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Deep Thought For a Friday

"Consider how odd it would be if all we knew about elephants had been written by elephants. Would we recognise one? What elephant author would describe — or perhaps even perceive — the features which are common to all elephants? We would find ourselves detecting these from indirect clues; for instance, elephant-naturalists would surely tell us that all other animals suffer from noselessness, which obliges them to use their paws in an unnatural way. So when the human male describes his world he maps its distances from his unspoken natural center of reference, himself. He calls a swamp 'impenetrable,' a dog 'loyal' and a woman 'short.'"

Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree Jr.

Via Rich Chwedyk

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Thursday

I'm always a bit drained after a sci-fi convention. Partially it's the amount of physical walking, partially the social interaction for this introvert, and frankly, staying up late to go to parties. As a result, I'm slowly catching back up at work and on the blog. There are pictures on my camera which will eventually be unloaded and sent to this space. Until then, you're getting what you paid for ;-)

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699

The title of this post, 699, is the number of miles I put on the rental car. They were, for the most part, fairly easy miles. The only mountain driving was in Mount Rainier National Park, shockingly enough. Most of the rest was flat, especially the part through the desert.

What, you say? You thought Washington State was all temperate rainforests? No, Virginia, about half of the state by land mass is a desert in all but name. From really Yakima on the east shoulder of the Cascades to about 30 miles west of Spokane (which is ~20 mile to the Idaho border) is flat desert. The Columbia and Yakima rivers (which meet at the Tri-Cities area of Washington state) provide irrigation, but the water they carry is mostly from places elsewhere.

So, along the rivers there is a thin ribbon of agriculture, dotted with the very occasional and not very big town. Unlike out East (and here Illinois counts as "out east") most of these towns were founded as railroad junctions, and as the farms were larger, didn't need to be as close together. Once you get away from the rivers, civilization ends. The drive on US 395 from Richland, Washington to Spokane via the tiny town of Ritzville is one of nothingness upon nothingness.

Eventually I'll be uploading pictures, and I'll have thoughts on the Worldcon and Spokane.

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An Open Letter To Brad Torgersen

Various thoughts related to Hugo and Puppies:

1) EPH does not take 76 pages to explain. The entire WSFS business packet was 76 pages, including eight new constitutional amendments, 4 from last year, various committee reports and financial reports from six or seven Worldcons. EPH only took up 3 pages of that.

2) We doubled the number of Hugo voters this year vs. last year. Last year was a doubling from the year before. How the hell many fans does Worldcon need to get to vote before the Puppies consider it valid?

3) Related to the above, Brad, you keep claiming that we should "open the voters to Comic-Con." How do you know that Comic Con would come up with a different result? Did you do a survey of attendees? If so, can we see the results? If not, why is your opinion of that group's voting preferences any better than mine?

4) The story awards are not and never were for "author I'd like to have a beer with." They are for "story that grabbed me by the short hairs and said 'come here, big boy.'" Nothing, not one word in any of your posts has ever defended or explained the merits of the work nominated. You complained that tie-in novels get no respect, yet didn't nominate a tie-in novel! You want to win a Hugo in a story category, tell me what makes the story good, not what makes the author good or another story bad.

5) I am sad that Sheila Gilbert did not get a Hugo in Editor, Long Form. Regardless, 2,496 of 4,907 voters (50.8%) felt that slate voting needed to be punished. Brad, you brought the slate, you get to take the fall for this. If you steal the Enterprise, when it blows up you own that too.

Hugos! * 2015 edition

The asterisk in the title is in honor of Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station. So, in a previous post, I seconded Jim C. Hines' calls regarding the Hugos.

Here's the results. We were both wrong. I called three for No Award, including Best Fan Writer. The actual number is five, and Fan Writer was awarded to somebody. (No Award went to both Editors, Novella, Best Related and Short Story). Looking at the PDF with details, it's clear that once you get past the noise of the Best Novel, the Puppies had around 500 votes per category, out of over 5,000 per category. They had roughly 10% of the total vote. Even that is a bit optimistic. For example, I voted for both "Big Boys" (which got 504 total 1st round votes) and "Totaled" (874 1st round). So, realistically, the Sad and Rabid Puppies account for no more than but probably less than 10% of the final vote.

Now, in a world in which the Puppies' reality blocking field wasn't turned up to 11, this disastrous showing would persuade them to think that they don't win Hugos because they don't have a majority of the fans behind them. Since said field is at least at 11, I suspect we're in for another round of this nonsense next year. Speaking personally, I was watching the Hugos at a bar surrounded by seven fans who didn't nominate this year. They all to a person said they would nominate next year.
Something came up, so I was unable to meet my local acquaintance. I had dinner at a local Mexican restaurant that shares my hotel parking lot. It seemed authentic - half the customers were speaking Spanish. They had Negra Modelo on especial, so I imbibed. Herewith are various travel thoughts, related to Yakima and environs:

1) Mount Rainier - It's a big mountain! Really big, with lots of impressive scenery. On a weekday AM, several of the key parking lots were full, so avoid weekends and holidays, but do go if you get out to Washington. It's 2-3 hours from Seattle, so it's doable in a (long) day.

2) I'm staying at the Oxford Inn Yakima. It's at the high end for a $99-a-night hotel, which means clean room with comfortable bed and everything works. What's really nice is 20 feet from my room is the riverwalk and 20 feet past that is the Yakima River. Can't beat the location. The breakfast that's included, is, however, very beatable, so I'm going to find a more substantial offering tomorrow. Mapquest tells me I'm 4 hours from Spokane, so there's no rush to get out of Dodge tomorrow.

3) I had forgotten, but was rudely reminded, that Federal law prohibits people from shipping wine to themselves. Fortunately, the Yakima Visitor's Bureau came through, and found me a liquor licensee who could help. I really recommend stopping at the local visitor's bureau when you get into a tourist area - they are usually a font of information.

4) I've been in the habit of, when I fly in to these visits, of stopping at a local grocery store and getting some snacks and pop. I'll sometimes have a snack in lieu of lunch and/or a whiskey in the room in lieu of the bar. I've discovered that WalMart does not stock diet 7up or the equivalent. The only diet pop they have is cola. Bummer. Also bummer is that the Yakima WalMart does not have good Canadian whiskey - only some off-brand. That's not as problematic if I'm going to mix it.

Tomorrow, I'm heading to Spokane via I-82 South, which is a bit of the back way. (Mapquest wants me to backtrack on I-82 North.) But I'm not in a hurry, and the difference in distance is less than 20 miles, so I'm going to see some different country.

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Greetings from lovely, if hot and dry, Yakima Washington! Eventually, this blog will talk of the Boeing Aviation Museum, the EMP Museum / Sci-Fi Museum, and the Seattle Duck Tour, Seattle microbreweries and food, as well as Yakima's wine country. But now, I will talk of a bad decision shared by Chicago and Seattle.

When the white man came to America, he had a bad tendency to build cities on swamps. Chicago means "swamp" in the local Indian language, and the original name for Seattle, Nequa, also means swamp. (Seattle was the chief of the local Indians. Since the white guy was stealing the chief's land they tossed him a bone and named the town after him.)

In both cases, the eventual solution to the (lack of) drainage and (lack of) sewage removal involved physically raising the city. In Chicago's case, the Great Fire happened soon enough in our history (before the arrival of flush toilets) that some of the more odoriferous solutions tried elsewhere weren't needed.

Seattle did not have such luck. The city was built on a tidal flat, and at low tide some first floors, let alone basements, flooded. The interim solution was a wooden-piped sewer running six feet above street level. This system was noteworthy for not really working at all, so when the whole wooden city burnt to the ground, as wooden cities did, scrapping it was a blessing.

In any event, both Chicago and Seattle had to raise the street level to provide for drainage. In Chicago's case, when your local street was to be raised, somebody came along and jacked up your building to the new street level. For whatever reason, this was not done in Seattle. Rather, individual construction firms were told to build two story buildings with an entrance on both levels. Then, the city came along built retaining walls in the streets, and filled in the streets to the new level.

But then Seattle ran out of money, leaving a series of gaps and long narrow trenches between the street and the building doors. The fix was putting wooden ladders at the street corners. This was done for almost a decade until the citizenry got tired of falling in trenches and roofed said trenches over - creating both a sidewalk and underground covered passageways which were used for a decade or so.

It is, in any case, a fascinating bit of history - and you can see it for yourself. You can also learn that a city of 40,000 had 2,000 prostitutes, each paying $10 / month tax, yielding 80+% of city revenues.

Pre-Travel Link Salad

Been saving this up...

A) An interesting thought on police misconduct. The author compares fear of police as equivalent to the fear of terrorism. Both are random events that could happen to anybody anywhere, where as other forms of violence can in theory be avoided.

B) What do you eat in Antarctica? The hot dog soup actually looks pretty good, but then one does not get to be my size by being a picky eater.

C) The title says it all Yes, Virginia, people of color do fucking read SF/F.

D) Speaking of science fiction, an interesting anthology having a Kickstarter.

E) Here's a video on the cause of the Civil War:

Was the Civil War About Slavery?

New Video! "Was the Civil War About Slavery?"What caused the Civil War? Did the North care about abolishing slavery? Did the South secede because of slavery? Or was it about something else entirely...perhaps states' rights? Col. Ty Seidule, history professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, settles the debate once and for all.For more information on the Civil War, check out The West Point History of the Civil War, an interactive e-book that brings the Civil War to life in a way that's never been done. Click here -> https://shop.westpointhistoryofwarfare.com/products/copy-of-the-west-point-history-of-the-civil-war.

Posted by PragerU on Monday, August 10, 2015

Vikings!

I've been watching and enjoying The History Channel's series Vikings. It's historical fiction, so one has to be careful about relying on the specifics of who stabbed whom, but there are three general traits that the show gets right.

First, brutality. Yes, the Vikings were bloodthirsty, but so were the Christians. Crucifying heathens, for example, or a priest in full vestments telling a woman that he was going to cut off her ears and nose as punishment for adultery. (The woman, an educated one, quite correctly asked where in Jesus's book this punishment was authorized. She did not get a useful answer.)

Second, treachery. Everybody's double-crossing everybody. This is what happens in a lawless environment. Third, religious fervor. A man shows up and is able to calm a crying child, so he must be a wizard. A beam of light and a headache is a divine communication. God talks to everybody all the time.

In short, I'm a big fan of Vikings.

Breaking Radio Silence

Yesterday's lack of posting was due to 5 meetings, one of which ran twice as long as it should have. Today, therefore, in between meetings I will be clearing my desk preparatory to vacation. For today's content, please enjoy a book review.

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One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, I was on an airplane heading to the UK for Loncon 3, the London World Science Fiction convention. Perhaps fittingly, I spent a good chunk of this past weekend packing for Sasquan, which I will be leaving for later this week.

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Calling My Shots

Jim C. Hines has posted his predictions of the Hugo awards. As I said on his site, either his mind control beam is working great or we're secretly clones (although I got to keep my hair) but I agree strongly with his thoughts. Since I'm still in low-energy mode, rather than list my predictions, I'll merely mention where I differ.

Jim thinks Best Novella will be a No Award, and maybe Best Related. I think both categories are a shoo-in for No Award, and think Best Fan Writer is 75% likely to go No Award. The other categories will get some winner.

Other then that, I'm with Jim. (And yes, if I'm wrong feel free to mock me. It's not like I've got any data to go by.)

Low Energy Alert

I find myself lacking in energy today. I'm not exactly sure why, although looking at the calendar I see it's been a while since I had a vacation. Good thing I'm taking a week off starting next Friday.

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You’ll Never Work In This Town Again!

Various of the Sad Puppies, and specifically in this case Lou Antonelli, have said that certain criticisms of their actions “crossed the line in attacking some authors into that's called "exaction" under organized crime statutes. They threatened someone's income or livelihood.” In comments, Lou says the specific attack is the “you’ll never get published again” and/or “you’ll have to write using a pen name.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, I beg to differ. I think Lou (in particular) and Sad Puppy-dom in general is wrong both on the law and morality side of the issue. I intend to address both. (Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.)

Law

On the legal side of the issue, groundless threats are not actionable. If a five-year-old threatens to kill you, unless he’s actually holding a gun his statement is not a credible threat. So, for anybody other than a senior acquisitions editor at a publishing firm, that “you’ll never work here” threat is not credible. Of course, common sense and an understanding of the English language and our use of hyperbole would suggest as much, but the law is a funny beast.

In any event, even a senior acquisitions editor could get away with saying “you’ll never work here.” First, there is no requirement on the senior editor to buy anything from any particular author, and second, as there are multiple publishers and houses in the world, the editor’s opinion is only valid as pertains to their scope. Unless the author can show that the editor is actively working to prevent the author from getting a contract by spreading false information, there is no legal problem.

Morality

The Sad Puppies seem collectively upset at negative comments “threatening someone’s income or livelihood.” There’s an assumption baked into that, namely that the author is entitled to making a living by writing. But while everybody has a right to work, nobody has a right to work at their chosen profession. Actions that may prevent one from making a living as a writer don’t prevent that person from making their living as a baker.

More importantly, I as a reader am under no obligation, morally or legally, to assist, support or help a writer make a living. I as a reader am free to buy or not buy a writer’s work for whatever reason, good or ill. I as a reader am free to express my opinion of a writer, informed or otherwise, in any forum that allows me entrance.

Substitute “restaurant” for “writer” in the paragraph above. The opening of a restaurant imposes no obligation on me to try the place, patronize it, or refrain from negative comments on the establishment or its ownership. Saying “I’ll never go to that restaurant again” or “that restaurant will close in a week because their food sucks” or even “they ought to shut down that restaurant” is not actionable morally or legally. As long as one doesn’t lie about matters of fact, there is no problem.

The above is perhaps a long-winded way of saying I really wish the Puppies would grow up.

Here's something you don't see every day...

The far side of the Moon as the Moon transits Earth. (Link with movie here.)

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An Anniversary and a Picture

An anniversary - this year sees the 100th anniversary of the first US invasion of Haiti. The US would stay in Haiti until 1934.

A picture:

Over the weekend, I finished reading and enjoying Vanessa MacLellan's Three Great Lies. It's her debut novel, and in the tradition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, it involves a modern going back in time. In this case, the modern goes to ancient Egypt, where she's chased by a mummy. (He's really a nice guy. Just go read the book - it makes sense!) So, here's an interview of the debut novelist.



1. Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm a tattooed, vegetarian, outdoorsy woman with one head in the clouds and the other firmly settled in my hiking boots. I'm an environmental engineer by day, author, runner, reader, gamer, naturalist by night (and weekends).

2. When did you start writing, and why?

When I was a wee lass I'd make up stories to tell my mother while she was gardening. I think it started there. My favorite subject was Baggy Piggy, who had a curly Q tail that never ended (I knew this, because I drew him incessantly with pink crayons). I remember, before I could even write, 'writing' (aka doodling) on paper and then reading them to my great grandmother. Storytelling is in my blood. I guess that's enough of a reason why.

Though the fact that I enjoy it doesn't hurt. I have little people in my head (doesn't every author) that want me to explore their worlds, flesh out their personalities and goals and give them something to do. I can't take all the credit, it's partially their fault.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?

I write speculative fiction. Mainly fantasy, though I mix horror and magical realism in there. I write fantasy because fantasy is what first got me excited about reading. I remember my older sister, Audrey, handing me the first of the Pierce Anthony Xanth novels, and I was astounded at these magical places, characters with magical talents, all of the magical beasts. Magic. Magic. Magic. I wanted that. To live there. Be special. Be something more than just human.

And I read as much fantasy after that as I could. Tolkien, Eddings, Pratchet, Weiss and Hickman, Duncan. You know the era and the authors. That's what fueled me as a young reader. I hope to fuel other readers too.

And the joy comes from creation and imagination. Of speculating: What if? and expanding from that. I am the master of my own universe, what is not to like?

4. What is your latest book? Any forthcoming books?

My debut novel, Three Great Lies, releases August 6th. It's fantasy, with historical and literary trappings. It carries a bit of a Finding My Place in Life theme.

Jeannette Walker, a modern scientist, ends up in ancient, mythological Egypt. Though she constantly casts doubt on the existence of such a world, she has to learn to live in it. While trying to save her mummy friend's soul from a wicked tomb robbing ring, she realizes a few important things about life. What those are, well, you'll have to read the book!

I have one complete manuscript for a dark fantasy I'm currently shopping out, and am working on a modern super hero series. There's always something I'm working on.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of Three Great Lies.

Ancient, mythological Egypt. It never rains. People's lives aren't equal. Prayers constantly dance upon lips. Beer is a meal. Sand is a major filler in the bread. Children of gods walk the street with the heads of animals and prophecy on their lips.

To Jeannette it's, of course, a total shock. There are people about in public naked and jackals speak. A mummy—a desiccated, lumbering thing—chases her through the crowded streets, accusing her of stealing his ba! It's not necessarily a friendly place, but people are people, and even Jeannette is able to find friends in ways she never expected.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?

Jeannette Walker is my protagonist. She's mid-twenties, a scientists with a jilted past. She still holds the hurt from a past betrayal and has learned to trust nobody and nothing. I love her voice and her mind-chatter. And she's got a good heart that struggles to show through her armor.

Abayomi is the dead man walking, a reanimated mummy who seeks his lost ba container so he can continue on to the afterlife. He's a perfect citizen who knows his place in the world and doesn't seek to unbalance tradition. Until his friends are endangered, then his loyalty shines like a beacon. True best friend material!

Sanura is the young daughter of Bast, cast out from her litter. She's lost and alone and Jeannette saves her—saves her—and she'll never forget such gifts. Sanura, like most young people, is soul-searching, trying to found out exactly why she's been cast away and what her purpose and place is in life. Her journey is one everyone can connect with. She's the spirit of the story.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about Three Great Lies.

A major aspect of the book (the stray dog theme) sprang to life at an agility dog show. The midsummer day was baking hot and I had parked myself under a tree for the next show. A Jack Russell Terrier was looking at me, with that intelligent tongue-lolling smile terriers have. Honestly, the dog was smiling.

And that was the original start of the novel: "The dog was smiling at her." It's since changed, but that line and scene are still in there, the theme planted throughout the novel. The story just unfolded from that one dog's smile and here we are now.

8. Any challenges with getting Three Great Lies to where it is today?

Three Great Lies has been on a long journey.

In 2008, I wrote my fifth NaNoWriMo novel. That was Three Great Lies. It was titled simply "Egypt" back then. It was a 50,000 word rough draft. Then I added extra plot threads and themes, and it topped out at 140,000 words. That's quite an addition! Then there were years and years of critiquing and editing.

Finally in 2013, I begin seeking representation for Three Great Lies, and it was picked up by Hadley Rille Books (which was the most perfect place for this book to land).

Now for the rough stuff. As I was due my edits, my publisher had a stroke. (Though he insists he was abducted by aliens to an alternate universe.) It was terrible, we weren't sure if he would make it. The entire press huddled together in worry and anticipation. I was wavering between feeling devastated for my publisher's situation and worrying about the state of my book (and feeling so so guilty for that.) But he did pull through and has worked tirelessly on my novel, by my side every step of the way.

Now, we're here, and my novel is published! I think other authors might have pulled their book to seek other representation, but I knew Hadley Rille and my publisher were perfect for my book.

9. What's your writing process?

First and foremost, Three Great Lies was a 'pantser' book. I didn't have an outline. I wrote forward from the smiling dog on guts and intentions. I had this idea of where I wanted to go, with no map on how to get there. Now, I am an outliner. I think the process, for me, would have gone so much faster if I'd had a more solid idea of the substance of the story. As it was, lots and lots and lots of editing and rewriting were necessary to make this book shine.

When I'm in the thick of writing and editing, I try to work on the novel every single day. It keeps my writing sharp and my mind on the storyline. It keeps me from losing plot threads and missing finer details. For me, every day is the way (ooh, that even rhymes.)

And another thing I've learned: Do not work heavily on writing in the summer. I like to play outside too much and I feel guilty if I don't write. Now, I just hold up my hands and let it all go. Summer, for me, is play time. No guilt for taking some time off writing. Because, we're our worst guilt-trippers.

10. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.

You can find me at: http://vanmaclellan.com/

You can find Three Great Lies at Amazon

Thanks for reading! I hope you come by and check out my site and my novel. It was a joy to write and I hope it brings joy to you as well.

Anticipation, or Managing Expectations

Avid readers of this blog may remember that I am going on a writer's workshop cruise at the end of September. Said cruise has shore excursions, and the cruise line has been busily sending out emails saying "book your excursions now." At the same time, the writers workshop has been saying we will have the option to go on excursions as part of the group, but until recently we've not had the opportunity to sign up for those. This has caused some frustration with the group.

I think the problem is one of managing expectations and communicating. The writers workshop is working with a travel agent who specializes in these group outings. I think she's not communicated clearly to the people putting out the writing workshop of when things should happen. We are, after all, two months out from a cruise during the off-season, so it shouldn't fill up too fast.

This apparent lack of communication is being hampered by the fact that the people putting on the workshop have day jobs (writing, duh!) and in at least one case just got off a book tour. Meanwhile, most of the attendees are sitting at home wondering what's going on - and getting emails from the cruise line to "book now!"

Managing expectations is an important part of business. Things don't happen automatically, and what may appear to the customer a simple process may have lots of hidden steps in the back room. (I just got done explaining to a user that their "simple" email problem involved wiring, switches and servers.) In the case of the cruise, shore excursions involve picking the ones that the writers want / can incorporate into the trip as well as leaving some in-port time for various writerly activities.

Or shorter - tell your customers up front when things will or can happen.

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Found on the Internet and of interest

A couple of blog articles I found interesting and worth linking to.

1) In which somebody succeeds at debunking John C. Wright on science. Humorous quote: "For example if I say ‘if you hit yourself in the face with a sledgehammer you will break your face’ and you then DON’T hit yourself in the face with a sledgehammer then the fact that your face is not broken does not demonstrate the safety of hitting yourself in the face with a sledgehammer."

2) On global warming: The reason why people from all sides of politics continue to assert that anthropogenic global warming is a thing that is actually happening is because it is a hypothesis well supported by the temperature record AND in accordance with what we know about greenhouse gas emissions from our industrial activities AND our understanding of other greenhouse gases such as water vapor AND our understanding of core aspect of the physics of carbon dioxide in relation to infra-red light.

3) Terminator 2 - an example of the sweet spot of the story.

Publishing, Two Problems With

Two problems with publishing, both of which are as old as Gutenberg.

Problem 1 - Nobody knows anything. Nobody, be they author or publisher, can consistently pick books that will be financially successful. Mark Twain, for example, founded a publishing business, had a huge hit with Grant's memoirs, then ran said company into the dirt and damn near lost his house.

Problem #2 - Celebrity. Books written by famous people (for any value of famous) sell better than books written by nobodies. A nobody who writes a best-seller becomes (for a time) a celebrity, at least for purposes of selling books.

Results

Writers have been whining about poor treatment from publishers since forever. I'm sure there was some guy running around with a sheaf of papers pigeonholing people and complaining in High Middle German about what a jerk that Gutenberg was because Gutie hadn't recognized his manuscript as the Pure Genius (tm) that it was.

As printing technology changed, the author's options increased. So now, anybody with a modicum of time and skill can create a professional product out of their spare bedroom and get that in front of a sizable group of people. Given problem #1 above, sometimes the product catches fire. Sometimes it doesn't.

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Comment Policy

This is the personal blog of Chris Gerrib, and all opinions expressed here are solely his own. Commenters are welcome; however please be polite to me and my other readers. I reserve the right to delete comments that are rude, inappropriate or otherwise objectionable at my sole discretion. The opinions expressed in a comment are not necessarily mine, and if I do not delete a comment that should not be construed as my agreement with the commenter.

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