The Man Who Bridged the Mist

The Man Who Bridged the Mist - by Kij Johnson
The Man Who Bridged the Mist - by Kij Johnson

One of the stories that was nominated for, and won, the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novella was Kij Johnson’s “The Man Who Bridged the Mist.” It’s a simply incredible story, full of everything that makes me a science fiction fan, and destined, I think, to be an enduring classic.

In the story, there is a continent-spanning Empire, with a problem. One major river system in the center of the continent provides the opportunity for a mysterious poisonous mist full of potentially deadly mist “fish” to flow downhill to the ocean atop the system’s rivers and streams. This major river divides the Empire in half, and is forded only by those brave enough to ferry boats across the mist. Until Kit Meinem of Atyar comes to town to build a suspension bridge across the mist.

The story’s about Kit, the people he inspires in order to build his suspension bridge, the brave ferry folk who ferry supplies/people across the mist river even though the bridge will destroy their livelihood, and bridge-building. It’s got engineering, romance, danger, tragedy, adventure and a sense of wonder — all packed into about 40 pages.

Currently, the story, which was published by Asimov’s Magazine, is available on the web for free in PDF form, so hurry up and check out the story while it’s still available. There are several ways for you to get hold of the story. You can buy the October/November 2011 issue of Asimov’s Magazine in which the story was first published. You may purchase it from Amazon in electronic or paperback form. It has also been published in several of the 2012 Best of anthologies. The story may only be about 40 pages long, but it’s well worth your time.

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My 2012 Hugo Vote: Novel

Hugo-nominated novels for 2012

We’re up to my vote the Hugo award for best novel now.

There’s A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, the fifth book in his A Song of Fire and Ice series (and the basis for the HBO series, A Game of Thrones). Martin is a great writer, and I enjoyed the novel, but it suffers seriously from middle-book syndrome. The War of the Five Kings is winding down, revealing the long-buried plots for a more dangerous and all-consuming war. If anything, this book widens the scope of the series even further. If Martin wants a Hugo for this series, I’ll be happy to give it to him if he manages to bring it to a successful close. But this isn’t that book.

Then there’s Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, a pseudonym for the writing pair of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank. It’s set in the asteroid belt during the run-up to a potential war within the solar system, and also features a major find of alien origin. It’s an excellent story and I enjoyed it a lot. I’m not quite sure that it was ground-breaking enough to be a Hugo winner though.

Embassytown by China Mieville was an interesting, but strange, book about humans, their interactions with aliens and language. I enjoyed it but never quite though of it as a Hugo winner.

Deadline by Mira Grant, a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire, was a true stand-out for me. It’s the second book in her Newsflesh trilogy; the first book, Feed, was nominated for a Hugo last year. In the book, the zombie apocalypse happened some two decades ago. Humanity survived but has had to learn to live with the fear of the zombie plague. It incorporates some excellent world-building, a consistent scientific basis for the plague, action, conspiracies and oddball characters. I loved it.

Finally, there’s Among Others, by Jo Walton, a book that mixes magic, tragedy and the discovery of science fiction into a coming of age story for a teen-age girl. It’s an odd, powerful and uplifting book that resonates strongly, although it’s probably less accessible to those with only a limited knowledge of the science fiction genre (however, those aren’t usually the people who vote for Hugos).

I’m giving my vote to Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire) for Deadline, because I think it’s pretty ground-breaking for someone to do what she’s done…to bring a true nuts-and-bolts, hard-SF sensibility to the old-fashioned zombie tale. However, I’ll also give a special mention to Jo Walton’s Among Others, which was also pretty extraordinary. I’d be pleased if either one of these novels won the Hugo award.

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My 2012 Hugo Vote: Novella

Novellas are one of my favorite forms. They’re longer than novelettes, but shorter than novels. Novellas are long enough to develop the kind of complex stories that I really like, but lean enough that they typically focus on only one main plot line.

Of this year’s nominees, “Silently and Very Fast” by Catherynne M. Valente was my least favorite. It’s jumpy, full of brilliant imagery and almost poetic in places, but it simply wasn’t my type of story at all.

“The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman was an excellent coming of age story about a young girl realizing both the limitations and importance of her family as she inadvertantly stumbles across the lingering ripple effects of a long-ago genocide. It was powerful, evocative and captured the sweep and flow of history excellently. I really liked it, and look forward to discovering more stories by this author in the future.

“Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal was a futuristic police procedural about a crime that targets the police force’s critically important AI. I liked it quite a bit, but never quite thought that it had what it took to be the winner. Interestingly, I found myself wanting to read more stories about those same characters (hint, hint).

“The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson was a simply incredible story, full of everything that makes me a science fiction fan. In the Empire, there is a mysterious poisonous mist full of potentially deadly mist “fish” that flows downhill to the ocean, usually in channels on top of rivers and streams. A major river divides the Empire in half, forded only by those brave enough to ferry boats across the mist. Until Kit Meinem of Atyar comes to town to build a suspension bridge across the mist. Utterly brilliant. Once I read it, it was impossible for me to conceive of anybody else winning this award.

I really liked “Countdown” by Mira Grant, which is a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire. It was an excellent story about the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse, and is linked to her excellent Newsflesh trilogy (of which two novels, Feed and Deadline have also been nominated for Hugos). It captured the pathos and tragedy behind the zombie plague, filled in some nice back-story for the Newsflesh trilogy, and was entertaining all on its own. I really liked it, but it wasn’t going to get my vote because Kij Johnson’s story was so awe-inspiring.

Finally, Ken Liu’s story, “The Man Who Ended History,” was a powerful story about Japanese genocide during World War II and time travel, all cast in the form of a script for a documentary. Brilliant, powerful, and disturbing in places. Well worth reading, but not the winner, in my opinion.

After reading all of the novellas, my 2012 Hugo vote clearly went to Kij Johnson, for “The Man Who Bridged the Mist.” A new science fiction classic.

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Hugo 2012 Voting Closed

The image below says it all. The voting for the 2012 Hugo awards closed last night at 2:59:59 AM EST. I got my vote in with just a little over an hour to spare. I’ll be blogging shortly about some more of my individual votes, including Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Graphic Novel and others.

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My 2012 Hugo Vote: Semiprozine

I’ve had a chance to peruse the five periodicals that have been nominated for the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award. First, what’s a semiprozine?

A “semiprozine” is defined for the Hugo Award as a magazine that meets at least two of five criteria: 1) that the magazine had an average press run of at least one thousand copies per issue, 2) that it paid its contributors and/or staff in other than copies of the publication, 3) that it provided at least half the income of any one person, 4) that it had at least fifteen percent of its total space occupied by advertising, and 5) that it announced itself to be a semiprozine. Additionally, it had to have produced at least four issues, with at least one issue published during the previous year.

The nominees are:

  • Apex Magazine edited by Catherynne M. Valente, Lynne M. Thomas, and Jason Sizemore
  • Interzone edited by Andy Cox
  • Lightspeed edited by John Joseph Adams
  • Locus edited by Liza Groen Trombi, Kirsten Gong-Wong, et al.
  • New York Review of Science Fiction edited by David G. Hartwell, Kevin J. Maroney, Kris Dikeman, and Avram Grumer

I’ve been reading Locus for years (since I discovered it in college, in fact). It’s a great magazine about the science fiction and fantasy fields, and a 29-time winner of the award. I like it better than the New York Review of Science Fiction, which I had never read before but which was certainly a surprisingly strong publication.

Lightspeed was an entertaining publication, but not quite up to the standards of Apex Magazine or Interzone, both of which were very strong with regard to fiction. Ultimately, I’m giving my vote to Interzone for its excellent fiction, superb professionalism and ancillary elements such as book reviews and DVD reviews.

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My 2012 Hugo Vote: Best Novelette

Next up, with the voting deadline looming, is my vote for the Best Novelette. The five nominated stories were:

  • “The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell
  • “Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky
  • “Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen
  • “Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders
  • “What We Found” by Geoff Ryman

“The Copenhagen Interpretation” postulates a high-tech future based upon Newtonian physics, in which the Theory of Relativity was never discovered. It’s interesting and pulls on the “lost love” heart strings very nicely, but centers around a protagonist that I didn’t like very much and had a downbeat ending. I’d like to see more work by the author, Paul Cornell, but the story isn’t getting my vote.

Rachel Swirsky’s “Fields of Gold” is a bittersweet story about the after-life, in which it turns out that the dead are very social, attend lots of parties and, sometimes, have the opportunity to confront their own killers and make personal changes in their “lives.”

Brad Torgerson’s “Ray of Light” postulates a future in which aliens, for unknown reasons, have caused a terrible Ice Age by blocking most of the sunlight that would normally have hit the Earth. As a result, a new generation has been born that lives under the sea near thermal vents and has never seen the light of the sun. The story has some emotional resonance, but the alien factor seems like a distraction…better to have had a natural cause for the Ice Age.

What would happen if two clairvoyants dated? Particularly if their powers differed slightly, e.g. – one can see a range of futures and the choices that would cause them to occur, and the other sees only one future because his power to see also reduces the choices available. This is the premise of Charlie Jane Ander’s “Six Months, Three Days.” It’s amusing, and sweet but, while I certainly enjoyed it, it didn’t resonate with me in the way that I expect of a Hugo winner.

Geoff Ryman’s “What We Found” is story about a family of brothers growing up in Nigeria, and a discovery that spells the end of science as we know it. Another interesting story, with an ending that really leaves you thinking about the ramifications.

So, five stories, all worthy, but none of them a stunning classic. I’m giving my vote to “Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky. I liked her vision of the after-life, the interplay between now-deceased family members, the confrontation between the protagonist and the wife that killed him, as well as the theme of lost love and childhood regained.

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My 2012 Hugo Vote: Best Short Story

The Hugo Awards are given by the World Science Fiction Society to commemorate the best science fiction and fantasy published during any given year. I’m eligible to vote this year, and I’ve had a chance to read all of the entries for Best Short Story. The nominated works are:

  • “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld, April 2011)
  • “The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s, April/May 2011)
  • “Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s, March 2011)
  • “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2011)
  • “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (

All of the stories were quite interesting. My favorite title was certainly Scalzi’s story: “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue,” which appears to be, quite literally, the prologue to the first book in a planned fantasy trilogy. The story itself I found amusing, but not quite something to which I’d give an award. On the other hand, I’ll buy his new book when it comes out, so it’s not a total loss for John Scalzi. He gets the $9.99 alternate prize.

The story, “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” was my least favorite story. It was sort of a parable, using empire-building wasps and enslaved bees to provide perspectives on various issues. I enjoyed it, but it just wasn’t my kind of story.

Three stories really resonated with me. Nancy Fulda’s story, “Movement,” provided a sweet and touching perspective of an autistic child’s mind. Resnick’s “The Homecoming” brought together an aging father, an estranged son and a mother deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s. It hit close to home for me, because a few years ago my own father suffered similar effects when a heart arrhythmia left him severely brain-damaged. Finally, Ken Liu’s story, “The Paper Menagerie,” was a peculiar and effective fantasy and coming-of-age story about a son, his parents and his Chinese heritage.

I’ll give my vote to “The Paper Menagerie.” I really liked the ending, and I can’t keep the images of happily cavorting, magically animated origami animals out of my head.

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My 2012 Hugo Vote: Best Professional Artist

I’ve examined the 4 representative artwork samples provided for each of the 5 artists that are up for the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Professional artist. First, all of the artists are deserving, but this decision, more so than many of the other categories, is, of necessity, very subjective. Other people’s tastes may differ substantially from mine. Personally, I’m drawn towards artists that are detailed and almost photo-realistic, which is why, in the past, some of my favorite artists have been Michael Whelan and the late Keith Parkinson. For me, this means that the more stylized artists are at something of a disadvantage when it comes to securing my vote (sorry, but that’s the way it is).

Bob Eggleton is a great artist, and a past winner of this award, but his artwork this year didn’t resonate for me. Not to worry, I’m sure he’ll be in the running again. He’s won 8 times out of 23 nominations.

I really liked Stephan Martiniere, whose art ranged from the realistic to a streamlined metallic feel reminiscent of John Berkey. He’s my runner-up. I’d definitely like to see more art from him. Stephan won previously in 2008.

Dan Dos Santos is a great artist — he’s the guy behind those superb covers for the Mercedes Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. He’s clearly good enough to win, but if I’m judging him on the provided samples, then I don’t think they showcased him at his best.

So far, John Picacio has been a perennial nominee — this is John’s 7th nomination without a win. His representative samples just didn’t do it for me this year. I hope he wins in the future, though, because I think he’s an excellent artist.

That leaves Michael Kormack, who is obviously my choice for this year’s Best Professional Artist based on the provided samples. His work is detailed, striking, and vibrant. His artwork makes you feel like you’re right there in the center of the action. Congrats, Mike, you’re getting my vote in 2012.

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Hugo Voting Packet

I’m attending the 70th World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago at the end of August. Members of the convention are eligible to vote for the Hugo Awards, which is sort of like the Oscars for science fiction and fantasy literature. I’ve attended several world cons before:

  • 56th World Con – 1998 in Baltimore, Maryland
  • 59th World Con – 2001 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • 63rd World Con – 2005 in Glasgow, Scotland
  • 64th World Con – 2006 in Anaheim, California
  • 66th World Con – 2008 in Denver, Colorado

So, this is my 6th world con. But I’ve never voted for the Hugos before. Despite being a major science fiction fan, I’ve never felt I was current enough to vote. I don’t buy many hardcovers, and the novels that are up for the Best Novel Hugo are invariably available only in hardcover. For the shorter fiction, most of the stories have appeared in magazines that I haven’t read or anthologies that I don’t own.

This year, though, I bought my membership well in advance. One of the things that the convention has made available through its web site is the Hugo Voting Packet. Which is amazing.

It’s like Christmas, only in May.

The packet contains, in electronic form, every item (except for the long and short form media items, i.e – the TV episodes and movies) that is up for an award. This includes copies of all of the Best Novel Hugo nominees, even the best-selling A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin, the graphic novels, cover art for the Best Artist award, the novellas, the novelettes, the short stories, an album that’s up for the Best Related Work award, etc.

I don’t know if voting packets have ever been provided like this before. For all of the other world cons, I bought my membership either mere weeks before the convention or at the convention itself. If there was any sort of voting packet before, well, I certainly never knew about it.

This is my challenge, then. I will vote for the Hugo awards this year. And to be informed, I will read as much of the Hugo Voting Packet as I can in the remaining three months before the event. Eight novels, dozens of shorter stories, 5 graphic novels or series (one of them topping out at a mind-boggling 829 pages), one album, a podcast series, a web site, three non-fiction works, fanzines, artwork, etc.

In my spare time.

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