Tag: science fiction

I have a new blog

I have a new blog

So my friends Zibb and Mal, and I have started a new blog where we’re talk science fiction and fantasy and mastering Ahri from league of legends, in all corners of the media world from books to movies to games. You can find us over at Conceptual Neighborhood and while we’re still ramping up, there’s some good stuff there. (PS: thanks for the name suggestion.)

I will probably still post here occasionally about things I’m thinking of that don’t necessarily fit the baliwick of Conceptual Neighborhood.

I’m watching television

I’m watching television

For those who know me, this is a rather shocking move. But it’s something my mom likes to do, and I’ve been enjoying watching shows with her. I’m usually busy, so I got sidetracked into watching a couple shows with her tonight, and I’m slightly late by the clock for this post. But let me tell you what we’re watching.

Scorpion: My mom discovered this show, about a bunch of supergeniuses solving crimes and hard problems. She drug me into watching it with her because…wow, this is hard to write in a blog post, particularly when I’m not feeling it. But I’m pretty smart, probably a genius, and my mother is endeared by the show because, well, it’s pretty much me. I’m not a human calculator or an excellent hacker or somebody who knows everything there is to know about psychology and behavior or a mechanical genius, but I enjoy watching them use their skills to solve the problems. (And heck, even sometimes I manage to guess what the problem is, and understand their technobabble.) That’s why it’s fun, and I’ve rather come to care about these characters.

Supergirl: I said to Ben (he’s the guy that runs the comic book shop I frequent) the other day that I tend to enjoy superheros more on the screen than in the books. Part of this is simply because there’s so much frickin backstory in comics, and yes, I know comics go through retcons and reboots, but I’m one of those people who gets annoyed about not being able to start at the beginning. I remember my mom watching Lois and Clarke when I was a teenager, and I think she enjoys watching this. Besides, it’s about a girl kicking ass and taking names. There are three very strong woman characters, and each of them kicks ass in their own way. Besides, the owner of the big media company goes by Cat. How cool is that? (Okay, I spell my nick with a K, but it’s still cool.)

Limitless: What if you can take a pill and become the smartest person on the planet? What would you do with that power? What if it comes with bad side effects? I know it’s a spinoff of the movie with the same name, which I’ve not seen, but man, the science fiction in this one is awesome. Also, the main character is an unreliable narrator, but his narration is pretty witty. And well, I sorta feel like Brian Finch sometimes. Creative as hell, but floundering in a world that’s not made for that.

Blindspot: Also a crazy SFnal idea wrapped in an FBI procedural, although this show couldn’t be any less like Limited if it wanted to be. This is a very serious show, about a girl who has her memory wiped and tattoos all over her body, giving clues to crimes that haven’t been committed yet. I haven’t figured out how they did this yet, but it should be interesting. And it’s a very nifty well-crafted use of a simple SFnal idea placed in the modern world — what if we have drugs that can completely wipe a person’s memory?

Quincy, ME: Yeah, I know, the old timers are going to go, wow that show, and the folks my age and younger are going to go WTF, but Mom and I have been on an interesting kick. We’ve been watching cop shows — all of Dragnet, all of Adam 12 (RIP Martin Milner!), and all of CHiPs. Now we’ve started in on Quincy. It’s a fun show to watch simply because you have to remember they didn’t have DNA to help them identify victims and murderers, and the way they go about doing it involves some pretty neat scientific trickery. It’s also neat to see a snapshot in time of the 70s, and Jack Klugman is always a joy to watch act.

A couple other shows that I’ve been watching on and off as interest (and time) waxes and wanes:

Walking Dead (No spoilers, please, I’ve only gotten through the season that ends with them locked in a boxcar): It’s not about the zombies. It’s about the human will to survive even when everything has changed overnight. And it’s about the monsters we become as we try to do that. Yeah, I’ll say it. The monsters in this show aren’t the zombies — it’s the living. And yet I love it. (I also love the comic book series it’s based on, for much the same reason.)

Agents of SHIELD: I am about halfway through the first season — I got diverted because there was an episode involving characters from the Thor movies, which I hadn’t seen at the time, and I haven’t managed to go back to it yet.

Clone Wars: My friends introduced me and it looks like it could be a lot of fun.

Murdoch Mysteries: A Canadian show about a detective in the Toronto Police Department at the turn of the century. No, the earlier one, the 19th to the 20th. It’s fun because mysteries are fun and the main character, William Murdoch, is smart, but a bit oblivious. And I <3 Constable Crabtree. Hard to find in the States, some of the early seasons are on Netflix. I may have to make a trip to Canukistan particularly for the point of buying this show.

Geez, I’ve prattled on. Anyway, that’s what I’m watching.

Tomorrow: bacon soda!

EDITED: Changed name of Blindsight to the correct name of Blindspot. There’s a Peter Watts novel with the former name that was intriguing, and I’m constantly calling the show that. Pardon the error.

Why I Voted the Way I Did…

Why I Voted the Way I Did…

So the Hugo Award ceremony has come and gone, and the results were a Puppy rout, including five separate invocations of No Award in the five categories Pups had locked the ballot. At this point, I’m not interested in replaying the cultural war mishmash of the last seven months, to be honest. I just wanted to do a quick examination of why I voted the way I did.

First of all, I should state that I’m not a puppy. If you didn’t know that by now, I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve been dreaming of winning one since I was in high school and read Asimov’s pontificating about them, and I’ve been honored to be a participant in the process of choosing one since 2007, more or less. Some years are harder than others — the last couple have been eaten by personal problems. But I managed to vote this year.

This was my process:

1) Elimination of anybody who advocated that the Hugo Award should be destroyed. This affected only a small amount of people on the ballot, one of which was, of course the leader of one of the two slate campaigns. My reasoning for this was simple. If you express an interest in blowing the award up, then it’s fairly obvious that YOU DON’T WANT IT. This only affected three people, but eight nominations.

2) Reading all the stories. (And yes, despite my immediate elimination of the people above, I still read their stories, confirming that my decision as above was sane and rational — the works didn’t deserve the award anyway.)

3) Weighing all the stories in a complex matrix which did include, I admit, some bias against those folk who were going out of their way to accuse me, somebody who takes their Hugo voting rather seriously, of not bothering to read the nominated works. I read them — as I said, I take this *seriously*. In fact, there was a familiar name on the Puppy ballot this year — I voted for his novel to win best novel several years back. I don’t just go blindly in for the sake of diversity. This is important, Pups, as you will see in a moment.

I read and I read, and I read some more. And in the end, I backed away from my complete anti-Puppy pledge, voting for a couple of people here and there. Sadly, most of the works I did read were not worthy of a Hugo award, and I voted as such. However, I did end up giving votes to folks in both the short and long form editor campaigns — Jen Brozek is an awesome editor, and I expect she’ll win some legitimately soon enough, and I was impressed by the work Sheila Gilbert has edited.

There’s one editor I did place below no award that has the puppies screaming. That would be Toni Weisskopf, and this is my reason for doing so: I depend on the voting packet to help me with the editors. All I was given in regards to Weisskopf’s editing was a link to Baen Books. Weisskopf was not even the only Baen editor on this year’s ballot, and surfing over to that website gave me no clue as to who had edited what. If I cannot determine what you have edited, then I cannot fairly judge your work, and I must sadly concede that it is perhaps better to have no award be given than give an award which I cannot determine if the nominee is worthy.

If Ms. Weisskopf and Baen would like to prevent this in the future, perhaps either including a list of the works you have worked on in the packet or, if Baen is truly a tag-team sort of environment, mentioning what value you add to the process. I’m not all that familiar with Baen, partly because it’s not my particular cup of tea and partly because I get this feeling that I, even as a lifelong science fiction fan, am not particularly welcome in that particular publishing house.

But that’s the long and short of it. I voted based on what I read. It was a slog this year, instead of the joy it normally is.

I don’t think 2016 is going to be much better.

It’s OK if You’re a Puppy

It’s OK if You’re a Puppy

Let me begin by stating that I speak only for myself. I speak not for past employers, present employers, potential future employers, friends, Romans, countrymen, other science fiction fanatics, people who are not myself, and most definitely not for George R. R. Martin.

After that, let me add that I think Irene Gallo used words that were ill-chosen, and that she painted with way too broad a brush. As Eric Flint has said, “Words matter.” I think neo-nazi to describe anybody was probably a bridge too far, although I know of a couple of people that I might, in a spew of frustration and hyperbole, have chosen those words myself to describe them. This is why I try very hard not to blog when I’m angry.

However, with all that said, I don’t think Gallo is completely at fault here. We’ve all made bad choices of words, and the time she posted that statement (May 11), tempers were still a bit high. As we’ve dug through May, things seemed to be calming down and people were settling down to read and get through this. The most appropriate time to have brought this up would have been in the days after the comment was posted, but no, that wouldn’t have caused maximum damage.

Enter Theodore Beale. I absolutely despise the man. He reminds me of nothing less than the smarmy jerk in high school who believed he was smarter than everybody and therefore, the rules didn’t apply to him. This applies to his absolutely ridiculous pen name (Vox Day, “voice of god”, isn’t it funny?), the way he blogs, and generally most interactions I’ve observed from him. He’s cruel, he’s petty, and he enjoys every second of it. Indeed, Beale is probably the soundest evidence that karma doesn’t exist.

Why does Beale matter? Well, he stumbled across Gallo’s words two hours after she posted them. (Note that “stumbled” is the nice words here — I’m certain he’s been reading the facebooks, twitters, and blogs of various high up people in search of ammunition. In other contexts, we would call him a stalker.) Instead of saying anything when he found them, he took a screen shot of the exchange and put it away for a more advantageous weekend. Perhaps one when the outrage seemed to be dying down, and when people were starting to feel for a way to bridge the gap. Maybe also a weekend in which the SFWA, an organization that Beale has placed on his enemy list, was holding their awards ceremony.

And sure enough, guess what appeared on the Internet on Saturday?

I’ll grudgingly give Beale credit for this — he knows his army of sycophants, suck-ups, wannabes, and fellow travelers very well, and knew dropping that screenshot on the Internet would be like throwing raw meat to hungry dogs. All the outrage that had been dying down is back, kicked up yet another notch. And I’m certain this amuses him very much.

It strikes me that Beale doesn’t want dialogue. He doesn’t want us to understand each other, because if we can understand — if we can glimpse that the other side of the screen sits another human being not all that much different from us — then his culture war is dead. He cannot afford to lose that — it is his driving force and his motivator.

I’m a science fiction fan because I like to read, Beale. I’m not here for your bullshit culture wars, and I really wish you’d take them somewhere else.

The Voter’s Packet has arrived!

The Voter’s Packet has arrived!

And there was much rejoicing. Yay.

I’m going to chronicle my reading here on this blog, but I wanted to do a quick rundown of what is in this year’s Hugo Voter’s Package. Sasquan released the package yesterday afternoon, and I’ve been spending a bit of time putting it all on my Kindle.

It’s been an interesting year for the Hugos and I think the voter’s pack reflects that. So, category by category, here’s what’s in the packet and my thoughts on the matter.

I should note, before I get started, that the Hugo Packet is a gift from the participants to the voters to make us more informed voters, and that I am entitled to none of it. Sometimes I make comments that skirt that ground, but I do truly wish to say thank you to the publishers, authors, artists, editors, and other varied participants who make this effort to help us to be informed voters. It is appreciated.

The same goes to the folks back at Sasquan central who are administering the Hugo Awards. This has been a crazy year, and your diligence, patience, and hard work are appreciated by this voter.

With all that said…let’s get to it.


NOVEL
3 complete novels:

  • The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu
  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
  • The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson

2 extracts:

  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher
  • Ancillary Sword, Anne Leckie

My thoughts: Orbit continues the practice they did last year of including an excerpt of a novel in the package. Last year, they did it with Ancillary Justice, Neptune’s Brood, and Parasite and those novels went 1-2-3 in the voting, so it didn’t hurt them. Butcher is published by Penguin. The three whole novels are all Tor. It’s interesting that Tor (and Baen) seem to be the publishers that get that this is a goodwill thing. Ah well, I have a copy of the Butcher and I’ve read Ancillary Sword, although I would have loved to get another chance to make it fresh in my memory.


NOVELLA
All works made available.

My thoughts: It’s interesting that they put all five of John C. Wright’s nominations into one ebook, but I guess that saves time. I’m not sure if I’m up to reading all five Wright works back to back to back, so I may have to put in chasers. Luckily, swapping ebooks is not a hard process.


NOVELETTE
All works made available.

My thoughts: A minor quibble that the Flynn is only in PDF, but I can live with that. I’m getting these for free, after all, and my kindle does read them.


SHORT STORY

All works made available.

My thoughts: Wow. Baen included the whole book that one of the short stories was in. That’ll make for some fun non-Hugo reading. (I don’t really have a problem with Baen. They’re sci-fi — yeah, maybe a bit conservative and gun fetishy at times, but they’ve also got some really good authors, like Lois McMaster Bujold and Eric Flint. PS: If you haven’t been reading Eric Flint’s take on the whole Hugo kerfluffle, you really ought to check it out.


RELATED WORK:

4 complete:

  • “The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF”, Ken Burnside
  • Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth, John C. Wright
  • “Why Science is Never Settled”, Tedd Roberts
  • Wisdom from My Internet, Michael Z. Williamson

1 extract:

  • Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli

My thoughts: “The Hot Equations” is represented by a complete copy of Riding the Red Horse, which I believe covers entries in Related, Short Story, and Editor Short Form. It also covers the lone fiction credit for ESR in the Campbell, although that’s not stated in the notes attached to the files. “Why Science is Never Settled” is PDF only, as is the extract from Letters from Gardner. I wish there were a way to get a digital copy of Letters From Gardner because I’d like to read it in its entirety and $18.50 is a little steep for my budget at the moment. That said, I know the publisher of the book does good quality stuff (I have a copy of their version of Who Killed Science Fiction? around here.)


GRAPHIC STORY
4 works represented:

  • Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
  • Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery
  • Saga Volume 3
  • Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick

My thoughts: The press release from Sasquan hints that the missing nominee (Zombie Nation #2) may be coming to the packet at a later date. It was also the only one that the guy who owns my comic book shop had never heard of. These two thoughts may or may not be related.


DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG/SHORT
No representation

My thoughts: This isn’t unusual. The Hugos are not the Oscars, and digital video isn’t quite there yet.


EDITOR SHORT FORM
Contributions from all active members

My thoughts: This is one of two categories affected by late withdrawals, so there is nothing from Edmund R. Schubert. (Of course, he’s put out, independently, what he would have submitted, and I need to go through that.) Day is represented by the aforementioned Riding the Red Horse and the works of John C. Wright elsewhere on the ballot. Schmidt includes the anthology he co-edited with Brozek; Brozek includes another anthology that she edited. Resnick put a list of what he’s edited together.


EDITOR LONG FORM
Editorial bibliography from Anne Sowards, editorial bibliography and sample chapters from Sheila Gilbert, and a link to editorial bibliography by Toni Weisskopf.

My thoughts: Perhaps the most interesting thing here is this note included with the file: “Vox Day has no submission.” I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but it’s hard to judge somebody in this category without a nod towards what they’ve edited. Can Day truly say that he’s been No Awarded because of evil social justice warriors when he can’t even provide an editorial bibliography? I assume that because Weisskopf’s link is to Baen Books, that she edits all the long form stuff coming out of Baen — there’s no easy link on the site to tell. And whatever happened to Jim Minz? (And I thought he was Baen too…) Maybe this is stuff that will get sorted out.


PROFESSIONAL ARTIST
Four artists have sample work in this category.

My thoughts: I glanced through the sample artwork, and by and far, all of it is good stuff. I’ll do closer diligence when I hit this category. The missing artist is Carter Reid, the artist of the missing graphic novel above, so I will have to assume that his delayed submission will cover him here.


SEMIPROZINE
All candidates have sample work.

My thoughts: Nothing to write home about here. Abyss and Apex only has a PDF copy of their semiprozine, whereas the other four included epub and mobi copies, but that, as I have noted before, is a minor quibble.


FANZINE
Three candidates have sample work.

My thoughts: This is the second Hugo category affected by a late withdrawal, and thus only has four members in it. The missing candidate is Elitist Book Reviews. (Again, guys, don’t go blaming your loss on an SJW conspiracy when you don’t get stuff into the packet.)


FANCAST
All fancasts have a sample episode.

My thoughts: I’m not big on podcasts — I read much faster than I listen. But I’m going to give all five of these a try. I need to make sure they get on my phone. All episodes are in the mp3 format — of course, that’s generally the standard on the Internet.


FAN WRITER
All writers have sample work.

My thoughts: Everybody’s present here. Freer, Sanderson, and Green have work in multiple formats, whereas Johnson and Mixon have PDF only, but again, a minor quibble.


FAN ARTIST
All artists have sample work.

My thoughts: Foster, Schoenhuth, and Aalto have a URL to see more of their work elsewhere on the web, but all artists contributed something to the package itself. I flipped through the work in the packet and found much to admire. And I really need to bug both Brad and Steve for fanzine art…


CAMPBELL (not a hugo)
Three writers have submissions in this category.

My thoughts: English, Chu, and Cordova all have something in the packet. I haven’t looked closely to see what those things are. I think Chu is a novel, and Cordova had two items — both may be novels or they may be stories. I think English is primarily a short story author at the moment, but I could be mistaken. Although there is no note, I know Raymond’s only professional sale has been his story in Riding the Red Horse, which we have elsewhere in the packet. I have no idea what’s going on with Nelson.

***

…phew. That took some time to write up.

the letter and the spirit

the letter and the spirit

Wow, aren’t you an absolutely lovely and charming person.

The article in question (via Do Not Link) opens with this quotation:

Situational dominance is contingent on local factors.

For example, a 5’4 female teacher with a firm demeanor is situationally dominant over a classroom full of 5-year-olds. If she raises her voice, she can even be intimidating. Outside the classroom situation, however, she’s a short woman in a low-prestige profession who will have trouble commanding general respect unless there are other mitigating factors. Certainly, she’d have problems bossing around rowdy teenagers.

Obviously, the man who wrote this never met my high school math teacher.

Mrs. Bjerke (that’s pronounced Bur-KEE) was not a very tall woman, and to boot she wore thick glasses. Just looking at her, Mr. Dampier would probably just dismiss her as yet another woman who couldn’t even handle a high school class. But see, that’s where he would be wrong. Because Mrs. Bjerke was the chair of the math department, the AP Calculus teacher, and the sort of woman who took absolutely no shit from anybody, whether said person was an unruly teenager in her class or the principal of the high school. The best part? I don’t recall her ever raising her voice. Just by sheer demeanor and presence, she kept us all in line.

My junior and senior years, I participated on the quiz bowl team at my high school. The participants of the quiz bowl were the teams in our athletic league, eight schools scattered across the central part of extreme Northern California, from Yreka in the north to Red Bluff in the south. My high school quiz team was very good, but our arch-nemesis were the Miners of Yreka. They were also very good, and they played Quiz Bowl by the exact interpretation of the rules — which included challenging every question they could possibly challenge. By doing this, they were able to throw other teams off their game. Just a touch of hesitation on the buzzers could mean the difference between victory and defeat, as we learned in the finals of my junior year. I may have made all-league at Quiz Bowl, but I still sputtered all the way back home about their methods.

And I vowed that when the quiz bowl team became mine that I would make sure my team was prepared for the bloody Miners. I made captain of the team — an expected outcome, but one that I was proud of — and I started to get my team together. They were as ready as I was going to make them. Unfortunately, our advisor, the one who had witnessed Yreka’s tactics the year prior, was out on maternity leave by the time the quiz bowl rolled around.

Luckily, we knew this was coming, and the advisor asked me if I’d be cool with Mrs. Bjerke as a stand-in. Of course I was — words cannot express my regard for her. We ran our last couple practices under Mrs. Bjerke’s watchful eye, and we were ready as we were going to be. This was going to be our year.

With eight schools, we each played four other schools, and the two teams with the highest total of points after four rounds was the winner. The common gathering place for all the teams was the library at the host high school, where they kept a chalkboard with the running tallies. And it was there after our second game, watching results from the various games trickle in, that an odd score went up on the board — Yreka had defeated West Valley by a huge margin, but there was a note added that the score was doubled because they could only play one round and not two.

A moment later, the West Valley team walked in. Now, West Valley was a sister high school to mine — we were the two high schools in our district, and they were usually our bitter rivals in almost every sports competition. But at the same time, they were our sister school. So I pulled the WV captain aside and asked him what happened.

He had that anger in his eye that I knew all too well from the year before. Yreka had challenged nearly every question in the round. That’s how they’d only gotten through one round in the time allotted for two. I nodded, and told him Yreka had pulled a similar gambit the year before on us in the finals of the quiz bowl.

We got through a third game, although I was stewing a bit. It was lunchtime, and our opponent in our last game was the aforementioned Miners of Yreka. So I pulled my team together while we were eating and reminded them of Yreka’s tactics and that we’d had positive confirmation they were doing it again per my conversation with WV’s captain.

That’s when Mrs. Bjerke stepped in. “They did what?” And as we relayed the stories, the look on her face was one I knew. It was the one she used when she was disappointed with somebody. “I’ll bring it up at the coach’s meeting here.”

I wish I had been present at that coach’s meeting. I am told that it was epic, the way Mrs. Bjerke tore the Yreka coach apart on sportsmanship and his tactics, about the difference between the letter vs. the spirit of the rules, and the kind of example he was setting for high school kids.

All I knew then was the coach’s meeting had gone long, and we’d had to start our fourth game without either coach. Yreka played hard — they were still a good team — but there was something missing from their spirit. Maybe it was us, determined to crush their cheating ways. That said, the challenges from them were much less than they usually were. About midway through the first half, the Yreka coach slid in, but he just sat at the back of the room, hardly even looking at his team or seeming to care what was going on. Mrs. Bjerke came in shortly after him, and she had that expression. At the half, I asked her what had happened. She just smiled and said that they had a nice conversation about sportsmanship.

The finals were extremely anti-climactic. We played Yreka again. They did even worse than they had in the game we’d played prior. And at the end of it, the Yreka coach asked me about my college plans — he seemed rather pleased I was going to Berkeley. Whether it was the fact I was graduating and couldn’t torment his quiz bowl team anymore, or if he was truly pleased, I couldn’t tell you. But I do know that was the politest he’d been to me in two years.

What’s the point of this? Well, it’s funny how the Yreka coach was very good at following the letter of the rules without caring a whit about the spirit of them. It reminds me of a certain other situation I’ve been following over the past month, in which the prize — whether it’s the actual trophy or the more nebulous prize of annoying folks who don’t think like they do — has taken on such importance that the spirit of the rules can be discarded.

I just think about what happened to the coach who discarded the spirit of the rules in order to win.

It won’t stop them. Those who are convinced of the rightness of their cause will willfully ignore everything that doesn’t correspond to that cause. But I hope someday they meet up with somebody that won’t take their shit.

My Mind is My Own

My Mind is My Own

Over the last few days, I have been voraciously combing the internet, reading anything and everything I can find on the nominees for the Hugo awards and wrestling with my own conscience. I think I have finally come to a conclusion as to what I am going to do.

I will read all the Hugo nominees as if this were a normal year. I cannot betray my own sense of professionalism and well, I’ve read Glenn Beck and the entire Left Behind series without throwing the books through the window or across the room. I am, as I said in my earlier post, not looking forward to this. I am not reading these because the Sad Puppies demand that I must — I am because I feel an obligation to my own conscience to do so, just as I would any other year.

That said, I will rank all the nominees on either the Sad Puppies or Rabid Puppies slates below No Award.

There are some things on the ballot for which it pains me to have to do this. I have loved the Dresden Files ever since my good friend Eileen introduced them to me by giving me the books for Christmas — but Jim Butcher is on the slate. Guardians of the Galaxy was my favorite movie of the year and a work I might have actually nominated if I’d felt well enough to turn in nominations. Nope. The Lego Movie is right behind it in terms of movies I loved last year, and would have been a very close #2 to Guardians. Sorry.

I am especially grieved to make this decision in cases like Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Black Gate, and Annie Bellet. It grieves me because Jen Brozek, a person I know and respect, is on the short form editor ballot and I would love to see her win a Hugo.

But I can’t vote any of these folks above No Award. I am sorry, but this is what my conscience demands of me. I will read your work in my packet. I will consider you for my own nominations in 2016 — and I plan to participate in the nomination round next year. But any ranking you may earn by the quality of your work will go after No Award this year.

I have decided this because I care about the Hugo. I have cared about the Hugo ever since I found out about it in an introduction in one of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, and I dream of winning it someday. But in order to keep that dream alive, I have to make sure the Hugos survive. If it comes to a slate vs. slate situation, I would have even less chance of ending up on the Hugo ballot than I already did. So the only thing I can do is express my horror and displeasure at slate voting, and use what few tools I have to express that displeasure.

For those who are saying that I am only doing this because I disagree with the political stances of Sad/Rabid Puppies, I would be doing this if it were the John Scalzi/Making Light Slate of Rainbow Joy Kittens.

My mind is my own, and I make my own decisions.

It doesn’t really matter. I am just one person, and my blog is so minuscule that it won’t register. My vote is but a drop in an ocean, but it is mine. My mind, my thoughts, my opinions — they are my own.

Grimly and Without Joy

Grimly and Without Joy

The 2015 Hugo nominations have come out.

Normally this is a great moment of satisfaction for me. I usually have not read all the nominees on the slate, so it’s like getting a Christmas present from my fellow science fiction geeks. Hugo nominations are generally so broad that what percolates up from the mass hive mind are usually stories that I don’t mind giving a bit of time to read and compare against each other. Most of the time, I find something interesting in this.

This process only works if it’s a true random percolation, though. The last few years, though, there has been a campaign called the Sad Puppies that suggests that the Hugo award is too liberal and too invested in identity politics, thus choosing works that are turgid and uninteresting instead of stories full of spaceships and laser guns and manly men, I suppose.

Now the first year of this slate, it fell under the radar. The second year, they managed to get a few works on the ballot — works I read, and in some cases, enjoyed. Were they truly Hugo-worthy? No, not as much as other things on the ballot, but with one exception, I didn’t mind reading them.

This wasn’t enough, I suppose. This year, the Sad Puppies managed to put together a slate. Not just one or two works in a category — that wasn’t enough. This was enough to disrupt the random percolation of works to the point where whole categories of the Hugo awards are dominated by this slate — and I wonder what I’m missing that would have risen to the level of a Hugo nomination in any other year. (I suppose I’ll find out when the long list comes out — it’ll be harder to dig up the works, but I might have to read them.)

I’ll read the works. I take my duty as a Hugo voter seriously, and I will rate the works as I see fit. I may end up ranking No Award above them all if I don’t feel any of the works nominated rises to the level of a Hugo in my opinion. It’s the best I can do in a situation I am obviously not happy about.

But I feel as if something I enjoyed has become a grim, thankless task. Politics is never far from any human endeavor, but this year, it feels like it’s all politics. Because here’s the part I elided around: part of the reason for this slate is that certain folks thought the Hugo wasn’t conservative enough.

Now I’ll freely admit, I’m not exactly conservative in my politics. I went to Berkeley, after all. But everything I was taught both in my deeply conservative home town and in liberal Berkeley is that you treat people with courtesy and respect, no matter where they’re from or what they look like. Do I always live up to this? I’m a human being, I’d be lying if I said I did. But it’s a good yardstick to work from.

There are people nominated this year that seem, from my vantage point, to go against this yardstick. Their words are, at best, ill-conceived, and at worst, vile hatred of anybody not like themselves. Bigotry and misogyny are rampant. Is this truly the best science fiction has to offer? I don’t think so, but apparently I’m wrong.

There’s a saying that when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. And while I’m not going to just toss every work on the Sad Puppies slate out without actually looking at them first — see the above about treating my duty seriously — I can understand why others would be tempted to do just that.

But it means this year’s reading will be done grimly and without joy.

I’ll probably have more to say about this in the future, as I start to read, but this will do for now.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

As much as I didn’t want to leave the fun that was Corflu, alas, all good things must come to an end. I wandered out a bit after ten last night, and got home a bit before 1. Time: about two and a half hours of driving, all told. I was less sleepy than I thought I’d be, which is somewhat of a miracle.

I’m still trying to process the weekend. Maybe with a full night’s sleep, I’ll be able to attempt to write some of it down.

Short of it, though, is I had an amazing time, and I’m going to do my best to see you all next year in realspace. In the meantime, I’ve got a first issue of Rhyme to put out. (For those of you not at Corflu, I introduced Rhyme, but deliberately numbered it ½ so that it wouldn’t be the first issue — I’ll get the electronic copy to Bill later in the week, I suspect.)

Meanwhile, I think some sleep is needed. My cat has already found the pile of fanzines, declared them cromulent, and sacked out on them. Mebbe she’s a fan, too.

Small and Far Away

Small and Far Away

I need to sit down and write stuff. All sorts of stuff. Maybe, this weekend, if I get my homework done, such things will be able to happen.

But the point of this post is to point to this: Small and Far Away, a one-shot fanzine created by members of the virtual fanzine lounge at the last Corflu. There’s a link to the PDF on that page. You should read it!

Yours truly, beyond having an article in the issue, is the one who did the layout work.

The next step is getting the first issue of Rhyme & Paradox out. I’ll be calling in favors shortly…

Rhyme & Paradox

Rhyme & Paradox

Yeah, that’s going to be the title of the fanzine I’m putting out. And I’m looking for contributions. I have the first year pretty much planned out as to topics. (I’m going to go approximately quarterly, so that means four topics.)

The first topic is ‘Beginnings’; I’ll need things by New Year’s for assembly and layout in early January. I’ll take anything folks want to throw at me, but my most pressing need would be a cover. I’ll probably end up having to whip something up using photographs since I don’t know how to ask for help (read: too nervous to ask), but I wanted to lay that out there as a thought.

The second right now seems to want to be called ‘Dreaming of Rockets’; my thought on that is Hugos, not the space race. I’m sure it’ll come up soon. That, I’m going to say, let’s shoot for a deadline of the Ides of March. This is a little more fluid, talk to me in January about it. I just wanted to throw the idea out there.

My email is katster AT retstak DOT org, or you can poke me via all the usual places (including the comments of this blog entry.)

waiting for taff

waiting for taff

One of the amazing things about fandom is the respective fan funds. There’s a triangle of them connecting the three largest concentrates of fandom in the world. (There’s also several minor ones, my favorite of which is CUFF, which sends fans back and forth within Canada.)

The first one, connecting Europe with Australia, is GUFF, which stands for the Going Under/Get Up-and-over Fan Fund, depending on the direction of the trip. As this is the leg of the triangle that I can’t participate in, I don’t know all that much about it. The next trip direction is EU -> AUS, for the Australian Worldcon next year.

The second one, connecting Australia with North America, is DUFF, which stands for the Down Under Fan Fund. This fascinates me, as Australia’s always seemed like a nifty place to visit. (That’s why I was hoping to get there next year, but my plans to be employed full-time by this point have been thwarted by the economic meltdown.) Anyway, this year’s DUFF trip is NA -> AUS for the same reason as GUFF.

And then there’s my favorite fan fund, TAFF, or the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund. Now it might be my favorite because I hang out with Chris Garcia at conventions and thus get the full fury of the manic TAFF delegate. TAFF connects Europe and North America, and got its start in a one-off fund to bring a great fanwriter named Walt Willis from Ireland to the US in 1952, which means the fund is the granddaddy of all the fanfunds and, well, older than my parents. (There’s a lot of things older than my parents in fandom. There are things in fandom that are older than my grandparents, actually. And if that doesn’t make most folks in fandom feel old…)

And TAFF is NA -> EU this year. And they’ve just called for nominations

So, what’s the catch, you ask? Well, if you win, you get to spend two years (or until the next person travelling in the direction you took your trip in goes) managing the fund and raising more money for it. This means talking it up whenever possible. Basically, you’re trading two-four weeks of awesomeness with two years of representing and earning more money for the fund. Thankfully, fandom is generally generous with both items and money to support the fund.

TAFF is the trip I’d like to do, as I seem to have more friends in British fandom than I do in Australian fandom, which is probably partially a function of the APAs I’ve decided to join. This would be the year to do it, too, as the trip is supposed to be attending the Eastercon in 2010, but Corflu’s the weekend before, and it would be fun to attend both and get the general vibe of things.

But after some thought on the matter, I’m going to hold off for a few reasons:

  1. I’m still a newbie, and trying to convince folks to vote for me would probably take some doing. (I could probably find nominators, but again, it helps to be better known.)
  2. Even if I could get past the hurdle of point one, I’m part-time at my job. This means I get no vacation whatsoever. My attendance at Worldcon was sandwiched by two days of eight hours and three days doing my usual time, and I still lost four hours of time I’m allotted every week. It wouldn’t be fair to either myself, the British fans I meet, or the fund in general for me to have to put in work time while I’m on the trip.
  3. Even if I overcame both those hurdles, I’m still dependent on the US Government providing me some small measure of my income, and the draconian asset limits attached to that. (Seriously, to get disability in this country, you are allowed to own a house, a car, and no more than $2000 in assets.) Since the TAFF fund gets put in your name, I blow the asset cap with money that isn’t even mine.

Of course, points two and three could be mitigated by getting a full-time job that offers a benefit like, oh, vacation pay, which is why I’m holding off at the moment — to let the economy warm up a bit and figure out what the future might hold as well as getting more involved and active within fandom. It’s possible I’ll re-evaluate in 2012 and do it then, but 2014’s looking a lot more likely at the moment.

But in the meantime, I just wanted to spread the word of the awesome things that are contained within fandom. And this is one of the most nifty parts, in my opinion.

detritus

detritus

In no particular order:

  • My souvenir book and program guide for the worldcon just concluded in Montreal came today. My cat is thankful to the committee for providing her with cat toys. Cat toys? I hear you ask. Well, you see, in order to keep the souvenir book flat, somebody attached package straps, and my cat seems to think these make wonderfully awesome toys. This is why I voted for the folks in Montreal; I knew they would be thoughtful like that. ;)
  • Had to take my car in for servicing today — it needed an oil change. Not a big deal. On the way home, I found somebody with a car that had a license plate of RIP BUD, a license plate frame that read “In memory of my son Bud”, and one of those in memoriam stickers in the back window. I understand that grief is a powerful thing, but I’ve got to wonder what the story is that made somebody feel the necessity of shelling out for personalized plates to bear his/her grief. Guess this is one of those things to file away and let the brain see how they can make fiction from it.
  • Got my first distribution of the eAPA out as the OE. It’s a bit scary being the dude in charge, but I think I can handle it. It’ll get easier from here on out, I’m sure. That said, I’ve got to start trying to figure out how to get new members — I love the ones we have, but new members are always fun. So if anybody out there reading this who isn’t already in on the fun that is the eAPA and want to join in, it’s once a month in pdf (and if you don’t have a pdf writer, I can turn it into pdf from Word or Open Office documents without a problem). The folks in the APA are nice and we don’t bite unless you ask really nicely. So come on…whatcha waiting for? Join in the fun. Toss me an email.

And I think that’s pretty much all the news that is news across the nation. At least, at the moment.

So we’ll leave this with a question: what sort of detritus is in your head at the moment?

Back from the Bay Area…

Back from the Bay Area…

At work, trying to get things done. There’s an interesting concept.

Anyway, let’s begin with a picture:

I am absolutely sure that isn’t what they meant, but I got a pretty good chuckle out of it.

So, I went to the Bay Area. Things I did:

  • Went to the Office of Letters and Light (the folks who run NaNoWriMo) to sign my ML form for the coming year. I may be the only ML who will do it that way.
  • Drove to ‘s place; got smothered in kisses by Zoe, who is my second most favorite dog in the world after my own. Also, forgot to take the greenies wrapper out of my pocket after I opened them to give to doggies, which led Zoe to keep sniffing my pocket hopefully that there would be a second treat. Also, saw chickens and got a slice of awesome bread that made.
  • Got back on the freeway, drove back to 680 and made the loop around into the South Bay, as 880’s traffic can get really bad. Stopped in Milpitas to kill time; found disgusting bathrooms and that picture in the Borders there.
  • Went to the BASFA meeting because (a) I’ve been wanting to go and (b) the UK TAFF delegate was supposed to be there. Alas, ran afoul of the air travel gods and failed to get out of Seattle until 5:30, which meant that he was too exhausted when he got here to make the trip down to the meeting. So sad! But other than that, I had a good time, even if the meeting went way longer than I expected.
  • Got back in the car, and drove home mostly without incident, although I got slightly lost in Concord/Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill looking for caffeinated goodness, which probably cost me a half hour. Paid my bridge toll in dollar coins, which I think weirded out the attendant a little. (Why did I have dollar coins? Well, see, I give TAFF delegates shiny gold coins.)
  • Got home at 1:30 AM; got back up and went to work this morning

I think that’s about it. I don’t know when the next time I’ll make a trip over — finances are kinda tight. Folks are trying to talk me into showing up at Silicon, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m hoping for a Big Game trip, myself, but again, money’s tight, and getting a ticket to Big Game at Stanford’s breadbox is difficult.

That’s about it. Guess it’s time to go back to work, now that I figured out why I was critfailing my HTML roll.

the news from Montreal

the news from Montreal

So another Worldcon winds down. If all goes well, I should be at the next one, but at the moment I’m not expecting it to go well. However, unless things go absolutely pear-shaped, I’ll be at the one in 2011, since, y’know, it’s just over the hill from Sactown.

But that’s not the point of this post. The point is to prod at the news from Montreal. And here’s my thoughts. Note: these are just my thoughts.

First off, Reno wins the 2011 Worldcon and Raleigh takes the 2010 NASFiC. Neither of these are the unexpected results, as both were unopposed, but now we know where we’ll be hanging out. As I said, Reno’s just over the hill from Sactown, and as soon as I can scrape up the money, I’ll be buying my attending membership. I encourage all my friends to buy supporting memberships; if nothing else, you’ll get to vote for the Hugos. If you want to go all out and get an attending membership, that’s even better. Come party in Reno with me. ;)

Also, I’m fairly impressed at how well the Reno team has gotten on the ball in regards to social networking. Since Saturday, I’ve received invitations to both the LJ community and the Twitter account, and I suspect, if I were more active on Facebook than I am, I’d have an invitation there too. Well done.

Next, this year’s Hugo trophy is a work of art. Well done. I think that’s my favorite trophy of the last three years.

As for the awards themselves, the first thing that pops out is what might amount to the end of an era. Somebody other than Locus takes the Semipro award, and the category was saved from elimination at the business meeting, both of which I think are good things. I’m all about diversity in winners in the Hugo categories — in both the senses of different people winning them, and in the sense of diverse in the larger context, although I freely admit, the latter is harder. Anyway, the point is, epic moment.

Best fan writer went to Cheryl Morgan. Cheryl’s an awesome choice; I love her writing. Also, I know that she has wanted to defeat Dave Langford in honorable combat, and she’s gone and done that in dramatic fashion. As I said, Cheryl’s awesome and I’m glad for her victory in the category. (Also, that red dress is exquisite.)

On the other hand, there’s best fanzine. Electric Velocipede was the winner. This, in my opinion, doesn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong, John Klima is also doing excellent work, and the fanzine rules as written don’t exclude him from the category, as he’s rightly pointed out. However, I’m the sort that finds the idea of paying for something that’s in the fanzine category just a little odd, as the ethics of fanzines, as I have been taught them, seem to imply that charging (or paying) anything other than the fannish usual (that is, a copy of the fanzine for a contribution, LoC, or as speculation) is just not kosher. See, I know EV is a labor of love for John, just as fanzines are for their editors, but I’m not sure Best Fanzine is the best place for what he’s doing. But the will of the voters has overruled me, and it is a diverse result, so I’m not sure if I can complain too much. Besides, it’s entirely possible I’ve been hanging out with the old fogies of fandom for too long. ;)

A quick shot of the rest of the categories: I’m sad Taral Wayne didn’t win Best Fan Artist. Frank Wu is a good guy, and a great artist, but I was rooting for Taral in this catagory. Don’t really know much about editors or the short form nominees, so can’t say much there; same with most of the fiction categories. (I failed to read most of them this year; this is something I will rectify for next year’s ballot.) Wall-E won long form, which was not unexpected. The Foglios got a Hugo for Girl Genius in the first year of Best Graphic Novel; I couldn’t think of a better choice. John Scalzi gets another Hugo, for Best Related Book this year — now he just needs to win Best Novel one of these years to complete the trifecta. And, Best Novel went to The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. I believe that makes Neil the first author to win both the Newberry and the Hugo for the same book.

Chris Garcia not only beat out No Award, but a couple actual living breathing human beings in both his categories. There’s hope for a Hugo for the fanzine lounge yet. At the same time, I’m sad that one of the living breathing human beings was Steven Silver, a person whom I’ve gotten to know through eAPA, and whose work I anticipate every month in that august distribution.

My goal for next year is to receive five nominations and thus show up on the nominations list. That would be awesome. I doubt it’ll happen, though, as I’ve not really done much to warrant the honor.

I like the new logo for the Hugo Award. It’s simple, but elegant. I like that clean style; it’s very Art Deco (I think that’s the right term) and a nice nod to the origins of fandom in those long ago decades. Well done, again.

And I think that’s most all the news from Montreal. I’ll sign off now.

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