Award Eligibility 2016

written by David Steffen

The year is almost over, and here we are with the obligatory award eligibility post.  I know some people get annoyed by these, but to me they’re kind of like those Christmas letters from family members–I like reading other people’s posts to see what they’ve been up to for the year if nothing else.

I’ll start with my own stories, then on to Diabolical Plots stuff (I thought about making separate posts, but for those who don’t care for award eligibility posts I thought that might just be twice as annoying).

Please note that I’m not asking anyone to vote for these things.  There is a lot of amazing work out there and I hope you all read as much as you can and vote for what you think is the absolute best, no matter who publishes it.  But I do like to put these posts together partly to look back at what happened this year for myself, and also to put some links together for others who might be interested in checking some of this out.

If you would like to share your own award eligibility posts, please feel free to leave links in the comments to those.

My Stories

Not too bad of a year, with 5 original stories by me published at various places (especially since I’ve written almost nothing new!)

These are eligible in the Short Story category for most awards.

 

“A Touch of Scarlet” at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

This is one of my favorite stories of anything I have ever written.  Described as briefly as possible, it is a YA coming-of-age science fiction story in a democratic dystopia.  Our nameless protagonist has reached the age where they are no longer sheltered in the childrearing creche, and is beginning their year of transition between childhood and adulthood.  Inside the creche, they were accustomed to constant contact with all of the other children.  In the world of adults, that kind of contact is forbidden.  For one year, they will have contact with their Mentor who is tasked with helping them acclimate, but apart from that temporary connection, no personal connection with other citizens is allowed, nor any expression of identity that would set them apart from anyone else.  Violation of these laws (which are determined by instant voting across all the citizenship) is punishable by death for adults, though adolescents are allowed some latitude.

You can read the beginning of the story and see the wonderful illustration here.  The rest of the story does require an IGMS subscription.  But, the subscription is quite a good deal.  $15 gives you access to not only the upcoming year’s stories, but also every issue in their back catalog.  So, if you’ve a mind to catch up on some of those stories, the price is very affordable for a whole lot of fiction.

“Mall-Crossed Love” at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine

A star-crossed lovers story that takes place in a ubiquitous shopping mall.  A boy from the tech shop and a girl from the stationery shop across the way falling for each other despite the hostilities between their families.  It’s absurd, action packed, romantic, and fun.

You can pick up the copy of ASIM, or I can send a copy of the story on request.

“Divine Intervention” at Digital Fiction Publishing

A science fiction story of a man going into the drug slum known as Heaven to save his brother.  His brother has joined a techno-drug cult that, among other things, installs metallic halos onto their members as part of their ritual, and no one has been broken away from the cult if more than 24 hours has passed since joining.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon for 99 cents.

“Morfi” at The Colored Lens

This is my attempt to write a story reminiscient of my childhood favorite author:  Roald Dahl.  The story begins as young Johnny arrives at class (late as usual) with a sample of the mythical and magical morfi fruit.  Hijinx ensue.

The story is free to read, and it’s rather short, so I won’t talk about this one further.

“Subsumation” at Perihelion

Science fiction/horror story from a non-human point of view, as an alien crash lands.  It’s very short, and free to read, so I’ll leave you to it.  It’s probably not safe for work.

Diabolical Plots Fiction

This was the first full year of fiction at Diabolical Plots.  Since the stories are all free to read, I’ll stick to very short teasers for each.

The first two stories I put on the top of the list because they have been ones that have gotten particularly strong traffic and feedback, so I think they might be of particular interest.

These are all eligible for Short Story categories.

“Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman” by Rebecca Fraimow

“The Banshee Behind Beamon’s Bakery” by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

“The Osteomancer’s Husband” by Henry Szabranski

“May Dreams Shelter Us” by Kate O’Connor

“One’s Company” by Davian Aw

“The Blood Tree War” by Daniel Ausema

“The Weight of Kanzashi” by Joshua Gage

“Future Fragments, Six Seconds Long” by Alex Shvartsman

“Sustaining Memory” by Coral Moore

“Do Not Question the University” by PC Keeler

“October’s Wedding of the Month” by Emma McDonald

“The Schismatic Element Aboard Continental Drift” by Lee Budar-Danoff

Other Categories

Diabolical Plots itself is eligible for the Semiprozine category in the Hugos.

I (David Steffen) am eligible for Editor, Short Form in the Hugos, between my editing of Diabolical Plots and the Long List Anthology.

Laurie Tom and I are both eligible for Best Fan Writer category for our articles here, and individual articles could be for Best Related Work.

People ask me once in a while what the Submission Grinder is eligible for in the Hugos.  The answer is:  nothing.  The Hugo Awards are focused on things of interest to science fiction fans, who aren’t as a whole going to be interested in online tools for writers, so there is (fittingly) no category that it would really fit into.  Which is fine.  Probably the closest way to send a nomination for that would be to nominate Diabolical Plots as a semiprozine, since the Submission Grinder is one of the features of that, even if your average SF reader isn’t going to care about the Grinder.

People also ask me once in a while what Hugo categories the Long List Anthology editions are eligible for.  The answer again is: nothing.  The Hugo Awards don’t have an anthology or collection category.  For most anthologies, one could nominate the anthology indirectly by nominating your favorite stories in it, but because of the premise of these anthologies, all of the stories are from the previous year and so are ineligible for this year’s awards.  The closest way would be to nominate for Editor, Short Form.

 

Con Report: WorldCon 74 (aka MidAmericon 2)

written by David Steffen

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I am back from WorldCon 74, also known as MidAmericon 2, which was held in Kansas City, Missouri from August  17-21!  I am back into my normal swing of things and trying to work my way back into the normal everyday types of things that WorldCon wasn’t.

I had such an incredible time.  Sitting at my desk, back in the real world, my brain is still trying to process everything, it has been a very densely packed 4 days.  I am introvert.  I use the word “introvert” in the sense, not that I hate social situations or hate people or anything like that, but that social situations use energy and being by myself recharges energy–as opposed to an extrovert who recharges by being around people and uses energy when they’re alone.  I was expecting to have fun, but I was also expecting to slam into my social limits halfway through each day and then come home feeling like a wrung out washcloth.  But, it seems that in this very specific environment, I am more of an extrovert–most nights when I finally retired to my room the reason was more because of aching legs and knowing that I should try to get some sleep than being unable to cope with the social scene anymore.

I arrived at the hotel around midday Thursday and left around midday Sunday, so I had a solid 72 hours around the premises.  I hear there are a lot of really interesting things to go see in and around Kansas City.  But I didn’t go to any of them, figuring that I had such a limited time here and the people and things I came here for were all concentrated in the area by the hotel and convention center.

The biggest difference in my convention experience between this time and the last time at WorldCon in Chicago in 2012 is that I have become somewhat more notable in the speculative fiction publishing community.
Since 2012:
–The Submission Grinder was launched.
–Diabolical Plots started publishing original fiction and became a SFWA-qualifying market.
–The Long List Anthology was published.

So the biggest difference is that it wasn’t uncommon for complete strangers to actually know of what I do.  Some would recognize me from checking my name badge alone.  Others wouldn’t recognize the name, but if I mentioned the Grinder or someone else mentioned that I run the Grinder then many writers would recognize me, would often say very nice things about the site.  This was a very big difference for me–When I last attended a convention I had had some published fiction and had been running Diabolical Plots for nonfiction-only for 4 years , but those had never spurred this kind of reaction.

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David Steffen and Neil Clarke

In the past, when I was just getting started at writing, I had some miserable experiences at conventions–I just thought they weren’t for me.  I couldn’t seem to get anyone to really talk to me and whenever I tried I just felt like I was shut out by everyone there.  This time around, since I was more well-connected than I’ve been in the past, I tried my best to try to help people have a good convention who looked like they might’ve been in the same boat as I had been when I’d had miserable conventions.  First, if I was standing in a circle of people talking and I saw someone standing outside the circle looking like they wanted to join, I would try to step to one side and wave them in, make it clear they were welcome to join the conversation.  Second, if I was with some people I knew, and I saw other people that I suspected didn’t know each other, I would try to introduce the two groups to each other, maybe with a bit of bragging-up, since it is much easier to talk about another person’s accomplishments than your own.  I feel like these simple practices might’ve helped make the con a little better for some of these people, and I know that when I saw such similar behaviors directed toward me I greatly appreciated the person taking a moment to make my day much better.

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Marguerite Kenner, Alasdair Stuart, and David Steffen

I was namedropped on at least three different panels, and each one was for a different project–this was a novel experience for me.  I have heard secondhand from people who’ve gone to other conventions that the Submission Grinder is often mentioned in panels as a resource, which is great!  I hear that I was mentioned in a Kickstarter panel as an example of someone who has run a successful Kickstarter (for the Long List Anthology last year)–this was before I arrived onsite or I might’ve been there myself.    I hear that I was mentioned in a panel aimed at new writers that in part discussed the topic of how to find markets for your work, and the Submission Grinder was mentioned as a resource–I had intended to attend that panel just to see if I could witness a namedrop for the fun of it, but I ended up seeing a perfect opportunity to hang out with someone I had barely seen yet, so I took that opportunity (and didn’t regret it since my intent to visit the panel was really just a vanity novelty).  And the one namedrop I was there to witness–Finding the Right Podcast For You, in which Alasdair Stuart mentioned the Diabolical Plots “Best Of” podcast list as a good way to get samplings of fiction podcasts… and then he also commented on the shades of pink I was cycling through.  So that was all very exciting.

Aside:  This might be an appropriate time to note that being able to have an unrelentingly wonderful time does not mean that everyone was treated well–see this thread by Alyssa Wong about being targeted by harassment at this convention and a previous one she had gone to.  Alyssa had very positive things to say about how the WorldCon organizers handled it (which is good!) but it is horrible that it got as far as it did–people should know better.  This isn’t rocket science.  Read her thread and other threads that spun off of it if you aren’t aware of this kind of horrible behavior from some small subset of fans.  It’s nasty stuff. I did not see any of this kind of thing happening personally, but it did happen.  It’s not necessarily surprising that I didn’t see or experience it personally, since I am an able-bodied heterosexual white man of unremarkable appearance who is not a household name, and so it would be less usual for me to be the target of such abuse (not impossible, mind you, but less common).  It is a mark of privilege that I don’t generally need to worry about that, and I’m glad that Alyssa Wong and others are willing to talk about this kind of thing still happening, because it’s easy for people who don’t experience it to forget about it or to think it’s not a problem if the people who ARE experiencing it feel like they can’t talk.  On the other hand, since this is a post about my experience of the con, I will leave it at that for now–if you weren’t aware of that thing happening, consider taking some time to read her tweets.  There have been some other tweet streams of interest on the subject of harassment that have run since WorldCon, such as this one by Rachael K. Jones and this one by Julia Rios

My Programming

I wasn’t involved in a lot of programming.  I actually hadn’t thought that I would be on any programming at all–I had applied early in the year and received a rejection quickly after.  But I did end up being in two bits of programming.

Writer’s Workshop

I co-led a critique session with C.C. Finlay (editor of F&SF and a writer), which was a lot of fun.  We read synopses and excerpts from novels by three authors, and then all five of us gave our impressions and we discussed ways that the synopses and excerpts might be improved.  I had never met Finlay before, and it was wonderful to get a chance to not only meet with him but to interact with him for a couple hours to discuss strengths and weaknesses of fiction.  Obviously I can’t say much more than that–these were unpublished novels and the discussion in a private room, so I can only speak about it in generalities.

Fiction Reading

SteffenReadingI was very excited to find out not too long before the convention that I had been assigned a 30-minute fiction reading (Well, 25 minutes, to allow some time to let the next author get prepared).  It… wasn’t what you would call an ideal timeslot, being from 7-7:30 on the night that the Hugo Awards start at 8–so at that time most people who were at all interested in watching would be finding seats in either the auditorium or in some other group viewing area where they were streaming.

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Brian Trent, Benjamin C. Kinney, Thomas K. Carpenter, Marina J. Lostetter, Tina Gower, and Andrea G. Stewart

But to my surprise, approximately 13 people were there just to hear me recite things I made up!  This is a quite large turnout for someone like me who is not well-known for their writing.

Of all the readings by other people that I attended, most people read either one work that fit very closely into the time allotted, or maybe two things, or an excerpt from a longer work.  I flipped through upcoming stories and though I would’ve loved to read part of my upcoming story that will be in IGMS, it is a bit of a sprawling story so that it would be hard to find a representative sample.  And, well, in my opinion my best writing is very short, punchy stories of 500-1000 words.  So, I decided to buck the trend and I ended up reading 5 stories in my allotted time.

I read “My Wife is a Bear in the Morning”, written as an complaint letter to an apartment manager by a man whose wife is literally a bear in the morning (you can hear it in audio at Podcastle).

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Sunil Patel and David Steffen

I read “So You’ve Decided to Adopt a Zeptonian Baby!”, written as a brochure to help those who’ve decided to adopt those invincible alien babies that keep falling from the sky in meteor showers.  (you can hear it in audio at Podcastle)

I read “This Is Your Problem, Right Here”, which is a story about a woman who has recently purchased a  water park and finds that the plumbing doesn’t work properly when she opens in the spring, and it starts as a plumber tells her that this is because all of her trolls have died (the existence of trolls are not common knowledge in this world).  That was originally published in Daily Science Fiction, you can also hear it at Cast of Wonders.

And I read two others that are as-yet unpublished, so I won’t discuss their details here.

The reading seemed to go over well.  I got some compliments, and people said they liked the quick changeups of stories, especially at the end of a long day when everyone was getting tired.

Books

20160820_172557The one book that I knew ahead of time that I was going to buy was The Flux by Ferrett Steinmetz.  I already own the book.  I already love the book.  But I only had it in ebook, and I love these books so much I felt like I should have a signed paper copy.  And, since Ferrett was onsite, it seemed best to go ahead and buy it so that I could get him to sign.

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Ferrett Steinmetz and David Steffen

I knew that Ferrett’s next book, the third in his ‘Mancy series, was coming out soon, but that the release date was not for a little while yet.  But Angry Robot Books had the book on sale at their vendor booth!  So, obviously that came home with me too.  And I am SO EXCITED to read it.

So I showed up at the Angry Robot booth to buy The Flux, and knew I had to buy Fix, a very nice man (whose name I didn’t immediately recognize and so didn’t pay all that much attention to) behind the counter told me that I could get a discount if I bought one of the larger form-factor books.  Not really intending to buy a lot of books (because I have such a stack at home, I am a slow reader) I saw that United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas was on display, and I had heard someone talking about how good that was earlier, so that was the first one I picked up.  The guy behind the counter started telling me about it and I tried my best to unrudely say “yeah yeah let me just read the back cover descriptio myselfn” (I hope I didn’t across as rude!  I like taking verbal recommendations from fans of a book but at pretty much any kind of store I would rather just look at stuff without staff discussing everything I look at–it makes me very nervous if I feel like the staff are hovering and I will be much more inclined to scurry away than to buy).  It did indeed sound really interesting, a story where Japan won World War II and ended up in control of the United States.  I glanced at some of the other books, flipped a few over to read the back, but decided that United States of Japan caught my eye much more solidly than the others.  So I decided to buy United States of Japan.  The guy behind the counter rang me up and then offered to sign my book… at which point I of course realized that I was talking to Peter Tieryas, the author of the book I’d just bought, so I laughed at the fact that I had not noticed the matching book cover and name badge and took him up on his offer.  (This concludes my telling of “The Time That I Wouldn’t Let Peter Tieryas Finish Pitching His Book To Me But Then I Bought His Book From Him Anyway Without Realizing He Was the Author of Said Book: A Tale of David Steffen’s Inattention to Detail”)

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Tina Connolly, David Steffen, and Caroline M. Yoachim

Caroline M. Yoachim and Tina Connolly both had book releases from Fairwood Press at WorldCon.  Caroline’s book is a short story collection titled Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World.  Caroline is an incredible short story writer, and consistently hits out of the park for me, so I am buying the ebook for this one.  Tina‘s short story book is a short story collection titled On the Eyeball Floor.  Tina (along with Caroline) is another writer who, when I hear they have something new out, I don’t ask for a pitch I just say “shut up and take my money”.  So, I’m buying that ebook too.  It was quite fun to watch these two launch together–they made it a friendly competition where they made a wager on it and the Fairwood Press vendor table had a running tally sheet of sales.  They ended up tying at the end, which is hilarious and perfect.

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Jon Lasser and David Steffen

I stopped by the freebie table once, at a time when it was a twenty minute wait to get to the table.  After that wait I felt like I had to grab the maximum of three books even though I don’t really need more books.  I saw a stack of Briarpatch by Tim Pratt and grabbed a copy even though I already own and love the book, so that I could give a copy of it away to the next person I talk books with.  I also picked up a copy of Fearful Symmetries, edited by Ellen Datlow, and a short story collection by Matthew Johnson titled Irregular Verbs and Other Stories.

I also had a few extra copies of the Long List Anthology left over from last year’s Kickstarter and I decided that there was no better way to use them than to bring them to WorldCon and give them out to people when I chat with them.  I saved one to give away at my fiction reading and gave three out when it felt appropriate, so that was fun!

Programming

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Kate Baker and David Steffen

I did not attend many panels this time around.  I attended a very select few that were on very specific topics that were very near and dear to my heart or to specifically try to meet some of the panelists that were on my mental list of people that I wanted to meet.

Other than that, I tended to favor readings of authors:  I went to readings by Caroline M. Yoachim, Terra LeMay, William Ledbetter, Loren Rhoads, Stefan Rudnicki, Kate Baker.  And readings of magazines:  Escape Artists, Flash Fiction Online, Asimov’s.

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S.B. Divya and David Steffen

I loved all the readings, but the highlight was the Flash Fiction Online reading, particularly “I am Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth. Ask Me Anything.” by Laura Pearlman, which was read by a full cast of readers, including Sunil Patel as Graalnak himself, and was a riot to listen to.

As well as kaffeeklatches, which are really just organized hangouts with people of interest–you signup in time to claim one of 9 slots and then you spend 50 minutes hanging out with that person.  I did kaffeeklatches with Kate Baker, Ken Liu, and S.B. Divya.

The People

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Tina Gower and David Steffen

So.  Many.  People.  So wonderful to put faces to names for people that I have known online for years.

I am not even going to try to make a comprehensive list, because there is no way that I will remember everyone and I don’t want those that I do forget to feel left out.  But I will list out a few.

Shortly after rushing to the critique session that I was almost late for, I met up with my writing group friend Doug Engstrom–we’ve swapped critiques and discussion for years, so it was great to meet him in person and to interact with him off and on throughout the weekend.

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Sheila Williams and David Steffen

I got to meet Stefan Rudnicki and Gabrielle de Cuir, the masterminds (and mastervoices) behind Skyboat Media.  They are most well known for producing the Lightspeed Magazine and Nightmare Magazine podcasts, and for performing much of the voice-acting for those productions.  I have a direct professional connection with them in that they produced the audiobook version of the Long List Anthology last year–of which they sold out at their booth during WorldCon.  They both have voices that I have heard for so long in story narrations that it was both wonderful and very weird to meet them in person–I associate their voices so strongly with storytelling that my brain sinks into story listening mode and I kind of had to yank it out of that mode because, hey brain I’m trying to talk to people here!  It was great to meet them and talk business and chat.

Speaking of meeting people whose voices are incredibly familiar to me:  I met Alasdair Stuart and Marguerite Kenner.  They are the owners of Escape Artists, which is the parent company of most of my favorite podcasts: Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Podcastle, and Cast of Wonders, as well as the quarterly ebook zine Mothership Zeta.  Alasdair has been on the staff of Escape Artists for more than ten years, and he was the host of Pseudopod at the time that I made my very first fiction sale of all time to Pseudopod and decided that maybe I ought to try listening to the show (which has resulted in an 8 year listening binge of all the podcast fiction I could find that still continues today).  Marguerite is the editor and host of Cast of Wonders.  They are incredible, smart, nice, welcoming, helpful people, and I want to hang out with them forever.

Kate Baker, is another one of those familiar-voiced people and I was happy to get a chance to hang out with her at kaffeeklatch and elsewhere.  (And again with the barely being able to talk because I am so familiar with her voice from podcasts!)

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David Steffen and Dionne Obeso

It was wonderful to meet Sheila Williams, Neil Clarke, C.C. Finlay, Caroline M. Yoachim, Tina Connolly, Martin L. Shoemaker, Marina J. Lostetter, S.B. Divya, Ken Liu, Alyssa Wong, so so many others.

I got to meet a few writers whose short stories I have purchased: Andy Dudak, Tina Gower, Sunil Patel, Jon Lasser, Andrea G. Stewart.  (it makes a handy icebreaker to say “Hi!  I bought your story!”  🙂 )

Meeting people was easily the highlight of my convention experience.

The Hugo Awards

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Host Pat Cadigan and Jan Siegel

The Hugo Award ceremony was held Saturday evening and was hosted by Pat Cadigan.  Cadigan was a wonderful and hilarious host, and really overall the awards went as well as I could have hoped given the ballot they started with.  Lots of awesome things won.  A couple categories got No Awarded (Related Work and Fancast I believe?) but none of the fiction categories which are my main interest in the awards.

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Michi Trota of Uncanny Magazine

Uncanny won Best Semiprozine in its first year of eligibility!  Naomi Kritzer won for Best Short Story for “Cat Pictures Please”!  Hao Jingfang and Ken Liu (who was the translator in this case) won for Best Novelette for “Folding Beijing”!  Nnedi Okorafor won for Best Novella for “Binti”!  N.K. Jemisin won for Best Novel for The Fifth Season!  Neil Gaiman won for Best Graphic Story for Sandman!

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Astronaut Stan Love accepting Campbell Award for Andy Weir
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Astronaut Jeanette Epps accepting Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form for The Martian

The Martian won Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, and its author Andy Weir won the Campbell Award!  For each of them an astronaut accepted his award for him and talked about how much The Martian meant to them, that it got the science and the feel of the interpersonal relationships of the astronauts right!

Yes, there are a lot of explanation points in this section, but they are all deserved.  Especially after last year with the fiction categories getting so many No Awards, it was a major relief that all the fiction categories were awarded, and to such incredible people and recipients.

I watched from the very crowded SFWA suite this year, in part because my reading was too close to the ceremony to have much chance of finding a seat.  It… was more than a little cramped, but it worked out pretty well.

The Long List

Most of you who follow me at all already know about the Long List Anthology, but I’ll give a quick rundown for anyone who might not have heard about the project.  Every year, after the Hugo Award ceremony, the Hugo administrators publish the longer list of works that were nominated in each category–approximately 15 including the 5ish that are on the final ballot.  In most years, these works don’t receive a great deal of extra attention even though that longer list makes an excellent recommended reading list.

Last year I launched the Long List Anthology, which published stories pulled from that longer nomination list.  It totalled 180,000 words, about 500 pages in print, and featured some of the most popular contemporary short story authors like Sam J. Miller, Amal El-Mohtar, Elizabeth Bear, Ken Liu, Kai Ashante Wilson, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and others.  The book continues to sell steadily even now, and has sold more than 9000 copies (which is more than the Hugo voting population has been in any year).

The project was so successful last year, that I have decided to repeat the project this year–the list is here.  I am in the process of reading stories in the different categories and sending queries to the authors.  Last year the cover art was reprinted art from Galen Dara.  This year I’m taking that to the next level and commissioning original artwork from Galen Dara.  And I’ve got a few surprise ideas to try out for stretch goals, too.

There will be a Kickstarter to fund the anthology–I look forward to sharing links and the good news with you all–I am aiming for mid-September.

WSFS Meetings

You may not know what WSFS Meetings are, but you’re probably familiar with the Hugo Awards, awards that are nominated and voted on by supporting members of WorldCon.  WSFS meetings are held every year at WorldCon, and they define rule changes to the Hugo Awards.  Anyone who has an Attending WorldCon membership can show up and debate, vote, help decide new categories or nomination rule changes and so on.  I fully intended to go to at least one meeting while I was at WorldCon, because I do value the Hugo Awards and this once-a-year batch of business meetings defines everything.  But…  I was a horrible person and didn’t attend any of them.  Nonetheless, some important rule changes went through this year, which I have been reading about after the fact, so I shall list out some of the more interesting ones (of the ones I understand) and give my reaction.  My primary source for the WSFS Meetings that last couple years has been Rachael Acks’s blog.  Rachael is a writer and editor, and is also involved in WSFS, both liveblogging updates as the meetings happen, and giving summaries and reactions afterward–which gives a very nice place to catch up on what you missed if you can’t or don’t go to the meetings.

Here is a list of the business agenda they started the weekend with, with a daily meeting scheduled from 10am to 1am.  Or for a more informal version with Rachael’s reactions to items, you can check out this page.

I am honestly just catching up on these things now, so it’s entirely possible I got something wrong typing all this up.

Best Fancast category is now a permanent category

The Best Fancast category was defined a few years ago, and has been a trial category that would have expired after this year if it hadn’t been ratified again.  I have mixed but mostly negative feelings about its permanent addition.  I do feel that the Hugo Awards have been slow to consider publications in new media–it took quite awhile for online magazines to be considered seriously and audio-only publications have been slow to start to get some recognition, even when they are publishing original fiction of excellent quality.  When the Fancast category had first come out I was excited that maybe this little niche would encourage more serious recognition.

Part of my disappointment has been that every nominee, except for StarShipSofa, has been nonfiction.  That’s… fine, I guess.  People like nonfiction podcasts, apparently.  But I really want to see fiction podcasts recognized, especially fiction podcasts that pay their contributors and which publish original fiction and don’t need to beg their listeners for votes in every episode.

The rest of my disappointment is that, for my favorite podcasts, it is quite unclear what category they actually qualify for.  They could be a Semiprozine or they could be a Fancast.  The differentiation between the two is not well-defined in the current rules.  If Fancast is supposed to actually be nonfiction, as voters have been treating it, then I would prefer that it would just be defined as such, so that this differentiation was at least clear.  And a common point of confusion is that people assume Fancast is the A/V equivalent to Fanzine, meaning that it’s defining trait is not paying its contributors.  (I have had discussions with people who advocate for the Fanzine category and they insist that this is NOT the defining feature, but according to the rules that are actually used to administer the award that is the main difference).  But the rules seem to imply that Fanzine is also the A/V equivalent to Semiprozine.  And what happens if a publication published in both audio and text?  There is some precedent in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Clarkesworld and Lightspeed and others who both publish in both and who have gotten Semiprozine nominations, but other publications that also get both like Escape Pod came at it from the other direction and I think most voters think of them differently as a result.

I liked the Escape Artists editorial strategy last year, suggesting that if anyone wanted to vote for them, that EA would prefer they do it in the Semiprozine rather than the Fancast category.  I thought this was a good idea, to encourage the fans to pick one specific side of the equation because one issue with having an ambiguous category is that maybe you have enough fans who want to vote for you to get you on the ballot, but if they’re splitting their nominations across two categories that kind of ruins that chance.  Also, I don’t believe it’s possible to absolutely determine whether something is eligible for one category or the other unless it actually reaches the ballot level–at which point it will either be invited to be on the ballot, or it will be removed as being ineligible.  Either case you’ve learned something which can help future voting, and it may even help push through some changes that better define the rules in the future.

The Five Percent Solution

Prior to this year there has been a requirement that all but the top 3 entries in a category must have at least 5% of the overall vote, or they are simply not on the ballot.  This rule was a bit silly because it caused a reaction to larger pools of award-worthy worker and larger nominating group by REDUCING the category.  This didn’t start hitting the ballots until a few years ago–that’s why you sometimes saw the Short Story category with only three items on it instead of five.

Very glad to see this bit removed from the constitution, so now you’ll see five items no matter what.

Electronic Signatures for Site Bids

Historically WorldCon has kindof been more USA-con.  A lot of people have been trying to put the World in WorldCon and encourage it to be more internationally located.  I’m a proponent of having it be more international (even though I will probably not be able to afford to go to most non-USA located years), and this helps more people vote for it without having to be physically present, so I think this is a positive change toward that goal.

Best Series Category

The idea behind this one is that some people felt that series of books that were remarkable and awesome series may not be likely to be nominated for Best Novel for their individual books.  This category would be for those kinds of books–a series would be eligible after so many words have been published in the series, and would be eligible again after so many words have been published  again after the first nomination.

I… don’t really see the point in this category.  Individual books are already eligible, and if those individual books aren’t winning awards… it doesn’t seem like we really need to define new categories to handle that because maybe just some things are less likely to win, but we don’t need to make new categories for every little thing.

Not only that, but the eligibility would be harder to determine than any other category, since it would depend on when the last nomination for a series was, and how many words were in each book (which isn’t generally immediately obvious).

Nominee Diversity

The idea behind this change is to  prohibit the same entity from being nominated more than one time in a category (in which case I think the highest ranking item for that entity would be on the ballot).   This was probably proposed in part based on John C. Wright’s shenanigans-related 5 nominations of a couple years ago.  But more importantly, to me, this should make the Dramatic Presentation Short Form category much much more interesting, because there are many years where that is effectively the Best Doctor Who Episode category.

I am glad to see this go into the constitution, primarily for the Dramatic Presentation Short Form category.

Two Years Are Good Enough

Presently, anyone can nominate for the Hugos who was a supporting member last year, a supporting member this year, or who has registered already to be a supporting member next year.  This proposal would remove the last of those options.

I don’t have strong feelings about this one–I wonder how many people actually pre-register for next year early enough that they can nominate this year?  Maybe it’s just that my life rarely allows such pre-planning, that I find it hard to conceive this mattering one way or the other.

This passed for the first time, and would need to be ratified next year to go into effect.

YA Award

This has been proposed before as a Hugo category.  This time it was proposed as a not-a-Hugo that would nonetheless be voted for on the Hugo ballot and awarded in the  Hugo Award ceremony with the rest of the Hugos (much as the Campbell Award for Best New Writer is).

This one passed but would need to be ratified next year to become an official category the year after.

It seems positive to me.  YA is important to the genre world because it’s often the first thing that young readers pick up that transitions them into the adult fiction (and adults can love it too).  I think it’s worthwhile to give it its own award.

Three Stage Voting

This was proposed as a way to avoid future Hugo Award shenanigans by adding an extra stage between nomination and the final ballot. The nominations would result in 15 semi-finalists which would be published.  Then voters can upvote the things they think are good enough to be on the final ballot, which eventually becomes a final ballot, and then the final ballot would work now.

One concern I’d originally had was that it would increase admin workload, but it sounds like it might not be much different, especially by taking advantage of some crowdsourced effort.  The middle stage would not have had eligibility verified, so the voting group can help point out ineligible works.  And the nominated entities would only be checked for their interest in the ballot between the 2nd and 3rd stages, so that cuts down on “waiting for communication to happen” in the timeline.

I’m a little concerned that people voting against the spirit of the intent of the 2nd round might end up nuking categories, but I think it has a lot of potential.

This one passed, to be up for ratification next year.

E Pluribus Hugo

This is a new proposed nomination system which is intended to reduce the effectiveness of large numbers of voters with identical ballots for the same category (primarily to reduce the effect of slates).  Last year I was in favor of this when it passed its initial vote, because I hadn’t heard of any better ideas and I didn’t want to wait a whole nother year to see if a better idea came around.  But…  though I think the concept makes sense, but it is more complicated than the current system–the current system you can look at all the numbers and sort them out by hand given the overall voting numbers.  This one, you really can’t because it depends on the exact contents of individual ballots, and you end up having to basically count it by program given the full voting data.

And the major difference is that I think that the better solution might have come along in the form of three-stage voting.  But three-stage voting also passed and so goes into effect next year, so we’ll visit that next year again.

5 and 6

This was another measure intended to make it harder to sweep the ballot with slates.  Normally, a voter can nominate up to 5 works, and 5 works end up on the final ballot.  So voting collusion can sweep the ballot with only a little discipline–just all fill out the ballot in the same way.  This change makes it so that one still nominates 5 works, but that the top 6 end up on the ballot–so if one wanted to force 6 items onto the ballot it would require more complicated coordination.  It increases the chance that at least one item will be on the ballot that was not related to the slate.

This was ratified so this will go into effect next year.

E Pluribus Hugo +

This is a new proposal that appears to be a new alteration of E Pluribus Hugo?  But I don’t seem to be able to find any additional information–I’m sure it’s out there.  It passed, and is up for ratification next year, head to head with Three-Stage Voting.  (NOTE:  David Goldfarb explains EPH+ in his comment on this post–go read that!)

Hugo Novella Review 2016

written by David Steffen

The Hugo Awards Best Novella category covers stories between 17,500 and 40,000 words.  See here for a full list of the nominees this year.

1. Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson (Dragonsteel Entertainment)

Kairominas is God-Emperor, who has defeated every foe and united the world under his rule.  He has lived for hundreds of years and has become powerful in Lancing, an arcane power drawn from the sky.  Of course, everyone else in the world is a simulation, all of it designed specifically to keep him engaged and interested and satisfied with his life.  Knowing this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t feel a sense of responsibility for the simulated people he rules–EVERY natural person is the most important person in their own custom-designed simulated world.  Kai tries to forget, as often as he can, but he has been called upon by the Wode, the makers of these worlds, to fulfill his obligation by going on a date with the ruler of another world in a neutral world.

Brandon Sanderson continues to be consistently one of my favorite writers from year to year, in large part because I love his worldbuilding, especially his magic system worldbuilding.  In this case the magic that the protagonist wields is a simulated magic, part of a computer program, and the protagonist knows this, but it still ends up giving the story as a whole a magic parallel worlds story even though it is actually a science fictional simulated worlds story.  I like science fantasy, and enjoy that mixed feel.  As ever, Sanderson provides stellar worldbuilding with interesting and relatable characters, and manages to convey all this at the perfect pace so that it is never bogged down with excess explanation nor confusing in its brevity.  Solid read from beginning to end.

 

2. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com)

Binti is the first of the Himba people (of Namibia) to ever be offered a place at Oomza University, the seat of learning in the galaxy.  To accept the offer, she leaves her family behind and travels far away from the place where her family is so deeply rooted.  Her fellow travelers do not respect her cultures or traditions, and she has a long and frustrating (if enlightening) road ahead of her.  But before they even arrive at their destination planet, their ship is attacked by the Meduse, a deadly alien race at war with the world she is joining.

Great epic story from a point of view not usually portrayed in speculative fiction.  Before reading this story I was entirely unfamiliar with the Himba people, and I enjoyed it in large part as an opportunity to learn something about a real-life  culture, as well as to see wider representation in fiction.  Besides those factors, Binti is also a protagonist that I loved to root for–smart, capable, and brave.  I’ve been hearing people talk about this story all year as a possible award nominee, and I can see why.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

3. Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum)

Lord Penric is riding on the way to his betrothal when he comes upon a riding accident with an old woman injured on the ground.  She turns out to a Temple divine, the servant of the Bastard, one of the five gods that rule over the world.  In her dying breath she bestows upon him the demon that possesses her as part of her role, which now resides in Penric’s body.  While demons are expected to pass to another person after the death of their hosting divine, normally it is all prearranged with a specific chosen person, rather than a random passerby.  What, exactly, this means for Penric or for the demon, no one seems willing to say, apart from the fact that he now must change plans in order to speak to the people who can tell him.

This story is billed as taking place in the same world as three of Bujold’s novels, but I never would’ve suspected from only reading the story itself.  The story is self-contained, so you can read this story (as I did) with no prior knowledge of the world or people in it, and expect to be able to follow the story.  It’s possible that you may have a greater appreciation for events if you have more familiarity, but it could all be followed very easily.

Not long after his possession Penric learns that the demon can speak to him using his own mouth, so much of the book envelops as part of Penric (sort of) talking to himself in private, learning about the demon and what it is capable of, and more about their uncertain future together.  This was a clever way to convey the world to the reader, and was fun to read as well, because the demon is an interesting character in its own right and there is a great deal of chemistry between Penric and  the demon.  Since Penric is entirely unfamiliar with demons apart from rumors, and knows little about the inner workings of the temple, he has to learn on the road as he’s traveling with the demon, and so does the reader.  He is taken out of his familiar but unremarkable town out into the wider world.  This story was a great deal of fun and it was quite interesting to see the demon’s abilities unfold as it established a rapport with Penric.

4. Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon)

Scur is a soldier in a vast interstellar war spanning hundreds of solar systems.  That war is finally nearing an end, and she is beginning to allow herself to contemplate the life that may come after when she is taken prisoner by a war criminal and left for dead.  She wakes up on a prisoner transport where everything seems to be going wrong–the passengers are all thawing out at once, war criminals and prisoners from both sides of the war lines.  Their slow bullets (implanted devices that both store their soldier’s history, and can be set to kill them if they turn rebel) are their only links to their past.  Not only that, but there is something seriously wrong with the ship.

Lots of action and difficult decisions in this story, as soldiers from opposite sides of a long and gruesome conflict wake up in a closed system with each other.  Scur takes on the responsibility of being an impromptu leader to try to keep everyone from each other’s throats long enough to understand how they all ended up there, how to best salvage as much functionality out of the malfunctioning ship as possible, and where to go from there.  A solid science fictional tale about a group of opposing soldiers trying to unite in a post-war environment to try to survive.

 

5. The Builders by Daniel Polansky (Tor.com)

The Captain, a mouse, sets out to reunite the old gang of thieves and scoundrels of various  species (stoat, owl, mole, salamander, and others) who had all scattered after the last job went disastrously wrong.  As he seeks each one out and recruits them anew on this mission to right what has gone wrong, we learn about each of them and their background before they reach their destination and carry out The Captain’s revenge.

This story was cleverly told, with a feel that I found reminiscient of Ocean’s Eleven or other heist films, about gathering a group of elite specialists and then facing down insurmountable odds (though here there is more direct confrontational action rather than sneakery in general).  My favorite character was probably Bonsoir the stoat, whose blustery mannerisms were fun to witness.  The story was laid out so that you gradually find out more and more about the job that went wrong as each character appears and plays their own part.

I enjoyed the story best when it bordered on the comedic, often in Bonsoir’s dialog, or in some of the amusing chapter titles.  The action was well written and convincing as well, and there was no pulling punches with the deadly consequences of the  whole quest.  I enjoyed the read, but I guess for me I was hoping to be able to relate to some degree to the purpose of the quest, and I just didn’t find it at all compelling.  I was interested in the characters, their histories, and what they wanted from their futures, and I cared enough about them that it just seemed a waste to send them into this situation to quite likely die for a reason that I didn’t find that compelling.  That’s a testament to the portrayal of the characters that I cared enough about them to care about the potential waste of their lives, I suppose.

 

The Long List Anthology Released!

written by David Steffen

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00012]Today marks the official release ebook and audiobook versions of the Long List Anthology, a collection of stories published in 2014 from the Hugo Award nomination list.  (The print version was released not too long ago).

See the Books page for a link to all of the different vendors for the different formats.

In case this is the first you’re hearing about this, I ran the Kickstarter to fund this anthology in October, which you can see here.

I hope you enjoy the stories in this book as much as I have.  Share links!  Leave reviews!

Description

The Hugo Award is one of the most prestigious speculative fiction literary awards. Every year, supporting members of WorldCon nominate their favorite stories first published during the previous year to determine the top five in each category for the final Hugo Award ballot. Between the announcement of the ballot and the Hugo Award ceremony at WorldCon, these works often become the center of much attention (and contention) across fandom.

But there are more stories loved by the Hugo voters, stories on the longer nomination list that WSFS publishes after the Hugo Award ceremony at WorldCon. The Long List Anthology collects 21 tales from that nomination list, totaling almost 500 pages of fiction by writers from all corners of the world.

Within these pages you will find a mix of science fiction and fantasy, the dramatic and the lighthearted, from near future android stories to steampunk heists, too-plausible dystopias to contemporary vampire stories.

There is something here for everyone.

The cover art is by the Hugo-Award winning artist Galen Dara, the cover layout by Pat R. Steiner, and the interior layout by Polgarus Studios.  Audiobook production by Skyboat Media.

Table of Contents

  • “Covenant” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “This Chance Planet” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet
  • “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “The Truth About Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “When It Ends, He Catches Her” by Eugie Foster
  • “A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone
  • “Makeisha in Time” by Rachael K. Jones
  • “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher
  • “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” by Usman T. Malik
  • “The Magician and LaPlace’s Demon” by Tom Crosshill
  • “The Litany of Earth” by Ruthanna Emrys
  • “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” by Alaya Dawn Johnson
  • “The Bonedrake’s Penance” by Yoon Ha Lee
  • “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch
  • “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado
  • “We are the Cloud” by Sam J. Miller
  • “Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy” by Xia Jia, translated by Ken Liu
  • “The Devil in America” by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • “The Regular” by Ken Liu
  • “Grand Jeté (The Great Leap)” by Rachel Swirsky

Hugo Short Story Review: “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond

written by David Steffen

baenbookmonsters_“A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond was first published in The Baen Big Book of Monsters published by Baen Books.

In this story a mountain-sized kaiju has arisen in Japan, rising from beneath the land itself where the landscape had built up around it.  The monster is moving across the countryside, crushing everything in its path.  A samurai has survived its uprising where so many others haven’t by riding the kaiju as it rose up and climbing up its back even as the soil and trees and rocks shift off the kaiju as it walks.  To save Japan he has to finish his climb and find some way to kill the monster.

This was my favorite of the category, and earned my vote.  I am not well-versed in Japanese culture, so I couldn’t say how authentic the viewpoint was, but from my layman’s eye it worked well enough for me.  The story is very short, and doesn’t overstay its welcome–it kept me interested from beginning to end.  The resolution made sense in retrospect but I didn’t see it coming.  The story is so short and the premise is relatively simple, so that there’s not a lot else I can say about the story without spoiling it.

The Hugo packet included the entire collection, but this is the only story in the collection I read, so I can’t comment on what I think of the volume as a whole–if you didn’t register for WorldCon and get the Hugo packet, I think that the collection is the way to get the story.

“Long List” Anthology (Replacing the Mulligan Awards)

NOTE: The original post suggested the title “Ones to Watch” but someone rightly pointed out this implied an anthology of up-and-coming authors just starting to get noticed, which will probably be untrue more often than not.  So, “Long List” is the working title at this point instead.

For anyone who read the previous plan proposing the Mulligan Awards, this announcement is to announce that there will be no Mulligan Awards, and to announce a new plan that I hope will accomplish the same goals I had in mind, but in a way that better fits my goals.

WHAT IS CHANGING?

There will be no Mulligan Award

There will be no attempt to use the numbers to extrapolate what would’ve been on the Hugo ballot without the voting slates.

There will still be a Kickstarter.

The Kickstarter will support a reprint SF/F anthology tentatively titled “Long List”.

The contents of the anthology will be those stories on the longer Hugo nomination stats list that they publish at WorldCon for the appropriate category, as long as:

  • The story was eligible for the Hugo in the appropriate year (especially, that it was first published in the appropriate year)
  • The author agrees to the terms, which will include 1 cent/word pay and attribution of the original publication.
  • If the story is still within its exclusivity period with the original publisher, the publisher agrees to allow the reprint.

The baseline goal of the Kickstarter will include the short story category.  There will be stretch goals that will include the novelette and novella categories.

The anthology will be published in ebook formats.

I will consider doing this in future years as well, regardless of whether that year has a controversy or not.  No matter what makes the ballot or how it makes the ballot, there are other stories that came very close–with the nomination numbers we will know which ones they are, and I see no reason why this couldn’t be an annual production.

WHY IS IT CHANGING?

For a variety of reasons.  But first and foremost, it’s a matter of tone.

There has been a lot of anger surrounding this Hugo season from a variety of people with a variety of viewpoints.  I am not going to examine that anger here–the SF corners of the Internet are full of that examination, and it’s all out there for you to read.  What frustrates me most about this award season is the loss of excitement that usually surrounds it, of taking the time and space to share and discuss stories, to celebrate this genre that we all love so much, even though different people love different kinds of stories and different aspects.  To me, the Hugos at their best are a recommended reading list vetted by a couple thousand fans that like all kinds of different things.  I like them best when they’re a hodgepodge–some stuff perfectly suited to my reading, others that I don’t like or don’t understand but which are interesting as a study of understanding other people’s viewpoints and perspectives.

The reason I suggested the Mulligan Awards in the first place was because I wanted to offer a place where people could be excited about this award season again, where it wouldn’t just be anger from one end of the calendar to another.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that even though I wanted it to be a way to add positivity and excitement to the award season, the more I realized that it was inseparable from the anger because its basis was blame.  And that it could make the experience of people already having a tough time even tougher.  For example, if a novelist found out that she had almost made the ballot this year, that would be hard–almost making something is hard no matter the circumstances.  If she then got a communication from someone she’d never heard of, offering her an award for not quite making the ballot?  Well, no matter what the intent of the award, that might just hurt all the more.

Which brought me back to pondering what I really wanted to do with this project to begin with and how I could meet those goals in the most positive way.  The idea of the award was exciting to me, but more exciting was that those works that didn’t quite make the ballot would get some attention, and maybe fans out there would find new authors and new publications that get them all the more excited for short fiction.  And I decided that this kind of anthology would be better if I didn’t make any judgment calls–no consideration of whether something was on a slate, or whether it was recommended by who or why.   The anthology is going to be a mixed bag, and I like that idea.

 

Hugo Novel Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

written by David Steffen

In the near future, The American medical corporation Symbogen releases a product that dramatically changes the medical industry–the Intestinal Bodyguard, a a genetically engineered tapeworm that manages most of your medical needs, including suppressing allergic reactions, and producing insulin for diabetics. Within a few years, the tapeworm implants are so ubiquitous, you would be hard pressed to find an American who doesn’t have one, and cheaper models have even become popular in third world countries where they help keep people healthy who have never known good health. They are the universal cure-all elixir. There can be no doubt that they have all the marvelous effects that are claimed–these are well documented. What may not be so well documented are the side effects that may come with that little traveling companion in your gut.

Sally Mitchell owes her life to the parasite, even more than most. She was involved in a terrible car accident, after which the doctors pronounced her permenantly braindead and urged her parents to remove her from life support. During that very discussion, she wakes up. She suffered from complete memory loss, to such an extent she had to relearn how to speak from scratch and had no memory of her previous life. Lacking memories of her old life, she became a completely different person but one who has learned to be completely functional within a few years, even holding down a job. She has to live with her parents and must make regular visits to Symbogen for them to study her condition further.

Symbogen’s interest in her has only increased with the recent increase in reports of the “sleeping sickness” which seems to be related to the parasites. Those afflicted with the sleeping sickness take on a state like sleepwalking without warning, even when they hadn’t been sleeping. And, sometimes, these sleepwalkers can be dangerous.

I’ve been looking forward to this novel, the first in the Parasitology trilogy, since I saw it on the Hugo list–the complete novel didn’t end up being in the Hugo packet, but I was able to get a review copy. I haven’t been familiar with Mira Grant’s (aka Seanan McGuire’s) for very long, but she’s gotten several award nominations these past few years that I’ve been following the award closely and her work has been good enough that I was very interested in reading a novel by her.

I thought that this was a solid novel, good through and through. I found Sal Mitchell a very relatable and interesting character, in a very interesting situation. She has learned enough language to be able to communicate fluently, but the youngness of her mind is clear in her spotty education on expressions and colloquialisms, and when she is lacking in some of the social norms that we generally take for granted. Her relationship with her boyfriend (Nathan Kim) is certainly not the point of the book, but was probably the part I enjoyed the most–a great example of a mutually supported relationship tuned to the individual people in it. All of the characters in the book were completely believable, even the ones with less savory aspects. I could believe everything in this book could really happen. Some of the characters gave me a strong enough impression that I had Hollywood actors picked out for their movie portrayals–for those reading along, I pictured Andy Serkis as Sherman and Ben Kingsley as Colonel Mitchell (Sally’s father).

Although this book has been billed as horror, I didn’t find it terribly horrific. Of course with tapeworm implants being a major factor there is potential that some might get grossed out by those parts, but I didn’t think anything was going for a squick factor in that. I think it would do just as well with a general SF audience, unless you’re particularly sensitive to the idea of the tapeworms, in which case you probably haven’t read this far anyway.

My first complaint is that there was a twist reveal late in the book that perplexed me a bit because I thought the knowledge given in the reveal had been a foregone conclusion since page 1 of the book. Understandably, that is from my perspective as a lifetime SF fan looking in from the outside of the situation, so it’s understandable if people in the actual story wouldn’t see it right away, but I thought there was enough evidence even within the story itself that some of them should’ve figured this reveal out long before it was handed to them–that was the one area where the characters didn’t behave as I thought they would.

My second complaint, admittedly a minor one, is that this doesn’t stand alone as a single book. My favorite series are those where each book is its own complete arc while also being part of the larger arc of the series. That’s not the case here–rather than resolving anything at the end, several more cans of worms are opened and then the book is over. Of course, wanting a full arc per book is a personal preference and certainly not a requirement of a writer.

I would highly recommend this book, and I eagerly await reading the second and third books in the series.

Hugo Novella Review 2014

written by David Steffen

And the last of the shorter categories for the Hugo this year, covering stories from 17,500 to 40,000 words. The longer categories are often misses for me because I feel they have a lot of word bloat, but when I do like one of them they have so much space to grow.

 

1. “Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
This story is part of Stross’s Laundry series, wherein Bob Howard works as an agent for the secret British government organization for known only as “The Laundry” which serves the purpose of investigating and handling invasions of Lovecraftian monsters. This particular story involves an outbreak of outbreak of unicorns which are not the lovely pure animals we’ve been led to believe and even most of the people in the Laundry aren’t aware that they’re real.

This story is awesome, scary like few stories are, and simultaneously hilarious. Cosmic horror from the POV of a cynical career buraeaucrat. Even the smallest details are filtered through the funny point of view, so that even the recurring descriptions of a character’s beard had me rolling. I also loved how the story made HP Lovecraft part of the story, but not as the prophet you might think they’d make him considering their role, but rather of a crackpot who occasionally stumbled across something real, and knew just enough truth to be a dangerous idiot. I highly recommend this story and now I want to read more of the Laundry series.

 

2. “The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
In the previous story “The Chaplain’s Assistant” the eponymous chaplain’s assistant forestalled the annihilation of humanity at the hands of the technologically superior mantis race by provoking in them an interest in religion. The mantises have no religion of their own and they decided to study this strange phenomenon before destroying their opportunity to do so. Now it appears that the mantes may be growing impatient, feeling they’ve learned everything they can learn, and hostilities may recommence. Humans have now had time to prepare defenses against mantis attacks and the war might begin anew, but perhaps not as one-sided as before. Now the chaplain’s assistant is meeting with the Queen of the mantes and desperately needs to prove to the mantes that humans still have something to offer.

I thought this was a solid story. I appreciated it giving a fair shake to religion which traditionally SF doesn’t do. I admit I found the particular form of the mantes a little hard to take seriously (tiny flying saucers fused with giant praying mantises) but the story was good enough to overcome that as the chaplain’s assistant did everything he could to prolong the peace, and maybe even form a permanent truce. Good action, good characters, well told. This and the previous story are going to be repackaged as a novel published by Baen so I imagine that will be a solid offering as a package deal as well.

 

3. “Six-Gun Snow White”, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
A wild west retelling of the Snow White story, in which Snow White is the daughter of a wealthy landowner Mr. H in the Montana Territory and his Crow wife. Snow White is the name given to her by the second Mrs. H, her cruel stepmother to mock her native heritage. Snow White is a crack shot with a gun but is otherwise naive to the ways of the world, but she runs away to make her own way.

I liked the character of Snow White. You’ve got to admire the guts it would take to be a woman gunman in a world that doesn’t exactly reward that and makes you fight for it every step of the way. I really liked the early chapters of the story where all of it was told by Snow White in first person. I found her character voice as interesting or more interesting as the stuff that was actually happening, so I was disappointed when it dropped into a distant third person partway through the story. I’m not sure if the only difference was the voice itself or if the story itself was just weaker but after that point I didn’t feel like I was emotionally invested in the character anymore.

 

4. “Wakulla Springs, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)
This story spans most of a century, mostly taking place at Wakulla Springs a beautiful natural wonder in Florida, a real life place that was used as a jungle-like setting for some twentieth century movies like Tarzan and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. This story follows a series of colored characters from a time when Jim Crow laws were the norm to the present day.

I reviewed this story in greater detail as a followup to my usual Nebula award reviews. To sum up, I thought that the characters felt very real, and it certainly had plenty going for it in terms of theme, but I didn’t rank it higher among the novellas because I didn’t feel that it had enough of a cohesive plot arc or character arc to really hold it together for me.

 

5. “The Butcher of Khardov”, Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
Orsus Zoktavir is a warcaster for the Khador army, one of those rare few who can control the powerful mechanical warjacks by his mind alone. As if this weren’t enough, he is a giant of a man wielding a deadly axe so that he is almost as deadly as a warjack itself. This story follows Orsus (in time-jumping fashion) from when he is a young boy through the events of his life that gave him the name “The Butcher of Khardov” where he is sentenced for slaughtering an entire village, and what happens after.

It’s no surprise that this story didn’t really enthuse me. It is the second book in a series based on Warmachine, a model-based tabletop roleplaying game that’s been around for ten years but which I haven’t played nor followed. Presumably the target audience of this story are players of that game who want to know more backstory for the characters they’re moving around the battlefield.

I decided to give the story a try anyway, on the chance that it might stand on its own. I didn’t have any trouble understanding the story. The concept of warjacks is simple enough and the story explained other concepts to my satisfaction. I didn’t think the time jumping did the story any favors, whiplashing constantly from past to future and back again with no apparent design. I didn’t feel convinced that the events in the story would actually transform a violent but basically sane young man into the psychotic war machine that he becomes in his more recent years. He kind of struck me as a rabid Perrin Aybara from the Wheel of Time series. In his older incarnation I didn’t care for him at all, and frankly thought the world would be a better place if someone did execute this rabid wolf before he turns on those he claims fealty to.

2014 Hugo Noms!

written by David Steffen

It’s award season again! If you’re eligible to vote for the Hugos, you have until the end of March to decide on your picks. I wanted to share my picks, as I always do, in plenty of time so that if anyone wants to investigate my choices to see for themselves they’ll have plenty of time.

Quite a few of the categories I don’t have anything to nominate because I don’t seek out entries in them, so I left those out. And for any category that I have eligible work I mentioned them alongside my own picks.

The entries in each category are listed in no particular order.

Best Novel

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Premier novel by Leckie. Great premise, difficult point of view, great space opera. I reviewed it here.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
The 14th and final book of Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series.

 

Best Novelette

Monday’s Monk by Jason Sanford (Asimov’s)

Best Short Story

The Promise of Space by James Patrick Kelly (Clarkesworld)

The Murmurous Paleoscope by Dixon Chance (Three-Lobed Burning Eye)

HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! by Keffy R.M. Kehrli (Lightspeed)

Hollow as the World by Ferrett Steinmetz (Drabblecast)

The Boy and the Box by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed)

For Your Consideration:
I Will Remain in After Death Anthology
Could They But Speak at Perihelion
Reckoning at Stupefying Stories
Meat at Pseudopod
Coin Op at Daily Science Fiction
Escalation at Imaginaire

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Ender’s Game

Warm Bodies

Game of Thrones Season 3

 

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

The Rains of Castamere (Game of Thrones)

And Now His Watch Has Ended (Game of Thrones)

Walk of Punishment (Game of Thrones)

Second Sons (Game of Thrones)

Valar Doheris (Game of Thrones)

 

Best Editor (Short Form)

Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld)

John Joseph Adams (of Lightspeed, Nightmare, and anthologies)

Tina Connolly (of Toasted Cake)

Norm Sherman (of Drabblecast and Escape Pod)

Shawn Garrett (of Pseudopod)

 

Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Daily Science Fiction

Lightspeed

Escape Pod

Drabblecast

Best Fanzine

SF Signal

My work for you to consider:
Diabolical Plots
I do consider Diabolical Plots a zine. Consider, too, that this was the first year Diabolical Plots also provide the Submission Grinder. The Submission Grinder itself doesn’t fit any of the categories, I think, but Diabolical Plots does.

 

Best Fancast

Toasted Cake

Pseudopod

Dunesteef

Podcastle

Cast of Wonders

 

Best Fan Writer

Ken Liu

Ferrett Steinmetz

Juliette Wade

Cat Rambo

Anne Ivy

For your consideration:

David Steffen
Frank Dutkiewicz
Carl Slaughter

 

“WorldCon 2012 Con Report” or “David Steffen Finds Fandom”

written by David Steffen

I’m beginning to write this article from the huge lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago. It’s 10 o’clock Monday morning, the last day of WorldCon, which this year is Chicon 7. As I sit here and watch the escalators, ambushing familiar faces to sneak in some goodbyes, I am feeling very nostalgic about the weekend already.

This is the first big SF convention that I’ve ever been to, and the only one where I came with a large number of friends I’d known ahead of time. The only convention I’ve been to besides this has been MiniCon in the Twin Cities, which is a few hundred people, and although I’ve made some friends there, I didn’t know any of them ahead of time. Here at WorldCon there are literally dozens of people whom I have met in some respect, varying from casual acquaintances from forums, to editors who have considered my stories for their magazines, to close friends who I’ve been in continuous contact with for years. I tried to write down all the names of these people I’d met, and came up with at least 60, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some, with another dozen that I would’ve liked to meet but never quite got the chance.

I think I finally understand, to a much larger extent, what fandom is all about. The greatest thing about SF fandom is how welcoming it is to everyone. No matter what race, nationality, religion, sexuality, body type, no matter what, you are welcomed with open arms. I’ve always loved that, but previously–I don’t know exactly how to explain this–although I never felt unwelcome, I don’t think I ever felt like I was a PART of the group. I felt like I was being welcomed warmly into a group but not exactly part of the group. I think that everything about it was the way I have approached MiniCon attendance. I go to MiniCon during the day, show up at the first panel that I’m interested in and leave after the last panel I’m interested in. Since so much of the programming emphasizes panels, it seemed to me like panels were what it was about (despite others telling me that that wasn’t the point at all). And I would talk to people as the opportunity arose, but since I was so panel-focused, most of the time I spent was sitting listening to other people talk without a lot of opportunity for conversation with others. But now I’m realizing that the way that I have been approaching MiniCon is all wrong. Panels are good, but they’re not the point.

I can pinpoint the moment when this became real to me. One of the first panels I went to was “Short Story as Proving Ground” with some panelists that I’ve known online, Brad Torgersen, Vylar Kaftan, and others. I arrived late, and so I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone beforehand. After the panel, I met quite a few people that I’ve known online for a long time, shook some hands and was quite happy to be meeting them. But when I met Annie Bellet, who’s been a friend online for years, she didn’t go for a handshake, she immediately gave me a big hug. And moments later a similar greeting from another longtime friend, Laurie Gailunas. I really felt, at that moment, like these people aren’t just friends, aren’t just colleagues. These people are family, welcoming me with open arms. I realize that sounds corny. But that’s how it felt, and that feeling has persisted through the rest of the con. So, thanks Annie, Laurie, and thanks everyone else who has made me feel so welcome.

I’m not even sure where to get started with this con report.

Dude, you’re really only getting STARTED? You’ve written flash fiction stories that are shorter than that introduction.

Don’t pay attention to that italicized bit. That’s my internal critic. He’s just cranky from being ignored–I don’t know how he got out of the dungeon. Anyway, back to the topic of where to get started: I thought about splitting it up by day, but figured that would get a bit too dry of a “list” format that wouldn’t at all match how I feel about my first big con experience.

The People

There is no way that I can possibly list all of the people that I met this weekend, so I’m not even going to try. I will mention a few. I roomed with Donald Mead and Bryant Thomas Schmidt, both very nice guys. I was very excited to meet Annie Bellet, Hugo-nominated Brad Torgersen, Laurie Gailunas, and Alastair Mayer, who I’ve been in a writing group with for the last few years. There are so many others that I met that I know through various forums or publications, Brennan Harvey, Thomas Carpenter, Alex Kane, Laurie Tom, Dawn Bonnana, Christie Yant (who wrote my favorite story in years, the Three Feats of Agani), Nancy Fulda, Gio Clairval. Many others whose work I have enjoyed over the years, like Rajan Khanna, David D. Levine, Ferret Steinmetz. And I got an autograph from Mr. George R. R. Martin, while managing not to go too fanboy on him.

As I have been sitting here writing this article, others have come and gone around me. I have been sitting next to a woman for the last hour as I type away, and moments ago realized that the woman is LaShawn Wanak, whom I have had many a discussion about fiction on the Escape Artists forums over the last few years! Man this is a crazy place, to meet so many people I know digitally.

The Editors

Wait, wait, aren’t editors people? What kind of stupid categories are these, anyway?

I concede that editors are people. Many of them might even be entirely human. Not John Joseph Adams, clearly, because he regularly violates causality by sending rejections from his Lightspeed EVEN BEFORE the story has been sent to him and somehow he does this without unraveling spacetime. On top of that, no flesh and blood human being could possibly juggle all the anthologies that he puts together all at the same time. Regardless of his superhuman state, he seems to be a very nice guy, even though he’s rejected my stories more than any other editor on the planet.

Also met Gordon Van Gelder, who was one of the first editors I submitted to at Fantasy & Science Fiction. And Stanley Schmidt, the current editor of Analog who has seen all the SF stories I’ve written, as well as Trevor Quachri, who will soon be inundated by my stories in Stan’s stead. Jason Sizemore. And Mur Lafferty, who has the unique distinction in my mind of being the only magazine editor I’ve met who has bought a story from me (for Escape Pod).

It was fun meeting these people, whom I’ve corresponded with so often, if in only the most spare and businesslike way.

Those dulcet tones

What kind of stupid category is that? “Those dulcet tones”. Sheesh.

There was one very small category of people whom I was especially excited to meet.

Wait, wait, so you had a category called “The People” followed by two categories which are subsets of people. Your Software Engineer’s license is going to be revoked if anyone ever founds out–

Ah, that’s better. I found my handy dandy internal critic club that I’d left in my other pants, and put it to good use. He’s back in the dungeons where he belongs. Anyway…

So this very small category is but a category of two, podcast hosts who have been keeping me company in a unidirectional fashion on my daily commute. Mur Lafferty, editor and host of Escape Pod, and Kate Baker, host and narrator of the Clarkesworld podcast. I have talked to both of them before this convention. Mur has bought one of my stories. I’ve talked to Kate before, both as part of her work as a staff member of SFWA, and to share my Best of Clarkesworld lists. Corresponding with them via email was one thing, but easy enough to separate from the podcast because of the different medium. Talking to them in person, though, was very strange (in the best possible way). I have listened to both of them for SO many hours, I felt like I was talking to best friends of many years. They both have such beautiful reading voices.

It sort of reminded me of those times when I’ve gone to a play with incredibly good actors, and then greeted the actors afterward. Theater can establish such a perceived intimacy that it’s easy to feel like you know the person as a close friend, and so if I follow my instinct and greet them as a warm friend without thinking, it’s very confusing for both parties. I think in this case it was more so, because I have listened to them both for so many hours. I kept waiting for Kate to say “Let me tell you a story.”

It was really, really surreal, as if I talked to my iPod and it suddenly started responding to me. And, so far, I haven’t been served a restraining order, so at the very least I think I managed not to creep either of them out with one-sided over-familiarity.

The Parties

Every night, parties. Usually I don’t like parties much, but these are writer parties. Many familiar faces, and you can stand around and talk about writing. There’s not really anybody in real life that I talk to about writing without them getting bored after a few minutes, so this was a lot of fun. Tor and Baen both hosted big parties, but one of the highlights of the weekend was the “Pink and Blue” release party of Cat Rambo and Stina Leicht. Cat Rambo just released an anthology of her short stories titled “Near + Far” (she’s the pink) and Stina Leicht (she’s the blue) something as well, I think it was her book “Of Blood and Honey”. This was a highlight of the weekend, a good turnout with lots of people I wanted to meet.

Panels/Events

I’ll just list the ones I went to briefly, for anyone who’d like to know more than I said, ask in the comments.

Thursday

Opening Ceremonies–formatted like a late-night talk show with the entertaining John Scalzi as host, he interviewed all of the major guests of the con.
Mike Resnick Reading
Nancy Fulda Reading
The Short Story as Testing Ground–This was the first panel I went to that I’d mentioned previously, with Brad and Vylar as panelists. Good content, but especially exciting to meet a bunch of people after.

Friday

Mark J. Ferrari Reading–I’ve critiqued some book chapters of Mark’s upcoming book, was nice to meet him
George R. R. Martin Autograph Session–Got a copy of “Game of Thrones” autographed
John Joseph Adams Reading–Fiction reading of stories bought by JJA, including by Christie Yant and David D. Levine. Very enjoyable, especially Levine’s clever parody of Superman from a Lex Luthor point of view justifying his seemingly evil actions.
Filling the Magazines–Great panel of editors, Gordon Van Gelder, Stanley Schmidt, John Joseph Adams, Jason Sizemore, Ellen Datlow
Ferrett Steinmetz Reading–I think Ferrett’s really hit his stride lately, I like each story more and more.
Open Mic Reading–Ferrett inexplicably was scheduled for another 90 minute session and he opened it up for volunteers. I was very happy about this since I registered for the con much too late to be in any programming. So I read my favorite of my own work, the unpublished “Hungry Void”. I had a lot of trouble keeping my voice steady because that story always makes me want to cry.

Saturday

Codex Breakfast–Great fun to meet dozens from my favorite online writer’s forum
George R. R. Martin Interview
Effective Habits for Aspiring Authors–
A panel with Annie Bellet and Brad Torgersen
Critique Session–My sole programming commitment, Deirdre Saoirse Moen and I lead a critique session of 3 authors who signed up. A very enjoyable experience. I like critiquing anyway, was enjoyable to do this in person for a change.
Escape Pod Meetup–I showed up very late for this due to the critique session commitment, but was happy to find some people still hanging around. Met some great people involved in one of my favorite podcasts.

Sunday

The Future of Analog–Panel including Stanley Schmidt (editor until Friday), Trevor Quachri (editor after Friday), Brad Torgersen and Richard Lovett to discuss the editorial change and just generally the future of the magazine.
Podcasting 101–Okay, so I have little interest in starting a podcast (though I’d like to try some voice acting). I mostly went to hear Mur Lafferty and Kate Baker talk.
Neil Gaimain Theatre–One of four plays performed at this convention written by Neil Gaiman, this one a reimagining of the Snow White story with the stepmother as the hero and Snow White as a vampire. It feels entirely more real than the original story.

The Hugos

The Hugo award ceremony was a lot of fun. John Scalzi made a very entertaining host. This was an odd experience too, because it had a feel very much like the major award ceremonies you see on TV (but without the upstaging and with half the runtime), but I KNOW some of these people. I was particularly rooting for Brad Torgersen, Mur Lafferty, and Nancy Fulda to win in their respective categories. They didn’t, but I hope they’re not too disappointed about it–to be voted by fandom to be one of the top 5 favorite in any category is an amazing accomplishment.

I won’t list all the winners here, because those have been published for days. I was excited to see Jim C. Hines win for Best Fan Writer. If you haven’t read his blog posts about female and male poses on fantasy covers, you should–he actually reproduces all of the poses he discusses, to both thought-provoking points and comic effect. I was disappointed that the “Remedial Chaos Theory” of Community didn’t win for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form, because that category is always dominated by Dr. Who. Game of Thrones Season 1 on HBO won Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, against a tough field. Ken Liu‘s “Paper Menagerie” for Best Short Story, a well deserved win, that story is so good.

Wrap Up

I’m wrapping this up in my office at home on Wednesday, having hopped a plane home on Monday and gone back to my engineering work yesterday. I still feel a bit disoriented, culture-shock I guess, at being back in my daily life instead of this brief but intense visit into the convention scene.

This has been a really great experience for me, which I’m having trouble finding just the right words to describe. I feel like I’ve found fandom, after never quite being able to see quite where or what it was, and when I finally got here someone had saved a seat for me. Thank you to everyone who has made me feel so welcome–even just the little things added up to a great experience.