The Collapsing Empire

I love me some John Scalzi. Like track down a first printing, first edition of Old Man’s War love me some Scalzi (I found one for what I believe was a reasonable price and plan on trying to get it signed at Worldcon so I can add it to my collection). I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed most of his writing. So when I saw that his newest Science Fiction story, The Collapsing Empire, was a Hugo Nominee I was very excited. The voting period is now open and ends July 31st so I need to step up my nominee reading game!

I’ve had this audio book (read by the amazing Wil Wheaton) downloaded for a while so I queued it up and started listening. I then found things getting in my way of listening. Things like work and life, really anything that wasn’t listening to the Collapsing Empire was getting in my way. I had a hard time not listening during my every waking moment. When I finished listening this last weekend all I wanted to do was listen more and get to know the characters and this amazing world more.

The story follows three characters perspectives throughout. Cardenia, the new Emperox/leader of the Interdependency, house of Wu, and Interdependency church. Cardenia is an unanticipated Emperox. Her brother the heir to the throne was tragically killed and she, a known heir but not from the official line, is chosen as the successor in his stead. There are of course too many political machinations occurring to even recount but needless to say the new Emperox’s reign doesn’t even last until the coronation is over before it’s quite literally attacked. Cardenia puts things together fairly quickly but I look forward to her character being flushed out more in the subsequent novels.

Kiva Lagos, Noblewoman and trade representative for the House of Lagos and their fruit monopoly who starts out on the backwater planet of End and then makes her back to the heart of the Interdependency at Hub.  Kiva was probably my favorite character in the book so far. She reminded me a lot of another foul mouthed badass space faring woman, Chrisjen Avasarala, from the Expanse series of books. She isn’t quite the same level of awesome as Avasarala, yet.  She really hates the House of Nohamapetan and for this I like her even more. Damn those fool Nohamapetan’s.

Lastly we have Marce Claremont, the son of a Count who has been doing secret research of the Flow with his father on the furthest planet from the center of Interdependency, and only planet where humans actually live on the surface, End. Everything in the Interdependency depends on the Flow. Marce has some grim news he must deliver to the Emperox though, the flow is disappearing.

The Emperox and House of Wu control the Flow and this is how they wield so much power. Problem is with the Flow collapsing most of the Interdependency is going to be doing the same right along with it. All of the systems are meant to work together and the trade monopolies that the various houses run are part of how control is exerted and power wielded over the mass of humanity that now exists among the stars. Earth is known of but the Flow was cut off from it long long ago.

One of the most interesting aspects of the books was how Earth was treated. Most humans you come across think End, the only planet which has humans actually living on the surface, is a giant dump at the end of the universe that only criminals are sent to. Most humans prefer living on the artificial space stations or below the planetary systems which they inhabit. This is a very strange concept to me and Marce Claremont’s character was used to great effect to show just how strange this concept was to someone who had lived on the surface of a planet and never even been to space.

The problem that arises, along with the scheming of the damn House of Nohamapetan, is that with the changes to the Flow the Interdependency itself is forced to change. While the new Emperox is trying to piece all this together as the flows are literally collapsing while trying to also avoid assassination attempts, things finally click into place once Marce shows up. He has his audience with the Emperox and the brains behind the Nohamapetan’s plotting is exposed. Whew lots of craziness, but excellent reading.

I’m very much looking forward to the next book in this series and I’ve heard that it will now be a trilogy which makes me even more exited. As far as voting for the Hugo’s is concerned this is definitely a contender. I’m currently reading New York 2140 and unless it does something super amazing to dazzle me The Collapsing Empire will be staying at the top of my list. I think I’m going to check out Six Wakes next from the Hugo Novel lists. Cheers to everyone out there, keep reading and keep writing!

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form – Wonder Woman

In general I have been much more of a fan of the MCU than the DCEU. Even growing up I never read DC comics, I was all about X-men and Spider Man 2099 (Which they need to make into a movie or TV show). The Marvel movies have been far superior, in my opinion. However, DC hit it out of the park with Wonder Woman. After the horrible Batman Vs. Superman I really had my doubts about whether or not they would be able to make Wonder Woman work. Only a few weekends ago did I finally watch Justice League and I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed it. Wonder Woman was probably the best part but the Flash was a close second.

Back to the Wonder Woman movie I think that DC and Patty Jenkins made a lot of excellent choices that really made the movie work. We get a decent amount of time with the ass kicking Amazons on Themyscira and they also set the movie in WW I. There was a decent amount of humor and the casting, especially of Gal Gadot was pretty spot on. I think I could watch Gal Gadot read the phone book for 2 hours and I’d pay to watch it. The fight scenes were also fantastic.

That leads into my main complaint about the movie. It lasted a little too long and I didn’t particularly care for the big bad. The final fight scene just dragged a little bit for me, I honestly thought the movie was over and then there was another 15 minute fight scene. I thought the big bad in Justice League, Steppenwolf, was much better than Ares who didn’t even reveal himself until the very end of the movie. Overall Wonder Woman was awesome and if you haven’t dipped your toes into the DC cinematic universe I would suggest you watch Wonder Woman first.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form – Thor: Ragnarok

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been around for a while now. Back when it first started the three movies that came out were Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. I watched the first two and absolutely loved them. Then I watched Thor right after my first viewing of Captain America and all I could think was meh.

I’ve re-watched the first one several times since then and while it isn’t my favorite MCU film it’s still pretty damn good. Loki is one of the best villains in the MCU and I’ll even admit that Chris Hemsworth is dreamy. And really funny if given the right director. The 2nd installment into the Thor series was pretty meh for me but I was really looking forward to the third. The director, Taiki Waititi, has done some other hilarious shows like, What We Do in the Shadows.

So when I was down in Vegas visiting a friend I snagged us IMAX tickets for Thor. We don’t have fancy IMAX round Tri-Cities. I thought it was fantastic. While again it’s not my favorite super hero of the universe his films have generally been a good time. This one had the Hulk as well as Jeff Goldbloom and was really funny. I also enjoyed Black Panther which was 2018’s MCU entry. With Avengers Infinity War at the end of April there are plenty of reasons to keep watching and interested in the MCU.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form – Star Wars – The Last Jedi

I’m a huge Star Wars fanatic. As you can see from the picture above with my home made Jedi robes, plastic light saber, and frosted tips (It was 1999 believe me they were super cool back then). I like Star Wars a lot. I have my Episode I ticket that I camped out for in a 1/4″ thick plastic case. I don’t even really like The Phantom Menace and I’ve seen the movie in the theater 9 times. So of course the release of a new Star Wars film is kind of a big deal for me.

I honestly never thought that we’d get more Star Wars after the critical reception of Episodes I-III. But thankfully George Lucas sold the rights and Disney will churn their Billion dollar making machines out like candy. I started getting super obsessed with Star Wars in high school. I collected the cards, had my mom buy me tons of prequel toys (some of which are worth surprising amounts of money now), and watched the special edition re-releases A LOT. I had my mom make me a Jedi costume (As seen above) for the Episode I premier and I even practiced a choreographed light saber fight with my buddy the entire weekend before. I now am the proud owner of an Obi-Wan Kenobi Cosplay that cost me a shameful amount of money to put together. But I love it and Star Wars.

I really liked The Last Jedi. It was surprisingly funny while still keeping the darkness and gritty feeling that most 2nd movies of the Star Wars triple features usually have. In terms of the overall Star Wars Universe I’d say it’s in my top 5 films. I’ve been thinking about my ranking of Star Wars films lately. Mainly because I’ve been watching Rogue One every weekend for the past month or so. I don’t have any kids and my wife travels to dog shows on the weekends a lot so I have a lot of free time. Sue me.

Rogue One is in my top 3 favorite Star Wars films and probably top 5 or 6 movies of all time. It perfectly captures how I imagine the Star Wars universe to look and feel during that time period. I’ve read almost every Star Wars books and the nixing of what is now termed the “Legends” canon is one of the saddest things about the Disney acquisition. I loved so many of those books but I’ve been voraciously reading all of the new books as well and they are pretty solid so far. Especially anything by Timothy Zahn.

Along with Rogue One I’ve also caught up on the animated series Star Wars: Rebels, which means as usual I’ve got Star Wars on my brain all the time. Rebels has some of the best characters in the Star Wars Universe. Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the best big bads period. He was awesome in the Zahn Legends trilogy and he is awesome in the new timeline and canon. I’m very excited he’s a part of the universe still and I hope he comes back for Episode IX since the finale of Rebels left a lot of unanswered questions. Speaking of best characters ever Ashoka Tano is one of my favorite characters of all time in any universe. so with all that said here’s my rankings of the movies (shows not included but they are awesome).

Empire Strikes Back

Return of the Jedi

Rogue One

A New Hope

The Last Jedi

The Force Awakens

Revenge of the Sith

The Phantom Menace

Attack of the Clones

 

One of the goals I’ve set for myself in this crazy journey to become a writer is to work on/write for Star Wars. Someday It’ll happen.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form Blade Runner 2049

I must confess that I didn’t get into Blade Runner until a few years ago. I had of course heard of the film, and enjoy Harrison Ford, but for some reason I had never watched it before. I decided to take the plunge with the director’s cut. It was really long but I loved it and ended up watching all the other cuts just to see what the difference between them was. The first movie is seriously fucking awesome.

So when Blade Runner 2049 was announced I was extremely excited. I couldn’t really find anyone else who was into it though. I tried discussing the movie with my wife, friends, and co-workers but I couldn’t really get anyone to say anything about the movie other than that they had seen it before. I ended up going and seeing it by myself, which I don’t really mind. If I want to see a movie enough and can’t get any interest from my wife or friends i’ll rock it solo. Plus we just got one of those awesome theaters with the comfy chairs that you can pick your seats online before so I snagged the best spot in the house and rocked it by myself.

So I snagged some popcorn and a giant diet soda and partook. It did not disappoint. I actually ended up liking it more than the original. Probably because I never watched it in the 80’s and don’t have fond memories of the original to look back on. The film honestly blew me away. It was brilliantly acted and the visuals and feel of the world were perfectly captured. If you are into Blade Runner and haven’t seen the new one there are some short films that act as a story lead in to the movie that I highly recommend. Here’s a link to them on Youtube, Blade Runner short films.

I was seriously disappointed in the lack of box office and Oscar love for Blade Runner 2049. I will probably end up voting for this nominee for long form presentation because it is that damn good. I still have two movies to watch in this category so I’m at least going to consider the group as a whole but Blade Runner 2049 is going to be hard to beat. I think it’s now time to watch the new episode of Barry, a new Bill Hader show on HBO. If you haven’t watched it yet, go check it out right now!

Journey through the Hugo Award Nominees

As I mentioned the 2018 Hugo Awards Finalists list was released last weekend and since I get to vote and attend the ceremony this year I’m going to try and consume as many of the nominees that I can before August. I will post the finalists list as a sticky on the blog and then update it as I make my way through the list and post about each entry. The list is as follows:

2018 Hugo Awards Finalists

Best Novel

  • The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor) My Review
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit) *Will likely be the April book club selection for my sci-fi fantasy book club, Fantastical Voyagers*
  • Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
  • Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
  • The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit) *I read the first book in this series and liked it so I may have to finish the trilogy*

Best Novella

  • All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing) MURDERBOT!
  • “And Then There Were (N-One),”by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017)
  • Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette

  • “Children of Thorns, Children of Water,”by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017)
  • “Extracurricular Activities,”by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, February 15, 2017) *I love TOR so I will read this one first*
  • “The Secret Life of Bots,”by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017)
  • “A Series of Steaks,”by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017)
  • “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,”by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
  • “Wind Will Rove,”by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017)

Best Short Story

  • “Carnival Nine,”by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017)
  • “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,”by Fran Wilde (Uncanny, September 2017)
  • “Fandom for Robots,”by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny, September/October 2017)
  • “The Martian Obelisk,”by Linda Nagata (Tor.com, July 19, 2017) *Sticking with my TOR theme and will read this one first*
  • “Sun, Moon, Dust”by Ursula Vernon, (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
  • “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,”by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017)

Best Related Work

  • Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, by Zoe Quinn (PublicAffairs)
  • Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), by Paul Kincaid (University of Illinois Press) *I’ve started reading the Culture series so I will tackle this one first*
  • A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff (NESFA Press)
  • Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Liz Bourke (Aqueduct Press)

Best Graphic Story

  • Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Christian Ward, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Marvel) Review Blog Pending
  • Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)
  • Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics) *I’ve been wanting to read saga for a long time now so I will make my way through this one right off the bat too, but I will start with Volume 1*

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

  • Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Alcon Entertainment / Bud Yorkin Productions / Torridon Films / Columbia Pictures) My Review
  • Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
  • The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.) Star Wars, Yeah!
  • Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios) Hulk and Thor, Smash!
  • Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers) WW Review

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

  • Black Mirror: “USS Callister,”written by William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, directed by Toby Haynes (House of Tomorrow) *I will start with this one*
  • “The Deep”[song], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)
  • Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time,”written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Cymru Wales) *I’m not fully caught up on Dr Who but were on the current doctor before he regenerates into Jodie Whittaker, which I’m really freaking stoked about*
  • The Good Place: “Michael’s Gambit,”written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television) *Love me some good place, I’ve already watched the whole series but I will rewatch and then blog this episode*
  • The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,”written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television) *ditto from above*
  • Star Trek: Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,”written by Aron Eli Coleite & Jesse Alexander, directed by David M. Barrett (CBS Television Studios) *I’m not quite done with the first season yet but I did like this episode, blog post coming soon*

Best Editor – Short Form *I’ll so some research on these folks before I vote*

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Lee Harris
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form *I’ll so some research on these folks before I vote*

  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Joe Monti
  • Diana M. Pho
  • Devi Pillai
  • Miriam Weinberg
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist *I’ll so some research on these folks before I vote*

  • Galen Dara
  • Kathleen Jennings
  • Bastien Lecouffe Deharme
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine *I’m familiar with several of these so I’ll check out the rest of the nominees before voting*

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
  • Escape Pod, edited by Mur Lafferty, S.B. Divya, and Norm Sherman, with assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney
  • Fireside Magazine, edited by Brian White and Julia Rios; managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry; special feature editor Mikki Kendall; publisher & art director Pablo Defendini
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Kate Dollarhyde, Gautam Bhatia, A.J. Odasso, Lila Garrott, Heather McDougal, Ciro Faienza, Tahlia Day, Vanessa Rose Phin, and the Strange Horizons staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Julia Rios; podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

Best Fanzine *Not familiar with any of these so will give them a look see before voting*

  • File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
  • Galactic Journey, edited by Gideon Marcus
  • Journey Planet, edited by Team Journey Planet
  • nerds of a feather, flock together, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
  • Rocket Stack Rank, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
  • SF Bluestocking, edited by Bridget McKinney

Best Fancast *Hooray podcasts, I don’t listen to many of them but I will give each of these a listen then vote*

  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
  • Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
  • Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts; produced by Andrew Finch
  • Sword and Laser, presented by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt
  • Verity!, presented by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Best Fan Writer *I will check all these out then vote*

  • Camestros Felapton
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Mike Glyer
  • Foz Meadows
  • Charles Payseur
  • Bogi Takács

Best Fan Artist *I will check all these out then vote*

  • Geneva Benton
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Maya Hahto
  • Likhain (M. Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

Best Series

  • The Books of the Raksura, by Martha Wells (Night Shade)
  • The Divine Cities, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
  • InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan (Tor US / Titan UK) *I’ve been wanting to check out this series for a while so I will start here, these will be tough to get through the series before August so I’ll try to read the first book in each series*
  • The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson (Tor US / Gollancz UK)
  • World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Harper Voyager / Spectrum Literary Agency)

 

2018 Associated Awards (not Hugos)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer *Hopefully I’m on this list someday*

  • Katherine Arden
  • Sarah Kuhn
  • Jeannette Ng
  • Vina Jie-Min Prasad
  • Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Rivers Solomon

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Award for Best Young Adult Book *Hopefully Harbingers is on this list one of these some days too*

  • Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking)
  • The Art of Starving, by Sam J. Miller (HarperTeen)
  • The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman (Knopf) *I’ll start with this one because Knopf published a lot of Crichton books*
  • In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan (Big Mouth House)
  • A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK / Harry N. Abrams US)
  • Summer in Orcus, written by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), illustrated by Lauren Henderson (Sofawolf Press)

 

As you can see I’ve got my work cut out for me before August. The voting period ends July 31 so lots of reading and devouring amazing artists work. But I’m looking forward to the journey, now I’m off to find, purchase, and mark want to read on Goodreads for all the nominees. Yeehaw, happy Summer!