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Issue #125 - January 2006

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That Was the Year That Was

By Emerald City Staff


By Cheryl Morgan

Normally at this time of year I write a review of the year style article. However, this year I have been honored to be asked to contribute to the Locus Year in Review article. Given the choice between writing something here and writing something that will be seen by five-to-ten times as many people, and sees me published alongside Gary Wolfe, I’m afraid I didn’t spend much time making up my mind. So my review of the year will appear in the February Locus. I encourage you all to buy it. After all, if Charles gets enough subscribers he’ll get bumped out of the semiprozine Hugo category and that will give other people a chance to win. In the meantime, I’ll just list my favorite books of the year, and I’ll rely on the rest of our reviewers to cover the year in more detail.

Cheryl’s Best of the Year Lists

By Cheryl Morgan

(In no particular order.)

Science Fiction

Accelerando – Charles Stross

9Tail Fox – Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Living Next Door to the God of Love – Justina Robson

The World Before – Karen Traviss

Learning the World – Ken MacLeod

Olympos – Dan Simmons

Spin – Robert Charles Wilson

Lady of Mazes – Karl Schroeder

The Eternity Artifact – L.E. Modesitt

Venusia – Mark von Schlegell


Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman

Limits of Enchantment – Graham Joyce

Vellum – Hal Duncan

Snake Agent – Liz Williams

A Feast for Crows – George R.R. Martin

Lord Byron’s Novel – John Crowley

The Princess of Roumania – Paul Park

The Girl in the Glass – Jeffrey Ford

Spotted Lily – Anna Tambour

The Narrows – Alexander C. Irvine


20th Century Ghosts – Joe Hill

In the Palace of Repose – Holly Phillips

Looking for Jake – China Miéville

The Cuckoo’s Boys – Robert Reed

Strange Itineraries – Tim Powers

I Live With You – Carol Emshwiller

Attack of the Jazz Giants – Greg Frost


Yume No Hon : The Book of Dreams – Catherynne M. Valente

Cosmology of the Wider World – Jeffrey Ford

Burn – James Patrick Kelly

Fishin’ with Grandma Matchie – Steven Erikson


Soundings – Gary K. Wolfe

Fantasy Fiction

By Juliet E. McKenna

There’s always the same problem when I’m asked this kind of question. I’m one of those writers who cannot read fantasy for uncritical enjoyment while I’m actually working on a fantasy novel. So most of what I read is crime fiction and non-fiction related (sometimes very tangentially) to the book I’m currently writing. This is actually one reason that I took up reviewing; it’s a way to make sure I still read fantasy and it allows me to do so with the analytical mindset that goes with writing. Unfortunately it tends to mean that the quick and easy response to ‘what’s the best fantasy you’ve read this year?’ is ‘go and check my reviews.’ Beyond that, I read other fantasy I’m desperate to catch up with in the school holidays when having 10 and 12 year old sons round the house makes word-smithing nigh on impossible.

So what can I say? Firstly, I’ve been reading a fair amount of what can be loosely described as vampire/monster chick-lit, which I enjoy because it’s definitely not something I could ever attempt to write. At the risk of repeating what I’ve already said in reviews, I heartily recommend Tanya Huff and Kelley Armstrong’s writing to anyone keen on this kind of thing.

In other reading, I finally took Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell away on holiday last Easter and was hugely impressed by it. It’s original, intelligent, beguiling and chilling by turns. If you haven’t read it, do so. If you find yourself dealing with one of those people who insist that fantasy can’t be ‘real’ literature, make them read it.

Thinking about originality, I can also recommend Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw. This fabulous tale deals with a family of dragons arguing about inheritance; specifically, who gets to eat the dead body of their deceased father and thus who gets to benefit from the magical properties of dragon flesh. If that sounds a bit gory, don’t be put off. It isn’t. It’s a thoroughly satisfying, fast-paced tale of bravery, love, deceit and choices in the best heroic tradition, where the characters all happen to be dragons, and by that I don’t mean they’re just people with scales.

Short Fiction

By Anne KG Murphy

I have listed a selection of my favorite short fiction from the past year. You might notice that my tastes are angled toward science fiction rather than fantasy, though as I look at the list I find both are represented, just not evenly.


"A Few Good Men" – Richard A. Lovett (Jan/Feb Analog)

"Inside Job" – Connie Willis (Jan Asimov’s)


"Mars Opposition" – David Brin (Jan/Feb Analog)

"The 120 Hours of Sodom" – Jim Grimsley (Feb Asimov’s)

"The Edge of Nowhere" – James Patrick Kelly (June Asimov’s)

"The Summer of the Seven" – Paul Melko (Aug Asimov’s)

"Walpurgis Afternoon" – Delia Sherman (Dec F&SF)

Short Story

"Two Dreams on Trains" – Elizabeth Bear (Jan Strange Horizons)

"Helen Remembers the Stork Club" Esther M. Friesner (Oct/Nov F&SF)

"Last Breath" – Joe Hill (Subterranean #2)

"Intelligent Design" – Ellen Klages (Dec Strange Horizons)

"The God Engine" – Ted Kosmatka (Oct/Nov Asimov’s)

"Bottom Feeding" – Tim Pratt (Aug Asimov’s)

"The Ice Cream Man" – James Van Pelt (June Asimov’s)

I would also mention that Elizabeth Bear’s "Two Dreams on Trains" is included in a chapbook called 10-Dollar Saints that Bear put together to raise money for victims of Katrina. You can write to her at elizabeth.q.bear@gmail.com for details. The chapbook features New Orleans-focused stories by many authors including Tim Pratt and Pat Cadigan. Suggested donation is $20.00, and Strange Horizons has agreed to handle the money processing, making donations tax-deductible.

Horror Short Fiction

By Mario Guslandi

There are at least three short story collections in the field of dark fiction that really stand out in 2005.

Joe Hill’s outstanding debut collection of modern ghost stories (20th Century Ghosts, PS Publishing, UK) has taken the world of small press by storm, marking the appearance of a new, original author who has instantly bewitched reviewers, critics and fellow writers with his fascinating tales.

Another outstanding collection is Reggie Oliver’s The complete symphonies of Adolf Hitler (The Haunted River, UK) an excellent follow-up to the author’s first volume of short stories (The Dreams of Cardinal Vittorini). Written in a very elegant prose, the stories are remarkable for their ability to convey new strength to the genre standard themes.

Finally mention must be made of Gary Braunbeck’s superb second instalment in his Cedar Hill cycle (The Graveyard People Earthling Publications, USA), establishing once again this author as one of the major, current literary voices even beyond the limits of the horror genre.

By contrast, 2005 has not been a great year for original horror anthologies, even though there were several of them published, including by mass-market imprints. Two, however, deserve a specific mention: Darkness Rising 2005 (Prime Books, USA), edited by the British duo LH Maynard & MPN Sims, and Poe's Progeny (Gray Friar Press, UK), edited by Gary Fry.

Both are hefty volumes featuring a large number of original stories. As with any anthology not everything is top-notch, but both books include a fair number of excellent tales.

And one last minute edition. The Cemetery Dance anthology Taverns of the Dead, edited by Kealan Patrick Burke, has been promised since 2003. It has finally been published and my copy has just arrived. I've read so far about 2/3 of the book and I feel it should definitely be included among the best 2005 horror anthologies.

Dreams From the Sprockets Zone

By Peter Wong

Generally favoring films that aren’t Hollywood products translates to having limited exposure to feature-length science fiction and fantasy films. On the other hand, the best non-Hollywood films that do use fantastic themes display originality not possible under the typical Hollywood studio thumb. A case in point is Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman’s Mirrormask. McKean was given the option of making the film on a big budget but with studio "input" or doing it on a far smaller budget and complete creative control. The resulting small-budget film put a fantastic spin on the prototypical coming of age story thanks to McKean’s surreal art and creative use of CGI, the witty script, and some wonderful acting by Stephanie Leonidas and Gina McKee in the principal roles.

Jang Joon-hwan’s wonderfully crazed Save The Green Planet finally broke out of the festival circuit to do very limited theatrical runs. This South Korean gem’s "save Earth from destruction" plot sets the stage for a story which deliriously careens from punk rock to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Frequent brutality aside, Jang’s unique film is unlikely to be remade by Hollywood.

Serenity, on the other hand, is not a remake. Firefly creator Joss Whedon managed to make a film that thrilled dedicated fans without alienating viewers unfamiliar with his fictional universe. This science fiction adventure tale treasured individualism and realizing one’s destiny, but was mindful of the human cost of honoring that ethos.

Also worthy of note on the feature-film front were the lovable Wallace & Grommit: Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, Kung Fu Hustle (very antic martial arts comedy featuring a landlady who runs at Road Runner speeds and killers whose music literally slices things in two), Batman Begins (very good comic-book adaptation with ADD-edited fight scenes), the weirdly jaw-dropping Raiders of the Lost Ark — The Adaptation, and Pulse (less a Japanese ghost story than an unsettling meditation on alienation in the Internet age). Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Innocence lacked overt fantasy elements, yet its isolated girl’s school setting oozed weirdness.

Turning to short films, my favorite of 2005 was John Harden’s multiple award-winning short La Vie D’Un Chien. This film used La Jetee’s narrative approach to portray the problems resulting from a scientist’s discovery of a formula that can temporarily turn people into dogs. Particularly hilarious are the film’s ruminations on the social havoc resulting from use of the formula (e.g. what constitutes bestiality?). Interested readers can order copies of the film here.

Sex and the fantastic were major elements of The Big Empty, from executive producers George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh. Selma Blair (Hellboy) plays a woman whose emotional repression is manifested by her vagina’s ability to suck men into a limitless arctic wasteland inside her body. The hollowness of celebrity culture comes in for an especially sound drubbing. The film can be found in the first issue of the DVD magazine Wholphin, which is bound into issue #30 of The Believer. Wholphin’s official web site can be found here.

Finally, there’s Joel Trussell’s Flash animation music video War Photographer. Trussell and an international team of animators successfully turned Jason Forrest’s titular song into a magical battle of the bands between Viking and demon rockers. Toss in glaring anachronisms and two giant robots, and the result is wonderfully entertaining. The video can be found here.

"Exterminate!" is not a short dramatic presentation, but is a definite guilty pleasure. It’s the song of the Doctor Who nemeses, the Daleks, and it can be found here.

Convention Summer

By Kevin Standlee

Two important conventions usually associated with the USA were held elsewhere in 2005, and the "consolation prize" event was sufficiently low-key that it was almost overlooked, as the Westercon went to Calgary and the Worldcon to Glasgow, with Seattle holding the NASFiC.

Bridging the July 1-4 weekend (so it had Canada Day at the start and US Independence Day at the end), Westercon 58 ("Due North") rolled into Calgary, Alberta. 706 people attended, roughly twice the attendance of the area’s local general-interest SF convention, Con-Version, which held a "virus-con" during Westercon in lieu of their annual convention. Calgary proved to be a nice place to hold Westercon, although the convention was somewhat of a cultural shock to many of the local fans, whose experience of conventions outside of Calgary or not of the "Creation-type road show" ilk appeared limited. Due North’s four-plus day schedule (including a "sneak preview" on the evening before the official start of the convention) was crowded, as it also hosted the Canadian National Science Fiction Convention, including the Aurora Awards, and further hosted the Locus Awards. The favo(u)rable impression left by the event upon Editor Guest of Honor David Hartwell may have contributed to Calgary’s being selected to host the 2009 World Fantasy Convention. Westercon was financially successful, and besides refunding the memberships of its staff, volunteers, and program participants, plans to issue grants to a variety of fannish organizations, mostly in Canada.

A month later (and a month earlier than its traditional dates), the World Science Fiction Convention came to Glasgow for the second time. Interaction was a general success, with approximately the same attendance as the previous Glasgow Worldcon in 1995. It had a much improved facility in the rebuilt and expanded Scottish Exhibition and Convention Centre. Attendees showed their appreciation of having actual function space instead of partitioned exhibit halls by crowding into a highly successful program. The management team recruited conrunners from around the world (literally: as Events division manager, when I organized a conference call on technical services, I had to take into account time zones from Sydney to Scotland). The Clyde Auditorium (known to all, including the convention centre staff, as the "Armadillo" for its spiky design) was the elegant setting for the Hugo Awards and Masquerade, which — contrary to most fans’ expectations — started on time and ran as scheduled. The convention finished in the black and will be able to pass along a small amount to its successors, and everyone who worked on it can take pride in a job well done.

Finishing out the convention summer was CascadiaCon, the 2005 North American Science Fiction Convention held outside Seattle, Washington, across from Sea-Tac Airport. NASFiCs are a challenge under the best of circumstances. They take 90% of the effort of a Worldcon and even when well done get their organizers only about 10% of the egoboo as a well-done Worldcon. The Seattle committee worked hard to make their convention a success (as Fan Guest of Honor, I had nothing to complain about), but were hampered by a badly spread-out set of facilities. While NASFiC is supposed to be a North American convention for the benefit of fans who cannot afford the trip overseas, CascadiaCon felt more like a large regional, perhaps a successful Westercon. And a reasonable success it was. There continues to be talk among the Seattle-area conrunners about bidding for another Westercon, or possibly a Worldcon. Seattle last hosted a Worldcon in 1961, using one of the hotels that was part of the NASFiC site. (That hotel will be torn down shortly, victim of an airport expansion project.) Whether they will successfully bid for another Worldcon in the near future remains to be seen.

So ended a busy convention summer season. As an interested participant at a high level as either an organizer or Guest of Honor at all three of these events, I have a somewhat skewed view of them from the average attendee, which makes an unbiased assessment difficult. However, all three of them were successful in their own ways. I do, however, think that we’re seeing a decline in the number of people interested in what I call "general interest SF" as the number of what I think of as "specialist" events increases. Indeed, I found myself in Looking-Glass Land a few months after Westercon when a number of fans very seriously told me that events like Worldcon are the "specialist" events and it is the media-oriented shows that should be considered "general interest" because people are mainly interested in watching TV and movies — books are a minor interest of a small number of people. However, people have been predicting the Death of Fandom since before I was born, so I’m going to try and be an optimist and say that convention attendance continues to be steady, and that there continue to be new people coming into the community.

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Emerald City - copyright Cheryl Morgan - cheryl@emcit.com
Masthead Art copyright Steven Stahlberg (left) and Gerhard Hoeberth (right)
Additional artwork by Frank Wu & Sue Mason
Designed by Tony Geer
Copyright of individual articles remains with their authors
Editorial assistants: Anne K.G. Murphy & Kevin Standlee