2016 Hugo Awards

August 22nd, 2016

The 2016 Hugo Awards were announced last night at MidAmericon 2 in Kansas City. The Hugos are a fan award voted on by supporting and attending members of the annual World Science Fiction Convention. These are the winners of the major fiction awards:

Best Novel: The Fifth Season,by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
Best Novella: Binti,by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)
BestNovelette: “Folding Beijing” by Hao Jingfang, translated Ken Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb 2015)
Best Short Story:“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2015}
The strong showing by female authors is notable – all the fiction awards went to women – and the quality of the winners is a slap in the face to the puppy movement.
Slate.com has an article about the Hugos and the puppy controversy.
The 1941 Retro Hugo Awards were also awarded, and you might expect A. E. Van Vogt, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov cleaned up.

2016 Aurora Awards

August 21st, 2016

The 2016 Aurora Awards for the best Canadian science fiction and fantasy of 2015 were awarded at When Worlds Collide last weekend. These are the fiction winners.

  • Best English Novel: A Daughter of No Nation by A.M. Dellamonica, Tor Books
  • Best English YA Novel: An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet, Scholastic Canada/Clarion Books
  • Best English Short Fiction: “Waters of Versailles” by Kelly Robson, Tor.com
  • Best English Poem/Song: “Origami Crane / Light Defying Spaceship” by Naru Dames Sundar, Liminality, Issue 5 Autumn
  • Best English Graphic Novel: The Lady ParaNorma by Vincent Marcone, ChiZine Publications

Sadly, Taral Wayne did not win the best fan publication award for Broken Toys, one of the last fanzines being published in Canada.

The Lonely End of the Rink

August 19th, 2016

The Tragically Hip play their last concert tomorrow night in Kingston Ontario, the final show of the summer tour that began after it was announced that lead singer Gord Downie had terminal brain cancer.

If you’re not Canadian, you may not appreciate what this means and what the Hip mean to the Canadian identity. Maybe Bruce Springsteen is the closest US equivalent. Their songs have become a part of our national fabric over  the last two decades.  In Slate, Chris Koentges talks about Downie and the Hip and just what it all means.

Should you ever need to endear yourself to a Canadian, say how sad you were to hear about Gord. Canada has fixated on Gord Downie this summer as he makes his final journey across the country, an incurable tumor growing rapidly inside his left temporal lobe. When the tour wraps up this weekend, we’ll all return to our daily lives nervously watching Trump. But for Canadians anywhere in the world, Saturday night is the Gehrig speech. It’s the O.J. verdict and the M.A.S.H. finale. It’s every second of sudden-death overtime we’ve ever played against Russia.

Downie’s band, the Tragically Hip, is one of those enormous entities that cannot be understood outside its homeland. In Canada, we just call them the Hip, and Downie is simply Gord. And I am betraying something sacred by attempting to explain what he means to us. Gord is the country’s spirit animal in the only way a 52-year-old white man might legitimately be classified as a “spirit animal.”

The concert will broadcast on CBC television, aired on CBC Radio One and Two, and streamed over cbc.ca. Expect it get one of the largest audiences in Canadian history.

What I Read in July 2016

August 15th, 2016

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. While on vacation in July, I had another Lucentis treatment for macular degeneration and ended up with a scratched cornea in my right eye. I’m still recovering from that – it is healing, but slowly. This has put a dent in my reading, since reading with one eye closed is tiring. I’m hoping things will be back to normal in a week or two.

I did finish two books in July:

  • The Medusa Chronicles, by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds. This is a sequel to Clarke’s classic novella, A Meeting with Medusa, and a wonderful tribute to Clarke and his brand of science fiction. It felt a bit stale and dated at first, but persevere. It’s worth it.
  • Time Traders by Andre Norton. Published in 1958, this showed up on Amazon in an edition with its sequal, Galactic Derelict.  it was one of the first science fiction novels that I read when I was in grade school and devouring every SF novel I could get my hands on, which at that time were mostly Heinlein juveniles and books by Andre Norton. I was surprised at how much of it I remembered and how well it holds up today – it has dated somewhat, but not as much as Heinlein’s stories, and is still very readable. I am going to seek out more of Norton’s early books, many of which are available in cheap Kindle editions.

The First SF Magazine 90 Years Ago

August 3rd, 2016

I missed the actual date of this anniversary but it’s still notable. 90 years ago, in April 2016, the first issue of Amazing Stories appeared on newsstands in the United States. Amazing was the first science fiction magazine and spawned a host of imitators, the most notable being Astounding Stories (later Analog). Given the prevalence of pulp fiction magazines at the time, it’s likely that someone else would have come up with the idea, but we owe a debt of gratitude to Hugo Gernsback for doing it first.

Another Fiction Magazine!

At first thought it does seem impossible that there could be room for another fiction magazine in this country. The reader may well wonder, “Aren’t there enough already, with the several hundreds now being published?” True.1 But this is not “another fiction magazine,” Amazing Stories is a new kind of fiction magazine! It is entirely new—entirely different—something that has never been done before in this country. Therefore, Amazing Stories deserves your attention and interest.

There is the usual fiction magazine, the love story and the sex- appeal type of magazine, the adventure type, and so on, but a magazine of “Scientifiction” is a pioneer in its field in America.

By “scientifiction” I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe type of story—a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision. For many years stories of this nature were published in the sister magazines of Amazing Stories—Science & Invention and Radio News. But with the ever increasing demands on us for this sort of story, and more of it, there was only one thing to do—publish a magazine in which the scientific type of story will hold forth exclusively. Toward that end we have laid elaborate plans, sparing neither time nor money.

How Typography Can Save Your Life

August 2nd, 2016

Most of us probably don’t associate typography with life and death situations. But the ability to quickly understand information can be affected by typography. For example, say you’re driving on the highway in the rain, looking for a specific exit, and you can’t read the exit sign until you’re past the beginning of the off ramp. You swerve onto the tramp, but loose control. If you’d been able to read the sign 20 metres farther back, you’d have had no problem making the exit. In How Typography Can Save Your Life, Lena Greoger looks at how typography can affect situations where someone’s life might be affected.  Highway signs are one example:

U.S. road signs have been set in a typeface called Highway Gothic since the 1950’s, and it was the dominant typeface in use until the early 2000’s. But it had problems. Whether people noticed it or not, it was hard to read in rainy weather, from a distance, and at night. When light hit the words, they appeared to blend together in a glowing, blurry mess, something known as halation. This may be annoying to an average person, but if you’re an elderly person driving at 70 miles an hour with bad vision, it can be deadly.

So highway engineers struggled to find a solution. They thought maybe making the letters 20 percent bigger would solve it, but bigger letters would require bigger signs and end up costing billions of dollars. So they turned to two designers: an environmental graphic designer and a type designer. Those designers created Clearview, a new typeface that was designed to take up the same space as Highway Gothic but be much easier to read.

She also looks at the design of flight crew checklists. NASA actually has a document about the design of these checklists and their recommendations can be used in many  other kinds of documents.