Sleeps With Monsters: Karen Healey Answers Seven Questions

New column at Tor.com today: Sleeps With Monsters: Karen Healey Answers Seven Questions:

KH: I come from a multi-cultural nation. I got the “ticking boxes” suggestion for my portrayal of a multi-cultural Christchurch, but that setting was actually less diverse than the one in which I attended university in Christchurch. It was less realistic than the reality, but it looked weird to those who were maybe sub-consciously expecting what we’re taught is normal in the media; ie, a lot of white people. As for Australia—Melbourne is the second most ethnically-diverse city in the world. Many, many races are represented in Melbourne, and certainly this will only be more diverse a hundred years on. So, if many cultures are present, why shouldn’t they be represented in my work?

Linky is still talking about the Hugos

Jonathan McCalmont, How To Fix (Discussion of) The Hugo Awards:

I know full well that the Hugo Awards will never recognise either my tastes or my values and I realise that, even if they did, I would still feel intensely uncomfortable about the idea of belonging to such a large and cohesive social institution as Worldcon (remember what I said about being torn?). However, as alienated as I feel from both the awards and the convention that supports them, I still recognise their potential and want that potential to be within the grasp of as many people as possible. I want a Hugo Award that is socially, politically and culturally inclusive but I feel that the debate, as it is currently conducted, is not exactly helping anyone to bring this future about.

Renay at Ladybusiness, Hugo Thoughts and Friendly Fan Spaces:

I used the word “silence” to discuss how I was feeling, but after a short discussion and after hearing his definition of the word, I revoked my comment and apologized, because while I used “silenced” on the fly, what I meant was “scared, and therefore afraid to speak”. In this context, “scared” is a better term, because it encompasses silence without all the skeevy power dynamic issues. His tweet made me feel scared and disappointed that a professional author I admired was buying into a trend I find problematic. I wasn’t scared of him in particular, but of the aforementioned trend that this specific tweet allowed me to sort of solidify into a position. It summed up a lot of my fears: to speak on these topics, to have feelings, to be disappointed, to say I’m disappointed, to be told my disappointment doesn’t matter unless I’m also doing X or Y, to be called bitter, or be accused of insulting the opinions of other fans. But most of all, it makes me afraid because I worry about having my expression of disappointment turned into an attack on creators, which is the last thing I want to do.

This is my second year formally involved with the Hugos. Although I’m aware that most people passionate and invested in the Hugos don’t intend to frame this space as one that is very rigidly policed, that’s what it looks like to me, personally, as a new member of this specific fandom, on the outskirts. That it might be better for your safety and reputation to just sit down and be quiet.

Paul Kincaid, A dyspeptic view of awards:

More than that, as the field grows so that no-one can possibly be aware of its entirety, so popular becomes at best a partial term. People will vote for what they know in their own cantonment within the federation of sf, because that is the science fiction they know. But they may be totally unaware of what is happening in the next canton; they may have no interest in those happenings; developments in canton B might be the most exciting things that have ever happened in science fiction to the inhabitants of canton B, but to the inhabitants of canton A they are of no relevance whatsoever. To put it another way, the bigger the voter universe the more likely people are going to feel discontented with the award because it is not addressing their own particular part of the sf spectrum.

On top of all that we have the impact of the internet, which has made it easier for people to promote their own work or to log-roll for others. As the nominating window opens for the Hugo Awards in particular (but for other awards as well), places like Facebook and Twitter become almost impossible to navigate because of people proclaiming: this is what I have done that is eligible. What it indicates, of course, is that the field is so diverse that people are terrified that their own work is going to disappear in the mass. What actually results is that those people with a more dominant web presence are consequently more likely to be noticed and hence attract nominations and votes. This is not a hard and fast rule, there are plenty of examples that count both for and against this suggestion, but it is part of the confusion of what is meant by ‘popular’ in a popular vote award.

Maureen Kincaid Speller, Making an Emotional Investment – surviving the announcement of the Hugo Award shortlists:

Given that I now find myself as part of a loose online community that regularly discusses sf, including topics such as the Hugo awards, I’ve found myself thinking about them again. The arguments go back and forth about the point of the Hugos, especially whether they’re a popular vote for the author rather than a recognition of a story’s intrinsic merit. It is probably impossible to provide empirical data to show that, for the novel at least, it is an author-driven rather than text-driven award, but my sense is that this seems to be so, not least because the same authors so often seem to appear on the shortlists.

…On the other hand, I also have the impression that Hugo nominators are drawing on a very limited set of resources for their nominations (except perhaps in the short story category this year, which is just bizarre) which is why the same names seem to resurface so much, especially in the novel. Last year I noticed one or two people flagging up interesting things that ought to be nominated for Hugos, though less so this year (although I have been rather distracted these last few months so many have missed it this year).

On the other hand most activity of this sort seems to be people drawing attention to the eligibility of their own work, again as Jonathan noted, rather than to that of other people. It seems to me that one thing I can at least do is to flag up material I come across, not just before the nomination process closes, but all through the year, to keep the issue firmly in people’s minds. If there is to be a genuine investment in making the Hugos ‘our’ awards, the way so many people seem to think they should be then this also needs to be part of the process. It may not achieve immediate results, and it’s certainly not enough on its own but it might help to push the argument beyond the usual expressions of horror at this time of year. And frankly, that would be welcome.

I don’t self-identify as a fan in SFF spaces, now. I enjoy being part of the conversation, and I enjoy the sense of community that arises in critical discussion of works of SFF literature and visual media. (I’m a participant in fandoms, perhaps.) But the handful of times I’ve attended conventions have been among the most alienating experiences in my life – and I’ve had a whole bunch of alienating experiences.

I’m happy to talk about the books and works shortlisted for any award, juried or popular. And have an opinion on the selection processes – having an opinion is my stock in trade, almost. But the Hugo awards come out of a particular fan culture that is in the main alien to me, so I do not care to engage with the process.

Aliette de Bodard, On political and value neutral:

I remain puzzled by the assumption that some literature can be value-neutral, as if that were ever possible. It is not. Every single piece of literature/art is embedded in the culture/sub-culture that gave rise to it. I’m not doing cultural existentialism here–it’s not *because* something was produced in, say, France, that it will have X and Y and Z; but something produced in France by a French writer will be infused with *some* degree of French cultural background; same for US productions, etc. Every single piece of literature bears the assumptions and the worldview of its creator, who in turn bears the assumptions of the culture they’re part of (and, to some extent, the work bears the assumptions of its reader, who might interpret it through different filters than the creator).

There is no such thing as meaningless fluff, because even the “shallowest” of fluffs carries an implicit value of what makes fluff; of what doesn’t challenge the majority of readers; of what kinds of escapism are efficient and “don’t engage the brain”

Linky runs in perpetuity on not sleeping

Border House Blog on the gender wage gap in gaming:

I’m reading through the latest digital edition of Game Developer Magazine which contains their annual survey. The salary numbers overall weren’t concerning to me, until I scrolled down and saw the differences between the male and female survey respondents. The next time someone tells me that men and women get paid equally for their talents in the game industry, I wanted something to link to them. This is just plain disgusting.

Fantasy Café, Women in SFF Month: Jacqueline Carey:

As of this writing, Martin, Jordan, and the granddaddy of them all, J.R.R. Tolkien, top the list of Amazon.com’s fantasy author rankings. A glance at the first fifty listings on the Popular Epic Fantasy bookshelf on GoodReads.com reveals forty-seven titles by thirteen male authors, ranging from long-established Big Names to more recent arrivals like Brent Weeks and Patrick Rothfuss. Exactly three books by female authors made the list: The first two titles in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and my own Kushiel’s Dart.

Jo Walton at Tor.com, “Fantasy, Reading and Escapism”:

Reading is a culturally approved practice, it improves my mind and widens my cultural capital. But if I admit what I read — more fiction than non fiction, more genre books than classics, fantasy, science fiction, romance, military fiction, historical fiction, mysteries and YA — then I lose that approval and have to start justifying my choices. I also read a lot of Victorian fiction and biographies and random interesting non-fiction and some things published as literature… and I don’t hold any of them as better than any of the others.

Linky has been doing the devil’s work (idle hands)

At Tor.com, Amal El-Mohtar is talking about How To Read Poetry:

Part of me is perpetually astonished that I need to explain to people why they should read poetry. The mainstream perception of poetry in the anglophone West is fundamentally alien to me. Over and over I encounter the notion that poetry is impenetrable, reserved for the ivory tower, that one can’t understand or say anything about it without a literature degree, that it is boring, opaque, and ultimately irrelevant. It seems like every few months someone in a major newspaper blithely wonders whether poetry is dead, or why no one writes Great Poetry anymore. People see poetry as ossified, a relic locked away in textbooks, rattled every now and then to shake out the tired conclusions of droning lecturers who have absorbed their views from the previous set of droning lecturers and so on and on through history.

Cora Buhlert on Hugo Nomination:

Odd. I’d have thought that this year’s Hugo shortlist was pretty much uncontroversial. I mean, we have a healthy representation of women and writers of colour, most of the nominations went to works and writers that are popular or at least talked about, there are very few “What the Fuck?” nominees compared with other years (e.g. last year’s nominees included a filk CD and a Hugo acceptance speech from the previous year). Sure, there still are issues, particularly with certain categories, but there always are issues.

Which is why I was surprised to find that this year’s Hugo slate is apparently considered highly controversial in certain corners of the SFF community.

Everything Is Nice on Clarke Award Data:

Unfortunately, we can’t compare submissions historically but we can compare with the shortlists. So, in the first 10 years of the award 30% of nominees were female, 50% of winners were female and there were three years when there were as many women as men on the shortlist. Whereas in the last 10 years 22% of nominees were female, 20% of winners were female and men made up the majority of the shortlist every years.

So the record of the Arthur C Clarke Award is getting worse. I think this has to reflect the worsening situation for women in British science fiction publishing over this period. The fact that this year’s shortlist is made up entirely of men is a symptom of this and we need to address the root cause.

There’s a lot of talk about Night Shade Books’…thing.

Kameron Hurley, Deal/No Deal.

Tobias Buckell, Night Shade Sale Summary.

Staffer’s Book Review, Night Shade Books: What Went Wrong?

Michael A Stackpole, The Night Shade Books/Skyhorse Publishing Deal.

Phil Foglio, Publish & Perish.

JABerwocky Literary Agent, The Night Shade Writers of America.

Shaun Duke of the Skiffy & Fanty Podcast invited me to join himself, Paul Weimar, and Stina Leicht to kvetch about the Hugos and the Clarkes. So that’s available over there. Apparently I can be counted on to go on, and on, and on at length.

(And also to do some research first.)

Books in brief: Mitchell, Fenn

Sandy Mitchell, Warhammer 40K: The Emperor’s Finest and Warhammer 40K: The Last Ditch. Black Library, 2012 and 2013.

The Emperor’s Finest is probably the weakest installment in Mitchell’s Ciaphas Cain series, lacking the usual vibrancy and humour, and dogged by a very poor secondary character in the form of the lady aristocrat Mira. The Last Ditch makes up for this with rollicking battle action.

One of the things that strike me most about the Cain books is that, while never rising above the level of crunchy popcorn entertainment, Mitchell takes the (clichéd) darkness of the Warhammer 40K setting, acknowledges it, and then goes on to populate it with relatively well-adjusted, well-adapted people. With fully-developed senses of humour.

Jaine Fenn, Queen of Nowhere. Gollancz, 2013. Review copy courtesy of Strange Horizons –

– Where it will be reviewed. Preliminary thoughts: interesting SF, interesting world, not sure how satisfied I am with the pacing or the ending.

Linky moves in surprising ways

The World SF Blog with Editorial: The Hugo Awards:

And the thing is this – this is perhaps the first year in the award’s history (and the Campbell, a “Not a Hugo” award) where we see such a strong representation of international voices. I’m not sure I can highlight this enough. Saladin Ahmed‘s Throne of the Crescent Moon, for instance, is the first novel by a Muslim writer ever to be nominated for a Hugo. The first by an Arab-American, for that matter. (And this is when being Muslim in SF is still cause for a lot of nasty sniping, to put it mildly). Ken Liu, a Chinese-American author doing amazing work, amongst others, in translating Chinese science fiction into English, is nominated for Best Short Story. Aliette de Bodard, a French author of Vietnamese ancestry, is nominated for both Best Novella and Best Short Story, while Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a surprise nominee with a translated story in the Best Novelette category.

Even more exciting, the Campbell Award, recognising emerging writers, has author Zen Cho as a nominee – the first time a Malaysian author is so recognised.

The Hugos are changing, I think. Or SF as a whole is changing. The surprise is not that popular American writers are nominated for a Hugo – but that diversity is increasingly represented on the ballots.

Sam Sykes, who surprised me with his thoughtful contribution to the “grimdark” swings and roundabouts, talks about the weight of violence in the new Tomb Raider:

The violence was horrifying. Like, I say this as an unapologetic fanboy of God of War. It was more shocking than personally gouging out the eyes of someone (whose eyes you happen to be looking through) because the tone was different. This violence was presented as unexpected, horrible, out of the norm. God of War’s violence is…trivial isn’t the right word I’m looking for, but it’s close. It’s more like it’s procedural, it’s how you get from point A to point B, which is fine for the kind of story that God of War is telling. But Tomb Raider’s violence is telling a different story, something about the price of blood, the cost of violence, the measure of a human life and human suffering. Tomb Raider’s violence was different.

It had weight.

…When I talk about the weight of violence, I mean the impact it has on the story, the way it affects the characters, the way it shapes the world and the way it makes the outcomes of each conflict mean something.

(The more I hear from people who’ve played the new Tomb Raider, the move I want to give it a shot myself.)

Jim C. Hines, Bigots, Bullies, and Enablers:

People complained about the Locus piece because it was hurtful. This wasn’t an example of the court jester speaking truth to power. While the author claims he was trying to write satire, what he actually wrote was another in a long line of jabs toward people who are already disproportionately targeted for a broad range of abuse in this culture.

It was bullying.

That’s what people are defending. They’re attacking Locus for not giving this person a platform with which to bully those he doesn’t like, based on an incident that happened several years ago. They’re telling the targets of ongoing bigotry that the best solution is to just ignore it.

That doesn’t work for the target of bullying. It only works for the bystanders who don’t want to deal with it. It’s a cowardly, ineffective, and downright shitty “solution.”

New Statesman: Hungary is no longer a democracy.

And some poetry, for poetry’s sake:

Drinking Alone with the Moon
Li Bo, trans. Vikram Seth

A pot of wine among the flowers.
I drink alone, no friend with me.
I raise my cup to invite the moon.
He and my shadow and I make three.

The moon does not know how to drink;
My shadow mimes my capering;
But I’ll make merry with them both —
And soon enough it will be Spring.

I sing — the moon moves to and fro.
I dance — my shadow leaps and sways.
Still sober, we exchange our joys.
Drunk — and we’ll go our separate ways.

Let’s pledge — beyond human ties — to be friends,
And meet where the Silver River ends.

Linky is suffering the effects of disturbing the sleeping cat

Motto of the morning: let sleeping cats lie, even if they are on your laundry. Ouch.

I missed Locus Magazine’s tasteless April Fools post about Wiscon and burqas, but here’s some follow-up:

File 770, April Fails Day.

James Davis Nicoll, Locus apologises.

Aidan Moher has Thoughts On the 2013 Hugo Nominations.

And from Archaeology Magazine, news of the discovery of Pluto’s Gate:

STANBUL, TURKEY—Francesco D’Andria of the University of Salento announced that he has unearthed the structures of Pluto’s Gate, known as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman tradition, at the World Heritage site of Hierapolis in southwest Turkey. The remains of a temple, a pool, and a series of steps above a cave that emits poisonous gases were found, in addition to an inscription with a dedication to Pluto… and Kore.

More details at Discovery News.

Linky is dealing with the complications of depression

Amal El-Mohtar on Science Fiction Poetry:

So let me show you some science fiction poems.

A fantastic source for these that merits reading from beginning to end is Stone Telling‘s science and science fiction issue, titled Catalyst, which editors Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan explain came about in response to Cat Valente’s post about the “heart-breaking sameness” of science fiction poetry. The result is magnificent: twelve poems treating space exploration, science history, terraforming, aliens, and anatomy with solemnity, grace, variety, and language to steal the breath. I have re-read Sofia Samatar’s “Girl Hours,” CSE Cooney’s “Postcards from Mars,” and Tori Truslow’s “Terrunform” more times than I can count, with each reading giving me something new and precious.

While we’re on poetry, read Sonya Taaffe’s “Ψάπφοι Σελάννα”, in the same issue of Apex:

My hair darkens in the shadow of your hand,

but yours blooms silver, shining like the foam

of the morning you leap, not ageless, singing,

from that bright cliff of days.

καλῶς καὶ εὖ ἀείδει.

Geek Native, Drawing the impossible? Fully dressed superheroines.