The 2016 Hugo Finalists

Well, the 2016 Hugo Award finalists have been announced. And … I can’t say the list is surprising. Good? I also can’t say that. At this point, the only topic of the entire set that seems to have any relevancy at all to the real world is the category for film, which looks to be a four-way battle between Fury Road, The MartianThe Force Awakens, and Age of Ultron.

And … that’s pretty much the only category worth caring about right now. The rest? Well, in case you’ve missed one of the other nominees, here’s one of the standout examples of what’s being voted on: Space Raptor Butt Invasion.

Yes. Dinosaur erotica. Cheap, written-in-a-day-or-two, dinosaur erotica.

Why?

Well, you may recall there’s been some controversy over the Hugo Awards the last few years. The Hugo Awards had become increasingly isolated and standoffish from their purported goals, turning into more of a personal award handed out between friends that pretended to represent “all fans of Science Fiction and Fantasy” than actually being that (we’re talking votes of a hundred total determining things like the “best” novel of the year). Which resulted, unsurprisingly, in the Hugo Awards going into a downward spiral of quality (hence why my local librarians both mocked it and stopped picking up books that were Hugo winners).

People got tired of it, noticed what was going on, and tried to do something about it. And the elitist group that had been using it as their own personal promotion platform dug in their heels. A game of tug-of-war ensued. And name calling. And accusations of sexism, racism … really, whatever this group of insulars could come up with. And once one party goes that far, well, it’s not hard for the other party to decide “The gloves are coming off.”

Enter a group calling themselves “The Rabid Puppies.” Long story short, after the insular group decided to pour liquid nitrogen over the whole mess by voting in lockstep to ensure that any category that didn’t have one of their chosen nominations on it was given “No award” and then twisting the knife by handing out literal butthole awards called Assterisks to those they didn’t want at the event, the Rabid group decided that enough was enough.

And now there’s a finalist list with Space Raptor Butt Invasion on it, the Hugos are facing a proposed rule change that only lets “Real fans” vote (Gotta represent all of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and the best way to do that is by mimicking Manor Farm, right?) … and, well, you have pretty much what happens when both sides act petty and dig in their heels. Everyone nearby shakes their head and walks away, disgusted. The mask has come off of the Hugos and … there’s not much to look at but a bunch of blatant elitists trying to keep their hands on everything.

So yeah, the Hugo Award is busily making itself as irrelevant as possible.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for an award that actually is attempting to live up to that “all of Sci-Fi and Fantasy” bit, you’re still in luck. Dragon Con has announced The Dragon Awards. Which, as a side, is a much better name for a Sci-Fi/Fantasy award. Who wouldn’t want to say “I won a dragon?

Anyway, after shouting for years “If you don’t like it, go make your own award,” it looks like a lot of those disgusted with the behavior of the Hugos over the last decade have finally done just that. No judges. No “real” fans. No social commentary. Just fans—any fans, no requirement to prove anything—voting on what they liked best from the year.

Yeah, you can sign up here.

So, 2016 Hugos? With the Dragons announced, I don’t really care anymore. After last years abysmal showing of narcissism, elitism, and more than a little racism, pretty much any other award couldn’t be worse, and … Oh hey, here’s a new one promising to not do all the things the Hugo has become infamous for.

Now, is there a chance that those same insulars will try and swarm the Dragon Awards en masse and kill it? Sure. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised. Assterisks, remember?

But given that it’s an award that for the moment is firmly out of their control, I’d bet they’ll have a much harder time of it.

So yeah. 2016 Hugos? Congratulations, you got what you wanted. You’re irrelevant now. You’ve convinced me. Posts from your most ardent insulars have convinced me. I, as GRRM so eloquently pointed out, and not a “real” Science Fiction and Fantasy fan. I don’t have enough money, and I don’t have the “right” ideals.

So … congratulations insulars. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve got your sinking ship. Keep it. I’ve left. The Hugo Award is a fading memory.

I’ll vote for the Dragons. Where I, and everyone else who calls themselves a fan for one reason or another, can vote for the things they love.

Goodbye, Manor Farm.

The Question of Value Part 2 – Responses

Wow. What a weekend. Views for The Question of Value continue to pour in from every corner of the web, from everywhere from news aggregate sites to tumblr. And with those views came comments, questions, concerns, and even discussion.

Now, I did my best to read each of the reactions I got to The Question. In fact, I even went as far as to not just read the aggregate listings and response pieces, but comments posted there as well. And while some simply retreaded things that had already been discussed (one even tackled the dead horse subject I pointed out I was going to ignore … so I did ignore it) I found there was a lot being said.

The conclusion? I may have been the one to voice it, but this topic, this question of how we value the mighty ebook is not something that I alone have been thinking on. There are a lot of you out there who’ve got opinions and thoughts on the matter. Even better, a lot of these thoughts overlap and coincide. For example, in comments I read just here, on my sister blog, and in one response post, at least five different people brought up the topic of resale. Several brought up durability (and at least one amusing comment brought up multiple people citing that an ebook couldn’t be read in a shower by asking how they were reading normal books in one). DRM was addressed, as was licensing in general. And do you know what I learned most of all in reading all of these?

The market is failing the readers.

Okay, now that might sound like a harsh judgement to pass, and perhaps I could voice it differently (also, that could be taken way out of context, so aggregate sites, you do not have permission to use that line without context). When I say market, for the most part, I’m not referring to the books themselves, or what the authors are producing, though in a way, we share part of the blame.

No, what I’m referring to here is the actual market and the way ebooks are being handled. That is what is failing the readers.

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The Question of Value

There’s an interesting thought I’ve had bouncing around my head for over a month now, and all the more lately as a result of several other articles and blogs I’ve read that unknowingly touched on the topic in a way, but … how do we value an e-book?

I find that it’s an interesting question with a lot of variety in what I would suppose would be answers … though technically, these are supposed based on what other people online have stated and said about ebooks. But I still find it an interesting thought: what value are we placing on our ebooks?

I ask because as a whole, it appears that to most, the answer is “little.” Most commentary I’ve seen from online, or been the recipient of, is that an ebook is inherently of little value by nature of being an ebook. While a hardcover or a paperback copy of something such as The Wheel of Time is generally seen as holding an intrinsic value, the ebook of the same will often be derided as “overpriced” or “too expensive,” even though the ebook is already slightly cheaper.

Now, I’m not going to get into the whole debate of “But an ebook should be so much cheaper because it’s not physical” because that particular point has been trounced so thoroughly by authors and industry professionals much better than I that it’s no longer a dead horse, but rather a meaty, ground-up paste that was once a dead horse on the floor. There’s no point in discussing that. The majority cost of the physical aspect of a book has not been the actual tangible costs in a long time. It’s time, editing, marketing, etc. Just like a restaurant is not so much the cost of the ingredients as it is the time and preparation skill. So, if you were already planning a comment discussing that, don’t. You might as well be arguing that jet fuel can’t melt steel beams.

Back to the topic at hand, considering the idea that customers aren’t holding an ebook to be of similar value, I find this a fascinating conundrum to consider: Why does the public hold this view? It’s an odd, strange view to take, in light of the rest of society’s embracing of the digital. But in ebooks, there’s this strange idea that an ebook does not have value. In fact a few weeks ago I encountered one poor, confused soul who declared that since ebooks tended to pay an author a higher royalty, the prices of an ebook should be adjusted to compensate, and then volunteered their own numbers (pulled out of a sunless place) to declare that ebooks should cost no more than 10% of the cost of a physical book because that was fair compensation.

Obviously, this is laughable. And I and a few others did have a good laugh about it later at LTUE, because that’s again one of those arguments that doesn’t understand it’s beating a dead horse. But the point remains, and this is what I haven’t stopped wondering about over the last few months … Why? Why is it that a public that seems to have the understanding of “I’m paying for content” with so many other products doesn’t get this with books at all?

Because, let’s face it, in other market areas where space is shared by digital and physical, there’s not a huge assortment of people crying for reduced prices. You don’t see articles from music sites talking about how MP3 downloads are worthless and shouldn’t cost more than ten cents. You don’t see game review sites asking how dare Steam or Origin have a digital game on launch day cost the same as its physical compatriots.

So why in the book industry is this such a problem? Why is it that a person will look at a digital MP3 download from their favorite artist and buy it without a second of remorse, but then look at a digital book from their favorite author and send them an angry message about how that ebook shouldn’t be more than a dollar?

I don’t actually have an answer to this question. All I have are theories based on what I’m reading and hearing from other people around the internet. Maybe you’ll agree with some of these, maybe you won’t. But all of these are things I’ve heard expressed in one way or another.

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The Loud Neighbor

So my neighbors make a little bit of noise. Sometimes a lot of noise.

That’s fine. I’m okay with this. They have several kids. They live above us. Sometimes they have parties and want to play music. They laugh, they watch movies, they have an ordinary life. Sometimes that ordinary life is a little loud.

Again, I’m okay with this. Because I know, and am quite aware of the fact, that myself and my roommates are fairly loud as well. I know that most of the time our noise is kept at a sufficiently low volume that they don’t hear us, but then there are the times that we have parties, that we have late night movie showings, and we want to hear that T-Rex roar from Jurassic Park in our bones. And I’m aware that at those moments, they can probably hear us. I’d be surprised if they couldn’t.

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Being a Better Writer: Beginning Anew

Hello everyone! Welcome to 2016!

Yes, that’s right, it’s a new year, and now that the festivities and parties are all over, that means it’s time to knuckle down and get back to work! Well, for me, at least. And I’d best do it fast. There’s a whole lot of work staring me in the face right now! I’ve got a book to release by the end of January (more on that tomorrow), a second book to release by May (more on that to come, but most of you regular readers know the title), and another book to start, finish, and publish! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! There’s at least one convention—LTUE—to go to, another book I need to rewrite, the next Dusk Guard entry to consider, and even, of course, the weeklyBeing a Better Writer posts to keep track of (along with everything else web-related).

And you know what I say? Bring it on! I’m refreshed, recharged, and I’ve got two books about to come out. How could I say no to that?

So then, with all that said, lets dive into today’s topic: Beginning Anew. I felt it was appropriate to discuss seeing as we’ve just kicked off the new year. All of you are out there setting goals (hopefully), examining your lives, and, if you’re a writer (or a prospective one) figuring out exactly what you want to accomplish this year with your craft.

That’s good. You totally should be doing that. See any of the number of prior posts I’ve made on goals or motivation for my opinions on that topic. And if you want more, there are plenty of writing blogs out there discussing this very topic as a consequence of the new year.

So I’m going to talk about something a little different when I say “Beginning Anew.” I’m not going to talk about the new goals for the year you’re setting, nor entirely the act of sitting down to start a new book (though I feel that might be a topic for another time). Instead when I say “Beginning Anew,” I’m speaking of another kind of new. The kind where you look at something that you’ve worked on again and again and realize “You know? Maybe it’s time to move on.”

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Being a Better Writer: Always Keep Learning

Shorter post today guys, one in line with some thoughts I’ve had over the last few days. Let me start by telling you a story.

There’s a writing convention near where I live called Life, the Universe, and Everything, or LTUE for short. It’s a bit of a Science-Fiction and Fantasy convention, which isn’t exactly unexpected when you consider who’s attending, but part of its core—a large part of it—is the pursuit of the arts of writing. Lots of authors attend (including ones like Brandon Sanderson), panels are held (you might remember I was on a few last year) and in general lots of talk about writing is had.

It’s definitely worth going to if you can swing it (and their website is here, just in case you’re curious about looking into it). Lots of authors, editors, and publishers talking about writing stuff in dozens of panels.

Right, so my story. Each time I’ve gone to LTUE, I’ve attended panels. As many as possible. And last year, that got a question from someone I was talking with. Upon hearing the subject of the rather basic panel I was attending, they looked at me in surprise and said “But you’re published and you’ve written great stuff, why are you going to that panel?”

I think my answer surprised them, to say the least. Maybe it diminished my stance as an author in their eyes, or maybe they reflected on it and walked away impressed. I don’t know. But I looked at them and said something along the lines of “Everyone does things differently. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to keep brushing up on the basics in case I missed something.”

As I said, I have no idea what that fan thought of my response. I don’t remember how the rest of it panned out. I just remember that shocked look on their face when I told them I was going to be attending a panel that covered a very basic writing topic.

But I went anyway. And I sat through a panel given by a bunch of other authors that I could have just as easily volunteered for and given. Instead, I sat in the audience, listened to them as they presented their topic, listened as younger writers asked questions, and did my best to learn something.

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Delayed! Or Flying Standby Has Its Drawbacks

You may have noticed there’s no Being a Better Writer post this morning.  And that there was nothing said about Thanksgiving on here.

Neither of these things was planned. It’s just a cautionary tale about the dangers of traveling for Thanksgiving.

Now before you get the wrong idea, my Thanksgiving was wonderful. I managed to make it to a family reunion (for my grandparent’s 60th anniversary) and had an absolutely wonderful time catching up with cousins and aunts and uncles I hadn’t seen in decades. It was a great time, and truly something to be thankful for.

But not owning a laptop and staying in a beach house with internet of questionable access (I got it working after a few days, but not well), I wasn’t able to get much done or even log onto my site. Which initially wasn’t a problem, as the plan was to be home this morning.

That didn’t work out, though. Flying standby has its drawbacks, and while I’d hoped to be back and writing today, it looks like Wednesday will mark my return.

So this week’s post is delayed but not skipped. And coming with it some post-Thanksgiving thoughts, the lead-in to Christmas (hooray!) and more book news. Unusual Events is going into Beta! Cover coming soon!

Best wishes to all my readers, and I hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as mine.