Sunday Links for October 2, 2011

The 2011 winners of the Emperor Norton Awards have been announced. One of the winners, Mortality Bridge by Steven R. Boyett, currently resides on my bedside table, awaiting my attention.

The 2011 winners of the Seiun Award have been announced. This award, the Japanese equivalent of the Hugo, has categories for foreign SF, which is pretty cool. It’s too bad that the Hugo doesn’t have the same type of category.

The 2011 winners of the Sunburst Award have been announced. These prizes are awarded for Canadian literature of the fantastic. The winning novel, Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven, is another book that’s been patiently waiting for me. I love Kay’s work, so I really must move this up the pile.

The finalists for the Washington Science Fiction Association’s Small Press Award have been announced. What a great idea this award is! So much is happening in the small press arena these days.

Amazing Stories, one of the oldest and most revered of science fiction magazines, appears poised to make a comeback. Steve Davidson, otherwise known as the Crotchety Old Fan, applied for and has been granted trademark status for the name. Davidson’s intent is to form an online magazine. Despite my dislike of reading online, I have to admit that the advent of this form of publishing has been a godsend to writers and readers of short fiction in many respects.

You may recall reading about the NPR list of the 100 best science fiction and fantasy novels, maybe even from a prior Sunday Links entry. Now you can figure out which of these 100 books is the right one for you, thanks to this flowchart from SF Signal. Can I please have this blown up and framed for prominent display in my game room/library? It’d be lots more fun than the dogs-playing-poker I’d planned for that wall.

Are books as sexy without their covers? That’s the question the Huffington Post asks, and answers, in the linked piece. Apparently people usually don’t judge a book by its cover, or at least not many of them, and don’t miss the artwork they get with paper books. As a woman who protects all of her dust jackets with special plastic covers, I rather disagree – but then, I’d read the new Michael Connelly mystery or Neal Stephenson science fiction tome regardless of what was on the front. And I have been known to cringe at the cover of a magazine or book that is too, um, odd – what would someone think if they saw me reading that on the bus?! Some might recall that the Harry Potter books were given toned-down, more “adult” covers in England, so that adults could read them without having others thinking they were reading kids’ books.

Fall always brings lots of new books. Here are the terrific new tomes that have arrived at Jeff VanderMeer’s home, for instance (and at least one of those has also landed on my doorstop; one of these days I’ll learn how to use my digital camera and post pictures of my own new acquisitions on this blog).

I strive to be as fair as I can be with my book reviews, but some reviewers haven’t been as charitable. Authors seem to be the harshest critics of fellow authors, to judge by this collection of the meanest book reviews.

Jeffrey Eugenides and Colm Toibin talk about writing. It’s a conversation worth overhearing.

Marshall Poe argues that reading isn’t so great. We’re not biologically made for it, he claims; we’re better at watching, not decoding symbols, and that’s why most people not don’t read, and don’t like to read. This isn’t a problem, he contends; new technologies make it possible for us to teach people without their ever having to crack a book. It will surely not surprise you that this notion makes me cringe with horror. I’m not about to start sending my nieces and nephews educational videos instead of books, no matter what Poe says. And no, I didn’t look at the video inserted in his article to prove his point. I’m interested in reading, not viewing. An article in the New Yorker seems to suggest that Poe didn’t do his research before reaching the conclusions he did, and that readers tend to retain more information than watchers and/or listeners. It also says that the number of readers seems to be increasing. Maybe Poe isn’t going to be able to sell as many of his Mechanical Icon videos as he’d like.

Neal Stephenson’s new book, Reamde, has just come out, and my signed first edition awaits my ability to tackle a 1,000+ page book with sufficient time, energy and commitment. In the meantime, though, I found this article by Stephenson about innovation – or, rather, our seeming inability to innovate as we once did – to be intriguing. It seems true to me that most of what we see these days is an extrapolation from what we already have – the iPhone isn’t really anything more than a very small computer, is it? So where will the next invention with the impact of the computer come from? Are there revolutionary changes going on that the general public simply doesn’t know about yet? What is the 21st century equivalent, in life-changing terms, of the automobile?

And somewhat along those same lines: The Ig Nobel Prizes have been awarded to some pretty dodgy-sounding scientific research projects. I’m all for pure research, but I’m really curious to know what the non-contagious nature of the yawning of a red tortoise has to do with anything. I have an open mind, honest; just give me a clue.