Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: J.M. Frey's Triptych Deserves an Aurora Nomination

J.M. Frey's first novel, Triptych, reminds me of the stories of Walter Tevis. Tevis, the author of The Man Who Fell to Earth and Mockingbird, did not write hard sci-fi, with its intricate technology and scientific theories. He came from the school of science fiction that examined the social sciences and societal and cultural issues. Among those writers, he was a master in depicting human relationships, personal drama, and loneliness and other emotions. Triptych reminds me of a Walter Tevis novel in style and theme. But despite the similarities, J.M. Frey is not imitating Tevis. She has a distinct style of her own.

In short, Triptych is about Kalp, one of many aliens who have arrived on Earth after their home planet has died. The government assigns several humans, including Gwen and Basil, to assist the aliens to integrate into life on Earth. One thing leads to another, and Kalp, Gwen, and Basil form a threesome where Kalp is husband to both Gwen and Basil, Basil is husband to both Kalp and Gwen, and Gwen is wife to both Kalp and Basil. You get the idea.

But not everyone is at peace with this type of future. Someone goes back in time to kill young Gwen, and someone is out to get Kalp.

I enjoyed Triptych's development of the relationships. Kalp, Gwen, and Basil are hardly the ideal lovers from a category romance, but they're not the usual dysfunctional couple/threesome that many writers use when they want to appear profound.

J.M. Frey divides the book into sections told from each of the main character's viewpoints. The characters are all well-developed and have distinct personalities and voices. Kalp's memories of his old world and its destruction are especially haunting.

And kudos to J.M. Frey for not portraying the main characters' enemies as easy straw dogs, for example, the Christians, Republicans, white Alabamans, and other stock characters that usually exist only in "fundamentalist" flavour in science fiction. It has become de rigeur in Canadian science fiction to stereotype and demonize so-called fundies and conservatives, but Triptych doesn't follow the trend. Frey, thankfully, wrote a novel about real people.

By the way, Aurora Award nominations for 2012 are open until March 31 (see Let's encourage the small presses like Dragon Moon to publish more books like Triptych. Get Triptych, read it, and if you like it, nominate it for Best Novel - English.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Constellation Awards 2012: What I'll Nominate

It's time to nominate science fiction and fantasy movies and TV series for the Constellation Awards, Canada's awards for excellence in science fiction film and television ( ). Here are the movies, TV series, and artists whom I will be nominating. 2011 was another year of overhyped blockbuster movies like Green Lantern, Thor, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, or Captain  America, but I'll nominate the underrated and understated works. While they didn't have massive explosions or giant robots, they did have well-written stories about people and great performances by their actors.

In particular, the CBC TV series Being Erica had a splendid season, and though it's overlooked by hard-core, convention-going science fiction fans, I think it deserves several nominations this year.

You too can nominate your favourite science fiction and fantasy films and television series for the Constellation Awards. Visit the website above and nominate them.

Television Categories:

1. Best Male Performance in a 2011 Science Fiction Television Episode:

Michael Riley in Being Erica "Sins of the Father"

In "Sins of the Father", Doctor Tom, so used to giving advice to others, realizes that he needs therapist to fix his life of broken relationships. Michael Riley gives his best performance of the series.

2. Best Female Performance in a 2011 Science Fiction Television Episode:

Erin Karpluk in Being Erica "Dr. Erica"

Erin Karpluk has to tie up all the loose threads of Erica Strange's life in this episode, and she does it so well.

3. Best Science Fiction Television Series of 2011:

Being Erica

Season four was full of drama, humour, and romance. The three previous seasons have been building towards it. What could be better?

Film/ TV Movie / Mini-Series Categories:

4. Best Male Performance in a 2011 Science Fiction Film, TV Movie, or Mini-Series:

Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code

This is an intellectual thriller that deserved to do better at the box office. Jake Gyllenhaal is superb as an Air Force officer who gets sent back in time repeatedly to the same train bombing.

5. Best Female Performance in a 2011 Science Fiction Film, TV Movie or Mini-Series:

Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia

Kirsten Dunst's character both neurotically ruins her own wedding and calmly prepares for the end of the world without any change in her personality. She won the Best Actress Award at Cannes for this one.

6. Best Science Fiction Film, TV Movie or Mini-Series of 2011:

Another Earth

 This is an art house movie about the discovery of a twin Earth, where there is a duplicate of everyone on our planet. Quiet and thought-provoking.

Other Categories:

7. Best Technical Accomplishment in a 2011 Science Fiction Film or Television Production:

Douglas Trumbull for special effects in The Tree of Life

In The Tree of Life, he created the universe, matter, energy, the planets, life, evolution, and dinosaurs, and that darn meteorite, all in twenty minutes.

8. Best Overall 2011 Science Fiction Film or Television Script:

Being Erica episode "Dr. Erica"

This is the end of season four, and it's a remarkable episode, showing how Erica and her friends and family have made dramatic changes in their lives. In four years, Erica Strange has gone from neurotic, single therapy patient to a confident book publisher with a steady boyfriend. But that's not the end of her story, as "Dr. Erica" sets her up for a new stage in her life.

9. Outstanding Canadian Contribution to Science Fiction Film or Television in 2011:

Being Erica (TV series)

Being Erica is an underrated fantasy series. True, it's not about interstellar wars or superheroes saving the world. But it is about people creating relationships and coping with them and daily struggles with a much-needed sense of humour. Best of all, it's about book editors and writers in Toronto, so it's a science fiction or fantasy TV series that I can relate to.