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BFS Awards: Winners and Snap Judgements

In case you weren't at the ceremony (we weren't), the results of this year's experimental jury/vote hybrid thinger. Includes links to Pornokitsch reviews, where we've got 'em:

The ritualBest Novel (Fantasy): Jo Walton's Among Others

Best Novel (Horror): Adam Nevill's The Ritual

Best Novella: Lavie Tidhar's Gorel and the Pot-Bellied God

Best Anthology: The Weird (edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer)

Best Collection: Robert Shearman's Everyone's Just So, So Special 

Best Short Story: Angela Slatter's "The Coffin-Maker's Daughter"

Best Independent Press: Chomu Press

Film: Midnight in Paris

Best Comic: Locke and Key

Best Non-Fiction: Grant Morrison's Supergods

Best Newcomer: Kameron Hurley


Snap reaction below the jump...

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Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns and Benedict Jacka's Fated by Lizzie Barrett

Two fantasy debuts that are trying something difference - Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns and Benedict Jacka's Fated. 

Fire and ThornsFire and Thorns (2011), by Rae Carson, tries very, very hard and almost succeeds in delivering a refreshing and absorbing YA novel.

It’s well written with an engaging heroine, Princess Elisa, who thinks herself useless, is jealous of her sister and ignorant about a great many things except tactical warfare, and there are some nice details and passages that kept me reading. The entire premise makes a change from many second world fantasies – Fire and Thorns is set in quasi-Arabian lands, with names that are reminiscent of ancient Turkey, Cyprus and Morocco and the world is highly religious to a monotheistic God. So far, so fairly unusual for your average young adult fantasy.

Elisa is the bearer of the Godstone, literally a blue stone in her naval placed there by God during her naming ceremony, something that happens once every hundred years. All bearers have a destiny to fulfil and they have been chosen to do something remarkable for their people. The issue is that Elisa doesn’t know what. The other issue is that she’s been hastily married to a neighbouring King who need her father’s troops for the war that everyone is sure will soon threaten the lands.

Elisa isn’t too sure how she feels about this, and is even less sure when, in quick succession, she finds out: a) her husband is a coward; b) her husband refuses to acknowledge that she is his wife; c) her husband has a mistress and a son; and d) that being the bearer means people are going to kidnap her.

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Review Round-up: 5 Books I Liked

No theme here, nor any word count cleverness. Just five books I really liked and recommend heartily: Ian Sales' Adrift on the Sea of Rains, Mary Wilkins Freeman's Understudies, Johan Harstad's 172 Hours on the Moon, George Tomkyns' The Battle of Dorking and James M. Cain's The Cocktail Waitress

Adrift-on-the-sea-of-rains-ian-salesAdrift on the Sea of Rains (2012) by Ian Sales. Mr. Sales and I don't have the same taste in science fiction. He likes rocket ships and space maths and detailed research - hard SF. I like tentacles, weirdness and angst. So when I read Adrift, I was prepared for - not disappointment, but dissonance. Boy, was I surprised.

This is a book about astronauts trapped on the moon, trying to get home. And, I'll be damned if he didn't crack the perfect balance between character and concept. Absolutely, Adrift is about angles and gravity and scientific whatnot that I'm sure is perfectly correct, but, more importantly, it is about isolation and despair and hope and belief. It is a balance between science and fiction, and, despite the brevity of the novella format, simply one of the best space operas I've ever read. 

Understudies (1901) by Mary Wilkins. Mary Wilkins is the only author to appear in Lost Souls twice. That wasn't intentional. While going through the stacks and stacks of stories, we picked out one by "Mary Wilkins" and one by "Mary Freeman". When we realised that was the same woman... we stuck with it. In an anthology with Arthur Conan Doyle, Bret Harte, Mary Coleridge, Stephen Crane, etc - Ms. Wilkins/Freeman still deserves to be the one doubly represented. ("Amanda Todd" is the story which has become our de facto cover, thanks to Vincent Sammy's beautiful illustration.) 

Her introduction in Lost Souls contains more about her unusual life - first a 'failed' writer of children's books, then an immediate success when she turned her hand to an older audience. She specialised in the fiction of small towns; lonely hearts and failed lives and small triumphs. Understudies is appropriately heart-breaking, a collection of short stories centred around animals: the doctor's horse, a lost dog, a squirrel... but actually about the people that rely on them. It isn't on Project Gutenberg, but it has been snaffled by Google Books. (Or you can read Lost Souls, naturally.)

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Jeff Norton on "10 Inventions I'm Still Waiting For"

MetawarsScience Fiction makes a lot of promises, and while the genre has spawned some impressive innovations like mobile phones (remember Captain Kirk’s flip-phone style “communicator”?) and space travel (Jules Verne, Georges Lumiere), we’re still impatiently waiting for some of sci-fi’s boldest innovations:

Flying Cars.  "Blade Runner" wowed us with these roadless motors, "The Fifth Element" teased us with flying yellow cabs, and the new ‘Total Recall’ reboot keeps the flame alive, but alas, our four wheels are still stuck to the ground while our dreams of leaving the M25 far below are just that, dreams.

Transporter Beams. It’s not just airports that are a hassle, but the whole flying experience has become a bit of a chore. What we need is point-to-point transporter beams, Scotty. What we’ve got is scratch-card selling discount airlines.

Time Machine. First popularised by H.G. Wells in his 1895 book, "The Time Machine", this handy invention has had over a hundred years to get invented. We all know this would be handy, whether for going back in time to kill Hitler or simply to keep from locking yourself out of the flat, or perhaps travelling forward to tourist the future. But this stalwart of sci-fi seems destined to be confined to the fiction… unless of course we can hop the DeLorean and fetch it from the future.

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Free Woolly German Stockings for Your Apocalyptic Hobbit China

Sometimes the titles just write themselves. 

German-readers delight, both Lavie Tidhar's Osama and S.L. Grey's The Mall are coming to the land of sausage and precision engineering. Reviews are here and here (reviews in English).

The British Library is celebrating 75 years of The Hobbit tonight, including a talk from Adam Roberts and other stuff from people that aren't Adam Roberts. We'll be there - pipes, fuzzy feet and all (Smaug costume wouldn't fit through the door).

The first audio from The Kitschies' Social Change event is up. China Miéville's dulcet tones, reading a brand new story: "Three Moments of an Explosion".

Last year's Stocking Stuffer, with three funny fantasies from Den Patrick, Archie Black and Osgood Vance, is currently free. That saves you a whopping 80p (99 cents) if you snaffle it today. Go forth and snaffle. (Here's a review of it, also in English.)

In just over a month, Stories of the Apocalypse goes off sale - never to return (eek!). We've got some festivities planned in October. We're going to miss this book, a lot. Don't forget, proceeds go to help out the Clarke Award!

Tomorrow, Knit the City (and Kitschies judge, Lauren O'Farrell) are yarnstorming Tate Britain, bringing fuzzy goodness to the wilds of Pimlico. We'll be there (the Smaug costume should fit through the doors).

Also, Spec Ops 3 went live. So, if you'll excuse me, I need to go farm command points. 

Review Round-up: The Farmers Hotel and Condominium

Farmers HotelJohn O'Hara's The Farmers Hotel (1951) is one of my go-to, rushing-out-the-door-grab-a-paperback reads. Despite having read it a half dozen times, I look forward to reading it a half dozen more. But, given the plot, why?

In The Farmers Hotel, a handful of strangers are stranded in rural Pennsylvania. A sudden snowfall traps the group in the titular hotel - ironically, the first day that the hotel is officially 'open'. The owner and his tiny staff (including his 'Magical Negro' bartender) play host to a group of misfits from all walks of society: two upper-class lovers are returning from a cheeky weekend of adultery, a sleazy showman and his two stripping "twin" performers and, last of all, a brash truck driver with a chip on his shoulder.

For the most part - nothing happens. Mr. O'Hara's book is largely a study in dialogue, as the strangers awkwardly feel one another out. As the storm continues, barriers begin to come down, and the individuals slowly creep out of their shells (and stereotypes) and begin to bond. The tension is all social: an angry trucker and a posh twit? Will they blend? But Mr. O'Hara captures each character's voice - and depth - to an extent that it is hard not to care. The reader feels their discomfort, relief and, when tragedy strikes, their remorse. 

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Announcing... Speculative Fiction 2012: The Year's Best Online Reviews & Commentary

Jurassic LondonJurassic London are pleased to announce Speculative Fiction 2012: The Year's Best Online Reviews & Commentary, capturing the best of 2012's blogs, websites and other digital publications. 

With the online reviewing community larger than ever before, Speculative Fiction aims to both capture and celebrate the best in genre non-fiction: the top book reviews, criticism and essays of the year.

The collection will be edited by Justin Landon (Staffer's Book Review) and Jared Shurin (Pornokitsch). 

Speculative Fiction will be available February 2013. All proceeds will go to charity (partner TBA).

The editors are currently seeking recommendations. Pieces must be longer than 500 words. This is a reprint anthology: work must have been first published online, in 2012 and not in a professional publication.

Recommendations should be submitted here: Speculative Fiction 2012.

Payment will be on publication, at the reprint rate of one cent a word, plus a contributor copy.

New Releases: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

BitterblueKristin Cashore's Bitterblue (2012) is the third book in the Graceling trilogy.

[Editor's note: I've not read the first two, but a bit of post-read research helped piece it together. It looks like they're all fairly well-connected, each book featuring a teenage female protagonist with magic-cool powers saving their kingdoms. I suspect that more of the background to Bitterblue would make sense if I'd read those two, but it stands - surprisingly - very well on its own.]

Bitterblue is the Queen of Monsea. Her father, Leck, was an evil wizardy type, with the ability to control people's minds. Under his reign, Monsea was a dark and hideous place. But now that he's been overthrown [which apparently happened at some point in a previous book?], Bitterblue has returned from hiding to take the throne. Huzzah. Day saved, cue Ewok dance.

Except... it hasn't. Bitterblue is a teenager ruling a broken land. Her administration is composed of leftover bureaucrats from her father's reign, all of whom had a hand (unwillingly) in his tyranny. While most of her officials are pushing a policy of reconciliation - forgive, forget and move on - Bitterblue has a sneaking suspicion that it won't be that easy.

Tired of being isolated from her people, she slinks out of the palace one night (dressed as a boy, no less! Not exactly the newest plot twist in storyland, but eh, roll with it...) and meets the common folk. (The common folk, for the record, include a hot-headed young rebel boy, coincidentally Bitterblue's own age. Shock!) Bitterblue learns that things aren't all roses and song for the peasantry. They're not so keen on moving on - they'd like their lives back.

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The Kitschies' SF and Social Change - FAQ

Thanks to everyone for coming out on Tuesday night. It was our biggest event yet and, with China Miéville, Patrick Ness and Lauren Beukes, it was by far the most tentacular. 

TentacularPhoto courtesy of Penny Schenk

A few questions have come in via email, Twitter and grabbing-us-in-the-pub, and we thought it'd be useful to collect them here.

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