The Hugo Awards

Congratulations to everyone I know and like who got a Hugo!

And congratulations to everyone whom I don’t know personally, but still like, who got a Hugo!

Looking over the results, I don’t think there’s anybody whom I know well enough to dislike who did get a Hugo (unlike some years past), so that’s good, too.

It’s nice to see that science fiction’s signature award is still doing well.

The Play’s the Thing…

…wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

Shakespeare in the Park is doing Julius Caesar this summer, not Hamlet, but the reference is an apt one nonetheless.

Somebody’s conscience (or self-love, or something) has definitely been caught by this year’s modern-dress, Trump-inflected production of Julius Caesar, and they’ve unleashed the flying monkeys roused far-right protesters to disrupt the performance.

Shakespeare himself would have no doubt at all about what’s going on here.  The twin questions of what makes a good ruler, and what can or should be done when the realm is suffering under a bad or unjust ruler, run like a streak of red through all his plays, from early ones like Richard III to later ones like Hamlet and The Tempest.  He never comes up with any definitive answers – he was a playwright, not a political philosopher – but he certainly gives the matter a thorough inspection from all sides.

Make no mistake, what he was doing was Serious Business.  The Elizabethan censors didn’t worry about bawdry†; they worried about sedition.  Fretting too obviously about, for example, whether or not it could ever be a good and necessary thing to overthrow a reigning monarch could definitely be regarded as seditious if there wasn’t a convincing enough veil of “this all happened a long time ago, or in foreign parts, or both” thrown over things.

Art mattered.  Shakespeare knew it.  The lords and the groundlings at the Globe Theatre knew it.  The Elizabethan censors knew it.

Furthermore, art still matters.  The people who put on Shakespeare in the Park know it.  The audience knows it.  And the alt-right protesters and those who egg them on sure as hell know it, or this production wouldn’t worry them so.


The general rule for reading Shakespeare, as articulated by Elizabeth Bear: “If it looks like a dick joke, it’s a dick joke. If it doesn’t look like a dick joke – it’s probably a dick joke.”

My Co-Author is Having Fun Again

The current political circus (although if it’s a circus, it’s rapidly turning into an old-style Roman one) has inspired him to take up the partisan cudgels on behalf of . . . the Whigs.  No, not the Modern Whig party, and not the historical British Whig party, either. He’s cheering for the old-style American Whig party of the mid-nineteenth century, some of whose positions became more popular in retrospect than they were at the time, such as favoring Emancipation and opposing Indian Removal.

To that end, he has unearthed from the depths of the internet The National Clay Minstrel, and Frelinghuysen Melodist, for the Presidential Canvass of 1844. Being a collection of all the new popular Whig songs, and is amusing himself with providing annotations.

(Did you know that the symbolic animal for the Whigs was . . . the raccoon?  I didn’t, until just now.)

Where We’ll be Tomorrow

Jim Macdonald and I will be on a road trip down to Peterborough, NH, where we’ll be part of the group book-signing for the Conspiracy! anthology at the Toadstool Bookshop.

Our audiobook for the drive down and back is The Count of Monte Cristo.  Nineteenth-century doorstop novels make great road books, especially if you stick to the blood-and-thunder end of the spectrum.  We’ve already gone through Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone and The Woman in White, both of which I can heartily recommend – among other things, Collins has a lot fewer female characters whom I want to slap silly than, say, Dickens does.  I don’t think we’ll be trying anything by Hardy, or by Henry James, though; the blind malice of the universe and the delicate delineation of interior states aren’t exactly the best antidotes for highway hypnosis.

(Or maybe for some people they are.  Everybody’s reaction to a work of literature is different, and is their own.)

Next up, after we’re done with Edmond Dantès and the gang, will be a handful of Welcome to Night Vale podcasts.  After that . . . who knows?  Maybe The Three Musketeers.

For Your Amusement and Edification

A handful of links – some older, some brand-new – from around the web:

Slate has put up an interactive, annotated on-line version of Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener”, for those of you who might want to read it.  (My own attitude toward “Bartleby” is colored by the fact that I once had to teach it in a freshman English lit class, and the typical response to that story from the inevitable classroom wit is exactly what you think it would be.)

A cabinetmaker and scholar of historical furniture reports on a letter to the future found sealed away inside an 18th-century inlaid cabinet by the journeyman cabinetmaker who built the piece.

While I was trawling for other reasons through the  archives of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I found this post wherein all the Nebula-winning novels from 1965 through 2004 are summarized in haiku.

And, finally, there’s Jim Macdonald having fun again over at his blog.