Strange Horizons 2015 Fund Drive: Invest in the Future!

As many of you know, I’m fond of Strange Horizons magazine, not in the least (but not only) because it published my very first science fiction story 14 years ago this very week. SH exists largely on a donation-based model, and every year it does a fund drive. We’re in the final week of the fund drive this week, and I’ve invited Niall Harrison, SH’s editor in chief, to pop in and make a case for you sending a little bit of your money in the direction of Strange Horizons. Take it away, Niall!


Greetings, readers of Whatever! I’m the editor-in-chief of Strange Horizons, and I’d like to ask you to consider donating to our annual fund drive. Everyone who donates gets entered into our prize draw, which includes all sorts of books and subscriptions and wonderful things; if you donate more than $10 you’ll get our fifteenth anniversary ebook, including selected stories and poems from our archives, plus a new history of the magazine; if you support via Patreon you can for the first time get monthly ebooks of all of our material; and in addition to making the sixteenth year of Strange Horizons possible, you’ll also be helping to unlock the material in our fund drive special, including a new story by Kelly Link!

I’ve written quite a lot of paragraphs like that in the last few weeks, and part of me still stumbles over “sixteenth year.” I first encountered Strange Horizons in late 2003, I’m pretty sure, as a result of Matt Cheney blogging about some poetry from the magazine. It quickly became a landmark in my online genre space, and I had a fine time with the magazine in 2004. Kameron Hurley’s “Genderbending at the Madhattered” and Alan DeNiro’s “Tetrarchs” are two of the stories that have stuck with me, and much as I loved my Interzone and Asimov’s subscriptions—and loved SCI FICTION, which was at its peak around that time—SH always felt a little more unexpected. They seemed to be publishing a new generation of writers, doing different things.

In 2005, SH advertised for a new reviews editor, and I applied, and was brought on board; and after a few years doing that, at the start of 2011 I took over from Susan Marie Groppi as editor-in-chief, looking after the overall organisation of the magazine.

(It’s since then that my output of “I’d like to ask you to consider donating”-based sentences has really gone through the roof.)

Now here we are in 2015. I feel a little ambushed by the magazine’s fifteenth anniversary. I still feel like a newcomer! But no, I’ve been volunteering my time for ten years (everyone who works on SH is a volunteer), for what is now the longest-running online professional SF magazine. For all of that time we’ve been independent and funded by donations from readers, no advertising or corporate sponsorship. That feels a bit special, the more so because of what the magazine stands for.

Here’s what founding editor Mary Anne Mohanraj had to say about the SF field, and her hopes for Strange Horizons, when it launched:

The writing just gets better and better—the stories are terrific. And in addition to those female characters who started creeping in a few decades ago and now are everywhere, I’m starting to notice some who are (startlingly) not white. That’s rather nice, I have to say. The genre is starting to actually reflect the world I live in. The field is growing and expanding and shifting and changing, and it’s an exciting time to be part of it.

We started this magazine because we wanted to help with that change. We wanted to create a place to showcase some of those new writers, to bring them to the attention of a new international audience—and also to share with you our deep enjoyment of some wonderful established authors.

That goal, to showcase the full potential of SF as a form and a field, is at the heart of everything the magazine has worked at over the last decade and a half. We published early stories (or, in some cases, the first story) by writers like Charlie Jane Anders, N. K. Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ken Liu, Nnedi Okorafor, Vandana Singh, and of course our gracious host, to give just a very few examples. The genre is still growing and expanding and shifting and changing today (when is it not?) but in its fifteen years I like to think SH has played its part in bringing the genre a little closer to the world that Mary Anne, and the rest of us, live in.

If I’m here to ask you to consider donating now, though, I should talk about what we’ve been doing lately.

Here are two of this year’s stories, to go with the two older ones I mentioned above. First, S. L. Huang’s “By Degrees and Dilatory Time“, from May, is medical SF—a man has to get new, artificial eyes—and, for me, about the emotional experience of that technological reality; about body image and social expectations, about what changes and what doesn’t. Second, and in contrast, here’s Gabby Reed’s “Glaciers Made You“, from September, a dark slipstream fantasy filled with light and landscape and longing. Both of them bring a writer to the magazine for the first time, bring something new; both of them also feel to me like quintessential SH stories. If they work for you, you might be a Strange Horizons reader, even if you don’t know it yet.

Here are a couple of poems: the evocative “Bodega Dunes” by Carrie Naughton, and the ambitious, dazzling “Season of the Ginzakura” by Ryu Ando. And some essays: Karen Burnham on the evolution of space-based SF, and Paul McAuley on writing solar system stories. And some reviews: Indrapramit Das being underwhelmed by Grasshopper Jungle, and Nina Allan falling in love with Laura van den Berg’s Find Me.

And here, finally, is the fund drive.

Our target for this year is $18,000. Because we’re staffed entirely by volunteers, pretty much all of that (less a small amount for running costs) will go to our contributors, allowing us to publish another year of stories, poems, essays, interviews, and reviews. But at the time of posting, we’ve raised just over two-thirds of that amount, and we have one week left in the fund drive.

We have all of the rewards I mentioned at the start but what this is really about is the fact that we love what we do, we think it’s useful, and we want to keep doing it. So if you enjoy what we do, please consider donating to this year’s fund drive.

Thank you!

P.S. Those of you in the U.S., note that Strange Horizons has 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS—which means your donations to us are tax-deductible.

Strange Horizons: Why You Should Support It

Back in 2001 a small online science fiction magazine became my very first publisher of my science fiction: Strange Horizons. Then, as now, the magazine was funded by contributions — and right now the magazine is having its annual fund raising drive to generate the budget for the next year. I’m giving SH editor-in-chief some space today to talk about the site and what it does, in the hopes that you’ll see the same value out of it as I do and help keep it going for another year.

(And, why, yes, I have donated!)

Niall Harrison: 

Hi! I’m the editor-in-chief of Strange Horizons, and I’m here to ask for your money, to support what will be our fourteenth full year of publication.

The funny thing about crowdfunding an ongoing venture like SH is that it gets both easier and harder over time. Easier, because you build up a reputation and a community: you become more of a known quantity. Harder because you have to keep and grow that reputation and community. Hence posts like this.

So what does another year of Strange Horizons mean?

It means another year of a magazine committed to new voices. We’re proud to be able to say that we were the first pro sale for writers including Kameron Hurley, NK Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal, Justine Larbalestier, Nnedi Okorafor, and Vandana Singh — not to mention my gracious host here. (If you want to see who we’ve added to that list recently, check out “Difference of Opinion” by Meda Kahn, published earlier this month.)

It means another year of a magazine committed to diverse voices. This year we’ve had contributors from Australia, Cameroon, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and Sweden, as well as the UK and US. We’ve published writers of color, queer writers, and non-neurotypical writers. We want to do much more of all of that, because we believe the best sf is written by everybody, that we need a global, inclusive tradition.

It means another year of more than just fiction. We publish new issues each Monday, and in addition to stories (in text and audio) they include poetry, columns by writers such as John Clute, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Genevieve Valentine, interviews and essays, and — if we do say so ourselves — some of the most demanding (if occasionally controversial) criticism in the field.

Since 2000, all of this has been supported by direct donations from our readers. Which is an amazing and humbling thing, to be honest. We are an independent non-profit organisation, and we value that independence — no adverts, no corporate sponsors. We’re also staffed entirely by volunteers, and we don’t have much in the way of overheads: so when you donate, almost all of your money goes directly to paying our contributors. (And if you’re in the US, donations are tax-deductible.)

We also have a few fund drive bonuses. Everyone who donates to Strange Horizons this month gets entered into our prize draw. We’re adding new prizes each week, but so far we have new books by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Christopher Priest, Ann Leckie, and Lavie Tidhar, subscriptions to Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and the Twelve Planets series of collections, knitted toys and emoji translations, and much more. Take a look.

We also have a special issue, with bonus content published throughout the fund drive as we raise money. You can see what’s been released so far here — still to come we have a story by Tiptree Award-winning author Nisi Shawl, and an interview with Helen Oyeyemi, one of Granta’s latest Best of Young British Novelists, plus reviews, poetry and essays.

2013 has been a pretty good year for SH so far. Molly Gloss’s “The Grinnell Method“, which we published last autumn, won the Sturgeon Award for the best sf story of the year. The magazine as a whole was nominated for a Best Semiprozine Hugo. We’ve published (we think) some great work, and have more coming up: stories dealing with imperialism and cultural exchange, stories exploring queer YA experience, stories featuring doomsday machines and giant squid; and next week, a special issue devoted to Indian and Indian-diaspora sf.

We love what we do, and we want to keep doing it.

But we need $11,000 to make it happen. We’ve got two weeks left in this year’s fund drive and we’re about a third of the way to that goal — so if you like what we do, please consider chipping in. Thank you!

Strange Horizons Fund Drive Results, or, You Guys Rock

So, yesterday, when I challenged all y’all to match donations with me and Krissy to help the online science fiction magazine Strange Horizons meet its fundraising goal for the month, the total amount of money donated to that point was $1,565, out of a goal of $7,000. And where is it today? I’ll let Strange Horizons editor Susan Marie Groppi tell you [I’ve bolded the money parts]:

So up there in Scalzi’s post when he said “What I would say would be an even better outcome, however, is an even larger pile of donations sent along to Strange Horizons, for which my and Krissy’s $500 is just the cherry on the top.” You guys far exceeded any reasonable expectations for that “better outcome.” I’ve just finished doing all the tabulating, and the grand total for the 27-hour Scalzi Challenge period came to $9590. When you add in the matching funds from John and Krissy, that’s just over ten thousand dollars raised.

I don’t think I can possibly express how much this means to Strange Horizons, and to all of our staff members. We’re going to keep the fund drive open for a while longer in case anyone else wants to donate, but we’ve totally met and passed our overall fundraising goal. I’m totally overwhelmed by the generosity all of you have shown, and totally scared for what might happen if Scalzi ever decides to use his powers for evil.

First, for the record, I will not use my powers for evil. Because that’s just too damn easy.

Second, like Susan, I am thrilled and overwhelmed by your generosity — but I’m not surprised. Not surprised for two reasons: Because I know that so many of you know a good deal and a good cause when you see it, and because Strange Horizons does what it does well and thereby legitimately deserves the support you’ve given it (and will hopefully give it again, when next they do a fund drive).

Krissy and I have of course sent in our $500; in fact, I sent it in early yesterday, before I knew the donation totals. Call it an act of faith that you guys would make us spend it all. I was not disappointed, and am delighted you matched what we had to give, and then passed it exponentially. Add it all together and there’s the inescapable conclusion that each and every one of you rock. I’m not ashamed to say it. I will proclaim it from the rooftops if necessary.

Very sincerely: Thank you.

Update, 2:20pm: Oh, look, a nice write-up in the L.A. Times (which, by the way is sporting a very nice new look).

Strange Horizons Friday: I’m Matching Donations

So, Strange Horizons is an online magazine of science fiction and fantasy that pays writers official pro rates (as defined by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), publishes a wide range of fiction and non-fiction about science fiction and fantasy, and goes out of its way to publish new and emerging writers. They’re also a non-profit organization (a real one, with tax-deductible status and everything), and do all that they do through donations from readers and others.

This August is its fund drive month, and its goal is to raise $7,000 by the end of the month. Here it is the 14th, and they’re at $1,565 as I write this, which is more than a little disconcerting to me. I know the people involved with Strange Horizons quite well, and I can assure you that these aren’t people who are taking that donation money and spending it on frivolities. That money goes right out the door to the contributors of the site and to make the site a great place to visit on a daily basis. I’m not even sure the editors pay themselves for all their work, which is kind of insane, but a testament to their dedication to expanding the market for science fiction and fantasy. The site runs lean. So when the folks running it say they need the $7k to keep going, they’re not plumping up their numbers; dude, they need that $7k.

I got my start in the science fiction field through Strange Horizons; it was the first outlet to publish my fiction, and one of the very first to seriously interview me after I published my novel. Between this and the fact that many people I know and respect keep the place going on a daily basis, it’s fair to say that I am a big supporter of the site for personal reasons. But even if they hadn’t published my fiction and even if I didn’t know those who are running it, I would still be a fan of the site, because of what it publishes and because for almost a decade now the site has been a door into fantasy and science fiction that’s unlike any other. It’s a site worth reading, and a cause worth donating to.

I donate a bit every year to Strange Horizons to help keep it going, but this year I want to do something more, both to show my appreciation for the site and the people who run it, and to encourage those of you who read the site to shell out a bit to keep it going — and to encourage those of you who have not been to the site to check it out and consider pitching in for the fund drive. So here’s the deal:

For the day of August 14, 2009, John and Kristine Scalzi will do a one-to-one match for every donation made to Strange Horizons, up to $500.

What does this mean? Well, if you donate $5, we’ll donate $5. Donate $10, we’ll donate $10. And so on. Yes, I’ve already cleared this with Krissy. She’s a fan of Strange Horizons too. And to give the day as many hours as possible, we’ll define it as starting midnight Eastern Time but ending at 11:59:59 Pacific Time, which means that it’s a 27-hour donation day. Which means I’m retroactively covering donations made today before I published this. Because, hey: Friday.

Naturally, a good outcome of this would be $1,000 in the Strange Horizons coffers for the day. What I would say would be an even better outcome, however, is an even larger pile of donations sent along to Strange Horizons, for which my and Krissy’s $500 is just the cherry on the top. Remember all donations to Strange Horizons are tax-deductible for Americans (if you’re not in the US, check with your local government), so hey: Write-off! Can’t beat that.

Here’s Strange Horizons’ 2009 fund drive page, with links to send money via Network for Good and PayPal (or via old fashioned mail, if you are so inclined). Tell everyone you know about this — we’re matching any contribution, not just ones from people who come here. And if you’re seeing this after August 14, well, you know. Donate anyway, please. Strange Horizons is well worth your support.

So to recap:

a) Strange Horizons is awesome;
b) Strange Horizons needs your donations;
c) We’ll match donations today up to $500;
e) And tell your friends to donate too.

Any questions, drop them in the comments. Thanks. And thanks in advance for donating to Strange Horizons today. I was just going to spend that $500 on Red Vines and Coke Zero. This is a much better use of it.

Spanish TLC; Strange Horizons Review of ZT

Another Minotauro edition of one of my books, another pretty damn kick-ass cover. This one is for the Spanish edition of The Last Colony, although I note they went ahead and called it “The Lost Colony,” which formalizes in Spanish a common flub of the title in English. I don’t mind.

I’ll note that when I was at the Tools of Change conference in New York in February, a Minotauro rep came up and introduced himself, and the first thing out of my mouth was “Dude, I love the covers you guys put on my books.” And I do. I think he was a little surprised by my squee nonetheless. Note to self: Don’t weird out your foreign publishers.

Closer to home, this seems to be the week for publications to be catching up on their reviews of Zoe’s Tale, because there’s another one today, this time from the good graces of Strange Horizons. It features lots of cites and is generally positive:

[W]hat emerges most successfully from this novel is the experience of a teenager coming into her own as she faces extraordinary circumstances and is called upon, basically, to save the world, which is probably both a common fantasy and a common worst nightmare of teenagers everywhere… all of this is really fun to read about, because John Scalzi is at heart an entertainer, and he is at his best when he maps out big plots and sends his characters careening through them.

Indeed: “Hey, you! Here’s a paper clip and some string! Go save the world!” See, that’s fun.

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 ( Publishing)
  • Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire ( Publishing)
  • Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor ( Publishing)
  • The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark ( Publishing)
  • Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson ( 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 (, 11 July 2018)
  • “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (, 19 September 2018)
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander ( 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 ( Publishing)
  • The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (most recently 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)
  • 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)

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

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

2018 Hugo Awards Finalists

Best Novel

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

Best Novella

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

Best Novelette

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

Best Short Story

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

Best Related Work

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

Best Graphic Story

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

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form

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

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form

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

Best Editor – Short Form

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

Best Editor – Long Form

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

Best Professional Artist

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

Best Semiprozine

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

Best Fanzine

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

Best Fancast

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

Best Fan Writer

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

Best Fan Artist

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

Best Series

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


2018 Associated Awards (not Hugos)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

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

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

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

Reader Request Week 2017 #8: The Path to Publication

Teresa asks:

From the moment that you wrote the first draft, how long it did it take you to see your first work of fiction published?

Heh. Well, it depends on what one means by my first work of fiction.

If, for example, my first work of fiction is thought to be the very first complete story I ever wrote, which is a story called “Best Friends: Or, another reason not to get sick,” then the answer is thirty-three years and counting, since I wrote it in 1984 for Mr. Heyes’ freshman English composition class, and aside from a few copies I ran off for friends (mostly the ones on whom the story was based), no one’s ever seen it, or is likely to. It was written by 14-year me and while it was good enough for the class — I was the only person in three sections of the class to get an “A” — I suspect it is of very limited interest to anyone else.

(With that said, I think the story’s opening graph makes it clear that my general advice of “have good opening lines” is something I knew early on. “Well, if this has taught me anything, it’s not to get sick. I get sick for three days, and the world changed” is pretty solid, even if it has a problem with tenses.)

(And yes, I do still have the complete story, along with just about every other story I wrote as a teen. No, I won’t show them to you. I’m doing you a favor.)

If one discounts juvenilia, then my next actual complete work of fiction might be considered to be a poem I wrote, “Penelope,” which I wrote in 1991. It’s written from the point of view of the wife of Odysseus, waiting for her husband to return and delaying having to pick a suitor by weaving and then unraveling a burial shroud. I don’t usually consider it to be fiction — my brain generally sections out poetry and prose fiction — but inasmuch as it does have a point of view character, and that point of view character is not meant to be me (spoiler: but it kind of was, inasmuch as I was writing it for a girl I pined for and wanted close to me and hey, look, allegory and metaphor), it could be called fiction. As it happens, “Penelope” was published in Miniatures, my book of very short stories, which was published last year (literally on the last day of the year). So that would be 25 years. I’d note I didn’t try to publish it prior to Miniatures; it was written for a specific person in mind.

If we toss out that poem and stick to prose, the next piece of completed fiction I wrote was Agent to the Stars, which I wrote in the summer of 1997 as my “practice novel,” i.e., the novel I wrote to see if I could write a novel (turns out I could). Inasmuch as it was my practice novel, I didn’t write it with the intent to sell it, but when I created my web site at, I decided to put it up here and let people download it if they liked, and if they wanted, to send me money for it. So it was self-published, and that was in 1999. If you want to count self-publishing on one’s Web site as actual publication (back in 1999, I would note, it would generally not have been considered so), then it took two years. If you don’t count that as publishing, then you’d have to wait until 2005, when the hardcover version was published by Subterranean Press. In which case: eight years.

But it’s important to note that Agent got published (by someone else) because that publisher asked to publish it; I didn’t shop it. If you’re curious about what piece of fiction of mine was the first that I wrote with the intent to try to have it published, and which was then in fact actually published by someone else, then that would be “Alien Animal Encounters.” I wrote it in 2001 and immediately submitted it to Strange Horizons magazine, on the basis that I liked the magazine, and also because it would accept electronic submissions, and I didn’t own a printer. For the life of me I can’t remember exactly when I wrote it, but I did submit it almost immediately after I wrote it, and it was published pretty quickly after that. That was October 2001, so I suspect I wrote it a couple months before that. Let’s say three months to be safe. So: Three months, from writing it to it being published.

(Also, all of these were first drafts, in the sense that I edit as I write, so when I type “The End” I just do a quick copyedit run through. I don’t edit less than people who write drafts, I just do it as I go along. Works for me; your mileage my vary.)

So: Depending on how one chooses to define what was my first work of fiction, and what constitutes publishing, the answer to the gap between first draft and the pub date is three months, or two years, or eight years, or 25 years, or 33 years and counting.

And you know what? I think that’s about average, as far as writers are concerned. There are lots of places one could count as the starting point for one’s career, and lots of different opinions as to what constitutes being published.

The important thing here is: I did start writing. And I did start getting published.

Everything progressed from there. And here we are.

Old Man’s War, Ten Years On

Ten years ago today, Tor officially released Old Man’s War into the world, and so today is my official ten year anniversary of being a published novelist, and the anniversary of my entrance into the ranks of professional science fiction writers. Note that this “official” date is all kinds of leaky; Old Man’s War was popping up in bookstores a couple weeks before the actual pub date (which was fine by me because holiday sales), Tor bought the book from me two years before that, I had one science fiction story published in Strange Horizons in 2001 (which at the time did not qualify as a “pro” sale by SFWA), and of course in 1999 I self-published Agent to the Stars on my Web site (and serialized OMW on it in 2002).

Be that as it may, when I think of my professional science fiction career launching, January 1, 2005 is the date I think of. So there you have it.

It has, unambiguously, been a good ten years for both me and the book. In the case of the book, it was nominated for the Hugo and got me nominated for the Campbell (the latter of which I won that year), topped “best of the 21st century” lists from Locus and (caveats on those here), spawned a very successful book series, which includes New York Times bestsellers and Hugo nominees, has been translated into 21 or 22 languages at this point (I’ve lost count), been optioned for TV and film, sold well in its first year and continues to sell, very well, year in and year out. It’s my most successful book, and I suspect likely to be the one I’ll be remembered for when all accounts are tallied and closed out.

Which, of course, is perfectly fine by me. A couple of years ago, when I was on the JoCo Cruise for the first time, I sat on a panel of writers, and an audience member asked the panel whether any of us ever worried about being thought of as a “one hit wonder.” My response was to say that I had that “one hit” in Old Man’s War, and what that “one hit” had done was to offer me the sort of notability and stability that allowed me to write pretty much whatever I wanted from that time forward — it was the foundation on which everything else good in my fiction writing career was built upon. Having “one hit” isn’t a curse unless you want it to be. It can be an opportunity for many other things.

As it has been for me. Old Man’s War, and the fact that creative and cool people doing interesting things really like the book, has opened up a whole lot of doors for me. I’ve gotten to do any number of things I never would have been able to do, and gotten to meet so many people I like and admire, because of that novel and what’s flowed from it. Old Man’s War changed my life, and for the better, and I love that it has.

(With all that noted, it doesn’t feel like ten years has passed. But then I suspect on a day to day basis it never really feels like time passes; it’s only when you look up and note a milestone that you tally up the distance. I’ve gone from being one of the proverbial new kids in science fiction to arguably embodying the current iteration of the genre’s “establishment,” with all the positive and negative connotations that such a thing has. I’ve been in the genre long enough now that I’ve been considered an influence to some, and everything that’s wrong with the genre today to others. I have no control over either, so I tend not to worry about them, although I do admit to sometimes going out of my way to annoy the people who don’t like me, and gleefully so. It’s a weakness.)

Ten years on, I think OMW has aged pretty well, although there are some things I think show its age a bit, like calling portable information devices “PDAs,” which was a term with some currency in 2001, when I wrote the novel, and none whatsoever now. Nevertheless I’m kind of stuck with it for however long the series goes. I might also retool Sgt. Ruiz’s speech to the cadets, although it would still end the same way (with the Willie Wheelie scene). Also, knowing what I know now, i.e., that the book would spawn a series that would span a decade and six books to date, I might have spent a little more time making Earth feel more future-y, and less like the Earth of 2001 plus a single space elevator.

(I will note that a few years ago, when Newsweek went all-digital, I got ribbed for having a physical copy of the magazine in the book’s recruiting station. But now here in 2015, Newsweek sells print copies again! I am vindicated.)

What I am most proud of OMW, ten years on, is simply the fact that it seems to have stayed. Which is to say that people still read it, people are still discovering it, and people are still sharing it. Not every book does that. I’ll go ahead and take some of the credit for that — it’s a pretty good book — but I’ll also go ahead and reiterate something I always point out, which is that OMW had a considerable amount of luck going for it. Its persistence on bookshelves and in the science fiction conversation was in no way predestined or certain (nor was mine, to be sure). I am grateful for that luck, and the opportunities I have had to build on it, both with OMW and its series, and with the rest of my career.

So, if you ever bought or read a copy of Old Man’s War, thank you. You’ve helped to make this last decade wonderful. I am most appreciative. Here’s to another decade — or two! Or three! Heck, five or seven or ten! — in each others’ company.

(P.S.: Curious what my thoughts were on this five years ago? Here you go.)

Winter’s Here + “Lock In” a Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist + Other Stuff

Dear Autumn: Your contract clearly specified that you were to work until December 21st, with some allowances for part-time work after the pie was served on Thanksgiving. However, as the above photo clearly indicates, you are now in breach of contract. Please come see us to discuss this matter. Thank you. That will be all.

In other, entirely unrelated news, Lock In has made the final round of the Goodreads Choice Awards, in the Science Fiction category. That’s pretty cool, so if you voted for the book in the previous two rounds, thank you. I would encourage you to do so again, or if you’ve not voted already, to do so now. Mind you, if there’s another book among the finalists you like more, go ahead and vote for that instead. But if you prefer to vote for Lock In, then, again, thanks. Here’s the link to vote.

I’ll also remind you all that you can order signed and personalized books from me for the holidays through my local bookstore, Jay & Mary’s. Here’s how to do that, if you’ve not done so already.

Finally, the folks at Strange Horizons are in the final stretch of their annual fund drive. SH is the place that first published science fiction of mine, so I’m sentimental about it, and am happy to have it continue. If you’d like to donate to keep them going, here’s the link (and yes, I’ve donated). They’re very close to their fund drive goal — it’d be lovely to get them over the top.

And no, I’m not at quota yet for the day. I got a late start due to sleeping in because it’s the first snow day of the academic year and I didn’t have to take Athena to school. However, I am going to leave you now. But I will tell you that I have two additional updates scheduled for this week. On Wednesday, I’ll show off the new books and ARCs that have arrived at the house. And on Friday, I will offer up a self-promotion thread, in which you may tell everyone about your latest creative projects and cool things, or tell them about something cool/creative a friend is doing. See you then.

Now back to the word mines.

Nebula Award Winners for 2013

And now, for those of you who haven’t read the news anywhere else, the results of the 2013 Nebula Awards Ceremony, which were awarded last night in San Jose. Congratulations to all the winners!


Winner: Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Marian Wood)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (Morrow; Headline Review)
Fire with Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Hild, Nicola Griffith (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata (Mythic Island)
A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker (Harper)


Winner: ‘‘The Weight of the Sunrise,’’ Vylar Kaftan (Asimov’s 2/13)
‘‘Wakulla Springs,’’ Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages ( 10/2/13)
‘‘Annabel Lee,’’ Nancy Kress (New Under the Sun)
‘‘Burning Girls,’’ Veronica Schanoes ( 6/19/13)
‘‘Trial of the Century,’’ Lawrence M. Schoen (; World Jumping)
Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean)


Winner: ‘‘The Waiting Stars,’’ Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky)
‘‘Paranormal Romance,’’ Christopher Barzak (Lightspeed 6/13)
‘‘They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass,’’ Alaya Dawn Johnson (Asimov’s 1/13)
‘‘Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters,’’ Henry Lien (Asimov’s 12/13)
‘‘The Litigation Master and the Monkey King,’’ Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/13)
‘‘In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,’’ Sarah Pinsker (Strange Horizons 7/1 – 7/8/13)

Short Story

Winner: ‘‘If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,’’ Rachel Swirsky (Apex 3/13)
‘‘The Sounds of Old Earth,’’ Matthew Kressel (Lightspeed 1/13)
‘‘Selkie Stories Are for Losers,’’ Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons 1/7/13)
‘‘Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer,’’ Kenneth Schneyer (Clockwork Phoenix 4)
‘‘Alive, Alive Oh,’’ Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (Lightspeed 6/13)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

Winner: Gravity
Doctor Who: ‘‘The Day of the Doctor’’
Europa Report
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Pacific Rim

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book

Winner: Sister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson (Grand Central)
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black (Little, Brown; Indigo)
When We Wake, Karen Healey (Allen & Unwin; Little, Brown)
The Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Hero, Alethea Kontis (Harcourt)
September Girls, Bennett Madison (Harper Teen)
A Corner of White, Jaclyn Moriarty (Levine)

Kevin O’Donnell Jr. Service to SFWA Award: Michael Armstrong

2013 Damon Knight Grand Master Award: Samuel R. Delany  

The 2013 Nebula Awards were presented May 17, 2014 at the  SFWA’s 49th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend in San Jose, CA.

The 2014 Hugo Nominees

Here are the nominees this year!

1923 valid nominating ballots were received and counted from the members of LoneStarCon 3, Loncon 3 and Sasquan. (1889 Electronic  and 34 Paper.)

BEST NOVEL (1595 ballots)

  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
  • Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
  • Parasite by Mira Grant (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
  • Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia (Baen Books)
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books)

BEST NOVELLA (847 ballots)

  • The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
  • “The Chaplain’s Legacy” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
  • “Equoid” by Charles Stross (, 09-2013)
  • Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
  • “Wakulla Springs” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (, 10-2013)

BEST NOVELETTE (728 ballots)

  • “The Exchange Officers” by Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
  • “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal ( /, 09-2013)
  • “Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
  • “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  • “The Waiting Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)

BEST SHORT STORY (865 ballots)

  • “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
  • “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (, 04-2013)
  • “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
  • “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (, 02-2013)

Note: category has 4 nominees due to a 5% requirement under Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution.

BEST RELATED WORK (752 ballots)

  • Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)
  • Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary by Justin Landon & Jared Shurin (Jurassic London)
  • “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)
  • Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer, with Jeremy Zerfoss (Abrams Image)
  • Writing Excuses Season 8 by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson

BEST GRAPHIC STORY (552 ballots)

  • Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City written by Phil and Kaja Foglio; art by Phil Foglio; colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)
  • “The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who” written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton (Doctor Who Special 2013, IDW)
  • The Meathouse Man adapted from the story by George R.R. Martin and illustrated by Raya Golden (Jet City Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 2 written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics )
  • “Time” by Randall Munroe (XKCD)


  • Frozen screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)
  • Iron Man 3 screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  • Pacific Rim screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)


  • An Adventure in Space and Time written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor” written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Televison)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot written & directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space / BBC America)

Note: category has 6 nominees due to a tie for 5th place.

BEST EDITOR – SHORT FORM (656 ballots)

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Sheila Williams

BEST EDITOR – LONG FORM (632 ballots)

  • Ginjer Buchanan
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Lee Harris
  • Toni Weisskopf


  • Galen Dara
  • Julie Dillon
  • Daniel Dos Santos
  • John Harris
  • John Picacio
  • Fiona Staples

Note: category has 6 nominees due to a tie for 5th place.

BEST SEMIPROZINE (411 ballots)

  • Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore, and Michael Damian Thomas
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
  • Interzone edited by Andy Cox
  • Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Stefan Rudnicki
  • Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Sonya Taaffe, Abigail Nussbaum, Rebecca Cross, Anaea Lay, and Shane Gavin

BEST FANZINE (478 ballots)

  • The Book Smugglers edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James
  • A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher
  • Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
  • Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Christopher J. Garcia, Lynda E. Rucker, Pete Young, Colin Harris, and Helen J. Montgomery
  • Pornokitsch edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin

BEST FANCAST (396 ballots)

  • The Coode Street Podcast Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Galactic Suburbia Podcast Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • SF Signal Podcast Patrick Hester
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, David Annandale, Mike Underwood, and Stina Leicht
  • Tea and Jeopardy Emma Newman
  • Verity! Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts
  • The Writer and the Critic Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond

Note: category has 7 nominees due to a tie for 5th place.

BEST FAN WRITER (521 ballots)

  • Liz Bourke
  • Kameron Hurley
  • Foz Meadows
  • Abigail Nussbaum
  • Mark Oshiro

BEST FAN ARTIST (316 ballots)

  • Brad W. Foster
  • Mandie Manzano
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles
  • Sarah Webb


Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2012 or 2013, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

  • Wesley Chu
  • Max Gladstone *
  • Ramez Naam *
  • Sofia Samatar *
  • Benjanun Sriduangkaew

*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

Congrats to the nominees! I will have more comments on the slate later. Feel free to discuss the nominations in the comment thread.

In Case You Rely On Me For These Things: The 2013 Nebula Awards Nominees

And I have to say, it’s an excellent slate this year. All information taken from here. The winners will be announced at the Nebula Weekend this May, in San Jose.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Best Novel

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Marian Wood)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (Morrow; Headline Review)
Fire with Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Hild, Nicola Griffith (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata (Mythic Island)
A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker (Harper)

Best Novella

‘‘Wakulla Springs,’’ Andy Duncan & Ellen Klages ( 10/2/13)
‘‘The Weight of the Sunrise,’’ Vylar Kaftan (Asimov’s 2/13)
‘‘Annabel Lee,” Nancy Kress (New Under the Sun, Arc Manor/Phoenix Pick)
‘‘Burning Girls,’’ Veronica Schanoes ( 6/19/13)
‘‘Trial of the Century,’’ Lawrence M. Schoen (, 8/13; World Jumping)
Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean)

Best Novelette

‘‘Paranormal Romance,’’ Christopher Barzak (Lightspeed 6/13)
‘‘The Waiting Stars,’’ Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky)
‘‘They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass,’’ Alaya Dawn Johnson (Asimov’s 1/13)
‘‘Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters,’’ Henry Lien (Asimov’s 12/13)
‘‘The Litigation Master and the Monkey King,’’ Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/13)
‘‘In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,’’ Sarah Pinsker (Strange Horizons 7/1 – 7/8/13)

 Best Short Story

‘‘The Sounds of Old Earth,’’ Matthew Kressel (Lightspeed 1/13)
‘‘Selkie Stories Are for Losers,’’ Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons 1/7/13)
‘‘Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer,’’ Kenneth Schneyer (Clockwork Phoenix 4)
‘‘If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love,’’ Rachel Swirsky (Apex 3/13)
‘‘Alive, Alive Oh,’’ Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (Lightspeed 6/13)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

Doctor Who: ‘‘The Day of the Doctor’’ (Nick Hurran, director; Steven Moffat, writer) (BBC Wales)
Europa Report (Sebastián Cordero, director; Philip Gelatt, writer) (Start Motion Pictures)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, director; Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, writers) (Warner Bros.)
Her (Spike Jonze, director; Spike Jonze, writer) (Warner Bros.)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence, director; Simon Beaufoy & Michael deBruyn, writers) (Lionsgate)
Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro, director; Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, writers) (Warner Bros.)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black (Little, Brown; Indigo)
When We Wake, Karen Healey (Allen & Unwin; Little, Brown)
Sister Mine, Nalo Hopkinson (Grand Central)
The Summer Prince, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Hero, Alethea Kontis (Harcourt)
September Girls, Bennett Madison (Harper Teen)
A Corner of White, Jaclyn Moriarty (Levine)

Big Idea Gender Breakdown

Via Annalee Newitz’s Twitter feed, I see that Strange Horizons has done a gender breakdown of reviews in SF publications, and learns that more sf/f by men is reviewed than sf/f by women. This made me curious as to how my Big Idea feature here at Whatever has been doing, gender-wise, in terms of authors/editors featured.

So I tallied up the gender of writers who contributed Big Idea pieces between 4/23/12 and 4/24/13 (I’m counting tomorrow’s Big Idea piece, as I already have it in hand). Here’s how it turned out:

44 men wrote or co-wrote Big Idea pieces during that span of time;

48 women wrote or co-wrote Big Idea pieces.

Some notes on that: One, Big Idea pieces aren’t reviews, although they perform one of the publicity-related functions of reviews, i.e., raising awareness of the work in question. Also, not every Big Idea piece was for a science fiction or fantasy work, although most were (there were several works in other genres, including non-fiction), and a couple of them were for non-books, including one for a video game and one for a calendar. The male/female division on individual works featured is closer to 50/50 because three Big Ideas were co-written by women who wrote/edited the same book, while one book was co-written by a man and a woman.

(No trans authors in the mix, so far as I am aware; if there were I would have tallied them by their preferred gender. No authors who would identify as genderfluid, as far as I know.)

I should also note that I don’t generally actively check to see if I’ve gender-balanced Big Idea posts over any span of time; I mostly operate the Big Idea on a “first-come, first-served” basis in terms of slotting people in. It would be interesting to see whether the gender balance of the Big Idea feature is this balanced over time. Someone else will need to check that, however, since I’m not planning to do it at the moment.

But in any event, interesting data. And I don’t mind admitting being happy that the Big Idea gender mix seems to be mostly balanced.

Redshirts Nominated for the Best Novel Hugo Award + Hugo Nomination Slate

Wheee! Just to let you know. I’ll be updating with the entire nomination list as soon as it’s posted. I’ll post another entry with my reaction to the slate a bit later.

Update: The entire Hugo award nomination slate:

Best Novel (1,113 ballots)

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit)
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (Tor)
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (DAW)

Best Novella (587 ballots)

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
“The Stars Do Not Lie” by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)

Best Novelette (616 ballots)

“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
“Fade To White” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
“In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
“Rat-Catcher” by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)

Best Short Story (662 ballots)

“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
“Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“Mono no Aware” by Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)

Note: category has 3 nominees due to a 5% requirement under Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution.

Best Related Work (584 ballots)

The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge UP)
Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis (Mad Norwegian Press)
Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles (Mad Norwegian Press)
I Have an Idea for a Book… The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)
Writing Excuses Season Seven by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson

Best Graphic Story (427 ballots)

Grandville Bête Noire written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Saga, Volume One written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (787 ballots)

The Avengers Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
The Cabin in the Woods Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
The Hunger Games Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
Looper Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (597 ballots)

Doctor Who:“The Angels Take Manhattan” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“Asylum of the Daleks” Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“The Snowmen” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)
Fringe:“Letters of Transit” Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
Game of Thrones:“Blackwater” Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)

Best Editor – Short Form (526 ballots)

John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form (408 ballots)

Lou Anders
Sheila Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist (519 ballots)

Vincent Chong
Julie Dillon
Dan Dos Santos
Chris McGrath
John Picacio

Best Semiprozine (404 ballots)

Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore and Michael Damian Thomas
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Jason Heller, Sean Wallace and Kate Baker
Lightspeed edited by John Joseph Adams and Stefan Rudnicki
Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Jed Hartman, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Abigail Nussbaum, Sonya Taaffe, Dave Nagdeman and Rebecca Cross

Best Fanzine (370 ballots)

Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia and James Bacon
Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Emma J. King, Helen J. Montgomery and Pete Young
SF Signal edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester

Best Fancast (346 ballots)

The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and JP Frantz
SF Squeecast, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente (Presenters) and David McHone-Chase (Technical Producer)
StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

Best Fan Writer (485 ballots)

James Bacon
Christopher J Garcia
Mark Oshiro
Tansy Rayner Roberts
Steven H Silver

Best Fan Artist (293 ballots)

Galen Dara
Brad W. Foster
Spring Schoenhuth
Maurine Starkey
Steve Stiles

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (476 ballots)

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

Zen Cho *
Max Gladstone
Mur Lafferty *
Stina Leicht *
Chuck Wendig *

* Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

Writer, Professional, Good

Here are three questions I was recently asked about writing. I’m going to condense the questions, because when they were asked, they meandered across several paragraphs; they boil down to three sentences, which are:

When may you call yourself a writer? When may you call yourself a professional writer? When may you say you are a good writer?

These are three separate but related questions. Let’s start with the most fundamental.

When may you call yourself a writer?

I tend to be very small-c catholic on this question and say that if you write at all, you can consider yourself a writer. This annoys people who think that tweeting about your lunch or posting on Facebook that your cat horked up a hairball does not rise to the level of true writing, but, look, writing is an act of setting down in words the things about which you have a concern. If you are literate and you can manage to create meaning from the written word, you are, on a very basic level, a writer, even if what you’re writing is “I’ve gone to the store for milk. Be back soon.”

But for the sake of argument, let’s tighten this up a bit. Let’s say that just being able to write a meaningful sentence doesn’t make you a writer, any more than being able to lie with a straight face makes you an actor, or doodling in a boring meeting makes you an artist. So where does the line exist, over which one may say “I’m a writer”?

In this scenario, the line manifests with intent. Does the person sending out an e-mail about where everyone is meeting for after-work drinks intend to write? Other than in the most practical and mechanical sense, no. E-mailing everyone is simply the easiest way to get the information to the largest number of people involved, with the best chance those people will get the information. If it were easier and more practical to send a group voice mail, that would be what would happen.

A writer, on the other hand, chooses written words, and chooses them not just for mechanical and practical reasons, but for (or also for) esthetic and artistic purposes. Writers want to write, rather than have to write. In presenting an idea, the medium they intend for it to be in is the written word.

This is still a bar too low for some people, but screw them, those guys are snobs. I say that if you want to write, and then you do write, then you are writer.

However, it doesn’t make you a good writer. I’ll give you an example, using a different creative field. I recently got a ukulele, and I enjoy playing it, and I actively make music with it. I am a musician. But I’m not a good musician, because right now my chording is merely adequate and my strumming is marginal. I’m no Jake Shimabukuro, nor am I likely ever to be. But that’s fine because I don’t play ukulele to be the best ukulele player ever; I play it because I enjoy it and it’s fun.

Likewise, people may call themselves “writers” even if they recognize they are not very good at it at the moment, or if they suspect they may never be, but just enjoy it anyway. The act of writing — of putting ideas into the medium of the written word — is sufficient. You write? You meant to do that? What you’ve written is intelligible to other humans? Congratulations, you’re a writer.

When may you call yourself a professional writer?

Are you writing with the intent to be paid? Are you being paid? Is writing consistently one of the ways in which you make your living over time? If the answers to each of these is “yes,” then you can probably get away with calling yourself a “professional writer.”

Note that writing, in general, is not a profession in the same manner as being a medical doctor is a profession. You don’t have to go to school to be a writer (I didn’t), you don’t need to have a degree or a certification in the subject to practice it (I don’t), you don’t have to be licensed to do it (at least not in the US) and there are few if any laws that govern its practice. Now, you can go to school for writing, get degrees in the field and even join associations or unions of writers, who may have their own definitions of what constitutes a professional level of achievement (see, as an example, the membership requirements for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, of which I am currently president). But those are choices, not requirements. If you write science fiction and fantasy, you should belong to SFWA (thus ends my plug). But if you don’t, it’s not as if the police will come to the door and arrest you for fraud.

“Professional” in this sense means that you are in the stream of commerce — which is to say, you offer your writing (or your talents as a writer) for sale, and your writing and/or talents are being used and compensated for by others. In my own opinion, for saying that you’re a professional writer, it helps to be able to show that you’ve been able to make money at writing over time. Getting paid for any writing is not a bad thing, mind you. If you get paid for it, whatever the circumstance, then good for you. But let me give you an example from my own experience. When I was in college, I took third place in a student writing competition for a short story, for which I received $250. I got paid for that writing. Did it make me a professional writer of fiction? Not really, since I didn’t then write another piece of fiction for sale for another decade.

I sold a science fiction short to Strange Horizons in 2001, but it too was something of a one-off, more of an experiment to see if I could sell a short story than an entrance into the field as a profession. I date my professional entry into the world of fiction with my sale of Old Man’s War to Tor in 2002, because among other things it was part of a two-book deal, i.e., I’d be getting paid for my fiction work over time. Even then, it wasn’t until Old Man’s War was published in 2005 that I felt comfortable saying I was a professional fiction writer. Now, that’s just me (and note that since I could call myself a pro writer for other reasons, having patience on that part was not difficult for me). Some folks really really really want to call themselves a pro writer the first time they get a check. I’m not going to go out of my way to crap on them for it if they do.

It’s important to note that “professional” is not the same thing as “good,” although in my opinion it does correlate pretty well with “competent”; it’s hard to make money from writing if you can’t actually write. But it’s entirely possible to be a professional, published writer and be only competent. This is because, as I noted long ago, publishing is about what is competent rather than what is “good;” “good” is a value judgement, where “competent” is a standard that’s as objective as we can get when we talk about language. Even in the realm of self-publishing, financially successful writing has to be competent at least.

Which brings us to the third question:

When may you call yourself a good writer?

When you are in control of your instrument. In the case of fiction in particular, this means having the ability to make your reader have the emotional response you intended for them to have, when you set down to write. To put it another way, when a competent writer tells you a story, you know what happened. When a good writer tells you a story, you feel it happen to you.

(When a great writer tells you a story, you feel your life change because of it. But let’s not worry about that one now.)

Caveat: there is no bright line between “competent” and “good.” Some writers can be good in some aspects of writing and merely competent in others. Other writers are competent today and good tomorrow, and vice versa. Good writers can have bad days; competent writers can have really good days, and then later be unable to repeat the performance at will. Writers often can’t tell when what they’re writing is good or just competent (or worse). This is one reason why so many of us are completely neurotic.

And here’s something that really sucks — being a good writer doesn’t necessarily mean that any particular thing you’ve written will get published, because being published is contingent on several things, some of which are not about the writing. I’ve noted here before that when I guest-edited Subterranean Magazine, I had to reject about half the stories I really wanted to buy because I only had so much space and money. I had to pick and choose. The stories I rejected were good, and it killed me to have to let them go.

For all of that, a good writer is good at writing more often than not; the baseline skill is established and it’s at a high level. How a writer becomes good is pretty much like how anyone becomes good at anything: Practice, practice, practice. Talent plays into it but I think talent is overrated and overprivileged, and there are lots of writers with raw talent who never pan out because they expect that raw talent should be all they have to bring to the game. Surprise! It’s not. Lots of good writers are good simply because they’ve learned their craft and they’ve honed their skill.

I am a good writer, but I was a published writer before I was a good writer. The dividing line for me happened in 1997, after I spent a year as an editor for a humor magazine that ran on AOL. Before then I was a competent writer who assumed he was good because he was arrogant; after I had been an editor and spent time dealing with other people’s writing I was able to see the flaws and problems in mine, and it made a difference. I think being a published writer before one is a good writer is not unusual. Lots of competent writers learn to be good writers on the job. It’s part of that whole “practice, practice, practice” thing.

My advice to anyone who wants to be a good writer is simple: Stop thinking about being a good writer and start thinking about being a better writer. Work on the things you know you want to improve on. Stop thinking that you’re going to cross some line and then suddenly you’ll be a good writer. It doesn’t work that way, and even good writers still have things to work on (trust me on this).

You’ll know when you’re a good writer when your craft is good enough that you don’t worry about whether you can do what you want to do with your writing, and instead you wonder about how you’re going to do it. You probably won’t notice the first time this happens. When you do notice it, it probably won’t be a big deal. You’ll be more focused on the writing.

If You’re Feeling Charitable Today

I have three things for you to think about giving some money to.

One, Strange Horizons, the fabulous online science fiction magazine that published my very first science fiction story oh-so-many years ago, is in the midst of its annual fund drive.

You’ll remember last year that Whatever folks took them over the top with their fund raising, so if you still value the work they do — and the work they publish — consider sending a few more dollars their way this year as well. Remember also that Strange Horizons is a non-profit organization, and your donations are tax deductible (and if you work for a cool job, may also qualify for matching gifts from your employer). This is, I think, the last week of their fund drive, so get in there.

Two, today I got this note from Epic SF author Peter F. Hamilton:

I agreed to auction off a character name in the next book for Autistica, a UK charity working for autistic kids.

I know you get some UK traffic through your site, so I wondered if you’d consider giving it a mention.

Consider it mentioned! I’ll note that other UK authors are also auctioning off character names, but you know what? A Tuckerization in a Hamilton novel would be especially sweet.

Three, How to Teach Physics to Your Dog author Chad Orzel is doing his annual charity drive for education charity Donors Choose, and this year he’s also planning on selling off naming rights for one of his upcoming books. The twist? Chad explains:

I will name two animals in the book-in-progress after the pets of people who donate to the Challege: one for the largest individual donation, and one to a donor chosen at random.

My new dog Daisy is already so very excited about this. Here are all the details. Chad’s charity drives runs through next Tuesday, so hurry if you want to make your pet famous.

2009 Review, 2010 Preview

2010 is close enough now that I can see it from here — and I’ve wrapped up nearly everything I needed to do in 2009 — so now is a good time to do a quick retrospective on the last year in a professional sense and talk a little about what I see ahead in 2010.

First, 2009. It was an interesting year. Some of the things I liked:

  • Working on Stargate: Universe as its Creative Consultant and helping to build a TV show from the ground up;
  • Winning the Best Related Book Hugo for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, and having Zoe’s Tale and METAtropolis nominated for their own awards;
  • Writing The God Engines, which was something very different for me;
  • Helping Strange Horizons meet its fundraising goals for the year.

What I didn’t like: Basically that a not insignificant amount of my time was wasted this year by people who are not me, which is something I don’t appreciate. It’s bad enough when I waste my own time, but at least that’s on me, and it’s my time to waste. Other people wasting my time, on the other hand, just pisses me off. I could go on, but it’s best to leave it at that.

One side effect of this wasted time, however, is that it’s put a divot in my novel production schedule. The initial work on that divot, to be sure, was done by me when I pulled The High Castle out of the production schedule at the end of last year. But there are other factors involved, and regardless of how I choose to portion out the responsibility for the divot, the fact is there was no new novel in 2009 (The God Engines is a novella), and currently there’s no firm timeframe for a 2010 novel release. As someone who is currently making a living writing novels, that’s not a positive thing.

Which brings me to my plans for 2010:

1. Writing novels;

2. Aaaaand that’s pretty much what I got.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate; I have other plans as well, which I can’t tell you about at the moment if only because they’re in an embryonic stage, so there’s no point going into detail about them, and they might not pan out in any event. Writing novels, on the other hand, is something I am entirely in control of (Step one: Put ass in chair; Step two: Write until said ass is sore; Step three: Repeat steps one and two for 100,000 words) and so it’s what I plan to do.

Whether this means there’s a new novel published in 2010 is not really up to me; that’s a production schedule issue. But it does mean there will be new novels written in 2010. That much I can guarantee.

As for what of mine will be published in 2010, here’s what we have:

  • Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: The Tor trade paperback edition, which is out next week (which is to say that it may already be in your bookstores).
  • METAtropolis: The trade hardcover edition (i.e., not limited) from Tor, which is scheduled for June 8.

As for anything else relating to me and 2010 — well, we’ll have to get there and see. I’m looking forward to the new year, however. I suspect 2010 will be a better year all around. At the very least, I hope it is.

My Short Fiction Rates

As I’ve been blathering about short story payment rates over the last couple of days, I’ve been getting inquiries via the e-mail channel about what I make when I write short fiction. Fair enough; I’ve talked about what I’ve made before in a general sense, so I’ll detail the short fiction part of it for you. But behind the cut, as I suspect some people are now officially bored with the topic, and some others might simply find me talking about what I make a bit obnoxious.

(Click below to read more…)

Read More »

Aspiring Writer Stockholm Syndrome

One of the things I’m finding interesting — and by interesting, I mean appalling — about my recent thumping upon Black Matrix Publishing for paying an insultingly low fifth a cent a word for its stories is that there’s a category of aspiring writer who appears genuinely offended that I would call out this company for paying its authors so very poorly. The complaint goes a bit like this, and you’ll understand that I’m excerpting from various sources:

It’s not really fair that Scalzi is singling out Black Matrix Publishing when so many others are doing the same thing. Doesn’t he remember what it was like to be a new writer? We can’t all make what the pros make. A market like this gives me hope. It’s not Scalzi’s business anyway.

Allow me to address each of these in turn.

“It’s not fair Scalzi is singling out Black Matrix Publishing” — This is an “if lots of people are cheapskates, you shouldn’t call out just one of the cheapskates” argument, which as you may expect is not an argument I have much time for. Sure, lots of other publishers might have business plans predicated on screwing the writer, but this is the one I was looking at that particular day, and its payment scale richly deserved comment and derision. Is this fair? Of course it is: Calling out ridiculously poor payment rates is always fair. One is not required to make a list of all known poorly-paying publishers in order to justly and fairly criticize one of them. If and when I call out another publisher for equally ridiculous payment levels, that’ll be fair too.

I do notice Black Matrix Publishing is currently wrapping itself in the “we’re just simple fans doing a hobby, here, we never intended to be a pro market” justification for paying writers badly. Really? Planning to publish four magazines and two separate book lines is a hobby? Does one generally create an LLC for one’s hobby? Call me skeptical. This is a business.

“Doesn’t he remember what it was like to be a new writer?” — Sure I do. And when I made my first science fiction sale, it was to Strange Horizons, because it was a market which made a point of paying what’s regarded as a pro rate in science fiction (and still does). Because even as a new writer, I felt very strongly that I deserved fair payment for my work, and, separately but equally importantly, I placed value on my work. Even as a newbie writer, I wouldn’t have sent a damn thing to a publisher like Black Matrix, because I assume my work deserves better than a market that values it that poorly.

Mind you, this isn’t limited to fiction, either — when I was starting out as freelance writer back in college and then again after I left AOL, I also didn’t write for markets which didn’t value my work; I wrote for the ones that paid me what I felt should be paid. It’s worked pretty well for me, and trust me, I am not so very special as a writer that this is not replicable for others.

“We can’t all make what the pros make” — Why not? All it takes is the decision not to take less than that for your work, and patience until you get to that point. This is why I advise writers to keep their day jobs. If you can’t or won’t wait, pick a lower amount you’re happy with, below which you do not go. Allow me to suggest that amount be a positive integer when it comes to pennies per word.

“A market like this gives me hope” — A market that thinks so little of you that it takes five words to get to a penny gives you hope? You need better hope standards, my friends.

Look, this is pretty simple: Black Matrix Publishing pays crap rates because it can. The people running it appear to be running it on a shoe string, if the proprietor’s lament about paying a few thousand dollars to date into it is correct, and they’re likely well aware that none of the other vendors providing elements for their little operation are so fungible in their costs as writers. The people who print their magazines will not be pleased to make 4% of their generally accepted “pro rates” for their printing services; the Staples down the street is not going to give them a 96% discount on pens and printer cartridges. The only group of people so willing to offer such a steep discount on services rendered are writers. Why? “Because at least they pay something.” “Because I’m working my way up.” “Because no one writes this stuff to make money.” “Because it gives me hope.”

Bullshit. Someone intending to make a profit off your words offering you a fifth of a penny per word isn’t giving you hope, he’s giving you the shaft — and he’s banking on your psychological need for approval and recognition in a field you want to be a part of to make you grab your ankles and sings his praises while he reams you. This isn’t hope, it’s Aspiring Writer Stockholm Syndrome. Snap out of it.

“It’s not Scalzi’s business anyway” — Sure it is. I’m a writer. It’s in my interest to call out markets that in my opinion are taking advantage of writers, because I prefer a marketplace filled with markets that value the work I provide, not filled with markets that take as read that writers will be pathetically grateful just to be published not matter how badly you pay them. How would I feel if Black Matrix Publishing folded its tent? Delighted. Good riddance to publishers who value writers so poorly. But what would make me even more delighted is if the proprietors stopped saying they were committed to writers and actually showed some commitment by paying something more than a fraction of a cent per word. I think it’s not too much to ask. I also think it’s my business to say so.