Many of us got hooked on science fiction and fantasy in our teen years or later. But why should the newest generation of readers have to wait that long? With that in mind, here’s what we asked our panelists:
A.C. Wise is the author of numerous short stories appearing in print and online in publications such as Clarkesworld, Apex, Lightspeed, and the Best Horror of the Year Vol. 4. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits Unlikely Story, an online magazine publishing three issues of fiction per year with various unlikely themes. Follow her on twitter as @ac_wise.
by A.C. Wise
Lauren Beukes made her fiction debut with Moxyland in 2009, but her first novel to garner widespread attention, and my recommended starting place for her work, is Zoo City, which won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award and the 2010 Kitschies Red Tentacle Award, along with being nominated for several other awards. In addition to presenting a fascinating world where characters’ past misdeeds manifest physically as animals bound to them for the rest of their lives, Zoo City does something fairly rare – it offers a genuine female anti-hero as a main character. Too often, female characters are held to odd standards, forcing them into boxes of pure good or pure evil, virgin or whore, with nothing in-between. Rarely do we get women who are as many shades of gray as Beukes’ Zinzi December – a finder of lost things, who also happens to be an email scammer/spammer, a former junkie, the cause of her brother’s death, and a character who genuinely cares about the welfare of others, going out of her way to look out for two teenage pop stars who everyone else seems determined to either tip-toe around or manipulate and use. In short, she has all the classic hallmarks of an anti-hero; she’s a complex, multi-faceted character who, despite her flaws, the reader roots for, and there are far too few examples like her in fiction. Based on Zoo City, I’ll be circling back to Moxyland soon, and picking up The Shining Girls, Beukes’ latest, which looks similarly intriguing, and which is slated to become a movie in the near(ish) future.
This past August, Digger by Ursula Vernon won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story, beating out comics published by Vertigo and IDW, including such heavyweights of genre comics as Fables, Locke & Key, and The Unwritten. Before that, Digger had won the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards in the categories of Outstanding Black and White Art (2005, 2006) and Outstanding Anthropomorphic Comic (2006). It was also nominated for the 2006 Will Eisner Comics Industry Award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition.
Now available as six trade paperbacks from Sofawolf Press, the series began first as a collection of illustrations, then as a webcomic through the Graphic Smash website, before Vernon started her own website to host the comic online. Digger has evolved, over the last several years, both in how the comic was presented to its readers and in Vernon’s drawing style.
But how does a comic that first became popular six years ago end up winning the Hugo in 2012?
Yes, Virginia, there are wombats in Wonderland, as you should know because Digger just won the Hugo for Best Graphic Novel. I loved Digger. But I didn’t expect it to win. Firstly, it was in black and white (unlike all other entries), secondly, it had no babes in it, let alone naked ones (alright, there was a young priestess, but she was veiled and mostly bald, so I didn’t count her) and thirdly, it was a complete story from beginning to end (unlike all other entries).
Why would a complete story line disqualify a nominee? Simple. People vote for their favorites. Some fans (like myself) see their Hugo ballots as a sacred responsibility. They pour over the nominees, weighing every word and agonizing over the choice when (as often happens) several candidates are worthy. Others approach their vote (and I’m not criticizing, just observing) with light-hearted cheer, partial to their favorite authors/artists/etc. even before they start reading, and dismissing other entries as casually as a junior editor burrowing through the slush pile of Sisyphus. Some fans even join WorldCon solely to nominate and promote a specific work. Again, I do not criticize. They are driven by love. But whatever the technique, however much thought does or does not go into it, it everyone votes for the one they like best.