It’s that time of year. The end of it. But it is also conveniently, not that far out from a year since I laid claim to this here corner of the internet so there’s some logic to doing Year End thing.
Hey I said there was some. Not a lot. I’m gonna doing it anyways.
Incoming a whole bunch of headers about writing, books, authors and awesomeness. (Scroll down if you want to skip right to the book stuff.)
Cool Stuff that Happened
Oh you better believe there was cool stuff. Chunks of it happened because of twitter. I always thought it was dumb for the longest time. And back when it first started, I’m sure it was, but now there are so many people using it, twitter is starting to become self aware. More than anything else short of becoming a con rat, it gives a personality to authors. Growing up, authors were just these mythic figures that had a paragraph about them near the end of the book. Sometimes. I didn’t know anything about cons, that kind of stuff didn’t happen in Connecticut. (And still doesn’t as far as I know, unless you want sweaty anime high schoolers) There are five authors I’ve discovered this year via the twitter-blog circuit. It was a “High five as a person! I doubly want to know what you write now.” Wasn’t disappointed in any of them.
More cool things. Signed books. My copy of Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell traveled across the country and back to pick up a signature and came back with a personalized copy of Arctic Rising. Words of encouragement scrawled on a title page actually do go a long way. Also, ever get an ARC? Holy crap they are seriously the most awesome thing ever. I won a contest by Myke Cole to get an advanced copy of a book everyone should be seriously excited for, the sequel to Shadow Ops: Control Point. That first contest winner is me. Literal cut and paste job since I’m too cheap to pony up for Photoshop and too lazy to dig up some alternative. By the way, Tredici is Italian for thirteen. The phobia of the number thirteen was too long to try to use.
My writing has progressed up to personalized rejection. Seriously, that’s a big deal. That wasn’t the coolest writerly thing that happened though. Oh yeah. Finished my book! In July I made the goal of getting it done by my birthday, early December. It was a very reasonable goal then. Once Halloween started, it was less so. I kicked ass and made it happen. Dropped 30k in November to actually rock the self imposed deadline. 30k may not sound like uber amounts, but I have a day job that doesn’t afford a lot of screwing around to write time. And a wife and baby. And I lost a whole weekend to the flu. (Flu shots are helpful my ass). Currently neglecting the blog for Amity v1.5 as I type the handwritten first draft into the computer.
- Most Read Post – Saturday at Boskone 49. Ironically, one of the first posts. Peaked early.
- Favorite Post – Authors Behaving Well. Also, the longest post.
- Most International Blog Traffic – Canada. Non-English speaking, Germany.
- Most Linked to Post – vN. Publisher Angry Robot Books quotes my review on their website.
Book Stuff (What You’re Really Here For)
Best Cover – Blackbirds / Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig, art by Joey HiFi
I did a whole post a while back about the awesomeness contained in a Joey HiFi cover. It’s a crazy Where’s Waldo mosaic of the main character in the books. It’s beautiful and creepy and hard to piece together all at the same time. It’s Miriam Black in art form. There are very few instances in all the years that I’ve been reading where the cover has so perfectly represented the book I was reading. In SF, I think it’s easy for covers to just fall into background noise, more so than the actual writing that goes on in our genre. I think it’s easier to push boundaries in text, (blending genres, off the wall protags, controversial subjects, etc) than it is with a book’s cover. The cover is the marketing that a store is buying off on. Looking at the best and boundary pushing books on my Shelf of Honor, a lot of them have ho-hum covers, good at best, but most of them are in no way exceptional as far as art goes. Boneshaker is the only one off the Shelf of Honor that shows up on my Top Cover List. Angry Robot Books has no problem pushing the boundaries of cover art. They’ve had Joey HiFi design multiple covers for their authors.
Most Recommended Book – Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole
When I first started using twitter and following around the SF scene around the internets, Control Point was getting a lot of positive buzz as the new cool thing to seek out and read. I knew a little bit about the actual content, wizards in the military. He was at Boskone and I saw him at a panel talking about the views of Golden Age SF. He was interesting and amusing enough that I was looking to buy him a beer in the hotel bar but couldn’t find him before I had to leave. I bought the book, read it and was blown away by how fresh it was. It’s magic in a modern setting, but I don’t think I could call it urban fantasy. UF has developed its own set of tropes and that’s not what Cole gives us in his writing. You’re not getting the creepy crawlies and fantastic creatures that most UF use as a mainstay. The red tape involved with being magic user in Cole’s world had a very authentic feel. Maybe I get that because I work for a defense contractor, but yeah, red tape out the ass if the government had magic to run with. Don’t think that meant it was a slow book, all that figurative red tape is part of the setting, not a hindrance. The kinetic pace of the writing and the completely new feel to this world and magic system had me talking it up to anyone who needed something to read. In fact, I suspect my original copy of the book is still making the rounds of an Air National Guard unit. (Keep guarding that kitchen Fred!)
Most Likely to Win Awards – vN by Madeline Ashby
I said it right in my review. It’s the line the publisher quotes on their website. “I would be extremely surprised if this book did not garner some nominations and awards. vN has changed the way I will look at AI stories.” Robot fiction is not something new. Hell, it’s probably some of the oldest examples of SF. Frankenstein’s monster is a robot made of flesh instead of metal. Asimov was one of our earliest SF masters. So writing about this concept that has been in the public consciousness for generations must have been a daunting task. But having read vN, I can never look at AI fiction the same ever again. For me, there will be pre-Ashby and post-Ashby. This book has the smarts of Neal Stephenson and China Mieville mixed in with the impact that I imagine Asimov did when his stuff was new and fresh. When my grandparents were kids. And vN one-upped it. Some of the major awards are restricted based off nationality of the author and/or publisher. Ashby needs to be an honorary citizen of everywhere so we can give her all the awards. And then make another one.
Best Publisher – Angry Robot Books
The year Angry Robot became a thing, I bought a third of their opening catalog in one trip to Borders. I’ve read four of their 2012 books and have a half dozen more in my to read pile and another four for next year are on the wish-I-didn’t-have-to-wait list. They’re pushing the boundaries with their writers (See vN above) and their artists (See Joey HiFi above). It’s gotten to the point where anything they have got in the pipeline has points in its favor just by being theirs. They are putting out of a lot of books that I imagine would have a hard time finding homes elsewhere. Unique books that are tough to pigeonhole and therefore tough to market and sell. But that’s what I want to read, the new and fresh and interesting. With Angry Robot, it’s been the first time I’ve ever gotten excited over a publisher. By pushing their own people to do excellent things and fostering some of the best talent, they’re raising the bar for everyone across all of SF and that’s only a good thing.
Best Short Story – “Fade to White” by Catherynne Valente
I admit, I am a dabbler with short fiction, both reading and writing it. I continue to try to do both because it is something I feel can only be good for me as a writer. Challenges and all that. I read a lot of the Daily SF stories and some of the stuff coming out of the magazines but I will admit, it’s hard for me sometimes. Longform is more my style what with my randomly pontificating thoughts and tangents. (Bet you haven’t seen any of those at all.) So when I read “Fade to White”… well I’m really not sure what I was expecting. I can tell you what I was hoping. I was hoping it wasn’t another 900 word lead up to a bad pun. I had gotten one of those already that week. I think the phrase ‘atompunk’ is what hooked me. Any subgenre is something-punk now but the phrase still got me. And I was rewarded beyond belief with this amazingly beautiful story. Just read it again and woah, there are so many feels in it. The impact of this story has been rolling around in my head since August and it won’t get out. It’s a very creepy Cold War-ish story with a lot of power behind it. This should be making the award rounds with vN.
Best Novel – Well of Sorrows / Leaves of Flame by Benjamin Tate
Best Novel is a difficult thing to pin down to just one book (er… two, but they’re the same series so I count it as one). Favorites have a lot to do with subgenre or length or even just mood. I can give you favorites for all sorts of flavors of SF, favorite series, favorite stand alones, favorite when I need a quick read, favorite when I want to think. It’s endless. But I have to give the title of favorite that I’ve read this year to Ben Tate. I picked up Well of Sorrows at Boskone because I was all about authors I saw that day when I was shopping. It kind of sat around in my to read pile for a while. I was burned out on fantasy for years because it was the same old tropes. In the year and a half before reading this, there were only three fantasy authors I had read. Well and its sequel Leaves have really changed how I see where the fantasy genre is today. It’s not the Tolkien point A to point B novel anymore. I maintain that these are fantasy-thrillers. The characters are varied and the plot is deep. The storytelling has a very universal feeling to me, able to stand on its own even if it was stripped of the fantasy tropes. Tate wrote some moments that completely took me off guard and left me with jaw dropped exclamations of “Holy crap did he just do that?!” The old point A to point B novels could never do that. Reading Well and Leaves really made me feel that fantasy had grown up and could engage readers in a way that was evolving for the better but yet retaining the best of what came before. Sword and magic have been interesting me more than they have since I was in high school. Well was the first book I added to the Shelf of Honor since 2010 and impacted me to the point of a shift in my reading habits. That’s why it edges out all the other extremely excellent books I’ve read this year for the Best Novel nod.