|29th April 2012, 12:50 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Apr 2007
BSFA Awards 2011: shortlisted stories
An unexpected bonus of my membership of the British Science Fiction Association: a booklet containing all five of the short stories shortlisted for their awards (although it did arrive too late for me to vote). Two of them I had reviewed before, but it was interesting to read through them again and I have repeated my reviews here.
The Copenhagen Interpretation by Paul Cornell. An alternative Earth with a strange mixture of the futuristic and the traditional, and some unexplained technologies which the reader has to try to figure out from the context: e.g. "folds" which may refer to folds in space-time, and "embroidery" which is to do with communications. The tale is a spy-cum-romance thriller concerning a British agent and a courier whose messages are kept securely inside her head. Somewhat entertaining, somewhat baffling.
Afterbirth by Kameron Hurley. The life of a woman who is passionate about astronomy, but who lives in a female-dominated religious world in which scientific enquiry is not encouraged, all but the ruling caste are primarily seen as wombs, and boys are merely cannon fodder for the endless wars. Not the most cheerful of stories.
Covehithe by China Miéville. The wrecks of long-gone oil rigs have been slowly reassembling themselves on the sea bed and are now marching onto the land. A bizarre tale, but well-told as usual from this author.
Of Dawn by Al Robertson. This appeared in Interzone 235, which I reviewed in July 2011. A young female violinist goes in search of what motivated her dead brother's bizarre poetry, following clues to a village abandoned since World War 2 when it was incorporated into an army training area. Strange visions and music feature in a story strongly reminiscent of Robert Holdstock. I concluded: my favourite from this issue. Although I am mainly an SF fan, there is something haunting about this story (and Holdstock's work) which appeals to me.
The Silver Wind by Nina Allen. This appeared in Interzone 223, which I reviewed in April 2011. A future in which Britain has elected a right-wing government, resulting in the formation of a police state and the ejection of all non-whites from the country. This is the kind of depressing scenario which doesn't appeal to me and usually sets up a "brave defiance by principled hero" plot, but this author handles it in a more subtle and intriguing fashion. She focuses on a conformist property agent who doesn't question the status quo (it all happened long ago) but who becomes fascinated by the history of a clock made by a talented dwarf, Owen Andrews. He manages to locate and visit Andrews in a remote part of London, separated by a new and dangerously inhabited forest from the main city, and learns of experiments concerning time which are taking place in an old hospital nearby, and their sometimes horrific results. He is captured after becoming lost in the forest and is taken to the hospital, where he finds that there is an alternative to the existing paradigm. An engaging story. I concluded: Nina Allen's story is certainly the stand-out one in this issue, I enjoyed her fantastical take on an unpromising scenario.
A very varied mix of stories, all of them intriguing in different ways. My personal preference is for Nina Allen's tale, with Al Robertson's and then Paul Cornell's following on. I see from the BSFA website that Cornell's story got the award.
(An extract from my SFF blog)
|29th April 2012, 03:39 PM||#2 (permalink)|
Author and Editor
Join Date: Sep 2006
Re: BSFA Awards 2011: shortlisted stories
The booklet of all shortlisted stories is something I was very keen to introduce when I joined the BSFA committee in late 2007, and I'm delighted to say this is the fourth year running we've produced one. Unfortunately, the tight scheduling does make it a rush to get the booklets out in time for everyone to vote:
By necessity, voting closes in January, at a date fixed by the award administrator.
Once a shortlist is confirmed, we have to gain permissions from all the authors and various publishers responsible for each work (not to mention the same for all the shortlisted artwork, which is also included).
We then have to gain clean copy of each piece from the author or publisher (and hi-res versions of the artwork).
We then have to lay the booklet out etc, get digital files to the printers, proofread the resultant proofs, and get everything printed and delivered to members... all well in advance of Easter, which, as you know, jumps around between March and early April.
Matters are complicated by the need to tie this in with production of our regular magazines so that all can be sent out together (the BSFA's only source of income is the subscriptions paid by members such as yourself, so we have to be as cost efficient as possible) and the need to fit all this in around the rest of our lives, since we're all volunteers doing our BSFA work for nothing.
Twice we've managed to deliver the booklets in time for everyone to read and vote should they wish to; twice (including this year) we've just missed, successfully delivering the booklets before Easter (so fine for those coming to Eastercon, since attendees can vote up to lunchtime on Easter Sunday) but a little late for those not attending to read and vote.
Either way, all members benefit from a great booklet of quality contemporary fiction.
|29th April 2012, 05:53 PM||#3 (permalink)|
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: UK: ENGLAND:
Re: BSFA Awards 2011: shortlisted stories
Although not a member at the time (I only joined last Thursday), I was given a copy of the booklet at Eastercon, and so was able to vote.
As it happens, I voted for The Copenhagen Interpretation. One of the things that drew me to voting for the story was the apparently off-hand supply of information to the reader, showing that a pure POV-based approach, where a character who knows something doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about it just for the benefit of the reader, can be done successfully.
So while, at first, I found it a little odd - because most authors don't do this so consistently** and thus this approach stood out in spite of itself - once I realised what the author was doing, it felt right. And all the information required for the telling of the tale was in there, I believe.)
** - Although, strictly speaking, what they don't do is not lay the information out for the reader in a way that's inconsistent with how people think about things.
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