Holy Poo Sticks!

Oh Poop!

So the last time I attended a scifi convention was in the early 90’s. I went with a bunch of friends, coming down from the little mountain town where I attended college, and we carpooled in a VW bus that blew a spark plug out of the block somewhere on the backside of Kenosha Pass (IIRC).  Ostensibly I went there to play games, and I had a great time.

But I just signed up for my first Convention in more than twenty years. I’m going to attend Legendary ConFusion in Detroit. There are a couple of authors going that I’d really like to meet face-to-face and I’m also hoping that to get some learn’in.

Last night, laying in bed with a strained back, I realized how little I actually know about this business. I feel like a blind sword fighter, constantly stabbing in the dark. You know you have struck meat when you feel that squishy, yielding flesh under your blade, but most of the time you just end up sending your cutlass uselessly zipping through the air.

There are a number of symposium that I want to attend, but in particular, Tobias Buckell is sitting on this panel.

Becoming a working writer with Tobias Buckell

12pm Sunday – Rotunda
In this intimate Q&A Tobias talks openly about strategies, tips, and what it took to make it out of hobby and into career, as well as answers questions readers might have about his work)

So not only has it been a long time since I’ve been to a Con, but it was under much different circumstances. I feel that the stakes are higher this go around and the intent is certainly to learn the ropes of this business a little better (or to stick with my earlier metaphor, lift the veil).

In the mean time, I’ve got the pre-trip-with-a-purpose jitters. It helps that my first good review came in on Amazon yesterday. But the pucker-factor needle is still hitting “oh poop” tick way over on the far side of the gauge.

The Big Red Buckle, for those with an interest in Colonial-Mars-genre science fiction, or paragliding, or just about anyone else with a pulse and an imagination, is a compelling page -turner. Well beyond short story length, more of a lean and taut novella, it’s a great late-evening read that still won’t take all night. Thyer’s characters, even those whose physical characteristics differ from birth in Mars’ low gravity, are ultimately human at heart. I look forward to more from this author!

I guess now I need an appearance page. I’m going to bring a couple of print copies of The Big Red Buckle along with me. If you’re going to be there, let me know, I’d love to meet some new faces and other writers.

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NaNoWriMo 2013

Some very awesome news nerds! I just won my first NaNoWriMo. Right now Counterfeit Horizon is 50,103 words long and 233 pages (formatted for submission). As a novel its not complete, but its a functional rough draft of an amazing story written on a pretty tight timeline.

So I’m going to high five myself around the house for the rest of the evening. I might pour myself a glass of the vino. I might turn on my television and watch someone else’s work for a little while.  Really boob out for a bit.

The book is close to being complete, December may be more than enough to finish the story. I’m having fun with it, but I’m also really looking forward to ending it. I’m super excited for myself, as a writer. I can do this kind of work. On a timeline.

A special round of thanks

My Ever Lovin’ Wife

You, dear woman, are the deserver of some serious kudos. You’ve stood by my side through thick and thin and even listened to my crack pot ideas and hair brained schemes. I feel expansive gratitude to an unresponsive universe for putting me in the right place at the right time. And — as if meeting you were not enough all on its own — somehow, somewhere I found the magic words that got us together.

Thanks for being my friend, the mother of one of my kids, and my closest of my editors.

My Ever Lovin’ Family and Friends

You guys are the best. You read my stuff when its rough. I mean rocky, boulder-field rough. And I know that your smiles are largely contrived and you may chuckle about those manuscripts in bed late at night, but as part of the process, you are indispensable. I could not do this without you. When I’m a best seller, spending my evenings swimming in a J.K. Rowling sized swimming pool of money I will remember you and give you a reason to smile.

You’ll find your ARCs in the mail.

Tobias Buckell

Dude! You probably do not have a clue how much a part of this little success you are. Seriously, I hope someday to meet you, face-to-face, so that I can shake your hand. Buy you a drink. Back in 2012, while I was struggling through a series of life and health problems you responded to an email I sent you with what became some pivotal words. You helped me decide to take this path and you’ve inspired me since to keep on writing.

Thanks for your work, Reginald is still your best (IMO). Thanks for being an example and inspiration.

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.