Daily Archives: July 21, 2009

My Confluence Schedule

As most of you know, I am this year’s Guest of Honor at Confluence, which is going down this weekend in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. If you’re in the greater Pittsburgh area this weekend — and why wouldn’t you be, it’s a lovely city, with lovely people and lovely rivers — you should stop on by and spend some time with us. We’re going to have so much fun we might actually shatter the boundaries of reality. And you know what that means: Unicorns for everyone! And I know how much you love unicorns (Justine “I hate unicorns” Larbalestier excepted).

For those of you who are attending, here is my schedule for the conference:

FRIDAY, JULY 24

5:00PM: “Why are there so many Twits on Twitter?”

In which, I assume, we hold forth on that Twitter thingamabob all the kids are talking about these days. And yes, of course, I shall tweet at least once while on the panel. For the sake of observing forms. Also on the panel: Laurie Mann, Michelle Sagara West and Sarah Zettel

7:00PM: “Military SF in the Age of Terrorism”

Panel title says what it does, does what it says. Fellow panelists: Bill Keith, Bud Sparhawk and Ken Chiacchia

SATURDAY, JULY 25

11:00AM: Autographing

Come see me scrawl!

1:00PM: “Movies: the year in review”

Perhaps just for fun I’ll suggest that the Transformers flick is a serious contender for the Oscar. Fellow panelists: Eric Davin, Charles Oberndorf and Herb Kauderer.

3:ooPM: GoH Speech

In which I do my now-patented pacing around on the stage, blathering incontinently for an hour while people hurl questions and fruit at me.

4:00PM: Kaffeklatch/Literary Beer

More random blather, but this time with fewer people! I do believe you have to sign up for this once you get to the conference.

5:00: “Alpha Teen Writers GO!”

Which is not actually what it’s called, but this is me sitting down and chatting with the attendees of the Alpha Teen Writing Workshop, who will be at the conference. Hopefully none of them will be stabbing me over this. If you are not participating in the Alpha workshop, you don’t get to go to this. Yes, I know, being old sucks, doesn’t it.

SUNDAY, JULY 26

12:30PM: Reading

This is a half hour slot, so I’ll be reading something short.

1:00PM: “Being a full time writer – still possible or naive pipe dream?”

Oh, it’s possible. Other panelists: Bill Keith and Walter Hunt.

And there you have it. Hope to see you there!

My Very Cool New Pocket Knife

It is thus:

It was given to me as a groomsman gift by my friend Kevin, and it was personalized for me through the means of the ringed planet and moons on the handle. It is actually the first pocket knife I’ve owned since I was a child, and it really is excellent: It’s a Spyderco blade with the handle work by Santa Fe Stoneworks. I’ve already used it to open things and almost nicked myself with it, so I’m well on my way. As I’m driving to Confluence this next weekend rather than flying, I’ll be taking it with me, so be sure to ask to see it. It’s very pretty. And I promise not to stab you with it. PROMISE.

Donators to Justine Larbalestier’s Lindy Hop Fundraiser: Time to Pay Up

Because she learned how to Lindy Hop. The (filmed!) evidence is here.

All the information you need on how to fulfill your donation pledge is also in that entry.

Now, go! Donate!

My California Adventure

Here you see my friends Monica and Kevin (with Deven Desai, center, as officiant) just about to get married. Kevin I’ve known since the first day of high school, and is one of my closest friends; Monica is the gal he’s extraordinarily lucky to have gotten. These two are the reason I and my family hied ourselves to California last week.

It was also a chance for me to see part of California I’d never seen before, namely the coast north of San Francisco. We spent a couple of days in Mendocino and then a couple of days in Fort Bragg, and both were just lovely, and I recommend them if you’ve never been up in that direction. Just remember to bring lots of cash money, particularly for Mendocino, which looks like it’s populated by hippies but is in fact peopled with aggressive capitalists who don’t like credit card companies taking any of their money via transactional fees.

It was also a chance to spend some quality time with old friends. One of the downsides of being far flung, as so many of my friends are (actually, inasmuch as I’m a California boy currently living in Ohio, I am the well-flung one) is that the amount of time you get to spend in their actual physical presence is pretty limited. So I got to see some friends I’ve not seen literally in years, even if I’ve been keeping tabs on them via Those Crazy Internets, and well. I love me some Internets, but there’s no beating actual face time.

For fans of Zoe’s Tale, you’ll be interested to know I finally gave a copy of the book to my friend Magdy, whose name I borrowed for a major character, and who was there for the weekend. He told me a funny story in which one of the doctors he works with (he’s a cardiologist) came up to him and asked him if he knew me. Magdy said yes, to which the other doctor replied that he figured that had to be the case, because really, how many guys named “Magdy” are there? It’s funny how these connections get made.

One minor sadness was that due to the schedule of the wedding and its location, I didn’t have a chance to see some of the other people I like in California, including family and friends. California: Big damn state, not a state like, say, Connecticut, which does allow for easy popping about in. Hopefully I’ll catch more of my California folks the next time I’m out.

In any event: A lovely weekend, and I’m over the moon for Kevin and Monica. It’s great to be married, and it’s great these two are now married to each other.

(Picture credit: Kathy Hollenbaugh Sullivan)

I Now Present to You the Most Masculine Name in the World

It is:

Razorbeef McSlaughter.

I could detail for you the conversation which led to this determination, but allow me to reiterate:

RAZORBEEF McSLAUGHTER.

I don’t think you really have to know the details. The name alone is enough.

On the Subject of to Whom to Address Your Literary Kvetch

People, you can stop sending me Adam Roberts’ broadside against this year’s Hugo slate. Yes, I’ve seen it, and no, I don’t see any particular reason to get worked up about the fact he thinks the slate — which in case you’re somehow not aware, a novel of mine is on — is mediocre. Adam Roberts is perfectly entitled to his own opinion, and in any event if the annual Hugo slate didn’t cause someone to get his tighty whities into a twist, where would be the fun of that? Shortlists of every description perform exactly two social functions: To let you know what some people think is the year’s best something or other, and to give other people an opportunity to roll their eyes at what some people think is the year’s best something or other. Roberts has simply provided us This Year’s Model of the Annual Hugo Kvetch, and like the Hugo slate itself it can be judged on content, form and execution, both in itself and in context of other Annual Hugo Kvetches over the years.

In that respect, it’s fairly standard: A little exasperated, a little pedantic, a little condescending, and, thankfully, not too long. You can get in and out of it fairly quickly. If I were an Amazon reviewer, I’d give it three out of five stars: It’s not everything it could be, but it hits all the usual bases with a degree of competence and leaves the impression that once the author really masters the form, he’ll be able to bat out some real fireworks. So keep at it, Adam Roberts! We’re all hoping for great things from next year’s Hugo kvetch.

That said, Roberts makes a major unforced error by addressing his kvetch to science fiction fandom, since what essentially what’s he’s written comes across like so:

Dear Science Fiction Fandom:

Hey, you know those books you loved enough this year to nominate for awards? The ones that made you happy or made you cry or made you think or had characters you liked, in situations that thrilled you? Yes, well, they actually kinda suck. So, despite the fact that you’ve made science fiction a foundational part of your life, follow and support the genre, and are grown-up, accomplished people who are on average both smarter and better read than the average Joe, you are somewhat full of FAIL. Please try to be less fail-tastic in the future, or I will be forced to once again assume that the reason you select the Hugo nominees you do has in fact nothing to do with the fact you actually like the books, because that would just be silly.

KTHXBYE,

Adam Roberts

What makes this an error is the tangential fact Mr. Roberts is a science fiction author himself. Here’s something that we in the kvetching industry like to call a “pro tip”: If you take the time to squat and pinch off a steaming ass-loaf of condescension onto the heads of  the people most committed to the genre of literature you happen to write in, you may find they will remember that fact when they see your books in the stores. As in “oh, here’s the book of that guy who thinks my taste in literature sucks.” How motivated does that make the average science fiction fan to buy a book? Well, you know: How motivated would it make you?

Now, I assume Mr. Roberts didn’t intend to come across as arrogant and hectoring to his primary audience, because very few people so willfully attempt to ankle-shoot their own career, even the ones with an academic aerie such as Mr. Roberts possesses. I suspect he believed he was being stern but fair. However, I also suspect that science fiction fandom, not in fact being comprised of students who have to sit for a lecture in order to graduate, may have its own opinions on the matter. In the real world, people don’t like being told, while being gently and paternalistically patted on the head, that they’re goddamned idiots. Especially from someone who then turns around and hopes to sell them a book.

The short form of this is to say that it’s one thing to believe a book on the Hugo shortlist (or, as is the case of Mr. Roberts, all the books on the shortlist) is or are mediocre. It’s another thing entirely as a writer to criticize a reader (and someone you’d presumably like to make your reader) for his or her taste in books. The first of these is perfectly valid; taste is subjective. The second of these makes you look like a jerk to the people upon whom you presumably hope to build your career.

Which is of course perfectly fine, if that’s what you intend to do. I’d just make sure that it is, in fact, what you intend to do.

(Update, 11:21 am: John Picacio addresses Mr. Roberts’ drive-by hit on the Best Artist Hugo nominees in the same entry discussed above.)