Monthly Archives: August 2011


It’s been a while since I posted here, and I regret that.  I’ve been swamped with classes starting this week.  My job duties have changed with the new semester, so I’ve got a whole new set of plates to juggle.  Also, I have an out of town job interview on Monday that I’ve been trying to find time to prepare for.  After I get back, I should start posting again.  My goal when I set this blog up was to try to post at least once a week.  When things settle down, I should be able to meet that deadline at least part of the time.

Congratulations to the Hugo Award Winners

The Hugos were given out last night at Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, in Reno, Nevada.

The winners are:

Best Novel:                      Blackout/All Clear                             Connie Willis

Best Novella:                   The Lifecycle of Software Objects      Ted Chiang

Best Novellette:                “The Emperor of Mars”                        Allen M. Steele

Best Short Story:              “For Want of a Nail”                            Mary Robinette Kowal

Best Related Work            Chicks Dig Time Lords                      Lynne M. Thomas
                                                                                           and Tara O’Shea, eds.

Best Graphic Story           Girl Genius Volume 10:                        Phil and Kaja
                                                                                            Folio, art by Phil Folio

Best Dramatic Presentation , Long Form:                Inception

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:                Doctor Who:  “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang”

Best Professional Editor, Long Form:                      Lou Anders

Best Professional Editor, Short Form:                     Sheila Williams

Best Professional Artist:                                         Shaun Tan

Best Semiprozine:                                                  Clarkesworld

Best Fanzine:                                                         The Drink Tank

Best Fan Artist:                                                      Brad W. Foster

Also, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is not a Hugo, went to Lev Grossman

Futures Past and Present/Adventures Fantastic would like to congratulate all the nominees and especially the winners.  A list of winners and all nominees can be found here.

RIP, Colin Harvey

It is with great sadness that Futures Past and Present/Adventures Fantastic learned today of the death of Colin Harvey.  He passed away of a stroke at the age of 50.  He was far too young.  Angry Robot Books has posted this remembrance.  I’ve only read one of his novels, Winter Song.  It was one of the first books I reviewed.  I loved it and was hoping he would return to that universe.

He will be missed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Kate.

Further Adventures on the Planet of Adventure: Jack Vance’s Servants of the Wankh

Servants of the Wankh
Tschai:  Planet of Adventure 2
Jack Vance

In the second installment of the Planet of Adventure series, Adam Reith and his companions Traz Onmale and the Dirdirman Anacho set out to return the Flower of Cath to her homeland and while there receive help in building a spaceship to return home.  Due to a convoluted standard of shame that I’m not sure I ever completely understood, she ends up jumping overboard during the voyage.

Much of the first book was a sword and planet adventure.  It may have been because I was constantly being interrupted while reading Servants over a period of days, rather than finishing it in a single day, but it seemed to me that this was more an adventure of wit and manners.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of adventure.  Our hero is stranded on the Planet of Adventure, after all.  Much of the conflict was cultural rather than physical, with wit and cunning being two of the weapons employed.  That’s especially true after they reach Cath. 

While in Cath, a contract is taken out on Adam Reith with a guild of assassins.  Instead of simply letting the assassin do his job, Reith resists.  One of the companions he’s picked up helps, resulting in a scolding from a woman passing by.  Seems they were interfering in the assassin’s making a living.  The result of all this is a nasty letter and a fine being levied against Reith by the guild.  (The contract had been cancelled by this point.)

It’s this type of humor, looking at different cultures and the strange rules they have, that makes a Jack Vance book such a fun thing to read.  If you haven’t experienced it, you owe it to yourself to do so.

Receiving no help in Cath, Reith and friends decide to steal a starship from the Wankh, one of the most unfortunate choices of a name for a race in all of science fiction.  I doubt I will be spoiling much if I told you they aren’t successful.  That would make the two remaining books in the series sort of pointless, wouldn’t it.

In spite of the fact that it took me way too long to finish this one, it’s not a long book.  The DAW edition is only 157 pages long.  There was an earlier edition from Ace, but I don’t know how many pages it had.  And it’s too late and I’m too tired to look it up.  My point is that this is a short novel and a good way to while away a lazy afternoon or evening.

Finally, A Voice of Reason

Lee Martindale has weighed in on the ratio of male/female writers in Year’s Best lists and anthologies.  I tried to post a reply, but wasn’t able to.  I don’t have a Livejournal account, and I couldn’t figure out how to log in from Google, so I’m replying here.  Finally, someone with credentials who speaks with a voice of reason.  If you read my interview with Lee, this shouldn’t surprise you.

They Don’t Write ’em Like That Anymore: Jack Vance’s City of the Chasch

City of the Chasch
Tschai, Planet of Adventure:  1
Jack Vance
This is the first book in a tetralogy.  I picked it up along with books 3 and 4 when I was in high school, but couldn’t find the second volume.  This was in the pre-intenet days.  I eventually did come across it, but never got around to reading it at the time.
I’m at a conference this week, and needed something to read on the plane when I had to keep the Nook turned off.  (Preparing for the conference is why I haven’t posted anything here lately.)  I had only read this book in the series, and that was…a long time ago.  I couldn’t remember a thing about it and decided to give it another try.
I loved it!  This is an old fashioned planet story, about an Earthman on a lost world trying to make his way home through all sorts of exotic alien races.  It’s the sort of stuff that’s in far too short supply these days. 

The story goes like this.  Adam Reith is a scout on a ship from Earth that has been sent to investigate a distress signal that was sent over 200 years previously from the planet Tsachai, which until now was unknown humans.  Just as his scout ship is leaving to visit the planet’s surface, a missile destroys it and damages his scout vessel. 
He survives the crash with injuries, and is taken in as a slave by a tribe of humans.  It seems there are humans on this world, along with a number of mutant human races, and four aliens.  The Chasch, and there are three varieties of them, are lizard-like.  The Dirdir are tall and thin.  The Wankh aren’t described much in this book, but they’re the focus of the second volume.  Fourth are the Pnume, which are the ony native race.  They live underground and are feared by the other three races.  Each of the races has a subspecies of human that works as their slaves.  Each subrace of human has a different story of how humans came to the planet.
Shortly after he crashes, the Blue Chasch find and carry off his spaceship.  Since repairing it is his only chance of getting home, the book focuses on his quest to recover the ship.  Throughout the course of the book, Reith travels across the planet, picks up several companions, rescues a gorgeous woman, and fights a number of battles. 
One of the things about this book is its use of classic sword-and-planet tropes, such as swords alongside advanced technologies.  What makes it rise above being a standard sword-and-planet tale is that it contains plenty of the Jack Vance wit and exoticism.  There’s a scene where Reith and his companion Traz, formerly the chieftan of the tribe that found him, are watching a Dirdirman (human servant of the Dirdir) sleeping in an abandoned city.  The Dirdirman is being watched by a Phung, which is related to the Pnume.  The whole description of the Phung’s behavior reads like a description of a mime.  It was hilarious.
This was an enjoyable book on many levels.  Not just the adventure, but the imagination Jack Vance displays.  I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series and reporting on it here.  This wasn’t a long book.  The DAW edition, shown at the top of the page, is only 156 pages long.  If you like fre-wheeling adventure with a bit of wit and depth, and you haven’t read these books, you should check them out.