Archive for August, 2016

Yes, of course you’re not supposed to, but everybody does. At least in the paperback section. There’s no use denying it; the big publishers spend a lot of time and money on getting the right (they think) covers, even if it usually means the picture bears little resemblance to the to the story. And the Hugo Award for Best Artist is really an award for the best cover(s), further proving their importance to the field.

Although the cover sometimes depicts a scene that is to be found nowhere on the same shelf as anything in the book it adorns, it still tries to convey the feeling of the story, or at least the genre. Which is why, despite vehement opposition from some quarters and a great reluctance on my own part, I have decided to commission a new cover for the e-book version of The Invisible City. (For now, you can see the current cover on my home page.) Don’t get me wrong, I love the cover. I think it’s gorgeous, I commissioned the cover of The Secret City to be in the same vein, and I already know what I want for the cover of The Cosmic City. It will make a nice set, at least on paper. But that first cover does not convey the spirit of the planetary romance plot, and so it has to be replaced. Whether the other e-books will follow suit will depend on sales trends.

Tonight I received the first version of the new cover, and whoa! It wasn’t what I envisioned, but it hits you in the face like a brick. There is no question what kind of book it’s describing, although it will require a few alterations to be more genre-specific.

I’m also going to need a little time to process the change. This was my first self-published novel, and I took great care in selecting a cover that spoke to me; switching to a new one will take time to get used to. Still, self-publishing was all an experiment, and experiments often evolve over time.

So here’s to the new phase of my experiment. As long as it doesn’t blow up the lab or turn me into a supervillain, I guess it will all work out.



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I was very happy to (with the invaluable assistance of my better half) procure business cards before Worldcon. After all, I reasoned, if one is going to have business cards, and if the primary reason one has business cards is because people have asked for them at cons, then it makes sense to have business cards before one embarks for the biggest science fiction con one is going to attend all year.* And for one brief, shining moment, my logic (which only rarely matches with Spock’s), seemed sound.

Silly me. (And for that matter, silly Spock.)

Because I gave away three business cards the entire time I was in Kansas City, and only one did I give away at the con.

The first was to a friend, the second to a docent at the National World War I Museum, which we were visiting because I am planning a novel at some point which takes place during the Great War,** and the third on the plane home, to a stranger with whom we struck up a conversation when the subject of my writing came up.

Now, I think I deserve props for getting my card out to people whom one would not normally consider prime candidates, but when you consider that I did not give one out to any of the thousands of (unknown) SF fans at the con itself, I don’t think overall my marketing skills are yet up to snuff.***

But hey, it’s a start.

“Excuse me, buddy, would you like a business card?”

ETA: I am reminded that I did pass out one card to a fellow author at the con (and took hers in return). So now I am apparently so good at this I can’t keep my successes straight. Progress?


*Or, as it turns out, next year, too, because Helsinki is not a likely destination.

**Not to mention that The Invisible City starts in WWI, and I took a picture of a map showing where my hero was when that book began.

***To be fair to myself, I did intend to give one to an editor I was supposed to meet, but it didn’t work out.


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[The following was written by a friend of mine, a freshman in college. My initial thought (after “this is good; people need to see this”) was to recommend replacing the word “jazz” with “science fiction” because of the subject’s prominence in our field. Upon reflection, however, I believe that the word “jazz” could be replaced by the profession or fandom of your choice, and remain unfortunately relevant. This is reprinted by permission; the author’s name is withheld.]


To the jazz community (especially male jazz musicians please read on):

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of talking to a woman, around 50-60, who was a jazz vocalist. During the conversation, she brought up the difficulties of being a woman in the jazz community, especially an instrumentalist, and asked me if anything had changed since she had been in school. Without any hesitation I told her it had not.

As a tenor saxophonist in middle school and high school jazz bands, I have been verbally, emotionally, and sexually harassed. Some of the things said to me were so disgusting that I, as a sheltered 15-year-old, could not even comprehend. But, as with any systemic issue, this is not really about me.

Throughout every summer camp or high school group, every woman I have met in the jazz community has felt at best excluded and at worst terribly harassed. Of the 6 women I have played in high school with, all were good if not great musicians. However, jazz culture pressures instrumentalists to be the absolute best, and the more men feel that pressure, or fear that a woman might usurp them in skill, the more men harass women in an attempt to push them out of the competition. Women in the jazz community are not seen as equal competitors, but rather threats to the toxic fragile masculinity of men.

And the harassment works. I told myself after my senior year of high school I would never play in a jazz band again. I had lost all motivation to practice years before. The only way for my emotional health to survive jazz band was to give up and not care. I saw other women find similar paths: letting men know that you are not good is met with laughter, asking for help is met with condescending smiles. Trying your best is met with anger and misogyny. In a school setting, I learned that my gender was not welcome, that giving up is healthier, that improving is futile.

Misogyny in jazz does not only exist in my high school, or in the summer music camps I attended. Misogyny, as well as racism, in jazz is historically rooted. Watch movies like The Girls in the Band, a documentary about the struggles of women from 1930s jazz bands to the present. Look no further than Whiplash, where a white man tells the only girl in a band in the entire movie she is there only because she is cute and then kicks her out after one bad note. Even try to think of the names of three female jazz instrumentalists.

The competitiveness within the jazz community cannot be conducive to learning or creativity if it violently attacks 51% of the population. Toxic masculinity and its consequential harassment must be eradicated. If you are a male jazz musician, I recommend you keep these things in mind:

1. Women deserve respect the moment they are born. Men have proven that women will never be good enough to earn their respect. Whether they are new or veterans, whether they are terrible musicians or great, all women deserve your respect.

2. Pushing people out of the jazz community will not make jazz better. If you love jazz music, you will encourage women to join and encourage them to practice and encourage them to be great and let them be great. Misogyny cannot be tolerated in any society that wants to grow and neither can fostering this toxic competitive spirit.

3. Women owe you nothing. Not when you think you need a reason to respect them. Not if you don’t harass them. Not when you apologize for harassing them. Not when you ask for forgiveness.

Finally, to the women who have ever played in jazz bands, whether you quit or you still play: I admire you infinitely. You are stronger than the men who harassed you. You are more talented than they led you on to believe. You are incredible and wonderful and I wish you the best in whatever you are currently accomplishing.


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It is a comment upon current circumstances when I say that my limited participation in Hugo voting this year honestly does not proscribe my ability to air my feelings on the proceedings. In full disclosure, I only voted in one category because I lacked the time to survey the field in more depth, and in fact, I gave that one No Award. Oddly enough, it was not one of the categories pre-empted by Puppies of any stripe.

Nevertheless, the entire process is worthy of discussion. As was the case last year, the various Puppies tried to game the system, but this year voters were onto them and they had markedly less presence on the final ballot. Needless to say, that they had any effect at all disproportionate to their numbers was unfortunate. Not only does the presence of any kind of slate demean the voting, but it actively bars others’ choices from appearing. You can proclaim your candidates’ merits all you like, but if you have to resort to underhanded methods to gain their nomination (even if it isn’t technically cheating), then you forfeit the opportunity to persuade anyone to agree with you because you have eliminated free choice. In the end, you are limiting these works’ acceptance (and sales) because no one wants anything that’s being forced down their throats. Ask any child with a cold.

Now Mr. Beale, who’s behind all of this, would have you believe that “everything is going according to plan”–just like every supervillain cackles two seconds before Captain Justice bursts through the skylight and brings his little foray into world domination to a halt. As will happen here. Voting slates will never be completely erased, but their influence will wane to the point where no one will want to pay for a Worldcon membership simply in order to exercise what little destructive power they have left.

The question, of course, is why do this at all? What do they get from wantonly disrupting someone else’s fun? I have no answer, unless it’s because they lack the imagination to make up their own.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. This, too, will pass. Whether the Hugos themselves matter, that’s another discussion–one that perhaps we will have when the current crisis abates. I look forward to it.


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Well, that was interesting. First let me say that my first time in Kansas City will likely be my last, but not through any fault of KC’s. The beer is good and the barbecue is delicious–what else do you need to host a Worldcon? “A convention center”? Well, if you insist. But the first two are more important.

So what was the con like, you ask? Very nice. I don’t normally attend a con for the panels any more; I’ve been to too many of both that were much the same as their predecessors, but this time there were a surprising number that I thought sounded interesting, even if some did not turn out the way I had hoped…

And yes, I’m talking about that panel. The now-infamous “State of Short Fiction” panel that precipitated Dave Trousdale’s ejection from the con. Reportedly, there were other infractions other than hijacking the panel (which he did), grossly insulting fans and writers (which he did indirectly), and robbing the audience of the chance to hear the thoughts of some of the premier short-fiction editors in the business. I don’t know about anything that happened outside of the panel, but I do know that he made the statements about “special snowflakes” that are attributed to him, and he did dump a load of “pearl” necklaces on the table so that anyone offended by his remarks could wear them for clutching purposes. (What is it about pearls and SF and controversy?) He also began to read from a prepared statement about the decline of SF because of political correctness, but the other panel members cut him off. Although there was some shouting, it came from the audience. All in all, regardless of the full extent of his transgressions, from what I personally witnessed, Mr. Trousdale’s ejection was his own doing,

All in all, although exciting, it was pretty much a waste of time. Which was not the case in the other controversial panel.

I was also in attendance at the “Jane Austen and Mary Shelley” panel which eventuated Mary Robinette Kowal’s loss of membership. Yes, she did offer audience members alcohol, and they did take it, but she hardly hijacked the panel (quite the opposite). And she was scarcely acting as a bartender; it was friendly gesture to encourage questions (which it did), not a cheap gimmick to make a point. Nevertheless, she was censured, and she took it like an adult.

So two panels, one a circus, the other a Dorothy Parker roundtable. And I was present for both of them. Both resulted in the moderator being removed from the con, which only shows that the rules (regardless of the complaints of some who were not there) were administered evenly.

It also illustrates today’s lesson: Don’t let me into your panels if you want to stick around for the rest of the con.

Next: The Hugo Awards

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Writing is a lot like a romantic relationship. As I was talking about with a friend, a writer can take you places you would not normally go, if he or she establishes trust first. For example, we all know that in Star Wars, the spaceships and explosions make sound–in space. And we all know that can’t happen; space is a vacuum, “no one can hear you scream,” right?

But by the same token, we don’t care. We don’t care because George Lucas created such an entertaining universe that we’re willing to let him have his little idiosyncrasies. Somehow,  he established our trust in him almost immediately (for me, it was the scrolling letters that always remained in focus. That was the mark of a man who cared.)

A writer can establish trust by his canon of work. You know he will tie the story together, no matter how weird it gets, because he’s done it before. But a new writer doesn’t have that luxury. He has to earn your trust by laying that groundwork in front of you. And if he fails, he may fail to have a career. In romantic terms, he may never have a relationship.

So maybe take a chance on a new writer once in a while. After all, he can’t rest on his laurels; he has to prove himself every time. I’m not saying that high-selling authors don’t try any more, but that new writer, he might just be trying a little harder.

And who doesn’t want a partner who’s willing to go the extra mile to impress you?


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Whenever you go to one of those new author panels at cons, it seems pre-published authors are always caught up in the “hows,” that is, “How do you write? In the morning or afternoon?” “How many things do you work on at a time?” “Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pantser?” They ask these questions over and over again, as if they’re assembling a dataset from which they can extrapolate how one becomes a publisher writer, when they should be asking, “How do I show instead of tell?” “What makes a compelling character?” “What does it mean when people say your setting is a character in the story?”

The trouble with the first part of this is that every writer (including the questioner) is different, so the answers are completely irrelevant. The problem with the second part of this is that no one really knows the answers. Certainly I don’t. (Especially that last one.) So I’m not even going to try. I’m just going to tell you what I do know.

What I know is that not long ago, I asked for advice about whether to lay aside my novel-in-progress to pursue a new project. Everyone seemed to think I should, and I did, and it worked out better than I’d hoped. The only unexpected thing was that I haven’t gone back to the novel. (I will.) But with pot that safely on the back burner, I’ve been concentrating on other things, to good effect.

I currently have 18 submissions out (possibly a record, although seven are agent subs for one novel); I have three stories awaiting markets that have not yet opened, and I’m working on a new short story. This is all very good, and it leads me to the one piece of advice I can give pre-published (or published) authors:

Writing is important, but submitting is imperative.

Now get to work.


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