The “Golden Hour,” i.e., roughly the hour before sunset, is often a photographer’s favorite time of the day to shoot, because the light is flattering and the shadows are not directly up and down. I took this picture of Krissy during the golden hour yesterday. It supports the thesis reasonably well. Also, it’s one of my favorite pictures of Krissy that I’ve ever taken, so there’s that as well.
As part of the virtual JoCo Cruise this year, I, Mary Robinette Kowal, Rebecca Roanhorse and Charlie Jane Anders talked about being creative in 2020 — or not! — and what we learned from the year that was. Here it is in all of its YouTubeable glory. It’s in fact very interesting, which is down to the other three participants, I think. Enjoy!
Having now had a day to look at the Hugo Awards Finalist list and to think about it, I’m now ready to share some thoughts. With me for this examination of this year’s edition of science fiction’s premier award is my always reliable Fictional Interlocutor, to feed me leading questions that always make me look witty and wise.
I’m not comfortable with that description of my job.
I don’t care. Say hello to the people!
(sighs) Hello, people!
That’s better. You have questions for me?
Yes, they’re on these cue cards. First, congratulations on your Best Series Finalist placing.
That’s not really a question, though. More of a comment.
I see what you did there.
Here’s an actual question, though: How do you feel about being a finalist this year?
I feel pretty good about it. I’m really proud of the Interdependency series. It’s the first book series of mine that I wrote knowing it was going to be a series before I wrote it, and for which I developed a story intentionally meant to play out over several books. In that regard, getting a Best Series nod feels like huge confirmation of my storytelling skills at the series level. It’s the right Hugo nod for these books, and I’m pleased they’re being considered.
And how do you feel about the competition in the category?
I think it’s pretty awesome, actually. I’m up against friends and their terrific books, and I think the voters are going to positively agonize over how to rank the contenders. As they should! Hugo contenders should be tough to rank. It’s a huge compliment to have the Interdependency considered among these series. I’ve said for years that if you look at a category you’re a finalist in and don’t see anyone you’d be really pissed to lose to, you’ve already won; it means you’re with your peers, and with work that stands with your own. So I feel like I’m winning already.
Nice cover for if you don’t actually win, that.
Oh, hush. To be clear, I would still like to actually win, and I think the Interdependency series is good enough to win, and in fact may win. But if it doesn’t, then that’s all right too. Because that means something else awesome and deserving won instead, and how can you be angry at that.
Lots of people might be angry at that.
I mean, fair. I admit that I come to award contests having won my share of awards and already having a decent amount of success, so I have the luxury of being sanguine. I like to win! I want to win! But not winning will not crush me. And this year I know I will be very happy for whoever does win my category, even if it’s not me. Again, that counts as a win.
What do you think of the rest of the Hugo fiction categories this year?
I think it’s a fairly standard year for them, don’t you?
How do you mean?
Well, for example, take the Best Novel category: It features six novels and authors. Four of those novels (The City We Became, Harrow the Ninth, Network Effect, Pirinesi) are New York Times best sellers. Three of the authors (Jemisin, Kowal, Clarke) have won Best Novel before. Two more of them (Roanhorse, Wells) have won Hugos in other categories, and the remaining author (Muir) was nominated for Best Novel before. That’s a fairly standard distribution for the category.
Likewise the short fiction categories feature a mix of category bestsellers, previous award nominees and winners, and a smattering of new people showing up on the finalist list for the first time. The series category is much the same: Previous winners, bestsellers and some relatively new blood as well. Likewise for the Lodestar YA category. All very standard! Fortunately the quality of the work in each category is very high, so even if the distribution of finalists is something we’ve seen before, and frequently, there’s still quite a lot for voters to argue about before they make their final rankings.
You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you.
There’s a notable dearth of cishet white dudes in the fiction categories!
Is there? Huh. I guess there is. How about that.
Any thoughts about that?
Not really? The work is very good, and particularly in the novel-related categories, as an example, it represents the current commercial and critical sweet spot of the genre. To reiterate: Four of the six Best Novel finalists hit the NYT Bestseller list this year! You know how many did that in 2006, the first year I was nominated for Best Novel? One (it was from George RR Martin)! In fact it’s entirely possible this year represents the greatest proportion of NYT bestsellers in the Best Novel category ever. Add in the Best Series finalists, and you’ll find three of them (Wells, McGuire, me) have New York Times best sellers in them and sometimes more than one. And of course all these books and authors have starred trade reviews and positive press and reader reviews coming out the proverbial wazoo.
So, do you want the Hugos to be representing the best, commercially and critically, that the genre has to offer? If you do, well, guess what? This is that year! Take a bow, Hugo Award nominators, you nailed the shit out of your remit in 2021.
Now, this doesn’t mean that other people than the ones who hit the finalist list this year did not produce award-caliber work; obviously they did. You could swap out all the authors and works in the fiction categories with others and still have a top-caliber Hugo Award year. But looking at what we do have on the lists? It’s all good, and it all deserves to be there. It’s a very good year for fiction, Hugo-wise.
Yeah, okay, but you know some dudes out there are going to say you’re just on this year’s Hugo ballot because you’re the woke matriarchy’s craven pet.
Those dudes can go fuck themselves with a slotted spoon.
So they can feel something for once in their sad and pathetic lives.
So for the record: You are saying you are not the pet of the woke matriarchy.
I’m not, but it sounds like a terrific gig. I’ll be happy to apply and I’m ready to learn!
Aside from the written fiction categories, other thoughts on this year’s finalists?
They’re also to me the usual mix of people and works — some established, some new — and there’s the usual clutch of finalist works that will give Hugo observers things to chew on and fight over during this year’s unusually long finalist season. I don’t have too much to say about those at the moment; I don’t know that it was obvious from the outside but I spent a lot of 2020 hunkered down with my own concerns and sat out a lot of things because I didn’t have the time or focus for them. Weirdly, the science fiction world went on without me.
You made mention of this year having an unusually long finalist period. Want to explain that?
Worldcons are usually held either in mid-late August or early September, but this year, thanks to various reasons, it’s going to be held mid-December, in Washington DC. So instead of a four-to-five month period where one is a finalist, this year it’ll be an eight month period. Which is a long time! I’m very curious to see if (and if, then how) this affects how people end up voting for the Hugos this year, and also what if any effect it will have on next year’s ballots. Could be good! Could be bad! Could be both! Or neither! We’ll find out!
That said, I’m kind of digging on the idea of a holiday-adjacent Worldcon. It will be different from all other Worldcons because of it, that’s for sure.
Okay, I’ve got other places to be, so wrap it up.
What do you mean you have other places to be?
I have a life outside of being your Fictional Interlocutor, you know.
No you don’t!
Look, just wrap it up anyway, all right?
Fine. First, if folks are interested in voting for the Hugos this year, they can get memberships at DisCon III, which is this year’s Worldcon. Memberships start at $50, which is good for an associate membership (which allows one to vote for the Hugos), and if you’d like to attend the event, they’re offering a special rate for first-time Worldcon attendees. Which is cool.
Second, congratulations again to all the Hugo finalists this year. I’m happy to be among you. Let’s enjoy this weird and exciting Hugo year.
For as long as I can remember, people have asked me, “what is it like to have a famous father?”
Of course, it’s only ever people at conventions, or in my rural town, as my dad is what I like to call “Little League Famous.” This just means he is only well-known within certain communities, and not A-list celebrity famous.
Still, it’s some kind of fame, and that comes with pros and cons. Mostly pros.
What does that look like for me, though?
It looks like strangers telling me they’ve seen me grow up on the internet, in pictures my dad posts of me.
It looks like the kids in my junior high class talking about my dad’s books in our school library.
It looks like getting special treatment at cons because my dad is the guest of honor or has just won the Hugo.
It looks like getting to meet the coolest fucking nerds around.
It looks like me getting to be on stage performing alongside those cool celebrity nerds, on a boat in the Caribbean, even though I’m not a performer, even though I’m not one of them.
It looks like me worrying “how I can ever measure up?”
It looks like me wanting so badly to follow in my father’s footsteps, but thinking I’ll never be as good.
It looks like imposter syndrome.
And for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to do what my father does. I want to write. I want my books to fly off the shelves, my words to enter the hearts and minds of all those who read my work, and for people to be moved by the stories I have to tell.
But what if the torch is too heavy to carry? Can I really be a great writer like my father, or will I just get pity-published and never sell more than a few copies?
I mentioned this kind of thing before, in my post “The Anxiety of a Non-Writer Surrounded By Writers“, but that mainly talked about how I can’t seem to finish any of my writing. Which is still true. But now what plagues me more than writer’s block, is the fear that if I do manage to finish something, it won’t be good. It’ll never be as good as what my dad has put out.
It’s a weird mindset to have, because I’m not trying to compete with my father. I don’t really want to be better than him. I don’t want to sell more, or win more awards than him. So why do I have this fear that if I do end up finally publishing a novel, it’ll never measure up to all the amazing writing he has out?
I just want to be good enough, and I don’t feel like I ever will be.
And that is not at all my father’s fault. Or anyone’s, other than my own. My own insecurities. My own voice in my head telling me not to try, that I can never be like him. My dad has never made me feel that way, though. In fact, he’s the most supportive person to me in terms of my writing. I mean, he lets me write on this blog, he tells me I should submit work to magazines, and gives me writing advice all the time.
I know he believes in me, which makes it all the scarier to think of failing.
I am so proud of my dad, for all he has accomplished. All the work he’s put out, all the people he’s made laugh (or cry), all the book deals, tours, awards, all the support he gives his family, there’s so much to be proud over. And I want to give him a reason to be proud of me, too. To have my own book deals, my own tours, my own awards.
Aside from just wanting to make my dad proud, I do genuinely want to be famous, even if it is Little League Famous. The feeling of being adored, the feeling of being seen, is addicting. Getting recognized is addicting. Some people might think it’s weird, but I like when people know who I am at cons, when people stop me to ask “are you Athena Scalzi?”. Hell, I was elated when the guy helping me at Mattress Firm noticed my last name and asked if I was related to the author.
It feels… nice. It makes me feel like I matter. Or maybe it makes me feel like I’m well-liked, which is what I desperately try to be. I want people to like me, to support me, to care about me. I mean, who the heck doesn’t want that in their life?
Is it wrong to want to be famous? Doesn’t every youngster dream of being a world famous popstar or an actor on the big screen? Bruno Mars sang about wanting to be a billionaire, seeing a different city every night, standing next to Oprah and the queen. And you know who totally rocked that idea before him? Nickelback. Yeah, that’s right, I’m bringing Nickelback into this post and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
So, maybe it’s selfish or cliché to want to be famous, but I want it so badly. I want to have book deals, and tour the world, and be the guest of honor at conventions, and have signing lines. It’s all I’ve ever dreamed of. I don’t just want to be famous. I want to be great. But for now, I am just adjacent to so much greatness. Not just my father, but all of the amazing, accomplished, talented people I’ve had the honor of meeting.
I want to earn my place on that stage, not just be put up there because my father let me take his spot. I want to earn that VIP treatment, not just be the tagalong kid I’ve always been. I want to be successful, not just living off someone else’s success.
I am so grateful to all of you that read my posts, follow me on Twitter, and just honestly make me feel valued. Your readership means the world to me, and I hope that I have been at least somewhat enjoyable to read. I want to connect with you. I want to convey my thoughts to you, in a way that makes you feel something, and I’m so appreciative that you’re willing to listen.
I hope someday soon you’ll be able see me become this great person I want to be. For now, though, I will remain adjacent.
Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead, written by Kieron Gillen, iIllustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, lettered by Ed Dukeshire (BOOM! Studios)
Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Harry N. Abrams)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), written by Christina Hodson, directed by Cathy Yan (Warner Bros.)
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, written by Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele, directed by David Dobkin (European Broadcasting Union/Netflix)
The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Netflix / Skydance Media)
Palm Springs, written by Andy Siara, directed by Max Barbakow (Limelight / Sun Entertainment Culture / The Lonely Island / Culmination Productions / Neon / Hulu / Amazon Prime)
Soul, screenplay by Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers, directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers, produced by Dana Murray (Pixar Animation Studios/ Walt Disney Pictures)
Tenet, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner Bros./Syncopy)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon, written by Vinay Patel and Chris Chibnall, directed by Nida Manzoor (BBC)
The Expanse: Gaugamela, written by Dan Nowak, directed by Nick Gomez (Alcon Entertainment / Alcon Television Group / Amazon Studios / Hivemind / Just So)
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Heart (parts 1 and 2), written by Josie Campbell and Noelle Stevenson, directed by Jen Bennett and Kiki Manrique (DreamWorks Animation Television / Netflix)
The Mandalorian: Chapter 13: The Jedi, written and directed by Dave Filoni (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)
The Mandalorian: Chapter 16: The Rescue, written by Jon Favreau, directed by Peyton Reed (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)
The Good Place: Whenever You’re Ready, written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group)
Best Editor, Short Form
Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya
Best Editor, Long Form
Sheila E. Gilbert
Diane M. Pho
Best Professional Artist
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edotor Scott H. Andrews
Escape Pod, editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, assistant editor Benjamin C. Kinney, hosts Tina Connolly and Alasdair Stuart, audio producers Summer Brooks and Adam Pracht and the entire Escape Pod team.
FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, publisher Troy L. Wiggins, executive editor DaVaun Sanders, managing editor Eboni Dunbar, poetry editor Brandon O’Brien, reviews and social media Brent Lambert, art director L. D. Lewis, and the FIYAH Team.
PodCastle, editors, C.L. Clark and Jen R. Albert, assistant editor and host, Setsu Uzumé, producer Peter Adrian Behravesh, and the entire PodCastle team.
Uncanny Magazine, editors in chief: Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor: Chimedum Ohaegbu, non-fiction editor: Elsa Sjunneson, podcast producers: Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky
Strange Horizons, Vanessa Aguirre, Joseph Aitken, Rachel Ayers, M H Ayinde, Tierney Bailey, Scott Beggs, Drew Matthew Beyer, Gautam Bhatia, S. K. Campbell, Zhui Ning Chang, Tania Chen, Joyce Chng, Liz Christman, Linda H. Codega, Kristian Wilson Colyard, Yelena Crane, Bruhad Dave, Sarah Davidson, Tahlia Day, Arinn Dembo, Nathaniel Eakman, Belen Edwards, George Tom Elavathingal, Rebecca Evans, Ciro Faienza, Courtney Floyd, Lila Garrott, Colette Grecco, Guananí Gómez-Van Cortright, Julia Gunnison, Dan Hartland, Sydney Hilton, Angela Hinck, Stephen Ira, Amanda Jean, Ai Jiang, Sean Joyce-Farley, Erika Kanda, Anna Krepinsky, Kat Kourbeti, Clayton Kroh, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Catherine Krahe, Natasha Leullier, A.Z. Louise, Dante Luiz, Gui Machiavelli, Cameron Mack, Samantha Manaktola, Marisa Manuel, Jean McConnell, Heather McDougal, Maria Morabe, Amelia Moriarty, Emory Noakes, Sarah Noakes, Aidan Oatway, AJ Odasso, Joel Oliver-Cormier, Kristina Palmer, Karintha Parker, Anjali Patel, Vanessa Rose Phin, Nicasio Reed, Belicia Rhea, Endria Richardson, Natalie Ritter, Abbey Schlanz, Clark Seanor, Elijah Rain Smith, Alyn Spector, Hebe Stanton, Melody Steiner, Romie Stott, Yejin Suh, Kwan-Ann Tan, Luke Tolvaj, Ben Tyrrell, Renee Van Siclen, Kathryn Weaver, Liza Wemakor, Aigner Loren Wilson, E.M. Wright, Vicki Xu, Fred G. Yost, staff members who prefer not to be named, and guest editor Libia Brenda with guest first reader Raquel González-Franco Alva for the Mexicanx special issue
The Full Lid, written by Alasdair Stuart, edited by Marguerite Kenner
Journey Planet, edited by Michael Carroll, John Coxon, Sara Felix, Ann Gry, Sarah Gulde, Alissa McKersie, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, Steven H. Silver, Paul Trimble, Erin Underwood, James Bacon, and Chris Garcia.
Lady Business, editors. Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan.
nerds of a feather, flock together, ed. Adri Joy, Joe Sherry, The G, and Vance Kotrla
Quick Sip Reviews, editor, Charles Payseur
Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog, ed. Amanda Wakaruk and Olav Rokne
Be The Serpent, presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace
Claire Rousseau’s YouTube channel, produced by Claire Rousseau
The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe, Jonathan Strahan, producer
Kalanadi, produced and presented by Rachel
The Skiffy and Fanty show, produced by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink, presented by Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Alex Acks, Paul Weimer, and David Annandale.
Worldbuilding for Masochists, presented by Rowenna Miller, Marshall Ryan Maresca and Cass Morris
Best Fan Writer
Best Fan Artist
Iain J. Clark
Grace P. Fong
Best Video Game
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Publisher and Developer: Nintendo)
Blaseball (Publisher and Developer: The Game Band)
Final Fantasy VII Remake (Publisher Square Enix)
Hades (Publisher and Developer: Supergiant Games)
The Last of Us: Part II (Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment / Developer: Naughty Dog)
Spiritfarer (Publisher and Developer: Thunder Lotus)
Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book
Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)
A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (Margaret K. McElderry/ Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)
Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet / Hot Key)
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions)
Astounding Award for Best New Writer
Lindsay Ellis (1st year of eligibility)
Simon Jimenez (1st year of eligibility)
Micaiah Johnson (1st year of eligibility)
A.K. Larkwood (1st year of eligibility)
Jenn Lyons (2nd year of eligibility)
Emily Tesh (2nd year of eligibility)
I’ll have more to say later, but for now, this tweet will suffice:
If memory serves correctly, it doesn’t ever really serve correctly. Follow along with Caroline Hardaker as she tells us just what that means in the Big Idea for her first book, Composite Creatures.
The Fallibility of Memory
Have you ever told a story about something that happened to you, only for a friend to interject and tell you that it didn’t happen that way? They’re sure you have it wrong, and they go on to tell the same story with a different slant. But you’re sure too, absolutely sure, that it all happened your way. So why does your friend remember it differently? Who is right?
Perhaps you both are. Or perhaps you’re both wrong.
The fallibility of memory is something I’m hugely interested in, both in psychology and in storytelling. No memory is perfect. Memories filtered both through the emotional state at the time the event was experienced, and filtered again through distance and experience gained since the event. We remember things in a way that helps us cope with what happened. And sometimes we remember in a way that portrays us as the victor or victim, depending on how accountable we can accept ourselves to be.
Writing in the first person means that our lead protagonist – and in the case of Composite Creatures, this is 32 year old Norah – is telling the reader her story. Often I start a story in third person, but always come back to first. For me, a huge part of storytelling is the why. Why are we hearing Norah’s words? What is she trying to prove?
Writing in first person demands that the author take on a role. It’s like being an actor, without the stage costume. We think like them, we talk like them, and we see the world through their eyes. They only know what they know, and only understand what their intellectual level will allow. They also have emotional reasons for sharing their tale, and when the story is told from a point years down the line, you have to take into account the way time twists all memories. Our lives, real or fictional, are the stories we tell ourselves. And we like the sound of some stories more than others, don’t we? Are we a hero? Are we the villain? Very rarely will we remember ourselves to be the villain. I’m sure even the most fascist dictator would portray himself as the humanitarian star. In Composite Creatures, perhaps if Art, Norah’s fiancé, was to tell their story, it might sound quite a bit different, and we’d learn more about Norah’s choices than we do from her.
So you see, there can be some deliberate deception, too. Why is Norah telling her story at the point she’s at? What does she want you to think? Is she even aware that she twists her tale? Is she twisting her tale? And will we ever truly know?
Beast News: The Beast is currently at the local shop, being restrung and serviced. As I noted on Twitter, when I brought it into the shop the fellow there looked at it mostly with resignation, as if to say, yup, well, this is my life now, and then he wrote it up and and told me they’d start working on it soon. The only real change I’m having them make to the thing is that the bottom six string will now be strung like a baritone; it seems a good idea to have more playable options on the thing. I’m looking forward to it being fully functional.
The more astute among you will note that there are actually two (or seven) guitars in the photo above; I also this last week purchased a Squier Mini Strat, which is basically a 3/4 scale electric guitar, mostly cause I think it’s kind of cute, and I think it will be useful to have for practice and travel purposes. Also, it’s inexpensive so I won’t mind knocking it about. With that said, I now officially have Too Many Guitars and will not be buying any more any time soon, I swear.
Pet News: The dog and cats are now hanging around in the same room at the same time without too much problem, until and unless Charlie gets the zoomies, which, since she’s a pup, is not infrequent. In which case the cats get annoyed with her. But! This is very good progress, especially with Sugar, who goes out of her way to spend time with Charlie, which Charlie loves. Sugar is definitely driving the bus in that relationship, if you know what I mean. Anyway, it’s nice the pets are getting used to each other and even seem to like each other.
Other News: Everything’s fine! Also, I’ll have some concrete news about a few different things soon, which I will tell you about here when they become tellable. The short version is I’ve had a good couple of weeks, some of which will be revealable soon, and some of which will likely have to wait. I’m not trying to be mysterious, I’m just not in charge of when news comes out. Patience! It’ll be worth it. Maybe.
Hey, everyone! I hope your weekend is going well so far. This Saturday is a rainy one, but before it started pouring, I went to Stillwater Prairie. It’s a reserve/park with lots of nice trails, a river, and a pond. I wanted to see if I could get some good pictures of flowers starting to bloom or other spring-y things.
Here’s a couple of the shots I took!
This cluster of little flowers was close to the parking lot. Does anyone know what they are?
Mushies! These little guys were on the end of a log by the bridge. (Don’t worry I didn’t eat them.)
More flowers! These were closer to the river than the other set of them.
And of course, the river. I would imagine it will be much higher after the rain stops. It started raining right when I left, so I kind of nailed the whole expedition timing wise!
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed these photos, and I hope you have a good day, rainy or otherwise!