Daily Archives: April 10, 2013

Redshirts Wins RT Reviewer’s Choice Award

RT Book Reviews is a magazine that (as the title suggests) reviews tons of books, and every year its critics give out awards for what they’ve most enjoyed in the year, across various categories and genres. This year, I’m delighted to say that Redshirts has won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award in the category of science fiction, in a fine field of nominees that included Blackout (Mira Grant), The Twelve (Justin Cronin), The Hydrogen Sonata (Iain M. Banks) and Sorry Please Thank You (Charles Yu). That is excellent company to be in. This is actually my second RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, the first one having been for The Last Colony. The second one is just as nice.

I’m also happy to say several friends have also won awards this year, including N.K. Jemisin (for Fantasy, with The Shadowed Sun), Elizabeth Bear (Epic Fantasy, for Range of Ghosts), Diana Rowland (Urban Fantasy Protagonist, for Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues) and Marjorie M. Liu (Urban Fantasy Worldbuilding, for The Mortal Bone). Congratulations to them and all the other winners.

This is a good place to remind people that I will be in Kansas City the first weekend of May for the RT Booklovers Convention, where they’ll be doling out these awards and I will be doing several things on the program, including a mass signing which will be open to the public. See you there.

 

On the Matter of the Extra Material in the Hardcover of The Human Division

Over in the feedback thread for the serial run of The Human Division, there’s been a lot of comment and consternation about the fact that the hardcover/compiled edition of The Human Division will feature two extra stories, and what that means for the folks who have been reading along with the electronic release. I don’t want people to be in the dark about this, and more information is almost always better in these situations, so here’s the deal with that.

1. Yes, there is extra material in the hardcover/compiled eBook release. Specifically, the first print appearance of “After the Coup,” which has been available online since 2008 (it was in fact the first story ever run on Tor.com), and a new short story, called “Hafte Sorvalh Eats a Churro and Speaks to the Youth of Today.” The first of these is a prequel of sorts to The Human Division (it was the first appearance of Hart Schmidt and Ode Abumwe), while the second is a character piece featuring the alien Sorvalh, of whom I have grown fond. It’s a fun piece which doesn’t have a material effect on THD events in a general sense, i.e., if you don’t read it, you’re not missing out on a plot point.

Why put extra material in the hardcover release? One salient reason was to make the book appealing to print booksellers, who might have (quite understandably) been worried about how the electronic release would cut into their sales. That’s a fair concern, and as those of you who remember this breakdown of Redshirts sales might recall, print is a major part of my sales. Giving the print/compiled version that extra material seemed a good way to possibly alleviate bookseller concerns.

That said:

2. Yes, that extra material will be made available separately, electronically. Meaning that people who bought the individual episodes won’t have to buy the hardcover or compiled eBook edition to get it. Because making you guys do that would be a complete dick move. The hardcover/compiled release will have an exclusive window to those extras (see why above), but then it will be out in the world. More details on that will be forthcoming the closer we get to that particular release; don’t worry, I’ll keep you in the loop on that.

I do understand some of you will be annoyed by the wait. Sorry. The fact of the matter is that balancing the needs of both the online and print markets and audiences here in 2013 is a tricky and complicated beast, and this was one way of attempting it. If it makes you feel any better (and I know it won’t, but) the folks who preferred a print/compiled version have had to wait months while you were reading along ahead of them. I promise the wait you’ll have won’t be onerous.

3. We could have done a better job of making this stuff about the extras known. I noted in the comment thread mentioned earlier that Tor and I both noted that the hardcover would have some extra material in it, and that neither of us were being sneaky about it — we put it on the front pages of our respective sites, it’s on Amazon, etc. Despite that, people seemed surprised by the fact. Which means that we could have been better at communicating this fact earlier. Again, fair enough.

So: Sorry about that, folks. I’ll take responsibility for it, and promise to try to do better should something like this pop again, either with the next set of Human Division episodes, or any other projects of mine where that might be applicable. I don’t want you folks annoyed any more than you have to be. I apologize for causing you to be annoyed this time around.

The Locus Award Poll: Get Your Vote In

Every year science fiction and fantasy trade magazine Locus polls its subscribers — and also the rest of the world — about what was the best science fiction and fantasy works, creators and publishers of the last calendar year. To help the voters with their selections, it fills in the ballot with Recommended Works in each category, but also leaves some blank lines for write-ins. So in point of fact, you can vote for any work you like, as long as it fits in the category and was published in the 2012 calendar year.

Shorter version: Dudes, you can totally vote in Locus Awards poll. For free! Here’s the link.

Also, I will note that Redshirts is on the Recommended List in the novel category, and has its own slot and everything. If you feel inclined to vote for it, I would be obliged. However, you should vote for what you believe should get the award. If that’s Redshirts, awesome. If not, that’s fine too. Also, as much as you have an interest and competence, vote in the other categories as well. Also also, at the end of the poll is a survey Locus runs so they can know a little about who votes in the poll. Why not fill that out too? It’s not like you’re doing anything else with your day, right?

The poll and survey run through the 15th of April. Sure, I’ll remind you again before the polls closes. I’m helpful like that.

Reader Request Week 2013 #5: How to Be a Good Fan

Jessica Schwab asks:

I’d like to know your thoughts on how to be a good fan. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately; how do you manage your social networks to be a connection to your fans, without getting bogged down by it? As a fan, I’m ultimately a consumer of your stuff, but is the relationship (from your perspective) more than that?

I don’t believe that the “fan” relationship is the same as the “consumer” relationship, at least when we are using “consumer” in the common sense of “person who purchases a thing.” One can be a fan of things that are not strictly consumable — I am for example, a fan of the month of October, because it’s (usually) autumn-y without being too damn cold, plus Halloween’s at the end of it, and I’m a fan of that, too. I don’t consume October in any useful sense (or Halloween, either, although I consume a lot of candy because of it), but I experience them.

I think that’s the critical action when it comes to being a fan — the experience. People are not fans because they are consumers, otherwise I’d be a huge fan of Comet cleanser and Glad trashbags and One a Day multivitamins, all of which I regularly purchase but don’t genuinely care about one way or another. If I couldn’t get Comet and had to settle for Bon Ami, or if Krissy came home with Centrum rather than One a Day, I wouldn’t much care. People will actively consume things, however, if the experience of them is something they enjoy, and that is a preferential relationship. If I am a fan of Coke Zero (and I am) because I like the way it tastes, then Diet Pepsi is not an equivalent experience. If I am a fan of Quentin Tarantino because I like the way he writes dialogue, then a Michael Bay film is not an equivalent experience. If I am a fan of Half-Life because of the story craft, then Duke Nukem is not an equivalent experience. And so on.

I have fans who are not “consumers” — the people who only read the blog, for example, for which they don’t pay, or who pick up the books in the library, or who (gasp) have acquired the work through non-legal means. Doesn’t mean they are not fans; they enjoy the Scalzi experience, as it were. My mortgage would still like them to actually buy one of the books at some point, of course. And perhaps they will, because they’re fans. So, yes, there’s something different about being fan than being a consumer.

So how can one be a “good fan?” You know, aside from strictly behavioral things, which simply boil down to “try not to be creepy to the creator or others regarding your love of the creator and/or what they do,” I don’t know that it’s actually something a fan should be concerned with. Or maybe it’s not something I am concerned with, as a fan.

For example, I am a fan of China Mieville’s writing (I like China too; we’re friends. But never mind that for the moment). How can I be a “good fan” to him? Would that be by purchasing everything he puts out? If so, I’ve failed; I have many of his books — and do make a point of purchasing them, because China has to eat too — but there’s a couple of his books I haven’t gotten around to (Un Lun Dun; his story collection). While it’s possible I’ll pick them up at some point, they’re not high priorities.

Would it be by loving every single thing he’s written? Well, I can’t do that, either. I don’t love The Scar, for example. Can’t explain why, because it’s well-written and has things in it that I loved when they were in Perdido Street Station. But in the end it just doesn’t move me much. So it goes. I’m not going to try to pretend to love The Scar just because I’m a fan; that seems silly. The fact is that there’s not a single creative person (or group) I’m a fan of whose output doesn’t include a clunker or two for me. Why? Because they’re human and don’t live in my brain and their creative output doesn’t always line up with my desired creative consumption. That’s life.

Would it be by taking to the Internet and attacking people who dare to criticize his work (or him?). Yeah, no, I’m not going to do that, either. One, I’m forty three, not twelve. Two, who has the time? Three, when it comes to creative stuff, everyone’s entitled to share their experience of it, even if that experience is negative. If I see someone actively lying about China as a human being, I might comment, since I don’t really like it when people slag friends and lie about them. But then, China is actually a friend and that matters. If someone derped out over, say, Daniel Lanois, who I am a fan of but don’t know at all, I’m not seeing why I need to do anything. The Internet is full of people being jackasses about someone else, often famous. You can’t spend your life trying to solve the Internet this way.

As a fan, I can’t think of anything I need to do to be a “good” fan for China (or whomever). The closest thing I can think of is that because I am a fan of China Mieville’s work, he has credit with me — which is to say that I am more likely to automatically pick up the next thing he publishes because of his previous track record with me. And even then, this line of credit is not inexhaustible — I have writers (and musicians, and filmmakers) who have dropped off my “automatic buy” list after too many works that just didn’t do it for me.

Point is, as a fan, I don’t owe China (or whomever) anything. I buy his stuff, I can (and do) recommend it to others, and I’m happy to talk about how and why I enjoy his work. And I suppose that is being a good fan to some extent. But I wouldn’t worry about not being a good fan if I didn’t do it, and China — or anyone else, including me — has no right to expect that sort of thing from fans.

At the very least, I don’t expect it from fans. I think it would be nice if you bought everything I wrote, but I’m not going to judge you if you don’t. I’m happy if you like all my stuff, but I assume at some point there’s going to be something of mine that just doesn’t work. If you want to counter someone being mean to me or my work online, be my guest, but I neither expect it of you nor do I generally need to be defended; I’m a grown-up and can generally handle these things myself.

Basically, if you say you’re a fan of me or my work, great, thank you, and I totally believe you. I’m not going to require you to jump through hoops to prove it.

As for how I handle the fan/creator relationship, well, uh, hi. This is it. I like being responsive to fans, generally speaking, and I’m also someone who doesn’t mind interaction and attention, so for me maintaining the back and forth is not (usually) onerous. I do prioritize; for example, Whatever and Twitter get most of my attention in terms of output and personality, while my public Facebook page and my Google Plus profile are mostly outposts for updates. This is because I have to get work done and otherwise have a life. And when it becomes a little much, or I need a break, I take it; you’ll note the occasional “I’m not here” posts and such.

For me, the key to it on my end is remembering that “fans” are actual human beings and not CONSUMER UNITS TO CONSUME ALL MY PRODUCT AND DO MY BIDDING. Which is not actually that difficult to remember, because, you know, duh. This means that I recognize, just as when I’m a fan, that not everyone is going to like everything I do careerwise (visit the Human Division serial feedback thread and you’ll see some of this in action — and note, please, that I invited both positive and negative comment there), or every story or book, nor that they exist only to drink in my wonderful wonderfulness. Frankly, that would be a little weird. I much prefer fans who have full and complete lives outside whatever I’m doing.

If you assume that your fans are fully functional, generally emotionally mature and productive human beings, then dealing with them is pretty simple: I deal with them like any other human beings, who also just happen to like at least some of what I do. Which is great for me, especially on Whatever, because I’m not always a happy perky shiny person here. Sometimes I’m cranky. Welcome to me! Here I am. When I’m at a convention or on tour I am more in a “Performing Monkey” mode, but even then I’ve found treating fans like people who you would be generally happy to know is pretty much the way to go. Because, I find, generally speaking, that’s precisely what they are.

(It’s not too late to get in a topic for Reader Request Week: Go here for the details and to leave your request!)

The Big Idea: Russell Davis

Russell Davis and I share a special bond: I am the current president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and he is my immediate predecessor in the position. As a result I’ve gotten to know him pretty well as a person (spoiler: cool dude). This makes me happy to introduce him to many of you as a writer, with a new collection of stories: The End of All Seasons, his first collection in nearly a decade. And, as Russell explains in his piece, what a decade it was.

RUSSELL DAVIS:

The proper place to begin any journey is at the beginning, right? Let’s start there by me telling you right off that I’m not that Russell Davis. You’re thinking of Russell T. Davies, the guy who writes Dr. Who. It’s okay. I get that a lot. In fact, I get it so often that on at least one occasion, when we’ve been at the same conference, he took my room reservation.

I’m the other Russell Davis. The one you probably haven’t heard of, with perhaps the exception of conversations involving the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). And those conversations might have involved no small amount of cursing, raised fists, and general dismay. I’m the Russell Davis who started publishing back in the mid-90’s and has, to date, written and sold more than two dozen novels and over thirty short stories. The problem isn’t just my name, which is as common as old shoes, but that of all those novels, only three had my real name on them. The rest were written under various pseudonyms and house names. I won’t go into why here, but suffice it to say that if I can ever convince Amazon and Goodreads to combine pseudonyms with a single author page, it would make for a decent list.

All of this is a roundabout way of getting to why I’m here, and the big idea of my newest collection, The End of All Seasons. As avid readers, you already know that a great many stories follow the framework of the quest story or, as it’s often called, the Hero’s Journey. I’m no hero, not by any stretch of the imagination, but most writerly careers are quite a bit like a quest. I think most writers are on a journey, and their travels begin the first time they sit down to write. For most of us, the journey is ridiculously long and we spend an inordinate amount of time stuck in the Underworld, fending off demons and whatnot. Many of us discover that when we reach our goal, we set off down the road again, utterly unsatisfied with the work achieved so far.

The End of All Seasons isn’t a very traditional collection, but if there’s a unifying idea behind it, the journey is it. While I included a creative nonfiction piece, and even a handful of poems, the collection is organized around four stories, titled “The End of Winter”, “Spring”, “Summer”, and “Autumn,” respectively. I debated about this quite a bit, since “The End of Winter” was the first short story I ever sold at professional rates, and quite honestly, I’ve often felt that it could go quietly into the night, never to be seen again, and I wouldn’t be heartbroken. But to not include it would be a bit of a cheat, because once I started putting the collection together, the idea that I was on a part of my journey during the writing of all those pieces seemed too strong to ignore.

Most of the collection is stories that were written in the first decade of the new millennium, and thinking back to when and how they came to life, I’m struck by how much change was happening to me personally. During those ten years, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), got sick enough with it that I figured I’d be bedridden by now, got a divorce, got remarried, and had a new child. I came back to the world of the almost-well through the miracle of drugs, and the even bigger miracles of horses and my wife, Sherri. Despite having kids before all this started, I learned to be a father during that decade, and I might have learned something about being a husband. During those years, my father died, and with my mother already gone, I got the tiniest taste of what it might feel like to be an orphan. And along the way, I spent a couple of years as SFWA President, which is a task that ought to come with an automatic blood pressure prescription and an open bar.

And through all of it, I continued to write. Not always well, I suspect, but I believe many writers chronicle their journey through life in fiction. I believe we write what fascinates or obsesses us, we write what disturbs us, frightens us, what breaks our hearts and lifts us up. It all comes out in the pages somewhere, and to be honest, I’m lousy at hiding it. My stories are fiction, yes, but they are also therapy. The characters and situations as unreal as anything you might read by anyone else, but real enough to me to help me find the next step on the path – and the one after that, and so on – until eventually, I find my way back home. And then I leave again, because that’s what writers do.

We quest, we journey, through the seasons of our real lives and our fictional ones, all in an attempt I think, to understand the world and our place in it, just a little bit better. And that’s the big idea in this collection: the journey, for myself as a writer, and for my characters and the worlds I build around them. I hope you consider picking up the collection and seeing where those years and miles and words took me.

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The End of All Seasons: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Powell’s

Visit the book’s page. Read an interview with Russell Davis. Follow him on Twitter.

Spam Storm

Just a note:

The site is getting hit with quite a lot of spam at the moment and while the filters are getting a lot of it, other bits are getting through. Since I am about to go to sleep, it’s possible a fair amount will accumulate overnight. Don’t panic, I’ll deal with it in the morning. Thanks.