Daily Archives: April 2, 2009

Ohioana Book Festival Appearance

This May 9th, I’m going to be a featured author at the Ohioana Book Festival, in Columbus, which is a festival dedicated to showing off the literary talents of Ohio’s resident authors. In addition to the featured authors (which aside from me include R.L. Stine, Margaret Peterson Haddix and seven others), there will be an additional 60 or so authors on hand, including current Hugo nominee CC Finlay, 2007 Hugo and Nebula nominee Paul Melko, and genre favorite Lucy Snyder. The whole list of featured and appearing authors is here. At the Ohioana Festival I’ll be participating on at least one panel and will also be doing either a reading or a Q&A session. And, I suspect, signing lots of books.

How much would you pay to attend a festival with dozens of authors, all waiting to talk to you (yes, you!). However much you’d pay, don’t bother — because the Ohioana Book Festival is free to attend. Bring yourself, bring your loved ones, bring the whole family. Heck, bring people you hardly know. It’s free, man. Mark it on your calendar. I’ll see you there.

Reader Request Week #7: Writing and Babies

Jess Nevins (who not too long ago sent me a rather spectacular gift which I’m not sure I ever actually thanked him for, so thanks, Jess, and the next time I see you I plan to reciprocate in some way) asks:

How did you manage to be a productive writer in the first two years of your child’s life?

Which is to say: what was your work schedule like? How did you manage to produce coherent text when you were exhausted from getting up every three hours to feed the baby? How did you manage to be productive and not let your wife feel like she was having to do everything herself?

(Why, yes, I have selfish reasons for asking).

Heh. I’m sure you do.

I had no problem at all with writing when Athena was an infant and toddler, to tell you the truth, and in fact I found it much easier to write when she was that age than I did when she was older. Here’s some of what I did:

1. I was a night owl back then, and Krissy got up reasonably early, so we’d divide feeding responsibilities according to our own sleep schedules. I’d handle the 10 pm, 1am and the occasional 3:30-ish feedings (from a formula bottle, to be clear), while Krissy slept. Then she’d handle the morning feeding before she went off to work and that would take care of Athena until 9am or so. So I would get a reasonable amount of sleep.

2. I was the stay at home parent, so you would think that would cut into the time I had to write. But it didn’t really. Infants when they’re young tend to sleep quite a lot, so for me it was reasonably easy to get work done while Athena napped (I would make business phone calls while she was asleep, for example). I’d do shorter work during the day, and then as I was also on the night owl schedule, I would do a lot of longer writing at night when everyone else in the house was asleep and I’d have stretches of time to work. You have to be able to be both flexible and disciplined to do this, but it worked for me.

3. One thing I did which seemed to help was that I put Athena’s paypen into my office with me, and made sure she had lots of stuff to keep her amused. That way she was generally fairly content because I was in the same room as her, and she had things to keep her occupied. As she got older we moved from a playpen to a larger, gated area of the office, and then to a toddler gate at the office door. And of course lots and lots of toys.

4. I did make sure that I took breaks during the day to focus attention on Athena, which served two purposes: One, it was good for her to have directed play and two, it was good for me to step away from my computer every once in a while and give my brain and my typing fingers a break. A little of this could go a long way for both me and Athena.

5. When she was edging into toddlerhood, I bought a new computer, set my older computer on a kid-height desk, and then bought a bunch of toddler software. It was sort of astounding how quickly she took to it, and how it would keep her occupied. One has to be sure the kid doesn’t get completely swallowed into it, of course, but it was fun for her and it helped me get work done.

In all, the first two years went pretty smoothly, in terms of work, and I can tell you when it became harder to get work done: Once Athena started talking (in complete sentences rather than words), because then she wanted to have lots and lots of conversations, and started making real — albeit totally adorable — impositions on my work day that she hadn’t before. She still does, although now she’s at school half the day, so I have time for longer work. Even so, on balance, I was more productive during those first couple of years than I was in the years immediately after.

Now, I did have a couple of good breaks in there: Being stay-at-home and not having to conform to a set schedule gave me more flexibility than most people have, and oddly enough I found that when I was doing corporate work a lot of my clients were more than happy to work around my baby-tending schedule, I think partially because stay-at-home dads were still something of a novelty when Athena was a baby. We could go off on why it is that me caring for a baby was seen as a positive by corporate America (or the part I consulted for) while it would have been seen as a liability if a woman were doing it, but that’s a whole other slice of thing that would take lots of time to work through. Unfair or not, it really wasn’t a problem for me. And of course, it was huge that there was another parent in the household and that both of us were willing to work out a schedule that had each of us taking a lead role while the other had time to rest and depressurize.

I think ultimately for writing when one has a baby around the secrets are: Be flexible in your writing schedule, and make sure you do, in fact, get enough sleep. Both take a little scheduling and patience, but both are worth it, if you want to get that writing done.

Hugo Voter Packet Update

It’s coming along nicely but damn, is it huge. We have a lot of nominees participating, in a whole bunch of categories. I strongly suspect just e-mailing it won’t work this time around, so I’m looking at ways to do a password-protected download, optimally where I can generate a new password for each person. If anyone has any ideas how to do this in a way that won’t make me want to shoot out my brains, please ping me.

That said, I’ll go ahead and set a date for when I plan to make it available: Next Monday, April 6.

Please be aware this package will only be available for members of Anticipation, this year’s Worldcon. If you’re not a member yet, you can sign up at this link. There are two flavors of membership: Full (which means you plan to attend the Worldcon), which is $195, and Supporting (which means you don’t plan to attend, but want to vote for the Hugos), which is $50.

I will say that at this point, the retail value of the works in the Hugo Voter Packet is about equal to the cost of a full membership, so there’s substantial value in becoming part of this year’s Worldcon (I mean, aside from the fact that this year’s Worldcon, in itself, is going to rock). And if you sign up and vote in the Hugos, you’ll have a say in declaring the best science fiction and fantasy work of the last year.  Oh, come on. You know you want to. All the cool kids are doing it.

As I’ll be releasing the Hugo Voter Packet next Monday, this means if you’re a Hugo nominee this year and still want to get into the Packet, there’s still a bit of time. Go here for details. Let’s say the new deadline is 6pm Eastern time, April 5. If you have any questions, e-mail me.

Reader Request Week #6: 80s Pop Music

Lis Riba asks:

So, why is the pop music from the early 1980s just so damn good?

It’s not. Or more accurately, it is neither quantitively nor qualitively better than pop music from any other particular music era one might choose to think of. However, at the moment it has the advantage of being the music that the currently emerging crop of culture tastemakers, in their late 30s to mid 40s, were listening to when they started caring what music they were listening to. So we hear a lot of it in the background of movies and TV shows, on what passes for broadcast radio these days, and see it snarkily/ironically/reverentially referenced in the media on lots of different levels. Just as, say, those of us who were teenagers in the 80s heard a whole goddamn lot of late 60s/early 70s music in those same positions back in the day. Twenty years from now, we’ll be hearing lots of millennial pop jammed into the same position, so get ready for a whole lot of N*Sync references come 2029, folks. I know, I know. I’m scared too.

That said, I certainly like early 80s pop music. And in fact, I like both major streams of it — the American melodic AOR stream, typified by bands like Journey and REO Speedwagon, and the British synthpop stream, typified by Duran Duran and all the other bands that hit it big because MTV started and these Britpop bands were the only ones that already had videos (Gen-Xers, insert your “I remember when MTV showed videos” comment here). And let’s not forget the SoCal sound, typified by IRS Records and KROQ, or the Minneapolis sound, a wholly owned subsidiary of Prince (with the Replacements tossed in for the funkless). And towering above it all, in a way not yet creepy: Michael Jackson. Really, what’s not to like about any of it?

I love it all, but then I would, because I was in my tweens and early teens when this all went down, and that’s when we really love our music, because that’s when we start to pick our music for ourselves, and we don’t know enough to realize that none of it stands in a continuum of pop music that began before we were born and will continue long after we’re dead, so it’s towering and special and perfect. Later on we learn it’s just part of a whole river of ever-receding stuff that was once popular, but of course we don’t care. You never forget your first love. I mean, I no longer believe that Journey Escape is my all-time favorite album, any more than I believe that Karin, the girl I had a crush on in the eighth grade, is totally the woman for me. It doesn’t mean I don’t still think fondly of both.

(For the record: My all-time favorite album; totally the woman for me)

The way to most accurately judge the quality of a pop music era, in my opinion, is not by the stuff universally acknowledged as the high points of era, but by all the other stuff that happened to be popular too, and whether it’s better or worse than the average pop song of any other era one might think of. Ask yourself: was Howard Jones‘ output any better (or worse) than that of Herman’s Hermits, or that of Good Charlotte? Each of them were more or less equally popular in their eras, twenty years apart (actually, of the three, Herman’s Hermits probably cast the largest cultural shadow at the time); who wants to argue that “Things Can Only Get Better” is manifestly superior or inferior to “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” or “I Just Wanna Live“? I personally find it difficult to do; they are all perfectly cromulent examples of the music of their era, the sort of music that becomes the mix-n-match filler of those “SUPER HITS OF THE XXs” compilations that get squirted out after the fact. When you look at neither the high points nor the low points of  a pop era, but rather the stuff right smack dab in the middle, you see that it’s all about equal in the end.

So, sorry, Lis. Early 80s music actually isn’t just so damn good. But at least it’s not just so damn bad.

The Sounds of METAtropolis — Free For a Limited Time

The folks at Audible.com are very excited that METAtropolis has been nominated for the Hugo Award for  Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form — it’s that whole “hey, we’re breaking ground by being the first audiobook nominated for a Hugo” thing. The Audible folks are also aware that when you’re an audiobook up against The Dark Knight, Wall*E, Hellboy II and Iron Man, which combined brought in a couple billion in worldwide box office, you’re sort of the underdog, aren’t you.

So Audible decided to help even the odds by offering up METAtropolis for free, for a limited time. Go to the page I just linked to, sign up for Audible if you haven’t already done so, and then get your personal copy of the world that Elizabeth Bear, Toby Buckell, Jay Lake, Karl Schroeder and I have imagined (and which Michael Hogan, Scott Brick, Kandyse McClure, Alessandro Juliani and Stefan Rudnicki perform for you as narrators). If you’re a member of Anticipation, this year’s Worldcon (or, alternately, plan to be one), this is a great way to get a listen at a groundbreaking Hugo nominee. We’re excited and proud to have gotten on the ballot, and hope you’ll consider us when you vote.

As the editor of METAtropolis, I want to take a moment to thank Audible, and particulary Steve Feldberg (who produced the project for Audible), for giving folks a chance to sample this work. Their support for the project has been awesome, as you can see. So if you like METAtropolis, please consider browsing the rest of Audible’s offerings for something else to pick up and enjoy. Thanks.