Jul 252019
 

Hugo AwardI hate to say this, because I fear I’m going to isolate people I like. But we have to have a talk about the Hugos.

 

I. Trail of Lightning should never have been a finalist.

It’s not just that it’s a basic wire-rack monster hunter pulp-fiction novel. In my personal opinion, yes, that should be enough to disqualify any work. The Hugo is one of the premier awards in SF fiction. It should go to novels that are innovative, pushing the genre forward. Or that have something important to say about being human, or something urgent to say about the state of the world. It needs to have a higher purpose than just basic entertainment. Trail of Lightning is exactly the sort of pulp adventure that my father mocked me for reading when I was younger, because he didn’t know authors like Heinlein and Le Guin and Jemisin existed. The Hugo awards exist exactly for the purpose of highlighting works that mean more than just a thrilling read.

BUT I know not everyone shares that view. Some people do think that awards should go to things that are just very good at being very entertaining. (I contend those books already get the award of “Best Seller” status, but hey, I guess that’s not enough?). I know this in part because every year something is in the finalist list that makes me roll my eyes and feel like an elitist jerk for a few days.

Unfortunately, even if one contends that pulp adventure is worthy of at least being considered for an award, Trail of Lightning is not a great specimen of that species.

 

II. This is not Roanhorse’s fault, or issue!

I would first like to stress that I am not saying that Rebecca Roanhorse is a bad writer. We know from last year’s short story “Welcome To Your Authentic Indian Experience(TM)” that she can write extremely well, and that she can tackle some very heavy social issues with incredible aplomb. That story was flat-out amazing, and deserved every award and bit of praise it got.

A digression – Simply looking at the timeline of when Authentic Indian Experience was published vs when Trail of Lightning was published, and knowing that the publishing industry never gets a book out the door in under six months (which is already breakneck speed), it is extremely probable that Trail of Lightning was written much earlier in Roanhorse’s career. I suspect as Authentic was gaining buzz, Trail’s publisher approached Roanhorse to ask if she had anything already written that she’d never sold, and she dusted off Trail. I could be wrong, but that seems more charitable than assuming it was a rush job.

The point is, Trail of Lightning is an example of an “early novel.” Many authors are lucky enough to have these – novels that helped them hone their skills, while providing a small paycheck and the validation/encouragement of getting into print, before the authors are very good. Some authors never get these early novels, and a few I’ve talked to say “I’m so grateful in retrospect… they weren’t good novels, and I’m so happy that only my best stuff is out there representing me.” But for every one of those, I’m willing to bet there’s twenty authors who got discouraged and gave up before getting to the X-th novel that was actually Very Good to the point that publishers couldn’t ignore it.

Again, this is NOT a bad thing. To take one example of a man who is rightly called a genius by all readers of genre, and is a British National Treasure – Terry Pratchett. His later writing is absolutely legendary, and you can’t read it and not be completely blow away. But his first several novels? They just aren’t that good. Even the best writers of a generation started out with wobbly fare.

There are authors currently writing in the monster hunter genre that have been at it for many years, with a dozen or more titles under their belts. While I don’t think the works are award-worthy (see above), they are, at least, among the best examples of the species. After so many repetitions of the formula, it’d be hard for those authors NOT to have improved. Some of these authors even openly state that their earlier books aren’t the best, and direct new readers to start a bit later in the series. It’s hard to compare their later works with Trail of Lightning and not see the difference.

 

III. This is not the publisher’s fault either

Trail of Lightning’s publisher, Saga Press, was doing exactly what a publisher should. They saw a rising talent, knew people would want to read more of her work, and snapped up anything they could get their hands on. They then published it in an effort to turn a profit. This is good for the fans, and good for the author. Bravo for Saga, I hope it works out!

 

IV. The Hugo Voters are to blame

Both the author and the publisher are simply doing the best they can in their careers/situations. It’s not their job to be the gatekeepers of quality, their job is simply to keep getting better and making the written works available (respectively). It is literally the job of the nominating Hugo readers, the gatekeepers of the Hugo award, to filter the best that our community has to offer. And yet a large number of these people came together and collectively nominated a less-than-stellar “early novel” of the mindless-pulp variety for one of the most prestigious awards the SF community can give out. How did this happen? Either a lot of people nominated Trail of Lightning without reading it, based on the strength of Authentic Indian Experience… or they did read it, and nominated it anyway.

The really dumb part is that Trail of Lightning isn’t even a social-issue book. It’s a straight-up plain monster hunter novel. The only way one could draw it into the culture-war narrative is by focussing on the author and looking back at her other works and noticing that last year’s Authentic Indian Experience was explicitly about cultural issues. “These two works are by the same author” is not enough to make a pulp novel have a social theme or message.

 

V. This hurts minorities

Look, the really despicable thing about the Puppies movement of a few years ago is that they decided to vandalize the Hugos because they said that authors were getting awards NOT because the works were of high-quality, but because they were minorities and were getting “affirmative action-ed” in. Jemisin specifically called this out in her world-rocking acceptance speech when she said her detractors claim “that people like me cannot possibly have earned such an honor, that when they win it it’s meritocracy but when we win it it’s “identity politics”.” Her speech still gives me shivers, but one of the things that gave it such joyous strength is that it was so blatantly obvious that she had written one of the best things to have been published in years. She deserved every single ounce of praise that comes with that trophy, because she produced a work that shines with the light of the sun, and puts the claims of the Puppies to hideous shame. There is no need for affirmative action, you assholes, the work speaks for itself, just read it and see!

Nominating a work that is clearly not worthy of this honor doesn’t help anything. Instead it diminishes the achievements of authors like Jemisin or Chiang, because it throws previous nominations into some doubt. Most people don’t know of the excitement of a breakout work of genius like Authentic Indian Experience, and how that exuberance will lead people to snap-vote for the next thing an author puts out without even reading it. They won’t ever get to hear about that, they’ll just see a book that clearly shouldn’t be a nominee, yet is, and will draw their own conclusions… and given the current culture wars, not all those conclusions will be good. And those conclusions will tarnish other winners, those whose only failing was being non-white in the crap-ass world we have right now.

 

VI. The irony is not lost on the historically-aware

Perhaps the most ironic thing about all this is that this is exactly the sort of novel the Puppies wanted to see in the Hugos. Pulp adventure novels about tough-ass monster hunters. Books whose commercial concerns outweigh artistic ones. Someone I spoke with also claims that their baseless idiotic vandalism created a backlash that has put cultural concerns before quality concerns in the Hugos — in effect bringing the Puppies’ distorted claims closer to reality. I’m not so sure, I think it’s much more due to the rise of Trump than anything the Puppies did. Regardless, they probably got a chuckle or two out of it. >.<

 

VII. Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Look, what’s done is done. But going forward, more focus on content and less on works viewed primarily (whether rightly or not) as anti-“the other tribe” would be good. Keep the Hugos out of the culture wars, please.

Apr 162019
 

For the use of my book club, plus whoever else would like a linked list. These are the short stories and novelettes that are up for a Hugo, and also available free online. This year, that’s all but one.

This is the first awards season since I predicted No Print Magazine Will Publish a Hugo-Winning Story Again. Since no print magazine even got a nomination this year, I’m not wrong yet. :) We’ll see what future years bring, though. Of note is that one of the nominees isn’t available free online! While I didn’t specify that as a criteria in my post, it surprises me nonetheless. The whole reason I predicted print magazines are out is because they cannot be shared like online stories can, and thus can’t capture enough attention-share. While Bolander’s story is online at Tor.com — the current clearing house for online commercial SF — I would’ve thought that the paywall would prevent achieving the number of readers needed to make the nominations. It’s a shame I won’t get to read it. :(

 

BEST NOVELETTE

BEST SHORT STORY

Aug 242018
 

At my last book club meeting, a member expressed surprise that nearly every Hugo short work nominee this year came from an online publication, rather than the traditional Big Three print magazines (Asimov’s, Analog, and F&SF). I was surprised that they were surprised. I find it unlikely that a traditionally published magazine will ever publish a Hugo-winning story again. Not because they don’t publish quality work (they do! and are rightly respected for it!), but because they will not get nominated to the final ballot.

Getting nominated is about exposure. A story will not get nominated if it has not been read. Likewise, the more people read a story, the greater the likelihood it will be nominated, simply because more voters are aware that it exists.

If I read a fantastic story in last month’s issue of Asimov’s magazine, and I tell my friends, “OMG! Story X is amazing!!! You have got to read this!!”… what can they do with that information? Unless they also have a subscription to Asimov’s – nothing at all. No one is going to drive down to wherever the nearest bookstore may be to search through the bottom racks among rows and rows of magazines to try to find a copy of Asimov’s for this one story. Nevermind the cost of a single issue, the investment in time and effort is greater than it would take the read the story itself! Not to mention, some bookstores don’t carry all three magazines (or any…), and those that do often don’t carry more than one or two copies of any given issue! And what does my friend do if I got to Asimov’s a couple month’s late, and read the story after that issue has been removed from the stands? Go track down a back-copy somewhere? OMG.

For this same reason, if someone recommends an amazing story from F&SF to me, unless they physically hand me their own copy of the magazine, I will never get a chance to read it. No matter how great it is.

OTOH, say I read something that blows me away at Strange Horizons. Not only do I tell my friends at book club, I also share the link in Facebook. Now dozens (maybe over 100?) people not only see that I like they story, they can read it instantly. At work, on the train, in bed, whatever. And if they like it? They can share as well. The exposure potential is massive.

The Big Three print magazines will probably never get another Hugo, unless they change their distribution model. This year out of 18 short work nominees, only one came from the print magazines.

 

The thing that really interests me about this is that the online publications are all works of passion. That is to say, profit is only of distant interest. They are staffed almost exclusively by passionate volunteers. Nearly all revenue raised is used to buy stories and keep the website up. The few that can afford to pay the editors at the top cannot pay them a living wage – everyone still has a day job (or doesn’t have to worry about making money for some other reason). I don’t know what effect this has on the fiction they buy – it’s very freeing to simply purchase and publish what you think is really freaking good, without having to worry if it’ll “satisfy the market.” But it could also lead to the increased insularity and inaccessibility that has made Lit Fic a wasteland. I admit to being a bit of an SF snob myself, so I may be contributing to the problem…

Aug 222018
 

WORLD CON POST TIME! The annual geekening is over; here are my photos and thoughts.

I’ve started to branch out a little, and see a local attraction in the cities I visit. O_O Madness, I know! At WFC it was the Alamo, and at WorldCon76 it was the Winchester Mystery House. Very cool place!! The Winchester widow kept adding random rooms onto her mansion for the entirety of her life, believing it would appease ghosts, and helping to support the local construction industry. She wasn’t the best architect (and/or was intentionally trying to confuse ghosts) and so there’s staircases to nowhere, doors that lead to multi-story drops, and other cool oddities. The whole place is awesome, and you should go if you’re ever in town. It’s like being in a video game house!

From the top of the Winchester Mystery House

I spent a lot of my time with friends I’ve met at past cons, this is almost turning into an annual reunion thing. This is not a complaint, that’s sort of thing is really fun! And I still somehow find time to make a few new friends every year as well. :)

The highlight of the con for me was, BY FAR, Ada Palmer. I got to hear her perform epic viking duets. These literally made me cry. I don’t cry that much. She’s very, very good. I cherish this memory, and bought a bunch of CDs and DVDs as thanks, even though I know they will never have the same impact as being 20 feet away and feeling the physicality of such anger and despair.

Ada standing on the right

Afterwards I got to hear her talk about the Terra Ignota series for well over an hour in a semi-private hotel lobby. Including Q&A and audience discussion. AND she read the first two chapters of the final novel. Guys, this is gonna be fucking epic. Holy shit. We gotta wait until 2020 though. :(

I was invited back to another discussion the next day, and my biggest regret is not going to that. At this point I’d already missed a lot of programming I had meant to go to, either to catch up with friends, or to go to the Palmer events (I found out about them last-minute). And I really wanted to go, but I also felt like I should try to go to some programming for realsies one day? So I ended up sticking with the panels I’d picked out of the guide. That wouldn’t have been a mistake if there WASN’T more Ada Palmer to be had. But there was, and I deeply regret my decision now. :( Best heuristic – always go fan out over/with the person(s) you most admire in a con. It feels incredible because this is how we evolved to make good super organisms. It is doing a good thing to pay your heroes with admiration!

Seriously tho, Ada is so ridiculously smart and erudite and inspiring. I could listen to her talk about anything for hours. Maybe 5% of panelists are in her league, and the fact that she’s written a series I love and seems to be “my tribe” personality-wise is just so much extra awesome on top.

 

On the topic of programming – the rooms were all too small, and didn’t have enough chairs. Seriously, just about every single panel was over-crowded with tons of people against the walls or sitting on the floor. I’m not sure if more programming was added at the last moment and rooms had to be split to make more space? But the con was under prepared.

Every panel

Also on the topic of programming – ALWAYS GO TO FANFIC PANELS. All other panels are hit-and-miss (unless you know one of the authors on them and are going to see that author. Then go! Knowing a good panelist/author and following them around is generally a good strategy). But aside from the parenthetical, it’s hard to say if a panel will be really good and on point, or if the people up front will have only a passing knowledge of the topic, or lack enthusiasm, or are too shy, or whatever. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t, and I suppose that’s part of the fun. EXCEPT for fanfic panels. The panelists on those are always super informed on the topic, and really enthusiastic on the topic, and gushing to talk about it. Fanfic panels are simply *the best.* I’ve never regretted going to one.

L->R: Nino Cipri, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, KM Szpara, Alex Acks, Faith Erline

If you heard about the protest on Saturday, it’s basically what you probably expected. A teeny tiny storm in a wee teacup. I think there was more police presence than protestors? I feel kinda sad for anyone who had anxiety cuz of this thing, though. And I hear it gave the con organizers all sorts of headaches. But yeah, a few idiots showed up to do some 4th-rate trolling. A few antifa came, hoping for a fight. Then it all blew away like dust in the wind, dude.

Days of Rage

Interesting, the con skewed a fair bit younger than usual! I was used to the median age of the con being decently above my own in previous years. This year I think I may have actually been near the median! Writing that now, I realize that I’ve also been aging every year, so naturally I’d approach the median anyway, but I mean – it really felt like there were a healthy contingent of Young Whippersnappers there this year, moreso than previous years. I dunno if that’s due to the most youthful demographics of the Bay Area specifically, or if it’s indicative of a larger trend of people growing up with SF-lit-love coming of age.

One thing I did notice about this year though… aside from my amazing experiences with fanfic panels and Ada Palmer, I felt much more detached and less joyful this year. Always before I’ve been super extroverted and fully engaged. This year I had some melancholy. I think… I kinda think it’s because in all previous years I thought of myself as an SF fan. And this year I thought of myself as an author… except that I’m not a successful author (yet?). No novel. Only a few short stories. I’m surrounded by famous authors rocketing into their careers, and I haven’t done much. These people know each other, but no one knows my name, and I feel like I don’t belong. I want to no longer just be a fan of The Thing,  but be an active participant and doer of The Thing. I kinda feel like I should sit out the next few WorldCons until I actually DO something to earn it. But fortunately the next two will be out of country and beyond my financial means to attend anyway, so I guess I don’t have to worry about deciding that.

Amethyst is best pony!

Like everything else this year, the awards had a strong “reactive against the Trump presidency” component. This is the theme of 2018, and none are immune. That being said, all the winners were absolutely deserved, and Jemisin’s speech was fucking amaaaaazing!!!!!!!! God DAMN! :D

All in all, good experience. :)

(JY Yang on piano in the airport)

Apr 132018
 

For the use of my book club, plus whoever else would like a linked list. These are the short stories and novelettes that are up for a Hugo, and also available free online. This year, that’s all of them.

Best Short Story

Best Novelette

Apr 192017
 

For the ease of my book club, plus anyone else who may want them, here’s where to find the Hugo Finalist Novelettes and Short Stories that are available free online:

Novelettes:

“The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan
“The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon
“Touring with the Alien”, by Carolyn Ives Gilman
“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, by Alyssa Wong

Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex, by Stix Hiscock – not available
The Jewel and Her Lapidary, by Fran Wilde  – not available

Short Stories:

“The City Born Great”, by N. K. Jemisin
“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, by Alyssa Wong
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, by Brooke Bolander
“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar
“That Game We Played During the War”, by Carrie Vaughn

An Unimaginable Light, by John C. Wright – not available

Feb 282017
 

Hugo AwardHerein I continue my tradition of pointing at stories that I think are really good, and will be getting my Hugo Nominations this year. Remember, you only have until March 17th to nominate, so don’t tarry too long!

Sadly, I only have so much time to read, and I know there are tons of things I haven’t read yet, many of which I would very likely enjoy quite a bit. This has been proven to me every year so far, and I don’t doubt this year will be the same. So these are the things I liked most out of what I read this year, which is a limited pool.

 

Novelettes:

This year I didn’t read enough novelettes to feel like I can make any sort of recommendations. :/

 

Short Stories:

Mika Model, by Paolo Bacigalupi – I’ve loved Paolo’s work for a long time, and he delivers again with this fantastic story about Super Stimulus, and rights for Turing-Passing Beings who aren’t provably sapient. It does a fantastic job of really making both sides in the conflict emotionally and intellectually compelling, so at the end you don’t know which side you want to win. This is a thing I really love in the fiction I consume, and one of the things that I like most about RatFic. Plus, you know, sexbots, who doesn’t like those?

What You Need, by Van Aaron Hughes – A fairy-tale/fable about scrupulosity, which I don’t see written about very often. More importantly, it’s written well, and tells a fantastic little story. Very tidy, and short enough that I believe it qualifies as flash fiction. It’s one of those fast,  high-impact tales that just comes out of nowhere and lands a great blow.

Fall To Her, by Alexis A. Hunter – Another Super Stimulus story, because I apparently really like those. And I suppose this reveals what stimulus I find most interesting IRL as well? In 2015 I couldn’t stop telling everyone I knew about how great Kenneth: A User’s Manual was, so I suppose this has been a thing for a while. Anyway, gorgeous story, with good Other-Minds for aliens, and just soooo pretty to read. Also pretty darn short!

Daughter of the Drifting, by Jason Heller (not available online) – This story appeared in Swords v. Cthulhu with me, and I think it was my favorite from that collection (although I admit I haven’t finished reading it all yet, cuz I suck). You know how Lovecraftian Gods are supposed to be incomprehensible, in a universe that if one were to try to actually understand it would drive one insane? Yeah, Heller actually did that, and it’s fantastic. His universe is incomprehensible, and you shouldn’t try to make sense of it, because you will only fail. Our heroine serves as a living sheath for a sword, and is yanked back and forth through time-space whenever the Elder God who owns the sword needs to draw it and use it, which must be sorta a metaphor because what the fuck, but only partly, because you get the sense there’s actual cutting involved on some multi-dimensional quasi-physical time-rending level. Anyway, as the poor damned human stuck as a tool of a god beyond reckoning, our heroine’s understanding is neither needed nor bothered with. It is one of the first times I’ve truly felt a sense of Lovecraftian Otherness and Alien Incomprehensibility that I think Lovecraft himself was often shooting for but never really (for me) achieved. I believe this story will be my standard for Unknowable Nihilistic Universe for a long time.

Everyone Is Todd, by Marmoulman – Because I can’t go a year without a shout out to RatFic of some kind. :) A great little piece about slightly-imperfect alignment leading to a missed utopia. Probably should come with a content warning about legit existential horror. However not so bad that I couldn’t read it.

 

Novels:

I won’t go into these in depth here, because I’ve already talked about them at some length in my reviews. But I’ll be nom’ing:

The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins (my review)

Too Like The Lightning, by Ada Palmer (my review)

All The Birds In The Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (my review)

Crystal Society, by Max Harms (my review)

And despite how much I love the Broken Earth trilogy, I’m really on the fence about nominated Obelisk Gate. Not because it isn’t great (it is!), but because I’m not sure I should be going around nominating every book in a trilogy, and honestly, it’d probably be best to stick with nom’ing the ground-breaking first book, and (if it deserves it) the holy-shit-that-was-awesome last book, and leaving any Middle Books out of the process entirely.

 


 

My Eligibility

As one does, I’ll also mention my eligibility this year.

Of All Possible Worlds is eligible for Best Short Story

I (Eneasz Brodski) am eligible for the Joseph Campbell Award for Best New Writer (in my second and final year of eligibility)

The Methods of Rationality Podcast is eligible for Best Podcast.

Aug 242016
 

IM12An addendum to yesterday’s WorldCon summary: I did not win the Sidewise Award for Alternate History (not-won plaque is pictured). This is a little sad, of course. I would have preferred to win. But it was still a fantastic experience, with much excitement and joy. I got to meet some cool people, and I got a small taste of what being up for an award is like. :)

As promised, now some more talk about constantly living a lie.

I spent all of Wens-Sat being “on”, ie: acting social and out-going. I do enjoy this, but it’s draining. Every now and then it’s kinda lonely too. This is an unavoidable aspect of meeting new people for the first time, you can’t open right up immediately. It’s why I prefer to stick with at least one person for a whole con, it expands your pool of people you can chat with without having to perform as much. But a LOT of WorldCon was putting my best presentation forward at almost all times, and good lord was that tiring! By the time I checked out of the hotel Sunday, I couldn’t really talk to anyone anymore. All Monday I felt like I was sick with a cold, it was awful. I finally got 10 hours of sleep that night, and Tuesday I finally felt like a normal person again. I think I need to do a bit more self-care next time I go to a 5-day con.

Unrelated, but just occurring to me – I didn’t mention this in the previous post about Performing, but probably the part I like least about modern performance culture is the taboo regarding attraction. You’re allowed to act like you’re attracted to people, and flirt. Flirting is hella fun! But saying you find someone attractive out loud is forbidden unless you’re actually asking them out. Which is a little frustrating. Like, I find 80% of women within a decade of my age attractive, and having to suppress that is a bit of a psyche-drain. But I absolutely understand why that rule is there, so I follow it, and stick with flirting, and maybe now and then ask someone out. It’s not my ideal world, but it’s the best compromise between differing agents, so you play the part that makes the social group work best.

On a more personal note, sometimes the playing of roles can really lead one astray. I feel bad reaching out to my SO when I’m feeling certain types of emotional distress, because I don’t want to do the whole “emotional leach” thing. Is that a thing? I don’t want anyone to think “You only call me when you’re lonely, is that all I am to you? A loneliness sponge?” and so I don’t call. So I default to Performing Masculinity, ie: nothing hurts me. Now, I’m certainly not as good at this sort of thing as, say, The Man With No Name, but I do OK. I know how I’m supposed to act, and so I step into that role and go about the rest of my day. I did eventually text to test the waters and got a negative reaction, because at that point she was annoyed that I hadn’t called yet. Which meant after that I was performing even harder the rest of the con to pretend that didn’t bother me, and boy howdy, that’s not very fun. I did overall have a great time, because the majority of the time I was too busy doing other stuff to think about that, and because WorldCon is awesome, but man, it could have been better if I’d just picked up the damn phone. When I got home we hashed all that out and felt like complete idiots (me more than her), and now I shake my head when I think how easily all that could have been avoided. But nope! I was too cool and manly to let that sort of thing bother me. /sigh Sometimes I swear I haven’t learned a damn thing…

Aug 242016
 

shortfictionpanelDavid Truesdale posted the audio of the “State of Short Fiction” panel. I recommend everyone go listen to it, it’s fascinating.

(@http://www.tangentonline.com//images/audio/radio/dt_panel.mp3)

Listening to it after the fact, I feel like this was blown way out of proportion when it was relayed to me. Yes, he did start off with “special snowflakes are too easily offended” and “you should just clutch your pearls.” So, right off the bat, he alienated his audience by insulting them. Very bad move dude, you suck at dialog. But overall, he was not bad. Not threatening, not shouting or even ranting. He was putting forward a crappy argument laced with some insults. Seriously, that is not a big deal. I suspect that when the convention decided to expel him it was entirely based on the reports of others, rather than on direct knowledge. If they had been there (or heard this audio) they probably would have let him stay.

He did start off by throwing the panel a fair bit off course, which is the opposite of what a moderator is supposed to do. But that’s a venial sin. More importantly, he ambushed his panelists with a charged political topic that they were not prepared for (in both the “research for it” and “psychologically prepare for a charged topic” sense). That is a HUGE dick move. When I held my DCC panel on Cultural Appropriation, everyone knew exactly what they were getting into, and agreed to it beforehand. I am not at all surprised that his panelists were angry.

On the plus side, he did have a few points. Gordon affirmed that yes, he did in fact frequently receive complaints that his covers didn’t show a 50/50 male/female split. Sheila stated that only 25-30% of her submissions are from women authors. A couple panelists did say that they felt authors nowadays are less willing to take risks. Sheila relayed her recent trepidation about publishing an alt-history story where JFK lives, because she had gotten angry letters about people saying that publishing any story containing people still living was disrespectful and/or traumatizing to those people or their families (in response to an alt-history piece she’d published re Apollo 13 not long ago).

And for the most part David was calm, willing to listen and dialog, and aside from his idiotic opening insults, pretty respectful.

The only really awful part of the panel was the audience member who stood up and started shouting at the other panelists. That guy was aggressive and pissed. He sounded very much like the asshole who got enraged at the Sunday WSFS meeting. That was probably where all the fear and tension in the room came from, and since it was right at the very beginning, it’s probably stayed overlaying the room like a blanket the whole panel. I totally blame that guy from David’s expulsion.

I’m glad David recorded this, so we can all hear it. For the most part he reveals himself to be an out-of-touch curmudgeon, who may have a good point or two, but has no idea how to articulate it, and who has overreacted by retreating into bitterness. Simply letting him speak reveals his weaknesses, and putting him in a dialog with someone as smart as Sheila Williams is all that’s needed. He did not need to be expelled. He hangs himself with his own words, and Sheila gets to shine. She provided strong rebuttal and counter-argument, especially for someone put on the spot like that! She’s going to have a lot more fans after this, and deserves it. If Asimov’s wants to boost her brand, they have no better tool to do so than this recording, they should do their best to see it distributed far and wide. :)

Good panel, wish I had gone.

Aug 232016
 

IMG_20160817I started by saying that this backpack contains the entirety of my luggage! Flying only cost me $140 round-trip for that (literally cheaper than driving), and I was pretty proud. Then I remembered I cheated, and sent my Award Ceremonies Suit with a friend who was driving. So less proud now. :/ But from what I learned this year, I can say that I’ll be able to travel next time with just a single backpack for luggage without cheating!
IMG_20IMG_20160820I met Robin Hanson and Eliezer Yudkowsky in the flesh. And I got to have dinner with both of them!! It was fantastic! I would have liked to spend more time with both, but there was soooo much to do. Hopefully more next time. Eliezer was disappointed with the expertise level of some of the panels, which I feel is partly my fault, I should have warned him. This is a conference for SF writers and readers. Sometimes the con will get lucky and get a field-expert who is also a fan, and they are put on a panel. But in general the best you can ask for in technical subjects is a panel that’s up to date with the laity. A panel on AI will NOT address any actual leading research. It will maybe address how audiences consume and understand AI stories, and/or how authors can write compelling AI stories that don’t break suspension of disbelief.

It was fun trying to explain the appeal of Lovecraftian fiction to Robin. “It’s the horror of realizing you are a helpless inconsequential speck in a vast uncaring universe and your existence is meaningless? But that’s just regular life, all the time, for everyone.” Yes, but that’s what compartmentalization is for. :) As Eliezer said “Robin Hanson is far too psychologically healthy to ever be scared by existential horror.” Having met him, I totally agree. He is the friendliest person to serve as an inspiration for Quirinus Quirrell that I could imagine.

Eliezer also corrected my pronunciation of his name (after which the world’s biggest D’OH!!!! was uttered), and observed that this cons focus is primarily about reverence and admiration, rather than pursuing a goal or disseminating information. This is a good point, but I didn’t realize that anything else was expected. It’s literally a convention of huge SF fans, that cap off their con with a giant ceremony to give the people they most admire a fancy statue for being so damn cool. :) I had a great time playing my part in the prestige/admiration economy.

AdaPhoto1000Speaking of admiration!! I got to meet Ada Palmer!! The day before flying out to WorldCon I had just gotten to the mid-book reveal in her “Too Like The Lightning”, so I had to come up to her after a panel and rave about that. We talked for a bit, and she had to go, but she invited me to her Kaffeklatch on Saturday. I went and got to spend an hour in conversation with her, a lot of it about her book, and it was glorious! She is whip-smart and incredibly nice, and it was in the Top 3 Moments of WorldCon for me. I’m so glad I went, I really hope to talk with her more over time. The sheer depth and flavor of her ideas is intoxicating. And she has a sultry voice. :) Like an idiot I forgot to take a pic, so here’s a stock photo instead. More on her book in a few days!

In Don’t Do What Donnie Don’t Does news… I made an ass of myself briefly. For the past four years I’ve regretted not saying anything to GRRM when I shared an elevator with him at the Chicago WorldCon. It was just him and me in an otherwise empty elevator, and I froze up and didn’t say or do anything. It would’ve been a perfect time to get a pic or something. So this time when I saw him I rushed over and asked if I could get a selfie with him. He said he was in a hurry to get to his panel, and was pretty grumbly about it, but he did let me snap a pic. But I realized immediately that he was not happy, and I should have backed off, and I didn’t, and I’m an asshole. I am not posting that pic, because I don’t deserve to have a pic with him that was taken via ambush. I avoided him the rest of the con, and I desperately hope that he’ll forget me over the next two years. I’m sure he will. Right? :(

IMG_20818I’m worried because (prepare for mood whiplash) I went to a panel with Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s. Afterwards I approached her to thank her for publishing an unknown first-timer like me, especially given what she said about disappointing endings in the panel. AND SHE REMEMBERED ME BY SIGHT!! Like, WTF?? I’ve exchanged maybe three emails with her, two years ago! The best she could have done is seen that tiny little profile pic that comes with gmail. She was all “Well I only publish maybe 60 or 70 people per year, of course I remember my authors!” but man… holy crap! I was blown away. Better yet, she invited me to the Asimov’s/Analog party happening the next day! I got to meet all sorts of fascinating people there, including the author of Today I Am Paul (which would’ve been a nominee if not for the Puppies). It was a fantastic experience!

0160819A plush Frodo & Sam waiting for rescue in the dealer’s room, just cuz.

Me and some friends at the award ceremony

I’ve posted before about my habit of con-spousing. Pretty much any con I go to, I tend to form a quick bond with someone and spend a lot of my free time/meals with them. It was interesting, this year I didn’t have a dedicated con spouse. The closest was Vivian (on my left, red dress), who I spent quite a bit of time with, both at parties and meals, especially in the last two days. She’s a friend from Colorado. :) I spent quite a bit of time with Laynie as well (on my right), who is sweet; and driven as hell, as every millennial I’ve met has been. I also spent a fair bit of time with Beth (not pictured, because again, I’m an idiot), who sadly kept having to do volunteer work so we didn’t get to hang out as much, but who has extremely similar taste as me in books (Grimdark 4evah!!) and gave me some fantastic recommendations, which I will attempt to inflict upon my book club! All in all, this was perhaps less emotionally satisfying as really bonding with a single person for 2-4 days, but I did get a wider variety of people met, so I don’t regret it either.

I also caught up with people I’ve met at previous cons (such as S.B. Divya and Seth Dickinson). Give me a few years, and soon I’ll be spending much of my con doing only that. :) It’s kinda nice, especially when you get to chatting late into the night and many of the barriers come down. (Tomorrow, notes on how exhausting it is to be Play Acting several days straight. Letting the mask slip late Saturday night with Seth and Vivian is another of my Top 3 Moments. So refreshing.) And when I needed a soul-recharge I could always count on Nikki, a very dear friend from Colorado, to sit with me for fifteen or twenty minutes and just friend out (which is like Bro-ing out, except without the Bro aspect). Many <3s Nikki!

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I got to meet Ferret, and he’s absolutely as cool in real life as he is on his blog! I should have bought this man a drink!

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IMG0821And, finally I got hang around with Pat Cadigan (closest to camera) for maybe a half hour, after the Hugo Award Ceremonies (she was the MC). CyberPunk is my Home Genre. It is what I read as I was coming of age, and it’s a core fixture of my psyche. To get to meet one of its god-parents was gratifying. :)

I already mentioned the Award Ceremony and the next day’s Business Meeting in yesterday’s post, so I won’t repeat those.

One major difference between this year’s post and last year’s post – no pics of the venue itself. Sasquan was absolutely gorgeous, even with the fires of Mordor at our doorstep. I fell in love, and I could move there. MidAmericaCon was nice enough… it was functional, and served its purpose. But there was no structural or natural beauty here. I won’t remember any visuals. This actually makes me feel really inadequate about the Denver Convention Center (in which we hold Denver Comic Con every year), because I think it’s the same thing. A large, uninteresting building, built for efficiency of convention-going. It looks like a giant office. There is nothing beautiful about it, or the immediately surrounding area. I hope San Jose is gorgeous! And I’m kinda sorta maybe considering going to Helsinki… maybe.

I had a great time!