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Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is probably not going to hit that 50K wordcount goal this month. Curse you, March!!!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Three Book Recommendations – Janet Kagan

I posted on Facebook that I’d begun reading Janet Kagan’s Hellspark to my son, and a number of people said they hadn’t heard of the book, or they’d heard of it but hadn’t read it. I’m here to try to remedy that!

Janet was one of my favorite writers. Her work was full of heart and love and warmth, and I always feel better after reading them. She won the 1993 Hugo award for her novelette “The Nutcracker Coup.” She was also kind enough to offer me advice and encouragement when I was starting out.

Sadly, she only produced three novel-length works. I’m a fan of all three, and fully recommend them.

Uhura"s Song - CoverUhura’s Song [Amazon | B&N] – A number of people have described this as one of the best Star Trek novels ever.

Years ago, Lt. Uhura befriended a diplomat from Eeiauo, the land of graceful, cat-like beings. The two women exchanged songs and promised never to reveal their secret. Now the U.S.S. Enterprise is orbiting Eeiauo in a desperate race to save the inhabitants before a deadly plague destroys them. Uhura’s secret songs may hold the key to a cure — but the clues are veiled in layers of mystery.

I love the focus on Uhura, the character development, the emphasis on song and culture and taboo and historical conflict and courage. I love the aliens and their names and their characterization and their struggle to do what’s right.

It’s a book that will make you feel good about Star Trek, and about the universe in general.

It’s available as an ebook, or you can pick up a used copy of the print edition.

Hellspark - CoverHellspark [Amazon | B&N] – A standalone SF novel with beautiful worldbuilding, with an emphasis on culture and language and relationships.

The members of the survey team on the newly discovered planet Flashfever are at each other’s throats. Both the local wildlife and the local weather keep trying to zap them. No one can tell if the indigenous creatures named “sprookjes” are sapient, because they insist on parroting the surveyors’ attempts at communication. The surveyors themselves, all from different civilizations, keep stepping on one another’s cultural toes. When a member of the team is found dead, no one knows whether he was killed by a sprookje or another surveyor; and the implications are unpleasant either way.

This description (from Tor) captures the plot, but misses the absolute joy that is protagonist Tocohl Sosumo. Tocohl is a Hellspark — a trader with a gift for language and culture. She’s brought in to help determine whether the sprookjes have their own language, which would prove their sentience. She’s bright, capable, tough, thoughtful, loving, and a delight. Then there’s her childlike AI Maggy, and a cast of wonderfully different characters, all from fascinatingly different cultures.

The worldbuilding in this one makes me despair of my own writing ability. Kagan plunges you into the middle of a well-developed universe, and invites you along for the ride. My son and I are only about 50 pages in. He commented that there are a lot of words he doesn’t recognize, and we talked about how the author was creating new words and worlds and aliens and so on. He’s been enjoying that immersion, and it’s even led to some good conversations about culture and body language and personal space and language and more.

The book is currently out of print and not yet available electronically, but you should be able to track down a used copy for a relatively reasonable price.

Mirabile - CoverMirabile [Amazon | B&N] – This is a collection of six stories about Annie Masmajean, aka Mama Jason, a third-generation colonist on the planet Mirabile.

There’s a problem on the planet Mirabile with Dragon’s Teeth. The humans from Earth sent to colonize the planet on a generations-long voyage through space lost some essential information in transit. Now, in the early decades of human settlement, the Earth plants and animals genetically programmed to proliferate the old species (so that, for instance, a cow might sometimes give birth to a deer, that will breed true, except that sometimes the deer will give birth to a moose…) are occasionally producing mutants. Thus the carnivorous Kangaroo Rex is born, and the Loch moose monster, and the voracious Frankenswine, Dragon’s Teeth that threaten the ecology of Mirabile and perhaps the very survival of the colonists.

Just reading the description should give a sense of how much fun these stories are. It’s been a while since I’ve read this one — I need to remedy that — so my recollection is a little blurry on the details. But I do remember Mama Jason being another of Janet’s wonderful, good-hearted, take-no-crap protagonists. And I remember that, like all of Janet Kagan’s work, reading this one made me happy.

This is probably the hardest of the three books to find. Like Hellspark, it’s out of print and not available electronically. But like the others, I highly recommend reading it if you get the chance.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Real Fans

For the record, since it’s an ongoing source of frustration for me and a lot of other people, I have zero patience for anyone trying to gatekeep whether or not someone is a Real Fan.

So I’m reposting my own personal decision tree on Real Fandom.

Are you a Real Fan?

Please note the lack of anything like:

  • Whether I like your politics
  • Whether I personally like the thing you like
  • Whether I think you’re an asshole
  • Whether I know more about the thing you like than you do
  • Whether I’ve been a fan of the thing longer than you have
  • Whether you’ve ever been to a convention
  • Whether you prefer the movie or the book
  • Your gender
  • Your age
  • Your race
  • Your sexual preference

If you and I both like the thing, then guess what – we’re both fans. Yay, us!

And if anyone gives you crap about not being a Real Fan, feel free to show them this Real Fan Certificate, signed by a Real Fan who also happens to be a Real Author. (The “Real Author” argument is another, similar rant, but I’ll save that for another time.)

ETA: Updated with a higher-resolution certificate, for anyone who really wants to print it out :-)

Certificate of Real Fandom

So, is that clear enough? Can we stop arguing about who gets to be a Real Fan now?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Hugo Deadline Countdown

Hugo nominations close on March 31. To nominate, you have to be an attending or supporting member of Sasquan (Worldcon 73), MidAmeriCon II (Worldcon 74), or Worldcon 75.

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I’d like to ask people to consider Sheila Gilbert of DAW Books in the Best Editor – Long Form category. Sheila has made the ballot for several years now. Sheila is my editor, and has been at DAW for more than 30 years. Edward Willett did a short column about her and her experience last year, if you’d like to know a little more about her.

Of my own eligible works, the only one I’m going to mention is Invisible 2, which is eligible in the Best Related Work category. You can read most of the essays online.

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My intention this year is to mostly ignore the recommendation lists and “Totally-not-a-slate-wink-wink” nonsense. If shenanigans have a significant effect on the final ballot, I’ll figure out how I want to deal with that at the time.

My recommendation, for what it’s worth, is to nominate works and people you believe are deserving. Anyone who wants to stew in their own hate, well, that’s their choice. The rest of us can concentrate on celebrating the work we love.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Farewell to Millennicon

I’m back from what turned out to be the final Millennicon. The decision was made Saturday night that this would be the last one. I don’t know everything that went into the decision, but I know it had to be a hard one to make. I’m doubly-honored to have been invited back to be a part of the weekend.

It was a fun weekend. I enjoyed getting to catch up with some friends, being part of the masquerade judging, running around like a camera-waving fool, and eating TARDIS cake. Of course, between the convention and a sick family, I’m now even farther behind on everything, but ah well.

Pictures are up on Facebook and Flickr. Here are a few of my favorites.

Cover posing with Laura Resnick. Pic by Hugh Staples.

Author Gary Braunbeck looking authorly

Pre-masquerade shot in a mirror

Klingon, with gun

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Millennicon Schedule

Two years ago, I had a blast as Guest of Honor at Millennicon in Cincinnati.

To my surprise, they asked me to come back and do it again. For Millennicon 30, the convention invited one author Guest of Honor from each decade. So I’ll be sharing the GoH stage with authors Mike Resnick and Juanita Coulson. The wonderful Tom Smith will also be there as Filk Guest of Honor.

It doesn’t look like the full schedule is online yet, but if you’re in the Cincinnati area, here’s where you’ll be able to find me this weekend:

Friday

  • 7 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies (Harrison)

Saturday

  • 10 a.m. – Reading (Harrison)
  • 3 p.m. – When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books (Taft)
  • 7 p.m. – Judging the Masquerade (Taft)

Sunday

  • Noon – Guest of Honor Q&A (Harrison)
  • 3 p.m. – Closing Ceremonies (Harrison)

 

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Back to School

It’s been a rough couple of days. I’m mostly recovered from whatever virus it was that knocked me out last week. The rest of my family? Not so much recovered yet. Welcome to the House of Phlegm.

As a result, I’ve fallen behind on the March writing plan, as well as pretty much everything else.

Launch Pad Rocket LogoI do, however, have an announcement I’ve been meaning to post. Later this year, I’ll be attending the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop in Laramie, Wyoming.

Launch Pad is a week-long workshop specifically for writers, providing “a ‘crash course’ for the attendees in modern astronomy science through guest lectures, and observation through the University of Wyoming’s professional telescopes.”

With the SF trilogy I’ve started working on this year, it felt like the right time to try to attend. I’m happy to be selected, and excited about the workshop. (Though it’s going to be a little weird spending a week in university-style housing again…)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is getting sick and taking care of a sick boy, so only had time to gather three links today.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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J. K. Rowling and #MagicInNorthAmerica

Over at Pottermore, J. K. Rowling has been releasing background information and history about magic in North America, and … okay, I loved the Harry Potter books, and I have a lot of respect for Rowling as a person, but this is a mess.

Others are talking about this far better than I could.

“‘The Native American community.’ Oh man that loaded “the.” One of the largest fights in the world of representations is to recognize Native peoples and communities and cultures are diverse, complex, and vastly different from one another. There is no such thing as one ‘Native American’ anything. Even in a fictional wizarding world.”

-From the Native Appropriations blog post Magic in North America Part 1: Ugh

“We’re marginalized in real life and we’re marginalized in media. To have a powerhouse like Rowling (though any non-Native author really) profit off our continued erasure and harmful representations is something I am totally not here for. The argument that it’s “fiction” is worthless to me. If we (as consumers) had diverse representation of Native people the same way white people do, Rowling’s latest wouldn’t be so problem, because consumers would have other representations to base opinions off of. As it is, so much of the Native narrative is romanticized and fantastical and now one of the world’s most successful authors has thrown her mighty magical empire against our fragile reemergence from near-total cultural genocide.

Magic & Marginalization: Et tu, JK?

“Pretty sure [Rowling] would never have dreamt of reducing all of Europe’s cultures to “European wizarding tradition”; instead she created Durmstrang and Beauxbatons and so on to capture the unique flavor of each of those cultures … [H]ow much more delightful could Magic in North America have been if she’d put an ancient, still-thriving Macchu Picchu magic school alongside a brash, newer New York school? How much richer could her history have been if she’d mentioned the ruins of a “lost” school at Cahokia, full of dangerous magical artifacts and the signs of mysterious, hasty abandonment? Or a New Orleanian school founded by Marie Laveau, that practiced real vodoun and was open/known to the locals as a temple — and in the old days as a safe place to plan slave rebellions, a la Congo Square? Or what if she’d mentioned that ancient Death Eater-ish wizards deliberately destroyed the magical school of Hawai’i — but native Hawai’ians are rebuilding it now as Liliuokalani Institute, better than before and open to all?”

-N. K. Jemisin, It Could’ve Been Great

“It’s fear of erasure, another white story brick built on top of 400 years worth of erasure and destructive lies … If you think the work this does is harmless, ask yourself how many years of Native North American history you took in school. How many native people have taught you about our real histories? How much of what you know is from Hollywood, or non-native authors?”

Mari Kurisato

The Washington Post had an article with more roundup and reactions.

There’s also a lot of good discussion on the #MagicInNorthAmerica hashtag on Twitter.

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I recommend reading the articles and discussion. Listen to why people are angry and upset. Try to recognize that this is part of a larger problem against people the U.S. has a long and ongoing history of trying to erase.

And please don’t be one of these fools. (Sadly, this is just a small sampling of the backlash.)

"So fantasy cannot have history roots or basis?"

Colin: Sure it can! If you base your fantasy story on actual, you know, history, as opposed to racist stereotypes and ignorant generalizations.

"You can"t complain your culture is under-represented in books and films and then tear it to shreds when it is."

April: The word you’re looking for in this case is “misrepresented.” I think it’s fair for people to ask for more than to be portrayed as homogeneous stereotypes or else erased altogether.

"This faux-outrage over #MagicinNorthAmerica might be the most ridiculous thing I"ve seen on Twitter. Good God, people. Chill out."

Jason: Thanks for this. It’s okay everybody! A white dude has arrived to tell you your anger isn’t real, and you’re all overreacting.

"Muggles getting their undies in a bunch over these short stories geez #FICTION"

"She"s just writing a STORY not history. She didnt attack or insulted anyone. Writers make their own characters & world."

Jessie & Emily: And everyone else making the weak-ass “It’s just fiction!” argument. Y’all just blew out my ignorance-meter. Story is one of the most powerful things we have. Stories save lives. People go to war over stories. Fiction can change a person’s life and change the course of history. So, yeah. Just don’t.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Ebook Direct Sales, Part II

24 hours later, and I’ve discovered several things about doing direct ebook sales online. Not the least of which was that Payhip’s fancy little “Buy Now” widgets don’t come through on LiveJournal and other automatically-mirrored sites. Oops!

Sokka Facepalm gif

More significantly, there are two areas I wanted to talk about based on comments, emails, etc.

1. But Jim, most readers don’t want the hassle of sideloading files onto their e-reading platform.

Selling ebooks directly means you get the .mobi, .epub, and .pdf files. Not everyone knows how to get those files onto their e-reader of choice. I get that. This isn’t for everyone. Some people — maybe even the majority of people — will prefer the convenience of one-click buying at Amazon and having the story automatically appear on their Kindle. (Or B&N –> Nook, iBooks –> iPad, and so on.)

Then I read comments like:

It doesn’t matter how easy it is for us to set-up; if a reader can’t figure out how to sideload the book, the first sale will be the last. There are far too many who don’t know how to get the most out of their e-readers and tablets, and side-loading may be beyond their skills for whatever reason. And even fewer will download Send to Kindle.

I’m not linking to this one, because I don’t want to argue with or put a spotlight on the person who said it. It’s felt to me like the message wasn’t, “a lot of people prefer to buy ebooks from Amazon and other vendors,” but “direct sales are a waste of time because too many readers don’t know how to load the files.”

It’s not an either/or thing. My Bookstore page still has links to Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Indiebound, and so on. As of yesterday, it also has links for people to directly purchase my self-published work. Since it’s relatively easy for me to set up and costs me nothing now that the links are out there, I’m not seeing the downside. I’ve had 28 sales in the first 24 hours. Maybe I’ll only get a handful more this year, now that the initial wave has passed. But that’s still a handful of sales I might not have gotten otherwise.

And there are some people who like the security of owning the actual e-book files, as opposed to having them stored and hosted by a company that could theoretically engage in shenanigans and delete those books from your device.

(I do think I may write up some basic instructions on how to load files into various e-readers and add that to the .zip file bundles, though.)

2. Sales Tax.

Aw, crap. I’m selling stuff directly. That means I have to figure out tax stuff.

Sokka What gif

Obvious disclaimer: I’m not a tax lawyer, accountant, or anything like that, and you should not take any of this as personal tax advice.

For sales to certain other countries, that means Value-Added Tax (VAT). Author Juliet McKenna is part of EUVATAction, which has a lot of useful information on how VAT works. McKenna has also been campaigning against the law, because it’s an elephantine pain in the ass for small businesses.

If you’re located in the U.S. like me, then  yes, you have to worry about VAT for European Union countries. Fortunately, Payhip takes care of that automatically, adding the applicable VAT to the purchase price and making sure that money gets where it needs to go.

Payhip does not, however, take care of State Sales Tax. And state tax laws vary from one state to the next, which means you have to figure out things like:

  • Does my state charge sales tax on electronic books?
  • Do I have to collect sales tax on sales within my state?
  • What about sales to other states?

Do your research, and get help from people who know what the hell they’re talking about.

Right now, it sounds like roughly half of the states in the U.S. tax sales of e-books. Michigan does not appear to be one of them. Michigan sales tax law states, “A Michigan sales tax license shall be obtained by every person selling tangible personal property at retail.” (Emphasis added)

In Michigan, sales tax needs to be collected on tangible goods, which excludes things like e-books. As long as I don’t start doing mail-order sales of physical books, which I really don’t want to get into, I’m good for the moment. I would not be surprised at all to see this law change in the not-too-distant future, though.

What about sales to people in other states? The way the laws appear to work is that you have to collect sales tax for any state where you have a physical nexus — in other words, if you’re physically located in a state, have a warehouse in that state, or travel to that state to sell stuff. This means yes, theoretically, if you fly to Alaska and hand-sell some of your books at a convention, you’d be expected to collect and remit state sales tax. (Assuming Alaska collects sales tax? I dunno, and I’m feeling too damn lazy to look it up right now.)

So, I stay in Michigan, and someone from Alaska buys my ebook directly through my website. My understanding is that I don’t worry about sales tax, and when that person fills out their state tax forms next year, they mention paying $2.99 for an ebook from another state, and pay Alaska their sales tax as part of their state tax return. (If you do your own taxes, you might remember that question about purchasing items from other states that you didn’t pay tax on.)

I will be following up with the Michigan Treasury Dept. tax folks to make sure my understanding on this is correct. I can’t emphasize enough the need to do your own research and talk to the experts. But I think (hope), for the moment, it’s a non-issue for me.

So, anything I missed? Or anything I’ve managed to get completely wrong?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Earlier today, Chuck Wendig was on Twitter talking about ebook sales.

Since one of the things I want to do as a full-time writer is expand more into the self-publishing/indie side of things, I was intrigued. Wendig uses a service called Payhip for his direct sales. I checked it out, then set up my self-pubbed work for direct sale.

For Readers and Fans

This means you can now buy the following works directly from me (as well as through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc.) And to celebrate, I created a 10% off coupon you can use for any of my stuff between now and March 12. Just enter coupon code 348OUWX85P.

Chupacabra's SongRise of the Spider GoddessGoblin TalesSister of the Hedge & Other StoriesKitemaster & Other Stories

I know a handful of people bought things when I first mentioned this on Twitter and Facebook earlier today, but before I’d created that coupon. It doesn’t seem fair that you had to pay more for jumping in so quickly. I can’t retroactively apply the coupon, but if you bought directly from me yesterday at full price, email me at jchines -at- sff.net, and I’ll send you a 25% off coupon good through March 12.

For Authors and Anyone Else Interested in the Nuts and Bolts

Finances: Payhip hosts the file and handles the transactions automatically, paying you through PayPal with each transaction. Payhip takes a 5% cut off the top, and then PayPal takes their percentage, as they always do. What does this mean?

For “Chupacabra’s Song,” the price is $0.99. Of that money, Payhip takes $.05 and PayPal takes $0.33, meaning I make $0.61 per short story sale. Compare that to the $0.35 I’d make at Amazon.

“Spider Goddess” is priced at $3.99. Payhip takes $0.20. PayPal takes $0.42. I come away with $3.57. That’s 89% of the cover price, which is better than Amazon or any other third-party bookseller I’ve dealt with.

Payhip also adds on the VAT for overseas transactions, saving me that particular headache.

Setup: I followed Wendig’s lead in creating each file as a .zip file that contains an .epub, .mobi, and .pdf version of the story or book in question. The biggest hassle was updating my files and getting them all prepared. The second-biggest was updating my website with the additional links.

Actually uploading the files for sale was ridiculously quick and easy.

Creating those “Buy Now” widgets for this blog post wasn’t quite as straightforward, but it wasn’t a problem. (Except that it turns out they don't work on LJ. Grumble.) And creating coupons is a piece of cake.

Potential Headaches: Payhip has monthly sales reports, which I won’t get to see until next month. But the Amount Earned on the dashboard goes by cover price, and doesn’t include Payhip’s 5% or PayPal’s fee. For tax purposes, I need to know the amount of money that actually ends up in my pocket. This may require a bit more recordkeeping, and one more spreadsheet to play with come tax time next year.

Payhip also includes some basic analytics, but I’m not sure how accurate or useful they are. I posted about the first two ebooks on Facebook and Twitter. The analytics on referrals show:

  • Direct – 291
  • Facebook – 128
  • Twitter – 119
  • Google – 3

Since I hadn’t shared any direct links yet, I’m a little skeptical. Still, it’s better than nothing, and might help if you’re trying to track marketing effectiveness and such.

Finally, I wish there was a page on Payhip that would show everything you’ve listed for sale, instead of having to go one at a time. You can probably add links to the Product Description, though. Not perfect, but maybe better than nothing?

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The only downside is that I tend to get a little obsessive when I’m doing stuff like this, which means today’s wordcount suffered. But now that everything’s set up, I can pretty much leave it alone, and get back to to the Very Important Scene in which my protagonist learns how to use a Space Toilet. (I may or may not be making that up…)

If anyone has any trouble at all with the Payhip links or the files, please let me know so I can make things right.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Fable Legends Cancelled

Over on Facebook, Sean Smith pointed me to this article: Fable Legends Cancelled As Lionhead And More Close. Here’s the announcement on Xbox Wire.

Fable: Blood of HeroesIt’s strange to know I’ve written a tie-in novel for a game that will never exist. But hey, does that mean Fable: Blood of Heroes is now a collector’s item?

I wanted to wish everyone at Lionhead the best. I’m sorry we won’t get to see Fable Legends. I can tell you there were a lot of fun ideas and characters in the game, and everyone I spoke to and emailed while working on Blood of Heroes was a pleasure to work with. Interacting with the fans over on the Fable boards was great too.

I know there were delays in getting the game into production, and it was pushed back several times. I don’t know any of the specifics as to why they decided to cancel it now.

My thanks to the team at Lionhead for giving me the chance to play in their world.

 

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound] is one of the finalists for the Nebula Award in the Novella category. From the official description:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself but first she has to make it there, alive.

Like all of Okorafor’s work, Binti is full of imagination, fantastic worldbuilding, and layer upon layer of cultural development and conflict. Binti herself is a 16-year-old harmonizer, a gifted, courageous girl and the first of her people to leave the planet. She faces alienation and racism and loneliness, but she’s determined to grow and learn. She’s on her way to study at Oomza Uni when her ship is attacked by the Meduse, a violent, jellyfish-like race with a vendetta against humanity.

Communication is at the heart of the story. An ancient device called an edan allows Binti to communicate with the Meduse. It’s the key to everything that follows. Communication and harmony as the antidote to violence and war. It’s not easy; in fact, it’s terrifying and dangerous. That’s part of what makes Binti’s story so powerful.

The plot itself is relatively straightforward, as Binti tries first to survive the war between humans and Meduse, and then to change that war. But this isn’t a story you read for the plot. You read for the beautiful characterization, the deep cultural clashes both among Binti’s people and between humans and other races, and for enough fascinating ideas to fill several novels.

I finished the story wanting more, and will be waiting impatiently for a novel set in this universe.

You can read an excerpt of the novella here.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday wanted to get here sooner, but was trapped under the To-Be-Read pile.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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IndNoWriMar

It’s short for Individual Novel Writing in March.

I’ve been poking and prodding at the SF novel for the past month or so, trying to find the plot, the voice, the characters…pretty much everything. It’s one of the more frustrating parts of the process for me, because there’s way too much uncertainty for my comfort level. But I think I finally have a bit of a handle on this book.

So the plan is to write the first draft, or at least 50K words of the first draft, by the end of March. I’m announcing this in the blog because it will help keep me motivated and accountable.

Making this proclamation on a day when I have to shovel snow, take one kid to a doctor appointment, then take same kid to a two-hour thing in the evening might not have been the best idea, and I’m guessing today’s output will be rather disappointing. But I wrote a 1775-word prologue yesterday, so I’m using that to cover today’s gap.

ETA: Also, apparently today is March 2. I had it in my brain that today was the 1st. This doesn’t bode well for my organizational abilities…

Word Count Meter

Prioritizing the draft means I may slow down a little on blog posts, or fall (further) behind on emails, but hopefully I’ll be able to find a new equilibrium.

Wish me luck!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Inspired in part by an all-too-familiar conversation on Facebook a few months back, I present my essay “Men of Their Times” in the newest issue of Uncanny Magazine:

At the World Fantasy Awards ceremony in November 2015, it was announced that the bust of H. P. Lovecraft would no longer be used as the award trophy. This came after statements from prominent authors such as Nnedi Okorafor and Daniel José Older, among others, who felt that Lovecraft’s racism made him a problematic symbol for the celebration and recognition of the world’s best fantasy.

One of the immediate counterarguments was that it’s unfair to judge Lovecraft by the standards of the present day. As Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi put it:

“This shows a cultural intolerance and lack of historical understanding that is very discouraging… I daresay we will be judged harshly for all manner of derelictions a hundred years from now.”

This argument comes up so quickly and reliably in these conversations that it might as well be a Pavlovian response. Any mention of the word “racism” in association with names like Tolkien or Burroughs or Campbell or Lovecraft is a bell whose chimes will trigger an immediate response of “But historical context!”

You can read the whole thing on the Uncanny website, including discussions of L. Frank Baum and Edgar Rice Burroughs, and arguments about tolerance, forgiveness, and historical homogeneity.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday is aching from shoveling all that Thursday snow.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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I get it. It’s one thing to write up policies on harassment and appropriate behavior for a convention. It’s another to find yourself in the midst of a mess where you have to enforce them.

Emotions are running high. The person accused of violating the policy isn’t a mustache-twirling villain, but someone who’s been attending your con for years. They’ve got a lot of friends at the con — possibly including you. If you enforce the consequences spelled out in your policies, someone’s going to be upset. Someone’s going to be angry. Someone’s going to feel hurt. It feels like a no-win situation.

And it is, in a way. There’s nothing you can do to make everyone happy. But we’ve seen again and again that there’s a clear losing strategy, and that is to do nothing. To try to ignore your harassment policy and hope the problem goes away on its own.

It won’t. As unpleasant as it is to be dealing with a report of harassment, doing nothing will make it worse. Here are just a few examples from recent years.

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ReaderCon: In 2012, a ReaderCon attendee reported ongoing harassment by René Walling. Readercon had a zero-tolerance policy for harassment. Whatever you might think of zero-tolerance policies, this was the promise the con had made. The board ignored its own policy and instead issued a two-year ban.

This generated a great deal of anger and backlash. In the end, the entire board resigned. ReaderCon issued a formal apology and voted to reverse the board’s decision and enforce a lifetime ban against Walling.

World Fantasy Con: In 2013, WFC chose not to have a harassment policy at all, saying in part, “…it is extremely unusual for this kind of behavior to take place at a World Fantasy Convention, as it is largely a professional-oriented event.” (Source) Multiple people ended up reporting multiple incidents of harassment. The convention did…pretty much nothing.

One of the effects of this and other harassment-related mistakes has been long-term damage to the reputation of the convention. I know professionals who refuse to attend for this reason.

WisCon: In 2013, at least one person reported Jim Frenkel to the convention for harassment at WisCon. This was not the only report of harassment WisCon had received about this individual. The convention later said they misplaced at least two complaints, and Frenkel showed up again in 2014.

Frenkel was “provisionally” banned for four years in July 2014. At least one member of the concom resigned. In August 2014, the con voted to permanently ban Frenkel from the convention. Natalie Luhrs has a roundup of some of the reactions and negative press that came about as a result of the slow and inconsistent handling of harassment.

ConText: In 2014, a consuite volunteer named Jeffrey Tolliver was banned from Context following multiple complaints about this individual’s conduct. However, this process involved a great deal of internal conflict over the enforcement of the harassment policy, to the point that several volunteers resigned because they did not trust the convention to take harassment seriously. There were also statements defending Tolliver as a long-time volunteer, a friend, and someone who was being attacked for being old/clueless.

In addition to the volunteer resignations, the ConText board was (I believe) eventually dissolved, and ConText was cancelled for the following year.

ConQuesTMark Oshiro just talked about the racism and harassment he experienced as Fan Guest of Honor at ConQuesT. He followed the convention’s processes in reporting the incidents. Eight months later, after multiple follow-ups, he discovered that nothing had been done.

At this time, one member of the concom has resigned, and it feels like most of the SF/F internet is discussing all the ways ConQuesT dropped the ball and screwed up.

#

These aren’t the only such examples, but I hope they’re enough to see the patterns.

Again, I’m not trying to pretend that enforcing such policies is easy. It’s not. We go to conventions to have fun. Volunteers pour countless hours of work into the events, trying to host a successful weekend party for everyone involved. No one wants to have to deal with confrontation. But choosing not to deal with it is almost universally worse for the convention, leading to things like:

  • Resignation of volunteers
  • Negative publicity, including people publicly stating they won’t be coming to your convention
  • Cancellation of the convention
  • Feelings of anger and betrayal from attendees
  • A lot of broken relationships

And in most cases, the convention still ends up having to follow through on its harassment policies and deal with what happened.

The logic seems pretty simple to me. It makes a hell of a lot more sense to just follow through on policies in the beginning. It sucks to have to do it, but it sucks even more to be dealing with all the additional consequences of not following through.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Revisionary Discussion Post

Revisionary - Cover Art by Gene MollicaIt’s been three weeks since Revisionary [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound] came out.

Your official post for talking about the book, asking questions, or just yelling at me for turning Gutenberg into a sixty-foot-tall cyborg is at http://www.jimchines.com/2016/02/revisionary-discussion-post/

This should go without saying, but there will be spoilers in the comments!

My thanks as always to everyone who bought a copy or borrowed from the library or a friend. Huge thanks as well to those who’ve posted reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere. (It all helps.)

 

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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