Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Mallet Has Landed

Which is to say, my first author copy of The Mallet of Loving Correction: Selected Writings From Whatever, 2008 – 2012 has arrived at the Scalzi Compound. And it is absolutely lovely, if I do say so myself. The cover, with the illustration by Nate Taylor, is gorgeous, the end papers are fabulous and honestly everything about it is up to the usual Subterranean Press premium look and feel. It’s also pretty hefty at 484 pages — pretty sure it’s my longest book yet.

If you’re a fan of the site, it’s well worth getting in this signed, limited hardcover edition. Its release date is September 13, 2013 — not at all coincidentally the fifteenth anniversary of Whatever itself — but if you want to preorder a copy, you can do so from Subterranean Press directly. Here’s the link. Don’t miss out, because this will be the only hardcover edition, and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever (which is why they call it a limited edition).

These Are a Few Of My Favorite Things, On Tiers

I get asked a lot what about what my favorite book/movie/album/creatively generated object might be (or my favorite author/filmmaker/musician/creative type), and I find as I go along in life I get progressively more annoyed with the question. This is usually not the fault of the person asking the question, who is generally trying to make innocuous conversation and is doing so by opening up a socially-approved line of trivial conversation.

It is, however, the fault of the question itself, which is unsophisticated, naive and annoying. Like most people over the age of twelve, who both had time to expand their creative palates and who recognize that life is not always a zero-sum Highlander-like experience, in which There Can Be Only One, I don’t have a single favorite book, or movie, or album, etc, or a favorite author or filmmaker or musician, or so on. I like a lot of different things (and artists) almost equally for reasons that are often not equivalent or comparable.

What I have instead — and what I suspect most people have — are personal tiers: general landings of favor in which the works/creators are held at a mostly equivalent level of esteem. For works of creativity, these tiers basically look like this:

First tier: The works of art that, for lack of a better term, regenerate me: I take them in and they make me feel like a better person for having gone through them.
Second tier: Works that I enjoy a lot and happily reconsume when the mood strikes me.
Third tier: Good once, could enjoy again, but probably won’t go out of my way to do so.
Fourth tier: Once was enough for all time.
Fifth tier: Mildly annoyed that I spent my time with it.
Sixth tier: Deeply annoyed some of the precious few moments in which I exist as a conscious being in this universe have been wasted on this crap.

For the artists themselves, it looks like this:

First tier: I consider these folks as my personal artistic pantheon.
Second tier: These folks are very reliable purveyors of entertainment that works for me for one or more reasons.
Third tier: Good at what they do; some of their work also speaks to me.
Fourth tier: Good at what they do, but what they do isn’t my thing.
Fifth tier: Not very good at what they do, but they make other people happy, so, meh.
Sixth tier: Abstractly okay with the concept that these people are allowed to express themselves in a manner that looks like creativity if you don’t think about it too hard, but honestly, what the hell.

Even here, “tier” does not capture the complexity of the thinking about these things, since the tiers themselves have plateaus, slopes and fractal surface features, reflecting that I like different things for different reasons. The objects and people in the tiers are likewise often in motion, moving up and down the tiers as my personal tastes, interests and experience change (or whether, for example, I’ve listened to/read/watched that particular thing too many times recently). Likewise, first tier artists can create lower tier output; lower tier artists have created works I unreservedly place on my top tier of creative experiences. And so on.

The point is that on the first tier of things, both with artists and with output, it because difficult (or difficult for me, anyway) to accurately quantify how or whether one is better than other. My top tier of movies, for example, contains both Tootsie and Stop Making Sense. One is a comedy and one is a concert film. One has great acting performances and one has great musical performances. One makes me laugh, and the other makes me dance. Likewise, among writers, I enjoy ee cummings and H.L. Mencken for reasons that have almost nothing to do with each other. If you come in and say to me “Yeah, but if you had to choose one over the other, which would you choose?” I would look at you like you were dense.

(The “yeah, but if you had to choose” questions drive me up a wall, too. Because I immediately get sidetracked into the why. Why do I have to choose? What circumstances of fate have led me only to be able to pick one book/movie/album, etc? I want to know why civilization has collapsed to the point (or whatever other circumstances occur) where I only get one thing. Because that seems kinda crucial to me. Really, in a situation like that, focusing only on that one book/movie/album seems the ultimate in wasting brain cycles on inappropriate trivia. This is especially the case now that we live in a world where I can carry ten thousand songs, an equal number of books and a couple of hundred movies with me at all times.)

(Also note that my favorite works/creators are not necessarily the best works/creators by any sort of critical and/or popular consensus. Citizen Kane is generally considered one of the greatest films of all time, and I do not disagree with that assessment one bit. It is possibly the Best Film Ever. But I don’t often feel like going out of my way to see it; it’s not on my personal First Tier. Likewise, Bob Dylan is both indisputably one of the most important musical figures in the last 60 years and on my fourth tier of artists; I like nearly all his stuff better when it’s covered by someone else. Personal taste is a weird and wonky thing.)

All of this is a very long way of saying that asking me what my favorite thing is, is not likely to get you the answer you want, unless the answer you want is a sour, exasperated look and a long, drawn out sigh (and if that is the answer you want, you’re a bad person and I don’t like you). On the other hand, if you ask me what some of my top tier books/music/movies are, then you might get a more interesting answer, especially interesting because then you get to try to figure out what it means that someone would like both Tootsie and Stop Making Sense almost equally as much. You’re well on your way to a psychological profile right there.

Interview in the San Antonio Express-News

In advance of LoneStarCon 3, the San Antonio newspaper interviewed me about Redshirts, science fiction and all manner of stuff like that. The interview, if you are curious, is available for your perusal here. Enjoy!

My LoneStarCon 3 Schedule

It’s very brief. I am doing programming only on Sunday, September 1. The events are:

1pm – 2pm: Signing. This is when I am signing books. Usually the books I wrote. But, hey. I’m not picky.

3pm – 4pm: Reading. You will probably want to come to this because I will be reading either material from the new novel or a short story directly related to the new novel. I haven’t decided yet which. Either way, this will be a Worldcon exclusive; this material will not have been read to anyone else. You will get it first. Plus the usual Q & A stuff at the end.

4pm – 5pm: Kaffeeklatsch. This is me talking with a small table of fans. You’ll need to sign up at the convention for this, and it’s first come, first serve.

And then after that I’m off to get ready for the Hugos, which are that night.

For those asking why the convention only has me doing these events and only on Sunday, the answer (which I’ve posted before but am repeating now just in case)  is because a) that’s when I told them I would be available and b) that’s what I said I would be willing to do. I’m a little burnt at the moment, and the idea of not doing a whole lot and just hanging out with friends was very appealing.

So don’t blame LoneStarCon for my schedule; it’s all on me. Indeed, I thank the folks at LoneStarCon for being willing to accommodate my schedule requests.

One other note: I won’t be arriving at LoneStarCon until late Friday afternoon at the earliest. If you look for me there earlier than that you won’t find me, or if you do, something has gone seriously wrong with the fabric of space and time, and you should probably be fairly alarmed. Just so you know.

My Dad Went to GenCon and All I Got Was This Actually Pretty Darn Nice Hat

Yeah, I got dad points. 

Also, I had a nice day at GenCon. As I did last year, I came in for the day specifically, this year in order to take part in Pat Rothfuss’ charity run through True Dungeon. I regret to say I died thank you very much Pat Rothfuss, but the Pat followed me almost immediately into death and thus became my honor guard into Hell. So I got that going for me. Aside from that my day was spent seeing friends and hanging out, which was also fun. But mostly, it was about getting a hat for my kid. As it should have been.

New and Upcoming Books, 8/16/12

A nice collection of reads, I have to say. Let me know in the comments whether any catch your particular fancy.

(For those of you wondering what happens to these books after you see them here, please see the Book Acquisition FAQ.)

Here, Have a Spontaneous Podcast

I asked people on Twitter for questions that I would answer on a podcast today. Here is that podcast. I discuss cyber security, Nutella, harassment, socks and many other very important topics. It’s 33 minutes long. Enjoy!

(or if you prefer, a direct link to the file)

Storify, Stalkers and Terms of Service

Posting (with permission) an e-mail I got from an occasional Whatever commenter, because this seems something worth pointing people’s attention to. For reasons that will become clear, I’m trimming out the person’s name, although I know who it is and I find them to be credible.

At the time of the posting here, the character in question has his Twitter account suspended, but his Storify account is still up and running. And, yup, it’s exactly as it’s described.

For my part, it seems pretty clear that Storify can deal with this dude, based on its own Terms of Service. The question is whether it will, and if not, why not.

What follows is this person’s e-mail and interpretation of events. I have added in relevant links.

—–

A Twitter and Storify user who goes by the handle “@elevatorGATE” is a well-known cyberstalker of women via social media. His latest method of doing this is to compile thousands of pieces on Storify, often including every single tweet sent by his chosen targets, and then publish them, which notifies the women in question that he had published yet another piece archiving their every word. After repeated complaints and requests for help, Storify temporarily deactivated the notification feature on his account, which doesn’t actually solve the problem.

In a conversation yesterday with Xavier Damman, the Storify CEO suggested that the women @elevatorGATE is targeting turn off all notifications from Storify, which essentially suggests that they withdraw from the medium if they don’t like being stalked, and which also wouldn’t solve the problem of this user archiving everything these women say. One of the users pointed out that this is very much like telling a woman who is being harassed via telephone to never answer the phone. It was at this point in the conversation that Damman went from passively enabling a stalker to actively assisting one. He tweeted, in response to the women, that they “…can’t do anything about that. It’s @elevatorgate’s right to quote public statements…”

Prior to this point in the conversation, the women had named their stalker, but not used the @ symbol in front of his username. You know enough about Twitter to know why that’s a big deal. Damman either carelessly or deliberately notified a man stalking multiple women that they were seeking some way to prevent him from continuing to harass them, and then claimed it was no big deal because anyone searching for the information would have been able to find it. But there’s a very big difference between information existing and that same information being directly brought to a person’s attention.

If you know much about stalking, you’ll know what happens next. @elevatorGATE has substantially stepped up his harassment of the women who had asked Damman for help. Men who follow him on both Storify and Twitter have been bombarding these women via Storify notifications and Tweets with additional harassment. He has also increased his harassment of known online associates of the women in question, making it difficult for them to seek out help or support from fear of his beginning to stalk their friends as well. It’s the reason I’m contacting you privately, via email, rather than via social media: I’m afraid. I don’t want to be added to his list of targets.

Despite Damman’s claims that they can’t do anything, @elevatorGATE is violating Storify’s Terms of Service, which forbids users to:

Post, upload, publish, submit or transmit any Content that: (ii): violates, or encourages any conduct that would violate, any applicable law or regulation… (v) promotes discrimination, bigotry, racism, hatred, harassment or harm against any individual or group…

Violate any applicable law or regulation…

Encourage or enable any other individual to do any of the foregoing.

@elevatorGATE’s conduct is encouraging his followers to stalk and harass several women. Since cyberstalking is against US law under 47 USC § 223 and the Violence Against Women Act, he is violating other Terms of Service as well.

Please help us put pressure on Storify to follow their posted Terms of Service, post a clear harassment policy, and ban this known stalker and delete his thousands of posts.

New Books and ARCs, 8/14/13

I’ve got a bit of a new book backlog, so let’s get to it: Here are some of the new books and ARCs that have showed up at the Scalzi Compound recently. Tell me if you see anything you like, down there in the comment thread. I’m sure there’s something here you yearn for.

My Photo Tools, 2013

Question from the gallery:

Could you share some of your photo tools and secrets? You’ve been showing off some striking pictures recently.

One, thank you, and two, sure. I’m pretty sure I’ve covered this topic before but it never hurts to update this stuff.

Let’s start with cameras. I usually use one of the following two:

* My Nikon D5100. This is Nikon’s midrange DSLR, or was a couple of years ago, anyway, when I bought it. For me, an amateur who usually doesn’t take the camera off auto but likes having the option from time to time, it hits the sweet spot between ease of use and array of options. It also takes some very nice pictures right out of the gate, which is actually important. I like fiddling with my pictures, sometimes a lot, but no amount of fiddling with filters or software is going to make a crappy picture magically decent.

I have the Nikon set up so that it simultaneously shoots JPGs and RAW format files. The latter, which are much larger but have a lot of information you can manipulate in a good photoediting program, are very useful because whenever possible I like to shoot with available light rather than flash, which is almost always harsh and ugly (I am not nearly dedicated enough to shell out for a decent flash). The RAW files let me go in and work with the picture to bring out the details I want.

I tend to use the Nikon for portraits, sunsets and other pictures where I know I am going to want to work with the picture, or if I know I’ll be wanting to keep the image for a long time.

* My cell phone camera. My current cell phone is a RAZR MAXX, which has, I believe, an 8mp camera. It’s perfectly fine as cell phone cameras go, which means it is objectively mediocre and trending toward bad, particularly in low light. But I don’t take my Nikon with me everywhere I go, and as the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. The pictures I take with this tend to be spur-of-the-moment ones, or ones that I intend to go immediately onto Twitter or Facebook, because the phone has easy social media integration, and the DSLR does not.

Somewhat more rarely I will use the camera on one of my tablets, particularly my iPad. I realize it’s uncool to take pictures with your tablet, but one, there are good reasons to do it, and two, like I care what anyone else thinks about it. But by and large, it’s the Nikon or the cell phone.

When I’m using the Nikon, I tend to port the images into one or both of the following image programs:

* Photoshop: Which would seem obvious, I suppose. I am currently using the latest iteration of Photoshop, the “CC” version which is only available on a subscription basis. I have philosophical issues with not owning the software but I’m not going to get into that at the moment, and besides, I use enough Adobe programs that on a yearly basis, the cost of the subscription is a wash with what I would pay to upgrade anyway. So. I use Photoshop to handle RAW files and to do a lot of basic cleanup of the images before I post them. I also use it for post-camera tweaking of images to get certain “looks” and in particular to fiddle with images I am going to make black and white.

A professional photographer, I suspect, would be able to do “in camera” a lot of the things I use Photoshop for, probably quicker and in many ways more effectively. I am perfectly fine with this; as noted, I am an amateur, and I’m doing this for my own enjoyment, and I am geek enough that I enjoy playing with Photoshop to see what happens when I move sliders and and fiddle with curves. And in the end for me, if I like the result, it doesn’t matter to me how I got there.

* Camerabag 2: I discovered this program a couple of years ago, and it’s my go-to program for when I want to slap a pre-set filter (or more than one) on a picture. The filters tend to offer neat specific effects, and you can chain the filters together (or create your own) and then save that specific arrangement of actions as its own new filter. In one sense it’s not too much different than any other photo filter program out there, but I like both its interface and its ability to customize. If you see a picture of mine that looks particularly “arty” then I’ve probably run it through Camerabag.

As noted, I don’t always just use one of the programs; sometimes I will run a picture through both. The picture at the top of this entry, for example, was run through Photoshop in RAW format to tweak settings, do some judicious editing and set into black and white, and then ported into Camerabag to run it through a couple of different filters, and then brought back into Photoshop for some final tweaking. If I made an effort, I could probably do all of my photoediting in just one of the programs, but this process works fine for me, is good enough, and anyway I’m having fun doing it my way, so there’s that.

Outside of these two programs I will occasionally use Aviary, which is the photoediting program embedded into Flickr, the photosharing service I use. It has a set list of filters which can come in handy. I wish it were slightly more full-featured, but then I do have two other programs I use that are more full-featured, so this qualifies as me being whiny and greedy.

When I use the phone camera I don’t tend to do a whole lot of filtering, mostly because I just want to get the picture up on Twitter or wherever. That said, when I do want to do some post picture fiddling, I tend to use one of two programs: Perfectly Clear, which does a very good job of automatically brightening up muddy or dark photos, and Pixlr-o-Matic, which has a metric crapton of filters, effects and borders. I also and again occasionally use the filters and editing capabilities of Flickr, through its Android app. I find it vaguely annoying that the Flickr app filters do not directly correspond to the Web interface filters, but whatever.

From a technical and artistic standpoint, as a photographer, I think that I probably am as guilty as any hipster or Instagram-addict with regard to over-reliance on filters. But on the other hand I don’t feel the need to beat myself up too much over it. One, again, I’m not a pro photographer, so I feel perfectly justified in the occasional shortcut to get the feel I want out of a photo. Two, at the end of the day I’m doing the pictures for myself, so it’s actually about what I want out of the picture, not what anyone else thinks.

That said, as a photographer, I think I have a reasonable eye. I think I’m particularly decent at portraiture; I am able to find something interesting in a person’s face and work with it. It helps that I live with people with interesting faces, I admit. But even on the less interesting faces (for example, my own) I can still sometimes get lucky.

What it really comes down to, though, is not really the camera or the programs, but simply whether you as the photographer are interested in taking good pictures. If you’ve got that, I’m pretty sure you can get a good picture out of almost anything.

Update: A follow-up entry on how to make pictures like me.

The Big Idea: Michael J. Martinez

Ever crash a ship into a planet? No? Well, then, Michael J. Martinez has one up on you with The Daedalus Incident. But to hear him tell about it in this Big Idea, that’s not even the coolest thing in the book. Think about that for a minute, why don’t you.

MICHAEL J. MARTINEZ 

So…I’m crashing an 18th century frigate into 22nd century Mars. While that is certainly a rather large and important-ish idea in my debut novel, The Daedalus Incident, it’s actually not the Big Idea.

The Daedalus Incident is, in part, a historical fantasy in which the Age of Sail plays out amongst the planets of the solar system instead of the seas of Earth. And that was a great deal of fun to write, let me tell you. It’s got that big, noisy, whiz-bang vibe you get from swashbuckling, adventurous space opera. There’s lizard-people on Venus. Mysterious aliens on the rings of Saturn. Alchemy. Benjamin Franklin. Someone described it as Master and Commander meets Spelljammer. (I rather liked that one.)

And there’s a creaky, hardscrabble mining colony on Mars in the year 2132 that, I suppose, addresses the other half of my fan-brain. It’s a hard SF setting, with corporate mining operations, astronauts in dead-end jobs, laser drills, earthquakes, quantum physics and shuttle crashes. It’s the Future, right down to the holographic televisions and tofu-based diet. That was fun, too.

As you may suspect, the two settings come crashing together. Mad alchemists and nefarious evil are involved. There’s adventure and excitement and all the things Yoda says Jedi aren’t supposed to crave, but do anyway. Yes, even more fun.

But what’s it all about? Where’s this crazy yarn go?

I’ve often pointed to two different groups of influences on my writing. The first is the Napoleonic era naval literature of C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian. Aside from the obvious influence, these two writers are, in some ways, cousins of SF/F writers, because they write about men haring off on missions of war and discovery into a great, big, scary unknown. The other group includes classic science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke, whose work often involves those same themes: coming face to face with the unknown and, in some cases, unknowable.

The common thread I discovered in the process of writing my own book was that these influences have, at their heart, ordinary people. There aren’t any Chosen Ones, or children of gods, or genetically engineered supermen. Nobody gets a dragon egg or a sacred gemstone or a magic sword. (Well, OK, there’s an alchemically treated sword in my book. Totally different though. It wasn’t stuck in a stone.)

The works that truly influenced me are about ordinary people facing the finality of death and the enormity of the unknown, and they do it out of duty, or love, or knowledge. Simple motivations, perhaps, but they spawn innovation, brilliance and courage. I think that’s why I liked them, because it made the characters incredibly identifiable to me.

That’s what I found in The Daedalus Incident as I wrote and revised it: the notion of ordinary people facing incredibly strange, dangerous and terrifying things because it was the right thing to do. It actually wasn’t an intentional theme at first – sometimes, I’m told, writing happens like that – but when I found that Big Idea in there, I definitely nurtured it as best I could.

I still liked crashing the frigate into Mars, of course. I mean, who wouldn’t?

—-

The Daedalus Incident: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

First Day of School, 2013

Truth, Justice and the American Way. And also, ninth grade.

Athena is officially in high school now, which is a little strange to think about but also pretty exciting. As I joked on Twitter, now I officially have to start worrying about college. Here’s a secret about that: I’m not actually that worried. And anyway, I’d rather have Athena focused on the here and now. She’s excited for the first day of school, as she usually is. I like that about her.

On a related note, it’s odd to think that around this time thirty years ago, I was starting my own freshman year in high school. It really doesn’t seem that long ago, and also, it does.

Interview in the Dayton Daily News

I got my start as a pro writer working for newspapers, which means that I totally jazzed about the fact that today my local paper, the Dayton Daily News, devoted a whole page to me rambling on about science fiction, technology, the future, and why ill-advised selfies are destined ultimately not to matter (one day. You’re still not off the hook, Anthony Weiner).

The interview isn’t online, so far as I can tell, so if you want to read it, you should a) be in the Dayton area, b) be a subscriber to the DDN or c) go out and get a copy today. If c), I’ll say it’s an interesting interview which will be worth your time and $2 for the paper. Honest. Well, all the coupons in the Sunday paper make it worth the $2.  I’m bonus content.

Today’s Glimpse Into the Incredibly Glamorous Life of a Writer, 8/10/13

May I present to you the thing I snack on as I write. It’s a combination of the cheap, bagged knock-offs of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Grahams and Frosted Flakes — or as I like to call it, “Writer Chow.” I like it because it’s inexpensive, it’s laden with sugar but also vitamins, which allows me to pretend it’s not empty calorie junk food, and one bowl is about 150 calories, which is a nice, easy amount to keep track of.

Glamorous!

And there’s your insight into one writer’s life for the day. Try not to let the rest of the day be a disappointment to you.

No, Actually, Let’s Keep the Fan Categories at the Hugos

So, this is a motion that’s being offered at this year’s WSFS meeting at Worldcon: To gut the Hugos of the Fanzine, Fan Writer and Fan Artist categories (pdf link), an idea put forward by one Milt Stevens. If you’re at all interested in this stuff, go read it; I’ll wait.

(If you have no interest in this stuff, then what comes next will probably bore you and you should probably just mosey along.)

Read it? Okay, now let me tell you why this is complete and unmitigated crap.

To begin, the commentary to the motion is deeply confused. The first graph acts as a brief history of fan writing and makes the case for it, noting its long history in fandom, its influence on the field despite being the recreation of a relatively small number of people, and noting that many of its practitioners “would become well-known professional writers.” While it’s important to note that “fan” is not the larval stage of “pro” in the science fiction community, it’s equally important to note that if you wanted to make an argument as to why fan awards were vital to the community of science fiction, this is one way you would do it. So to have it be the first graph in a motion to kill the fan awards is a puzzlement, to say the least.

Now. Second graph, first sentence: “The three categories in question attract fewer voters than most of the other categories and are therefore more susceptible to manipulation.” Oh, really? It’s worth noting this year, in 2013 the nomination phase, the Fan Writer category garnered more nominations (485) than some pro Hugo categories, including Graphic Story and Best Editor, Long Form, and more than the Campbell Award. If these categories garnered fewer nominations than one of these allegedly-susceptible-to-manipulation fan categories, should we not also consider expunging these pro categories as well, since by this logic they should be even more susceptible to logrolling? I look forward to the proposal at the WSFS business meeting to expunge these categories as well. 

But looking at total nomination numbers is a bit of a red herring. If you’re going to allege susceptibility to manipulation, what matters are the numbers to make the ballot cutoff — how many nominations it takes to be last of the top five vote getters in any one category. Last year, in the 2012 Best Fan Writer category, out of 363 nominations (which, incidentally, means that 2013 saw the number of nominating votes in the category increase by about a third — hardly the sign of a moribund category), the anchor position on the ballot was held down by James Bacon, who received 41 nominating votes. Which is more than the votes gotten by the #5 nominee in Best Short Story (36), Best Novelette (37),  Best Related Work (24), Best Graphic Story (26), Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (36), or the Campbell (40), and ties Best Pro Artist (41). Fanzine’s cutoff, incidentally, was 37. Again, if these fan categories are susceptible to manipulation, then so are several of the pro categories as well. Once more, by the logic here, we should consider axing them too.

Fan categories do get fewer votes on the final ballot than the pro categories, but even the category with the fewest votes in 2012 (Fanzine, with 802) garnered more votes than all but one of the categories during the nomination process. Which both mitigates the effectiveness of logrolling, and makes the point that if you’re logrolling, the place to do it is in the nomination phase. Also, the final Hugo ballot is preferential, which further mitigates the effectiveness of logrolling.

What do we learn here? That a) not every fan category is poorly contested, relative to other categories; b) raw nomination votes are not useful as a metric; c) that as a result Mr. Stevens’ assertion is incorrect, both on facts and as a matter of logical construction.

The rest of the second graph boils down to: People now campaign for Hugos, which means that traditional fanzines can get swamped by internet logrolling. This would be a compelling argument if traditional fanzines had been swamped off the ballot. Reality, however, tells a different story. This year shows Banana Wings, The Drink Tank and Journey Planet, traditional fanzines all, on the ballot, along with two blogs. 2012: three traditional fanzines and two blogs. 2011: three traditional fanzines and two blogs. 2010: four traditional fanzines and two blogs.

You know, I’m sensing a pattern here: People are nominating blogs and traditional fanzines. And given that there are more traditional fanzines on the ballot than blogs, the idea that the Internet is swamping out the ‘zines is not exactly supportable.

(Yes, some of these traditional ‘zines above are offered in pdf form on the Internet. Why? Because it’s the 21st century, that’s why. However, allow me to suggest editorial format matters as to what qualifies as a traditional zine.)

The fact that traditional ‘zines and blogs happily coexist on the ballot — not to mention fan writers who write for ‘zines and fan writers who write on blogs (or both!), and fan artists who do the same — makes Mr. Stevens’ third graph assertion that “Efforts at compromise have failed” a genuine headscratcher. One: Dude, look at the actual ballots. They pretty well show that in the real world, fandom encompasses both tradition and innovation, and everything in between. Two: Compromise by whom, to what end? Where have these secret talks to bring to an end this long, dark battle for the soul of the fan categories been held? Why was I not informed? You know, I do have a Fan Writer Hugo. I feel like I should have been briefed, if only as a courtesy.

Mr. Stevens suggests there are two antagonistic camps: those who only want traditional fanzines, and those who only want new-fangled anarchy. But what about those of us who like both? What about those of us who see it all as part of the fan activity spectrum and like it all? You know, I get Vanamonde sent to me whenever John Hertz gets around to it, and I enjoy it. I’ve contributed to a couple of Chris Garcia’s fanzines. And obviously I read a lot of blogs — heck, I write one! Where is the seat at the table for the partisans of “it’s all good”? Mr. Stevens’ formulation does not appear to to make room for us, or indeed even seems to consider the possibility that we exist, and that we might wish for the fan Hugos to continue unmolested by unyielding partisans.

To be sure, there may be people who are as Mr. Stevens suggests, so tied into a worldview of fandom that their solution to not getting their way all the time is to nuke everyone who opposes them and then salt the earth so that nothing ever grows there again. These people should probably grow the fuck up. Hissyfits are unbecoming in actual adults.

And ultimately this proposal of Mr. Stevens seems to be exactly that: A monumental hissyfit, built on bad assertions, an “us vs. them” mentality, and a desire to stomp off with the bat and ball. My thought on this is simple: Mr. Stevens, it’s neither your bat, nor your ball. Or more to the point, it’s not only your bat and ball. It belongs to everyone who wants to play.

Now, let me speak personally, here. I have a Fan Writer Hugo. And you know what? I was delighted to get it. It said to me that I, who had come into fandom late and from the outside, had been welcomed into it. It was, in a very real sense, my stamp of citizenship. It meant more to me than I expect most people know. I am proud to have won it. I am proud that every year since I have won it, it has gone to a new person — and that this year, no matter who wins it, it will go to someone else new as well. For the past several years the Fan Writer Hugo has reflected the state of fan writing: Varied, vital and well worth celebrating.

Likewise, the Fanzine Hugo has been won by a different publication each year since 2006 — sometimes by a ‘zine, sometimes by a blog, but always by a publication that is worth reading and which tells us something about the community we belong to. Fan artists are no less integral, and the field each year includes artists whose work reflects their place in and view of our community.

It would not only be an act of monumental pissiness to kill the fan Hugos, it would be an act of supreme contempt directed at the community — a way for a disgruntled few to say to a larger group, you don’t count like we count. It’s stupid, it’s spiteful, it’s short-sighted, and ultimately, it’s sad. It would cut the heart out of current fandom, and the legs out from under any fandom that would follow.

I hope this proposal, built on bad logic and bad faith, dies the death it deserves at the WSFS business meeting. And I hope we keep celebrating the fan writing, publishing and artistry that is the expression of the love we feel for the field and for the community, for a long time to come. It matters.

Update, 9am, 8/9/13: For those asking “yes, but what can I do?” Well, if you’re attending LoneStarCon 3 this year, go to the WSFS Business Meeting (you can!) and vote it down (you can do that, too!). The dates and times of the business meeting will be available in the program when you get there. I believe the first is on Friday at 10am, but these things are fungible, so double check when you arrive. I am not personally arriving until late Friday, so if anyone who is going to that meeting wants to use this piece to bolster their argument if necessary, go right ahead. I also understand at the Friday meeting it can be punted out of further discussion, which would be nice.

(And yes, I understand that from a certain point of view I’m just trying to use the Internet to logroll you all into voting the way I want. I am the worst person ever.)

The Big Idea: Kat Richardson

Fun fact: Kat Richardson and I claim the same hometown of Claremont, California, and even lived there at the same time. And now she and I write in the SF/F genre! Coincidence? Well, yes. But still very cool. Kat’s kickass Greywalker series has a new installment, Possession. She’s here to give you the scoop.

KAT RICHARDSON:

“Ghosts have a bad habit of speaking in riddles—their minds are focused on different things than ours are and without their context, nothing they say makes sense.” Possession, p. 94

I write about ghosts, monsters, and dead people a lot. It’s not that I’m morbid, I just think they’re interesting tools for telling stories about bigger problems, not to mention… well, creepy! Often, I write about magic as the power of belief and how what a person or group of people believe can take form and wreak havoc. The real world is full of this kind of phenomenon that grows out of the actions of a few and infects many, putting them into control where before they perceived themselves as powerless (be that good or bad). But I got to thinking a lot, while I was outlining Possession, about the flip side of that—about losing control, losing your self and losing—or gaining—faith.

Let me digress just a little: two years ago my mother was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and I became her Health Care Advocate, defender, chauffeur, treasurer, assistant, secretary, and dogsbody. I was spending a lot of time in hospital wards, outlining or writing books on my laptop while waiting for her to be released from whatever procedure or therapy she was undergoing at that point. I thought a lot about loss of control and loss of self as Mom got more and more dependent on me or others and her mind often wandered or locked up and wouldn’t let anything out when requested, or remember anything, no matter how much we tried to trick it into working normally again. It wasn’t having any and Mom and my sister and I had to muddle along with what we could collectively manage between the three of us—which wasn’t that much since we weren’t terribly close before this. Our collective memory was thin, out of date, and brittle.

So when I got to writing Possession, those were among the thoughts in my mind—loss of control, loss of self, and loss of autonomy, as well as just what a family may or may not be, however fractured and brittle.

I’d done several books with vampires, but I really wanted to give them a rest and work more with ghosts—which are pretty great symbols for loss of ability, loss of memory, and loss of autonomy. The idea of old-school séances and hauntings was high on my list of nifty things to do in the new book, but I wanted to use that sense of being unable to help yourself—that ultimate loss of control—that spirit possession implied. An otherwise normal person who suddenly cannot communicate or use their own body because someone or something else has control of it. It’s a horrifying thought, isn’t it? Allegorically, it’s powerful in political and social terms as well and there’s been a lot of news items in the past couple of years that have turned on the subject of autonomy and control. The theme kept cropping up.

In addition, the protagonist of the Greywalker novels has always had issues with being—or believing she is—in ultimate control of her life and destiny. When she discovers that she’s not, truly, in complete control, she’s initially angry and rejects the situation—the way my mother was angry about developing cancer and being at the mercy of doctors and protocols with no guarantees and no way to help herself but to let others do it. When the vegetative patients in the story begin to display strange behavior, their families are equally frightened and refuse to believe or even talk about it. One begins to lose her faith in God when nothing she or her church can do is any help; she has to sit by and watch her sister disappear in the storm of communication from the dead that means nothing to her. She enlists the protagonist to help her sort the important information from the chaff in hopes of saving what remains of her family, even if doing so flies in the face of her religion.

The protagonist has her own parallel issues. She’s got a handle on what her powers are, but she’s not very good at understanding or nurturing relationships, so she’s not always able to communicate in appropriate ways with the people she considers friends or family. A lot of the plot turns on problems of communication and self-determination or control—problems I saw in real life everywhere I looked. I felt these were important issues, even if they were cloaked in allegory and masquerading as ghosts.

Silence and stillness may not mean someone has nothing to say, but that they are unable to say it until they are empowered. The key to breaking the communication barrier isn’t yelling louder, but finding out why someone doesn’t speak up and removing that obstacle, having empathy and creating connections that allow communication to flow so that the silent ones can speak.

And that’s the little Big Idea lurking at the bottom of Possession. Of course there’s a lot more going on in the book, but if I told you everything, you wouldn’t need to read it. And John would never let me post here again because, well… 106,000 words is a bit excessive.

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Possession: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.