Thoughts On This Year’s Hugo Finalist Ballot

In no particular order:

1. First, and obviously, I’m delighted that The Collapsing Empire has been nominated. I like that book a lot, and it has some of my favorite characters ever in it, so to see it on the Hugo ballot this year is real validation for me. To be honest I had no sense of whether the novel was in the awards hunt this year at all — it sold well and the reviews were good, but it was also a wide and varied and very good year for science fiction novels. So when I was notified, well. I was very happy. Thank you to everyone who nominated the book. You made my month.

2. I had no idea whatsoever which other books would be nominated in the novel category (well, that’s not entirely true; I strongly suspected The Stone Sky would get a nod, and sure enough, it did), so when the category came out, including New York 2140, Six Wakes, Provenance and Raven Strategem as well as Empire and Sky, I was also delighted. Here’s the thing: as a writer, when you’re up for an award, you want your fellow finalists to be really really excellent. When your peer group is good, it reflects well on you and your own work. This is a very good, very solid field of works, from some of the best writers working in science fiction and fantasy today. I could not be more pleased to stand among these authors, and to have my work stand among theirs.

3. Because it’s such an excellent year in my category, I can state that I have no freakin’ idea who is the front runner this year. It’s of course polite to say that, but it also happens to be true: I can think of very good reasons why any of the six finalists could get the award this year.

Which is fine with me, I should note. I’m not going to lie, I would be pleased for my novel to win. I am always pleased to win a Hugo. But every author in the category is someone I like or admire, and every novel in the category is award-worthy. I like when worthy works win, even when they are not mine. I will be happy whichever novel gets the rocket this year. It’s a fine year for the Best Novel Hugo.

4. And in fact all up and down the ballot this year, it’s like it is in the novel category: Excellent works and tough choices for the voters. Which, again, is as it should be. I like it when there’s no clear-cut front runner and everyone has to agonize over how they’re going to rank their choices. That’s what makes Hugo voting fun.

As a side bonus, so many of finalists this year are friends of mine and people whose work I admire. It means for me at least the Worldcon this year, and the Hugos, are going to be a blast. We’re gonna have such a good time, folks. You should totally come.

5. To get ahead of a question I know someone will ask, no, there’s not any “puppy” nonsense this year. It appears the changes in nominating finalists to reduce slating had their intended effect, and also, the various puppies appear to have lost interest slamming their heads into this particular wall. This makes sense as it provided no benefit to any of them, damaged the reputations and careers of several, and succeeded only in making their rank and file waste a lot of time and effort (and money). They’ve gone off to make their own awards and/or to bother other media, which is probably a better use of their time. There was an attempt by a cadre of second-wave wannabe types to replicate slating this year, but that unsurprisingly came to naught.

In its stead are excellent stories and people, all of which and whom got on to the ballot on the strength of their work. Which is as it should be.

6. If you would like to vote for the Hugo Awards this year, the way to do it is to get a membership in this year’s Worldcon, which takes place in San Jose this August. You can get an attending membership (which means you get to all the panels and events, including the Hugo ceremony), or a supporting membership, which allows you to vote for the Hugos. For the past several years, the Worldcons have had “reading packets” which have included many of the nominated works; it’s likely this will happen again this year, which makes a membership an additional value. Again, here’s the link to this year’s Worldcon site to find out more.

7. Also, yes, I will be attending Worldcon this year. We’ve been trying to finagle having me DJ an 80s dance there — if being a finalist for the Best Novel Hugo this year does anything for me, it probably makes me hosting a dance more likely. That’ll be a ton of fun, I promise. Hope to see you there.


2018 Hugo Award Finalists (Plus Campbell and YA Award Finalists)

Here’s the ballot. I’m happy to say The Collapsing Empire is among them. Congratulations to all the finalists. It’s a heck of a good year. I’ll have more thoughts on Empire’s nomination in an upcoming post (update: Here’s that post).

2018 Hugo Awards Finalists

Best Novel

  • The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
  • Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
  • Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
  • The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella

  • All Systems Red, by Martha Wells ( Publishing)
  • “And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017)
  • Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor ( Publishing)
  • The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang ( Publishing)
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire ( Publishing)
  • River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey ( Publishing)

Best Novelette

  • “Children of Thorns, Children of Water,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017)
  • “Extracurricular Activities,” by Yoon Ha Lee (, February 15, 2017)
  • “The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017)
  • “A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017)
  • “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
  • “Wind Will Rove,” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017)

Best Short Story

  • “Carnival Nine,” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017)
  • “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,” by Fran Wilde (Uncanny, September 2017)
  • “Fandom for Robots,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny, September/October 2017)
  • “The Martian Obelisk,” by Linda Nagata (, July 19, 2017)
  • “Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon, (Uncanny, May/June 2017)
  • “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017)

Best Related Work

  • Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, by Zoe Quinn (PublicAffairs)
  • Iain M. Banks (Modern Masters of Science Fiction), by Paul Kincaid (University of Illinois Press)
  • A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison, by Nat Segaloff (NESFA Press)
  • Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler, edited by Alexandra Pierce and Mimi Mondal (Twelfth Planet Press)
  • No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Liz Bourke (Aqueduct Press)

Best Graphic Story

  • Black Bolt, Volume 1: Hard Time, written by Saladin Ahmed, illustrated by Christian Ward, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Marvel)
  • Bitch Planet, Volume 2: President Bitch, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro and Taki Soma, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, lettered by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)
  • Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, written and illustrated by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 7, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

  • Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Alcon Entertainment / Bud Yorkin Productions / Torridon Films / Columbia Pictures)
  • Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
  • The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.)
  • Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios)
  • Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

  • Black Mirror: “USS Callister,” written by William Bridges and Charlie Brooker, directed by Toby Haynes (House of Tomorrow)
  • “The Deep” [song], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)
  • Doctor Who: “Twice Upon a Time,” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Rachel Talalay (BBC Cymru Wales)
  • The Good Place: “Michael’s Gambit,” written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • The Good Place: “The Trolley Problem,” written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan, directed by Dean Holland (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television)
  • Star Trek: Discovery: “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” written by Aron Eli Coleite & Jesse Alexander, directed by David M. Barrett (CBS Television Studios)

Best Editor – Short Form

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Lee Harris
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form

  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Joe Monti
  • Diana M. Pho
  • Devi Pillai
  • Miriam Weinberg
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Galen Dara
  • Kathleen Jennings
  • Bastien Lecouffe Deharme
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
  • Escape Pod, edited by Mur Lafferty, S.B. Divya, and Norm Sherman, with assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney
  • Fireside Magazine, edited by Brian White and Julia Rios; managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry; special feature editor Mikki Kendall; publisher & art director Pablo Defendini
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Kate Dollarhyde, Gautam Bhatia, A.J. Odasso, Lila Garrott, Heather McDougal, Ciro Faienza, Tahlia Day, Vanessa Rose Phin, and the Strange Horizons staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, and Julia Rios; podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

Best Fanzine

  • File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
  • Galactic Journey, edited by Gideon Marcus
  • Journey Planet, edited by Team Journey Planet
  • nerds of a feather, flock together, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
  • Rocket Stack Rank, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
  • SF Bluestocking, edited by Bridget McKinney

Best Fancast

  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
  • Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
  • Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts; produced by Andrew Finch
  • Sword and Laser, presented by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt
  • Verity!, presented by Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Best Fan Writer

  • Camestros Felapton
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Mike Glyer
  • Foz Meadows
  • Charles Payseur
  • Bogi Takács

Best Fan Artist

  • Geneva Benton
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Maya Hahto
  • Likhain (M. Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

Best Series

  • The Books of the Raksura, by Martha Wells (Night Shade)
  • The Divine Cities, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway)
  • InCryptid, by Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan (Tor US / Titan UK)
  • The Stormlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson (Tor US / Gollancz UK)
  • World of the Five Gods, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Harper Voyager / Spectrum Literary Agency)


2018 Associated Awards (not Hugos)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Katherine Arden
  • Sarah Kuhn
  • Jeannette Ng
  • Vina Jie-Min Prasad
  • Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Rivers Solomon

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) Award for Best Young Adult Book

  • Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking)
  • The Art of Starving, by Sam J. Miller (HarperTeen)
  • The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman (Knopf)
  • In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan (Big Mouth House)
  • A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK / Harry N. Abrams US)
  • Summer in Orcus, written by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), illustrated by Lauren Henderson (Sofawolf Press)

New Books and ARCs, 3/30/18

On this Good Friday, here are some good books and ARCs for you to admire. What here would you like on your own shelves? Share in the comments!


In Which Amber Benson and Wil Wheaton Talk About Narrating Head On + Audio Excerpt Mashup

Over on the Verge today, there’s a piece up about the audio version of Head On, which like its predecessor Lock In will have two narrators: Wil Wheaton and Amber Benson. Wil and Amber talk about narrating a book whose main character’s gender is unknown to them (because it’s also unknown to me, the author — I intentionally decided not to gender Chris Shane before I started writing the first book). The article also features an audio excerpt that mashes up Wil and Amber’s narration, which is, honestly, pretty damn cool. If I were you I would click through just to hear that, but what Wil and Amber have to say about the book and their interpretations of it is pretty interesting too.

Also: Hey! Wil and Amber are doing versions of Head On! How cool is that? You can pre-order their respective audio versions from Audible (here’s the link for Amber’s version; here’s the link for Wil’s). Also, remember you can get a signed and personalized version of the printed version from Subterranean Press; and if you just want a signed version (no personalization) Barnes & Noble’s got a few they’ll let you have.


Reminder: Signed/Personalized Copies of Head On Still Available Through Subterranean Press

But you need to hurry as I am traveling up there in a week to do the signing/personalizing. And also, frankly, there are a limited number and that number is shrinking, so if you want one (or two! or five!) then you should really place an order very soon.

Here’s the link to pre-order. Get to it! Or live in regret! Forever!

(Uhhhh, unless you’ll be at one of the cities on my tour, in which case I’ll sign your book there. But still.)


To The People Who Are Concerned That I’m Blogging a Bit Less Recently

I have a book due soon, that’s why. Expect it to continue to be spottier in terms of frequency until I’m done. Otherwise, don’t panic, everything else is fine, and in fact, pretty darn good. Thanks.


Sunset, 3/25/18

A reminder we do live in a beautiful world, although sometimes we need to look up to remember.


About That March

The San Francisco “March For Our Lives.” Photo by Gregory Varnum, used via Creative Commons license. Click on photo for original.

A few thoughts on the March For Our Lives, in no particular order:

1. I personally didn’t expect it to be as large as it turned out to be, with 800,000 protesters in Washington DC and hundreds of thousand more (at least) across the country. There were even several hundred marchers in Dayton, the largest city near me:

I had honestly thought the school walkout earlier this month was going to be the crescendo of the protests. Clearly, this shows what I know. If there were indeed 800k marchers in DC, it’s one of the largest one-day protests in history, and that’s not chicken feed.

2. And it’s also clearly terrifying the NRA and its selected quislings, who have been reduced in the last couple of days to mocking the teenagers at the center of the protests, because nothing makes grown adults look more in control than making fun of children half to a third their age, whom have lost friends and schoolmates due to gun violence. What makes them angrier is that the kids are having none of it; I suppose when you’ve seen your friends murdered, being mocked by an NRAtv apparatchik or a Twitter “personality” is not nearly as devastating as those latter folks would hope it is.

The NRA was clearly hoping to do what it’s always done, which is to ride out the immediate outrage until it was over, with the tried-and-true one-two punch of “thoughts and prayers” and “it’s too soon.” But again, the kids weren’t having it, and unfortunately for the NRA, a bunch of well-spoken, laser-focused teenagers with a legitimate grievance regarding gun violence plays better than a bunch of screaming, angry guntoters who want to sell the idea the way to solve the problem of people shooting up schools with assault rifles is to force teachers to arm themselves.

3. Does this mean that we’re finally at the bend in the curve where gun manufacturers and/or fetishists don’t in fact hold the legislative process in thrall? Nope! The NRA still has a huge amount on money and GOP primary voters are still reactionary and it’s still several months until November and even further to January. We will see whether people, particularly young people, decide that it’s easier to march than vote, and whether the young marchers and protesters end up being representative of the young vote (this is where I trot out the curious statistic that in the first presidential election after 18 year olds were given the vote, the kids, the hippie generation, voted for Nixon. 2018 is not 1972 in all sorts of ways, but the question is who actually gets out to the ballot box in November).

The march was a sign and perhaps a portent of November, but signs and portents can be wrong. In practical terms, what matters is the vote. The NRA is reduced to spitting on teenagers at the moment, but it’s patient and it has a long-term plan and it knows March (and marches) ain’t November. So, the moral here is: Kids, make sure you’re registered to vote and then vote.

4. With that said, another leavening perspective, which is that the teens aren’t going anywhere, and they’re not getting more conservative with age. Trump didn’t win the popular vote and the GOP can’t win in Congress without gerrymandering, and the last two years has energized entire swathes of the voting public never to vote for the GOP again, at least on the national level. I mean, it’s worked that way for me — I wasn’t a regular GOP voter ever, but I’ve voted for a few here and there. Now there’s literally no chance I’ll vote for another GOP candidate for state or national office because there’s nothing in the party’s current political ethos that isn’t nihilism and bigotry. And I’m a 48 year-old straight white dude with money, i.e., the GOP’s natural constituency. The kids and the women and the minorities and the queer (and many of the people who love any or all of the above) are even further into the “oh hell no” column than I am, when it comes to the GOP and what passes for conservatism these days.

It doesn’t mean that the 2018 vote is lost for the GOP (or the NRA, which has most of the GOP in its pocket, among other interest groups). As I noted above, there’s a difference between marching and voting. And as an example I don’t ever see where I live nudging into the Democratic column, either now or for the foreseeable future. But in the long run, these kids aren’t ever going to forget who only offered “thoughts and prayers” when they were getting murdered as teenagers, and who mocked them for protesting because their friends and schoolmates were murdered. These things tend to stick with you. And that’s only one legitimate grievance they have.

Mind you, this is why the GOP’s revanchists are making hay while the sun shines; they know it’s not going to last. Just one more Supreme Court justice! they cry. For my part, I’m looking forward to this iteration of the GOP and “conservatism” getting the punt. Yesterday’s march may or may not be a harbinger of the 2018 elections, but it is a reminder that time will not stand still, and that one may still hope for better days ahead. The kids who marched deserve that. As do the rest of us.


New Books and ARCs, 3/23/18

This week’s stack of new books and ARCs has some very choice titles in it, I have to say. What here is speaking to you? Tell us all in the comments!


Okay, But, Seriously, Spring, What the Actual Hell

Our backyard here on the second day of spring. To be clear, as late as 12 hours ago it was entirely snow free. Now look at this. It’s probably the most snow we’ve had fall in a single day the entire year to date. Get it together, spring! You’re better than this!

So, you piled under snow, too?



Hey, I Feel Like Giving Away This ARC of Head On, If You Want It Let Me Know

Yes, you could win this specific ARC of Head On! And I will sign and personalize it for you!

(Cat not included)

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment, and leave an actual email address where you receive mail in the part of the comment form where it says “Email” (the email will not be displayed unless you actually put it in the comment field; don’t do that unless you want everyone to see it). The comments will be left open for two days starting the moment this post is published; after the comments automatically close, I will see how many comments there are and then ask one of my voice activated computer assistants to pick a number between one and [whatever number of comments there are]. Whoever has that comment number wins!

Leave only one comment per person, please. Don’t be greedy.

Also, before you ask, yes, this is open to everyone on the planet. I’ll pay for shipping to wherever you are. But if you’re not in the US I can’t guarantee it will get there quickly. I don’t know how your country handles mail, folks. If you’re not on the planet, I’m not sending it to you. I wouldn’t know how. Sorry, astronauts and aliens.

Got it? Okay: Go!

Update 3/22/18: The random number has spoken and the winner is Chocotodd! Who has already been contacted. Thank you, everyone for playing!


No, In Fact, You Should Not Write For Free

The blog Lifehacker just posted a piece entitled “Why You Should Write For Free,” in which writer Nick Douglas (on staff, note) explains when he believes writing for free is appropriate — and when it is not. The headline alone is enough to fluff me up with righteous fury, as my own, consistent refusal to write for free is a matter of public record. But I’m also aware that headlines are meant to elicit a response (hopefully, to read the article) and are sometimes not entirely representative of the article.

So I read the article. It’s still wrong, but I can see where Douglas has gone wrong, and some of it boils down to a matter of definition of what constitutes “free” writing and what does not.

So what does constitute “writing for free”? Douglas’ definition is pretty simple, and wide: Writing for which one is not paid. This would include personal blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts and comments on all of the above (basically, all social media for most people), school papers, diary entries, emails and letters to friends and family, graffiti, resumes and job applications as well as material written for editorial entities, for which one’s work is not compensated — newspapers, weekly papers, non-personal/commercial blogs, magazines and so on.

My definition, probably because I am a professional writer, is rather more narrow and is focused on intent. My definition of “writing for free” is “writing work that is aimed at the stream of commerce but for which one is not compensated for its production.” More simply, work where someone is trying to make money off it, but none of that money gets to me. By that definition, no personal blog post, tweet, Facebook posting, email, etc constitutes “free” writing, since none of it was ever intended in itself to make money. But things I write for others are almost always in the stream of commerce — and somewhere along the way, someone is getting paid because of it, or at least trying to.

And that’s where Yog’s Law applies: Money flows toward the writer. If my work is being used to extract monetary value from someone, somewhere, then I need to be paid. I don’t work for free, especially when someone else is attempting to gain a financial benefit from it.

(“Yeah but Twitter and Facebook serve ads so technically they’re making money and you’re not” — correct but I am being offered use of the platform without having to pay for it because it’s supported by ads, and that would be the case even if I never posted, i.e., social media’s financial model is not contingent on my content, but rather on my use. Eyeballs, not words. That’s a different thing, believe it or not.)

Let me put it another way. I play guitar (poorly). When I play my guitar at home, am I playing “for free”? In the sense that no one’s paying me for it, sure. But I’m also not intending to make money from playing it, and that matters. I’m a literal amateur. I’m doing it because I enjoy playing, and the benefit of it to me is not financially-oriented. On the other hand, if (highly improbably) someone heard me playing and said “Wow, that’s awesome, can I record you and release your music to the world?” then my immediate response would be “I think you’re probably high” followed by “Also, how much are you paying me?” Because what’s being said here is “your product has a value I would like to exploit” and my response in those cases, for all media, is “then I need to participate in that value exploitation.”

Douglas’ definition of “free” is more expansive than mine, and for people who are not primarily or professionally writers (or who want to be) it’s probably fine. For people who do want to be professionally or primarily writers, it’s muddy, and can be used as a way for people who won’t want to pay you for your work, for whatever reason, to smudge lines which should not be smudged. Intent matters.

So, let’s apply my definition of “free” to Douglas’ advice. Should you write on a blog or on social media for your own personal interest and benefit? Sure! It’s fun, it passes the time, and occasionally you might able to leverage that writing into economic benefit. I certainly have done that — I’ve published four books (so far!) of essay writing that originated here on this blog, and two novels which I originally published here have been published conventionally and are still in print. Go me. Work here has also served as a calling card for paid work elsewhere; I’ve gotten a number of gigs because people have read something here and said, essentially, “Hey, can you do that, but for me, and for money?” To which I answered, “Oh, probably.”

Should you write for others without being paid? Oh, I don’t think so. I don’t care how tiny or noble the site/magazine/whatever is, if they want to use what you write to help them make money, then go ahead and make it your policy to get paid. If they don’t have the money to pay your asking price, then, oh, well. “Exposure” means shit (and “exposure” in the sort of venue that can’t/won’t pay means even less than shit). What matters in these cases is that you make money from the people who want to make money from you. So, you know. Don’t write for “free.” Get paid.

Let’s also recognize a third category here, which is writing you do for yourself, that you intend to exploit financially by yourself — basically, by operating a small business specializing in the distribution of your writing (and/or other creative product). This is a thing that is much easier to do now than in times past, and certainly writers do it through things like Patreon, Kickstarter, self-publishing, placing advertising on their own blogs and so on. Here in 2018, you don’t need someone else to pay you to get paid, although if you do want to get paid by running your own little writing business, you have to do what any small business does and work your ass off on it. Which is why I personally like publishing through other entities — it’s ever so slightly less work.

(And obviously, you don’t have to pick just one of these avenues. You can do them all! Wheeee!)

So, Nick Douglas is right that you should write some things that without intending to be paid for them, for the fun of it and to try different sorts of writing and to grow your skills. He’s incorrect that much of that writing — the stuff you do by yourself, for yourself — should be considered as being done for “free.” And when he suggests that you write for others for “free,” I think he’s incorrect there as well. If your work has value to anyone, then it should have value for you, and you should be at the front of the line to receive that value, because you’re doing the work.

That’s how you become a professional writer: By expecting to be treated as a professional.


I Just Realized I Totally Spaced On Posting Today, So Here’s a Cat Picture

I figure this will make up for my absence. I especially like Zeus’s expression.

How was your day?


A Durham Bull Stares Into Your Soul

I’ve been in Durham, NC the last couple of days, visiting friends and seeing sights, including this here sculpture of a bull, which frankly seems to be judging me. How dare you, sir! It’s been fun but now I’m on my way home again to see Krissy and Athena and the cats. Life is good.



Reminder: Get Your Hugo Nominations In!

Hello, this serves as your reminder that the 2018 Hugo nomination window comes to a close tomorrow, March 16 at 11:59pm Pacific Time, so if you are eligible to nominate for the Hugo Awards (ie., you were a member of last year’s, this year’s, or next year’s, Worldcon, as of 12/31/17), don’t forget to go nominate the things you liked in each category. Here’s the link to Worldcon 76’s Hugo page, which includes a link to the nomination page for this year’s Hugos and for the 1943 Retro Hugos.

Remember that a) you shouldn’t worry if you didn’t read “widely enough,” since nominating what you did read and did like is good enough, b) that you don’t need to feel obliged to fill up all five nomination slots in every category. Just nominate what you think is deserving, and if that number is less than five, so be it.

That said, if you do need a quick refresher on some of what’s been critically acclaimed this year, the Locus Recommended Reading List is a good start.

Self-interested note: The Collapsing Empire is eligible for best novel, and Don’t Live For Your Obituary is eligible for Best Related Work. If you liked them, please feel free to nominate them, with my thanks. But if there were works you prefer better in these categories, please nominate those works instead!


Read the Prologue of Head On!

That’s right! The prologue to my upcoming novel is up at You can read it now! Here’s the link!

Oh, and, hello. I’ve had a busy day away from the Internets. Hope you’re well.



Announcing the Signed, Limited Edition of The Human Division From Subterranean Press

My friends at Subterranean Press have already put out really excellent signed, limited hardcover editions of the first four books of the Old Man’s War series, and now they’re getting ready to release the fifth, The Human Division, in June. In addition to being signed, the limited editions include not only Vincent Chong’s awesome cover art, but a portfolio of images from John Harris — the cover illustrations he created for the digital releases of the 13 stories that make up The Human Division. This is the first time these illustrations have been in print, which truly makes this a collector’s edition worth having.

And if you are interested in getting it, you can pre-order it now from the Subterranean Press site. In fact, since the run is limited to 500 numbered copies and 26 lettered copies, I strongly suggest pre-ordering now if you want one. They will go fast, and when they’re gone, there won’t be any more.

(Mind you, The Human Division will still be available in paperback and eBook and in audio. But this limited edition is, well, limited.)


Thoughts on A Wrinkle in Time

“So, why were you crying through the entire film?”
— my daughter Athena, who was mildly concerned.

There are several answers to this, most of which boil down to the fact that I am a father who remembers being the ten-year-old boy who fell in love with Madeleine L’Engle’s book, and the movie engaged both of these states. I cried because the casting and performance of Meg (played by Storm Reid) is immensely good — such a stubborn, willful, doubt-filled girl — and because I could see both myself as a child and my daughter in her. I cried because I remember being a fatherless child and being a father who would never want to leave his daughter. I cried because the film has empathy not only for bright but difficult children but for all children, and because it wants so much for Meg to see herself, just as I would want to be seen and would want my own child to see her value. I cried because I remembered being lost like Meg was lost, and remembered everyone who helped me find myself, as everyone in this film does so for Meg, and as I hope I have helped my own daughter become who she is meant to be.

I cried because this film has an enormous amount of empathy, as the book did, and that essential core remains intact, even as the film takes liberties with the source material. It would have to, 56 years after the book’s initial publication, to speak to the audience it’s intended to speak to, which is not me, a 48-year-old white dude, although it clearly and so obviously did. I cried because this film gets the book right, because it sees the book, just as the book saw me when I came to it almost four decades ago, and has seen so many other children since. Director Ava DuVernay’s love of the material, and her willingness to put the work into it to make it speak today, is self-evident and appreciated.

It is not a perfect film, in itself or in its adaptation of the source material. Lots is truncated, changed and elided, some new stuff is put in to middling effect. The commercial needs of a $100 million film mean that some tropey elements get past the gate, and on more than one occasion the special effects become the tail wagging the dog. In the end I didn’t see much of this as a problem. The film is not perfect, and also, this is a film about faults, and how our own faults ultimately may give us power to save ourselves and others. While I’m not going to say this film’s faults ultimately give it power, I can say that none of the film’s faults are that important to me when the film’s core is solid, and intact, and so powerfully on point. It’s not perfect, nor does it have to be to work.

(And, you may ask, what do I think about the film’s multicultural and feminine viewpoint and aesthetic? I think it works very well, and it’s a reminder that things that are not designed specifically for one in mind may still speak significantly and specifically to one, if one is open to it. I would not have imagined A Wrinkle in Time the way DuVernay has — I seriously doubt I could have imagined it this way — and yet there I was crying my eyes out all the same. I do not need the world to be imagined as I would have imagined it. I want the world and the things in it to exceed my imagination, to show me things I cannot make for myself but can take into myself, hold precious, and make my imagination that much wider from that point forward. As I noted before, this movie was not, I think, made for me, and still here I am, loving it as much as I do.)

Should you see this film? Well, I think you should. I also think you should see it on a big screen, because it’s visually impressive enough to warrant it and because films still have their most potent power on a big screen, in front of an audience. Maybe it won’t have the same effect on you that it had on me — in fact, it probably won’t, because you are not me. But I’m willing to believe it will have some effect. Whatever that effect is, it’ll be worth getting yourself to a theater for, and maybe taking a kid or two along with you, too.

As for me, I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve been this affected by a film in years. Part of that is because I loved the book as a child, but I’ve loved other books before, and their adaptations, and yet didn’t spend their entire running time in tears. I think, in the end, it’s what Ava DuVernay, her team and her actors (especially Storm Reid) brought to it: Empathy, joy, optimism and their own point of view that brings A Wrinkle in Time into modern times. No one needs me to tell them that DuVernay is a major director; that much was evident with Selma and 13th. What I can say is that DuVernay, rare among directors, is now someone whose vision I trust — not to give me what I think I want, but to give me what I didn’t know I needed, until she showed it to me.

I knew I was probably going to like A Wrinkle in Time. I didn’t know I was going to love it this much. I certainly didn’t know I was going to find myself crying all the way through it. That’s on DuVernay and her team. And for that, I say: Ava DuVernay, thank you. I don’t think it’s possible for your film to have moved me more than it has.


New Books and ARCs, 3/9/18

Look! New books and ARCs! I’d write more but a cat is lying on me and I only have use of one hand! What in this stack looks good to you? Tell us in the comments!

Big Idea

The Big Idea: Nancy Kress

Everyone wants to do the right thing — but sometimes knowing what is “right” is not so simple, especially when there there are rules and regulations to consider. Or so Nancy Kress discovered, as she did her research for her new novel, If Tomorrow Comes.


Much fiction, in both SF and mainstream, is built around a character whose deeply-held values clash with each other. Paul Atreides in Frank Herbert’s classic, Dune, wants both to avoid immediate violence and to keep humanity from extinguishing itself millennia later; he cannot do both. Binti, in Nnedi Okonafor’s eponymous novel, both wants to remain a member of her native, stay-at-home culture and leave it for the wider world of an interstellar university. The protagonist of  Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” must choose between conceiving a child that she knows will die young and avoiding the pain which that inevitable death will bring. For such emotional choices, there are no formal guidelines, no given laws.

For military choices, however, there are. The rules for disobeying a direct order from a commanding officer are set out in both the Military Code of Justice and the Manual for Courts Martial: It is a crime to willfully disobey a superior officer. It is a crime to attack a superior officer. Making a mutiny is a crime punishable by death, even in peacetime.

A viewpoint character in my novel If Tomorrow Comes faces this clash of values: a deeply held loyalty to the U.S. Army versus obedience to the orders of a superior officer that he cannot, in good conscience, follow, even though those orders are lawful. Corporal Leo Brodie, a sniper assigned in unusual circumstances to a small U.S. Ranger unit on the planet World, has to make some tough decisions. Lives, both Terran and alien, are at stake. Leo doesn’t want to go rogue. He doesn’t want leadership. He certainly doesn’t want to lead any sort of mutiny. And his commanding officer once saved Leo’s life.

Leo Brodie is not the only viewpoint character in If Tomorrow Comes, the sequel to last year’s Tomorrow’s Kin, and his is not the only problem faced by the small band of Terrans who have traveled from Earth to World. Geneticist Marianne Jenner faces an entire continent menaced by a deadly epidemic. Physician Salah Bourgiba struggles with his role in this mission, so much of which went wrong from the beginning. But, I admit, Leo Brodie became my favorite character, and the clash of values that he faces ended up driving the book.

Military disobedience certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, and it hasn’t always had the clear outcomes that the Code of Justice seems to imply. Just a few examples: in WWI Lt. Frank Luke, Jr, an ace airman with the U.S. Army Air Corps, was grounded by his commanding officer and told he would be considered AWOL if he disobeyed. Luke flew anyway, shot down both enemy aircraft and observation balloons, and was eventually forced down and killed by the enemy. Posthumously he was awarded the Medal of Honor. In the Korean War, Lt. David Teich was ordered to leave behind a Ranger company under heavy fire. Instead, Teich led four tanks to the Rangers’ position and rescued sixty-five stranded Rangers—so many that they covered the tanks’ turrets. In Afghanistan, Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer disobeyed orders to rescue stranded Afghan soldiers and retrieve the bodies of four American troops.  He, too, received the Medal of Honor.

There are no medals to be awarded on the pacifist planet World, and no one to award them. In addition, each case cited above concerned defying orders to not do something. Leo Brodie not only did that but also formulated a separate, secret military line of action. His clash of values leads him, again and again, farther than he ever anticipated from the military oath he swore on Terra.

As I wrote If Tomorrow Comes, I felt the fear of all writers venturing into unfamiliar territory: Am I going to make a fool of myself? I have never served in the military. No one in my family has served since WWII with the sole exception of my niece, who is a Navy JAG and would probably court-martial Leo Brodie. So I did much research. I read memoirs by Rangers who served in Iraq. I did on-line research for updates. I read the Ranger Handbook: Ranger Training Brigade, United States Army Infantry School (and I can now construct a field antenna, should the need ever arise). I read parts of the Manual for Courts Martial. And then, just to make sure I did not make a fool of myself, I hired an ex-Ranger to read and correct the manuscript. He was incredibly helpful.

Fiction can also, of course, be built around clashing values that exist not within a character’s mind but between different groups. This is why wars are fought. Why alliances honored—or disregarded. Why crimes are committed and investigated (“I value your property, life, body—and so do you”). If Tomorrow Comes includes inter-group clashes, too. Some want to help World, some to destroy it. Some want to preserve a traditional culture, some to change it. Some want to distribute vaccine fairly, some to hoard it. But it is Leo’s struggle that drives the book, and his choices that made me want to write it.

David Teich, who retired as an Army Major, once said, “I’ve got a moral obligation as an officer to do things that are right.” However, it is not always easy to know what those things are. Such decisions may become relevant in our own near future, as a military faces growing international threats in an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable world.


If Tomorrow Comes: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powells

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

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