Posts Tagged ‘hugo award’

I caught myself tonight thinking, “I really hope I get a sale soon!” Because it’s been, you know, four weeks.

Really, self? This is what’s it’s come to? You went (mumbledy-mumbledy) years before you sold a story, then it was every couple of years, and now you get withdrawal symptoms if you don’t sell one every month?

Gee, you’d think you were trying to make a living at this or something. I’ve figured out the problem: Writing stories is compulsive, but selling stories is addictive.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here. I’m not bragging because I sell half a dozen stories in a year (okay, last year it was ten). There are a lot of people out there who sell a lot more than I do and to better-paying markets, as well. (And I’m not even terribly jealous of all of them. Some of them are my friends. Them I’m only a little jealous of.) It’s just that I find it amusing how quickly one can go from, “Lord, please let me sell one story before I die,” to “For heaven’s sake, I haven’t had one sale since last month!”

So if you’re a pre-published author, let me make two points: (1) I feel you. I remember what it was like, and I hope that you don’t have to work as long as I did to start selling; and (2) Don’t think once you sell it’s all wine and roses. You just trade your problems for new problems. Nicer problems, I’ll grant you…

…but there still isn’t a Hugo on my mantelpiece. And I haven’t made a single sale since I started writing this post.



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The Helsinki Worldcon has just announced that it will present, on a trial basis, a Hugo award for “Best Series,” in 2017. Personally, I would just as soon see the award stay in Finland and never get a visa, as it were.

Without going into the guidelines, what I see is an annual “Best Novel” Hugo not going to the best novel. In other words, series will be nominated either because their partisans just love it to pieces (and good for them) or because the latest installment sits head and shoulders above the standard previously set for that series. In the first case, you’re nominating a series that no one who hasn’t read it already is going to read before voting. Voting in the “Best Novel” category is already hard enough (no time, expensive hardcovers). This category will have a small voting pool. In the second case, well, there’s already a “Best Novel” Hugo.

It has been suggested (and I suspect the suggestion will prove popular), to limit each series to one win. On the surface, I agree. But there are only so many great series out there, and I fear we would quickly read the state of “American Idol disease,” where once the deserved winners are burned off, the selection becomes less about quality and more about filling slots.

If this must continue (as I predict it will), I would be less opposed if a negotiated settlement could be reached. How about we eliminate a category, like “Best Professional Editor-Long Form”? I appreciate the work that goes into editing books, but I don’t have the faintest notion how to vote that category. I’m sorry, but who pays attention to the editor? How do you even know? At the very least, change it to “Best Professional Publisher-Long Form” so all we have to do is check the imprint.

By the way, in the interests of full disclosure, I hope to finish my trilogy by the end of the year. It would be eligible. But since it would be disingenuous to seek nominations, I won’t. Really, don’t nominate me. I wasn’t even planning to go. Oh, all right, if you must…


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To those who believe with the fiery passion of a thousand suns that “Stairway to Heaven” is the greatest rock-n-roll song ever written, the current lawsuit over its opening notes is akin of blasphemy of the highest order, an attack of the Temple of Music itself, a barbaric assault on the foundations of late-Baby Boomer culture.

To those of us who simply believe that “Stairway to Heaven” was the greatest song of the rock-n-roll era because, well, we just do, we’re not happy either.

But is our wrath/tepid disapproval misplaced? Was the song lifted (consciously or unconsciously) from Spirit’s “Taurus”?

I haven’t the faintest idea. And fortunately, I’m not on that committee, er, jury.

But the question does arise (and too frequently now): What constitutes plagiarism? The standards, as I understand them, differ from music to fiction, but the question is the same. Recently, Sherrilyn Kenyon sued Cassandra Clare over the “Mortal Instruments” franchise. How that will end remains to be seen. Still, we are all operating from a common folkloric heritage which hardly varies even among disparate cultures. In other words, there’s nothing new under the sun. So what qualifies as “original”?

Spider Robinson won a Hugo for his short story, “Melancholy Elephants,” in which the government is contemplating extending copyrights in perpetuity. The story questions the consequences thereof. Hardly SF, really, but it won anyway.* I voted for it.

It seems, however, that we have enough unintended consequences already, with copyright “only” extending 75 years past the author’s death. (Which is silly enough. I mean, to 99% of authors, it’s beyond meaningless.) And the “Stairway” lawsuit is only about the opening chords of the song. Not the whole song, not the lyrics. Just the opening. The defense argues that both songs are based on old folk music, which may well be true. But even if it’s not, how much do you have to copy to violate copyright? I mean, notes are notes, right? Even if it’s all in how you put them together, there are still only a finite number of ways to do that, and if you break songs into their parts, pretty soon nobody will be able to write anything unless he can prove he never listened to music (or read a book) before putting pen to paper.

To put it in fiction terms, can you sue someone for using the sentence, “The man walked to the store,” just because you used it first? If Godzilla stomped Tokyo, does that mean no other kaiju can ever “stomp” a city? And what about all the resurgence in interest in “Golden Age Science Fiction”? Are we even allowed to write that stuff, or will we violate a copyright for a story written before we were born and never reprinted?

Most of us won’t have to worry, of course, because no one sues over a work that doesn’t make a truckload of money. But it’s the principle of the thing. We–

–wait, what? “Truckload of money” is copyright-protected? Then I guess I’m done. Just let me write “The End,” and… no, don’t tell me…


*Oddly enough, there was no “Social justice warriors are ruining SF!” outcry in 1982. Let’s hope the Sad Puppies don’t have access to a time machine.


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Yeah, it’s another Sad Puppies post. Sorry, but writers gotta write.

There is a subtext to the name “Sad Puppies” which the originators of the movement probably did not mean to include, and whose relevance perhaps do not even acknowledge. But it is relevant; they it know deep in their heart of hearts. And that is why sad puppies are, you know, sad.

Because they’ve failed. They are not going to get what they want. Ain’t gonna happen.

What they want, if you take them at their word, is to get under-appreciated authors more notice. In that sense, they didn’t fail, but reallly, they did–because what they really want is to change the make-up of the SF community on their way to changing the world. And that is not going to happen.

Think of it like Ralph Nader in 2000. (Ironic, I know.) Nader wanted to change the political paradigm, introduce a third leg to the two-party system. Trouble is, he tried to change the system from the top. Not only did he fail spectacularly, dumping his party’s chances of someday being a recognized political force into the garbage, but he actually managed to accomplish the opposite of what he wanted, enabling the election of George W. Bush, about as diametrically opposed to Nader as you could imagine. I won’t say that the country wasn’t already polarized, but the GWB presidency certainly made the problem worse.

So it is with the Puppies. Instead of blogging and speaking about how conservative fans and authors were being marginalized, ramping up their arguments as they gained attention, they ran straight to the head of the line and tried to topple the system in one bold move. And, like Nader, they will fail.

I’m not saying their slate might not garner some Hugos; it might. (Although to be truthful, it’s really the Rabid slate that won the nominations; the Sads failed at that too.) I’m saying that the Sad Puppies are not going to change fandom. All they’ve done is polarize an already fractious crowd and galvanize their opponents. The Puppies have not changed any minds. Nor will they. The only change in fandom will be in the number of people who longer speak to each other.

A consummation devoutly to make you howl.

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There was a discussion in my peer group concerning the passing of Leonard Nimoy, and whether it qualified as “untimely.” It was pointed out that he lived to be 83 years old, well past the American average, and that he had, not ironically, “lived long” (as well as “prospered”). Given that fact, although we were not prepared to see him go, we should consider that he had lived well and fully.

Not surprisingly, this lead to more thoughts about death, specifically about those I have known who did not have a chance to “live long.” I have lost three friends from college now, bright people who were never able to fulfill their promise because they left this life too soon. I wondered what they might have accomplished given more time, and the thought reflected back: You have the time they didn’t. You’ve been given the chance they weren’t. What are you doing?

I like to say, “Don’t ask yourself where the time has gone. Ask yourself where it’s going.” And with me, as with most of us, it’s going toward working, commuting, catching up with “Downton Abbey”–and writing the occasional piece of fiction. I haven’t done anything great with my life, and odds are I will never make the difference in people’s lives that Leonard Nimoy made. Few of us ever have that opportunity, and fewer take it.

But that’s no reason to despair, or to panic, because as long as I’m alive, I may have that opportunity still. We look at famous people now and we recognize them, but who on that train knew the name J.K. Rowling the day she dreamed up Harry Potter? Did you know who Leonard Nimoy was before “Star Trek”?

I’ve seen it happen time and again: one day you’re in the dumps because it’s all going nowhere, and the next day you’re in a TV series, or you’re nominated for a Hugo, or maybe you just sell a story, and suddenly life is all about possibilities, and people know your name.

Some gain success early. It may build, it may peak and die away, leaving one to wonder what he’s going to do for the rest of a life that may already have seen its apex. The thing I’ve noticed about success, though, is that it’s never really in your grasp. The success I’ve gained in the last few years would look really impressive to the seventeen-year-old who first started writing sword-and-sorcery stories on a manual typewriter in his bedroom, but it’s not enough for me. I dream of being a full-time writer, but I know enough full-time writers to know that even that is only a step, not a culmination. So we keep at it. You have to; resting on your laurels is comfortable, but it never gets any better.

I’m pretty sure that I haven’t peaked already. I don’t know if I ever will. But I know that I will die trying. And that’s the way I want it.

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