Poll: Who is the most influential science fiction writer?

For many years science fiction got a really bad rap. It was fantastical fiction of no substance, a poor relation to literary fiction, or to any other kind of fiction (except maybe romance); it was often considered a flight of fancy. But mainstream readers are starting to realize that science fiction novels, TV shows and movies are often social commentary on the human condition. And not only that, they can often be thought-provoking and moving allegories of our current lives, helping us confront the parts of ourselves we probably need to work on and improve if we are ever to have a successful future as individuals or a species.

While SF movies have always evoked a sense of “what if” in terms of considering how we could end up if we made X choice instead of Y (The Planet of the Apes films are perfect examples of this!), when you read SF novels you are free to picture the future the author’s presents with your own imagination, often making the resulting lesson more profound.

So, who is the most influential SF author in your opinion? We’d love to find out whose writing affects our readers the most!

 

2017 Hugo nominations period nearing a close! (Poll!)

It’s that time of the year again. Time to nominate our favorite science fiction and fantasy works (in different forms, lengths and mediums), as well artists, editors and writers in professional and fan categories.

The deadline is at 06:59 UTC on March 18, 2017 (March 17, 2017 23:59 North American Pacific Daylight Time / UTC-7) and if you have the required membership and voting pin, you can still use the personalized link in the email you received to cast your vote. (I suspect it is too late to mail in a paper ballot, unless you do so via express post.)

Anyone who is a voting member of the 2016, 2017, or 2018 Worldcons by the end of the day on January 31, 2017, is eligible to nominate in this round, but only members of the Helsinki Worldcon can vote on the chosen finalists in the next round, so make your vote count now! Click here to go to the current worldcon website to find out more.)

There are professional and personal blogs and websites around the net listing eligible nominees, for all the categories, and if you click here (for example) you will be taken to a webpage that invites people to suggest their own recommendations, which have been compiled into very helpful lists for each category. No website has a complete list of all eligible works, but some of them might jog your memory, if you recognize a particular book or story on one of them that you had read last year and realized it was definitely worth your vote. (We have such hectic, multi-tasking lives that I suggest that, in the future, you create a list and add to it whenever you read something new during a calendar year, so you can refer back to it during nomination periods.)

This year the rules have been changed up a bit, in regards to how they tally their votes. While you can only nominate up to five titles/names per category, there will be six finalists per category once the numbers have been tallied and their legitimacy verified, to help prevent block voting.

Feel free to participate in the poll below. We’d love to here from you which book (or books) you believe should be nominated for the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Either by adding a new book title (and the author who wrote it) to the poll list options, or by selecting one or more of the options already listed!

Happy voting!

Learning how to impress publishers…it isn’t just a novel idea. (Poll)

When you start writing your first novel, it can be quite daunting imagining the endless amount of words you have to arrange in just the right order to impress an agent, publisher, and eventually, hopefully, legions of readers. But first you have to plot it out, and decide just how big your story will be. I’m not saying big to mean how impressive it will be, but rather asking if you will need more than one book to complete the full story arc, or if you think a standalone format is the perfect length to do justice to your vision.

There are pros and cons to either option.

If you write a standalone, you can make a more immediate impact on potential publishers, and publishers are more willing to commit to a new author if they can already read the conclusion (and obviously like it). When award time comes around, standalone novels are also more likely to win, because your book will have a completed story arc which means it could resonate better with judges and readers. Your debut could even be applauded as an “instant” success.

But on the flip side, unless you show vast potential, publishers are less inclined to give multiple book deals to debut authors who initially give them a standalone, because your track record hasn’t been established yet. They might request right of first refusal for any future novels, but that is not the same as a multi-book deal. You would have to pray that your first book is a runaway success, so you can be offered a bigger, more lucrative, second contract.

If you write a trilogy or series, you are more likely to be offered a multi-book contract from the beginning, even if the publisher has only read the first completed book, because why would a publisher buy the beginning of a series, and not the middle or end? A multi-book contract with a major publisher would definitely a great way to start a career, with multiple opportunities for exposure.

But, yet again, on the flipside, if the publisher does offer you a multi-book contract, unless they believe you are the next George R.R. Martin, the amount they offer a debut author might look very attractive at first blush, but when you break down the amount you would receive for each individual book, you realized you got a bulk discount deal. Not to mention that publishers are less forgiving now, so if your first couple of books underperform, more authors are dropped after their first trilogy than ever before. It makes you realize it’s probably easier to outperform a standalone contract, then try to hit every sale goal on a multi-book contract.

So which is better? Should you focus on one particular model, with the belief you will be more successful? I recommend picking the model that best suits the idea you are most enthusiastic about, so any resulting novel will be produced with as much passion and creativity as possible. With the right amount of talent added in, that would be a winning combination for any type of book.

What do you think? Leave us a comment, or feel free to answer our poll.

Passengers (2016) Review & Poll: Are we becoming too judgmental, or should we just go along for the ride?

Passengers MovieAccording to Wikipedia, “Passengers is a 2016 American science fiction adventure film directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Jon Spaihts. It stars Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne and Andy García. The film tells about two people who wake up 90 years too soon from an induced hibernation on board a spaceship bound for a new planet.”

That description is generally correct—if you were to discard the biggest spoiler this movie hinges around. The spoiler that has many viewers crying “Sexism!”, with a percentage saying they will boycott the film because of it.

Well, let’s get to the crux of the matter and put it to a vote.

Yes, that’s right: ******SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT******

The Wikipedia description isn’t necessarily a lie, but, rather, it is what the female lead character, Eve (portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence), first believes to be the situation when she emerges from her pod. The reality—and here is where the spoilers start, folks—is that Frank (portrayed by Chris Pratt) woke up first, alone. He was housed in the only stasis pod to malfunction when the colony ship was ominously damaged. While Frank is unable to repair his pod (he is an engineer by trade), and is dealing with the frustration of discovering how limited his security clearance is, he eventually works out how to make the most of his isolation through the astute observations offered up by the ship’s bartender—an android played by the ever-brilliant Michael Sheen.

However, accessing as many perks on the ship as possible can’t distract Frank from the realization that he has woken up 90 years too soon, and will die on the ship after spending many years alone. Frank becomes suicidal and in his moment of greatest weakness, spots Eve’s stasis pod and is mesmerized by her visage. He looks her profile up on the computer and reads and watches everything he can access about her. His interest is that of a man starving for company, but it could easily be seen as an obsession, depending on how you frame it in your mind.

And here comes the crux of the movie—the part that divides its viewers. Frank wrestles with his consciousness, appearing to realize that dooming someone else to live their entire life aboard a spaceship is cruel, but he still decides to wake Eve up anyway, effectively stealing her future. The thought of being alone for an entire lifetime is driving him crazy; maybe too crazy to reason.

But is Frank’s decision merely the act of a selfish man being driven crazy by incessant loneliness, or the act of a man who subconsciously believes he has the right to dictate the life of the woman he wants to date, perpetuating the sexism that is still prevalent today in a future setting? If he had’ve just wanted a mere friendship, or someone with more expertise to help find another solution to his predicament, he could have combed through all the passenger profiles—regardless of gender or sexual orientation—to find someone in a specialized field who could help him on a practical level. Except it soon becomes clear he chose Eve with the ultimate goal of having a relationship with her, to ease his loneliness on a purely personal level.

A lot of viewers, men and women (although admittedly more of the later), objected to that being the main basis for his decision, in a futuristic science fiction movie where other potential plotlines could have been more…enlightened. And many viewers were not happy about the fact that Eve chose to be with him at all, saying she was overly sexualized in the film (in comparison to the male lead) and it’s unbelievable that Frank and Eve would ‘hook up’ so quickly, simply because they are the only two awake. Add to the fact that she decides to resume their relationship, and trust him again, after she finds out he had sabotaged her pod and taken away her right to choose, the plot appears to endorse or validate the impression that Frank is of the superior gender in their union.

But, what if we switch one simple factor in the movie, and consider the same plot from a different perspective? What if it had’ve been Eve who had woken up first? Eve who had been driven so crazy by loneliness that she woke Frank up to keep her company and give her comfort, to try and ease the harsh void of a lifetime trapped on a colony ship. If it was the woman who had lied to the man about what she did, because she didn’t want him to hate her, and the woman who had taken away the man’s choice, instead of the other way around, are those very actions no longer sexist if enacted by Eve instead of Frank? Does it mean that women would be seen as more empowered in the future? (Or perhaps less empowered, since it might imply that a woman can only be strong with a man by her side.)

Perspective can be a funny thing. As a female viewer, I cringed at specific scenes and lines in the movie, because they did appear sexist in isolation, and it bothered me that Frank would not leave Eva alone when she needed space following the reveal of his deception. However, I could also see why there are people who believe (and I include myself in this camp, also) that the movie does emphasize how wrong his actions have been—before he made them, and after—and that people can learn from their mistakes.

At the end of the movie, Frank gave Eve the choice to go back into induced hibernation when he discovered how to do it, bringing their story full circle, and putting the entire future of their relationship into her capable hands. Sure, their history complicates matters, and I feel it is in some way unfair of him to put her in a situation where she would naturally feel guilty if she decided to leave him behind. But he didn’t have to tell her he had discovered a way for her to return to suspended animation, which showed he truly did see her as an equal, even if it meant he could lose her.

As an intelligent and (now) fully informed woman Eve made her choice to live out her life on the ship, with Frank. Given the focus of this article, it would be hypocritical if we did not accept her decision.