Hugo Nominations

My PIN still hasn’t shown up, but I’ve been formulating my nomination list. Last year was banner harvest for fans of SFF; a lot of new work from favorites and even some re-issued works (KSR’s California triptych performed by Stefan Rudnicki, for instance) which are eligible under new categories.

At this point in the game, I remain cautiously optimistic. But this may be because of the chronic toxicity that usually erupts within fandom around February. I came into this year’s award season expecting little; I imagined I’d make my nominations quietly.

Jim C. Hines has yet again done a bang up job of consolidating the facts while providing a cogent analysis of the issues. Seriously, these posts just might deserve a nomination for “Best Related Work” if only because they’re bringing together so many disparate pieces of a complex puzzle.

I’ve read much of the officially remastered Sad Puppies public image. Despite the change in leadership coupled with their kinder, gentler, more inclusive choice in words, I can’t help but wonder, if broadening SFF’s reach is really your goal, why associate yourselves with a brand that has consistently been used to narrow that same audience? Sure, the name “Sad Puppies” is convenient, it has a following, but, much because of this, their attempts at inclusiveness feel a lot like a positive spin campaign waged on behalf of the Klan. I guess I should be happy the official SP4 campaign is intent on collection nominations instead of calling names (still they’re having such a hard time avoiding the toxic behavior that got them into so much trouble in the past).

I guess I should be happy the official SP4 campaign is intent on collection nominations instead of calling names (still they’re having such a hard time avoiding the toxic behavior that got them into so much trouble in the past).

As I mentioned, I’m still trying to secure the tools necessary to cast my nominations. At the same time, I’ve been noodling over who-I’m-going-to-put-up-for-what, and that napkin list is starting to develop nicely. But it’s not done. All this means I’m in no hurry to cast or publish my list; the gods of the internets and ‘Merican “taste” forbid that anything on it might be labeled “message fiction.”

All the while I’m holding my breath, waiting for the flash point that we just can’t seem to get around. All its ever taken is for one habitually disgruntled author or fan soaked in the noxious broth of his self-delusion to decide there is a line between him and the rest of fandom. A line that should be demarcated with a wall. A wall that must be defended. A defense that is maintained by flinging stinking dead cow-bombs beyond their border at anyone “misguided” enough to like something they don’t. What-the-fuck-ever!

Despite owning a full-access ticket to last year’s WorldCon, I chose not to attend. Big conventions are a challenge for me. I end up having to pace myself, and often I find that internally I’m left wondering what you all must think of me. An efficient thought-loop generating machine; conventions are maddening to the point that, in the three years since my last seizure, the few times I’ve been nearest reoccurrence have been at conventions. But missing last year has also left me feeling regret. Friends and allies galore went, and I did not.

I did not go because of a potential run-in with the toxic fraction of this insular little world. The rhetoric and cow-tossing got turned up, way up, as the day approached and I let my hotel room and ticket languish.

Right now, I’m considering the possibility of making the trip. I could upgrade my ticket, find a seat on a plane, get a room. All the things. But then there is that potential, the idea that we’ve been historically unable to avoid the flash point.

Ghosts of the Tristan Basin

I recently had the unmistakable pleasure of reading an early copy of Brian McClellan‘s latest novella GHOSTS OF THE TRISTAN BASIN. He announced the story’s release on the 1st of the month, and while remaining fashionably late, I wanted to take a moment to boost his signal.

I am a fan of his Powder Mage novels; they’re complex, well-spun tales that occupy a unique place in the lexicon of fantasy. If you haven’t read these yet, then you are compelled (by the power of Grayskull nonetheless) to go forth and find your copy. However, if his novels are delicious wine his shorter works are ensorcelled versions of those aged grapes.

Brain does an enviable job of condensing his stories. Each of them helps develop his world and adds meat to the bones of his cast of characters. GHOSTS OF THE TRISTAN BASIN is no exception. If you’ve enjoyed his Powder Mager books, you’re going to want to download this one.

Pre-order below:

Buck Up, Buttercup

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Peak Chronicles Effect – end of 2015

I took this screen capture near the end of December. What you’re looking at is a combination of things, but that huge spike — from relative obscurity to in-genre notability — is the primarily a product of inclusion in Samuel Peralta’s Galaxy Chronicles. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking on this, how it affects me and my plans, what it should mean to me moving forward.

From the peak (around #70 for science fiction authors) I have since declined. I’m fairly certain that if you asked any reader, even Chronicles regulars, “Who is Matt Thyer?” they’d be hard pressed to place my name. So besides that singular moment of self-gratification which the anthology provided for me, I’m uncertain how much good it did for my career as an author.

Still I am reluctant to view this one moment, in what I hope will be a long and eventually prosperous career, as an indication of anything. I have another short story coming out in February, and I’m particularly proud of this one. Early readers have given it kudos; specific kudos, in fact, the best kind. And Samuel has been hard at work, developing even better ways to promote the collections. This most recent peak and the eventual fall in popularity is simply a false bluff on my way to a summit.

Still I wonder, am I making wrong decisions? Instead of publishing through small and independent electronic presses should I be seeking an agent? A traditional press? Should I feel proud at being featured as an Amazon Best Seller or should I hold onto my stories until Big Ink finds me and pushes me to the top of the traditional lists?

The industry of storytelling is significantly disrupted, yet I feel an unmistakable current of hierarchy within my end of the creative process. The writing between the lines is that unless you publish via the traditional route, your works lack validity within the market.

This morning Hugh Howey took a break from gallivanting around the Caribbean aboard his catamaran and posted The State of the Industry. He talks about several salient points specific to today’s publishing industry, but, in particular, he writes the following:

As a writer, the new publishing industry brought an infinite increase in fulfillment. And I don’t mean with income, as I never sat down to write my first novel in order to earn a penny. In the old world of publishing, my stories would have gone unread. There wouldn’t have been a blog to post them to, social media to share them by, or email to send to friends and family. There was no Kindle store to upload them to, or print on demand service to make a real book. No ACX for audio. My voice didn’t exist.

I realized something vital when I read this. In the bad old days of publishing, my stories and my voice would have gone utterly unnoticed. Had I been born a mere generation earlier it’s entirely possible that I’d have a drawer full of manuscripts labeled “Frustration and Disappointment.” When they laid me to rest, perhaps they’d tuck all these stories into the box with me so that so that I’d have something to work from in my next incarnation.

As it is, literally thousands of people have read some of my work. Wow! Let me repeat that, thousands of people have read at least some of my stories. That’s a pretty incredible artifact when I unpackage it.

I started keeping journals interspersed with made up stories back in the 80’s on long trips into the backcountry, on volunteer stints building trail with the SCA, and while working in the kitchens at Anderson Camps. I kept on writing in college, throughout all my experiences in the Army, and thereafter as a “professional.” I didn’t write any of those words because I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t write these words because I wanted to be a best seller, or famous, or even because I wanted to bathe in a J.K Rowling-sized pool of money.

I never expected that anyone would ever read any of it, and the fact that a couple of thousand people have tickles me endlessly.

Sure, since leaving Microsoft and those golden handcuffs, I’d like to turn my words into money. But more important I love to tell stories, so the opportunity of combining my vocation with my passion is truly revolutionary. Many thanks to Hugh for pointing this out! Many thanks for Samual for giving me this opportunity.

Advice

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Yesterday evening, while attending my local writing group, the advice started pouring. A perfect storm of what I needed to read, who I needed to follow, in order to write a breakout novel. What I needed to do in order to achieve my goals with DISTANCE. Everyone was well-intentioned, no doubt, but once I got home and started going over my notes, I felt randomized. Like a few wheels had slipped the track somewhere down the line, and my train was dragging to a halt on under the strain of the extra drag.

Later, I spent some time talking with a friend, mostly about the first couple of chapters. His advice was concrete, easy to understand, and given the arc and direction of the story made sense. It was specific, and it advanced DISTANCE further down the tracks because it was a simple matter to integrate it into the writing process.

I’ve concluded that writers need feedback during the development of a work. I certainly do. We write alone, but we refine in a public crucible. This is one of the few professions I can think of where other people’s early opinions prove critical to the development of the final product. I’m drawing an image in mind’s eyes’ of others so it is useful to know that my sketches cross the void that separates us from one another. Engineers, on the other hand, design something THEN test that thing. While they’re hunched over the draft board, however, they’re not interested or concerned about what anyone thinks of their process. In fact, it’s likely outside inputs may destroy their eventual effectiveness.

Given the above, I’ve become very discerning when I get outside inputs. Like most writers, I’ve developed a pretty good understanding of what I want to do. Even good, pertinent counsel can distract from my end goal.

So it goes, that last night, I came to another realization. Writing a “breakout novel” is not my goal. This sort of encouragement is nudging me off the rails. Knowing this, I can easily disregard well-intentioned advice which seeks to push my work in the wrong direction.

Yeah, having a breakout novel would be great. And, while I acknowledge that some people enter into the writing process with this as an end goal, it has nothing to do with the story I want to tell. Much like winning an award or holding a lottery ticket with all the right numbers the “breakout” is a potential end benefit.

I’m sticking to the plan.

 

The When Question

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The when question I briefly nagged about last week has been answered. So, we all have a date. And, if like me, you’re one of those people that spent last year’s award season shaking your head and mumbling “what the hell,” you now have a deadline for doing something about it. That’s right, you have between now and next Sunday at midnight to finance a minimum of a supporting membership to be part of both the 2016 Hugo nominations and voting.

Despise slate voting? Enjoy slipping thorns into the paws of Sad Puppies? Want to do something concrete and measurable to save Science Fiction? Now is your chance.

Birthdays and Milestones

 

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A-Bear and T-Mama like chocolate

 

Yesterday we celebrated the birth of the best woman I’ve ever met. We went out on the town, as a family, and even though we didn’t get to visit SAM (Tess’ original desire) we enjoyed each other’s company and a rare adventure in the city.

Tess, thanks for being there for me, for your son. Thanks for pushing me in the right direction when I needed a shove. Thanks for being my first-best reader. Thanks for being my friend.