Sunday, September 27, 2015

First Annual Canopus Awards for Excellence in Interstellar Writing

This award is new to me and I am sure to many readers but it certainly sounds interesting and the nominated writers are quite the who's who in science fiction. 
The award is named after the star Canopus. Canopus is the second brightest star in the night sky. From the Bedouin of the Sinai to the Maori of New Zealand to modern spacecraft, Canopus has been used for navigation through the centuries. Just as Canopus has helped past and modern-day explorers navigate, science fiction will be a guiding point of light in current and future interstellar efforts.
The following is from their press release -

On Wednesday, September 23, 100 Year Starship announced the finalists in the inaugural Canopus Award for Excellence in Interstellar Writing. The Canopus Award is an annual writing prize recognizing the finest fiction and non-fiction works that contribute to the excitement, knowledge, and understanding of interstellar space exploration and travel.

Winners will be announced and honored on Friday, October 30, 2015 during the 100 Year Starship 2015 Public Symposium held at the Santa Clara Marriott, in Santa Clara, California October 29-November 1, 2015.

The finalists (listed in no particular order) in the four award categories are listed below.

Previously Published Long-Form Fiction (40,000 words or more):
• Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
• Other Systems by Elizabeth Guizzetti
• The Creative Fire by Brenda Cooper
• InterstellarNet: Enigma by Ed Lerner
• Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
• Coming Home by Jack McDevitt

Previously Published Short-Form Fiction (between 1,000 and 40,000 words):
• "Race for Arcadia" by Alex Shvartsman
• "Stars that Make Dark Heaven Light" by Sharon Roest
• "Homesick" by Debbie Urbanski
• "Twenty Lights to the Land of Snow" by Michael Bishop
• “Planet Lion” by Catherine M. Valente
• "The Waves" by Ken Liu
• "Dreamboat" by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Original Fiction (1,000-5,000 words):
• “Landfall” by Jon F. Ziegler
• “Project Fermi” by Michael Turgeon
• “Everett’s Awakening” by Yelcho
• “Groundwork” by G. M. Nair
• “His Holiness John XXIV about Father Angelo Baymasecchi’s Diary” by Óscar Garrido González
• “The Disease of Time” by Joseph Schmidt

Original Non-Fiction (1,000-5,000 words):
• “Why Interstellar Travel?” by Jeffrey Nosanov
• “Finding Earth 2.0 from the Focus of the Solar Gravitational Lens” by Louis Friedman and Slava Turyshev

For more information:
Award Criteria | Website | Facebook | Twitter: @100YSS| Symposium

100 Year Starship™ (100YSS) is an independent, non-governmental, long-term initiative to ensure the capabilities for human interstellar flight exist as soon as possible, and definitely within the next 100 years. 100YSS was started in 2012 with seed-funding through a competitive grant from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) for the purpose of fostering the type of explosive innovation and technology and social advances born from addressing such an incredible challenge. To foster such innovation, 100YSS engages in collaborative international programs and projects in research and innovation, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) capacity building, entrepreneurship and education projects with and between organizations, companies, universities and individuals. Based in Houston, TX 100YSS recently opened an affiliate in Brussels, 100YSS@EU and is in development of affiliates in Africa and Asia.

About the 100YSS 2015 PUBLIC SYMPOSIUM
The 100YSS Public Symposium is a powerful four-day event of global, transdisciplinary experience of imagination, hands-on programs, thought-provoking discussions and action on the frontiers of science, civilization, space, technology, society, music, art and our present and future. The Symposium brings together experts, enthusiasts, students, celebrities, innovators, educators, and thought leaders from around the world. 2015 is the fourth Symposium and is themed around “Finding Earth 2.0”—how both the process to discover and the definitive identification of a planet outside our solar system capable of supporting Earth based life will be game changing across the spectrum of human activities. 100YSS is part of the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Review - The Science Fiction & Fantasy Quiz Book

Author: Joseph A. McCullough
Illustrator: Miguel Coimbra
Publication Date: 20 Sep 2015
Number of Pages: 192
What character did Peter Cushing portray in Star Wars: A New Hope? Who was Arwen Evenstar's mother? According to Isaac Asimov, what is third law of robotics? Which barbarian hero carried a sword called 'Graywand'?

Do you dare face the ultimate test of science fiction and fantasy knowledge? This fun-filled book offers the chance to prove your expertise, with questions ranging from easy to nearly impossible, drawn from the greatest novels, movies, comic books, video games and television shows in the history of the genre.

Trivial and Not So Trivial Pursuit
I am always up for testing my knowledge and having some fun with anything to do with science fiction and fantasy. Over the years there have been quite a few books of this nature but The Science Fiction & Fantasy Quiz Book is definitely a child of its time. It reflects a much greater emphasis on media science fiction and comic and graphic novels which is a good thing as both of these areas in the genre have grown exponentially in the past few decades and garnered significant popular culture attention.

Sample General Knowledge
quiz in Easy category
The book uses familiar quiz formats such as multiple choice, true or false, short answer and match up and is divided into three sections according to difficulty - easy, medium or hard. Each quiz is made up of 10 questions. Most quizzes are a general knowledge catch-all, but every few pages there is a themed category such as Superheroes, Homeworlds or Star Trek. Correct answers are provided at the back of the book.

While I didn't exactly breeze through the Easy section, I found I was averaging 8 out of 10 scores for most categories except comics and games where I dropped to 50%. Things started to get a lot tougher in the Medium section where I dropped to 4 or 5 out of 10 per quiz on average. Surprisingly my average scores went up on the Hard section I think because the percentage of questions relating to science fiction and fantasy books increased which I am much better at. The books as you would expect is primarily text driven with a scattering of nicely done illustrations.

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Quiz Book is fun to test your own knowledge and easily used for some competitive fun with like-minded friends. Even if you are only a casual science fiction and fantasy fan there is plenty of popular culture questions that won't make your head explode. Die-hard Golden Age science fiction fans expecting a book oriented challenge should be satisfied with the Hard category but not so much in the earlier categories. Recommended for trivia buffs or as a gift for genre fans.

And a final thought for the author. This would be great as an interactive online quiz. Make your choices and get your scores and the answers. Access for purchasers of the book as an alternative way to explore the quizzes.
Illustration from The Science Fiction & Fantasy Quiz Book

Monday, September 14, 2015

2015 Aurora Awards - Best Fan Music

As I love music of almost any style, I thought I'd check out the Fan Music nominations for the Aurora awards. Here are the nominated artists and my brief thoughts on their creations..

Brooke Abbey, Weirdness from 2014, Bandcamp

As her bio says Brooke Abbey (formerly Brooke Lunderville) is a banjo-playing pharmacist from Vancouver, BC. Traditional filk/folk style.

Some clever sfnal lyrics. She gets high marks alone for her quirky album cover.

Preview the songs here.

Devin Melanson & Leslie Hudson, Copy Red Leader, Crossing the Streams CD, The Pond Studio

Copy Red Leader is the geek rock duo of Leslie Hudson and Devin Melanson, based in the Toronto area. Together they flirt with the dark side of geek, playing everything from rock to blues, metal to bluegrass, funk to folk. Also nominated for Debs & Errol (Deborah Linden and Errol Elumir), OVFF Concert (Ohio Valley Filk Fest)

Perhaps the most musically accomplished and polished of the nominees with a diversity of musical styles, lyrics vary from the engaging to the silly. Something for every taste.

Preview the songs here.

Debs & Errol (Deborah Linden and Errol Elumir), OVFF Concert (Ohio Valley Filk Fest)

A geeky, comedy, music duo with a daily webcomic!

Was not recorded. However here is a sample of some of their music.

Kari Maaren, YouTube Channel

Kari Maaren is a Toronto musician who plays geeky ukulele songs about monsters and superheroes. She isn't sure why, but it amuses her, so that's all right.

Nice lyrics and tunes. Handles the ukulele with aplomb. Bit of a grab bag of songs.

Preview the songs here.

Stone Dragons, Dream of Flying CD, Stone Dragon Studios

Sue Posteraro met Tom Jeffers one night in a filk circle, and fell madly in love with him. Several years later she caught him. Shortly after that, Tom moved to Toronto and convinced her to form a filk duo. Now they help run FilKONtario and they are living happily ever after.

Pretty traditional filk. For me this wasn't a stand out from the other nominees

Preview the songs here.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

2015 Aurora Awards Short Fiction Reviews

Best Short Fiction – English 

Here are my reviews of the five stories nominated for Best Short Fiction award.

“Crimson Sky” by Eric Choi
Analog, July/August

 "Crimson Sky" is set on a partially developed and colonized Mars in some not too distant future.  This slice of life story lets us view the experience of Maggie an EMT search and rescue helicopter pilot responding to an emergency from an adventurer in a downed lighter than air craft. Realistically executed, you are quickly dropped into the action with a vivid sense of being there. Engaging and upbeat. Very likable character in Maggie and a vision of what life on Mars may be some day.

“Jelly and the D-Machine” by Suzanne Church
Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction, EDGE

A teenager coming to terms with his gay orientation worries he will be the target of the bully "Jelly"so he concocts an escape plan using an unfinished time machine that his deceased father designed but left untested. He hopes for a better opportunity of acceptance in a different future or dimensional reality. The science is completely whimsical and for me reminiscent of some of Harry Harrison's short stories. The ending is a satisfying blend of practical reality based on good advice and a little wish fulfillment. A strong example of the current diversity trend in speculative fiction.

“Mecha-Jesus” by Derwin Mak
Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen, EDGE

Set in Japan, a Roman Catholic priest investigates a "Jesus" android in a small village. Some overlong dialogue between the investigator, an American Christian, the local Shinto priest, the Mayor, the android and a right-wing protest group serves to illustrate both cultural differences and similarities of people of faith.

"Mecha-Jesus" is humorously irreverent and offers up a couple of zingers such as when the protest leader meets the android and says - “But it looks like a gaijin cosplaying as an ancient Israeli.

Some minor contemporary social commentary but overall this story felt unfocused. 

“No Sweeter Art” by Tony Pi
Beneath Ceaseless Skies #155, September 4, 2014

"No Sweeter Art" is a fantasy watercolour. The title refers to the skill of a street sorcerer and outcast whose abilities are manifested from his gods through candy. He is hired by a magistrate to foil an assassination plot. As far as I can tell based on Asian style mythology, the glimpse of world-building is vivid and rich. Well-paced. Format somewhat weakened by the lack of space to develop the characters but I can see this being expanded into fully realized fantasy world.

“Soul-Hungry” by Suzanne Church
Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction, EDGE

This is second nomination in this category for Suzanne Church. "Soul-Hungry" in my opinion is the more polished of the two entries. This is a macabre little tale where the afterlife dead feed on the souls of the living effectively murdering them. Some quick rules are introduced, posses, time-slipping, memory loss, religion as protection and more. But in essence it is a love story. A twisted one, but a love story. The juxtaposition of the story elements makes it surprisingly poignant. Did I say twisted. Yeah. Twisted.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015 Aurora Awards Are Coming Up Soon

According to Lloyd Penney
this Frank Johnson’s award
design is being retired in
favour of a new design
from Montreal fan Berny Reischl.
The Aurora Awards is the annual award for the best in Canadian science fiction. With categories very similar to the Hugo Awards voting on the nominees is fully underway and closes October 17. To vote you need to be a member of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA) which you can do for only $10 Canadian here. The Aurora Awards are presented each year at Canvention. This year it is Canvention 35 hosted by SFContario 6 in Toronto, November 20-22.

For the price of your membership you actually get a complete set of ALL of the nominated works in digital format for reading to help you decide how to place you vote. I hope to read and review all of the major novel and story categories here on the blog starting next week.

Here are this years nominated categories and works -

Best Novel – English
Echopraxia by Peter Watts, Tor Books
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff, DAW Books
My Real Children by Jo Walton, Tor Books
The Peripheral by William Gibson, Penguin Books
A Play of Shadow by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books

Best Young Adult Novel – English
Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, Tor Books
Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf by Sherry Peters, Dwarvenamazon
Out of This World by Charles de Lint, Razorbill Canada
Rain by Amanda Sun, Harlequin TEEN
Twist of the Blade by Edward Willett, Coteau Books
Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong, Doubleday Canada
The Voices in Between by Charlene Challenger, Tightrope Books

Best Short Fiction – English
“Crimson Sky” by Eric Choi, Analog, July/August
“Jelly and the D-Machine” by Suzanne Church, Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction, EDGE
“Mecha-Jesus” by Derwin Mak, Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen, EDGE
“No Sweeter Art” by Tony Pi, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #155, September 4, 2014
“Soul-Hungry” by Suzanne Church, Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction, EDGE

Best Poem/Song – English
“A Hex, With Bees” by Tony Pi, Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen, EDGE
“Aversions” by Helen Marshall, Goblin Fruit, October
“The Machine” by David Clink, Wrestling With Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen, EDGE
“The New Ways” by Amal El-Mohtar, Uncanny Magazine, November
“The Perfect Library” by David Clink, If the World were to Stop Spinning (Chapbook)

Best Graphic Novel – English
Cassie & Tonk by Justin Currie and GMB Chomichuk, Chasing Artwork
It Never Rains by Kari Maaren, Webcomic
Raygun Gothic Vol. 2 by GMB Chomichuk, Alchemical Press
Treadwell by Dominic Bercier, Mirror Comics
Trillium by Jeff Lemire, DC Comics-Vertigo

Best Related Work – English
Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction by Suzanne Church, EDGE
Gifts for the One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall, CZP
Lackington’s Magazine edited by Ranylt Richildis
On Spec published by the Copper Pig Writers’ Society
Strange Bedfellows edited by Hayden Trenholm, Bundoran Press

Best Artist
James Beveridge, cover for Tantamount and Out Dweller
Erik Mohr, cover for The Door in the Mountain and ChiZine Publications
Derek Newman-Stille, cover for Elephants and Omnibuses
Dan O’Driscoll, covers for Bundoran Press and On Spec magazine
Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk & Steve Fahnestalk, “Walking on the Moon”, cover for On Spec, No. 95 (Vol. 25 No. 4)

Best Fan Publication
Broken Toys edited by Taral Wayne
Ecdysis edited by Jonathan Crowe
Pubnites & Other Events edited by Yvonne Penney
Space Cadet edited by R. Graeme Cameron
Speculating Canada edited by Derek Newman-Stille

Best Fan Music
Brooke Abbey, Weirdness from 2014, Bandcamp
Copy Red Leader, Crossing the Streams CD, The Pond Studio
Debs & Errol (Deborah Linden and Errol Elumir), OVFF Concert (Ohio Valley Filk Fest)
Kari Maaren, YouTube Channel
Stone Dragons, Dream of Flying CD, Stone Dragon Studios

Best Fan Organizational
Sandra Kasturi, Chair, Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Toronto
Derek Künsken, Farrell McGovern, Caycee Price and Elizabeth Buchan-Kimmerly, Executive, Can*Con 2014, Ottawa
Randy McCharles, Chair, When Words Collide, Calgary
Matt Moore, Marie Bilodeau and Nicole Lavigne, Co-chairs, Chiaroscuro Reading Series: Ottawa
Alana Otis-Wood and Paul Roberts, Co-chairs, Ad Astra Convention, Toronto

Best Fan Related Work
Richard Graeme Cameron, weekly column in Amazing Stories Magazine
Steve Fahnestalk, weekly column in Amazing Stories Magazine
Kevin B. Madison, Thunder Road Trip
Derek Newman-Stille, Speculating, Canada on Trent Radio 92.7 FM
Lloyd Penney, fan writing for fanzines and e-zines

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Author Birthdays - Nancy Collins, Pat Cadigan & Tera Lynn Childs

Happy birthday to a very diverse group of speculative fiction authors -  Nancy Collins, Pat Cadigan and Tera Lynn Childs.

Walking Wolf (July 2015)
Nancy A. Collins authors fantasy, YA, urban fantasy, horror, graphic novels and more. Nancy's vampire character Sonja Blue from Sunglasses After Dark (1989) was a shocker and the beginning of a lengthy series. That was the novel that made me a fan. Fox Television is currently developing her Golgotham urban fantasy series--Right Hand Magic, Left Hand Magic, and Magic and Loss--for NBC.

Pat Cadigan is a Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke award-winning science fiction author whose forte is the short story.  Her most recent story In Case of Zebras appeared in the Ellen Datlow anthology, The Doll Collection (Mar 2015).

Powerless (June 2015)
by Tera Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs
Tera Lynn Childs is the author of young adult fiction about mermaids, monsters, mythology, faeries, and superheroes.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Grokking "The Martian"

I can't say enough about how terrific a read The Martian by Andy Weir is. Astronaut Mark Watney is propelled from one crisis to another in his efforts to stay alive long enough to be rescued after an incident that leaves him stranded and alone. He's ingenious, irreverent and one of the most captivating characters to grace SF in a long, long time. Here is the cover and book blurb -

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

The Martian was originally serialized and published on Andy Weir's website. The writing of the novel itself was a labour of love with no original intention that it be published professionally. For the incredible story on The Martian's journey to best seller status and a Ridley Scott motion picture, check out this interview by Mythbusters ultimate science geek and McGyverist, Adam Savage.

Canadian ISS Astronaut Chris Hadfield blurbs the book and has this to say about it -
A book I just couldn’t put down! It has the very rare combination of a good, original story, interestingly real characters and fascinating technical accuracy…reads like “MacGyver” meets “Mysterious Island.”
Difficult to get higher praise about the science in science fiction than that from an astronaut.

The audiobook version of The Martian is also a wonderful listen, with narrator R.C Bray bringing the characters to life with verve and vitality. Check it out while you wait for the movie to arrive. And speaking of the movie, who better then Ridley Scott (Bladerunner) to bring an adaptation of the story to the big screen (October 2). This trailer leaves me hopeful that it is faithful to the spirit of the novel.

Because I grok the The Martian, I leave you with this further apropos quote from science fiction grandmaster Robert Heinlein -
"Everything is theoretically impossible, until it's done."
I think Mark Watney would agree.

Andy Weir Links:

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