Llama recipes. Eat hearty, you Incas!
I and a few other science fiction writers define what the term “science fiction” means over at SF Signal. Because apparently there was some question. As extra bonus metareferentialosity, I cite myself! Mmmm… smugtastic.
I just passed on a Guest of Honor opportunity at an excellent convention in 2009, because I’m already scheduled that weekend to officiate a wedding.
Yes, I officiate weddings. No, not in Klingon or Elvish. Stop that.
Clinton and McCain, with Obama close enough behind that he can’t be feeling too bad about it. Discuss.
I’ll start: I think it’s worth noting that both Clinton and Obama both topped 100,000 votes, whereas McCain ended up with 87K and Romney, the #2 GOPer, had about 74K. Win, place and show, the Democrats have something in the area of 250,000 votes, while the top three Republicans have about 187,000 votes. That’s a fair disparity, especially in a state with more registered Republicans than Democrats, albeit with substantially more independents than either.
Athena and Krissy were downstairs this evening when they heard a strange meow in the garage; Krissy opened the door to find a black and white kitten huddling at the garage steps. So naturally they to let it in the house to feed it and love it and hug it and call it George. Well, everything except that last one. It downed an entire bowl of food in about a minute and a half, so it was pretty clear it was near starved.
For all that it seemed comfortable with humans and didn’t even freak out too much when Kodi came along to give it a sniff. Which suggests it’s been socialized a bit, which suggests to me one of two things: Either it’s someone’s kitten who has gotten lost, or someone did that thing people do and abandoned the kitten out here in the sticks. We’ll ask around about the first of these, and if no owner is in the offing we’ll assume it’s abandoned and take it in, with the additional notation to hope that karma well and truly squares away the sort of person who abandons a kitten in the middle of winter.
If we do end up keeping the cat, it will be the second of our two cats here who just showed up, Lopsided Cat being the other (Ghlaghghgee we got when our next door neighbor showed up at the doorstep and said “here’s that cat I talked to your wife about,” which is a story in itself). This is life in rural America: No need to go looking for pets, they’ll come to you.
Note that we don’t really need another cat; two’s more than enough as it is, especially when there’s also a dog in the mix. But Krissy and Athena certainly seem to want this cat, if we can’t find the owner, and I can’t think of a reason to say no. What can I say. We’re suckers for a cute stray.
The folks at Science Fiction Awards Watch are soon (Friday) to be posting a poll about pro SF/F folks nominated in fan categories, and have posted a prefatory entry explaining why, which says, among other things: “Please note that this is not intended to be simply about John Scalzi.” Which is to say it’s not about me, but it is largely my fault this discussion is taking place, because I was nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo last year, and some folks crapped bricks over it. If it happens again this year (or if another pro is nominated in a fan category) we’ll likely have enough fans crapping bricks to build us a shithouse at Denvention.
Personally, I doubt I’ll be a nominee in that particular category this year; if nothing else, my lurking presence should be enough to motivate fans to nominate others whom they see as more fannish than I. If the result of my appearance on last year’s slate is renewed interest by fans in the category, and a wider range of nominees than usual, this is not a bad thing. Go ahead, fans! Exclude me! Make my day. (Just, you know, consider considering me in other categories.)
To be very clear on this, again, I’m not going to vote for myself in the Fan Writing category, and I think folks who are considering nominating me look at other folks in the SF community who are writing smartly about topics of interest to fans. Some examples, completely off the top of my head: Nicholas Whyte, James Nicoll, Marissa Lingen, Kate Nepveu, Chad Orzell, Kevin Standlee, Cheryl Morgan, Deb Geisler, Chris Garica, Steven Silver, John Hertz, Rick Kleffel and Ernest Lilley — Not to mention Toby Buckell, Tempest Bradford, Elizabeth Bear, Nick Mamatas, Patrick and/or Teresa Nielsen Hayden, David Louis Edelman, Wil Wheaton, John Joseph Adams, Sarah Monette, Chris Roberson, Jay Lake, Lou Anders, and, oh, Dave Langford. Because, yes, I do think having pros on the slate is perfectly fine. Hopefully not in every slot. But these folks are doing fan writing. They are fan writers. That’s what counts. Anyway, go look at all these folks (for a start) before nominating me again.
In any event, check out the entry at SFAW, and add your thoughts, comments and suggestions there.
I present you with the following raw material:
She was about 25 feet up at the time, incidentally. Why? Why not? Who knows why cats do any of the damn fool things they do. She came down eventually, when she realized it was either she come down on her own power, or let the rising wind knock her out of the tree. Anyway, enjoy putting funny misspelled captions on this. Here’s a LOLCat builder, if you need it.
Update, 8pm: Athena has contributed her own LOLCat.
Kid #1: Or, in the time it takes me to jump through all those hoops, I could just download all 37 of those albums off of Pirate Bay.
Kid #2: Or, I could just scratch off the back at the store, record the pin number, go home and download the album through a Tor connection, so you can’t trace my IP number.
Kid #1: Also, what’s with this first slate of artists? Celine Dion? Backstreet Boys? Kenny Chesney? Barry Manilow? Are you high?
Sony BMG dude: They appeal to the sort of mainstream consumer who will see the convenience of our revolutionary music cards!
Kid #2: Like my mom? Dude, she’s not going to buy a card. She’s going to buy a CD. Because she’s at the CD store. Where she can buy CDs.
Sony BMG dude: They also make lovely gifts!
Kid #1: If she gets one as a gift, all she’s going to do is ask me how the heck she’s supposed to use it. And then she’s going ask me to get the download for her. Like I’m not busy. And you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to return the card for cash, and then I’m going to download the album off of Pirate Bay, because you’ve confused and upset my mom. And annoyed me.
Sony BMG dude: Uh.
Kid #2: So to recap, what you’ve got here is a system that makes people leave their house in order to download music at their house, and makes them go to a store to get music that they could get at the store, somewhere else.
Sony BMG dude: Er.
Kid #1: Why don’t you just sell non-DRM’d MP3s off Amazon, like every other major music corporation?
Sony BMG dude: Well.
Kid #2: You don’t actually want to sell unprotected MP3s, do you? You want to be able to say you’re doing it, but really, you want to make it so ridiculously inconvenient that people keep just keep buying CDs and DRM’d tracks off iTunes. Just admit it, bro.
Sony BMG dude (pointing): Look! It’s Celine Dion! And Barry Manilow! (runs away as kids avert their eyes in terror)
Poor, stupid deluded Sony BMG.
This MusicPass thing: six months at the outside.
Don’t look below if you don’t want to see the ending of Zoe’s Tale! Stop now! Avert your eyes!
Really, I hope it doesn’t ruin the rest of the book for you.
Thanks to that TV commercial for Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, in which various chunky Wii gamers train under the watchful eye of their pixellated masters while cheese rock booms in the background, Athena’s been exposed to that most hideous of 80s hair metal anthems: “The Final Countdown” by Europe. More to the point, because she saw me wince when the snippet of the song’s synth fanfare barfed out of my TV speakers, she’s made it a point to torture me with it, coming up to me at inopportune times and singing “It’s the final countdown!” and then running away giggling.
Well, I can’t have that, so this morning before school I finally did what I should have done a long time ago, and made her listen to the whole damn thing, the idea being once she listened to its entire flaccidly vomitrocious length, she would be forever cured of the need to sing any part of it, to me or anyone else. Of course it meant I had to listen to it again, too, but these are the sacrifices parents have to make for their children.
Naturally, it was no surprise to me how craptacular this particular song is, but I had largely forgotten the reason why, which was, aside from being insipid and banal popcraft in that peculiarly Swedish way, instrumentally, every part of the sounds like substandard apings of other 80s rock bands. The synth riff is a clunky transposition of the synth riff from “Only Time Will Tell” by Asia, lead singer Joey Tempest sounds like he spent his teenage years in front of the mirror, attempting to imitoot exarctly Scorpions lead singer Klaus Meine, and the tunelessly finger-mashing guitar solo sounds like a smudged photocopy of every other tunelessly finger-mashing 80s faux-metal guitar solo, which in themselves are smudged photocopies of the fretwork of Randy “I’m the only person who can actually pull this shit off” Rhodes.
Individually it’s all crap, but put it all together, and it apparently becomes the sort of super-synergistic hypercrap that goes to #1 in twenty-six countries; apparently only the US maintained relative sanity in the face of such musical manure, allowing it to reach only #8. But that was bad enough, people. Even so, the next time some smug European starts lecturing you about how America has lost its moral compass, and tortures people, and is turning its Constitution into hamster bedding, you can look them straight in the eye and say “at least we didn’t let ‘The Final Countdown’ go to number one, you tone-deaf bastard.” And do you know what they will say to that? Nothing. Because there is nothing to say. You held the line, America. Stand tall.
Once Athena was done listening to the song in its entirety, I asked her what she thought of it. She said, “It’s okay. But the thirty second version of it is better.” Which is possibly the very best anyone could ever say of “The Final Countdown,” and, really, all you need to know about it.
A couple of things out there that give my ego a healthy self-satisfied glow this Monday morning:
1. Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch Blog wonders why Sci-Fi Channel hasn’t given me my own show. Yeah, Sci-Fi Channel! What the hell are you thinking? And not just me:
Why aren’t you engaging today’s premiere purveyors of genre material and giving them ten episodes to do whatever the hell they want? I’d watch contained, BBC-style series from folks like Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Warren Ellis, Charlie Huston, Neal Stephenson, or China Mieville. The names alone would attract viewers by the truckload. And even if what they produced were failures, they’d be interesting failures—marked by reaching too far, instead of not far enough.
I have nothing bad to say about this idea. I might even have an idea or two ready to roll. Not only that, but I think I know someone who could handle the novelization! They should have their people call my people. It will all have to wait until the writer’s strike is done, however.
2. Hub Magazine declared Whatever the Best Blog for 2007, saying “Scalzi puts more effort into his blog than many writers put into their dayjob.” Well, you know. Now I have no day job. Have to do something to fill those hours. It’s either this or Parcheesi. They also give out other awards for SF/F/H-related media.
How’s your morning?
Writing yourself out of that corner you painted your plot into, that’s what’s fun.
As an aside to this, when was the last time you or anyone you know painted a floor? I don’t recall ever seeing a painted floor.
No, stage floors don’t count, you theater crew people.
Ghlaghghee makes the argument that she is the perfect desk accessory. And really, who are we to argue?
And writing, and maybe doing a little editing.
See you all tomorrow.
For those of you who want to chat about last night’s caucuses, and want to chat about them here.
I don’t have much to say about them at the moment, other than that I think Obama v. Huckabee would be a really interesting contest, if it comes to that. I’ll probably have more to say at some later point, but today my brain is on another planet, as it should be, considering I’m writing a science fiction novel at the moment.
Anyway, off to work with me. Have fun with your discussions.
For those of you who used to read By The Way, you’ll know that every Thursday I wrote up a “Weekend Assignment,” to give folks something to do with their blogs over the weekend (Friday – Sunday, for AOL Journals, was typically the time period in which the members posted the least). I’m not doing the Weekend Assignments anymore, but I’ve bequeathed the activity to Karen Funk Blocher (aka Mavarin), and she’s doing them on her blog now. The first of her Weekend Assignments is up, and it’s asking what people are doing with their time in the wake of the WGA strike.
If you’ve been a fan of the Weekend Assignments, or if you just think it would be fun to participate, then head over to Karen’s and get the assignment. Then write it up on your own blog/journal, and then post a link to your entry in Karen’s comment thread, in which you’ll also be able to follow the link to the entries of other participants. Easy and fun. And then head back in a week for a new assignment.
I thought up nearly 200 of these Weekend Assignments over at By The Way, so I’m really pleased Karen is keeping the idea going. I encourage you to play, even if you’ve not done so before. I think she’s going to do a great job.
Also, while I’m busy pimping the new mistress of the Weekend Assignment, let me be one of the first to answer her assignment question: “Now that the WGA strike has had lots of time to affect the prime time television schedules, how is it affecting you as a viewer? What show do you miss most, aside from reruns?”
My answer: It’s affecting me very little, actually, since I rarely watched prime time television to begin with. I got out of the habit of watching TV regularly when I was in high school, since we weren’t allowed to watch TV there as a general rule. In college I never got myself a TV, and then my first job out of college was as a movie critic, so my nights were spent watching the big screen, not the small one. These days, I’m more likely to be in front of a computer screen than a TV screen. If I do watch a TV series, I do it on DVD, rather than on TV.
So, basically, it’s had very little impact on my day-to-day life. The exceptions are The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which I would watch when I remembered to turn on the TV at 11; I’ve missed them a little bit. But not so much that I’m going to watch them when they come back next week. I think I’ll wait until the strike gets resolved to do that.
The Weekend Assignment usually has a quick, related “extra credit” question, which this week is: “how are you spending the time instead?” Well, in my case, I’m trying to finish a book, and every moment not watching TV helps. So while I hope the writers prevail in the strike, they picked the right time, for me, to go on strike. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional.
That’s my thought on this week’s Weekend Assignment; I hope you’ll go and play along too, over at Karen’s site.
Note the following set:
(For those of you hard of seeing, they are magnet versions of the following US States, in order: Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, Alabama, Montana, Colorado, Idaho.)
What is the next state that would be added to this set?
And for extra credit, what would be the last state in the complete set?
Yes, there’s an actual answer to both.
Update, 5:05pm: It got done figured out! And pretty quickly too. Because we’re dorks.
Here’s the answer:
Over the last week or so I’ve heard rumors of some sort of “privilege list,” which was developed by some academics to make their students aware that whatever level of privilege they had before they got to college, they were all at the same place now (which is Indiana State University, apparently). I heard about it mostly via people being really pissed at its sloppy construction and slapping down a link to my “Being Poor” entry as a contrast, but tonight I finally got a look at the list itself (it’s the “Take a Step Forward” link at the page I’m sending you to — warning, it’s a .doc file). I have to say I’m really not at all impressed with the list, primarily because as indicators of class and privilege, many if not most of the things on the list are non-responsive in the real world.
If you’re doing the exercise, you’re supposed to take a step forward if one of the listed statements is true for you; the idea being, apparently, that any step forward is a mark of privilege, or a class indicator. Just for fun, I’ll point out some of these statements, and why they aren’t one or the other or both.
If were read children’s books by a parent
As far as I can remember, my mother never read children’s books to me. But that’s because I learned to read when I was two; I read my own children’s books, thanks much. My mother did, however, read to me books meant for adult readers. As it happens, I don’t read children’s books to Athena, either, because she learned to read almost as early as I did; at bedtime when she was younger, she insisted on reading her books to us.
The exercise also lists having books in the home as a mark of privilege or class, but inasmuch as I grew up poor in a house jammed with books, many bought for a quarter at a yard sale or thrift store, I would dispute that it’s a mark of either. Clearly the folks who thought up this list are used to thinking of books as being expensive rather than really cheap entertainment.
If you went to a private high school
I went to a private high school; a really good and expensive one, too. And on vacations when my friends were going back home to big houses, I was going back to a single-wide trailer. Was I privileged? In one sense, certainly. In most other ways, well, no, not so much.
Going to a private school, incidentally, radically skews a number of other privilege indicators on this list. For example:
If you were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
Doesn’t work, because while most of the kids who attended my school would have nominally have been of a higher social stratum than the teachers, we in fact had some very well-off teachers. My history teacher was a scion of the Fawcett publishing family; he donated the school library building. Named it after his mom, which was sweet. Why did he teach history at a high school if he could buy entire libraries? I would suppose because he liked it. By the strictures of this particular metric, however, many kids at my school would not have counted as “privileged,” even the ones who got Mercedes for their birthdays.
Here’s another non-indicator:
If you had your own TV in your room in High School
None of the very privileged kids in my high school had a TV in their room — because we lived at a boarding school, and TV wasn’t allowed. They had all manner of very expensive audio equipment, though. Likewise, almost none of the kids at my high school had this ostensible privilege marker:
If you participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Because my high school was a college preparatory school. You’d be getting the benefits of an SAT/ACT prep course just by going to your classes. And here’s a funny one:
If your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
Because when your dad gives you his two-year-old BMW because he got a new one, you’re not going to complain because it doesn’t have that new car smell. One more, to bring the point home:
If your family vacations involved staying at hotels
Why on earth would you stay at a hotel if you had a vacation home?
Well, you say, at least all the rich kids can step forward for this one:
If the people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
Clearly, these people have never seen Pretty in Pink or Less Than Zero, to use two examples from my day.
Somewhat unrelated, another silly one:
If you were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family
Leaving aside the idea that if you grew up in, say, Southern California, heating bills would not be a major topic, I can say that as a sometimes very poor child I rarely knew the sums of various utility bills, because I was a kid. I knew whether my mom was stressed about the bills, which I suspect is the point here, poorly worded. Be that as it may, a kid from an upper class situation might know the sums of her family’s heating bills if her parents chose to give her an idea of family economics, to teach her to be fiscally prudent — which is not unknown behavior in those who are well off because they are smart with their money. Athena has asked about our bills, because she’s curious; we’ve told her about them. I doubt anyone would suggest our spawn is not relatively privileged.
Well, you say, that’s all just you, or specific people you know. Well, yes. This is my point. And for probably any person, there are things on this list meant to signify privilege that don’t, or are meant to exclude privilege that could be signs of substantial privilege — just ask the boarding school student driving dad’s old Beemer to the vacation house by the shore while his middle-class friends are stuck in an SAT review session. For nearly all of the “privilege markers” in this exercise, one can come up with excellent reasons why they are not an issue of privilege or class at all.
Which means that for the purposes of this exercise — showing indicators of privilege and class — this list is not actually useful, and indeed counter-productive. In this exercise, it’s entirely possible for someone of a lower social class to appear more “privileged” than someone who is of the “rich and snooty” class. This doesn’t create awareness of privilege; it does, however, create awareness of the essential lameness of this particular exercise. This may be why the exercise notes warn that “anger will be a primary emotion.” I would be angry, too, if my time were wasted on an exercise like this.
(Don’t even get me started on what a pile of crap the “Social Class Knowledge Quiz,” also available at the link above, is. Some of us know what Choate and a “full pull” are.)
As an aside, one of the things that gets me about this “privilege” exercise is how actually divorced from class it is, primarily because so many of the privilege indicators are trivial consumer items well within the reach of all but the most poor among us. My gas station convenience store has pay-as-you-go cell phones for less than it costs to pay for an XBox game; at this point it’s not a mark of privilege for a teenager to have one. I can go to Wal-Mart and pick up a TV for under $100 or a desktop computer for $300; not very good ones in either case, but that’s not the point. My local mall has a Steve and Barry’s in it; you have to work hard to buy something there that costs more than $15. Shopping in a mall isn’t much of a class indicator, either. Hasn’t been for a while now.
Elizabeth Bear, in commenting about this exercise, notes: “If I were writing it, it would have things like, ‘Did you receive regular dental care and vaccinations as a child?’ on it.” She’s spot on. The vector of privilege these days is not physical items, but how well one is cared for, or can care for one’s self and family: Whether one has adequate health care, whether one has access to healthy food, whether one’s housing and transportation costs are a not-onerous percentage of the household income, whether one has day care for children, whether one is free of high-interest consumer debt, and whether one can afford to save any money for the future. The privileged are those who have all of those things, or live in households that do. To suggest that having a TV in one’s room as a teen is an indicator of privilege when the real indicator of privilege is whether that teen can get a cracked tooth easily fixed doesn’t merely border on obtuseness, it’s rather emphatically stomping over to the other side of the line and jumping up and down.
But perhaps one indicator of privilege is that one can create an exercise like this and believe that it actually has anything to do with reality. Must be nice. I can only imagine it, myself.
Update, 9/12/08: I notice that the Web page for this quiz now links back to here with the notation: “This is a good critical piece, however the author believes his experience of class is similar to everyone’s experience of class.” This is so unbelievably wrong and contrary to the whole point of the piece that I have to wonder if Professor Barratt (or whomever wrote up the link) actually bothered to read the piece. Inasmuch as the page gets my name wrong, maybe the answer is “no.”
Justine Larbalestier has a bang-up post on rewriting, and how it gets done. Go, read, learn.
Best Novel: The Last Colony
Best Short Story: “Missives from Possible Futures #1: Alternate History Search Results”
Best Short Story: “Pluto Tells All”
Best Short Story: “The Life and Work of Godfrey Winton: A Panel Discussion on One of Science Fiction’s Lost Masters” (With Sarah Monette and Nick Sagan)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: “The Sagan Diary,” audio version (read by Mary Robinette Kowal, Elizabeth Bear, Karen Meisner, Ellen Kushner, Helen Smith and Cherie Priest)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Old Man’s War, audio version (read by William Dufris)
Those are all Hugo categories. The novel, novelette and short stories are also currently eligible for Nebula consideration, although even if they qualified they wouldn’t be on the ballot until 2009 thanks to the Nebula’s generally obtuse nomination process, which [imagine Nebula rant here, so I don’t have to actually write it], and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Additionally, I believe Old Man’s War is eligible for the Arthur C. Clarke award, because it was published in the UK in 2007. However, it needs to be submitted by its publisher, I think. I am honestly clueless in the ways of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.
Some thoughts on the above:
1. The reason I note Coffee Shop in the Related Book category is, a) writing books by SF authors have been nominated before (most recently ones by Kate Wilhelm and Samuel R. Delany), and b) of the four sections in the book, one is given over entirely to science fiction. So I think it’s reasonable to include it for consideration.
2. While the Dramatic Presentation categories haven’t generally included audio presentations, they have been nominated before (in 1979, for the radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and also in 1971, for the Jefferson Starship album Blows Against the Empire, which was loosely based on Heinlein’s Methuselah’s Children), and also, you know, let’s face it: If a three-minute MTV Movie Awards segment in which Gollum tells everyone to fuck off can garner a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo (Short Form), there’s no reason audio presentations shouldn’t be considered in these categories.
So yes, please, do give my audio works consideration in these categories. And while you’re at it, give other audio works consideration in these categories as well. Fight the tyranny of film and television domination! Because you know what? There is some excellent work being done in audio science fiction these days, and it’s worth noting in the categories that they are eligible for. You don’t need to spend millions to have an excellent dramatic presentation.
3. As for the rest of my fiction work, I’m proud of it all and would be delighted to be nominated in any category. But I do hope folks who are interested in voting will check out “The Sagan Diary,” because I think it contains some of my best writing to date. And in the short story category, I think people should know that the “Godfrey Winton” panel is actually a transcription of a convention panel, which means it’s live fiction improv from me, Nick Sagan and Sarah Monette. I think we did a damn fine job.
4. As most of you know, last year I was nominated for the Best Fan Writer Hugo, which I lost by a single vote (which I think is pretty damn funny). My nomination in the category caused some seizures in fandom about whether I should have been nominated at all, being that I am a pro as well as a fan, but I think more importantly the nomination reminded people that a whole hell of a lot of fan writing is going on in blogs and LiveJournals, and not just in traditionally formatted ‘zines. Hey, the 21st century. It’s wacky that way.
As with last year, I’m not seeking a Best Fan Writer nomination, nor recommending myself for the category, but I won’t turn it down the nomination if it’s offered. That said, I hope when Hugo voters make their nominations they look far and wide at who is writing interesting stuff as a fan.
That’s the award pimpage for 2008.