Category Archives: Conventions

Who’s This Hugo Guy Who Made Everyone Angry?

As a number of people have been religiously watching, posting, counter-posting, fisking, counterfisking, and generally stirring the pot, I thought I’d give a broad strokes overview of what’s going on for those of you who haven’t been watching this unfold from early on.  I won’t use the acronyms which seem to have pervaded everything (SMOF, CHORF, etc), mostly because as a vet, I hate acronyms.  If you were like I was, when I first heard about Sad Puppies 1, then your first response to it all might well be: “Hugo Award, they’re still giving those out?  I thought they stopped that decades ago.”  If you’ve read some of what people are posting, they seem to think that we’re all madmen (probably emphasis on ‘men’ and some statement about racism, misogyny, and general bigotry), who have seized the controls of the Starship Hugo and are taking us off to who knows where.

That response is a product of how the award had become a treasured prize given between a relatively small group or one might even say ‘cabal’ of friends, associates, and those who quietly maneuvered to make certain that the ‘right’ people were the winners for some time now.  Sadly, as a result, the Hugo has gone from a treasured award to a rubber stamp of approval from the cabal of group-think.  The last Hugo award winning book I remember reading (and only because it had seals all over it) was Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.  Looking at the past winners over the last 30 years, you start to notice a pattern (here’s a convenient list of the Best Novel winners/nominees, courtesy of Wikipedia) and that pattern becomes pretty clear from about 2005 onwards.  There’s occasionally a very popular book/author that makes it onto the final nominations and sometimes even wins.  George RR Martin, Lois McMaster Bujold, and JK Rowling all fall under these parameters… as authors who are talented and popular, but they’re the exceptions rather than the rule.  Very thorough people have gone through and noted where other authors have been blocked out in years past, seemingly by the same group of people who have passed the award around for the past decade or more.

Then there’s a slew of other authors who I have to scratch my head at.  No wonder I didn’t hear about the Hugo when some of these fellows won, I’ve never seen their books or if I did, they were so utterly unmemorable that I didn’t bother to even remember seeing them.  Then again, if you’re like how I was, it’s easiest to shrug.  I mean, who cares about the award, then, if it’s going to people who don’t write very entertaining or interesting stuff?  Well, you see, the problem is that the Hugo Award, purports itself to be the award for the “Best” science fiction.  Not only that, but by general decree, it is open to all members of Worldcon… This makes it a bit awkward when the award becomes the prize of a small, select group.  I mean, the convention has been going on since 1939 and it claims to exist for science fiction in general… so why is it that a relatively small group of people have control over it?  Certainly it wasn’t talked about or discussed, these people, the cabal, operated from behind the scenes.  They likened themselves to puppet masters with terms like “Secret Masters of Fandom” and they quietly considered themselves the kingmakers.  These people were driving the Hugo Awards into the ground.  When general fandom can’t even recognize the names on the final ballot… what is the point of voting?   When the victorious works are either so abstract as to be obtuse or so message laden that they have no story, no pull, then what is the point of reading them?  Worse, when they became a token of popularity and group-think within the cabal which controlled it, then what prestige does that have to general fandom?

Why does this matter?  Well, way back in Sad Puppies 1, you can see that some people thought it was kind of bullshit that authors who had written some excellent stuff had not only never even made the ballot, but had pretty much been told by those in the know that they never would make the ballot.  They didn’t write the the ‘right’ kinds of stories, they weren’t published by the ‘right’ kinds of people.  This kind of thing irritated a number of people and so Larry Correia, the International Lord of Hate, stepped up and started the campaign.  His goal wasn’t to win, his goal was to show that there was a bias, that some people did quietly have the controls, and that it was possible for non-cabal authors and fans to organize as well.

The backlash from Sad Puppies in 2013 drew quite a bit of attention.  Larry Correia is possible one of the nicest authors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  He’s a big, friendly, teddy-bear of a guy… until you start throwing names at him, accusing him of being a wife-beater, etc.  Larry became target number one for these people and that has continued to this day.  Attacks on his character have gone well beyond the point of criticism and have devolved into accusations and profanity.  There’s enough general hatred of him from the people who controlled the Hugos that if you could generate electricity from it we would no longer need oil, gas, or coal.  See, Larry supports sustainability, he’s just trying to create energy from all the exploding heads.

Sad Puppies 2 was born out of that backlash, as a number of other authors and fans saw how Larry was treated as a result.  Sad Puppies 2 successfully got several people onto the ballot for the Hugo… and people lost their goddamned minds.   This is when the media stepped in, and terms like ‘libel’ and ‘slander’ started getting brought up.  The people who had control had been challenged and their control slipped enough that it was perilously close to failing.  So they started getting angry.  The masks came off and it became a tide of angry, nasty, abuse that they threw at those who had dared to defy them.  In doing so, they made the people they attacked angry enough to speak out.  They also showed that they think the award is for them and the ‘right’ people that it wasn’t about the quality of writing or work.

So here in 2015 Sad Puppies 3 is the result.  General fans organized and weighed in on who and what should win.  The end result is that the voting block came into the open.  Fans really care enough about what is ‘best’ in writing to weigh in on the award for the Best in Science Fiction.  The Hugo, in the process, has come back to having some value and meaning.  Where this all became so nasty, though, was when the people who the cabal expected to see on the final nominee list didn’t get their notifications ahead of the public announcement.  As a result, before it even went public we had people raving about how the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies (more on them later) had hijacked the ballot and the world was ending.  Not long after it went public we had people such as John Scalzi stating that they would rather vote “no Award” than give the award to people (not works, mind you ‘people’) that didn’t merit the award.  Voting “No Award” is their attempt to ensure that if their  people can’t get the award then no one can.

And then there’s “Rabid Puppies” which is run by Vox Day.  The “Rabid Puppies” movement has it’s inspiration in Sad Puppies, but is not connected.   I’m not going to weigh in on his politics, religion, outlook, or philosophy.  None of that really matters in this, right?  It’s about the quality of the work, or at least that’s what everyone used to say about the Hugos.  Vox Day, just with his own fans and followers, managed to snag quite a big chunk of nominations.  Clearly his fans cared enough to shell out the membership fees for Worldcon to get him on the ballot, what this says about his writing, I’ll leave to others to say.  I haven’t read his stuff, so I am not qualified to say.

Who I have read is Jim Butcher, Tom Kratman, Brad Torgerson, Ceder Sanderson, Amanda Green, Jim Minz, and Toni Weisskoph.  I’ve enjoyed their posts, stories, and editing.  I was excited to hear about their successes and I’m just as excited to hear who gets the award… because these are real people who have written or edited things worth reading.  For the first time in a while I actually care who gets the award and just seeing the chatter on various outlets, I can tell that lots of other people feel the same way.  This is the end result of people caring about the award again.  And for all the filth that people are saying about those who have supported Sad Puppies… it just shows that they don’t like to be challenged.  Why is that?  Probably because they know that they can’t win in a fair fight, so they resort to nasty rumors, awful accusations, and emotional declarations that have little base in reality.

We haven’t hijacked the Hugo Awards… we’ve just seized the controls from the madmen who were diving us towards the ground.

 

 

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CoSine 2015

Just a quick update.  I’ll be at CoSine 2015 in Colorado Springs this coming weekend.  The convention will be held at the Hotel Elegante and it runs 23-25 January.  There’s a lot going on for a relatively small convention, so if you’re in the area, I recommend checking it out.

I’m excited for this convention because it has a good guest line-up and it looks like I’ll be on several interesting panels.  Friday night I’ll be on Applying Modern Morals to Speculative Fiction with Connie Willis, Saturday at 1 pm I’ll be on Repercussions of Magic with Sarah Hoyt followed by Female Characters in F&SF at  4pm, and then Sunday at 2pm I’ll be on Research for Fiction Writers.   I think they’ll all be fun panels.

I’ll also be at the author signing on Saturday from around 5pm to 7pm both to sign books and if anyone wants to get paperback copies, I’ll have a few extra on me.

Kal’s January 2015 Forecast

2015 is here, and boy is it busy already.  Production continues on the audiobooks for The Shattered Empire and Renegades: Origins.  I’m continuing work on Wrath of the Usurper and plan to have it done and the first version out to my alpha readers by the end of the month.  I’ve got The Prodigal Emperor outlined and I’m outlining Renegades: Out of the Cold in my free time.

If everything goes to plan, I’ll begin samples/snippets of Wrath of the Usurper sometime in February, followed by samples of The Prodigal Emperor.  I’m really excited to be working on both books and I can’t wait to get them ready and finished for publishing.  I can tell already that 2015 has the potential to be a great year and I’m starting it off with lots of projects.

I’ll be attending Cosine here in Colorado Springs from 23-25 January.  I’m excited to be participating in another local convention and this one looks like it’ll be a lot of fun.  Check here for the website.

That’s all for now, check back soon for reviews on some movies and some other content!

Independent Author’s Toolbag: Networking

If you’re like me, then networking as an author is hard.  I hate feeling like I’m coming to the table with nothing besides my hat in my hands.  I hate asking for anything, unless I can contribute something in return.  Call it work ethic, call it stubborness, call it social anxiety, whatever, I originally, and still do, find it difficult to ask for anything from those who can really help.

That is a serious issue.  Let’s be honest, the biggest hurdle for any independent author (after writing something worth reading and then getting it edited and self-published) is somehow getting their target audience to find them.  This can be greatly assisted with book recommendations by other authors, blogs, book reviews, and word of mouth.  Word of mouth sells the most, and I’m not talking “my friend wrote this book and it’s okay” word of mouth.  I’m definitely not talking “my son/daughter who is living in my basement wrote this book, please buy it so he/she gets the money to move out.”  What you want is “I met this author, he’s pretty awesome, and I really love his book, check it out.”  That kind of interaction is priceless.

You have to reach your target audience and reaching them the right way is hard, sometimes.  There’s a variety of research on the subject.  I’ve already written a post on self-promotion.  What I’m talking about now is networking, making those key connections that will not only benefit you… but benefit the community of independent writers.  You may not even think of it this way, but somewhere, someone out there needs your help just as much as you need theirs.  It may be a small thing, an introduction to someone you know, but that can be the difference between success and failure.

Networking has two aspects, the online and the physical.  Online is typically LinkedIn, G+, or the dreaded timesink FB.  It also includes blogging realms, but that is a story for another time.  You find someone who posts on a friend’s page, you like what they wrote, you might see they’re into the same thing as you, and tada, you’re friends.  Maintaining communication is a part here, striking up a conversation without being (A) a creeper, and (B) pushy is important.  If you come off as someone who is entertaining and intelligent and with something valuable to hear, then people will be more likely to remember you in a good way.  Physical networking is even more important to get write.  Have a business card, be confident, make eye contact, and above all be professional.  If you don’t have anything to bring to the table, then try to ask some questions that can help you.  (Example questions: What conventions in the area do you recommend for new authors?  Who could I talk to about participating in a panel? Introduce yourself and what you write, but don’t go into exhaustive detail about yourself.  Be specific, be brief.  There’s nothing like a 10 minute long heartfelt story of failure and depression to make any potential contact chew their leg off to escape) Here’s the brutal truth: most people will not take you seriously unless you view yourself that way.  Conventions, both fandom and writing, are excellent venues for networking.  Meeting someone face to face, talking about events or panels at the con, these are likely to stick with them and help them to remember you.  Maintain that communication through online and other such events, and you can build your professional relationships.

For me, I’ll be honest, networking is easy enough in theory, but harder to maintain those important relationships.  Part of that is maintaining communications, part of that is having something to contribute.  Let me be clear here, plenty of people are willing to give the new guy (or gal) a hand at first, but patience wears thin if all you are is a taker.  Give help, contribute, discuss, and when someone needs that introduction, help them out.

Yes, it can come back to bite you sometimes.  I arranged an introduction for an acquaintance’s kid at a business.  He never showed up.  I got a nasty call.  That kind of thing happens.  I’ve also struck up friendships as a result of networking, learned a lot about the business end of writing, and had some help passed my way more than once.  The important part of networking is to get out there and keep doing it.

 

Myths and Legends Con 2014 Experience

From the Game of Thrones Murder Mystery Dinner (The real mystery is who survives)
From the Game of Thrones Murder Mystery Dinner (The real mystery is who survives)

Myths and Legends Con, also known as Malcon, is a Denver, Colorado convention.  This was my first year both attending and being a guest.  All in all, it was a fun experience.  I met a lot of folks, both writers, fans, and that interesting group of people who just sort of show up, not really knowing what a convention is all about.

Malcon was not a large convention, but it had the feeling of a group of friends hanging out and talking that you don’t get at some of the other conventions I’ve seen.  Everyone was friendly and was there to have a good time.  There weren’t any arguments (well, okay, some rabid discussion about plot twists, character arcs, stories, etc. of some big name authors, but that was all in good fun and no one drew blood… mostly), and there was a very relaxed attitude for the whole weekend, with little of the stress of racing to the next event or panel.

Part of that was due to the excellent organization by the staff.  They managed the entire event very professionally and with few of the issues I’ve seen at other conventions as far as double scheduling panels or guests and that sort of thing.  They managed this despite having to shift venues at the last minute due to a conflict with the former location.  They also had to deal with a major highway (I-25) being shut down in the middle of town, which obviously threw a lot of people’s schedules into a bit of turmoil.

Victorian Steampunk
Victorian Steampunk

All in all, Malcon was a lot of fun and I’d love to attend next year, as well.

Kal’s August Updates

August is here!  As far as my updates, I’m still finishing up The Shattered Empire and I’ll be getting it out to my alpha readers in the next couple weeks.  Echo of the High Kings is now available on Amazon as an ebook and paperback.

In addition, Look to the Stars is now available on Amazon.  The short story takes place just before the events of The Fallen Race.  Look to the Stars is from the perspective of the smuggler, Mason McGann.  As an introductory offer, I’ll have it available for free this weekend, 10-11 August.  You can get it here.

Lastly, I’ll be at Myths and Legends Con this weekend in Denver, Colorado.  You can find their website here.  I’ll have paperback copies of my books with me if anyone wants to get a signed copy.

That’s all for now, stay tuned for other updates and snippets/samples.

 

Kal’s July Writing Updates

I’m pleased to announce that Echo of the High Kings is on schedule to be released on 1 August 2014.  Echo of the High Kings is an epic fantasy novel that I’ve been working on, through multiple iterations, for a long while.  It is the first book of the Eoriel Saga, which will be a long series.  In the next couple weeks leading up to it’s release, I’ll have sample sections and other goodies.  It will be exclusive to Amazon and will be part of their Amazon Select program.

I’ll be working on Wrath of the Usurper, the sequel to Echo of the High Kings, in August and September, with a goal to release it in the winter.

In other news, work on The Shattered Empire continues.  I’m doing some of the final bits on it and will have it out to my alpha readers in the next couple weeks.  If all goes well and I feel that the final product is ready for it, I’ll try to have it out in early to mid September.

For fans of The Renegades series, I’ll be working on Renegades: Out of the Cold during the fall.  Renegades: Out of the Cold will follow the crew of the Gebnyr as they reach human civilization once again.  The release date for Renegades: Out of the Cold will probably be in the December/November timeframe.

Lastly, it’s not writing news, but I’ll be at Myths and Legends Con in Denver on 8-10 August 2014.  I will be on at least one panel and for those who want a book signed or want to get a (discounted) print copy, feel free to talk with me after a panel or in the halls.