Saturday, April 29, 2017

An Interview with Charon Dunn, author of Retrograde Horizon, by T.B. Kahuna

T.B. Kahuna, displaying his familiarity with literary matters
I interviewed myself to promote the last book I launched, and it worked! People actually bought copies! I was feeling all self-congratulatory about my self-inflicted promotional ability, when I reflected that everything on the internet is better with a cat in it. Maybe I could get my own cat to interview me to promote my current book!  So I woke T.B. Kahuna from his nap, and bribed him with some catnip and a bilateral ear massage.

Me: Kahuna, I really appreciate your being able to fit this interview into your busy schedule.

T.B. Kahuna: I have food in the square kitty dish but not the round one! Please move it to the round one right now. It’s kind of an emergency.

Me: Sure, but before I do that, I just wanted to talk about my most recent book, Retrograde Horizon.

It’s the middle of my Sonny Knight trilogy. In my opinion, it came out pretty good. If you like swift moving action-oriented post-dystopian science fiction, you’ll have a great time. Sonny faces all new dangers as he tries to reunite with his family while resisting the wicked clones who are holding them hostage.

Triggers include explosions, terrorists attacking schools, malfunctioning robots, school bullies, an asshole principal that makes Sonny do a bunch of extra work just because she’s a bitch, paparazzi, poverty, affluenza, bad neighborhoods, public transit, precipitous drops in socioeconomic status, police drones, police, clandestine lizard fights, exploding roller coasters, unicorn attack, industrial steam calender malfunction, pissed-off chef who happens to be deep frying … I’d better stop, I’m starting to get into spoilers and I’m barely into the second chapter. There's a gay character and a bisexual character, but they don't do stereotypical tropey things, and I'm probably venturing into more spoiler territory, so I'll stop. 

But yeah, if you’re easily stressed, you shouldn’t be reading my books to begin with. [Transfers kibble to the correct kitty dish.]

T.B. Kahuna: If you could please put it more toward the center of the round bowl? Not toward the circumference? Otherwise I’m going to have to meow at you again.

So how about that cover? Brian Allen did an awesome job yet again, with a cover showing the scene where Special Agent Blocker shows up at Sonny’s school during a terrorist attack (wearing her anti-terrorist mech suit) while at the same time, Sonny’s in trouble with Principal Pantler, plus he’s being followed around by a police drone (something to do with the exploding roller coaster down at the boardwalk) and his school is full of bullies. I’d like to reassure you that it gets better for Sonny, but it really doesn’t.

I want to delve a little further into that cover. First of all, you may have noticed there’s a black woman on it, striking a pose of command with a gun so big she needs a mechsuit to help carry it. There’s an unusual story as to why she’s there.

When I learned about the concept of “whitewashing,” an overwhelming sense of kiss my sweet self-published ass all you racist corporate publishers came over me. I’m a noob with no reputation yet and nothing to lose. I’m willing to experiment.

T.B. Kahuna: Oh no, my catnip-filled squirrel got stuck behind the couch.

It’s interesting that you should bring up politics. I did a little rewriting after the U.S. presidential election, since one of my villains is a politician – I toned down the violence and opinion-slinging, and I made my bad guy more generic. My stories take place far in the future, long after the corpses of current politicians have decayed into dust and the social problems we’re fighting about have been solved for the most part, leaving room for a whole bunch of new ones (for instance: if we create sentient life, do we have to consider it a sovereign nation?). My goal is escapism for people taking a breather from politics, not to browbeat people about the world they’re trying to escape. [Retrieves squirrel.]

T.B. Kahuna: Remember that time there was a raccoon on the fire escape? That was really scary.

Thanks Kahuna. I know you and I have spent many hours in storyboard conferences, so you’re probably starting to get a little burned out. I just thought I’d mention the influences first.

I’m the kind of writer that needs a structure built out of sturdy parameters. Only when I’ve laid down fifty or sixty ground rules and a basic scaffolding of where I’m going and who’s involved can I get down to the fun, unconscious storytelling part, where you turn a couple of characters loose and see what they do.

When I first started entertaining the idea of writing a fun novel as opposed to a good one, I glanced at my bookcase looking for ideas to steal and incorporate into my structure. My gaze landed upon Christian Astrology by William Lilly (published in 1647) and it occurred to me that either/both of those concepts would piss off several of my enemies, which might be fun. I therefore set forth to write a novel that (a) is inspired by Christian themes without actually containing any Christianity and (b) is heavily encrusted in astrological symbolism, yet doesn’t actually contain any astrology. (A time traveler might recognize it as astrology but someone more familiar with newspaper astrology might not; given the current political uncertainties I thought people might be interested in learning about arcane forms of prognostication.)

I then realized I was on a roll, so I kept going: 
  • Science fiction (because my heart belongs to science fiction) – but without science fictional tropes like space, aliens, telepathy and time travel; 
  • Adventure (another genre I love) – but hold the imperialism and racism that tend to define the genre; 
  • Maybe a little YA dystopianism – except it takes place in a society that’s utopian for everybody except the hero. 

Yes, this was my first attempt to write a commercial novel, and I approached it by writing the antithesis of everything I could possibly pitch – a second example of how my brain tends to tackle concepts from an unusually contrary angle.

L. Frank Baum’s Oz books gave me the idea of touring a series of exotic societies, and Buster Keaton’s movies showed me how to avoid clogging up your storytelling with a bunch of useless writing. Robert Sheckley inspired my super-convenient futuristic cities, and also convinced me to throw in a joke every now and then to keep readers from falling asleep.

In case you haven’t stereotyped me yet, I write stories where stuff goes wrong frequently, and spectacularly. If you were looking for the litfic, I guess you probably made a wrong turn. I’m aiming to be more of a purveyor of purple-prosed pulp, cranking out fun tales to help decorate your idle hours, because nothing beats a fun book except maybe taking naps in patches of sunlight.

T.B. Kahuna: Sunlight patch! Gotta go.

Brand Sparkling New:

Retrograde Horizon is the middle of a trilogy about a year in the life of Sonny Knight, a futuristic teenage trouble magnet. If you want to read about some dangerous stuff happening but don’t want to familiarize yourself with the overly complicated plot, you should get it. 


The first volume is One Sunny Night, and whether you should read it first depends on how methodical your mind is. Some people need to have everything in order. Other people prefer to start with the newest one and/or the one that contains the most explosions, in which case I’d have to say Retrograde Horizon is definitely far ahead of the pack when it comes to explosions.

Sieging Manganela is not part of the trilogy, but it takes place in the same universe (yet has more grimdark ultraviolence). It’s a standalone that is shorter than the other two, and therefore cheaper, making it a good choice for those who aren’t interested in committing to a trilogy right now.

About Whatshername

Charon Dunn is originally from Hawai’i and lately from San Francisco. In addition to multiple failed career paths in journalism, music, fortune telling, performance art, marriage, audio engineering and actually graduating from college, she has decades of experience assisting trial lawyers by supporting the desks, processing the words and performing many other litigation-related skills, most of which she can’t talk about at all. She has a pretty good handle on the concept of what all can go wrong.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cat Picture Time

Part of me wants to rush Retrograde Horizon out ASAP, just in case there's a nuclear war and I get killed. Then I'll have at least 2/3 of the trilogy done, and anyone who can figure out the secret can probably extrapolate the rest. The other part of me says I should calm down and do it Saturday. So that's the tentative plan: launch Saturday. 

I tried to calm myself down by taking cat pictures. 
Then I thought, "Hey, I should pose him next to some objects, for scale."
But what objects?
How about a couple books ... or maybe I'll just throw a tape measure on top of him.

Hugo Reviews: These Boots Were Made For Humanism (Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer)

Ada Palmer’s book takes the much admired gender trick featured in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary trilogy and kicks it up a notch. The narrator, who takes unreliability to a whole new level, comes from a society where using gendered language is just wrong, and people get the vapors when even thinking about it. Because he is a bad naughty antisocial person in thought (if not action), the narrator insists on using gendered words, except he arbitrarily assigns genders to people based on his own subjective opinion – bold assertive women are addressed as he, sensitive artsy men as she.

This is an interesting future society with utopian and dystopian notes, with possibly the amount of unreliable narration militating toward dys. It’s not really for YAs unless they’re history geeks who don’t mind a little ultraviolence. There is a little child who can commit miracles, and a brain bogglingly intricate society for him to impact, plus the book is written as an arcane philosophical text, with Mycroft repeatedly violating the fourth (and possibly fifth) wall. This book is so intelligent it made me tired, but it’s a strong contender.

Freedom of Speech, part two

I toned my previous Freedom of Speech rant down so far it lost most of its meaning and coherence, so I thought I’d try again. Perhaps with some specifics.

There’s a town near me called Berkeley; it’s famous for being a hotbed of leftists and hippies and artists and woke people and counterculturists and so on. I lived there for a while as a wayward youth, although I believe I was technically in Emeryville, in a decrepit old Victorian mansion full of roommates and mice. Berkeley has always stood for hardcore free speech – with regard to sex, with regard to gayness, with regard to unpopular religions like Satanism and Communism and Anarchism, with regard to punk rock, with regard to all kinds of things. I fell in love with it as a teenager, hooking school and riding BART to Shattuck and walking up to University to hang around at Rasputin’s Records and Blondie’s Pizza talking to other naughty teenagers about music. That free-speech, question-authority spirit is the reason I’m still here in the Bay Area. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else. As a hardcore text addict with a deep burning need to read everything I can, I was born to live in a place like this.

Meanwhile, there is a conservative provocateur named Ann Coulter. I disagree with her 95% of the time, except when she’s ragging on Bill Clinton. Then she miraculously becomes hilarious for a while, until she changes the subject. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Right now there’s a lot of controversy about Coulter and similar Republican entertainers wanting to speechify in Berkeley, and the protesting is getting very ugly, with sucker punching and scary idealogues in masks and lawsuits.

I stand by what I said about public safety.  A broken arm, a knocked-out tooth, a twisted ACL – those can easily set you back thousands of dollars in 2017 America. It’s really not wise to put yourself in a physical altercation unless you’re rich enough to afford the medical bills and lawsuits. If the U, or the City of Berkeley, can no longer guarantee that people attending shindigs will emerge unbloodied, well, that’s a failure on the part of many people, but first priority is keeping people safe. Passions are high and both sides seem to be craving confrontation.

In the sixties, the hippies (taking the moral-high-ground option of “love”) used all kinds of creative methods to sneak the F word (and its little brothers and sisters) into movies, books and polite conversation. To be fair, they were operating under what they saw as a psychological imperative: if only we can cure the warmongers’ sexual repression (by miniskirts, the F word, birth control, etc.), we’ll no longer be threatened by nuclear war. That was state-of-the-art science in the sixties. There is a very good chance at least one of the practices we consider settled will sound equally stupid in half a century. 

Now the conservatives are pushing the line in the other direction regarding hate speech, a concept with infuriatingly misty borders. To some people, the novel I just reviewed counts as hate speech.

I hate to bring up my origins again with regard to this subject, but I come from a place where there are no majorities and everyone has slurs/stereotypes. When I talk to mainland (white) people about this, they grimace about how terrible it is to have slurs. When I talk to mainland (nonwhite) people about this they tend to light up and smile over the equal distribution of slurs. Both groups are interested in ending unfairness; to the white people this means helping everyone to achieve a slurless life and to the nonwhites it means equal distribution of slurs. “Let’s fix the world by making everyone like me!”

I’m facing a free speech issue right now in this club I just re-joined after several decades. It seems to be split between polite-speech advocates (who write dry, uninteresting, infrequent posts) and free-speechers (lively political arguments with occasional offensive content). My personal preference is for the latter – but with a block button. Too bad nobody’s invented a real-life block button yet. Until that happens, these kind of polarized encounters jeopardize public safety to an unacceptable degree.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Tale Of The Nasty Restaurant Lady or How I Feel About Immigration

I go to this Pakistani restaurant every week. Mainly because of the food, which is just awesome, and I’m a jaded foodie living in a food-loving town (mostly on things like scrambled eggs and rice pudding, to give my sensitive tummy a break between rich restaurant meals). When I say every week, I mean the same time every Thursday. People ridicule me over this, but I don’t care, I even boast about it in my author bios. I am hopelessly addicted to their tandoori chicken, and noon on Thursday is when it happens.

Last week I was there and I happened to be checking out a notice on the wall; a poster for a film about immigrants. Like many places we have lots of immigrants these days. I work in a neighborhood that tends to absorb immigrants, as is reflected in the restaurants; for the last decade or so it has had lots of Pakistani ME places and just before that it was Vietnamese restaurants that serve delectable pho, the best of which are continuing to do that.

I love immigrants. You wanna know why? They have a calming effect on the down-and-out native-born folks who commit most of the assaults and murders in the area. A lot of them are truly interesting people if you ever settle down for a conversation, and they've had experiences most of us haven't. They transform boarded up squats full of vermin into restaurants that serve delicious ethnic food, and they design them to look and smell and feel like a hangout from their native land, so that office workers like me can spend half an hour pretending we ran away to Saigon or London or Bangladesh. I want to hug all the immigrants and apologize to them for all the haters in my country, but that’s sloppy, so instead I just try to leave decent tips and good Yelp reviews.

So while I’m looking at this poster, this tall gawky-looking white lady comes in, waits about thirty seconds, then says something to the effect of “these immigrants are sure a bunch of lazy slobs because they didn’t instantly teleport over here to pay attention to me, true?”

I shot her a sour look and said something to the effect of, “My, you certainly have a negative outlook.”

To which she responded with the beginning of a rant – “Me?!? Negative?!? Well I never!”

So I laughed at her. It was a bitter, jaded, old, laugh. A laugh that totally dismissed her as ridiculous. A laugh that told her to get in line and wait, like every other narcissist lined up in California.  A laugh that communicated, “Don’t even bother to say anything, I already know it’s going to be stupid.” She hemmed and hawed and stuttered and made a few jabs towards forming an outraged rant, but she couldn't get past the sardonic laughter. 

I guess I could have escalated into aggression, but I got that out of my system years ago by playing too many video games. In fact, I had this great guildleader while I was doing that, and I’ll always remember how he dealt with an infuriated noob once, hissing and spitting with narcissistic rage. Guildleader waited for him to catch his breath and then directed him, in a stern fatherly tone, "you must go and find a wise talking animal.” At which point everyone in guildchat was rolling on the floor laughing, except, of course, the narcissist. Because yeah, frankly, I have an ableist prejudice against narcissists. 

Then we both got seated, at opposite ends of the restaurant, and I had my usual five-star meal, and mostly forgot about the encounter.

Aside from the way I always take notes when people inspire me to hate them immediately. I can use that stuff in my writing, for villains, and also for the kind of throwaway characters who do things like open closet doors while saying, “I’m going to prove to you there’s no monster inside this closet!”  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Free Speech

When I say I am in favor of free speech, I mean I do not want my government to make certain printed combinations of letters illegal or forbidden in all contexts. I don’t really care what private citizens say/forbid, just don't ban any books. If you want to ban Controversial Speaker X from your humble saloon/opera house/college because their followers tend to cause expensive damage, I don't blame you in the slightest -- just don't send them off to some gulag, or try to silence them permanently.

Free speech was a lefty thing when I was growing up. It had to do with comedians being able to use naughty language (see Lenny Bruce, George Carlin) and filmmakers being able to show boobies. Once these things were allowed they swiftly became ubiquitous and censorship shifted to the right.

Now freedom of speech is a righty thing, and it seems to be mainly concerned with insulting others. Many of my fellow liberals seriously believe that you can eradicate prejudice by banning insult words; I don’t agree with that. I do agree that speech can be used to whip crowds into frenzies, and that frenzied crowds have been known to kill people. In fact, one of the main complaints liberals tend to make about conservatives is their penchant for getting all riled up and killing people, and I think it’s a very valid complaint.

However, the whole issue of weaponized words is slippery. Especially if you take into account the wounds suffered by narcissists whenever someone abuses them with language like, “That’s incorrect” or “I only like you as a friend.” It’s easy to tell when hate speech has gotten people riled up to the point of violence, because there are corpses and/or bloodstains, but it’s really hard to tell where that point is, and how far you can go before reaching it. When you're uncertain, it's always best to err on the side of fewer corpses/bloodstains. Always. Beating human hearts outrank rhetorical discussions every single time. If the public wishes to keep the kind of speech that incites violence out of their public forums, it's no different from a private individual kicking an abusive drunk out of their party. And to understand where the limits lie, you need to take aggression into account. 

Now I have piles upon piles of opinions regarding aggression, and to my mind a lot of the culture wars have to do with aggression displays and social appropriateness thereof (only female forms of aggression are allowed? only upperclass forms of aggression?), and I think aggression is to our culture what sex was to the Victorians. An aggressive person might get in your face and growl “I love you” and terrify you; a loving person might call you obscene words and make you want to marry them and live with them forever. 

I really think we need to sit down and talk about aggression. Aggression is not violence, nor is it innately sinful, and you can’t train it out of people. You can handle it responsibly by directing it against game opponents, tennis balls, business goals and such. If we’re ever going to have that talk we will need to use our words.

That’s why it’s a bad idea to go around banning words. Only a lubberwort would do that. 

[“Lubberwort” is an archaic insult. Once it fell out of fashion, people didn’t stop insulting each other. They just made up new insults. If you take away words and everyone has to make up new ones, it doesn't stop conversation so much as slow it down.]

EDIT: That kind of rambled … TLDR: While the gov’t shouldn’t ban books/people it is under absolutely no obligation to give them a forum. Also, we humans need to understand aggression better so we can discuss sensitive matters more constructively, and I’m as guilty of screwing this part up as anyone else. It's not the words and syllables that cause the harm, it's the aggression, and banning words won't solve anything at all.

Review: Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood)

I couldn’t bring myself to vote for a Hugo for a book I hadn’t actually read and enjoyed, so I bought a copy of this one, and read it, and yes, I did enjoy it, very much.  I learned all kinds of things about this legendary guy who has been to all the Worldcons, and hung out with all the science fictional folk. 

One of the most astonishing things was that he leans conservative, despite living in the rather liberal East Bay. This made me even more determined to vote for him, just to send a message to the Puppies that it’s not actually their conservatism that rubs people the wrong way; Grampa Bob gets all kinds of honors and accolades in this rather liberal community. In fact, he won’t even write any more, attributing a lack of fluency with modern sensibilities. Reminder to self: go re-read some of Grampa Bob’s books.

He’s a brilliant guy, and he had some fascinating things to say about music, and libraries, and other writers. Such as Robert Sheckley, who is one of my science fictional heroes, a man who was ridiculously popular in the field during the fifties and is only vaguely remembered today.

I loved this book so much that I’m not even going to read any of the other Related Works unless they are included in the freebie pack. It’s hard to imagine a work more related than this.


The next book is nearly ready to launch. I’ve been going through the last of my editorture, sandblasting the typos away and making sure all the tenses are relaxed. Today I learned the difference between Copy Editors and Story Editors – I’ve been doing a little of both but I usually do them in separate passes.

Copy Editors nail all the typos. While you can technically do this with spellcheck, that’s not the entire story – spellcheck doesn’t care about your roll models or your deep incite, or if you go around ising when you should’ve ared, or whether your Oxford commas look more like Yale, Harvard, or Stanford. 

The Story Editor, meanwhile, is the one who goes through your story pointing out continuity errors. For instance, maybe a character claimed his grandma was dead on p. 77 but now on p. 131 she’s sending him a birthday card. Some of my biggest continuity headaches have to do with whether my hero has wrecked his deld yet (“deld” is short for handheld and is a future smartphone, usually printed on a demiglove -- my hero can't seem to hold onto one for very long), plus there’s a memorable scene in Chapter 6 where he almost had a pair of Schrodinger’s Shoes, simultaneously lost and worn.

When I’m composing, I type much faster than I can think, so I typically have at least a few typos to keep my copy editor side happy and fulfilled. I tend to make the story editor side way tougher than it needs to be, such as the time I had one character keep a lie afloat for an entire novel, or when I wrote an entire short novel because a flashback was getting too verbose.

The editing is taking a while, which is why I’m not launched yet, which is why I’m not going to San Jose Comic Con this weekend, but it should happen by Bay Con next month. 

Maybe some day when I’m a great big deal of a writer I’ll have launch parties and such like. For now, I let myself stroll to the corner pub for a burger, feeling like someone who has just had a big heavy tumor excised. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

I found a map to the star system where all the space operas take place

My first thought: "I'd better save this thing because once I start writing my own corny, cliched space opera I'll need it!"

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hugo Awards: Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

First, I’d just like to say that Moana deserves this award.

And if she can’t have it, the award should go to Rogue One, the best Star Wars movie in decades. It might even be my favorite film in the whole franchise. No jedi! XXXXL engineering! XXXXL engineering failure! I-am-one-with-the-Force-the-Force-is-with-me! Jyn Erso! OMG that ending! Movies like this are the reason movies exist.

Now, as for all those other movies – and please note for the record I am not a movie viewer; last year my movie count consisted of Big Hero 6, Rogue One, Moana, Deadpool … ummm … probably that crappy Tarentino western Hateful 8, and then I had to watch Inglorious Basterds again for some positive Tarentino energy. Plus I watched Westworld, Outlander and Game of Thrones. I’m just not that into video. EDIT: I did see the live action Jungle Book, and thought it needed more Louis Prima.

Hidden Figures is a movie I’d like to see, but it’s not science fiction at all. It’s about black women mathemeticians working for NASA in the bad old days. If I manage to watch it before voting time I might reassess this category. It seems like a movie I would like.

Arrival is linguistics sci fi; doesn’t sound appealing.

Ghostbusters … well, first of all, I find the idea of remakes of SNL movies kind of low priority. I thought the first GB was cute the first twenty or so times I saw it. Then there was Saturday morning GB with Slimer, GB 2 and possibly more, GB everywhere. While I did enjoy the way it made the occult silly as opposed to scary, it’s one of those movies I’ve wound up seeing many more times than I need to, so the idea of watching it again in some kind of “endure it for feminism!” setting, as though I need to be guilt tripped into sitting through yet another attempt to wring money out of the GB franchise, and for the record, my values do not center around the movie selection process, that has more to do with people who worship movies, and I’ve already explained that I don’t – I was quite a cinemaphile in my twenties and thirtes, and oddly enough, even though I’ve been ignoring 99% of Hollywood’s output unless it has either droids or dinosaurs, most of the movies cinemaphiles discuss are ones I have seen – not to imply that modern movies suck or anything like that, but maybe SNL remakes are one potential explanation. Maybe this is a movie I’d like, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch it. 

Deadpool. Everyone I know likes Deadpool except for this hypothetical person that I made up to disguise the real one – Miss Marcy Marsupial, who despises loud vidya-game-like entertainment because she lives in a house of boys who blast it all the time, although she doesn’t realize she’s falling prey to the hatespray. That’s when, for example, you encounter some obnoxious narcissist – like Deadpool, but without the self-deprecating humor that makes him loveable. And this narcissist gets in your face and attacks you under the guise of religion-politics-feminism-videogames-freespeech-constrainedspeech – it doesn’t really matter, they adapt fast. And your takeaway is “gee, I really hate religion-politics-feminism-videogames etc.” Without considering that what you really hate are obnoxious narcissists. Anyway, Deadpool is not one of those, because he gets the stuffing beat out of him constantly, which gives him humility. Aside from Groo he is my favorite mainstream comics hero. And yet I can’t vote for him, because I love Rogue One too much.

My Vote: I want Rogue One to win all the awards to inspire all future movies to be more like it. Then I might watch more of them. So that’s the only movie I’m voting for.

Hugo Awards: Best Novelette

I finished reading all the novelettes -- except one, but I read enough of the excerpt to know it wasn't my kind of jam -- and here's my report.

“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon.
Set in the same Southwestern alternate universe as Jackalope Wives, a story I think would have won but for that Puppy slate a couple years ago, this is the story of a grandmother’s quest to stop the wicked creature that has been stealing her ripe tomatoes. Way more adventurous than it sounds, and warm and funny too. 

“Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex” by Stix Hiscock
Could this be the Rabid Puppies’ last slate candidate? I’m not sure, but I do know I don’t want to read it.

“The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan
A story about a girl about to contact her astronaut biological father in a parallel universe 2047 which has no DNA databases, leaving her at the whim of her mom’s rapidly evaporating memory. She struggles with her decision, scolds herself for “naff” fantasies about what reunion will be like, wonders if she’ll ruin his happiness. Which is a nice message; I grew up in a parallel situation with an anonymous submariner biological father, although he died before I could email him. This narrator is a lot more ambivalent than I was as she wrestles with the concept of “should I even want to know this basic information most people are born knowing.” 

I’m think it matters, and that wanting to know factual information about your genetic relatives is distinct from your emotional relationship with your family. Plus I tend to disagree with those who believe ignorance is a virtue. This whole matter of leaving it up to fragile human memory is one of the main reasons I’m interested in DNA clubs like 23andMe, and I was a little frustrated by this character living in a world that had space travel but no genetic databases. Anyway, yeah, this is an affecting story and I liked it. 

“Touring with the Alien”, by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)  
“There’s no such thing as telepathy,” Lionel said dismissively.
The aliens here lack a cerebral cortex, making them wholly subconscious in this pleasing first contact tale about a human who volunteers to translate between the species. It wins based on that ctrl-V’d quote. Plus we have another adoptee story, as the narrator struggles to befriend Lionel, kidnapped as a child to be his alien parent’s symbiote, as they cruise around the south in a tour bus.

“The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, by Fran Wilde
I wear no jewelry. No rings, no nose studs, nothing around my neck. My earlobes are still scarred from when I used to wear earrings; I get infected easily and I wasn’t sufficiently dedicated to the notion of jewelry to pursue it. I’ve had friends that are fascinated with shiny rocks and their accessories, but the whole phenomenon glides right past me, and therefore I bounced right off of this story.

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, by Alyssa Wong
First I’m going to need some coffee … okay.  A story about some women and the way they feel. Takes place in a brothel like the one in Westworld, in a town like the one in the first Dark Tower book (which is a lot like Westworld, come to think of it, right down to the pop songs played on tinkly pianos). There’s an evil preacher representing the patriarchy. And there’s a Symbolic Animal Cruelty moment. Yeah, yeah, it’s only a chicken, and I just ate part of one for dinner, but it didn't do a gruesome emote at me in an attempt to manipulate my emotions. 

I’m generally down with Symbolic Fruit, and Symbolic Colors, and Abstract Foreshadowing, but there’s one technique in the hipster-litfic portfolio that I wish would die in a fire: Symbolic Animal Cruelty. I’ve bounced off of many books (Library at Mount Char springs to mind) due to this trope. 

It's not so much the gross out (I deal with forensic material from time to time), it's just that I immediately start judging the hell out of the writer. I get distracted looking for more aberrant psych signs and wondering if they’re aware other people regard this as disgusting, whether they set fires when they were small, and so on. I mentally peg the writer as a potential future serial killer. You know who else likes Symbolic Animal Cruelty?  Baby Jane Hudson, that's who.
(Not a very good role model.)

Other than my severe dislike of a trope she used, Alyssa Wong is a good writer.

My vote:
“Touring with the Alien”, by Carolyn Ives Gilman
“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon.
“The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Astonishing True Story of the Retrograde Horizon Cover

I’m a green-eyed blonde of mysterious origins.

I wrote an epic science fiction adventure series

I needed a character whose job was to be the protagonist’s obstacle.

I came up with a mature black female secret agent, and temporarily named her “Blocker.”

Meanwhile, I’m on 23andMe due to curiosity vis-à-vis mysterious origins, and at one point it was ascribing me a small percentage of sub-Saharan African (i.e. black) ancestry at about the greatgrandma level in the middle of a lot of Celt. It's no longer displaying that in my results, which I take it to mean that the state of the art is evolving.

Occasionally I find genetic cousins.

One day I heard from a black cousin.

23andMe confirms we share a common ancestor at approximately the greatgrandma level regardless of the sub-Saharan genetics discussed above.

I emailed with my cousin, then we became Facebook friends and shared photos.

There is a distinct facial resemblance.

Cousin, knowledgeable re history and geneology (has traced her own lineage back to free people of color on the East Coast in the 1600s), speculates a light-skinned child from her side of the family “passed” and married into my side of the family (yes, we both realize there are less cheerful possibilities).

Cousin’s name just happens to be Blocker.

I decided to keep my character’s name as Blocker. Now I have a genetic relative hanging out in my own science fictional future despite my own lack of descendants, hooray.  

While writing my third book, I encountered numerous articles about “whitewashing.” 

So I had a “bite me, you corporate publishing weasels” moment.

I commissioned a cover with Special Agent Blocker right smack in the middle of it. Dammit.  

Wielding a huge ass gun. Maybe that'll make the conservatives happy too.

Now I could give you some song and dance about how you can stick it to the man and/or the SJWs (or both) by buying my book and making it so successful that corporate publishers take heed and start putting armed black ladies on every book that comes out, and in fact you might have thought I was headed there all along, but I suck at marketing and I could never do that. 

Or I could do some kind of spiritual take and start yattering about destiny and fate and psychic blah blah blah, but I’m not really interested in going there either.

Instead, I think I’ll just leave you with this.

Be nice to your fellow humans, because we are all connected, and viewing the world from that perspective will make you a better and happier person. 

Hugos and Relevance

Some of the folks on on File 770 are scoffing at this pieceby Claire Ryan as to whether the Hugos are even relevant.

So for the vast crowd of indies out there, publishing their work on Amazon and building their readership, the Hugos are irrelevant, as if they’re awards given out for a completely different industry. They exist but… they are meaningless. They are outside of our concern.

The “completely different industry” part rang a resonant bell, however. I think I agree with that. When I think about the Hugos, I’m doing it as a fan. Not as a writer.

As a writer, I’m a low-level vicious street urchin scowling at debutantes passing by in their carriages, hoping to live long enough to be a pot-bellied thug with a gold watch chain some day. I’m more about fun than acclaim, and awards are probably not in my future.

As a fan, I’m middle-aged and surrounded by fluffy cats, teacups, marabou slippers and scandalous anecdotes, having watched decades of bright young authors head in a variety of trajectories, and having read mountains of this stuff, so much I can’t possibly remember it all, and I appreciate the awards because they give me a good snapshot of the state of the art.

I think the Hugos – and corporate publishing in general – do reflect a completely different industry, and one that’s in transition from a hierarchial New York thing to a flat electronic thing. I keep reading articles about Barnes and Noble headed for decline, and if that happens maybe physical books will turn into vanity purchases, like fancy shoes, only sold in big fancy cities. Only drop dead gorgeous Ivy League grads will be able to write them, because there will be an entire industry of book-promo-videosmiths and cover-art-gestalt-technicians and launch-event-specialists appending from them and depending on them, and corporations won’t want to waste all that promotional muscle on any writers that aren't going to hold up their end of the talk show appearances.  

In fact, it’s already starting, with prenovelists nominated for best-debut awards by their publicists years in advance of their launches. Yep, that seems like a very different industry. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Excerpt from Retrograde Horizon (coming soon)

 “Single rider, please stand on the purple three.” The roller coaster attendant touched his elbow, and he jumped. Somehow he had made it all the way to the front of the line. He started to raise his hand to call the attendant back, and then he shrugged and headed to the purple three. 
Might as well. One last time. He could always bother the attendants on his way out. Maybe the adrenaline would clear his head.
He found himself strapped into a seat beside a row of three girls, faces glowing with sunburn, chattering about the seaweed wrap massage at their hotel. Salty breeze licked his face as the coaster climbed, giving him a view of home, and everything familiar, bathed in sparkling lights. A slim crescent of moon floated in the sky. The firework show was starting, out over the ocean. Uncle Duke would be out there, fussing with his primer and fuse. 
He checked his deld as the coaster ratcheted up the hill but it still wasn’t responding. The coaster paused up on the top of the first drop, red and orange lights cycling through the track to symbolize dragonly rage. The three girls beside Sonny let out synchronized screams as they smiled for the camera that took souvenir photos.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!” Sonny added his scream to the chorus and gripped the grab bar, his fingertips nestled in grooves left by other frightened riders over hundreds of years, or whenever they had most recently changed out the cars. Sonny saw his castle home, far down the coast, outlined in twinkling lights. He looked down at the section where Rufe had been signing autographs and saw flashing police lights.
The car released and plummeted down. It got halfway down the slope and then it jerked to an abrupt stop.
The riders paused briefly to consider whether to scream. They reached a collective decision to scream for real, a far different sound than the for-fun kind of screaming they’d been doing moments ago. The seat restraint cradled Sonny tight. All of his weight was resting on the padded bars across his chest. Bright lights flashed on as a loud recorded voice commanded them to stay calm. 
Sonny closed his eyes, and took deep breaths. He could hear one of the girls beside him shrieking while another girl put on a brave show of being reassuring, and many of the other passengers were adding their voices to the chorus. He could smell fresh urine. As far as he could tell, it wasn’t his. Bright lights pounded against his eyelids, from the fireworks, and the bright floodlights currently illuminating the coaster. 
His collarbone ached from supporting his weight. Some of it was on the footrest panel, but his bad knee didn’t really feel like supporting weight in a flexed position at the moment, and Sonny didn’t really blame it. The formerly reassuring girl beside him gave way to her own hysterics and began screaming at the top of her lungs. Sonny reluctantly opened his eyes, thinking about how it was safer than the three point harness he had worn while sailing across the Pacific, where you might actually die, as opposed to Royal Beach Boardwalk, where considerable efforts went into making sure tourists failed to kill themselves or each other while trying to have a good time. They probably had a full team of medics standing by, ready to heal anybody from anything, and maybe sell them a bodysculpt as part of the package.
He stared at the flashing police lights. His abdominal muscles clenched. He could hear official sounding amplified announcements filtering through the screaming in his immediate area, but he couldn’t quite understand what they were saying. The possibility that the clones had started some kind of a fight sprang to mind. Maybe they had tried to assassinate Rufe. He snorted. Good luck with that.
A small cart rolled up beside the coaster track and extended a cherrypicker, which rose to the same level as the train.  Four strong rescue workers extricated the four people in the front row, strapping each one into a climbing harness before releasing the cross brace. Sonny counted the rows. He was in row seventeen. 
The cherrypicker returned to the ground with the first eight passengers, where Boardwalk employees greeted them, steering them to a hastily set up hospitality area with a drink table and a pile of souvenir shirts. Sonny settled into his situation and looked around, noticing a lost purple shoe far below. He could see the exit, and the people moving beyond it. It looked like the whole autograph signing end of the Boardwalk had been closed down. People in uniform were setting up stanchions and strings of colored lights to deflect the crowds. 
And right there, lounging against a lightpole, wearing a rainbow-colored souvenir fedora and eating a corn dog, was a clone. The same one who had accosted him earlier, wearing his casino shirt. He was staring at Sonny, in fact. When he noticed Sonny staring back at him, he gave a little wave. 
Sonny extended his middle finger.
The clone held up his palm, so Sonny could see a tiny flash of color there. The clone turned his palm to face Sonny and poked it with the stick from his corn dog. 
The rollercoaster train released from its locked position and roared down the track. The restraint bars for the first two rows flew upwards, and one of them tore off, flying behind them with a shower of sparks. The train wasn’t under any power besides gravity, and it lost momentum over the third small hill following the big drop, rolling forward and backward until it came to rest.  One of the girls beside Sonny threw up, and some of it splashed his arm. 
He craned his neck as far as he could, trying to catch a glimpse of the clone, and that was why he missed the explosion. He definitely felt it, a puff of hot air flavored with chemicals and cinders, and he couldn’t help but hear it, backed up by a chorus of ragged screams from the hoarse throats of his fellow passengers. He whipped his head around to the other side in time to see the big illuminated letters that said “Raging Dragon” were gone, as well as the dragon head below it, although its flaming breath was still sparkling periodically with reds and oranges and yellows. A large section of coaster track was gone too, replaced by twisted metal.
The restraint had to have an emergency catch somewhere. Had to. His fingers fumbled around until he found it, and once he did, he snapped it open and squeezed out of his seat. He was on a section of track about a meter and a half high, and there was a utility pole a few meters ahead with ladder-like grips built into the sides.
The train rocked beside him as others, noticing his escape, copied him. Sonny grabbed the car to steady himself, his eyes combing the crowd for electric blue. Instead he saw panic, with Boardwalk security stretching out rolls of crowd control rope. Either the blue-shirted clone was caught up in the mob or he’d slipped away, and Sonny imagined anyone smart enough to hack the Raging Dragon could figure out how to slip away.
“Remain in your seats!” said a voice through a loudspeaker as the cherrypicker maneuvered. “We will extricate you as quickly as we can!”
Sonny glanced at his vomit-stained seat. He glanced at the ladder-like pole, which wasn’t much different from the main mast of the Reckless, which he had climbed a few times. He could slip away too.
Instead of going down he climbed up, a few meters into a shadowy spot where the track connected to a support. As he was watching security control the crowd, peering for flashes of electric blue, he heard another explosion. He wrapped his arms around the pole, suddenly illuminated.
The fireworks. Uncle Duke was out there in fact, on the floating stage where they kept the control panels. Going on with the show.
Firework light threw the coaster tracks into creepy shadows. The cherrypicker was lighting up the stranded train with floodlights, helping the last of the passengers into the bucket. Sonny stared at it. The clones were waiting for him. They knew exactly where he was, and they were willing to kill him in the middle of a crowd.
He climbed onto the track and started walking along it, toward the part where the coaster looped out over the water. Fireworks streaked and blossomed above him, forming into colorful flowers and smiling faces and cheerful sunbursts.
He was nearly there when he heard the unmistakeable roar of a roller coaster train below him. It was probably a minute away, depending on how fast it ascended the hill it was currently climbing. Sonny glanced around frantically and spotted another ladder-pole, and he nearly missed it for a heart-stopping moment given that the shadows were telling all kinds of lies about depth and distance. Then his hand slapped metal and he caught hold of a grip, and he pulled himself away from the track just as the train came hurtling down. He could smell the vomit-streaked seats as it whizzed by. It looped out over the water and flew toward the missing section of track as Sonny clung to his pole, and for a moment he thought it was going to jump the gap, but it didn’t.
The train flew headlong into a support, making the whole structure wobble. Sonny dragged himself back onto the track and covered the short distance to the water. Two meter drop. He squinted at the darkness below, feeling the coaster framework shaking underneath him, until a flash of firework lit up lapping waves, without hinting at what was beneath them.
He jumped, and splashed in. His feet rebounded from the sandy bottom and his head broke through the surface. He swam swiftly and quietly out toward the floating stage, which was all lit up and playing music.
Halfway there he remembered he was wearing a highly visible lime green shirt. He stood on the sandy bottom, catching his breath as he slithered out of it and stuffed it in his back pocket. Royal Beach was shallow for a long way out, not like some of the beaches in Carquinez that suddenly and unexpectedly turned deep. In the daytime there would be hundreds of tourists floating around on their inflatables, but late at night there were only a few people out, most of them drunk. Sonny also removed his shoes, which were probably ruined, and then he remembered his deld, which was definitely ruined.
He splashed his way to the floating stage several minutes after the firework show ended. It was empty except for a security bot that told him he was unauthorized. He could see a departing boat that must have held the pyrotechnics crew, loud music blasting in its wake.
Sonny fixed his eye on the castle. Swimming there would be faster than walking ashore and looking for a taxi, and he was fairly certain he had lost the clones, for now. Especially now that he no longer had a functioning deld.
It was late at night by the time he waded past the graffiti streaked rocks welcoming him to WeMo. He could see the castle a few short blocks away, just past the school. A headache knocked at his temples as he forced his squishy wet shoes onto his feet. You didn’t want to walk around WeMo without shoes since there was nearly always some blood or piss or sharp debris sprinkled across the pavement.
He found a shadowy spot and stood very still, catching his breath and listening to the night. Loud raw music indicated a party was happening a couple blocks to the left, and he could vaguely make out a group of male voices arguing somewhere off to his right.

©2017 by Charon Dunn

Hugos: Related Work

I hate the Related Work category.

The first year I did the Hugo thing, 2015, it was all of this dreadful Puppy slate stuff. One guy submitted a huge pile of anti-Hillary tweets, and the inimitable JCW opined at length about how much he hates people like me and the people I hang out with. In 2016 it was the year of the pedophile, in which the submissions included gross pedo scenes under the ostensible guise of crusading against it, wherein I was rudely reminded why I never could stand Marion Freaking Zimmer Bradley.

This year starts out with a depressing reminder that Carrie Fisher is dead. The Princess Diarist tells the tale of her metal bikini, and her fling with Harrison Ford. It’s cute and charming, but Carrie is no longer with us, so it’s not like she would ever know if she won. It would be a nice gesture, but I’m not voting for Carrie.

Next is Sarah Gailey, who is also up for the Campbell Award as a prenovelist. JJ linked a story of hers about a woman trying to cut a deal with the devil to save her wife, which I thought was interesting given that the Rabid Puppies’ pick also wrote a devil story. Devils are hot in 2017.

She’s up for related work for “The Women of Harry Potter” posts on And I’m going to have to pass, because I think Harry Potter’s kind of past its shelf life for 2017 awards. There was discussion on File 770 about how even though Cursed Child made it technically eligible for best series, the nominators didn’t go there.

Similarly, seeing youngster Neil Gaiman present a grandfatherly retrospective in The View From the Cheap Seats reminds me I’m middle-aged.

I get more of an actual grandparently sensation from Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood) and Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer). Probably because I read both of those authors when I was very young. Two of my favorite fantasy grandparents deliver sage elder wisdom for whippersnappers everywhere. Grandpa Silverberg snared me right away, talking about travel and adventure and a holy building in Suriname. Grandma Le Guin reassured me that it’s okay not to write hatchet jobs of despised books, even though sometimes it’s fun to read a good hatchet job.

Which brings me to The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (Tor Books). In the excerpt, she talks about how G*merG*te, a recent brouhaha involving women, video games and modern journalism relates to the Sad/Rabid Puppies phenomenon that got me interested in the Hugos in the first place.

I resisted 99.99% of the temptation of posting screenshots that authenticate my gamerhood, since I’ve been one since blue-book-AD&D days, and I kept it down to this Star Wars Galaxies screenie from when I used to be a Twi’lek dark jedi.  Around this time (approx 2005) I was extremely involved in the gaming scene; I did a bunch of blogs and wrote for others, using various nyms, some of which are still connected to this blog.

These days I play only a handful of games, mostly Blizzard, with minimal human interaction. No, it’s not because of gamer sexism … it’s because of G*merG*te. The community is too polarized and inhibited and angry. While I take no sides on G*merG*te, and have never written a single word for/against it, I stand firmly against (a) internet abuse/bullying; (b) racism/sexism/homophobia/discrimination; (c) unethical journalism; (d) silencing people for their content as opposed to their conduct. Since that pits me against two sides that both fight dirty, I shall gracefully step away from the combat zone until the dust settles. 

On the bright side, since I’ve pulled back from my favorite hobby, I’ve been writing novels -- hopefully ones that will edge me toward game-related storytelling, and therefore I should also thank G*merG*te for rapidly escalating the toxicity so as to make that decision easier.

Now I could spin a lot of pixels talking here about my life as a gamer, and my feelings about G*merG*te and the events and culture surrounding it, or I could dump it all metaphorically into the space opera series I’m writing after Sonny Knight. I think I’ll go for the latter. Maybe I’ll figure out how to write corporate-friendly science fiction by then and someone will actually buy it. Until then, I don’t feel like participating in the discussion at all.

So I’m going to vote for Grampaw Bob (1st because he actually hangs out at these conventions and loves them) and Nana Ursula (2nd because she’s more of a sometimes attendee), while dreaming of living in a world that they had more of an active hand in designing.


No SDCC 2017 for me. Going to have to go to Hawai'i instead. I am not particularly distressed by this development.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Free Hugo Finalist Excerpts

Further to my last, I checked out the excerpts for the Campbell finalists, AND I purchased Ada Palmer’s book, and I’m loving it. She gets my vote. I like her voice, I like her premise, I like her music and her interests. She reminds me of people I used to hang out with before I decided to indulge my antisocial tendencies to their utmost.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Hugo Awards: Background Checking the Campbell Awards Nominees

I’m bittersweet about the Campbell Award. I like applauding new writers, and I was very happy when Andy Weir’s award was accepted by an actual astronaut last year. Thus annihilating my worries that the Campbell Award was a participation trophy for high strung millennial thoroughbreds.

Even so, as a humble craftsmith of purple-prosed pulp, it’s easy for me to sneer at the debutantes. And although what I’d really like to do is tag their pristine white dresses with catapulted meatballs, and what I should do is work on my PR so I have actual reviews and networkability like these shining folks, what I shall do is investigate their backgrounds. Cora Buehlert’s recap tracks diversity, in case anyone’s wondering about the finalists’ demographics, so I’m not going to go there. I just want to judge them as people.

I’ll start with Sarah Gailey. Her debut novella will be out in a few months, on Tor, and she’s written lots of short stories and some non-fiction. Much of the non-fiction concerns the women of Harry Potter. She lives in Oakland and she hangs out with best novel nominee Anders. Seems like she has kind of a neopagan slant, with spotlights on Minerva and witches and villainesses, also wrote a neurodiversity piece on mentally ill women. Has a dog named Pepper Jack.

Next is J. Mulrooney, the Rabid Puppies candidate. He is a Goodreads author and there’s nothing quite like a book collection for gauging someone’s personality. Sure enough, right there on page one is a 5-star review of his own book. I’ll confess I reviewed my own book on Goodreads, but only to get it listed, I didn’t actually give it stars. He also digs Tolkein, Narnia, Lewis, Wodehouse; and he seems to be a Christian that reads myths from other cultures. He 2-stars Ayn Rand and 3-stars Ralph Ellison. He’s got room for Blake and Tolstoy … arrrgh, and there’s another 5-star self-review. And a nearly-redeeming 4-stars for Watership Down.

Malka Older wrote Infomocracy and has an interesting international background in risk reduction . A very splendid and jewel-encrusted debutante, she seems to have plenty of mainstream buzz but not a lot of sci fi cred (yet).

Ada Palmer is a role model for us all.   Historian! Composer! Optimist! Tezuka fan! I haven’t even read her books yet but somehow I think I will like them.

Laurie Penny describes herself as a small shy British weirdo. She’s into gonzo journalism, and has written many articles on things like millennials, gender queer feminism, robots, Game of Thrones, etc.

Kelly Robson is a predebutante whose debut novella comes out next year. She does Soviet-gothic, Lit-Noir, Historical Fantasy.  Guillermo del Toro fan.

Which debutante would I most like to serenade? Totally Ada Palmer, with Malka Older in second place. I do know I would have a hard time voting a Campbell Award for any of the finalists who haven’t published any novels yet, thus putting them on the same footing with Andy Weir; that would be downright preposterous.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

2017 Hugo Finalists!

The list of 2017 Hugo finalists (note: not nominees, because anyone can be a nominee, but finalists) came out today and I’m pasting it down below my comments for your perusal.

Best Novel: none of my favorites – Arabella of Mars! Lovecraft Country! – were selected so I have an initial grudge against all six of these books for squatting in their way.  I did really like Cixin Liu though, and a quick internet search tells me Ada Palmer is into philosophy and … Osamu Tezuka! 
*screeches to a halt*

My Vote: tentatively leaning toward the Tezuka fan although no doubt my inner sense of fair play will demand I read at least the free copies, even the ones I already know I can’t stand.

Best Novella: Ballad of Black Tom was good, and it’s the only one I’ve read.

There is some Lois McMaster Bujold in there. I have heard many people praising Ms. Bujold and her Vorkosigan books, and I went so far as to get the first one and read it. She does have a very nice rhythm, and I enjoyed her Hugo entry last year, but her characters just fail to lodge in my head. I’ll give her another try, and I note the Vorkosigan books are up for best series too.

My Vote: LaValle already won by getting me to buy it, but I’m willing to give the other contenders a look.

Best Novelette: Now that the conservatives are showing us there’s no harm whatsoever in nepotism I’m leaning heavily toward voting for my File 770 crony, Ursula Vernon. However, that’s mostly because she’s a good writer rather than because she’s a Filer.

My Vote: I’m going to have to do some reading, but I’m favorably disposed toward Ursula Vernon.

Best Short Story: I hate them all. Especially the one by JCW, which I didn’t actually read, based on a precognitive flash that I’d hate it. I get those sometimes, chalk it up to me Irish ancestry.  Jemisen’s offering is a slice of feelgood fistpumping about a graffiti artist and then there’s a spec fic thing that runs through it toward the end as sort of an “oh yeah, science fiction” moment. Wong’s is some surrealist family drama; I like one of those things but not all of them. El-Mohtar’s is the kind of story where people sit around snacking on highly symbolic fruit. I liked Vaughn’s writing a lot, but she did two unforgivable things: (i) telepathy (I can’t stand telepathy) and (ii) this one’s a little harder to describe … it has to do with when science fiction stories get all sentimental about some relic of “this is good for you, children” Earthling high culture, like Shakespeare, or Dickens, or chess. And yes I do have a favorite chess novel: The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis.

My vote: I actually don’t hate “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander and due to the cocky voice of its narrator and its use of bullet points, it wins.

Best Related Work: I actually bought and read and enjoyed The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher independent of this whole Hugopalooza, so I’m leaning towards it so far. The geek feminists and the Harry Potter feminists sort of cancel each other out because in order for one to win the other would have to lose, making it impossible to be deemed misogynistic solely on the basis of not voting for one or the other. I like Ursula Le Guin and want to read her book to see if I like it more than Carrie Fisher’s. I like Robert Silverberg too. I’m not too much of a Neil Gaiman fan although I enjoyed Good Omens and Coraline, and he’s probably already got a roomful of awards.

My Vote: Fisher unless Le Guin charms me.

Best Movie:  No Moana?  Fine.  Bless your little nominating hearts. 

My Vote: Rogue One, followed by Hidden Figures, followed by Deadpool.

Best TV Show: The fact that all y’all don’t like Westworld makes me think about whether I actually hate Westworld myself.  Also, the GoT episode Battle of the Bastards, with its amazing shield wall tactics, is up against The Door. I may just vote for it, because I like bastards.

My Vote: Battle of the Bastards followed by The Door.

Best Editor, short and long: don’t call me an editor, I work for a living.

Best pro artist, fan artist: I’m going to have to look at the pictures first.

Best semiprozine, fancast, comic book: unfamiliar with the oevre, sitting these categories out.

Best Fanzine: I have an informed opinion now, and that opinion is “I’m voting for Rocket Stack Rank.” So many reviews!  Truly epic.

Best Fan Writer: Voting for Chuck Tingle, then Mike Glyer even if he doesn’t want any more awards because he’s already got a swimming pool full of them.

Best Series: I mentioned not being able to get into the Vorkosigan series, and that’s the only series on this list with which I am vaguely familiar, so I’m going to have to sit this one out.

John W. Campbell:  I need to learn more about these people but again, tentatively leaning toward the Tezuka fan.

In general: the wicked conservative doggies appear to have been neutralized. The Sads are sitting out, the Rabids got lots of finalists, but they seem like they’re focusing on the Dragons, and they also have toned it way down as far as the in-your-face candidates. At the moment they seem to be peacefully coexisting on the ballot with the radical leftazoids.

In retrospect, I do feel kind of like a sucker for rising to the clickbait on behalf of a bunch of preening corporate publishing types, yet I’ve re-connected with a community that never stopped being awesome, I’ve had a great time at the two Worldcons I’ve visited so far, and in File 770 I have found a never-ending source of reliable book recommendations (a very valuable resource in these Death of Journalism days).

Best Novel (2078 ballots)
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books / Titan Books)
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager US)
Death’s End by Cixin Liu (Tor Books / Head of Zeus)
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris Books)
The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

Best Novella (1410 ballots)
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle ( Publishing)
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson ( Publishing)
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire ( Publishing)
Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Spectrum Literary Agency)
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson ( Publishing)
This Census-Taker by China Miéville (Del Rey / Picador)

Best Novelette (1097 ballots)
“Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex” by Stix Hiscock (self-published)
“The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allan (, July 2016)
“The Jewel and Her Lapidary” by Fran Wilde ( Publishing, May 2016)
“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)
“Touring with the Alien” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016)
“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016)

Best Short Story (1275 ballots)
“The City Born Great” by N. K. Jemisin (, September 2016)
“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (, March 2016)
“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)
“Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)
“That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (, March 2016)
“An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House)

Best Related Work (1122 ballots)
The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (Tor Books)
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press)
Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Fairwood)
The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (William Morrow / Harper Collins)
“The Women of Harry Potter” posts by Sarah Gailey (
Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

Best Graphic Story (842 ballots)
Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel)
Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)
Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)
Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher (Image)
Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks (Image)
The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form (1733 ballots)
Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)
Deadpool, screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kinberg Genre/The Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment)
Ghostbusters, screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, directed by Paul Feig (Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Village Roadshow Pictures/Pascal Pictures/Feigco Entertainment/Ghostcorps/The Montecito Picture Company)
Hidden Figures, screenplay by Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, directed by Theodore Melfi (Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films/TSG Entertainment)
Rogue One, screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, directed by Gareth Edwards (Lucasfilm/Allison Shearmur Productions/Black Hangar Studios/Stereo D/Walt Disney Pictures)
Stranger Things, Season One, created by the Duffer Brothers (21 Laps Entertainment/Monkey Massacre)

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short Form (1159 ballots)
Black Mirror: “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, directed by Owen Harris (House of Tomorrow)
Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Ed Bazalgette (BBC Cymru Wales)
The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)
Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (HBO)
Game of Thrones: “The Door”, written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, directed by Jack Bender (HBO)
Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping (Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes)

Best Editor – Short Form (951 ballots)
John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Ellen Datlow
Jonathan Strahan
Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form (752 ballots)
Vox Day
Sheila E. Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Devi Pillai
Miriam Weinberg
Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist (817 ballots)
Galen Dara
Julie Dillon
Chris McGrath
Victo Ngai
John Picacio
Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine (857 ballots)
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, edited by P. Alexander
GigaNotoSaurus, edited by Rashida J. Smith
Strange Horizons, edited by Niall Harrison, Catherine Krahe, Vajra Chandrasekera, Vanessa Rose Phin, Li Chua, Aishwarya Subramanian, Tim Moore, Anaea Lay, and the Strange Horizons staff
Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky
The Book Smugglers, edited by Ana Grilo and Thea James

Best Fanzine (610 ballots)
“Castalia House Blog”, edited by Jeffro Johnson
“Journey Planet”, edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Helena Nash, Errick Nunnally, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, Chuck Serface, and Erin Underwood
“Lady Business”, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan
“nerds of a feather, flock together”, edited by The G, Vance Kotrla, and Joe Sherry
“Rocket Stack Rank”, edited by Greg Hullender and Eric Wong
“SF Bluestocking”, edited by Bridget McKinney

Best Fancast (690 ballots)
The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan
Ditch Diggers, presented by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace
Fangirl Happy Hour, presented by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
Galactic Suburbia, presented by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
The Rageaholic, presented by RazörFist
Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

Best Fan Writer (802 ballots)
Mike Glyer
Jeffro Johnson
Natalie Luhrs
Foz Meadows
Abigail Nussbaum
Chuck Tingle

Best Fan Artist (528 ballots)
Ninni Aalto
Alex Garner
Vesa Lehtimäki
Likhain (M. Sereno)
Spring Schoenhuth
Mansik Yang

Best Series (1393 votes)
The Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone (Tor Books)
The Expanse by James S.A. Corey (Orbit US / Orbit UK)
The October Daye Books by Seanan McGuire (DAW / Corsair)
The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz / Del Rey / DAW / Subterranean)
The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Harper Voyager UK)
The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (937 ballots)
Sarah Gailey (1st year of eligibility)
J. Mulrooney (1st year of eligibility)
Malka Older (2nd year of eligibility)
Ada Palmer (1st year of eligibility)
Laurie Penny (2nd year of eligibility)
Kelly Robson (2nd year of eligibility)