Saturday, January 5, 2008

My Hugo rant: vote or don't complain

The Hugo awards, on the off chance that you don't know them, are science fiction fandom's version of the People's Choice awards: recognition by the fans who attend the annual World Science Fiction Convention of the best SF works in a variety of categories. The heart of the Hugo awards, at least as far as this fiction writer is concerned, are the big four categories:

* Novel
* Novella
* Novelette
* Short Story

Hardcore SF fans debate Hugo winners endlessly. SF writers, even the most famous and recognized, cherish the awards. (I obviously do; see my previous blog entry for my 2008 self-pimpage.) Many readers look twice at any book or author with "Hugo Award Winner" next to his or her name. I've heard literally hundreds of fans griping about why their favorite writers or books never win.

Yet very, very few fans participate.

It drives me crazy.

Expense shouldn't be stopping them. Here's all it costs to participate:

1) A little money. Be an attending or supporting member of the coming year's World SF Con. This year, the con is Denvention 3 in, where else, Denver. You can join here. An attending membership is pricey ($200) at this late stage, but you can buy a supporting membership for only $50. So, for fifty smackers you can help shape the awards. You must, however, have your membership before January 31, 2008, so you have less than a month left to join.

2) A little time before the end of February. By mailing in the paper form that they'll send you (I got mine yesterday) or that you can download, or by using the online form here, you nominate the works you consider award-worthy. You just have to do so before midnight Pacific time on March 1, 2008.

3) Another small bit of time before the first of August. When the nominees are settled--the good folks at Denvention will let you know--vote for the ones you want to win.

That's it: fifty bucks, and maybe two fifteen-minute chunks of your time, and you can shape the Hugo awards.

Yet, again, very, very few fans do.

How few?

Here, courtesy of the Web Weasel's research in Locus and a few online sites, are the minimum and maximum number of nominations for each of the big four fiction categories for the last three WorldCons:

(Sorry if that's a bit hard to read; I don't have time to fight more with the sizing options.)

To give you an example of how low participation is, to make the Hugo ballot for Best Novel in the most hotly contested awards of the last three years--those at LAcon--you would have needed only 46 nominations. To make the ballot for Best Short Story, 19 would have done it in any of the past three years.

These are sad figures indeed.

So, let's change it.

If you care about SF and you want the Hugo awards to represent the choice of a broad range of SF fans--including you, spend your fifty bucks, nominate, vote, and hope your favorites win.

To make sure we're clear that this is not about me campaigning, let me address the obvious questions. Would I like to be on the ballot? Sure. To win? Of course. But neither of those dreams is the point of this post.

What I want is to know that the Hugo winners reflect the taste of a large base of passionate readers.

Let's do it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The 2008 Award Self-Pimpage Post

I recently read John Scalzi's post with a very similar title to this one (scroll down on his blog to find it), and I thought a lot about it. Today, my mail brought the latest Progress Report from this year's Worldcon, Denvention 3. That PR contained the nominating ballots for the Hugo awards, the main fan-controlled SF fiction awards.

After considering all this, I've decided to follow Scalzi's lead and let folks know what works of mine appeared this year and in what Hugo categories. I've had three:

Best Novel: One Jump Ahead
Best Short Story: "Broken Bits" in Future Weapons of War, and "The Ten Thousand Things" in Jim Baen's Universe.

To nominate for the Hugos, you have to be a member--attending or supporting, either will do--of the WorldCon by January 31 and submit your nomination on paper by March 1. Put differently, if you only want to vote, it costs $50 to buy a supporting membership.

I'm proud of my work and would be thrilled to be nominated in any category, but that's about as much campaigning as I can stand.

When I was growing up, seeing "Hugo Award Winner" on a book meant a lot to me. I think it still may, at least to many readers. I've since become quite sad and frustrated with how few folks actually nominate and vote for this award, but I still care about it. Sometime soon, I'll post my rant on that topic.

Making the best decision with the data available

Even smart people do stupid things from time to time. There's no way around it; we all mess up. Most folks, however, don't do stupid things most of the time.

So why is it that fictional villains of all sorts ignore the information available to them and make dumb choices all the time?

The answer is simple: because it's easier for the creators of those villains if the characters behave that way.

I've always hated it when otherwise intelligent bad guys behaved that way, so I vowed that if I ever wrote books, I wouldn't resort to that practice. I'd do my best to make sure that each of my characters made the best choice possible given the data available to him or her and his or her personality.

Note that last bit: our personal traits do, of course, shape us. I promise you, for example, that if a woman who looks like Alissa Lim walks in front of me while I'm talking to you, you will lose my attention for at least a moment, rude though that behavior is. (If you don't know who Alissa Lim is, you need to buy and read One Jump Ahead!)

I mention all this because it's at the heart of the plot point I'm working to resolve in Overthrowing Heaven. Jon has a problem to solve, a problem that is the result of something a very bad and very smart man has done, and I want both Jon and the bad guy to have given their best. I feel readers deserve that from me, so I'm going to keep working on this part of the plot until this part of it, like the rest, respects both characters.

Speaking of which, back to it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Sarah was right about the snow

though just barely: very light flurries graced our area today. I saw the merest whisper of them while driving, and Sarah saw them at school.

I must bow to her on this one.

Of course, I won at RPS last night. The streak begins anew!

In other news, I still haven't resolved the Overthrowing Heaven issue that has been plaguing me, but while thinking about it I have made a bunch of other bits better. Time will fix this--or so I keep telling myself.

And in still other news, while cleaning up my Web site today, we temporarily broke it. Thanks to Fred Kiesche for being the first to report it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Useless time, vital time

I'm stuck on a plot point in Overthrowing Heaven. I've been staring at and experimenting with answers to this particular problem for a few days, but I still haven't found a solution I like. Intellectually, I'm sure I will. Right now, though, I feel completely useless, as if I'm wasting my time.

I could always settle for one of the answers that isn't quite good enough and hope to fix it later, or even brush past that point in my plotting and move on. Anything would feel more useful than staring at blank pages in my notebooks and engaging in endless dialog with myself.

Except that I also know this time isn't useless. Quite the opposite: if my subconscious won't accept any of the current answers, it's because they aren't good enough. This time is crucial, a vital part of the process of creating a book I can feel good about.

So much of writing embodies contradictions like this one: feeling useless while doing vital work, knowing you're producing crap but soldiering ahead anyway. I wonder if someday I'll get to a better, easier, happier process.

Until then, though, I'll go back to gnawing at this plot bone.

Monday, December 31, 2007


Yesterday's post was my 200th--not a big deal to anyone but me, yet to me an odd sort of milestone. Today is the last day of 2007--not a big deal on its own, just another day, but to many Americans a big milestone. Funny how that works.

I try to resist the lure of such made-up milestones; after all, today I got up, exercised, ate, worked, and so on, all as usual. It's just another day.

Of course, I fail most of the time. It's not just another day, not inside me and not inside most people. Thoughts of successes and failures, goals, and transition inevitably come to mind.

I'll spare you my own goals for 2008. Instead I'll simply say that I'm grateful to all who have supported my writing and enriched my life, and I hope the new year brings you much joy, love, and prosperity.

And later tonight, after our party, I'll work on Overthrowing Heaven, because New Year's Eve though it may be, it is just another writing day.

And the rain came

It rained all day today, sometimes only a drizzle but at other times a thunderstorm, and it was glorious. Our area desperately needs rain, so that alone was enough to make the day good. I also simply enjoy rainy days, particularly when, as today, I can sleep late. Snuggling under the covers on a dark day with drops plunking against the skylights is a great treat.

The thunder has also prompted hopes--in some, such as Sarah, but not in me--of snow sometime in the next seven to ten days, per the old folk wisdom. I don't see that happening, but I'd certainly enjoy the snow if it came, so in this case I'd prefer they were right and I was wrong.

Now, if we could have a day this rainy twice a week for the next few months, we might actually get out of our drought....


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