SF/F Authors/Editors/Artists 2011 Award Pimpage Post

As I posted my own SF/F Award-eligible works yesterday (see here if you somehow missed it), I figured I’d also open up a thread for other creative folks to note their own eligible works from the last year to Whatever’s readership. Because, hey, the more you know about what’s out there, the more informed your nominations will be, and that’s a good thing.

So, science fiction and fantasy authors, editors, artists: Tell us what works of yours are eligible for award consideration this year.

And now: Rules!

1. This thread is only for authors/artists/editors to promote their own works (or in the case of editors, the works they have edited). If you’re not an author/artist/editor promoting your own work, don’t post on the thread. I’ll be doing a general recommendation thread later on. Any comment not by an author/artist/editor promoting his/her own work will get snipped out. This is to keep the thread useful both to creators and to folks thinking about nominations.

2. Also, to be clear, this thread is for works of or relating to science fiction and fantasy. This includes Young Adult works and SF/F fandom-related works. If you’re not sure your particular work is eligible for awards this year, please check. A general rule of thumb is that works published in the 2010 calendar year are eligible for consideration for this year’s awards nominations.

3. Authors/Artists/Editors: Feel free to either list your eligible works in the comments and/or link to a blog post outlining your eligible works, if you’ve already done the latter.

4. If you list your work, please also mention the category you expect it will be eligible in, to help folks with their nomination choices. My assumption is that generally speaking you’ll use the Hugo and Nebula categories, but if another award has a category outside those, feel free to list it too (for example, anthologies). Note to short fiction writers: This will be especially important for you to do this because people may not know whether to file your work into the short story, novelette or novella categories.

5. If you want to include links to your works, please feel free, but be aware that posts with many links may be initially punted into the moderation queue. Don’t panic when that happens, I’ll be going through regularly to free them. HOWEVER, please make sure that before you post, you check all your links and formatting. There is no preview button here.

6. One post per creator, please.

So: Authors! Artists! Editors! What do you want people to keep in mind for this awards nomination season?


The 2011 Big Idea Open Call to Publicists, Editors and Authors

As Lauren Beukes’ Big Idea piece earlier today suggests, The Big Idea feature is back for 2011, and is a fine way to share a little about your latest books. If you’re an author, editor or publicist wondering how you can get a book on the schedule, this informational FAQ from last year is still useful and accurate. And authors, here’s what you need to know on how to write a good Big Idea piece.

Typically speaking I run Big Idea pieces on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so that’s two slots for each week, and generally speaking I do first-come, first-serve with the scheduling, consistent with priorities I outline in the FAQ.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough, please do read that FAQ on how to query for a Big Idea slot before querying. I do it that way because it’s a system that works for me, and people who use the system that works for me make me happy, and I like being happy.

Also, regarding the immediate future: January slots are all booked but in February the slots on the 3rd, 10th and 24th are still open, so if you’re interested in those, go ahead and query. Priority will be given to books coming out in those weeks.


Big Idea

The Big Idea: Lauren Beukes

Another new year, another new year’s worth of books for the Big Idea! And to start us off, I’m pleased to help you make the acquaintance of Lauren Beukes, whose latest book Zoo City takes you to a world where people have animal companions who are more than just pets — they’re something magical (and not exactly in the “sparkly unicorn” sort of way). How to get into the headspace of this magical, animal world? As Beukes tells it, you start with the real world — and dig.


How do you make the incredible credible?

Let’s say you have an idea for a book, about a girl with a sloth on her back. Not just any sloth, mind you, but a magical parasite, the most obvious symptom of a global outbreak of Acquired Aposymbiotic Familiarism that has chucked everything science and religion thought they knew out the window, leaving governments reeling and forcing the animalled into ghettos. Like zoo city, the slumlands of inner city Johannesburg where Zinzi and her sloth live on the breadline, finding lost things for small change and writing 419 scams to pay off her drug debts, until she’s recruited to find a missing pop star and everything goes to hell.

Let’s say you want to make this ludicrous idea not just believable but true, in the way that only good fiction can be, revealing the veins and fibres of the world, cutting to the bone of who we are.

Ambitious? Yep. Also the perfect excuse to snoop.

I’ve got away with a lot of snooping in my career. And better yet, been paid for it. Except the people I work for typically like to dignify it by calling it “journalism”. For the sake of a story, I’ve hung out with homeless sex workers and soap starlets, nuclear physicists and electricity cable thieves, great white sharks and brothel owners who were toothier and scarier, HIV positive beauty queens, township vigilantes and wannabe teenage vampires among other interesting folk.

I cannibalised a lot of that experience in my first book, Moxyland, but with Zoo City, I had an advance in my pocket to fund a research trip and an open brief to go wherever the story demanded. All in the name of snooping! Er, that is to say, research.

Which is how I found myself on a woven reed mat in a sangoma’s rooms in the Mai Mai healer’s market, to consult with the spirits of the ancestors about my problems. The traditional healer studied the bones she’d had me throw and talked a stream of Zulu that her translator distilled to spartan sentences about the dark shadow plaguing me and how to be rid of it.

I declined the cleansing ritual she offered which would have involved the sacrifice of a black chicken and took away the details, the sputtering fan in the waiting room, the drying herbs, the animal pelts, the glass jars filled with dark unidentifiable clots of medicine, the bright plastic troll that represented the malevolent evil, grinning up from the constellation of bones and shells and broken dominoes.

And how I found myself on the concrete walkway above the parking garage of High Point, once the most glamorous apartment block in what was once Johannesburg’s most chic suburb, Hillbrow, dodging rubbish being hurled from the windows above as a crew-cut 19-year old in a bulletproof vest pointed out the block opposite, where black plastic bags and faded sunflower curtains covered the windows. The private security company he worked for had raided it a week ago, breaking up a human trafficking ring. “But they’re probably back at it, already,” he said grimly, before leaning over to yell at a vagrant going through the trash below to get away from “his” building.

We climbed 26 flights of stairs (the elevator was out of order) and looked down over the dilapidated sprawl of Hillbrow, which didn’t feel like the dangerous hotbed of violence and crime and poverty all the news reports and documentaries have made it out to be. It felt like somewhere people live, with children playing in the courtyard and vendors selling fruit and cell phone accessories on the street and laundry strung out on make-shift lines across the rooftop.

I made the apartment block the setting of a mini-denouement and spun in the security guard’s anecdote about busting a rapist in the building by lying in wait outside the main doors “because the okey had to come out sometime”.

It’s how I found myself shuffling ankle-deep in water in a storm-drain with cockroaches congealed in skittery clumps on the walls. I wove it in with a handy bit of historical trivia, that there are still shallow tunnels under Johannesburg’s city centre from the first days of the gold mine boom.

And how I found myself walking through the courtyard of South Africa’s most notorious prison, en route to the women’s section, as male prisoners whooped and hollered from the windows. I worked it into Zinzi’s history; the rotating cages of the doors, the dull howl of the claxons.

It’s how I found myself whispering on the phone to the head of the South African Police Services 419 Scam Unit as he lurked in the lobby of an upmarket hotel, preparing to break up a meeting between West African scammers and their nice middle-aged Mexican lady victim– and how I got to talk to her afterwards as she broke down in tears and kept repeating how convincing they’d been, how I would have believed it too.

And it’s how I found myself in the fever dream of following a Zimbabwean nurse down the concrete stairwell of a dilapidated church in central Johannesburg, stinking of sweat and urine and sickness, unable to see in the darkness, pushing through the resistance of human bodies as people shoved their way up or down the stairs.

Two claustrophobic flights down in the press of bodies and the dark, we broke free into a basement crammed with women and children and babies, the sum of their belongings arranged around them in tattered plastic rattan bags.

It was all the ravages of a refugee camp barely contained in one building, with some 4000 refugees bedding down for the night wherever they could find a space, on an inch of floor or concrete stair. I left feeling shaken and raw. Even my fixer, an experienced facilitator for journalists and photographers, was shocked.

I couldn’t find a way to make it fit. It was too devastating, too big to transmute neatly into fiction without derailing the entire novel. So I made it personal and focused on one refugee in my fiction who could represent some of that horror – Zinzi’s Congolese lover, Benoit – interviewing DRC refugees to tease out the details that would make him real.

I spent about a week in Johannesburg, exploring Hillbrow, getting thrown out of faded colonial glamour of The Rand Club for being improperly dressed, attending gigs in Melville, location scouting clubs in Brixton and ruined mansions in the rich and leafy suburbs of Westcliff. And then I came home to Cape Town and started putting it all together.

I didn’t need to do the trip. A lot of the novel comes straight out of my head remixed with details gleaned from books I’d read about Hillbrow or African mythology or the plight of refugees or the horrific toll of war in the Congo.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a journalist, it’s that real-life is usually more surprising than even the most inventive fiction. For me, anchoring a wild idea onto reality makes it more vivid, more credible and, ultimately, more interesting.

And hey, any excuse for an adventure in snooping.


Zoo City: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read Lauren Beukes’ blog. Follow her on Twitter. Visit the publisher’s Zoo City page.


Life in Half Tone

My mother-in-law cleared out some drawers today and came across a couple of my old newspaper columns, which she sent home with Krissy. So I uploaded one of them so you could get a kick out of me with hair. This particular column is date June 11, 1995, so I would have been 26 in that picture. Such a clean-cut young man I was. You would hardly know that I would become the depraved monster I am today.

I did intentionally crop the column so you can’t really read it; it’s not that good. I do regret to say that while I did achieve one of my life’s goals — becoming a syndicated newspaper columnist — at the tender age of 25, at the time I was usually more clever than I was good. The “good” part would have to wait a couple more years, until I had spent a year being an editor taking apart other people’s writing to make it better, which gave me the perspective to look on my own writing and realize, yikes, not anywhere as good as I had assumed. That was an interesting ego day, I will tell you.

I do still look back on my time as a newspaper columnist with fondness, however. I have friends who are still print columnists, and I kinda envy them the gig. You can imagine yourself as part of a line that includes Molly Ivins and Mike Royko and H.L. Mencken and such. It’s not a bad club to feel a part of.


I’ll Tell You What

If nothing else, 2011 is already turning into a bumper crop year for sunsets.


Taos Toolbox Accepting Applications

Walter Jon Williams has promised to strangle to death with his bare hands anyone I choose in return for my services asked me if I would, through the goodness of my own heart, and with no other consideration at all, remind science fiction and fantasy writers of his Taos Toolbox writers workshop, a two-week master class for advanced aspiring writers (and those who have already begun to sell), featuring Mr. Williams and Nancy Kress as instructors. As the site text notes:

Taos Toolbox will be a “graduate” workshop designed to bring your science fiction and fantasy writing to the next level. If you’ve sold a few stories and then stalled out, or if you’ve been to Clarion or Odyssey and want to re-connect with the workshop community, this is the workshop for you!

This is not a workshop for beginners. We won’t teach you correct manuscript format or what an adverb is and why you shouldn’t use one, because we’ll assume that you already know. We want to concentrate on giving talented, burgeoning writers the information necessary to become professionals within the science fiction and fantasy field.

Though short fiction will be enthusiastically received, there will be an emphasis at Taos Toolbox on the craft of the novel, with attention given to such vital topics as plotting, pacing, and selling full-length works.

Applications for the current year are currently being accepted; click here for all the details. And good luck.


Elfman-Related Gloatination

I tweeted today that I had received a signed Danny Elfman CD in the mail today, which precipitated the usual “pics or it didn’t happen” response, so here: My signed Danny Elfman CD. CHOKE ON IT.

(It’s possible the “pics or it didn’t happen” was actually regarding the toe I stubbed today, which I thought I might have broke, but I assume no one really wants to see an ugly purple toe of mine, and if you do, dude, you’re creepy.)

The CD arrived because I had ordered this, a limited numbered collection edition of music box celebrating 25 years of collaboration between Danny Elfman and Tim Burton. It had originally been advertised as being available in December, so I got it as a general Christmas present for the Scalzi family, since we’re big Elfman/Burton fans around here. But then production snafus pushed it back to February, so as a nice make-do for the people who had already ordered the thing, they put together an additional disc, had Elfman sign it, and sent it off early. And here we are.

As I noted on Twitter, this is actually the second signed Elfman CD I have; the first I got way back in 1990 when I interviewed Elfman as part of a movie junket for Darkman, which he had scored. I didn’t know he was going to be there and had coincidentally brought his solo album So-Lo with me to listen to while I drove. So it was a happy accident.

And now you know the stories of both my signed Danny Elfman CDs. Clearly, the highlight of this day, and any other day you might have. Ever.


The 2011 Award Pimpage Post

It’s that time of year again in which people start thinking about nominations for the various awards available in science fiction and fantasy. If you’re one of those people, a) I think you look fantastic, and I’m not just saying that, and b) here’s what I got going on, fictionwise, for you to consider.

Best Short Story:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:

Best Anthology:

And now, notes on these:

* Let me start with “Morning Announcements,” which is a comedy piece I wrote specifically for my w00tstock appearance. Naturally, for the Hugo category of Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, there’s going to be some tough competition in the form of Doctor Who, Torchwood, Fringe and all those other science fiction television shows, not omitting my own sentimental favorite, Stargate: Universe.

Two things here. One, I think it’s good to remember that the category doesn’t have to be for television shows only; it’s for “a dramatized production in any medium, including film, television, radio, live theater, computer games or music. The work must last less than 90 minutes (excluding commercials).” The piece was written specifically for live theater, featured acting (me, as an assistant principal of a future high school) and at eight minutes and change, is substantially less than ninety minutes.

Two, I think it’s pretty funny, very science fictional, and performed for a packed house of science fiction and fantasy nerds. It’s right in the sweet spot for this category.

So, no, this isn’t just stunt suggesting on my part. Give “Morning Announcements” a shot, and if you enjoy it, think about whether it merits a nod. And while you’re at it, give some thought to other short dramatic presentations, not related to television, which are worthy of consideration in this category. Surprises are fun. You’ll still have a few other slots for TV shows (especially for SG:U, hint hint).

* In the short story category, you may note me pointing out “When the Yogurt Took Over,” which is a very short piece (exactly one thousand words) about a ridiculous subject (intelligent yogurt) which I self-published here. I wrote it as a trifle but I have to say since I’ve written it, it’s grown on me, no pun intended. I could explain why but that’s the equivalent of leading the witness. So I’ll just say: Trifle though it was intended to be, check it out.

* As regards Clash of the Geeks, as the editor of the project I am in fact very proud of it. Once again, an absolutely ridiculous subject, and I make no bones about that. But the contributors — all of them — outperformed, and at times extraordinarily so. If you’re someone thinking about nominations for an award which features anthologies, look beyond the silliness and check out the writing craft on display.

* Once again I will note that I am eligible for the Hugo Fan Writer category and once again I would urge nominators not to nominate me and to look through the (crowded) field of potential candidates for this award. One of the things I feel very happy about is that in the last four years, there have been four different winners of this Hugo, which is a nice change from the 20 years previous to that. Let’s keep that up and get that rocket to people who deserve it and haven’t won it yet.

Thus endeth my award pimpage for 2011. And for those of you who are wondering, per this post, I wrote this last night and scheduled it for this morning.

Update, 11:22 am, 1/3: Was asked in e-mail if I’m eligible for Best Editor consideration, re: Clash of the Geeks. For the Hugo Best Editor, Short Form category, the answer is “no,” I’m one editing credit short of being qualified (you need four editing credits over a career plus at least one editing credit for the year in question). So don’t waste a vote on me; there are numerous other rather more qualified candidates for the category in any event. As for other awards with an editing category, I don’t know; you’d have to check the rules in question.


Mmmmm… Babylicious

Look what we found in the cabbage patch!

Okay, so we didn’t find the baby in the cabbage patch. We don’t even have cabbage patch. We once grew lettuce in the garden, but all we found in the lettuce garden was, you know, lettuce. This baby came as part of a package deal when friends of ours came over for visit, bringing their infant with them — which Krissy immediately took possession of, because she does love her some baby.

And before you ask, no, we’re not planning on any more ourselves. We did our time in the baby trenches. The best thing about visiting babies is that you get to give them back to the parents for things like diaper changes and feedings. Which is to say, all the fun of a baby without all the work of a baby. And that makes this the very best baby of all!


That One Small Detail I Alluded To In the Previous Post

It’s this:

Last year about this time I mentioned that my plan for the year was to devote my mornings to writing pay copy, which meant less time doing things on the Internet before noon. It was a good idea, and in a general sense I did much of my non-net writing during that time. But I also ended up doing a fair amount of backsliding. Basically what I’ve found is that if I pop up the Internet first thing in the morning, just to check e-mail, etc, I have a pretty good chance of then not getting to actual work until much later in the day, at a point when I am not as energized for it, and therefore do commensurately less of it.

So this year I’m going to get serious about things, time-wise. Since I very often find it’s useful for me to write or say something in order to sink it into my brain, here it is: in 2011, Monday through Friday*, I will not be online at all before noon, or before 2,000 words of pay copy, whichever comes first. Because now that I am old, morning is my best creative time, and because self-knowledge tells me that I allow myself to get distracted if I don’t set down an actual rule for myself. Now I have.

What this means for you:

1. No morning posts unless a) I’m up late and posting right after midnight, b) I’ve been productive and hit my writing quota, c) I wrote something the night before and scheduled it for release in the AM.

2. If you try to contact me before noon, you’re not likely to get a response.

3. Presuming I’m disciplined about this, lots of new fiction. Not all of which will be available immediately — remember that novels, etc have production cycles to consider — but a full pipeline is never a bad thing for any of us.

What was the asterisk for? The asterisk is for “*when I am at home.” Because I’ll be traveling a decent amount in 2011 and typically on travel days I don’t do too much creative work because I’m a grumpy traveler and/or I’m busy doing the things I traveled to do. Nevertheless, for 2011 when I travel I’m going to try to do the Cory Doctorow thing of at least 250 words regardless of where I am or what I’m doing. It’s better than my current writing plan for travel days (i.e., write nothing), and as with anything, the more one does it, the more one is able to do it.

This goes in effect starting tomorrow. Wheee! Wish me luck.


Whatever Stats 2010: The Nerdination

Because I know you want to know these things, and keeping in mind the standard caveats regarding the accuracy of the WordPress stats suite:

1. The WordPress stats suite suggests that viewership in 2010 was up from 2009, with 5.13 million views recorded by the stats suite, up from 4.46 million views the year before. The month with the highest viewership in 2010 was February, when the Amazon thing happened; the lowest viewership was in August, when I was on hiatus (although the site was still very well trafficked, thanks to the guest bloggers).

Naturally I’m very pleased that the viewership of the site continues to grow; it’s nice to know new people are still dropping by. Hello, newer people. I love you.

2. The top 10 posts of the year — by visits to Whatever directly — are, in popular order:

  1. Things I Don’t Have to Think About Today
  2. All The Many Ways Amazon So Very Failed the Weekend
  3. Wil Wheaton/John Scalzi Fan Fiction Contest to Benefit the Lupus Alliance of America
  4. Being Poor
  5. Kodi, 1997 – 2010
  6. What I Think About Atlas Shrugged
  7. A Quick Note On eBook Pricing and Amazon Hijinx
  8. An Interview With the Nativity Innkeeper
  9. 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing
  10. How to Make a Schadenfreude Pie

Folks who know the site at all will observe that three of the top ten posts are posts from the archives (Being Poor, Teenage Writers, Schadenfreude Pie), and among the top twenty posts, another four are archive posts, including (of course) the one featuring bacon cat. It’s nice to have a “greatest hits” in this respect, and to be blunt I’m glad “Being Poor” is a bigger “hit” than bacon cat, on a year to year basis.

3. That said, I’ll note that if one includes RSS readership, the single most viewed Whatever post of the year, by far, was “Nativity Innkeeper,” which tracked 175,000 total views in 2010, more than doubling the 80,000 total views for “Things I Don’t Have to Think About Today,” even though it was available for substantially less time. Although off-site viewing has happened for as long as their have been RSS feeds available, in 2010 it appears to be taking on a life of its own. I’m going to have to figure out what it means, but at the same time I don’t really see it changing the way I do things here on the site.

4. Indeed, at this point, I have no major plans to change anything about what I do with the site, aside from a minor point of scheduling, which I will detail separately. I like it the way it is and for my purposes (self-entertainment, heat sink, place to socialize online, outlet for things I don’t write for the market) it does what it does pretty well. So I’ll just keep at it. Thanks for dropping by to see what I’m up to.


The First Sunset of the Year

Here you go. I’m posting this from my phone, so the photo might be a bit wonky, size-wise. If it is, I’ll fix it when I get home. Nice way to start the year, though.


A Quick New Year’s Note About a Book Which Doesn’t Exist

First: Happy 2011, etc, etc. You know the drill.

Second: I’ve been getting e-mail from people in Canada who have been getting e-mail from, the Canadian version of Amazon, which reads as such:

Dear Customer,

Customers who have purchased or rated books by John Scalzi might like to know that Big One is now available.  You can order yours by following the link below.

Followed by a link to an page for the book.

Don’t order this book. It does not exist. I didn’t write it, and it’s not currently on my schedule to write. If you order it, presuming takes your money, you’ll be getting nothing but air.

So why does have it in its system? Well, a number of years ago, I contracted with Tor to write a two book series called The Big One. For various reasons, it never got written, and the contracts were repurposed to other projects (Zoe’s Tale being one of them). must have put the book in its system years ago and not got around to removing it. So now it’s popping on the site and in its mail alerts.

I do apologize for the confusion even though it’s not my fault, except for the most tangential of reasons (i.e., I didn’t wind up writing the book). Nevertheless, don’t order the book. You’ll be disappointed, I’m afraid. Sorry, Canadian fans.

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