My book-reading fiscal year (BRFY) ends April 30. Here is my report, submitted for your approval.

This year I read 48 books (well, depends on how you count: I read half of two others which I didn’t count, but read several novellae and novelettes which I did). Employment and the biological need for sleep continue to hamper me. I never seem to quite make that 50-book goal, and have fallen short yet again. I always seem to have one or two months during the year where there is some extreme stress or busy-ness that just kills my pace, and it happened again this year over the past month. It’s probably unrealistic to ever count on having 12 consecutive months of peace, at least until I am named King and make some serious changes to the structure of society. When will that be happening, by the way??

Anyway, books. I did have a nice year of reading, although kind of a different one, defined by my getting a membership to WorldCon last spring with the intention to vote for the Hugo awards and do all of that reading over the summer. But: I got started too late and procrastinated a bit with all of it and had to bail on the novels. I did eventually read all of them but didn’t complete the last one until, uh, last month. And to be honest, they weren’t a strong crop. Of the six nominees, I’d say I liked two a lot, thought two were just OK, and didn’t particularly like the other two.

Whoa: I just realized something while writing this. I would have voted for Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. It happened to TIE for the win with China Mieville’s The City and The City. Had I gotten all my reading done and cast that vote, Paolo would have won outright and China would not have won a Hugo. Sorry, Paolo! Although I guess you still count as a winner. I inadvertently gave China a win share, though. You’re welcome, China.

Other highlights:

  • Some great re-reads, including Snow Crash and White Noise. I generally consider these two of my favorite books, and re-reading did not disappoint. More broadly, re-reading is awesome. I need to do more of it. It’s nice to read new books, of course, but when you re-read, honestly most of the time you get just as much or more out of it, with the foreknowledge that it’s something you will like.
  • One benefit of the 2010 Hugo voting was that I tried a number of new things I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to read. However, I’ll probably bail on doing the membership/voting thing again anytime soon. It’s really for people who want to read ONLY that stuff for months. The graphic novels, in particular, were disappointing. Most were parts of LONG series and not really my taste.
  • Gah, I only read three Hugo winners.  That puts me at 43 out of 62 total.  I had been reading 6 or 7 a year, which would put me on pace for a finish in 2013, but I fell off that a bit. Might still be that year, but not sure. I’d intended to plow through a bunch this year but after my 2010 Hugo voting  push I was off of them for a while. I am not setting any goals about this for the year, though I’ll certainly try more than 3. Yuck. One thing: I probably read next year’s Hugo winner already, in Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear.
  • I got through another Pynchon book! I think I can tackle Gravity’s Rainbow again when the time is right.
  • Read a few good series, including Robert J. Sawyer’s Hominids and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. Both worthwhile.

Best read of the year (among new reads) is either Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity or Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale. The Asimov book was classic Ike, and just a great read. Just a perfect Golden Age sci-fi novel, of which I am spending way too much time not doing more of (like right now! I could be reading Isaac Asimov right now!). Winter’s Tale, though, is a special book. I just finished it yesterday so I probably need more time to let it settle, but I think I can say it was the most interesting book I read this year. Really unique, modern magical realism. Among the funniest books I’ve read, too.

Some goals for the upcoming year: more rereading. Didn’t get to the Baroque Cycle, but will absolutely do so soon. Between that and the new Neal Stephenson coming this fall (NEW NEAL STEPHENSON) I don’t know if I’ll get to Gravity’s Rainbow, but I’m not ruling it out. Fill out my Asimov reading. I’d like to carve a big chunk out of the remaining Hugos. Read a few of the things that have been unread on my bookshelf forever.

The complete list, favorites in bold:

  1. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 5/8/10
  2. Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, James Patrick Kelly (ed.), 5/14/10
  3. Brian Eno’s Another Green World (33 1/3), Geeta Dayal, 5/29/10
  4. Nick Drake’s Pink Moon (33 1/3), Amanda Petrusich, 5/30/10
  5. The Fall of Hyperion, Dan Simmons, 5/31/10
  6. Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, Neil Gaiman et al, 6/10/10
  7. The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi, 6/13/10
  8. Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow, 6/16/10
  9. Palimpsest, Charles Stross, 6/18/10
  10. The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker, 6/19/10
  11. The City & The City, China Mieville, 6/29/10
  12. The God Engines, John Scalzi, 7/13/10
  13. Fables: The Dark Ages (#12), Bill Willingham, 7/15/10
  14. Girl Genius Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm, Phil Foglio, 7/25/10
  15. Laika, Nick Abadzis, 7/27/10
  16. Little Fuzzy, H. Beam Piper, 8/2/10
  17. Fuzzy Sapiens, H. Beam Piper, 8/9/10
  18. Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby, 8/11/10
  19. The Android’s Dream, John Scalzi, 8/21/10
  20. God Save the Fan, Will Leitch, 8/26/10
  21. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer, 9/4/10
  22. Blackout, Connie Willis, 9/18/10
  23. Physics for Future Presidents, Richard Muller, 10/4/10
  24. V., Thomas Pynchon, 10/11/10
  25. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, 10/17/10
  26. Hominids, Robert J. Sawyer, 10/26/10
  27. All Clear, Connie Willis, 11/15/10
  28. Humans, Robert J. Sawyer, 11/26/10
  29. Neutron Star, Larry Niven, 11/26/10
  30. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins, 11/29/10
  31. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins, 12/5/10
  32. The End of Eternity, Isaac Asimov, 12/15/10
  33. Hybrids, Robert J. Sawyer, 12/23/10
  34. Manhood for Amateurs, Michael Chabon, 1/5/11
  35. Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson, 1/11/11
  36. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson, 1/21/11
  37. White Noise, Don DeLillo, 1/30/11
  38. Boneshaker, Cherie Priest, 2/8/11
  39. Nova, Samuel R. Delany, 2/14/11
  40. This Immortal, Roger Zelazny, 2/20/11
  41. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot, 2/23/11
  42. Zodiac, Neal Stephenson, 3/2/11
  43. Star Trek: Klingons: Blood Will Tell, Scott Tipton et al., 3/13/11
  44. WWW: Wake, Robert J. Sawyer, 3/14/11
  45. Palimpsest, Cathrynne M. Valente, 3/27/11
  46. House of Stairs, William Sleator, 3/28/11
  47. Newton and the Counterfeiter, Thomas Levenson, 4/21/11
  48. Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin, 4/29/11

List is stashed here and on GoodReads (which has ratings and very occasional reviews)

I voted for the Hugos!  I’m sure you’ve been dying to know where the all-important bloc of my single vote was going.

Novel: no vote.  I bailed out of even trying to finish all of these candidates on time, as discussed previously.  I ended up reading two of the six novels, instead favoring reading the other categories I knew I could finish.  I’m planning on reading all of them soon-ish.  It’s a pity, too, because discussing the novels was probably the only chance this post had of being interesting to anyone who might reasonably read this other than me.


  1. “Palimpsest” by Charles Stross
  2. The God Engines by John Scalzi
  3. The Women of Nell Gwynne’s by Kage Baker
  4. Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow
  5. “Vishnu at the Cat Circus” by Ian McDonald
  6. “Act One” by Nancy Kress

This was sort of an odd category.  I had problems with two of the six candidates as even being nominees for a sci-fi/fantasy award.  I tend to like John Scalzi’s definition.  Can’t find it on his blog but the idea was that it’s science fiction if the story could not take place without the science-fictional-or-fantastical aspect.  If you try to re-work Dune to take place on Earth, you fail because the entire (fictional) landscape is intrinsically part of the story.  On the other hand, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union earned a Hugo nomination (and, in fact, a win) because it takes place in an alternate reality where part of Alaska is a Jewish state.  But the above definition I don’t feel like it qualified.  No, an Alaskan Jewish state does not exist, but neither does a giant white whale and its vengeful pursuer.  Fiction does not imply science fiction, but if you stretch the definition enough, it does.  Chabon’s story could have materially happened in a lot of other places or times, to my reading.  Similarly, Baker’s and Morrow’s stories were both really only vaguely science fictional, and what there was probably could have been dropped without much change in the story.  They were both terrific stories, but lost some points with me for not being particularly representative of the genre.  The Scalzi and Stross stories both were great candidates.  Absorbingly written, wonderful ideas.  I ultimately went with “Palimpsest” by a narrow margin.  I just liked the premise and execution just a little bit better.


  1. “The Island” by Peter Watts
  2. “It Takes Two” by Nicola Griffith
  3. “Eros, Philia, Agape” by Rachel Swirsky
  4. “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” by Eugie Foster
  5. “One of our Bastards is Missing” by Paul Cornell
  6. “Overtime” by Charles Stross

I think this was the toughest overall category.  Really liked all six entries and spent a lot of time debating their merits.  I couldn’t really get over “The Island”, though.  It really blew me away.  Lots of stories have covered the territory of humans swimming through unfathomably long times and distances, but something about Watts’ story captured it in an interesting way that’s really sticking with me.

Short Story:

  1. “Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh
  2. “The Bride of Frankenstein” by Mike Resnick
  3. “Non-Zero Probabilities” by N.K. Jemisin
  4. “Spar” by Kij Johnson
  5. “The Moment” by Lawrence M. Schoen

Related Work: No vote.  A handful of interesting about-the-genre books I didn’t come close to having time to read.

Graphic Story:

  1. Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Written by Neil Gaiman; Pencilled by Andy Kubert; Inked by Scott Williams
  2. Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright
  3. Schlock Mercenary: The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse Written and Illustrated by Howard Tayler
  4. Captain Britain And MI13. Volume 3: Vampire State Written by Paul Cornell; Pencilled by Leonard Kirk with Mike Collins, Adrian Alphona and Ardian Syaf
  5. Fables Vol 12: The Dark Ages Written by Bill Willingham; Pencilled by Mark Buckingham; Art by Peter Gross and Andrew Pepoy, Michael Allred, David Hahn; Colour by Lee Loughridge and Laura Allred; Letters by Todd Klein

I didn’t want to vote for Neil Gaiman or a Batman story…but just couldn’t honestly argue for any of the others above it.  I did read all of these but it’s a hard category to vote for.  Only Gaiman’s story was a one-shot.  All the others are parts of long series that to truly appreciate I’d have to read all the way from the beginning.

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (i.e., movies):

  1. Moon
  2. District 9
  3. Up
  4. Avatar
  5. Star Trek

So I did end up seeing Avatar.  I definitely liked it more than I thought I would, but was mostly right that it wasn’t ultimately the kind of movie I dig.  Star Trek was a fair amount of fun, but mostly loud and stupid, I’m sad to say.  Up probably doesn’t belong here (of course it was good, but not a favorite).  District 9 was affecting, if a little gory for my taste.  Nah, Moon is the easy winner.  Quite good and definitely the kind of movie I want to see so much more of.  They just don’t make these kinds of movies all that much: low budget, emphasis on story and performance.  Make more!  Entertain me!

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: No vote.  I’ve seen a few of the Dr. Who episodes that were up for this, but haven’t seen the other shows and am totally not up to speed on my SF TV watching, so I didn’t think I was qualified to give this category due consideration.  I’m sure plenty of other voters have me covered.

Also no vote: editor (long form), editor (short form), professional artist, semiprozine, fan writer, fanzine, fan artist, Campbell Award (best new writer).  Not qualified to judge any of these to my satisfaction.  I was tempted to vote for Shaun Tan for the artist category despite this fact, because I love some of his books so much.

I woke up this morning with the realization that I wasn’t going to get all my Hugo Award reading done.  Apparently my brain spent the down time calculating pages left versus time.  I mean, I appreciate the effort, considering it usually chews on fantasy baseball stats, but if it was thinking about stock prices or something my life would probably be very different.

Anyway, I got an AussieCon4 membership (and with it, a Hugo vote) at the beginning of May.  I had three months to read the six novels up for the award.  Those were the priority, and I’d read whatever other categories I could get to.  Any category I couldn’t finish entirely I wouldn’t vote on. But instead of starting right then, I finished what I was already reading, then picked up another book which turned out to be a bit of a slog, and by the time I was able to start on any of the nominees, it was June.  Now, when I read fast, I probably get through a total of 200 pages a week.  And that’s the max end of the range.  Even if I definitely read that much (no guarantee), it’s past the point where I can hope to finish all the novels.  It’s not really even close.  I’d need another month.

It’s completely reasonable for an interested reader to thoroughly digest all the material between the nomination announcement and the voting deadline.  I lost a month after the announcement before I decided I’d make the effort to vote.  Then another month winding up my other reading.  Had I started right away, or even at the beginning of May, or if I’d just happened to have read one of the books beforehand, I’d have easily made it.  I don’t think you need to be a professional writer/reader/reviewer/publisher to participate.

I was talking with K about whether it would be ethical to read only half of each book and vote based on that.  K’s argument (well-taken) was that this is not enjoying the books, it’s an assignment.  My feeling is that I’m just not giving the books a fair vote.  Even though the chances of that my opinion would differ if I read only the first halves versus if I read all books in their entirety are exceedingly small, there is a chance.  It’s also not in the spirit of the voting, to my thinking.  Now, there’s no rule or enforcement of making sure everyone reads all the books.  And in fact, I am highly dubious that most voters do.  I find it really hard to believe that most voters read all of Anathem last year.  It just stands to reason that most read a piece of it (or less) and voted for the author they liked better.  It was a name-heavy year with Gaiman, Scalzi, Doctorow, Stephenson, and Stross all up for the award and all well-known in the SF world and at least Gaiman and Doctorow well known outside of it. Anyway, point is, I don’t want to vote unless I’ve read everything start to finish.

Conclusion: I’ll have to skip the novel vote this year.  I’ll read them all but won’t finish in time.  So, what I CAN do is read everything else from the other categories (novellas, novelettes, short stories, graphic novels, etc.), which will take a lot less time.  Then I’ll just vote on those categories and omit a novel vote.

One other thought along these lines.  There is an award for long-form dramatic presentation, i.e., movies.  I’ve seen two of the nominees already, Moon and Star Trek, of which I liked Moon substantially more, so that’s the leader so far.  One of the remaining nominees is Avatar, which I haven’t seen.  Facts:

  1. I have heard over and over that seeing it is an overwhelmingly awesome “experience” (which is to say, the action and effects are mesmerizing).
  2. I understand the the story itself is so-so, even from people who totally dug the movie.
  3. I pretty much universally dislike long action-and-effects-oriented movies that skimp on the story.

So, the chances that I will like Avatar more than Moon are pretty much zero.  Nevertheless, is it ethical to vote for the category even if I don’t see one of the films which I am 99% certain I wouldn’t vote for anyway?  I think this is a slightly different argument from the one above about only reading half of each nominated book.  I’ll try to see Avatar but if I don’t, I still think I have a legitimate vote.

Two notable nerdstuffs happening lately:

*Just got a supporting membership to AussieCon4, i.e., this year’s WorldCon, i.e., a big nerdy sci-fi convention.  Among other things, the reason I got in on it was for a Hugo vote.  I’ll have some reading to do before the vote is due July 31, but that’s three months to read six novels and assorted novellae and novelettes.

*I’ve always loved insanely long, overly precise video game walkthroughs, especially when they’re just plain text files.  So I’m writing one for The Adventures of Lolo as well as Lolo 2, which I’ve been playing on virtual console.  I don’t have a particular reason for doing this except that these games are fun and very procedure-oriented, so it’s somehow satisfying to document the process of clearing each room. I was wondering if there was a job that paid you to navigate complex interfaces and document them, then I realized I kinda already have it.

End transmission.


*Today is office-cleaning day.  I have re-discovered the color of my desk surface!  It is blue, I guess.  Somewhere between white and blue, anyway.

*We joined a CSA.  Can’t say enough good things about them.  I have been obtaining and eating a lot of lettuce.


*New cat!  K posted some pictures.  Bea is devilishly difficult to photograph because she’s small, fast, shy, and really shiny.  70% of pictures show only an indistinct reflective black mass.  This is the second and final cat, and has already helped keep Artie from driving us bats.  You see, like most cats, Artie feels he is the most important creature on the earth, and we exist merely to fulfill his demands for food, shelter, and entertainment.  Should these demands not be met, he allows a generous four seconds for the situation to be rectified.  Should that time elapse without satisfaction, the yowling begins at immediate maximum volume.  Bea, in addition to the better space the new house provides, has helped alleviate some of this.  She’s game for some tearing around the house just about whenever Artie is, so they’re keeping each other busy.  And like an dangerously escalating chemistry experiment gone bad, a dog will be added to the mix maybe in the fall.