The Hugos were awarded at the WorldCon in London last weekend, and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice took home the award for best novel. Despite a smidge of jealousy that a debut novel would win a Hugo, I’m very pleased with the result. Ancillary Justice is not just a great read; it’s a book that exemplifies everything that makes science fiction great. Like the best award winners of the past, it explores some of the biggest questions of life by imagining alternatives. How are our bodies and souls connected? The main character is at first an ancillary–a single mind with dozens of human bodies. How are men and women inherently different? The ancillary has trouble telling the difference. How responsible are we for the sins of others when they benefit us? The ancillary is aware that many humans were killed–or at least their identities destroyed–to create it. What does it mean to be human? The ancillary has trouble thinking of itself as human, even when it’s down to only one human body.
All in all, a fascinating novel, and a well-deserved addition to the Hugo gallery. Kudos to the voters, and congratulations to Ann Leckie!
Some of you have heard me talking about all the books I’ve been writing recently. You may be wondering . . . where are they? The truth of the New York publishing machine is that–at least for an only modestly-successful author like myself–my writing is far ahead of the publication schedule. Superposition, my quantum physics murder mystery, is completely written and finished. The publisher (Pyr Books) is working on cover art and publicity and getting author blurbs. The book itself, however, probably won’t hit shelves until the Spring of 2015. (The actual release date has not been decided.) In the meantime, I’ve already finished the first draft of the sequel, Supersymmetry, which is more of a suspense thriller than a mystery. A few trusted friends are critiquing it for me, and Pyr has already bought the book.
So for those of you who are hungry for more David Walton novels . . . stay the course! New and exciting stories are in the pipeline, and I am still furiously writing more.
This week, popular science fiction authors have found themselves unexpectedly inundated by requests for 140-word stories. The reason? G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S., or the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, included item number 78:
“Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England and an Elopus.”
There’s been some buzz in the SF author world about this, some finding it horribly rude and others finding it fun. Some authors have even advertised their willingness to write a story in return for buying one of their books! I wrote one for a fan who asked with polite enthusiasm, and found it pretty easy and fun to do.
The blog i09, purveyor of all things cool in both science and science fiction, has picked up the Chelsey Award story. This is a much better link to check out the illustrations than the original one I included.
I just saw that the cover art for Quintessence is a finalist for the 2014 Chelsey Awards, for Best Cover Illustration for a hardback book. Thanks to Kekai Kotaki for creating such a wonderful illustration! The winner will be announced at this years WorldCon in London. Here are all the 2014 Chelsey Award nominees.
Fantastic. This book just catapulted to the top of my recommend-to-others list.
The two non-human races in this book–one alien, the other created by humans to fight the aliens–are perfectly drawn, with clear racial traits and yet with strengths and flaws as individuals. They aren’t heroes or villains, just people, driven by fear or love or ambition to fight against those who threaten them.
My personal favorites were the Luyten, a race of starfish-shaped creatures the size of elephants. McIntosh does telepathic aliens like nobody’s ever done them before. They use their telepathy in war to tremendous effect: perfect communication that can’t be intercepted, and perfect knowledge of their enemy’s movements. They’re smart and frightening, and yet sympathetic, too, backed into a corner where they must fight or die. The conversations between Luyten and humans were some of the best parts of the books.
The defenders are less sympathetic, their actions motivated by ambition and hatred more than self-preservation, but they still inspire some degree of pity, since they were, after all, made to be the way they are. As with the Luyten, the individual characters are where the sympathy comes from, when you see how childlike and insecure they are, despite their power and violence.
In fact, the difference between the individual and the group is almost a theme of the book. As a group, any of the three races (humans included) can be threatening, unknowable, evil. As individuals, however, each is understandable and sympathetic, acting only to protect what they love.
You can tell McIntosh is a master storyteller, and it’s no wonder he won the Hugo Award. The plot is never predictable, but each event seems inevitable, perfectly caused by what came before. Each character’s actions is consistent with their personality and their situation, each conflict required by who they are and what they need.
I can’t imagine the movie being as good, but I hope Warner Brothers goes ahead and makes it (they’ve already optioned it for film), if only because it will encourage more people to read this marvelous book.
This outrageous statement comes from the book Redeeming Science, by Vern Poythress. It flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that science disproves the existence of God, or at least that scientists must set aside any belief in God in order to do science well. Atheist thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Victor Stenger have published popular books equating science with atheism and insisting that the lack of scientific evidence of God’s existence confirms his non-existence. On the surface, the claim that all scientists believe in God is nonsensical. So what does Poythress mean?
Vern Poythress, like me, is a man who loves God and loves science. Like me, he thinks that the realm of science need not be abandoned to atheist thinkers. Unlike me, Dr. Poythress is Professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, and holds degrees in mathematics from CalTech and Harvard. He spoke at my church recently on the topic of Science and Inerrancy, and I appreciated his talk enough to download his book.
Science is a process of describing the way the universe works. It codifies experimental data into a series of “laws”–equations that effectively predict the outcome in a given circumstance. Scientists rely on these laws, and assume that they exist–in fact, part of the atheist’s argument is that the more predictable the universe, the less we need to rely on the existence of a god to explain it. Poythress contends the opposite: that the existence of natural laws is testimony to the existence of an eternal, unchanging God controlling everything. The laws are reliable because God is faithful. When a scientist studies natural laws, he is not studying some impersonal machine, but the continuous actions of a consistent God.
After all, why should there be natural laws? Why should actions in the world be repeatable? Why should the same equations work equally well at the bottom of the ocean or on the surface of the moon? That the world does work this way is a central principle on which all science is based, but there is no reason for it, apart from God. This is the concept behind Poythress’s outrageous statement: all scientists, whether they acknowledge it or not, rely on the character of God for their work.
This is consistent with things I’ve said in the past, but Poythress lays out his argument clearly and relentlessly, leaving little ground to object from the point of view of either Scripture or science. He takes apart the question of Genesis 1 with similar confidence, bringing the reader to understand what Genesis does and does not say, distinguishing between teachings that are theologically indispensable for those who take the Bible seriously, as opposed to issues on which Genesis simply does not speak. At each step, he is logical, easy to understand, and non-confrontational. There is no ranting here, no vitriol, no cheap shots at opponents’ positions. He wants his readers to love Scripture and love science, just as he does, and it shows.
Best of all, Poythress offers the digital version of Redeeming Science for free! I highly recommend it.