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10 Hugo Thoughts

The 2015 Hugo nominees were announced yesterday. As much of the internet has noted, the vast majority of the nominees come from the Sad and/or Rabid Puppies slates. Most reactions seem to fall into either anger/grief or gloating/triumph, with very little in between. Personally, I’m happy about a few of the nominees, intrigued by a couple, and rolling my eyes at others.

Some thoughts before I get back to writing…

1. The puppies broke the rules! Well, no. Putting forth an organized slate, recruiting GamerGaters and others who buy into the “War Against the SJWs, for FREEDOM!” nonsense is perfectly legal. Tacky and at times dishonest? Sure. But not against the rules.

2. The puppies are only doing what the Other Side did first! Some folks blame John Scalzi for starting this, but try as I might, I can’t find anything about his Bacon Kittens campaign to take the Hugos back from…I don’t even know. I’ve seen references to SJW conspiracies and secret meetings in smoke-filled rooms, again with no evidence whatsoever. Some people try to point to voting numbers as “proof” of organized campaigns, which…just no. (Kevin Standlee dismantles this one in the follow-up comment.) As far as I can tell, there’s a widespread assumption that the “other side” was somehow organizing secret campaigns and block-voting, and that assumption is being used to justify the puppies organizing a campaign and block-voting.

3. They’re destroying the genre! Whatever “they” you’re thinking of, I don’t buy it. The genre is so much bigger than the Hugos, Worldcon, GamerGate, and the rest. The majority of SF/F fans have only the vaguest awareness of what the Hugo is, let alone the in-fighting and politics and such. Don’t worry, the genre will be just fine.

4. They’re destroying the Hugos! There were claims that the Hugos could be gamed and manipulated, and I think the puppies have effectively proven that’s true, at least for the short list. Does this mean the Hugos are broken? Not necessarily. Does it mean the rules should be changed to make it more difficult to game the system? I don’t really have an opinion on that yet, though I’m sure there will be plenty of discussion in the near future…

5. People should read the works and judge based on quality/People should rank all puppy-related works below No Award. My thinking is that people should read and vote however they want to. If you prefer to read everything, go for it. But I’m not going to tell someone they should force themselves to read the work of someone who publicly denounces a prominent black author as an “ignorant half-savage,” or an author who refers to bisexuality as “sexual aberration.” And if organizing a slate is within the rules, so is choosing to put every item on that slate below No Award on the final ballot.

6. They’re just trying to expand the ballot and make it more inclusive/representative/diverse. I can see a little of that, if I squint. The puppies pushed to get a successful self-published author onto the ballot, for example. They talked about getting tie-in works nominated, but didn’t actually include any on their slate. They did give tie-in author Kevin J. Anderson his first Hugo nom for one of his original books. But if your campaign ends up putting the same author on the ballot in six different spots, then no, you weren’t looking very broadly for nominees. And far more of the comments and rhetoric seemed to be about sticking it to SJWs…

7. The people who asked to be removed from the puppy ballots did so out of fear of SJW attacks. That certainly plays well into the wag-the-dog-style “War Against the SJWs” rhetoric. If you’re interested in people’s actual reasons, Matthew David Surridge has a long and thoughtful post about why he declined to be on the slate. Dave Creek’s reasons for declining are on File770.

8. What about that one story about the dinosaur? Holy crap, some people are so fixated on the fact that Rachel Swirsky’s If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love got on the Hugo ballot last year. (It did not win.) That one story keeps getting pointed out as proof of everything that’s wrong with the Hugos/liberals/the genre/feminism/society/the universe. The amusing part is when the folks saying they want to tear down the mythical gatekeepers are simultaneously losing their shit because they don’t think a story counts as real SF/F.

9. Conservatives are evil! Liberals are evil! SJWs are narrowminded bigots! Right-wingers are narrowminded bigots! Look, all groups have their share of assholes. I do think the Sad Puppy clique has a disproportionate number of assholes, but sweeping generalizations are just…annoying. Can we not, please?

10. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. Bullshit. Nobody should be required to cough up a minimum of $40 in order to have an opinion.

And that’s already more time than I wanted to spend on this today. I’m gonna go back to work on Revisionary now. Enjoy what’s left of your weekend, folks!

Reviewing a Bad Movie for a Good Cause

So we had a few days of movie channels last week, on of those preview things where they try to get you to increase the size of your television package. One of the movies was Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Now, I loved Transformers as a kid. I’ve watched the other Michael Bay movies, despite their badness, because they had Peter Cullen back as the voice of Optimus Prime. Also, they had Leonard Nimoy in the last one, and he made a Spock quote, which was cool.

I started watching Age of Extinction. Reader, this one was even worse.

After walking away, I got to thinking it could be fun* to livetweet a watching of this movie. And then someone suggested turning it into a fundraiser…

Did you know April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

I’ve reported on rape and sexual assault statistics before. The bottom line is that rape is too damn common, and our society still tends to be stuck on rape myths and victim-blaming, not to mention putting the burden on women to solve a crime committed primarily by men.

There are some good people and organizations out there working to educate the public about rape, and to support survivors.

So here’s the deal. If y’all donate at least $500 total to your local rape crisis centers, I’ll subject myself to this movie and livetweet the experience for your entertainment. I’ll post the tweets on the blog as well.

If you don’t have a local crisis center, you can also donate to RAINN or another national organization working to support survivors.

Just email me at jim -at- jimchines.com and let me know how much you donated. If you give more than $100, I’ll ask you to include a copy of the receipt or acknowledgements. Given the number of awesome people who read and hang out here, I’m pretty sure we can hit that $500 mark and then some.

If we go ridiculously over that goal, I’ll throw something else in. Maybe let the highest donor pick another horrible movie for me to review or something like that.

Any questions?


*Fun for you. Not so much for me…

Follow-up on Dennis Upkins’ Guest Blog Post

Well, this has been quite the week.

On Wednesday, I posted an essay from Dennis Upkins titled “The Double Standards of Diversity,” as part of my guest blog series on representation in SF/F. Shortly thereafter, I began receiving comments and emails from people who were uncomfortable with Upkins’ history of violent rhetoric, particularly against women.

I haven’t made a habit of doing background checks on potential contributors. But as the complaints, links, and screenshots came out, I started looking into them. I also emailed Mr. Upkins about the concerns and asked him for his thoughts. He posted a response on his own blog yesterday.

For myself, there were several things I needed to sort out.

1. Complaints about Upkins’ tone. Some individuals were upset about the angry, aggressive tone of Upkins’ post. I’ve received similar comments on a few other posts. This isn’t a concern I’m worried about. Sometimes people get angry. Get over it. People have every right to be angry, resentful, bitter, and so on, especially when they’re dealing with systemic imbalances and prejudices.

2. Violent threats/rhetoric. Where’s the line between the tone argument and harassment/threats/abusiveness? That’s something people have been struggling with for a long time. Is a comment about visiting heterosexist women “with a lead pipe in tow” an actual threat or just blowing off steam? What about choking female slash authors with piano wire? Forcing birth control down a woman’s throat? In this case, the comments I was seeing from Upkins definitely crossed the line.

That said, while there was a pattern of this sort of comment, most of the links and screenshots were from 3-4 years ago. Upkins said he’d apologized, though I haven’t seen that link. He also said two friends pulled him aside and explained why that sort of comment was f**ked up. His New Year’s resolution of 2011 was to be more thoughtful and do better.

I think it’s important to be open to the possibility of growth and change. We all screw up sometimes. Some of us worse than others. Recognizing mistakes and trying to do better is both difficult and important.

3. Personal issues with Steve Berman. Part of Upkins’ post involved criticism of Lethe Press/Steve Berman as homophobic and bigoted, based on an interaction over a story Upkins submitted to a Civil War anthology  Berman was editing for Prime Books. I don’t know what actually happened here, and I think it’s totally valid to complain about being asked to “remove the gay” from a story. At the same time, multiple others who were involved with the same project have said what happened was more along the lines of the publisher deciding they already had several stories with gay protagonists, and didn’t want to add more. While I think that’s still worth discussing, that expectation came from the publisher–Prime Books, not Lethe Press–and Berman was simply working within the publisher’s guidelines. It also sounds like there are personal issues between Berman and Upkins that go beyond this anthology.

4. Upkins’ response to these concerns. When Upkins blogged about these things, he said, “It’s one thing to dislike someone. It’s one thing to have issues or concerns with an individual. It is more than fair to voice said concerns. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.” So far, so good. But he also characterized complaints as coming from white trolls who were afraid of the Big Scary Black Man. He referred to them as losers, sociopaths, and thugs.

The people voicing their concerns and discomfort are not all white, as it turns out. Nor is it just a handful of “stalkers” following Upkins around to harass him.

I get that it’s hard when you’ve got a lot of people posting negative comments calling you out for your behavior. It’s not fun. In fact, it sucks. If people have, as he claims, stalked his blog looking for dirt on his loved ones, then yeah, those people have crossed the line. But while Upkins did seem willing to listen to his friends and change his behavior at least somewhat back in 2011, he seems unwilling to acknowledge that there could be any validity or anything worth listening to from these comments.

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I emailed Upkins to say that while I didn’t plan to pull his guest blog post, I wasn’t comfortable including it in Invisible 2. (I had held off sending a contract to him while I tried to sort through this mess.) In response, he asked me to immediately remove his post from my site, which I’ve done.

I’m disappointed in all of this, to say the least. I still believe Upkins brought up some excellent points about double-standards, and the expectations more marginalized writers are held to compared to their less marginalized peers. However, at least part of that essay seemed motivated by personal vendetta, and others with first-hand experience with the same project contradicted Upkins’ account. To my mind, that–combined with a tendency toward derogatory dismissal of criticism–significantly weakens the essay as a whole.

I’m sure I’ve made mistakes in my handling of all this. I’m still working to figure out where those mistakes were, and how to best avoid them in the future. I apologize to everyone who got hurt with all of this, including both Mr. Upkins and Mr. Berman.

I do have one more guest post coming, after which I’ll turn to putting Invisible 2 together, hopefully for a mid-May release. In the meantime, however, I think I’m gonna walk away from the internet for a little while and go play some Mario Kart.

My thanks to everyone for their patience while I worked through this.

The Advice Checklist

Clippy-Advice

This rant list has been brought to you by a few comments on this blog post, and by observations about the internet in general. Before jumping in to immediately offer advice on all the things, please consider asking yourself the following questions. Thank you.

And yeah, I get the potential irony of giving advice about asking questions before giving advice. I also think there’s a huge difference between sharing my thoughts in a blog post and jumping into other conversations to tell an individual what you think they should do.

Did this person ask for advice?

Hint: Posting about something on the internet is not the same as asking for advice. Requests for advice usually involve phrases like “What do you think I should do?” or “I need advice.”

Do you think your advice is something this person hasn’t already heard?

Hint: I’ve been diabetic for 16 years. If you’re neither diabetic nor a doctor, I probably know more about my disease than you do. I’ve read the books, heard the advice, followed the online discussions, talked to the doctors, and so on. On a similar note, someone who’s overweight has probably already heard your advice to exercise more. Someone with depression has already heard your advice to “just think positive!”

Do you know enough about this person’s situation to give useful advice?

Hint: Telling someone with financial problems to get rid of their credit cards isn’t going to cut it if they’re currently paying legal fees following a divorce, are underwater in their mortgage, and just got laid off from work.

Are you more concerned with helping or with fixing the person so they’ll stop making you uncomfortable?

Hint: People talk about their problems for a range of reasons. To vent, to process their own feelings, to connect with others and know they’re not alone… If you genuinely want to help, great—but in many cases, giving advice isn’t the way to do that.

Are you more concerned with helping or with looking clever? Are you willing to be told your advice is unwanted?

Hint: If the person in question says they’re not interested in your advice and you respond by getting huffy or defensive or going Full Asshole, then this isn’t about the other person. This is about you and your ego. Take your ego out for ice cream, and stop adding to other people’s problems.

Are you sharing what worked for you or telling the person what they should do?

Hint: There’s a difference between “This is something that helped me,” “This is something you might try,” and “This is what you should do.” For me personally, the first option is easier to hear than the second, and the third usually just pisses me off. But also be prepared to hear that the person doesn’t want your advice, no matter how you phrase it.

Do you know what “giving advice” looks like?

Hint: I wouldn’t have thought this one was necessary. Then I got the commenter responding to one of my posts on depression by telling me, “Listen to your inner self and make it your outer self” and insisting he wasn’t giving me advice. He was just “stating an opinion.” Dude, if you’re telling someone what to do, you’re giving advice. If you’re getting huffy about it just being your opinion, you may also be acting like an asshole.

Have you asked whether the person wants your advice?

Hint: If you’re not sure what someone wants, asking is a pretty safe way to go.

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I’m not saying you should never offer advice. A few days ago, I left a comment on someone’s Facebook post where she was questioning whether she should bother trying to get her book published. I offered my experience, disagreed with a writing-related myth she referenced, pointed to several options that had worked for myself or other writers, and acknowledged that my advice might or might not be helpful for her particular situation.

But I have zero patience these days for the useless, knee-jerk advice that comes from a place of ego and cluelessnes.

Aftermath of a Kindle Daily Deal

Earlier this month, Libriomancer [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] was a Kindle Daily Deal, meaning Amazon was selling the e-book for a mere $1.99. This was the first time one of my books had been selected for the KDD program, and I have to say, it was pretty sweet. But how much of an impact does that $1.99 day really have?

I’ll probably never have exact numbers. These sales will show up on my next royalty statement, which covers January – June of this year, but doesn’t break things down by day or week.

Here’s what I do know…

1. Once Amazon drops the price, most other online retailers follow suit. Soon after I posted about the Kindle Daily Deal, I realized the book was also on sale at Barnes & Noble. Then people mentioned Google Play and iBooks. They all seem to monitor and price-match, which means the book was on sale pretty much across the board…at least in the U.S. Alas, Europe and most other non-U.S. ebook sellers didn’t get in on the action.

2. Libriomancer was, at least for one day, outselling Fifty Shades of Grey.

Libriomancer vs. Shades of Grey

3. We probably sold >1000 ebooks on Amazon alone. But wait, didn’t I just say I wouldn’t get numbers until my next royalty statement? Well, yes. But I do have the ability to pull up my Amazon affiliate account and see how many copies sold through that link. About 350 or so people bought Libriomancer through my site and links. My friend Howard Tayler (of Schlock Mercenary fame) was kind enough not only to mention the sale, but also to email me afterward and let me know he’d had close to 400 sales through his post. Given that Amazon was also marketing the book, and other folks were signal-boosting, I think 1000+ is a reasonable guess.

4. Apparently Libriomancer is a Sword & Sorcery book. This was news to me. But who am I to argue with this screencap?

Libriomancer #1

5. I have absolutely wonderful friends and fans. I was blown away by how many people signal-boosted the sale. Thank you all so much for the support and word-of-mouth.

6. I’m still addicted to checking my Amazon rankings. Most days, I’ve gotten to where I don’t need to check in to see if my sales rank has gone up or down, or if anyone’s left a new review, or whatever. But I was clicking Refresh all day to see what kind of impact the sale would have. At one point, Libriomancer was #1 in two different categories, and #16 among all paid Kindle books, which is pretty sweet.

Libriomancer Rank

This also put the book near the top of Amazon’s “Movers and Shakers” for the day:

Movers and Shakers

7. It boosts sales of other books in the series, too. Neither Codex Born nor Unbound saw the same level of sales, but the Amazon rank for both of those books ended up in the four-digit range, meaning sales were above-average for them as well. Probably not a huge number of sales, but definitely better than nothing! Hopefully there will be some longer-term sales too as people finish reading Libriomancer.

8. A few weeks later, I’ve got 24 new Amazon reviews for Libriomancer. I don’t know if those extra reviews will help to sell more books, but it’s nice to see, and it means at least some of the people who picked up the book also read and enjoyed it. Yay!

9. Amazon pushes and markets its KDD books. As one of my fellow authors put it, this is a situation where the author gets the benefits of Amazon’s market and advertising power. They promote their Kindle Daily Deals, and while I don’t know how much that helps, it’s certainly a significant boost.

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Thanks again to everyone who signal-boosted, and to all of the readers who shelled out $2 to try the book. I hope you enjoy it!

I’ll probably check back in later this year once I’ve seen royalty statements, and can compare this six-month window to prior royalty periods. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from other authors who’ve done the KDD thing. How did your experience compare to mine? Any additional insight or information you can share?

Depression

  • Depression lurks in the corner.
  • Depression waits for an opening.
  • Depression is exhausting.
  • Depression has little patience for others, and even less for you.
  • Depression remembers every mistake, real and imagined.
  • Depression is afraid of change.
  • Depression is “fine.”
  • Depression teaches you to lie.
  • Depression is ashamed of you.
  • Depression is forgetful.
  • Depression doesn’t want you to go out tonight.
  • Depression thinks you deserve it.
  • Depression tells you not to talk about it.
  • Depression is abusive.
  • Depression is seductive.
  • Depression disguises itself.
  • Depression is always tired.
  • Depression thinks you’re weak.
  • Depression wants you to read the comments.
  • Depression doesn’t care about the good things that happened yesterday.
  • Depression expects you to fail.
  • Depression doesn’t believe things will get better.
  • Depression is overwhelmed.
  • Depression wants you to think you’re the only one.
  • Depression knows you more intimately than any lover.
  • Depression is a glutton, and depression can’t stand the thought of food.
  • Depression demands perfection.
  • Depression undermines success, and magnifies failure.
  • Depression is comfortable.
  • Depression is a bully.
  • Depression lies.

Miscellaneous Roundups

1. Apparently Friday Kindle Daily Deals might actually be weekend deals? I dunno, but Libriomancer is still $1.99 as of this posting, just in case you wanted to pick it up. I’m told you can get the Audible book through Amazon for just a few bucks more as part of the deal. Yay!

2. Hugo nominations end on March 10. Obligatory reminder stuff:

  • Invisible is eligible for Best Related Work.
  • Legend of Korra: Season Four is eligible for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.
  • I’m still reading through fiction, but here are some of the things that have stuck with me:
    • The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison (Novel)
    • A Barricade in Hell, by Jaime Lee Moyer (Novel)
    • City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Novel)
    • The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul” by Natalia Theodoridou (Short Story)
    • “Recollection” by Nancy Fulda (Short Story)
    • “The Regular” by Ken Liu (Novella)

3. Currently working on a short story that may end up including more profanity than all of my other fiction combined. It’s an interesting change of style and voice for me…and I admit, I’m having fun.

4. That’s all. Tune in next week for the next batch of guest blog posts!