News

First, the good news. This weekend I received a letter from the DetCon1 Programming folks and I quickly shot off a reply. I’m headed, once again, to Detroit, Michigan for a summer convention.

I don’t know what it is about that part of the world, but man you “Yoopers” sure have a thing for SFF. I’m not complaining. Not even a little bit. In fact, I’m sort of ecstatic to visit Michigan in the middle of the summer. I’ll get to hang out with the mucky-mucks for a couple of days. Meet new friends and share with colleagues. I’m currently planning on driving so if you’re interested you’ll get to experience my overlander first hand.

Yesterday I nailed down my reservation at the hotel, and there is even the possibility that my beautiful and talented wife might join me on this excursion into intense geekery.  And for that I am even more excited than I have the words to express. I might have to bump up the reservation and get a room with a view.

In other news I have lined up a couple more author interviews for FROM THE INDIE SIDE. Be excited, you’re going to get buckets of new author blood really soon. Peter Cawdron is due this upcoming Friday. Followed by Ernie Lindsey, Susan May, and Mel Hearse.

In the mean time, if you’re looking for something to read you won’t be disappointed with this anthology. The diversity of voices and tales means that you can pick and chose what you’d rather read based on your mood in the moment. And, even though it is thicker than a Chilton’s Auto Repair manual, it won’t break your budget at $4.99 (kindle price).

While you’re supporting independent authors you should give me a try. I’ve just put out a short story of my own which is turning into something of a series. ON THE LEFT FOOT: A TALE OF THE LONG EARTH is only $0.99 on Amazon and it will transport you from that dull, slightly musty bus seat into an otherworldly back country filled with the rich scents of waking pine trees and fresh trout.

Also, last weekend I added another couple of thousand words to the next in the “sports in space” series UP SLOPE. It is on target for spring release and I’m pretty happy with how the story is coming along. You don’t need to read the first in the series to understand the story, but if you gave THE BIG RED BUCKLE a gander you would not be disappointed.

Next up, this morning I was browsing through your many, many Facebook posts when I came across a real gem from Jacqueline Carey, who is a formidable presence in the the world of wordsmiths to say the least, and she has something really poignant to say about our professional organization.

I don’t mean to imply that the blame for all that ails SFWA lies with its most senior members.  I’m sure it doesn’t, but I can only speak to what I’ve observed, which is that there’s an undeniable generational push-back against changing mores that’s a significant part of the problem.  I don’t want SFWA to lose its identity or its sense of history, but if it’s going to remain relevant, it needs to adapt.  Honor the past, but celebrate the present and look toward the future, too.

I can thank my wife Tess for getting me hooked on Carey’s Kusiel series, late night readings from Kushiel’s Dart were something of a treat back in the early days of our relationship. It is sexy stuff, but with careful and complete construction, deep plots that make it difficult to sleep (even though you have work in the morning).

At ConFusion I had only the briefest of encounters with Carey, but her opinion, and the action (or inaction) she is willing to undertake in order to achieve a clear and unmistakable expression, is admirable. And she has done a wonderful job of laying out all the things SFWA might be missing its maddening rush to cling to BS and drama.

I mean… seriously?  The publishing industry is undergoing seismic changes, changes that affect every single author in (and out of) the genre.  E-book pricing and royalty rates, the antitrust lawsuit, DRM, the rise of indie publishing, Amazon’s slow-burning bid for a monopoly, dwindling brick-and-mortar stores, the commodification of fan fiction, promotion in the age of social networking, the Google Books lawsuit, the consolidation of the Big Six into the Big Five, etc.  There’s a lot to talk about!  And yet when it comes to SFWA, it seems all the oxygen in the room was—and still is—being sucked up by a discussion that has no business taking place in this day and age.

When I first started to accumulate rejection letters one of my primary motivations to be a writer was SFWA membership. I wanted to be included in the group and run along side others doing the same thing. In my past life as an engineer I belonged to a variety of professional organizations, and for the most part, this was a useful and even necessary requirement for inclusion within the network of people working in the field. They kept me appraised of the major currents in my industry and helped me make good decisions that ultimately made me a better engineer.

The realization that SFWA membership might be beyond my reach, even with the growing collection of SFF bearing my name, gave me pause. I started to ask myself, “What could I get out of this relationship if I take the time to jump through their hoops?” The answer that I reached basically amounted to not much that I couldn’t find on my own. I’ve got KBoardsGoodreads, and conventions for community, inspiration, and to keep me appraised of what is and isn’t happening in the writing world. The organization’s Writer Beware blog tends to be far behind the 8-ball when it comes to breaking news and new predatory practices that harm creatives, and its contributors spend at least half their time tooting their own horn. The organization has become, in many respects, just a breading ground for drama and discontent.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to extend some kudos to Jacqueline Carey, I think she is doing a good thing and I hope the best for her and wish her luck. Yes, she has lost her nomination privileges for the Nebula, but her opinions are already well respected. I’d happily read anything she recommended, her cogent and considered opinion has lot more weight than an award.

And finally, I wanted to take a moment to pass along the announcement that Michael J. Sullivan‘s next book is available for pre-order. And if you order now, you’ll get a pile of extras and bonus stuff … early. This is a series I’ve had on my W2R list for a while and Mr. Sullivan is an excellent dude.

So, I will round out today’s news and announcements with one more place for you to spend your hard earned dough on books. Click on through to this announcement for all the details and goodies.

It’s Not the Cover

It’s also not the publisher. Or, for that matter, the medium by which the story is transmitted. I recently become aware of a kerfuffle involving the 2013 Hugo Awards Subcommittee and an author who was unfairly denied a chance at the 2013 novelette category.

The hairy details can be found here, but suffice it to say that by way of a novel application of the rules Mary Robinette Kowal‘s The Lady Astronauts of Mars was denied eligibility in the category where other stories, conveyed in a similar fashion, have been considered. If this was not lame enough on its own, it appears the that the Award Subcommittee further fumbled their handling of the story, waiting until the after-party to let MRK in on whole affair.

I would maintain that this is the result of humans handling things. It is likely that different humans were, for instance, responsible for managing the interpretation of the rules in 2008 to those that managed the whole affair in 2013.

Annalee Flower‘s post speculates this whole affair may the be the result of an unconscious “straight white male” selection bias. While this may be true, it is equally plausible that MRK’s unfortunate exclusion had nothing whatsoever to do with gender, race or any of the other all too common reasons for not letting others play.

The evidence should speak for itself.  The way the selection process worked this year was different than the way it has worked in the past.  I’m speculating that MRK’s The Lady Astronauts of Mars was incorrectly removed from consideration because the rules are vague about media and presentation. Obviously precedence was not a considered by this years subcommittee.

Tact and transparency were not on their list of requirements either. My suggestions are as follows. First, the Award Subcommittee needs to publicly acknowledge that mistakes have been made. Recognizing that Hugos have been, in the past, given to audiobook recordings of stories later published in print would be a good start. But acknowledging that consideration was incorrectly denied to MRK and others and then complicated by a failure to communicate would go a long way to resolving this mess once and for all.

Finally, that act of publishing, I feel, needs some reconsideration. Authors, those fine people who for some unknown reason feel compelled to spend endless hours penning entertaining tales for our amusement, are beholden to a backward, superannuated, somewhat parasitical industry that refuses change. It seems from here that Big Ink publication is antithetical, even aggressive, to process innovation.

Imagine, for instance, that you are an innovative, independent geneticist. You have spent countless hours in the lab working on a intracellular delivery method that could revolutionize modern medicine. What do you need to get this to market? Backing, and regardless of workability issues you might initially encounter, you can probably find a way.

In an industry like this, while you may at first be challenged to find that start up money, if your idea has merit, it is much more likely you will need to turn investment away. Not so in the world of Big Ink publishing. Regardless of the merits of your storytelling, if you are an undiscovered quantity, you are likely going to experience a long wait for recognition and compensation.

And, like it or not, authors who want their stories read are going to ever greater lengths to get them out to the public, bypassing the wait as much as they are able. I read more with my ears today, than I do with my eyes. Because these awards serve as a test bed for defining quality in writing, the Hugo needs to address these new methods for delivering good stories. The story, the quality of the story in fact, should be the primary concern of these evaluations. Not the gender of the story teller or the reputation of the company that did the printing.

Hugos?

I spent the weekend watching and waiting for news of the Hugo awards; authors I enjoy, people I know, and some online acquaintances made their way to the 2013 LoneStarCon to engage in some socializing, pick up their awards, and participate in some panels.

Tobias Buckell posted an in-person write up of his experiences at the Con. It gives a really nice first person account of his time in San Antonio and makes me just a little bit jealous. I’m looking forward to seeing (if someone had enough forethought) or hearing more about the Future Energy panel that Buckell and Naam were part of. It sounds like there was some good debate about space solar (including discussion of the economics of shooting mass into orbit to have it return energy, and the potential of weaponization of space solar). I also wonder how much power economization played in this discussion. And, to wit, if anyone is looking at ways to reduce the role profit motive plays in projects of this nature. If you have this video please send me a link.

Also, there were a number of writers’ workshops, and boy oh boy what I would not have given to have been a fly on the wall in at least one of them.

Kudos go out to all the winners, in fact, all the writers and the many people who were considered this year. I’ve read three of the five novels that made it into consideration and I can imagine that it was a tough choice in the end between these. If you follow Bujold‘s serial you may be wondering how this will impact future Vorkosigan contributions. I sure hope there is more coming.

Critical mass … John Scalzi wins the 2013 Hugo award for best novel with Redshirts. Photograph: Jon Shapley/Demotix/Corbis

Scalzi walked away with the honors this year and he deserves it, Redshirts was pure JS. The slapstick, the sarcasm, and the constant twisting of tropes only got better with Wil Wheaton reading.  Redshirts delivered where some of Scalzi’s more recent fuzzy contributions fell flat, and I hope I can smack him a hearty high-five in person some time soon.

Best Novel

  • Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi (Tor)
  • Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
  • 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed (DAW)
  • Blackout, Mira Grant (Orbit)

Best Novella

  • The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
  • After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
  • “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)
  • On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
  • San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Mira Grant (Orbit)

Best Novelette

  • “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi”, Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
  • “In Sea-Salt Tears”, Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
  • “Fade To White”, Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
  • “Rat-Catcher”, Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)
  • “The Boy Who Cast No Shadow”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)

Best Short Story

  • “Mono no Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)
  • “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
  • “Mantis Wives”, Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)

I posted the rest of the contestants and winners who are wordsmiths because a) these are publishers (including self publishing) which I need to keep better track of and b) because I need to read a lot of these authors.