Posts Tagged Goals

The Great Hugo Read

One unexpected side effect of fatherhood is an increase in my available reading time. I’m not sure where it all came from, but I’m loving it. Since starting my two weeks at home with my daughter, and continuing through going back to work, I’m now reading novels at a pace of better than one a week. It’s mostly been John Scalzi, as I finally started reading his novels coincident with staying home and got hooked. After reading mostly Ace Doubles for a while, it was great to dip my toes back into contemporary science fiction. I’m not done with Doubles, just interspersing.

As part of this expanded reading time, I’m launching on two connected reading projects. They will not represent the total of my reading time, but they will get weaved in among the other novels and stories I’m going through, and both will involve the Hugo Awards. Thus I’m calling them both, together, the Great Hugo Read.

Part one: I’m going to read all the novels nominated for the 2013 Hugo Award. I’ve only read one Hugo winner before it won the Hugo, and that was Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. With my reading patterns the past few years, this goal would be ambitious to say the least. Nominations come out in April, the awards will be presented on September 1. That’s five months, but a month a novel was a typical reading pace for me until recently. Now it doesn’t seem nearly so crazy. It’ll be fun going into the ceremony with an educated opinion. It’s crazy, I know.

I hope to get a head start by reading Redshirts in January. Hopefully I’m not jinxing things by anticipating this as part of my 2013 nominee read.

Part two: This is the bigger part, and it’s not just a 2013 goal. When I said above I’ve only read one Hugo winner before it won…well, that doesn’t seem quite so crazy when you factor in that I’ve only read four Hugo winners. Ever. That’s it. Here’s the whole and complete list:

  • Rendezvous with Rama
  • The Diamond Age
  • American Gods
  • The Graveyard Book

That’s it. Four. And it’s only that high because both the Hugos and I are fans of Neil Gaiman. I’m looking to fix that, and I’m looking to do so in the most extreme way possible. I’m going to start reading all the Hugo winners. That’s 62 novels, way more than I could read in one year even if I skipped the ones I’ve already read and read nothing but Hugo winners. This isn’t my plan, they’ll be interspersed with my other reading, perhaps every other or every third book. I like this as a project, getting more of a history of the genre that I love. However, there are some pitfalls.

Series. Oh sure, there are the series that make it easy. Connie Willis has been gracious enough to win for every book in the Oxford Time Travel series, so while they’ll be spread out, I don’t have to make any decisions about what pre-reading I need to do. The Harry Potter series winning for Goblet of Fire is alright, I’ve seen the movies, I think I can get enough of what happened in the first three books to jump right into the fourth. Hell, I’m sure I’ll end up reading the whole series with my daughter eventually anyway. Green Mars and Blue Mars winning when Red Mars didn’t? I’ve been wanting to read the trilogy for a long time anyway, and Red Mars will give me a head start if I want to later read the Nebula winners.

However, things get more difficult when I get into Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. Three books of this series have won, and they happen to be books four, two, and nine. The out of number ordering isn’t mine, it belongs to the series. Book four, The Vor Game won in 1991, book two, Barrayar, won the next year. Clearly they were published out-of-order, so can be read out-of-order. But I don’t know enough about this series to know how out-of-order. Can I skip straight to book nine, Mirror Dance, without the books in between? No, really, can I? If you know the series and can answer that question, please do so in the comments below.

Herbert. As in Frank Herbert. 1966 saw Dune share the Hugo Award with Roger Zelazny’s …And Call Me Conrad. You’ll notice Dune is not sitting up on my already read list, something that surprises people when they learn that about me. I’ve tried reading some Herbert, specifically Destination: Void. In short? It defeated me. It’s the rare book I’ve walked away from unfinished. I had a hard time getting into his writing style, especially the schizophrenic head hopping around the characters. Which I understand is one of the hallmarks of Dune. If you’ve read both Void and Dune, could you speak up in the comments, let me know what I’m in for? Because, honestly, that’s the first big road block that I seen on my trip through the Hugos.

Retro Hugos. They’ve awarded these three times, for years that had Worldcons but no Hugos. As I start, I’m not planning to these to my reading list. What interests me about doing this read-through is the history of the genre and seeing what books were deemed important when they were written. The Retro Hugos are about which books stood the test of time. Sure, we can go back and give Fahrenheit 451 the Hugo award for 1954, and that’s an easy pick as it’s now become one of the most important books to come out of the genre. But would the voting fans in the year 1954 actually give it the award over Childhood’s End? Or any of the other books nominated? Or would the award in 1954 go to a book that organizers in 2004 didn’t think to nominate? Keep in mind in 1955 the voters went for what is frequently cited as the worst book to win the Hugo. Or, at least, frequently cited as being frequently cited as such. Speaking of which…

They’d Rather Be Right. It’s the second novel to win the Hugo, thus the second novel in my read through. It’s also probably the hardest Hugo winner to track down a copy of. Even alibris has precious few going for no less than $10, and copies of its rerelease as The Forever Machine go for a minimum of $25. Its only digital availability is through the Sony Reader store. I may be forced to skip over this one in my initial read, not because of its reputation, but because of its availability. I’ve also seen others who have done the all-Hugo read call this a “struggle.” It’s the only Hugo winner rated at below three stars on Goodreads, and one of only three below 3.5. So…maybe Dune isn’t my first big speed bump.

Re-Reads. It’ll be awhile til I hit my first re-read, and when I do it’ll be the only Hugo winner I read before I turned eighteen. So that’s a clear candidate for a re-read. I’ll probably re-read the others, too. Not like I need too much of an excuse to pick Diamond Age back up. Though…do I read the version of American Gods that won, or the slightly tweaked 10th Anniversary edition signed by the author?

I’ll probably start the read through in January, even though I’m not intending this as a finish-in-2013 goal. And I plan to read them in order, just as soon as I can track down a copy of The Demolished Man. Thank goodness for used bookstores and alibris. I’d be thrilled if anyone wanted to join me on the read, I’ll announce here on the blog and in Twitter when I plan to start each book, and will plan to talk about each when I’m done. I might make this a monthly thing, which means the read-through would take awhile. But it feels more like a book club that way. For now, I’ve shoved all of them onto a Goodreads shelf. Go, browse, and I’ll let you know when this is starting if you want to come along.

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

I’m going to actually link to my resolutions post from 366 days ago, just to keep myself honest.  And I’m going to be honest with some responses to it.

Resolution 1: Finish the first draft of Capsule.  This did not happen.  Largely because I hit a point where I realized the book I was writing was not the right book to write.  It needed to be divided into two books, because I was telling two completely different and unrelated stories.  I’ll come back to both of these books one day, but probably not until 2013 in all honesty, certainly no earlier than October 2012.  But I learned a lot from walking away, such as recognizing when something isn’t working and why it isn’t working.  I also stepped away to work on a novel that has a lot of promise, so again I can only beat myself up so much.

Resolution 2: Three short stories out at all times.  This was a lofty goal for someone who went into the year with a limited number of stories ready to go out.  And then came the fantastic problem of having two taken off the market by sales!  Yay!  I tried to keep the stories that were ready for publication circulating, but probably could have done more.  Some of them, like Sleep, are just hard to find markets for.  I do have two out with long-response publications right now (Vampires of Mars and Face of the Serpent).

Resolution 3: Write from-scratch stories for six anthologies.  I did five.  One sold (Home Again), one wasn’t sent due to quality problems (Back Half), two were rejected (Vampire of Mars and Beyond Light), one is still out for consideration (Face of the Serpent).

Resolution 4: Fortnightcaps.  This was a fun project for a few months, and I had intended to keep it going through the year.  What stopped me?  Discovering other flash fiction contests, and realizing that I was burning story rights without anything to show in return in terms of readership.  So anyone who was paying attention might have noticed they stopped in September, but since I never had a single person ask me “hey, what happened to those Fortnightcaps,” I suspect no one was really paying attention.  This showed in the readership dips on those days.  I’m not blogging solely for readership numbers, but it is nice to not send stories out into the void where no one is reading them when I could make something more out of them.

So it was a mixed bag, but even in my failures I feel like I learned a lot about writing in general, and specifically how I write, in this past year.  I wouldn’t trade a single bit of the experience.

Last night at CVS we sat down and talked about resolutions going forward.  I wrote down five at Day‘s insistence, but it was secretly just three.  We followed the SMART acronym used by most corporations in determining yearly objectives: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  For example, writing 10 novels is specific and measurable, but isn’t attainable or realistic.  So from that perspective, my resolutions break down to the following categories:

Completion.  Complete Nickajack to a condition where it can be queried, then query it.  There are a lot of steps involved in this (such as, ya know, finishing it), and “Query Nickajack” really is my overarching resolution for 2012.  Each month’s State of the Writer for 2012 will start with those words and my progress towards that goal so I don’t lose sight of it.

Research.  I’ve made a specific goal of reading three non-fiction books about pre-to-post Civil War era, and two fiction books with as similar a setting as possible.  Which is tough.  Southeastern US Steampunk is not a common market segment.  One of the fiction books will likely be How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove.  It’s not Steampunk, but it is Alternate History, and I’ve always preferred Steampunk that falls under Alternate History more than Fantasy.  Recommendations are welcome!

Man Up.  I need to get over my crippling con introversion, the one that border lines on social anxiety.  To make this goal measurable, I’ve taken it upon myself to find 6 people to provide prompts for the 2012 Flashathon.  With the event being expanded to 18 hours, that means I’m on the hook for a third of them.  This is, by far, the hardest of the resolutions I’ve set.  Which says a lot about me that I consider talking to six people, just six, at a convention as more of a challenge than finishing a fucking novel.

And with that, this blog will likely be dark until the New Year.  Everyone enjoy the festivities.  I’d caution to not do anything I wouldn’t, but that would make for a boring weekend, so go out there and do at least one thing I wouldn’t but is still legal.  It’ll be more fun that way.

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State of the Writer: February 2011

People tend to like to really look at themselves at the beginning of every year, making resolutions and the like.  As part of pushing myself to be in more direct touch with my writing, I’m going to start these state of the writer posts every month.  I make them public largely just to make myself do them.  You hear me, five people that Google Analytics says visited my site yesterday, I need to be kept honest.

Novels in Progress:

  • Capsule.
  • End of the Line.

Short Stories in Progress:

  • Back Half.  For the Primogeniture anthology.  Rough draft completed.  Due date April 7th.
  • The Luchador.  For Bad-Ass Faeries 4.  Proposal accepted, and rough draft in progress.  Due date June 2011.

Short Stories Sold:

  • The Rustler.  Woot.

Short Stories Out:

  • Sleep

Short Stories Doing Nothing.  Bad Writer.

  • !Div0
  • Queen of Belmeth

I’ve been falling down on my goal of keeping a certain number of stories circulating at any one time.  In part this is because I lucked out and sold one of my main circulators, but also in part because I’ve been falling down on Duotroping.  On the other hand, my goal of 6 stories written for specific anthologies is doing well, as I’ve got two in progress, even if I’m starting to back off on the notion of sending one to its intended destination.  I’ve been frustrated about the way Primogeniture keeps adding details to the ship, which is really reinforcing my initial fear that submitters had to somehow correctly guess how the editors always planned the ship to operate.  However, it’s still a fun generation ship story that I might clean up and send to anthologies that don’t have nearly so many rules about how a generation ship should work.  I’ll probably give one more try, but if the goalposts move again and make it even harder to tell my story on their ship, then I’ll have to go on my own.

I haven’t forgotten Capsule.  I’ve actually been doing a lot of mental outlining that needs to turn into physical outlining to get me from where I am to where I know this act ends.  There’s a few key scenes, I just need to make sure there’s no more.

People who’ve known my writing for awhile will notice an old favorite on my Novels In Progress list: End of the Line.  I feel like something needs to happen fast with it, since the whole conceit of the story is based around the five lines of what will soon be a six-line DC Metro system.  I’ve had multiple suggestions made, from ignoring the sixth line to inventing a sixth horseman of the apocalypse (I feel like adding a fifth is about the most I can do to stretch that particular concept), to setting the novel in a given pre-Silver Line year.  None of them strikes me as all that fulfilling of an option, with the third the most appealing of an unappealing lot.  So I think instead I’m going to push to get something done with it, even if it ends up on Smashwords (my emergency fallback point to be sure).

I’ve been happy with the first two installments of the Fortnightcap project.  It’s going to keep going for now.

In all, I’m satisfied but not thrilled.  I’m certainly ramping back up from my lost 2010.  I’d probably be doing better if Altair and Ezio didn’t need nearly so much help assassinating people.

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