Monthly Archives: February 2009

Home Is Where I Want to Be

But I guess I’m already there. I mean, I’m typing this in my office and all. Which is to say my travel karma did not kick my ass this time. Go me.

The good news is that now I don’t have to go anywhere for a month (at which point I go here). There’s a distinct possibility I might not even leave my house over the next four weeks. Yay! I’m a shut in!

And that’s all I got for you right now. Hope you’re doing well.

That Was Fun

The reason I was in DC this weekend was that I was officiating the wedding of my friends Emily Weise and Michael King (now each taking the name of Weise-King), and I have to say it was a whole lot of fun, from the robot cake toppers to the part where a significant portion of the men dropped their pants, linked arms in a circle and bellowed lustily to the strains of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” At which point, someone there turned to me and said, “Are you totally blogging this?” Well, yes. I totally am. It was brilliant, frankly.

And I’m delighted to say that the ceremony portion of the wedding went like a dream; it was one of the smoothest-working weddings I’ve been part of, either as officiant or as part of the wedding. I’ll have to remember what I was doing in this one and carry it over to whenever I do this again. A very smart and organized wedding party helped. Of course, I was delighted to play even a small part in this wedding. I love weddings, especially when they involve people I like and hope are happy for the rest of their lives.

And now, to pack, because I have to get up early and drive back to BWI and see how much travel karma is this time around. Think good thoughts for me.

Hugo Reminders

Hey there, folks – I’ve been asked to remind all you potential Hugo nominators (that would be those people who attended last year’s Worldcon, Denvention 3, and/or have registered for this year’s Worldcon, Anticipation) that there’s just a week to get your nomination ballots in, and that if you’re submitting your nominations online, sooner is rather better than later, since there’s often a last minute crush to get those nominations in, and computers, they can be twitchy. So don’t wait until the 28th: soon is good.

If you need some Hugo and Campbell nomination suggestions, I put up a thread a couple of weeks ago for people to put suggestions in. And they did! So that’s good too.

Also, and on a personal note, while there are Hugo categories I hope you might consider me for, I’ll remind folks that this year I’m actively encouraging people to nominate people other than me in the Best Fan Writer category, on the principle that there is a lot of excellent writing by fans out there (even fans who also happen to be pros), and that it would be a good thing to spread around the Far Writer Hugo so that some of that excellence can be recognized.

While I won’t specify which five people I put in the Fan Writer nomination slots (except to say I didn’t nominate myself in the category), here are some of the people I think are doing good fan writing right now, in no particular order: Chris Garcia, John Hertz, Cheryl Morgan, Kate Nepveu, Mike Glyer, Steve Silver, James Nicoll, Nicholas Whyte, Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear, Toby Buckell, Thomas Wagner.

Those are just off the top of my head; there are others who deserve to be considered as well. Indeed, if you, gentle reader, would like to suggest someone worth nominating in the Best Fan Writer category — and who has not won the award in, oh, let’s say, the last 20 years — please add their name to the comment thread. I’m serious about getting people to nominate in this category, and recognizing good fan writing. Let’s get this Hugo in the hands of more people.

Something to Look Forward To

Because I know you’re always looking for reasons not to throw yourself off a bridge, consider this as something to get you through the weekend: Next week, I’ll be posting not one, not two, but three Big Idea pieces. Yes! Three times the joy! At least which one of which I intended to post this week, but then Bad Flight Karma and other things happened.Yeah, I suck.

Mind you, this is one of the reasons we’re doing BigIdeaAuthors.com — the site will have its own, far more responsible editor, who will make sure everything goes up on schedule and not just when I get around to it. That’s right, I’m outsourcing professionalism! And you should all be glad.

Incidentally, I’ll be having more details about BIA soon, so those of you on your chair for that, be ready! It’s coming. Not today, though. Today I’m, well, kind of flaky. It happens from time to time.

In DC

First, the popular and obligatory picture from the hotel window:

I can see the Washington Monument from my window, but right now the sun’s glare is keeping me from getting a good shot of it, so you’re all out of luck in terms of symbolic phallic symbols. Try to make it through the day anyway.

For those of you e-mailing me about whether I’m in town for a public appearance, the answer is no; friends of mine are getting married and I’m here for that. Also, I don’t know when I will next have a public appearance in DC; I suspect possibly the next time I publish a novel, but that won’t be this year in any event. Or I might finally get down to CapClave, which I keep intending to and keep not managing, because I suck. We’ll see. But in any event, no, nothing public scheduled at the moment. Sorry.

But it’s nice to back in DC; we lived in the area for a number of years and still have a house here, so I definitely feel a connection. Maybe I’ll just pop in on my renters and confuse the hell of out of them. That’s a day’s worth of entertainment right there!

My Astonishingly Bad Travel Karma Continues Unabated

I get to the airport and discover a) the airline self-serve kiosks are down, and b) my flight is cancelled. The first of these caused me to stand in line for an interminable period of time just to hear I had no flight; the second of these caused me to whip out the cell phone and rebook as soon as humanly possible, because there were only 15 extra seats on the next flight, and waiting until I got to the ticket counter wouldn’t help me get one.

In the end:

1. I rebooked on the later flight;

2. Because my flight was cancelled, in addition to a rebooking I got a free round-trip travel voucher;

3. Now I gotta kill six hours in the airport.

So all told, despite the fact I continue to have the sort of travel karma that makes me suspect I kicked adorable puppies in a past life, it could be a lot worse. Also, since I had today specifically as a travel day, i.e., I had nothing on my schedule but travel, this is not as horribly annoying as it could be; I didn’t have to cancel any commitments. And if nothing else, Dayton airport has free wifi.

Mind you, if the next flight gets cancelled, I’m gonna be really pissed. But let’s not worry about that now.

So, how’s your day going?

More Travel

Lopsided Cat thinks he will bar me from leaving the house by cleverly sitting on my carry-on! Foolish cat! As large as you are, I still have impressive lifting power! Which I will soon use to remove you from said carry-on. These are the trials of being a somewhat small mammal, in the grand scheme of things.

Traveling again, so try to carry on without me for the next several hours. I may be back later this afternoon, but then again, I may just blow you all off, because I’m capricious like that. You just never know. However, if you really feel you can’t live, if living is without me, there’s always my Twitter feed, which I will like update at regular intervals because, hell, I’m paying for an unlimited data package on my cell phone, I might as well use it.

Be well; see you later.

Long Odds to Cinematic Glory

What are the chances that your favorite work of literary science fiction will make it to the silver screen? As I explain in today’s AMC column: Pretty darn slim. Sorry. I’m bummed about it too. Take a look at the column and leave your thoughts and comments over on the AMC site.

Korean OMW Covers

Dude, I totally love this artwork. The first picture is the front cover, the second the back cover (NB: the edge of the front cover is clipped on the right because I’m a bad photographer).

Seriously, this is one of the reasons I love foreign versions of my work (I mean, aside from the money) — I love seeing how publishers in different countries handle the artwork. This is one of my favorites so far. I’m going to have to see about getting a print of both of these.

Repeating Myself For the Benefit of the Home Crowd

Over at Metafilter, they’re talking about media tie-in science fiction, bouncing off Vonda McIntyre’s blog post on the subject of writing Star Trek novels. The comments are fairly balanced between snarking on the people who read and write tie-ins and the people who are saying “hey now, it’s not bad stuff,” and so I thought I’d drop my own comment on the matter, which I’m reposting below for you folks. If you have a Metafilter account, you can comment there; if you don’t have one, well, why not comment here.

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With very few exceptions, media tie-in SF outsells original SF, often by a significant amount. Now, we can argue about why this is and whether this is a good thing for the genre or not, but at the end of the day, it’s a fact and it’s something authors give serious consideration to, in terms of its value to their overall career.

Let me put it this way: If someone came up to you and said “I’d like you to write a book for me that’s guaranteed to be in every single bookstore in the nation and all but guaranteed to land on the New York Times bestseller list, thus allowing you to put ‘New York Times Bestselling Author’ on every single one of your books from here on out and I’ll pay you an advance worth more than you usually get for any three books you’ve written up to this point, and words get you to put into Yoda’s mouth, and you know you’ve always wanted to do that,” would you not give this person some serious consideration?

Maybe you say you wouldn’t, but, you know, that’s easy to say when you’re not an actual full-time SF writer, looking down the barrel of a mortgage (or rent, or kids’ doctors visits, or whatever) while working in a genre where seven cents a word is considered a decent wage. It’s exceptionally difficult to make any money at all writing fiction, much less science fiction, and even in the golden days of science fiction, most SF writers — even the famous ones — did something else to make money (or starved). Ask SFWA Grand Master and multiple Hugo winner Robert Silverberg about his soft-core porn writing days, for example, after the SF market collapsed in the late 50s/early 60s. I’m not aware of him having any shame about it — work is work.

Another thought to consider is that this snobbery against tie-in work is specific to medium. If I told people I was writing a script for Battlestar Galactica, I would get congratulations up and down the block; if I said I was writing a BSG tie-in novel, people would wonder why I was lowering myself. And yet the novel is by a substantial margin the longer and more complex work and in both cases one has to abide the rules of someone else’s universe. The assumption that tie-in novels are all hackwork is just that, an assumption; I challenge anyone to read a Karen Traviss or Matt Stover-penned Star Wars novel and say that they were not better works, in terms of story, character development, and audience involvement, than any of the prequel films. Yes, this is a low bar. But if you were to switch it around and say that any new Star Wars film had to clear the bar established by Traviss or Stover, I’ll you what: The next Star Wars film would fucking rock.

I don’t write tie-in SF for my own reasons, but it’s not to say I wouldn’t if the right project came along. I have quite a number of friends who do or have written tie-ins, and you know what, when all is said and done they’re generally getting paid well to do work they love in universes they’re fans of, for audiences who well appreciate their efforts. Maybe some people want to crap all over that and call them hacks. I heartily raise a middle finger at them.

Free and Largely Scientifically Accurate Science Fiction

Via the always-fantabulous Mary Robinette Kowal, I bring to your attention Diamonds in the Sky, a free-to-read, online anthology of (mostly) new science fiction, edited by Mike Brotherton. Brotherton, who is an astronomer as well as a science fiction writer, wanted to highlight stories that got the “science” part of science fiction right, and pitched the idea to the National Science Foundation as a good way to do outreach and to help science teachers jazz up their lessons. It’s likely to be in their top tier of projects with the best benefit-to-cost ratios, I suspect. And as a tax payer, I consider this an excellent use of my tax dollar (or, considering the likely low cost of the project, my tax mill).

Contributors to the anthology include Hugo-winning NASA scientist Geoffrey A. Landis, Hugo winner David Levine, Nebula nominees Jeffrey A. Carver and Wil McCarthy, Campbell winner Mary Robinette Kowal, and a bunch of other people who are good with that there science as well as that there fiction. Right now all the stories are online, but an official download component will be available soon.

So go and get some fun free science fiction. It’s the most fun you can have learning about stellar nucleosynthesis, planetary rings, dark energy and black holes. Or, you know. Your money back.

Speaking of Introductions

I’m making something of a side gig doing introductions to new editions of classic works of science fiction, because I’ve signed on to write an introduction for The Martian Chronicles: the Definitive Edition, a massively expanded new edition of the Ray Bradbury magnum opus from Subterranean Press and PS Publishing. In addition to the original book (to which I will be writing the introduction), this edition collects up an additional 22 previously uncollected or unpublished Martian stories from Bradbury (this section will have an intro from Joe Hill), as well as two previously unpublished screenplays of the work (one from 1964 and one from 1997), an essay from Bradbury himself on the work, and newly commissioned art from Edward Miller. Good stuff.

This is a signed, limited edition, and as you might expect it’s not cheap — we’re talking $300 here, and $900 for the lettered, traycased edition — but if you’re a Bradbury fan, it’s going to be worth it. Also, at this very moment, there’s a limited-time special price discount of $225 going on. So you have that going for you. The printing is already halfway sold through, however, so if you want it, get on it. I’m looking forward to a copy of my very own, I’ll tell you that much.

The Forever War Out, Again

A quick reminder to folks: The newest edition of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War hits the shelves today, and if the text of this classic science fiction tale wasn’t enough to entice you on its own (which it should be, damn it), I’ll remind you that this edition also comes with an introduction by me, in the form of an open letter to Joe. As you might imagine, I consider it a signal honor to be asked to share my thoughts about the book in such a way; I hope the intro in its small way likewise does honor to the book.

So: pick it up for yourself, get it for a friend, and enjoy. The Amazon link is above, but remember there ain’t nothing wrong with dropping in on your favorite brick and mortar bookstore in these tough times and picking up a copy there. I’d thank you, I’m sure Joe would thank you, and your local bookseller would definitely appreciate it.

Vincent Chong Art

Vincent Chong is the fellow who has done the artwork for the Subterranean Press limited editions of Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades, and as anyone who’s seen the work in those books can tell you, he’s really good at what he does (the above illustration is from OMW). This is why I’ve happily put him on my Hugo nomination ballot for Best Artist.

He’s just now redone his Web site, to make it easer for folks to look around and see his stuff, which aside from the work he’s done for my books, includes artwork for books by Richard Morgan, Joe Hill, Stephen King, Jack Dann and others. It’s an excellent way for you to oooh and aaah your way through your Tuesday, so go check it out.

Justine Just Says “No”

“No” to requests for her to read other people’s unpublished work, that is. Lots of reasons, many of which boil down to “uh, can’t you see I’m busy?” Which is a totally valid reason. Reminds me to link again to my own entry on the subject, since I’m getting an increasing incidence of such requests again. The answer is still “no,” I’m afraid. Sorry.

Oh Noes! He’s Talking Politics Again!

The creative centers of my brain are flipping me the bird at the moment, so I’ll fill up this empty time by spouting off about politics for a spell. You folks in the front rows, ready your tarps; it’s gonna get messy.

* I’m not entirely sure where the GOP is buying its drugs these days, but wherever it is, the dealer must have some really primo shit, because only the presence of red-hot mind-warping pharmacological treats can explain the current GOP talking point that Obama’s off to a bad start. Really? Dude gets the most sweeping social engineering legislation of the last half century passed three weeks into his administration, despite the near-universal congressional opposition of one of the two major political parties in the United States, all the while maintaining his high popularity marks with the public, and he’s off to a bad start? Really? To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, they keep using those words, but I don’t think they mean what they think they mean.

Well, the GOP says, yes, in fact, Obama did get his stimulus bill done, but he didn’t do it with us, and since he promised that he’d do things in a bipartisan fashion, that means he’s failed. There are two things here. One, as regards the stimulus bill, I’m guessing Obama figures the relevant marker for success is whether the thing passed or not. Surprise! It did. Two, when the GOP enforces a party line vote against the stimulus bill and then goes on Sunday morning talk shows to complain about the lack of bipartisanship in the White House, it’s like a shopkeeper complaining that he’s got no sales while he’s waving a gun at anyone who tries to enter the store.

I don’t mind the GOP having a philosophical opposition to the stimulus package; I get queasy myself thinking of all the debt we’re piling on (although it should be noted that GOP governors eying the collapse of their state budgets seem to like it just fine). But trying to pin the blame their opposition to the bill on Obama’s lack of bipartisanship is just a reminder that the GOP standard operating procedure is to assume that most Americans are gullible idjits. Rumor has it, however, that the GOP reality distortion field collapsed somewhere on or near November 4, 2008. I don’t think it’s entirely powered up to full strength yet. At the moment, the only people huffing GOP’s fumes are the GOP folks in Washington.

* Oh, and the other things that makes me want to take an axe handle to the lot of them: The GOP bleating of how the stimulus bill represents “generational theft” after it financed two very expensive wars for the better part of eight years on credit and tax cuts that primarily benefited the very richest among us. Really, Republican Party, just STFU. You know, in the aftermath of 9/11, there wasn’t an American outside of the populations of Berkeley and the Club for Growth who wouldn’t have gladly shouldered the tax burden to pay for the wars we’re prosecuting in the Middle East. But our leaders decided to let our kids pay for that one instead (and, of course, we let them). If the stimulus represents generational theft, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan got there first.

Obama has been very smart about smacking the GOP with the hypocrisy stick on this particular issue, over and over and over again, noting correctly that the GOP handwringing on this issue would be a lot more convincing if the last eight years hadn’t actually happened. Mind you, this is neither here nor there as to the larger argument of whether the stimulus is wise or represents an undue burden on future generations. What it is, is a reminder that of all people, the GOP are not the ones qualified to complain about adding debt load, or to maintain they are actually the fiscally responsible party. The best they could do is argue that, given how much generational theft they were in charge of over the last eight years, any more would be foolish. But if they were really serious about that, they might suggest, say, tax increases. And we know how much that burns them, precious.

* Yes, I know, look, I’m whacking on the GOP again. How unusual. So here, conservative Whatever readers, enjoy: “Liberals not pleased with go-slow approach by Obama.” Seems we have already reached the “hey, you don’t fart cinnamon-scented rainbows!” stage of liberal disenchantment with our current president, because he’s not doing things as quickly as they want him to. Because he wants to think about things or possibly from time to time consult with others or whatever. Curse him for wanting to be more than President of the Left! Now everyone hates Obama! Except, you know, most of the actual American people. But besides them.

Personally speaking, there are a lot of things that Obama hasn’t done yet that I am hoping he’ll get around to sooner than later. On the other hand, he has been kind of busy the last three weeks with that stimulus package, and as a basic rule I’m not opposed to the nation’s executive making sure he’s got a good grip on an issue before dealing with it. It’s that whole “measure twice, cut once” thing. And anyway, didn’t the man get elected because people thought he might be a smart guy who thought about things? “Smart” is not synonymous with “fast,” you know; lot of people like to think it is but it’s not. I’m content to have the man take his time and believe he’s done them well. Because no matter how long he takes, we’ll have to live with his choices for quite a while.

Okay, you’re up. Play nice with each other. Don’t make me break out the Loving Mallet Of Correction. Because you know I will.

You’ve Got Layoffs!

My former AOL colleague Joe Loong has up something called “Preparing for Your Impending Layoff From AOL,” which as you might guess is about what to do when you’re laid off from that august institution, as I was in 1998, and Joe himself was in 2007. It’s got some AOL-specific stuff in there, but there’s a lot there that’s generally applicable to being laid off from anywhere.

Joe’s advice is practical and good and I don’t have too much to add to it, except the admonition that as awful as being laid off is when it happens, it’s really not the end of the world. I’ve noted here often that in many ways being laid off from AOL was one of the best things that ever happened to me, because of how it motivated me to take charge of my own life. Other people’s mileage my vary in these cases, but the point here is that it doesn’t have to be the worst thing ever.

And certainly in the case of AOL, it’s not even unusual: even in the company’s heyday, it would layoff hundreds of people every time it did a re-org, which seemed like every six months or so. I always thought that was no way to run an Internet. On the other hand when a company lays off people as often as you or I change socks, it does bring home the point it’s not a personal process. It’s not you, it’s the dysfunctional corporate culture. Anyway, all the best people get laid off from AOL. Which helps to explain why it’s in the trouble it is today.

Comment Overflow for “10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing”

The comment thread for “10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing” is now well over 600 comments, and that page itself is taking a fair amount of time to load. So I’m closing the comments there to keep the page from growing any larger and opening up a supplementary comment thread here, where teens and other folks can post.

If I may make a suggestion, however: Teens, before you post a comment, please go look at this follow-up entry, covering many of the most common objections to the post, because nothing will make you look more clueless than to make what you think is a cogent point only to have me note it’s been asked and answered dozens of times already. I thank you in advance for your consideration.

Having said that, fire away!