Music for the soul: Witness

Witness is one of my favourite films. For me, it’s a perfect little gem. It also showcases just how great an actor Harrison Ford is. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role as John Book. So deserved. After that he delivered an even more extraordinary performance in Mosquito Coast. And then, I don’t know what happened. Maybe he decided he’d rather star in the big bucks blockbusters than the performance perfect films that didn’t reach such a wide audience. But if you’ve not seen either of those films, I think you must. He really is terrific.

Probably the most iconic (or second most iconic!) scene in Witness is the barn building sequence. When you watch it (again) pay special attention to Ford. He is a professional carpenter as well as an actor, and you can tell from the way he handles the hammer and stuff. You can’t fake genuine expertise.

The music for Witness was composed by Maurice Jarre, and he used a synthesiser to create the sharply modern soundscape as a contrast to the out of time Amish community. The barn raising sequence music is pretty famous, and with good reason. Following the template of Pachelbel’s Canon, it builds and builds to its crescendo. Wonderful.

What I didn’t realise for a long time, until I stumbled across a movie soundtrack cd of Ford’s movies, is there is an orchestral arrangement of the barn building theme. It is one of my absolute favourite pieces of music, soundtrack or otherwise. So achingly beautiful. Only John William’s music touches me as profoundly.

Have a listen and tell me if you feel the same way.

The David Gemmell fantasy fiction awards

So, it seems The Falcon Throne has been nominated for a David Gemmell award. This award was started in honour of the late and truly wonderful David Gemmell, beloved creator of Druss the Legend. He was possibly the most humble, the most gracious, the most hilarious man I’ve ever met. I had the unforgettable pleasure of hosting him for a convention, back when I had my bookshop, and I’ve never forgotten him. I was dying of bronchitis that weekend, and it didn’t matter. He made me laugh so hard in his speech I nearly died anyway! And watching him with the fans, he was a master class in how to be wonderful.

Anyhow, I have no idea how I got onto the nominees’ list, but I’m beyond chuffed and pretty excited to see such a wonderful parade of great fantasy fiction. It speaks so well of the depth and breadth and health of our great genre. Whether you vote or not, that’s not my business. But I’d urge you to check out the list and grab a few books that you haven’t read …

You’ll find it here.

Winners at Swancon

It’s my utter delight and pleasure to share the news that my friend and fellow fantasy author Glenda Larke has won both the Ditmar and the Tin Duck awards at this year’s national science fiction convention, held in Perth over the Easter weekend. Congrats also to Donna Hanson, whose efforts on behalf of our genre in Australia are tireless; she was awarded the Bertram Chandler award. And finally, a big woot to Trudi Canavan, who was the Ditmar co-winner with Glenda.

Some photos and stuff here, at Glenda’s blog.

Hugo time

Well, it’s that time of the year again: the Hugo short-listed works have been announced.

For those who aren’t familiar with them, the Hugos are awards for fiction, non-fiction and visual storytelling in the spec fic genre,  voted on by members and supporting members of each year’s World Science Fiction convention. Those same members and supporting members are responsible for nominating their favourite work of the year, and it’s from those nominations that the various short-lists are compiled. Because of the supporting membership option, it means the Hugos can be truly representative of what works fandom at large – world-wide – wishes to honour: while comparatively few fans can make the trip to the actual convention, every single fan of science fiction and fantasy can be involved in the Hugo voting process.

Participation in the process is entirely voluntary. All you need to do is pay the supporting member fee and your voice will be heard, your personal preferences taken into account. This means that the Hugos are, potentially, the most egalitarian award on offer in the genre. Bottom line? There is no one ‘right’ way to be a fan, no one ‘right’ kind of book or film or tv show to vote for. This is about individual fans voting for the work that speaks to them most profoundly.

The last couple of years there has been a lot of nastiness swirling around the Hugos. It’s nasty this year too. I find that very disappointing. I am deeply offended by the notion that it’s not the work that matters, but the politics of the author who wrote it. Or their race, or skin colour, or sexuality, or gender. For my money, none of those criteria is relevant to the awards process. Do I want a wide variety of people represented on the nominee ballots? Speaking as a woman, you’d better believe it. But do I want good work ignored – or worse, actively discriminated against – because of various – and sometimes competing – political and social agendas? Absolutely I do not. And I really don’t want to see great writers punished because some people in fandom don’t like the people who support their work. That’s not inclusivity. That’s bullying. That’s a disgrace. As fans we should be better than that.

If you love science fiction and fantasy and you’d like to see the kind of stories you love receive the recognition of a major award like a Hugo, then do get involved in the nominating and voting process. Complaining that you don’t like anything that wins year to year, without getting involved, is pretty silly … and pointless. As someone once said, be the change you want to see in the world!

And in the meantime … my huge congratulations to this year’s nominees. I wish each and every one of you the very best of luck.