Last weekend, I played in a small local tournament that used the U.S Open oil pattern. I managed to place 5th (out of 69 players), and won a little money, but I only averaged 194 on this pattern. Not as good as I had hoped, and the main reason for such a low average was failure to make all the simple spares. The strike percentage was lower than normal, also, but I expected this, with such a difficult oil pattern. Tonight I get to try again, in a slightly different format, where they cut the field to the top 50% after four games, then cut to top half again after the 5th game, and 6th game establishes final rankings. Oil pattern shouldn’t be quite as difficult, a Kegel Main Street, but still challenging. Let’s see if I can at least place again, and, hopefully, not screw up the spares this time.
Posted by hyperpat on April 14, 2013
Well, it’s been a while (uh, make that a long while) since I posted anything here. Partly this was due to real-life demands of work and family, partly it was simple burnout, of not seeming to have anything to say that was new or needed saying. The same happened to my reviews of books on Amazon; it just didn’t seem worth the effort anymore. But things do change over time, and I’m feeling that urge to write (something, anything) again, as can be seen from the new reviews I’ve put up in the last couple of weeks.
So what has happened to me in this period? Perhaps the biggest change has been in my family situation, as both my children are now out of the house and on their own, one fairly successfully, the other not so much. This has left just my wife and I in the house, with a fairly stable routine from day to day. It has also meant a bettering of my financial condition (it’s amazing just how much money children eat up), to the point where our plans for retirement show a good chance of becoming reality. Also helping in this regard has the been the slow economic and housing recovery – my house is now almost worth what I paid for it in 2006. And of course, the engineering of this improvement has much to do with the changing political environment and the antics of the Fed, both of which have occasioned some rather irascible messages to the leaders of both parties about getting their act together from me.
Then there is the change in my bowling prowess. I’ve gone from about a 200 – 205 average to about 215-220 in the last three years. Along with this is I now have a much greater experience level with various playing conditions from bowling in a fairly large number of tournaments, from local, tiny events to PBA regional ones (still haven’t tried the PBA national ones – I’m still not in that league), with a fair amount of success, averaging out to winning enough to at least pay my entry fees. This has also meant a recognition by both me and my wife that this endeavor is an important part of my life, and our retirement plans need to keep this in mind. Related to that, we did some scouting for a retirement home recently, and had found what we thought was a good fit with what we wanted, to suddenly have the place get scratched off our list, as the only bowling alley in that town was abruptly closed, with no foreseeable time when it would re-open.
I do plan on doing some new posts here on my favorite subjects; the science fiction world has obviously added some new ideas, new works, new authors, all of which are deserving of some comment. So too the political world; the current divide and deadlock between the two major parties needs some observations. Changes in the US economic environment, Wall street vs Main Street, the world terrorist picture, the North Korean idiocy, cultural changes at home and abroad, new scientific discoveries, the state of space exploration, the social effects of the internet, movies and television — it would seem there will be enough things to talk about.
Posted by hyperpat on May 7, 2010
The new nominee list has been out for awhile, but now Aussiecon has put together a very nice download package that is available to any member of the con (either attending or just supporting). This package includes all the novels, novellas, novelettes, short stories, related works, etc that are on the list, which works out to a rather impressive amount of verbiage. An Aussiecon supporting membership cost $70 Australian (about $64 US), and there is simply no way you could assemble all the material in this package for anything close to that price. Aussiecon membership can be purchased online here. Especially for things like the short stories, it is difficult for an individual to obtain copies of all of these works, as they have been published in a wide variety of sources, of which some are fairly obscure. Of course, the intention of this is allow con members to make informed choices for the Hugo awards; it does not obviate the need to support the authors of this material with real purchases that they get royalty monies for.
The novel nominees are diverse, and of those I’ve read so far, well deserving of being on this ballot:
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Tor)
The City & The City by China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Spectra)
Wake by Robert J. Sawyer (Ace; Penguin; Gollancz; Analog)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
So far, my choice is The Windup Girl, but final decisions will have to wait till I’ve read all of these. As Hugo voting closes on July 31, I need to get cracking (and so do you if you haven’t been doing your homework!).
Posted by hyperpat on November 10, 2009
Religion seems to be endemic to the human condition. Every culture around the world and throughout recorded history (and probably much further back than that) seems to have some belief in a higher power, even though, to date, there has been zero directly observable and possible to confirm evidence for such. So it is no surprise that science fiction has occasionally delved into this area of the human condition. What is surprising is just how few sf works have really looked deeply at it, and even more surprising that of those that have done so, almost all are excellent works.
There are many, many sf works that paint very detailed pictures of future societies, but in most of these religion, if mentioned at all, is relegated to the side-bar, not front and center. Perhaps this has been due to a reluctance by some of the authors to tackle such a deeply controversial subject, while others may have felt that it was not germane to the story they were telling, and still others may have felt that religion would eventually end up in the dust-bin of history as a failed concept, or antithetical to the basic rules of science that science fiction has as its base. But as science fiction uses precisely this ability to depict future, different societies as mirrors for our current society and its problems, books that ignore the great influence that religion has on the great majority of people are, to some extent, missing the boat.
Happily, those books that do tackle religion head-on almost invariably seem to have something very cogent to say about it. There are those books that look closely at the disturbance to established religious dogma that meeting up with other intelligent species would cause, both from a personal and societal viewpoint. In this category would be things like James Blish’s A Case of Conscience, Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Children of God, Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead, Grass by Sherri S. Tepper, and Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.
Then there are those that look at religion as a force that helps shape a society and its rules for living, morality and ethics. Here we have the great A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr., Dune by Frank Herbert (Maub’dib and the Fremen Jihad have much to say about just how powerful a force religion can be), Soldier, Ask Not by Gordon Dickson, The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (a very unusual look at a non-Christian belief system), and Anathem by Neal Stephenson.
But perhaps the most important category are those books that are sharp satires on established religions. Here we have Davy by Edgar Pangborn (the Holy Murcan Church is the lynch-pin of this imagined future world, and comes in for some heavy satirical commentary), Towing Jehovah by James Morrow, Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert Heinlein (so sharp an attack on Christianity, using the exact words of the Bible, that this book was denounced by several religious groups), To Reign in Hell by Stephen Brust, and of course the elephant in the room, the book that not only tore gaping holes in some practices by certain established religions but invented a new religion so believable it led to the establishment of a new church based on it, Heinlein’s Stranger in Strange Land. Whether this book really did grow out of a bet between Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard over who could create the best ‘invented’ religion (I don’t include Hubbard’s writings on and the establishment of Dianetics and Scientology as science fiction, but more as a deliberate attempt to con the connable, and which has unfortunately, to my mind, been all too successful), or was merely the outgrowth of things Heinlein wanted to say for many years and only slowly found his way to crafting this work, it still reigns supreme as one of the best books science fiction has ever produced.
Regardless of your own religious beliefs, reading the books I’ve listed here should be a journey of exploration. While many of these books are scathing in their attacks on certain aspects of religion, at the same time I think they can reinforce a person’s confidence in his own belief systems, by forcing the reader to examine exactly why he believes as he does, and thereby giving him a better foundation for that belief. And it should be a great journey as every book I’ve listed has either been nominated for or received the Hugo Award, a marker of just how well these books are written.
Posted by hyperpat on October 29, 2009
It would seem that the monkeys who dominate executive boardrooms are incapable of thinking rationally. The latest case in point is a patent awarded to Amazon that specifies a method of computer substitution of one or more synonyms into electronically distributed text that will allow the later detection of unauthorized copies of that text (text of patent is here) .
Now I can almost understand the logic behind Amazon looking at doing something like this, as their site allows users to ‘Look Inside the Book’ and read a couple pages of the book, a feature that many users like as it is similar to a book reader’s normal method of book selection in a book store, where the reader can browse through the potential purchase to see if he really likes it. The trouble is, such a feature allows for multiple automated requests for excerpts, looking at different points of the book, and it then becomes possible to stitch these requests together to get the entire contents of the book – for free. And which could then be distributed far and wide across the net, with no income going to either Amazon or the author. Obviously this is even easier with ebooks, where the entire text is already available electronically.
But the idea behind the usefulness of this patent is that you can make synonym substitutions that do not alter the meaning of the text in any meaningful way, i.e., the reader will never know the difference. This is dumb and stupid on its face. “It was a dark and stormy night” might become “It was a caliginous and raving night” or “It was an obscure and disorderly night” – not exactly conveying what the original does. Authors, I think, would be very upset if their precious text is altered in this fashion, and would more than likely cry ‘foul’ and sue for copyright infringement, as clearly this method alters the text slightly and then attempts to sell for profit the end result, which at least would normally be considered plagiarism. And there really is no need to actually alter the text this way as there are plenty of other ways to uniquely digitally watermark text, say by changing kerning, spacing, pitch, or font for only certain words or sentences, that will not alter the meaning the of the text (with some caveats that some poetry depends on some of these characteristics – how it looks on a page – to achieve its effect).
Somewhere along the line, company execs need to get hip to the fact that the best way to stop piracy, whether it be books, songs, or movies, is not to add ‘security’ (whether it be DRM codes, ‘watermarking’, or whatever other method they might come up with) to the product, but to make the product cheap enough that it doesn’t make sense to go to the effort of illegally copying it.
But there is also a notable and frightening feature of this patent in that it specifically mentions that the requestor of the digital information can be uniquely identified and tracked. Now I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like the idea of anybody being able to determine what I’m reading. If the government starts doing this, then what’s to stop Orwell’s 1984 from coming true? Because once some authority can do something like this, it is a very short step from such monitoring to arresting the poor slob who has the temerity to read something that says nasty things about said authority.
Posted by hyperpat on October 22, 2009
I finally qualified for and joined the PBA. Yeah me!
Of course, I immediately had to try my hand at a PBA regional tournament to see how well I really stacked up against this crowd. The one I picked on was held in Palo Alto from Oct 9-11, choice driven by the fact that’s it’s close enough that I didn’t have to stay at the tournament site overnight, as these things are already expensive enough ($220 entry fee) without adding hotel bills and such. And I had additional expenses getting a couple of shirts embroidered with my name (PBA requirement) and getting a couple of new pairs of slacks (another PBA requirement, jeans not allowed). Net out of pocket was $300 for this tournament, plus my PBA membership initiation fee ($99), plus the annual dues ($144). This is not a poor man’s game. Of course, all that would be made back if I could win the tournament (first prize $2500).
So how did I do? In a single word: terrible. First, the lanes in Palo Alto are real wood, not synthetic, which means the oil on the lanes gets soaked up more rapidly than on the now more common synthetic surfaces. Second, the oil pattern for this tournament was the Chameleon, which has never been my favorite. But in the practice session on Friday I did quite well, running about 50% strikes and staying in or very near the pocket about 90% of the time. And my first frame in the qualifying round on Saturday was a strike, following exactly the line that the practice session had shown me. And then disaster struck.
For some reason, when the front desk set up the lanes, they did not set them up for normal cross-lane bowling. Of course, this was immediately discovered at the beginning of the second frame, and play was halted to correct this problem. Trouble was, it took them almost 15 minutes to get everything set up right and all the various scores corrected, while everyone stood around. By the time I got up to throw in the second frame, my muscles had tightened up some, and I ended up yanking the ball a hair, with maximum penalty paid of a 6-7-10 split. And another split in frame 3. This did not do good things to my mental outlook. I ended the first game with a 177, which is clearly not competitive in this crowd. Game 2 was going OK till the 10th frame, when I got bit with an 8-10, and finished with a 184.
But game three was the killer. By this point, the lane conditions had started to change, and I simply could not seem to find the right adjustment, or if I did manage to find the pocket, I left either a solid 8, 9, or 10 pin. Result: no strikes, and a 147. This effectively killed any chances I had of winning, as even with a later games 205, 166, 222, 203, and 176, I was well below the par value of 200, and the cut line ended up at par +92 pins. By the time of that last game, there really wasn’t any oil left, and I had moved left about 11 boards to try and hold pocket, which is a huge (and normally never required) move for me. On top of that, I found that by the time of that last game my hand was quite sore, which surprised me, as I often do 8-10 games in practice sessions. But what I don’t normally do is do that much practice bowling and then bowl again on the very next day.
So what did I learn? One: don’t practice so much on the first day, do just enough to find out where the line is and see if there are any great variations from lane to lane. Two: if there are future delays of game such as in this one, make sure to do several arm swings with the ball prior to resuming play to loosen myself up. Three: I need to practice more on throwing deep inside lines on dry lanes. Four: see what I can do about keeping a decent mental outlook in the face of patently unfair leaves. Five: start making adjustments for changing lane conditions more quickly – assume that I’m throwing correctly, and the reason for a bad result is the lane change, as my more common assumption is that I did something wrong in the delivery.
Did I get my money’s worth out of this tournament? I think I did, as I’ll probably become a better bowler for it, and I really can’t ask much more than that.
Posted by hyperpat on September 17, 2009
Mary Travers is now gone, finally succumbing to leukemia at age 72. But far from forgotten. With her partners Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow, the group practically re-defined folk music, made it not only appealing to a very large swath of humanity, but added a richness and vibrancy to the genre that perhaps was lacking prior to their advent. Anyone who grew up in the early to late sixties were influenced by them, even if they didn’t listen to their music, as the group also made their songs into a very effective weapon against social injustice, prejudice, and war.
I have all the group’s albums, and all of their solo efforts. I still play them, listening to at least something by them on a weekly basis. I probably know all the lyrics to just about all their songs, and will often find myself singing them. I don’t think I can say the same for any other musical group, past or present, except perhaps the Beatles, who in their own, very different way, were just as radical and influential.
I had hoped, perhaps, for one more album, one more concert from them, but alas, such is not to be. I am left with my memories and collection of albums, and that will have to do.
Posted by hyperpat on August 31, 2009
The UN is holding another conference this week about strategies to ameliorate the possible consequences of global warming, from floods and droughts to more severe tropical storms. Pointedly, they are not addressing anything having to do with CO2 emission caps or reductions in fossil fuel consumptions. And for a very good reason: agreements about such matters are almost assuredly not going to happen in the near future, or perhaps ever. What’s not being discussed is just how difficult such caps will be to implement, or what their true economic cost would be.
A quick look at the current state of energy production in the world would show that the overwhelming percentage of such production is fueled by fossil fuels: coal, oil, natural gas. Water, wind, and solar represent only a tiny fraction of the total. Nuclear has a fair percentage, but it faces a very large uphill battle against greatly expanding its use.
A fair question is, can the so-called ‘green’ methods of water, wind, and solar actually be expanded to sizes great enough to significantly reduce dependence on fossil fuels in a reasonable time frame and with a reasonable economic cost? And even if they can be, what effect(s) will they have in their own right on the world’s ecology?
Let’s look at wind power, to start. The UK actually has a plan to deploy about 3000 wind turbines in the ocean over the next ten years (I picked on this set as they do have a fairly comprehensive plan, unlike many other developed countries). But the numbers are daunting: to achieve their stated goal would require the erection of a turbine almost every single day in that next ten years. The result of actually doing this would increase their total wind power generation from less than 1% of the total electricity generation to about 5%. Not a bad start, you might say, but look at the cost: about $1M per turbine, or a total of $3B for just the UK effort. And this does not count the equipment needed for distribution and load balancing. But you argue that surely wind power is the most ecologically friendly way to produce power? Perhaps, but it does have at least four impacts: large wind turbines are not the most sightly things to have cluttering up the horizon, they do produce a fair amount of noise, there are impacts on bird populations, and a final impact that I don’t think anyone has modeled, that of ‘stealing’ energy from the world total of wind production. What effect that might have, if these turbines were installed in significant numbers around the world, on things like cloud formation, storm generation, or rainfall patterns is a complete unknown.
Dramatic increases in solar and water power have similar costs and problems associated with them. Nuclear can be increased from its current level, and can make a significant dent in the need for fossil fuel generation, but it is also a very high cost solution, with its own ecological problems of waste generation and possibilities of both significant accidents and of being terrorist targets.
Now, just for argument’s sake, let’s assume that the current targets that have been agreed to by most countries actually happens. What’s the end result? Do we suddenly have a world where the total CO2 level is stable or even declining? Not by a long shot. Even with the 20% reductions being aimed for, this only gets us back to about 1988 levels of CO2 production. Which means that while the rate of increase of this stuff in the atmosphere might decline, the absolute level will continue to climb. To actually stabilize this level calls for far more draconian measures of 50% reductions along with strategies to increase sequestration of CO2. And the only foreseeable way to achieve anything close to this is for the developed world to drastically reduce their total energy consumption, while at the same time forcing the undeveloped world to stay where they are (the quickest route to developing is to employ the cheapest method of increased energy production, and that implies the dirtiest method, burning coal). How would we go about reducing our energy consumption, especially considering that any reasonable projection shows we will continue to increase that consumption? Conservation only goes so far, there is only so much that is wasted, and is a self-limiting strategy. We could go back to horse and buggy days, if we were willing to somehow get rid of 4/5 of our population – people forget that the current world population is only made possible at all by high-tech and energy-intensive farming methods. I don’t think this is a solution that many will sign up for. The basic answer is that it’s not going to happen.
So what do we do? We learn to live with a world that is going to get a little warmer. Whether CO2 is actually the driver for the observed increase in temperatures since about 1850 is still highly debatable. Another theory states that almost all of the observed increase is due to variations in the sun’s output, and such variations happen over a 1500 year cycle. In support of this theory are the known historical data of the Dark Ages warm period of about 900-1300AD (which, by the way, was apparently about 2 degrees warmer than today’s world, and saw the Viking colonization of Greenland, which really was green, then), the ‘Little Ice Age’ from 1300-1800, and our current warming trend; much longer data points obtained from ice cores, sedimentation data, tree ring growth; astronomical and satellite observations, and a host of other points. But regardless of which theory you subscribe to, both point to this world heating up about another 2 degrees C in next century. Given that it doesn’t look at all feasible to make significant changes to the CO2 generation or overall level, and we obviously can’t do anything about the sun’s output level, it looks to me, at least, that much more effort should be going into developing methods to live in a warmer world. And this probably means more energy generation will be needed, not less.
Generating more power via alternative sources from fossil fuels does make sense, but not because of all the scare tactics that are being tossed around by the advocates of the CO2 warming theory. It makes sense for the simple reason that those fossil fuels are a very finite resource. When they’re gone, and if we don’t have good alternatives in place, then we really will be up the creek minus paddles. But crash programs to switch over, even if you could get everyone to agree to them, driven by unrealistic fears, will do nothing but at the least cause a global depression that will make the current economic crisis look trifling, or cause resource wars that make the current set of brush conflicts seem puny.
Posted by hyperpat on August 26, 2009
Probably somewhere around 1930, someone was stating that science fiction was dying, that all the story lines had already been mined for whatever treasure they might contain, and science was overtaking all the good ideas. They’re still saying exactly the same things today. Is there any more cause to believe these doomsayers now than way back when? Let’s examine the issues:
1. Print magazine sales numbers are down. And not just down, but way down. And the number of magazines devoted to SF has tailed downward since the mid-fifties. Surely this is an indication of a moribund and comatose field? I would argue, however, that to some degree this decline is a product of SF being too successful (see also my prior post on the death of the sf short story). Back in the fifties SF was almost totally a ghetto, written and consumed by a very insular group that had almost no contact with the larger literary world. Then came the New Wave, a few SF authors hitting the best-seller lists, a smattering of critical analysis of the field that didn’t totally dismiss it as fantasy for little boys, a few mainstream authors who gingerly put their toes into speculative waters, and the ghetto walls started to crumble. At the same time, real, visible scientific and technological advances and a couple of spectacular movies were making the general public aware that that crazy Buck Rogers stuff wasn’t totally crazy. From the sixties through the late eighties, this broadening trend continued. A few colleges started to offer SF as a course in literature. Science fiction has become at least somewhat ‘respectable’, or at the very least not easily dismissed as just ‘adolescent male fantasy’ . Nowadays a writer has far more potential markets for his science fiction writing than just those magazines that specialize in the form.
2. Science marches on, and stories that dealt with simple rockets to the moon have obviously been overtaken by such advances. This is a congenital hazard to writing stories in this field – regardless of what scientific concept is the driving force for a story, at some point in the future it’s entirely possible that new scientific theories and actual technological gadgets based on those theories may make the story obsolete, old hat, or worse, shown to be impossible. But people forget (especially those who claim that SF is running out of ideas) that SF is not just about possible new nifty gadgets, but rather about how humans live and react and form societies based on such gadgets (or the gadgets’ long term effects, such as all the A-bombs in the world being set off), and that viewpoint, which is outside of what can be achieved via mundane fiction, will never lose its impact or relevance. Which is why it’s still possible to read and enjoy something like Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A corollary to the continuing advancement of science is that new concepts and theories appear, such as string theory or quantum entanglement, which can become fodder for new SF stories based on same. As long as science doesn’t run out of new things to discover, or the engineers can no longer design new gadgets that impact how people live, science fiction writers will have new things to incorporate into their stories.
3. There are only a limited number of human-centric plots (I think it was Heinlein who boiled it down to just three actually different plots), regardless of what genre it is being written in. SF, however, has a greater range than common mundane fiction, allowing for plots that deal with man (or alien) vs universe as their conflict point, rather than just man-vs-man. But within that limited number, there is room for an infinite amount of shading and subtlety. This applies just as much to sf as to mundane fiction; clearly, there will always be room for a ‘new’ story.
4. Some writers and publishers are scrupulously trying to avoid the label ‘science fiction’. Partially this is due to the still not-totally-respectable odor associated with that label in literary circles, and partially due to the general reading public’s impression (still, even after thirty years of acknowledgment that there is some mature value to things written within the genre) that it’s ‘kids stuff’. There’s also a fear by many potential readers of just not being able to understand the concepts and science in today’s works, a fear which is at least partially justifiable, as there are certainly some (but also certainly not all) sf works today that call for far more understanding and knowledge of modern science than the average man in the street has. However, whether works by such writers are labeled sf or not by either themselves or their publishers, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t actually sf. Cormac Macarthy’s The Road is definitely sf, regardless of how academics or the general public view it. Perhaps, however, it does mean that sf, as a distinct, easily separable and identifiable genre of writing, is disappearing, becoming more and more incorporated into the general field of just ‘fiction’, another tool for certain types of story ideas to be used whenever appropriate.
Science fiction is not dying. It has matured some; it has become more ‘literary’, its minimum standards have improved drastically, its markets have broadened and become less easily identifiable. None of these are bad things.
Posted by hyperpat on August 13, 2009
There’s been quite a bit of moaning and groaning in the SF world that the SF short story is dead, supported by the fact that SF magazine subscription and newsstand sales have been falling, falling, falling… While the decline in sales figures are very real (as an example, Analog had sales over 100,000 copies in 1984, it now sports just about 30,000 in sales), does it really indicate a decline in readership for short SF, or is it merely an indicator of something else?
Once upon a time, I used to subscribe to all the SF mags: Galaxy, If, Worlds of Tomorrow, Analog, F&SF, Amazing, Fantastic, etc. When these issues arrived, they got devoured in short order. How did I get started on these things? By seeing them on the magazine racks and checkout counters at just about every grocery and convenience store, where their often garish (and often much maligned) covers really stood out from the rest of the material on those same racks. Which indicates the first point: people won’t get involved with these mags unless they know they are there, that they are positioned and designed to attract the casual browser. How long has it been since I’ve seen one of these mags at such places? Years. Distribution and display space is certainly one item that is causing the decline in their readership. What would it take to attract the casual reader today? In lieu of suddenly being able to place the magazines everywhere due to some miracle change in distribution methods, perhaps something like a YouTube presence or ads placed on Amazon or some of the most popular blogs – not cheap, but somehow these mags have to make their presence known.
How many SF mags do I subscribe to today? Zero. Why? Almost all my current SF reading today is novels, with only a rare (and usually single-author) anthology in the mix. The reason for this is something that Analog’s AnLab highlighted a long time ago, namely that longer pieces are typically more popular due to the fact that there is room to fully develop characters and environments. The SF short story is an extremely difficult form to do well, due to the inherent needs of SF to build entire worlds that the mainstream story can just take as background givens. In testament to this, I can rattle off literally a hundred excellent and highly memorable SF novels, stories that I can remember quite clearly even though I read them forty years ago, but I would be hard pressed to name more than 10 short stories that have had a similar impact. The difficulty in writing a great sf short story also leads to one of the complaints I hear today, that these stories keep treading the same old ground and the only people reading them are a graying and declining in numbers group of people. I don’t really agree with this; a look at the Hugo nominees in short fiction categories shows there’s still vitality here, but as has always been true, memorable short stories are a rarer beast than memorable novel-length ones.
Although having the SF mags run serials was always controversial with some segments of their readership, they were often a great draw to go get the next issue, and at one time the best novels were being initially published this way (Herbert’s Dune, for example). My impression is that there have been fewer serials receiving a Hugo nod in the last ten years or so, which may be due to several factors: limited space in only a few mags, more available ways for authors to market/publish the books from self-publishing to online distribution, more traditional publishers accepting first-novel works without prior magazine exposure, etc. Here is one area where online publication can help, as there aren’t any space/page limitations to be worked around to fit a novel into the magazine, which was (is) one of the constant objections the print magazines see from readers to serials, as they just take up too much space and crowd out a larger number of shorter works.
Which brings up the cost issue. The mag’s prices today are nearly equal to what you pay for a full paperback book. And the price needs to be that high to pay the authors, editors, illustrators, and printing costs. Online publication, instead of the dead-tree format, at least eliminates the printing costs, and allows for more flexible pricing/bundling – the online music model of price per song/story or price per album/entire magazine might make sense here. To make this work, though, would require probably several years of investment to grow the online version and get current readers of the hardcopy format to switch over.
There are new models appearing. Tor.com is one such, kind of a cross between a blog and an online magazine type format, with lots of comments, articles, and even artwork, with the occasional short story, and just recently, a serial novel. Quite noticeable is that its scope is much broader than traditional SF mags, including things like comics, anime, SF convention news, and links to other sites and happenings in the SF world, along with its own sales cart for books and such that are offered by Tor and related companies. Also noticeable is that the site has something new every day, something the print mags simply can’t do, and this may be key in keeping readership in the wide world of the internet – day old news is just so not there. I haven’t seen any readership or page hit counts for this site, but just from the sheer number of comments it gets on a daily basis indicates it has a fair following. So far, I haven’t seen any advertising from anyone outside of Tor itself, nor do they charge anything for access to the site. Which brings to fore the question of how financially viable this model is for anyone else that doesn’t have the deep pockets of a major book publisher to sustain them. Still, it, along with several other online SF magazines, shows that the market for short SF fiction still exists, there are still readers of this type of material. The fact that there are quite a few of these online mags, many started within the last few years, may in fact be a contributing factor in the decline of the print magazine, as more and more people get their SF fix from their computer, not the newsstand rack.
I’m afraid that the SF print-format magazine really is a dying animal, with almost no hope of saving it in that format. If these publications wish to survive at all, they really must embrace the web, and not in just a trivial manner. But the SF short story is not. Actually, there may be more short pieces appearing today that anytime earlier, but the market is far more fragmented. It used to be that probably 90% of all short SF was published initially in the print mags. I doubt if that figure today is more than 30%.
Posted by hyperpat on August 12, 2009
There’s been quite a dust-up over the cover art originally chosen for the American ARC edition of Justine Larbaliester’s new book Liar, which portrayed a white girl with long hair, when the actual person inside the book is bi-racial with nappy hair. So much of one that Bloomsbury, the publisher, has now made the decision to change the cover for the hardback release, scheduled for late September. I’m happy to say that the new cover is both appropriate and quite stylish. The cover, along with Justine’s comments about it, can be viewed here.
The reason for the original cover? Unfortunately, it was apparently a marketing decision that felt that a cover with a black person on it just would not sell as well. Now marketing folks should be focused on the color green (as in money), but, as Justine herself says here, this is neolithic besides being racist thinking, fed by bookseller’s impressions with little hard apples-to-apples comparison data to back it up. Plus it showed just how little power an author really has in terms of how their work will be promoted.
The cover art for this book is important. I think the book itself is pretty damned good (see my review), and if it doesn’t get the promotion it deserves, it will be a shame. Because there aren’t many speculative fiction works that have protagonists that are people of color, and covers with white faces will probably not attract (and may actively discourage) young people of color from picking up this book, and discovering a marvelous person who has severe problems with who and what she is and how she eventually comes to grips with those problems. Not bad lessons for any young person of any color, nor for that matter any adult reading this (and they should!).
While I applaud Bloomsbury’s decision to change the cover, it makes me sad to think that this whole fiasco ever had to happen in the first place.
Posted by hyperpat on August 10, 2009
The final list:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
‘‘The Erdmann Nexus’’ by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
‘‘Shoggoths in Bloom’’ by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)
Best Short Story
‘‘Exhalation’’ by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
Best Related Book
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John
Scalzi (Subterranean Press)
Best Graphic Story
Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones
Written by Kaja & Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio, colors by Cheyenne
Wright (Airship Entertainment)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
WALL-E Andrew Stanton & Pete Docter, story; Andrew Stanton & Jim
Reardon, screenplay; Andrew Stanton, director (Pixar/Walt Disney)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog Joss Whedon, & Zack Whedon, & Jed
Whedon, & Maurissa Tancharoen, writers; Joss Whedon, director (Mutant
Best Editor, Short Form
Best Editor, Long Form
David G. Hartwell
Best Professional Artist
Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal
Best Fan Writer
Electric Velocipede edited by John Klima
Best Fan Artist
I was somewhat disappointed that Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother did not win in the Novel category, as to my way of thinking it was clearly better than Gaiman’s effort – but Gaiman has that aura of win to him every time he’s on the ballot. Little Brother did manage to come in second, overtaking Neal Stephenson’s Anathem in the second round of vote counting. (Full voting results are available here).
Wall-E taking the Dramatic Presentation was almost a given; it’s only serious competition was The Dark Knight, and the voting reflected that. Why the Academy Awards couldn’t recognize this movie as the best of the year, well, I’ve expounded on that earlier.
And unlike last year, where almost all my picks ended up winning, the only ones that made it this year were Scalzi’s Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, Cheryl Morgan as best fan writer (long overdue) and Wall-E. Most of my picks ended up at the very bottom of the voting lists.
There has been a fair amount of yack-yack out in the blogosphere that this year’s list of nominee’s, especially in the Novel category, were all a bunch of mediocre, standard fare, popular but not significant, or that somehow the Hugos are all a conspiracy by the SMOF’s to keep the best (read: their choice) works off the nominee list. With this I must violently disagree. First as to the quality of those that did get on the list: Little Brother is possibly the best YA novel to appear in the field in the last 20 years, and touches on social and political themes that are both important and highly relevant to today’s world. Anathem is cutting edge experimental, and a difficult, mind-bending read, which should put paid to the concept that such books are not recognized as significant by the average SF fan. Scalzi’s Zoe’s Tale shows just what clear, unadulterated space opera can be, with great characterization and not cluttered up with a hundred pages of esoteric scientific theory.
Yes, I would have liked to see Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World or Le Guin’s Levinia make the short list, but the ones that did make it are certainly reasonable. People need to remember that the best literature must be readable and entertaining; those that have these qualities will normally rise to the top of any popularly voted award (as opposed to those awards given out by jury selection). And for those that didn’t like how this year’s nominee’s and winners worked out, I highly suggest they quit whining and become members of next year’s World SF Con, and send in their own nominations and votes. I note that there were 1074 voting ballots sent in this year, more than in past years, but still not anywhere like the number it could be if those who care about these awards would get off their duffs and vote.
Posted by hyperpat on June 8, 2009
I went and played in the Santa Clara County Masters bowling tournament about a week ago. I entered it without too much in the way of expectations, but more as a way of finding out just where I stand competitively – i.e., can I really play with the big boys?
The answer is a qualified yes. For the the five rounds of qualifying, I averaged 210.6, or, as is the more common way of stating results for things like this, I ended with a +53 (sum of the total number of pins above the 200 level for each game). And it would have been about 35 pins better than this without two really bad breaks (a 7-10 and an 8-10 on good pocket hits) and one bucket spare that I missed by a cat’s whisker. This was not a bad result.
However, my place standing in this group was only 25th out of 33 participants. I beat the last place person by almost a 100 pins, and I was within 50 pins of 15th place, but missed the qualifying level by 150 pins, as the average amongst those who qualified for the next round of this tournament was 240+. When I did a check on all the people who played, I found six current or former PBA members, and of the rest, every single one of them had posted averages higher than my current league average. And several of them were regulars at the bowling house where this tournament was held, and were thus already familiar with the prevailing lane conditions. So I exceeded expectations based on posted averages, but it’s also obvious that I still need to to improve at least another ten pins in average to really stand a chance of winning something like this.
So I think I got my money’s worth from my entry fee for this, as now I have a much better idea of how I stack up against this crowd.
Posted by hyperpat on May 27, 2009
The California Supreme Court issued its ruling on the validity of Proposition 8, which bans gay marriages, yesterday. While the court decision was very narrowly based, only stating that the proposition was truly an amendment to the state constitution, not a revision, which would require legislative action, and also held that those marriages performed in the period just prior to the passage of the proposition are still valid, it is still a very disappointing result.
The court also re-iterated that civil unions, or domestic partnerships, or whatever name is being used for those relationships that cannot have the ‘marriage’ label, must be afforded all rights and privileges that accrue to those that can have the ‘marriage’ label. Since that is not totally the case under current California law, the court has effectively tossed the ball back to the legislature to enact appropriate law that truly does make civil unions equal in all ways to a ‘marriage’, in so far as state law can make them (as the federal government does not recognize such unions as marriages, there will be an obvious disparity as far as federal tax treatment, but this is not something the state can do anything about). Given that I doubt the California legislature will enact anything along these lines in the near future, it at least provides a small crack in the armor of the this amendment, allowing it to be challenged again, though on different grounds than were brought forward for this ruling.
A far more likely event is a new proposition to be put on either the 2010 or 2012 ballot that would rescind this proposition. Hopefully, if such happens, it will pass this time around. To my way of thinking, it can’t happen soon enough. But at the same time, I thing the initiative process itself needs to be tweaked; it simply doesn’t make sense that Californians can effectively remove rights and make second-class citizens of any group of people merely by a majority vote of those that bother to go to the polls. Constitutional amendments should require a 2/3 majority plus a ratification by the same amount by the legislature (which is similar to how amendments to the Federal constitution can be enacted – Federal law is even more restrictive, requiring 3/4 of the states to ratify amendments); after all, these amendments are changing the basic rules of law for the state.
This ruling makes legal sense, given the current laws and constitution of this state, but it does not do anything to truly resolve the moral problem of a majority depriving a minority of basic rights. Separate-but-equal has been shown many times before to not work, but that’s the best this court can offer at the moment.
Posted by hyperpat on April 21, 2009
Like last year, the World Science Fiction Convention is making available a package of nearly all of the Hugo nominated works available for download. This is due to the efforts of many people, most especially John Scalzi, who have done a lot of grunt work to obtain the author and publisher permissions and getting these works into a format that can be easily downloaded and read. The purpose of this is to have a group of informed Hugo voters. The items included in this package are:
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen; HarperVoyager UK)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)
Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
“The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
“The Political Prisoner” by Charles Coleman Finlay (F&SF Aug 2008)
“True Names” by Benjamin Rosenbaum & Cory Doctorow (Fast Forward 2)
“Truth” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
“Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Jan 2008)
“The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2)
“Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel (F&SF Jan 2008)
“Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)
Best Short Story
“26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Jul 2008)
“Article of Faith” by Mike Resnick (Baen’s Universe Oct 2008)
“Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal ( The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Two)
“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang ( Eclipse Two)
“From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 2008)
Best Related Book
Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn (Wesleyan University Press)
What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid (Beccon Publications) (Extract only)
Your Hate Mail Will be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John Scalzi (Subterranean Press)
Best Graphic Story
Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic Story and art by Howard Tayler (The Tayler Corporation)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
METAtropolis by John Scalzi, ed. Written by: Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell and Karl Schroeder (Audible Inc) (instructions for download)
Clarkesworld Magazine edited by Neil Clarke, Nick Mamatas & Sean Wallace
Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal – Year in Review
Argentus edited by Steven H Silver
The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia
Electric Velocipede edited by John Klima
File 770 edited by Mike Glyer
Best Professional Artist — Art samples by:
Best Fan Writer – Writing samples by:
Steven H Silver
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer – Novels and/or writing samples by:
Aliette de Bodard
David Anthony Durham
As is obvious from the above list, this is a lot of reading material. And the fact that they’re all Hugo nominees means that the quality level of this material is absurdly high. So how do you get this goody package? Simple. Become a member (either supporting or attending) of Anticipation, the 67th World SF Convention being held in Montreal, Canada on August 6-10.
Joining is $195 US/$250 CAD for attending membership (which means you plan on coming to Anticipation this August) or $50 US/$55 CAD for a supporting membership (which allows you to vote for the Hugos). When you join you will receive information on how to download the Hugo Voters Packet.
Now you might think this is an awful lot to pay, but consider: the retail value of the included items in this download packet alone are worth more than the cost of an attending membership. In addition, joining gives you the right (and to my way of thinking) the responsibility of voting for what you think is best of all of these works. Many years, the number of people who actually vote for the Hugos, sf’s most distinguished prize, is distressingly small (much smaller than the number of people who are members of that year’s convention, and a terribly small number compared to the number of sf fans). One of the excuses commonly given is that people didn’t feel qualified to vote because they hadn’t read all the nominees. Besides the fact that you don’t have to have read everything to vote – if you think some work is good enough for the Hugo, then vote for it! – this download package will give you the opportunity to get, all in one place, all the material you’ll need to make that informed decision. Besides all of this, membership will give you the right to nominate works for next year’s Hugos, and vote on potential sites for where the next WSFC will be held. And of course, if you actually attend, you’ll be treated to a truly great party amongst a group of people who share your passion for science fiction.
I’ll check back in later with what I think is the best of the nominees, but don’t wait for me. Join, get this package, read, and make up your own mind. You’ll thank yourself for doing so.
Posted by hyperpat on March 25, 2009
This is perhaps a little late, but my reaction to the final episode of Battlestar Galactica was: WTF? This was perhaps the lamest conclusion to any TV series I’ve ever seen, and it’s made doubly bad due to the prior excellence of the series. Basically the ending wrapped everything up by introducing a huge deus ex machina, and the audience is just supposed to swallow this whole and not choke?
On top of this, the thing that made BSG so good, its gritty, dark tone that wasn’t afraid of making sharp commentary about just about every human and government foible was just thrown overboard in a happy, happy ending (not counting the foreshadow that the whole cycle would repeat many years later). And rather than close the plot holes that had been hanging around from prior episodes (just who is Daniel, what is his relationship to Kara, etc, etc), it managed to introduce some new ones so large you could drive a Mack truck through them. Just for good measure, there’s a couple of places here that have characters acting totally contrary to their portrayed earlier character, without any explanation or even a gloss over to support their current actions.
If you want details about this episode, see the discussion over at Tor.com. WARNING: massive spoilers in this discussion, so if you haven’t seen this episode yet (and still want to), don’t go here.
There was an announcement during this show that there will be a new series starting in the fall that will look at the whole thing again, but this time from the Cylon viewpoint. Given the mess of this conclusion, I don’t think I’ll tune this in. I’m one very dissatisfied customer.
Posted by hyperpat on March 3, 2009
The latest news on the economic front is all bad. Housing starts down, resales of homes down, unemployment up, reduced profits or losses being reported by company after company, more bank bailout money required just to keep the tottering ship afloat, etc.
Not so long ago, everything was booming. Then a little fly started to appear in the ointment: the default rate on sub-prime mortgages started to climb. No biggie, right? After all, how many of these types of mortgages were there compared to the normal, ‘safe’ mortgages? What people forgot about, or didn’t understand, was the huge multiplier effect that occurs in what’s known as the derivative market. Lots of sub-prime mortgages were packaged up together and sold as a security that paid handsome interest rates. Lots of people bought these securities, and many banks did too. With the uptick in default rates, all of a sudden it became somewhat problematical whether it could continue to pay out that interest. Their ‘risk’ factor was now higher, so to compensate for the increased risk, the base value of these funds went down. Now comes the multiplier effect: most of these securities were purchased effectively on margin: often only 10% of the real price was being paid upfront, with the rest borrowed. At this kind of margin, a 5% drop in the base price translated to a 50% drop in the net value to the securities holder, a 10% drop basically wiped its value out. All of a sudden, large banks found that they had huge losses piling up in these securities. These heavy losses ate up the bank’s working capital, leaving them with little or no money to lend out, and a requirement to replenish their capital to meet Federal regulations which are designed to protect those who have put money into a bank. Where can that new capital come from? Investors. But if they are putting money into these banks, they are not putting it elsewhere in other types of companies, so the overall effect is a drop in the entire stock market.
With reduced stock prices and banks not willing or able to lend money, many companies put on hold or canceled plans to expand. Other companies that supplied these companies suddenly saw projected orders disappear, and they cut back expenditures, salaries, and employees to compensate. As more and more employees found themselves out of job, more and more mortgages, even of the ‘prime’ type, fell into default, making a glut on the housing market of properties the banks needed to unload at any price just to salvage something on their investment, driving housing prices down, which made it near impossible for many people to re-finance or be willing to do home improvements and also affected their outlook about any other type of large outlay, such as buying a new car. Fewer people buying fewer things = less profit for the companies that make such things = lower stock prices = more cutbacks and layoffs = more mortgages in default = still lower housing prices = still lower consumer confidence = fewer people buying fewer things. This is what’s known as a positive feedback cycle.
The question is, where does it end? What is needed to break this cycle? The last truly major recession took the impetus of WWII to really break the cycle. All the public work programs, bank credit fixes, and deficit spending that was implemented between 1933 and 1939 didn’t break this cycle – at most these items prevented the economy from complete collapse here in the US (Germany did experience that complete meltdown, but it had other special factors that made things worse there).
Breaking a cycle like this can be attacked at any of the points within it. Any action that improves consumer confidence, makes companies more likely to expand and hire new people, puts more spendable cash in people’s pockets, increases sales and/or prices of homes or consumer goods, gives people and companies a positive road-map to the future where planning to do and get new things has a high probability of becoming true, all could work.
The current actions by the government are trying to attack exactly these items. The only real question is, are they putting enough money into all of these fronts to make a significant difference? The lesson from the Great Depression is that it really takes a lot more ‘stimulus’ than most people and politicians can even begin to imagine, and I’m afraid that the current amounts being bandied about are going to amount to too little, doled out over too long a time frame. Current US GDP is estimated at about 14 trillion/year. The stimulus package is currently touted as somewhere around 800 billion to 1 trillion, with a lot of that not being available immediately, but only in future years. Only perhaps 300 billion is going to seen immediately (in the next three months). Which means we’re trying to influence the movement of the entire US economy by spending about 2% of its total size. Worse, part of that stimulus is going to be offset by tax and fee hikes by various state governments desperately trying to balance their own budgets in the face of declining income.
I’m afraid, given the current planned course of action, that this current nasty feedback cycle is going to continue for quite some time, and get a lot worse, before the appropriate amount and kinds of stimulus are voted through that can really break this spiral.
Posted by hyperpat on March 2, 2009
I re-watched the entire Lord of the Rings movie set Saturday and Sunday, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Now I know that there were some people who were highly upset with some of the liberties that Peter Jackson took with book, such as eliminating the section on the Scouring of the Shire, the Boromir/Faramir thing, the dropping of Tom Bombadil, etc, etc, etc. But regardless of these ‘infractions’, the end result is gorgeous, absorbing, and totally captures the feeling of the book. There are damned few movie adaptations of novels out there that can say that. I sincerely hope, with fingers crossed, that with this example in front of them, the people doing the movie version of The Hobbit won’t screw it up,
I’m also aware of some of the criticism that the book has received over the years, such as the class distinctions between Sam and Frodo, the obvious parallels (no matter how vigorously denied by Tolkien himself) between the industrialization of England and Saruman’s efforts with Isengard and the World War, the book’s simplification of what compromises good and evil, it’s long descriptive passages and side trips to some of the history from the First and Second Ages, it’s heavy borrowing from folk legends of Northern Europe, and quite a few other nit-picks. And in the end, that’s all the criticism amounts to, is nitpicks. It’s a great novel that succeeds of many levels; it’s a great ‘pure’ adventure story, it’s a finely honed commentary on some of the worst social evils of the twentieth (or any) century, it’s characters have deeper and deeper depths to them the more you look closely, and it appeals to nearly everyone’s sense of magical wonder.
I’m sure that eventually someone will write another fantasy work as good or better than this (one candidate for which is currently in progress but which may take quite a while to finish), but for the moment, this work still reigns supreme.
Posted by hyperpat on February 26, 2009
There’s been a little flap lately over just what an author owes his readers, if anything, especially as it pertains to the time between books in a series. It started with George R. R. Martin’s post to his detractors who are moaning about when Dance With Dragons (the next volume in the Song of Ice and Fire series) will be published, which in turn has occasioned comment by Charles Stross and John Scalzi.
Now to my way of thinking, once an author embarks on a story that’s too large to fit in one volume, he does at least have an implied obligation to those whose purchase the first volume to eventually finish the story. However, and this is a big qualifier, when he does so is strictly up to the author. As Scalzi points out, if the author rushes the job to get that next volume out, the quality will suffer, and those who were eagerly awaiting this next installment in the story are going to be disappointed and unhappy. Alternatively, if the author takes so long to get that next installment out that everyone has totally forgotten the earlier parts of the story, this will not bode well for either his sales or for keeping his fan base (here specifically I’m thinking of things like Stephen King’s Dark Tower series – 20 year gaps are not conducive to maintaining interest).
As Stross points out, there are basically two kinds of extended stories: those that basically have multiple complete stories all based in the same universe, perhaps with same characters, perhaps not (Norton’s Witch World set is a good example of this type), but certainly each volume can pretty much be read independently of the rest of the series; and those where it is really just one long extended story, where you really must read from volume 1 to volume n in order to grasp the entire story (and here Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire certainly qualifies). Each type has advantages and disadvantages.
The first type has the distinct advantage of the reader being able to get full satisfaction from any single volume, and where his expectation level is that he would like to see more stories set in this world, but he won’t feel abandoned if those volumes never appear or only show up many years later. However, the requirement to tell a complete story in one volume limits its scope and does not allow for as complex a world or depth of character building as the second type.
The second type is a great challenge to the author and potentially can be a mesmerizing story that completely immerses its readers in a fully realized world – the canvas is large, with plenty of room to properly develop all the ins and outs of the story, where complex multiple sub-plots can intertwine, characters can change at realistic paces, and be given enough room to become living, breathing people. Its disadvantage is that it is complex, takes a long time write, with always the possibility that other life happenings will eventually interfere with its timely completion, or simply that the author loses motivation to finish it, with other ideas and projects coming to seem more interesting. And it generates an expectation in its readers that more of the story will be forthcoming real soon now. Authors really should consider this factor before embarking on such a project (though I know that sometimes a story just grows, and becomes far longer than what was originally intended). Once he decides he really wants to write this story, he really should do his best to finish it as soon as is possible while still maintaining his own standards of excellence. This is really the author’s only obligation: to do his best.
Those who moan and whine and send nasty emails to the author demanding that the next volume be delivered right now are not helping. In fact, besides being rude and crass, such badgering of authors may end up causing the target author to just abandon the project. Fans who act like this should be beaten over the head with a politeness stick. Creative works are not like cars, producible on a set schedule, and fans really need to get hip to that fact.
I’ll certainly get Dance with Dragons and read it with enjoyment, whenever it makes its appearance. The series so far is both captivating and excellent, and has all the hallmarks of eventually becoming one of the great fantasy stories ever told. If it takes Martin another three years to get this next volume right to his satisfaction, so be it.
Posted by hyperpat on February 24, 2009
Stupid me, I went and watched the Academy Awards show on Sunday. What I saw was an almost complete disparagement of animation and science fiction, as if neither of those categories was really worth any consideration by the Academy. Yes, Wall-E took best animated picture, but that was almost a given – there was nothing else out there remotely approaching its quality in animation land. But, and this is a big but, it wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture, even though (IMO) it was clearly better than a couple of the movies that did get a nomination nod. Iron Man was almost completely ignored, and The Dark Knight got only what everyone expected.
Now it could be argued that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is sf – but I think it really belongs in the fantasy camp, or perhaps ‘magical realism’. Regardless, the focus of this movie is not on the mechanism of his reverse aging, but rather what that does to his personal relationships. It might also be noted that some of film techniques used in this movie are traveling into the world of animation, especially in the early scenes which have heavy CGI graphics. Apparently such work is acceptable if it’s a ‘live action’ movie.
The query becomes, why did this movie get nominated and not Wall-E? I think it has a lot to do with the ‘quality’ of its origin, being based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald – and as such, shows up something that I think has been present in the Awards process for a long time: the snob factor. This is not to say that I don’t think Button shouldn’t have been nominated – it’s a fine movie. But The Reader, Milk, and Frost/Nixon are what I consider to be marginal entries.
Maybe someday the Academy will get hip to the fact that some of the best stories, acting, and overall movie experience today are being produced in animation land, and are given nominations and awards on an equal basis with live action movies – but I wouldn’t count on it soon.
In the meantime, I’ve already nominated Wall-E for the Hugo Award, and will vote for it when that time comes. But getting that award may seem like small potatoes to the creators of this movie.