Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Demise of Horror is Greatly Exaggerated

Today’s bit of ridiculous bloviation is a piece in the Guardian asking whether horror is DOOOOOOMED because it’s not literary enough. To which I say: What?

Of course literary authors are writing horror. Victor LaValle’s The Devil in Silver is on PW‘s top ten best books list for 2012, and it’s very much a horror novel. Justin Cronin’s The Passage is post-apocalyptic horror, complete with jump-and-startle moments familiar to any horror movie fan.

Of course authors who come from within the genre are writing superbly creepy horror novels that are of equal quality to any “literary” title. Some names off the top of my head: Glen Hirshberg. Ted Kosmatka. Sarah Langan. Robert Jackson Bennett. Laird Barron. Lee Thomas. Peter Straub. I omit Caitlín R. Kiernan only because she hates to be called a “horror writer” but she writes wonderful dark fiction that any horror fan would love and any New Yorker reader would appreciate.

Also, how exactly is a commercial genre doomed if it stays commercial? Isn’t the whole point of commercialism that you sell a lot of books? Is this some new meaning of “doomed” with which I was previously unacquainted?

Prose quality is not the only measure of a book, or of a genre–but if it were, horror would measure up just fine.

Hat tip to Andrew Porter for the original link.

PW Names the Best Books of 2012

We still have no work email. Our office is still dark. But a weekly magazine is a weekly magazine, and my tremendously dedicated colleagues have found a way to get our Best Books issue live on time. I am so proud to be part of this team.

I will let the selections speak for themselves:

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may recall my agony as I tried to whittle the SF/F/H list down to five. It couldn’t be done, so I petitioned for an extra two titles. I really could not have left any of those books off, not in good conscience. This genre is big! We need the big-six novels and the small-press collections, the SF thrillers and the ethereal fantastic. I’m pleased as punch to be able to give these books their due.

As soon as I get back to the office I’ll post my personal, unofficial “honorable mentions”. In the meantime, I’m off to start reading 2013 starred books in hopes of getting a head start on next year’s list!

Here Comes Sandy

PW has beautiful offices on the 16th floor of a high-rise building in NYC’s Flatiron District. We have a great view of the Hudson River and lower Manhattan. Needless to say, that’s currently a great view of a whole lot of very wet wind, so I’m not at work today; I’m safe at home in Brooklyn, miles from the evacuation zones, editing reviews on my laptop because it feels weird not to be working on a Monday. My fabulous partner Xtina just finished organizing our SF/F/H library (yes, we moved nine months ago, but it’s a big undertaking!) so we have plenty of reading material easily to hand. If cabin fever gets to be too much for us, we’ll distract ourselves by figuring out the best way to put ARCs into LibraryThing.

Con Ed is considering turning off power below 34th Street, so PW‘s in-house email server has been shut down. If you need to reach me about something PW-related, leave a comment here or tweet @genreville. And if you’re in Hurricane Sandy’s path, stay safe and dry!

Beware the Frankenstorm

This is direct from the NOAA, no foolin’:

DESPITE A MODEST CLUSTER OF OUTLYING DETERMINISTIC SOLUTIONS AND ENSEMBLE MEMBERS FROM THE VARIOUS MODELING CENTERS, THE LION’S SHARE OF GUIDANCE INDICATES THAT THE CIRCULATION ASSOCIATED WITH HURRICANE SANDY WILL PASS CLOSE ENOUGH TO THE AMPLIFYING POLAR TROUGH OVER THE EASTERN UNITED STATES TO BECOME INCORPORATED INTO A HYBRID VORTEX OVER THE MID ATLANTIC AND NORTHEAST NEXT TUESDAY. THE HIGH DEGREE OF BLOCKING FROM EASTERN NORTH AMERICA ACROSS THE ENTIRE ATLANTIC BASIN IS EXPECTED TO ALLOW THIS UNUSUAL MERGER TO TAKE PLACE, AND ONCE THE COMBINED GYRE MATERIALIZES, IT SHOULD SETTLE BACK TOWARD THE INTERIOR NORTHEAST THROUGH HALLOWEEN, INVITING PERHAPS A GHOULISH NICKNAME FOR THE CYCLONE ALONG THE LINES OF “FRANKENSTORM”, AN ALLUSION TO MARY SHELLEY’S GOTHIC CREATURE OF SYNTHESIZED ELEMENTS.

Just in case you ever thought weather forecasting was a boring, dreary job for people with no sense of humor! I love the last clause especially; I doubt many people need Frankenstein explained to them, but totally support taking any chance to namecheck Mary Shelley.

I hope everyone in the path of the Frankenstorm (which I like much better than “Snoreastercane”) stays warm and dry and safe.

In Praise of the Implausible

Going back to last week’s post about that jaded feeling that’s crept into both SF and fantasy, I wonder whether part of the problem is that many authors and publishers are too focused on the believable and the plausible.

I’ve been reading Fish Eats Lion, an anthology of Singaporean speculative fiction edited by Jason Erik Lundberg. American and English reviewers tend to describe SF/F from other countries as “fresh”, which is sort of the new “exotic”, but what it really means is that these authors are not bound by the increasingly restrictive notions of what will get white Western readers to suspend their disbelief. For example, in Ng Yi-Sheng’s story “Agnes Joaquim, Bioterrorist”, orchids foment populist revolution:

For indeed, not only was [Queen Victoria] in peril: the very building she had been housed within had been taken prisoner by an explosive growth of giant purple orchids. These vegetable horrors penetrated every storey of the edifice with an excrescence of creeping tendrils. Guardsmen openly wept as they attempted to penetrate the foliage, hacking with their parangs at the greenery.

…The Hamidian massacres had ended, for Sultan Abdul Hamid II had been found dead in his palace. Officials claimed he had choked on a fishbone, but the people knew better. They said he had collapsed across his chamberpot, mysteriously asphyxiated by a creeper that had slowly grown throughout the interior of his body, a sprig of purple blossoms sprouting from his mouth.

There is a certain sort of reader who will encounter such notions and start muttering things about rates of plant growth and photosynthesis and of course the Sultan would have felt something awry and gone to a doctor, the sort of reader whose disbelief is weighty and anchored. I think these readers are in the minority, and yet the Anglo-American SF/F canon is increasingly geared toward their demands for plausibility. We make fun of epic fantasy where you can “hear the dice rolling”, but the point of rolling dice is to emulate the real world, where certain things are more likely than other things. It makes fantasy more plausible. Compare your average dungeon crawl to, say, Bob Leman’s “Instructions”, which is entirely implausible and also one of the best and scariest stories I’ve ever read.

Ng’s orchids are implausible. They’re also beautiful. I think we need more startling beauty in our speculative fiction, more giggling, more wonder. And plausibility is in the eye of the beholder, too; after visiting lush, tropical Singapore, where enormous plants really do grow practically overnight, I find Ng’s imagery only a step or two removed from reality, whereas if I’d never left the northeastern U.S. I would struggle much more with the idea. As Western SF/F publishers become more aware of their diverse audiences, they also need to realize that catering to one culture’s idea of “plausible” is just as restrictive as saying that protagonists need to be white English-speaking men.

Diversity of attitudes in SF/F readers is also very obvious in what’s selling. Steampunk and paranormal romance are hotter than Singapore’s sidewalks, and notably unfettered by realism. How does your dirigible work? It just does!

Verne: You can't just "make things up"! Wells: Why not? Mine works just as well as yours!

I’m with Wells. Credit: Kate Beaton, Hark! A Vagrant. (Click the image for a larger version.)

I don’t actually think blueprints are boring. I’m also reading Peter F. Hamilton’s Great North Road right now, and near-future murder mysteries are about as fact-heavy as SF gets; in that context, it works. But I think genre gatekeepers need to stop catering to readers who insist on all speculative fiction being plausible, because after a while that starts to mean predictable and stale. The New Weird is a big step in the direction of gleeful fabulism, but we need more. No more rolling dice. Bring back Things from Beyond. To hell with the square-cube law. I’d love to see more science fantasy, for that matter. Ray guns! Why not? It’s a big genre with lots of room; there’s no reason to crowd ourselves into one tiny corner of it. If we want to revitalize speculative fiction, we can’t just speculate–we need to have dreams and nightmares and random flights of fancy too. Some readers love doing the heavy lifting of disbelief-suspending; it feels good, like pumping iron, and while big credulity muscles may be out of fashion in this cynical age, I say that what surprises me makes me stronger. So go ahead. Just make it up.

The Eel Doesn’t Get Her

Spoilers follow for The Princess Bride. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this post and go find some legal way to watch it, right now. The post will be here when you’re done, and you will have given yourself one of the great cinematic experiences of all time.

I’ve been thinking about the shrieking eels scene in The Princess Bride a lot lately. Refresh your memory:

If you’ve seen The Princess Bride, you know what comes next:

Grandpa: She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time.
Grandson: What?
Grandpa: The eel doesn’t get her. I’m explaining to you because you look nervous.

I’m pretty sure this is one of the most famous spoilers of all time, along with “The boat sinks” and “The butler did it”. It is certainly one of the most famous spoilers to occur within the thing that it is spoiling.

I love this scene, and I love the spoiler most of all. I’m honestly disappointed that I can’t find a video of that exchange because I don’t think the scene is complete without it. The video above could be from any humorous, moderately self-aware fantasy movie. But when you’re sitting there with your heart pounding wondering just how Buttercup is going to escape the eels–and I won’t lie, it makes my heart pound every time–and then Peter Falk’s warm, rumbling voice suddenly reassures you that she doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time, deliberately throwing you out of the story, and Fred Savage blinks and gasps “W-what?” and you realize you have been thrown out of the story and into the framing device, which is aware that it’s a framing device and actually rather annoyed by it, and meanwhile your heart is still pounding and you still want to know how Buttercup gets away from the eels… you could not be watching any other movie. Absolutely masterful.

Have I just run afoul of some great conspiracy among Princess Bride fans to keep the movie spoiler-free, even though the spoiler is itself a part of the movie? Welp, sorry, conspirators. The news is out. She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time.

At this time. As though Grandpa is helpfully leaving room for Grandson to wonder whether maybe later there’s an eel/princess rematch where the princess doesn’t do so well. “Sorry about the abrupt loss of tension! Have some new tension to replace it.” Grandpa doesn’t want Grandson to be too nervous, because he loves him and we don’t like it when people we love are scared–but Grandpa also understands narrative tension. He wants Grandson to be just nervous enough.

What makes this work: not only is Grandson a stand-in for the viewer, but Grandpa is a stand-in for William Goldman, the writer. This is Goldman’s way of saying, “Here is what kind of movie this is. I’m explaining to you because you look nervous.” It’s a spoiler for the movie having spoilers in it. He’s making sure we’re paying attention–and in an affectionately obnoxious way, he’s saying that he cares and we can trust him to take us on a wild ride and get us home safe at the end. We, too, will not be eaten by eels at this time. And as annoying as it is to have that tension abruptly broken, it’s also a relief to know we’re in good hands.

Whither Portal Fantasy?

Rachel Manija Brown’s recent blog post on the apparent unmarketability of YA portal fantasy has gotten nearly 200 comments and is still going strong. There’s some interesting discussion of portal SF, immigrant stories, and other related topics. If you’ve noticed the distinct absence of Narnia analogues from the YA shelves of late, it’s worth a read. I think the link to immigration is particularly interesting; in both cases, the driving question of the plot is “What would drive you to leave behind what you know and seek the unknown?”.

I’m still too jetlagged (and neck-deep in catching up on work) to make a strong connection between “agents won’t rep books about people leaving the familiar to explore the unknown” and Paul Kincaid’s “the genres of the fantastic themselves have reached a state of exhaustion” essay, but I feel like there might be a link there. Kincaid’s conclusion:

This one story illuminates the exhaustion that seems to have overtaken SF and fantasy, the sense that the future is something to be approached wearily because we have already imagined it and rubbed away anything that was bright and new.

He speaks of the future as though it were a secondary world once glimpsed through a portal; and now we have come through the portal and are “living in the future”. The secondary world has become the primary world. Might this lead to general disenchantment with secondary worlds?

Is it in any way useful to think of SF’s oldest fans as immigrants into The Future, the mysterious 21st century so frequently imagined in the 20th? They have certainly taken a long voyage from one to the other and learned that the streets on this side are not in fact paved with gold.

For that matter, is alternate history the new portal fantasy? The whole world has gone through a portal from The Past to The Future, only it’s a different portal than our world went through. I’d count a lot of urban fantasy in this camp, incidentally, since much of it relies on a premise like “then magic returned to the world” or “then we discovered supernatural beings have been living among us all along”.

Maybe what we’re so tired of, so skeptical of, is the idea of a single step through a single door changing a single person’s life.

I don’t know; I’m rambling. But I think these things are worth thinking on. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Links for October 16

Josh and I spent the last two weeks in London and Paris, having a splendid time and getting to hang out with an astonishing and wonderful variety of people. Now we’re back, trying desperately to get caught up. While I clean 400 emails out of my inbox (not an exaggeration), I found a handful of interesting links that had accumulated:

  • Avon just launched a Facebook app, Avon Social Reader, that will let readers preview and discuss Avon titles and buy some of them DRM-free from AllRomanceEbooks.
  • I recently signed up for Daily Science Fiction, lured in by Nicole Cipri’s wonderful “A Silly Love Story”, and have been enjoying it; it’s easy to make time to read one short story a day, and the quality’s pretty good. Newcomer SnackReads looks to be aimed at the same market, but instead of a free plain-text email to read in a few minutes, you get a $1.99 epub file to read over a lunch break or commute. They’re launching with Suzy McKee Charnas’s long-OOP story “Scorched Supper on New Niger”.
  • Want even more short fiction? Cemetery Dance is putting out a bunch of short horror e-books to lead up to Halloween.
  • A 12-year-old interviews China Miéville about Railsea.
  • I interview Jo Walton (on video) about Among Others, just before or just after it won a Nebula Award. I haven’t watched this and have no idea whether it came out well, so if you get a chance to watch it, let me know what you think!

The Future of Medicine

As I mentioned in my writeups, I felt like I spent a lot of Worldcon talking with people about medical SF or the surprising dearth thereof. It’s still on my mind for two reasons.

First, I’m looking at this year’s starred-review books as I begin to build the Best Books of the Year list, and that led to me reading Michael Flynn’s Captive Dreams, a dense and chewy collection of medical SF stories. Some were written many years ago, but the hypothetical medical science is still relevant and really interesting, and Flynn does a wonderful job of looking at the intersection of the scientific and the social, talking about hope as well as horror. I feel like this book landed in my lap at just the right time, so that I can shove it into the hands of anyone who claims that medical SF is too hard to do well or that technology is advancing so quickly as to make speculation obsolete.

Second, I spent last night in the ER with my girlfriend, who was presenting all the symptoms of appendicitis (though fortunately her appendix is fine and the culprit turned out to be something a lot less scary, with no surgery needed). At one point she suggested to the doctor that while he was taking our her appendix, he should implant a GPS tracking device so that I know where she is even when she forgets to charge her phone. ”Don’t joke about that,” the doctor said. “We’re nearly at the point where we can do it for real.” Of course I was immediately reminded of Maureen McHugh’s “Oversite” (in the superb collection Mothers and Other Monsters, which you can download for free), and once again I felt a brief surge of gratitude to the authors who make me think about the ethics and ramifications of medical technology.

So once I’m done reading all these amazing starred books for the Best Books, where should I look for more good medical SF?

The Land of Guilty Pleasures

I usually leave comics blogging to my colleague Heidi MacDonald, but I was super (no pun intended) excited to find this on my desk today:

Like any good blogger, I have a daily Google alert set up to let me know when someone mentions my blog. Imagine my surprise to get a link to DeviantArt one day, where I found that some fellow named Huw Evans had drawn a map of a place called Genreville. I dropped him a friendly note, one Genrevillain to another, and he replied saying he was working on a comic with the same title. Two year later, after I confess I’d quite forgotten about the whole thing, I got another email from him saying, “The comic is done! Can I send you a copy?”

Huw’s introduction describes his three-issue Genreville series as a “parodic love letter to the old comic books, pulp magazines, and ‘B’ movies” and it certainly lives up to that billing. Every cliché you can imagine is here, and stereotypes abound. For example, at the end of the issue, our heroes—cleft-chinned PI Jack Crandall; his client, Alice Straw, a 50-foot-tall woman reduced to human size by a mad scientist’s shrink ray; and the mad scientist’s hunchbacked assistant, Gior—go in search of a witch doctor named Kadunga, donning pith helmets and grabbing machetes to hack their way through the Jungle Park neighborhood of Genreville (just east of Horror Heights and south of Varmint Gulch). Their guide is Skeena, the white, blonde, leopard-print-bikini-wearing “duchess of the forest”, whose “why you city people come to jungle?” patois suggests that discomfiting racial caricatures may be around the corner. I can only hope Kadunga is as story-aware as Gior, who grumbles about “sidekick discrimination” when Jack and Alice tell him to watch their luggage while they go off to dance with teen delinquents at a beatnik biker bikini bonfire beach bash.

In general, I think the comic finds a good balance between homage and parody. I’ll be curious to see whether Huw can maintain that balance as Jack, Alice, and Gior explore Genreville’s furthest reaches in issues 2 and 3. (No schedule for those yet; Huw calls himself “the World’s Slowest Cartoonist” and says the first issue took four years to complete.) In the meantime, you can take a look at issue 1 here.

Viking Says Yes to #YesGayYA Book

Rachel Manija Brown reports that she and Sherwood Smith have sold their post-apocalyptic YA novel Stranger to Sharyn November at Viking, for publication in winter 2014. This is the novel that set off the #YesGayYA storm almost exactly a year ago, when Brown and Smith reported that an agent had offered them representation on the condition that they make their gay protagonist straight or remove all references to his orientation (and his boyfriend). Intriguingly, Brown’s post on the sale makes no mention of an agent–but the sale is certainly proof that major houses are not averse to publishing YA with major non-straight characters, so hopefully the agents who believed the book unreppable will reconsider their approach to similar works.

EDIT: Brown has updated the post to reflect that Eddie Gamarra and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of the Gotham Group were the agents for the sale; she says they came on board after Brown and Smith had begun discussions with Viking.

PW Is Hiring!

Publishers Weekly, my esteemed employer, is hiring a copy editor. Details here.

I don’t think it’s a secret that I am really, really, really happy at this company. The workplace atmosphere is laid-back and great. I’m comfortably out as queer and polyamorous (nothing says “queer-friendly workplace” like the president and CEO having previously run Out magazine and been profiled in a New York Times piece about same-sex weddings), and I don’t think I’m even the most outspoken feminist on the staff. We’re a pretty diverse crowd by magazine publishing standards. The business is stable and ethical, the pay is good, the benefits are generous, and the colleagues are collegial. I unhesitatingly recommend PW as a place to work, and if you’re a copy editor with magazine experience and a substantial interest in books and publishing, I strongly encourage you to apply.

(I have nothing to do with interviewing or hiring for this or any other position. I’m just the messenger.)

What Conventions Are and Aren’t

A glossary moment before I begin: In this post, I use “harassment” as a catch-all term for one person deliberately inflicting unwanted touch, commentary, or intense attention upon another. In the real world things are considerably more complicated than that, and I’m not for a moment advocating treating all harassment incidents equally; but I do think it is worth addressing general cases before moving on to the specific. English doesn’t have good one-word terms for people who have been harassed: “harassee” and “victim” define a person by something that’s happened to them, and “survivor” is wonderful but only for those who survive. Throughout this post, I use phrases like “people targeted by harassers” to emphasize that these people are people, putting them front and center in their own stories and counteracting the tendency in this culture to dismiss and objectify them.

A disclaimer moment: I volunteer with Readercon, and have volunteered with other conventions in the past. The following post expresses my personal views only.

Finally, please read Genreville’s comment policy before commenting, especially if you would like to comment anonymously or pseudonymously, and be aware that ALL comments are held for approval. I will go through them as quickly as I can, but that may not be very quickly over the weekend.

There has been a lot of conversation lately about harassment and other reprehensible behavior at science fiction conventions. As the program chair of Readercon, I’ve been following that conversation with considerable interest, not least because the latest round started when one Readercon attendee harassed another at the convention and the convention’s governing body did not handle it well. Discussions about building and enforcing safety policies have encouraged me to think very hard about the philosophical approaches that those policies might be founded on, and my personal conclusion–which, I would like to stress again, is mine alone–is that the following words do not belong in any such policy, nor in descriptions of how those policies are implemented:

  • punishment
  • consequences
  • reprisal
  • deterring
  • ostracizing
  • apology
  • recompense
  • redemption

Conventions are not communities in the traditional sense of the word. They are not townships. The conchair is not the mayor; the head of safety or security is not the chief of police; the concom and the board are not tribunals or juries. The organizing bodies are not directly or representationally elected and are almost never demographically representative of the convention-attending population. I think that treating conventions as in some way parallel to real-world communities governed by law is a really bad idea, especially when we get into these crime-and-punishment discussions. Conventions are not in the business of dispensing justice. They aren’t designed for it or equipped for it, and no one–especially not anyone involved in running a convention–should behave as though they are, even for a moment.

What conventions are designed for and equipped for is helping people to have fun. That’s the business model! And I think that is what conventions should stay focused on when someone pops up and starts making their spaces less fun for their customers.

Take a moment and look back at that list of words. What they have in common is that they are focused on perpetrators. We do this all the time. All the time. When someone does something we find noxious, they become the focus of attention: how will they be punished? Will they apologize? Can they be brought back into the fold? Meanwhile, the person they targeted with their noxious behavior is forgotten, dismissed, or scorned. Harassers are often charismatic, which is how they get close enough to harass, and they often target the shy and vulnerable, who are that much easier to ignore if they manage to speak up at all. We are all intimately familiar with the narrative of sin-repentance-redemption, and it’s startlingly easy to try to follow someone through it while all but forgetting that they wouldn’t have even started down that road if they hadn’t treated another person badly.

As for popular, commonly understood narratives for people who have been targeted by harassers: well, we don’t really have any. We notice them only long enough for them to accept an apology or teach the transgressor a lesson. The closest we get to a complementary narrative to sin-repentance-redemption is victimhood-struggle-triumph, and that still focuses the person’s entire story on the perpetrator’s behavior: experiencing it, coping with it, learning from it, being made stronger by it. These are all just different kinds of objectification, of the person as acted upon rather than active.

It’s clear that cultural programming teaches us to minimize and ignore people targeted by harassers at conventions (and elsewhere, but conventions are my focus here). I believe that the most immediately effective way of overcoming this programming is to focus on conventions as businesses providing services, and on convention attendees as customers. Specifically, conventions are in the business of providing safe, enjoyable environments where fun things happen and people have a good time. And that means conventions need to feel entirely free to oust any individual customer who’s causing problems for others, without focusing on where that person will go or how they will feel afterwards. (It also has implications for other aspects of convention-running, such as selecting sites and designing spaces and materials to be universally accessible, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.)

The narrative that conventions should care about is not sin-repentance-redemption or victimhood-struggle-triumph. The narrative is purchase-enjoy-repeat: that is, “I went to a convention, I had a good time, I plan to go back.” It is the narrative of a satisfied customer, which makes for a healthy business. Anyone who perpetrates harassment at a convention is disrupting that narrative, and convention organizers should not hesitate to write them out of it.

That’s the business side. Now for the personal side.

It’s very easy for the organizers of an individual convention to dwell on how someone might feel to be denied access to that particular space, because when you run a convention it becomes your world. I know that feeling well; I am passionately devoted to Readercon, which is why I put endless hours and effort into helping to make it happen every year. If I try to imagine what it would be like to be kicked out of an individual instantiation of Readercon, much less banned from it for life, it’s absolutely devastating. But we need to step away from that habit of putting ourselves in the harasser’s shoes (and what does it say about our culture that we do that more easily than putting ourselves in the shoes of the person they harassed?).

Taking the broader view, every convention is just one convention that happens one weekend a year. There are hundreds of other conventions, just like there are hundreds of other stores. There are online communities as well. (And let’s be honest: rape culture being what it is, in the vast majority of those conventions and communities, harassment and even rape aren’t going to be seen as good reasons to kick someone out.) And there are a billion other ways to spend a weekend. So quit worrying about the poor harasser! They have lots and lots and lots of options.

I have seen occasional concerns that if we kick out everyone who behaves badly, there will be no one left to come to conventions. This is farcical and insulting. The vast majority of congoers comport themselves well within acceptable parameters. Many people stay away from conventions for fear of being harassed; oust one harasser and you might get ten or twenty new attendees who want to show their appreciation or simply now feel safe enough to attend. Thoughtful, well-behaved fans are really not in short supply.

What is in short supply is safe space for people who have been harassed. Again, rape culture being what it is, in the vast majority of both online and offline communities, speaking up about being harassed only leads to being harassed even further. Making a safe space for someone who’s been harassed, and pledging to them that within that space they will never have to encounter the person who harassed them? That is a big deal. That is an amazing thing to do. Offering any kind of help at all to someone who’s been harassed, even a moment of listening and support, is a glorious bounty of kindness compared to what they get from most people. Going a bit out of your way to make a little oasis of safety for them is pretty high on the mitzvah list.

So to run the cost-benefit analysis from this perspective, with all numbers on a scale from 0 to 10:

Cost to the ostracized harasser: .0001
Cost to the convention (investigating and verifying the accusation, having the awkward “you can’t come back and this is why” conversation, making sure that person really stays away, one fewer attendee to contribute funds or volunteer time): .01
Benefit to to the convention (knowing they’ve done the right thing, making the space safer, promoting the convention as a place that takes harassment seriously, gaining attendees who feel safer): 4
Benefit to the person who was harassed: 1000

The conclusion is obvious.

“The customer is always right” obviously is not 100% true, but it’s still a useful starting point because it reminds businesses that customers are people, not just sources of funds. Well, if there’s any situation where we need to be reminded that certain people are people, it’s the situation where those people have been harassed. Imagine the cultural shift if we started from “the person who has been harassed is always right” instead of “the person who has been harassed isn’t worth thinking about, or is probably lying, or was asking for it”. Just take a moment to sit with that. I don’t know about you, but I get a little teary-eyed trying to imagine that world. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be so much better than what we have now.

I know conventions have decades of history as people throwing parties for their friends. I know it’s hard to make the shift from that mindset to the mindset of being a business and offering a service. But it’s worth doing, and it’s necessary if these businesses are going to survive. “I went to a convention, I had a good time, I plan to go back”: let’s write those stories, hundreds and thousands of them, every weekend around the world. And let’s not let a little nasty cultural programming and a handful of creeps get in our way.

 

(Thanks to Marie Brennan for starting a conversation that helped to crystallize a lot of these thoughts, and to the many people who have discussed these matters online and off. It is tremendously heartening to see so many people taking harassment seriously and working out ways to decrease it in fan spaces. We may not be a formal incorporated community, but we are a community and I’m proud to be a part of it.)

Back from Chicago

And boy are our arms tired: Josh transcribed 6500 words of interview and I wrote 3500 words of article and blog post on Monday (holiday, shmoliday) and we’re still recovering! But it will be worth it when the SF/F focus issue comes out this coming Monday, September 10, and you can read the profile of Seanan McGuire, the feature article on genre-blending, and the nifty little sidebar on Christian inspirational epic fantasy, plus a Q&A with Iain M. Banks. PW subscribers get instant access; the rest of you will have to wait three weeks.

In the meantime, some links to tide you over:

  • Justine Larbalestier is brilliant on “Racism in the Books We Write”. If there’s been a theme for this year in my part of the world, it’s taking responsibility; Justine’s post is a great example of how to do that without defensiveness.
  • Aliette de Bodard is equally brilliant on the scale and scope of engineering projects.
  • ChiZine is launching a YA imprint, ChiTeen. Agented subs only at this time. First books will come out in 2014.
  • There are some complaints that Worldcon could have done a better job with accessibility, even given a convention center that was an absolute maze (and probably not ADA-compliant).
  • Ustream apologizes for cutting off the Hugo ceremony; apparently once the automatic ban went into effect, they couldn’t turn it off, but it could all have been avoided if the Hugo administrators had just paid for the service. Apparently that post got a number of angry comments before commenting was turned off altogether.
  • PW reviewer John Ottinger III is part of the movement to make September 7 (today!) National Buy a Book Day in the U.S. Will you #buyabook today?

Worldcon Breaking News

Josh and I are hard at work on turning Worldcon news and interviews into articles for the SF/F focus issue of PW (September 10! Mark your calendars!) but here’s some breaking news for you in the meantime.

Worldcon-related:

  • The Hugo Awards results, of course.
  • During Neil Gaiman’s acceptance speech for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (for his Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife”), he let it slip that he’s on the third draft of another Doctor Who script. Cue much squeeing.
  • …except from those people who couldn’t see his speech because Ustream cut off the awards ceremony webcast, citing copyright violation. That would presumably be because the broadcast included clips of the Best Dramatic Presentation nominees; the clips had been provided by the studios and were used and streamed legally, but that didn’t stop some DRM-hound program from blocking the transmission. Cue much outrage.
  • The London in 2014 team won its unopposed bid to host the 2014 Worldcon, which will be called Loncon 3 and already has a sterling line-up of honored guests. Josh and I promptly upgraded from “friend of the bid” to full membership. I have so far dodged all attempts to get me to volunteer, though I did offer to make myself available as a consultant on programming matters. That’s totally different from volunteering, right? Anyway, I expect it will be an excellent convention and I’m really looking forward to it.
  • The 2015 bid is hotly contested by Orlando, Spokane, and Helsinki, plus a Phoenix AZ bid for the 2015 NASFiC if Helsinki gets the Worldcon the 2014 NASFiC. (Apologies for the error.)
  • LoneStarCon 3, the 2013 Worldcon in San Antonio TX, has announced that it will have a Spanish-language programming track–presumably not just about Spanish-language work but actually conducted in Spanish. That would be very exciting.

Publishing news:

  • Harper Voyager is “actively seeking new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines” to submit manuscripts for consideration for a new digital-first line. Submissions will be open for two weeks only, October 1–14, at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com (link not live because the site isn’t up yet). Distribution for accepted, published titles will be worldwide (world English rights). Executive Editor Diana Gill says they’re looking for “novels, novellas, short stories, interstitials.” Get those manuscripts polished up!
  • Patty Garcia of Tor Books tells me that Harry Harrison turned in the manuscript of his memoirs just two weeks before his death in August. “We had originally scheduled it for spring but we are trying to move it into late fall,” she says.
  • A source I cannot name informs me that Jim Butcher is supposedly about to turn in the manuscript for Cold Days, the 14th Dresden Files novel, currently slated for a November 27 release. The series pub dates have been creeping later for a while, from a year-long gap between volumes to nearly a year and a half since Ghost Story came out last July. Fans will be very relieved to see this one hit the shelves.

Speaking of the Dresden Files, I’ve been quite enjoying getting to walk around Chicago, but it is a little disappointing to encounter neither mobsters nor monsters. Any suggestions for Dresden-related landmarks to visit before we head home?

The 2012 Hugo Awards Liveblog

Refresh this page for LIVE updates as the Hugo Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer are given out at Worldcon! We’ll get started at 8 p.m. Central Time. In the meantime, refresh your memory of the nominees, or download some of them to read and enjoy for free.

20:11: We are LIVE.

20:13: Nice spotlight on the assembled Hugo Awards as ceremony director Susan de Guardiola welcomes everyone.

20:15: John Scalzi’s opening remarks. “We’re diverse and we’re all in this together,” he says (while leaving the B out of GLBT, oops). He then jumps up and down and hollers “HELLO DRAGONCON”. Maybe you had to be there.

“Seanan McGuire nominated an incredible seventeen thousand times! Under several names, including Seanan McGuire, Mira Grant, Neil Gaiman, and George R.R. Martin.”

20:22: David Kyle, who was at the first Worldcon, presents the Big Heart Award (which he received himself nearly 40 years ago). “Certain fans deserve recognition because they give time and talent beyond the norm.” The award goes to Juanita Coulson; Merav Hoffman accepts on her behalf.

20:31: Chicon 7 chair Dave McCarty presents the special committee award to Robert Weinberg. Jane Frank accepts on his behalf.

20:35: Memorial montage. Big applause for Neil Armstrong, Ray Bradbury, Kathryn Dougherty, Rusty Hevelin, Steve Jobs (an interesting inclusion), Joe Kubert, Anne McCaffrey, Sally Ride, Maurice Sendak, Josepha Sherman. Slightly awkward lesser applause for those less well known.

Photo of L.A. Banks makes me cry. Glad I brought a hanky.

20:43: Scalzi smoothly transitions from celebrating the past to looking forward. Next up: the Campbell, presented by Stanley Schmidt (who gets a huge round of applause after Scalzi praises his tenure at Analog).

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2010 or 2011, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award, * = 2nd year of eligibility).

Lily looks totally stunned. “That’s a lot of people!” she says as she looks out from the stage.

Jay Lake presents Lily with the Campbell Tiara. “It’s a diadem!” Ellen Datlow hollers from the audience. “It is a diadem,” Jay agrees, “but we call it a tiara because we’re writers.”

20:50: Deb Kosiba comes out to talk about this year’s base design.

20:53: Scalzi explains the “stages of Hugo”: elation, intimidation, bargaining, depression, and nervousness. “What if I win? What if I don’t win? What if they switch to a Hunger Games format?” He assures the nominees that there is life after Hugos. “There is still the work, and your friends, and the celebration of the genre…. No matter what, this is a good life we’ve got going here.”

Best Fan Artist

Chris Garcia grabs Maurine in a big bear hug. “I gotta thank Chris,” she says when she gets onstage. “It’s all his fault.”

Best Fan Writer

Scalzi poses to honor Jim’s work making fun of ludicrous cover art. Jim does the same. “You do that quite well. We should collaborate.”

Jim calls for a celebration of diverse voices in fandom, and to that end, will be recusing himself from the category from now on.

Best Fancast

They take turns at the podium (in alphabetical order because Lynne is a librarian). Bear: “This is for everyone who makes awesome stuff for us to squee about.” Paul: “Ta.” Seanan, beside herself: “Y’all gave me a Hugo for never shutting up!” Lynne: “Talk about a Twitter conversation getting out of hand!” She graciously says the voters were “really spoiled for choice” and calls for applause for the other nominees. Cat: “I am stunned. I think we need a new word for when your heart is turning cartwheels and throwing up. I suggest Hugasm.” And a chorus of squee!

Best Fanzine

John DeNardo: “I can’t think of the words to express how this feels. ‘WOOHOO!’ comes close…” He thanks JP Franz for suggesting he start a blog: “Good call.” (On Twitter, Niall Harrison notes that SF Signal is the first blog to win this award.)

Best Semiprozine

There’s a reason this category is called “Best Locus“. Liza still manages to look surprised and pleased. She notes it’s the first Hugo for Locus since Charles M. Brown died.

Best Professional Artist

HUGE applause for John, whose award is long overdue. “You have to lose a lot to every once in a while win something…. I’m here and I’m just blown away.” He gives big props to Tor art director Irene Gallo, and to never-nominated artists Richard Powers and John Burkey.

Best Professional Editor — Long Form

Lots of cheers for Betsy, who looks absolutely thrilled. “I’ve been a long-form editor for 37 years and this was my first nomination. I don’t blog, I don’t tweet, I’m shy about going to parties. I’m standing here for one reason and one reason only: because my authors put me here.” She concludes, “And Dad, FINALLY there’s a Hugo with the name Wollheim on it!”

Best Professional Editor — Short Form

Sheila thanks many people including Stanley Schmidt, “my best friend down the hall… he’s just been the greatest guy in the world.”

 Best Dramatic Presentation — Short Form

  • “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales), winner!
  • The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)
  • “The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • “A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)
  • “Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

Neil explains that he superstitiously avoids writing speeches, but he extemporizes beautifully. He says Doctor Who teaches us “what it is to be bigger on the inside”. He calls Community “a spin-off of the Doctor Who-inspired show Inspector Spacetime” and claims that the Drink Tank speech recreated 1965′s “Award Ceremony of the Daleks”.

Halfway through Neil’s speech, the UStream livestream of the ceremony goes down. Twitter fills with outrage. Genreville immediately gets 100+ new followers. Hi everyone!

Best Dramatic Presentation — Long Form

  • Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
  • Game of Thrones season 1, created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO), winner!
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
  • Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
  • Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

Ron Donachie (who plays Ser Rodrik Cassel) accepts on behalf of HBO. He’s a lifelong fan, aww! GRRM bluntly says, “The show is a faithful adaptation of my books. I love it.” Take that, haters.

Best Graphic Story

  • Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press), winner!
  • Fables vol. 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
  • Locke & Key vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
  • Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
  • The Unwritten vol. 4: Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

Ursula asks John to read the plaque and make sure it’s really hers. She didn’t know Digger was eligible for a Hugo and thought the nomination notification email was a phishing scam! She says Sofawolf “exemplifies everything great about small press” and praises her boyfriend for keeping the end a secret for two and a half years.

Best Related Work

  • The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz), winner!
  • Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and Other Observations about Science Fiction Movies by Daniel M. Kimmel (Fantastic Books)
  • The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers (Abrams Image)
  • Wicked Girls by Seanan McGuire
  • Writing Excuses season 6 by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jordan Sanderson

Graham Sleight, accepting on behalf of the team: “This is the point where I usually wake up from the dream.” John: *slaps him* Graham: “That’s quality toastmastering!” He thanks the team and adds, “We built this, and we set out to build this, for the whole of the SF community: fans, academics, writers, publishers, everyone.”

Best Short Story

Ken: “On the way up to the stage, I thought of three words: fans, editor, wife. So that’s the speech.”

Best Novelette
  • The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (Asimov’s July 2011)
  • Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)
  • “Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog December 2011)
  • Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com), winner!
  • “What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2011)

Charlie Jane: “It feels like half my life I’ve been writing these weird little stories and hoping they speak to somebody.” She adds, “When Tor decided to put fiction on their website, they did not have to have unsolicited submissions…. The fact that they chose to have a slush pile, and the fact that they pulled me out of it, is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” She also thanks Annalee Newitz, “my space captain and my hero”, and her mentor Kelly Goldberg.

I believe–though am not 100% sure–that Charlie Jane is the first openly trans* Hugo winner in a fiction category.

Best Novella

Kij: “I’d like to thank Ted Chiang for not having a story out this year” (and also for helping her with her story). She encourages a round of applause for James Gunn, her mentor.

Best Novel
  • Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor), winner!
  • A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)
  • Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (Orbit)

“George, I am so sorry!” Jo exclaims as soon as she gets to the microphone. She thanks her aunt for encouraging her to write a book about her family. “My entire life has been vindicated. I need to get new dreams now.” And she quotes her friend Ian: “Lots of people have said this is a love letter to fandom. Didn’t you expect to get a reply?”

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

22:25: And that’s a wrap! Now we’re off to stand outside the Losers’ Party in our snazzy suits, since press apparently aren’t allowed in.

EDIT: Nicholas Whyte has his usual excellent analysis of the votes.

Worldcon, Day One

Our first day in Chicago was pretty low-key. As soon as we arrived at the hotel, UK literary scholars Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James dragged us out to lunch with Liza Groen Trombi of Locus; we enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation about books some of us liked and others didn’t, which is always a good way to get into the convention spirit. Then I interviewed David Long at Bethany House, who had some really interesting things to tell me about Christian speculative fiction. It goes way beyond Left Behind! That material will be going into an article for the upcoming SF/F focus issue.

Mikki Kendall and her husband took us on a walking tour of Chicago’s “scary” South Side (we stopped at a scary organic deli for scary coconut water! brrr!) and a drive through Bronzeville. Mikki’s a historian as well as an author, and she filled us in on the often tragic history of Chicago’s black neighborhoods. It’s one thing to play Sim City and see neighborhoods wither when you cut off their public transit. It’s another to see it in real life.

After we got back to the hotel, I napped for a bit while Josh took another walk, and then we went off to dinner with Charlie Jane Anders of io9. She used to be in medical writing, as did I, and we agreed that we’d love to see more SF where medicine is the science and the focus is something other than life extension. (More medicine in fantasy would be great too, like Daniel José Older’s story about a paramedic who determinedly resuscitates a witch who will come into her full powers when she dies.) After a few minutes of brainstorming we came up with a first contact story where an alien materializes in the middle of a road, is hit by a car, and has the actual first contact experience with the ambulance drivers or ER doctors, and also a story exploring the near future of hospice and palliative care and assisted suicide. Authors, consider this a challenge!

After dinner we hung out with a couple of Readercon volunteers and talked about plans for the coming year’s convention, and then Josh passed out while I got some editing done. It was a very nice start to what looks to be an entertaining and informative weekend.

Chicago Here We Come

I’m really looking forward to going to this year’s Worldcon. As usual, I expect to almost entirely miss the program in favor of talking with interesting people who are full of interesting ideas and gossip (some of which–quoted with permission, of course–will undoubtedly make it into the mid-September SF/F focus issue of PW). Josh and I will also be liveblogging and livetweeting the Hugos on Sunday night, starting at 8 p.m. Central Time. No idea yet whether they’ll get me an embargoed list of the winners, so follow along here and on @genreville to see whether our updates go like clockwork or are full of hasty shorthand and typos.

Weird Tales: From Frying Pan to Fire

At the end of the previous episode of Weird Tales: A Sad Decline, publisher John Harlacher had taken down editor Marvin Kaye’s offensive editorial, made an announcement that Revealing Eden would not be excerpted in WT, and said that Kaye was traveling but would “make his own statement shortly”.

Instead of doing so, Kaye is apparently responding directly, and defensively, to subscription cancellation requests. Lisa A. Grabenstetter reprints one such email, which addresses her criticism of Hamlet’s Father (first published in Kaye’s anthology The Ghost Quartet, as longtime Genreville readers will recall from this blow-up last year) as well as Revealing Eden:

Your wishes will be respected; I believe the publisher will handle that, I regret your decision, and can only say that after reading the book, I found it a powerful attack on racism, just the opposite from the charges leveled at it. However, I only recently saw the marketing of this book, and find it in terrible taste; had I seen it, I would not have read the book. As it is, we have decided not to publish the story.

Regarding Scott Card’s story, I did not see any homophobia in it, or I would have objected, but for the record, I did not want to buy anything from him; the publisher, Tor Books, made it clear that if I did not include his story, they would not publish the book at all.

MK

(While the ethics of reprinting personal emails are debatable, I would consider this a corporate response to a business-related request–though obviously Kaye is taking it on himself to inject the personal into the professional–and I see nothing wrong with sharing such a response with the business’s current and potential customers.)

Kaye had previously made similar statements about Tor bearing responsibility for the Card novella, but here he gratuitously takes the additional step of saying he “did not see any homophobia” in a book that has the blatant premise of a gay man molesting boys and turning them gay and/or insane. The homophobia in it is precisely as obvious as the racism in Revealing Eden–which, as Debbie Reese points out in this article, is extensive and continues throughout the book (h/t to Grabenstetter for that link). Kaye also clearly hasn’t read the many comments on Harlacher’s statement asking why there’s all this focus on the marketing materials for Revealing Eden when the book itself is so obviously problematic.

Like many people, I continue to await Kaye’s official public statement, but at this point I’m not really sure why. It doesn’t seem likely that he’s going to realize just how oblivious he is, or how tragic it is that he’s turned a reputable publication into a laughingstock.