Award Recommendations 2018

written by David Steffen

Here are some recommendations for selected Hugo and Nebula categories. (Note that I’ve listed them in alphabetical order, rather than order of preference, and have listed more than the 5 ballot options when possible). I don’t think I’ve read any eligible novels this year, so that category is not represented.

Best Novella

“Umbernight” by Carolyn Ives Gillman, in Clarkesworld Magazine

Best Novelette

“A Love Story Written On Water” by Ashok K. Banker, in Lightspeed Magazine

“A World To Die For” by Tobias S. Buckell, in Clarkesworld Magazine

“The Last To Matter” by Adam-Troy Castro, in Lightspeed Magazine

“Dead Air” by Nino Cipri, in Nightmare Magazine

“Hapthorn’s Last Case” by Matthew Hughes, in Lightspeed Magazine

“The Fortunate Death of Jonathan Sandelson” by Margaret Killjoy, in Strange Horizons

“To Fly Like a Fallen Angel” by Qi Yue, translated by Elizabeth Hanlon, in Clarkesworld Magazine

“House of Small Spiders” by Weston Ochse, in Nightmare Magazine

“Thirty-Three Percent Joe” by Suzanne Palmer, in Clarkesworld Magazine

“Master Zhao: An Ordinary Time Traveler” by Zhang Ran, translated by Andy Dudak

Best Short Story

“After Midnight at the ZapStop” by Matthew Claxton, in Escape Pod

A Scrimshaw of Smeerps” by Shannon Fay, in Toasted Cake

“Variations on a Theme From Turandot by Ada Hoffman, in Strange Horizons

“Secrets and Things We Don’t Say Out Loud” by José Pablo Iriarte, in Cast of Wonders

“Octo-Heist in Progress” by Rich Larson, in Clarkesworld Magazine

“Hosting the Solstice” by Tim Pratt, in PodCastle

“Marshmallows” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires, in Clarkesworld Magazine

“The Death Knight, the Dragon, and the Damsel” by Melion Traverse, in Cast of Wonders

“Some Personal Arguments in Support of the BetterYou (Based on Early Interactions)” by Debbie Urbanski, in Strange Horizons

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form / Ray Bradbury Award

Ant-Man and the Wasp

The Incredibles 2

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, for Nintendo Switch

A Wrinkle In Time

MOVIE REVIEW: A Wrinkle in Time

written by David Steffen

A Wrinkle in Time is a 2018 science fiction action/adventure YA movie, directed by Ava DuVernay and produced by Walt Disney, based on the 1962 book of the same name by Madeleine L’Engle (which I reviewed here).

The main protagonist of the movie is Meg Murray (Storm Reid), a teenage girl whose scientist father (Chris Pine) disappeared mysteriously five years ago.  She lives with her scientist mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and very intelligent but peculiar five-year-old brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe).  Charles Wallace befriends a strange woman in the neighborhood who calls herself Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), who tells Charles Wallace and Meg that their father discovered the secret of using “tesseracts” to travel long distances but is now trapped on a dark planet called Camazotz by a powerful adversary known only as the IT (David Oyelowo) and that only they can save him.  Meg’s friend Calvin (Levi Miller) joins them and they meet Mrs. Whatsit’s friends, Mrs. Which (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Who (Oprah Winfrey), and together they “tesser” away from Earth to find Meg’s father.

For the most part the story of the movie follows the story of the book, though it did take liberties with certain parts.  I felt like it kept to most of the same beats thematically, with major plot points about love and about Meg’s low self-esteem.  There were some major changes, some of which I was less impressed with–instead of turning into flying centaurs Mrs. Whatsit turns into what appears to be an anthropomorphic lettuce leaf (but why though?), and Camazotz felt a lot different in the movie than the book, instead of being a rigorously defined world that runs like clockwork it was an ever-changing simulation.

Overall I thought the movie was good, the casting was spectacular, especially Storm Reid as Meg who was very likeable and believable at least for me, a lot of her personal hangups mapped pretty easily to mine.  Charles Wallace seemed like his character would be particularly hard to cast because the actor has to at least appear to be close to five years old, but has to be able to pull off complicated lines with big vocabulary, and McCabe did a great job with it.  Oprah Winfrey is such a super-celebrity at this point, that for a lot of roles she might’ve overshadowed the other characters, but she was a perfect choice for Mrs. Who who is far enough distanced from humanity as a whole that she has to be reminded that being three stories tall makes her stand out.  There are a lot of wonderful visual scenes and sets and characters that were fun for all ages, and might be especially awesome for children–there are some parts that are borderline scary if your young ones are sensitive to that you might want to watch the movie without them first to know what they’ll be up against.

BOOK REVIEW: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

 written by David Steffen

A Wrinkle in Time is a young adult science fiction novel written by Madeleine L’Engle and first published in 1962–it has been adapted for a movie that will come out in March 2018.

Thirteen-year-old Meg Murry is a smart girl, but who gets into trouble at school.  She excels at math, but not in the way her teachers want her to do the work.  She lives with her mother (a scientist) and her five-year-old brother Charles Wallace is a prodigy.  Her father (also a scientist) has been on a mysterious scientific mission for quite some time and Meg’s not sure when he’s coming back.  They encounter their eccentric new neighbor Mrs. Whatsit, who it soon turns out is a creature from another planet, one of a trio that are nearby. Mrs. Whatsit knows where Meg’s father is, and she knows that he’s in trouble.  Together with the neighbor boy Calvin they set out with Mrs. Whatsit and her friends to transport themselves to another planet and save Mr. Murry.

Like other science fiction books from this era, many of the ideas might seem familiar simply because we’ve read later books that were inspired by this one, which does make it harder to judge.  Also like other science fiction books from this era, there is a lot of explanation, what might be considered over-explaining in today’s publishing environment.  But overall this book ages better than other books of its time, in large part because of its focus on characters rather than nuts-and-bolts science.  I cared about Meg and her family and her friends, and I was rooting for them as they came across strange situations on strange worlds.  It’s a very short book, a very quick read finished within a week (which is very fast for me).  It’s fast-paced, never any dull time, and it has a reasonably tight arc from start to finish.  This book works as a standalone, introducing the characters and the situations and tying up the main arc, but there are four later books feature the Murry family (which I haven’t read, so I can’t comment on).  This is one of those classic books that I constantly hear people reference, so I wanted to read it for that reason alone, but I thought it held up better than average for a book of its time.