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July 31

My Hugo Votes: Best Novelette 2014

It's sad to have to employ the No Award Hammer again, but once it's out, it's out.

(1) “The Waiting Stars” - Aliette de Bodard. Here De Bodard brings the same high quality space opera that made me vote her into first place last year. The ending has a twist, which I only just saw coming.

(2) “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” - Mary Robinette Kowal. A lovely story about family. What happens when you get your dream, lose it and are offered it back at a high price? Unfortunately, the addition of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz doesn't actually add anything.

(3) No Award

(4)“The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang. New technology contributes to widening gaps in how people perceive events and relationships. The story is destroyed partway through when a character misremembers something important about his daughter in a way that is absolutely not credible.

Right, I think that's all I'm going to get through tonight!

My Hugo Votes: Best Novella 2014

Once again, Novella = 17,500 to 40,000 words and Novelette = 7,500 to 17,500 words. Does anyone actually care about the distinction? Maybe it would be better to fold the two categories into one and open up the remaining space to Best YA Novel.

That said, the first two novellas were very worthwhile.

(1) Six-Gun Snow White - Catherynne M. Valente A clear winner for this category. The name Snow White isn't a description of what the character is, but of what she never can be. Native American tales mixed with European tales mixed with gender issues mixed with colonialism, mixed with... The ending doesn't do quite do the rest of the story justice, but that would be hard.

(2) “Wakulla Springs” - Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages This is SF in the sense that it builds on SF movie history, if you consider Tarzan to be SF. It's not the first category that springs to my mind, to be honest.

A few other people have left it off their ballot because they didn't consider the story to be SF. It also made me think, because the only proper SFnal bit was at the end but felt tacked on. But I haven't the heart because I did love the characters and the story.

(3) No Award

“Equoid” by Charles Stross This is part of his "Laundry" series, which I've never read.
It was slow to get started and erratically paced after that. Every time it looks like it might get up, it stumbles over its own overly self-aware prose. Further, if you're going to make me read about girls being abused, you'd better make it worth it.

There's two more nominees, but I'd rather spend time dusting off the draft post for Novelette.

My Hugo Votes: Best Short Story 2014

Tough field! My nominated winner, John Chu, is certainly worth a click of your time.

(1) “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” - John Chu The undoubted winner. Lovely and emotional story of a man struggling to come out to his family. The primary conceit of water falling when someone lies is gently dealt with.

(2) Selkie Stories Are for Losers” - Sofia Samatar. Another one focussing on families and relationships, though this one is rather sadder. Not sure I like the way the story is broken up.

(3) “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” - Rachel Swirsky
Well, that was different. Not sure if she quite pulls it off. It's technically clever; like Kij Johnson but a bit better.

(4) “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” - Thomas Olde Heuvelt Second appearance by the Dutch author. Enjoyable, witty and touching, with some lovely images, e.g., the sister drowning in fabric. But has he done his research? I have a friend from Thailand and I'm not even sure I want to ask her what she thinks.

Note: this category has only four nominees due to a 5% requirement under the society's constitution. At least that's one more than last year but it's an unfortunate problem for this category.

My Hugo Votes: Best Novel 2014

Less than half a day to choose your favourites for the Hugo awards! The bad news is that I had to do remarkably little reading to come to my conclusions. The good news is that my winner is a discovery on a par with N. K. Jemisin's 100,000 Kingdoms which was a nominee in 2011.

(1) Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie The buzz around this debut novel was so strong that I confidently bought it for my brother's birthday last year before having ever read it myself. It went on to win a number of awards, including the Nebula. If there's any justice, the Hugo will be added to the list.

There's been a lot of focus on what Leckie does with gender. Namely, the citizens of the ruling empire don't distinguish genders. Leckie uses female pronouns for everyone whenever writing from the Radch point of view. But tackling assumptions around gender is hardly the book's ambition. It takes on identity and colonisation too.

It's also ambitious in structure, not just in the way that the past and present narrative threads are woven together but the way the scope of the first person viewpoint changes. She has a great eye for detail, whether for small characters or large empires. It's also surprisingly short for a space opera. Everything's very compactly written.

I'm not sure whether it's overdoing it to compare Leckie to Ursula K. LeGuin and Iain M. Banks already but...

(2)Neptune's Brood - Charlie Stross The protagonist is an accountant! Stross probably deserves a round of applause just for that. And for being the first, as far as I know, to take on the subject of interstellar finance and economics. It's a bit above my paygrade, to be honest.

It was enjoyable but, as usual, I wish he'd take it easy on the infodumps. And step away from the thesaurus.

(3)No Award

and what didn't make it onto my ballot and why.

(4)Parasite - Mira Grant
As a greenie, I'm supportive of recycling books. Just not so much their contents.

Basically, I haven't liked anything she's written since she first appeared on the Hugo ballot a couple of years ago with Feed. Well, she's written another SF/horror with zombies. Except this time it's a pharmaceutical company that developed a parasite designed to live in the human gut and keep it healthy. Clearly she enjoyed doing the research. But the resulting book has the same problems as before: same smart-ass dialogue that makes all the characters sound alike, unbelievable characters, etc.

I skipped to the ending to find that had been left to the sequel. For that alone, I wouldn't want to vote it an award.

Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson Well-meaning fans want Hugo recognition for the series now that Brandon Sanderson has finished Jordan's work. Sorry, but I'm not even going to start considering it. There's an argument for having a Hugo to recognise series but the Novel Ballot isn't the place to have it.

Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia Some people have been playing silly games with the Hugo ballot which means I'm not going to bother to read some of the nominated works. Martin has details, if you care. I didn't rate Correia highly when he was a nominee for Best New Writer in 2011 and I've heard nothing that will make regret having not read this.

I've just realised that everything on the ballot is part of a trilogy or a series. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the rest of the Imperial Radch trilogy.

July 30

How to make Iced Coffee

Take a normal sized French press (I’m using a Bodum Kenya 4 Cup Coffee maker)

Put in about half a packet of coffee (I’m using Tesco’s finest strongish coffee, because while good quality coffee is good, this takes half a packet per cafetière) (By half a packet, I mean about 110-120g, precision fans)

Stir it to make all the coffee wet.

Leave it for ten hours or so.

Filter it (For this, I plunge the french press, and then strain the remainder though a coffee filter. Which is, hilariously, the first time in around two decades I’ve used coffee filters for something not involving vodka)

Fridge the resulting coffee concentrate for a few hours, or until you’re ready to drink it.

In a glass, add a couple of ice cubes (If you feel enthusiastic, you can freeze some of the coffee into ice cubes and use those to not dilute the result) and enough coffee to cover them, a splash of simple syrup (sugar won’t dissolve) and another splash of milk or milk substitute (I like it with almond milk) to taste.

Enjoy (Optional).


July 29

Windows 8.1, part 7 - more Turnpike

I finished up Sunday evening by using Wm's instructions on folders in Thunderbird, i.e.

By default TB will only look at TP's Inbox, it is actually expecting a
folder with that specific name. You need to specifically subscribe to
other folders. Here my TB has an account "Wm@localhost" that talks to
TP, if I click on that account (in TB) I can click on "Manage folder
subscriptions" and gain access to any of my TP folders.

which resulted in a view of Turnpike's folders within Thunderbird. Telling TB to go fetch via imap resulted in activity. Lots of activity. I left it going overnight, and on Monday morning checked the Turnpike log to find that imap activity finally finished at about 3 in the morning. I came home last night with a migraine, so nothing has happened since then, not even checking to see if the emails are really in Thunderbird.

Next job re the email will be to port the TB mailspool on the XP box over to the TB running on the Win8 box, but that can wait until I have an attention span longer than the average goldfish's.

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July 28

Two from the BVC summer sale - Northern Lights duology

If you like dark urban fantasy, buy this pair of books from the Book View Cafe sale -- Dead of Light, and its sequel Light Errant, by Chaz Brenchley. 50% coupon applied automatically at the checkout until the end of today. My reviews from LibraryThing:

Dead of Light

Benedict Macallan doesn't share his family's talent -- nor their taste for power and violence. He turned his back on them; walked out of the family, if not out of the town that they control. But when a cousin is murdered in a manner that promises danger to the whole family, he's pulled back in against his will. Only for the funeral, only for long enough to say goodbye to a cousin he loved in spite of everything -- but then the body count starts to mount, and whatever Ben may feel about his family, they're his *family*.

The publisher calls it a horror novel, but it's more of a story about a Mafia-like family, seen through the eyes of a dropout member who understands how they look from both the inside and the outside. The horror element comes in the weapon used by the family to maintain control of their territory, one that's only hinted at initially, and gradually revealed during the first half of the book. Power corrupts, and the Macallan clan has held power for a very long time. Now someone is reflecting that power and threat back at them, killing Macallans as casually as they've killed others. Ben's left trying to protect a family he despises and that mostly despises him; and the outside friends who are afraid of him now they've been reminded exactly who he is; and himself. But Ben has no power of his own...

Brenchley deftly interweaves a coming of age story with a murder mystery, gradually building a picture of a strange but only too human family, and Ben's love-hate relationship with them. There's some fine world-building and character development to back up the rising tension as Ben tries to solve the lethal riddle. And the use of language is superb, making the book a joy to read for the pure pleasure of the prose. It's not exactly your traditional whodunnit, but the magic elements are never used to cheat the reader, and the clues are there for those who want to play the game. Dead of Light is both lyrical and a gripping, fast-paced read.

Light Errant

Ben Macallan fled abroad at the end of the first book, away from his gangster family and away from any temptation to use his supernatural abilities. But even so he finds himself in a situation where he has to intervene or watch a friend suffer. His promise to himself broken, he gets on his motorbike and heads for home.

But home isn't what it was. The city has finally found a way to defy the Macallans and their uncanny powers of life and death. Only the Macallan men have power, and their women are now hostages. Ben is sick of death and destruction, but a rescue, never mind a peace deal, may be beyond even his extraordinary talent.

It can be read as a standalone if need be, but I think is much better read in sequence with Dead of Light. That way you get a full appreciation of the growth in Ben, as he not only learns to deal with his own newly discovered talent, but convinces key members of his generation of the family to find another way to use theirs. It doesn't have quite the same impact as the first novel, because you don't have the suspense of wondering just how the Macallan clan control the city, but it's still an intense ride with a book that's well out of the usual run of urban fantasy.

Light Errant is out of print in its original paper editions from NEL, but has been re-released in ebook format by Book View Cafe, along with Dead of Light. You can find samples of both books at the BVC website. And maybe if enough of us buy them, Chaz will write a third...

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July 27

Book View Cafe summer sale

And because I have spent the last week wrestling with laptops old and new, I failed to point out that the Book View Cafe summer sale is on until the end of 28/7/14. Half price on one hundred books, many of which I can personally recommend, or intend to buy now based on reading other books by those authors. I had meant to itemise these, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. :-(

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Windows 8.1 part 6 - Turnpike

My primary email client is Turnpike, and has been since I bought my first internet connection 17 years ago. Unfortunately Demon stopped developing it a long time ago, and amongst other things it now effectively requires stunnel as an add-on to allow it to send mail in this cold, hard world of secure login. It is still a superb email client for collecting and reading mail off-line, but with the advent of the Win 8.1 box it's time to give in and use a current email client. Threads in suggest that it *is* possible to install Turnpike on at least the 32-bit version, but as it would involve a lot of fiddling, plus use of stunnel, I'm moving to Thunderbird. That means moving my mailspool, oh joy. I want to go with imap, although exporting in Berkeley mailbox format and importing into Thunderbird is also an option.

I've spent the last two days reading threads in d.i.s.t, discovering that I was still on v3.something of Thunderbird on the XP box and upgrading, and fighting with settings. I've finally got Thunderbird to talk to Turnpike's imap server, even if it is only looking in the inbox and not the other folders at the moment.

make sure the user has a non-blank password, or the account won't be able to login to the imap server from elsewhere (security feature in Turnpike).
Login tab
tick "login using password", and under "permissions", scroll to the bottom and tick "access mail using pop3/imap server" to enable imap access for this user account -- which is the bit I overlooked first time round, resulting in much head-desking.
You can check the exact user name on the "user" tab - you'll need it for setting up the Thunderbird account

Turnpike Connect:
Email transfer...
Tickbox down the bottom of the screen under Mail Servers "enable imap"

Need to have Connect running in deliver mode (i.e. make a connection to the internet) or the imap server will refuse connections.

Set up an account on the XP box using the settings Wm helpfully posted here:

In TB the Server Settings for the account to access TP via IMAP (a
*separate* a/c to any real e-mail address, I used Wm@localhost) should
be something like

server name: localhost
port: 143
username: [whatever username you use to log in to TP]
connection security: none
authentication method: passwd, trans insec

And set appropriate synchronisation options -- in my case I want a copy at each end.

Once I've got all the email copied into Thunderbird, the TB copy of the mailspool gets copied over to the Win8 box as part of the general "copy all files".

Useful links:

Wm's collection of useful Thunderbird add-ons
Wm's post in dist with settings:
dist on folders:!msg/
dist on permissions when installing on Win8!topic/!msg/

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July 25

Links: Late July 2014

This is my final collection of links before I take a holiday in Sydney for the first week of August. When I get back, I plan to resume the clean-up of this blog’s archives, which has been on hold since late May.


  • I failed this American accents test, scoring 2 out of 12. Can you do better? (Here are my results along with the answers, but try it yourself before peeking.)
  • Thought-provoking video on the mathematics of bicycle tracks. (I had a go at deriving the tractrix formula by hand — and I although did make some progress, my several pages of scribbles ended in nonsense.)
  • Interview with David J Peterson. I found this interesting because I interacted with David via the Conlang mailing list before he started doing it professionally.
  • Queensland dinosaur mythbusting: there was no stampede. Long version, short version.
  • A biology blog that looks worth browsing properly when time permits.
  • In my opinion, genetics is one of the least interesting sciences, but I did enjoy this video. (The final minute is a somewhat clumsy postscript, though.)