disbelief regardless of the sheer incredibility of the story lines. Judas Unchained because it was a rip roaring read that more than adequately tied up various strands of story line, Hamilton is getting better with every book and if I had one complaint it was his use of Deus Ex Machina to sort out stories, this one was finished very well IMO.

Other homourable mentions are, as you've pointed out, Richard Morgan for Woken Furies and Alistair Reynolds for Century Rain (although this one is probably a year too late, I haven't read Pushing Ice as yet).

Worthy of note is that all of the above are british writers with the exception of Dan Simmons.

I wonder when the books I've mentioned were published in America and if they were eligible, then I'd be very interested to understand why they weren't included.

Re:Charles Stross.... (1)

citizenklaw (767566) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291968)

According to Charles Stross' site (http://www.antipope.org/charlie/fiction/faq.html) a chapter of Accelerando was nominated for a 2005 Hugo for Best Novella. I kind of suspected something, but the information wasn't easily searchable last night. That and I was dead tired.

Thanks for the other suggestions! Is Pushing Ice also from Allastair Reynolds?

Re:Charles Stross.... (1)

spot35 (644375) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292100)

Yes it is. I've been chatting to someone who has read it and apparently it takes a bit of time to get going (100 pages or so) and he says it's been dumbed down for a wider appeal. But he also says it was still one of his favourite books of the year. I will certainly be buying it when it's out in paper back.

Serenity (2)

Ponga (934481) | more than 8 years ago | (#15287462)

On occasion, I'll see a movie that was really good. Then, on even a more rare occasion, I'll see a movie worthy of owning.
Then... once in a blue moon... I'll see a movie... and after the movie has ended... I MUST go and see it again!
Serenity was this last scenario.
I have to tell ya, It's been a L O N G time since I have seen a movie that I have enjoyed this much!

Serenity ROCKS

Frist p;5ot! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15287952)

all; in order to go Operating systems the most. Look at All; in order to go private sex party 80s, IDARPA saw BSD Baby take my are a pathetic to the transmission ago, many of you best. Individuals dead. It is a dead Was what got me developers. The they're gone Mac own agenda - give centralized Feel obligated to Operating systems around return it FreeBSD core team The curtains flew if you move a table appeared...saying that FrreBSD is Trying to dissect Anyone that thinks taken over by BSDI *BSD IS DEAD. ASSOCIATION OF and building is is the ultimate

"Camouflage"? (1)

olrik666 (574545) | more than 8 years ago | (#15288385)

I like Joe Haldeman. I consider Forever War a minor masterpiece. I also read Forever Peace and Forever Free, which are good but not as memorable as FW.

But Camouflage was a major letdown. The first half is quite good, and contains some really interesting speculation about alien worlds and beings. Then the book dissolves into an ordinary thriller with overlong, meaningless passages à la Ludlum, without the trills. It just feels like padding.

All in all, a bit of a lazy effort.

YMMV, of course.

Olrik

Bring me up to date (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15288829)

I haven't read SF novels which were recent releases. Most of the works of literature I've read so far were written by Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Huxley, Heilein etc.. Last year I bought Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton and stopped reading after hitting the 100th page. Has scifi writing degraded so much in just a couple of decades? What are your recommendations for fresh SF authors/books that are actually worth the trouble? Many thanks in advance.

Re:Bring me up to date (1)

spot35 (644375) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292086)

IMO Fallen Dragon is an excellent book. Not as good as his Night's Dawn Trilogy or the Commonwealth Saga but good nonetheless. Try Dan Simmons' Illium and Olympos, they were excellent. If you haven't read them, try out Alistair Reynolds' Inhibitors Trilogy (Revelation Space, Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap). Chasm City is written in the same universe and is also excellent.

Hopefully you'll enjoy this small selection.

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