Daily Archives: May 13, 2014

For the Avoidance of Doubt

This comment on John C. Wright’s Intercollegiate Review article, purporting to be from me, and reported on here (and since updated and corrected), was not written by me. I wrote a comment replying to it noting such, but for some reason I can’t see it (although others apparently can, so).

I did, however, write this comment, about Heinlein and Hugos, over on Metafilter.

For further avoidance of doubt, neither Mr. Wright or Elizabeth Moon’s books are on my blacklist, in no small part because I don’t keep one of those. If I did, the chance I’d announce it somewhere else than here is fairly small.

As a general rule, if you see a comment purporting to be from me out there on the Internets and plan to report on it in one way or another, it might be a good idea to ping me first, especially if it seems contentious in some way. If I did write it, I’ll confirm it. If I didn’t, well, I’ll tell you that, too.

Comments off on this one.

“Unlocked” Now at Tor.com

Those of you who were waiting for “Unlocked” to show up on Tor.com and thereby depriving my darling child of shoes and a college education* — your wait is over, because it’s now up for the reading over there.** Enjoy.

* Not really. She has several pairs of shoes. Aaaaaand probably she’ll get a college education.

** Mind you, if you want the exclusive chapter-long preview of Lock In, the upcoming novel (and oh, my, you do), you’ll need to get the eBook version of the novella, available at fine e-retail establishments everywhere (links to retailers here).

Notes on This Year’s Hugo Voter’s Packet

My Twitter feed in a tizzy this morning because Orbit books, which has three of the Hugo Best Novel nominees this year, has decided not to put the full books into the Hugo Voters Packet, opting instead to put in “extended previews.” The ostensible reasoning for that is here; a joint statement from the authors of the books in question is here.

As the guy who created the Hugo Voters Packet in its current form, some thoughts:

1. It’s worth remembering that the Hugo Voters Packet is not, in fact, an entitlement of Worldcon membership — indeed, for the first few years of its existence, it was run entirely independent of the Worldcon, and run by a guy with more enthusiasm than sense (that would be me). Moreover, participation in the Voters Packet has always been voluntary and usually contingent on publishers. Neither I nor the Worldcons (once they took over the compilation of the packets) can force or compel publishers to offer the works. It’s nice when they want to offer the full works, but if they don’t, then that’s their call to make. It’s always been their call to make.

Which is to say that if you were (or are) thinking of the Hugo Voters Packet as something you were supposed to get, with full and complete versions of everything, please stop. It is, literally, a bonus, something you got (and get) because of the intentional participation of those in it, and the willingness of volunteers to put it together and offer it to you.

2. Remember that the choices of the publisher may be at odds with the desires of the author — but that the author may not have a choice in the matter. If you hold the decision of the publisher against the author in any way, you are doing the author a disservice. Likewise, if you won’t read a book simply because it’s not in the packet in the complete form, or vote it lower because it’s not, well. At the very least, I think you’re doing it wrong.

3. If you read the previews of the books and you want to read more, remember: Bookstores and libraries (and friends with copies you can borrow, etc). These are things that exist in the world! And they are what people used before the Hugo Voter Packet, i.e., not all that long ago. It is not difficult, in other words, to give these works a fair reading and consideration.

4. As to whether the Orbit books are now at a disadvantage when it comes to the voting: Possibly, but then again, maybe not. The year Yiddish Policeman’s Union was nominated (and won), it wasn’t available in the downloadable packet; people had to jump through an extra hoop to get a physical copy sent to them. It did just fine. It’s entirely possible the extended excerpts will likewise do the job for any number of Hugo voters. It’s also, of course, entirely possible that enough readers have already read one or more of the books in question that their inclusion in the packet is neither here nor there (I, a very likely Hugo voter, have read all three, for example).

Furthermore, it’s possible that one or more of the books comes in with intangible advantages: Charlie Stross’ book may benefit from him being the only UK nominee on the novel ballot in a year in which the Worldcon is in London; Ann Leckie’s novel may benefit from having already won the BSFA and Clarke Awards for Best Novel (and being nominated for the Nebula); Mira Grant’s fandom is likewise loud and proud.

Which is to say that let’s not already declare these books out of contention, as I have seen at least one person do (hopefully in jest) on Twitter. There are almost three months between now and the end of the Hugo voting period. More than enough time for people to get reading done.

5. On a personal note, I will say that I think Orbit’s statement on why it’s not offering the full books in the packet is at least 63% utter bullshit; the whole “we’re so concerned about an author’s right of determination about their work that we’ve decided not to give them the right to decide whether to participate in the Hugo Voters Packet” bit is a particularly nice touch.

What I think really happened is that Tim Holman, publisher of Orbit (or someone above him), a) knows that this Worldcon is going to be the largest one in decades, with more than 7k people expected so far, b) saw that Tor was going all in on the Wheel of Time series, which would increase the number of people downloading the Hugo Voters Packet, c) did the math and decided that the packet represented a net loss of possible sales (particularly in the UK market) rather than a net positive in terms of goodwill and a possible Hugo win of one of his three nominated books.

This, by the way, would be a totally rational decision on his part and on the part of Orbit, if indeed that is their thinking. Giving away up to 7K copies each of three books is a lot, and Orbit is in the business of making money for itself and (hopefully) its authors. Likewise Orbit, as a publisher, has calculus to do on how valuable a Hugo win will be for them and these particular books, a figuring that has to include the fact that only one of the three can potentially win.

Which is to say I think Orbit has made the determination that one possible Hugo win, and the benefits thereof, does not outweigh possible lost sales on three books. Which again, is a totally reasonable argument to make (even if I, speaking from no little experience, might quibble with the argument). I don’t think that’s the argument their announcement is offering, however, and I don’t appreciate the level of credulity Mr. Holman (or anyone above him) appears to believe I or any of the rest of us have on the matter.

In any event.

My advice: If you are voting for the Hugos (or even if you’re not, but just like genuinely good science fiction) read Neptune’s Brood, Parasite and Ancillary Justice. They are worth your time, and they are well worth your serious consideration. Speaking personally, these three books are why it’s going to be a very tough year for me to vote, when voting in the Best Novel category.

The Big Idea: Rose Fox and Daniel José Older

When editors Rose Fox and Daniel José Older started out to create their anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, they did so with a mission: To offer stories with more than the “usual suspects” of fantasy characters and tropes — to give space to stories and people outside of the expected. Here’s how they went about doing it, and how they went about getting the means to make the anthology happen.

ROSE FOX AND DANIEL JOSÉ OLDER:

How do you transform a longstanding vacancy into an opportunity? How do you take an empty, unfriendly space, air it out, and make it welcoming? These are the challenges we faced when we set out to edit Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History.

The vacancy, of course, exists in the hallowed halls of fiction—specifically historical and speculative fiction. Here we find one dominant narrative, that same singular narrative that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warned us about: the story of the anointed white heterosexual cisgender man saving the world. We’re over it. We’ve seen it countless times. It’s boring. And what good is a solitary thread to depict a world that’s a vast, complex, multicolored quilt?

Where one story reigns supreme, thousands and thousands of others languish untold. This is not accidental, though it’s also not always conscious. Marginalization of people and stories doesn’t come out of thin air. It’s created by a thousand decisions on the part of writers, agents, editors, publishers, librarians, and booksellers:

  • “I don’t want to write marginalized characters because I worry about getting it wrong.”
  • “An egalitarian culture wouldn’t be realistic.”
  • “I invited submissions from authors who were already notable in the field, because their names will help sell the anthology.”
  • “We’re looking for books that we know will do well in the current marketplace.”
  • “Readers won’t pick up a book with a character like that on the cover.”
  • “I have no idea how to promote this story. It’s really cool, but who would read it?”
  • “Boys don’t read as much as girls do, so we need to encourage them with more books about boys doing boy things.”

Collectively, over a period of decades, these individual decisions steamroll non-dominant voices right off the map.

Meanwhile, our author friends have been saying very different things:

  • “My story was rejected because the editor ‘couldn’t relate’ to the main character.”
  • “I built a story around something that happened to me, and was told that things like that don’t happen anymore.”
  • “I wanted to submit to that magazine until they published a story that was full of stereotypes about my culture.”
  • “My professor told me that people like me don’t write SF/F.”
  • “My fantasy novel, set in a world that’s completely different from ours, was shelved under ‘African-American Literature’ just because I’m Black.”

We decided it was time—really, long past time—to take part in the fight against the dominant narrative and make space for the truths that have gone untold. We wanted to tell the truth about our histories, not the stories that make it into textbooks, and we wanted to decolonize speculative fiction. That was the big idea that became Long Hidden.

With the expert guidance and support of our publishers, Bart Leib and Kay Holt at Crossed Genres, we set out to create an atmosphere of bravery with precision and gentleness, free from deception. Our submission guidelines (http://longhidden.com/submissions/) asked for care and empathy, because we knew we would be seeing stories of violence and sorrow as well as bravery and triumph. We couldn’t pretend away the pain that oppression has caused throughout history. We weren’t interested in narrative of the privileged savior and we said so; we also asked authors to approach the concept of revenge with subtlety and caution, knowing that the truth of history is more complex than the tables being turned. We asked for stories of friendship and family and community, because in hard times those personal connections are both threatened and vital. And we encouraged speculative elements that incorporated real-world religion, superstition, and folklore, because the supernatural has its dominant narratives too.

We invited everyone to contribute, not just big names, because we know how hard it is for even tremendously talented authors to break in. We were intentional about reaching out into communities that don’t usually see calls for submissions for speculative fiction anthologies. We extended our call out far beyond the traditional boundaries of mainstream SF/F. We approached writers who had never published before and writers who had never written speculative fiction before. We explicitly requested and welcomed stories from women, writers of color, queer and trans* writers, and disabled writers, knowing that it takes a clear invitation to overcome the general feeling in the industry that such authors and their stories are unwelcome. We offered SFWA pro rates to honor the hard work it takes to write a story of the painful past, and asked the wider community of readers to fund our project through Kickstarter so we could afford to pay our authors and artists something close to what they were worth.

The response was tremendous. Submissions and pledges poured in. In a few days, the Long Hidden Kickstarter met its goal, and soon after we’d doubled it. By the end, we’d shot far past the initial goal and beyond what any of us had thought possible. People gathered en masse to declare that this was a space that needed to be opened in the closed ranks of both speculative and historical fiction.

Twenty-seven stories emerged from the many, many amazing ones we’d been sent. They were stories that collectively held a vast range of voices, scopes, characters, and unspoken truths. They were from authors around the world. They were heartbreaking and hilarious and true in the way all great fiction is. They were challenging. And most of all, they were in conversation with one another, despite depicting many different people, places, and eras. We enlisted artists with diverse backgrounds and styles to give them the illustrations they deserved.

Each story challenged our assumptions, privileges, stereotypes, doubts, fears, and uncertainties. As we worked with the authors and artists and each other, we were profoundly moved and changed by these tales of struggle, survival, triumph, and pain.

The “long hidden” stories have been here all along, as have the voices that tell them, but the industry hasn’t been listening. We’re thrilled that social media and crowdfunding have opened up new avenues for untold narratives to get their due, and we look forward to a great many more emerging into the light. Long Hidden isn’t the beginning, or the end.

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Long Hidden: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Createspace

Read a story excerpt with commentary by contributor Sunny Moraine. Visit the book’s Web site. Follow editor Rose Fox on Twitter. Follow editor Daniel José Older on Twitter.