BSFA Awards 2016 by Various (Books 2017, 3)

Interrupting my Alan Moore reading to check on the short-fiction nominees for the BSFA Awards, reprinted as ever in an A4 booklet.

Good stuff, of course, but maybe not as good as last year (though I realised that I hadn’t read all of last year’s). Let’s go through them one by one.

Warning: spoilers follow.

“The End of Hope Street,” by Malcolm Devlin

This is a strange story, set in the present day, about houses becoming “unliveable.” This phenomenon is completely unexplained, but it is disastrous, and can even be fatal. And it accepted fatalistically by the large, and largely undifferentiated, cast of characters.

“Liberty Bird,” by `Jayne Fenn

The favoured son of a noble clan races the family yacht. In spaaaaaace. But he has a shameful secret that should be neither in highly advanced future society. On the other hand, a highly advanced future society shouldn’t have a nobility. I guess societies can go back as well as forward.

“Taking Flight,” by Una McCormack

Another rich person mooches around with no real aim in life, this time in a society that has genetically engineered slaves.

“Presence,” by Helen Oyeyemi

This is the most disjointed, disconnected of the stories. A heterosexual married couple avoid communicating with each other because she’s convinced he’s about to leave her. Until they do, and it turns out instead that he wants to postpone their holiday so they can try out some sort of therapy for grieving people that he has developed. They do, and things get strange. There’s potential here, but all the initial setup about them not communicating is just ignored after they get to the point, so it could have mostly been left out. It really feels like it wants to be two or more different stories.

“The Apologists,” by Tade Thompson

A super-advanced alien race have accidentally killed all by five people of the human race. The five are put to work helping the aliens reconstruct a simulacrum of Earth, while a daily apology is blasted at them out of a sound system (hence the title). They seem surprisingly untraumatised by this situation.

“The Arrival of Missives” (Extract), by Aliya Whiteley

Not sure why this is an extract. Probably the original work is too long to fit in the booklet. A during the First World War a sixteen-year-old girl is in love with her teacher. She decides she had to let him know. The extract ends just when something out of the ordinary is revealed.

Thoughts and Conclusions

Well, I haven’t made them sound very good, have I? I did actually enjoy reading them all, but reduced to capsule summaries, they aren’t going to win any awards. Oh, wait…

I’ve no idea which one I’ll vote for.

BSFA Awards 2016 by Various (Books 2017, 3)

The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost (Books 2017, 1)

In case it’s not obvious, the reading year starts and ends on Christmas Day. This was a Christmas present, and is also preparation for the new Twin Peaks series, which is due to air sometime this year (though what we’ll have to do to see it in the UK is an open question, and one which I’ll discuss at another time).

Mark Frost was, of course, half of the team that created the original series. This book is presented as a mysterious dossier which has been given to an FBI agent to analyse. It consists of a series of extracts from government and newspaper reports, and comments by someone who signs themselves “The Archivist.” These are further annotated by the FBI agent.

The subject matter is mysteries: the many UFO reports, going back to Roswell and before; the mysterious goings on around Twin Peaks itself; stories of the Illuminati and the masons, and so on. Some of the quoted reports are, I assume, real. Many are part of the Twin Peaks universe. As a whole the work is entertaining if you like that sort of thing — which I very much do — if a little unsatisfying. Though it has certainly whetted my appetite for the new series.

The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost (Books 2017, 1)