Charles Stross

2014 Hugo Winners announced!

No real surprises for me, except for the “Best Graphic Story” award. Don’t get me wrong, “Time” was fantastic, but I was really expecting Saga to take it. Hard SF in the vein of “Time” is pretty rare, though, and Randal Munroe deserves it for all the amazing work he put into it. (I know I never did the last two reviews for Ancillary Justice and Neptune’s Brood, but they were definitely the strongest single novels up for the awards. Definitely read them both.) Even though part of the reason Ancillary Justice did so well was its gimmick- it was a damn good gimmick, and not one that’s really ever been used much before. Plus, anyone who’s going to rag on gimmicks in SF/Fantasy should maybe be reading something else- find me a gimmickless novel in the genres and I’ll probably fall asleep reading it. Neptune’s Brood has the honor of having the most unique economic system I’ve encountered in hard SF, and is a great book on top of it.
Larry Correia’s Sad Puppy slate largely tanked, which whether you think is a good or bad thing, isn’t unexpected. (No comment from Correia or most of the Sad Puppy authors yet, we’ll leave out what Vox Day said, you can go check it out yourself if you’re interested in some homophobia, sexism, poor sportsmanship, and hate against horror fiction. I really think the whole thing would have gone much, much better if he hadn’t been included. Even Correia’s rather intense confrontational online behavior isn’t that big a deal in comparison, angry people are everywhere on the internet.) Dan Wells, despite being, in my opinion, the best of the Sad Puppy Authors on the ballot (Read his John Cleaver books if you haven’t yet, they’re fantastic. YA supernatural serial killer novels, really awesome), didn’t really stand a chance, there’s always going to be a strong stigma against tie-in fiction. I don’t think he was involved in the Sad Puppy slate beyond being nominated by it, though. (The Butcher of Khardov is part of the Warmachine universe.)

BEST NOVEL (1595 ballots)

Plot Devices: I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

A computer program has passed the Turing Test for the first time. What does this actually mean? Well, honestly, not much. This is a chatbot, not an AI. It’s not programmed to be intelligent, it is programmed to mimic written conversation. This one also used the whole gimmick of having the chatbot pretend to be a adolescent Ukrainian boy. The short and medium term results I predict? Over the next couple of years, we’ll get more annoying, harder to immediately detect spambots, (Like the ones on dating and porn sites, or the ones that are used to chat with you through your friends’ hacked Facebook accounts). 5-15 years? We’ll be getting adaptive conversational chatbots in videogames, which will be pretty sweet.

Anyhow, this brings me to the whole theme for my first official installment of Plot Devices: Artificial Intelligences. I’m going to attempt (key word) to explain ways that authors fit Artificial Intelligences into fiction, how it affects their settings, and ways to restrict them narrative-wise. This is a huge category, so we’re going to have to break it down a bit. I’m going to rip a few arbitrary categories out of fiction, here. In ascending order, Synthetic Intelligences, Human-Level AI, Uploads, Supergenius AI, and Weakly Godlike Intelligences. There are plenty that don’t fit precisely into any of these categories, but these five cover most examples of fictional AI.


Big, Scary, Evil Corporation of the Week

It’s Amazon.

If you don’t want to read through Charles Stross’ whole post, as well as the links therein: Amazon has been systematically tightening the screws on the big six large publishers, which is tightening the screws on the authors, even big ones like Robert Galbraith (J.K Rowling’s newest pen name). Last time Amazon did something like this, a number of brand new authors had their careers collapse into the gutter. No fun. The damage against the authors isn’t something the publishing companies are doing, by the way, it’s just fallout from the bigger fight. Amazon has 85-90% of the ebook market share right now, and a huge chunk of the physical book market. Calling it anything but a monopoly seems like a stretch at best. Hell, it’s worth five times any of the publishing companies it’s pushing around. (Give or take a few billion, not that Amazon would notice.)

Turns out free market capitalism kinda fucks over fiction writers, since their profit margins are so low anyways that when their customer-end distributor (Amazon) decides to profit at their expense, it starts driving them out of business. Thanks, Jeff Bezos! (Shockingly, a libertarian is using ruthless business practices that damage their own industry and suppliers in the long term in favor of short term profits on their end! Shocking. Oh well, I’m sure it’s a one time occurence.) (Despite my dislike of his business practices, he did found Blue Origin, which does give hims some points in my book).

What can we lowly peons do? Well, not much, other than buying our books and ebooks elsewhere.

Orbit and the Hugo Voter’s Packet

So, Orbit, the publisher of Parasite, Neptune’s Brood, and Ancillary Justice (They’re really kicking ass at the Hugos this year, watch out, Orbit) has decided not to include the full ebooks of their nominated books in the Hugo voter packet this year. Mira Grant, Charles Stross, and Ann Leckie have issued a joint statement regarding the situation, and John Scalzi has some interesting thoughts on the matter.

What do I think? Well, the Wheel of Time was already the hulking gorilla in the room, and this does help its chances a little bit. I wouldn’t count the others down and out, though. Regardless, this year’s Hugo awards are a wee bit more dramatic than usual. As for Orbit’s decision… well, the Best Novel nominees are generally going to be much easier to find than the various short fiction awards, and they might honestly feel they’re losing a good bit of money, giving away their books, so I don’t know if I can blame them.

I’m still working on reading the others, by the way. I only have Warbound and Parasite left. I’ll do posts soon enough.

Hugo Nominees Announced!

Here’s the full list of nominees, and there are also Retro Hugo nominations this year. I’m planning on doing a read-through of all the novel nominations (at least for the regular ones, haven’t decided about the retro hugo nominees. Notable nominees: The ENTIRE Wheel of Time series. All of it. All 12,529 pages of it. …Luckily, I prepared for this eventuality, and have already started rereading it. I’m on book 8 of 15, though I still have to read both WoT short stories as well.