To Destroy/survive SaurVox/ Voxdemort/ the Evil Genius in his Volcano Lair

Here I am huddled beside the still glowing ruins of my last computer ( it’s a vile slander to say I destroyed it myself with a sledge-hammer for answering back. Firstly I’d do a better job, and secondly my computer and I enjoyed many happy conversations).

Yeah, it is dead. Blue screen of death. FAT got shamed and left for parts unknown, taking with it Exel files of the data I’ve been putting together on the history of Hugo awards. Some family pictures, and some cover art, but no writing.

So there went my planned post for this Monday, which was interesting, informative and will now have to be redone. This leaves me short a computer, short of time, short of money, short a post, and just short. Fortunately, I am well practiced at all of those. One day, with all this practice, I’ll get them right.

But I still need something to write about.

You can scarcely mention the subject of Sad Puppies or indeed the Hugo Awards without a sudden hysterical bloodhound baying of Vox Day, Vooox Daaaaay, VOOOOOX DAAAAAAY! exploding from all over the Anti-Puppies (the AP).  Now the puppies and friends have been frequently accused of being bad people because although they kept the rules (which the anti-puppies disregard as being for little people, which we must be in their supporter’s eyes because the silence is deafening about that.) they were just unsporting.  Not fighting fair! The only logic I’ve been able to find for this is that the puppies told you what they were doing, did it all in public, and the AP didn’t take it seriously. Which is of course entirely unsporting and wicked of us. So: to make up for it, and because I’m short a post, I thought I’d do something ‘sporting’ to help to even the game. I mean, the AP have almost all the power in the Traditional Publishing world, loads of money, the ability to call down media libel, influence with just about everyone who is anyone in the literary world… they’ve used it as much as possible, and… the puppies still ain’t dead. Actually, um, some of them have done very well out of it. Their hated foe, Vox Day, now is getting around two MILLION page views a month – a long, long way above the real (not his inventive figures) of ‘Whatever’ with his stats right there on the home page. I gather it’s been just great for sales from Castalia House too. So: because the weakness of the AP seem to be in long-term strategy and forward thinking, and much seems to come down to reactive, short-term thinking, or maybe just ‘feelings’, the generous sporting thing for me to do would be to help. The AP plainly want to prove Jonathan Haidt dead right. They don’t understand us, but we understand them.

So: here you go. To defeat Vox Day… you need to become him – or at least a rival in power able to do so. Which means you need to understand that power, what attracts followers to him, and how instead to attract them to yourselves. To survive him, you at least need to understand him and those who oppose you.

Of course the problem with becoming that possible rival, that Saruman or Galadriel, is that firstly he is bright, secondly he seems to understand you. Thirdly, he is a long term planner and strategist, he writes well and is able to appeal to a large audience. He plans but seems able to flex from those plans. Of course he is obsessive and has ideas that don’t run in concordance with the ones you profess to follow. But those last features, which are all you ever focus on, are not conflict relevant, really. GRRM had a try at the wise councilor/Saruman bit, but he was not a great success. Scalzi… I wasn’t sure if he was trying Wormtongue to Larry, but as a Saruman he came over as petty and not too bright with his little twitter giggles of girlish schadenfreude glee at last year’s Hugos, just to name one of his outbursts… Anyway, let’s face it, he’s not your long-term thinker, otherwise he would have avoided attacking Baen last year. He’s a schemer and good at spin and vastly over-blowing his importance, but really, as a leader to mass a dark horde of men and Southern Orcs under, well, they’ll ruin his lawn. As for David Gerrold – I’m not sure if the purple dress is a Galadriel thing, really. (I think that’s supposed to offend us. Talk about really, really not understanding the people he hates. We don’t care, David. You could get the janitor to be the Hugo MC, in a burka, and we still wouldn’t care.) I’d avoid purple.  In a purple dress people could end up thinking he was doing Barney imitations, not Galadriel. I like to try and understand my opponents and get a handle on their motives. I must admit I was puzzled by his rage and sheer throw-the-toys-of-the-cot petulance about all this, let alone the fact that he was bringing the unfortunate Con and its volunteers into disrepute by openly attacking and villifying some of the nominees and thus trying to affect the Hugo outcome.  Most of us had nothing against (or for) the fellow. And an MC… he’s just there to hand out the prizes. It’s not about him.  All he had to do was smile and wave, no-one expects the MC to much more, and certainly they must keep a distance and appearance of lofty decorum from the actual process. Then, while packing wallaby mince I had a Eureka moment. Fortunately, I was better dressed than Archimedes for this process, so I merely ran through the house dripping bits of raw meat (isn’t that better?) and yelling ‘eureka’ at the cats. It’s true, at times they do. Anyway, I decided that this was a little inverse gay wedding cake and the Christian baker. It’s a ritual he values and considers important into which the particularly chosen of his sect were initiated with great pomp and celebration, being defiled by vile unbelievers – and he was going to have to conduct the ceremony.  Well now. I wonder what advice he would have given that baker?

Now, given the leadership on offer, I think the Saruman/Galadriel routine is a bad strategic choice for the AP. Besides New York publishing is already far, far too close to Mordor. People might start arguing about who got to be Shelob and Gollum. But seriously, what have the AP tried so far, and what success has it brought them?  They’ve brought out media attacks accusing the Puppies and nominees of being sexists, racists, misogynist, homophobes – the usual made-up get out of jail cards rubbish with no substance and some funny twists – we’re all white Mormon men. Especially Sarah Hoyt. And a twenty year bi-racial marriage makes Brad Torgersen a racist. Then the voters weren’t real fans but slaves who voted to order (which was a true PR disaster, angering a huge circle of people). Then there were the ‘you’ll never work in this town’ again threats to careers and reputations – with the Nielsen-Haydens and David Gerrold shrieking ‘who will rid us of these troublesome puppies?’ and providing precise instructions of what to do. Not a ‘blacklist’ of course (slither). Just things that people would do, like exclude them from publications, cons and reviews. Unlike the puppies, who actively said that their people shouldn’t, for example, boycott Tor, no such criticism came out of the AP. We’ve had people inform us we’re mad (at great length. It was funny, and very revealing – about the bat-sh!t loony writer), and bad, and just downright unfeeling to poor David’s tender sensibilities. Some AP camp-follower called Jane Carnall of Edinburgh, who has written a few opinion pieces in ‘The Guardian, went off and followed the instruction issued on ‘Making Light’ and started issuing fake 1 star reviews on Amazon on John Wright’s stories. Oh and the cheering announcement that they will ‘No Award’ the Pups nominees out of existence, and we’ll never ever win Hugos. The latest (from a chorus, including Scalzi) has been that if the puppies and nominees do not immediately and forthwith viciously denounce Vox Day they will declare us stupid dupes and one with him. Deserving of his fate too. I’ve kind of lost track of the ‘if you do’ offer. Maybe we’ll be allowed to live out our short miserable lives like penitent whores in a nunnery, being kindly permitted to clean their chamber-pots with our tongues. Think for yourselves what you’d do given that choice: live free and maybe win or die, or surrender and live as a second – or third or fifth class citizen, continually used as a kicking boy? And if the AP told me otherwise, I wouldn’t believe a word, given their track record. The AP really have credibility issues they need to work on.

So far, casualties 3. None of whom could be considered AP enemies, all of whom the Pups have openly encouraged their supporters not to take it out on.  On the other hand…    I haven’t seen any sign of the SaurVox of their nightmares taking any damage from this. To the contrary, nothing since their attempt (where they broke their own rules – and thus, legal speaking have failed) to expel Vox Day from SFWA has sent him more readers. His publishing ventures do better with every shrill denunciation.  Thousands more people have signed up for Sasquan, and will vote, some for, some against… but that cosy incestuous group that controlled the nominations for so many years have lost their monopoly. They don’t seem to grasp the nettle that almost every action they’ve taken so far has been essentially proving the Pups point… the more CHORFs with obvious interests in maintaining the status quo shriek and point and the more they attack and maul people who have really no axe to grind… the more people notice. I doubt more than three people in the Gamer Gate movement knew we existed before.They do now – entirely due to the stupid actions taken by the AP. And yes, some of us may never get an invite from some Cons. Do we care much? Maybe some people do. I don’t give a damn, and I doubt if their main targets do. They’ll get more invites from some other cons as a result. The AP haven’t been able to touch Amazon as a sales outlet, and both Baen and Castilia have got a bunch of new sales – not from the noms, but from the controversy.  And you have to realize, being called a sexist, racist etc… attracts some people. Both people who have had the same garbage directed at them when it wasn’t true, but was convenient, and yeah, sexists, racists etc. That’s actually a lot of people, between those two groups. You simply have to look at the reaction to that Pizza Parlor, or Chick-a-filla, or Duck Dynasty, to realize that this is not a marginal group. They’re just a group who have, up to now, mostly been quiet. The CHORFs thought ‘quiet’ meant ‘gone’. This is not the case, and methinks, in the way those who learn from history know, the worm is turning. The conflict has moved into a place where the AP strategists would be pulling faces and drawing lots to NOT be the one to explain to the masters and mistresses of Mordor, that the army at their gate is not actually able to lose.

If they behave as they have, they send more recruits to SP and Vox Day. They make their enemy look sane, honorable and mistreated. If they go ahead an No Award the Pups, not only will it be seen as incredibly petty spite (my sandbox. if I can’t have all of it, I’m going to crap in it) but the favor will be returned next year (which many people would consider fair play).  How many years will the Hugos survive that?  If you have a Hugo… or ever hoped to get one, that’s the kiss of death. An award has value only by going on being awarded, preferably to top candidates, whose work does it proud. That’s been a problem for the Hugos for a while, and only going to get worse if poor quality candidates make it because they’re voted in by the CHORFs or the puppies from shrinking pools. The handful of  AP candidates like Ann Leckie will be tarred with their brush of collusion and block voting (win or lose). And win a Hugo or not, the Puppies have proved their point – which as they stated well before, was their goal – not winning. Literally everything the AP done so far seems to have been anticipated by their foe, and played out against them.

So… given that they’ve done… not exactly well so far, what would I, kindly me, being sporting, advise them to do? Not to win, but survive best. Well, I’d say that Mike Glyer has been the most astute Anti-puppy so far. Mary Robinette Kowal has tried but failed to grasp the nettle and pull (she still clings to defending the indefensible.). Mike Glyer, after a very shaky start of alienating a lot people with his ‘not real fan’ has taken- at least to my eye – the sensible attitude of seeing making further enemies was not actually clever. So he’s now trying to give at least some coverage to both sides, and as far as I can see, trying not to spit into anyone’s eye. As a guy with a lot of Noms it’s hard to not be portrayed as part of the old order, and I respect the fact he’s actually been able to look the situation and see that as being wisest.

It’s easy to be wise in hindsight, but the cleverest tactic would have been for the CHORFs instead of their vicious and failed attack, to say ‘wow! So-and-so -Pup-Nom. He/she is an exiting writer!’ and made no fuss at all. There’d have been no new Worldcon sign-ups, Vox Day would would not have increased his blog following and there’d be no SP4, and no ‘No Award’ threat. And in two or three years, they’d have been able to go back to business pretty much as usual. But AP seemed to have been in world of arrogant short-sightedness, and now have a mess in which it’s more a case of ‘take casualties but try to survive’.

The first and most obvious thing I’d do is tone it right down and publicly break a few of the hot-heads screaming ‘no award’, and utterly and loudly disavow and cast out the Amazon review fakers.  The ‘blacklist’ needs to be publicly walked back from really hard and fast (because that could backfire so badly if readers take it up) and this needs to be shown to be the case, with reviews, Con invites and publication invites – with the organizers, reviewers and editors making a point of saying that they’re doing it. It’s not going to be popular with some CHORFs but it needs to be done even if it means tossing David Gerrold and Neilsen-Haydens under a bus – which, tactically would be pretty smart. When the packages go out – accept – and cheer a few puppy Noms. Personally push a few to win. Forget the AP darlings – a clean sweep makes the puppies look less good.  “I was doubtful about that book/story. but now I’ve read it, it’s a great book.” will go a long way. The single cleverest move – which I see no chance of the level of tactical sense need for, would be to put AP votes behind Vox Day for short form editor, because THEN he has reason not to nuke the process. ‘No Award’ the next year would then hurt him. Forget about all the stupid let’s change the rules’ – learn to live with the situation, put up your own slates of good reads to recommend… and here is the crucial detail – try for a diverse (socially, politically, religiously) slate yourselves – be seen to be inclusive of centrist and indeed right-wing authors. Try to actually get a bit closer to the demographics of the US in all respects. And pick new names, ones coming out of Independent publishing. You’d probably do well to forget Tor or for about 5 years at the very least. Like it or not, they’re somewhat tainted by the process. That’s harsh on some authors, and I hope they can find somewhere else to publish. They can always go indy.

That’s lowest damage, best future I can see for Anti-puppies. No charge. I did it to be sporting.

Now do any of you sporting folk want to bet on the bulk of the AP going on with the same old playbook?


Pity. I could use some fix-teh-computer funds. :-). Oh well. I’ll just have to write something.


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Portrait of the Reader as a Burrowing Wombat – Sabrina Chase

Portrait of the Reader as a Burrowing Wombat – Sabrina Chase

So, there you are. You want a book. You *need* a book. Just the right one, with this and this and this but NOT that. So you do what so many do now, and go to Amazon. “They have many books,” you say. “Surely they will have just the right book for me.”

You go to the Kindle Books section. Let us say you know you want something in Fantasy or Science Fiction (214,100 books). Wow. I don’t know about you, but my lunch break isn’t long enough to look through *that* many books. So you need to whittle this down, massively. There are preset categories such as bestseller, or recent releases, or you could drill down to the preset categories (e.g. Fantasy | Arthurian | Humor, which only has 65 books, or Science Fiction | Alien Invasion | Clones, which has 59)

However, sometimes the preset categories fail you. They are automatically generated from the tags used by the publisher/author to characterize a book, and sometimes what THEY think is a good tag has no connection to reality. For example, the very first page of results for Science Fiction | Adventure has one of the Game of Thrones books listed. That is NOT Science Fiction. No way, no how. You dig and dig but there is just too much cruft to get through.

So, how do you go about getting the books you want, despite idiot marketers and well-meaning but Turing-fail algorithms?

Here is my secret method. Amazon, like Google, lets you *exclude* search terms by using the “-” symbol. Let us say I wish to find a science fiction book with robots but without vampires, werewolves, zombies, or Star Wars. (Nothing against those categories, zombies are the salt of the earth I’ve always said…) My search would look like this (starting from the Kindle ebook | Science Fiction & Fantasy section)

robot -werewolves -zombies -Star Wars

Put that text in the search window at the top of the page. And lo! 194 results, and the first page has delightful titles such as “Robot General” and “Confessions of a Sentient War Engine”. No werewolves or zombies! Surely I can find a good book during my lunch break from that list!

Let us say you have fine-tuned your search to get precisely the kind of books you want, but it is a pain to remember all the tags you used to get there. Merely save the initial search as a bookmark or favorite in your browser. Note also the “breadcrumbs” under the search box. Did you know they are clickable links? You can go back a step or two in your search trail, and try the search *terms* again in a different category!

Sometimes it will take a bit of experimentation to exclude the stuff you don’t want to see. In extreme cases I have removed specific authors who manage to get into every category imaginable, like kudzu (*koff*Galbadon*koff*). Take a look at the tags for a specific book you DON’T want to see, and add some of those tags to your exclusion list and see if that works.

With a little time spent tuning your search, you will soon have a quick and efficient book hunting tool.

(N.B. for authors, be sure to use all your tags! See how well “human wave” is working as a search term!)


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Damsels Who Can’t Be Bothered to be Distressed

Death before Whining!

This started out as a spark off Tom Knighton’s post at According to Hoyt the other day. He wrote: “I don’t recall exactly who, but one of the better known authors of our genre once claimed that all people like me wanted in our books was, “Manly men doing manly things in manly ways.” Obviously, this was a snide way to say that I and people like me have no interest in female characters.”


Oh, now that I can breathe again (and need to sweep the floor. Ugh, dog hair!). I’ve known for a while that certain people have their noses so far in the air that it hinders their ability to see where they are going. Since it also seems to impede their ability to read, I have no fear that they will find this list and be scandalized. You see, I asked a question right after sharing Tom’s post. I asked it in two places that would be considered the ‘heart of darkness’ by those who claim we are misogynists. The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance, and of course, Sarah’s Diner (’cause they think she’s a white Mormon male. I rest my case about where their noses are). What follows is a partial list of the day’s long conversation that was generated, mostly people who were enthusiastically sharing their favorites and recommending more. This isn’t something that took effort on my part, folks, I didn’t have to poke or prod. I stole the tagline from Baen, from their guidelines for the Fantasy Contest, because it amused me. It seems to have sparked a reaction from the people I was asking, too.

If this list isn’t enough for you, head over to the original post for something like 500+ comments, many recommending more good books. I’d pull them out, but frankly, like many of the women on this list, I haven’t got time. Places to go, things to do… The list is presented to you in no particular order. It is by no means complete. Please feel free to make other suggestions (or highlight some of these) in the comments. One thing folks around here do, we don’t tell people not to read something because it’s not ‘rightthink’ or it was written by a wrong person. We say ‘hey that was good! and you might like this one, too!’

You will note I have not discriminated. Male or female, the author’s gender, sex, or pigmentation matters not at all. These are characters who inspire their readers, we don’t care about the author. The story is the point.

Hopefully this will give you some strong women who aren’t afraid to take names and get the job done, without whining and resting on their laurels simply because they were born female. Women to Ride the River with.

ride the river

  1. Kendra from Freehold by Mike Williamson
  2. Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell
  3. Princess Cimorene in Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles
  4. Seawolf and Shewolf by John Ringo
  5. Cally O’Neal by John Ringo
  6. Marion Alston and Swindapa by SM Stirling
  7. Kyri Vantage, Ariane, Madeline and Helen by Ryk Spoor (Balance Sword series, Arenaverse, Boundaryverse)
  8. Jirel of Jory by C.L. Moore
  9. Menolly by Anne McCaffrey
  10. April series by Mackey Chandler
  11. Moreta by Anne McCaffrey
  12. Friday by Robert A Heinlein
  13. Podkayne of Mars by RAH
  14. Wyoming Knott in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by RAH
  15. To Sail Beyond the Sunset by RAH
  16. Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  17. Faye in the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia
  18. Susan and Lucy (and others) in the Chronicles of Narnia
  19. Telzy Amerberdon, Trigger Argee, and most especially the Witches of Karres by James Schmitz
  20. Mackensie “Mac” Santos from Nocturnal Origins by Amanda S Green
  21. Ashlyn Shaw by Sam Schall
  22. Eowyn from Lord of the Rings by Tolkein
  23. Meg from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline LÉngle
  24. Moire from the Sequoyah Trilogy by Sabrina Chase
  25. Kendra from Fablehaven
  26. Raederle from the Riddle Master Trilogy by Patricia McKillip
  27. Paks from Deeds of Paksennarion by Elizabeth Moon
  28. Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Enghald
  29. Athena from Darkship Thieves by Sarah Hoyt
  30. Kyrie from the Shifter series by Sarah Hoyt
  31. Cordelia and Kareen, from Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
  32. Ekaterin, from Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold
  33. Blood Red by Mercedes Lackey
  34. Mary Russell, series by Maurie R King
  35. Isabella from Dragontamer’s Daughters by Kenton Kilgore
  36. Amy Lynn, by Jack July
  37. Sabriel, Lyrial, and Abhorsen by Garth Nix
  38. Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon
  39. The Ship who Sang by Anne McCaffrey
  40. Carla Punch from the Punch series by Erin Lale
  41. The Shield, Sword, and Crown Trilogy by Hilari Bell
  42. Barb Everson from Princess of Wands and Janea from Queen of Wands by John Ringo
  43. Kahlan and Cara by Terry Goodkind
  44. Belladonna Traycroft from the Pixie for Hire series by Cedar Sanderson
  45. Julie Shackleford from Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia
  46. Karrin Murphy from the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
  47. Kitai from Codex Alera by Jim Butcher
  48. Eve Dallas from JD Robb’s in Death series
  49. Mara Jade by Timothy Zahn
  50. Kathryn Dance series by Jeffrey Deaver
  51. Manana Shushurin from the Pius Trilogy by Declan Finn
  52. Honor Harrington by David Weber
  53. Bast from Council Wars series by John Ringo
  54. Tanya Desjani of the Lost Fleet Series
  55. Neeta Lyffe by Karina Fabian
  56. Fisher from Simon R Green’s Hawk and Fisher shorts
  57. Tinker from the Elfhome series by Wen Spencer
  58. Sarah Prine fron the Western Series by Nancy Turner
  59. Echo Sackett from Ride the River by Loius L’Amour
  60. A Fairy Tale by Shanna Swendson
  61. Alicia DeVries, In Fury Born by David Weber
  62.  Linn from Vulcan’s Kittens by Cedar Sanderson


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Next Time, Without the Oops

*Mea culpa, mea culpa. I thought I had another Friday to go before my turn. (This is the oops from the title) That being the case, dear readers, I shall snippet a thing upon which I am currently working. The good news is the words are flowing again, after about eleven months (Wee Dave will hit the year mark next month about this time). Unfortunately, they aren’t flowing nearly quickly enough for this starved writer. So, without further ado, a currently unnamed space opera that has caught my imagination.

“Nandi, when you get back to the ship, I need you to get to my console, and submit a genetic sample. Right after you execute the program listed under Tellexia, in the main computer. Two Els in Tellexia, mind.” Her boss’s voice was deadly calm, though his bearded face still bore his usual lopsided grin.

Anceton Mar Aich always said it was important to put restless natives – “revolting” was how he usually phrased it – at their ease when trying to sell them beads and trinkets. Even if those trinkets were programmable plastic tools that could take a monomolecular edge. Basic equipment for, well, practically anybody from a civilized system, but precious rare out past the Frontier, which was where the crew of the freelance light freighter Toldurian Sunset operated.

“Boss?” Anandia Zarresch looked up from where she was demonstrating the finer uses of one of those same polytools to a local. Shondo Bellich, the engineer who kept the Sunset running in, well, as good a shape as the parts they could afford allowed, called them wogs, but Nandi though Bellich was a snob about some things. More than some, really.

She’d been quietly using the pry-bar setting to open the ridiculous, ancient-styled wooden crate. She wasn’t certain quite where he found them, but Ance always insisted they use containers made of actual wood for the shipments. It cut down on the volume of goods they could transport, meaning narrower profit margins, and – more personally – meant that she worked harder carting things on and off the Sunset. She didn’t mind the callouses on her hands, but the sore muscles the day after were annoying.

“Anandia Chessandi Zarresch, listen to me now as you’ve never listened before.” Nandi’s scalp tightened at his tone. “In a moment, when I give you the signal, you will beat what is known as a hasty retreat. You will return to the Toldurian Sunset as fast as your shapely legs will carry you.” His grin never faltered, but Nandi sensed him coiling like a spring. No, more like one of the smart missiles they carried to deal with pirates or the two-bit “naval forces” they occasionally encountered outside the Frontier of Known Space. The last time they’d fired a shot in anger was before Nandi hired on, but Bellich and Mierann Lightfall, their purser, had told her stories after a few drinks that had put her hair on end. Much like her captain’s current attitude, as it happened.

“Nandi, read back,” Ance didn’t – quite: his voice was too quiet – snap at her. The read back was one of the first orders she’d learned to obey when she came aboard. Bellich – deep in his cups on shore leave – had told her it came from the captain’s naval experience. Though he’d flat refused to go further about which navy Ance served in, and the look in Ance’s eyes the one time she’d asked had dissuaded her from returning to the subject.

“Run home, aye,” Nandi said, her mouth responding while her mind was still occupied with trying to figure out why Ance was behaving so strangely. “Run Tellexia, aye. Two Els, aye. Bleed a drop, aye. Skipper, what about-”

“I’ll be right behind you, Girl-child,” his grin slid into a genuine smile, one full of a warmth she’d seldom seen in his face before. “Now, GO!” Ance roared and drew his personal polytool from its hard case on his belt. He whipped his hand to one side, and a flat black length of diamond-hard, magna-stabilized duroplast extended a meter past his clenched fist.

At the captain’s shout, all eyes in the verdant, little clearing focused on him. Including Nandi’s. All those eyes saw Anceton Mar Aich drive the polytool through the metal chestguard of the robed man in front of him. Nandi saw some kind of primitive firearm drop from the stricken man’s long, enshrouding sleeve in the frozen instant it took everyone’s stunned minds to catch up to reality. Amiable smiles turned to ugly snarls as the other men in the clearing reached for weapons.

Ance spun, wrenching the blade from his first victim, the monomolecular edge on the non-reflective blade slicing out the side of the man’s chest in a spray of gore. That same inhumanly sharp edge caught the throat of the man who began reaching for Nandi, opening his neck and splashing red, red blood across her face.
The warm, sick spray on her cheek jerked Nandi out of her stupor, and as the men in the clearing converged on her captain, she followed orders. She threw the prybar-configured polytool at the man to her right and jerked left. While not particularly heavy, the rigid device caught in his feet as the bearded local lunged for her with the heavy-bladed knife in his grip. A snarl of rage suffused his face as he collapsed to the dirt, but Nandi felt no satisfaction. After all, these men were trying to kill her.

She dodged through the press to the raucous sounds of what seemed a pitched battle. Metal belled and men’s voices raised in shouts of anger and shrieks of pain pursued her out of the clearing and into the forest canopy. Behind her, the small thunderclaps of chemical propellants sounded, and angry projectiles whined to smack into the heavy tree boles around which she dodged.

Curiously, she couldn’t hear the previously heavy forest noise she’d noted while she unloaded the crate of polytools. Avians and mammal or reptile analogues may well have been scared off by the sounds of battle still raging behind her. For all she could tell, they might be all around her. All she heard was the spiteful cracks of subsonic slugs burying themselves in the native hardwoods, and her own labored breathing.

Nandi gave no thought to stealth, trusting in speed and superior nutrition. Even if the locals were in hot pursuit, the men she fled were shorter than her by at least a hand, and burdened with heavy arms and armor.
Though her lungs burned, it seemed no time at all before she burst out of the brilliant green canopy. Nandi dashed across the open verge to the still-open cargo hatch of the [ship’s name], forgetting in her haste to worry about the light pulse gun Ance had rigged as a sort of automatic guard beast.

The artificial light in the cargo hold seemed dim after the brilliant light of the local star, and Nandi stumbled as the familiar space seemed somehow alien. She caught herself as Bellich and Mierann looked up in surprise from where they had the spare grav lift opened up trying to run down the niggling fault in the blasted thing’s left arm.

“Nandi?” Mierann’s alto voice, roughened by years of shod use and sipping straight Moxan whiskey, sharpened with alarm as she took in Nandi’s condition. “Where’s Ance?”

“Girl-” Bellich started, in his still-pronounced Mendin accent, despite having left Mendis Secunda when he was younger than Nandi was now.

Nandi choked back a sob, and shook her head as she pelted past them, vaulting over the grav lift’s splayed innards.

“No time: orders!” She tossed over her shoulder as she swarmed up the ladder to the crew spaces. The engineering bay flashed past on her right, and then the galley on her left. She spun quickly up and around the half level ramp leading to their quarters, and then up again into the bridge. The wraparound viewports let in the light, and she had to squint against it.

Ance had been the last one in the pilot’s bucket, and he’d left the screens down. He said once he preferred to see a new world in all its natural glory. She said his eyes were just getting old. He’d grinned at her riposte, especially since she still hadn’t been speaking much then. It had been barely a month since he’d plucked her out of the creche for war orphans on Azmillah Three.

Unlike the cargo hold, which usually smelled of whatever they were carrying, and the engineering spaces, which smelled of lubricants, solvents and parts, the bridge usually smelled mostly of nothing much. Usually. Now, it seemed to smell of Ance, as well as Mierann’s shod, the mild, aromatic stimulant she’d developed a taste for while fighting with the Loyalists in the Sovenad Uprising.

Nandi slid into the pilot’s crash seat and quickly pulled up the interface. The ship’s computer projected it against the inside of the viewports. With the screens down, it autocorrected to eyesearing levels competing with the solar glare. A half-formed notion to dial up the screens flitted across the front of her mind, but Ance’s command chased it away. Besides, she knew what to do with her eyes closed.

Ance and Mierann usually used an induction headset when at the conn. The complex of sensors and atomic level circuitry translated thought directly into deed, but required more training than Nandi had. She was working at it, but it was a slow and frustrating process. Especially in moments of high stress, she was relegated to pulling up the manual control boards.

Her fingers slid across the glassy surface of the nearly perfect crystal boards, until the low grade grav field powered up, giving a sense of response to working with the flat controls. A few deft swipes brought up a command prompt so simple, the monks at the creche would have recognized it. With one hand, Nandi typed out “Tellexia” as Ance told her, while the other hand jabbed the control to bring up the gene-lock pad. The little pad slid out of a recess in the console, and Nandi jammed the pad of her left thumb into the spongy material. She steeled herself for the sting of the needle, and held her hand in place for the brief moment the device needed to get a sufficient sample.

Whatever Nandi thought she was expecting, it certainly wasn’t the warm baritone voice that announced over the ship speakers, “welcome aboard, Captain Zarresch. Your gene-print has been accepted, and per Anceton Mar Hrinkosah’s directions, the control and ownership of the Teldurian Sunset are yours. All hands, batten down and strap in for emergency lift. We’re running hot!”

Nandi heard muffled curses from below as Mierann and Bellich scrambled to find some place safer to lift than a parts-strewn cargo hold. She jerked the crash harness around herself, settling the five-point latch between her breasts just in time for a surge of power from the Sunset’s engines.

The roar of the sublight drive thrust her back into the bucket, and elicited another round of curses from below. The Sunset kicked upward, then boosted damn near vertical into the clear blue sky of the uncharted planet which would forever be her friend’s grave.


Filed under Uncategorized

 And Now For Something Completely Different

Instead of playing in what I believe is technically referred to as a “target-rich environment” and writing another piece about the Hugo awards fuss and bother (yes, the screams of “But Vox Daaaaaaay” still ring from the hills, nobody doing the screaming seems to know or care about the actual detail behind Vox’s more… challenging comments (let’s just say that in context they’re a heck of a lot less damning than they appear on the surface. Whatever else he does the man has a gift for stating things in ways that force people to think in order to parse them out), and the SJW war-cry of “Noaward!” is being chanted so rhythmically I find myself wondering if the chanters think repeating it enough will make it do a Little Engine That Could).

Then my Facebook feed alerted me to the best news this member of the Evil Legion of Evil could receive. Overlord is back! There will be more information tomorrow, which I eagerly await, but in the meantime, I need to find someone to transfer my soul, since I promised long ago I’d sell it for this.

I don’t really care if the gameplay changes to the Diablo-style interface there’s a glimpse of in the video (go watch it. Gnarl’s narration is worth every second – and yes, if necessary I will buy a console and a new TV (the old one is an ancient crappy CRT thing) to play this. Or a new computer. Whatever it takes). Gnarl and the minions will make sure we get Proper Evil. Somehow.

Yes, even with what looks like an elf, a dwarf, and a female (possibly more than one. It’s hard to tell with those elves. Or those dwarves). Evil is equal opportunity, after all.

Equal opportunity. Not equal outcome (unless you mean everyone else being equal under your armored boots, in which case Evil is all for it).

Hopefully the makers are keeping the wicked humor that made the earlier games so much fun: utterly not-PC of course, but wickedly satirical (“Everyone was happy. And those who weren’t were killed, enslaved, or had other nasty things done to them.” – Gnarl). Slaughtering hippy elves (Overlord 2), baby seals (Overlord 2), sheep (Overlord), whiny elf ghosts (Overlord), sheep-owning dwarves (Overlord) , and many other equally deserving folk is a whole lot of fun – and you can harvest life-force to summon more minions to do your Evil bidding (“They’re very loyal” – Gnarl) while distressing the champions of all that is cute and fluffy. What’s not to like?

If that humor is still there (which is possible: Rhianna Pratchett wrote the dialog and plotting for the Overlord games and has retweeted the video and announcements), I’ll forgive a lot.

Now I’m rambling. I need to take my Evil posterior off and get some much-needed rest.

Oh, yes. My schedule for Ravencon:

Friday 4pm: Playing God

Friday 8pm: Just Like the Last Time, Only Different

Saturday 10am: Writing Dialogue

Saturday 1pm: It’s just a flesh wound!

Saturday 10pm: The Villain’s Journey

Sunday Noon: Death Isn’t Cruel (Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett)

Sunday 2pm: If Mary Sue is So Awesome, Why Does Everybody Hate Her?


Filed under Uncategorized

Make Your Life Difficult

Robert A. Heinlein, among many other maxims, said not to ruin your children by making their lives too easy.

I was thinking of this because I feel a little guilty sometimes that, because I hated translating and haven’t had a real job (except for six or so months at a time) in the last 23 years, I raised my children tight on money except for books and educational stuff. Their classmates have gone to Europe (beyond visiting grandparents, which is not the same) and they ski and they do other stuff we never had the money for. And older son quoted that at me.

Which got me thinking.

We’re not going to talk about the Hugos. Well, only tangentially in this case. I was thinking, you see, of a certain work, first novel, full of promise, won an award.

It’s fairly certain the award was won on the writer’s “correct opinions” and the book’s gimmick that made gender seem like a social construct.

Opinions of this book vary. A lot of people, even in disagreement with its gimmick, say it’s “pretty good.” I didn’t find it so from the sample, but then I am more astringent with new authors than the run of the mill reader. You see, I do a lot of mentoring, and so “beginner thumbprints” stand out to me, like jam on a white tile counter. And I kept finding them in that beginning, mind you, along with a great deal of native talent.

It is beyond the scope of this post to determine whether or not the novel was award-worthy.

What is in the scope of this post is to mention that recognition, received too early, tends to “freeze” the writer.

There are many writers who are excellent right off the bat. There are very few who don’t have slip ups of technique or craft for their first two or three published novels (and those are usually at least five or six, if you add unpublished. For me it was tenth. I’m special.) This is because writing is a craft and it’s learned, and I’ve only come across – in my entire career – three naturals. Two of which never actually GOT into the field (one never finished and the other has spent 20 years revising that first novel, which was already good enough first time out.)

For the others, the “highly talented” who get into the field, the worst thing that can happen is sudden and overwhelming success, be it monetary or awards.

Some people survive it. Some people are internally driven and will work to perfect their writing, even though they already got “there.”

Most people don’t. Half those people become so afraid that they can’t reproduce that first success (because they haven’t intellectualized what caused it) and freeze. I.e. they stop writing, walk away, or keep trying and failing in different ways as they try to make the books “better”. The other half become convinced they’re perfect and jump instantly to “bestseller, late career, too big to edit, you’ll read my raw drafts and LIKE them.”

Mind you sometimes those are still pretty good, but the author doesn’t “grow”. This mean we miss some truly wonderful authors that these pretty good ones could have become.

To my mind, the tendency to give awards (and advances, often) based on correct opinions and not craft is to blame for the tide of “pretty good” books, that all sound alike.

So – should you pray that you’re an abject failure?

No. Not even that you’re a failure first thing out.

There is a way to harden yourself against these failure modes. I want you to start the exercises on how to do it today.

  • If you always write in the same world/genre/style, try to do something different. Just a page or two. You don’t have to finish it, though bonuses if you do.
  • Write a world where everyone disagrees with your idea of “good” and don’t make it preachy.
  • Write a character as different from you as you can imagine.
  • Write a length that’s not natural to you. If you’re a novelist, write a short. If you’re a short story writer, write a novel.

Keep doing these exercises. Keep challenging yourself. That way when you hit big, you’ll know who you are as a writer: the depth and breadth of your abilities.

And even overwhelming success won’t kill your craft.


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To my friends who are going to vote No Award at the Hugos this year

(This is a guest post by long time MGC reader and SF/F fan Phil Sevetson. When he asked if I would be interested in letting our readers see how a fan is reacting to the Hugo controversy, I jumped at it. After all, fans are the ones who we ought to be listening to, not our small cliques of like-minded writers. It is the fans who pay us by buying our work and by telling their friends if they like what we are doing or not. — Amanda)

To my friends who are going to vote No Award at the Hugos this year:

This is your right. You’re going to be voting out some good people and some bad ones without regard to which is which, though.

But if you’re going to do this, and make any claim to having integrity, you need to nominate works for next year’s Worldcon when the noms open next year (purchasing this year’s supporting membership entitles you to do so). It wouldn’t hurt you to buy a supporting membership and vote next year, too.

Worldcon is dying of old age, and failing to recruit younger fen. They’re going, instead, to places they find more congenial — Dragon Con, Gen Con, SDCC Comic Con, NY Comic Con, Salt Lake Comic Con, all sorts of other places. I have my own opinions about why this is happening — mostly about exclusive behaviors exhibited by the longterm fans when the Wrong Kind of People show up, or have differing political opinions. (For any who don’t know me after all this time, I’m liberal/populist, with a big side order of Freedom of Speech.) You don’t agree with me about the reasons, or you wouldn’t be voting No Award.

If you don’t get involved, then you’re complaining about your choices without doing the work required to have more choices. Get on it, people. If you don’t like what’s happening, get involved to make positive changes. Don’t just firebomb the people who are already trying, according to their best lights.  Because firebombing/flaming/downvoting this year’s Sad Puppies3 and Rabid Puppies nominees won’t help the Worldcon, unless more people start getting involved as a result; without a large influx of new people, WC will be dead in less than a generation.

If this doesn’t matter to you, then you have no business registering or voting. Put your time where your mouth is.


Filed under publishing