Archive for July, 2013

Hypothetical Hugo Ballot, Pt1

First off, I am not eligible to vote on the Hugos. I am not a member of this year’s Worldcon, or of last or next years’ Worldcons. So what follows is completely hypothetical. It’s also extremely incomplete, as there are currently only two categories where I’ve seen all the nominees. The choice of verb “seen” should make the categories obvious. What follows, then, is my completely hypothetical ballot for the Hugo Awards for Dramatic Presentation.

Short Form:

  1. Fringe, “Letters of Transit”
  2. Game of Thrones, “Blackwater”
  3. No Award

Damn, that’s a grumpy ballot, isn’t it. First, I want to say that I fully expect Blackwater to win the Hugo. I would even go so far as to say it should win the Hugo. However, it’s a shame that Fringe, one of the best science fiction shows on network television since The X-Files, went its entire run earning only one Hugo nomination. Which means it’s currently tied with the sitcom Community. So I can’t pass up my one and only opportunity to vote for it, even if hypothetically.

As for the No Award, that’s equal parts honesty and grumpiness. I do not believe that the three Doctor Who episodes are Hugo-worthy. It was a weak season for the show overall, and that just adds to my general dissatisfaction that the show continues its domination of the Hugo nominations. I’ve expressed my thoughts in depth on this subject before, so I’ll leave things with only a link to that post. But…well, yeah, I’m disappointed to see three weak Who episodes nominated when so much fantastic science fiction is televised and ignored on the Hugo shortlists. And so many sub-90 minute movies are seemingly ignored by the confusing way the dramatic form category is split by length rather than media. Which itself has been ignored and–oh, just go read that other post before I copy and paste it all in here.

Long Form:

  1. Cabin in the Woods
  2. Looper
  3. Avengers
  4. The Hunger Games
  5. The Hobbit

I’ll be honest, I considered No Award at #5 here. The problems with The Hobbit are legion, most boiling down to the decision to make three movies instead of just two. It’s a mess, and I don’t think it’s one of the five best genre movies released in 2012. However, I’m less grumpy than I am about short form, so it still lands on the ballot. As for the top half of the ballot? First, I expect the true race here is between Looper and Avengers, with Cabin a dark horse at best. And, in spite my ballot, I’ll say Looper should win and Avengers will win. However, of the five nominees, Cabin was my favorite, not just for the entertainment value of the movie, but for delving deeper into the horror genre and ripping it apart. I think that kind of deconstruction of genre earns some bonus points. In this case, breaking the near tie between it and Looper in my mind.

Now, I’ll say my wife disagrees and would flip the top two on this list, but agrees that Avengers was great, Hunger Games merely good, and The Hobbit we were both damn glad we skipped in theaters.

There’s just over 24 hours left to cast ballots, so for those more fortunate than myself, those who can cast actual ballots rather than hypothetical ones…go do it! And if you don’t agree with my dramatic presentation rankings, go ahead and leave something in the comments.

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2312

2312 CoverYou may have noticed a quote from 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson go up on the blog earlier this week. That was a sign that I had finished the book, and was thinking about my responses to it. The quote itself is from near the end, as the book ruminates on the events that transpired over the preceding 500 pages, though divorced from those events I thought it was an interesting passage about the process of writing and creation. Which…is a good summary for the book. It’s about the process of creation, it’s about art, it’s about revolution, and it’s about what all of those things actually mean. It’s a book willing to take it’s longest chapter to follow two characters stuck in nearly endless tunnels as they walk and whistle.

And, in the end, it’s a book I’m still trying to make my mind up about. This review may reflect that. I may even come to a conclusion over the next couple hundred words.

It’s a book of impressive breadth. It travels through a solar system massively transformed over the next three hundred years, as mankind escapes an earth left scarred and flooded by The Dithering (a damning description of the modern era), and terraforms those worlds suitable, turns asteroids into great pleasure cruisers, and saves what they can from their home in hopes of one day helping earth fulfill her promise. If that all sounds very philosophic to you, well, you’re not wrong. The book concerns itself with the smaller revolutions. Though excerpts from history books, we see the Martian revolution, an invisible civil war on Venus, declarations of freedom coming from the moons of the outer solar system. The main character, Swan, has an extended discussion about the very nature of revolution, breaking down to the definition of the word, with her literal minded personal computer.

In the end, it’s a book about a revolution. It’s a book about creating change within a society, and seeing that society coalesce better around a new threat. It’s by no coincidence that this threat comes from coalescence itself, attacks made on the inhabited worlds of the solar system by thousands of tiny rocks flung with precision so that they come together at a decided point of impact at a decided time.

So it’s a book about revolution and coalescence. It’s in some ways an origin story for the Great Human Empire sub genre of science fiction, about how humanity can come together into one cohesive unit strong enough to then push its will beyond the solar system.

I like those kinds of novels, the ones that tell the implied stories that other novels stand on the backs of. The bits that we might be curious about while reading about rip roaring adventures through the outer darkness of the galaxy. But that means that 2312 is the book for sitting down on the beach and getting lost in the story. It’s a novel that requires some work from the reader, coming along on the ride. In this way, it’s a very different book from the first three Hugo nominees, and I suspect a very different book from Blackout. It’s a more cerebral science fiction.

Appealingly so, mind you. There is a place for thoughtfulness within science fiction. It just meant 2312 was a slower read, it took a little more work than the other books to date. It’s a book with a smaller payoff, too. Perhaps that’s not the best combination, and perhaps that why I liked the book a lot, but I just can’t now put it at the front of the pack of the four Hugo nominees I’ve read thus far. It’s a worthy nominee, and I would even say a worthy winner of the Hugo. It’s probably the novel, of the four, that has the highest chance of staying power. If that’s the right metric for deciding the Hugo, then 2312 should probably be the winner.

I suppose that’s what makes the Hugo Award interesting. It brings in a diverse voting population, so it brings in diverse opinions about what metric should be used to decide the award. I’m personally not sure if trying to guess the future is the right way to hand out the Hugo, who’s to say what will become a classic in the end. For that reason, 2312 actually falls to second on my hypothetical ballot-to-date, behind Redshirts, with one book left to read.

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On Sentences, Kim Stanley Robinson

2312 Coverto form a sentence is to collapse many superposed wave functions to a single thought universe. Multiplying the lost universes word by word, we can say that each sentence extinguishes 10n universes, where n is the number of words in the sentence. Each thought condenses trillions of potential thoughts. Thus we get verbal overshadowing, where the language we use structures the reality we inhabit. Maybe this is a blessing. Maybe this is why we need to keep making sentences.

–Kim Stanley Robinson, 2313

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A Short Eulogy for @SFWAFascists

Edit: Editing at the beginning, rather than the end today. The below reports of @SFWAFascists’s death were, apparently, greatly exaggerated. The account is live again this afternoon, with the list still at 16 members. The post below was originally made around 11am, eastern time, when the account was temporarily shut down.

Second Edit: …and it’s gone again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is how things just go for the next few days.

Eventually I’ll talk about something else, I’m sure. But I’m enjoying this subject. From Friday:

Worried that the list will eventually go away when the hosting account either folds, gets shut down, or realizes the list is being coopted, I’ve created a mirror here. It’s called “Doing Something Right” for a good reason.

Sure enough, come this morning there is no longer a @SFWAFascists account on Twitter. So there is no longer a PC Monsters of SFWA list, either under that name or the rather charming second name the list had. My mirror is still live, and contains the sixteen writers who were on that original list before the whole thing shut down. I’m glad I took the few moments to do so, but I wonder…what now.

We’ve hit the intended purpose of the list, to archive together those accounts that the creator or creators of SFWA Fascists felt acted against their interests in maintaining the old boys’ club over at the premier gathering of American science fiction and fantasy authors. That they’ve now tucked tail and run leaves me with a list and no way of knowing who else should possibly be on it. Should I maintain it as-is, serving as a testament to the brief and horrible little account someone decided to make? Should I stay true to the original purposes of the list and grow it as is fitting? There are individuals who I am certain are in SFWA and fighting the good fight, because they do it very publicly. There are other individuals who I don’t know if they’re in SFWA. There are other individuals who I don’t know are fighting the good fight because it’s staying internal to the SFWA members-only sites.

So I guess I’m looking for opinions. What’s the best thing to do with this list?

I realize that’s an odd question, it is, after all, just a list put together on a Twitter account with under 400 followers, but I mirrored the list as a service. Should it be set in stone? Should I add to it? Who should I add? Should I limit it to SFWA members, as was the intent of the original list? Should I care less about the intent of people like those who originally made the list? Should I even go back to the “PC Monsters of SFWA” name?

Ack!

Anyway, leave me a note in the comments if you have any notions about the future of this list. I’m officially thinking too much about it, so I’m looking for farm out that over thinking to others, because I have bigger fish to fry right now. If you think it should grow, let me know a nominee or two.

As for the original account, I’m of two minds about it closing. On one hand, it was created by narrow-minded people for narrow-minded purposes, and as it came to an end felt the need to become increasingly vulgar in its language. On the other hand, having an account like that made it a lot easier to show the kind of opposition people are facing just for voicing the idea that, hey, maybe SFWA narrowly, and genre fandom more broadly, should be a little more inclusive of everyone. That was the odd sort of service it provided in addition to The List. Especially for someone like me, someone living John Scalzi’s easiest life setting of straight white male, it’s easy to be blinded by privilege, to not see that there is a problem out there. The SFWAFascists account was a fantastic running reminder of that problem. Of the backlash that comes from trying to suggest even modest and reasonable changes.

Perhaps this is even part of why it shut down. I obviously don’t know what might be happening behind the scenes, out of the public eye. But from out here, from the outside looking in, the account just vanished over the weekend for unknown and unstated reasons. I’d assign some awareness, that someone realized the purposes of the account could be co-opted, were being co-opted. Or they just decided they said what they wanted to say, vulgarities and all.

Either way, the account is dead. Try not to forget that it lived. Try not to forget that people felt it was necessary. I’ll do the same. It’s part of why the list still exists, and part of why I give a damn about what I’m going to do with it.

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Quick Follow-Up

Since it’s been my best read post in…basically since I’ve been blogging, I wanted to do some quick follow-up on Can We Talk from last week. First, I’d like to point people towards Linda Adams’s post on Unleaded that graciously links back to my post. Though, I’ll say, the trackback text read “Some people don’t believe it’s a problem. Yet, we need to keep speaking up and making ourselves heard — both men and women,” and I’ll admit a certain worry that my post was linked through the words “don’t believe it’s a problem” not “making ourselves heard.” It’s always my paranoia that I’m going to come across tone-deaf in a post like that, which is part of why I didn’t write it for so long.

The longer bit of follow-up.

Over on Twitter there’s a new account that I first saw linked by author and all-around person I wouldn’t want to fuck with Myke Cole. The account is called “SFWA Fascists,” a parody account meant to mock the “Screeching Feminist Witches Association – destroying one institution at a time with political correctness.” That is to say, basically speaking out against the growing voice of reason within SFWA that has said enough is enough on the kind of old boys club shit that has been permitted for far too long within the genre. Now, I don’t know that this account was started by one or more of Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Twelve Rabid Weasels,” but if it wasn’t, it was certainly started by someone who is on the side of weaselhood.

Normally I wouldn’t be interested in giving an account like this much attention, except that it has provided one shockingly positive feature to the world at large. It maintains a list. This list is called “PC Monsters of the SFWA.” Those writers who they view as being The Problem within SFWA. One of the reasons that I don’t think it’s one of the Twelve Rabid Weasels is the lack of Kowal herself on the list, but that’s circumstantial evidence at best. The list also does not include John Scalzi (edit: now it does), who would seem to be a key candidate for the list. Who it does include? Right now fourteen individuals who I strongly recommend following if you’re for a more vocal anti-weasel SFWA. I was following three when I discovered the list. Now, I’m following them all. If you’d like to do the same, they can be found here (Edit: The list has been renamed at least once since the original post, the new name includes the c-word). I’m thinking about creating an archive of the list, just in case those behind the Twitter account realize people might subvert the list for some good.

This list, in my mind, is a badge of honor. If you’ve pissed off the individuals who want to keep SFWA in the 1950s, in a public enough way that they’ve noticed, then I say good on you. SFWA is an organization that I still have a lot of faith in, that I hope to one day be a member of. That there are people trying to make the organization better should be applauded. That there are people who stand out as being anti-anti-weasel in a real and substantive way is fantastic, and it will make SFWA better as it goes forward.

Sadly, I find myself ineligible for the list, being not yet a member of SFWA. Perhaps they might one day start a list of Honorary PC Monsters. A guy can dream, can’t they?

I stand by the PC Monsters of the SFWA. Because they’re the ones fighting the good fight. Keep fighting.

End Note: I suppose there is a possibility that I’ve been had, that the account is actually meant to parody the Weasels in some satirical double-back. The fact that its only list is made up of the good guys might support this. If so, my applause for fully and completely getting me. Though even in that case, that list is filled with Tweeters I’m glad to now follow.

Edit: Apparently, just like the previous post, this one is going to see some editing. I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking the folks on the list are worth following. PC Monster Jess Haines noticed a bump in her followership shortly after the list went live:

Good on everyone.

Edit: Worried that the list will eventually go away when the hosting account either folds, gets shut down, or realizes the list is being coopted, I’ve created a mirror here. It’s called “Doing Something Right” for a good reason.

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The Surrender at Yorktown

I used to live just outside Yorktown, Virginia. For two years I grew up in and around the battlefields, back when it was possible to climb all around and over them. In fact, I used to launch model rockets just outside the field where the British surrendered to the Colonial forces. I flew kites on the biggest battlefield of the fight. So I learned a lot of the history around the end of the Revolutionary War. So I’d like to share my favorite bit of trivia, perfect for winning a bar bet.

Question: Who did the British surrender to at Yorktown?

Answer: Lincoln.

Here’s the story. General Cornwallis lost that last, decisive battle at Yorktown that would lead to the British surrender. But he wasn’t there for the surrender itself, The disgrace of losing to the Colonials and French weighed on him, so he feigned illness, sending his second in command, General Charles O’Hara, to conduct the surrender. The British troops marched into the field of surrender to a song called The World Turned Upside-Down (also called Until the King Enjoys His Own Again), leaving their muskets and swords in a pile, except for the official sword of surrender.

The victorious Colonial forces stood alongside their French allies, with General Washington and General Rochambeau standing side-by-side. The General O’Hara offered the sword of surrender to the victorious forces. However, he offered the sword not to Washington but to Rochambeau. Rochambeau deferred, stating that the victory belonged to the Colonial forces, not to the French.

O’Hara then offered the sword to Washington. He, too, deferred, stating that if Cornwallis was to send his second-in-command to surrender, then he should surrender to his own second-in-command. So Washington directed O’Hara to Colonial General Benjamin Lincoln, who accepted the sword.

And that’s how the British surrendered to Lincoln at Yorktown.

Happy Independence Day.

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Can We Talk?

I’ve been churning the idea for this post around in my head for awhile. Largely I’ve held back because of the “who am I?” factor, something that I very rarely use as a reason to not post. But the answer to who am I is that I am a fan and writer of science fiction, someone who enjoys going to conference, and someone who is sick and tired of seeing blog post after blog post complaining about sexual harassment in SFWA and a cons.

There are many many cons that come and go without any sexual harassment complaints. Many of these likely didn’t have any instances that should have been complained about. But we don’t see those. We see the small minority of cons at which something major happens and it gets talked about all over the internet. Yesterday Scalzi had a post up about his insistence that cons have sexual harassment policies going forward. Mary Robinette Kowal is calling on the “Twelve Rabid Weasels” of SFWA to leave the organization. One of the major outcomes of WisCon were multiple posts about an instance of sexual harassment. These are just the examples from the last two weeks, because I don’t want to create a litany of links.

I don’t want to see these posts anymore.

Let me be very clear with this wording. I don’t want to see these posts anymore. However, I want people to keep writing them. Keep spreading the word. Keep the shame up. I want every post that needs to be posted about the problems of sexual harassment within the genre community to go up and go viral. I don’t want to see them anymore because I don’t want them to be necessary anymore.

Seriously, people.

I’ve seen the arguments about men who grew up in different ages. That it’s how business used to get done. An ugly past is no excuse for an ugly present, because it creates a precedent that an ugly present will be an excuse for an ugly future. The necessary and only course of action is going to be intolerance. Intolerance of harassment. Intolerance of exclusion. Intolerance of intolerance. There are times that intolerance is the only right and just way forward, but only when applied to the ugly parts of ourselves and the societies that we choose to belong to. Whether that society is the United States, the broad genre fandom community, or SFWA.

I don’t want these voices silenced, however. I want them to speak, loudly and clearly. As Mary Kowal says in her call for these individuals to remove themselves from the SFWA community:

Please quit noisily and complaining about how SFWA is censoring you for asking you to stop using hate speech. Please quit and complain about the “thoughtcrime” of asking people not to sexually harass someone.  Please quit and bellyache about the good old days when people could be bigoted jerks. I want you to express your opinions clearly so that everyone knows them and knows that you are quitting because the other members of SFWA want you to Shut the Fuck up.

Yes. Please. Make it very clear who you are, and what your motivations are. Let people know that you feel excluded from the community because the community has tired of your shit. Let them know that you are refusing to attend cons with harassment policies because you feel you can’t enjoy a con without participating in harassment. Let everyone and anyone know.

I stand with Scalzi. His insistence on cons having sexual harassment policies is sound, and honorable. I stand with that notion. But who am I? I’m one voice in a crowd, but it’s only by raising our voices that a crowd can be heard over the cries of individuals. I think that a vast majority of the genre community is sick of this shit, sick of the fact that harassment policies are necessary, sick of the posts that go up bringing to light another instance. If you’re as sick of it as I am, make Scalzi’s policy yours. I’m making it mine.  Let the cons you attend know you’re making that stand. Ensure that conventions are a safe place for all in attendance. They need to be. They deserve to be.

And, guys, this isn’t just about policies and stances. This is about not being dicks. It’s on every single person who is part of a society to remember that. Be good to each other. It’s really not that hard to do.

Alright, deep breath. This was one of my preachy posts, and I’m aware of that. Back to fluff and nonsense next time, I promise. If you’d prefer me complaining about a crappy movie, head over to Unleaded. Which I’m apparently the sole blogger on right now.

Edited after a few deep breaths: I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile, but I wrote it in a pique. Which isn’t to say that I don’t stand by every word of it, but perhaps a few words of where I’m coming from. I’m a father now. A father of a little girl. Having this little baby girl has forced me to see just what a world we’re building for our daughters. And our sons. And ourselves, god damn it. We’re not done with this world, we shouldn’t have to hope things won’t get better for us, too. The behaviors that some people think are okay in any company just infuriate me. I was never blind to it, but my eyes are open now even wider than before.

I hope my daughter gets into science fiction and fantasy. With her mother and I as influences, the only way she won’t is an act of open rebellion against the genre. Her bookshelves are already filling up with Cat Valente books as fast as she can write and publish them. So when I see posts about women being harassed at conventions, when I read about women being belittled by an extremely vocal minority within SFWA…I see my little girl. I know I can’t always protect her, and I don’t expect to be able to keep her in a bubble where nothing bad or nasty will ever happen to her. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to hope that the world gets better for her. That she can be part of this community as she grows, and feel like she’s a full member of it. I don’t think this in an unachievable goal.

Alright, I’m going to start to babble. Or get sappy. Or maybe I’ve already done both. My thesis remains. Be better to each other. And don’t accept that the world can’t be better. And keep writing those posts when they have to be written. Because they do have to be written. Maybe one day they won’t. And I look forward to that day.

Edited almost immediately once again: I said voices combined make crowds. Scalzi now has a post where you can co-sign his convention harassment policy policy. Go make this a louder noise.

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State of the Writer: July 2013

Fourth_of_July_fireworks_behind_the_Washington_Monument,_1986June saw something odd happen: writing. There are some growing pains in our new plan to get back to work on Nickajack, but we’re back into word crafting and things are going well. We’re focusing heavily on the front of the book, reworking the first chapter to improve character motivations, bringing in a new point of view character that neither of us expected going in. It’s fun to get back into the project, and we hope to improve our methods of writing-with-baby through the next month.

I, especially, hope to improve these methods, as I’m getting closer and closer to the starting point for the first Sarah Constant book. I’ve not gone any farther into the outline than I had at this point last month. Which means, really, I haven’t gone into it at all. I know my major plot lines, but I’m not sure the major beats or the intersection points. Now I’m getting pressure from my own brain, which has been churning out ideas for books two and three in what I hope to make a trilogy.

There’s a problem in thinking in trilogies. First, there’s no reason to presume that books two and three will ever exist. Largely because there’s no certainty book one will exist. To actually bring a trilogy to print, especially for a new author, book one has to sell as a standalone title and perform well enough in the market to create a demand for books two and three. These might then get green lit together or one at a time. Movies often work in the same way. It’s why so many cinematic trilogies have standalone initial movies followed by a massive 4-5 hour movie split in the middle and released as two parts. That first movie pays for the second two by way of its profits. So while it’s fine to think of a book as a trilogy, focusing too much on the latter chapters of that trilogy is…dangerous to say the least. It’s focusing on books that might never exist and distracting from the book that has the best chance of existing and only chance of selling the other two.

That was rather more of a side trip into the economics of trilogies than I expected.

Needless to say, all my notions for books two and three really need to wait while I get book one outlined and written. And the notions of a space immram really can just go to hell, because I don’t need another concept running through my head when I’m having trouble just figuring out when/where/how to write.

State of the Author’s Beer: Hopefully bottling my currently unnamed apple beer this weekend. Which means it needs a name. Fall Ale is still the best I’ve come up with.

State of the Author’s Bees: Worrisome. One hive lost its queen through an apparent swarming, and we’ve not yet been able to gauge the health (or existence) of a new queen. Our other hive, by far the healthier of the two, may also have swarmed. Or maybe was just really busy this weekend. We’re hoping for a chance to go into both hives all the way down to the base this weekend. Look for a longer apiary post this week or next.

2312Going forward in the Great Hugo Read, we’re tucking into Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, already the winner of this year’s Nebula Award. I’ve never read any Robinson before. He’s best known for his Mars trilogy, featured between 2018 and 2019 in the read. 2312 is Robinson’s fifth Hugo nomination for Best Novel, and he previous won for Green Mars and Blue Mars. On the Nebula side, 2312 was his fourth nomination and second win. Needless to say, he and Bujold are the big guns in this year’s race, having between them 15 nominations and six wins. We’ll wrap up the nominees next month with Mira Grant’s Blackout, then we’re back to classic winners in September with Fritz Lieber’s The Big Time.

It’s getting hot outside, what better reason to stay inside and write? If you’re north of the 49th Parallel, have a happy Canada Day, south have a happy Independence Day. Or, hell, let’s just combine the two and celebrate North America Week.

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