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Author Photos Proposal

As some of you know, I’m a bit of a photography hobbyist — that is to say, very much not a professional. But it’s something I enjoy, and something I’d like to get better at.

It occurred to me as I was looking at my mostly-outdated press kit pics that authors need author photos.

Some authors pay professional photographers for their author photos, and that’s great. Others go through shots their friends have taken and try to find the best ones. And sometimes we just panic and snap a bunch of selfies and hope for the best, because the editor wants it right now and I can’t find anything and I’m panicking and why can’t I just send a picture of my cat instead?

Anyway, as an idea, what would you think of me offering to do photo sessions at future conventions for authors? I’m not sure exactly how this would work, but it would be good practice and experience for me, and I’d send the authors their pics and rights to use them however they need.

While I’m not a pro, I like to think I don’t completely suck. Here are some of the pics I’ve taken over the past couple of years that people seemed to like. (Keep in mind, these were generally snapped in the spur of the moment, so I didn’t always have time to move for better lighting or background and such.)

Wesley Chu

Wesley Chu

John Scalzi

John Scalzi, with Tor Ring

Terri LeBlanc and Ann Leckie

Terri LeBlanc and Ann Leckie

Michelle Clark

Michelle Clark

Tierany Seriflame.

Tierany Seriflame

Doselle Young

Doselle Young

Anthony Hendon

Anthony Hendon

What do you think? What are the downsides I’m missing? I figure I’d need to be clear up front that I can’t guarantee perfection. On the other hand, I can probably promise that you’ll get your money’s worth. Ideally, folks get decent photos they can use, and I get to have fun practicing and getting better at something I enjoy.

I figure I could either do it informally, with folks emailing me ahead of time to set something up at a convention, or else talk to the con about maybe getting an hour or two on the schedule to either shoot outside or in a program room or…well, it would probably be best to scout locations beforehand, to be honest.

Anyway, feedback welcome and appreciated.

SF/F Being Awesome: Books for Kids

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many SF/F Being Awesome posts.

Charity Auction FlyerFor close to 20 years, Balticon and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society have been raising money to provide books to kids — particularly kids who might not otherwise be able to afford them — and to school libraries as well.

I spoke with Kelly Pierce, who’s been coordinating the Bobby Gear Memorial Charity Auction at Balticon since about 2002. The auction raises the bulk of the money for Books for Kids each year.

In the beginning, BSFS Books for Kids worked with RIF (Reading is Fundamental) to buy and hand out the books. When RIF stopped operating in Maryland, BSFS Books for Kids chose to continue, and to distribute the books themselves.

The auction is named in honor of Bobby Gear, who was a BSFS volunteer and teacher at Buck Lodge Middle School, one of the first schools to benefit from the generosity of BSFS Books for Kids.

Since it all began, Balticon and BSFS has probably raised around $50,000 to provide books to libraries and kids in need, with the bulk of that money comes from the annual auction.

Think about that for a moment. Think about how many books this group of fans has passed out. Think about how much that means to kids who might not be able to afford books of their own.

This is what I love about fandom. People don’t just get together to celebrate the stories we love. They pour in hundreds and thousands of hours of work to help others, to share those stories and books with others. To share that love.

For more information:

Thank you Kelly for taking the time to talk to me, and thanks to everyone who’s volunteered and donated and supported BSFS Books for Kids over the years.

Goblin: Keep Being Awesome!!!

Do you have a suggestion for a group, organization, or event to be featured on the blog for general awesomeness? Email me at jchines -at- sff.net, or through my Contact Form.

A Few Hugo Requests

As we go through this strange sensation of Déjà Hugo, I had a few requests to put out there.

1. Don’t tell me, or anyone else, how to vote.

If you want to talk about deciding how you’re going to vote, great. If you want to put forth an argument for No Award or for avoiding the No Award option or for how to treat blatantly rabid nominees vs. trolling nominees vs. human shields or whatever else, fine. But I’m already starting to see people doing the, “If you vote this way (or don’t vote this way), you’re an asshole” thing.

Let me put it this way. The rabid puppies were able to make this year’s mess by lining up and following their voting orders (a tactic which hopefully won’t work very well in the future). Do you really want to follow that guy’s strategy of trying to tell people how to vote?

Some people will probably choose to No Award the whole slate. Others will try to evaluate every work on its own merit. Me, I’ll try to read and evaluate them all, though I’ll probably be more skeptical of most of the rabid works.

I’m not complaining about discussion/debate on how to respond to the rabid puppies this year. I just don’t appreciate people trying to dicktate how I should vote.

2. No asterisks, please.

I did make a crack about asterisks and the Hugo last year after the trophy was released. And I think a lot of people had a mental asterisk over the whole thing, because let’s be honest, last year was anything but normal for the Hugo awards. So yeah, I definitely get it.

But at last year’s Hugo award ceremony, they handed out wooden asterisk plaques, and later sold additional wooden asterisks.

I don’t believe this was done with malicious intent (though I obviously can’t read anyone’s minds). Maybe it was an attempt at humor, and/or to acknowledge the elephant in the room. I appreciate that the sale of the asterisks raised several thousand dollars for a good cause.

Whatever the intentions, it resulted in a lot of people feeling hurt and attacked. I know from experience how nerve-wracking a Hugo ceremony can be in a normal year. Last year, and this year, tensions and anxieties and fears are exponentially higher. And for many of the people in attendance, the asterisks felt like a big old slap in the face.

Like I said, I don’t think that was the intention. (Others will disagree, and have gleefully pointed to the asterisks as “proof” that “the other side” is evil and nasty.) In this case, I don’t think intention matters so much as the impact it had, including hurting some good, talented people.

3. Don’t be an abusive doucheweasel.

For example, here’s a conversation from last year where Moshe Feder had to delete someone’s comment calling for the Sad Puppies to kill themselves. WTF, people?

Screenshot - Puppies Should Kill Themselves

Or here’s someone suggesting the Sad and Rabid Puppies be rounded up and dropped into Daesh territory.

Puppies-Daesh

Then there’s the vitriol directed at the nominees themselves. Particularly at the women on the ballot. (I’m sure we’re all shocked to hear that women tended to get the most and the nastiest of the attacks.)

As one nominee noted last year, “We have been called assholes, bitches, mongrels, yapping curs, talentless hacks and so many more things that I can’t even name them all. I have seen at least one suggestion that all of us should be euthanized.” Another talked about the “helpful” emails they received, saying things like, “If you don’t reject the nomination, you will be forever linked with those people. Always hated.”

And whatever choice the nominees made about withdrawing or staying on the ballot, there were people who would attack them for it, calling them gutless, comparing them to Nazi sympathizers, and worse.

Gutless

SS

I’m not trying to say anyone can’t or shouldn’t be angry, or trying to stop anyone from expressing that anger. But there’s a difference between expressing anger and harassing people. There’s a difference between criticizing people who are actively trying to “burn the Hugos down,” and attacking everyone and anyone who might in any way be connected with — or being used by — those people.

I’m also not interested in debating whether one “side” was worse than the other. I’m simply pointing out that this shit happened. These are some of the public comments. Some of the emails/messages sent directly to folks were far worse.

Finally, I know there are people who delight in being abusive doucheweasels, and nothing I write here is going to change that. I guess I’m just asking the rest of us, myself included, to be careful, and to remember Wheaton’s Law.

Thanks for listening.

Help Me Share the Awesome Side of SF/F

I’m thinking about trying to do a weekly blog post highlighting some of the positive and amazing things being done by various folks in the SF/F community. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how many wonderful, kind-hearted, generous people there are in our geeked-out slice of the world.

Take Pat Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders fundraiser. Pat has poured so much time and energy into Worldbuilders. (Yes, I know some of you would rather he poured all of that time into writing, but none of us can write all the time.) In the past seven years, Worldbuilders has raised more than $3.5 million for Heifer International, helping to reduce hunger and poverty in the world.

Or look at conventions like Windycon, where fans worked to raise $753 for the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter.

So I need your help. Email me at jchines -at- sff.net (or use the Contact Form) and tell me about people or groups in fandom doing good stuff. I’ll do my best to research and write them up, with links and pics and maybe even a quick interview or quote or something. And we can try at least once a week to recognize that yeah, at its worst, SF/F fandom can be a hot, flaming mess … but at our best, we are Frakking Awesome.

Hugos and Such

As I said on Twitter, congratulations to the Hugo nominees — particularly those who earned their spot on the ballot. And thank you to certain individuals for making sure the anti-slate legislation gets passed this year.

The Sad Puppies this year opted for a recommendations list as opposed to a formal slate. The Rabid Puppies, to nobody’s shock, continued their efforts to slate-shit all over the ballot. I’d been guessing and hoping that the puppy influence would be lessened this year. I figured the Rabids would get some nominees through slate-voting, but that we’d also see more viable candidates on the final ballot.

File 770 has posted an analysis of the puppy effectiveness, and the impact varies a lot from one category to the next.

Comparing this year’s results to last, it looks like once again the Rabid Puppy slate had the greatest impact. I was mistaken in guessing their influence would be diminished this year. They appear to have gotten roughly the same number of candidates onto the final ballot, if not slightly moreso. Though this year’s ballot is completely free of John Wright’s work, which surprises me a little.

It’s also clear that Beale and the Rabid Pups were trying to play a slightly different game this year. In addition to the nominees that were Beale’s own ego-stroking (Vox Day for Best Editor, work from his publisher’s blog for Best Related Work, etc.), and blatant “crap-on-the-Hugo” nominees, there were also a handful of nominees presumably chosen to make poor SJW brains explode, like File 770 for Best Fanzine. Or nominees that would almost certainly have made the ballot without the slate, like Andy Weir for the Campbell.

I assume this is designed to make people say, “Oh, woe is me, I can’t vote for anything on a slate, and therefore must vote against File 770 and Andy Weir even though I might consider them deserving,” after which the Rabid puppies will proclaim victory. Or else people will vote for File 770 and Weir, and they’ll win, and the Rabid puppies will proclaim victory.

My, what a brilliant stratagem that absolutely no one could have foreseen. What ever shall we do? Alas, how we are trapped by the cleverness of their clever trap.

Wile E. Coyote, Genius

A lot of the stuff on the ballot is, just like last year, utter crap. I suspect most people are fully capable of reading for themselves and deciding what’s worthy of winning, what deserved a place on the ballot, and what should come below No Award. Just like last year.

All in all, my sense is that the Rabid Puppies had pretty much the same level of influence as last year, and the Sad Puppies had a minimal impact. Like last year, my biggest disappointment is for the worthy individuals and works that got knocked off the ballot by a relatively small group’s coordinated poo-flinging.

The results, along with lists of non-rabid nominees and my notes comparing this year to last, are below. As before, I’d encourage people to read and to vote. And if you’ll be at Worldcon, please try to get to the business meeting.

#

Best Novel has three nominees that weren’t on the Rabid slate. (All three were on the “raw” Sad Puppy recommendation list, and two were on the final, “official” Sad Puppy list.) This is similar to last year’s final Best Novel ballot, which also had three puppy-free nominees.

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Best Novella had one Rabid-free nominee. Given that Binti is also a Nebula finalist, I think it’s safe to say this one very much earned its spot. All four others were from the Rabid slate and the Sad list both. This is similar to last year’s final ballot.

  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Best Novelette is pretty much a repeat of Novella, with one Rabid-free nominee that was on the Sad list. All four other nominees were on the Rabid slate. Once again, pretty close to last year’s ballot results.

  • “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” by Brooke Bolander

Best Short Story was swept by the Rabid slate, just like last year.

Best Related Work was another Rabid sweep. Once again, effectively the same as last year.

Best Graphic Story is yet another Rabid sweep. The Rabid puppies were actually more effective in this category this year.

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form had three Rabid-free finalists. All three were on the Sad list, but come on. Is there any way these weren’t going to make the ballot in a normal year? This is roughly the same as last year’s results.

  • Ex Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form had two Rabid-free nominees. Again pretty much equivalent to last year.

  • Doctor Who: “Heaven Sent”
  • Jessica Jones: “AKA Smile”

Best Editor – Short Form only had one nominee from the Rabid slate, and that nominee made the ballot. This is much cleaner than last year, when it was another slate-dominated category.

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form sees two Rabid slate nominees, once again an improvement over last year’s slate-sweep.

  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Liz Gorinsky
  • Jim Minz

Best Professional Artist was swept by the Rabid slate this year. Last year saw only a single slate-free nominee in the category.

Best Semiprozine has a single nominee that wasn’t on the Rabid slate, a step down from last year, when we had three slate-free nominees.

  • Uncanny Magazine

Best Fanzine is another Rabid sweep, similar to last year when we had only one slate-free nominee.

Best Fancast: swept by Rabid slate. (Last year saw two slate-free nominees.)

Best Fan Writer sees one non-Rabid nominee. Last year saw only a single non-slate nominee.

  • Mike Glyer

Best Fan Artist has a single non-Rabid nominee, compared to last year, when the Rabid Puppies forgot or neglected to include this category on their slate.

  • Steve Stiles

Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo) sees one non-Rabid nominee, just like last year’s one non-slate nominee.

  • Alyssa Wong

Shield Theory

My son and I both had rough days yesterday, and right before bedtime, my wife and I were talking to him about good days and bad days, limits, and why at a certain point we all start to feel overwhelmed and fall apart. I considered bringing up spoon theory, but thought it would be a bit too abstract for him. So instead, I started talking about about Captain America’s shield.

Captain America's Shield

Because in general, every day has good stuff and bad stuff. And just like Cap, we all have a shield we can use to deflect some of the bad stuff and keep it from getting to us. But sometimes there’s too much stuff to block it all, and Cap gets hurt. We all have bad days like that sometimes, where there’s just too much.

What makes life trickier is that your shield can change size. If you’re hungry or overtired, your shield might shrink down to the size of a saucer, which makes it harder to deflect anything. On the other hand, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep, gotten some good exercise, and had fun with your friends, you could end up with a super-shield that’s as big as you are. (Or even a full suit of Iron Man armor. We went off on a tangent at this point, wondering why Tony doesn’t go to Wakanda and make an Iron Man suit out of vibranium.)

As a metaphor, Cap’s shield worked well. We talked about why something might not bother you one day, but the same thing might really get to you on another, depending on how big your shield is that day, and how much else you’ve been trying to deflect. It also seemed to be a good way of talking about self-care, and ways to strengthen your shield so it wouldn’t shrink or crack.

Don’t know if it will be helpful to anyone else, but it was a good conversation with my son, so I figured I’d put it out there.

RIP, Philip Edward Kaldon

I learned earlier today that Philip Edward Kaldon, aka Dr. Phil, had passed away.

Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon - ConFusion 2015I don’t remember exactly when he and I met, but it’s been years. I knew him both as an author and as a fan, a constant presence at most Michigan conventions. We played dueling photographers at ConFusion back in 2015.

As an author, he was published in Writers of the Future XXIV, Analog, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Abyss & Apex, and more. At least two of his stories are available online:

He was also a physicist, and taught at Western Michigan University. (Which, personally, I think gave him an unfair advantage in writing science fiction!)

I knew he’d been having health troubles for a while, but I’d thought — hoped — he was on the path to recovery. I’d been looking forward to joking with him about his new bionic leg at next year’s ConFusion.

He always struck me as positive and pleasant and generally just enjoying himself. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say a bad word about him (which is especially impressive in this community).

He was a regular at many of my book launch events here in Michigan, going back almost ten years, which…it meant a lot.

I’m sorry we won’t get to see more of his work, but I’m even sorrier that I won’t get to hang out and joke around and talk writing and photography and whatever else again.

Jim C. Hines