The Hugo Awards, one of the great awards of speculative fiction. Sure, most people outside of the speculative fiction circles have no idea what the Hugo Awards are, but inside those circles it’s like being anointed as one of the geek chosen. A look through the Hugo Awards nominees and winners will show you a list of people who have gone down in history as legends of the genre. And it usually operates fairly quietly in the background, known of but not much focused on.
Then, all of a sudden, this year there was buzz about it, something juicy was going on. For a genre that constantly wants to be legitimized, this is big news. After all, we’ve been the basement dwellers of the literary world for decades now and the sudden buzz about one of our big achievements was a sign some of us could come out into the light finally.
Except… that buzz was about how the Hugos were embroiled in a political debate on the validity of social commentary in science fiction. A group backing a “Sad Puppies” slate wanted to bring back golden age sci-fi and get rid of the “SJWs”. Of course, this sort of talk doesn’t go unnoticed and it immediately saw opposition from multiple directions. The debates were fierce, sometimes petty, and often contradictory. But, from the outside of the debate, the only thing you really could have gotten from it would be a single message:
“Science fiction traditionally hates social commentary.”
As I write this blog there are a lot of times I reference the work of more successful people (because, let’s face it, I can’t talk about myself like that just yet). Often it’s with a lot of respect and reverence. I absolutely respect the likes of Tolkien, Asimov, Dick, Twain, Verne, Rowling, Fitzgerald… and this list might go on too long if I keep at that. On the other hand, there are some names I have such distaste for that I tend to not even mention them while quietly jabbing their direction.
But there’s one name I reference a lot where I imagine some people would be a little confused about my stance. There’s a guy that I mention both with respect and with some seemingly harsh (but tongue-in-cheek) remarks. On the one hand, I mention his work ethic with great reverence and see him as a master of the genre that made him famous (and others). I’m a great fan of his work, especially the work outside of his usual genre. But then I will also point out that he mightbe out of his god damn mind. I know you’ve seen the title of this post, so we all know who I’m talking about…
And one would have to wonder how I could suggest he’s a madman while following it up with “who I respect greatly”. Well, simply put, being a prolific writer and bonkers are not mutually exclusive (lucky for me). And, let’s face it, Stephen King proves it… Continue reading The Paradox of Stephen King→
By now it’s likely no secret that I like a little peanut butter in my chocolate or vice-versa. If you’ve followed the blog, I write about Science Fiction and Fantasy almost interchangeably at length and I’m pretty adamant that Clarke’s Law is true. For those who don’t know what that means, any science sufficiently advanced is virtually indistinguishable from magic. It sums things up pretty well for me because the world’s worked that way forever. When we couldn’t understand lightning bolts, we thought gods did it, and certainly there are things in the universe today that we don’t understand which are still being attributed to higher powers.
The rule’s a simple reminder that any time you go really advanced with your crazy Sci-Fi tropes you’re practically skipping into the realm of Fantasy. But the same is true in the other direction, something I’ve always held near and dear to my heart. If you were to take something truly magical and then approached it with science in mind, there’s a lot of it that just happens to click really well. Hell, I wrote whole books and countless tweets about the concept.
So Sci-Fantasy is, to me, a natural genre. A lot of people out there believe that you can’t really blend these two and that you end up ruining both in the effort to avoid choosing either. But from where I stand, science is fantastic to begin with, it may explain everything, but those explanations are wonderful in so many ways we never could have imagined. Don’t get me wrong, I still love some robots, but I can definitely see the allure of wanting to make some of the things from legends of old into something tangible.
As of late there’s a general consensus that zombie films, shows, books, and games are becoming over-saturated. You don’t even have to look far to find something zombie related almost everywhere. There’s even zombies under the Disney banner if you remember Pirates of the Caribbean beyond Johnny Depp hamming it up the whole time.
But I think the line from silly to ridiculous was really crossed recently during the promotion of CW’s new show iZombie. During the promotion, and a lot of reviews, we’d successfully jumped beyond the “fast zombie” and “slow zombie” debate and right into the “sexy zombie” debate. No, seriously, look it up and you won’t have a hard time finding someone referring to the fact the show has sexy zombies. That’s where we are now, we’ve mined the grounds so much that we’ve gone to looking at them as fetish objects.
But it’s not that we’re obsessed with zombies in particular as we go exploring the various incarnations of the Zombie Apocalypse, we’re obsessed with the Apocalypse part. At the same time that Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are talking about the oncoming doom of the undead, Mad Max is about to make a return to warn us of the impending doom of peak oil – something we hadn’t worried about since the 80s. Back in the 90s we found a whole variety of ways to drop a giant rock on the planet (unless we could throw a Bruce Willis at it). And six years ago, Roland Emmerich finally got to climax after working it for 13 years. Turns out he just needed a little hand from the Mayans.
Let’s face it, we’re not just afraid the world is coming to the end, some of us are excited about it. We’re looking to make enough different flavors of the Apocalypse that we can finally open that morbid Baskin Robbins parody called “31 Flavors of Woe”. Worse, with doomsday preppers, crazy evangelicals, and zombie survival guides- we’re not just anticipating the end times, we want to watch this bitch burn down around us and have a front row seat.
Recently, I pointed out that one of the major sticking points for a lot of creators and readers is the little details that people start to hold onto as they become bigger and bigger fans. One of the extensions of this is that there’s an ever building feeling that you must defend the “continuity”. It’s a common thing to witness, people who start to argue about the details they know in order to try to defend their particular version of how the universe is supposed to work. And you know what? That’s fine.
What isn’t fine is when you start to use it as an excuse to never ever let anything change. You’ve seen it, you know it happens, there are plenty of people who wanted to get into reading comic books, fantasy stories or sci-fi novels who were scared away by the idea they had to do homework before they could get started. There’s an ever present grumbling whenever someone in the stories gets a new detail added to them that doesn’t mesh with their image of that character. And, of course, who can forget our friend the black Storm Trooper?
For too many years, there has been a narrative that there was some sort of culture war going on around Christmas. Certain talking heads, particularly the loud and uninformed ones, have spent a great deal of time trying to make it seem like anyone who doesn’t agree with them is trying to destroy the very foundations of society every time the Christmas season rolls around. But, let’s be honest, that’s not particularly new.
What is new is that we’re finding more ridiculous ways of being offended about every little thing that happens to roll around. It used to be that you could just show some good will towards each other this time of year and no one would give you crap. Yet, as we enter the age of information (and misinformation), things have become controversial that used to be perfectly fine. For instance, since when did “Happy Holidays” become an insult? What about “Seasons Greetings”? Why are we pissed off if someone takes Festivus literally? Why do I have to celebrate your holiday, your way, when I don’t share your faith?
The social media age has long been upon us and people are excited for all the new content suddenly at their fingertips. Once upon a time you had to subscribe to a magazine and wait every month for a new issue to come out. But in today’s fast paced society you’re sent a stream of new information constantly that never stops. You’ve always got something new coming to you and you see more things now than you ever did before. Just one problem, all that content has slowly been disappearing from your Facebook feed.
So, anyone who’s followed this blog for a long period of time knows that in the last month I’ve become somewhat spotty on my updates (read: nearly non-existant). This is pretty common among writers who have blogs, we tend to disappear and then come back swearing that we’re going to do better… then we don’t. Let’s face it, 90% of the blogs out there that have been updated by a writer have tanked after 2 years. But the eagle-eyed among you will notice I’ve been updating this thing for 4 years now and that this was probably my strongest year yet.
So where the fuck have I been?
Well, for that, I’d like to explain to you the reason for the season and tell you about some trees, son (sorry, needed a rhyme there). So for the followers I have, all one of you, I’m now going to tell you a story about… Continue reading WTF: FTW – F**k The Walnuts→
(Update: A year and a half after this horrible idea was revealed to the world, they’ve made it pretty clear they plan to make a trilogy out of it. I can’t even fathom who thinks that’s a good idea.)
It’s been a while since I was clear headed enough to look upon the face of stupid and not blink. It’s hard to speak of stories that make me go “WTF” when the shit being shaken off of walnut trees is making me go “I wanna die”. But as I finally started to feel clear again I looked up and found myself seeing something that just could not be fathomed. For this, I have donned the appropriate attire and lifted my mighty keyboard once more to cast it against the wall in sheer aggravation.
But what I have returned to tell you of is not going to be easy to hear. No, in fact, I think it may drive many to the brink of madness. Those of you out there who are writers of any sort will cringe at the very mention of what I have come to say to you on this day. So, if you are reading this on a phone, or a tablet, or anything else that would allow you to be standing, I will need you to sit for a moment and brace for the shit I am about to lay out for you.
You don’t know it, but right now there’s a war going on for the soul of the publishing industry. It’s been fought long and hard and there have been casualties: bookstores, newspapers, the hope that any doctor’s office would update their reading selection. All in all, it’s not gone well for anyone. But the war rages on and recently it escalated because two powers decided to mobilize everything they got at each other.
It started back with that price fixing thing I was pissed off about a while back. Several book publishers had decided among themselves to fix the prices of eBooks so they could try to make sure that none of them had to actually compete to sell a book. They effectively made the rest of us look like assholes and idiots for running our book prices as low as we could while laughing and forcing the consumer to pay more for each copy.
I hated them.
But then they got busted and they started to fold pretty quickly. One of the chief forces behind this was Amazon, who realized that their ebook market was the most successful ebook market out there and that they were making mountains of cash off of it. So someone threatening those mountains of cash by working behind their backs just would not do. Amazon went after them and everyone started to play ball except for one publisher: Hachette.
Hachette huffed and puffed and refused to drop its prices like everyone else. So Amazon decided to just stop pushing Hachette books. They figured that Hachette would fold and that everything would start coming up mountains of cash again. But Hachette had a plan, they had a nuclear option that Amazon didn’t think to contend with: authors who actually make enough money to buy the GOOD ramen.
So Amazon panicked and did something that most people can agree was pretty stupid, they tried to mobilize their Indie Authors from the Kindle Direct Publishing. I mean, they were just standing around in line at the soup kitchen anyway.