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A Possible Unifying Event re: the Hugos

The Hugos and Worldcon are over, and thus did the internet see the Eighth Plague of Post-Hugo Pontification. Some declared victory, while others declared victory for totally different reasons, and lo did they yelleth at one another over whose “victory” was bigger.

But on the fifth day, a lull did fall upon the web of the wide world, as rational and informed people of all nations looked down in agreement and unity. For generations of canine tribal war paled in the face of one simple truth:

This was dumbassery most epic. Most epic indeed…

Hugo legal threat 1

Hugo legal threat 2

ETA: Good gravy, there’s more, and this one wants to bring in the FBI!

Hugo legal threat 3

I invite fans on all sides to finally come together as one to ask, “Dude, seriously?”

Because wow…

Loki Facepalm

Social Media Gravity Well

No blog post today. All of my social media energy has been drawn into a conversation on Facebook about respecting people’s gender identity.

600+ shares and several hundred comments later, I’m still dealing with comment management and a little bit of bigot herding.

Seems like an awful lot of argument over a post that basically comes down to, “Hey, if folks could treat other people with respect and common courtesy, that would be great.”

Writing Full Time: Diana Pharaoh Francis

Cover: Edge of DreamsIn three more days, I reach the end of my time as a full-time state employee.

Author Diana Pharaoh Francis was kind enough to write the letter below, congratulating me and sharing her experiences and the lessons she’s learned. Taking care of yourself is important advice, and it’s something so many of us routinely forget or neglect. My thanks to Di for the reminder.

Her latest book is Edge of Dreams, the second Diamond City Magic book. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’ve enjoyed a lot of her other work. You can also say hi to Di over on Twitter or Facebook.

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Dear Jim,

Congratulations on leaving the day job and embracing the word-job full time. Scary as it is, it’s a wonderful thing. I’ve been working on what to say to you, and I was embracing the funny, but really, I couldn’t maintain it. This is too important. So let me tell you from the heart some things that I think are important.

As you know, I did this about two years ago. I left a stable tenured job at a university and moved across several states with my family and went full time writer. It was a glorious dream come true. I was over-the-moon excited. This was something I’d been working toward for a long time. Like you, I have a spouse with insurance and a stable income, but I still need to make a certain level of income to get the bills paid. Unfortunately, unlike you, we couldn’t pay off our mortgage (I so envy you that).

At first it was amazing. The kids were in school and I was writing like a fiend. Words tumbled out on the book and I was having a fabulous time. And then came the unexpected. My son developed an illness that turned into a long term illness. It’s lasted now for the better part of two years. I’ve been so grateful to be able to be with him and to have the schedule that lets me go to hospitals and doctors and so on without having to worry about getting time off. On the other hand, it seriously cut into my writing time. It also cut into my creativity. (He is getting better finally. Yay!)

I didn’t realize it was happening to me, but over the months, I began losing motivation and ability to write. I felt tired all the time and I couldn’t think. I had a lot of resistance to writing. It took me time to figure out that this was stress. Perfectly reasonable, but by that time, the stress of not being able to write had added to the stress of everything else and created a terrible feedback loop.

And that’s where I come to my advice. Take care of yourself. You know that means exercise and taking schedule time off from the job, and so on. But I’m here to tell you that one of the most important parts of taking care of yourself is to find a community of writers to hang out with. We do this at cons, but it’s truly important to do this in your real life, too. Maybe it’s online in chatting. Better if you can do it in person. I’ve taken to meeting other writing friends for coffee or breakfast. The conversation is sometimes about writing, but more it’s just talking to people who really get what your life is like. They’ve experienced the same things. There’s something so positive and rejuvenating in that understanding, it can be a lifeline when you’re struggling on any level.

So that’s it. My big advice. Oh, except this one thing, which is actually from Neil Gaiman. Enjoy the ride. It’s lovely and fun and exhausting and difficult and so very amazing. Remember to enjoy it.

All my best,
Di

INVISIBLE and the Hugo

InvisibleI went to bed before the Hugo Award results were announced, and woke up this morning to emails about INVISIBLE. The Hugo voting statistics were released last night, and it turns out that INVISIBLE would almost certainly have been on the ballot for Best Related Work if not for the Sad and Rabid Puppy slate voting campaigns.

Thank you to everyone who nominated us. And thank you to all of the contributors for sharing their stories and helping to create a wonderful, powerful, and potentially award-worthy collection. Shiny rocket trophies are nice, but far more valuable is the fact that we created something important, something that had a real impact and made a difference to people.

To Alex Dally MacFarlane, Mark Oshiro, Katharine Kit Kerr, Susan Jane Bigelow, Charlotte Ashley, Ada Hoffman, Kathryn Ryan, Gabriel Feycat Cuellar, Nalini Haynes, Joie Broin, Morgan Dambergs, Derek Handley, Ithiliana, Michi Trota, Nonny Blackthorne, and cover artist Mark Ferrari: Every one of you should be damn proud of yourselves, and I’d like to ask one last thing of you all.

Do something nice for yourselves today. Treat yourself to ice cream or go see a movie or just stay home and kiss a loved one. Whatever you like, so long as it’s a way to celebrate and reward yourself for your part in helping to create something good.

Puppy Essay in Der Zauberspiegel

German zine Der Zauberspiegel invited Brad Torgersen, Adam-Troy Castro, Lou Berger, Wayne Borean, and myself to write about the Sad/Rabid Puppy phenomenon. Those essays went up yesterday. The English translation of mine is here, or you can read it in German.

Links to all of the articles are available in English or German.

Shocking nobody, my article (in English) has already drawn its first troll…

9 Days to the Quittening: The Anxiety Rises

August 28 will be my last day as a full-time state employee, after which I get to transition into my full-time job as a writer. I’m excited and eager and impatient. I can’t wait to have more time for writing various books and stories and other projects.

It also scares the hell out of me.

I’ve felt the stress and anxiety building as I get closer to Q-Day. Some of it is completely irrational. Significant life changes are always stressful. Even good changes.

Garth - We Fear Change

There’s also the rather long list of things I need to take care of at work before I leave, a list that keeps multiplying like gremlins in a hot tub. Everything from documenting my work and processes to finishing out various projects to making sure my family’s insurance will transition smoothly from my coverage to my wife’s.

There’s the financial side of things. I’ve done as much as I can to prepare for the change to our income. I’ve got things like the on-publication payment for Fable: Blood of Heroes, the D&A for Revisionary, the mass market payment for Unbound, and the hardcover payment for Revisionary all coming in over the next six months or so. But in the long term? We’ll see…

Then there’s the Imposter Syndrome lurking in the wrinkly shadows of my brain. “Oh, sure. You did pretty well when you were working a day job and putting out one book a year. But do you have what it takes to make it as a real writer?”

Imposter Syndrome is a jerk. I hate the idea that some people are “real” writers and other people aren’t. I’ve been a real writer for twenty years. But the fear is completely irrational, and this feels somehow realer. It’s another step up on the ladder, and that means another opportunity to fail.

It’s also another opportunity to succeed. It’s the chance to branch out and write new things, to put more energy and focus into my writing career and see what comes back.

I believe this will be a very good change for me and for my family. Hopefully for my readers as well. I’m excited about it, and I’m counting down the days. I’m particularly looking forward to waking up on Monday the 31st, looking at my clock, and then rolling over and going back to sleep. I’ve spent the past week and a half doing worldbuilding and outlining a brand new fantasy novel, and I can’t wait to start writing the story. I love that I’ll have more time to write, and could possibly get this written and submitted so much faster than my usual one book/year pace.

But the fear is there too. It probably always will be. If there’s no fear, no risk of failure, I figure that means I’m probably not reaching high enough.

Nine days and counting…

Artwork from Mari Kurisato

Over the weekend, author and artist Mari Kurisato started making a thing.

by Mari Kurisato

I’m not sure about her choice of subject, but I’m fascinated by the process of creating visual art. Turning a blank page/screen into a recognizable portrait or image is a kind of magic.

Plus, you know, this first layer made me look purple, which is awesome :-)

I turned grayscale in Stage Two. For the rest of these, you can click for a larger image.

by Mari Kurisato

But then the purple returned, along with a Star Trek reference! 😀

Also, I disagree completely with her claim that she’s not an artist. She so is, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. So there.

(I believe she’s correct about not being a doctor, though.)

by Mari Kurisato

Wait, how did this get in here? Why, it’s Kurisato’s book Guns of Penance, described as “a fast-paced erotic techno fantasy that’s one part Mad Max, one part Kill Bill, with a dash of Delta of Venus.” The book just happens to be available as a free Kindle download today.

Yes, that was a hint.

This next image intrigued me. Specifically, the layer named “hyperbeard.” I’m not sure what a hyperbeard is, but I want one!

by Mari Kurisato

We’re getting closer, with more background details.

by Mari Kurisato

And here we have the finished image, complete with Smudge!!!

by Mari Kurisato

I immediately made this my Facebook icon, because why wouldn’t I? I’m in a purple leather jacket and I have Smudge, two things that make me happy.

I loved watching the evolution of this portrait, seeing the new layers of color and detail. And I’m both flattered and honored that she chose to create this. Thank you, Mari!

PS, Aha! So that’s a hyperbeard!

by Mari Kurisato

Racial and Gender Diversity in 2015 SFF Convention Guests of Honor

The first time I was invited to be Author Guest of Honor at a convention, it felt like I’d leveled up. I was thrilled and excited and — truth be told — more than a little intimidated. (It didn’t help that the prior year’s GoH had been bestselling author Brandon Sanderson.)

I’ve done a number of Guest of Honor gigs since then, and as a general rule, it’s a wonderful experience. There’s a fair amount of work, but you also get to meet a lot of great people. There’s also the sales and publicity boost that comes with it. I don’t know how much of a sales spike a GoH spot can create, but between books sold at the convention and the long-term effect of fans who might decide to buy more of your stuff in the future, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

But who actually gets those shiny Author Guest of Honor invitations? I decided to try to pull actual data to see if there were any trends or patterns.

I started with Wikipedia’s list of SF/F conventions. I filtered out the media and comic cons, because I wanted SF/F conventions with at least some significant literary focus. From the remaining 69 conventions, I built a list of all author guests of honor from 2015. If a convention wasn’t held in 2015, I used their scheduled GoH for 2016. If there was no con in 2015 and nothing planned for 2016, I removed it from the list.

Author Guests of Honor, by Gender

I gathered data on author gender from the authors’ websites, Wikipedia, convention listings, and other online sources. To the best of my knowledge, all authors listed identify as either male or female.

Of the 102 Author Guest of Honor slots, 52 were male and 50 were female.

Pie Chart - 2015 Guests of Honor, by Gender

This balance is great to see. I’d be interested in seeing longer-term trends over the past decade or two, but that’s a much more ambitious project, and I’m not sure how much of the data are publicly available.

This is encouraging, but does it mean we’ve solved sexism in SF/F? Obviously not. This is one measure among many. We still struggle with harassment, gender inequality in who gets reviewed and promoted, and a host of other issues. I also worry that we’ll see something like what happened with the Hugos this year, where a trend toward gender balance was abruptly reversed following pushback and backlash.

But this is very much a positive and encouraging sign, one I hope to see continue in the future.

Author Guests of Honor, by Race

Next, I categorized the guests of honor by race in order to see how we were doing in terms of racial diversity. This again involved referring to author websites, Wikipedia, and other online sources. For the sake of simplicity, I broke the data down into two categories: White and PoC (people of color).

92 of the 102 author guests of honor were white.

Pie Chart - 2015 Guests of Honor, by Race

This was disappointing, to say the least. Don’t give me that bullshit about how PoC don’t write speculative fiction, either. That’s as ignorant and wrong as saying they don’t read it.

Here are just a few of the authors who aren’t on that list of GoHs:

Yet I’m on the spreadsheet three times.

And people wonder why PoC don’t always feel welcome or wanted at conventions. Not to mention all the fans who are getting cheated out of the opportunity to meet a more diverse range of authors, and read a broader range of stories.

We can do better. We should do better.

Survey Weaknesses

No survey is perfect. Here are some of the flaws I’m aware of. I don’t think they invalidate the points I’ve made, but they’re important to acknowledge.

  • This doesn’t include all SF/F conventions. I used Wikipedia’s list as a starting point so my own knowledge and biases wouldn’t affect the results.
  • Gender and racial identification may not be 100% accurate. If I’ve misidentified you, please let me know so I can correct that.
  • A data pool of 69 conventions and 103 guest of honor spots is pretty good, but a broader and longer-term study would have been even better.
  • 56 of the 69 conventions listed are in the USA, with 4 more from Canada. So the data is heavily skewed toward the U.S. and North America.

Disclaimer

This is not meant to criticize any individual convention. My frustration is with the trend as a whole. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with inviting John Scalzi or S. M. Stirling or David Weber or Jim C. Hines to be your author guest of honor. The problem is when conventions as a group stop looking beyond a narrow pool of potential guests, and when fandom focuses on honoring white authors to the exclusion of others.

My thanks to Tobias Buckell for double-checking my data. Any mistakes are mine and mine alone.

Raw Data

Here’s the Excel spreadsheet with my data, including author and convention names. Please contact me with any mistakes so I can correct them.

Edited to remove one non-GoH from Balticon, fix the 2015 Arisia GoH, and correct two data-entry typos in the gender category.