Looking Back, Looking Ahead

I’m not a New Year’s Resolution person, as you might gather by this post happening on January 3rd, not the 1st. I used to be! But it turns out that Here is a thing I would like to do quickly becomes Here is a thing I failed to do and oh god I’m a terrible person awfully quick. In recent years, I’ve figured it’s better to treat those things as a sort of rolling works in progress list, revisited every now and then.

Clearly, since it’s been, uh, a couple of months since I blogged, dusting this place off is one of them.

So! quick 2015 recap:

 

Writerly Things

Fiction:
Grave Matters, February (Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon)
The Fire Children, June (Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon) 
“The Eleventh Hour” in Fireside Magazine, July

This is where I point out that, if you’re eyeballing your nominations lists and think any of those are worthy of appearing on your ballot, have at it! I’m also in my second (and therefore final) year of Campbell eligibility.

Freelancing:
The alternate ending I wrote for Eternal Lies is out in the world!
Our hard copy of Vampire: Dark Ages 20th Anniversary Edition arrived and it is beautiful. I might be a bit biased, what with having contributed to it.

I wrote for several other RPG projects last year. More info and links when I get the go-aheads.

Travel

I thought I’d traveled a lot in 2014. Oh, past me, you sweet summer child. My job changed a bit last year, which means I now get to go out in the field and visit my bookstores. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a wee bookseller, and it’s been wonderful getting out on the road and meeting my new buyers and their teams of eager, enthusiastic booksellers.

The year was also con-tastic: Arisia and Boskone – the latter during one of our many snowmageddon scenarios – followed by C2E2, GenCon, and WorldCon.

I attended our annual nerd family reunion out in Seattle in July, was on staff at Viable Paradise XIX, and trekked down into the mountains of Tennessee with Hill for a Murder Yeti retreat. As you can tell since I’m writing this, we were not eaten by bears. Or murder yetis.

Other Things

In any given year, I read a whole ton o’books. Part of that is the dayjob, part is my commute, part is just, y’know, liking to read. I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of them all, and the grand total is… 43! Slightly shy of a book a week, but considering the travel and deadlines I’ve been under most of the year, and that whole writing thing, I’m pretty happy with it. This count is only for prose fiction, by the by. If you added in trades of the comics I read (woohoo Ms. Marvel, Saga, and Captain Marvel!), I’d probably hit a book a week easy. I do intend to do a best-of post. Theoretically while people are still mulling their ballots!

That post will also include thoughts on movies and TV shows I watched, because there were a lot of those as well. I make grabby hands when it comes to a good story, regardless of medium. It was a pretty good year for story (Mad Max: Fury Road! Haven! The Expanse! Star Wars: The Force Awakens!) so I’ll have some things to say in that regard as well.

Onward to 2016!

Let me get the hard announcement out of the way: I’m sad to say that Ace declined to buy more titles in the Night Owls series. That doesn’t mean I’m 100% done with my crew of smartass bookselling monster hunters, but it’s going to be a bit before their adventures continue. I am mulling some options, including potentially dipping my toes into self-publishing for Dead Letters. (The mulling includes taking a look at the contract for the first two books and chatting with my agent about what I’m allowed to do in that vein.) I may also post some short stories featuring the cast up here. First things first, though, I need to finish writing it, and paying projects are going to take precedence.

I will be attending Arisia, Boskone, and WorldCon for sure. Am mulling GenCon, Readercon, and 4th Street Fantasy as well. Without a book coming this year, my attendance at some cons is going to be based on what I can afford.

One of the realities of having a day job and a writing career is, even though it’s nice that the day job means I can use vacation time to attend cons, not all of the con-attending is, y’know, vacation. Cons are also work. Here, take a peek at what my month-by-month looked like last year:

On the road again. And again. And oh, look, again.

On the road again. And again. And oh, look, again.

With the exception of May, every month had some kind of travel or social aspect to it. (I didn’t travel for the holidays. I spent them with family and friends, and while they’re all people who I love dearly and am comfortable and happy being around, that doesn’t mean the holidays aren’t frickin’ exhausting.) I realized around September that I was feeling super-tired, even though I’d used up a whole bunch of vacation days. But when you take a closer look, there were several times throughout the year that I’d work a full week, go to a con, come home and go right back to work. No time to decompress.

Also figure that for several of those months, I was either under deadline for RPG writing, promoting Grave Matters and The Fire Children, and trying to do that thing where I write another book.

Two things toward the end of the year put all of that into a bit more perspective. At the writers’ retreat, I spent two solid, eight-hour days doing nothing but writing. Since we were in the mountains, internet was going to be spotty to start. The house did have wifi! HOWEVER. when you have 40 writers connected to it – whether we were “researching” or vacuuming cats on Twitter – the signal bogged way the hell down and was basically useless. Which meant no distractions, woohoo! I cranked out something like 10,000 words over two days. Then, at the end of the year, I had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s (she says, in her last hours of said time off…) It took me a couple of days to get the slacking out of my system, plus there were holiday things afoot, but by… Tuesday? My brain was bombarding me with story things. I haven’t been as productive as I was at the retreat, but it’s been nice to feel the words flow.

Which means, as I was filling out my 2016 planner, I realized I needed to do myself a bit of a kindness. Somewhere in there, this summer, I’m taking a week off just for me. Giving myself permission to spend the days as I like: cleaning my house, catching up on reading, going the hell outside. And, yes, writing. It seems like a pretty low-bar type goal, but it’s one I’d like to hit.

Note that I’m not complaining about the travel or the writing, by the by. This is a job, one that I love. But it’s also okay to have some downtime, which is a thing I struggle with.

Speaking of writing projects, here’s what’s on the docket:

  • Adrift – yes, still. Swashbuckling fantasy. Elves and an undead assassin aboard a pirate ship.
  • Cantankerous – YA SF. Think, uh, Firefly for teens.
  • “Blood in the Thread” – Still in the planning stages. This is my crane wife/seven swan brothers story.
  • “Spun” (or maybe it’s Spun) – My short stories have a bad habit of turning themselves into novels. This is one of those that’s threatening to do so.
  • Dead Letters and other stories from the Night Owls ‘verse – these are at the bottom of the priority list at the moment, but I never did tell you all what happened with that wraith in Val’s trunk. Or how Cavale met Sunny and Lia.

I’ve also started up a project that I’ve declared a trunk novel for the time being. Kind of a writing-without-pressure deal, and a bit of an experiment. I’m a fairly linear writer, and in this case I’m letting myself bounce around if I want to. And be inconsistent with details. And maybe tenses! It’s funny, for a panstser I sure feel the need to go back and fix shit when I figure out a new aspect of the story. I’m trying that thing where you leave yourself a note for future revisions and move on. We’ll see how it goes.

What are you looking forward to in 2016? What did you dig in 2015 that I should go in search of?

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Sasquan Schedule

I thought last year was a big travellin’ year for me, but it turns out this year’s got it beat. The rest of the year is work travel and writing things, so this is my last con until Arisia 2016. If you’re going to be at WorldCon, come say hello!

Thursday, August 20th

Worldbuilding and Sandbox Games
3:00pm, Room 303A (CC)
Panelists: Brooks Peck, Esther Jones, Andrea G. Stewart, Lauren M. Roy

Fantasy games such as Skyrim and Dragon Age: Inquisition, along with science fiction games such as Elite: Dangerous and Great Big Sky, provide an enormous open-world sandbox for players to explore.  What is the draw of these games, and the challenge of designing them?  What lessons can authors learn from games like these?

Friday, August 21st

Autographing
10:00am, Hall B (CC)

Reading
11:30am, Spokane Falls Suite A/B (Doubletree)
Storytime! Not sure what I’ll be reading just yet, whether an excerpt from something that’s already out, or a sneaky-peek at new material. I might leave it up to the room to decide! (And I am currently flying solo here – if you’re at Sasquan and didn’t get a reading slot, let me know. I am happy to share.)

Sunday, August 23rd

Game of Thrones: Expectations of Gender and Sexuality
12:00pm, Bays 111A (CC)
Panelists: Perianne Lurie, David D. Levine, Valerie Estelle Frankel, Lauren M. Roy

After five seasons, we have expectatons of Game of Thrones as having a lot of female nudity and graphic violence.  But, at the same time, it has some very strong female characters, and, among some of the characters, a more modern view of sexuality.  Do these contrasting views work against the show or enhance it?  What are some of the bigger surprises?

Worlds We Believe: YA Worldbuilding
1:00pm, 300D (CC)
Panelists: Jenifer Brozek, Kate Elliott, Jessica Rising, Lauren M. Roy

Have you ever sympathized with trudging through Professor Trelawney’s divination classroom? Does living in a Hobbit hole, spaciously provisioned seem not so far-fetched? Which district do you live in?  What about traveling through a worm hole at warp speed? Worlds that are easy to picture become a part of invested creators. What makes a believable world? What have past and present authors done right? Come visit other worlds with us.

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GenCon Schedule

OH HEY GENCON IS NEXT WEEK.

/panicflails

I’m part of this year’s Writers’ Symposium, so if you’re going to be at GenCon, come say hi! Here’s where I’ll be:

THURSDAY

10:00 AM
Business of Writing: How to Talk About Your Book

ICC Room 244

Your book’s out — congratulations! Now it’s time to talk about it & generate interest. Learn how to do that without alienating prospective customers & boring readers with constant self-promotion.
Panelists: Susan J. Morris, Kameron Hurley, Anton Strout, Scott Lynch, Lauren M. Roy

2:00 PM
Craft: High Fantasy Without the Cliches
ICC Room 243

There’s nothing wrong with high fantasy clichés, but we’ll teach you ways to explore high fantasy storytelling in new ways without coming across like you’re looking down on the genre.
Panelists: Kelly Swails, Robin D. Laws, Josh Vogt, Kameron Hurley, Lauren M. Roy

7:00 PM
Who the #@%! Is My D&D Character?!
Crowne Plaza: Pennsylvania Station C

Watch (& help) writers like Jim Zub (Skullkickers, Wayward) embark on a totally unofficial D&D adventure as they take on characters randomly generated from online prompts!
Proceeds go to Take This
Panelists: Will Hindmarch (GM), Jim Zub, John Kovalic, Angela M. Webber, Lauren M. Roy

FRIDAY

10:00 AM
Characters: Motivation and Obstacles
ICC Room 244

Discover convincing ways to motivate your character. Explore the difference between obstacles that help characters grow & barriers that bring your story to a screeching halt.
Panelists: Cat Rambo, Howard Tayler, Elizabeth Bear, John Hornor Jacobs, Lauren M. Roy

3:00 PM
Life: Authors to Inspire You
ICC Room 244

We all have our favorite stories — stories that inspire us or make us think. Learn from some successful writers which stories they love, and why — & why they think you should read them, too.
Panelists: Elizabeth Vaughan, Steven S. Long, Richard Lee Byers, Gregory A. Wilson, Lauren M. Roy

4:00 PM
Signing
Exhibit Hall

Bring me things to scribble on! Indy Reads will have copies of Night Owls, Grave Matters, and The Fire Children for sale, and I’ve made some shiny postcards for The Fire Children. If you have books, bring ’em by. GenCon bucket list goal: signing a copy of one of the RPGs I’ve written for (dead tree version or e-reader, I’m not picky.) You are also more than welcome to ask me to sign stuff after panels if you can’t make the autographing!

SATURDAY

1:00 PM
Craft: Sustaining the Tension in Novels
ICC Room 245

Learn to create & sustain riveting story tension for an entire novel. Discover the difference between the type of tension that thrills readers VS the type that just wears them down.
Panelists: Susan J. Morris, John Hornor Jacobs, Chuck Wendig, Matt Forbeck, Lauren M. Roy

SUNDAY

9:00 AM (2-hours)
Read & Critique
ICC Room 241

Each attendee reads something they’ve written, and our panel of experienced authors provide on-the-spot feedback. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get personal feedback on your work! Only participants will be allowed in the room during the Read & Critique session. Each attendee should come prepared with a few pages of their writing (typically 5-10 minutes worth). Attendees should also bring material for taking notes. Attendees who are unable able to read their own work should talk to the facilitator at the start of the session and we’ll make special arrangements for you.
Panelists: Josh Vogt, Jerry Gordon, Lauren M. Roy

—–

So, yeah, that’s a pretty full weekend. I’m still wondering how the heck I’m getting to do so many cool things with so many people I admire. If you spot me wandering around, please feel free to introduce yourself!

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Mad Max: Fury Road – Part 1

We went to see Mad Max: Fury Road last weekend. I admit, when I first heard that there’d be another movie in the Mad Max franchise, I nodded and went about my day. I was more excited for, oh, say, Avengers: Age of Ultron. And then the reviews for both started coming in, and while my enthusiasm for Age of Ultron plummeted (Tony Stark making a rape joke! Black Widow reduced to the viability of her womb! Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner calling Black Widow a slut and offer sorry-ass apologies before Renner went back and doubled down!), my interest in Fury Road skyrocketed. What’s this? Badass women characters who are competent and capable and save their goddamned selves? Nobody getting raped or sexually assaulted on-camera? (Take note, Game of Thrones, ahem.) Goober-gaters and MRAs getting all sadface over all of the above? Sign me the hell up!

Reader, I loved it. It’s a fast paced action movie, with lots of cool cars-turned-war machines, tense chase scenes, and characters being badass. I’m trying to remember the last time I left a movie feeling as pumped as I did leaving this one. It might have been The Matrix.

There are so many things I want to unpack. I keep having to pause in typing these sentences to add an AND THEN to my list of stuff I dug.

Let’s start with what put this movie on my radar:

Imperator Furiosa, the Wives, and the movie’s feminist backbone.

I’m not sure I’d 100% call this an intentionally feminist film. As in, I haven’t read any interviews with George Miller where he states that he set out to make a feminist film. (If someone’s seen one, I’d be happy to correct!) But he did intend to make Furiosa equal to Max, and that’s not a small thing.

Also, because he’s awesome, Tom Hardy is on record not only saying he’s cool with women taking the lead, but that they should.

Anita Sarkeesian, whose work I admire and support, said it’s not a feminist film at all. I disagree on that point, which is okay! I think we’re coming at it from different places, and that’s the beauty of art: people take away different things from it. For me, the movie treated women like people. It gave them agency. It let them make their own choices and do things on their own terms. The women in the film were empowered, and we never once saw them tear each other down. Disagree? Sure. But belittle each other, nope. Lots of people have already commented on the scene where Max passes the gun to Furiosa, because she’s the better shot. It’s a scene that would have played out differently in other scriptwriters’ hands. So overtly, smash-the-patriarchy feminist? Maybe not. But putting women in charge of their bodies and their choices and showing them as a range of different people rather than an interchangeable monolith? Hell. Yes.

One thing that struck me after leaving the theatre was this: never once during the movie did I hear the word “bitch.”

It seems like such a small thing, but I’m so damned used to that and other gendered words being thrown at women to tear them down (Looking at you, Joss Whedon.) A friend of mine pointed out that there’s not a lot of swearing in the Mad Max movies in general. Thing is, cussing comes to me as easy as breathing, but I don’t miss it if it’s not there – I watch enough network TV that I guess I’m used to swear-free shows.

And yet.

When The Avengers slips in the phrase “mewling quim” during a scene where we’re told Black Widow is in control, I found myself bracing for the inevitable. It didn’t come, and that was damned nice.

Next up, the way the camera does and doesn’t focus on the women’s bodies. I braced myself when Max walks up to the Wives hosing the dust off after the storm. Gauzy clothing + water = what the fuck is this, Wasteland Girls Gone Wild? But it wasn’t that at all. Max wasn’t looking at them; he was looking at the water. The only body part the shot truly lingers on is The Splendid Angharad’s very pregnant belly. It’s not a leering gaze, either: it’s establishing both character and stakes. Here is a woman whose body has been used to make more Warlords, and who, if she stays in the Citadel, will eventually end up in that room with the Mothers. She is taking a huge, brave risk, going with Furiosa. They’re being chased across the desert by War Boys who are none too careful about spraying bullets and smashing cars (even with Immortan Joe’s decree not to harm the Wives.) They’re trusting Furiosa to bring them to the Green Place, which may or may not have anyone there who can help her when the baby comes. Those five seconds of film say a hell of a lot, without making her into an object. Into a Thing.

Likewise, when Splendid is dying/dead and the doctor? medic? is getting the baby out (I assumed it was an emergency C-section, but thinking back on the scene, I think Splendid was already dead) the focus is on the doctor, not Splendid’s corpse. We’re not seeing a woman get carved up on camera. In a movie that has quite a few gruesome images, they didn’t go for the obvious one, and again, it was appreciated.

One more! The Vuvalini in the cage (I think it was The Valkyrie) as the group approached. Naked woman. In a cage. The camera follows entire descent to the ground. Guess what it doesn’t do? If you guessed “zoom in on her breasts,” you win a prize!

And, look, I know these aren’t big revolutionary things. You’d think, in two thousand goddamned fifteen, they’d be unremarkable. But they’re not.

Okay. Furiosa herself.

Furiooooosa.

Furiosaaaaaaaa.

She’s a survivor. We know that she and her mother were stolen from the Vuvalini, but not the purpose they were stolen for. Presumably to be wives, maybe as slaves, but as things either way. She climbed up through whatever ranks Immortan Joe has, to drive a war rig. Warboys call her “boss,” and right up until the moment they get attacked, the men on her rig never second-guess her. She’s a woman with a disability, but it isn’t (as it would be in another writer/director’s hands) The One Thing That Defines Her. We see her fight with and without her prosthetic, and she’s equally competent. This is a woman who plotted out how to get those women on her rig and away from The Citadel, knowing the risks she was taking, and did it. I don’t think she pulled it off 100% on her own—more on that in a moment—but the majority of this operation hinged on her. She also listens to the people with her. When Furiosa’s instinct is to kill Nux, the Wives intervene and stop her.

Compassion. It’s a thing she’s allowed to have—that all the characters are allowed to have—and it’s not presented as a weakness. It’s not a thing that comes back around to bite them on the ass.

I feel like I’m defining this movie in terms of what it doesn’t do, but there’s a reason for it. I’ve been watching genre movies for as long as I can remember. Maybe I need to clarify that, in general, they’ve been American-made genre films. The vast, vast majority of them have certain universal beats. Sometimes following those makes for great storytelling. Sometimes it’s the writer/director/whoever doing the tried-and-true things that ratchet up the tension or the emotion. It’s an interesting feeling when they do something different.

It’s kind of like this: a few years ago, I went on a trip to Disney World with my friends. I am Not a Fan of rollercoasters. Usually they’re a big ol’ NOPE for me. Splash Mountain is about as daring as I get, so that is pretty much my whole experience with them. And yet, my friends somehow convinced me to go on the Everest ride. It wasn’t bad! But when we hit the big drop at the end, because I’m used to Splash Mountain’s right-hand turn at the bottom of that drop, my whole body was braced to go right.

Everest’s turn goes left.

Brain and body both were like whaaaaaat?

I got that same feeling all through Mad Max: Fury Road, and it was exhilirating.

And The Wives!

You guys, that moment where Immortan Joe’s about to take the shot at Furiosa and Splendid swings out to block him. Yesssss.

I loved how fully realized these women were, how brave and strong, and… If something needed doing, they did it. “Someone needs to watch in the back.”/”I’ll go.” Count the bullets, unhitch the whatever, climb along the undercarriage with the ground speeding past beneath. DONE. Again, so many other scripts would cram these women into the corner, terrified. There’d be moments of I can’t, I’m scared, help me, and those were, with one notable exception, absent.

The moment of weakness comes early on, when Cheedo the Fragile tries to set out for the oncoming caravans, saying Joe will take her back, will take all of them back. (I’ve only seen it once, and things were happening so fast it was hard to catch names at that early point, so if it wasn’t Cheedo, someone holler.) And that moment is completely understandable. It doesn’t turn her into a simpering wreck for the rest of the movie. She’s afraid, she sees things coming to a bad end, and at that point, for her, going back to life as a thing is a better alternative than death out in the wastelands. She’s a victim of abuse trying to return to her abuser, and that is a thing that happens every day here in the real world. But it’s her friends, her sisters, her community, that pull her back and keep her with them. That moment is also setup for the battle on the way back to the Citadel, where she climbs out onto the rig and begs Rictus to take her back. It’s a ruse, and she knows exactly how to play it because only a day or two before, she was saying it for real. Brilliantly done.

The Vuvalini! Badass biker women of the apocalypse who did their own stunts! Who have built up a community away from people like Immortan Joe, and even though it’s grown smaller by the year, even though their green place dried up and the water went sour, they’ve continued on. Who offer these young women hope despite odds that appear impossible. They risk—and in some cases, give—their lives to get everyone back to The Citadel and set not only the wives, but everyone who lives there, free. Because there are so many women in the cast, their deaths were heart-wrenching, but not cannon fodder. The Keeper of the Seeds was your gut-wrench, which y’know, I’m not going to complain about too loudly. I wish they’d all made it to the end, but hi, its’ a genre film, you’re going to have a body count on the heroes’ side, too. Stakes. Losses. Actions having consequences. That’s on the storytelling side of things, which, well…

Okay, uh. This is over 2,000 words and I still have a million and ten things to say about the storytelling itself. Looks like we’re breaking this into two posts!

A couple of final thoughts. Smart people have pointed out that the movie could have done loads better with POC representation. Zoe Kravitz, Courtney Eaton, and Megan Gale were amazing, but the apocalypse is still pretty pasty. And Hill and I were discussing post-watch that there’s not a lot of diversity of body types, either. I can see, story-wise, why they couldn’t rescue the Mothers: those womens’ absences would have been missed almost immediately. Still, they were the ones who released the water at the end of the movie, and that’s given me a new headcanon. Remember above, when I said I don’t think Furiosa could have planned it all alone? Clearly she had the help of the women she took with her, and Miss Giddy, who stayed behind.

But I think the Mothers must have been in on it, too.

I believe they must have helped plan the Wives’ escape. Listened for whatever information they could glean from their guards’ conversations, because those women were probably near-on invisible outside of what they were providing. Who’s going to watch their tongues around them? On escape day, they kept their goddamned cool, acting like nothing was going on, when they knew there were five girls in Furiosa’s war rig getting the hell out of town. Because this is a movie about women helping each other, damn it, and you can’t tell me those ladies weren’t among the first to convince the girls WE ARE NOT THINGS. Maybe that was Splendid’s line, but somebody planted that seed. Somebody told those girls they didn’t have to resign themselves to that life, and why not have that person be a Mother, dreaming of a better world, a better life, for her children?

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The 2015 Hugo Post

TL;DR: Ugh.

Used to be, I looked forward to the Hugo nominee announcements. It was fun, watching books and authors I dug make it to the shortlist. It was keen to discover new books I hadn’t been aware of and put them on my reading list. Come WorldCon, sometimes the works I liked the best won, sometimes they didn’t. This year, I watched the nominations with a sense of dread, which is exactly what the people who organized a slate-voting campaign wanted.

And I resent that.

Which, I realize, is also what many of them wanted, so good job, I guess?

Much has been written, and by far smarter and thinkier people than I, about what went down and how to proceed from here. I’ll give you some links to click on, if you need to do some research first. You might notice that the majority (possibly all) of the links point toward the type of writers and SF/F industry people and fans that the slate’s creators want to stick it to. I’m not going to link to the slate wranglers, because quite honestly, I find their “Golly-gee-gosh, we only want to encourage more participation!” to be disingenuous. Not when prominent members of their campaign have blogged and commented gleefully about tweaking the noses of “SJWs.” Not when they courted an internet hate group’s participation*. So, if you want the slate organizers’ take, I leave that for you to google. Bring your salt shaker and your comfort beverage of choice, especially if you wade into the comments.

Linkery:

Making Light 1 – posted before the announcements, when rumblings about the slates’ success began.
Making Light 2 – continuing the previous. Abi’s intro pretty much nails how I feel about voting. If you follow no other link, follow this one and read her words. Comments #539 and after are post-announcements.
Making Light 3 –  post-announcements, including links to the fuckery of inviting in GG.

Elizabeth Bear 1 (on fandom) and 2 (on slate voting, and what she plans to do)

Jim C. Hines, “10 Hugo Thoughts”

Charlie Jane Anders at io9, “The Hugo Awards Were Always Political, But Now They’re Only Political”

John Scalzi, “A Note About the Hugo Nominations This Year”

So, go forth and read. It’s a lot, I know, but it’s all good and important. If you’re not familiar with Making Light, it’s one of the few places on the internet where it’s safe – and important! – to read the comments.

Right. My take.

Most of what I said last year, when the slate was smaller, still stands. I apologize for repeating myself, but the sentiments haven’t changed all that much.

I still think slates are shitty. They don’t only take away nominations from their “opposing” side, they take nominations away from eligible works on their “own” side. The organizers had at least one “recommend works you enjoyed” post. From the 40-something responses in the post, they chose five for the slate. Which means 35 (ish) works got dropped off from the start. The slate is as unfair to those writers as it is to the writers they were intentionally trying to freeze out.

I still think recommend-stuff-you-liked posts and eligibility reminders are good things. Scalzi’s yearly “talk about Hugo eligible works you enjoyed” posts are great – they get hundreds of replies, from enthusiastic readers. There’s a huge difference between those and “vote for these five,” though the slate organizers would have people believe they’re exactly the same (see: disingenuous.)

Word-of-mouth is part of fandom. I love a thing so I want all my friends to read it and love it, too. A writer whose work I dig says “Hey, this other book over here was pretty good,” so I want to take a look. I initially picked up A Game of Thrones because it was highly recommended on a Wheel of Time fansite (WoTMania, I believe.)

When our yearly nerd family reunion descends on a Seattle bookstore, it’s a pretty safe bet that the next hour will be filled with us running back and forth in the stacks, dumping books into one anothers’ arms and saying You have to read this. It’s not subversive; it’s not sinister. It’s people who love stories sharing their enthusiasm. Recommendation threads are that same experience writ large and expanded out to people I might never meet.

On Make your own slate, if you don’t like it: Fuuuuuuck that. Like I said, I think slates are shitty, and that goes for any slate. I am heartened to see that even though fans are upset and frustrated, it’s not a situation that’s getting floated. Or, when someone says “The only way to fight it is to have our own slate,” other people push back. There’s a relevant quote here about tussling with swine.

On Get people to vote, if you don’t like it: Leaving aside the part where this isn’t an guaranteed way to prevent bloc votes from sweeping a category, couple of points.
1. If nothing else, more fans are learning about how the Hugos work, and I’m seeing people all over the internet stating they didn’t know they could nominate, but now they know for the future. I’ve seen people picking up supporting Sasquan memberships because they didn’t know that doing so allowed them to vote for the winners. More participation from enthusiastic readers is at least one silver lining we can take from all this. However.
2. Not everyone can afford a Worldcon membership. You need $40 to be able to vote for the Hugos. What might be a dinner out for me is someone else’s grocery bill. I don’t know what a good solution to this would look like – the price of supporting memberships helps Worldcon run. I don’t know if lowering that amount would bring in enough new members to recoup the costs. This is an area in which I’m not well informed. A couple of years ago, someone tried introducing a “No Cheap Voting” rule into the WSFS rules. You can see some discussion of it (and solid arguments against it) on Seanan McGuire’s blog***

What I do know is that my ability to afford a membership is an example of privilege.

On Why don’t you change the rules, if you don’t like it: This is another one that has a few points to it.
1. In general, in years without fuckery, the current nominating and voting rules have worked. They can be gamed, and that sucks, but it’s a risk that’s always been there. Some proposals seem to be in the works to try to lessen the ability of a slate to knock non-slated works out of contention. My concern there is, if there’s a way to exploit the system, determined people will find it. Some men just want to watch the world burn, and all that.
2. Change takes time. Even if someone comes up with a good proposal, it’s not going to go into effect right away. It takes, I believe, a minimum of two years for changes to the WSFS Constitution to kick in. Which would mean (my math and logic might be shaky here; it’s late and my googling skillz are fading) any changes now wouldn’t become official until the 2017 Worldcon. So the first nominating period with new rules would be for the 2018 Hugos.
3. It is perhaps naive and rose-colored of me to simply want people to be fair. Life’s not fair, cupcake, I can hear some people saying, and I know that. I know it, but I don’t have to like it. The slate voters followed the letter of the law, but not its spirit. Have I mentioned it sucks?

What it means for me this year: Oof. This is the tough(ish) question. Last year, I read  every nominee. I evaluated the works “on their merits” and voted accordingly, as the people who organized the campaign insisted we should do. The majority of the slated works were, I discovered, not to my tastes. In my opinion, none were Hugo-worthy, but I’d done my due diligence, given them a fair shake, etc.

I do not feel that same obligation this year.

I’ve bookmarked Kevin Standlee’s post on voting No Award. (Mr. Standlee, by the by, has been level-headed and graceful in just about every place I’ve seen these last couple of weeks, as he was last year. I’m sure he puts up with a lot of frustration around the awards. He is a class act, and if I ever meet him in person, I hope he’ll let me buy him the beverage of his choice.) People I respect have mentioned placing No Award above any person or publication on the slate. It’s the direction I’m leaning toward as well, but I’m also aware some people didn’t realize they were on the slate until it was too late to do anything about it. There might be a few works I will check out with that consideration, because as opposed as I am to slates, I do feel for the people who got unwittingly spattered by association. At least one person or work that was on the slate was also on my nomination list. Clearly, I thought that person or work deserved a Hugo in the first place. I’m glad I have some time between now and when votes are due to think it over.

What it means for me next year: I’ll be reading and keeping track of more short stories/novellas/novellettes. I have subscriptions to some excellent short fiction venues, and have woefully fallen behind. It’s time to catch up. I’ve kept a spreadsheet of what I’ve read/watched/enjoyed over the last year, and have continued it this year. It’s helpful to me to look back in December and see what I read in February and consider what I want to put on my nominating ballot. I’ll probably clean that up a bit and share it here, or create a 2015 works shelf on Goodreads. Sharing works we enjoyed and boosting signals is vital to genre, fandom, and (of course) bookselling. I intend to do more of it. Point in fact: Chuck Wendig is hosting a thread for stuff you dug in 2014. Go participate!

 

*Thus far, it’s unclear how many nominating ballots came from members of said internet hate group**. To me, it doesn’t really matter: at least one slate organizer thought they’d make fine companions, and invited them in. Another made a post welcoming them to the party. Sure, it’s within the rules – anyone with a valid membership can vote – but it’s slimy as all hell and these guys are smart enough to know that. Again, I’m not buying the “golly-gee-gosh, we just thought they might like science fiction, too!”

**Yes, I’m very carefully not naming said hate group or slate organizers. It doesn’t preclude anyone from either group seeing this and showing up here, but one less chance to show up on someone’s Google Alert.

***If I’m reading the 2014 WSFS minutes correctly, the amendment was passed at LonCon and is up for ratification at Sasquan.

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Places I Have Been

Another round of, well, me, on the internet this week!

Kristin at My Bookish Ways hosted an interview with yours truly. I got to recommend other books to read and keep on your radar, too!

A Book Obsession gives Grave Matters three butterflies! /adds to pile of neat ratings icons

Gikany and Una at That’s What I’m Talking About gives it an A: “One of the things we love about this series is that it is strongly character driven.  Ms. Roy’s down-to-earth characters ground the novel, giving it a firm foundation.  We found ourselves completely engrossed in the novel as we watched Elly and Cavale struggle not only to figure out who is controlling the dead but also to better understand themselves.”

Chuck Wendig is an awesome signal-booster for writers, and let me yatter on about Five Things I Learned Writing Grave Matters.

Can I tell you how keen it is when someone admits to laughing at a joke you stuck in the book? How neat it is to get feedback on that line you were afraid was maybe only funny to you? Steph at Bea’s Book Nook mentions a scene that made me giggle as I wrote it, so I’m fist-pumping a bit over here.

The periscope goes back down for a bit. I have some faerie pirates and a dead woman to attend to.

 

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This Week Has Not Sucked

At one point yesterday, I looked out my window at work and saw that not only was it snowing – again – it was snowing up. Not that the flakes were magically leaving the ground and being transported to the heavens in a kind of weird frozen water Rapture, unfortunately. The way the buildings in Boston muck about with wind direction makes it happen. My feeling on the matter was much like that of Agrajag from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyOh no, not again. We didn’t get much, just a dusting really, but dear god spring can get here any time now, kthx.

However! Good things happened this week, too!

This is where I throw confetti with abandon. Grave Matters released on Tuesday, continuing the adventures of my crew of supernatural (and one perfectly mundane) smartasses. We’re mid blog tour, so here’s a collection of links upon which to feast your eyes. Also, a year later, it still makes me giggle that “blog tour” rhymes with “Trogdor.”

Also oh hey, free books!

Some of the blogs hosting reviews are also participating in a giveaway for copies of Grave Matters. Good luck to anyone who enters!

I Smell Sheep – They gave me 4 sheep! “Holey Moley Fangman!”
Candace’s Book Blog – Review (4 hot air balloons \o/) and giveaway – “Fun and entertaining. It has dark bits but the humor thrown in lightens it up and keeps it moving as a good clip. Definitely recommend!”
On Starships and Dragonwings – Giveaway – I loved this observation about the cover: “Also can we just take a moment to really appreciate these covers that are gorgeous and portray the heroines non-sexually and ready to kick some butt??? *slow claps*” Don Sipley does the covers for the Night Owls books, cats ‘n’ kittens. He’s done an absolutely amazing job. (Fair warning if you peek through his gallery – some of the images might be NSFW.)
Manga Maniac Cafe – Review and giveaway – “If you’re looking for a new urban fantasy series to take for a spin, the Night Owls books are great.  They have great characters, fun plot twists, and lots of tense moments.”

But wait, there’s more!

At the Barnes & Noble New Book Roundup this week, Joel Cunningham writes, “This fast, fun urban fantasy continues the Night Owls series, about a very particular bookstore that helps to keep evil creatures at bay (sounds like my kind of store).”

Trinitytwo at The Qwillery dug it! “Grave Matters is at its best for me when our heroes are kicking supernatural ass and taking names, but I’m also happy with the way they support one another in the face of the unspeakable and always have each other’s backs.” (I remembered how much she’d liked Night Owls, so when she tweeted a picture of the Grave Matters ARC, I started biting my nails. So much relief!)

Fangs For the Fantasy gives it 3 1/2 Fangs! “This multiple protagonist element works because they all have compelling storylines and characterisations – and actual character growth” (I’ve spent the last few minutes trying to pick a favorite quote from the review – seriously, go read the whole thing.)

Badass Book Reviews gives Grave Matters 3 1/2 Skulls – “Grave Matters touched on fear from seeing an unexpected spirit, despair at the loss of a loved one, and even hope of somehow getting to talk to them one last time.”

Also, in case you missed my squeeing on the twitters, during Boskone’s Saturday night “Silly Pose Contest,” Bruce Coville helped re-enact the cover of Night Owls. He makes a kick-ass Elly. Career achievement UNLOCKED:
Cover Poses

(Image credit: Brenda Noiseux, via the Boskone blog. Also, if anyone recognizes the person posing as Val, please let me know!)

AND

In more book news, check out this gorgeous ARC mailing of The Fire Children that went out!

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There’s a map and an intro letter, and OMG IT’S A COLLECTOR’S ITEM NOW:

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I don’t think I’ve ever owned a #1 of a limited run of anything before. I might have a low-ish number on one of my Sandman statues. I’m geeking out.

I don’t know who all of the other 29 people are (so far I’ve heard from three other recipients!), but eeeek it’s a real thing in the world and people are reading it. There will be another run of ARCs later on, I believe, so if you’re looking to give it a read, keep your peepers peeled!

More to come…

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GRAVE MATTERS Release Day!

It’s here, it’s here!

Grave Matters

 

The Night Owls crew – full of vampires, hunters, succubi, and smartass booksellers – gets back into action today. From the back cover blurb:

Night Owls bookstore always keeps a light on and evil creatures out. But, as Lauren M. Roy’s thrilling sequel continues, even its supernatural staff isn’t prepared for the dead to come back to life…

Elly grew up training to kill things that go bump in the night, so she’s still getting used to working alongside them. While she’s learned to trust the eclectic group of vampires, Renfields, and succubi at Night Owls bookstore, her new job guarding Boston’s most powerful vampire has her on edge—especially when she realizes something strange is going on with her employer, something even deadlier than usual…

Cavale isn’t thrilled that his sister works for vampires, but he’s determined to repair their relationship, and that means trusting her choices—until Elly’s job lands all of the Night Owls in deep trouble with a vengeful necromancer. And even their collective paranormal skills might not be enough to keep them from becoming part of the necromancer’s undead army…

It’s available in dead-tree format, or you can have nanobots inscribe it directly onto your brainmeats, if that’s your thing. That’s how e-readers work, right? Nanobots? It’s 20-goddamned-15, there’d better be nanobots.
Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

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Boskone 2015, Winter Is Never Leaving Edition

Despite yet another impending blizzard, I will be at Boskone this weekend. If you’re braving the snow, come say hello!

It’s Complicated: Kids and the Culture They Consume

Friday 19:00 – 19:50, Harbor III (Westin)

As the lives of young adults in our ever-changing modern society become more complicated and diverse, so do their personal interests and experiences. Panelists discuss how the growing complexity of our world affects the content of young adult literature, comics, games, and film. How do the philosophical issues that impact today’s society affect how teens see themselves within the fiction they consume? What are some practical ideas for better connecting today’s children and teens with yesterday’s or tomorrow’s literature?

Veronica Koven-Matasy (M), A.C.E. Bauer, Bruce Coville, Lauren Roy, Stacey Friedberg

Gaming Review 2014-2015

Friday 20:00 – 20:50, Burroughs (Westin)

What are the hot new board/card/RPG games for 2015? What’s trending? What new expansions to previously released games are out now? Let’s discuss all things related to new games.

Michael Sharrow (M), Heather Albano , Lauren Roy, Brianna Spacekat Wu

Autographing: AJ Paquette, Lauren Roy, Jo Walton, Jane Yolen

Saturday 10:00 – 10:50, Galleria-Autographing (Westin)

Finding Diverse Fiction

Saturday 12:00 – 12:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

There is a clear desire for increased diversity within SF/F fiction and fandom. There are also a lot of emerging writers who are bringing diversity to the genre, but many of them are still flying below the publicity radar. Authors and publishers come together to share their “must read” lists and tips on where to find some of the new up-and-coming authors.

Charles Stross (M), Susan Jane Bigelow, Don Pizarro, Jarvis Sheffield, Lauren Roy

Authorship, RPGs, and the Legacy of D&D

Saturday 17:00 – 17:50, Marina 3 (Westin)

Dungeons & Dragons, the first commercially available role-playing game, was published 40 years ago. D&D ushered in a new era of cooperative storytelling that has inspired Game Masters, players, and authors to dream big and create their own fictional universes. Panelists explore the many facets of RPGs — from developing challenging and believable frameworks for cooperative story construction to taking the story beyond the game.

Chris Jackson (M), James Cambias, Mur Lafferty, Lauren Roy, Bill Todd

Writers on Writing: Worldbuilding from the Ground Up

Sunday 12:00 – 12:50, Harbor III (Westin)

Some spectacular stories take place in worlds very different from our own: from life on (or in) a gas giant to a civilization that lives on a world-tree as big as the Himalayas. But there are perils associated with venturing far beyond human experience. An inconsistent or poorly described worldscape can furnish a confusing story, or challenge a reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. Hear from writers who have created fully realized worlds that their readers can almost see, touch, and smell.

E. C. Ambrose (M), Myke Cole, Peadar Ó Guilín, Lauren Roy, Rosemary Kirstein

Reading: Lauren Roy

Sunday 14:00 – 14:25, Independence (Westin)

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My Arisia 2015 Schedule

Hey there, cats ‘n’ kittens, if you’re going to be at Arisia this weekend, here’s my schedule:

Sunday, 5:30PM, Bulfinch
Reading
with Felicitas Ivey, Hildy Silverman and… me!

Sunday, 10:00PM, Marina 4
A Game of Thrones: 2015 Edition
Panelists: Terry Franklin, George Claxton, Mark. W. Richards, Jessa Phillips, Lauren M. Roy

As Game of Thrones continues, it manages to diverge from the book in significant ways, while still fitting into George R.R. Martin’s vision. The story has now caught up to the books for some characters, and changes to the story are becoming more rampant. We’ll talk about the state of the show after the fourth season, with potential book and TV spoilers as we predict the fifth season.

Monday, 10:00AM, Marina 1
Running Great Games
Panelists: William “Ian” Blanton, William C. Walker III, Peter Maranci, Morgan Crooks, Lauren M. Roy

Any gaming group can kick open doors and collect treasure. How do you and your friends collectively tell an engaging and memorable story that you’ll talk about for years to come? Our panel of experienced GMs will share stories, tips, and tricks.

Friday night and Saturday I will be poking around attending panels and seeing what there is to see. If you see me around, say hello!

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