Hugo Recommendation Season: Galen Dara

Galen Dara is another artist I’m recommending for the Professional Artist category. Most of her work this year seems to have been in semiprozines like Lightspeed or Fireside (and semiprozine art can be considered only for the Fan Artist category), but she’s also done work that qualifies her for the Professional Artist category.

This year her work has appeared on the cover of Kevin Hearne’s Two Tales of the Iron Druid Chronicles and in the short-story collection Three Slices, including the illustrations for Chuck Wendig’s story “Swallow” and Delilah Dawson’s “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys,” both shown below.


Not my Circus, Not My Monkeys
I think Dara really excels at using impressionistic brushstrokes and bold color contrasts to produce visceral, dynamic images. Dara won Best Fan Artist in 2013 and was nominated for Best Professional Artist in 2014. But she hasn’t yet taken home a Hugo in the latter, and I really think she merits another shot for this year’s work.

Hugo Recommendation Season: Cynthia Sheppard

It’s professional artist week at the Hugo Recommendation Season blog, and I admit I find it challenging to talk about art. I know what I like, but struggle to explain my reasons. Still, I’ll give it a try.

Cynthia Sheppard is one of the artists whose work caught my attention this year. Her cover art for Karen Memory, below, is probably the work that the most readers will have seen this year. She’s also done covers this year for The Iron Assassin by Ed Greenwood and the forthcoming A Daughter of No Nation by A. M. Dellamonica.

Karen Memory cover art

Sheppard has also done quite a bit of artwork for the Magic: The Gathering card game. Her 2015 work includes Reclusive Artificer, Emeria Shepherd, Send to Sleep, Lithomancer’s Focus, Youthful Scholar, Harsh Sustenance, and Transgress the Mind, the latter shown below.

Transgress the Mind
So what do I like about her work? In particular, I like Sheppard’s atmospheric palette choices and her ability to imply subtle detail with soft painterly brushstrokes. She also demonstrates quite a bit of versatility with well-composed action scenes like Transgress the Mind above, as well as static scenes like the Karen Memory cover.

Hugo Recommendation Season: Rhiannon Thomas

So, next week on the 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season blog is Best Fan Writer, and so far, my list of possible nominees is made up almost entirely of individuals who have been nominated in the past or who nearly made the cut for last year’s nominations.

I expect that most of them will show up in next week’s roundups, so rather than repeat those, I figured I’d recommend someone who hasn’t gotten as much buzz: Rhiannon Thomas blogs regularly at her website, Feminist Fiction, where she discusses movies, television, novels, and video games, mostly of the SF and fantasy variety.

Feminist Fiction

She approaches media from a feminist perspective, obviously, but her writing tends to be casual and accessible, avoiding overly academic arguments or specialized jargon. She also frequently discusses YA fiction – Thomas’ own debut YA novel was published earlier this year – which doesn’t otherwise tend to get much attention among the usual suspects for Best Fan Writer.

Some of her more popular posts this year, judging from the lively comment threads, include “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken: Why that scene made no sense,” “Ant Man and the problem of Marvel’s necessary women,”  and “How to be a female superhero according to Age of Ultron,” if you want a representative sample.

She’s not quite as prolific a blogger as most of the others on my list of potential nominees, but most of what she does write is substantive and very readable.

Hugo Recommendation Season: Uncanny and Lightspeed

A few months back, Ken Marable started the Hugo Recommendation Season blog in order to “encourage and focus discussion on award worthy works,” “better inform the nominating population of fans,” and “give every Hugo category its due attention.” And I figured participating would be as good an opportunity as any for me to somewhat finalize my own thoughts on what I plan to nominate for the 2016 Hugos. I say “somewhat finalize” because, of course, the whole point is to share and discuss recommendations and it’s certainly possible – indeed, I hope it likely – that I’ll discover something in the process that I’ve previously overlooked.

So this week, the focus is on the Best Semiprozine category, which, I have to say is a bit of an oddball. From what I’ve read, the category was first created in 1984 because Locus Magazine had been dominating the Fanzine category, having won in six of the previous eight years. The Best Semiprozine category, with its slightly esoteric eligibility rules, gave Locus an entirely different category to dominate instead (which it continued to do until another rules change in 2012 made it ineligible for that one also).

In any case, the folks at have simplified things for Hugo voters by listing all the eligible publications on their semiprozine directory page, and I have two “definitely nominating” picks from that list: Lightspeed Magazine and Uncanny Magazine, both of which have contributed more than any other semiprozine to my list of potential nominations in the short fiction categories.

Lightspeed Magazine #63 with cover by Reiko Murakami
Lightspeed Magazine #63 with cover by Reiko Murakami

Lightspeed was last year’s winner, and they’ve continued to publish great material in 2015 including novelettes by Brooke Bolander, Dale Bailey, and Andrea Hairston; short stories by Kat Howard, Seanan McGuire, and Amal El-Mohtar; and interviews with Ann Leckie, Patrick Rothfuss, and Kazuo Ishiguro.

I particularly like their artist showcases, which have included artists like Julie Dillon and Wylie Beckert, as well as artists from outside the Anglophone world, like Li Shuxing and Elena Bespalova. The addition of podcasts for many of their stories is a nice bonus, as was their Queers Destroy Science Fiction special issue, highlighting LGBTQIA writers and artists and their experiences in the genre.

Uncanny Magazine #4 with cover by Tran Nguyen
Uncanny Magazine #4 with cover by Tran Nguyen

Uncanny Magazine, by contrast, is a comparatively new publication: they didn’t have enough issues to meet the eligibility requirement last year, but they’re now well past the minimum required for the Hugo, and they just recently met their funding goal on Kickstarter for year two.

Uncanny supplied some of my favorite short stories this year, including “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward An Oral History,” Sam J. Miller’s speculative alternate history of the Stonewall Riots; “In Libres,” Elizabeth Bear’s story of research students in a labyrinthine magical library;  and “The Midnight Hour,” Mary Robinette Kowal’s tale of a mad king cursed to only one hour of lucidity a day.

As someone who’s completely new to organized fandom, I also appreciated the magazine’s non-fiction articles related to the history of fandom and its contemporary issues. A couple of representative examples include “The Future’s Been Here Since 1939: Female Fans, Cosplay, and Conventions” by Erica McGillivray and “Diversity Panels Are the Beginning, Not the End” by Michi Trota.

Added bonuses include great cover art by Julie Dillon, Tran Nguyen, Antonio Caparo, and others, as well as podcast versions of the stories, poems, and interviews.

I also appreciate that both Uncanny and Lightspeed offer ePub downloads for purchase (Lightspeed directly through their site, Uncanny through Weightless Books) for those who prefer the flexibility and formatting options that allows. Finally, both sites are attractive and easy to use, which admittedly, for me, has a huge influence over whether I’m willing to spend time with a site’s content.

Graphic Novel Review: ODY-C, Vol. 1: Off to Far Ithicaa

So, brief note, the “Reading for the Hugos 2016” titles were feeling a little repetitive. I’ll still be reviewing Hugo-eligible works (and they’ll all have the Hugos2016 tag), I just won’t be bothering to note it in the title.

Anyway, ODY-C.

ODY-C Vol 1 Cover

Matt Fraction, of Hugo-nominated Sex Criminals fame, has another graphic novel out this year that hasn’t gotten nearly much buzz. Sex Criminals was my top pick for the last Hugo vote – I’m a sucker for library-related fiction – but I may have liked this even better.

And once again, I find that Goodreads reviewers don’t share my opinion. Well, some of them at least. The reviews seem to be split between What the hell did I just read and This is goddamn genius.

I lean strongly toward the latter, but I understand both perspectives: No doubt, this is not the kind of book you can flip through casually and expect not to get hopelessly lost. It does require a bit of focus (and it doesn’t hurt to have at least a passing familiarity with The Odyssey, on which it’s based), but it definitely rewards the effort of a close reading.

ODY-C Sample Page

At the start of ODY-C, Odyssia and her all-female crew, having just sacked the siegeworld Troiia after a century of war, prepare the ship for its long voyage back to their homeworld of Ithicaa. The end of the war, however, means the gods have lost a valuable source of entertainment, and the Olympians proceed to make the voyage home for Odyssia very difficult indeed, as the crew encounters a pleasure planet of lotophages, a colossal alien cyclops, and the strange Aeolus who offers them a perverse bargain in exchange for a shortcut home.

So, basically, a gender-flipped SFF version of The Odyssey, but Fraction brings a lot of smart twists to the source material that make it a distinctive story in its own right. Fraction mashes up that sort of magical Clarke’s-third-law technology with elements of myth in a number of original ways, and some of those permutations, like the backstory that explains the lack of men in the story, border on brilliant. And Christian Ward’s art is just a trip, falling somewhere in the hallucinatory terrain between Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ill-fated Dune adaptation, a prog rock album cover, and your uncle’s airbrushed 70s panel van.

There are a few missteps: The narration occasionally trips over itself in an attempt to emulate the epic register of Homer’s original (and I spotted at least one glaring typo which I think got missed in the archaic syntax), but overall, ODY-C brings exactly the kind of genre-stretching, bar-raising originality that I think needs to be celebrated and awarded. With so many good graphic novels already released this year and more yet to come, I can’t guarantee it’ll make my final five for the Hugo nominations, but it definitely has a damn good chance.