27 Mar

WotF: Looking Back

Sitting at the airport, getting ready to fly to LA for the 33rd annual Writers of the Future workshop, which I’m privileged enough to be attending as a past winner and a “Reporter on the ground,” whatever that is. [grin] My own trips to this event as a participant were for volumes 14 and 15, when I was first a published finalist, and second, a prize winner. It’s been an interesting run since then. It will be great fun to see it all happen again.

Almost twenty years down the road, now, I’m thinking about what the contest has meant to me.

At first I thought of the event itself—the opportunity to learn from AJ Budrys (sadly now passed), and Dave Wolverton and Tim Powers and Kevin Anderson and … it’s a heady experience for a new, wannabe writer. And, of course, spending a week with other people in your position, and then seeing the book with all their work in it. My signed volumes are still prized possessions. I can pick out a bunch of these kinds of things. There are literally hundreds of great things about the event, and all of them make a difference.

But, when I look back on it I think the biggest impact the contest had on me was to change my mindset from that of a wannbe/newbie for whom the world looks like a bunch of closed doors into a one whose mindset was one of opportunity, and a world where things can and do happen. It moved me from a wannabe to a “canbe,” if that makes sense. And this is a huge jump—really, it’s probably the biggest jump I had to make. The next jump (“Canbe” to “Doing it”) is more a matter of persistence and love of craft than anything else, and it has lots of dark nooks to fall into also. But that first jump is something that tangles a lot of writers up. Running with one foot in each traditional and indie publishing camps, I run into a lot of people who have been doing this for a while, and still haven’t made it through that jump.

Now, realize, I was already a fairly major optimist about things. Life, for me was always about making things work, so at some level I always assumed some kind of success. But, still, the entry ramp to this world is mysterious and covered with mist.

The contest helped clear that mist.

For that, and for all the other things I could check off, I’m most grateful.

10 Mar

Kobo makes Hidden in Crime free to you!

Get a copy of Fiction River: Hidden in Crime, complete with my Derringer nominated story “The White Game”, FOR FREE at Kobo!

1) Go to the link above
2) Click “ADD TO CART” then go to your shopping cart
3) If you don’t have an existing Kobo account, enter your payment info (or, select PayPal option to avoid having to enter a credit card)
4) Enter promo code HIDDENFREE and click APPLY (this will discount the book to 100% off)
5) Complete the purchase and enjoy. And don’t forget to leave a review! Either on Kobo or Amazon or Goodreads – anywhere!

07 Mar

“The White Game” Makes the Derringer Short List

READ “THE WHITE GAME” FOR FREE

Thanks to the very fine folks at WMG Publishing you can read “The White Game” for free for the next several days. It’s a story I was particularly proud of even before this nomination, so I’m happy to see it available for wider readership.

Leave it to me to be away from the keyboard the week that one of my stories is provided such a high honor as to be nominated as a finalist for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. Yes, that’s right. “The White Game” has made the short list for this remarkably nice award. You can push me over with the wind of a feather’s wave. I am quite pleasantly gobsmacked. Are there more ways to gush?

I should note that the Short Mystery Fiction Society was created 20 years ago in order to help highlight short mystery and crime fiction.It currently has over 1,600 members. You can read more about it, and even consider joining (it’s free!) here.

As you might suspect from the cover I clipped to this post, this story appeared in last November’s Hidden in Crime edition of Fiction River, which was edited by Kristine Katheryn Rusch. This is a very cool series of anthologies that provides regular doses of high quality fiction from a lot of very fine authors in multiple genres. Obviously, I highly recommend a subscription.

I shall stop now before I make too much of a fool of myself.

It has clearly, however, been a very good week. [grin]

01 Jan

Tangent Online does their recommended reading list

As my good friend and collaborator John Bodin said, this is a good way to ring in the New Year. Tangent Online has released their recommended reading list for the year, and four stories I’m associated with have made the cut—specifically including “Ghost of a Chance” our novelette published in this year’s edition of Five Days in May.

If you follow the link, you’ll also find an interesting overview of the Sad Puppy controversy, and some tenuously positive notes about how it may proceed in the future.

Anyway … yay us! FWIW, the entire anthology was reviewed quite positively here. [grin]

This makes me very happy. Scanning down the list is particularly cool because there are so many great names in there. It is truly an honor to be nominated, and if I ever get so blasé about being on such a list please just shoot me and put me out of my misery. [grin]

The other works of mine on the list are all short stories:

  • “Tumbling Dice” – Analog
  • “Daily Teds” – Analog
  • “The Colossal Death Ray” – Galaxy’s Edge

With this kind of kick-off, I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2016 has in store!

24 Aug

The Hugos

If you’re focused at all on the Hugo Awards, by now you know that the Sad and Rabid Puppy slate was soundly defeated by an avalanche of “No Award” votes, and that the fallout is beginning to spin in multiple directions. This is, alas, almost certainly not over.

For those interested in the two spins, here is the Wired article, that paints one story, and the Brietbart article that paints the opposite.

Looking back on it all, my own take is pretty much this:

  1. The Rabids pulled of a feat worthy of a high school Sophomore by legally, but idiotically, stealing the nomination vote. Most people, in moments of clarity, would call this “pulling a dick move.” To them, this was equivalent to stealing your rival’s mascot the night before the big game.
  2. The Sads have been horrifically tone deaf to every element of the situation (though I believe them a little when they say their primary goal is to return the field to its laser-gun roots).
  3. The Sads’ tone deafness allowed the Rabids to use them as their mouthpiece.
  4. The Rabids are anarchists at heart, and consider anything that increases entropy around a case to be a “win” (as such they are, of course, declaring victory today).
  5. Being human beings, the Sads have now defended their stupendously flawed logic by doubling down on their position so many times that it’s impossible for them to acknowledge they were wrong—even if they ever figure out they were.
  6. The magnitude of the numbers pretty much show how out of touch they are.

I have no idea what will happen going forward. I suspect this is not one that will blow over, though. Larry C., Brad T., and their gang have pretty much burned whatever bridges there are to burn, so if there are long term ramifications to them, we’ll clearly be able to find out. My guess is that their fan base will grow due to the Trump effect if nothing else.

In the meantime, I see the voting results as a firm response from the SF world as a whole, a world that despite commentary to the opposite, is a broad thing. Yes, the historical core is getting older, but Fandom is not “old.” And the historical core leans heavily toward white and male, but Fandom is not “white and male.” Fandom is changing. It’s hard to quantify, but it’s getting to be a bigger and different thing than it ever was. I was smugly proud of the folks in Spokane this week. I liked that they stood as a whole and made a statement that was a firm rebuke to the Rabids (and by association, the Sads). It was the community standing up and saying: “Go away, Dudes. This is not how we play the game in my house.”

25 May

Rongo Award #3 goes to Kat Howard…

I’m dreadfully tardy in pushing my Rongo Award agenda. Sorry about that. To remind folks, the Rongo’s are my own personal attempt to deal with the weirdness that’s been caused by the various forms of puppies and their push on the Hugos (which are kind of like the People’s Choice Awards, only limited to those who go to the World Science Fiction Convention).

You can read this if you want a little more background on the incredibly important award.

Today I’ll reveal another winner–this time in the short story category. But first, let me remind you of our current “slate” of winners.


Novella:
Unlocked: John Scalzi Tor.com

Short Story:
The Regions of Jennifer: Tony Ballantyne Analog

The observant of you may note that there is already one short story winner, so why add a second? I mean, how can you have two “best” in a single category? Very good question.

The Rongo is not really hung up on categorization so much as it is on enjoyment. The Rongo goes to stories that are “among the best,” because the Rongo knows that quality is subjective and that it is impossible to truly measure “the best.” Beyond that, I guess, the Rongo heart wants what the Rongo heart wants.

And with that, let’s get to the big reveal

#

The third-ever Rongo Award goes to …

#

Rongo Category: Short Story
Story: “A Meaningful Exchange” (Published by Lightspeed)
Author: Kat Howard

Here are things I found admirable about “A Meaningful Exchange.”

First, it’s slippery. The story follows two characters, one is pretty much as he appears and the other is (in many ways) just the same. They circle each other, both wanting something from the other that isn’t quite obvious. Second, it’s very tight. Very simple. Kat Howard is a writer of short stories that I’m growing to really admire. She can take her time, describe things wonderfully, and still get to the point and keep the narrative growing. This story does that. Third, it is quite short (1800 words or so), and yet in those 1800 words, she plays with some very deep concepts of who we are as people. The story is about lies and love, and maybe even some element of the truth. It is quite evil in that way.

Finally, it’s a story with a punch, and a punch that’s strong enough that I can still get a sense of the piece today–many months after having read it. I figure that with the number of stories I read, when one stays with me like that, it’s clearly worth a Rongo.

So, for these reasons, I am more than pleased to present “A Meaningful Exchange” with the third-ever Rongo Award for being among the best short stories of 2014.

#

I should add here that I have become more than a bit of a Kat Howard fan over the last couple years. I recently read her collaborative novella “The End of the Sentence” (written with Maria Dahvana Headley). Have I mentioned I love novellas?

It was very nearly a Rongo Award winner, itself … which, of course, is saying something!

If you enjoy darker, contemporary/urban fantasy that plays with mythology and legend it would be well-worth the $2.99. [grin]

30 Apr

First Annual Rongo Award #2 goes to …

I have on occasion been known to say that science fiction is the most human of literatures. On nearly as many occasions, this comment is received with weird expressions and an “oh, really” kind of response. But it is. Science fiction is about what it means to be human. That’s really it, at its core.

I can hear you now, though. Ron, you say. What does all this flock-flack have to do with the Rongos?

Yes, yes, the First Annual Rongo Awards. Nearly lost track there.

For the uninitiated, in response to the whole Hugo Award fiasco, I recently kicked off a new award process. You can read about it (and its first recipient) here.

And, yes, today I will announce another such recipient (I can feel you stretching to the edge of your seats now).

I admit I love gizmos and whiz-bang and techy science as much as the next guy, but for me the roots of science fiction are its characters and what they have to say about people as a whole. I like stories, you know? Setting is great, and prose is beautiful. But give me story and I’m a happy camper.

This view of story that I have is why I started as I did. It is important, because the piece I want to talk about now has bucketloads of this—or should I say it wallows in it like a fly in garbage … okay, perhaps that’s a bit too far, even given the story I’ll now name:

* * *

The second ever Rongo Award goes to …

* * *

Rongo Category: Short Story
Story: “The Region of Jennifer” (Analog June 2014)
Author: Tony Ballantyne

You can grab this story in audio version at Starship Sofa.

“The Regions of Jennifer” is an out-there, far future piece of science fiction that finds us humans—or at least what we have made of ourselves—having entered into a relationship with an alien culture known as Slavemakers (this may give you an idea of how this pact may eventually wind up…but we’ve not gotten to that point by the time of this telling, so perhaps there is time, eh?). It’s full of re-built people and strange, genetically altered humanity. It’s got real-life alchemy, or at least it has Jennifer, for whom so much of what she touches turns to gold.

In other words, it’s full-force SF at its deepest.

For those unaware of who Tony Ballantyne is (a problem you should quickly go rectify), let me say that he’s a British writer, and that this story is set in a world he developed in three earlier novels. It feels like it. The setting is deep and the people are well developed for a story this size. And make no mistake, it’s the people who carry the story here—not the technology, not the science of the moment, not even the mechanics of its plot. Instead it’s the heart of Randy, the leading male as he commits himself to success of the human spirit (even if the human race itself is lost somewhere in the mix of modern-day DNA hacking), and it’s calculating and comfort-loving nature of Jennifer who weighs her options.

The relationship of these two people come to its head here, and by the end of their time together we understand exactly what they are fighting for and perhaps even how that fight may end—though my guess is that what you think will happen and how you think of that message may well rely wholly on who you are rather than how the author expressly designed anything.

“Regions of Jennifer” is a sharp, biting tale with a kick. For that reason, I’m excited to award it a highly coveted “Rongo” as one of the best short stories of 2014.


***

RONGO AWARD OVERVIEW

Rongo Category: Novella
Story: “Unlocked”
Author: John Scalzi

Rongo Category: Short Story
Story:“The Region of Jennifer”
Author: Tony Ballantyne

25 Apr

The First Annual Rongo Awards

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been tempted at several moments to weigh in on the big brouhaha over this year’s Hugo Awards—an award which is of only vague import for the majority of the world, but is like life-blood to several people who are, perhaps, if such a thing is possible, the teensiest bit too deeply entrenched in the world of science fiction.

In the guise of preserving your sanity, I shall not link to any of it here. If, however, you have not heard of the issue, and you are interested in spending several hours of your time witnessing a community self-immolate, just go to Our Friend Google, and search on “Puppies” and “Hugo Awards.” From there on I figure you can create your own adventure.

I suggest, however, that the casual fan just stay out of the water.

Seriously.

There be sharks.

I, however, am not a casual fan. I am a writer working in the field, and have been for over twenty years. And on top of that, I tend to be a person who (as long as I can manage to avoid taking them too seriously) enjoys the whole concept of awards. As such, I admit that the Hugo Award does mean something to me.

So I have looked at the trench warfare going on within these waters (if I can be allowed to mix some metaphors) from a perch fairly close by, and have finally decided that while I am probably less intelligent than I look, I am not—and I repeat, not—a total sadist. Beyond that, I completely understand my place in this world. I understand I have no real mouthpiece or plank from which to give deep commentary that would have any chance of making a difference. (I am, however, also giving myself a self-serving pat on the back for thinking myself smart enough to assume there’s not a single person in this struggle who seems capable of providing any great commentary that has a chance to actually change anything. My opinion of human nature is that once a person digs a trench, it generally remains dug.) This doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions. Believe me. I’ve got plenty of ’em. I just don’t see how me pounding the table can help in much of any way.

Still, I want to do something, and I would like that something to be pointed toward the positive.

And after considerable thought on the matter, I’ve decided that the best thing I can do is to spend some time highlighting pieces published in 2014 that I’ve read and enjoyed, and that were clearly “overlooked” by the slate-based approach the Puppy tandem either (depending on your point of view) rightly or wrongly employed.

So that’s what I’ll do.

My intention is, about once a week, to use my little platform here to point out a work I thought award-worthy. I plan to do this until the Hugos are actually announced, though perhaps I’ll go on longer. We shall see. I may touch on stories that are actually on the ballot, but probably will not. I assume folks who care are already exploring those works. My intention is to use my little place in the world of Science Fiction to talk about work I would not have been surprised to see on the Hugo ballot, but were not. They will be stories that should be on ballots somewhere (and maybe even be on ballots for awards not named “the Hugos”). Because I tend to be a weird reader, my selections will likely be all over the spectrum. Regardless, I hope folks will enjoy them.

This is the best way I can think of to address this ongoing strife, and to help these stories and the authors thereof—to talk about the work, to highlight it, and to hold it up for people to see and think about.

Focus on the positive.

Focus on what I think is quality.

Given this, I shall be awarding this collective of stories I highlight the High Honor of “the Ron’s Good Reading Award,” or “the Rongo,” for short. It is an award of high acclaim indeed, and sure to grow to extreme import–certain to change the very essence of the lives of those to whom my fickle finger of fate shall at point.

Perhaps I’ll even go so far as to create a logo for them in my copious spare time. Or not. Why cheapen such a thing with a brand, eh? Anyway … I digress.

With only a little further hesitation, I shall now proceed to use this post to identify the first story on the list, to bestow the first-ever “Rongo Award,” as it were. Before I go further, however, I must reiterate that this is a list of stories I think are fantastic. I am not including anything here for any purpose beyond that. I admit to feeling the need of prefacing my first selection here because I am distinctly aware of how the very first story I anoint with the title “Rongo Award Winner” will be perceived in context of the Great Battle Being Waged. I understand that John Scalzi is essentially the Anti-Beale to one side of this global battle that has become the Hugos.

That’s fine.

These are the Rongos.

In making these selections, I don’t care about the details that are being fought over one way or the other. This should, I expect, become more obvious as the weeks go by and the Rongos get passed around, but since this is #1, it has no context. Hence the disclaimer.

All righty, then…

With that out of the way, I am excited to point potential readers to my initial Rongo selection.

* * *

The First-ever Rongo Award goes to …

* * *

Rongo Category: Novella
Story: “Unlocked”
Author: John Scalzi

This is why I love novellas. Just flat-out love ‘em.

Here is a piece of Science Fiction that is everything science fiction should be. It is a story, written in an oral history narrative, that brings to bear science, technology, politics, community, and fundamental human nature in ways that let us look into the near future and view who we are. Given that its basic core is built around a health crisis, I suppose it’s fitting that as I read it, my wife, my father, my mother, and my daughter were all hacking and wheezing with a flu variant that apparently wasn’t in the vaccine this year.

Shrug.

“Unlocked” is a prequel to Scalzi’s novel Lock in, but it clearly stands on its own. It’s deeply technological, but does not bear gizmodic burden. It’s deeply political, but represents its politics in open and straightforward fashion, and often delves into our past to support its viewpoints. With an investment of an hour or so, I walked away from reading it feeling like I had looked at the very complex issue of a country’s reaction to an immediate health crisis with a visceral sense of being there, and from a shifting series of perspectives that left me both upbeat and chilled about human nature.

In Scazi’s world, human beings are not one-note creatures. In this world, there is no one “humanity.” There is only each of us, and each of our views on how we would like to be or how we would like to live. It’s a world that matches our own—a strange collective of individuals that gather together to make a culture.

Given its structure, the story unfolds in layers and waves, its real purpose hidden underneath the surface of the report until rising up and taking you by the shoulders to shake you first this way and then that. Life is complex, it says. And choices, therefore, are no less. This is a deft piece of work, well done.

I’m really pleased to tag “Unlocked” as the first-ever Rongo Award Winner for being among the best novellas of 2014.

26 Jan

Analog/Asimov’s readers polls!

It’s that time of year again–Analog and Asimov’s have now released their annual readers’ polls, and I’m terribly excited to be able to remind you that that I’ve got stories on both polls.

First, you might be interested in considering “Primes,” for best novelette in the Asimov’s poll. This is a tale that’s been reviewed quite positively, specifically including nice commentary in Tangent and a “Recommended” notice from Lois Tilton at Locus. I must also admit to having a particularly warm place in my heart for this one. [grin]

Then you might mosey on over to Analog’s poll, where you can consider my short stories “Survivors” and “Unfolding the Multi-Cloud,” of which, I must admit to a personal preference for “Survivors,” but of course your mileage can vary.

Whether you select one of my works or not, I sincerely hope you’ll wander over there and make your voice heard.

02 Mar

Hugo nominations open up

Now that the workshop is over, and I can turn some brain cells in other directions…

Thanks to Lisa’s gentle reminder, I note that the 2013 Hugo nominations are open. So I suppose I should be a good writer and let you know that if you’re a attending member of Worldcon, meaning you attended last year, or are already committed to attending this year, you are eligible to nominate work for the award. Given that, I wanted to take a moment to outline work of mine that I’ve seen published in 2013. No hard sell here, of course. That’s not quite me. But if you liked something here and are so inclined, consider it a reminder. [grin]

Here is the nomination form.

So … here goes.

Novelette:

  • Following Jules – October – Analog

Short Stories:

  • Operation Hercules – May – On Spec
  • Out of the Fire – June – Interstellar Fiction
  • After – June – One Sentence Story Anthology
  • The Legend of Parker Clark and Lois Jane – June – Fiction River Anthology: How to Save the World
  • Teammates – July – Galaxy’s Edge
  • Schrodinger’s Soldier – September – Third Flatiron Anthology: Lost Worlds Retraced
  • The Flying Contraption – December – Elementary, Elemental Masters Anthology

Nine pieces published. Not too bad, I suppose. And with one publication already and five more in the pipeline for 2014, things look good next year, too (hey, ya gotta enjoy it while you can, right?)