Posts Tagged ‘football’

Lately, life has developed a way of grabbing me by the scruff of the neck, shaking me around, and saying, “Things don’t always work out the way you think! You’re not always right! Stop analyzing and just believe!”

Now, I’m not talking about a religious conversion here, but a couple of things have happened lately that jerked my head around ninety degrees. In short, I don’t know everything.

As you all know, prior to very recently, the fastest I’d ever written a book was just over a year. Most had taken longer (although in some cases there were extrinsic circumstances that slowed me down). But a few months ago, I decided to see if I could write a book more quickly, using outlining and a strict daily word requirement. Part of the reason I hadn’t been fast before was because I used 500 words as a benchmark, 1000 words if I was feeling ambitious. But I knew I could do better, because I had done so before, albeit in short stretches.

And I wrote a 57,000-word novel in 55 days. It still sounds weird when I write it. But it told me that I could do things I never thought I could do.

Then, in a completely unrelated episode, last night I attended a football game. It was hot and muggy; it rained. It was one of the ugliest games I ever saw. We had minimal offense; we had virtually no effective defense. People were leaving the stands in droves. I was ready to leave. As the third quarter wound down, UCLA was losing 44-10.

We won.

In the greatest comeback in school history, we scored five consecutive touchdowns, including one in the last minute. No one would have given a plugged nickel for our chances, except apparently the players. They believed.

If I can write a book in under two months, if the Bruins can come back from a 34-point deficit in twenty minutes, how can you not believe that the impossible is merely the unlikely with good PR?

In the past month, I have both done and seen things that I would have sworn were impossible. But they happened. From now on, when my reasoning brain tells me that this is a brutal business, that success may never in my grasp, that making it as an author is practically impossible…

I’m going to say, “Yeah? That’s your opinion. Me? I’ve seen miracles.”



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Being a writer doesn’t often feel like Christmas. It’s more like a Charlie Brown Halloween, where you keep trying to kick that football and somebody snatches it away at the last second. And even when we finally kick that ball, we have a way (like Charlie Brown) of leaching the fun out of the best moments. Instead of moping about commercialism, and how the holidays have lost their way, we persuade ourselves that we have lost our way, that the ball will never be in that position, waiting to be kicked, again.

(Sometimes, instead of kicking the football, we need somebody to give us a kick. Ironically, it’s usually another writer.)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how hard it’s been for some of us to write after the events of the past several weeks. We worry about how the world is going to survive our change in government. We worry about wars and the environment and the economy and race relations. And we can’t write. We feel paralyzed.

I know the feeling. I’m still trying to get The Cosmic City done before the end of the year, and it’s been slow lately, even though I generally speed up as I approach the last act. If I didn’t have that deadline, I might not be able to write at all. But if we look at the situation realistically, we’re writers. We’re always depressed by something. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.

I can’t sit here and tell you everything’s going to be okay, because I don’t know. I don’t know if the next four years will be good or bad. But then, I didn’t know that about the last four, either, or the fifty-odd before that. “Life’s uncertain; eat dessert first.”

The only thing I can do is carry on. I’ll go on writing because it is who I am, and nobody can take that away from me. If I protest, it’ll be in writing. If I fight, it’ll be in writing. And when it’s all over, I’ll write up as fiction–a football that I can run at again and again.

Someday I’ll kick that football. And when I do, it will feel like Christmas, Charlie Brown.

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It being that time of year (in both worlds), I find it natural to wonder (because I have a very unhealthy imagination) whether it would behoove us all to restructure the Hugos to be more like the college football championship playoff series, and if so, how one would do so. (If you don’t give a short-circuited lightsaber for football, do not despair, all will be made clear.)

In football (generally speaking), all of the eligible teams in the country are ranked on a weekly basis by a committee of knowledgable and influential football pros/fans which considers win/loss records and strength of schedule. At the end of the season, four teams are picked for the play-offs, which take place in two stages: the semi-finals and the championship. Simple. In the Hugos, eligible works are nominated by members of the Worldcons (present and immediately past), and five or six reach the ballot, where the winner is selected by a system so convoluted that several (secret) master’s (of fandom) degrees have been awarded for papers explaining it.

The football playoff system is the result of decades of trying to determine a fair way to pick a champion, and although in its infancy, seems to be working. The Hugo system is the result of decades of the same process without significant difficulty, until recently when it seems not to be working. You can see the similarities. A playoff system is a good solution for both.

Witness the advantages (for the Hugos and fandom): A committee of knowledgable pros and fans sifts through all 10,000 possible nominees every year as they are published, and rates them monthly. Think of the time savings for the rest of us! Who would bother to read a story that has no realistic chance of winning? At the end of the Hugo season, a final list of four is published in each category, which constitutes the Hugo ballot. “Okay,” you’re saying about now, “that only replaces fan nominations with a selection committee. How is this better?” To which I reply, “Wait. There’s more.”

The fans do not vote for the stories on the Hugo ballot. There is no vote.

Each author is allowed to select one main character from  his story. Each such character is then inserted into a playoff round against a character from another story in the same category. (Yes, this only works for fiction, but it could work for Best Editor and Best Artist, too, and we could televise it.) Those characters then compete on the basis of pre-selected criteria, such as Depth of Characterization, Likability, and Character Growth. The semi-final winners would then face each other and the ultimate victor would receive the Hugo.

Think of the fun we could all have by comparing stats every week. Think of the arguments over All-time Best in the area of Thematic Relevance. The mind reels.

And the sponsorships! “The Apple Hugos.” “The Blizzard Entertainment Hugo Pre-Show.” With that kind of money, the Worldcon (presented by Bank of America) wouldn’t even need to charge for memberships!

Over the years, certain authors will be seen to attract more lucrative sponsorships, and, naturally, they will receive more nominations. More nominations = more sponsorship money = cheaper Worldcons. Meanwhile, we would be able to argue to our hearts’ content with no responsibility to vote. What could be more American?


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I was at a football game yesterday, which my team lost. Part of it was due to my team’s mistakes, part of it due to the other team’s persistent effort, and part of it due to the absolutely atrocious officiating. (Yes, I know the losers always blame the referees, but this time it wasn’t simply hometown bias. They really sucked. It wouldn’t surprise me if official notice is taken of their incompetence.)

But I’m getting over it (slowly), largely, I think, because there is nothing I could have done about it. Nothing about my team’s performance, nor the other team’s, and certainly nothing about the officiating. In fact, no one could do anything about that. And there’s a lesson there, which I will now elucidate in a round-about way.

I’ve gotten to the point in my career where, thanks largely to the Internet, I am acquainted with quite a few writers. Most of them, I’m pretty sure, are younger than I am. And a good many, it seems, have had or are having, more success than I. And you know what?

Like the officiating at yesterday’s game, there’s not a damn thing I can do about that. (Actually, there’s nothing I can do about either their ages or their accomplishments.) Other writers are going to have successes that eclipse mine. Occasionally, I will have a success that some other writer wishes he had, and there will be nothing he can do about that, either.

So a large part of writing (a very large part) is accepting that there are things about one’s career that one cannot control. Other writers’ success, editorial preferences, the timing of submission windows, the timing of submissions that would have been sales except that someone else got to that editor with a similar story last week.*

It’s really tough when you know the person who’s being more successful than you. It’s kind of a survivor’s guilt in reverse; you want to be happy for her, but her accomplishment makes you sad. And maybe jealous. But probably it depresses you and you are unhappy about being unhappy.

It’s all very human, and it might make a good story if anyone other than a writer wanted to pay money to read it. But likely no one does. And you know what?

There’s nothing you can do about that, either. Except learn to live with it. And remember that no matter how jealous you are of someone else’s successes, there are people out there who are jealous of yours–and the first in line is You, five years ago.

*This has happened to me more than once. One time, however, the editor reconsidered and changed the magazine’s policy of one fiction piece per issue so she could buy mine. That has happened only once.

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