Link Stuff — Writing and GLBT Issues

So for quite a while now I’ve been clicking on the “Share” button on my Google blog reader whenever I came across something there that I thought other people would enjoy, but they don’t make it clear how to follow someone’s shared posts, and in fact I don’t remember what I did to sign up to follow the two people whose shares I’m following, nor did poking around the reader window enlighten me, nor have I heard anyone else mention following someone else’s shared posts — mine or anyone’s — in the last couple of years. I’m therefore assuming that’s not something any great number of folks are doing. (Please let me know if I’m wrong.) I’ve been posting with commentary about things I wanted to comment on extensively, or occasionally things I ran across outside of the blog reader where sharing wasn’t an option, and just sharing the rest, but earlier this month I started bookmarking links in a special folder so I could do linkspam posts with greater or lesser amounts of commentary on each item, with the idea that some people might actually, you know, see them that way. Then of course I was sick for a while (again [sigh] but luckily just a stomach flu) and a few more things have piled up than I’d planned to let accumulate, so I’m going to try to get through all of them in a somewhat orderly way. After this, I’ll try to keep these shorter.

Things specifically of interest to writers first:

Mike Lombardo brilliantly refutes some gentleman who thinks people shouldn’t ever get paid for their IP — thanks to Colleen Doran for posting this. I don’t watch many videos online, but I’m glad I watched this one. It’s a point-by-point refutation of a blog post that’s basically a regurgitation of every whiny excuse you ever heard a pirate give for why it’s right and proper for them to steal whatever they want, and why you’re a greedy bastard (blogger’s words, quoted by Mike) for wanting to be paid for your work. About ten minutes, entertaining, lots of snickers.

That Awesome Time I Was Sued for Two Billion Dollars — Another video, just to be all organized. This is Jason Scott, who runs, among other things. (He’s also the guy who founded the Archive Team, the group that goes around rescuing terabytes of user-uploaded content (basically the internet’s history) from sites like Geocities when they got shut down, and whatever all Yahoo is deleting this week. He gets legal harassment mail pretty regularly, and this is a talk he gave at the DefCon 17 conference about one of those times, when a guy who decided that anyone who might’ve downloaded a free copy of his book (which he’d originally given away for free himself, and which he was stell giving away for free from his web site even as he was suing people who had free copies — seriously, you have to hear the story) took it all the way to a court case. Writers get sued sometimes, and so do bloggers, so I figured this might be interesting. At the very least, it’s entertaining. (Note that I’m assuming nobody who reads me regularly has to be told not to act like this particular writer. [cough])

Important Versus Urgent — novelist Camille Laguire talks about setting priorities, and the difference between important and urgent. A lot of common sense, with clear examples.

A Word or Two to Aspiring Writers — Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff uses examples from an unnamed book by a “Nationally Bestselling Author” (I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like someone who should know better) to discuss the ever-popular What Not To Do. Even if you’re not an aspiring writer, this is worth a read, if only for the bogglement factor.

I knew the book had problems when I found myself reading the same dialogue over and over . . . at different locations and in different scenes.

There was a repeated dream sequence that, at each recap consumed at least half a page, often more. If that had been the only repeated element, I’d have been fine with it, but it wasn’t. The hero and heroine literally fled from place to place and re-enacted the same “push-me-pull-you” dialogue at each new stop. Sometimes a new piece of information would be brought forth or an epiphany would occur (to be promptly forgotten), but most often, the dialogue was simply repeated in its essentials.

It went something like this (broadly paraphrased):

“Trust me,” he says. “I’m here. I won’t leave you.”
“I can’t trust you,” she says. “I can’t let anyone in. I’m crazy!”
“No, your sister’s crazy. You’re wonderful. And I’m going to help you.”
“Really?” Can I trust him? I want to trust him. I don’t want to trust him. I …
“Trust me! I’ll protect you!”
“Good. Let’s get out of here.”
“No! I can’t trust you!”
(Repeat as needed, with varying degrees of mild physical violence.)

Ooookay…. [blink] You know, if I knew you could do that and still be a bestseller, I could’ve saved myself a whole lot of work trying to hit wordcount targets. [Angie macros COPY and PASTE commands]

My favorite piece of advice is the last one, though:

No matter what genre you’re writing, strive to make your characters self-consistent. Don’t make a brilliant cryptographer suddenly unable to crack the Sunday Crypto-Quote. Don’t have your Oxford don talking like Eliza Doolittle pre-‘enry ‘iggins. And don’t have to women who’ve shown Darth Vader-like abilities when threatened, suddenly helpless in the face of a confrontation they’ve been prepping for throughout your whole book.

Hallelujah! Seriously, if the only way you can create tension is to give your character(s) a lobotomy, you’re doing it wrong. Really. I’ve seen this a lot and it’s always good for a few eyerolls. And why aren’t editors catching this? [sigh]


What Happens When an Author Dies? — this is an excellent planning on death, wills and writers. Definitely read this if you’re a writer, or any other creative producer.

Indie Author Goes Traditional – A Cautionary Tale — in case you haven’t heard, Kiana Davenport was a writer who signed with a Big Six publisher back in January of last year for a novel, after having what sounds to me like considerable success publishing short stories. She had the rights to the stories, after they’d appeared in various places, so she e-pubbed a couple of collections of these previously published shorts. Then:

In January, 2010, I signed a contract with one of the Big 6 publishers in New York for my next novel. I understood then that I, like every writer in the business, was being coerced into giving up more than 75% of the profits from electronic sales of that novel, for the life of the novel. But I was debt-ridden and needed upfront money that an advance would provide. The book was scheduled for hardback publication in August, 2012, and paperback publication a year later. Recently that publisher discovered I had self-published two of my story collections as electronic books. To coin the Fanboys, they went ballistic. The editor shouted at me repeatedly on the phone. I was accused of breaching my contract (which I did not) but worse, of ‘blatantly betraying them with Amazon,’ their biggest and most intimidating competitor. I was not trustworthy. I was sleeping with the enemy.

Wow. Everyone else is figuring out that having more product available in the marketplace stirs up more interest in one’s work. If anything, Kiana’s publication of those two anthologies would generate more interest in the novel, not less. And the stories were already out there — “Most of the stories in both collections had each been published several times before, first in Story Magazine, then again in The O’HENRY AWARDS PRIZE STORIES anthologies, the PUSHCART PRIZE stories anthologies, and THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, 2000, anthology” — so chances are it wouldn’t be too hard to get most of those stories from libraries anyway, right? All the publisher could see was that they were competition, and apparently the fact that they were competing on Amazon made a rather large difference.

So, here is what the publisher demanded. That I immediately and totally delete CANNIBAL NIGHTS from Amazon, iNook, iPad, and all other e-platforms. Plus, that I delete all Google hits mentioning me and CANNIBAL NIGHTS. Currently, that’s about 600,000 hits. (How does one even do that?) Plus that I guarantee in writing I would not self-publish another ebook of any of my backlog of works until my novel with them was published in hardback and paperback.

Not only is that outrageous, it’s impossible. And seriously, do you want a publisher that thinks it’s even possible for an individual to delete “all Google hits mentioning” her and a book from the internet to be responsible for doing your marketing? Because I wouldn’t have any faith at all in the ability of a publisher with that little understanding of the internet and of Google to do any kind of effective marketing online, where a lot of the current book buzz resides.

The publisher declared Kiana to be in breach of her contract — although Kiana says she wasn’t; it depends on the exact phrasing of the noncompete clause — and demanded their advance back. Kiana has decided that it’s worth $20,000 to be out of that mess, and to know who the enemy actually is. I have to agree. Wow. And as Passive Guy comments, this situation is a great example of why a writer might need a lawyer, even if she has an agent. Click through to Kiana’s blog for more details.

And a follow-up to the previous post, with PG commenting on comments from Brian DeFiore, a publishing insider, on why Kiana “obviously” made a huge mistake in publishing her anthologies, and how if they were print books, “we would understand in a flash that publishing two books prior to a contracted-for work would constitute a breach of contract.” Really? You know, unless Mr. DeFiore has seen Kiana’s publishing contract, and knows the exact wording of her noncompete clause, I have no clue where he’s getting this. PG can’t figure it out either.

The reason an author understands publishing competitive books is a breach of contract is if it’s actually written in the contract. Passive Guy knows this is a shocking idea in the publishing business, but, alas, that’s the law.

Exactly. You know something is contractually required or forbidden because it’s in the contract. If it’s not, then it’s just a publisher (or whatever party to any given contract) using hand-waving and intimidation and scary-sounding language to try to bully the other party into compliance.

Passive Guy is brilliantly snarky (and informative in his point-by-point demolition) in response to Mr. DeFiore’s rather condescending comments. Definitely click through and read the whole thing.

Jutoh — TPG linked to this software product that’s supposed to help you format your manuscript for various e-book file types. I haven’t tried it myself, but if it does what it says it does, it should be a great help to anyone self-pubbing electronically. There’s a free demo, too.

What’s going on with #yesGayYA — as is often the case when a major issue goes nuclear, Cleolinda has a great summary and set of links. In case you haven’t heard, Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith guest posted on the Genreville blog on Publisher’s Weekly.

Our novel, Stranger, has five viewpoint characters; one, Yuki Nakamura, is gay and has a boyfriend. Yuki’s romance, like the heterosexual ones in the novel, involves nothing more explicit than kissing.

An agent from a major agency, one which represents a bestselling YA novel in the same genre as ours, called us.

The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.

Rachel replied, “Making a gay character straight is a line in the sand which I will not cross. That is a moral issue. I work with teenagers, and some of them are gay. They never get to read fantasy novels where people like them are the heroes, and that’s not right.”

The agent suggested that perhaps, if the book was very popular and sequels were demanded, Yuki could be revealed to be gay in later books, when readers were already invested in the series.

You can guess how well that went over. There were discussions, mostly pretty angry, on various blogs and sites.

A few days later, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe, an agent who works for the same agency as the agent referred to above (who was not named by Brown and Smith, nor was the agency named) posted a refutation on another blog, essentially calling Brown and Smith liars, only slightly more diplomatically. More fireworks, including a bunch of people who decided that Brown and Smith must have lied since Stampfel-Volpe said they did, and anyone who took Brown and Smith’s word was stupid because clearly Stempfel-Volpe’s word was… wait, what?

What it seems to come down to is that there are people who are outraged and offended that Brown and Smith called them or their friends or their coworkers evil homophobes, even though Brown and Smith didn’t do that. They went public not to talk abou their specific case — which couldn’t be done anyway, since they hadn’t said which agent had made them the straightwashing offer, so there was no one specific for anyone to be angry with until Stempfel-Volpe outed her agency by responding — but rather to discuss the institutional barriers to GLBT characters, or characters with other diversity characteristics, in YA fiction.

I’ve seen the same thing happen in race discussions, where someone says, “You know, this particular statement/action is kind of racist,” and twelve people slam them with variations of “OMG how dare you call me/my friend a racist, you evil #$%&@!” and it’s all mushroom clouds from there on. People don’t get that an action is not a person. A statement is not a person. That it’s possible for an action or a statement to be homophobic or racist without the person who did or said it being deliberately or even knowingly racist. That’s not the point. If you take a step backward and land on someone’s bare foot with your bootheel, you’ve hurt them; the fact that you didn’t mean to doesn’t make their broken toes hurt any less. When they say “Ouch!” the proper response is “Oh, I’m so sorry!” not “How dare you say I assaulted you!” There’s a too-common disconnect between what’s said and what’s heard when it comes to bigotry issues; too many people assume that they always must be personal attacks, when often they’re not.

Brown and Smith said in the PW post:

This isn’t about one agent’s personal feelings about gay people. We don’t know their feelings; they may well be sympathetic in their private life, but regard the removal of gay characters as a marketing issue. The conversation made it clear that the agent thought our book would be an easy sale if we just made that change. [bolding mine] But it doesn’t matter if the agent rejected the character because of personal feelings or because of assumptions about the market. What matters is that a gay character would be quite literally written out of his own story.

We are avoiding names because we don’t want this story to be about one agent who spoke more bluntly than others whose objections were more indirectly expressed. Naming names can make it too easy to target a lone “villain,” who can be blamed and scolded until everyone feels that the matter has been satisfactorily dealt with.

Colleen Lindsay, who hosted Stempfel-Volpe’s response post, said, “I later discovered that not only did I know the agent in question, but that this person was actually a dear friend of mine, someone who most certainly wasn’t homophobic.” She’s clearly taking this personally on behalf of her friend. The bolded passage above shows that Brown and Smith weren’t attacking the agent for homophobia; they were addressing an issue with the YA fiction business as a whole, wherein there’s a perception — whether true or not — that books with GLBT characters are harder to sell. Because that’s all it takes, some number of agents or editors saying “No” because they think a book might not sell, or might be more difficult to sell, or might sell in lesser numbers. No one in the business has to be personally homophobic for that behavior to exist.

Some people came out and insisted that this never happened, that they’d be shocked if it happened, that nobody in the YA fiction business would ever ask for something like that and they should know because they know a lot of people in the business, or that they published a YA book with a GLBT character and no one had a problem with it therefore there isn’t a problem. Uh huh. (That’s like saying “But we have a black president now, so there can’t be any racism in the US.” [sigh] One person, or even a bunch of people succeeding, doesn’t mean there aren’t barriers. If there’s a twenty-foot wall around the supermarket, some people will still get groceries. That won’t stop me and my arthritis — and a whole lot of other people who just don’t happen to own grappling hooks or really long ladders — from going hungry.)

Does it happen? Apparently so. A lot of people commented on the Publisher’s Weekly article with their own experiences, and quite a few of them said the same thing happened to them. Cleolinda quotes quite a few of them, toward the end of her post.

Malinda Lo has numbers on GLBT characters in YA since 1969. The good news is that the numbers have gone up quite a lot. The bad news is that “up quite a lot” means that 0.2% of YA books published in 2010 had GLBT characters. Some generous estimates put the 2011 figure at about 1%, which is better, but still ridiculously low for a group of people who comprise 10-15% of the general population.

John Scalzi is wonderfully succinct, which is obviously not one of my skills:

My particular take on it is that the authors did the right thing by saying “thanks, no,” and that in general there should be gay characters in YA because a) surprise, there are gay folks everywhere and b) in my opinion as a father, there’s not a damn thing wrong with my child encountering gay folks in her literature, because see point a).

I hadn’t meant to write quite so much about this issue, but this is important. There’s more in Cleolinda’s post, and I encourage you to click through.

Segueing into a Couple More GLBT Interest Links:

Why Can’t You Just Butch Up? — an article by Bret Hartinger about effeminate men and why they can’t (or shouldn’t have to) just behave more like macho dudes.

Gotta Love Clint Eastwood — Clint’s not the most liberal of guys, but I was mentally applauding while reading this article. In a nutshell:

“These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage?” Eastwood opined. “I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of.”

Go Clint!

The first chunk of comments is actually sane and rational, which is pretty amazing. Soon enough the homophobes and trolls show up, though. You have to love the people who can say with a straight typeface that if we legalize gay marriage, everyone will marry someone of the same sex, no more babies will be born, and the human race will die out. Wow. Logic — get yourself some.


WorldCon Part 4

Okay, I’m going to wrap up this time, promise. 🙂 No more panels I want to talk about, so this’ll be more random stuff I remember that seemed cool or interesting.

For Game of Thrones fans, they had the actual TV series iron throne, which is made out of swords and looks very uncomfortable, in the display area. It was right out in the open and anyone who wanted to sit in it could do so. Every day I saw lots of people taking pictures of the throne, of their friends in the throne, of their friends standing next to George R. R. Martin in the throne, and having other people take their picture in the throne or their picture next to George R. R. Martin in the throne. Once he’s done with the series I’ll read the books — a lot of people seem to think they’re pretty awesome. 🙂

The dealer’s room (which was actually a cordoned off section of the trade-show-sized hall it shared with the art show and the display area and the small stage and a bunch of other stuff) was kind of smallish for a WorldCon, or maybe I’ve just been spoiled. Lots of book dealers, although I was able to restrain myself. 🙂 I found a few books I’d had on my wish list on one table for half off, which was pretty awesome. One was Arab Folktales by Inea Bushnaq (you find all sorts of cool stuff at SF cons) which I recommend highly. It’s not only a great collection of stories, if you’re into folk/fairy tales, but also there’s an introduction to the book as a whole and to each section talking about characters and culture and custom and such, so I learned at least as much about traditional Arab culture from reading this as I have from any of the Early Arab History type books I’ve read. And it was a lot more fun; I read the whole thing over three or four days and thoroughly enjoyed it.

You know, I think the rise in online shopping, and particularly places like Amazon, has made it easier to restrain myself in a convention dealer’s room. Even small press books are easily available online; it used to be it was hard to even know what was around, much less actually buy it, unless you were at a convention with a lot of dealers and publishers gathered in one place.

I also caught up on the bound editions of Schlock Mercenary (which was up for a Hugo for Best Graphic Story but didn’t win 🙁 ). If you buy the books at a convention, Howard Taylor, the writer/artist, will use a blank page in the back (included for this purpose) to draw you the character of your choice. He was very nice, especially considering I’m awful with names and asked for “Dr. Bunny” (actually her name — she’s one of the regulars so I remember what she’s called), “the ex-special forces spy chick in her baggy stolen combat suit” and “the AI girl doing her Bambi-eyes thing ’cause she rocks at that.” [hides under keyboard] Howard was completely cool about my verbal mangling of his characters, and I am grateful. 🙂

I also got a pair of T-shirts (one for me and one for spousal unit) that say “Harrington Treecats” with graphics to make it look like a baseball team fan shirt. This is awesome if you’re a fan of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. If you’re not, you’re probably going “Huh?” which was the reaction of two of my friends to whom I displayed a shirt shortly after buying them. [heavy, theatrical sigh] I have to start giving my friends books for Christmas.

Other than that, I didn’t spend any money in the dealer’s room. I exercised quite a bit of restraint, although actually, it’s easier than it used to be. There are fewer cool-thingy dealers at cons these days; you used to be able to find multiple dealers selling 8×10 photos, replica weapons (both replicas of TV/movie stuff and replicas of historical blades, plus some very cool battery powered light/laser guns from no particular source), buttons with great sayings on them (I used to spend like $20 on buttons at every con — I had a couple of shoeboxes full by the time I stopped), fanzines, replica patches and insignia and trim and other stuff you needed to make your own Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica or whichever uniform, etc. Cons nowadays have little or none of this stuff, and it’s depressing. I’m thinking the economy probably drove most of the more marginal dealers out of business, but whatever the reason, it sucks. [sigh]

I went through the art show with a couple of friends in about an hour or so. It was very small for a WorldCon, or it seemed like it. There were some Ken Macklin originals, which were cool to see; I haven’t seen anything by him in an art show in at least a decade or so. A friend of mine, Stuart Shepherd, sold some pieces, which is very cool. Stu does fantasy art and also aviation/military art. It’s funny, he and I went to high school together, and I saw him at a BayCon like ten or fifteen years later. He wasn’t really an SF con sort of person, but he’d dropped by to look around. He told me he was an artist now and I said, “Hey, we’ve got a couple of spaces left in the art show! If you have any SFish stuff you could go get, maybe you’ll sell something.” It was only like $5 a panel back then, so it made a great impulse buy, especially if you happened to be an artist. 🙂 Turned out Stu had some framed paintings in his trunk, so he signed up, went out to get them and hung them up there and then. I don’t remember whether anything sold that year, but he’s been a regular at the BayCon art show since, and has done more fantasy art. At the time he’d mostly been doing box art for aviation model kits — gorgeous stuff, and I’m not even into planes. He’s also combined the genres; one new piece has a dragon fighting a tank and a military helicopter, and another has some SFish looking fighter planes (from Atlantis, according to the title) buzzing around a modern aircraft carrier.

One of the days, I forget whether it was Thursday or Friday, there was an art demo in the big room near the displays. A young woman in a bikini-ish sort of outfit posed for a number of artists, including the Artist Guest of Honor, Boris Vallejo. Boris was one of the first artists whose work I learned to recognize by style when I was a teenager. I got Boris calendars as part of my Christmas loot every year for like fifteen or twenty years, plus I have a book of prints floating around somewhere. I was on my way somewhere else and didn’t get a chance to watch him (or the others) work, but it must’ve been pretty cool for the baby artists in the crowd to get to watch such a well known pro.

The masquerade is always one of my favorite events; I’ve seen the masquerade at all but a couple of conventions I’ve attended, and usually if I’ve missed it, it was because I was working the con and was stuck behind a desk or something during that time. Phil and Kaja Foglio MCed (properly dressed for the occasion) and did a wonderful job. They’re both obviously comfortable in front of a huge crowd (either that or they fake it really well) and managed just the right mix of jokes and getting on with business. There were only twenty-eight entries this year (another effect of the economy, I’m pretty sure; costuming is an expensive hobby if you’re going all out) but there were some great ones.

My friend Karen McWilliams (who went to high school with me and Stu) went as the Undine, based on Anderson’s mermaid, who died after being betrayed by her prince. Karen is a master costumer, and she won Best Use of Dyes (a workmanship award), for obvious reasons, but she also got a presentation award. She’s been studying movement for over thirty years, and can move and dance in a costume on stage in a way many other costumers can’t. I linked to a series of photos, but you really had to be there to get the full effect. That’s true of a lot of costumes, especially the funny ones; they look kind of okay-whatever if you can’t see the presentation.

Princess Pacman was one of those — it’s kind of okay-whatever if you just look at the costume itself, but the presentation was hilarious, all about how Princess Peach (from the Super Mario games) discovered that her love, Mario, was leaving her for some other floozy, and how she set out to find her true love, someone who’d love her and appreciate her. She ended up with Pacman. Trust me, it worked. 😀 She won a presentation award, Most Humorous.

Lance Ikegawa came as a Blue Meanie from the Yellow Submarine movie, and it’s awesome. 😀 He got a workmanship award too, if I recall correctly; the blue fur is some ridiculous number of blue clown wigs, cut up and sewn into the body part of the costume. Definitely click through and take a look, especially if you remember the movie. 🙂

Another nostalgic kind of costume was the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater, by Susan Scheufele. This one was in exhibition only; usually that means the costume has won an award at a convention the same size or larger than the current one. At WorldCon, that probably means either another WorldCon or a CostumeCon.

One of my favorite costumes was a large group who came out as Semi-Precious, each one representing a semi-precious stone. Costumers have been doing this sort of thing for years — putting together group costumes based on the seasons or the zodiac or the continents or the elements or whatever they think they can do cool wearable representations of. So okay, someone thought the semi-precious stones would work, and the costumes weren’t bad, in all the different colors. Each one carried a banner with the name of the stone they were portraying, so you could tell which was what. Okay, that was cool — they’re all spread across the stage with their serious processional-type music playing, when suddenly the music stopped, and started up again, and everyone flipped their banners. The person with the first banner dashed over to stand just before the second, then the third, then the fourth, etc., keeping the lyrics going. It was great — everyone was laughing and clapping and groaning. 😀 They won a presentation award, “Worst Internet Meme.”

Another one of my favorites was Night at the Sci-Fi Museum. They did sort of a parody of the Night at the Museum movies; when the lights came up, the bug-alien and the space-lady were up on boxes, frozen like exhibits. The night watchman guy came wandering on stage and they played with him for a bit, only moving when he wasn’t watching, with him between them. The space-lady got his keys and she and the bug were able to escape. It was done all tongue-in-cheek and it was very funny, and the costumes themselves were great too. They won Best In Show for Original Presentation.

There were a bunch more, including some more really good ones, but you can see for yourself — here’s the “masquerade worldcon reno” Flickr collection, and the “worldcon 2011 masquerade” Flickr collection. Currently it’s three people’s worth of photos between the two of them; hopefully more will be added over time.

The Hugos was your basic award show. Jim and I always go when we’re at WorldCon, and it’s fun to watch the results and see how many I voted for actually won. (Usually not many. [duck]) My second favorite part of the evening was when Chris Garcia and James Bacon won the Best Fanzine award for their zine Drink Tank. Chris pretty much melted down on stage. 🙂 It was great — he ended up sitting on the stage cuddling his statue while James was taking his turn to thank everybody at the microphone, hee!

My favorite part was when Robert Silverberg got up to award the Best Novella Hugo. He and Connie Willis have been taking humorous shots back and forth at each other at the Hugos for however many years, often with a theme of stretching out their speech or presentation intro or whatever while the other is sitting somewhere waiting to find out whether he/she has won something. Because no one is in a hurry at moments like that, right? Silverberg is a brilliant presenter, a wonderful speaker, and has a talent for being dryly hilarious. He managed to stretch his introduction out for several minutes, and whenever it seemed like he was going to get on with it and read the nominees, he’d start up again and keep going with the rambling. It was awesome, and a privilege to watch a master at work. 😀

Unfortunately my least favorite part of the Hugos contrasted strongly with Silverberg’s presentation. The two guys MCing the ceremony spent a lot of time stretching things out in various places (I’m not sure why), and tried very hard to be funny, but usually failed. I don’t know, I’m sure there were other people who thought they were wonderful from beginning to end, but before very long I was whispering “Why don’t they get ON with it!” to myself and/or my husband every few minutes. They tried hard, and neither one is a professional performer or anything, so I’m sure they did their best. I wish we could just have Robert Silverberg MC the Hugos, all of them, forever. That’d be very cool.

Oh, my other favorite part — Phil and Kaja Foglio won the Best Graphic Story Hugo for their excellent steampunk web comic Girl Genius. Best Graphic Story is a new category, and the award has only been given three times, including this year. Girl Genius has won all three times. After accepting the award, Phil announced that he was removing Girl Genius from consideration for the award in the future. I thought this was incredibly cool, a very gracious move by someone who already has a nice collection of Hugos. You see, before Phil was a professional artist, he was a fan artist, and back in the late ’70s he won the Hugo for that twice in a row before removing himself from consideration. I remember hearing people snark and sneer at him for that, trying to frame it as a demonstration of huge ego. I think someone with a huge ego would be more likely to want to win as many awards as possible, and I admire him for doing it, both times. Especially this time; since the Graphic Story category is still so new, it’s not really cemented into the roster. Fans could still decide that it’s not needed, or that it’s silly, or that it’s just a vehicle for giving one guy (or rather, one group of people — Kaja Foglio and their colorist Cheyenne Wright are part of the comic team and also got statues) a Hugo every year, and vote to eliminate the category. Pulling Girl Genius out gives the category a chance to grow and show its viability by demonstrating that there are enough really good graphic stories every year for a Hugo category to be worthwhile. Props to Phil for doing it, and to Kaja and Cheyenne for agreeing.

Let’s see, what else? I put a twenty into a slot machine (a Wizard of Oz machine — three are ganged together and the special minigame affects all three, whoever triggered it; it’s lots of fun) and got almost ninety dollars out, so that was An Excellent Thing.

My mom and brother (who live in Reno) came to the hotel to eat with us a couple of times, and it was great seeing them. My brother’s in retail management, and he just moved to a new store; he looks much less stressed, and I’m very happy for him. {{}}

One of the restaurants at the Atlantis (I forget the name — it’s the gelato place next to the buffet) has awesome pizza. I had to watch Jim eating it for days while I had pasta or something similarly soft; I had my temporary crowns in and I couldn’t bite anything hard or chewy or thick for fear they’d break while I was a thousand miles away from my dentist. 🙁 I finally said “Frack it!” and got a pizza anyway, which I ate with a knife and fork. I don’t care if I looked like a doofus, it was wonderful — bacon and spinach with white sauce — and all the moreso because I’d been eating pasta and omelets (and mashed potatoes and apple sauce at home) for days and days. Pizza, yum!

Oh, another friend of mine drove out from Sacramento just for Thursday with her son. He’s a major George R. R. Martin fan and he wanted to get his Kindle signed. 😀 I only see Laurie once or twice a year, so this was great; we spent the day together being fannish, which is appropriate because we met at an SF con when we were both teenagers.

I think that about wraps it. Definitely click through on the masquerade photo collections — they’re very cool, especially if you’ve never seen an SF convention masquerade before. [wave]


WorldCon Part 2

Another panel I made it to was John Scalzi’s “A Trip to the Creation Museum.” I’d previously read Scalzi’s blog post about the visit and had a great time reading it. I knew it’d be even more fun in a room full of like-minded folk, so I made sure to get there to hear it live — I even managed to get a seat. 🙂

Scalzi explained in the panel how this came about. The Creation Museum (which is exactly what you think it is) was built within a reasonable distance of Scalzi’s home, and someone asked if he was going to go. He explained exactly how unlikely it would ever be that he’d visit such a place, even under considerable duress. A bunch of people thought it’d be hilarious for him to go, though, so he finally made a deal — he’d go if the people who thought it’d be hilarious raised $250, which he would donate to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. He says on his blog:

As of 11:59 and 59 seconds (Pacific Time) last night, the “Drag Scalzi’s Ass to the Creation Museum” donation drive raised $5,118.36. That’s 256 times the admission price to Creation Museum, a multiple I find both amusing (from a dork point of view) and gratifying, since it means what tiny bit of income the creationists running the museum gain by having me pass through the door will be utterly swamped by the amount I’m going to send to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Would that it worked that way for every admission to that place.

For those of you who were wondering, some statistics: The first milestone for this fundraiser, the $250 to get me to go at all, got passed within the first hour of posting the challenge. The $1000 mark got passed about 12 hours later. The $5,000 marker got passed last night sometime between 6 and 11pm, while I was out on a date with my wife, celebrating our anniversary. I’m particularly pleased about hitting the $5k mark. The least amount donated was $1; the most was $300. More than one person donated more than $250, usually with the notation “Ha! Now you HAVE to go!” Multiples and variations of $6.66 were amusingly common, although the $5 suggested amount was the amount most received.

The people at Americans United were reportedly delighted by the donation, if a bit bemused by the curiously specific amount. 🙂

The panel was indeed humorously awesome and I’m very glad I went. The visit report is funny too, scaled down a bit to take the solo experience into consideration. Highly recommended.

I went to another panel that I’m not going to name specifically, since I want to do a bit of constructive analysis, although I suppose anyone who gets ahold of the program book could figure out which one it was, since I have to give some detail to get my point across. :/

All right, fine, it was on world creation for writers, how to create a realistic world for your science fiction story. I’ve been to such panels before, and they’ve all gone pretty much the same way, which isn’t a compliment. What tends to happen is that there are several scientist types on the panel, one or two who are into the astronomy and planet creation end of things, and one or two who are into the smaller scale geology and biology end. The logical thing to do is to start out with the creation of the star system and the planets, talking about dust clouds and star spectra and magnetic fields and galactic arms and gravity and such. You have to have all that before you can have any small scale geology, much less anything biological, so starting with the bigger picture makes sense.

The problem is that the panelists get used to the idea that the stars-and-planets people are doing all the talking at the beginning, and… they usually just keep on doing all the talking. One person in particular has been on every similar panel I’ve ever attended; this individual really likes to talk, to jump in, and even to interrupt. To give the person credit, they’re a good speaker and know a lot about the subject and are very eager to share that knowledge, which is cool. But, as has often happened before, this person plus the other stars-and-planets person ended up doing about 85% of the talking. The biolologist did about another 10-12%, and the geologist squeezed in whatever shards of speakage were left.

This isn’t an ideal way to run a panel, and the moderator did nothing to get things under control.

Again, there was a lot of great info presented here, but it was frustrating to watch all the same. And judging by the look on the geologist’s face through the last third or so of the panel, that person might well be thinking twice next time an invitation shows up to be on panels. Or maybe their lunch didn’t agree with them. At any rate, they didn’t seem to be having a great time.

I think (if anyone cares what I think) that in future it’d be better to split this panel into two. Let the stars-and-planets people have a panel all to themselves. They’ll do a great job with it, and it’ll end up being essentially the same panel they’ve given for however many years, without the bother of having to talk over and interrupt those other folks. Give the smaller-scale geologists and the biologists — maybe add a botanist and an oceanographer to round things out — their own panel, talking about smaller scale landforms, climates, biomes, and what sorts of life might develop under different conditions. That’d be at least as useful to SF writers as the stars-and-planets panel, and separating them out seems to be the only way to give the smaller scale planetbuilding speakers a chance to get more than five sentences in edgeways. Everyone wins.


I’m Back! WorldCon Part 1

WorldCon in Reno was a lot of fun, and one of the best run conventions I’ve attended. I’ve worked almost 50 conventions and conferences, so I can often spot problems from the front of the house. I didn’t spot anything here; even the Masquerade and Hugo Ceremony both started within a few minutes of their scheduled times, which is pretty amazing. 🙂 I got to hang with friends, went to more panels than I usually go to in half a dozen conventions, and generally had a great time.

Jim and I flew in on Tuesday, got our badges, and had the evening free to relax and check out the program schedule before things officially started on Wednesday. We stayed at the Atlantis, the main convention hotel, which is attached to the convention center with a (very very) long skyway. It was quite a hike from our room to the panels and such at the CC, but I was happy not to have to walk outside, where the temperatures were distinctly uncomfortable, especially for someone who’s become acclimated to Seattle weather. Although in contrast with the heat outside, looking out the skyway windows we could see the hills above Reno, and one of them still had snow on it. O_O Wow. Reno itself is about four thousand feet up, so the top of that hill (which is probably a mountain, officially) is probably a mile up or close to it; that must be why the shaded slopes were still snowy. Still, it’s an odd sight in the northern hemisphere in August, especially when one is wishing for more AC.

The first panel I attended was the most useful — Mary Robinette Kowal, who’s a puppeteer and voice actor as well as a writer, did a panel called “Giving an Effective Reading.” It was opposite the Opening Ceremony, but it was a wonderful panel and I’m very glad I went. I thought I had a general idea of reading aloud — I’d done it in school, after all, as I’m sure everyone has — but I was still nervous about my ability to read my own work in front of an audience.

She started with story selection, looking at things like the number of characters, the way the language lends itself to interpretive reading, and making sure your selection is a complete whole, even if it’s a chunk of some larger story. When she got into using the voice like an instrument, Ms. Kowal had us go through a number of exercises, demonstrating different aspects of voice, including things I’d never heard of or thought about, like the placement of your voice — which part of your mouth resonates when you’re speaking. This was very ?? when she first described it, but the results were cool.

The panel was less than an hour long so she sort of rushed through a number of topics, but she has a great collection of posts on reading aloud on her blog. Highly recommended for any writer who might want to read their work to an audience. Hint: Don’t wait till the night before to click through the link. 🙂

That’s a good wrap for now — more next time. [wave]


Marriage in New York

The Guardian UK did a beautiful photo piece about gay couples getting married in New York. Look at the pictures, read the captions; I had tears streaming by the time I was halfway through. Especially check out the fourth photo — Myron Levine and Philip Zinderman have been together for fifty-one years and were finally able to get married. That’s so awesome. And now I’m tearing up again.

Huge kudos to the people of New York. This should be happening in every state.


Cool Videos and a Potential Nab

Hey, all. [wave] I’ve been distracted by other things lately (who hasn’t?!) but I’ve run into some things I want to share.

First, this is a great video. It’s a medley of Village People songs, which is fun in and of itself, but take a good look — there’s only one performer out there. 🙂 Thanks to Syd McGinley (and Charlie!) for sharing.

And another one, while I’m in a video mood. (It’s pretty rare, so I need to take advantage before it passes.) A friend who’s more into music than I am sent me this one. It’s a group called Straight No Chaser doing the Twelve Days of Christmas. They’re an all-male a capella group, and they rock — great singing and they’re funny too. Definitely poke around YouTube and watch more of them.

And a third. This one is more of a geek thing. 🙂 There’s a camera attached to the end of a long sword toward, and it’s used to film several swordsmen doing sword-type maneuvers. What’s cool about this one is that the sword stays still relative to the viewer, since the camera is affixed to it; it’s the swordsmen and the room that are swooping around. I’ve never seen a better demonstration of relative motion. The husband sent me a link to this on BoingBoing; thanks to them for sharing it.

And finally, some excellent news reported by the Washington Post. Auditors from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) are questioning TSA’s spending, saying they’ve been writing checks for technology which hasn’t been proven, or for which there might not be a need. Nice to know someone in Washington has finally noticed.

They mention the puffer booths from a couple of years ago, which were supposed to detect explosives by puffing shots of air at travellers and screening the resulting whatever for explosive residue. TSA spent $30 million on those, and they’re currently sitting in warehouses, “abandoned as impractical.” The taxpayer in me is angry that the backscatter scanners, which cost more than the puffer booths and have more costs coming down the road, might end up similarly abandoned and warehoused. The citizen who still values my constitutional rights is hoping exactly that happens. :/

I loved this one, though:

Some say the fact that the United States hasn’t had another 9/11-level terrorist attack shows that the investment was money well spent.

Whoever these “some” are, I hope they don’t have any spending authority; post hoc ergo propter hoc isn’t exactly a solid foundation for decision making. Hey, I’ll bet if we’d tossed a human sacrifice into Mount St. Helens every year since 1980, these same “some” would take the fact that the volcano hasn’t blown up again in all that time as proof that the sacrifices work. [sigh]

At any rate, I’m keeping a few pairs of virtual fingers crossed on the GAO reining in TSA. Someone needs to do it, and if they get zapped for misspending, the way Al Capone was finally zapped for income tax evasion, well, I’ll take that.