View From a Hotel Window, 8/24/15: Palo Alto

This parking lot is made of brick!

Tonight: Kepler’s! In Menlo Park. 7pm. Me in conversation with Tad Williams. Should be a ton of fun. You should totally come by.

Tomorrow: The penultimate event of the tour takes place in downtown LA, at The Last Bookstore, at 7:30pm. I’m very excited to be showing up to this bookstore, which is by all accounts a simply amazing space. I can’t wait. Hope to see you there.

Being a Jerk About the Hugos: Not as Effective a Strategy as You Might Think

(Warning: Hugo neepery. Avoid if you don’t care.)

As most of you know, at last Saturday’s Hugo Awards ceremony, the voters, of which there were a record number, chose not to offer awards in five categories rather than to give the award to nominees who got on the ballot because of the Sad/Rabid Puppy slating campaign. In the categories in which awards were given, in nearly all cases the Puppy nominees in the category finished below “No Award.” The only category where a Puppy nominee prevailed was in Best Dramatic Presentation, in which one of their choices was Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s not a lot of credit they can take for that one.

Why did the Puppies fare so poorly? There has already been much speculation and analysis on the matter, and there will continue to be for some time. But in my estimation (and leaving out issues of literary quality of the nominations, which is super-subjective), the reason for their massive and historic failure is simple:

They acted like jerks, and performed a series of jerk maneuvers.

Specifically:

  1. They created slates for awards that are meant to be about an individual’s personal tastes and choices. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They gloated about the slates getting on the ballot, and the upset that this caused other people. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They created an imaginary cabal of people and asserted without evidence that this cabal indulged in slate-making, and used this assertion to justify their own bad action. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They spent months insulting the people they associated with their imaginary cabal. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They spent months crapping on the writers they dragooned into their imaginary cabal, and crapping on the work those writers created. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They spent months denigrating the award they went out of their way to build slates for. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They spent months pissing on the people who love and care about the awards, and the convention that hosts both. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They expected the people who they’d been treating with contempt to give them the respect they would not afford them. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They pretended they didn’t actually care about the awards for which they put in months and sometimes years of effort to get work on the ballot. That’s a jerk maneuver.
  1. They had the poor grace to whine about people potentially voting “no award,” which is fully allowed by the rules, after gleefully pointing out that slating was not disallowed. That’s a jerk maneuver.

The first of these points in itself would almost certainly have been enough to motivate people to vote against the slates, and the nominees who willingly (or, sadly in a number of cases, unwittingly) found themselves on them. But the other nine points didn’t help, and a lot of the people who declared themselves Puppies or allied themselves with them went out of their way to do some or all of those points. Repeatedly, and with increasing foaminess as things went along.

Here’s the thing: If you perform a bunch of jerk maneuvers, people are likely to treat you like you’re a jerk.

Consonantly: If you perform a bunch of jerk maneuvers, you might, in fact, actually be a jerk. Not always. But the correlation is there, and that correlation gets increasingly significant the more jerk maneuvers you perform.

There is (usually) no crime in performing a jerk maneuver, or acting like a jerk. Everyone can, and has, acted like a jerk from time to time. It’s a regrettable but natural part of the human experience. But most people have the good sense to understand that acting like a jerk should not be a lifestyle choice, and that if you make it one, people will respond to you based on your choices.

As they did, in this case, with the Hugos. The Hugo vote against the Puppy slates was not about politics, or cabals, or one species of science fiction and fantasy over another, no matter what anyone would like you to believe — or at the very least, it wasn’t mostly about those things. It was about small group of people acting like jerks, and another, rather larger group, expressing their displeasure at them acting so.

Mind you, I don’t expect the core Puppies to recognize this; indeed I expect them to say they haven’t done a single thing that has been other than forthright and noble and correct. Well, and here’s the thing about that: acting like an jerk and then asserting that no, it’s everyone else that’s been acting like a jerk, is the biggest jerk maneuver of all.

(Comments on this piece off for now, because I’m about to start an event and have a super-busy day today. I might turn them on later.)

The End of All Things on the USA Today Bestseller List

Something I missed when it happened last week, because, you know, on tour and all that: The End of All Things debuted on the USA Today Bestseller list at #31, which is the highest a book of mine has ever gotten on the USA Today list. As comparisons, Lock In clocked in at #107, and Redshirts came in at #55. So that’s a pretty positive thing, I have to say.

Interestingly, despite this being my highest charting book on the USA Today list, The End of All Things did not hit the NYT Hardcover Fiction list for its debut week. How does that happen? Basically because the particular lists track different things — the NYT list tracks fiction hardcover sales specifically whilst the USA Today list tracks every book regardless of category (which is how the #30 book on the USA Today list is Felicia Day’s book, which is non-fiction), and also because both organizations also do a bit of sampling and filtering to build their lists. I’ve gone into how bestseller lists differ before, so I won’t dig in here; suffice to say that these lists are complicated beasts.

Nevertheless, I am delighted to see The End of All Things doing well and hitting a new height on the USA Today list. It’s nice when all that work pays off, sales-wise, at least.

The Big Idea: Felicia Day

Felicia Day is someone who for most geeks needs no introduction: Creator of The Guild, instigator of the Geek & Sundry video channel, television celebrity and of course a star of the immortal Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Now she has another descriptor to add to her title: New York Times best selling author, as her book You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) plopped onto non-fiction chart. That’s awesome, and she’s awesome, and here she is to chat with you — yes, you! — about her thoughts on the act of creating. Take it away, Felicia!

FELICIA DAY:

The whole point of creating is affecting other people.  (Effecting? Grammar sigh.)

I am plagued with perfection syndrome, anxiety and an acute self-consciousness that makes me convinced that I have a gob of mascara under my eye when I attend any public appearance. In general, hubris is something I avoid at all costs. (The internet helps reinforce it because someone is always willing to step up and tell you how much you suck. Thanks internet!) This reluctance to be braggy was a big hurdle for me to be able to get through writing my own memoir. I mean, talking about myself, TO myself for about year to complete the thing? Then recording the words aloud I wrote to myself ABOUT myself for the audio book?! Ugh. My constant inner monologue was, “Who the hell do you think you are, chickie?” But the thing that got me through was realizing that the point of creating is not about ourselves, it’s about everyone around us. How we change others in small ways or large with what we make. Basically, making stuff is not about you, damnit.

This is easy to say in theory, but hard to sink into the bones when you’re staring at a half-completed outline on your laptop and you don’t know how to finish it and there’s a deadline looming like a guillotine above your psyche. (And you’ve just stress-eaten a whole bag of Doritos Cool Ranch and your mouth smells like a trench.) Ego is a necessary first step in making things. There’s a story or a character in our heads that no one else in existence can tell, of a jaunty spaceship traveling through a universe or a hot highlander seducing a super mousey journalist. We’re the only one who can write that moors-seduction scene QUITE like we can, so let’s get to it! (Note to self, explore this Highlander idea, sounds hot.)

But after the initial seed is planted, all our emotional baggage arrives with a jolly, “Hey idiot, reality knocking!” to dry up the enthusiasm. Inhibitions show up. Second guesses. Procrastination-reading of five other works in a similar vein leads to crushing thoughts like, “He had a robot dog in his book, I can’t do that now or I’m a copycat! I have no other ideas. I’m the worst!” I went through it all. And it cost me weeks of my writing life. Yay! But as I plugged away and started to string together my life events, especially my love of connecting with people on the internet, I noticed a thread of where the joy of creating actually lay (lie? Double grammar sigh).

The satisfaction came from other people taking what I made, crushing it into their own a psychic ball and mashing around in their heads, only to come out later in a repurposed form for their own uses. Whether just to share “this made me laugh” in an internet comment, or spur them to create a whole world of their own, impulse sparked by what I’d shared. Channeling that feeling of helpfulness and joy of sharing allowed me to get through the writing road blocks a lot easier than it had been for me in the past. Because I reframed the way I thought about the material from all about ME, to all about US.

And I realized that’s the key to getting through the hard writer’s block times. It requires creating the way we did as kids. Back when we worked for weeks to create that perfect drawing for our dads to hang on the fridge, or built an elaborate Popsicle stick sculpture we couldn’t wait to give our grandmas. That joy of expressing ourselves FOR someone we love is so powerful. It overrides all the ego crap we’re plagued with that stops us up, that makes us put down the pencil or search YouTube for kitten videos instead of working.

If you’re blocked, the root of it is probably fear. I know I was for me. Of failing. Of being mocked. Of not immaculately conceiving the perfect tale on the first draft. This is why I never wrote those unicorn stories I wanted to as a teenager, or those angsty post-college ennui ones in my twenties. I couldn’t risk not knowing the perfect path to take in order to make myself look awesome. Now, I retroactively hate that I sabotaged myself like that, because I couldn’t realize that the things we create are just a deposit into our collective consciousness. Like a savings account for humanity. Fart jokes, political essays or deep contemplative novels, all of it should be considered our personal contribution to helping us understand each other better and changing each others’ brains in ways that wouldn’t have happened if we’d never spoken up.

So when you think about creating, focus on the idea of adding to the collective Borg consciousness, if only to get over your own road blocks and make it easier to get your voice out there. Seeing how the things we express give other people the tools to fertilize the gardens of their own minds is beautiful. It’s kind of the point of being alive. (Alternative theory: Tacos).

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You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Hear excerpts on the book site. Read her blog. Follow her on Twitter.