Category Archives: Fandom

My Funeral

First of all, I’m fine. I’m not dying, at least, not any more than the rest of us. I didn’t get any recent news of a tumor, blocked artery, or astronomically high blood pressure, nor do I know of a bullet or a bus with my name on it.

I am not superstitious (or “stupidstitious”) about it being Friday The 13th. Today’s date means nothing other than tomorrow is “Pi Day Of The Century“! Which also means nothing, since the calendar and our measurement of time is about 90% arbitrary, but it’s a great excuse to be goofy and have pie. Mmmmm, pie…

But this song came up in my playlist the other day (see #16) and my brain got to spinning off onto a dozen tangents, as it is occasionally wont to do. (Silly brain.) So, given greater and lesser amounts of seriousness, to be updated periodically as I change my mind or come up with other goofy crap to do, here are some suggestions/requests/orders (you don’t want to be haunted, do you?) for my eventual funeral:

  1. Please do not call it a funeral. “Memorial service,” “life celebration,” whatever the politically correct term of the week is, but not “funeral.” Although as you’ll see, I want the “fun” put back in “funeral!”
  2. Someone take a LOT of pictures. I would do it, but, you know, “dead” and all that.
  3. If at all possible, start the event just before sunset, outdoors, under a clear sky.
  4. Wearing a suit and tie or fancy dress will be frowned upon, unless of course some serious (and entertaining) gender-bending is going on. Depending on the weather, if you must wear “normal” clothes, Hawaiian shirts for summer or turtlenecks for winter are okay.
  5. Extra points: Wear Hawaiian shirts with airplanes on them.
  6. Beaucoup extra points: Wear turtlenecks with airplanes on them.
  7. All things being equal, people should be encouraged to wear costumes — fannish friends might consider bringing extras for the mundane factions of my family and friends.
  8. If not into fannish costumes, mundane costumes will do. Angels, Chiefs, or Kings jerseys and/or hats are all acceptable. Their rivals’ gear will, obviously, not be acceptable.
  9. Extra points: Anyone wearing a combination of Angels, Chiefs, and Kings gear will be recognized for their creativity and given a seat of honor for the event as a reward.
  10. Beaucoup extra points: Have the Angels’ World Series trophy, the Chiefs’ Lombardi Trophy, or the Stanley Cup there for people to take selfies with.
  11. Have a flyover. My pals at the CAF will do a great job.
  12. Extra points: Get the Blue Angels or Air Force Thunderbirds instead of the CAF.
  13. Beaucoup extra points: Get the Blue Angels, and the Air Force Thunderbirds, in addition to the CAF.
  14. Everyone’s invited. (Yes, that means you too!)
  15. God’s invited (s/he’s included in “everyone”) but it’s my party, not God’s, so let’s not make any deities the Guest of Honor, ok? Either I’ll be some mythical afterlife actually talking to some deity or another (my mother’s bet) or I simply won’t (my bet). Either way, I’ll know and you won’t. (Wait, if I’m…then I won’t… Never mind.)
  16. Play “Into The West” from Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King, the one sung by Annie Lennox. I absolutely love that song and have wanted it played at my funeral memorial service ever since I first heard it.
  17. Extra points: Get Annie Lennox to sing it live with a full orchestra.
  18. Beaucoup extra points: Get Annie Lennox to sing it live with a full orchestra and Amanda Palmer!
  19. Tell jokes, tell stories, tell more jokes. I’ve done plenty of stupid things, let’s relive them in all their glory.
  20. Share my photographs, and keep sharing them for years and years beyond. They’re a big part of the proof that I was here.
  21. If I’ve managed to get any of my stories published, read some choice selections. If I didn’t break through, pick a couple of my less sucky Flash Fiction efforts to fill time until it gets dark.
  22. As it gets dark, keep the lights off (or at least to a minimum, or hand out flashlights with red lenses) so that everyone can get dark adapted.
  23. Bring out the telescopes and spend the evening (all night if you want!) with everyone taking turns looking through them at the planets, stars, nebulae, comets, moon…
  24. Whatever the venue, sing. Sing filksongs, but use the broad definition of the term (“Anything I’ve ever heard sung at a filksing”) so that things like “A Dying Cub’s Fan Last Request” are included (yeah, gotta sing that one!), and don’t limit it to just filksongs. If it feels good, sing it!
  25. With luck I will have had organs donated, so let people know what went where. I want any usable spare parts of mine used to help others when I’m no longer in need of them, and others should be encouraged to do the same. Have forms there for people to sign up for blood and platelet donations, as well as become organ donors.
  26. Serve chocolate chip cookies, Oreos, chocolate cake, ice cream, apple pie… None of this vegy plate and health food crap – life’s too short, as I will have obviously just demonstrated.
  27. Alternative idea #1: If it’s cloudy or you can’t find a dark sky location, or if it’s just later in the evening and you’re “telescoped out”, light up as many Christmas lights as you can (make it visible from space!) and then follow up with a massive fireworks display.
  28. Alternative idea #2: Have all of the above (or as much as practical) at a ball game. Angels, Chiefs, or Kings doesn’t matter. Can you just imagine a group of my family members, my CAF friends, my fannish friends, and other assorted knuckleheads taking up a whole section at an Angels game on a Big Bang Friday and partying all night?
  29. No flowers. Just because I’ll be dead doesn’t mean that we need to spend a money killing a bunch of innocent flora, most of which are probably allergens to someone in attendance. Instead, take the money you might have spent on flowers and donate it to a worthy charity. The CAF. Habitat For Humanity. UNICEF. Pick a group that’s going to deliver the biggest bang for your buck and help the most people.
  30. In other words, if you wish to donate in my memory, please pick a good, efficient charity, by which I mean one that isn’t going to piss away huge chunks of the donations on six-figure CEO salaries. Education is a huge area of interest, so maybe a group that puts disadvantaged kids through college, or just helps them get through high school. Or maybe a group that educates girls and young women in societies where they’re considered property. (You get the idea – if in doubt, read a few of my rants to see what pissed me off, then give to the group I would consider “the good guys.”)
  31. Hug The Long-Suffering Wife and my kids for me, early and often. As much as I might want this to be a silly & fun party instead of a somber & serious funeral, they might have have a tougher time than I will playing their parts.
  32. Have fun!!

I’ll see you there! (Wait, I forgot…)

Actually, by the time I plan on going, we’ll be doing all of this just to say goodbye to the meat-sack part of me. The all-important “me” part of me will be uploaded into a computer or robot and I’ll be there partying right along with you.

Beaucoup BEAUCOUP Extra Points: Upload “me” into the computer of a Goliath-class starship scout vessel, load the party and all of my friends and family on board, and let’s party on (or at least, near) all nine planets! (Yes, Pluto too.) Drop off those who want to stay back on Earth, then the rest of us will head outbound at some large multiple of c.

Yeah, that’s the best plan of all.

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Filed under Astronomy, CAF, Christmas Lights, Family, Fandom, Fireworks, Flying, Habitat For Humanity, KC Chiefs, LA Angels, LA Kings, Music, Paul, Photography, Sports, Writing

The Author & Moisture Combination

I had the pleasure this evening of seeing John Scalzi talk at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena. Mr. Scalzi is on his four-week long national tour for his new novel, “Lock In.”

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It was a great turnout, standing room only, and (as always) the readings, questions, and snappy banter was very well received.

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Mr. Scalzi gives good book tour. I’ve seen him before on tour (and at conventions) and I’ve always enjoyed his in-person presentations just as much as I enjoy his writing. And it’s not just his novels that I admire (and I’m a pretty huge fan of those) but also his “Whatever” website. Would that someday I can write a fraction as well as he does.

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This is how physicists talk also, i.e., with their hands. (My apologies for the blurry pictures, but in a setting like this I never want to be “that guy”, the one who’s rudely getting in everyone’s way and then firing off a flash that’s annoying to everyone in the room. Sometimes ambient light means that you just have to live with some blur. As with astrophotos, shoot a lot of frames, one or two should come out.)

The short version is simple — if you have a chance to catch Mr. Scalzi on this tour, at a convention, or on some other future tour, I highly recommend that you make time to go see him speak. It’s well worth it. (I’m looking at you, people of San Diego, Iowa City, Gurnee, Lexington, Troy, Brookline, Concord, Saratoga Springs, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chicago.)

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On the way home from Pasadena, there were some great clouds to be seen as thunderheads built up over the mountains and high deserts. Hurricane Norbert is a Category Three storm off of Baja California, and it’s pumping moisture into the area, which is highly unusual for this time of year.

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The great part about moisture and clouds are the great sunsets they create. We don’t get that many of them here in Southern California.

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Way too often it’s “clear and a million,” which is great for the Chamber of Commerce postcards, but not good for colorful sunsets. That’s why the great sunset pictures come from tropical islands and beaches at jungle locales.

So let’s go find a tropical island with a beach next to a jungle! For the sunsets, and science, and art, of course.

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The 2014 Hugo Awards

Back in April when the final ballot nominees for the Hugo Awards were announced, I talked a bit about them an encouraged anyone who might be interested to get a Worldcon membership, download the voter’s package, read as many of the nominated works as possible, and vote for your favorites. I also said that I would be reading and critiquing and commenting. In reality, all I did was some reading, and then I voted. (Not quite my most epic fail, but it does give me something to improve on next year.)

Yesterday the Hugo Awards winners were announced at Loncon3 in London. You can find a list of the winners here. In general, I was very pleased with the winners and the ceremony, which I watched online. (You can watch it here — getting an account is free.)

A few comments, if I may, more or less off the top of my head:

First, it was wonderful to see so many women being recognized for their work in the field. Women won eight of the fourteen non-dramatic-presentation categories, plus Sofia Samatar won the John W. Campbell Award For Best New Writer (not a Hugo Award) (*). Best Fan Artist (Sarah Webb), Best Profession Artist (Julie Dillon), Best Fan Writer (Kameron Hurley), Best Editor Long Form (Ginjer Buchanan), Best Editor Short Form (Ellen Datlow), Best Related Work (Kameron Hurley), Best Novelette (Mary Robinette Kowal), and Best Novel (Ann Leckie).

Isn’t it great to see that better than half of the awards went to the gender that makes up over half of the population? Not that there ever should be any kind of requirement for a strict 1:1 ratio or quota, of course. The best work should always win, regardless of whether it was written by a man or a woman. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, and if anyone brought it up they would be looked at funny, as in, “Why could that possibly matter?”

But it’s not a perfect world, and women have been fighting an uphill battle in science fiction and fantasy literature forever, just as they have in all other fields of literature, and in all other fields of employment, and in just about every other aspect of society. Especially with some of the terrible misogynistic bullshit that’s gone down this year in both fandom and in the professional ranks (**) it’s good to see some pushback and some positive recognition of the contributions women are making to the genre.

Secondly, it was fantastic to see Randall Munroe win the Best Graphic Story award for his XKCD comic, “Time.” XKCD is consistently intelligent, wonderful, amazing, clever, delightful, and sometimes able to bring me to tears at the drop of a hat. For me, this category was a slam dunk, and the voting results (here) confirm that XKCD was a runaway winner in the category.

Thirdly, I was very happy to see the two winners in the Best Dramatic Presentation categories. For the Long Form, “Gravity” won, as I had hoped it would. I could have seen “Frozen” taking it on a big vote from that demographic (my daughters are still gushing over it), or “Pacific Rim” taking it on a big vote from that demographic (people like Grant Imahara and Adam Savage from “Mythbusters” and Wil Wheaton gushing over it). To me, not only was “Gravity” a better film than the other nominees, but it was a better science fiction film, despite some of the factual quibbles from NASA astronauts. It’s incredible that 1950’s science fiction has become today’s reality, and now today’s reality feeds back to be the basis of today’s science fiction. This movie was the closest the general public has come to actually being in space and I think it deserves every award it can get.

In the Short Form, as always, the category was dominated by Doctor Who episodes and specials. Three of the five nominees were Doctor Who related, along with an “Orphan Black” episode (I hear the show is wonderful, but haven’t seen it yet) and a “Game Of Thrones” episode. Surprisingly, to me at least, especially with the convention in London and a heavily British membership and vote, the “Game Of Thrones” episode won. The episode in question is both one of the best and one of the most gut wrenching in the series, which is saying quite a bit given some of the brutality in the plot and the incredible body count of primary characters. I was worried that the very disturbing events of that particular episode might turn the voters off, but not so.

Fourth, I was thrilled to see Mary Robinette Kowal win the Best Novelette award for “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.” She’s wonderful, the story’s wonderful, and it was a well-deserved win, especially after the story was nominated last year and then pulled from the ballot on a technicality. I’m glad that they found a way to get around that issue and get the story qualified for this year. Once it was on the ballot, it was another instance where I figured it was the story to beat in the category.

Fifth, Ann Leckie’s win for “Ancillary Justice” as Best Novel was what I considered to be a Very Good Thing. “Parasite” by Mira Grant is great and I love Mira’s (Seanan McGuire’s) work. The fact that the entire “Wheel Of Time” set of seventeen humongous novels got nominated was a huge surprise, and the series has a bajillion fans, so I thought it had a chance to win. Charles Stoss has won in the past (this year’s Best Novella and 2005’s) and has had novels nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards, so it wouldn’t have been a huge surprise if he won. But having said all of that, everyone and their cousin had been gushing over how great “Ancillary Justice” was. I’m glad it won.

Sixth, there was a fair amount of controversy (***) about a couple of this year’s nominees, how they got on the ballot (legally, but perhaps unconventionally), why they got on the ballot, and who the nominated writers were. One nominee might have been collateral damage in the other group’s “mission from god,” but I haven’t read his novels (nor do I intend to) so can’t offer an informed opinion. The main character in all of this brouhaha is a really unpleasant individual who doesn’t write very well at all, but most importantly, has some truly vile and disgusting points of view. It was with a great deal of pleasure that I saw that not only did his nominated work not win, but it finished so far down in the voting that it actually lost to the “No Award” option. I think that’s the only the second time that’s ever happened. It couldn’t have happened to a more worthy story or author.

Finally, the webcast of the ceremony was very well done. The last two years have had problems, primarily when the Best Dramatic Presentation nominees were read. The names of the nominees are usually accompanied by a clip from the TV show or movie, and this has repeatedly caused copyright “bots” on the internet to shut down the webcast for presumed copyright violations, despite the fact that the clips have been obtained with full rights to use them at the awards ceremony and on the broadcast. Whether it was as a result of that or not, this year there were no clips and the webcast was clear, solid, stable, with good audio. As for the show itself, it seemed to move right along and for the most part do a very good job. In particular, the segment which displayed a video scroll with the names of deceased fans and people related to fandom (for example, astronaut Scott Carpenter, author Tom Clancy, and actor Robin Williams) was very moving and well executed.

All in all, it was a great show and a wonderful slate of winners. I enjoyed watching it. Now it’s time to start reading and getting ready for next year’s nominations and awards in Spokane. (Remember, rates go up September 1st!)

Maybe we’ll see you there?

(*) – For those who don’t know, this award has been given out for over forty years, is nominated and voted on along with the Hugo Awards, is presented along with the Hugo Awards, but it’s always mentioned about a hundred times throughout the process and at the awards ceremony that it is “not a Hugo Award.” This is now sort of like the thing they read in the middle of every baseball broadcast about, “The pictures and accounts of this game are the property of [insert team here] and any rebroadcast, reproduction, dissemination, or other use  without the express, written consent of Major League Baseball is strictly prohibited” — only SF&F fans are a bit more snarky about it.

(**) – If you don’t know what I’m talking about and are curious, ask and I’ll be more than happy to jump into the fray and tell you where to look for the grisly details. It’s something I’m pretty passionate about.

(***) – Again, if you don’t know and are curious, I can point you in the right direction. I would caution against actually reading anything by this guy or any of his minions. Every time I do, I feel the strong need for a shower, a stiff drink, and something to restore my faith in humanity.

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Odds & Sods For Friday, April 25th

Item The First: The following tweet from CNN is offered as proof that President Obama reads this blog:

2014-04-24 Proof That Obama Reads My BlogIt’s obvious. I post pictures about my visit to Gyeongbok Palace (here and here) and the next thing you know, Air Force One is in Seoul and the President’s getting a tour. Since coincidence = causation, ipso facto, the President reads this blog. (Mr. President, give me a call at your convenience, I’ve got a few thoughts on planetary exploration and the NASA budget that I would like to discuss.)

Item The Second: When I talked about the Hugo Award nominations a few days ago I mentioned that some of the nominees might require some effort to track down, being published in places I don’t normally read. I had forgotten that since 2006, many (if not most, or all) of the literary nominees are available in electronic form to all eligible voters.

Of course, this year the twist is the inclusion of “The Wheel Of Time” novels (all fourteen of them) as a Best Novel nominee. People were wondering how that would be handled, whether or not they would include one novel or just not include any. Instead Tor has decided to include all of them.

That may or may not have any bearing on whether or not other works are included (it’s at the discretion of the author and publisher) but it instantly guarantees a new record for the number of Supporting Memberships for a Worldcon.

It works like this — you get the package of e-books and stories if you’re eligible to vote for the Hugo Awards. You’re eligible to vote if you’re either an Attending Member or a Supporting Member of the convention. Anyone can join. An Attending Membership is currently $205 (and the price will increase in July) and lets you attend pretty much anything at the five-day convention. (We won’t be going unless we win the lottery or something, a fact which displeases me. I really love going to Worldcon!) So if you’re going to be or can be in London in August, get an Attending Membership and have the time of your life!

If you can’t go, you can get a Supporting Membership for $40 (which will also increase in July) and while it doesn’t let you get into the convention, it does let you:

  • get a copy of the program book and other publications
  • vote on where Worldcon will be in 2016 (currently Kansas City and Beijing are competing for the bid)
  • vote on the Hugo Awards, which in turn means that you…
  • …get the books & stories in the voter’s packet.

Let’s do some quick math. The fourteen “Wheel Of Time” books currently are available in the Apple store for a total of $94.86. (For the sake of argument I’m leaving out the one prequel novel, but for all I know Tor might be including it as well.) “Ancillary Justice” is $8.99, “Neptune’s Brood” is $10.99, “Parasite” is $9.99, and “Warbound: Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles” is $9.99. That’s the potential for $134.82 worth of novels for $40, plus (potentially) many of the best novellas, novelettes, and short stories of 2013, plus voting rights for the Hugos and 2016 site selection, plus the convention program book and other publications.

Now do we see why they’re going to be flooded with $40 supporting memberships?

Item The Third: This is what I have snoring on my left most of the day when I’m at my desk in my home office:

Joey_smallWhen the hummingbirds start hovering outside she gets a bit agitated.

Item The Fourth: The Beijing vs. Kansas City vote for the 2016 Worldcon Site Selection will be a tough one for me. I had an extremely good time on my one visit to China (Shanhai) and would love to go back to see Beijing. (If at all possible we never just go into town for the convention and then boogie back out. We always try to spend at least a few days to visit and see the sights.)

On the other hand, I grew up in Kansas City, Kansas (my elementary school years) and still have many things that I love about the city. (Chiefs! Chiefs! Chiefs!) It will certainly be a lot cheaper to get to KC than Beijing. That could decide it for a majority of US voters — but China’s a really great visit, so don’t rule it out, guys!

Then for the 2017 site selection, there are already bids for Japan, Montreal, Helsinki, and Washington, DC. Tough choice!  I also had a fantastic time on my visit to Kyoto, Japan (we’ll get to those pictures after the Korean pictures) and would love to see the country again. I’ve never been to Scandinavia, so Helsinki would be incredible. Washington, DC is one of my favorite cities on the planet, and I haven’t been there in over thirty years. As for Montreal, it’s okay, but we’ve been there, gotten robbed there, been there again.

Item The Fifth: This is what I have farting on my right most of the day when I’m at my desk in my home office:

jessie_smallShe loves her “desk cave”, but the semi-enclosed area tends to trap the odors. I’ve thought about putting in a fan and a venting system to the outside, but I fear that the neighbors over on that side would (justifiably) demand an Environmental Impact Report, which we would probably fail. Look at all the problems the Sriracha factory is having in Irwindale.

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Filed under Cats, Critters, Dogs, Fandom, KC Chiefs, Odds & Sods, Photography, Science Fiction, Travel

Social Media ‘Bots

The New York Times today had an article in their Bits Blog about how some folks, craving fame and notoriety in social media circles such as Twitter and Facebook, can for a very small price buy thousands of followers who will retweet, like, favorite, and hashtag your every selfie and TMI update.

For whatever reason, a lot of people (the article mentions celebrities as an example) think that their worth is determined by how big that number is underneath “Followers,” enough so that they don’t mind paying to “cheat.” (“Pardon me, while I whip this out!”)

Now, no doubt about it, since I started this blog almost a year ago, I’ve been pleased to see the number of “subscribers” going up steadily. (We’re at 140 currently.) I enjoy writing and ranting and posting and there’s a certain satisfaction to knowing that people out there are reading and (occasionally) commenting.

There might sometimes be days when I look with a certain envy at the readership numbers for John Scalzi’s “Whatever” or Chuck Wendig’s “TerribleMinds,” especially since I admire those sites and in many ways learned about doing what I do here by reading there before WLTSTF got started.

But I’m not an idiot. (There will be a brief pause while the obligatory snarky comments are made.) I know that sites like “Whatever” and “TerribleMinds” (and thousands of others) are where they are today because of years and years of work and sweat. I’ve been doing this for less than a year.

So while I hope to someday to have my golden words and purple prose and riotous rants followed by thousands or even tens of thousands (tell your friends!), I’m quite happy with being fairly sure that about 99% of you are real humans, not social media bots that I bought. (I’ll let you all figure out who the 1.4 followers are who are software instead of wetware.)

As for those who feel the need to be followed by “thousands” even when they know that they’re really followed by dozens, I’m here to tell you that you need to get a little bit of help and a much tighter grip on reality. The number of social media followers you have really is not any sort of true measure of your worth.

Even if it were (and, again, it’s not), if the headcount of our Twitter or blog followers were truly a valid measure of our societal status, would you want to be the guy or gal who gets caught padding your stats with purchased bot accounts? Do you not realize how easy it is to determine which followers are bots and which are real? Just google “Test for fake Twitter followers” and see how many sites pop up!

I’m reminded of something that happened at my first Worldcon, 1978’s Iguanacon in Phoenix. Harlan Ellison was the Guest of Honor, the ERA Amendment was a huge political battle of the day, Arizona was a non-ratified state, and science fiction fandom was in an uproar accusing uber-liberal Harlan of being a hypocrite. A couple of particularly vocal, strident, and obnoxious fans had been publishing (and I do mean “publishing,” this was all pre-Internet) all kinds of screeds, in part to try to “make a name for themselves” in fandom. (Then again, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.)

I love fandom, I really do. Everyone should go to a con or ninety-nine, let your hair down, get a hall costume, go filking until breakfast, get a book signed by your favorite author, and so on. But — it’s just fandom.

It’s at best a few thousand people in “true fandom” (whatever the hell that is) and maybe a couple hundred thousand if you throw in everyone who goes to the various ComicCons and so on. It’s fun, it’s an escape, it’s silly — but it’s just fandom. It’s not curing cancer, winning a Pulitzer, solving climate change, landing on Mars, or making first contact with extraterrestrials.

As Harlan put it so eloquently, trying to “make a name for yourself” in fandom is like trying to be “the best leper in the colony.” (I love that phrase!)

I cherish every subscriber to this blog, every follower on Twitter, all of my friends and family on FaceBook. But that’s because you’re all real and I love to communicate with you. It would not stoke my ego to see four or five digit numbers of followers when I would know that 99% of them were fake. If that’s what floats your boat — I can recommend a very good therapist.

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2014 Hugo Award Finalists Announced

The finalists for the 2014 Hugo Awards, to be given out at Loncon 3 in August, were announced today. You can see the complete list here.

As usual, this will no doubt kick off a flurry of reading for me as I try to read everything before the awards ceremony. As I did last year after this blog was started (here, here, and here), I will no doubt inflict my opinions (insightful, knowledgeable, and otherwise) on you as I read through the list.

A few early thoughts, glancing through the list:

It’s interesting to see the entire “Wheel Of Time” series nominated for “Best Novel” — apparently an entire series of novels can be nominated once the series is finished if none of the individual novels ever got nominated. I’ve actually read the first eight or nine novels of the fourteen, but…

FOURTEEN freakin’ novels! 4,410,036 words! 11,916 pages in hardback! Massive epic fantasy (with some SF elements at least hinted at here & there), I remember it started off okay for the first three or four books. Then it started to bog down. Then it became glacial. I think volume nine was where my daughter (who got me involved in reading them) described the entire book as “Egwene Takes A Bath.” Yep.

That was about the time that the author, Robert Jordan, died. Normally this would pose a problem, but in this case it actually saved the series. Brandon Sanderson was brought onboard to write the final books based on Robert Jordan’s notes and outlines. I’ve heard (although I gave up after the Bath novel) that the later books got good and the final resolution was quite good. Maybe I’ll have to see.

I’m also glad to see “Parasite” by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) made it. I really liked her “Newsflesh” trilogy and I’m looking forward to seeing what she’s come up with here.

Randall Munroe got nominated for “Best Graphic Novel” for the “Time” XKCD. That’s incredibly freaking wonderful!!! (Must not go crazy with too many exclamation points…) I haven’t even looked to see who else got nominated in the category, but I hope they know it’s an honor just to be nominated.

“Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form” is, as always, five major Hollywood movies. As much as there may be hard-core fans of “Iron Man 3” (which I liked a lot) and “Frozen” (which I haven’t seen but have been “squeeeeeed” at by many friends), I don’t see how anyone can vote against “Gravity.”

“Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form” is, as always, two-thirds or more “Doctor Who” episodes or specials or whatever. As someone who has never quite “gotten” Doctor Who, I’ll remain unimpressed. Sorry. Sue me. It’s interesting to see an “Orphan Black” episode nominated — I’ve not watched the series, but I know that the second season premiered tonight because half of my Twitter feed was friends going nuts about how great it is. Finally, we’re working our way through the third season of “Game Of Thrones” and while I’m sure that “The Rains Of Castamere” is going to be utterly fantastic (yes, I’ve read the books, I know what’s coming) it’s going to be rough to watch.

Finally, as I go into Old Phart mode, I remember when you could go read all (i.e., 95%+) of the nominees in the Short Story, Novelette, and Novella categories just by digging through your year’s collection of Analog, Asimov’s SF, and Fantasy & Science Fiction. Now I guess I’ll have to go hunting, unless they put them all on the site to be read. Some of those source publications seem to be just a bit “obscure,” shall we say.

Time to dive in!



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Twitter Humblebrag

First, a little background…

I got a Twitter account two or three years ago “just because”, but didn’t start using it on a regular basis until early 2013.

My initial opinion of Twitter when I first heard about it was low – just for use by teens to see what the latest gossip and BS was from the Kardashians and Justin Bieber. That opinion changed pretty quickly once I started using it regularly. It’s a tool, just like any other. Yes, you can use it to follow movie stars and bubble-brained airheads who are “famous for being famous”. You can also (as I do) follow:

  • the New York Times
  • CNN
  • the Los Angeles Times
  • NPR
  • dozens and dozens of NASA accounts, including astronauts currently on ISS
  • reporters covering astronomy and the space programs
  • planetary scientists
  • astronomers
  • writers such as John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig, Seanan McGuire, Richard Kadrey, and Neil Gaiman
  • musicians such as Amanda Palmer
  • favorite sports teams and the beat reporters who cover them

You get the picture? There’s some absolutely amazing, creative, intelligent, and hilarious stuff going on there.

I am a long, long way from being a “big name” on Twitter by any stretch of the imagination. As of this last Wednesday morning, I had all of thirty-one people “following” my account.

I’m still enough of a novice and wannabe on Twitter so that I have all of my notification alarms turned on. This means that my phone goes “boop!” any time someone responds to, “favorites”, or “re-tweets” anything I tweet. It doesn’t happen often — two or three times a month might be a “big” month.

I occasionally will comment or react to some tweet or another, and on a handful of occasions I’ve gotten a response, a “favorite”, or a “re-tweet”. The “high point” of my “Twitter career” I think was when I once responded to a tweet by the NASA Morpheus Lander account and it got two or three “favorites” and maybe two “re-tweets”. I’ve gotten a couple of local LA television reporters to respond to tweets I’ve sent their way.

As they say, “Big whoop!”

Then came last Thursday night when I was busy writing my entry for Chuck Wendig’s “Flash Fiction Challenge”. As usual, my Twitter feed was up in a window on the other monitor. (I use the Janetter client most of the time on my desktop.) A bizarre little tweet caught my eye as it popped up:

16-Jan-2014 Twitter 01Assault and attempted murder using a squirrel as a weapon, eh? There’s something you don’t necessarily see every day!

16-Jan-2014 Twitter 04The Bloggess is a writer & entertainer who is followed by many of the people that I  respect and follow (three of whom you can see listed there), so I started following her some time back. She can be very entertaining, often in a really thoughtful and weird sort of way which I enjoy and respect. As you can see, she has many, many followers.

16-Jan-2014 Twitter 02Now there’s a response that I like!

16-Jan-2014 Twitter 07Apparently other followers of her were equally enamored.

I often find my muse slipping out and making snarky, snappy, (hopefully) witty comments in tweets that I shoot off into the Twitterverse. 99.999999% of the time they go ignored and unseen.

This was that 0.000001% event for me:

16-Jan-2014 Twitter 03About thirty seconds after hitting “send” my phone went “boop!”. Then “boop! boop! boop!”. Then “boog!boop!boop!boop!boog!boop!boop!boop!” And it didn’t shut up for a while.

The Bloggess had “favorited” and “re-tweeted” my post to all of her 365,613 followers. They’re not all online every second watching every word she types, obviously, but a decent percentage of them are, and they seemed to think my tweet had an appropriate amount of snark, so they started responding, “favoriting”, and “re-tweeting”. Then The Bloggess started following my account (hi there!) and others did as well. (Am I supposed to be clever and funny all the time now? No pressure!)

The “boop!boop!” chorus subsided after a while, although there were a few more yesterday, and even a couple today. The current totals are:

16-Jan-2014 Twitter 06I haven’t done an exact count (maybe Twitter has a stats function somewhere that I could check, but I don’t know where it is) but I would bet that the 10 “retweets” and 29 “favorites” on this tweet exceed all of the “retweets” and “favorites” combined on every tweet I’ve ever done. And the number of my followers jumped from 31 to 38, a 22% increase overnight.

Let me assure you, I’m not having any delusions of grandeur here. This is neither rocket science, brain surgery, or high finance.

On the other hand, one of the things I’ve done in the last year is to actively try to establish my “personal brand” using this blog and social media. That’s why I’ve set up accounts and been using Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram. I’ve been active on Facebook for years since it’s been extremely useful in keeping in touch with friends in SF fandom and high school classmates that have scattered all over the country. I keep seeing articles and advice that says that such a “personal brand” will serve you well in job hunting, particularly on LinkedIn. (Well, we see how well that advice has worked.)

If I am able to establish some sort of career as an author, either part-time or full-time, such a “personal brand” and a solid presence on social media will be invaluable. So when that happens, you can say you knew me when. “Yep, I read his ‘Twitter Humblebrag’ blog post when it first came out. I was one of Paul’s fans and readers before it was cool to be one of Paul’s fans and readers!”

No egoboo here — just me and my self-satisfied grin. (Don’t worry, The Long-Suffering Wife will knock me off of this pedestal I’ve erected for myself, probably immediately after she read this. In four, three, two, one…)





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