Endings and Beginnings

When a man comes to the end of any road let him remember that the end is not yet and a new way shall open for him.
—Andre Norton

After 655 posts, Genreville’s time as an independent entity is coming to an end. As of today, along with PW‘s audiobook blog, Listen Up, it has been folded into PWxyz, the main PW blog.

This is definitely not the end of Genreville as a concept. I’ll still be tweeting interesting news and links at @genreville; SF/F-related posts on PWxyz will be in the “Genreville” category. I’ll post regularly there (my first post is up already), and we’ll have some great guest bloggers. So please do add PWxyz to your RSS readers and you’ll get all the excellent posts from our other contributors as well–or if you really truly only want Genreville posts, just subscribe to the category feed.

Thanks so much for all your support and thoughtful comments over the years. Josh and I have had a ton of fun making Genreville a place you want to visit. See you on the flip side!

Respectful Submission

I’m not talking about anything kinky here, but about addressing editors respectfully when you submit or pitch a story, poem, or article. You’d think this would be a no-brainer–wouldn’t you want to start off on the right foot with the people you hope would publish your work?–but apparently not, according to SF poetry zine Stone Telling co-editors Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan. In a series of blog posts that are well worth reading, Rose explains how to address submissions to the zine, discusses correspondence with an SFPA representative who addressed important award nomination announcement emails only to Rose and then told her it was because Shweta’s name was hard to find on the Stone Telling website (where both are listed quite prominently as co-editors), and talks about the underlying assumptions and attitudes that lead many people to address letters only to the editor with the three-syllable Jewish name and not to the editor with the five-syllable Indian name.

Now I wonder how many people will address Long Hidden submissions just to me because my name doesn’t have accented characters in it, or just to Daniel because he has a masculine name. Something to add to our submission guidelines, I suppose. (And I will take a moment here to squee that we’ve made our initial funding goal and then some, and are now pushing toward awesome stretch goals like more stories and interior art! It’s really going to happen! Eeeee!)

It irks me that Daniel and I have to think about this, and that Rose and Shweta have to think about this, because addressing a submission correctly is at the same basic level of courtesy, professionalism, and self-preservation as making sure your resume doesn’t have typos on it. When I addressed a submission to Stone Telling, I opened my email with “Dear Stone Tellers”; super-formality is not always required. But I knew it wasn’t required in this case because I already knew the editors and had read past issues of the zine, so I was pretty sure they wouldn’t stand on ceremony–and also I wasn’t 100% sure who handled submissions, so I erred on the side of caution by not naming someone who might be the wrong person. This is because I wanted them to actually read and consider my poem rather than rejecting it out of hand. I’m stunned that anyone goes about things any other way.

I understand having internalized and subconscious biases–we all have them, try as we might to uproot them–but I don’t understand letting them get in the way of careful professionalism in business correspondence. The whole point of the concept of professionalism is that it provides helpful guidelines for putting one’s best foot forward.

Just remember that editors are people with feelings and opinions, and that you want to approach them in such a way that their opinion of you will be positive. Everything else follows from that.

SFWA vs. Random House, Round Two

Previously: SFWA announced that Random House’s Hydra digital-first imprint was not a qualifying market and denounced its contract terms.

Random House responded that Hydra “offers a different–but potentially lucrative–publishing model for authors: a profit share.”

SFWA’s board of directors replied, “You extol your business model as ‘different’; the more accurate description, we believe, is ‘exploitative.’” SFWA also de-listed Hydra’s Alibi imprint (digital-first crime fiction) and warned, “If the egregious features of Hydra and Alibi’s contracts begin to make their way into the contracts of Random House’s other imprints, particularly Del Rey and Spectra, we will be required to act, up to and including delisting Random House as a whole as a qualifying market for SFWA.”

I’m not sure how Random House will regard that last bit. On the one hand, being a SFWA qualifying market probably doesn’t affect their bottom line very much one way or another. Del Rey and Spectra publish very few debut authors, who are the ones who care most about making sales that will qualify them for SFWA membership. (A quick visual check for those distinctive Random House ARCs on my desk finds books by Elizabeth Moon, Terry Brooks, Connie Willis, Karen Lord, Chris Moriarty, and Peter F. Hamilton, all of whom have plenty of SFWA-qualifying work to their name.) If debut authors take their books elsewhere–not guaranteed by any means, since debut authors are also not very likely to limit their options or turn down a firm offer on principle–Random House might be willing to tolerate that if it means they can keep their digital-first contracts as they are.

On the other hand, this is a lot of negative publicity, especially with words like “exploitative” being thrown around, and if some of those top-selling authors were to decide they no longer want to be associated with Random House, that would be a much bigger deal. There’s also the pending Random/Penguin merger to consider. Of course there’s no such thing as a good time for there to be a stain on Random House’s reputation, but a merged company means that stain could spread from Hydra and Alibi not only to Del Rey and Spectra but to Ace, Roc, and DAW. (Which makes me wonder how many of those imprints will survive the merger, but that’s a separate question.)

I really have no idea how this will play out. In the meantime, pass the popcorn.

(Full disclosure: I’m a non-voting SFWA affiliate member.)

SFWA Slaps Random House’s Digital SF Imprint

Naming an imprint after a league of supervillains might not be the best idea, because here comes Captain SFWAmerica to smack them down, according to this email that just went out to SFWA members:

SFWA has determined that works published by Random House’s electronic imprint Hydra can not be use as credentials for SFWA membership, and that Hydra is not an approved market. Hydra fails to pay authors an advance against royalties, as SFWA requires, and has contract terms that are onerous and unconscionable.

Hydra contracts also require authors to pay – through deductions from royalties due the authors – for the normal costs of doing business that should be borne by the publisher.

Hydra contracts are also for the life-of-copyright and include both primary and subsidiary rights. Such provisions are unacceptable.

At this time, Random House’s other imprints continue to be qualified markets.

That last bit is important, not only for Spectra and Del Rey authors (who are breathing a sigh of relief right now) but in the context of history. When Harlequin launched a vanity press imprint in 2009, SFWA temporarily removed all Harlequin imprints from their qualifying market list. Random House’s sins are apparently not grave enough to warrant such tactics.

Writer Beware’s Victoria Strauss discusses Hydra’s terms in more detail, concluding, “It’s hard for me to imagine even moderately successful self-publishers finding a deal like this attractive.” SFWA president John Scalzi is sharper: “Dear Random House: It’s clear you’re targeting new, unagented authors here because no agent who is not manifestly incompetent would allow his or her client to sign such a terrible contract.”

Important note: Random House’s Hydra imprint is not the same as Hydra House, a small independent SF/F press.

(Full disclosure: I’m a non-voting SFWA affiliate member.)

3/8/2013: A riposte and a counter-riposte, with SFWA upping the stakes.

A Dream Come True

Some kids dreamed of growing up to be dancers or doctors. I dreamed of being an anthology editor. (Not even kidding. I practically had an altar to Terry Carr and Judith Merril.) Now that dream might come true.

The anthology in question is Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. As we all know, history is written by the victors, and that includes historical fiction. The goal of this project is to focus on and amplify the voices of people who have been pushed to the margins. What was it like to be a Mayan laborer when the conquistadors showed up? to be a newly freed slave trying to start a business after the U.S. Civil War? to be transgender in Elizabethan England? Stories like these will be told in Long Hidden, each with a speculative twist. We have an incredible group of authors lined up to send us stories, including Beverly Jenkins, Victor LaValle, Tananarive Due, Ken Liu, and Amal El-Mohtar. We’ll also be open to submissions, so if you’re a writer, start thinking about sending us a story!

The publisher is Crossed Genres, a fabulous small press that’s known for taking chances on unclassifiable and niche books that would otherwise never see the light of day. They do this by raising money through Kickstarter; advance fundraising means we can pay the authors well and be confident that there’s a market for the book. Here’s the Kickstarter page for Long Hidden. We’re over two-thirds funded already, which is tremendous for our first weekend and has me really hoping we make a few of our stretch goals, like interior illustrations or an audiobook edition. I’m obsessively refreshing the page like an author checking their Amazon ranking on launch day (which I’m sure I’ll do too when the book is actually published next year).

When I was a kid, people who knew my parents (both novelists) would ask me when–not whether–I was going to write a novel. Many of the PW staff have written books, and a year or two back, someone asked when–not whether–I would do one. But really, I will probably never write a novel. I’m not a writer; I’m an editor. So I’m pleased as punch to find my own editorial way to get my name on a book jacket, especially in service to such a great cause and in the company of such a great people. I really, really, really hope we can make this happen as splendidly as the subject matter deserves.

2012 Nebula Award Finalists

Congratulations to this year’s Nebula Award finalists! Summary of my impressions:

I think this is a very strong ballot overall. I’ve only read a small fraction of the nominated works, but I really liked all the ones I’ve read. I definitely don’t have any immediate “What is THAT doing on an award shortlist?” reactions, which is always nice.

There’s an impressive diversity of sex, race, and sexuality on all the ballots, especially compared to, say, ten years ago. (Warning on that link for a very bright yellow-and-red color scheme.)

Having one’s short fiction available online for free unsurprisingly appears to broaden one’s audience, and the folks at Clarkesworld and Tor.com clearly have their fingers on the pulse of the Nebula-nominating short-fiction-reading crowd. There is not a single story from Analog, ouch. I note that GigaNotoSaurus is the only webzine with a story on the novella ballot; are webzines not publishing novellas, or are they not publishing the sorts of novellas that get award nods, or do readers enjoy or appreciate novellas more in print than online?

Self-published works and small-press novels are nowhere to be found. I’d love to see a small-press, digital-first, and self-publishing revolution on the novel ballot comparable to the recent ascent of webzines on the short fiction ballots. I would be heartened by the appearance of a few stories from small-press anthologies and collections if there were such a thing as a large-press anthology or collection, but there basically isn’t, so I will settle for being heartened that anyone still publishes or reads anthologies and collections.

And now, the list. Linked short fiction titles are shamelessly stolen from John DeNardo’s post at SF Signal (thanks, John!). Book titles link to the PW reviews, where available. Statistics in my notes are to the best of my knowledge, and please do correct me if I’ve gotten anything wrong.

NOVEL

Rose’s notes: Four women. One queer person. One trans person. Two people of color. Four books that got starred PW reviews. Zero self-published books. Zero small-press books. Zero digital-only books.

NOVELLA

Rose’s notes: Two women. Two people of color. Two stand-alone titles, both from small presses. One webzine story. One story from a small-press anthology, reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.

NOVELETTE

Rose’s notes: Five women. One person of color. Three queer people. Four webzine stories. Two stories from small-press compilations (if you count the “Mammoth” books as small press, which I think I do), one reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.

SHORT STORY

Rose’s notes: Five women. Two people of color. Five webzine stories. One story from a small-press collection, reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.

Unpleasant Allegations, and a Response

A post by a woman alleging that she was emotionally abused by an SF/F author pseudonymized as “C” is making the rounds. Be warned: it’s long and pretty emotionally wrenching. (I have removed the link and the author’s identifying information out of concern for the post’s author.) The post was first made a couple of years ago and recently updated.

The information in the post suggests very strongly that “C” is China Miéville. (A few people have told me that the original post named him and included a link to his website, though I haven’t been able to personally verify that.) I asked him if he had any comment on the post. He replied:

When I met the writer several years ago, I liked and respected her greatly, and we were very briefly involved. I was in an open relationship with my partner, of which I made the writer fully aware. I quickly came to understand that I’d made wrong assumptions and errors of emotional responsibility. I regretted and apologized for these at the time, and subsequently. Much of what’s said in the piece, however, is simply untrue, and my interpretation of the events is very different.

I wrote to the post’s author asking if she wanted to make any further comment but have yet to get a response on the record. If I do, I’ll share it here.

My friend Liz W. provided some interesting context for Americans like me who aren’t familiar with the current UK political situation:

The SWP (Miéville’s party) is in the middle of tearing itself apart over its handling of rape allegations. Miéville has been one of the people pushing for them to get their act together and deal with them properly. A lot of rival groups would love to see the SWP break up – it’s a bit notorious in UK politics for its entryist tactics, opportunism and other antics, and of course the left is pretty prone to factionalism anyway – and some of them are now using the post as ammunition against him and the SWP in general (lots of identically-worded comments on various blog posts).

I can’t make any comment on the politics or people involved, nor do I have any way of knowing the truth of the allegations, but this context might be useful to those seeing the link and wondering what’s up with that.

Disclosure: I know China somewhat (he’s referred to us as “friends”, I’d say “friendly acquaintances”, but that’s one of those blurry lines), and don’t know the post’s author at all.

Link Roundup

Scary Numbers

As PW just reported, 2012′s science fiction unit sales as tracked by Nielsen Bookscan were down 21% over 2011′s numbers. Fantasy wasn’t mentioned in that article, but fantasy sales were down 28%. Here for your convenience are the trends in SF and fantasy, again as tracked by Nielsen (which tracks only print sales, and only from some outlets), since 2006:

Looks a bit dismal, doesn’t it?

Before we all despair, I think it’s worth emphasizing the absence of e-book sales from these numbers. Macmillan CEO John Sargent’s year-end letter noted that “At this writing 26% of [Macmillan's] total sales this year have been digital…. Just as in 2011, the percentage of e-book sales has remained consistent week by week through the year for the most part…” So the raw numbers, at least, look a lot less dismal when we consider that Nielsen is probably not picking up at least 25% of sales (a very thoroughly lowballed number).

The percentage change from year to year is more worrying, because the story is pretty much the same in every genre except romance, where the stats were wildly skewed by the Fifty Shades books. Are those former book-buyers now only borrowing from libraries and friends? buying from tiny independent outlets that Bookscan doesn’t track? pirating e-books? playing video games? hanging out on Twitter? I’ve heard any number of theories but not seen any convincing evidence one way or another.

Conveniently, the absence of data frees me to solicit anecdotes. If you bought fewer print books (in any genre) in 2012 than in 2011, why do you think that was?

Books I Loved in 2012

Time for that year-end shout-out to books I loved in 2012. I can only select a few for the official best books list, and it always breaks my heart to pick and choose, so here’s a much broader overview of the books I personally really enjoyed this year.

Please note that these are my personal opinions, not PW reviews. Published PW reviews are linked from the book titles below. Please don’t quote this post without permission.

Daniel José Older’s debut collection, Salsa Nocturna, is raw in that wonderful way that debuts have, rough like the casing of a seed that’s going to burst into glorious bloom before you know it. The world needs more New York immigrant spooky sexy lyrical fables. If you loved the first twenty pages of Brian Francis Slattery’s Spaceman Blues, read Salsa Nocturna. (Disclaimer: Daniel and I met at Readercon in July, got to be Twitter friends, and are now scheming on a joint project–but I read and enjoyed his book long before any of that happened.)

Michael Flynn’s Captive Dreams scratches the medical SF itch I’ve had for years; it contains only six stories and I desperately wish there were more. Medicine is no harder to write about than any other science, yet very few SF authors do it well or at all. Flynn does it very, very well. These are deeply human stories, as every medical story has to be in the end. The only comparable works I’ve encountered recently are Maureen McHugh’s stories exploring Alzheimer’s and dementia; where McHugh’s protagonists are helpless in many ways and forced to focus on coping with terrible circumstances, Flynn writes people who deliberately make hard, reckless, foolish, loving, desperate, passionate choices about medical matters and are then stuck with the consequences. PW‘s reviewer called it “melancholy”, which I think is exactly the right word.

Ekaterina Sedia’s Moscow but Dreaming shows a writer at the top of her game. Who else could turn a story about a “419″ scam into something beautiful about what it means to be deposed and dispossessed? I found this collection to be a small-bites reading experience rather than an all-in-one-gulp sort of thing; it’s too intense to devour quickly. Instead, I pick it up and read one or two stories whenever I’m in the mood for that richness of flavor and atmosphere.

Haikasoru’s The Future is Japanese is a fascinating mix of insider and outsider views of Japan and Japanese futurism. I’m a white American who knows very little about either Japan or Japanese futurism, so reading it felt to me like listening in on a few hours of someone else’s really fascinating conversation. I happen to like eavesdropping on experts in things I know nothing about, so I found this both enjoyable and educational, but I also feel like I’m not really the target market. I would love to know what the experience of reading it is like for someone who has closer ties to Japan than I do.

Yes, these are all books of short fiction. I like short fiction a lot. I also think this wasn’t a great year for novels. There were a few standouts, but the crop was small. Still, in addition to the ones on the best books list, I really enjoyed Benedict Jacka’s Fated, Cursed, and Taken; the plots and writing put them in the top echelon of this year’s urban fantasy debuts and series launches (and there were a LOT). My reading log for Fated calls it “candy-like and delicious.” No idea why they haven’t gotten more press. I also thought Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon was tremendous fun and I’m looking forward to the sequels (though–predictably!–I like his short fiction even more and am desperate for him to bring out a collection). I was also enthralled by the opening of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl but can’t speak to anything after that because Kiernan’s treatment of faulty memory and mental illness was so powerful that I had to put the book down and go get some fresh air. In case it’s not clear, that’s a recommendation! It’s clearly a masterful work; I just couldn’t handle it. Some art is like that. (I felt the same way about the movie Spirited Away. It’s incredible. I will never watch it again.)

Finally, I got a few rare chances to read outside my genres, which mostly meant picking up YA. China Miéville’s Railsea knocked my socks off. I haven’t had that much sheer fun with a book in ages. It’s one of those audacious conceits where you just roll with it or don’t; I did and had a great time. I enjoyed Nalo Hopkinson’s The Chaos in an entirely different way. Baba Yaga, duppies, synesthesia, surrealism, and a wheelchair-wielding Sri Lankan lesbian poet musician–what’s not to love? And Rae Carson’s The Crown of Embers left me itching for her to finish the series. I tolerate very few cliffhangers, but her writing is so good that I’m willing to be patient. Barely. (Rae, send me a manuscript? Please?)

Missing from this list: horror. That’s not a deliberate oversight. I just didn’t read any horror novels, anthologies, or collections this year that really grabbed me–unless you count Ted Kosmatka’s The Games, which is about half thriller and half horror (and all excellent). This makes me sad, because I’m a big fan of horror. I hope there will be more good horror writing in 2013.

What did you love reading in 2012? And what are you looking forward to reading in 2013?

Link Roundup

The Radio Star

Back in the spring, SiriusXM and PW came up with the idea of creating a PW-branded show that would air on SiriusXM’s Book Radio channel. It would be an hour long, it would air weekly, and it would be full of awesome consumer-focused bookish goodness. Based on the podcast I’d been doing for PW, I was asked to be one of the hosts. For the other, we picked my fellow editor Mark Rotella, who handles consumer nonfiction reviews and our regular “Why I Write” feature; between the two of us we see most of the popular books, Mark had done some radio promo for his own book that demonstrated his great voice and presence, and we work well together.

“Come to the studio and record a demo,” the Sirius execs said. To do that we needed an interviewee. Neil Gaiman graciously consented to be a guinea pig (as well as a demonstration that we could scare up some literary star power on short notice), and at the appointed time we called him and interviewed him “on the air” in Sirius’s very spiffy studio. That piece will probably never see the light of day, but it did its job of being a satisfactory proof of concept. We did a live broadcast from BEA in June, which made everyone very happy, and since then it’s been a matter of getting the details hammered out to everyone’s satisfaction.

Now I’m delighted to announce that Publishers Weekly Radio is officially a thing! It is a thing, specifically, that happens on SiriusXM Book Radio (channel 80) every Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. You can listen on your handy SiriusXM device or through the Sirius website. Our first broadcast was on December 6th, interviewing Eloisa James about her romance novels and memoir and chatting with PW children’s reviews editor John Sellers about Christmas books for kids, and we’ll keep doing them until they make us stop. So far it’s exhausting and fun in about equal measure, and over time I expect we’ll build up our radio muscles and it will get more fun and less exhausting.

Please do tune in, follow us on Twitter at [twitter.com profile] pubwklyradio, and send us suggestions for future people to interview–maybe Neil will be willing to do it again for real this time!–and questions to read and answer on the air. The focus is very much on providing industry insider info that will demystify books and publishing, and we’d love to know what you would want to hear on a show like that.

Whee!

(And yes, I’m still doing everything else I was already doing at PW.)

Money Flows from the Writer

As of January 1, most of the services on Duotrope, a popular site for tracking submissions and getting information about literary markets, will only be available to paying users. The site is currently donation-supported. According to Duotrope’s announcement, “We haven’t met any of our monthly [fundraising] goals since 2007. Quite simply, we can no longer afford to run Duotrope this way.” The new fee structure is $5 per month or $50 per year for writers.

After this was announced, a predictable wave of “Why Wasn’t I Consulted?” commentary ensued. Access to the site will remain free for editors, leading many writers (and a few publishers) to suggest that Duotrope is looking in the wrong place for funding. “We would ask @Duotrope to put the burden of cost on publishers, not on writers,” tweeted small press @CrossedGenres. “More submissions=more diversity/choice=better titles/publications. That’s the value for us.” Others suggested holding big auctions or crowdfunding pushes as one-time fundraisers.

Even those who think asking authors to pay is reasonable feel $50 is awfully steep. “I don’t see the benefit to Duotrope’s users at $50,” author and editor Michael Nye wrote in a Branch conversation. “Established writers don’t need the info on the site – we know what journals have poor response times – so this is mostly on the back of the uninformed.” Richard Flores IV blogged similar thoughts: “Let’s put this in perspective here. $50 a year means selling 5,000 words a year at one cent per word…. I don’t always get 5,000 words sold in short stories each year.  And considering the bulk of Duotrope’s listings don’t pay anything, there is not much chance of making any money on your $50 investment.”

A few people compared Duotrope to Ralan’s SpecFic and Humor Webstravaganza, a donation-funded site that offers extensive short story market listings completely free of charge, or Writer’s Market, which charges $40/yr for author access. I was surprised not to see comparisons to the Wooden Horse Magazine Database, which charges writers $149 a year. On the other hand, Wooden Horse lists plenty of high-end trade and consumer magazines that might pay $500 or more for a single article. A quick search on Duotrope for science fiction markets in the “pro” pay bracket brought up 39 markets, most of which I could have listed off the top of my head–and most of which can be found on SFWA’s list of qualifying markets, though SFWA’s site doesn’t have all the information that Duotrope does.

Some of Duotrope’s users who already know the markets are planning to switch to other methods of tracking submissions. “As the days go by, I find myself thinking that this is just the excuse I needed to put together my own spreadsheet,” writer Devan Goldstein said in reply to Nye on Branch. Flores agreed: “Duotrope offers little more than you can already track yourself. After all the most valuable feature to the writer, is the submission tracker. To be honest, all you have to do is make an Excel spreadsheet to do that. I admit that the response stats, acceptance rates, and ‘Top Market’ lists are fun.  But you really don’t need any of that information to be an author.”

As of this writing, Duotrope is standing firm. “We have always known this decision meant parting ways with some of our users,” says a post on the company’s Facebook page. “If you will not be joining us, then we thank you for all the support, promotion and participation over the last seven years, and for helping grow Duotrope from an experiment into a mature company and service. If you have already subscribed or are planning on subscribing, we can’t wait to have you along for the ride!”

A Global SF/F Magazine

I didn’t know a magazine of international SF was in the works until I started seeing links to the first issue popping up on Twitter today. It is, quite sensibly, called International Speculative Fiction, and issue 1 features fiction by Joyce Chng, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, and Marian Truţă as well as an article by Stanislaw Lem on Philip K. Dick. Issue 0 came out in June and had fiction by Alliete de Bodard, C.M. Teodorecu, and Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro; an article by Fábio Fernandes; and Cristian Tamas interviewing Judit Lörinczy. The magazine is entirely a labor of love: they don’t run ads or solicit donations, and they don’t pay writers or editors. Learn more and download issues 0 and 1 for free here.

More Encyclopedic Digital Goodness

Graham Sleight writes to inform me that the 1997 edition of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy has gone live online in much the same format as the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. From the announcement:

The Encyclopedia of Fantasy was edited in the 1990s by John Clute and John Grant. It’s resided for a while in the same electronic format as the Sf Encyclopedia. As we updated the Sf Encyclopedia, we became aware that in several places there were overlaps between the two. (Tolkien, for instance, is surely much better thought of as a fantasy than an sf writer.) There were also cross-references between the two that we had to leave un-linked, and that nagged… So, with the kind permission of editors Clute and Grant, our technical magus David Langford set about seeing if that could be resolved.

The current implementation is thanks to an enormous amount of work from David. The FE has been added to the site in much the same way as the SFE: one entry per page, with the usual facilities to go to next/previous entries etc. Probably the best place to start is the introduction to the online edition. You can also browse a list of all entries, or just of entries by category (for instance, author, artist, theme…) You’ll see the usual search box in the right-hand sidebar. Cross-references between the SFE and FE should now work smoothly, but please contact us if you see any that don’t.

We are not updating the Fantasy Encyclopedia, at least for the moment. Getting the Sf Encyclopedia complete and accurate remains our priority.

Both works are tremendous resources, and deliciously addictive in that “hours of fascinated clicking” sort of way. Highly recommended.

 

In an unrelated administrative note, Genreville is being hammered with comment spam, so I’ve turned off commenting on all posts more than 14 days old. If you have something to say about an old post, or if your comment has been held in moderation for a million years and you think I might have flagged it as spam by accident, please feel free to email me.

Books for the Long Weekend

Many of us have four consecutive days off work coming up, and will want to spend some of that time reading. Consider this an open recommendation thread, with an emphasis on books by and about Native Americans and indigenous peoples. I’ll start by recommending Grace Dillon’s Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, which was on my shortlist of books to consider for this year’s Best Books. PW‘s review calls it “superb”. Check it out!

Which Future Are We In?

We talk about living in the future, but there are lots of different futures we could be living in. On Election Day, I saw a tweet referring to us as living in “the timeline with the Black president and flying killer robots”. It made me wonder just how much we see the present through the lens of futurism from the past.

Hans Rosling, a genius statistician studying global population (who also gave one of the best TED talks of all time), recently reported that the total number of young people in the world–people under 15–is no longer increasing. I guess we’re not living in the Stand on Zanzibar future of massive overpopulation. On the other hand, information synthesis as Brunner described it is more important than ever.

This election brings us a Hindu congresswoman, a lesbian senator, a bisexual congresswoman, a female Asian senator born in another country, a half-Asian war veteran congresswoman with artificial limbs. Are we approaching Star Trek‘s diverse future? But it’s hard to imagine the Federation without star ships and aliens, and we’re still at the level of getting excited about a robot examining rocks on Mars.

I’m not suggesting that these futurists failed by not accurately predicting the future; rather, I think they succeeded in giving us visions we could aspire to. The parts of our future that are most under our control are the parts that look most like science fiction’s predictions. We don’t get to decide whether there are aliens, and global demographic change is extremely difficult to influence. But we can make our government more diverse, and we can develop new careers based on navigating the sea of data. And perhaps our choices to prioritize those things are directed in part by their familiarity from science fiction.

The flip side is that things the futurists didn’t imagine can be hard for us to see. It’s one thing to talk in broad terms about global warming shaping the world; it’s another to really grasp what it’s like for people living through the aftermath of a massive storm. When I think of the Manhattan canals in Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, all I see are the wrecked homes and displaced people in Staten Island and the Rockaways–and I wonder how many of those images I’ve seen only because I live in New York and have gone looking for reports from survivors and volunteers. It was the same after Hurricane Katrina, when national attention wandered off while the storm’s victims were still struggling. Are the well-off programmed to ignore the less privileged, or just not taught how to see them?

What other past visions of the future are shaping our present, teaching us what to expect and giving us goals?