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jeffsoesbe
12 May 2015 @ 04:51 pm
1) I did *not* get laid off from work today. Yay! But many people were, which is sad. It's also been a very quiet day.

2) The Theodore Sturgeon Award Finalists were announced today (http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/sturgeon-finalists.htm). What an honor for those nominated. I need to read more Theodore Sturgeon. I need to try to write like Theodore Sturgeon.

3) We're entering the season of Big Giant Movies. I saw Avengers Age of Ultron. Fun, some funny and different moments, but also formulaic and predictable. And why have the whole Black Widow / Hulk romance plot? I did enjoy seeing me some Vision, who was always my favorite Avenger. And Thanos is coming, so I hearken back to the great Jim Starlin storyline in Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #from 1977.

Avengers Annual #7 = http://www.captainamericalibrary.com/superhero-library/captain-america/captain-america-comic-details.aspx?id=AA&issue=7&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 = http://www.ironmanlibrary.com/superhero-library/iron-man/iron-man-comic-details.aspx?id=M2IN1A&issue=2&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Man, I loved that story.

4) Following the style of the close of NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast: What's making me happy this week? (Beyond not being laid off).

Answer: Cowboy Bebop. I am at long last watching this series, and enjoying it TREMENDOUSLY. Interesting characters with problems and backstory, great story telling style, wonderful visuals, detailed world-building, whole lotta spaceships but still in our solar system, and awesome music. Very Highly Recommended.

- yeff
 
 
jeffsoesbe
07 May 2015 @ 12:38 pm
The Clarke Award is "a British award given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year." (Wikipedia)

This year's winner is STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel (link to book at Powell's: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780385353304-3). It is a post-apocalyptic novel about the survivors of a global pandemic. It makes references to _Star Trek_ episodes. It sounds interesting and I'd like to read it.

Apparently, according to hearsay on a comment thread on io9, the author doesn't consider her book science fiction. This is a commonly stated opinion among "literary" authors who use speculative fiction settings and concepts in their work (see Ishiguro, McCarthy, etc...)

If this is true, then I wonder: Since the Clarke Award is specifically for a "science fiction novel" will the author accept the award? And will the author cash the check (2000 pounds) that comes with it?

Just curious.

- yeff
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jeffsoesbe
It's been a month since the Hugo Awards 2015 ballot was announced, and the effect of the two Puppy slates understood. It feels to me like things have died down, and the initial explosion of anger and accusations has settled down (some). Or perhaps I've stopped paying attention to it as much as I originally was - coming out of the rabbit hole, so to speak.

I'm sure that the rancor will continue to simmer on a low boil over the next few months and then as the actual Hugo Awards approach it will ramp up again. "The culture wars have some to science fiction and fantasy" was one quote, and while that's certainly true I also think the culture wars have been around in SFF for a very long time, in many different arenas. Certainly the New Wave movement in the 60s was a form of culture war, as was the rise of feminist science fiction in the 70s, Cyberpunk in the 80s, multicultural awareness in the 90s and now. One thing I do appreciate about SFF fandom is that it gets issues out into the open and discusses them. Some times the discussion is heated and pointed, but the topic is out there. "Mundane" society seems to often push things into closets and under beds until they explode.

I've tried to look at my own opinions and attitudes about the Hugo situation (HugoGate?), because that's going to help me decide what I want to do when voting for the Hugos. And I do definitely want to vote on the Hugos. There are a lot of suggested strategies out there, from "NO AWARD EVERYTHING" to "vote solely on merits without NO AWARD". I, in the past, have been someone who has used the last strategy. I figure if something got onto the ballot, then there were enough people backing it that it should have some merits. I believe I've only used NO AWARD once or twice in my Hugo voting history.

But this year is different, if for no other reason than the circumstances require reflection.

I interpret the opinions of the Sad Puppy backers as being something like this: We don't like what's getting nominated for and winning Hugos. We feel types of works are being neglected, those being military sf, religious sf, conservative sf, popular sf. We think this is due to a conspiracy of a liberal, SJW, cabal that is more concerned with what a work is about versus the quality of the work. Works that hit certain social/cultural checklists - liberal, racial, female, multi-gender, etc - get the backing of the cabal and the cabal manipulates everything to make sure these works get nominated and win. And we (SP) don't like that, and are going to do something about it.

(I'm putting aside the Rabid Puppy opinion because I think there's a lot of out-and-out malice behind that. Rabid Puppy does intersect a lot with Sad Puppy, and there is history of alliance between the two groups. That definitely casts a negative light on Sad Puppy and makes it very hard to consider Sad Puppy with any sort of objective attitude.)

I can have sympathy for the first few sentences of my summary of the SP opinion. I too have looked at Hugo nominations and winners and thought "*That* got nominated and/or won? Really?" But all that means is that my opinion can be different than the opinion of the mass of Hugo voters. This is not a surprise to me. I wouldn’t expect a mass of voters to have the same opinion as me on everything. I do think there is a insularity in Hugo voters in that they likely have similar opinions and likely reinforce those opinions. Sometimes I agree with those opinions, sometimes I have different opinions.

But once I see SP getting into "conspiracies" and "checklists" and "manipulation", that's where I diverge. Saying that because something doesn't agree with your opinion, it must be a cabal and a plot and malice - this feels like paranoia to me and turns me off. It reminds me way too much of the kind of statements I hear from Tea Party and from FOX News - there is a conspiracy, we are under attack, we are being prejudiced, we are the victims. That feels to me like people being afraid and appealing to fear simply because their position of cultural dominance is not as strong as it used to be.

The funny thing about all this is that, to me, it's very apparent SFF is a dominant force in popular culture. 18 of the top 20 grossing movies of 2015 were SFF. SFF works regularly top the lists of best selling books. There are SFF TV shows over all the channels. It is a giant pool and we can all sit in it and be very comfortable. Awards do tend to be insular in nature - look at the Oscars, the Emmys, the Nobels, the Pulitzers, the Man Booker Prize - and often do not mass popular tastes tastes.

I don't know what I think about this. Maybe the Hugos should be huge and hundreds of thousands of SFF fans should vote on them. It would mean that YA and spectral romance might dominate the Hugos. But if that's what the fans love and think is the best, what's the problem?

I think the word "Best" creates problems, because "Best" is a wide-open word with a lot of potential meanings. The intention might be to rewards a certain level of literary achievement. But if that's supposed to be the "Best" then maybe works like "The Road" or "Them Lovely Bones" or "The Buried Giant" should win - they have a high level of literary accomplishment, and use genre conventions, so why not?

In the end, "Best" is in the eye of the beholder and "Best" for the Hugos is in the eye of the voter. You nominate works that you think are the best. I've read people who write in comments and blogs "well, I didn't read everything so how can I know what is the best?". That kind of concern is, in my opinion, not the way to look at this. You can't read everything, so work with what you have. If you liked it, you thought it was good, and you'd like it to have the potential to receive a Hugo, then nominate it.

And that's the core of my disagreement with the SP actions. They created a slate of works they felt were the best using their criteria, but then they marketed it to supporters not using the attitude of "here's what we think is great, read it and if you like it then nominate it". They marketed it saying "let's stick it to the establishment, let's stop the liberal/feminist/multicultural cabal and get them where it hurts by taking away the Hugos". I fully believe that people who voted to support the SP slate (and especially the RP slate) didn't read everything that was suggested, compare it to what else they might have read, and say "you know, I think that is the best, I'll nominate it" but just voted in line with the recommendations to make the "culture wars" point. That's why I'm betting there was more divergence from the SP (and RP) voting bloc in categories where it was more likely that the voters had more experience and more opinion - areas like movies, tv shows, probably novels, maybe fanzine/fancast.

So when I vote, I do plan to read all the works and rank them based on what I think is the best. But if I have a work that I don't think is very good, and that I don't want to give a Hugo to, then I will rank NO AWARD above that work or works (and not list the works in question). Because I believe that some works are on the ballot not because a large group of voters thought the works were the best, but because a group of voters wanted to stick it in the eye of an imaginary conspiracy of people who didn't thought differently and had different core tenets.

Really, more people should use NO AWARD in the way in which its intended - I don't think this work is good enough to receive a Hugo award. That happens now, even with the works that do win the Hugo - there are always votes that rank NO AWARD over the winning work.

But I will keep an open mind and be willing to find something I liked that I didn't think I like. And, in the end, I hope everyone else takes a similar attitude. And come August, we will see how this all shakes out.

- yeff
 
 
jeffsoesbe
01 May 2015 @ 07:37 am
**** April

Only a bit of writing in April - finished the exploratory draft of "Straw" and barely started on the rewrite.
Most of my time was spent with work and family issues, and also diving down the rabbit hole of Hugo Awards Nominations controversy.

I have one story out: "A Mind of its Own" is still in the queue at Analog

**** May

I will be submitting "Dybbuk" to tor.com on May. As they say, start at the top and tor.com has excellent quality and pay rate.
I plan to finish the rewrite of "Straw" and then send it to someone for review and feedback.
"Straw" will likely take me the rest of the month. After that, I could see starting on "Nora Gets A Golem" or "This Is Your Life, Version 2.0"

I also plan to read more - first and foremost, I will read the Hugo nominees. I have subsriptions to Lightspeed, Intergalactic put a large packet of stories up for free, tor.com and other magazines have stories available online, and I have more books than I will ever get through. More reading is crucial to developing better writing.

Also, going to BayCon on Memorial Day Weekend. Taking my younger daughter, A, with me. It should be fun!

And that's the status.
 
 
jeffsoesbe
22 April 2015 @ 10:46 pm
Right after the list of Hugo nominations came out, I did some playing around with the numbers to see if I could get a rough estimate of bounds on the size of the Sad Puppy and Rabid Puppy voting blocs.

Especially using categories where both slates had 5 nominees and those nominees differed, it was pretty easy to see that the Rabid Puppy voting bloc was larger than the Sad Puppy voting bloc. I ended up at around 110-130 for Sad Puppy and 130-150 for Rabid Puppy.

When a few works withdrew and the numbers were updated, it helped to confirm my rough estimates. The final nomination numbers should help finalize estimates of the size of the blocs.

The most amazing indicator of voting bloc scale and effect was when, in Novella, "Yes Virginia" was disqualified and "World Turned Upside Down" was added. The minimum number of votes for a nominee went from 165 to 72, meaning that "WTUD" had 72 votes - *Less Than Half* of the next-lowest nominated work, which was something from the SP and/or RP slates. Simply astonishing.

Of course, people have long known that a voting bloc would not have to be that big to nominate a work. It was a common joke in writing circles that one could easily get a Hugo nomination, and then maybe a Hugo, for $4000. Buy 100 memberships, get people to "vote for my work in category X and the rest of the ballot is yours to do what you want", or just do it yourself through various aliases, and you're in!

For a while this idea, along with the family wealth of the Rabid Puppy organizer (see Wikipedia), made me wonder if the Rabid Puppy bloc had been flat-out bought and the voting distributed through various aliases/supporters/etc (a la how Veruca Salt's father obtained a golden ticket in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"). But I don't think it was, for the simple reason that it wasn't necessary. RP and SP were able, through appeals to supporters and other groups, to get more than enough mass into the voting bloc to set the nomination pool.

I also realized the bloc wasn't totally consistent, as evidenced by smaller ranges of voting numbers in the "down-ballot" categories. This makes sense to me. If the big push is towards controlling the more literary categories (novel, short fiction, related work, editors), then getting less support and consistency down-ballot seems logical. Especially when one gets to the more "populist" items like Dramatic Presentation(s) which will almost certainly have a wider range of opinions ("Yeah, the slate wanted movie ABC but I liked movie DEF and GHI a lot more.")

Another claim in the RP/SP circles was "evidence" of past voting blocs. The "evidence" was presented as "look, in this year, votes for work A, work B, and work C were very similar" (like 42 +- 2). THIS MEANS VOTING BLOC! In my opinion, that's just silly and an example of being highly selective when looking for correlation. In the years where an SP organizer was nominated for a Hugo, you can look at the voting numbers and find a similar "correlation" and thus VOTING BLOC which would pretty obviously have no basis in truth.

An unfortunate fact is that the nomination ballots have been destroyed. (I heard this stated by Kevin Standlee on a podcast). Entering the ballot information into a database and being able to poke at it would be quite interesting. Imagine being able to look at how voters who nominated XYZ voted in the rest of the ballot. You could get some exact details on size and consistency of voting blocs and find *real* correlation. That would be some quite fun data mining.

What's also interesting, when looking at past Hugo voting results, is that No Award is used by a lot more voters than I ever thought. Even for the work that ends up winning a Hugo, in *any* category, there was *always* a number of ballots (often in the 5-10% range) that placed *No Award* ahead of the winning work (this comparison is the last checkpoint before declaring a winner). I see this as another example showing that there actually is a strong diversity of voting opinions in the Hugo awards and that Hugo voters are *not* a mass of march-in-lockstep-to-directives-of-theoretical-cabal automatons.

Though this year I think that Noah Ward will be making a much stronger showing than in past years. M. Ward might even up setting a few Hugo records. But for that, we'll have to wait and see what the voters decide come August.

- yeff
 
 
jeffsoesbe
21 April 2015 @ 07:48 am
If the Hugo Awards have really been controlled by a cabal of politically motivated behind-the-scenes players who maneuvered works that fit their agenda and checklists into both nominations and awards - if that's true ...

Then wow are they really bad at it. Because they couldn't stop a few people from openly and blatantly constructing two intersecting slates, recruiting from their fan bases and other like-minded groups, and totally dominating the nominations lists.

You'd think an all-powerful cabal would deal with something like that akin to flicking an ant off your leg. Some simple backstage politics, and "bink", puppy effect is minimal to zero.

Sounds like the cabal needs to attend quite a few Evil Overlord training classes...

:-)

- yeff

(more thoughts later, but this is the first one that keeps coming to mind)
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jeffsoesbe
19 April 2015 @ 09:02 pm
Realized the last blog post was 7 months ago! In that time I've been doing the following:

Writing
- Finished various 250 word shorts for the Apex Micro Fiction.
- Rewrote "A Mind of its Own", my Internet-Of-Things short, and mailed to Flash Fiction Online where it got a nice no. It's currently on submission at Analog.
- Rewrote "The Dybbuk's Moll". Sent it to F&SF where it got a good no (the highest level of no, according to the CC Finlay Rejectomancy Decoder). I'm going to send it to tor.com when they open at the end of the month.
- Did a grounds-up rewrite of "The Straw That Shines Like The Sun" (the Rumplestiltskin story). This was really a big, messy, exploratory draft. Next up is making it into a story.

I usually get 2-3 mornings a week to write and I've been consistent about it which is good.

I also went to Orycon in November and had a really good time catching up with the Portland writing crowd and getting the writer mind going again.

Math Contests
- Ran a bunch of math contests about every other month in Oct, Dec, Feb, and March
- Coached the Math Team from Oct to March. They did well!

Workouts
- Staying relatively fit through workouts and trying to limit my eating.

Recently I've been over-obsessed with the whole Hugo Awards situation. I find it rather fascinating, and have a blog post cooking on it. Hopefully tomorrow.

So let's see if I can keep the blogging going. This time for sure?
 
 
jeffsoesbe
07 October 2014 @ 07:35 am
Still figuring out how to put everything into one day. Missed out on making multiple posts yesterday, despite my earlier vow. After the rest of the day at work, daughter volleyball game, getting home, dinner, cleaning up, and planning for the next day, I was done! Which is why I write in the morning before work because otherwise I wouldn't get it done.

Hanging at the coffee house right now before work. Just finished up another draft for the Apex Publishing Micro Fiction contest. I now have at least one first draft in each of the five categories. Now comes the hard work of winnowing down to those 250 (or less) words that can still carry the whole story. By October 14. These stories will need to be strong from the start because otherwise they will get quickly dropped. I imagine Apex is getting a LOT of entries.

Here's the link to the contest, for those who might be interested: http://www.apexbookcompany.com/blogs/frontpage/15271873-steal-the-spotlight-micro-fiction-contest

No matter what happens, it's been a good exercise and a chance to produce some different stories from what I normally write. These are darker, with an edge. We'll see what happens...

- yeff
 
 
Current Mood: diligent
Current Music: Dead Can Dance
 
 
jeffsoesbe
06 October 2014 @ 09:29 am
Well, the "blog every day" didn't last... But I will make up for it with multiple blogs today.

Since October 1, have been working on stories for the Apex Micro Fiction contest. 250 words or less means I can crank out a story on a whim of an idea and then move on. Which is fun, and perhaps what I needed right now this early in the renewed way tempt at writing.

I currently have five stories, covering four of the five subjects. I'll finish off one or two or three more, cover the subjects, then edit and send in one per subject (as allowed).

Having fun so far!


Posted via m.livejournal.com.

 
 
jeffsoesbe
02 October 2014 @ 08:40 pm
Because of various morning errands, I only had 30 minutes to write. But in that time I managed to almost do two stories for the Apex Micro Fiction contest. Finished a Banshee story, and got through most of a Wendigo story.

My plan for the Apex Micro Fiction contest is to spend about a week writing as many stories as I can, then pick the best in each category and send it in. There are five categories, so that's five micro-stories. Nice!

I have about 30 minutes tomorrow so let's see what I can do in that time. Keeping on trucking!

- yeff