Short Stories: We Need More Venues For Discovery, Recs, and Discussion

John Chu Hugo Speech

John Chu accepting his Hugo Award, courtesy Scott Edelman on Instagram.

If you’re interested in the Hugo awards or just SFF awards in general, Justin Landon does an excellent job of breaking down the Hugo votes over at his blog. It’s fascinating to see how the instant run-off ballot affects who wins and provides insight into what voters are thinking (a little). It’s a long read but well worth it.

In the section discussing the short story ballot, this caught my attention:

Given the number of short fiction venues today, the Short Story category is becoming increasingly scattered, making it harder and harder to have a digestible slate of stories to choose from. Hopefully, the Hugo Awards can get a handle on this challenge and ensure a full nomination ballot in future years.

I’m not convinced that this is something that the Hugos or Hugo voters as a group can really change. There will continue to be a ton of great markets and plenty for people to read. There’s about to be an all-new magazine (Uncanny) that could, down the road, complicate the matter further.

What’s needed are more short story reviews and recommendations.

Locus reviews short fiction, of course. But Locus is for people involved in the business of writing and publishing and not so much for the average SFF reader and fan. Tangent still exists but I have no idea how relevant it is. The Fix is long gone. And I just plain don’t hear about most other short fiction review outlets, and I can’t be the only one.

This is one of the reasons why I started my favorite fiction posts. I read a lot of great fiction over the course of a year but might not be able to recall all my favorites once it came time to nominate. And I wanted a way to share stories I thought deserved attention and award consideration in a compact yet concrete way.

I’m really glad I have a high profile venue for those posts now in the form of io9[1]. This is the easily digestible list of recommendations Landon is looking for, I think. I would love for there to be more of them.

I wish that it was possible to have a Goodreads for short fiction so that people could rate, discover, and recommend with the same energy as novels get. I know there are some shorts with their own entries on Goodreads, but the last time I poked around it didn’t seem like the platform wanted that and there’s not a big community push behind it. I’d love to be wrong about that.

Is Goodreads itself the best place for this kind of thing? It’s a site and community that already exists, and I’m sure plenty of people who love novels are also down with shorts. Since I don’t spend much time on the site I honestly don’t know if it would work.

Is there a place to create such a community easily? As in not having to build something from scratch (who has time for that–no one)?

The short story/novelette categories in all our major awards could benefit from more discussion and engagement, I agree[2]. I just wouldn’t leave it up to the Hugos to figure that out.

Footnotes

  1. Don’t forget to head over today and look for the new post![]
  2. Don’t get me wrong: I love the story that won and agree that it deserves the honor.[]

Story Art – Highlights from July’s short fiction illustrations

My first month doing a weekly short fiction roundup at io9 is over and I’m really glad to be back in the groove of reading consistently. As I read more and more I’m newly struck by how many magazines are commissioning original art for stories and how wonderful that art is on the whole. I thought it would be nice to call out the pieces I liked best at the end of each month.

Here are my favorite story arts for July:

Richie Pope illustration for Sleepwalking Now And Then

Richie Pope’s illustration for “Sleepwalking Now And Then” by Richard Bowes.

Pope does a lot of work for Tor.com and has many other great pieces on display at his website.

Depot/Station by Albert Urmanov

Clarkesworld’s July cover art comes from Depot/Station by Albert Urmanov

Urmanov is a German artist who does a lot of amazing SFF illustration. See his other works at Art Station.

Rebecca Huston Grooming

Rebecca Huston’s “Grooming” for “Witch, Beast, Saint: an Erotic Fairy Tale” by C. S. E. Cooney

I couldn’t find a gallery of Huston’s art but did find out she inks tattoos for a living. Can you see getting a picture like that over your whole back?

Wesley Allsbrook illustration for A Short History of the Twentieth Century

Wesley Allsbrook’s illustration for “A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star” by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Another frequent Tor.com artist, Allsbrook has a really striking style that gives me the feeling that all the people and objects in his works are threads held together by a very tenuous connection to each other and will fly apart at any second. Check out his gallery.

Selfies With Books and other things I do for my job

In addition to my weekly short fiction recs over at io9 I have some summer reading recs over at xoJane, too. There I did novels and short story collections/anthologies so everyone is covered. And I took selfies with a lot of books. This is becoming a theme in my life: selfies with products.

Selfies with books

The other day I stopped in a hipster electronics store to take a selfie with some headphones since the pair I owned were stolen from me a while back. The poor guy working in the store was really confused because I walked in, asked after some headphones onthe wall, took a bunch of pictures of myself wearing them, then left. As I was going out the door he was all “Uh, can I help you…?”

“Nope!” I said cheerfully as I sailed away. I’m sure he thought I was loopy. But whatever, this is New York City. He should be used to much stranger stuff than this.

Other than headphones and books, what other products should I give the selfie treatment? I don’t look good in hats. Despite the overwhelming number of beads in my house I don’t wear jewelry much. Any suggestions?

Pearls Before Swine – Or, Why I Bother

Pearls Before Swine - Or, Why I Bother

Just read this really excellent post at Mother Jones by Phil Plait answering the asinine questions put forth by some of the Creationists who attended the Bill Bye debate at the Creation Museum. In the comments you right away get people saying “Good on you for doing this, but why bother? Those people are so stupid and it’s a waste of time to explain things to them.”

This immediately brought to mind a comment on my post from yesterday about making an POC scholarship FAQ wherein Saira basically said the same thing –“Pearls before swine”–and said she’d rather focus on other things. I totally respect that and I say do what you have to do for self care and where you can be most effective. But I get that a lot of from people, the Why Do You Even Bother, about issues ranging from racism in the genre community to sexism in tech. My reasons are probably similar to Phil’s.

Reading through his post I learned things I didn’t know before, and that’s awesome. Any time someone wants to educate me about science I am there. Even if I don’t specifically go looking for it.

Also, I’m fairly sure that the reason the creationists in the Buzzfeed article asked such ragingly stupid questions is because no one has ever bothered to answer them seriously before. I know why that might be. Like I said, the questions are really stupid.

stupidquestion

So stupid they can inspire rage. Or stupid enough that it makes people shake their heads and think This Person is Not Even Worth It. Not everyone has the spoons to deal with crap like that.

If one does have the patience to answer and explain in a real way it helps both the person asking the stupid question and it helps people who have to deal with the kind of people who ask those stupid questions. They can either offer up the knowledge as they understand it thanks to the helpful answers and info behind those links or they can say: “This post over here answers all of that and more, go read it and stop talking to me.” Drop that link and mambo, people!

That article will not change every mind. It may not change more than a tiny fraction of minds right away. It will help some people to think, though. And perhaps if they get more information from other people, the new thinking will start to sink in. I know this can happen because I’ve seen it.

At the beginning of my post yesterday I mentioned my friend who was appalled at the Butler scholarship when he first heard about it and then came around later? That didn’t happen magically. It happened because I took the time to explain things to him and argue and challenge him. And I wrote about issues of race on a regular basis, which he saw. And it wasn’t the next day or week or month that he came to me saying “You were right and I am sorry for how I reacted,” it was long after. I didn’t change his mind right away or even all by myself. I helped.

Other people have come to me over the years, usually at conventions, and told me how they, at first, thought I was SO WRONG about race and the community and so angry and every other thing I’ve heard said about me over the years[1]. But then their anger and defensiveness went away they and they pondered and listened and read other people saying the same things and finally came to a better understanding. They usually thank me or apologize or both. Doesn’t happen super often, but it happens enough that I keep doing this.

Even if Phil Plait only changes a handful of minds, I still say that his effort is worth it. I’m going to the comments section of Mother Jones to say so right after writing this. And then I’m going to go bookmark every single thing on the Con or Bust auction site I want to bid on. Because I also agree that there are many ways in which to make a better world, and I try not to get mired in just one of them.

Footnotes

  1. I know for a fact that people say some pretty shitty things about me behind my back. A lot of it worse than what they say to my face, if you can believe it. What those people might not know is that many of the nice white people and chummy men they think they have such a rapport with are actually my friends, too, and often inform me of these conversations so I can laugh and laugh.[]

Thrilling Thrillers That Thrill

Thrilling Thrillers That Thrill

I was catching up on my blog reading yesterday when I came across an old entry on Query Shark. If you follow it, you probably remember this from earlier in the month:

Scott Harris gets the shock of a lifetime while burglarizing the Mayor’s home when he moves to the cellar and finds a tortured prostitute shackled within a catacomb of horrors, and documents entailing a vicious plot to take over the U.S. government.

Reading this engendered such a violent bout of hysterical laughter that I had to put down my Samsung Galaxy Tab(tm), otherwise I would have dropped it. I still haven’t recovered, and now my chest hurts. Immediately following this is a note from the query mistress that this sentence would have caused her to stop reading right away. But since I’m not an agent, I was eager to continue. The query just gets more and more WTF as it goes along. Another favorite bit from the post:

Query: As a result, Scott now has Orlando’s most dogged investigator, Detective Stone, hunting him like a voracious hawk coming in for the kill. This leads to an exhilarating game of wits as Scott continues to steal, barely escaping the relentless pursuit of Stone.

Agent: None of this has anything to do with what you said in the first paragraph. Added to the list of things I don’t believe: a game of wits with an Oxycontin addict.

Right on.

I’m kind of amazed at this person’s ability to string together so many wildly improbable scenarios into one narrative. Even though the query isn’t great and the book sounds dubious, I feel like there’s an inkling of something there, if only someone would get this person to stop piling it on in an effort to create THE MOST THRILLING THRILLER THAT EVER THRILLED, THRILLA!

5 Awesome Things Make A Tempest Happy

5 Awesome Things Make A Tempest Happy
  1. Apex Magazine’s special Arab/Muslim issue is now live and is full of brilliant, beautiful, amazing writing. Go read.
  2. Cat Valente — editor of Apex Magazine — celebrated the release of her book this past weekend. The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John vol 1 is available in many fine bookstores and in eBook form. I have a copy of this book and have been clinging to it jealously ever since it was handed to me.
  3. If the name Cat Valente doesn’t get you excited, and you’re all: WTF is Prester John, then partake of this video that explains it all with action figures. It is the best thing on the Internet right now.
  4. The other book I got my hands on this weekend is M. K. Hobson’s The Native Star. People, you need this book.
  5. The 50th issue of Clarkesworld Magazine is out and, lo, it contains fiction by two people who I am not only proud to call friends, but who regularly shake me to the core with how wonderful their fiction is: Genevieve Valentine and N. K. Jemisin. That is too much awesomeness for one issue, right? Read it, anyway.

And she says this without any sense of irony, too…

And she says this without any sense of irony, too...

Shorter Kathryn Cramer: How dare conventions promote panels that are hostile toward people who repeatedly engage in racist, sexist, or otherwise prejudicial speech or actions against oppressed groups within the SF community. You are making those of us who want to prop up the oppressive status quo that has served us so well feel uncomfortable, and I think that’s just wrong.

Anonymized link, for those who care.

Before you get too upset at Paul DiFilippo’s review of Nnedi’s book…

Before you get too upset at Paul DiFilippo's review of Nnedi's book...

Remember that he is the masshole[1] who compared including women and minorities in an anthology of science fiction stories to finding lettuce in reams of copy paper.

In other words, he is not to be taken seriously at all, ever. His ignorance stands as a monument to his vast privilege wanking which stands as a monument to… something. So of course he doesn’t understand Who Fears Death. It’s not like he tried. It’s all just lettuce and potatoes to him.

Footnotes

  1. that’s mass asshole to you all playing at home[]

Random Political Blog Post

So, Carly Fiorina. I feel like that woman is really crazy and should not be a senator. But here’s some other things I do know about her.

  1. She really wanted HP to merge with Compaq. Really. She even fought the son of one of the founders of the company to make this thing happen, and the fight was nasty. But the merger happened, and then  HP became the biggest computer manufacturer in the world. Though there was a dip for a time, the company is the biggest today, and much of that is due to her insistence on that merger. Because, really, HP computers were kind of a joke before then. Now you can’t walk through a college campus without seeing a ton of HP laptops looking sad and depressed next to the much cooler Macs.
  2. Walter Hewlett warned that if HP focused on the personal computer market, they would lose the lead they had in printers. Remember when HP’s printers were the best, hands down? The merger ended that. So, uh, thanks Carly?
  3. A lot of the shit she got as CEO of HP seemed to me, at the time, to be fueled not by her actual management, but by sexism. She was the first female CEO of a Fortune 20 company and Forbes named her one of the most powerful women in America. And whenever a woman gets too powerful, people bring out the knives. Now, it may be true that she wasn’t a great CEO. But so much of the rhetoric about her at the time (that I remember) was so tinged with sexist overtones, that I always had a hard time believing she was as bad as men said she was.
  4. All that aside, she should not be a senator. She thinks that other Republicans are demon sheep. That’s not healthy.

Realms of Fantasy: Full Of Some Ethnicity You Don’t Care To Read About

Realms of Fantasy: Full Of Some Ethnicity You Don't Care To Read About

An io9 commenter on why she won’t renew her subscription to Realms of Fantasy:

I really don’t like the ethnocentric view a lot of the short stories have. I don’t really care about reading their multitudes of hispanic fantasy, or their african american fantasy. It’s just not culture I’m interested in, so I end up flipping past half the magazine because they, without fail, -always- focus on some ethnicity I don’t care to read about.

I can’t even begin to unpack the racefail here because I’m too busy going: wait, is that true? I don’t even read the magazine (despite having multiple free issues pushed on me) but I don’t remember anyone saying to me recently “Have you seen all the wonderful ethnocentricity going on in Realms, lately?”

Regular readers, care to enlighten?

Via Nick Mamatas. In the comments someone points out that it may just be a case of them seeing one non-white protag and going OMG the mud people took ovah!

Atheists: A Repost

Atheists: A Repost

It’s an unfortunate feature of a certain strand of contemporary atheism that it doesn’t treat religious believers as fellow humans with whom we disagree, but as tards who function primarily as objects of ridicule. And ridicule has its place. But sometimes it’s gratuitous. Sure, there are stupid/crazy religious people; there are also stupid/crazy atheists, and black people, and white people, and gays, and straights, and Republicans, and Democrats, and Sixers fans, and Celtics fans, and so on. Focusing on the stupidest among those with whom you disagree is a sign of weakness, not of strength.

It seems to me that the default stance of a proud secular humanist should be to respect other people as human beings, even if we definitively and unambiguously think they are wrong.

Sean Carroll

I would point out the above to some of the folks in this mess but… I need my sanity this weekend.

Who Should I Be Reading?

I mentioned to several people at WisCon this year that I want and need to get back into reading blogs. Last week I went through and did some maintenance on my LJ account, so I’m all set with LiveJournal. But I’m still behind on adding feeds from folks who have stand-alone blogs like myself.

So I though I would ask, which blogs that deal with science fiction/fantasy/genre/arts would you recommend? I’d like to know, even if it seems obvious that I should or would be reading said blog. I’ve been out of the loop, so I’m missing a lot.

5 Links Make Up for Radio Silence

5 Links Make Up for Radio Silence

I know you all think I’ve dropped off the face of the Earth. Maybe what I need to do is promise a post a day with interesting links. That would at least be something.

  1. Today at Tor.com you can see the latest installment of Tech News For Nerds, a weekly thing I’m doing over that way. This one is all about cell phones and wireless technologies. Netbook fans should take special note of the smartbook section.
  2. My dear friend John Klima is raising money for a new genre magazine showcasing underrepresented cultures. Go vote for his idea and help him win $25K to get started. (Yes, you need money to start a magazine, people. And John is good at it.) It’s a great way to stick it to Norman Spinrad.
  3. Did you know that I’m in an ultra-cool non-fic anthology called Chicks Dig Time Lords? I so am. It’s such an amazing book and filled with all kinds of smart writers and fans and actors and Doctor Who goodness. Women talking about their fan experience across time (and space) and being very smart about what they love and don’t love about the show and fandom. I, of course, wrote a controversial essay on Martha Jones. I know Paul Cornell has the book, I just hope he doesn’t hate me for what I said about Human Nature. Go buy Chicks Dig Time Lords right now and then go listen to the podcast of Hour of the Wolf featuring several contributors and read about our shenanigans the night before.
  4. Speaking of books, remember the list of eReaders I said people should be on the lookout for? Several of them now have full reviews, including the Alex eReader, which is my favorite. If anyone asked me right now which eReader they should buy, I would say the Alex without hesitation. The list of other eReaders is on Tor.com as well.
  5. This weekend I watched the BBC miniseries Lost in Austen and have the following things to say about it: (a) When did it become okay to present fanfic as legitimate television? (b) Does the BBC have only 20 actors? Because I have seen a third of this cast on every show I’ve watched. (c) After the clusterfuck that was Hex, Jemima Rooper and Christina Cole shouldn’t be allowed on screen together again nor should they be allowed psuedo-lesbian encounters because they wouldn’t give them to us on that horrendous show. (d) Jemima is awfully hot. (e) Judging from the 700+ comments for this movie on Netflix, I’d have to say that it’s successful insofaras it’s made people feel strongly that it’s the best thing ever or a piece of crap. (f) Where can I get a job writing badfic for money?

Now back to my regularly scheduled seclusion.

Tech That Makes Us Feel Like We’re Living In The Future

Tech That Makes Us Feel Like We're Living In The Future

Forgot to mention on Friday that over on Laptop Magazine there’s a fun post where I ask seven science fiction authors to name tech or software that makes them feel like they’re living in the future. I’m sure you can predict how many will say the iPhone, but not all of them did.

My own answer is similar, though for me it’s smartphones in general. Being able to check my bank balance, transfer money, locate nearby restaurants, get turn-by-turn directions to my destination plus play some games all on one device? Yes, please.

Check out the post here. (Why yes, that does seem awfully familiar to Mind Melds. However, we’re not always going to ask genre people questions.) And comment!  Commenting is love.

enTourage eDGe eReader rEview

enTourage eDGe eReader rEview

One of the eReaders I talked about a few weeks ago in my long post (which you need to read if you’re a writer, editor, or publisher) is now out. The enTourage eDGe dual screen eReader/Tablet has been extensively reviewed over at Laptop Magazine. Check itout, especially if you’re a student. It’s pretty cool, though needs some updates before it’s as useful as the company intends.

By the way, that title is not a typo. Random capitalization seems to be the norm in tech these days.