The Big Idea: Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe

We live in an age of technological miracles and wonders, but do the humans underneath that tech still need the fairy tales that animated their ancestors? The editors of The Starlit Wood, an anthology of new fairy tales, say “yes.” And here’s why.

NAVAH WOLFE and DOMINIK PARISIEN:

We are children of starlit woods.

From the time we were small, stories were tools we used to navigate the world. We were both voracious readers, devourers of books of all kinds—and we never stopped reading fairy tales. Kids have a tendency to translate the world around them in terms that make sense—and nothing makes more sense, feels more familiar, than the stories that we’ve been reading for as long as we can remember.

Fairy tales may start for many of us as children’s stories, but—as people love to point out, once they discover the true gruesomeness behind some of their most beloved tales—they’re in fact very adult. Indeed, we’d argue that fairy tales are meant to speak to children and adults. The world can be an unsettling, terrifying place, no matter what age or stage of life you’re in—and familiar stories can be a safe language to use to navigate the dark woods of life.

The utter universality of fairy tales can give us the necessary vocabulary to make sense of the woods, to find a path out to safety—or to claim the woods for our own. They help us identify the wolves, witches and dangers lurking in the dark. When you can name something, you have power over it—the power to change the story, to remake it, to reshape it into our own happily ever afters. They’re narrative tools that we grab hold of as children, but they remain useful for our entire lives.

And us? We devoured the original fairy tales and lost ourselves in modern retellings, often edited by people like Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow. And somewhere along the way, our roads led us to co-editing our own anthology of fairy tale retellings for Saga Press, The Starlit Wood.

And the more we explored the world of fairy tales, the more clear it became to us that fairy tales are a lingua franca for everybody. They are a language carved onto bones—bones that can be covered in any skin. Fairy tales originate from anywhere or anytime, but you always know they are fairy tales. The same tropes and themes pop up again and again–terrible parents, wandering children, fantastical animals, enchanted items, moral components—to a point where even if we don’t necessarily recognize the source material, a story still feels like a fairy tale. Side by side with classic, traditional stories, The Starlit Wood contains retellings of a few fairy tales we had never encountered before—but even though they were new to us, they felt familiar, like old friends we had just met for the first time.

And that is the big idea of The Starlit Wood. Fairy tales are malleable stories that can be reskinned over and over as long as the skeleton underneath remains the same. We approached our phenomenal writers and asked them to view fairy tales through a new prism, to discover new hides for these old bones. Some of the stories they chose are very familiar. Others are newly discovered or are from less familiar fairy tale traditions. The contributors each took fresh angles, crossed genres, and found new geographies for their tales. Writers flipped character motivations or even removed elements that one would think are essential to a particular fairy tale, making these stories feel fresh, unexpected, urgent–but still true to their source material.

The resulting stories were beyond our wildest hopes. Seanan McGuire put Red Riding Hood in the desert. Daryl Gregory let his Hansel and Gretel consume something much more problematic than candy. Marjorie Liu wrote Sleeping Beauty as a lesbian romance. Garth Nix turned The Little Match Girl into a Western revenge story. Stephen Graham Jones retold The Pied Piper of Hamelin without any music. Max Gladstone wrote Jack and the Beanstalk–with a space elevator. Naomi Novik turned the ugliness of Rumpelstiltskin into a beautiful triumph for the miller’s daughter that upturns the uncomfortable caricatures of the original tale.

From the woods to the stars, The Starlit Wood contains eighteen extraordi­nary journeys into unexpected territories, uncharted lands, and unforeseen adventures that are strangely familiar and startlingly different at the same time. We couldn’t be happier with these amazing journeys—so come and be changed with us. All of us, after all, are children of the woods.

—-

The Starlit Wood: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Powell’s, Simon & Schuster

Saga Press, Navah’s Twitter, Dominik’s Twitter

Further Thoughts on The Collapsing Empire

I finished The Collapsing Empire two Thursdays ago, but then I had to travel first to New York and then to Minneapolis for conventions, so today was the first time that I had a chance to go through the finished manuscript with a fine-toothed comb in order to do fiddly things like standardize how names are used (and make sure names used in one part of the manuscript stayed consistent — a problem for me), fix a couple of minor plot holes, and basically buff it up so that when it’s sent off to the copy editor they don’t recoil in horror from it.

In the process of doing this, I also read the novel all the way through for the first time. Which may sound weird — didn’t I write the thing, after all? — but when you’re writing it, you’re writing bits at a time, and I don’t read what I’ve written previously in any sequential manner. I just go back to check on things that I need to remember, or have to change because I got a new idea somewhere along the line. So today was the first time I read through the whole, completed story.

So, some thoughts on the read-through and other things.

1. I’m relieved to say I think it’s good. I mean, I thought it was good before — I wouldn’t have told Patrick, my editor, that it was done if I hadn’t — but reading it through in one go confirms it’s pretty damn solid. It all works and parts of it are really freakin’ awesome. This is a mild relief; it’s nice when your initial impression of your completed work bears scrutiny ten days later.

2. I think it’s sufficiently different from what I’ve written before that it’s difficult to make a direct comparison, but if I had to, I’d say that it’s probably closest to The Android’s Dream. No, that doesn’t mean it opens up with a fart joke (there are no fart jokes in TCE. Sorry). But it has similar pacing and stakes as well as narrative tone. Also maybe The Ghost Brigades? Somewhere between the two of those books, perhaps. But what I really think it that it has its own sense of style and place. Which makes me happy.

3. At the same time, you know. It’s me, and the book sounds like it comes out of my brain. Which if you like that, great! And if you don’t, well, maybe give it as a gift to someone who does. When I started writing this one, waaaaaaaaay back in the first part of the year, I thought I might try for a different tone — something perhaps Herbertesque, to reflect the Dune-like scope I imagined this universe having, and about two chapters in I realized I had made a dreadful mistake and no one would want to read the Scalzified Herbert (or Herbertized Scalzi) that was gouting forth from my fingers. You will never see those stunted and horrifying chapters. What you will see works much, much, much better.

4. The misbegotten Herbertization is gone, but the scope of the novel is still pretty big, y’all. It’s got spaceships designed to last a decade without resupplying, massive space habitats, underground cities and civil wars. And — wait for it — pirates! Yes, pirates. You love pirates. You told me that once. I remember. Anyway, there’s a lot going on. You won’t be bored.

5. This is also the first novel I wrote knowing for certain that there would be at least a book two in the series; it’s specified in that big damn contract I signed with Tor. Old Man’s War was written as a stand-alone, for example — I didn’t know if they’d want a sequel. Likewise, Lock In (whose sequel is the next novel on my docket) was written without knowing whether Tor would want a followup. The Collapsing Empire, on the other hand, was explicitly part of a multi-book series deal.

This fact definitely had an effect on the writing, because while giving the book a full and complete arc in itself — I mean, come on, you have to do that — I also get to intentionally set up a lot of stuff that will pay off in later books. That was fun.

(What about The Human Division? I hear some of you ask. Well, here’s a secret — the arc of stories that played out in THD and in The End of All Things? When I originally plotted them out, they were all meant for one book. But then I started writing and realized how long that book would be, and also how close my deadline was — so two books it was. Which was fine, because they were two pretty good books! But even so.)

6. With that said, I plan to do here what I’ve done with the OMW series, which is to do my best to make sure any of the book in the series that starts with The Collapsing Empire is a full and satisfying read in itself. One of the things I’m happiest about the OMW series is that I have people tell me they’ve started with The End of All Things and worked backwards, and it worked for them, because I always gave them enough information so they weren’t lost. It’s intentional: you never know where someone will enter a universe you create, and you don’t want to give them an excuse to leave. I do it for the first book in a series, and every book thereafter.

7. Also, in case you’re wondering, the plan is to have the second book in the TCE series out two years after the first, so: 2019 (Head On, the Lock In sequel, is planned for 2018). It shouldn’t be a long wait.

8. I’ve noted before that for The Collapsing Empire, I created one of my favorite characters ever, Kiva Lagos, who is also one of my wife’s favorite characters of mine ever, superseded only by Jane Sagan (who, to be clear, is totally modeled on her, so, nepotism). Getting that Krissy Mark of Approval™ for Kiva makes me happy. The other two main characters (Marce Claremont and Cardenia Wu-Patrick) are pretty good too, and we have a trio of sibling antagonists who I think people are going to enjoy as well. Seriously, this is a fun book.

9. Now that the book is done, what’s next? Well, for the rest of year, I pretty much relax — I have to do a couple of short stories and some columns, and when the copyedit for TCE comes in I have to get to that quickly (on account I was a little behind on turning in the book — THANKS TRUMP AND CLINTON), but I’m mostly planning to catch up on sleep and play video games and vote (the last one only once, but only once will be enough). It’s nice to have the book out of my brain. This one was a little exhausting.

10. Exhausting, but worth it. I think you all are going to really like The Collapsing Empire. We’ll know soon enough: March 21st is not actually that far away.

Email Notice, 10/17/16

I got behind on emails while I was finishing the book and then traveling the last two weeks, so:

1. I’ve returned emails on everything that I’m going to return emails on, for the last three weeks or so.

2. Everything else I archived.

3. If you sent email in the last couple of months, really wanted a response but didn’t get one, go ahead and send it again.

4. Except for Big Idea emails. For those: October is filled up, and I’m working on November and will be responding to those soon. No need to check in on those.

Thanks.

View From a Hotel Window, 10/13/16: Minneapolis

And a lovely view it is.

Reminders! Tonight I am the Roseville library at 7pm! I will be reading stuff as yet unpublished! And tomorrow and Saturday I am a featured guest at Nerdcon:Stories, which promises to be even better than last year’s, and last year was pretty great. Tickets are still available! If you’re in the Upper Midwest, come on down.

The Big Idea: Meg Elison

Well, this Big Idea, by Meg Elison, for a new release of her 2014 Philip K. Dick Award winner The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, is strangely and unfortunately well-timed.

MEG ELISON:

The biggest idea in The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is that women are people. I have read exhaustively in the genre of post-apocalyptic science fiction and more often than not the women in those books are sex-dolls and mommy-dolls: perfect eyebrows in starvation and smooth armpits in the Thunderdome, exiting cleanly stage right after their magical boys are born.

However, the idea of women as people is too big. Better writers than I have worked to sew it firmly to the edges of our collective consciousness only to find that the original fabric is stubborn stuff that was woven to resist truth or anything like equality. So when I wrote my apocalypse (worlds without end are always ending in science fiction and fantasy) I wrote it as Margaret Atwood and P.D. James did. I wrote an apocalypse of gender, where men outnumber women ten to one, and no woman is safe.

By writing a main character who is queer and secure in herself and a midwife, I set her boundaries pretty clearly. This is a woman who exists under her own authorization. By writing her as complex and flawed and not a steel-armored bad-ass Sarah Connoring her way across the competence porn convention with a gun where a protagonist’s penis ought to be, I wrote a book where women are not objects and not stereotypes, but people. When I was reading science and speculative fiction about the end of the world, this was the thing I craved most clearly. When I could barely get a crumb, I realized I’d have to bake the thing myself.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife starts at the end of a plague that has wiped out most of the people on earth, but was particularly brutal to women. The women who have survived still carry the sickness, and childbirth is commonly lethal in its aftermath. The protagonist hits the road dressed as a man to help the few women who survived, and to seek safety for herself. The road is not kind to her.

However, since the idea that women are people is evidently still too big, I chose a specific strategy to address the universal challenge: namelessness. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife follows the story of a woman whose name is never told. She never says it, thinks it, or writes in the journals that make up about half of the book. Instead, she gives a variety of pseudonyms to friends, lovers, and the enemies around whom she attempts to pass as male. This is partly a safety measure, but it’s also something else.

Names have power. Any child who has heard the story of Rumpelstiltskin can tell you that.  The midwife herself thinks about her namelessness, her anonymity in this world where people have fallen out of their names and into savagery, and comes to the conclusion that a name is something one has for the benefit of other people. In a world where most women are property, she decides she will give no one her handle.

Nameless protagonists have always fascinated me. Daphne Du Maurier’s never-named ingenue in Rebecca seemed the best kind of literary proof: a woman is so defined by her place in the world that her own actual name is easily missed. As a child, I loved the Childlike Empress in Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, but I saw the movie first. I could never hear the name that Bastian shouts over the thunder and I thought the author and screenwriter had wisely chosen to keep the name unknowable and preserve the empress’ power. Even if she had to beg for a new name from a boy, she could still keep it to herself.

Finding out that the name is written clearly in the book was one of the great letdowns of adulthood. I decided long ago to write a protagonist whose name is her own damned business.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife was first published two years ago by a micropress. Almost nobody read it, but it won the Philip K. Dick Award anyway. When my new contract included a rebirth for the midwife, I reflected a little on what it is to twice debut my unnamed survivor. The book will be reborn in a time when a man who may be president has shared his views about his right to pick up an unsuspecting woman like a bowling ball, and immediately after the non-consensual outing of reclusive author Elena Ferrante. The midwife’s choice to remain nameless is my answer to these times. It was my answer to the War on Women that consumed the news when the book was first written, and it remains my answer as this tiresome year grinds torturously to its end.

My protagonist’s personhood and the violence of her story belong in 2016, just as they belonged in 2014 when the book was first published. They would have fit just fine in 1970. Or 1980. Or 1990.

I hope that one day there is an audience who doesn’t immediately recognize the unnamed midwife’s struggle as their own.

—-

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife: Amazon|Barnes and Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s Web site. Follow her on Twitter.

My Endorsement for President, 2016: Hillary Clinton

Original photo by Neverbutterfly, used under Creative Commons license. Click on picture to be taken to the original.

Today is the beginning of early voting here in Ohio, which means that it is a good day for me to formally make the following announcement regarding my vote for President of the United States:

I am voting for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States, and I think you should too.

And now, let me explain why, in points that go (roughly) from external to internal, both in a political and personal sense. This entry is long, but this year, I think, longer is probably better.

1. Because she is not Donald Trump. I wrote yesterday on why I believe Donald Trump is an unmitigated and unprecedented disaster as a presidential candidate, so I don’t need to do it again. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that while I am affirmatively voting for Hillary Clinton as president — I want her in the White House — I am also actively and affirmatively voting against Donald Trump. Indeed, even if I wasn’t enthusiastically voting for Clinton, this year of all years I would pull the lever for her because as the candidate of one of the two major parties, she is the only realistic bulwark against Trump being in office. It’s that important that he be denied the presidency.

However, let me go into in detail here about one thing. I want to be clear that in voting against Trump, I’m not only voting against him as an individual, although given who he is as an individual — a racist, a misogynist, a liar and a cheat — that would be more than enough. I am also voting against the people who I see as the shock troops of the Trump campaign: the racists, the anti-semites, the religiously intolerant, the sexists and bullies, the toxic stew of hate, stupidity and sociopathy that has tried to pass into respectability with the jazzy new title of “alt-right,” but which is just the Klan and the neo-Nazis all over again.

In voting against Trump, I’m voting against the alt-right and larger pool of hate in which they fester, against the people who slur women, blacks, latinos, Jews, Muslims, LGBT folks and others on social media and elsewhere, against the ones who promise them a march to the ovens or a noose over a tree branch or a rape in an alley, against the ones who glory in the fact that Trump’s candidacy lends their bigotry mainstream cover, and the ones who, should Trump win, have plans for anyone and everyone who isn’t them. I’m voting against the people who believe, when Trump says “Make America great again,” it means “Make everyone else afraid again.”

To Hell with them, and to Hell with Trump for lifting them up and giving them cover and succor. I don’t believe and would not abide the idea that every person who might vote for Trump is the sort of person I describe above. But everyone who votes for Trump has to know that these are the people with whom they ride. I will not ride with them. I will vote against them and Trump, and gladly so. The best way to do that is to vote for Hillary Clinton.

2. Because she is not the GOP candidate. First, the practical: If Trump were to win the presidency, that would likely mean that the House and Senate would remain in GOP hands. Which means that I strongly suspect the first 100 days of a Trump presidency would be a fantastic orgy of the GOP rolling back every single Obama law and policy that it could. Not because doing so would make the lives of Americans better — it manifestly would not — but because they just fucking hate Barack Obama so much that giving him the middle finger for a hundred days would fill them with glee. I’m not down with that.

Likewise, not down with the GOP plan to pack the Supreme Court with Scalia clones; there are already two, in the form of Thomas and Alito. That’s more than enough for one court, I think.

Both the legislative and the judicial issues outlined above, I would note, would be a disincentive for me to vote for any presidential candidate the GOP might have picked in 2016, especially considering the generally atrocious primary field of candidates, of whom the only one I might have been willing to consider even briefly for my vote would have been John Kasich. But Kasich was too moderate and sensible for the GOP primary voters, which given how conservative Kasich is, is a vaguely terrifying thing.

Second, the philosophical: Look, I’m not a straight-ticket voter. In almost every election I vote for more than a single party, because — here’s a wacky idea — I consider each position up for election and who among the listed candidates will be the best for the role. I expect this year I will do the same.

But not on the national level. On the national level I don’t think the GOP has earned my vote, nor has it for years. Even before the moment where the GOP primary voters appallingly selected Donald Trump as their standard bearer, the national party’s philosophical and political tenets had been long abandoned for the simpler and uglier strategy of “deny Barack Obama everything.”

To what purpose? To what end? Well, not for the purpose of actually making the United States a better place for its citizens, or to practice active governance of the nation. From the outside at least — and I rather strongly suspect from the inside as well — it just looked like “sooner or later they have to let one of us be president, so let’s just throw a fit until then.” Fortunately, if you want to call it that, the GOP has spent decades training its electoral base to reward intransigence over actual action to make their lives better, and wasn’t above poking at the base’s latent (and not-so-latent) bigotry to delegitimize the president.

Trump has given the latter part of the game away — Trump doesn’t dog whistle his bigotry, he uses a megaphone — but the other part, the part about the intransigence, I don’t see the GOP, as it’s currently constituted on the national level, ever letting go of. Let’s not pretend that Hillary Clinton will have an easier time with the GOP than Obama did. The GOP already hates her just for being who she is, and it’ll be happy to slide the bigoted setting they use to on its base from “racism” to “sexism,” even if Trump’s blown its cover on that. So I expect that the new policy for the GOP will be the same as the old policy, with a new name slotted in: “Deny Hillary Clinton everything.”

And that’s just not acceptable. I’m not foolish enough to assume the GOP would give a President Hillary Clinton everything she wanted even in the best of times. But there’s a difference between an opposition party and an antagonistic party. The former is a participant and perhaps even a partner in governance. The latter, which is what we have, reduces politics down to a football game and in doing so makes life worse for every American. We can argue about how this has come about — training the base, gerrymandering safe districts which incline toward polarization, just plain rampant stupidity — but we can’t argue it’s not there.

This year of all years the national GOP needs to lose, and it needs to lose so comprehensively that the message is clear: Stop obstructing and start governing again. Now, as it happens, it might lose comprehensively because Trump and the GOP are fighting, and if Trump is going to go down, he might as well take the GOP down with him. Which would be a delightful irony! But just to be sure, and to use my vote to make a larger point, I won’t be voting for the GOP this year for president or US senator or US representative. I don’t imagine it will matter for US representative (my district hasn’t gone Democratic since the Great Depression) but for the senate and the presidency, it might help.

3. Because I largely agree with Hillary Clinton’s platform and positions. I’ve mentioned before that had I been born roughly 40 years earlier than I was, I probably would have become what’s known as a “Rockefeller Republican,” which is to say someone largely to the right on fiscal issues, and largely to the left on social issues. Rockefeller Republicans don’t exist anymore, or more accurately, they’re best known today as “mainstream Democrats.” And, hey, guess which of the two candidates for President of the United States could be described as a “mainstream Democrat”? Why, yes, that’s right, it’s Hillary Clinton.

So it’s not particularly surprising that I find many of her policy positions congenial, both in themselves and in contrast to Trump’s positions — that is, when Trump actually has a position that’s more than “trust me, it’ll be great.” As an example, let’s take, oh, say, Clinton’s tax policy, which essentially tweaks the existing code to make those of us on the top pay a slightly higher amount for our top marginal rate on income and investments, close some corporate loopholes, and essentially leave everyone else alone (or offer them slightly larger tax breaks). It’s not sexy, but it’s pretty sensible, particularly in contrast to Trump’s, which basically gives rich people really big tax cuts and as a result adds trillions to our debt (author John Green, who laudably does public service-related videos, has a ten minute video comparing and contrasting the plans, which I would recommend).

“Not sexy, but sensible” in fact describes most of her policies on everything from climate change to farm issues to voting rights to national security, and while I don’t necessarily agree with every single thing she proposes right down the line, when I don’t, what I still generally see is that the policy is based on a cogent reason or rationale in the real world, and not just some angry bellow from a fear-gravid id, which is how a large number of Trump policies come across.

And this is good, people. I want a policy nerd in the White House, and someone who has had real-world experience with how the political sausage gets made, and who both gets the value of having policies that have some relationship to the world outside their head and has the wherewithal, interest and capability to understand and express them. I’m not under the impression that Clinton will get everything she wants in terms of policy — despite the unbridled optimism on the left due to the events of recent days, I expect the House will stay in GOP hands (but, you know, prove me wrong!) — but I like most of what she has, and will likely be happy with whatever she manages to get through Congress.

4. Because I like what I know of Hillary Clinton. But! But! BenghaziWhitewaterEmailVincentFosterBillIsSkeevy
Ggggwwwaaaaaaarrrrggghhhnnffffnf

I’m going to skip over the vast majority of this right now by noting that there are very few people in the world whose personal and public conduct has been so aggressively and punitively investigated, and for so long, as Hillary Clinton, and yet she continues to walk among us, a free woman whose errors, when they have been made, are usually of the venial rather than the mortal sort. Which probably means one of two things: Either this decades-long persecution of Hillary Clinton on the part of her enemies is largely motivated for their own political and financial benefit, or that Hillary Clinton is a criminal mastermind so good at evading the forces of justice that holy shit we should be glad that she’s finally decided to use her evil-honed skills for the forces of good. Better give her eight years, just to make sure.

I believe that the vast majority of the bullshit said about Hillary Clinton is just that: bullshit. Hillary Clinton gets shit because apparently she’s always been an ambitious woman who is not here for your nonsense. And maybe, like any human who is not here for your nonsense, but especially a woman who is not here for your nonsense (and who has gotten more of it because she is a woman), she just gets tired of the unremitting flood of nonsense she has to deal with every single goddamn day of her life. Maybe she she gets tired of being told to smile and when she’s smiles being told she shouldn’t smile. Maybe she gets tired of being called a bitch and c*nt and a demon. Maybe she gets tired of having to be up on a stage with bullies who try to intimidate her with their physical presence in her physical space, and if you think that second presidential debate was the first time that happened, look up her senatorial debate just for fun. Maybe she gets tired of it but knows she has to take it and smile, because that’s the deal.

People, I flat out fucking admire Hillary Clinton for having dealt with all that bullshit for 30 years and yet not burning the whole world down.

So that’s the first thing, and it’s unfair that it’s the first thing, but since that’s what gets shoved on you the moment you open your mouth about Hillary Clinton, that’s what the first thing has to be.

But let me also tell you that I like her intelligence, her attention to detail, her ability to speak at length about the subjects that matter to her and that she thinks would matter to you, too. I like she doesn’t have a problem being the smartest person in the room, even if you do. I like the work that she did on her own, without reference to her husband and his own ambitions. I liked when she said that she wasn’t here to bake cookies, and I liked that you could see how much she hated having to bake the cookies when shit blew up around that statement (I like that I believe that in her personal life she probably likes baking cookies just fine, just on her terms, not yours). I like that she tried things and failed at them and picked herself up and kept going and got better at them because of it. I like that she cares about people who aren’t just like her. I like that she’s ambitious. I like that she’s fearless. I like that all the right people hate and loathe her. I like that she plows through them anyway.

There are things I don’t like about her too, but not nearly as many, and none of them enough, to reduce my admiration for her for these other things.

I don’t expect Hillary Clinton to be perfect, or not to fail, or to be a president whose actions I agree with straight down the line. I’ve never had that in any president and I think it would be foolish to expect it in her. What I do expect, based on what I’ve known of her since 1992, when she first entered my consciousness, is that she will never not try. Try to be a good president, and try to be a president whose administration does the most good for the largest number of Americans. Now, maybe she’ll succeed and maybe she won’t — it’s not all up to her and even if it was, you never know what happens to you in this life. But everything I know about her from the last quarter century convinces me that she has earned this opportunity, perhaps more than anyone else who has ever run for president.

5. Because I like what she represents for our country. I have written at length about the idea that being a straight white male is living life on the lowest difficulty setting, and if you should ever doubt that it’s the case, look at the 2016 election, in which a racist, sexist, ignorant boor of a straight white male, with no experience in public service and no policies he could personally articulate beyond “it’ll be great, believe me” went up against a woman who spent the better part of four decades in and around public service, including occupying some of the highest positions in government, and who had exhaustive, detailed policy positions on nearly every point of public interest — and was ahead of her in some polls on the day they had their first debate.

If that tape in which Trump bragged about sexual assault hadn’t hit the air, the polls might yet still be close. It literally took “grab ’em by the pussy” to get some air between arguably the most qualified candidate ever to run for president, who is a woman, and inarguably the worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, who is a straight, white man. I cannot know that fact and not be confronted by the immense and absolutely real privilege straight white men have — and just how much better a woman has to be to compete.

I am not voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she is a woman — but at the same time I cannot deny, and actively celebrate the fact, that much of what makes Hillary Clinton the person I want to vote for is because she is a woman. Everything that our culture has put on her, all the expectations it has had for her, all the expectations she’s had for herself, all the things that she’s taken on, or fought against, because she’s a woman, all of that has shaped the person she is and the character she has, and has become: A person who has talents and flaws, a person I admire, and a person who I want to see in the Oval Office.

When she becomes president, as I believe she will, it won’t only be because she is a woman. But her experience being a woman will have prepared her for the job and will be integral to how she will be president. Her simply being our first woman president will make her a symbol and an icon and almost certainly in time an inspiration (all of these more than she already is, to be clear), and I am glad for those. But it’s how her life and her experiences will bear on the day-to-day aspects of presidency that to me is key, and which I think in time should be what inspires people, as much as if not more than what she represents symbolically. It’s something we haven’t had yet. It matters to our country, and it matters to me.

And so: with a full heart and with no small amount of joy, I endorse Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

The Dispatcher Hits #1, The Front Room is Finished, Hanging Out at NYCC With Adam and Norm

Three things! One post! Let’s get to them!

1. The Dispatcher was released one week ago today and during the week apparently a ton of people, hungering for my excellent words and Zachary Quinto’s thrilling narration (and also possibly because it was distributed for free) downloaded it — enough to make it the #1 title on Audible for the last week. Which is pretty awesome I have to say. I will take my #1 titles however they come about, and as it happens I’m really happy this one did well, since I like it so much.

If you haven’t gotten it yet then you can take part in my quest to stay in the Audible top ten for a second week by downloading it this week — it’s still available for free (and will be through November 2nd). Give it a try. It’s good. And if you like it, let other people know about it.

2. The front room is officially finished, with the shelves officially populated with books and things and the cable box for the television set up and so on and so forth, so I thought I’d show you all its final form. I have to say I’m very pleased with how everything looks and functions. I’m especially happy with the TV, which is a 4k job. Yeah, I splurged. Sue me. Oddly enough, however, when I show people pictures of the front room, the thing that they really comment on is the carpet. Yes, it’s purple. And yes, actually in real life it looks pretty great. So there.

3. While I was at New York Comic Con, I got to hang out with Adam Savage and Norm Chan from Tested (you might also recognize Adam from his Mythbusters days) and sat in on their “Still Untitled” podcast, in which we chatted about conventions, fans and the whole nerd life. Here’s the link to their site, but if you’re the super-impatient “ugh do I have to click through” sort, I’m embedding the YouTube version of the conversation below. Enjoy!

The Big Idea: Amy S. Foster

I liked reading Amy S. Foster’s Big Idea for The Rift: Uprising, because her idea is very much the same idea I have as far as my own teenager goes. What idea is that? Read on.

AMY S. FOSTER:

So I had this idea…This big, crazy, ridiculous idea to write a YA novel that my sixteen year old daughter and her friends would actually want to read. I don’t mean that in an “Oh My God Mom! You are so uncool why would I read anything you write?” kind of way. I mean that I wanted to write a book where the teenage protagonists acted and sounded like the teenagers who drifted in and out of my house in a never ending stream of Axe Body spray and with the moods! So many moods! Swinging from mania to indifference on a dime.

As annoying as these kids could be, they were also funny, messy (emotionally and literally,) complicated and misunderstood. Just like I was. Just like you were. Books were the thing that helped me grow up, that delivered me from my isolation. I was never alone, as long as I had a book and obviously, I still feel that way.

It was kind of amazing to me how the Media (and yes that’s a capital M because I mean it in the most all-encompassing way) pandered and courted my daughter’s demo when it came to TV and fashion and make up and one bizarre awards show after another- but somehow, when it came to literature, she felt sorely misunderstood and misrepresented. So yeah, addressing that issue for her was the first big idea.

The second big idea was creating normal acting and sounding teens when they were doing crazy, extraordinary things like policing a Rift into the Multiverse or fighting big scary monsters or throwing around tree trunks. How do I get those kids to sound like the kids in my house? I didn’t want to write Dystopian. I wanted these young people to have this weird job and then go home and watch Netflix. And I am happy to report that as far as those ideas went and according to my Beta Test subjects (who I occasionally had to bribe with dinners and Starbucks) I got it right. Truuuust…they told me when I got it wrong. Loudly. With enthusiasm.

So okay, you might be thinking, isn’t the Multiverse the big idea here? Because it’s like truly, literally, the biggest idea in the world(s). And it is…I love the science behind it. I love physics. I’m kind of obsessed with how I used sound to navigate these Rifts and as exciting a device as the Multiverse is, in my book, it ended up becoming a metaphor for something much more mundane. When you’re staring adulthood in the face, when you’re wondering who you are and what you are going to do forever, it might as well be the Multiverse. It feels that vast, that huge and that scary to navigate.

The main protagonist in my novel, Ryn, is facing this challenge daily. Sometimes she gets it right, sometimes she doesn’t. And today, at almost eighteen, my daughter is the same. I’m sure if given the chance she’d much rather fight a Snake Man (Sissnovars in the book) or a Viking (time is stable in the Rifts but depending on one small thing, think Butterfly Effect, an Earth could be thousands of years more or less advanced technologically) than take her SAT or apply to the dozen or more colleges she’s trying to get into. Like Ryn, my daughter is just beginning to understand her own power and also like Ryn it both thrills and terrifies her. But, like I say in my dedication, it was my daughter who taught Ryn how to be brave. Both of my girls will make it. Both of them will become the heroes of their own stories.

Eventually.

We’ve got an entire trilogy (and college!) to get through.

—-

The Rift: Uprising: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

Trump, the GOP, and the Fall

Original photo by Gage Skidmore, used under Creative Commons license. Click on photo to see original.

At this point there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, almost certainly the worst since the Civil War, and arguably the worst in the history of this nation. He is boastful and ignorant and petty, disdainful of the Constitution, a racist and a sexist, the enabler of the worst elements of society, either the willing tool of, or the useful idiot for, Vladimir Putin, an admirer of despots, an insecure braggart, a sexual assaulter, a man who refuses to honor contracts, and a bore.

He is, in sum, just about the biggest asshole in all of the United States of America. He’s lucky that Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad is out there keeping him from taking the global title, not that he wouldn’t try for that, too, should he become president. It’s appalling that he is the standard bearer for one of the two major political parties in the United States. It’s appalling that he is a candidate for the presidency at all.

But note well: Donald Trump is not a black swan, an unforeseen event erupting upon an unsuspecting Republican Party. He is the end result of conscious and deliberate choices by the GOP, going back decades, to demonize its opponents, to polarize and obstruct, to pursue policies that enfeeble the political weal and to yoke the bigot and the ignorant to their wagon and to drive them by dangling carrots that they only ever intended to feed to the rich. Trump’s road to the candidacy was laid down and paved by the Southern Strategy, by Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, by Fox News and the Tea Party, and by the smirking cynicism of three generations of GOP operatives, who have been fracking the white middle and working classes for years, crushing their fortunes with their social and economic policies, never imagining it would cause an earthquake.

Well, surprise! Here’s Donald Trump. He is the actual and physical embodiment of every single thing the GOP has trained its base to want and to be over the last forty years — ignorant, bigoted and money-grubbing, disdainful of facts and frightened of everything because of it, an angry drunk buzzed off of wood-grain patriotism, threatening brown people and leering at women. He was planned. He was intended. He was expected. He was wanted.

But not, I think, in the exact form of Donald Trump. The GOP were busily genetically engineering the perfect host for their message, someone smooth and telegenic and possibly just ethnic enough to make people hesitant to point out the latent but real racism inherent in its social policies, while making the GOP’s white base feel like they were making a progressive choice, and with that person installed, further pursuing its agenda of slouching toward oligarchy, with just enough anti-abortion and pro-gun glitter tossed into the sky to distract the religious and the paranoid. Someone the GOP made. Someone they could control.

But they don’t control Trump, which they are currently learning to their great misery. And the reason the GOP doesn’t control Trump is that they no longer control their base. The GOP trained their base election cycle after election cycle to be disdainful of government and to mistrust authority, which ultimately is an odd thing for a political party whose very rationale for existence is rooted in the concept of governmental authority to do. The GOP created a monster, but the monster isn’t Trump. The monster is the GOP’s base. Trump is the guy who stole their monster from them, for his own purposes.

And this is why the GOP deserves the chaos that’s happening to it now, with its appalling and parasitic standard bearer, who will never be president, driving his GOP host body toward the cliff. If it accepts the parasite, it will be driven off the cliff. If it resists, the parasite Trump will rip himself from it, leaving bloody marks as it does so, and then shove the dazed and wounded GOP from the precipice. That there is a fall in the GOP’s future is inevitable; all that is left is which plunge to take.

I feel sorry for many of my individual friends who are Republicans and/or conservatives, who have to deal with the damage Trump is doing to their party and to their movement, even if I belong to neither. But I don’t feel sorry for the GOP at all. It deserves Trump. It fostered an environment of ignorance and fear and bigotry, assumed it could control the mob those elements created, and was utterly stunned when a huckster from outside claimed the mob as his own and forced the party along for the ride. It was hubris, plain and simple, and Trump is the GOP’s vulgar, orange nemesis.

Trump will do the GOP long and lasting damage, and moreover, Trump doesn’t care that he will do the GOP long and lasting damage. Trump was never about being a Republican; he was just looking to expand his brand. As it turns out, like apparently so many things Trump does, he’s done an awful job of it — the name Trump, formerly merely associated with garish ostentation and bankruptcy, is now synonymous with white nationalism, sexual battery and failure — but the point is on November 9th Trump is going to move on and leave the wreckage of the GOP in his wake, off to his next thing (everyone assumes “Trump TV,” in which Trump combines with Breitbart to make white pride propaganda for the kind of millennial racist who thinks a Pepe the Frog Twitter icon is the height of wit — and I hope he does, because the Trump touch will drive that enterprise into the ground, and little would warm my heart more than a bankrupt Breitbart).

Trump is the party guest who sets fire to your house, gropes your spouse and drives over your neighbor’s cat when he leaves; the GOP is left to deal with the police and the angry neighbors. It’s almost piteous, except when you scrub back to five hours earlier to hear the GOP say “What, Trump wants to come to the party? Well, he’s an asshole who drove Fred Jones’ car into the pool the other weekend, but he’s always good for a laugh, isn’t he? Surely it will be fine,” and then tells him to bring his bad boy self right on over.

There is no good way for the GOP or its members to extricate itself from this mess. Trump has doomed them for this election cycle. But there is a moral way, and they should take it. When a grifter and a con man has suckered you into a shitshow, you have two options: bail out early and admit you got shit all over yourself, or stick with the con and affirmatively choose to drown in the shit. No GOP politician should ever have endorsed him; the moral hazard he presented was obvious and clear and became clearer the further he went along. But if they were foolish enough to have endorsed him, it’s not too late to bail out. He’s going to lose either way and drag the GOP down with him; these politicians might as well come out of it with their souls, besmirched but still their own.

And obviously to me, no one with sense should cast a vote for Trump. He’s not just a candidate, he is an active repudiation of what we should expect from the United States and those who lead it. A candidate who can’t open his mouth without a lie falling out — a lie that everyone including him knows is a lie — doesn’t deserve to be president. A candidate who threatens millions because of their religion does not deserve to be president. A candidate who promises to extralegally throw his political opponent into jail does not deserve to be president. A candidate who fosters white nationalism, racism and anti-semitism does not deserve to be president. A candidate who brags about sexual assault and then tries to dismiss it as mere talk does not deserve to be president.

These are not merely Democratic or Republican issues. These are American issues, human issues and moral issues. You can’t vote for Donald Trump and say you don’t know what you’re voting for. You’re voting for hate, and chaos, and the deluge. Anything else that you think you get from voting for him will be washed away in the flood.

Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, but he’s there because the GOP spent decades making him possible, and its base, trained for decades to look for someone like him, made him its standard bearer. He needs to lose and the GOP needs to be punished for him. Conservatism and classical Republican ideas won’t go away, nor should they. But if the GOP can’t break itself from its addiction to the bigoted and the ignorant, then it certainly deserves to die. It’s brought the country to the edge. Shame is only the beginning of what it should feel for it.

Update, 3:00pm 10/12/16: I’ve made my official presidential endorsement. It’s, uh, not for Donald Trump.

This Really Happened

As you might suspect I have a whole bunch of thoughts on the matter, but I’m at NYCC and my brain is still defrying after finishing the book, so I finding myself not particularly able to string a thought along for more than 140 characters at a time at the moment. When I get back home I think I’ll have more to say about things, here.

Turning off comments because if I don’t have the time or brain space to write about Trump at the moment, I certainly don’t have time or brain space to field comments.

My Annual Unsolicited Endorsement of WordPress VIP

Eight years ago tomorrow I transferred the Whatever over to the WordPress VIP service because before that I was having weird outages and glitches and basically all sorts of headaches trying to keep the blog running as it had gotten more popular. Once I switched over, nearly all those problems and glitches just… went away. As if by magic. Which I appreciated! Because as much as I enjoyed having a blog, I didn’t enjoy having to fiddle with the backend to make it work. Now I don’t worry about that anymore; the blog just works — not only on the backend, but also when a flood of people come its way. I think in eight years it’s been down maybe a grand total of an hour, if that. I appreciate that.

So, as I do annually around this time, consider this my continuing endorsement of the WordPress VIP service, and of WordPress generally. They don’t ask me to make this endorsement, and they don’t pay me to do it either. I do it because I think WordPress deserves the praise for running an excellent service, and to thank them for doing such a fine job for me. If your site or business needs rock-solid hosting and service, I recommend VIP.

View From a Hotel Room, 10/6/16: New York

It’s a very New York view, I have to say.

Also: Hello, New Yorkians, I am among you through Monday. You will be most able to find me at New York Comic Con, where I am signing books and posters and hanging out on panels, and otherwise lurking about. And now that I have my book done I will be happy and cheerful and not crabby and stressed! Everyone wins!

The Collapsing Empire: Done!

Finished literally ten minutes ago. So there’s that one more done.

I’ll have more to say about it sometime soon, but I wrote 7,500 words in the last 24 hours and my brain is scrambled and I still have to get ready for NYCC, to which I am traveling tomorrow. But I will say this now:

  1. It’s good!
  2. It has one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written, named Kiva Lagos. She swears a lot.
  3. It’s got explosions and assassinations and political intrigue and really big spaceships and even a little bit of sex because I thought that would be fun. Basically it brings the “opera” to space opera.
  4. Even though my brain is currently the consistency of fried ricotta, I’m already thinking about book two in the series, which I think I will call — are you ready, this is an exclusive! — The Last Emperox.
  5. (Yes, “emperox.” I can make up words. I’m a science fiction author, damn it.)

I think you’re gonna like this one. I certainly enjoyed writing it.

More about it when I’ve stuffed my brain back into my head.

Until then: Yay! I guess I can still write novels!

The Big Idea: Daniel Polansky

In the writing of A City Dreaming, author Daniel Polansky learned that staying in one place doesn’t necessarily mean settling into a rut. What did this mean for his novel of New York? Read on.

DANIEL POLANSKY: 

I moved to New York in 2013, after years of aimless wandering. Melancholic by nature, I feared waking up every morning in the same place, eating the same things, looking at the same people. Travel is a constant reminder that no man steps into the same river twice, as Heraclitus says, that our lives hold value if only by virtue of their brevity. To be in some strange foreign land to which you will never again return, or only return in some distant year, bent and infirm, is to know yourself mortal. Absent this encouragement it becomes easy to forget how terribly transient our lives are. Routine casts its long shadow over everything, months and then years swallowed up by the mundane. But this is a flaw in our own perception, a trick of the light. Life is extraordinary, filled with strange and horrifying and beautiful moments; it falls to us to seek them out, and to grab them as they pass.

A City Dreaming grew out of a conscious attempt to celebrate the surreal and wondrous in my day to day life, a task aided by the peculiar attributes of New York. Who could fail to see magic in so strange a metropolis, where storm-eyed Tatianas stalk in the shadow of towers that would have shamed Ludwig II, where billionaires and beggars share space on a crowded rush hour 4 train, where you might hear half a dozen languages being spoken on the way to the corner bodega. A city whose inhabitants are perpetually half-lying about themselves anyway, and thus under no compulsion to dispute your own delusions.

At night and over a drink I would rework the events of the day in a fashion just slightly more surreal than they had seemed to me while experiencing them. The constant expansion of coffee shops in my fast-gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood became the workings of an unknowable alien intelligence, intent on overtaking the entire borough. An exhausting warehouse party was repopulated with pooka and naiad and elder gods and things still more unrecognizable. Bad dates became apocalyptic, sunny days divine. It was less a process of creation than of alteration, adding a dash of spice to a stew already rich and bubbling.

And at some point I looked up and realized I’d written a book, about life in the most populous city in North America here in the opening days of the 21st century. The misadventures of ‘M’, called by some a magician though he himself would never be so gauche as to use that term. M is not the son of a god, he is not the child of prophecy, he has no plans to champion light against the coming forces of the dark. M’s plans, like ours, don’t go much further than his next drink, his next meal, his next date, his own pleasures and interests the ne plus ultra of his own existence.

Around M grew a cast of characters; Boy, his best friend, a mercurial, brilliant, and terrifically violent ingenue; Stockdale, a hero sprung straight from an Edwardian children’s story, no bother that he was born in a distant southern corner of the Commonwealth; Celise, the Queen of Manhattan, and Abilene, her outer borough counterpart, their internecine plotting threatening constantly to force M out of his life of easy going debauchery. A world of magical duels, of turtles living beneath Manhattan Island, of demons big and demons small; but also a world in which everyone is worried about paying their rent, about finding someone to go home with, surviving into the next day and perhaps even enjoying it a bit.

The big idea behind A City Dreaming is a simple one; that the world is in turns wondrous, bizarre, and horrifying, and that New York is a particularly refined draft of this already heady vintage. That the fabulous and the banal are layered so closely atop one another that it can be difficult to distinguish between the two, but that we still have to. It was a true and authentic labor of love, and if the only copy had been tossed in a fire before I sent it to out to my editor, I would have counted the time writing it well spent. Since that didn’t happen, however, and we even went so far as to print it up and slap a pretty cover on the front, you might as well go out and find yourself a copy.

Take a bit of care, though – it’s a strange world that M resides in, very nearly as strange as our own.

—-

A City Dreaming: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

The Dispatcher: Now Out for Free on Audible + NYCC Signings and Appearances

Today’s the day: The Dispatcher, my audiobook novella, is out and exclusively available on Audible.com, for free through November 2. It’s read by Zachary Quinto, who you know from the new Star Trek films as Spock and from Heroes as Sylar, and he is simply a terrific narrator for the story.

And what’s the story? Imagine our world with a simple but profound twist: when someone intentionally kills someone else, 999 out of a thousand, they come back. Murder becomes almost impossible, war is radically altered — and there arises a new class of legal, professional killers called “Dispatchers,” tasked with killing those doomed to die, so they can come back and live again.

Tony Valdez, our protagonist, is a dispatcher, who is called upon by the Chicago police to help him find a fellow dispatcher who has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. In the course of the investigation, Tony will confront Chicago’s rich and powerful, its criminal underbelly, and his own past, in order to save this other dispatcher from a fate literally worse than death.

So, that sounds good, right? You should totally check it out. And get everyone else you know to check it out too.

And now, a couple of quick answers to questions I know some of you will ask:

Why is this audio first? Because Audible asked me to write an audio novella very nicely, and by “very nicely” I mean they paid me to. Also because I thought the challenge of writing an audio-first novella would be interesting. And finally because I had this particular idea which I thought was cool and would fit nicely into novella length, so when Audible asked for a novella-length story for audio, I was all “I have just the thing.”

Why are you giving it away for free through November 2? Because I love you, and so does Audible. Awwww! Slightly more seriously, however, it really is a nice “thank you” from both Audible and me to our respective (and overlappings) audiences, for the support we’ve been given over the years. It’s also and equally advertising for us both — to give people who haven’t tried one or both of us a way to check us out without risk, and if they like The Dispatcher, to check out the other things we do.

Also, you know: 2016 has been one of those years you just might want to escape from for a couple of hours. If The Dispatcher does that for you, I’m delighted to have given that to you.

Zachary Quinto is cool! Not a question, but yes, yes he is.

How did you get him? We asked and he said yes. He was always very high on our list of potential narrators, so when he signed on we all did Snoopy dances. And, as I noted above, he did a simply terrific job reading it — just knocked it right out of the proverbial park. He makes the story better, which is a thing terrific narrators do.

He seems to like it too! Which, you know. Is nice.

Will there be a print/eBook version? Audible has an exclusive on The Dispatcher through the rest of this year and part of 2017, after which it will be available in a print/eBook edition from Subterranean Press. I’ll have more information on that the closer we get to publication. But in the meantime, why not check out the audio version? It’s really good.

Will there be foreign language editions, either in audio or print? I would imagine that if it’s successful in English we’ll see it in other languages in time. Let’s see what happens.

I just listened to it! I want more! Will there be a sequel? Maaaaaaaaybe. If enough people love it and want more of it, I can definitely see coming back to the world and playing around in it, and with these characters.

Anything else you want to tell us about it? Well, as it takes places in contemporary Chicago and features fantastical elements, it’s my first work of urban fantasy. I’m really excited about that since I really enjoy that genre, and so many of my friends have written fantastic work (literally and figuratively) in it. I also think people who enjoy thrillers and crime fiction will find a lot to like here — The Dispatcher is noir-tinged and overall just a bit darker than I usually go. Finally, as I noted earlier, I think novella-length is the perfect length for this particular story, so I’m really happy Audible wanted it at that length and give it a home.

Oh, and: I like it a lot and had a hell of a lot of fun writing it. I think you’ll have as much fun listening to Zachary Quinto read it to you.

On an entirely related note, if you are going to be at New York Comic Con this Saturday and Sunday, you will find me there, doing panels and having signings! My panel is “That’s Not My Baby! When Narrators Attack: How a Story Survives from Text to Audio” in room 1A02 on Sunday at 11am, followed by a signing of The Dispatcher posters at Table 22 at 12:30, and a stint at the Audible booth (NC5) at 4. If you’re coming on Saturday, I’ll have a signing at the Tor booth (#2136) at noon.

Come on down, it’d be lovely to see you.

Update: The Verge has a story on The Dispatcher, on how writing for audio differs from writing for the page.

Homecoming 2016

Athena’s final high school homecoming was last night, so of course I had to go and take pictures of Athena and Hunter, and their friends Kaycie and Jose, before they headed out for the evening. If you’re of a mind to peruse the photos, they’re in a Flickr photoset here. Enjoy!

New Books and ARCs, 9/30/16

It’s our last stack of new books and ARCs for the month of September, and it’s a very fine one, I have to say. What here looks good to you? Tell me in the comments!

“Best Series” Hugo Category: A Trial Run in 2017 + My Thoughts On It

Here’s a press release I received today from Worldcon 75, next year’s Worldcon in Helsinki, Finland:

The 75th World Science Fiction Convention, (“Worldcon”) taking place in Helsinki in August 2017, announced today that a special Hugo category for “Best Series” will be included in the 2017 Hugo Awards.

The Hugo Awards are the leading awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy, and have been presented at Worldcons since 1953. They are voted on by members of each year’s Worldcon.

Fans voted in August 2016  to trial a new Hugo award for “Best Series”, which could be added in 2018. Each Worldcon Committee has the authority to introduce a special category Hugo award, and Worldcon 75 has decided to test “Best Series” in 2017. This follows the precedent of the 2009 Worldcon, which trialled “Best Graphic Story” before it became a regular Hugo the following year. Fans at Worldcon 75 will be able to decide whether to ratify the “Best Series” for future years and suggest revisions to the award definition at the World Science Fiction Society Business Meeting held in Helsinki during the convention.

Nicholas Whyte, Worldcon 75 Hugo administrator, said, “The proposed Hugo for “Best Series” is a big change, the first time that a new category may be added to the written fiction Hugo categories in fifty years. There is clearly a great deal of interest in how this new award will work, and what might be nominated.”

An eligible work for this special award  is a multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, which has appeared in at least three volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the calendar year 2016, at least one volume of which was published in 2016. 

My first thought, because I have an ego, is that this is a Hugo I won’t be eligible for, as I have no novels out this year, and therefore no eligible series. Unless, I guess, I quickly whomp up an Old Man’s War novella and make it available as a single volume before the end of the year — would that work?

Which is my other, really more relevant, question: What constitutes a “volume” in this case? I assume (for no particular reason) that a volume has to be released in itself and not as part of a larger publication, such as a magazine or anthology, but would a individually-released short story (or novelette, or novella) count toward a series credit? What about a graphic novel, set in the universe and part of the continuity? How about a song whose lyrics are written by a series author, set in the series universe? As long as all the previous criteria are met — at least three volumes, at least 240,000 words — where is the boundary line for a new volume?

Also, here’s another thought: Does this new volume have to be written by the author of the previous installments? If I hire someone to whomp up a new story in the Old Man’s War universe, and that story meets the criteria for a “volume,” whatever that might be, would it make the whole series eligible? And if so, who would accept the Hugo if it won? Me, or the new writer, or both? Or the editor of the series? Or the publisher? Or — and here’s a fun possible criterion — to the owner of the copyright?

(Combining both above: Would an anthology of short stories set in the universe constitute a new volume? And if so, to whom would the Hugo go?)

This isn’t to suggest I think a Hugo for series is a bad idea at all. But I do think it’s possible that unless the definition for “volume” is concretely defined, you might see a rush of shorter works tying into a series dropping into the stream of commerce between now and December 31. Electronic publishing makes that possible (let’s hope it’s a windfall for copy editors). After the hijinks of the last few years, let’s not pretend there aren’t people out there who will be happy to game the system if they can.

This “Best Series” Hugo is a trial run, to see how things work, and to see if it’s a good idea to continue such a Hugo. My own personal thought on a Best Series Hugo, if it were to continue, would be that I would wanted it handled as such:

  • It’s not awarded every year, it’s awarded every five years, with an eligibility window of five years;
  • If awarded every five years, the finalist slate is twice as long as the finalist slates in other categories;
  • It’s a “one time” win, i.e., once a series is awarded, it’s ineligible for further wins in the category (although individual works in the series would still be eligible for other relevant Hugos);
  • At least three volumes, at least 240,000 words total;
  • A “volume” is defined as a new, original story of at least 25,000 words, released individually and not as part of a collection, magazine or anthology;
  • The recipient for the Hugo would be the series author(s) and editor(s);
  • The current “Best Novel” Hugo criteria would be amended to take out the bit that allows a series to have been nominated if no previous volumes had individually been nominated.

Why would I do it this way? Because series are (generally speaking) a multi-year endeavor and should be considered as such and because the number of eligible series in any given year is substantially smaller than the number of eligible works in any other Hugo category for fiction; because I think if you don’t define “volume” as a substantial work then the category runs the risk of being gamed; and because I think while editing is important to individual novels, it’s especially important to series.

If I had to pick just one of those criteria to pass on to an official Hugo definition, it would be the “one-time win” one. The Hugos aren’t the Emmys. If a series has gotten “Best Series” once, I think it’s okay for the category to be closed to that series further.

I’ll also note that “Best Series” here is clearly appears to be geared toward novels, so my own fantasy criteria for the category weights toward additional work of at least novella length. That said, I think you could make a perfectly good and valid argument that a “series” could be a bunch of short stories all set in the same universe, or anthologies set in the same universe, or graphic novels in the same universe, etc, as long as they meet the “three volumes/240,000 words” criteria. I’m not going to make that argument, but I think you could make that argument.

Finally, I’ll also note that if the Series Hugo does pick up traction and becomes an annual award, then what’s really likely to happen from a practical point of view is that the Hugos will be awarding a second “Best Novel” award, which just happens to be going to series novels. That’s fine but maybe there should be thought given to that fact — perhaps by an additional rule that says if a Best Novel finalist is in a series up for Best Series in the same year, if the novel and series both win their categories then the author gets to go home with whichever of the two awards they received the most number of votes for, with the other award going to the next work in line. Otherwise I suspect you’re going to see a lot of Best Novel and Best Series awards carried off by the same authors, because the votes will be highly correlated — someone who votes for a book in a series for Best Novel is also likely to think highly of the series in general.

Tell me your thoughts on a Best Series Hugo, and your thoughts on my thoughts.

Living Room Update

Last week I showed all y’all the living room all torn up, as we were getting rid of an unused fireplace and replacing it with shelves and electronic heater. Well, now (most of) the shelves are in, so I thought I’d give you all a status update picture. This is not the final state of the living room, I should note — there are more things to be added onto the shelves and also things to be put on walls, plus a few fiddly bits to be added to the shelves (including a shelf below the TV, where the cable boxes, etc will be added). But it already looks better than it did. The dogs seems to like it, at least.