2008’s Candidates for the James Frey Memorial Award for Best Fake Memoir

Jeez. Is there anyone these days whose memoir is actually based in reality?

You know, the rules of a memoir are pretty simple. If an event actually happened to you, you can use it in a memoir. If it didn’t actually happen to you, you can’t. Because then it’s fiction, you see. Which is different from a memoir. No, really; you can look it up. I’m not sure why this has suddenly become so difficult for everyone to process.

On the other hand, I’m looking forward to selling my memoir of my life as a teenage transvestite in the Bogota slums, who later joined the Navy SEALs and adopted the twin daughters of the ruthless Afghan opium warlord whom I battled to the death using only a spoon and 14 bars of the 1812 Overture, and then, having beaten back a terrible addiction to khat, went on to become one of the most famous celebrity chefs on The Cooking Channel. Because apparently this would be at least as true as most of the other memoirs on the market today. And, I’d wager, a great deal more entertaining. I’m waiting for my check, I am.

The Man in the Frey Flannel Suit

Folks from all over are sending along e-mails asking me what I think of this story in New York magazine about author James Frey’s book packaging shop, in which Frey trolls classrooms full of impressionable MFA candidates and/or aspiring authors to get them to give him their ideas, in return offering them a contract that is a high water mark in being a complete asshole:

In exchange for delivering a finished book within a set number of months, the writer would receive $250 (some contracts allowed for another $250 upon completion), along with a percentage of all revenue generated by the project, including television, film, and merchandise rights—30 percent if the idea was originally Frey’s, 40 percent if it was originally the writer’s. The writer would be financially responsible for any legal action brought against the book but would not own its copyright. Full Fathom Five could use the writer’s name or a pseudonym without his or her permission, even if the writer was no longer involved with the series, and the company could substitute the writer’s full name for a pseudonym at any point in the future. The writer was forbidden from signing contracts that would “conflict” with the project; what that might be wasn’t specified. The writer would not have approval over his or her publicity, pictures, or biographical materials. There was a $50,000 penalty if the writer publicly admitted to working with Full Fathom Five without permission.

You can see the actual contract in question here.

Just to be clear, if James Frey (or anyone else) tried to offer me this contract to write a book, here’s what I would do: Have my agent schedule a meeting with him for the clear and specific purpose of kicking him hard and square in the balls.

But then again, James Frey would never offer me this sort of contract. I’m too old and ossified (read: agented and with knowledge of the publishing industry) for him. He doesn’t want to deal with writers who know the appropriate response to this contract is to knee him in the groin. For Frey’s scheme to work, he needs writers who don’t know better, and apparently our nation’s MFA programs don’t actually have classes on contracts or how the publishing industry works, so they make fertile ground for a huckster intent on dazzling the kids.You can’t say Frey doesn’t know his target audience.

Seriously, people. $500 and unauditable net points for a novel? That contract probably also specifies that the writer has to spring for the lube.

The lamentable rejoinder to this is that some people will think that it’s worth it for the exposure to the film industry or publishing industry or whatever. Folks: being an anonymous, uncredited cog in a book packaging scheme doesn’t actually get you exposure to anything, except to the fact that you’re working for peanuts for The Man, and The Man is a rich bearded hipster who walks around in socks, and doesn’t care about you, just what you can do for him. Congratulations: you’re the man in the Frey Flannel Suit. Not that you could afford a suit on what you’re being paid.

Writers: This contract would be appalling and egregious regardless of who was offering it. A story idea good enough for James Frey to sell to Hollywood would be good enough to sell to Hollywood without James Frey. Write your story, get an agent, and sell your work with your own name on it and all your rights to the work intact. It may take more time, but it will be worth it. Have more respect for yourself and your work than quite obviously James Frey will have.

Update, 11/15: An open letter to MFA writing programs (and their students).

The Big Idea: James A. Owen

Writing is often considered a solitary pursuit — and yet there are examples of writers and other creative sorts banding together, bound by a common place, philosophy or type of output. For those groups, very often the commonality and camaraderie can inspire greater work than isolation. It’s this idea that James A. Owen is thinking about in today’s Big Idea, and how his own experience of camaraderie, first experienced in his early days as an illustrator, expresses itself in his “Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica” series, of which the newly-released The Dragon’s Apprentice is the latest installment.

JAMES A. OWEN:

I have always been fascinated by the idea of artists and writers – creatives – in community. Part of that is due to my upbringing: my mother, a teacher, also painted – but her oldest brother was a full-time artist; the second eldest brother was a printer; and her younger sister was a graphic designer. More, the family history was laden with ancestors who were artists, which also instilled in me an appreciation for a creative heritage. So my senses were already acutely attuned to other examples of creatives in community – and there were plenty to be found.

Artistically, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood stood above the pack, if only because they also defined themselves as a “community”. There was also the Wyeth Dynasty, which actually began with Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, then continued through N.C.’s son Andrew and grandson Jamie. And more recently, there was the Studio quartet of Jeffrey Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith, Berni Wrightson, and Michael Kaluta, who not only inspired me as an illustrator, but also in how they chose to establish a creative space where separately, they could do their work, and collectively, they could midwife a legacy whose myth was larger than the reality.

In literature, there were just as many examples of friendships, associations, and, often, rivalries: Twain and Stevenson; The Shelleys and their circle of poets; Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe; and, most famously, the world famous Inklings. That J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were not only friends but had actively shared their creative processes as they developed The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles Of Narnia was utterly fascinating to me. And that others among their academic and social circle were permitted to share in these discussions was thrilling – because it meant that creating these great works was not something done through unknowable, arcane processes by untouchable demigods, but rather was something done through an entirely human process of trial and error and effort, by fallible men and women who had touched a spark of divinity and fanned it to a flame with the accelerating invocation, “let me tell you a story”.

When I became a professional in the comics field – which happened when I was a lot younger than most people realize – I went into it with the mindset that the best creative work would spring from an environment where I associated with like-minded creators. And so I naturally gravitated towards friendships and professional associations with people who had been in other communities of creatives; artists and writers who had shared studios. Paul Chadwick and Bil Stout became friends of mine, as did the Studio Quartet themselves.

The Self-Publishing crowd of the mid 90’s – Jeff Smith, Dave Sim, Colleen Doran, Rick Veitch, Steve Bissette, Terry Moore, and Paul Pope, among others – helped me define both my public persona and my professional identity. And even now, I can attend a convention in Belgium or Italy or Finland and instantly be united as a community with other guests, because even as Strangers in a Strange Land, we have common reference points of language, and history, and heritage. And bonds created by those shared points of reference can last for a lifetime.

So it was all of that which was the mental landscape in the background of my mind when I took a throwaway line from one of my Mythworld novels and decided to create a series about it. It was in the middle of a description of a fantastic library, and referenced a book of maps of imaginary lands, which had once been owned by H.G. Wells. And it was too good an idea to resist.

I built upon that one idea, and structured around it my love of creatives in community. If Wells had indeed owned such a book, what would he do with it? And more importantly, who would have given it to him? The answer to the second question was easy and fun – another creative, a Caretaker of the atlas (now called the Imaginarium Geographica) would have entrusted it to him, after having found him a worthy guardian of the heritage it represented. And the answer to the second question is how I began the first book in the series of The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, called HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS.

The subsequent books, THE SEARCH FOR THE RED DRAGON, THE INDIGO KING, and THE SHADOW DRAGONS not only took readers into the lands depicted on the maps in the Geographica, but also deepened the concept of what it meant to be a Caretaker, and established the idea that the heritage of the Caretakers was as long as human history. Men and women from the arts and sciences throughout the ages were called upon, enlisted, or sometimes, simply forced to become Caretakers of the greatest open secret in the world. And more, the “real” adventures they had as Caretakers could become the basis for their publicly-known works here in the mundane world. This concept alone allowed me to co-opt all of history, science, art, and literature as source material for my stories. And anyone who has ever seen the afterparty at a comics or SF convention would recognize the gathering of the Caretakers Emeriti in Book Four.

The newest book, fifth in the series, called THE DRAGON’S APPRENTICE, deals with the inevitable transition: eventually, all new Cartakers become old Caretakers. All creatives become, at some point, part of the mythology that inspires the new generation. But still, the heritage is the same. The community endures. And maybe that’s the Big Idea – everyone has a story. Which means that if they choose, anyone can be a part of the community of creatives; anyone could be a Caretaker. All they have to do is invoke that magic phrase that Verne, and Wells, and Tolkien, and Lewis all spoke before them: “Let me tell you a story”.

The rest, as they say, is history. Or at least, it will be.

—-

The Dragon’s Apprentice: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the publisher’s book page, which features book and audio excerpts.

MFA Programs and Commercial Publishing

Elise Blackwell, author and director of the MFA program at the University of South Carolina, offers in The Chronicle of Higher Education a rebuttal to my suggestion that MFA writing programs offer a course on contracts and the publishing industry. Her position is that the goal of MFA programs is “not to grow hothouse flowers but to protect writers for two or three short years so that they [can] write a book without distraction,” and notes that one real issue is MFA programs which charge large sums for tuition, thus adding additional pressure on their students to find a way to defray their debt load as soon as possible — and thus making them more susceptible to hucksters like James Frey. Her problem with the Columbia MFA program is not so much that it doesn’t offer a business/contracts course, but that it costs close to $50k a year to attend (the MFA program Blackwell attended, at UC Irvine, apparently funded its students).

I encourage you to read the article, which I think is an interesting and useful perspective from the other side of the MFA fence. That said, I (naturally) have some quibbles with the article, and here they are.

* Blackwell and I are certainly in agreement that $50k a year for an MFA is a ridiculous sum on its face, and I agree that staring at that debt load is bound to make a writer quiver. But as I’ve noted elsewhere, part of the reason one pays for a degree from an elite institution is not just for the degree but for everything else such a degree confers, including connections, a robust alumni/elite school network, and an (at least initial) economic leg up on other folks with an equal or comparable degree from schools perceived as less elite. I remember the editor who hired me for my first job telling me that my degree from the University of Chicago was “impressive”; I’m pretty sure that the same degree from Fresno State would not have elicited the same response. And I of course was happy to let that editor be impressed. I wanted the gig. But beyond that, that was one of the things a U of C degree was supposed to do for me, and did. That made it, both short and long term, worth the cost.

Let us stipulate that a writer who is accepted into Columbia’s graduate writing program very likely had her choice of other programs to attend, including ones substantially less expensive. One reason to choose Columbia despite the cost is for these ancillary benefits. This is not to defend the actual price tag of $50k, which I think is a silly amount. It is to suggest there is a rational reason to make that expensive choice.

It’s also worth noting that those students who make that choice for that reason are already looking beyond the classroom to their overall careers. So while the MFA program can offer a safe harbor to focus on writing and study, that’s not the only (and perhaps not even the primary) reason students are in the program. In which case, a little practical knowledge would not be a bad thing.

* Likewise, I suspect that Blackwell rather overadvantages the idea of the MFA writing program as a cloister for the life of the mind, with students inwardly turned to the program rather than outward facing into the world. She and I certainly do not disagree that there are advantages to the former, nor do I think it’s wrong for an MFA writing program to say to its students “your head should be here, now” and to tell editors and agents hovering by the door to piss off. That said, I think a program should be realistic about the latter at the same time, because, surprise, whether in theory an MFA writing program is about literature and the life of the mind, in practice people want to be publishing sooner than later — maybe not for good reasons and maybe before they should, but, well. That’s ambition for you, and that ambition will be there regardless of the cost of the program.

That being the case, the argument for a business/contracts class is as much about protecting the “hothouse flowers” who are anxious to jump the fence into commercial writing as it is preparing the people who have stuck with the program to make their first sales. A practical understanding of the traps and disadvantageous things writers both do and let slip past them in contracts can be a useful cautionary tale that feeds into the overall goal of the MFA program of keeping its student’s head in the program, not craning out to a hustler with a genuinely crappy contracts.

* Speaking of which, I think Blackwell is rather too dismissive that the awfulness of Frey’s Full Fathom Five contract. She writes:

Some suggest that Frey’s “victims” were made vulnerable by MFA programs that didn’t educate them about publishing, but it requires little training to identify Frey’s contracts as absurd. (Does anyone really think $250 is fair market value for a commercially viable novel or that letting someone else use your name as they please is smart?) The writers who signed those contracts weren’t acting out of ignorance but from some combination of desperation, hope, and a sense of exceptionalism that writers need to get out of bed. (“I know James Joyce died in poverty, Kafka worked a desk job, and Dan Brown can’t coax a sentence out of a bag, but I can be brilliant and rich.”) Some of them were just taking a flyer.

The issue with that awful, awful contract isn’t what’s obvious, but what’s not. Sure, anyone with a brain could see that $250 for a novel is terrible, but what those damnably ignorant MFA students were looking at wasn’t the $250; they were looking at the alleged 40% of backend, which includes (cue Klieg lights and orchestra) sweet, rich, movie option money!!!!!!!! And what they don’t know, or undervalue because reading contracts is difficult when you’ve not done it before and no one’s explained them to you, is that it’s not really 40% of everything, it’s 40% of whatever Frey decides to give you after he’s trimmed off his share, and, oh yeah, you have to take his word for it because you’re not allowed an audit. So yes, the $250 (or $500) for a book is awful and obvious. But it’s everything else about that contract which is truly rapacious, as it appears to promise so much more, and it all seems perfectly reasonable when you don’t have the experience to know what a horror it is.

Beyond this, of course: Has anyone told the MFA students holding those contracts the odds of a book making it through the production gauntlet, even when they’re from best selling authors? Has anyone told them how much the average film option is for (hint: Not a lot) or that it’s not paid all at once but often in installments that dribble out over years? Or that the real payday is not up front, but on the back end — if the property ever goes into production, which it probably won’t — and in the meantime they will still have to eat? Does anyone expect James Frey to be honest to them about all of this? No, what they can expect from James Frey is what he no doubt says: “I’m offering you not a lot now but there’s a huge potential later.” Which is perfectly accurate as far as it goes. It just doesn’t go very far.

So, yes: Blackwell is wrong, here. It doesn’t take training to see the parts that are obviously bad, but the obviously bad parts are easily rationalized away. It does take training and experience to see the parts that are genuinely egregious, and to know why they are so. If an MFA program is going to let a snake into the garden, as Columbia did when it dropped James Frey into that classroom, then it should damn well should have some antivenom on hand.

* Finally, I found this bit egregiously classist:

M.F.A. programs are about the creation and study of literature, and it’s worth reminding people that you don’t need any degree to be a writer. A young writer whose central goal is commercial success should skip graduate school. (You don’t apprentice at an opera company and expect to be introduced to Nashville music producers, which I say with no disrespect to either milieu.)

Opera companies aren’t interested in commercial success? Nashville music producers can’t or don’t create art? I have news for Ms. Blackwell on both counts. Overt and woefully uninformed personal musical snobbery aside, it appears she’s confusing how each of these musical genres currently generally acquires funding with whether they are concerned with commercial success. This is not a good comparison.

On the same token, I can very easily picture a writer who has commercial motivations going to graduate school for writing because he has adjudged his own personal success as a writer depending on honing his own skills in a setting of collaboration and instruction. To suggest such a writer deprive himself of these advantages simply because he also dreams of best seller lists seems a bit dismissive. I certainly agree one does not need a degree to be a writer (hello!), but if Blackwell’s classmate Mr. Chabon is any indication (or indeed Ms. Blackwell herself), neither must an MFA doom one to a life of academic publishing and/or obscurity.

A love of literature and the study thereof, and a desire for commercial success for one’s own writing and art, are not either/or propositions. Even for MFA writing students.

An Open Letter to MFA Writing Programs (and Their Students)

Dear MFA writing programs (and their students):

Recently New York magazine published a story, in which Columbia University’s graduate writing program invited James Frey to come chat with its students on the subject of “Can Truth Be Told?” during which Frey mentioned a book packaging scheme that he had cooked up. The contractual terms of that book packaging scheme are now famously known to be egregious — it’s the sort of contract, in fact, that you would sign only if you were as ignorant as a chicken, and with about as much common sense — and yet it seems that Frey did not have any problem getting people to sign on, most, it appears, students of MFA programs. Frey is clearly selecting for his scheme writers who should know better, but don’t — and there’s apparently a high correlation between being ignorant that his contract is horrible and being an MFA writing student.

I don’t blame Columbia University’s graduate writing program for inviting James Frey over to talk to its students about “truth.” If there’s anyone who knows about the word truth contained between ironic quotation marks, it’d be James Frey, and it’s probably not a bad idea for the kids to see a prevaricating hustler up close to observe how one of his kind can rationalize bad actions and even poorer ethics as transgressive attempts at literature. It’s always a joy to see how a master of bullshit spins himself up; publishing and literature being what they are, the students should probably learn to recognize this species sooner than later, all the better to move their wallets to their front pockets when such a creature stands before them.

What does bother me, however, is that Frey apparently quite intentionally was working his way through MFA programs recruiting writers for his book packaging scheme. You could say there’s an obvious reason for this, which is that MFA writing students are likely more competent at writing than your average schmoe writer on the street (this is a highly arguable contention, but never mind that now), and they’re all in one place, which makes for easier recruiting. But I suspect there’s another reason as well, which is that in general it appears MFA writing programs don’t go out of their way educate their students on the publishing industry, or contracts, or much about the actual business of writing.

And so when someone like James Frey breezes in and starts blowing smoke about collaborations, the response is this —

We were desperate to be published, any way we could. We were spending $45,000 on tuition, some of us without financial aid, and many taking out loans that were lining us up to graduate six figures in debt. A deal like the one Frey was offering could potentially pay off our loans and provide an income for the next decade. Do a little commercial work under a pseudonym, sell the movie rights, and never have to suffer as a writer in New York. We wouldn’t even need day jobs.

— followed by a number of students receiving and then signing a contract that pays them next to nothing, and offers a deal so constrictive that by the terms of the contract Frey could publish works under their names and keep them from publishing again (via a gloriously vague “non-compete” clause). Frey was no doubt counting on the students being starry-eyed at the presence of a real-live bestselling author (even a disgraced one) who was waving a movie deal in their faces, but one reason he could count on it was because he was speaking to an audience whose formal educations did not include learning how to spot a crappy deal.

So, MFA writing programs, allow me to make a suggestion. Sometime before you hand over that sheepskin with the words “Master of Fine Arts” on it, for which your students may have just paid tens of thousands of dollars (or more), offer them a class on the business of the publishing industry, including an intensive look at contracts. Why? Because, Holy God, they will need it.

Now, perhaps you are saying, “We focus on the art of writing, not the business.” My answer to that is, please, pull your head out. Your students are not paying as much money as they do for your program strictly for the theoretical joys of writing. They are paying so they can publish, and it’s a pretty good bet, considering how many of those Columbia folks scrambled to pitch to Frey, that they actually want to be published commercially, not just in university presses, in which (sorry) low advances and small print runs don’t matter since it’s just another line on the CV. Yes, you are teaching an art, but whether you like it or not you’re also teaching a trade — or at the very least many of your students are coming to learn a trade, and put up with the art portion of it as part of the deal. Teaching them something about the trade will not hurt your program.

And then you might say, “there’s no point in teaching them about the business because if they go the commercial publishing route they’ll have agents.” To which I would say, wow, really? “Other people will handle the dirty money part” is a response that a) shows a certain amount of snobbery, b) sets up a writer to be dependent on others because she is ignorant of the particulars of her own business. You know how every year you hear about an actor or musician who has been screwed by his accountant or business manager? That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention — or more relevantly don’t have the knowledge to pay attention.

To be clear, I don’t want to paint literary agents, et al as suspicious and shady characters; I have two literary agents (one for fiction and one for non-fiction) and they are super-smart and do a great job for me, and I’m glad they do their job and leave me to do mine, which is writing. But you know what? Part of the reason I know they’re doing a good job is because I know my own business, which makes it easier for me to know what they are doing. It also means they know that they can discuss business with me on a realistic and sensible level. Beyond that, not everyone has an agent, or (alas) a good one if they have one.

Finally, you may say “We don’t have anyone on our faculty who can/wants to teach that course.” Well, presuming that your university doesn’t have a business or law school on campus, from whom you might borrow an appropriate professor every now and again, I can’t help but notice that adjunct professors are very popular in academia these days, and I’m guessing that maybe you could find someone. Try a working agent, maybe. Point is, if you wanted to offer this class, you could.

There is no reason not to offer a class on this stuff. And maybe students will choose not to take that class. But if that’s the case, at least then it’s all on them. Your students are all presumably adults and are responsible for their own actions, to be sure. But if you’re not giving them the tools to know when a huckster is hucking in their direction, if they get hulled, some of that’s on you.

Speaking of which, let me know turn my attention away from the MFA writing programs and to the writing grad students themselves:

Dudes. Learn about the industry, already, before you sign a contract. Otherwise you’re going to get shaved by the first jackass who waves a publishing deal in your face. Yes, I know, you’re smart and clever and you write really well. You know what, your belief in your intelligence and your cleverness and your writing ability as a proxy for knowing everything you need to know about the world is exactly what’s going to get you screwed. Because being smart and clever and writing well has nothing to do with the backend business of the publishing industry or reading a contract knowledgeably and dispassionately. Think about those MFA students who are now slaving away for Frey on the worst contract just about anyone in publishing has ever seen. I’m pretty sure they all think they are smart and clever and write well, too.

If your MFA program doesn’t have a class on contracts and the publishing industry, ask for one. Because, Jesus, you’re spending enough for your education. You might want to get some practical knowledge out of it as well. If it can’t or won’t offer that class to you, a) complain and b) seek out that information. The writers’ organization to which I belong, SFWA, sponsors Writer Beware, which offers some of the basics about avoiding scams and bad practices, and has an informational area which includes sample contracts. Other writers’ organizations also have information for you, and most bookstores will have sections on writing and the business of writing. Find that information, learn it, and use it before you have anything to do with anyone trying to make a deal with you.

But why you should have to pay extra for this essential bit of education, or search for it outside your writing program, mind you, positively baffles me.

Update, 11/17: Those of you coming here from The Chronicle of Higher Education, I offer a rebuttal to Ms. Blackwell’s article here.

Because They Never Love You More Than When You’ve Fallen Down

James Frey’s latest book Bright Shiny Morning gets a rave in the New York Times.

Wait until they find out that this novel is actually a memoir.

More seriously, if Frey has come out of this whole experience as a better writer and a less grasping opportunist, well, then, good for him. Nice to see people have a learning curve.

That said, I could probably say something here about the irony of a writer who has screwed up so badly as Frey still getting lots of ink while other writers of similar or better quality who plug along not lying about their text toil in obscurity. But in fact it’s not irony, it’s just superior marketing.

Update, 5/13: The LA Times is rather less enthused: “Bright Shiny Morning is an execrable novel, a literary train wreck without even the good grace to be entertaining.”

Interesting But Unverifiable Facts About the 2006 Campbell Class

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Here’s the Campbell Class of 2006, or at the very least, books representing each of us. While I’ve been catching up on my reading, I’ve also had my crack team of private investigators create dossiers on each other Campbell nominee this year, in, of course, wholly legal and non-intrusive ways. In this way, I’ve discovered some interesting facts about each of them, which I will share with you now. Because this group of nominees is undeniably modest and self-effacing, I won’t say which fact goes with which Campbell nominee — and I’ll also include an equal number of facts about myself, just to keep things on an even keel. Have fun trying to match the fact with the nominee!

Did you know:

* One nominee’s favorite color is ecru.

* One nominee’s secret ambition is to be a guest star on The Muppet Show, but lack of access to a time machine prevents this.

* In college, one nominee played bass in a Bauhaus tribute band called Gropius Schmopius.

* One nominee was born with an extra toe.

* One nominee’s favorite antebellum president is Millard Fillmore, and because of this the nominee will often find a way to work into conversation that president’s last words: “The nourishment is palatable.”

* One nominee can simultaneously write classical Greek with one hand, and Klingon with the other.

* One nominee is known to smell of fresh-baked white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies, which makes the nominee immensely popular with small children and baked goods fetishists.

* One nominee holds the world record for catching the largest number of grunion in a 15-minute period.

* If one particular nominee ever needs a kidney, they’ll be glad to know one other nominee is a match.

* One nominee is allergic to certain forms of plastic, which is why the nominee never drinks soda from two-liter bottles.

* As a child one nominee rescued so many pets from being run over that the mayor of the town in which the nominee lived declared a day in the nominee’s honor. Ironically, that day, the nominee’s pet kitten Chocolate was hit by a school bus.

* One nominee has a mild case of synesthesia, and thus has not only found the rainbow connection, but has also painted with all the colors of the wind.

* One nominee shudders involuntarily at the sound of the word “loquacious.”

* Whatever you do, don’t ask one nominee to explain to you the events of April 23, 1994. Or what happened to the shoes afterward.

* Rumor has it that if you look in the mirror and say this nominee’s name three times, the nominee will magically appear behind you, and offer you donuts.

* One nominee finds it impossible to sleep unless everyone else in the building is asleep first. This makes staying at hotels extremely difficult.

* At a Model UN conference in high school, one nominee, in the position as the model Ambassador from Camaroon, managed to convince the model Ambassador from Great Britain to launch the country’s nuclear arsenal at Argentina, thus precipitating a model 30-minute World War III in which a model 1.6 billion humans died during the resulting model nuclear exchange. This nominee was not only subsequently banned from further participation in Model UN, but was placed on a list of people who are not allowed to visit various United Nations facilities, including the headquarters in New York.

* One nominee can not only tie a cherry stem in a knot with their tongue, but if you give the nominee three cherry stems, they can make macrame.

* One nominee cries everytime Coldplay’s “Yellow” is played within earshot. No, the nominee doesn’t want to talk about it.

* One nominee’s first word as an infant was “booger.”

* In elementary school, one nominee wrote a semi-autobiographical short story for a contest in the local newspaper, with a prize as a party at the local skate rink. Before the nominee could submit the story, however, it was submitted by another student at the school. The story won, and the other student didn’t invite the nominee to the skate party. The name of that other student: James Frey.

* Due to a childhood brain trauma, one nominee, while otherwise completely normal, is unable to tie shoes, and therefore never wears shoes that require bows.

* One nominee’s mother gave up her own life’s ambitions to help her child learn and grow as a writer. However, since this nominee’s mother’s life ambition was to watch every single episode of General Hospital, this sacrifice was not terribly onerous, especially after the nominee’s mother learned how to program the VCR.

* One nominee has a concealed weapons permit. So don’t piss this nominee off.

Are these facts true? Well, if nothing else, they are all equally true.

Interesting But Unverifiable Facts About the 2006 Campbell Class

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Here’s the Campbell Class of 2006, or at the very least, books representing each of us. While I’ve been catching up on my reading, I’ve also had my crack team of private investigators create dossiers on each other Campbell nominee this year, in, of course, wholly legal and non-intrusive ways. In this way, I’ve discovered some interesting facts about each of them, which I will share with you now. Because this group of nominees is undeniably modest and self-effacing, I won’t say which fact goes with which Campbell nominee — and I’ll also include an equal number of facts about myself, just to keep things on an even keel. Have fun trying to match the fact with the nominee!

Did you know:

* One nominee’s favorite color is ecru.

* One nominee’s secret ambition is to be a guest star on The Muppet Show, but lack of access to a time machine prevents this.

* In college, one nominee played bass in a Bauhaus tribute band called Gropius Schmopius.

* One nominee was born with an extra toe.

* One nominee’s favorite antebellum president is Millard Fillmore, and because of this the nominee will often find a way to work into conversation that president’s last words: “The nourishment is palatable.”

* One nominee can simultaneously write classical Greek with one hand, and Klingon with the other.

* One nominee is known to smell of fresh-baked white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies, which makes the nominee immensely popular with small children and baked goods fetishists.

* One nominee holds the world record for catching the largest number of grunion in a 15-minute period.

* If one particular nominee ever needs a kidney, they’ll be glad to know one other nominee is a match.

* One nominee is allergic to certain forms of plastic, which is why the nominee never drinks soda from two-liter bottles.

* As a child one nominee rescued so many pets from being run over that the mayor of the town in which the nominee lived declared a day in the nominee’s honor. Ironically, that day, the nominee’s pet kitten Chocolate was hit by a school bus.

* One nominee has a mild case of synesthesia, and thus has not only found the rainbow connection, but has also painted with all the colors of the wind.

* One nominee shudders involuntarily at the sound of the word “loquacious.”

* Whatever you do, don’t ask one nominee to explain to you the events of April 23, 1994. Or what happened to the shoes afterward.

* Rumor has it that if you look in the mirror and say this nominee’s name three times, the nominee will magically appear behind you, and offer you donuts.

* One nominee finds it impossible to sleep unless everyone else in the building is asleep first. This makes staying at hotels extremely difficult.

* At a Model UN conference in high school, one nominee, in the position as the model Ambassador from Camaroon, managed to convince the model Ambassador from Great Britain to launch the country’s nuclear arsenal at Argentina, thus precipitating a model 30-minute World War III in which a model 1.6 billion humans died during the resulting model nuclear exchange. This nominee was not only subsequently banned from further participation in Model UN, but was placed on a list of people who are not allowed to visit various United Nations facilities, including the headquarters in New York.

* One nominee can not only tie a cherry stem in a knot with their tongue, but if you give the nominee three cherry stems, they can make macrame.

* One nominee cries everytime Coldplay’s “Yellow” is played within earshot. No, the nominee doesn’t want to talk about it.

* One nominee’s first word as an infant was “booger.”

* In elementary school, one nominee wrote a semi-autobiographical short story for a contest in the local newspaper, with a prize as a party at the local skate rink. Before the nominee could submit the story, however, it was submitted by another student at the school. The story won, and the other student didn’t invite the nominee to the skate party. The name of that other student: James Frey.

* Due to a childhood brain trauma, one nominee, while otherwise completely normal, is unable to tie shoes, and therefore never wears shoes that require bows.

* One nominee’s mother gave up her own life’s ambitions to help her child learn and grow as a writer. However, since this nominee’s mother’s life ambition was to watch every single episode of General Hospital, this sacrifice was not terribly onerous, especially after the nominee’s mother learned how to program the VCR.

* One nominee has a concealed weapons permit. So don’t piss this nominee off.

Are these facts true? Well, if nothing else, they are all equally true.

Just Because You’re in Publishing Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Be a Moron

Here’s a headline, in the wake of James Frey:

Publishers Say Fact-Checking Is Too Costly

Yes, but is it more costly than fighting off a $10 million class-action suit? Personally, I’d guess “no.” Heck, even a lousy settlement will cost more than the salary of one poor bastard fact-checker, slaving away in the bowels of some publishing company’s basement, calling up local law enforcement to see if their author was, in fact, charged with masturbating a parrot in front of schoolchildren, or whatever ridiculous thing you need to claim you have done in order to get Nan Talese to fork over the cash these days.

And, no, thank you, I’m still deeply unimpressed by the “but memoir is about emotional truth” line. Look, I could tell you what I think happened last week and someone else would say “well, I remember it differently.” That’s fine; we’re not perfect data recorders and people tend to remember things in a way that allows them to live with themselves. However, there’s a difference between remembering imperfectly and just lying your ass off because it makes a better story. You should know whether your arrest for onanistic avian encounters actually, you know, happened. It’s not a thing one would forget. And one wouldn’t confuse it, say, with a cite for jaywalking. And in any event, it’s a relatively trivial thing for someone to check. An arrest for parrot masturbation is definitely going to make the local papers. It’d probably be the most exciting thing to happen in two counties that entire day. Thank God Oprah backed off from that ridiculous line of “emotional truth” thinking and ripped Frey a new one when she brought him back on the show. At least someone has a clue.

What I expect will happen is something which the WSJ story suggests will happen, which is that language gets introduced into memoir contracts specifying that the author is at least attempting to tell the God’s honest truth; it’s not as good as an actual fact-checker, but legal indemnity is good enough for the purposes of not being sued. As an author of non-fiction, I certainly wouldn’t mind signing a contract with that sort of amendment, but then, I’ve never been unclear on what non-fiction is. Go ahead and fact-check that statement. You’ll discover it’s the truth.

ConFusion Writeup

athenalumberjack.jpgAs Samwise Gamgee once said, well, I’m back. Hope you enjoyed Nick and Eliani’s story — I see it’s been noted online in several places, almost all positively. I’m glad people liked it as much as I did.

I spent the weekend up at ConFusion, where I did a reading, quite a few panels, more than my share of dancing, and got my ass handed to me at Dance Dance Revolution by this guy, after me talking trash to him about it for a day or so beforehand. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. People were making excuses for me by suggesting that I just wasn’t used to the particular pads, but no. I just got whupped. Being a man means admitting when you’ve been totally pwned.

As a whole I thought the convention was quite successful, but the moment of pure anecdotal fun came during Friday evening’s guest of honor desert reception, as I was chatting with the convention’s Fan Guest of Honor, Chuck Firment. I asked Chuck if he was staying out of trouble and when he answered that indeed he was, I replied that well, then, he wasn’t doing his job. At which point he asked me to stand at a particular point near a low ledge and then announced to the entire room that everyone had kiss the top of my head at some point during the convention. Whereupon I was rushed by at least a dozen geeks who grabbed me, pulled me off the ledge and began the process of cranio-labial osculation. One man — in a kilt — actually licked my skull. All the rest of the con random people were coming up to me, kissing the top of my head, and then just wandering off. Because when the Fan Guest of Honor commands it, it must be done. It’s a good thing Chuck didn’t command them all to kiss my ass.

Later I related this story to Vernor Vinge, the writer Guest of Honor, who found it amusing but unaccountably passed on the opportunity to kiss my skull. Be that as it may, I told him that I would say that he did, and that the story would grow in the telling over the years so that many years from now it would be like the heterosexual science fiction writers’ version of Brokeback Mountain, featuring only kisses and scalps, and in which Vernor Vinge tells me, over dinner at a Carribean-themed restaurant, that he wished he knew how to quit my skull. Bear in mind that in reality, the only portion of this which is true is that the two of us had dinner at a Carribean-themed restaurant, along with Tobias and Emily Buckell, Karl Schroeder and his lovely family, and Anne KG Murphy. But it feels true, in that James Frey I’m-making-shit-up-because-being-honest-won’t-get-me-on-Oprah sort of way. So, yes. Vernor Vinge kissed my skull. I’ll write about it in my upcoming memoir, A Million Little Kisses.

Back in the real world (the one in which no Hugo winner has ever in fact gotten anywhere near my scalp with his lips, or indeed any other body part), Mr. Vinge was indeed a fascinating fellow and a fine dinner companion, as were the Buckells, the Schroeders and Mrs. Murphy. I also managed to break bread with Steven Brust, who is always a pleasure to spend time with, and with Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press, who handed over my author copies of “Questions for a Soldier,” which looked great (this means that all you folks who ordered copies should have them very soon), and managed also to spend a few moments with David Klecha and his family and friends, who included Merrie Haskell (Dave’s most excellent story “Refuge” will be in the Subterranean magazine issue I’m editing); Dave and friends also showed up at my reading, which was most excellent of them.

I also was happy to spend time with Confusion staff and fans, many of which I regret to say I know only by first name and/or LiveJournal nickname, which as it turns out seems to be a more frequent occurance as life goes on. On the other hand, since so many people online refer to other people online by their nicknames with no confusion (no pun intended as regards the convention), I suppose it’s no crime to say it was lovely to see Rikhei, Rennie, Tammylc and Matt Arnold (whose LJ name is actually his name, so that’s easy) among others.

I’ll stop name-checking at this point because namechecking eventually gets boring, but before I do I did want to give mad props to Sarah Zettel, who moderated a couple of panels I was on and did a wonderful job of keeping panelists and unruly audience members in line. As most people know I’m a fan of highly-competent moderating, and she is indeed highly competent.

Overall, a fine time. This is the second time I’ve been to ConFusion and both times I’ve gone I’ve enjoyed myself beyond all reason. If you’re the con-going sort, consider that a plug.

Incidentally, the picture above: Athena with the toy I got her from Confusion, which is a plush lumberjack that stuffed with a werewolf — which is to say that you can yank out the stuffing and it becomes a werewolf, at which point you stuff the lumberjack into the back of the werewolf and it becomes that creatures stuffing. As one person noted: “It’s a topological cylinder!” That it is, I suppose, although that’s not the reason I got it. Athena took it to school with her today; I’m looking forward to the inevitable parent-teacher conference.

January is National Literary Fraud Month!

It looks like it’s a shaping up to be a fine month for literary fraud, as two somewhat prominent authors are accused, in different ways, of not being who they say they are. The first is James Frey, whose millions-selling addiction memoir A Million Little Pieces may not be nearly as non-fictional as he’s suggested, according to The Smoking Gun, which in a long investigative piece concludes that Frey either amped up or made up several of the events in his Oprah’s Book Club-selected tome. The second is “JT Leroy,” a young author whose tales of child prostitution and drug use were all fictional, which is good because it now appears the author may be entirely fictional as well, the creation of the couple who claim to have found him as a strung out-teen and helped whip him into literary shape. When Leroy makes public appearances, it’s actually the sister of the male half of the couple. The author (if he exists) has issued a statement noting he uses stand-ins because of personal issues, but there are other things in the article to suggest he’s vaporware.

I could not personally care less about whether JT Leroy turns out to be fictional or not. I find fictional people writing fiction no more or less objectionable than real people writing fiction, because it’s fiction, after all. This looks to be a slightly more convoluted sort of ghostwriting thing that the people making the TV show Lost will be doing in the spring when they publish a novel “written” by “Gary Troupe,” a passenger on that show’s ill-fated plane (I believe he was the one that got sucked into the engine). Fake people writing fiction just adds another level of meta to the proceedings, if you ask me.

I understand some people who feel personally invested in the author will feel a bit betrayed to learn he doesn’t exist. But you know, the nice thing is, the books still work, because they’re fiction. I tend to be very results-oriented rather then process-oriented when it comes to fiction, which is to say what I care about is whether the book is interesting, not whether the author had to struggle up from drug addiction, or led a life of gilded ease, or was raised by ferrets or what have you. Maybe when I go back for my MFA (ha!) I’ll care about the circumstances of the author and production of a book. In the meantime, really, as long as the book is good, I’m good.

I’m only barely more engaged with the James Frey fracas, possibly because I have a real antipathy toward the addiction memoir genre, which I find tiresome and self-pitying. Yes, it’s nice former junkies have gotten both catharsis and a book deal. Doesn’t mean I have to read the resulting book. Indeed, I have not read Frey’s book; I feel pretty strongly that if you’ve read one “I’m a jackass junkie who abuses people, vomits on myself, gets hauled into rehab and comes out thankful I’m still respiring” tome, you get excused from the rest for all time, and I’ve read one, thank you very much.

(This should not be read as me saying I have no sympathy for people who were formerly addicted who have turned their lives around. I have friends and family who were and who have, and I’m immensely proud of them for having done so. I just hope they don’t write a book about it. It’s been done.)

Given my lack of interest in the book and antipathy for the genre, it’s difficult to rouse myself into caring that the man defrauded millions of addiction voyeurs; indeed my first reaction reading the story was “well, he’s sold three million. He’s set anyway. Good for him.” It’s sort of the same lack of sympathy I’d feel for people watching “amateur” porn who might feel violated that the people making squishy noises there on their TV actually get paid to do it. Perhaps this makes me a bad person. I’m not sure, nor sure if I should care. I do know I’d rather watch amateur porn than read an addiction memoir, for what that’s worth.

However, let’s also keep focus on the fact that if The Smoking Gun’s article is indeed factually correct (and the site’s been pretty good at being factually correct so far as I know), then Mr. Frey is a lying liar who lies, and his “memoir,” whatever its literary qualities, is thereby a piece of crap. One of the things I find absolutely henious in the various discussions of this incident I’ve seen online is invariably there’s someone who shows up and says something idiotic like the “literary” truth of the memoir is more important than the “literal” truth — i.e., it’s okay to lie about events in a non-fiction book if it makes for a better story (see an example of just such a dumbass statement here).

In a word: Bullshit. If one purports to write a non-fiction account of an event, one is, by definition, enjoined from writing fiction. If you write fiction and claim it is non-fiction, you are lying liar who lies. Writing something that “feels” true does not make it true, and the fact that people will come forward to defend “truthiness” over truthfulness in non-fiction makes me want to go on a rampage with a shovel. The tolerance for what one wants to be the truth at the expense of genuine truth is why we currently have a government which is of the opinion that truth looks exactly like a urinal.

If you’re going to write fiction, call it fiction, for Christ’s sake. People love romans a clef just as much as actual memoirs; indeed, they feel naughtier because you know the sex scenes are going to be better written. Writing non-fiction novels only works when you are Truman Capote, or intermittently if you’re Tom Wolfe. I may be going out on a limb here, not having read him and all, but I’m guessing Mr. Frey is in fact neither of them.

Update, 12:32: Mr. Frey comments on his site, and his comment is essentially “no comment.” (No permanent link, so if you come to this entry after 1/9/06), the link may not go to the relevant entry.)

The 2019 Hugo Award Finalists

Here they are! I have a ton of friends in here, and I’m thrilled for them all. I hope I will see them in Dublin this August!

Best Novel

  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
  • Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
  • Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Novella

  • Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press / JABberwocky Literary Agency)

Best Novelette

  • “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
  • “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (Tor.com, 11 July 2018)
  • “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com, 19 September 2018)
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine 25, November- December 2018)
  • “When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018)

Best Short Story

  • “The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018)
  • “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018)
  • “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)
  • “STET,” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018)
  • “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018)
  • “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)

Best Series

  • The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (most recently Tor.com Publishing/Orbit)
  • Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (most recently DAW)
  • The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press)
  • Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work

  • Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
  • Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee (Dey Street Books)
  • The Hobbit Duology (documentary in three parts), written and edited by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan (YouTube)
  • An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953- 2000, by Jo Walton (Tor)
  • http://www.mexicanxinitiative.com: The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 (Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, John Picacio)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing, by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon (Tin House Books)

Best Graphic Story

  • Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)
  • Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford (Marvel)
  • Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden (First Second)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 4, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Annihilation, directed and written for the screen by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer (Paramount Pictures / Skydance)
  • Avengers: Infinity War, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Studios)
  • Black Panther, written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, directed by Ryan Coogler (Marvel Studios)
  • A Quiet Place, screenplay by Scott Beck, John Krasinski and Bryan Woods, directed by John Krasinski (Platinum Dunes / Sunday Night)
  • Sorry to Bother You, written and directed by Boots Riley (Annapurna Pictures)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate,” written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck and Naren Shankar, directed by Simon Cellan Jones (Penguin in a Parka / Alcon Entertainment)
  • Doctor Who: “Demons of the Punjab,” written by Vinay Patel, directed by Jamie Childs (BBC)
  • Dirty Computer, written by Janelle Monáe, directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning (Wondaland Arts Society / Bad Boy Records / Atlantic Records)
  • The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)
  • The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy,” written by Megan Amram, directed by Trent O’Donnell (NBC)
  • Doctor Who: “Rosa,” written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, directed by Mark Tonderai (BBC)

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

  • Neil Clarke
  • Gardner Dozois
  • Lee Harris
  • Julia Rios
  • Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
  • E. Catherine Tobler

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Anne Lesley Groell
  • Beth Meacham
  • Diana Pho
  • Gillian Redfearn
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Galen Dara
  • Jaime Jones
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Yuko Shimizu
  • Charles Vess

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • Fireside Magazine, edited by Julia Rios, managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, social coordinator Meg Frank, special features editor Tanya DePass, founding editor Brian White, publisher and art director Pablo Defendini
  • FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, executive editors Troy L. Wiggins and DaVaun Sanders, editors L.D. Lewis, Brandon O’Brien, Kaleb Russell, Danny Lore, and Brent Lambert
  • Shimmer, publisher Beth Wodzinski, senior editor E. Catherine Tobler
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Jane Crowley, Kate Dollarhyde, Vanessa Rose Phin, Vajra Chandrasekera, Romie Stott, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons Staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien

Best Fanzine

  • Galactic Journey, founder Gideon Marcus, editor Janice Marcus
  • Journey Planet, edited by Team Journey Planet
  • Lady Business, editors Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay & Susan
  • nerds of a feather, flock together, editors Joe Sherry, Vance Kotrla and The G
  • Quick Sip Reviews, editor Charles Payseur
  • Rocket Stack Rank, editors Greg Hullender and Eric Wong

Best Fancast

  • Be the Serpent, presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace
  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Fangirl Happy Hour, hosted by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
  • Galactic Suburbia, hosted by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
  • Our Opinions Are Correct, hosted by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show, produced by Jen Zink and Shaun Duke, hosted by the Skiffy and Fanty Crew

Best Fan Writer

  • Foz Meadows
  • James Davis Nicoll
  • Charles Payseur
  • Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
  • Alasdair Stuart
  • Bogi Takács

Best Fan Artist

  • Sara Felix
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Meg Frank
  • Ariela Housman
  • Likhain (Mia Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth

Best Art Book

  • The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press /Gollancz)
  • Daydreamer’s Journey: The Art of Julie Dillon, by Julie Dillon (self-published)
  • Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History, by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer (Ten Speed Press)
  • Spectrum 25: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, ed. John Fleskes (Flesk Publications)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – The Art of the Movie, by Ramin Zahed (Titan Books)
  • Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, ed. Catherine McIlwaine (Bodleian Library)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Katherine Arden (2nd year of eligibility)
  • S.A. Chakraborty (2nd year of eligibility)
  • R.F. Kuang (1st year of eligibility)
  • Jeannette Ng (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Rivers Solomon (2nd year of eligibility)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

  • The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz)
  • Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books)
  • Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
  • The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic)
  • Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen)

First-Pass Oscar Predictions, 2015

In a past life I was a full-time film critic and still keep up with the field. So every year when the Oscar nominations come out, I predict what will win in the six major categories, first fresh out of the gate, then again just before the ceremony, to factor in changing circumstances. The awards were just announced, so let’s dive in, shall we?

Best Picture

“American Sniper” Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan, Producers
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, Producers
“The Imitation Game” Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers
“Selma” Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
“The Theory of Everything” Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers
“Whiplash” Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers

The Academy can nominate up to ten films a year in this category; eight made the cut this year. At this point I usually throw out the films that don’t also have a director nominated as well, because it’s very rare for a film to win Best Picture when the director is not at least nominated. This year, that would leave out Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, Selma and American Sniper. I do think we can chuck out Whiplash and Theory, so out they go. However, I think it would be foolish to entirely discount Sniper this year; it has several other high-profile nominations, and I think people know who Clint Eastwood is as a director (he’s already got two director Oscars). Selma I would have ranked higher but a quick scan tells me it has two nominations total (the other being in Best Original Song), and I think that means it’s done.

I would toss out Budapest next, for the simple fact it’s a comedy and comedy statistically has a rough road to victory in the category. Birdman is also nominally a comedy, but I think its chances are better. For lack of a better way of putting it, it’s fresher than Budapest, which is, essentially, Wes Anderson doing what we all know Wes Anderson does (note: this is not a complaint. I loved Budapest).

At the moment I think four nominees have a decent chance at the Oscar: Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood and Imitation. If I had to rank their chances at the moment, I would do it thusly: 4. Birdman; 3. Boyhood; 2. Sniper; 1. Imitation. I rank Imitation highest not for any special fondness for the film, but because it’s a Weinstein Company film, and if the Weinsteins know anything, it’s Oscar campaign trench warfare. But I don’t think any of these films is out of the running.

If the Oscar were mine to give, I’d probably go with Boyhood, because it’s a marvelous stunt of a film (it was filmed over a dozen years with the same cast) that will likely never be done again, and it was also better than its stunt. That’s worth an Oscar to me.

But yeah, this category I’ll definitely be revisiting later.

Will win: The Imitation Game

Should win: Boyhood

 

Best Director

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”
Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”

Miller out first, on account that Foxcatcher isn’t nominated for Best Picture, and a director’s odds are not good at all when that happens (in fact I can’t recall off the top of my head a director winning when their film was not nominated for Best Picture; if it happened it was long long ago).

After that it gets tricky. Tyldum has a chance, and historically the Academy likes to tie in the director and picture awards, and I am nominally giving Imitation the lead in that race at the moment. However, particularly in the last several years the Academy hasn’t been shy in splitting director and picture, and the rest of Tyldum’s resume consists of little-seen (in Hollywood) films in other languages, and there are other people in the category I suspect the Academy might want to award. So I’m hedging my bets on Tyldum.

I think Anderson’s out next, although I suspect there’s a very good chance he’ll be walking away with a different Oscar, which I will detail in a bit. I think, then, it’s going to come down to Iñárritu and Linklater, and of the two, I would put my money on Linklater. As noted before, he’s done something as a director no one else has done; also he’s been nominated for Oscars previously, and it might just be his time. I think he’s got it this year.

Will win: Linklater

Should win: Linklater

 

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”

Let me just make this one short and say I will be very surprised if Moore doesn’t take it. She’s been nominated for Oscars four times before (twice in both acting categories), she’s great, it’s her time, and the competition is between two women who have won Oscars already (Cotillard and Witherspoon) and two first-timers (Jones and Pike). This, to me, is an easy call. If Moore doesn’t get it, I’d put money on Jones, followed by, in order, Witherspoon, Cotillard and Pike.

Will win: Moore

Should win: Moore

 

Best Actor

Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”

With the exception of Redmayne, who I think should probably be happy just to be here, I have no idea how this category will go. Carell has a very good chance by playing against type in a dramatic (and creepy) role and doing a universally acclaimed job of it; Cooper has been previously nominated and this could be Sniper’s big Oscar pickup; Keaton is giving the performance of his career and is the legitimate comeback kid of this crowd; Cumberbatch is as hot as an actor can be at the moment and may benefit from an Imitation Oscar snowball effect. It could go any of these ways. I just don’t know. Someone who tells you they know, or that there’s an easy choice here, is lying.

For the moment, I’m gonna give the edge to Cooper, for no other reason that of this whole crowd, he’s the one closest to the standard idea of a leading man, and yes, that’s an utterly shitty reason, but look, I told you this is a tough category. If the award was mine to give, I’d give it to Keaton, who takes a role that could have been mere parody — Keaton playing an actor who played a superhero, trying to escape that legacy! It’s so meta! — and made something better out of it.

Will win: Cooper

Should win: Keaton

 

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood”
Laura Dern in “Wild”
Keira Knightley in “The Imitation Game”
Emma Stone in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”

Oh, look, here’s Streep’s annual nomination. They just gave her an Oscar in the lead category; she’s not gonna get this one. I’m not quite feeling it for Stone or Dern, either, although I approve of the nominations in both cases, and if either wins, I think it will say positive things about their filmmate’s chances in the lead categories. I think this will come down to Arquette and Knightley, and of the two I would give edge to Knightley, because of her previous nominations and because of the Weinstein ability to craft Oscar juggernauts. But if Arquette takes it, it could be an early signal of good things for Boyhood generally.

Will win: Knightley

Should win: Arquette

 

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall in “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood”
Edward Norton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”

Oh, I don’t know. I’m historically bad at guessing this category and this year is no different. My gut tells me that Duvall’s on the slate because Robert Downey Jr., did some campaigning for him, Simmons is in the Richard Jenkins “Guy you know from TV gets a shot” slot, Hawke’s gonna get slighted again, and then Ruffalo and Norton are gonna basically slap fight for it from there, and Norton taking it because it’ll be Birdman’s nod for the year. But I have to tell you, my gut could be really high.

I want them to give it to Hawke, I know that much; for a dude who currently makes most of his income from Screen Gems horror/sci-fi films that show up in the off-brand months of the cinematic year, he sure shows up at the Oscars at lot (two screenwriting nominations and now two supporting nods), and if anyone deserves it this year, it’s him, unless you think doing the same role for a dozen years and making it work is easy.

Yeah, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I think Boyhood should pretty much win all the Oscars this year. Anyway.

Will win: Norton

Should win: Hawke

 

Other notes:

Screenwriting Oscars are the unofficial “compensatory Oscars” for directors — just ask Orson Welles or Quentin Tarantino — so I think there’s an excellent chance this year that Original Screenplay will go to Wes Anderson, for Budapest (and also as a bit of a career award). If it doesn’t go to Anderson, I expect it to go to Linklater, also nominated in the category. Adapted Screenplay? Maybe the other director named Anderson (Paul Thomas, for Inherent Vice), and it wouldn’t be a bad pick, although Inherent only has one other Oscar nod this year (Costume Design). I suspect Imitation will vacuum up Adapted, via its juggernaut powers. In Animated Feature I expect How to Train Your Dragon 2 will prevail, although Big Hero Six might correct me on my math.

On the science fiction front, Interstellar was nominated in no major categories (unless you count Original Score as a major category), but still racked up five nominations; I would be surprised if it doesn’t at least win Sound Design.

And finally, as a dark horse in the Original Song category, I’m gonna push my chips onto Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” because if you think a musician’s final song, about how Alzheimer’s is slowly robbing him of the memories of the woman he loves, isn’t going to push every single button the Academy has, well, you think differently about the Academy than I do.

Your thoughts on the Oscar nominees this year? Share them in the comments.

The 2011 Hugo Nominees

For your edification, this year’s nominees:

Best Novel
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis (Ballantine Spectra)
Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Gollancz; Pyr)
Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella
“The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Magazine, Summer 2010)
The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
“The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” by Elizabeth Hand (Stories: All New Tales, William Morrow)
“The Sultan of the Clouds” by Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s, September 2010)
“Troika” by Alastair Reynolds (Godlike Machines, Science Fiction Book Club)

Best Novelette
“Eight Miles” by Sean McMullen (Analog, September 2010)
“The Emperor of Mars” by Allen M. Steele (Asimov’s, June 2010)
“The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s, July 2010)
“Plus or Minus” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, December 2010)
“That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” by Eric James Stone (Analog, September 2010)

Best Short Story
“Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed, June 2010)
“For Want of a Nail” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s, September 2010)
“Ponies” by Kij Johnson (Tor.com, November 17, 2010)
“The Things” by Peter Watts (Clarkesworld, January 2010)

Best Related Work
Bearings: Reviews 1997-2001, by Gary K. Wolfe (Beccon)
The Business of Science Fiction: Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing, by Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg (McFarland)
Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It, edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea (Mad Norwegian)
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 1: (1907–1948): Learning Curve, by William H. Patterson, Jr. (Tor)
Writing Excuses, Season 4, by Brandon Sanderson, Jordan Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells

Best Graphic Story
Fables: Witches, written by Bill Willingham; illustrated by Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
Girl Genius, Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse, written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
Grandville Mon Amour, by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler; colors by Howard Tayler and Travis Walton (Hypernode)
The Unwritten, Volume 2: Inside Man, written by Mike Carey; illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner)
How to Train Your Dragon, screenplay by William Davies, Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders; directed by Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders (DreamWorks)
Inception, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, screenplay by Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright; directed by Edgar Wright (Universal)
Toy Story 3, screenplay by Michael Arndt; story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich; directed by Lee Unkrich (Pixar/Disney)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Who: “A Christmas Carol,” written by Steven Moffat; directed by Toby Haynes (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who: “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang,” written by Steven Moffat; directed by Toby Haynes (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who: “Vincent and the Doctor,” written by Richard Curtis; directed by Jonny Campbell (BBC Wales)
Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury, written by Rachel Bloom; directed by Paul Briganti
The Lost Thing, written by Shaun Tan; directed by Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan (Passion Pictures)

Best Editor, Short Form
John Joseph Adams
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Gordon Van Gelder
Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form
Lou Anders
Ginjer Buchanan
Moshe Feder
Liz Gorinsky
Nick Mamatas
Beth Meacham
Juliet Ulman

Best Professional Artist
Daniel Dos Santos
Bob Eggleton
Stephan Martiniere
John Picacio
Shaun Tan

Best Semiprozine
Clarkesworld, edited by Neil Clarke, Cheryl Morgan, Sean Wallace; podcast directed by Kate Baker
Interzone, edited by Andy Cox
Lightspeed, edited by John Joseph Adams
Locus, edited by Liza Groen Trombi and Kirsten Gong-Wong
Weird Tales, edited by Ann VanderMeer and Stephen H. Segal

Best Fanzine
Banana Wings, edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Challenger, edited by Guy H. Lillian III
The Drink Tank, edited by Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon
File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
StarShipSofa, edited by Tony C. Smith

Best Fan Writer
James Bacon
Claire Brialey
Christopher J Garcia
James Nicoll
Steven H Silver

Best Fan Artist
Brad W. Foster
Randall Munroe
Maurine Starkey
Steve Stiles
Taral Wayne

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2009 or 2010, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).
Saladin Ahmed
Lauren Beukes
Larry Correia
Lev Grossman
Dan Wells
Note: All finalists are in their 2nd year of eligibility.

Congratulations to all the nominees this year! The Hugo Award winners will be announced August 20, at Renovation, in Reno, Nevada!

The 2010 Nebula Awards Nominees

Here’s our official press release. Feel free to post it and otherwise share it.

SFWA Announces 2010 Nebula Awards Nominees

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
P.O. Box 877
Chestertown, MD 21620-0877 

http://www.sfwa.org/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 22, 2011

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is proud to announce the nominees for the 2010 Nebula Awards.

The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of SFWA. The awards will be announced at the Nebula Awards Banquet (http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-weekend/) on Saturday evening, May 21, 2011 in the Washington Hilton, in Washington, D.C. Other awards to be presented are the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Science Fiction or Fantasy for Young Adults, the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Solstice Award for outstanding contribution to the field.
Short Story

  • ‘‘Arvies’’, Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed Magazine 8/10)
  • ‘‘How Interesting: A Tiny Man’’, Harlan Ellison® (Realms of Fantasy 2/10)
  • ‘‘Ponies’’, Kij Johnson (Tor.com 1/17/10)
  • ‘‘I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno’’, Vylar Kaftan (Lightspeed Magazine 6/10)
  • ‘‘The Green Book’’, Amal El-Mohtar (Apex Magazine 11/1/10)
  • ‘‘Ghosts of New York’’, Jennifer Pelland (Dark Faith)
  • ‘‘Conditional Love’’, Felicity Shoulders (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 1/10)

Novelette

  • ‘‘Map of Seventeen’’, Christopher Barzak (The Beastly Bride)
  • ‘‘The Jaguar House, in Shadow’’, Aliette de Bodard (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 7/10)
  • ‘‘The Fortuitous Meeting of Gerard van Oost and Oludara’’, Christopher Kastensmidt (Realms of Fantasy 4/10)
  • “Plus or Minus’’, James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine12/10)
  • ‘‘Pishaach’’, Shweta Narayan (The Beastly Bride)
  • ‘‘That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made’’, Eric James Stone (Analog Science Fiction and Fact 9/10)
  • ‘‘Stone Wall Truth’’, Caroline M. Yoachim (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 2/10)

Novella

  • The Alchemist, Paolo Bacigalupi (AudibleSubterranean)
  • ‘‘Iron Shoes’’, J. Kathleen Cheney (Alembical 2)
  • The Lifecycle of Software Objects, Ted Chiang (Subterranean)
  • ‘‘The Sultan of the Clouds’’, Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine 9/10)
  • ‘‘Ghosts Doing the Orange Dance’’, Paul Park (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 1-2/10)
  • ‘‘The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window’’, Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Magazine Summer ’10)

Novel

  • The Native Star, M.K. Hobson (Spectra)
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit UK; Orbit US)
  • Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
  • Echo, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
  • Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)
  • Blackout/All Clear, Connie Willis (Spectra)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

  • Despicable Me, Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud (directors), Ken Daurio & Cinco Paul (screenplay), Sergio Pablos (story) (Illumination Entertainment)
  • Doctor Who: ‘‘Vincent and the Doctor’’, Richard Curtis (writer), Jonny Campbell (director)
  • How to Train Your Dragon, Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders (directors), William Davies, Dean DeBlois, & Chris Sanders (screenplay) (DreamWorks Animation)
  • Inception, Christopher Nolan (director), Christopher Nolan (screenplay) (Warner)
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Edgar Wright (director), Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright (screenplay) (Universal)
  • Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich (director), Michael Arndt (screenplay), John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, & Lee Unkrich (story) (Pixar/Disney)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)
  • White Cat, Holly Black (McElderry)
  • Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins (Scholastic Press; Scholastic UK)
  • Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, Barry Deutsch (Amulet)
  • The Boy from Ilysies, Pearl North (Tor Teen)
  • I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett (Gollancz; Harper)
  • A Conspiracy of Kings, Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow)
  • Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse; Simon & Schuster UK)

For more information, visit http://www.sfwa.org/
Postal queries to: P.O. Box 877, Chestertown, MD 21620-0877

About SFWA

Founded in 1965 by the late Damon Knight, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America brings together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world.

Since its inception, SFWA® has grown in numbers and influence until it is now widely recognized as one of the most effective non-profit writers’ organizations in existence, boasting a membership of approximately 1,800 science fiction and fantasy writers as well as artists, editors and allied professionals.  Each year the organization presents the prestigious Nebula Awards® for the year’s best literary and dramatic works of speculative fiction.

Oscar Predictions, 2011

In my capacity as a professional film commentator of two decades standing — seriously, I started my job as a film critic in 1991, MAN I AM OLD — it’s time for my annual Oscar predictions. This is the first stab, and then a couple days before the actual ceremony I’ll make any adjustments and corrections I feel like. Got it? Let’s begin.

BEST PICTURE

“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“Inception”
“The Kids Are All Right ”
“The King’s Speech”
“127 Hours”
“The Social Network”
“Toy Story 3″
“True Grit”
“Winter’s Bone”

Since the Academy switched over to the “ten nominees” slate, I see the Best Picture slate functioning two ways. The first is a very self-conscious attempt by the Academy to celebrate the diversity of film by suggesting all these films, blockbuster and indie, animated and live action, science fiction and social study, all represent the best film making has to offer. And in that respect, yup, it sure is a nice spread of films. Well done, Academy; we’ll all very impressed out here.

The other way, of course, is as a slate to pick the eventual winner from, and in that respect, as a practical matter, we can throw out any film that didn’t also pick up a Best Director nod, since in the 80-some years of the Oscars, only three films have won Best Picture without their director getting a nomination, and the last time was more than two decades ago. So that’s Inception, The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours, Toy Story 3 and Winter’s Bone out the window to start.

Of those that remain I think Black Swan and The Fighter are next out the window; their rewards are likely to be in the acting categories. True Grit is next out; a similar Coen brothers film (No Country For Old Men) won Best Picture just a couple of years ago, so I don’t really see the Academy repeating itself so soon.

That leaves The Social Network and The King’s Speech to duke it out. The Social Network is probably the better film from the standpoint of social relevance and simple art, and it’s vacuumed up all sorts of run-up awards, but I think there might be a concern that it’s peaked just a little too soon. The King’s Speech, on the other hand, is very handsome and very well acted and very much in the Academy sweet spot. So it’s really going to come down to whether the Academy wants to pretend it’s hip or admit it wants to be in bed by ten.

What will win: At this point, I’m thinking The King’s Speech is going to pull a Shakespeare in Love on us.

What should win: The Social Network. As much as I dislike Facebook, this film is a set piece for What The World Is Like Now, for better or worse.

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan”
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for “True Grit”
David Fincher for “The Social Network”
Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”
David O. Russell for “The Fighter”

Russell out first; he’s happy he has his career back. I think the Coens are next off; it’s not that they don’t deserve the award, but they each have a couple of these on their shelf and, again, True Grit is not too far off from what they’ve been awarded for before. Aronofsky is still too weird; I think one accurate comparison for him perceptually — directing wise, not in his personal inclinations — is Roman Polanski; someone whose talent is undeniable but too aggressively off-center for the middle-of-the-road Academy voter to warm up to. Black Swan is sort of his Rosemary’s Baby, if you get what I mean.

So this leave Tom Hooper and David Fincher, whose films are the ones I expect will go neck and neck for the Best Picture Oscar. Hooper’s major problem, simply put, is: Dude, who is Tom Hooper? Well, he’s done some TV and a couple small British films. He’s kind of like 2011’s version of Hugh Hudson: In the right place at the right time with the right film, but not necessarily with enough recognition to get him over the finish line.

However, David Fincher does have the recognition: He was here before with Benjamin Button, and although his career has been stylized and idiosyncratic — Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac — he’s matured, i.e., hasn’t sunk himself into the black hole of his own stylistic choices. Also, since I think the Academy is likely to play it safe with Best Picture this year, I think giving Fincher the director Oscar will make the voters feel they’ve given his film sufficient recognition. In the Shakespeare in Love scenario, Fincher is Steven Spielberg. And that doesn’t suck.

Who will win: Fincher

Who should win: Fincher

 

BEST ACTOR

Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
James Franco in “127 Hours”
Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”

Academy screener DVDs were sufficient to get Bardem on the ballot; good for him. They’re not going to get him the award. Jesse Eisenberg is just happy to be here. Likewise, I think James Franco is pleased as punch that he’s being taken seriously, although frankly the man’s sudden ascent in the realm of serious acting still has me feeling a little flat-footed. He was so shouty in those Spider-Man films, you know? If Jeff Bridges hadn’t won last year for Crazy Heart, I would say this would be his year, but he did, and it was a career sort of award, and you don’t win two career awards.

That leaves Colin Firth, who was nominated last year, did a fine job this year, and who has the good fortune of being in a film that I suspect will suck in a bunch of awards and therefore would have enough momentum for him to take this even if he wasn’t deserving of it, which he is.

Who will win: Firth

Who should win: Firth

 

BEST ACTRESS

Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Jennifer Lawrence off first; a fine performance but she’s young and I don’t think anyone thinks she’s paid her dues yet. Nicole Kidman off next; she’s in this year’s “Meryl Streep” slot, i.e., “Academy members had four nominees, couldn’t think of a fifth and there was the screener DVD right in front of them.” Michelle Williams has come a long way from Dawson’s Creek and has a previous nomination, but I’m not sure Blue Valentine is the film that’s going to take her all the way.

So we’re left with Bening and Portman. I have a soft spot for Bening, who I think should probably have won an Oscar by now, and who may yet if enough voters are in a “career award” sort of mood this year. But on the other hand Portman is The Actress of The Moment, with a hit film, an envious commercial and critical pedigree, is happily engaged and pregnant and, not inconsiderably, represents the Academy’s most rational way to award Black Swan with an Oscar. I’m pretty sure it’s hers.

Who will win: Portman

Who should win: Bening. I think career awards are perfectly fine.

 

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Dear John Hawkes: Enjoy it, dude. You too, Ruffalo. Jeremy Renner: you’re having a heck of a couple of years. Don’t do anything stupid. Geoffrey Rush could take this if the voters are being lazy and just checking off every time The King’s Speech is on the ballot, but I very strongly suspect that Christian Bale’s walking about the door with the Oscar, both for his meth-tastic performance and also because this is how the Academy will choose to say “nice job” to The Fighter.

Who will win: Bale

Who should win: Bale.

 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

This category is always the hardest to handicap (i.e., the one I always screw up) because, honestly, I don’t think even the Academy members know who to choose in this category, in the years where Woody Allen doesn’t make it easy for them. That said, everyone I know says this year is likely to come down to a fight between Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, and I don’t really see any reason to doubt that. If it does come down to the two of them, the coin flip I just did points to Adams.

Who will win: Adams.

Who should win: Steinfeld, with the note that she’s as much a “supporting actress” in True Grit as Jeff Bridges is a supporting actor.

Other categories: I’m having a hard time imagining a world in which Toy Story 3 doesn’t win the Animated Film Oscar. In screenplays, I think Aaron Sorkin is a good bet for Adapted, and I think Inception actually has a chance at Original, by way of consolation for Chris Nolan being stiffed in the director category. I suspect Inception may also sneak off with Cinematography. I would be chuffed if The Social Network won original score, because the idea of Trent Reznor being an Oscar winner fills me with glee. Finally, I and every science fiction geek in the known universe is rooting for “The Lost Thing” in the Animated Short category, because Shaun Tan is one of our own. Go, Shaun! Go!

 

 

A Conversation with Brett Warnock of Top Shelf Productions

Top Shelf Productions logo

Even if you’ve unfamiliar with the books published by Top Shelf Productions, odds are very strong that you’re familiar with big-budget Hollywood movies based on some of their books.  Mind you, I don’t think that anybody in their right mind would argue that those movies are the equal of their source material, but it’s worth noting for the uninitiated that both the Johnny Depp-starring From Hell and the Bruce Willis-starring The Surrogates were originally published as comics by Top Shelf.  And the fact that the former of those works was produced by a pair of comics veterans (and certified geniuses, if I may be so bold), and the latter was produced by a pair of relative newcomers is a pretty good representation of the breadth of the aptly named Top Shelf Productions’ high quality offerings.

Brett Warnock of Top Shelf ProductionsNote: Regular readers may recall that I mentioned in my last post that I had dinner with my friend Brett Warnock, co-publisher of Top Shelf (along with his business partner Chris Staros, who is also a friend) while vacationing in Oregon last week, so I make no claims as to objectivity with regard to Top Shelf  but, for what it’s worth, I was already an admirer of Top Shelf (and Chris Staros’ The StarHouse, which you’ll see referenced below) before I ever had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with Brett and Chris.

But enough with the prelude, right?  Let’s get to the interview…

Since SPX is taking place this weekend in Bethesda North, MD, and since Top Shelf has a long and happy history with that most excellent celebration / showcase of indie comics, SPX seems like a natural starting place.  It occurs to me that in addition to an unbroken streak of …what is it now, a streak of a dozen or more annual SPX appearances as an exhibitor?…  that it was at one of the famous post-SPX Sunday pig roasts of yore at then-Executive Director Chris Oarr’s house that you and Chris Staros first talked about joining forces and expanding the Top Shelf brand, wasn’t it?

Well, yeah, we’ve been at every SPX (either me and/or Chris) since 1996.  And that year (1996), me and David Lasky were the only two people from the West Coast to attend.  Chris Oarr worked me hard, but he knew he had a good thing going, and he also seemed to sense that I was heading somewhere myself.

And yes, it was that same year, while I was staying at Chris Oarr’s house (up all night stuffing bags and menial labor), that Staros approached me about partnering up.  Since at the time I was essentially out of money, it took me all of ten seconds to respond with a resounding YES!

(That’s also when I met you, Ian Sattler, and Greg Bennett.  I remember chatting it up with Greg at the pig roast, while we all beat up on a piñata.  Shannon Wheeler was there, as was Jeff Smith.)

Ha!  I’d forgotten the piñata!  Good times.  I understand that you won’t be in attendance personally this year, but Top Shelf will be well represented by Chris, along with Leigh Walton.  What’s on the docket for this year’s show?  Which artists will be appearing in the Top Shelf booth this weekend?

Since I won’t be there, I’m going to crib from Leigh Walton’s blog on our SPX 2010 slate:

BB Wolf and the 3 LPs cover“This year Team Top Shelf has a healthy blend of creators, both Top Shelf veterans and those who are new to the family this year, but all have been in comics for years!  Writer and retailer Johnnie “JD” Arnold is coming out to sign his debut graphic novel with art by Rich Koslowski, BB Wolf and the 3 LPs, as well as the awesome new soundtrack album of blues-rock songs written by the BB Wolf himself!  SPX vet (and award-winning minicomic auteur) Will Dinski joins us to sign his cool, clean, and creepy Top Shelf debut Fingerprints! And Eisner-Award-winner Nate Powell joins the party as well, guaranteeing some karaoke stardom as well as signed copies of his masterpiece Swallow Me Whole.  Rounding out the team are Chris Staros and Leigh Walton, ready to see old friends and make new ones.

All this PLUS Eddie Campbell’s nomination for the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist! Will he win? We’ll find out Saturday night.”

Moving on from SPX (while at the same time looking forward to it … that’s the Small Press Expo, taking place this Saturday and Sunday, September 11-12 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, kids, and as always, all proceeds benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund!), let’s look back at another important annual event for Top Shelf: Comic-Con International in San Diego.  I trust that, as always, it was all-hands-on-deck for the Top Shelf gang at The Big Show.  How was this year’s show for you?  What were the big Top Shelf premieres and announcements at the show?  Any fond (or not-so-fond, for that matter) memories of Comic-Con 2010 you’d care to share?

The show seemed to start off slowly.  All of Hollywood’s events and panels are starting to suck people off the floor.  But lo and behold, by the end of the day on Sunday, we’d done alright.

We had several debuts, and a fleet of our authors were on hand pimping their wares.  New books included:

BB WAX: A Collection of Alternative Manga coverolf and the 3 LPs, written by Johnnie Arnold and drawn by Rich Koslowski (both present)

Fingerprints, by Will Dinski (not present)

The Playwright, written by Daren White and drawn by Eddie Campbell (not present)

Johnny Boo volume 4 and Dragon Puncher, by James Kochalka (present)

AX: A Collection of Alternative Manga, edited by Sean Michael Wilson (present)

Other authors working the table included: Jeffrey Brown, Stuart and Kathryn Immonen, Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Nate Powell, Kevin Cannon, and Andy Runton.

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Florida Book Signing This Friday

Hey Floridians! Want a book signed by me? Then you’re in luck, since I’m going to be doing a signing this Friday, at 6pm, in the Seahorse Room of the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, in sunny Cocoa Beach.

But wait, there’s more! Because I won’t be in the Seahorse Room of the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, in sunny Cocoa Beach all by my lonesome. Far from it! I will be there with other science fiction and fantasy writers and notables, too! Who will also be signing books! For you! Yes, you! No, seriously, man. You.

Which authors, you ask? Oh, just:

Paolo Bacigalupi, Neal Barrett, Jr., Christopher Barzak, Ben Bova, Richard Bowes, Jeffrey A. Carver, Adam-Troy Castro, Kathryn Cramer, A. C. Crispin, Sarah Beth Durst, Marianne Dyson, Eugie Foster, Carolyn Gilman, Laura Anne Gilman, Joe W. Haldeman, David Hartwell, Peter J. Heck, Kij Johnson, James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, Ted Kosmatka, Mary Robinette Kowal, Edward M. Lerner, Lee Martindale, Jack McDevitt, Will McIntosh, China Mieville, John Moore, James Morrow, Stanley Schmidt, Bud Sparhawk, Allen Steele, Catherynne Valente, Rick Wilber and Connie Willis.

You know. No one important to all of science fiction and fantasy in the last 30 years, or anything.

If you’re wondering why all of us will be there, it’s because it’s Nebula Awards Weekend, in which SFWA members gather together to commune, conduct business, see Joe Haldeman formally installed as a Grand Master of science fiction(!) and hand out awards. And sign books. For you. You know. If you want.

I’ll be there to see friends, and to learn if I’ve won one or more of the following: a Nebula Award, a Norton Award, the SFWA presidency. I’m running unopposed for that last one, so I feel I may get lucky. But I hear rumors of Felix the Cat running a strong write-in campaign. And he does have that Bag of Tricks. So I’ll hold my breath until I get the official word. Seems prudent.

In any event: Book signing. This Friday. Six pm. Cocoa Beach. Dozens of science fiction and fantasy authors. Seriously, if you’re not there, I have to wonder why you’re in Florida at all.

Nebula Award Nominees, 2009

It’s that time again. Here are this year’s nominees for the Nebula Awards, one of the two big awards in SF (the other, of course, being the Hugo):

Novels

Little Brother – Doctorow, Cory (Tor, Apr08)
Powers – Le Guin, Ursula K. (Harcourt, Sep07)
Cauldron – McDevitt, Jack (Ace, Nov07)
Brasyl – McDonald, Ian (Pyr, May07)
Making Money – Pratchett, Terry (Harper, Sep07)
Superpowers – Schwartz, David J. (Three Rivers Press, Jun08)

Novellas

“The Spacetime Pool” – Asaro, Catherine (Analog, Mar08)
“Dark Heaven” – Benford, Gregory (Alien Crimes, ed. Mike Resnick, SFBC, Jan07)
“Dangerous Space” – Eskridge, Kelley (Dangerous Space, Aqueduct Press, Jun07)
“The Political Prisoner” – Finlay, Charles Coleman (F&SF, Aug08)
“The Duke in His Castle” – Nazarian, Vera (Norilana Books, Jun08)

Novelettes

“If Angels Fight” – Bowes, Richard (F&SF, Feb08)
“Dark Rooms” – Goldstein, Lisa (Asimov’s, Oct/Nov 07)
“Pride and Prometheus” – Kessel, John (F&SF, Jan08)
“Night Wind” – Rosenblum, Mary (Lace and Blade, ed. Deborah J. Ross, Norilana Books, Feb08)
“Baby Doll” – Sinisalo, Johanna (The SFWA European Hall of Fame, ed. James Morrow & Kathryn Morrow, Tor, Jun07 )
“Kaleidoscope” – Wentworth, K.D. (F&SF, May07)

Short Stories

“The Button Bin” – Allen, Mike (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, Oct07)
“The Dreaming Wind” – Ford, Jeffrey (The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Viking, Jul07)
“Trophy Wives” – Hoffman, Nina Kiriki (Fellowship Fantastic, ed. Greenberg and Hughes, DAW Books, Jan08)
“26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss”– Johnson, Kij (Asimov’s, Jul08)
“The Tomb Wife”– Jones, Gwyneth (F&SF, Aug07)
“Don’t Stop” – Kelly, James Patrick (Asimov’s, Jun07)

Scripts

The Dark Knight – Nolan, Jonathan; Nolan, Christopher, Goyer, David S. (Warner Bros., Jul08)
WALL-E” Screenplay – Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter (Walt Disney June 2008)
The Shrine – Wright, Brad (Stargate Atlantis, Aug08)

Norton

Graceling – Cashore, Kristin (Harcourt, Oct08)
Lamplighter – Cornish, D.M. (Monster Blood Tattoo, Book 2, Putnam Juvenile, May08))
Savvy – Law, Ingrid (Dial, May08)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Pearson, Mary E. (Henry Holt and Company, Apr08)
Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room) – Wilce, Ysabeau S.  (Harcourt, Sep08)

Congratulations to all the nominees — we’ll find out who won at Nebula Weekend, April 24-26,2009 in Los Angeles, California.

2006 Nebula/Norton Nominees

Oh, look: Here’s the Nebula Ballot for this year:

Novels:

The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner (Bantam Spectra, Jul06)
Seeker – Jack McDevitt (Ace, Nov05)
The Girl in the Glass – Jeffrey Ford (Dark Alley, Aug05)
Farthing – Jo Walton (Tor Books, Jul06)
From the Files of the Time Rangers – Richard Bowes (Golden Gryphon Press, Sep05)
To Crush the Moon – Wil McCarthy (Bantam Spectra, May05)

Novellas:

Burn – James Patrick Kelly (Tachyon Publications, Dec05)
“Sanctuary” – Michael A. Burstein (Analog, Sep05)
“The Walls of the Universe” – Paul Melko (Asimov’s, Apr/May06)
“Inclination” – William Shunn (Asimov’s, Apr/May06)

Novelettes:

“The Language of Moths” – Chris Barzak (Realms of Fantasy, Apr05)
“Walpurgis Afternoon” – Delia Sherman (F&SF, Dec05)
“Journey into the Kingdom” – M. Rickert (F&SF, May06)
“Two Hearts” – Peter S. Beagle (F&SF, Oct/Nov05)
“Little Faces” – Vonda N. McIntyre (SCI FICTION, 23 Feb05)

Short Stories:

“Echo” – Elizabeth Hand (F&SF, Oct/Nov05)
“Helen Remembers the Stork Club” – Esther M. Friesner (F&SF, Nov05)
“The Woman in Schrodinger’s Wave Equations” – Eugene Mirabelli (F&SF, Aug05)
“Henry James, This One’s For You” – Jack McDevitt (Subterranean #2, Nov05)
“An End To All Things” – Karina Sumner-Smith (Children of Magic, Daw Books, Jun06)
“Pip and the Fairies” – Theodora Goss (Strange Horizons, 3 Oct05)

Scripts:

Batman Begins – Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer (Warner Bros., released 17 Jun05)
Howl’s Moving Castle – Hayao Miyazaki, Cindy Davis Hewitt, and Donald H. Hewitt (Studio Ghibli and Walt Disney Pictures, U.S. Premier 10 Jun05. Based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones.)
Unfinished Business – Michael Taylor (Battlestar Galactica, Dec06)
The Girl in the Fireplace – Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, BBC/The Sci-Fi Channel, Oct06 (broadcast 10 Oct06))

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy:

Magic or Madness – Justine Larbalestier (Penguin Razorbill, May05)
Devilish – Maureen Johnson, Razorbill (Penguin Young Readers Group, Sep06)
The King of Attolia – Megan Whalen Turner, Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins, 2006)
Midnighters #2: Touching Darkness – Scott Westerfeld (Eos, Mar05)
Peeps – Scott Westerfeld (Penguin Razorbill, Sep05)
Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt, Oct06)

Leaving aside my usual rant about how the Nebulas need to get on a calendar year schedule, I think this is a pretty good slate, and it’s got a lot of my friends in it. Yay! I know award nominees! I feel shiny.

For those of you wondering, I wasn’t even close to being considered for the Nebula this year. But then I wasn’t even close to being considered for the Nebula last year either, when I got on the Hugo ballot, so this isn’t indicative of anything other than the Nebulas and the Hugo having different constituencies and tastes, which is in and of itself not a bad thing.

The Nebulas and Norton will be unveiled on May 12. Best of luck to all the nominees.