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Reading for Hugos

In my copious spare time (hoo-hah), I am continuing to work my way through the ballot for this years's Hugo Awards.

Just finished THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM, by Cixin Liu, originally written in Chinese and translated by Ken Liu. This was the novel that just missed in the original round of nominations, only to secure a place on the ballot when Marko Kloos withdrew. In a half-century of Hugo Awards, there have been very few non-English originals ever nominated, and certainly never one from China, so THREE-BODY is a breakthrough book in that respect, and a sign that "worldcon" is (very slowly) becoming more global.

This is a very unusual book, a unique blend of scientific and philosophical speculation, politics and history, conspiracy theory and cosmology, where kings and emperors from both western and Chinese history mingle in a dreamlike game world, while cops and physicists deal with global conspiracies, murders, and alien invasions in the real world.

It's a worthy nominee.

If you like lots of science in your SF, this is a book for you, especially if you love theoretical physics, astrophysics, and mathemathics. The Chinese background is fascinating, especially the look at the Cultural Revolution and its aftereffects. And the prose is very clean and tight, which is not always the case with translations, which sometimes come across as a bit clunky. Ken Liu did a fine job, in that respect; the writing flows.

The central character at the heart of the novel is a fascinating and complex creation, but she is not the protagonist for most of the book, and the character who does fill that role comes across as very flat, more a viewpoint than a person. One of the secondary players, an abrasive cop, is much more successful; he's a bit of an asshole, but the story really comes to life whenever he's on stage.

All in all, I liked THREE-BODY PROBLEM, but I can't say I loved it. I thought the book started off very strong, but sagged in the middle before picking up speed again toward the end. And the ultimate ending was unsatisfying... mainly because, as I now see, this is just the first of three. I DO want to know what happens next, though. So I will be reading the next.

Now that THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM is on the ballot, I'd say that it is the likely favorite to win (and I am pretty sure it is about to pick up the Nebula as well). It seems to have admirers on both sides of Puppygate, which will stand it in good stead, and it should do very well with hard science fans and the ANALOG readers.

I am not going to reveal which book is going to get my own Hugo vote... only which ones I think are Hugo-worthy, and deserving of a spot above NO AWARD. So far, both THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM and THE GOBLIN EMPEROR rank above the line for me.

The other nominees still await my attention.

Anyone else read the Cixin Liu yet? What did you think of it?

Talking about books, after all, is what these awards are supposed to be about.


May. 4th, 2015 12:42 am (UTC)
You wrote thousands of words about how terrible the whole Puppy thing was and how it ruined the Hugo, and then you proceed to read everything that's been nominated?

Not complaining, it's just that, as a fan, it's a bit heartbreaking to see that you seem to be enthusiastic about everything except The Winds of Winter.
May. 4th, 2015 12:54 am (UTC)
That's such an idiotic thing to say.

I would think, after having devoted something like TWENTY FIVE YEARS OF MY LIFE to A Song of Ice & Fire, that my enthusiasm for it could be safely assumed without me having to reiterate every day.

May. 4th, 2015 02:16 am (UTC)
Your own words:

"I find that if I know exactly where a book is going, I lose all interest in writing it"

I meant no offense, George, but between the lack of updates on two years and the "Son of Kong" comments, I can't help but think it is the case.

May. 4th, 2015 05:29 am (UTC)
An idea to stop such traumatic heartbreak as experienced above: you could upload a daily photo of yourself chained to a desk in a blacked out room, with some form of terrifying overseer behind you to prove your commitment to the cause.

After all, who has interests outside of work? I wouldn't want to be around for that dinner table conversation.
May. 4th, 2015 05:45 am (UTC)
Okay, let us end this thread right here.

I should have deleted the comment rather than replying to it. I had a moment of pique.

We should be talking about this year's Hugo finalists, and THREE BODY PROBLEM in particular. Any further off topic comments will be deleted.
Matt Petolicchio
May. 6th, 2015 08:37 pm (UTC)
RE: Enthusiasm
No doubt, that you created something that carries legendary status to you and your fans.

Your fans want these books so bad that anything else you do seems to be an opportunity lost to finishing your magnum opus. It's not fair to you, but your brilliancy has also come with a cost: we want you to write ASOIAF.

We also really wanted to hear your ending before the show does and this is not going to happen. It's a shame to think that we are going to get some of your biggest spoilers from the show first (like Jon Snow's parentage or the serious plotlines aftermath from ADWD). Not that we don't love the show too, but this is your kingdom and it would be better coming from the creator.

We still are hoping to get TWOW in our hands before season 6, but it's not a leap of faith to say that you are a distracted man - and we get it.

I just think it's reasonable to understand the fans frustration as well.

Keep up the great work. I also think your blog opens the door to criticism like this and again, it's probably unfair. I think it's great you communicate with your fans.

And please don't kill a Stark because of me.
May. 6th, 2015 10:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Enthusiasm
If there is one thing I understand, it is frustration... yours, mine, everyone's.

My life has gotten extremely complicated, I must admit. There are not enough hours in the day, there are not enough days in the week.

And saddest of all, I do not have the stamina I did when I was thirty. Aging sucks.

There's no magic formula here. I just keep at it, the way I always have. One page at a time. One sentence at a time. One word at a time.
May. 15th, 2015 07:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Enthusiasm
Damn, that's kinda sad to read.

But don't worry, I can honestly say I represent most of your fans by saying that we already are grateful for the thousands of pages of pure enjoyment you already gave us, and don't feel entitled to anything. The "finish these damn books-ers" are just a vocal minority, and I, like many, would rather have TWOW by 2020 if you enjoy writing it than by 2016 if you rush it just to calm people down.
Vincent Marquez
May. 15th, 2015 08:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Enthusiasm
George, please don't think that everyone shares the opinion of those harassing you about having other interests. What you have done is phenomenal, unprecedented work and many of us are willing to wait. We know you've put your life into these books. If you need to live more life so you can have more energy or desire to write, do it! If you tell us you need to take a year off from ASOIAF to chill out on an island, or you want to spend six months write comics, we support you. There are tens of thousands of fans that support your creative efforts and know that you living your life the way you want to live it is the best way to continue getting the books we all love.

May. 16th, 2015 07:18 am (UTC)
I bet all of the world's great writers had unruly fans. In 1000 years, the history books wont remember them, but they'll remember you. Don't let these guys stop you from enjoying what you've done. Your story is so inspirational, and you've explained from the beginning that the Hugos were massive part of it.

Most of us very much appreciate how you communicate with your fanbase.

But who cares, in 1000 years everyone will probably be speaking newspeak anyways so screw it.
James Young
May. 4th, 2015 01:24 am (UTC)
It staggers me how you could even think that? Is George not allowed to have a life outside of ASOIAF? Is he not allowed to read any other book except ones that he has wrote?

As a "fan" I think you need to realise that George doesn't have to prove sh*t about how enthusiastic he is about the series. I have no doubt that George is still 100% as committed to the series as he was when he started penning A Game of Thrones. And if he gets to a point where he isn't, then so what? I'd rather seem him undertake new endeavours that he's passionate about rather than feeling that he has an obligation to the fans to complete the series when he really, really doesn't.

I am also a huge fan (as I am sure most people are who visit this blog regularly) but I'm not waiting with bated breath, checking everyday to see if he's announced the release date of the new book. Try and occupy your own life with something substantial and I'm sure the release of Winds will be the least of your worries.
May. 4th, 2015 02:48 am (UTC)
I don't think cracking the whip is going to help Mr. Martin complete great books.
Bernie Margolis
May. 4th, 2015 05:42 pm (UTC)
I urge you to re-read those "thousands of words." He worried that Puppygate potentially ruined the Hugos. He also stated that he would do his part to ensure that the Hugos continue, and that includes reading all the entries and voting for the ones he deems worthy of a Hugo. THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM is one of those entries.

I'd also like to point out that those books for which we've all been waiting have been so good precisely because George himself is a fan. This "heartbreaking" enthusiasm is a crucial component in the fuel that's powering A Song of Ice and Fire.

That's not to say that I don't understand how you feel. I threw my paperback copy of A Game of Thrones across the room when Bran fell from the window back in 1996. However, I am extremely grateful to George for the weeks of reading pleasure that he's already provided. Remember that we fans have asked for comics, movies, art, signings, and speeches. We've gotten everything we wanted, but that cuts into writing time. We fans are far more responsible for delaying the writing process than time spent reading Hugo nominations.

Finally, have some empathy. I take breaks throughout my work day, and I certainly don't spend the entirety of my evenings slaving over my work. I'm not going to hold George to a standard that I myself don't live up to. Imagine your boss or teacher berating you for reading A Song of Ice and Fire rather than spending that time on your work. I expect that's somewhat akin to how George feels when reading comments like the one you just posted.
May. 5th, 2015 11:33 am (UTC)
Reading and voting cannot ruin the Hugos
I didn't interpret the final message of GRRM's thousands of words about Puppygate as "it ruined the Hugo", and he was constantly advocating towards "no to no award", so I believe it is logical to actually read what is nominated and vote! If you have been paying attention, that's everything he's been talking about. Not reading the nominated works is not voting, and that would ruin the Hugos and contradict everything he said here.
I won't comment about the Winds of Winter remark, which was out of place and actually kind of rude.


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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