Monday, March 28, 2011

Best SFF Novels of the Decade Readers Poll

Earlier this year, hosted a poll for the best novels of the decade. These are the results:

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi - 295 votes
American Gods by Neil Gaiman - 270 votes
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss - 231 votes
Blindsight by Peter Watts - 221 votes
Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey - 194 votes
A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin - 179 votes
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - 167 votes
Anathem by Neal Stephenson - 141 votes
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson - 125 votes
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville - 124 votes

Yet besides feeling proud of some of my favorites (especially The Name of the Wind), and nodding to myself about authors I was familiar with, I didn't take this poll very seriously. I should have had the mindset, “These are some books that I absolutely must read.”

My dedicated shelf for the Best SFF Novels of the Decade

Anyways, I entered a giveaway to win a set of the books, and oddly enough, I actually won! Fancy that a blogger should win. Now I have the chance to read all these books, thanks to Fantasy.

I've read The Name of the Wind, A Storm of Swords, and American Gods.

Which are your favorites?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

The Silent Land won The Wertzone Award for Best Novel in 2010, so when I saw the book on the shelves at the library, I knew I had to pick it up right away.

A couple goes on a skiing vacation, but it is not quite the trip they had planned....

It struck me while I was reading that it was a good book, a piece of literature.

Indeed, I've seen The Silent Land classified as literary fiction -- yet also genre fiction and speculative fiction, so it might appeal to a wide variety of readers. If I were to classify it as a fantasy, I would say it is closest to contemporary fantasy.

I would also say the writing style is impressionistic. The story is told through the characters and what they experience, rather than the interpretation of the experience afterwards. There is a sense of immediacy and minimalism there. I really like these qualities in a novel.

Here's what Adam Whitehead wrote about this gem:

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
This is a short, quiet novel that focuses on two characters who find themselves alone in a strange environment. Haunting and unsettling, those with a passing familiarity with genre fiction should work out what's going on pretty quickly, but watching the characters do the same is fascinating, culminating in an emotionally powerful conclusion

In conclusion, The Silent Land is a modern classic.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Storm Front, Vol. 1 and 2

Jim Butcher's Storm Front as adapted to graphic novel. The book is broken up into two volumes, "The Gathering Storm" and "Maelstrom."

Harry Dresden is a compelling wizard who works privately in Chicago. He is faced with the task of trying to solve the murder of people whose chests were blasted out by magic from far away. There's also a missing person case. There's a ton of magic, and Harry has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

It's a cool urban fantasy. I definitely recommend this if you like graphic novels. The art and storytelling are top notch and exciting.

This was my introduction to the Dresden Files. It lived up to the hype, and to be able to do so even as a graphic novel adaptation says something. What a great story! I am now interested in reading the original novel by Jim Butcher.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rose City Steampunk Film Festival

My first steampunk festival was very entertaining. It was a spectacular way to spend a Sunday. There were a lot of interesting goings-on:

  • A ton of short films
  • Two feature films
  • A Q&A with film people
  • A panel of steampunk authors

I loved it. The first Rose City Steampunk Film Festival was great. What a success.

I noticed people were in costumes and both Q&A sessions talked about the steampunk aesthetic.

I've never personally done steampunk fashion or Neo-Victorian, as you might call it.

The "steampunk" aesthetic is one I feel a bit ambivalent about. On the one hand, it looks suave and elegant. On the other hand, when you see it all the time, it becomes a cliché.

In my opinion, the steampunk look is best when it appears uncontrived, functional, and reserved. The goggles are a bit much. Although I suppose part of its appeal is its extravagance.

Ultimately, the concept of Neo-Victorianism is very interesting. Furthermore, steampunk style is an ultra-retro, hip way to dress.

Despite not dressing up in the steampunk style,
And hence feeling like I didn't go the whole mile.
Still I enjoyed for quite a while,
A lot of works of film in Neo-Victorian style.

Due to some technical difficulties (burning to DVD), some short films were not shown.

At least two of the ones not shown, however, are available to watch online (The Forgotten Invention of Love is great).

Luckily there will be another screening for the ones that weren't shown on the day of the festival.

Now, here's what I saw and my reactions. They are all recommended.

Child Invisible

One of the best of show. In fact it swept the award ceremony, including best of show. It was emotionally impacting and very well done.
This is action packed dieselpunk. Cassie Meder, who is in this series, was at the fest for Q&A. She wasn't in the first episode, but she still contributed a lot to the discussion! And about this series, when I say "action packed," I'm serious.

I thought some of the cinematics were interesting, but I got bored during this one. Old black & white movies are always paced kind of lackadaisically. Perhaps an acquired taste; if you have a taste for it, you might enjoy this classic film showcasing steampunk before it was steampunk.

It's unfortunate this wasn't able to be shown at the festival. You can see it on the filmmaker's website. It is very, very good. This was probably my favorite so it was a bummer they couldn't show it at the festival. However, now I recommend you go watch this! It's art.

This was a trip. I enjoyed it and thought it was one of the most creative of the bunch. Abstract and varied in its narrative medium.

“Heart of Stone” music video by The Raveonettes

It was quick but pleasant and steampunk enough for me. Not very memorable.

The League of S.T.E.A.M. omnibus of shorts by

This was fun core genre steampunk at its best. It shows off the aesthetic and it's well produced. We were left with a cliff-hanger. It's an ongoing web series like The Danger Element.
Two minutes of musical and visual steampunk enjoyment. This is well done. Hearing the artist talk during the Q&A, I was amazed to learn how much work went into it.

Nickel Children

A steampunk story about kids who are kept caged to fight each other. One kid gets saved. There was a warning to the audience about its explicit material. It was kind of horrifying. It says it might become a web series, and it looks to have won a few awards.
The volume level of the dialogue was a bit low, so that made it a bit hard to hear. I'm a sub-titles guy too so...yeah. Still, this one was fun. Light saber fight for the win!
About 6 minute long animated short. This is very entertaining, historical, and fantastically steampunky in the way that I like. Time-traveling Victorian shenanigans featuring Thomas Edison as an unlikely villain with a mech.


The finale of the night absolutely blew me away. It wasn't written in on the schedule, it was supposed to be a surprise. And it was indeed a surprise! Such a stunning, magnificent film. Glad I saw it.

The author discussion was really very interesting.  Steampunk authors talking about steampunk. As you might expect.


They all seem like excellent, intriguing authors.

The authors appear to like the steampunk genre for plenty of different reasons. Nostalgia. The aesthetic. An interesting time in history. However, their works also have elements of historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. They don't want to see steampunk "sell out", but they acknowledge that it's a cool aesthetic.

I kind of wanted to buy some books (or ask for review copies) after the Q&A, but the festival moved quickly onto the next block of short films. And after that, it was dinner time. Afterwards, the authors were off in a puff of steam. A puff of steam.

Seriously though, it was fun to see the faces of some authors I had heard of, and some I hadn't, and generated a lot of interest in reading their books to me.

Overall, the festival was simply stupendous. I had a great time. Unfortunately it's kind of one of those "you had to be there" things. Notwithstanding, I recommend you look for some of these films (McDonough, Danger Element, and Forgotten Invention of Love are all available to watch online) or check out the authors if you are interested. Lots of great work.