New Year's Resolution - Take Up Your Pens!

hand writing a letter
Even though we're halfway through January, this seems like a good day to share the only New Year's resolution I ever made. I'm not sure what sparked it off, but a few years ago I decided to do something on the broad theme of human rights every day.

To increase the chances of my resolution succeeding, the actions had to be small and measurable. The main one was writing letters to governments and embassies regarding human rights abuses in their countries, mostly based off Amnesty's cases.

The actions also had to become a habit for the resolution to succeed. So that's how I wound up eating breakfast with one hand and saving the world with the other hand, every morning.

Due to the recent murders in Paris, I'm doing it again, although this time with slightly more focus on freedom of speech matters. Will you join me?

It doesn't have to be every day, if that doesn't work for you, but something regular would be good. Letter writing, signing petitions, they do have effect and it's better than putting your head in your hands in despair and doing nothing. Although that last is an understandable response to the horrors in Paris, Nigeria and elsewhere. Just not every day. Pick up a pen. Do something. Please.

My Hugo Votes: Best Novelette 2014

It's sad to have to employ the No Award Hammer again, but once it's out, it's out.

(1) “The Waiting Stars” - Aliette de Bodard. Here De Bodard brings the same high quality space opera that made me vote her into first place last year. The ending has a twist, which I only just saw coming.

(2) [Hugo winner] “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” - Mary Robinette Kowal. A lovely story about family. What happens when you get your dream, lose it and are offered it back at a high price? Unfortunately, the addition of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz doesn't actually add anything.

(3) No Award

(4) “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang. New technology contributes to widening gaps in how people perceive events and relationships. The story is destroyed partway through when a character misremembers something important about his daughter in a way that is absolutely not credible.

Right, I think that's all I'm going to get through tonight!


My Hugo Votes: Best Novella 2014

Once again, Novella = 17,500 to 40,000 words and Novelette = 7,500 to 17,500 words. Does anyone actually care about the distinction? Maybe it would be better to fold the two categories into one and open up the remaining space to Best YA Novel.

That said, the first two novellas were very worthwhile.

(1) Six-Gun Snow White - Catherynne M. Valente A clear winner for this category. The name Snow White isn't a description of what the character is, but of what she never can be. Native American tales mixed with European tales mixed with gender issues mixed with colonialism, mixed with... The ending doesn't do quite do the rest of the story justice, but that would be hard.

(2) “Wakulla Springs” - Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages This is SF in the sense that it builds on SF movie history, if you consider Tarzan to be SF. It's not the first category that springs to my mind, to be honest.

A few other people have left it off their ballot because they didn't consider the story to be SF. It also made me think, because the only proper SFnal bit was at the end but felt tacked on. But I haven't the heart because I did love the characters and the story.

(3) No Award

[Hugo winner] “Equoid” by Charles Stross This is part of his "Laundry" series, which I've never read.
It was slow to get started and erratically paced after that. Every time it looks like it might get up, it stumbles over its own overly self-aware prose. Further, if you're going to make me read about girls being abused, you'd better make it worth it.

There's two more nominees, but I'd rather spend time dusting off the draft post for Novelette.


My Hugo Votes: Best Short Story 2014

Tough field! My nominated winner, John Chu, is certainly worth a click of your time.

(1) [Hugo winner] “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” - John Chu
The undoubted winner. Lovely and emotional story of a man struggling to come out to his family. The primary conceit of water falling when someone lies is gently dealt with.

(2) Selkie Stories Are for Losers” - Sofia Samatar
Another one focussing on families and relationships, though this one is rather sadder. Not sure I like the way the story is broken up.

(3) “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” - Rachel Swirsky
Well, that was different. Not sure if she quite pulls it off. It's technically clever; like Kij Johnson but a bit better.

(4) “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” - Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Second appearance by the Dutch author after last year's debut. Enjoyable, witty and touching, with some lovely images, e.g., the sister drowning in fabric. But has he done his research? I have a friend from Thailand and I'm not even sure I want to ask her what she thinks. [Edit: Apologies to the author for doubting him, he is familiar with the area.]

Note: this category has only four nominees due to a 5% requirement under the society's constitution. At least that's one more than last year but it's an unfortunate problem for this category.

My Hugo Votes: Best Novel 2014

Less than half a day to choose your favourites for the Hugo awards! The bad news is that I had to do remarkably little reading to come to my conclusions. The good news is that my winner is a discovery on a par with N. K. Jemisin's 100,000 Kingdoms which was a nominee in 2011.

(1) [Hugo winner] Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie The buzz around this debut novel was so strong that I confidently bought it for my brother's birthday last year before having ever read it myself (he loved it). It went on to win a number of awards, including the Nebula. If there's any justice, the Hugo will be added to the list.

There's been a lot of focus on what Leckie does with gender. Namely, the citizens of the ruling empire don't distinguish genders. Leckie uses female pronouns for everyone whenever writing from the Radch point of view. But tackling assumptions around gender is hardly the end of the book's ambition. It takes on identity and colonisation too.

It's also ambitious in structure, not just in the way that the past and present narrative threads are woven together but the way the scope of the first person viewpoint changes. She has a great eye for detail, whether for small characters or large empires. It's also surprisingly short for a space opera. Everything's very compactly written.

I'm not sure whether it's overdoing it to compare Leckie to Ursula K. LeGuin and Iain M. Banks already but...

(2) Neptune's Brood - Charlie Stross The protagonist is an accountant! Stross probably deserves a round of applause just for that. And for being the first, as far as I know, to take on the subject of interstellar finance and economics. It's a bit above my paygrade, to be honest.

It was enjoyable but, as usual, I wish he'd take it easy on the infodumps. And step away from the thesaurus.

(3) No Award

and what didn't make it onto my ballot and why.

(4) Parasite - Mira Grant
As a greenie, I'm supportive of recycling books. Just not so much their contents.

Basically, I haven't liked anything she's written since she first appeared on the Hugo ballot a couple of years ago with Feed. Well, she's written another SF/horror with zombies. Except this time it's a pharmaceutical company that developed a parasite designed to live in the human gut and keep it healthy. Clearly she enjoyed doing the research. But the resulting book has the same problems as before: same smart-ass dialogue that makes all the characters sound alike, unbelievable characters, etc.

I skipped to the ending to find that had been left to the sequel. For that alone, I wouldn't want to vote it an award.

Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson Well-meaning fans want Hugo recognition for the series now that Brandon Sanderson has finished Jordan's work. Sorry, but I'm not even going to start considering it. There's an argument for having a Hugo to recognise series but the Novel Ballot isn't the place to have it.

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia Some people have been playing silly games with the Hugo ballot which means I'm not going to bother to read some of the nominated works. Martin has details, if you care. I didn't rate Correia highly when he was a nominee for Best New Writer in 2011 and I've heard nothing that will make regret having not read this.

I've just realised that everything on the ballot is part of a trilogy or a series. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the rest of the Imperial Radch trilogy.


Kimberley Verburg
Wellingtonian, Parisian, Londoner. Loving tea, missing crêpes. :) Now in Leiden!

E-mail: Kim @

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