Hugo Thoughts: Graphic Story

Of the five nominees, the collection from The Zombie Nation was recommended by both the Sad and Rabid (SR) puppies. The rest of the category is puppy-free.

  • Ms. Marvel: The first page includes Kamala Khan smelling bacon and saying, “Delicious, delicious infidel meat” and someone responding, “Chow or chow not. There is no smell.” I was officially intrigued. A few pages later, we discover Kamala writes Avengers fanfic. She’s also struggling with her own identity, torn between cultures and dealing with ignorance and prejudice. She dreams about being powerful and blonde and beautiful like Ms. Marvel…and then she gets her wish. Sort of. And discovers it’s not what she imagined. This is a superhero origin story that plays off of our expectations, because Kamala has grown up in a world of superheroes. She’s an Avengers fangirl. She has to unlearn what she has learned, in order to become, in her words, “a shape-changing mask-wearing sixteen-year-old super ‘moozlim’ from Jersey City.” There’s a lot of humor, and some good depth and complexity to Kamala and her family and friends. There’s also a supervillain, of course, but that’s secondary to the story of Kamala coming of age and learning to navigate and incorporate the different parts of her identity.
  • Rat Queens: Smart-ass D&D-style all-female adventuring team with good artwork, humor, attitude, profanity, and a great cast of secondary characters to go with it. Including an orc cleric who gets bluebirds in his beard when he casts healing spells. I bought this volume last year, and I’ve got the next one on my wish list. The Rat Queens are well-written, complex characters who are utterly unapologetic about who and what they are. They’re also fiercely loyal to one another. I liked this even more when I reread it to refresh my memory for the Hugos. With both Rat Queens and Ms. Marvel, I’m sure there will be people complaining that they’re politically correct, feminist, Message Stories. Are they feminist? Sure. They’re also fun as hell. Beyond that, I’ll let Hannah respond to the haters.
    Hannah, from Rat Queens
  • Saga: I’m afraid this one didn’t work for me. Part of the problem is that this is Volume 3, and I was coming into the middle of a pretty complex and ongoing story about an ongoing, interplanetary war. The blending of science fiction and fantasy elements was fascinating, and there’s a lot of good worldbuilding, as well as some great details. I love Lying Cat, a sphynx/lynx-like creature who can sense lies, to great effect. I don’t think it’s bad, and it’s possible I’d be much more invested if I started from the beginning, but as it is, I’m afraid the story just didn’t draw me in. I’ll probably rank it above No Award, but it won’t be one of my top choices.
  • Sex Criminals: So imagine when you orgasmed, time basically just stopped for a while, and the world went all glowy and psychedelic. This isn’t something you’ll want to read at work. (Well, depending on where you work, I guess.) But it’s an interesting premise and a good story. It also addresses and challenges the rather prudish attitudes folks tend to have toward sex, starting with young Suzie’s efforts to understand what’s happening to her, and all the ways those efforts get shut down. Generally amusing and entertaining, though I didn’t feel like I just had to pick up the next volume. A middle-of-the-ballot pick for me.
  • The Zombie Nation (SR): This one wasn’t included in the Hugo Voters Packet, but the nominated work is a collection from an ongoing webcomic, available here. I clicked through some of the recent comics, then went back and read through some from the beginning. I didn’t find the gags particularly funny. The actual art isn’t bad, but I don’t see this one earning a place above No Award for me.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Cool Stuff Friday

Friday writes fanfiction about the other days of the week.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Throwback Thursday: Goblin Edition

“Throwback Thursday” has become a thing in certain circles, so I figured I’d try a TBT blog post. This is from May 19, 2005. Both of these excerpts are from Goblin Hero.

#

Two excerpts today. Double your pleasure, double your fun, or something like that…

Excerpt the First:

Slash pushed him roughly to the other side of the tunnel. “See that patch?”

Jig stared. The ground was dusty rock, the same as the rest of the tunnels.

“We spread a mix of blood, rock serpent venom, and diluted honey there. The venom keeps the blood from clotting, and the honey makes it stick to whoever steps in it.” Slash licked his lips. “The tunnel-cats love the stuff. If you step inside the lair wearing that scent, they’ll be on you before you can draw your sword.”

Before Jig could say anything, Slash was yanking his arm again. “Watch out for those spikes.” Jig had to squint to see the tiny metal shards resting on the ground.

“They’re so small.”

“And they’re coated in lizard-fish toxin,” Slash said.

Oh. Jig looked at the hobgoblins with new respect. If he tried to set up such traps to protect the goblin lair, the only thing he’d accomplish was to kill off half of the goblins.

Happy Bonus Excerpt:

When the hobgoblins materialized beside him, Jig jumped so hard he knocked Smudge to the ground. “Where did they come from?” he asked as he retrieved his fallen spider.

“Author’s tweaking the storyline again,” Grell muttered. She glared at the sky. “Try writing an outline, ya damn hack!”

Zokutou Word Meter (No Longer Exists)
48,150 / 95,000
(50.0%)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

The Flash Discussion Post

Last night was the season finale of The Flash. I’ve enjoyed this show a lot, in part for its sense of fun, its wholehearted embrace of comic book tropes, the relationship between Barry and Joe, and of course, Tom Cavanagh.

At the same time, the writing has sometimes been a bit clunky, and the overall track record with female characters is rather poor. (With that said, things improved greatly for Iris’ character in the last few episodes.)

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

Flash Helmet

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Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Hugo Thoughts: Short Stories

Next on the Hugo ballot, I thought I’d look at the short fiction nominees. Four of the five stories are available online, and the fifth is included in the just-released Hugo Voters Packet.

There are no nominees who weren’t part of the puppy slates/bloc voting. As before, I’ve noted where each nominee was part of the Sad Puppies (S), Rabid Puppies (R), or both slates (SR).

  • On A Spiritual Plain” by Lou Antonelli (SR): The strong magnetic field of the planet Ymilas preserves human and Ymilan souls. The infodumping of the first three scenes felt like it needed some serious rewriting. The dialogue was also rather stiff. Our protagonist takes the first human colonist’s ghost on a pilgrimage to help him move on in the afterlife. There’s reference to the polar magnetic field looking like the eye of God, a temple built like Stonehenge “with the dimensional ratio of 1: 4: 9–the Golden Mean.” Heavy-handed (and in that last quote, factually incorrect), but a nice sense of closure at the end as our protagonist settles into his new role of guiding human souls on their final journey. Also, Antonelli introduces the idea of a Faraday Segway, which is a potentially fun idea.
  • The Parliament of Beasts and Birds” by John C. Wright (R): A tale of talking animals, Christian myth, and the end of Man, all presented in a rather stilted formal style. (The Lion greets his fellow animals with a “Twilight of Man, forsooth?”) There’s nothing in the way of action, and the plot is basically the animals trying to figure out what happened to Man’s last city, and what they should do and become now. There are a few nice lines, but it feels like Wright was trying way too hard on this, and ended up with a pale imitation of C. S. Lewis.
  • “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond (S): A samurai has to find a way to kill a kaiju the size of a mountain. I liked the core idea here, the lone warrior who’s less than a mite on a giant, slowly scaling the monster’s body and searching for a way to stop said monster from destroying his homeland. But it didn’t have the depth I look for in an award-worthy story. Nor did I get a real sense of the character or world. Our samurai could have been any samurai, with special swords, references to honor and duty and hara-kiri, and a contraction-averse voice to denote formality.
  • Totaled” by Kary English (SR): This was one of the most original ideas/stories on the ballot, about a researcher named Maggie, whose brain is preserved following the death of her body. We follow her “awakening” and realization that she’s in her own lab, and her efforts to communicate her awareness to her partner Randy, and to help complete their work on the bionet. Maggie’s brain is slowly giving out, and we get a kind of Flowers for Algernon decline over the course of the story. It’s better than most of what’s on the ballot this year, but I’ll have to read it again to decide whether I think it’s Hugo-worthy.
  • Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa (R): The first two sentences give a good sense of what you’re in for with this one.I am a knight riding to war. My suit of armor is a single Mark III frigate, a body of polysteel three hundred meters long with a skin of ceramic armor plating one point six meters thick.” I ended up skimming much of this story about posthuman warships moving to wipe out humanity, and Taren X 45 Delta’s choice to turn against his(?) kind to protect the humans: “Our superiority is certain. However, we are the side killing those who have surrendered and laid down their arms. Are we zealots purified by the righteousness of our cause? Or are we ungrateful children, jealous to the point of patricide?” The ending picked up a bit, but the whole thing feels overwritten, and there’s not much new here. The Message is blunt and unoriginal.

No Award will be scoring pretty high in this category. That doesn’t mean I think all of the stories are bad. (Though I don’t think they’re all good, either.) But it’s one thing for a story to be competent or interesting or fun. It’s another thing for that story to be award-worthy, for me to consider it one of the best things published in the past year. Four of these stories don’t clear that bar for me, and the fifth I’ll have to think about a little more.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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“Do You Wanna Take The Hugos?”

To the tune of “Do you want to build a snowman?”

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Brad
Larry?
Do you wanna take the Hugos?
Come on let’s change the game.
I’m tired of those liberals
Like criminals
Who steal our rightful fame!
This used to be our genre
But now it’s not.
They make all the puppies cry.
Do you wanna take the Hugos?
(And also puff up both our egos…)

Larry
Release the puppies!

Brad
Do you wanna take the Hugos?
And fuel our social justice hate?
I think this backlash is long overdue.
We should start talking to
Vox Day and Gamergate.
(It’s about ethics!)
We’ll rally our bloc voters
To support our slate
The day of the pups is nigh…

Brad
Larry?
Please, I’m feeling picked on.
The CHORFs are challenging our Facts.
It’s like they don’t know we’re the victims here,
Trapped by our fear of leftist mob attacks.
They’ll toss us in their gulag,
And vote No Award.
Look at my puppy tears!
Do you wanna take the Hugos?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Publication Day: Invisible 2

Invisible 2Invisible 2 is out today!

In addition to 19 personal and powerful essays about representation in science fiction and fantasy, this also includes an introduction by award-winning author Aliette de Bodard, as well as a list of all the suggested books and stories from the comments and conversations online. Plus cover art by Mark Ferrari.

Among other things, the authors talk about the portrayal of asexuality, the intersection of different aspects of identity, the treatment of Native Americans in fiction, myths and assumptions about military life, Princess Leia as an assault survivor, the power of fiction to open your eyes to other experiences, as well as representation of disability, religion, race, and so much more.

Just like last year, Invisible 2 is available as an e-book for $2.99, and all proceeds will go to Con or Bust.

(It should eventually show up on iBooks as well, but I’m still waiting for that to happen through Smashwords.)

Reviewers are welcome to contact me for a review copy.

My thanks to everyone who contributed to this project. Compared to last year, there were far more interested authors, and we ended up with significantly more content as well, which is wonderful! I once again learned a great deal, and I’ve found myself thinking about various essays both as I’m writing, and as I’m reading other stories and books.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Age of Ultron Thoughts & Discussion

My wife and I caught Avengers: Age of Ultron over the weekend. It wasn’t as strong as its predecessor, but it was a generally fun film. I feel strange saying this about a 2.5 hour movie, but I think it needed to be significantly longer, given the amount of story they were trying to tell.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Hulk

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED

Scarlet Witch

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Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Gender Balance in Hugo Nominees

Disclaimer 1: I am not a statistician. I studied some stats as a psych major, but that was two decades ago. I’m pretty good with math, but don’t ask me to calculate standard deviations or give you exact models of statistical significance here.

Disclaimer 2: This is a simplified look at the gender breakdown of Hugo Award nominees from 2010 – 2015. I used binary M/F gender for simplicity.

I started by looking at the nominees in the four fiction categories: Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, and Best Short Story. Data comes from the Hugo Awards website.

Gender Balance in Hugo Fiction Nominees

I’ve seen a lot of back-and-forth about whether or not the Sad and Rabid Puppy campaigns were racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. I highly doubt Brad Torgersen (leader of the current Sad Puppy campaign) was deliberately, consciously, and intentionally trying to favor men over women. That said, the effect of the campaigns is pretty clear here, and breaks a pattern of better gender balance going back at least five years.

Next, I checked the other categories where a single individual was nominated. (Again, I was going for simplicity here.) Those categories include the Best Editor for Short and Long Forms, Best Professional Artist, Best Fan Artist, Best Fan Writer, and the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. The Campbell is not a Hugo, but as it’s part of the same voting process and ballot, I thought I’d include it.

Gender Balance in Hugo Nominees

Both the history and the effect of the 2015 puppy campaigns are less clear cut here. While I’m not a statistician, the balance of male and female nominees in 2015 seems to fall within the range of normal variation. It breaks the four-year trend of increasing female representation, but it’s not the drastic imbalance we see in the fiction categories.

What can we conclude from this? Not too much. Diversity and representation are intersectional, and can be examined in many different ways. This is just one.

What we can say is that, when you put everything together, the puppies have brought us the most male-dominated ballot in the past six years, sharply reversing a trend toward gender equality.

Hugo Gender Balance (Total)

Now, the first defense to this kind of thing tends to be, “I don’t care about gender (or race, or orientation, or whatever); I just want to read good stories.” To which I’d ask, “Okay…then why is it you seem to believe it’s mostly men writing those ‘good’ stories? Or is it just that your reading is biased toward male authors, so that’s all you know?”

How to wrap this up? I’m gonna do so by recommending some awesome female authors for folks to check out:

  • Marie Brennan
  • Nnedi Okorafor
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Delilah Dawson
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Karen Lord
  • SL Huang
  • Charlie Jane Anders
  • Ambelin Kwaymullina
  • Deborah Blake
  • Jaime Lee Moyer
  • Tanya Huff
  • Eugie Foster
  • Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Alethea Kontis
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Katherine Addison
  • N. K. Jemisin

I’ve reviewed many of these folks’ books over at Goodreads. If your reading has been rather imbalanced, there’s no time like the present to broaden your horizons.

Feel free to leave other suggestions in the comments!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Cover Reveal: Invisible 2

I could have waited until Monday to post this, but–

Actually, I couldn’t. I was in too much of a hurry to show off what Mark Ferrari had put together for Invisible 2:


Invisible 2


The book will be available a little later this month :-)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday wants a Boba Fett costume.



Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Hugo Thoughts: The Editors

Hugo Award LogoHugo voting has officially begun. It sounds like the Hugo voters’ packet won’t be available until later this month, so I’ll probably hold off on sharing my thoughts on most categories, but I thought I could at least jump in and look at the editors on the ballot.

For those looking for a completely puppy-free ballot, there are zero candidates in these two categories who weren’t on the Sad Puppy and/or Rabid Puppy slates. The (SR) after a person’s name means the individual was on both slates. The (R) by Vox Day’s name indicates that he only appeared on his own slate.

Best Editor, Long Form

  • Sheila Gilbert (SR): Disclaimer – Sheila is my editor, and has been for almost a decade. Sheila is one of two senior editors and co-owner of DAW. She was on the Sad Puppy slate this year, but has also made the Hugo ballot twice before without bloc voting or ballot-stuffing shenanigans. I think she could have earned this nomination without canine assistance, just as she’s done in the past. Beyond that, I think she’s a good editor and a good human being. I count myself lucky to be able to continue working with her.
  • Toni Weisskopf (SR): Weisskopf took over at Baen Books after the death of Jim Baen. This is her third year on the ballot. Sad Puppies have pushed her nomination all three years. While I disagree with her on some things (the same could be said about anyone), she’s done some excellent work at Baen.
  • Jim Minz (SR): Minz is the second Baen editor on the ballot this year. (Trivia: He originally worked for Tor.) He’s edited folks like Larry Correia, John Ringo, Hal Duncan, Eric Flint, Terry Goodkind, Nancy Kress, Mercedes Lackey, Elizabeth Moon, Frederik Pohl,and many more. This is Minz’ first time on the ballot, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable for him to be there.
  • Anne Sowards (SR): Sowards is an editor at Ace, and her authors include Jim Butcher, Kat Richardson, Kelly McCullough, and others. She’s never made the Hugo ballot before, but like Minz, she’s certainly earned some cred as an editor.
  • Vox Day (R): No.

Best Editor, Short Form

  • Edmund R. Schubert (SR): “My name is Edmund R. Schubert, and I am announcing my withdrawal from the Hugo category of Best Editor (Short Form). My withdrawal comes with complications, but if you’ll bear with me, I’ll do my best to explain…” His full post is very much worth reading, if you haven’t seen it yet.
  • Jennifer Brozek (SR): Disclaimer – I had a story in Brozek’s anthology Human for a Day. Brozek is a hard-working editor and author, and has been making a name for herself in several areas. She edited four anthologies that came out in 2014: Bless Your Mechanical Heart, Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls, Chicks Dig Gaming (non-fiction), and Shattered Shields (with Bryan Thomas Schmidt). This is her first Hugo nomination, and in many ways, I think that’s a shame, because I think she’s been reaching the point where she could have gotten there without the puppies.
  • Mike Resnick (SR): Resnick has won at least five Hugos, but he’s never won for his work as an editor, though he’s been nominated in that category twice before. He’s the editor of Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, and has edited a number of anthologies over the years, though I’m not seeing any from 2014. (It’s possible I’m just not finding them.) Reading the 2014 issues of Galaxy’s Edge would probably be the best way to get a sense of Resnick’s editorial tastes and skill.
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt (SR): Disclaimer – I’m one of the folks Schmidt denounced as “rotten meat looking for a place to stink” last year. Schmidt has been moving up in the editorial world, including co-editing a couple of anthologies for Baen. That said, I don’t believe there’s any chance he’d have made the ballot at this point in his career without the Rabid and Sad Puppies. I also question his editorial professionalism, based on things like the submission guidelines he posted last year for World Encounters. Among other things, stating “no assholes allowed” and that he won’t bother with anyone who has “slandered [his] name” or “resents [him] for not sharing your views” seems inappropriate to me, particularly when I’ve watched Schmidt’s overreactions to disagreement and seen the kinds of things he characterizes as slander.
  • Vox Day (R): No.

I’ll be voting No Award over at least some of the candidates here. Others, in my opinion, have earned some recognition through their work in the field. It annoys me that I can’t support any of them without in some way also supporting or validating the slate-voting mechanism that got them there. It’s a problem I expect to have in most of the categories.

Basically, is my desire to vote for a handful of these candidates stronger than my desire to vote against the bloc voting and other destructive crap?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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DemiCon

DemiCon in Des Moines was a lot of fun. Amy and I flew down on Thursday so we’d be there for a booksigning at B&N, where Lyndsey kindly gave me a Smudge necklace made from a d20, and Chris showed up to drop trou and display his Jig the goblin tattoo. Oh, and I signed some books, too.

Friday afternoon was our trip to the zoo, and then it was convention time! As author guest of honor, I got to hang out a bit on stage with artist GoH, cosplayer, and all-around lovely person Megan Lara; fan GoH, chocolate priestess, and kind-hearted, bubble-blowing queen Michelle Clark; and Toastmaster, actor, and occasional Scottish Texan person Tadao Tomomatsu.

Tadao

Tadao x 2

DemiCon has the feel of a smaller con, but not too small. It was friendly, relaxed, and everything I saw seemed to be running smoothly. Major props to the concom and the rest of the volunteers for that!

I did a handful of panels, all of which were either solo or me and one other person. Sunday morning, that meant spending an hour geeking out about The Flash. The one complaint we had about the show was the way the two female characters had so little agency and story of their own. Happily, someone from the show must have been at that panel, because last night’s episode started to address that problem. Behold the power of convention panels!

Also, Rachel Bussan made me the awesome Smudge hat I’m wearing in this picture with Megan!!!

Megan and Jim

Megan Lara, Jim Hines, and Smudge hat!

Other highlights include getting author Adam Whitlatch to lick his own book, meeting author (and Invisible 2) contributor Lauren Jankowski, lots of fun cosplay, and just getting to see and meet so many cool fans, readers, friends, and fellow geeks.

The full album of DemiCon pics is up at Flickr, if you want to see the rest. Here are a few more of my favorites from the weekend:

Klingon in sunglasses

Hipster X-man

Cosplay Medic

My thanks again to the convention for inviting me and my wife, to Amanda for liaisoning us all over the place, and to everyone who worked so hard to put together such a fun weekend.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Zoo Pics

DemiCon was much fun! We got back last night, and I’m still recovering and catching up. So here are a few pictures from our pre-convention trip to Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines. (Big thanks to Amanda for schlepping us back and forth from the hotel!)

The full album is over on my Flickr page.

Next up is processing the convention pics and getting them uploaded…

Red Pands

Sea Lion

Macaques

Feeding a parakeet

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday says hi from Des Moines!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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DemiCon

Tomorrow I leave for DemiCon in Des Moines, Iowa. I’m author guest of honor, along with artist GoH Megan Lara, Fan GoH Michelle Clark, and wizard GoH Harry Dresden. (I’m not sure whether that last will be showing up in person… I kind of hope not, given the kind of trouble that tends to follow him around.)

The convention doesn’t officially start until Friday, but tomorrow I’ve got a pre-convention signing at Barnes & Noble. That’s from 6-8 p.m. at 4550 University Avenue in West Des Moines.

My con schedule looks more-or-less like this:

Friday

  • 7-9: Opening Ceremonies (Main Stage)

Saturday

  • 10-11: Writing Media Tie-Ins (Nebraska Room)
  • 11-12: GoH & Pro Signings (Main Stage)
  • 4-5: GoH Discussions (Main Stage)
  • 5-6: Diversity and Inclusiveness (Kansas Room)
  • 8-9: Designing a Magic System (Nebraska Room)

Sunday

  • 10-11: The Flash (Kansas Room)
  • 12-1: Reading (Missouri Room)

You can check the DemiCon site for the full programming grid.

This should be fun! It looks like I may even get a little downtime to relax and wander about during the day on Friday, which is a nice bonus.

Any suggestions on what I should read on Sunday? My current default is the fairy tale princess biker gang story coming out in the next Chicks anthology, but if there’s something else people would prefer to hear, I’m open to ideas.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Book Reviews: Lord & Brennan

The Best of All Possible WorldsTwo more book reviews, starting with The Best of All Possible Worlds [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Karen Lord. I received a copy of this one, along with The Galaxy Game, at ConFusion earlier this year. I loved Lord’s debut novel, so I was very much looking forward to what she did next.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

A proud and reserved alien society finds its homeland destroyed in an unprovoked act of aggression, and the survivors have no choice but to reach out to the indigenous humanoids of their adopted world, to whom they are distantly related. They wish to preserve their cherished way of life but come to discover that in order to preserve their culture, they may have to change it forever.

Now a man and a woman from these two clashing societies must work together to save this vanishing race—and end up uncovering ancient mysteries with far-reaching ramifications. As their mission hangs in the balance, this unlikely team — one cool and cerebral, the other fiery and impulsive — just may find in each other their own destinies . . . and a force that transcends all.

This is not whiz-bang, robots-and-lasers-and-spaceships-and-explosions science fiction. It’s a very thoughtful and well-written story of cultural displacement, interplanetary refugees, and the struggle between compromise and preservation of culture.

The Sadiri are described as “the epitome of morality and tradition, savants too absorbed in their mental exercises to succumb to base urges.” They arrive on the colony of Cygnus Beta after their homeworld is attacked and destroyed. Here, they set out to find settlements of genetically and culturally compatible humans, hoping to preserve as much of their ways as possible.

The narrator is Grace Delarua, part of the diplomatic party helping the Sadiri on their search. This sets up a somewhat episodic framework where we see different settlements and cultures, while at the same time learning more about the larger world and events, as well as getting a gradual romantic storyline between Grace and one of the Sadiri.

It’s a powerful book, exploring so many “what if” ideas — mental powers, time travel, planetary settlement — while at the same time being intensely relevant to our own world. It’s not a quick read, but it’s well worth reading.

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Voyage of the BasiliskI also recently read the second and third of Marie Brennan‘s Lady Trent books: The Tropic of Serpents [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound] and Voyage of the Basilisk [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound]. In some respects, these are similar to Lord’s book. They aren’t action-heavy sword-fighting quests, but thoughtful explorations of culture and science, presented as memoirs by Isabella (Lady Trent), who became the world’s foremost expert on dragons.

From the publisher:

The Tropic of Serpents: Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

Voyage of the Basilisk: Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

One of the things I love about this series is the protagonist’s passion for science and knowledge. We talk about sense of wonder, and Isabella conveys that wonder, not about big flashy magic or fancy special effects (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but about discovery. She repeatedly risks her life, her reputation, and more for the chance to learn. She’s wonderfully and at times foolishly driven.

Like Lord, Brennan has developed a rich world. Brennan’s is based more closely on our own, drawing on cultures and countries from Europe, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and more. (Brennan’s background in anthropology helps a great deal, as does her intense research habits.) Over the course of the three books, we’ve seen much of that world and its people, but we also see a larger story about the progression of science and knowledge, and ongoing political conflicts.

One such story arc involves the preservation of dragon bones. Like birds, dragons have very light bones, but those bones are incredibly strong — so long as the dragon survives. Upon the animal’s death, the bones become fragile and crumble away into dust. Back in book one, Isabella and her companions discovered a way to preserve those bones, a process with many potential implications and uses … and one that has serious impacts on the hunting of dragons, not to mention the political fallout. Watching that knowledge spread, seeing the technological changes and Isabella’s struggle, is one of several wonderful storylines.

And of course, the books have great covers as well as internal illustrations, ostensibly by Lady Trent herself (with help from artist Todd Lockwood).

I look forward to the next!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Choosing “Sides”

“I am not doing it because I was pressured by anyone either way or on any ‘side.’” -[Author]

“[Author] is everything any good leftist could ever want in a Hugo nominee, and they got hounded off the ballot by the LEFT.” -Brad Torgersen

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I’m conflicted about starting this post with those particular quotes. A handful of people have withdrawn their names from the Hugo ballot, and have asked to be left out of the anger and arguments, which I can certainly understand. I removed the name of the author in question because I don’t want them getting dragged into my rant here. But at the same time, this pair of quotes is one of the best illustrations of something I’ve been frustrated with for years.

I am so damn tired of the insistence on shoving everyone and everything into an artificial “Us vs. Them” framework. The Puppies thing is just the latest example. The only clearly defined “side” in this mess is the puppies themselves, and even that’s a slippery argument. Is Theodore Beale of the Rabid Puppies on the same side as Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia? Correia suggests they are: “Look at it like this. I’m Churchill. Brad is FDR. We wound up on the same side as Stalin.” But what about the commenters? Can people support some of what the puppies said they wanted — say, greater awareness of tie-in work in Hugo nominations — without having to swear allegiance to all things rabid?

What about the people on the respective puppy ballots? Is Sheila Gilbert of DAW on the puppies’ “side”? (Given that she has basically zero online presence, and that I’ve chatted with her about this, I can state for a fact that she was not contacted about being on any slate, nor did she know anything about it.) What about the creators of The Flash? Mike Resnick was on the slate, but has spoken out against the kind of bloc voting the puppies represented. (I’m unable to find the link where I read his comments on this, however.) Does choosing not to remove yourself from the slate or ballot mean you’re in lockstep agreement with Beale, Torgersen, and Correia?

I keep coming across commentary and arguments that assume you have to be either pro-puppy or anti-puppy. In broader discussions, you’re either us or you’re the enemy. Left or Right. Puppy or CHORF. Lately, I’m seeing more accusations of blacklists and gatekeepers and people’s careers being hurt because of their politics or beliefs or whatever, because some publishers are for Us and some are for Them, and you can’t succeed in this business without swearing allegiance to the Evil Gun Nuts of Baen or the Evil Tree-hugging Lib’ruls of Tor.

To be honest, that last bit is funny as hell. Baen publishes folks like Eric Flint and Lois McMaster Bujold. Jim Baen wanted to buy my very first book, and Baen continues to buy my shorter work for some of their anthologies. Then there’s Tor, which publishes Rabid Puppy darling John C. Wright, as well as Hugo award-winning author Orson Scott Card.

The “Us vs. Them” framework does nobody any favors. It’s simplistic, childish thinking. Pointing out that a particular author is a homophobic bigot based on things he’s said? Fair enough. Accusing anyone who likes said author’s work of being a homophobic bigot? Sorry, no. Torgersen and Correia have gotten a lot of ugliness hurled their way in all this — some of it has been truthful, and right on par with what they’ve been hurling, but some has been absolutely over-the-line and unacceptable.

I’ve talked to conservative friends who’ve described various microaggressions and flat-out attacks toward them and/or their religious beliefs. I’ve been attacked for beliefs I don’t have, simply because someone assumed I was on the other side. More recently, when I criticized the Sad Puppy slate on Twitter, I had someone accuse me of being a child molester. I spoke out against GamerGate and got a doxxing threat in my email within the hour. Then there’s the editor on the Sad Puppy ballot who publicly blacklisted and badmouthed me and a few other authors for not being on his “side”…

And I don’t get a fraction of the abuse, harassment, threats, and worse that people in more marginalized groups do, simply for daring to exist and speak out. Simply because people decided they were “Them,” and therefore fair targets for abuse and hate.

I know some of the Sad Puppies desperately want there to be some kind of Social Justice Warrior Conspiracy that’s been manipulating the Hugos and persecuting them for years, because that creates a simple narrative with them as the feisty rebels striking a blow against the Evil Empire. But there’s been zero evidence for it. Correia himself said he’d audited the Hugos a few years back and found no sign of anything suspect.

Are there systemic problems that permeate the genre, and our cultures in general? Of course. Malinda Lo has done a tremendous amount of work and analysis of diversity in fiction and the overall lack thereof. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be drafted into one of two like-minded armies of Pro-Diversity and Anti-Diversity warriors.

Some of the problems are linguistic. Hugo-nominated author Eric James Stone said recently, “In my opinion, accusing someone of racism is one of the severest charges one can make against someone’s moral character.” I disagree. I’ve absorbed the racism, sexism, and homophobia of my culture for almost as long as I’ve existed. I blogged about that a bit back in 2010. It took me years to recognize my own problematic attitudes, and to start actively working to change them. If I say I believe someone is being racist, I don’t see it as the severest charge against their character; I see it as recognizing we’re all imperfect beings who should be working to do better. (I recommend reading Stone’s entire post. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he has some good and valid points.)

MCA Hogarth talks about fear of being attacked for being one of Them, of deprecation and insults and criticism that generalize from “This individual is a nasty, bigoted human being” to “Christians and Republicans are the Enemy.” Once again, I don’t agree with everything she says — I’m particularly skeptical that anyone has the power to destroy a career with one Tweet — but I also think the fears she talks about are real and valid and worth thinking about. In many contexts in the U.S., to be Christian or Republican is to be the majority. To have power. But contexts vary, and this isn’t always the case in SF/F and fandom.

Part of my anger at Torgersen and Correia is because I feel like they deliberately encouraged this Us vs. Them mentality in order to win support and votes. They invented an evil cabal of “Them,” then rallied people to join their side against this fictitious enemy. Which only increases the abuse and the hatred. And please note: I’m angry at them as individuals, not because they’re conservative, or because of their views on gun control, or because they might have a different religious belief than I do. I’m angry because whatever problems were out there, these two individuals actively made them worse, and they hurt a great many people in the process. Themselves included.

Fandom is not two distinct sides. It’s a bunch of people who like things in a really big genre, a genre that has guns and spaceships and dinosaurs and dragons and magic and manly men and genderfluid protagonists and grittiness and erotica and humor and hard-core feminism and sexism and racism and hope and stereotypes and anger and messages and politics and fluff and were-jaguars and superheroes and so much more.

Criticism is not war. Choosing not to read or support things you don’t like isn’t censorship. Liking something problematic doesn’t make you a bad person.

We’re not perfect. And we’re going to keep arguing and fighting amongst ourselves. It’s part of being human. It’s part of being a fan. We’re really freaking passionate about the things we love. (If you diss Season Four of Legend of Korra, then hell yeah I’m gonna argue with you!)

But I swear, the next time I see someone arguing not against what someone said or did, but against their own imagined cardboard caricature of “Them,” I swear by Asimov’s Mighty Muttonchops I’m gonna feed that person to a goblin.

As always, I’ll be moderating comments if necessary — not based on what imaginary “side” you’re on, but based on whether or not you’re acting like an asshole in my space.

ETA: I’ve made several minor edits for clarity since this post went live.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday wants more Black Widow merchandise…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Saturday Author Event in Grand Ledge

This coming Saturday, I’ll be part of Michigan Authors on the Grand from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Main Branch of the Grand Ledge Area District Library. It looks like there will be at least sixteen of us hanging out to chat and network and sign books and so on.

Michigan Authors on the Grand

I’ve never done this one before, so I don’t know exactly what to expect. There could be giant mutant badgers battling bionic warrior squirrels from the twenty-eighth dimension! And also raffles! Definitely one of those…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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