It’s been a while since I’ve fallen for a TV show this hard. Steven Universe, now in its second season on the Cartoon Network, is wonderful. What’s it about? Steven, a tubby kid with a pink gemstone where his belly-button should be, lives in a weird alien temple with three alien women, the Crystal Gems. They teleport around the globe, fighting monsters. Simple premise, right? What’s so great about it?
While it’s ostensibly a kid’s cartoon, the characters are mostly adults, and they have complicated grown-up histories and motivations, all presented so that kids can understand, but with their complexities visible to the adult viewer. Though there are other kids for Steven to interact with; his probably-going-to-be-a-girlfriend-eventually, Connie, is thoroughly realized, an awesome and totally believable little nerd-girl.
The back-story is rich and subtle— so subtle that I didn’t realize until I browsed some fan pages that the show’s setting is actually an alternate history. The writing is sophisticated— one recent episode had a fake-out plot spur leading to a reveal that (I noticed with a second viewing) had been foreshadowed at several points. A lot of the episodes are like that, with elements that reveal depths of characterization on second viewing, or minor details in the background that hint at things as yet unrevealed.
And the artwork! Clean, distinctive character designs, lush background colors. I almost got distracted from the action in a recent episode just looking at the trees in the background. The characters often visit exotic-looking abandoned alien facilities (temples, combat arenas, laboratories, etc) and the art crew does a great job with the designs. It’s worth scouring the backgrounds for implicit worldbuilding!
The music is really great. One of the main characters is voiced by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Estelle, and the characters often burst into song. Here’s an example, an extended version of the show’s theme song, shown at San Diego ComicCon this year.
The show presents us with characters from a variety of races, ethnicities, and body-types. Even the alien characters who make up the main cast don’t all look like white people. A number of the characters (including Steven himself) are broader-then-average, and it’s never presented as a problem, or as something to mock. If anything, largeness is associated with both power and beauty. (Though there are also skinny characters, and they, likewise, are treated with respect.)
The Gems are (so far) all female. (Exactly what that means for a species that probably doesn’t reproduce sexually, we don’t yet know.) Not only that, but the show explores gender roles in a serious and intentional way, while still keeping things comprehensible for kids. There’s even a multi-episode story arc revolving around sexual consent (handled at metaphoric arm’s length).
I’ve had this sitting on my hard drive for over a month, waiting for me to figure out how to get more quotes from Paradise Lost into it (“Celestial rosy red, Love’s proper hue”; “And these the gems of Heaven”; “And in the lowest deep a lower deep”), but eventually I gave up and went with this.
Best Novel (1,827 nominating ballots): The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu (Tor)
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Roc) [S][R]
The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor) [S][R]
Best Novella (1,083 nominating ballots): Noa Waard
“Flow”, Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Analog 11/14) [S][R]
Big Boys Don’t Cry, Tom Kratman (Castalia House) [S][R]
One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright (Castalia House) [S][R]
“The Plural of Helen of Troy”, John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis)[R]
“Pale Realms of Shade”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons)[R]
Best Novelette (1,031 nominating ballots): “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed 4/14)
“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”, Rajnar Vajra (Analog 7-8/14) [S][R]
“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”, Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show 5/14) [S][R]
“The Journeyman: In the Stone House”, Michael F. Flynn (Analog 6/14) [S][R]
“Championship B’tok”, Edward M. Lerner (Analog 9/14) [S][R]
Best Short Story (1,174 nominating ballots): Noa Waard
“Totaled”, Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge 7/14) [S][R]
“A Single Samurai”, Steven Diamond (The Baen Big Book of Monsters) [S]
“Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse)[R]
“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons)[R]
“On a Spiritual Plain”, Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2 11/14) [S][R]
Best Dramatic Presentation - Long (1,285 nominating ballots): Guardians of the Galaxy [S][R]
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
The Lego Movie [S][R]
Best Dramatic Presentation - Short (938 nominating ballots): Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”
Doctor Who: “Listen”
Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper”[R]
The Flash: “Pilot” [S][R]
Grimm: “Once We Were Gods” [S][R]
Best Related Work (1,150 nominating ballots): Noah Ward
“The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF”, Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse) [S][R]
“Why Science is Never Settled”, Tedd Roberts (Baen.com) [S][R]
Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth, John C. Wright (Castalia House) [S][R]
Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith Press) [S][R]
Wisdom from My Internet, Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy Press) [S][R]
Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots): Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal, G. Willow Wilson; art by Adrian Alphona & Jake Wyatt (Marvel Comics)
Saga, Volume 3, Brian K. Vaughan; art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Rat Queens, Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, Kurtis J. Weibe; art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
Sex Criminals, Volume 1: One Weird Trick, Matt Fraction; art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate, Carter Reid (self-published) [S][R]
Best Professional Editor, Long Form (712 nominating ballots): Noah Ward
Toni Weisskopf [S][R]
Sheila Gilbert [S][R]
Anne Sowards [S][R]
Jim Minz [S][R]
Best Professional Editor, Short Form (870 nominating ballots): Noa Waard
Mike Resnick [S][R]
Jennifer Brozek [S][R]
Bryan Thomas Schmidt [S][R]
Edmund R. Schubert [S][R]
Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots): Julie Dillon
Kirk DouPonce [S]
Alan Pollack [S]
Nick Greenwood [S]
Carter Reid [S]
Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots): Lightspeed
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Abyss & Apex [S]
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine [S]
Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots): Journey Planet
Black Gate [R]
Tangent Online [S][R]
Elitist Book Reviews [S][R]
The Revenge of Hump Day [S][R]
Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots): Galactic Suburbia Podcast
Tea and Jeopardy
The Sci Phi Show [S][R]
Adventures in SciFi Publishing [S][R]
Dungeon Crawlers Radio [S][R]
Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots): Laura J. Mixon
Jeffro Johnson [S][R]
Dave Freer [S][R]
Amanda S. Green [S][R]
Cedar Sanderson [S][R]
Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots): Elizabeth Leggett
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating ballots): Wesley Chu (2nd year eligibility)
Kary English (2nd year eligibility) [S][R]
Eric. S. Raymond [S][R]
Jason Cordova [S][R]
Congratulations to the winners, and commiserations to the losers. Yes, even the Puppies, because I am willing to believe that anyone who puts their hands on pen or keyboard in the service of our art partakes, to one extent or another, in the thing we’re trying to honor. Whatever else they’ve done, whatever dissatisfactions and entitlements they’ve let eat them out from the core, are laid on top of that basic impulse. And that is what the Hugos honor.
MOST of the editors [in the SF field] came from families where ALL generations had gone to college as far as they remembered (kind of like my husband’s family. It amuses me that paternal grandad would have bowed and scraped and been speechless before my inlaws.) More than that, they’d gone to prestigious colleges. For 99% of them, if they had an ancestor who worked with his/her hands, it was buried in the mists of time.Hm, where shall I start?
Seriously. Seriously? I didn’t go to college. In fact, I didn’t graduate from high school, and I don’t have a GED. This is one of the more widely known facts about me, tbh. If you’re making generalizations like that about a set of people that has me in it…well, you just hate to see that kind of thing at this level of play.
Both of my parents went to college — Michigan State University. Both of them were the first people in the known history of their families to do so. I don’t make this assertion lightly. Thanks largely to the heroic efforts of relatives, I know the names, dates, and something of the lives of all 32 of my great-great-great grandparents, and I know the same for all but eight of my 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents. This gets us back to approximately the American Revolution. Not a college degree among them.
Let’s talk about how people like me don’t have an ancestor who “worked with his/her hands.” Leaving aside my own resume of youthful labor (day laborer, typesetter, printer’s flunky, scraper of paint off of aging Great Lakes freighters—that one was less than perfectly fun), there’s the fact that my father’s father was a factory worker in Detroit. His father was a farmer, as were all the Haydens before him back to the seventeenth century.
My mother’s father was a CPA and a shopkeeper. He came to Michigan from Kentucky with a backwoods accent so severe that he was literally incomprehensible to people there. His forebears were Appalachia through-and-through: hardscrabble, hard times.
As you can see, Sarah Hoyt is exactly right. My ancestors were generation upon generation of privileged scions of the Ivy League. Beth Meacham’s rural Ohio forebears were all Oxbridgeans; in fact, you couldn’t even show your face in 19th-century Newark, Ohio if you hadn’t published at least one article in a peer-reviewed journal of classical studies. Claire Eddy’s family in Hell’s Kitchen, of course, was composed entirely of high-society patrons of the arts; the entire career of George Balanchine would have been unthinkable without the support of Claire’s tavern-keeping, linoleum-installing relatives. And of course Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s dirt-farmer Mormon forebears contrived the artificial distinction between “literary” and “genre” fiction out of whole cloth, because monkey cucumber parliamentary archaeology. And other things that make just as much sense.
We look forward to explaining other issues of similar subcultural salience.
Cath, of her kindness, has been doing the yeoman work of organizing two Gatherings of Light at Sasquan. This is the master information post, which can be linked to and referred to. It is versioned, and will be updated if details change.
This is revision 3, as at Thursday 20 August
(Twitter hashtag #MLthursdaydinner)
Thursday, August 20, 7:30 pm Pacific Time
Meet at 7 pm Thursday evening inside the ground floor pointy end of the exhibit hall. Outside you can see the little green park on West Spokane Falls Blvd, and the crosswalk over highway 2. A few steps away from the escalator there are some benches next to Elevator 14. Cath will be there from 6:45 onward.
For identification purposes, she describes herself as “middle-aged, pale skin, red hair, glasses, and will be holding a red Chinese paper lantern.”
If you run late, come find us at Saranac. The reservation is under the name of Cath Rowan.
IMPORTANT: If you’d like to join the dinner expedition, please post an explicit “I am coming to Thursday dinner” comment on this thread by
midnight Sunday Aug 16 Mountain time the evening of Wednesday 19 August, or until all 20 seats are filled. Cath will comment with updated attendance lists.
- o0o -
Friday, August 21, 2-3:45 pm
Location: CC 201C
Drop by when you can, BYO beverages, snacks, handwork, etc
Note that this room has chairs but no tables. If lots of people show up at once, some may have to stand.
If the gathering is still going strong at 3:45, we can move down to hall C.
- o0o -
Contact details for Cath: cathrowan at the Canadian extension of Yahoo (nationality is important in this context); if you need a cell phone number, contact her that way. She is also @cath_rowan on Twitter (in case the convention center bandwidth overloads).
She promises to do her best to monitor all three (e-mail, phone, and Twitter) closely during the couple of hours before each event.
Cath was also suggesting using #MakingLightatSasquan to find other fluorospherians at panels, company for a meal, etc.
On sale today in hardcover and ebook in North America, and on August 13 in trade paperback and ebook in the UK.
From the author’s post about it, linked above:
“This book is a direct followup to The Human Division and continues the scenarios, events and characters found there. It also wraps up the larger story arc begun in The Human Division (i.e., you will find out who is behind all the cliff-hangery stuff and why), so those of you worried that there will be some things left unresolved and to be dealt with in a third book: Relax. It all gets settled. […]
“I will be stingy on the details except to say that two [of the novel’s sections] are from the point of view of major characters in The Human Division, one from a previously minor character, and one introduces a brand new character who I think is very interesting indeed. […] And yes, the actual end of all things is a very real concern in this novel.”
“Polished and powerful…The inevitable and parallel downward spirals of the two corrupt space empires, the human Colonial Union and the alien Conclave, are finally coming to a head. All four protagonists work for one of the two entities, and Scalzi shifts among their perspectives to thread a fine needle, recognizing that good people can be entrenched in terrible systems and sometimes can’t (or won’t) change them.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“It’s classic crowd-pleasing Scalzi, offering thrilling adventure scenes (space battles, daring military actions, parachute jumps through a planet’s atmosphere), high-stakes politics, snarky commentary, and food for thought. Delightful, compulsively readable, and even somewhat nutritious brain candy.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[F]ascinating, uncharted territory for military science fiction. The world is a considerably complicated place, and this is a book that recognizes it, and attempts to capture a tiny piece of that complexity. The format of the book, with its four parts and sub-chapters, aids the narrative in this regard, reminding me of the films Syriana or Traffic by telling huge story in tiny brushstrokes….[T]he series has been left in a good place, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.”
Go, gather photons. Seek, and you will find.
Go pluck them where they hang from bowing trees
And cast a silver net upon the seas.
Retrieve them from the depths where they were mined.
Then harvest me some waves (the not-wet kind):
Ensnare them as they drift upon the breeze,
Unthread them from the fuzzy legs of bees,
And tease them from the hedgerows they’ve entwined.
Collect it all in one fluorescent mound,
A massless mass of quanta piled high,
Entangled, incandescent, golden-bright.
Then pull up chairs, my friends, and cluster round.
This is the place to talk, to laugh, to cry,
To sit and celebrate in gathered light.
In prose: this is a thread to plan a Gathering of Light (or more than one) at Sasquan. Do the thing.
You might think that. I couldn’t possibly comment.
He said, “Kid, whadja get?”
I said, “I didn’t get nothing, I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage.”
He said, “What were you arrested for, kid?”
And I said, “Littering.”
And they all moved away from me on the bench there, with the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, “And creating a nuisance.”
Then they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time…
—Arlo Guthrie, “Alice’s Restaurant”
Every work morning, I cycle onto the Buiksloterwegveer, the ferry that runs straight across the IJ from Amsterdam Noord to Centraal Station. Getting to it is a story in itself, an epic in miniature: the long straight ride toward the boat, usually into the teeth of the wind; the suspense in the way the signs block the countdown so that one can’t see how long it is till departure. The pilots often wait a minute or so past zero, picking a break in the incoming cycle traffic, delaying for a hurrying foot passenger or two. I always feel lucky when I’m one of the last to reach the deck before the red lights flash and the siren signals that boarding is over.
Then it comes, as the heavy clunk of the ramp coming up echoes through the vessel. All around me the people glance at one another, quickly, furtively, one flick of the eyes and away. And I taste the koinopoiēsis in the air, like the first rain after a hot week.
“Koinopoiēsis” is part of my idiolect. It’s a combination of two Greek words, κοινόν (koinon, community) and ποίησις (poiēsis, making). It refers to both the moment when a crowd becomes a community and the processes which create that transformation.
The ferry crossing takes about two minutes. We’re a mayfly of a community, and we know it. Our koinopoiēsis is so faint as to be unnoticeable unless you’re sensitive. Unless you’re addicted. It’s like the ghost of sweetness one gets from the nectar of a violet: enough to whet the appetite, but not enough to satisfy it.
We dock at Centraal. The alarm whoops, the front gate goes down, and I leave our ephemeral community for the murmuration of Amsterdam cyclists.
But that’s fine, because at the other end of my ride is the office, where I am swimming in community: the two teams I work with, the team I line manage, my department, my former teams, the loose communities of expats from the various countries I have allegiances to, the foreigners who speak Dutch, emergency responders, the complex network of long-term employees who move about the company… The Venn diagram of my workplace communities looks like a puddle in a heavy rainstorm.
And these groups are forever recreating themselves. There’s something called the Tuckman model, which lists a number of stages a new team goes through: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. (The naming is terribly twee, but I find the model useful as a way to reassure teams that the initial conflict they experience is normal and not permanent.) But the model goes on to point out that whenever a team gains or loses a member, there’s a Mourning stage, and then the whole cycle repeats, because it’s effectively a new team. This is true and necessary on every level of community: nal komerex, khesterex.
So even when I don’t find myself in a new team (as I did a month ago), I am surrounded by the low murmur of social and organizational change, and with that change, little increments of community formation. If the ferry was a single droplet of koinopoiēsis, the office is a slow, wide river of it.
One of my roles is to tend that river the way our waterschappen tend our physical waterways. Sometimes it’s easy: a word here, an email there, a private chat over coffee or on a bike ride home. Sometimes it’s a bigger job, which usually means cookies. (I’ve talked about food and community before.) I have the good fortune to work with some gifted koinopoiēsis engineers: kind of a meta-community. We hold baking contests.
Although it wasn’t until I started moderating a long-lived and articulate community that I named this thing and made it a separate concept in my world, I was raised in an environment that values it, celebrates it, tells stories with it. We all were. My defining high-school movie was The Breakfast Club, which is basically an hour and a half of slow-motion koinopoiēsis with a Simple Minds soundtrack. But even if you weren’t a Brat Pack eighties kid, the thing is pervasive: it’s what turned Han into someone who would come back and help Luke destroy the Death star; Mal was looking for its traces before he let Jayne out of the airlock; Maia learns it in The Goblin Emperor; it’s the Scoobies and Leverage, Lethal Weapon and The Matrix, the larger arc of the Avengers movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, Fury Road.
I know there’s not really that much to spoil in The Philosopher Kings, but in the unlikely event that revealing some of the minor details that are not well-foreshadowed in the previous book might be upsetting to the broader community, here’s a thread for such discussions.
Author’s remarks about it on her own website:
The Philosopher Kings is the sequel to The Just City. Read that first! […]
It is my twelfth published novel. I wrote it betwen 20th June and 28th November 2013, in 28 writing days, and then revised it in early 2014. It’s set twenty years after the end of The Just City.
The Philosopher Kings is about…love and excellence. And responsibility. And art. And it’s about Apollo and his daughter Arete and Ficino and some other people going on a boat trip that leads them to end up somewhere you’d never have expected. The Just City uses the myth of Apollo and Daphne. The Philosopher Kings uses the myth of Apollo and Marsyas.
First line is “Not many people know that Pico della Mirandola stole the head of the Winged Victory of Samothrace.”
Read The Just City first, did I say that already? It seems to work for people reading it without, but it’s full of spoilers for the first book.
“[T]he gathered characters, their philosophical and practical discussions, and their character-driven decisions, along with Walton’s plain, declarative, and crystal-clear style, and the straightforward and probing dialogue (in both the Socratic and the fiction-writing senses), familiarize the high concept and make it seem plausible. […] Another of the reading pleasures here, and in all of Walton’s writing, is the intimate scale. Much as I love the more-is-more rush of [Neal] Stephenson’s work, Walton’s economical method is just as effective. The characters are just as complex, and perhaps more distinctive because they are not lost in the overwhelming detail about their environment. The environment in the Atlantean novels is detailed enough for us to supply the rest, and if we don’t know exactly how the robots work or how the ships are constructed, we still get the idea. This economy, along with the harmony among characters, events, and ideas, keeps her novels of ideas from seeming wooden or boring. Walton knows what to leave out as well as what to include. “
—Joan Gordon, Los Angeles Review of Books
“[T]he science it deals with is moral science: it’s a science fiction of philosophy, as much argument as adventure, and its nature is such as to invite the reader to participate. That’s half the fun. More than half, over and above Walton’s agreeable prose and solidly believable characters—even Apollo is believable, and I have high standards for fictional gods, though that might be hubris. What does it mean to strive for excellence, as a person, and as a person among other people? What does it mean to be a hero, or a philosopher? What’s just? […] The Philosopher Kings is a very entertaining novel. It’s even more entertaining as an argument.”
—Liz Bourke, Tor.com
“Audacious … The end result is a satisfying conclusion, with room for more if desired.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“One of my favorite parts of this book is the characters running into the rest of the world and having it be something of a shock, after all these years, that there are people who are not in any way attempting to recreate Plato’s Republic. It has come to seem utterly, indisputably normal to them. And…I think we can all come up with aspects of our unique lives that feel totally normal until we compare them with the outside world and remember. It’s done really well, the shock of the new coming from an unexpected direction and yet feeling entirely in-character.”
—Marissa Lingen, Novel Gazing Redux
“The ending is a knock-out, tongue-in-cheek deus ex machina twist explicitly stating that no matter how much The Philosopher Kings departed from The Just City, the third and final book, Necessity, will move exponentially farther away — both literally and figuratively. If there’s one thing Walton is brilliant at — and there are roughly 1 million of those — it’s not letting you know quite what kind of story you’re in, and leading you to relish the discovery.”
—Amal El-Mohtar, NPR.org