The Hugo Awards

Congratulations to everyone I know and like who got a Hugo!

And congratulations to everyone whom I don’t know personally, but still like, who got a Hugo!

Looking over the results, I don’t think there’s anybody whom I know well enough to dislike who did get a Hugo (unlike some years past), so that’s good, too.

It’s nice to see that science fiction’s signature award is still doing well.

Tales from the Before Time: Finding Fandom

The internet, as usual, has changed everything.

These days, any young sf/fantasy reader or watcher with access to a computer can connect with other likeminded souls in a matter of minutes, if not seconds.  They may not be able to meet up face-to-face, but that’s not necessary, and wasn’t necessary even in the olden days.  It’s enough, most of the time, just to know that there’s somebody else like you out there.

Back before the internet, things were harder.  If you lived anywhere other than a major city, your chances of encountering another reader who shared your particular obsession were low.  (I was fortunate; my best friend in high school also read sf, and the local news and magazine shop owner must have been a fan as well, because the shop carried all the new paperback releases and all of the major sf magazines, as well as some of the second-tier sf mags.)  As a result, a young fan’s reaction upon encountering a large, organized (for fannish values of “organization”, which is to say, not very) fan group, or a science fiction convention, was often something along the lines of “My people!  My people!  I’ve found you at last!”

A note:  It’s also necessary to understand that this era came not just before the internet, but before the Geek Ascendancy.  People who liked sf and fantasy and computers and techy/sciency stuff in general were pretty much universally regarded as weirdo loners, rather than as weirdo loners any one of whom might possibly have a greater net worth than the entire city of Chicago.

When a collection of weirdo loners (and yes – I, too, was a weirdo loner) come together and discover that they are not alone in their weirdo-hood after all, the community that is created has both good and bad features, and a lot of those features are connected like good and evil twins.  The fandom of those days, to give just one example, was tolerant of all sorts of social awkwardness and nonconformity (because we were entirely too aware, most of us, of our own flaws in that regard); the flip side of that virtue, unfortunately, was a willingness to put up with just about any bad behavior short of running away with the cash box.

Post-internet fandom is . . . well, it’s different, in ways that as a pre-internet fan I’m not entirely capable of understanding.  But the old pre-internet fandom is still around, and still inhabiting a lot of the same virtual and actual spaces as post-internet fandom, and the places where they rub up against each other sometimes chafe.

I’m not sure what can be done about this problem, or even sure that it is a problem of the needs-something-done-about-it variety.  The best we can do, I guess, is be kind to each other, and remember that we all love the same thing even if we don’t necessarily do it in all the same ways.

Link of the Day

Now out in e-text in all the usual formats – Debra Jess’s science-fiction romance novel, Bloodsurfer.  (The link will take you to her blog post with links to all the usual suspects.)

I’m claiming just a wee bit of bragging rights on this one, because Debra Jess is a Viable Paradise alumna, and also one of my editorial clients.

So, go – buy, read, have fun!

My Thoughts on the Hugos

Because I can’t hold up my head and call myself a science fiction fan if I don’t have some:

All in all, a victory for truth, justice, and the fannish way.

Also, the air that was full of smoke and dust and apprehension on Friday was clear and blue on Saturday, when the awards would be presented later that evening . . . which is a thematically appropriate weather progression that nobody could get away with in a piece of fiction, on the grounds of sheer implausible hokeyness.    But as is often pointed out, fiction needs to be believable, while real life is under no such constraint.

Nifty Link of the Day

Sherwood Smith has a blog post up at the Book View Café, talking about women writing space opera (since there are still a few readers out there who, despite all the evidence, seem to believe that the possession of girlybits negates the ability to write about epic space battles.)

Full disclosure time here:  I would have liked this post even if it didn’t say good things about one of mine-and-my-husband/coauthor’s own space opera novels (and its sequels), The Price of the Stars.

Ursula K. Le Guin Gets Her Snark On

She read a New York Times interview with Kazuo Ishiguro about his forthcoming novel, The Buried Giant, which takes place in a non-historic just-post-Arthurian England, in which the author frets that his audience will say that it is fantasy.  (To be fair, it contains. among other things, a dragon.)    And she was moved to speak.

I’ve said this here before, and I’ll say it again:  One of the things I respect most greatly about Le Guin is her steadfast refusal to disavow the genre.  More than one author, upon attaining literary respectability, has stashed their propeller beanie and their Spock ears in the far back of the closet . . . all honor, then, to the ones who don’t.

More Tokens of Respectability

The Washington Post now has a regular science fiction and fantasy column.  (And they’re going to be getting a regular romance column soon, too.)

I’m not sure how I should feel about all this.  It used to be that no good ever came of science fiction and fantasy trying to gain literary respectability.  All that ever happened was that the sf and the fantasy thus produced were unpleasant mutant products that were – as the saying goes — neither flesh nor fowl nor good red herring, and the arbiters of literary respectability didn’t like them anyway.

But now it seems that establishment respectability is finding us whether we go looking for it or not.  Which is fine with me, so long as sf and fantasy don’t lose their pipeline to those deep wells of don’t-give-a-damn-about-being-respectable which are the source of so much of their energy.

The liveliest art is always made on the wilder side of town.

It’s Almost Like Being Respectable

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – that eminently respectable publisher with eminently respectable bloodlines (I’ve been in this business long enough that I can remember when Harcourt was a separate publishing house) – is adding a science fiction and fantasy volume to its annual Best American series.

This isn’t the first, or the only, annual “Best of” anthology out there; but it’s (maybe the first?  I don’t know that answer) one that’s coming out not from a known genre publisher or fantasy/sf imprint, but from a mainstream house that’s very much into serious literary business.  They’ve also had the good sense to take their series editor ( John Joseph Adams) and the editor for the inaugural volume (Joe Hill) from the ranks of people who are actually working in and familiar with the field, instead of hauling in some college professor or mainstream critic to do the job.

(I have nothing against literary critics or college professors, mind you; it’s just that their taste in fiction tends to privilege those works which provide the best fodder for classroom lectures and articles in academic journals.  Which is not necessarily the same thing as those works which are good.)

It’s the Real Thing

Straight out of the tale of Hansel and Gretel, it’s the world’s largest gingerbread house.

What does this have to do with writing?

Well, for one thing, it’s proof that the real world has a lot of strange stuff in it all by itself, without writers necessarily having to make strange stuff up.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with making up strange stuff for the fun of it, if that’s what you like to do.)

And for another thing, it’s a salutary reminder, for those of us who write science fiction and fantasy, that we work in genres where things that in the world of consensus reality are only imaginary concepts, can and do achieve solid three-dimensional existence.  Our gingerbread house isn’t just a daydream or a metaphor any longer — it’s right there in front of us, and the door is open.

Family Feasts and Rituals

We’re gearing up for Thanksgiving dinner already — tonight is pie production, because Thanksgiving dinner is nothing if not a pie delivery system.  This year we’re only doing three pies (cherry, apple, and pumpkin) because there are only going to be four of us at the table.  Come Christmas, when all three of the unmarried offspring will be temporarily in residence, we will be doing at least four pies (the current loadout, plus blueberry, and quite possibly some kind of chocolate cream pie as an extra.)

One of the things that a lot of science fiction and secondary-world fantasy often lacks, in my opinion, is this kind of tradition-laden family gathering.  Partly it’s because the protagonists of science-fictional and fantastic stories are so often loners, either by circumstance or by choice — they’re orphans, or they’re wanderers of one sort or another, or they’re estranged from whatever relatives they’ve got.  (Which is a pity, I think; nothing complicates life, or a plot, like family.)  But partly, I suspect, it’s because making up plausible and consistent holidays and family rituals that are convincingly alien but nevertheless feel like the real thing . . . is hard work.

(This is also where I like to give a nod to one of my favorite fictional Thanksgivings, the season four episode “Pangs” of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It has everything, from the manic freakouts over getting the traditional recipes exactly right, to a look at some of the more problematic historical and cultural issues surrounding the holiday, culminating in a shared meal where everybody — even the captive vampire tied to a chair — is entitled to a seat at the table.)