What I’m Reading: Nemesis Games

Number five in the space opera series by James S.A. Not Actually A Real Person Corey. I for one feel it is important that more of us fictional people put ourselves out there.

This one seems to be taking a different tack with the crew of Rociante off on their own personal adventures around our solar system.

A review when I’ve finished.


Snowpiercer: Review

“That’s what people in the best place say to people in the worst place.”

To combat global warming, humanity added a substance to the atmosphere to induce cooling. Unfortunately the cooling effects run out of control and the Earth is trapped in a perpetual, life-killing cold. The few survivors live on a train and the train is ordered in an oppressive class system by position – the poorest and most wretched at the back.

This is a story rich in parable, with a view of class, social-darwinism and privilege amongst scarcity that is overt. It is a grim tale with at least one nod to Ursula Le Guin’s fable The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.

The structure of the story is a revolt led by the impoverished inhabitants of the last carriage and led by Curtis (Chris Evans), a man who joined the train as a teenager. In charge of the final carriage is Gilliam (John Hurt) who is attempting to push Curtis into being his successor. For much of the first half of the film the central relationship is that between Curtis and his friend Edgar – a younger man.

The society of the train is centered around a personality cult of Wilford who guides the train from the engine at the front. Order is enforced by armed guards and the by spectacularly unpleasant Mason (Tilda Swinton) who talks to inhabitants of the last carriage like she is the head teacher of a particularly naughty school somewhere in the North of England.

As events lead Curtis into open revolt the film takes us through carriage by carriage. The small army dwindles to a few companions which include Tanya (Octavia Spencer) a mother looking for her son who has been kidnapped apparently on Wilford’s orders. With them are Namgoong Minsu (Korean actor Kang-ho Song) an apparently drug addicted ‘security expert’ who knows how to open the train’s many doors and who has his own agenda. With him is his daughter Yona (Ah-sung Ko) who appears to be clairvoyant.

The journey through the trains takes surreal and violent turns and sometimes both – a bloody battle that pauses for a brief New Year celebration. The final segment of the story has some dark and disturbing twists as Curtis reveals more of his past and why he cares so deeply for Edgar.

The film was directed by Korean director Joon-ho Bong who is most famous in the west for his monster film The Host – which also featured Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko. He manages the balance of violence and images well and the film has a claustrophobic air that does not relent till the very end.

Are the Hugos getting more clique ridden – follow up 1

This is a follow up to my previous look at whether the Hugos are more clique ridden by trying to use data on nominees with multiple nominations. Does that make sense? If not read the last episode or take a deep breath as it gets worse from here. Note these posts are all ‘thinking out loud’ – comments and critiques are more than welcome. Some useful comments from Yellowcake and Influxus from the last post on this topic will feed into the next follow up.

A counter argument I was considering was that while the multiple nomination issue didn’t seem to be getting worse according to my analysis, PERHAPS I was ignoring a key issue. Sure some people (e.g. Heinlein) got a lot of nominations but this was over a long career. The problem is people like [insert hate figure] who is a relative new comer but has already racked up X nominations.stdevbymean

Hmm. How to test that? Well here is my plan. Get the same data I used before – number of nominations, average (mean) year of nomination but now add the standard deviation of the year of nomination! Nominees with long careers will have

a bigger standard deviation. Nominees with shorter careers will be nominated over a shorter time period and hence a small standard deviatio

n. Standard deviation in this case is also measured in years.

But…lots of people have only 1 or 2 nominations. Consequently the data will be swam

ped by the people with few nominations. Solution! Filter out the people with less than 3 nominations. Now I’m accounting for all three aspects, time period, nomination period, 3 or more nominations.

Computer! Compute!

Does winning a Hugo make you age?

Or looking for the existence of Time Lord, Elves and other entities in the Hugo Award winners (spoiler: there aren’t any)

Four claims have been made about how the Hugo awards have supposedly changed in recent years.

  • They have become more leftwing.
  • They have become more literary.
  • They have become more cliquish.
  • They have become less relevant (because of the above).

In the On Petunias and Whales series of posts, I looked at the first claim and found only weak evidence of a statistical bias in recent years. As this claim is also a claim about historical trends it would be good to examine it over a long period of years. Unfortunately any hope of decent data is unlikely – the past really is another country when it comes to politics, views and stances on issues and even the issues themselves are different. The best we could hope for is either self-identification data which will be highly misleading or modern perceptions.

The literary dimensions is an interesting one and I have an idea for a metric that will measure something unusual in that regard…but I’m not ready to reveal that yet.

Relevance? There is almost certainly a whole heap of things going on there, as the traditional book publishing industry adjusts to not only a revolution in how books are made, bought and sold but also adjusts to a world in which multiple forms of entertainment are growing quickly and competing for time, head space and cultural relevance.

The relevance argument is two-fold: firstly that the Hugo awards have supposedly alienated people because of points 1,2, & 3 and secondly that the Hugos aren’t relevant to a world of video-games, web-surfing, social-media, effect-laden SF/F movies and new kinds of TV shows available in new forms of delivery. The second point is an interesting one but which I’ll leave aside for the moment. The first is clearly true of the Puppy supporters (they clearly do feel genuinely alienated from the awards) but is not well supported by evidence for people in general.

But, I’ll put ‘relevance’ aside for the moment also.

Cliquish? Now that is interesting. I don’t have answers for that but I’ve got a starting point.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have compiled a spreadsheet of nominees for the best novel category of the Hugo awards. The data was taken from the Wikipedia page on the category which was sourced from this Hugo page.

I added to this data the year of Birth for each nominee. For dual nominees (e.g. Niven and Pournelle) I included a line for each. For composite people (i.e. two people writing as a single invented person with one name) I just picked the age of the first person I found. Generally the year of birth data was taken from the associated Wikipedia page.

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