Saturday, March 01, 2008

And the Nominees Are:

Just about the only advantage to being home this past week, too sick to go to work, has been that I’ve finally had time to give some thought to the 2007/08 Aurora Awards. The Auroras are Canada’s top awards for professional speculative fiction in English and in French, as well as artistic achievement and fan efforts.

It seems like it wasn’t too long ago that I was filing my nominations for the last round of Auroras (which were given out at VCon 32/Canvention 27 here on the Lower Mainland back in October), but the convention that will be hosting the awards this year (Keycon 25 in Winnipeg) is coming up soon.

A nice change this time around is the addition of an online nomination ballot – good to see the organizers behind an SF award finally getting around to joining the 21st Century. The balloting system lets you make three nominations per category, which makes the tough decisions easier (well, a little easier, anyway) if you’ve got a bunch of top contenders you want to put in the running.

The difficulty, admittedly, is that I haven’t read every piece of SF written by Canadians or residents of Canada this year, and because my French is somewhat rusty (the reality is we have far more use for Cantonese and Mandarin out here on the West Coast), I haven’t been keeping up with the stuff en francais that’s come out of Quebec, New Brunswick, St. Boniface or any other francophone part of the country except when it’s translated in anthologies like Tesseracts. But I think the reality is that, unless you’re a book or magazine editor, it’s pretty hard to keep on top of everything, so you read what you can when you can and make your judgments based on what you know.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my nominations for this year’s Aurora Awards:

Best Long-Form Work in English:
“From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain” by Minister Faust
“Rollback” by Robert J. Sawyer
“Axis” by Robert Charles Wilson
Edmonton’s Faust gave us hands-down the best SF book to come out of this country in 2007. It’s viciously funny while showing a knowledge and love of the superhero genre (especially for the warts on those heroic visages) and it acts as a platform for unflinching indictments of both the self-help book (or self-hurt as a friend once said)/pop-psychiatric scene and the modern political arena in North America.
Toronto’s Sawyer should be given credit for his sensitive portrayal of the lives of seniors and the complexities of relationships that change over time – and especially in this story as they’re changed by the technology of the times. Here he poses the question: what would you do if you were given a second chance?
I’ve reviewed this year’s solid showing by the other Torontonian on the slate, Wilson, so there’s no need to go into detail about “Axis” except to say that it’s a good book in the tradition of Arthur C. Clarke.

Best Long-Form Work in French:
Again, I haven’t read from this year’s francophone fare, so no nominations here.

Best Short-Form Work in English:
“Why the Poets Were Banned from the City” by Jerome Stueart (in the Spring 2007 edition of On Spec)
“The Object of Worship” by Claude Lalumiere (in the “Tesseracts 11” anthology)
“…But With a Whimper” by Greg Wilson (in the Fall 2007 edition of On Spec)
This was a really tough category to pick favourites. There were a hell of a lot of good short stories to choose from this year, many gracing the pages of On Spec (I’m still waiting for my Winter 2007 issue to be delivered, so who knows how many other options could have frustrated my selection process if it had arrived before I filled out the nomination ballot!)
Stueart’s tale illustrates the power of writing while warning about current trends in politics and society that favour pragmatism and ignorance over creativity and knowledge.
Lalumiere examines religion and relationships.
And Wilson makes a cutting display of how revenge truly is a dish best served cold.
But because the process of choosing nominees was so hard this year, I thought I’d also rattle off my list of other top contenders you should try to read if you’ve got some time:
“The Pursuer” by Scott Mackay (On Spec, Fall 2007)
“Nine Sketches in Charcoal and Blood” by Marie Brennan (On Spec, Fall 2007)
“The Laws of Motion” by Catharine Macleod (On Spec, Summer 2007)
“Manna” by Leslie Brown (On Spec, Summer 2007)
“Quiet Empire” by Michael Vance (On Spec, Summer 2007)
“Made” by Paul Hosek (On Spec, Spring 2007)

Best Short-Form Work in French:
And because the one or two stories translated from French that I’ve read this year didn’t make an impact on me, no nominations here.

Best Work in English (Other):
On Spec Magazine
“Overclocked – Stories of the Future Present” by Cory Doctorow
Neo-Opsis Magazine
This is kind of the professional catch-all category, so it’s a great chance to pay respects to On Spec, a world-class SF mag by anyone’s standards (although I wish they’d add more new content to their website on a regular basis!) showcasing the best work by Canadians and others from around the globe. And Neo-Opsis deserves to be highlighted as well for their continuously solid effort. This is also the category where I think it’s appropriate to give the nod to Doctorow’s anthology, which was pretty entertaining overall, although I’m not sure whether it counts given that the stories were available online far in advance of the book getting published.

Best Work in French (Other):
Merde. I wish I had something to say here, but I don’t. Moving right along…

Artistic Achievement:
Another category where I don’t feel qualified to make a nomination. While some of the artwork on the various mag or book covers is interesting enough, none of the pictures, by themselves, have been absorbing enough to me to really merit nominations. While I give the artists full credit for their creativity and efforts, I’m more interested in the art of the words than that of the paintbrush.

Fan Achievement (Fanzine):
I don’t have time to read fanzines (which is not to comment on their quality, I simply don’t have enough time in my day), so nothing much to say here either.

Fan Achievement (Organizational):
VCon 32/Canvention 27
Cheers to the folks who put on a good con last year. Keep ‘em coming!

Fan Achievement (Other):
I guess this would be another catch-all category where things like blogs and websites and fan groups or fan support efforts would go. It would probably be crass to nominate myself, so I can’t put down bloginhood. And there isn’t much else I can nominate either… I don’t have enough time in the day to be a part of fan groups or support efforts, and as for other websites/blogs… I certainly can’t nominate Spacecast (the site for Space, Canada’s SF TV channel) because, well, it’s pretty lame, especially since they stopped posting the text version of Hypaspace (which itself, as a weekly feature, is getting pretty tired). As for other fan sites originating here in the Great White North (doff your toques and insert cuckoo theme by the Mackenzie brothers), I haven’t stumbled across any that have grabbed my attention. Probably my fault for not looking hard enough, but it gets back to that time thing. If someone sent me a link to a good site run by fellow Canucks, I’d definitely give it a look and maybe find something to nominate next year.

So that’s my nomination ballot for the 2007/08 Aurora Awards. The organizers are accepting nominations until March 17th (unless they start extending the process ad-nauseum like they did last year), so there’ s still plenty of time for you to have your say. Visit the awards page at http://prix-aurora-awards.ca/English/home.html
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