I'm still recovering from jet lag. But in a desperate attempt to hang on to your attention—and to continue the discussion on women in SF that kicked off here over the past month—I've invited another guest blogger, first-time novelist Fran Wilde. Her first novel, Updraft, debuts from Tor Books on September 1, 2015. Fran's short stories have appeared at Tor.com, Asmiov's Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, and Nature. Fran can program digital minions, set gemstones, and tie a sailor's knotboard. She also interviews authors about food in fiction at Cooking the Books, and blogs for GeekMom and SFSignal. You can find Fran at her website, Twitter, and Facebook: and, shortly, here.
How many notable feature films can you think of that came out last year? Really good, solid movies?
Take a moment. Count. Maybe make a list.
How about really good TV shows, or computer games? Again, make a quick list.
I'll explain why we're doing all this list-making in a minute.
I've been considering the state of storytelling media in 2015 for a little while now, and one thing keeps cropping up in my personal media consumption: I'm consuming more media that wasn't released in the last year than ever before.
Indeed, my default reaction to something interesting arriving has become "I'll get around to it in a year or so".
So I started digging to find out why.
I'm still at the worldcon, so too busy to blog regularly; won't be home until the back end of the week.
But for now, if you want to know what the sound and fury over the Hugo awards was all about, you could do worse than read this WIRED article, Who Won Science Fiction's Hugo Awards and why it Matters (which gives a pretty good view of the social media context), and if you're a glutton for punishment File 770 has kept track of everything (warning: over a million words of reportage on the whole debacle).
Also, props to George R. R. Martin for talking sense, keeping a level head while everyone was running around shrieking with their hair or beard (sometimes both) on fire), and for salving the burn of injustice with the Alfie awards at his memorable after-party.
I've been seeing a lot of disbelief and anger among the puppies (and gamergaters—there seems to be about a 90% overlap) on twitter in the past 12 hours. They didn't seem to realize that "No Award" was always an option on the Hugos. They packed the shortlists with their candidates but didn't understand that the actual voters (a much larger cohort than the folks who nominate works earlier in the year) are free to say "all of these things suck: we're not having any of it". By analogy, imagine if members of the Tea Party packed the US republican party primary with their candidates, forcing a choice between Tea Party candidate A and Tea Party candidate B on the Republican party, so that the Republicans run a Tea Party candidate for president. Pretty neat, huh? Until, that is, the broader electorate go into the voting booth and say "no way!"
They packed the primary. The voters expressed their opinion. The problem is, the Hugos aren't an election, they're a beauty pageant. And my heart goes out to those folks who found themselves named on a puppy slate and withdrew from the nomination (such as Annie Bellet and Marko Kloos), those who were on a slate but didn't know what was going on and so lost to "no award", and to those folks who would have been on the Hugo shortlist this year if not for a bunch of dipshits who decided that only people they approved of should be allowed to compete in the beauty pageant.
When Charlie offered a guest blogging slot, I didn't plan on writing a women-in-science-fiction post. It's not a subject I address very often. As some who commented on Judith's post have mentioned, the issue is complicated--more so now, I think, than when I started writing back in the 80s.
Back then, it never occurred to me to use a man's name. It never occurred to me I couldn't succeed as a woman writing the hard stuff. Of course I knew that any kind of success was a long shot--writing is a tough gig--but I didn't see my name as a liability that could hold me back.
But after six US-published hard SF novels (only one UK-published), I finally started to wonder if I'd been a bit naïve. My work had convinced agents, editors, and reviewers. It won a couple of awards. But outside of a small, albeit devoted, readership, my novels remained invisible to most SF fans. My sixth novel, Memory, is the one in the Women-in-SciFi Storybundle; it was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. And it was my last novel for a long time. I just didn't see the point of writing another, so I stopped. Hey, sometimes books and authors just don't hit, right?
In May, I posted on my blog brightly-coloured pie charts presenting some data about literary awards. They weren't the most gorgeous graphics ever, but they conveyed my point: that the more prestigious the prize, the more likely the subject of the winning narrative will be male. Nothing earth-shatteringly new, but solidly presented. I considered the thing done and went to bed. I woke up to a world gone mad: the post had gone viral. I spent the next three weeks fielding emails and interview requests from global media.
This response took me by surprise because, as I've said, what I was saying was not new. I've been talking about it for years; many have talked about it. But what was new, apparently, was how I presented the data.1 Pictures speak louder than words. Pictures about numbers seem to speak very loudly indeed.
(Charlie's away and his blog has been taken over by invisible assassins.)
It's as regular as summer thunder. A very serious article or a very serious tweet or a very serious wonder-aloud in a convention bar.
"How come women don't write science fiction/fantasy/insert subgenre-not-romance here? Or why haven't they written it since, like, well, last week when I read one by a lady and I thought it was pretty good and I think, did it win an award or something? But there aren't any others and I don't get it." Sometimes with bonus, "Do I have to write it myself?"
I used to say I had a superpower. In person, online, you name it. I'm invisible. A very famous publisher once said, "She might as well write in invisible ink for all the notice she gets."
That Buffy episode with Invisible Girl? Yep. Except the part where (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) she's whisked away at the end to a secret training facility for spies and assassins.
Point being that not only was she not alone, she had a whole tribe to belong to, doing important and deadly things. And the visibles of the world would never see her coming.
It's that dratted second X chromosome. The X factor. Crosses you right out.
(Hoisted to top of blog because, well, I'm on the road again as of tomorrow (Monday) afternoon.)
It's that time of year again and I'm travelling and doing stuff in public on That Other Continent, so here's a preliminary list of fixtures.
(Quiet at present, because I'm busy clearing my desk before next week's trip to Seattle and Spokane.)
Some of you might have noticed the acronym TTIP in the news— TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Superficially it's just another free trade deal, with corresponding trade agreements being negotiated for the Pacific Rim and other zones. It's raised a lot of concern because it has largely been negotiated under conditions of heavy secrecy, with extreme measures taken to prevent leaks—despite which, drafts of the treaty have escaped and sparked huge controversy.
Filmmaker and comic author Hugh Hancock here again. Charlie's currently locked in his study babbling over blasphemous and forbidden tomes, so whilst we attempt to hack down the door with a fireaxe and get counselling for the guy to whom Charlie explained the hidden meaning of the Nightmare Stacks, I'm here with another blog post.
In the last couple of posts I've made over here (thanks as always to OGH for the invitation), I've been making the point that, both through necessity and lucky happenstance, the themes and subtext of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos are still very workable in today's world. In fact, they've acquired a lot of resonance thanks to advances in technology and society that run parallel to some of their main themes.
But still, the Cthulhu Mythos' core squamous, eldrich concepts were created just under 100 years ago at this point. They reflect the concerns of the time, like the sudden discovery that the universe is mind-blowingly, terrifyingly huge. And they have a few... issues for modern readers, like inbuilt xenophobia.
So what would a Cthulhu Mythos-equivalent for today, expressing the zeitgeist terrors of 2015 society, look like?
Bloody terrifying, that's what.
Because unlike Lovecraft, in 2015 we have plenty of experience with actual gigantic, inhuman entities with agendas entirely orthogonal to the safety and security of the human race.
As Damien Walter noted recently on twitter, some time between 1995 and 2010, the human species began to develop functional telepathy. (Actually, the first sign of this became real on October 29th, 1969, but exponential growth from a small base takes a long time to become noticeable.) We now have over a billion human beings on the internet, and so many devices that the IPv4 address space is saturated: within the next decade we can expect multiple new satellite internet constellations (such as OneWeb and rivals) to bring pervasive internet access to the globe. Smartphones are pushing down into the sub-$50 space where they're affordable even by those living just at the global poverty threshold (and the decline in global poverty over the past decade is working away at the other end). It no longer looks implausible to suggest that almost everybody will be online by 2025.
Hugh Hancock here. Charlie is currently in a space beyond place and time, folded into manifold dimensions that ring like bone-carved bells. Or to put it another way, he's on public transport. So I'm filling in for the day - he'll be back shortly!
Our Gracious Host's supernatural comedy-thriller series is set in a Lovecraftian universe, and features a geek of the programmer variety who uses his knowledge to invoke Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, following which he gets into a great deal of trouble.
My latest film, HOWTO: Demon Summoning (released about 25 minutes ago - watch here), is the first part of a supernatural comedy-thriller series set in a Lovecraftian universe, featuring a geek of the programmer variety who use his knowledge to invoke Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, following which... well, spoilers. But it doesn't end in hugs and puppies.
And yet, the two universes and the two stories aren't - at least as far as I can tell - very similar. The tone's different, the magic's different.
Is "Geek Cthulhu" sufficiently broad to actually constitute a genre?
Here's a Big Idea piece about the book that I wrote for John Scalzi's blog.
I did an AMA on Reddit's /r/books forum—lots more stuff here!
Here's a review on Tor.com.
And here's the copy editor's account of working on the book.
(I may update this entry and add more stuff as I see fit.)
Update: On the Audio book front: there's been some delay with the recording process, but the audio book version is due out "soon". (Which in publishing-speak probably means 1-3 months tops.)
It's US publication day for The Annihilation Score!
So here is a spoiler thread.
Feel free to discuss "The Annihilation Score" (and if you ask me a question I might show up and answer it) in the comments below.
But it would be unwise to read the comments below if you haven't read the book yet and want it to hold any surprises.
Some novels just don't happen when you expect them to. That was the case in mid to late 2013. I was supposed to be working on The Lambda Functionary, a third book in a thematic trilogy that started with Halting State and Rule 34, but it was turning out to be tough—much tougher than I expected. Partly I'd loaded too many ideas into it, but I was also becoming uneasily aware of the impending Scottish political singularity. The world of Halting State diverges from our own because I dreamed it up in 2005-06 as a plausible projection for the world of 2017, and we're much closer to 2017 now than we were back then: the flaws are visible. Given that the SPS will extend through 2017 (thanks to the coming referendum on continuing UK membership of the EU) it became impossible to write a third book in that universe. So I shelved it (although a bunch of those ideas will turn up, sooner rather than later, in a different near future novel).
So in August 2012 I was getting a bit panicky over the book I was failing to write. I was at the world science fiction convention, and had a date to do dinner with my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, lately of Ace. (She retired in March 2014.) So once we'd eaten, I raised the topic of The Lambda Functionary. "It's being difficult," I said: "I really need an extra year to write it."
Ever told a project manager that you're running a bit late and please can I have an extra year? Yeah, it went down about the way you might imagine: except that Ginjer had been editing me for over a decade and has my number. "You're thinking of something else," she suggested.
A very brief update (because I'm still knee-deep in work and I don't want to bomb you with trivia):
If you're in Edinburgh, I'll be reading from and signing "The Annihilation Score" in Blackwell's Bookshop this evening at 6:30pm. Tickets are free from the front desk; further details here.
Tor.com have published a longer extract from "The Annihilation Score", which you can read online (it goes a good bit further than the teaser Orbit put out last week: note, may contain spoilers for the ending of The Rhesus Chart).
The official UK/Aus/NZ launch date is tomorrow, which is when the ebooks will show up. In the UK, hardbacks are already showing up on shop displays; they're in a container on their way to the antipodes and on past form I expect them to be in shops by the end of the month. North Americans will have to wait until next Thursday ...