As readers of this blog already know, I was nominated for the Hugo Awards as a fan writer. Firstly, the eligibility for this is defined: The Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer is the Hugo Award given each year for writers of works related to science fiction or fantasy which appeared in low- or non-paying publications such as semiprozines or fanzines or in generally available electronic media during the previous calendar year. There is no restriction that the writer is not also a professional author, and several such authors have won the award for their non-paying works. The award was first presented in 1967 and has been awarded annually.
What I’d like to do is introduce you to the other folks in that category, because this is an odd one. Unlike novels, or short stories, you can’t just get a work and judge on merit. I’ve collected a few links to the past year’s work, looking for the best for each person, so my readers can learn more. Maybe you’ll find a new writer to follow.
- We Build: This is a writing site (yes, we have readers who are curious as to what writers do and think. That’s great, and they’re welcome.) But it is essentially a constructive site. There are hundreds of posts about techniques, and discussions of how best to prosper in our industry, from promotion, to how to use keywords… We have a long, provable record of being very supportive of any writers that wish to get help. And there is really no hierarchy, and ‘it’s my pie, you can’t have any’.
- Yesterday’s Books, Yesterday’s Heroes: Inevitably, when the subject of the Golden age of sf comes up, we have a chorus of ‘Heinlein’ – and varying reactions to that, white hot praise, or rabid condemnation, usually depending on the whether 1)the person actually has read most of RAH’s books 2)Whether they’re a stupid camp-follower who hasn’t (or maybe one of the later ones) 3) Whether they actually understand the concept of ‘at the time of writing’ or just assume all people were born in the same year they were, went to their school, were part of their social set, faithfully absorbed the same indoctrination and thus expect all books to reflect their attitudes perfectly. We could have a jolly fun time dissecting this and the attitudes in it all.
- Mirror, Mirror: I think landing on a comet is a great achievement, both for Homo sapiens and sf. My respect for the scientists who did it is vast. It’s a very elite club – but not one that wants to keep anyone who has the mental capacity and who loves the science out. I know these sort of folk: they want you to join them, desperately. They’ll help in any way they can. However dumb bunnies who look at this sort of achievement… and see a shirt as more important are not ever going to cut it, and that’s not because of their genitalia, or anything else irrelevant. It’s because they’re thick. Fantastic guys like Dr. Matt Taylor – who go out of their way to attract younger people into science, deserve our support and praise.
- A very surprised looking sperm whale and a bowl of petunias.So let us take the hypothesis ‘There is no ideological bias in Hugo awards,’ which we’d love to prove true and test it mathematically to do so. Yes, I know, I used a bad word and my mamma should wash my mouth out with soap. But it works, is the basis of huge industries which have worked for centuries if not millennia, and I promise I’ll keep it as funny, simple and clear as possible
Amanda S Green
- The Full Moon Rose and the Craziness Came Out: Next up comes the current movement — which is really just a ripple in the ocean and hopefully will stay that way — to keep Uncle Timmy from honored as Fan Guest of Honor at Archon. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Uncle Timmy, he is the heart and soul of LibertyCon. But he is, gasp, male and is now being accused by some folks who are such precious little flowers that they can’t tell the difference between jokes sent in by other people and what Uncle Timmy actually believes. These folks fall into the class of people who want thought police. The ones who want to tell us what we can and can’t think and say, who we can and can’t insult. Of course, they can insult anyone and everyone they want but heaven forfend that they, themselves, should ever feel insulted, rightly or wrongly.
- On Worldbuilding, Sequels, and Keeping it Straight: There are a couple of reasons for this. First, your readers expect your character to react in a certain way unless there are new outside factors impacting his decision making. For instance, even though it was very early in the series, we already knew in Honor of the Queen, that Honor Harrington was a competent and extremely talented officer. Because of how she was raised, from the philosophy and example set by her parents, as well as the society she grew up in, she did not understand or “get” a society that believed women were not just as competent and capable as men. So, when she was given the assignment to transport Manticore’s representatives to meet with Protector Benjamin Mayhew on Grayson, we as readers expected her to be her usual, competent and often brilliant self. However, because of some of her own insecurities, it didn’t surprise us when she took her ship away from Grayson, leaving another ship, one with a male commander (iirc) there.
- Stand Up and Be Heard: What it comes down to in the gaming industry and in writing is that the characters have to make sense in the setting we put them in. Does it make sense to have a heavily pregnant woman so close to term that the baby could come at any moment on the bridge of a starship heading into battle? Only if the ship in question was a pleasure cruiser and she was on the bridge as part of a cruise when they were attacked by pirates without warning. It doesn’t make sense to have her there in a command capacity in the middle of an on-going war. Not unless it was a world’s last ditch effort to save itself.
- Don’t break canon without good reason: Now gather around children and listen closely. Characters can be anything you want them to be. They can be pink or purple, black or white, gay or straight or bi or whatever. But what they are has to make sense within the confines of your story and, if you are writing in a “universe” that has a canon, you’d better not break canon without setting the groundwork and there being a pretty darned good reason for it.
- Screaming Addictive Insanity: I want to talk about culture and its effect on game design. If you look at all the variants of checkers, backgammon, and mancala out there, you’ll see that they break down neatly by country, region, and/or tribe. Wherever the games are played, there’s basically as many variations of these games as there are languages or dialects. Here in the states you can see culture at work in the collective reworking of Monopoly to have money put on Free Parking and also to ignore the auction rule. Back when D&D’s rules were nearly incomprehensible, there appears to be a great deal of lore that was transmitted informally. There had to be, because no one could actually learn to play using the rule books alone. Hardly anyone would have had a copy of Chainmail or the Outdoor Survival Map, for instance… and the rules pretty well assumed you’d have that stuff.
- Random Thoughts: Outside the Rules Structure, an Eclectic Fiction Diet, Watershed Moments, Lenin, Artiness, and Chronicles of Riddick: Even the mediocrities on the Appendix N list can provide valuable insights. Jack of Shadows is a better distillation of the zeitgeist of the baby boomers’ children than even I’m Okay, You’re Okay. Changeling Earth is a direct consequence of a generation that had lost faith in science and was all to willing to create new gods for itself. Come to think of it… there is a disproportionate number of stinkers from the seventies in that list.
- The Foundations of Gaming: Classic Fiction and its Influence on Early Role Playing Games: What started off as a series of book reviews has turned into a tour of the literary underpinnings of the early role playing games. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go– I’ve tried to let the work speak for itself– but I’m going to level with you here. This is my best work. I have no idea what I’m going to say when I pick up a new book, but I sit down and I stay at it until I come up with something. This is 99% perspiration and completely unlike my blogging here. It’s a lot of work. Every paragraph is like an individual problem to solve.
- Retrospective – Poul Anderson’s High Crusade: Reading Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade, however, it quickly becomes apparent that, if you’re going to be faithful to the game’s medieval roots, then the two core classes would have to be the fighting man and the cleric– a stark difference from Steve Jackson’s The Fantasy Trip. This just isn’t in line with how most people view the game, though. This is ironic given that the earliest iterations of what would become Dungeons & Dragons were actually a fantasy supplement to the medieval miniatures rule set Chainmail. It was an explicit goal of those rules to inspire people to gain a greater familiarity with the actual history of the Middle Ages.³ This aspect of the hobby gradually faded into obscurity when fantasy gaming took on a life of its own. Of course, the less medieval elements you incorporate into your game setting, the less sense the cleric is going to make.
- A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names: Friends, the tl;dr of this very long, comprehensive, analytical report is that up-and-coming John W. Campbell nominee Benjanun Sriduangkaew (who is also rage-blogger Requires Hate, who is also several other internet personalities including Winterfox, pyrofennec, acrackedmoon, and others) (oh yes, the list goes on), is VERY BAD NEWS.
(Note: I would include more from this writer, but there seems to be only one post from her in 2014)
- Here’s a Clue-by-Four: Oddly enough, I have always thought of all the genres, SF/F was perhaps the most inclusive of them all. Where else could you find characters like Keith Laumer’s Billy Danger, or gender-swapping brought to a casual assuredness like Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love?
- Fantasy is Tough: And then after a long gap, I started to read fantasy again, at an age where I was aware of the underlying costs in life. As a kid, you’re used to things being handed to you. Food, shelter, clothing… by and large your parents give you those things. As an adult, you become aware of the sacrifices and trade-offs necessary to make those things happen. You might work at a job you hate, but it pays the bills. You might give up dreams, in order to make others happen. Fantasy, in this context, stopped working for me. I still wanted to read for escapism (actually, I really needed it those first few years of adulthood) but I needed that grit of reality to be in the story to swallow it.
- Taking my Peeve for a Walk: Why are there no more small stories? I don’t mean short stories, although I have just finished reading an excellent collection of crime stories by Frederic Brown that were perfectly small, and wonderful to read. No, I mean stories that aren’t about saving the world (from the last humans, of course), or the universe (ditto those evul hoomans), or about the last two people on earth (who should totally not reproduce, because Malthus). I ran across an article that is geared more toward films and games, but it applies to writing, as well. Perfectly wonderful tales can be constructed over no more than “whodunnit” to hark back to my reading this week. Dave Freer’s Crawlspace, if you haven’t read it, is a lovely story of rats, aliens, and murder in the wake of war, set in the Rats, Bats, and Vats universe. Even had I not already been a fan of the setting, I would have enjoyed it, and wanted more (I do, I do!). So why are we obsessed with the epic, the grand scale, the supremely awesomely apocalyptic view of the world? Genevieve Valentine writes, “The truth is that some stories are folk tales, not sagas; a tighter focus doesn’t make them inherently less worthy, and their stakes are no less crucial to the story for being closer to home.”