Two Brief Testimonials

The novel is coming, one of these days! No release date yet for Walking On the Sea of Clouds — it’s still supposed to be a Spring release, and Spring has a few more weeks in it. I’ll let you know when to start looking for it to appear, but meanwhile I thought I’d present two more blurbs.

First, from Mike Resnick, whose stories have garnered more awards and award nominations than any other science fiction writer:

Two things are immediately clear. First, Gray Rinehart knows his field(s) inside out; and second, he writes with grace, skill, and professional polish. What more could any reader ask?

Second, from Martin L. Shoemaker, the award-winning author of “Today I Am Paul”:

Gray Rinehart knows that real engineering is messy, and that Murphy was an optimist. When whatever can go wrong with constructing the first Lunar colony does go wrong, teams on the Moon and on Earth struggle to save the project–and their lives. This is meat and potatoes for the hard science fiction fan.

If it’s permissible to put two different things together, I guess you might say that I know my stuff, and my stuff might appeal to hard science fiction fans. (I admit I really like that “meat and potatoes” line.)

So if you know any hard SF fans, maybe they’d find something to like in my novel.


Look, up in orbit, a Supermoon! (August 2014 Image from NASA/Bill Ingalls.)

Stay tuned, here and to WordFire Press, for more info!

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Another Testimonial: ‘You’ll feel like you’re there’

The WordFire Press team and I have made progress on my forthcoming novel, Walking On the Sea of Clouds, though I’m still not sure what the actual, definite, no-kidding release date is yet. I’m still counting on it being a Spring release — which, if you’ve seen previous posts about the book, you know I take to mean between now and the summer solstice.

In the meantime, I’m pleased — and, I must admit, quite humbled — to present another endorsement, this one from Charles E. “Chuck” Gannon, author of the award-winning Caine Riordan books:

You’ve always wanted to go to the Moon. You’ve always loved hard science fiction. You’ve always gravitated toward believable characters. You’ve never found a way to get all three in the same place, at the same time. Well, now there’s a way. Here’s how:

You pick up Gray Rinehart’s Walking on the Sea of Clouds, the most faithful and gritty ‘you are there’ novel of early lunar settlement I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. This is hard SF at its hardest — by which I mean that not only is the science spot on and largely off-the-shelf, but the characters conform to the emotional and psychological limits of folks we interact with every day. There are no galactic crises to be overcome, no interpersonal conflicts that erupt into homicidal rage, and no cast of quirky tycoons, femme fatales, or wise-cracking test-pilots. This is the Moon as it’s likely to be in the early days of colonization, where even the smallest problems have impacts far beyond what living on Earth has trained us to anticipate.

Annoyed you haven’t been to the Moon yet? Then pick up Walking on the Sea of Clouds; you’ll feel like you’re there.

Hopefully that whets your appetite for the story, or you know someone who might like the kind of story Chuck described. And hopefully in the next few weeks we’ll be able to tell you how to order a copy!


Want to go to the Moon? (Full Moon image from Apollo-11, from NASA.)

Let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested!

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A Testimonial: ‘This book will be treasured’

We still don’t have a definite release date yet, but we continue to work on producing my forthcoming novel, Walking On the Sea of Clouds.

This week I’m reviewing the proof copy sent to me by the fine folks at WordFire Press. They say it’s a Spring release — and Spring officially began two days ago! So sometime between now and the Summer Solstice I anticipate the book being available.

Meanwhile, here’s a very nice endorsement from David Farland, New York Times-bestselling author of the Runelords series:

There is a very rare and special pleasure that comes from reading a beautifully written book from a true expert in his field. In reading Walking on the Sea of Clouds, it immediately becomes apparent that Gray Rinehart is intimately familiar with the field of near-future space exploration. He understands what it will take to get mankind to the Moon and beyond. He writes about the military as only someone who has been in the military can. He writes about bureaucracies and funding in the way that someone who has struggled with them does. When it comes to astronauts and space exploration, his characters ring undeniably true. He understands that some people are motivated to give all that they have in order to go into space simply because he has devoted so much of his life to this great endeavor.

This book will be treasured by anyone who has ever dreamt of visiting the Moon, walking on another world, or bathing beneath the light of a distant star.

If that sounds interesting, stay tuned — here on the blog or via my newsletter — to learn when you can order a copy! (And if any of your friends are science fiction fans, let them know to be on the lookout for it, too. Thanks!)


Want to go to the Moon with me? (Image: NASA/Goddard/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.)

Back to the editing….

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Proof of … Something

An update, for those who are following along at home: This morning I received the proof copy of Walking on the Sea of Clouds, which includes notes and corrections from the copyeditors for me to check.

Meanwhile, the folks at WordFire Press have sent Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) — uncorrected copies — to reviewers. I have electronic versions of the ARC that I’m also sending to folks who want to review a pre-release version.*


(Click for larger image.)

Still no definite release date yet. It’s supposed to be a Spring release, and technically Spring begins next Monday — but Spring runs all the way to the Summer Solstice, so we have a few weeks to finish putting all the pieces together!

Stay tuned …

___
*If you want the ARC to review, or you know a reviewer to whom I should send one, let me know!

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Look: It’s a Book Cover!

At least, that’s what it looks like to me:


(Click for larger image.)

What do you think?

The novel is a Spring release from WordFire Press. Stay tuned for more information!

And if you know anyone who might be interested in a near-future science fiction story of survival and sacrifice on the Moon, encourage them to watch this space or sign up for my newsletter for updates.

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Why I’m Not Self-Publishing My Novel, Part III

(If you’re interested, Part 1 of the series is here and Part 2 of the series is here.)

Since 2016 was a year ago already (!), a brief recap: my near-future science fiction novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds, is in the pipeline to be published by WordFire Press. Way back last year (!) a newsletter reader sent in this question: Why did I go with a small press instead of self-publishing? I came up with three reasons. The first two are linked above, and lead in sequential fashion to:

Third, and Possibly Most Important: Publishing is Hard

I say that with the authority of experience, because I’m already a publisher. I produced and published my two CDs — though I reckon the term is “released” in the music business — and that wasn’t a trivial effort. Granted, I didn’t engineer or master them and my performance on them was limited to what I could reasonably do, but once the tracks were mastered I handled the rest of the production process.

I also say “publishing is hard” with the authority of vicarious experience. Several friends of mine are in the self-publishing business, writing and publishing and art directing and marketing their own work. Some of them have enjoyed very high degrees of success. For my novel I could learn from their examples and follow in their footsteps and take on all those responsibilities as well, but, as Simon Tam said in an episode of Firefly, “That thought wearies me.”

Books

(Image: “Books,” by Moyan Brenn, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

The thought wearies me because I know how much effort it entails based on my experience in the nonfiction world. As my blog and newsletter readers alike know, late last year I self-published the revised and updated version of Quality Educationavailable here (and you and all your friends in education should definitely check it out). Not only did I restructure the book so that it’s nearly unrecognizable from the original print version, but I got it formatted for e-book as well as for print-on-demand production, consulted on the cover design (I knew better than to try to do it myself), and have since been trying to market it in the midst of everything else I’ve got going on.

The thought of self-publishing my novel wearies me because the experience of self-publishing my music and my education book nearly wore me out.

So, when we get down to the proverbial brass tacks, I really like the idea of participating in the publishing process with my novel, rather than running the process. And I hope that by leaving the details of production to the good folks at WordFire, I might actually free part of my brain to write some more songs and more stories — short and long!

___
P.S. For a different take on self-publishing’s place in the larger publishing universe, Larry Correia recently “fisked” an article from a “literary” author who had little good to say about self-publishing.
P.P.S. As noted at the outset, this brief blog series was originally an issue of my every-once-in-a-while newsletter. You can subscribe to get the latest on my shenanigans.
P.P.P.S. Seriously, I would greatly appreciate it if you would take a look at Quality Education, and encourage your friends in education to take a look at it, too. Thanks!

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Novel News!

Given that “novel” can mean “new,” that title may seem a bit redundant — but in this case it refers to the literary type of novel.

Here’s the news: I’m pleased to announce that I’ve contracted with WordFire Press of Monument, Colorado, to publish my near-future science fiction novel, Walking on the Sea of Clouds!

(Image from NASA-Goddard and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.)

 

As you might gather from the image above, Walking on the Sea of Clouds has something to do with the Moon. Specifically, it’s about the early days of the first commercial lunar colony.

We already have lots of stories that depict successful, thriving lunar bases and colonies either as primary locations or as jumping-off places; two of the most famous, of course, are Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. But before there can ever be large, sprawling bases on the Moon there first have to be small encampments with only a few people living somewhat precariously — and that’s what my novel is about. It’s a story of the struggle to survive in a harsh environment, the drive to succeed in a dangerous endeavor, and the sacrifices that we may have to make to achieve our dreams.

I’m very pleased to be working with WordFire Press, which was started by bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. WordFire is a small and relatively new press with an impressive list of books in its catalog, ranging from reissued midlist titles of established authors like David Farland, Alan Dean Foster, Jody Lynn Nye, and Mike Resnick, to new titles from up-and-coming authors including my friends Cat Rambo, Ken Scholes, and Brad Torgersen.

So, these are exciting times for the Gray Man! As we go through the editing and production process, I’ll post occasional updates, and of course as we get closer to completion I’ll post plans for the novel’s release and any “book launch”-type events we pursue.

And I hope we can interest you in going Walking on the Sea of Clouds!

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Halfway to the Hugos

For the most part, I’ve stayed out of the near-constant sniping that has characterized the run-up to this year’s Hugo Awards. (I’ve even tried to ignore it, but to no avail.) I’m caught up in it by virtue of my nominated story first being included on the “Sad Puppies” recommendation list, and if you don’t know what that is then I hope you consider yourself lucky.

After posting a few items in the early days of the controversy, I retreated to the fringe of the issue rather than stomping around in the middle of it — except when convention planners (cough, cough … ConCarolinas) put me on panels designed to dredge up the matter. Thankfully, those have come off with courtesy and even respect, two qualities I have missed in much of the debate.

But since we’re at the halfway point between the Hugo nominations announcement and the Hugo Awards ceremony itself, it seems like a decent time to add a few new observations and thoughts.

Note that I do not intend to try to change anyone’s mind. I get the impression that this feud is so rancorous because both sides genuinely love and appreciate genre fiction — science fiction and fantasy in all their various forms — and I consider it a shame that different viewpoints on it have devolved into such deep divisions. I only want to make, for the record, a few hopefully coherent remarks.

To aid the casual reader, here’s what I plan to cover in this overly-long post:
– My disappointment, but also my ambivalence, at the way things have been characterized
– The metaphor I’ve most recently developed to describe the situation I’m in
– Some Scripture verses I am trying to hold on to as this process unfolds
– My regret at being unable to attend the upcoming ceremony
Forewarned is forearmed. Now, knowing what’s coming, if you don’t want to read the rest that’s perfectly fine.

Hugo Award Logo

(This is what the fuss is all about.)

Unfortunate Characterizations. Some of the criticism that has arisen in the aftermath of the Hugo Award nominations has reflected disappointment at the way the nominations unfolded; that’s not too surprising, as reviewers and other commentators are only human. But some of the criticism has extended beyond the work, to include ad hominem attacks that only stoke the fires of righteous indignation.

People familiar with the controversy likely don’t need to be reminded of the kinds of things that have been said on both sides of this divide. In the same way that civil wars and other internecine strife are often the harshest of conflicts, the acrimony has been thick and the poison pens have yet to run out of ink.

Suffice it to say that various people, in various places, have characterized the “Sad Puppies” ringleaders and their “Rabid Puppies” counterparts — as well as those of us whose works were nominated — in … uncharitable terms. Words like racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and even neo-Nazi have been bandied about. Likewise, strong and often unduly harsh language has been used against those on the “anti-puppy” side, i.e., toward those on the side of the Hugo Award traditions and WorldCon fandom. Both of these are unfortunate, and I hope I have not contributed to the incivility. (That may be the primary virtue of being relatively unknown, and deliberately quiet.)

I find the practices of name-calling, threatening (even if only implied), and heaping scorn and vulgarity on one another to be extremely disappointing. I will leave it to those who feel hurt in the exchanges to address any accusations that have been made against them, as I do not intend to engage in any comparative analysis of who said what, when, to whom, about whom, and whether one slur or accusation was worse than another.

I will, however, say this: I find myself somewhat ambivalent about the possibility that people I do not know might characterize me in unfriendly terms, whether directly or through guilt-by-association. The fact is that most of the commentators do not know me, personally or even by reputation, and their reports can hardly be taken as reliable. I admit that I am somewhat concerned that other people, potential fans or potential friends who read such things, could come away with a false impression; however, I am confident that those who know me, who have interacted with me on a personal basis, will not be fooled into believing falsehoods about me.

I believe in the right of every person — particularly every U.S. citizen, since the right is enshrined in our Constitution, but really every living soul on the planet — to free speech. I believe that right, like all rights, carries with it certain responsibilities, and that when those responsibilities are abandoned the right can be curtailed. I believe we should exercise that right with care and compassion, and that where we fail to do so we may expect consequences and even repercussions.

And in that belief, I say: If I have been uncharitable in how I have characterized anyone on either side of this issue, or if in some other way I have failed to exercise my First Amendment rights responsibly, I apologize to anyone I may have hurt.

My Hugo Experience, in Metaphor. I’ve shared this a few times in one-on-one conversations, and once in a convention panel, but I may as well put it out here as long as I’m up on my virtual soapbox. Like members of Congress, I’ve revised and expanded my original remarks.

My new metaphor is …

Back in January, I was offered a “Sad Puppies” seat — economy class and “bring your own lunch” all the way — on a Hugo Awards flight. During a layover, some folks with “Rabid Puppies” seats embarked, and some of our SP tickets were stamped with RP as well.

When the plane landed in Nomination City, some of us were surprised, because we expected to land in Passed-Over-Ville. (Every other time people have told me they nominated one of my stories, I haven’t even made the post-award long list, so I didn’t expect this time to be any different.)

It seemed that the plane had been hijacked. When the flight subsequently took off from Nomination City, en route to Hugotown, the reaction to the hijacking was loud and angry. Some passengers snuck off the plane during the Nomination City stop, and a couple bailed out later; I’m not sure yet if their parachutes worked, if they made safe landings, or if anyone has picked them up out of the wilderness. I hope they’re okay.

The more it looked like a hijacking, the more some people on the ground talked as if they wanted to shoot down the plane; some of them seem determined to do so, even if only with their own personal weapons. Just as worrisome, some of the hijackers have talked as if they want to crash the plane in the middle of Hugotown. My fellow passengers and I are left to wonder if there’s anything we can do to improve our chances of survival.

I’ve been in touch with my friends, both inside and outside the community of fans, throughout the ordeal. Those who contributed to my ticket or who like my work or who support me personally almost all told me that they want me to stay aboard, and ride it out. One person advised me to bail out, parachute or no. Outside my relatively small circle of family and friends, from what I can tell quite a few spectators are glued to their computer screens, watching every agonizing minute of the event; I don’t know if they care a whole lot what happens to me or the other passengers.

As for me, it’s been a pretty turbulent ride and the storms are still raging. I just want the plane to land, so I can get off and go about my business.

Like any metaphor, this one has its weaknesses; but it’s the best I’ve been able to come up with, so I’m sticking with it for now.

Some Scripture I Consider Relevant. I don’t know if you adhere to any religious beliefs, but I do. Specifically, I’m a Christian. I won’t preach at you, though; if you’re ever interested in what I believe and why, just ask.

That said, I have been trying very hard to apply some specific Scriptures to my Hugo Award situation, and particularly to how I relate to people on all sides of the debate. Among others, I am trying to live up to these, all of which are paraphrased:

  • Let your speech be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so you know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)
  • Speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)
  • Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. (Philippians 2:3)
  • “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them your left cheek as well.” (Matthew 5:39, the words of the Lord)
  • “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you.” (Matthew 5:44, the words of the Lord)
  • Do not pay back anyone evil for evil. (Romans 17:21, 1 Peter 3:9)
  • Insofar as it depends on you, live at peace with all people. (Romans 12:18)

And, perhaps more difficult than any of those, these cautions from the brother of the Lord (James, chapter 3, also paraphrased):

… we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, [but] the tongue — a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things — is a fire, the very world of iniquity…. No one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God…. Brothers, this should not be….

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth…. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and evil. But the wisdom from above is pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

I encourage anyone who holds to the same creed I do to consider whether they might apply these and other verses to help them maintain an even keel in the storm of rhetoric, and possibly to better represent the One to whom we owe our ultimate allegiance.

Wherever I have failed to live up to these admonitions, it is my fault alone. It always is. And at least my failures will continue to be mostly private, since

Unfortunately, WorldCon and the Hugo Awards Ceremony Are Out of My Reach. I’d like to visit Spokane in August for WorldCon, but at this point the likelihood is miniscule.

You might think I’d rather avoid WorldCon, and thereby avoid all the drama. I admit that sounds pleasant, but the drama would find me whether I’m present or not. And I would like to see my friends, on both sides of the debate — and possibly make new friends. I’d like to meet new people, become better acquainted with people I’ve only met once or twice, and hopefully convince some of them that I am a flesh-and-blood human being, neither a wild-eyed zealot nor a bug-eyed monster.

I’d probably spend a good deal of time in the filk room, anyway. Hopefully I wouldn’t be as intimidated as I was at WorldCon last year.

But, alas, between a higher-than-expected tax bill earlier this year, the production costs of my new CD, and the need to plan for some very special upcoming expenses, I don’t envision having the resources to attend WorldCon unless a whole bunch of people suddenly start buying copies of my album. (Don’t get me wrong, that would be fine by me and you can do so right here; but I don’t see it happening.)

Some Closing Thoughts. Whenever we value something highly, when we have invested time or treasure in it and derived some reward (however intangible) from it, and that thing is threatened in some way, we rightly resent and are justified in trying to defend against the threat. That is true whether we are talking about our families and friendships, our homes and personal property, our reputations, or institutions with which we identify. I think sometimes we forget that others have the same right, to defend those things which they value.

Based on that, I understand the impulse on the part of longtime WorldCon participants and serious fen to protect the institution and its flagship award. I understand that barbarians storming the gates, brazenly and with unexpected success, is frightening and naturally foments resentment and anger.

I choose the barbarian example deliberately. Outsiders are labeled barbarians not because that is what they call themselves, but because their language is incomprehensible to the insiders — to the refined ears of the citizens it sounds like “bar-bar-bar” (which among science fiction convention-goers is not, in itself, damning). But the outsiders do have language and culture, however strange it may seem to the citizens: from their own point of view they are not barbarians but Goths, Visigoths, or Ostrogoths; Celts, Huns, or Vandals.

This year’s Hugo-nominating barbarians, unlike historical tribes characterized as such, brought alms with which they gained entry into the city and bought their citizenship: the $40 Supporting Membership. And they brought their own opinions — perhaps studiously formed, perhaps informed or even influenced by others — which they expressed in the nomination process. They joined the community, but some of the original citizens still see them as barbarians, as outsiders, and seethe. I understand that, and I have seen the results in some of the reviews and comments about my own nominated story.

So I offer this: Reading should be a pleasure and a joy, and if any Hugo Award voter is upset at the way my novelette wound up on the ballot and has not read it yet, I encourage them and give them my full permission to ignore my entry completely.

Let me reiterate, and emphasize, that if the manner in which my story was nominated gives you any ill feelings, from the slightest nausea all the way to migraine-inducing rage, please do not read my story. Skip over it in the Voter’s Packet, pretend it doesn’t exist, and with my full blessing vote “No Award” in its place.

Our brief lives have limited joys, and I do not want to steal anyone’s joy for any reason. If reading my story will be more burden than blessing, set it aside and read something that is likely to please you. Pick a story that will engage you without setting your teeth on edge. Maybe in a month, or a year, or ten, you can return to my story and read it dispassionately and extract from it some small something of value. But even if not, if you never feel free from the 2015 Hugo Awards controversy and so choose never to read my story, that’s okay; at least it will not have added to your distress. I will content myself with knowing that a few people, at least, who read it have liked it.

For my part, I will continue to hope for the ire and indignation to wane, and for the firestorm to burn itself out without consuming the village. Or, if you will, for the plane to land so we can disembark.

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Getting Just Deserts? I’d Rather Just Have Desserts

It has been “interesting” these past few weeks, for varying degrees of the word, watching the attacks and counterattacks of the Hugo Award fracas* and dealing with the fallout and toxic residue. Being a person of little import or influence may have shielded me somewhat, for which I’m thankful. At least for the moment, some of the ire seems to have abated, indignation reduced from a full boil to a slow simmer.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake
(Getting just dessert is certainly tastier than getting one’s just deserts. Image: “Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake,” by Josh, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Despite the fact that my nominated story was part of the notorious slate of candidates that locked up more categories than anyone thought possible, several friends — including some who were aware of the controversy — sent me nice congratulations. And a few of them, in congratulating me, said it was “well-deserved.”

I value their support very highly — things that are rare are precious — and I appreciate the sentiment, but “deserve” carries a specific connotation to me such that I prefer not to use the word. My way of looking at it is perhaps peculiar, and one that others may consider odd, but I think no one “deserves” an award (least of all, me). To put it in a more direct way, I don’t “deserve” a Hugo Award — but maybe not for the reason that you think. The way I see it, no one does.

My first objection to saying that I or anyone else “deserves” an award goes back to my time in the Air Force, when I was writing evaluation reports and promotion recommendations and such. Even though “deserve” can mean “be qualified for” or “be worthy of” — and I hope that’s what my friends meant — I learned not to use the word because it can also carry the connotation of being “entitled to” something. No one is entitled to or has an automatic right to such a reward or place of privilege.

Thus I would not say, “Technical Sergeant So-and-so deserves promotion to Master Sergeant,” but instead would say she was ready for promotion, was qualified for and already taking on some of the roles of the higher rank, or perhaps that in my opinion she should have been promoted sooner. Likewise I would not say that Lieutenants Frick and Frack “deserve” Air Force Commendation Medals, but instead that they had each “earned” a medal by virtue of their service.

So when I think about the Hugo Awards — for “excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy,” and the “most prestigious award in science fiction” — I think that I do not “deserve” such recognition, and indeed none of us does, in the sense that none of us are entitled to it. None of us has a right to anything such as that.

The second reason I dislike using the word “deserve” is that in contrast to the phrase “just deserts” it seems to me everyone has things happen to them — good and bad, but particularly bad — that they don’t deserve. When we use the word that way, such as “Oh, that’s terrible, he didn’t deserve that,” the implication is that the person did not earn or have control over the outcome but rather that fate had conspired against them for reasons unknown and unfathomable. She did not deserve to endure that pain and suffering, he did not deserve to contract that disease.

To flip that from the negative to the positive: Even when I think of the good things that have happened in my life, I am loath to say that I deserved them. Some I could claim to have earned, but many seem arbitrary, in the sense that I did little or nothing to earn them, that fate conspired in my favor perhaps for no reason at all, when I might have deserved — really deserved — far worse. I am grateful for all such blessings, but I do not feel that I deserve them.

All of that is a long way of saying that I don’t think I “deserve” a Hugo Award nomination, much less an award itself, because things like that are (to me) not, strictly-speaking, deserved. Even so, I am grateful for the nomination and I might, just might, possibly, have earned it. Why? Because I did the work.

I wrote a story. In fact, the work I did on my story (or that any of the nominees and would-be nominees did on their stories) was complete long before the nomination period opened. I cast that bread upon the waters, so to speak. I did the work, cashed the check, and expected no further reward.

I still expect no further reward. I don’t “deserve” any further reward. I appreciate that some people think that the work — not me, personally, but the work I did — is worthy of recognition. I acknowledge that others disagree: some on the basis of the work, some perhaps for reasons unconnected to it. But I am buoyed by every report that someone appreciated spending time in my make-believe world; I claim no right or entitlement to any accolade, but I am humbled to think that anyone considered my work to be worthy of recognition.

I admit that all the controversy surrounding the nominations has made this a less pleasant experience than it might have been. A friend whom I respect even contacted me with the suggestion (encouragement? urging?) that I should withdraw my nomination, to avoid being caught, dragged under, and having my career drown in the raging turmoil. I appreciate the concern, and to some degree share it; the idea was, and in some respects still is, tempting.

But to paraphrase what I told some other friends when the furor was first cresting: whenever the uproar threatens to steal all my joy I try to concentrate on two things. First, I wrote the best story I could. Second, some people seem to have liked it. I would not go back and undo the first, and I will not cease to be thankful for the second.

And, for the record: I’m also thankful for desserts. Especially pie.

___

N.B. The above was adapted from an article I sent out in my newsletter. If you want to receive my newsletter, then I may question your judgment but you can sign up for it here anyway.

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*I hesitate to call the Hugo Awards controversy a “war,” since at heart this is all contention over works of imagination. Far more has been written about it than may be possible to read (part of the hazard of any controversy involving writers). For my own take on the matter, if you’re curious, see What I Nominated for Hugo Awards, and Three Ideas to Consider and The Hugo Awards: Considering the Controversy.

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What I Nominated for Hugo Awards, and Three Ideas to Consider

Being a person of little influence, I did not publish my Hugo Award nominations or recommendations before the deadline. Very few people would have been interested.

I’m publishing them now because they seem to make a nice counterpoint to some of the controversy surrounding the awards. Plus, they give me a jumping-off point for looking at three ideas the World Science Fiction Society and World SF Convention might consider. Or not. I’m just another voice in the electronic wilderness, after all.

Idea Pirate Flag
(“Idea Pirate Flag,” by Richard Winchell, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Fair warning: This will be a long post. Much longer than my usual posts, I’m afraid. Feel free to skim, or skip, or just go back and read about my nominated story.

The Nominations. I am sorry to say that few of my picks ended up on the Hugo Awards ballot. I don’t generally nominate according to recommendations, even when the cause is to remedy “Puppy Related Sadness,” and I suspect the same is true for most people I know. And unfortunately, my time being increasingly precious these days my pleasure reading is often limited to works by friends of mine. I don’t offer that as justification or excuse, it’s just how it is. I nominate what I’m familiar and comfortable with.

If you didn’t get the “Puppy Related Sadness” reference, see this blog post by Larry Correia, which was part of the first round of what became the “Sad Puppies” campaigns to encourage his fans to purchase WorldCon memberships, nominate, and vote for the Hugo Awards. We are now in round three, abbreviated SP3, this time coordinated by Brad Torgersen; and I believe I am quite honest in my assessment when I say that without Brad and Larry calling attention to my story, in all likelihood it would not be among the Hugo finalists. I’ll reference the “Sad Puppies” controversy throughout this post, including as I discuss my nominations.

How far off were my picks? Let’s look at the professional literary categories.

My nominations for Best Professional Editor (Long Form) were:

  • Tony Daniel
  • Jim Minz
  • Toni Weisskopf

What can I say? I work with all of them in my supporting role as a Contributing Editor for Baen Books, and I know they know their stuff. If one day I am fortunate enough to have a publisher buy a novel of mine, I would happily work with any of them (hint, hint); but if I got the opportunity to work with another editor at some other publisher, I would probably nominate that person, too.

The actual 2015 lineup in this category, with 712 nominating ballots counted, includes Vox Day, Sheila Gilbert, Jim Minz, Anne Sowards, and Toni Weisskopf. My score: 2 out of 3, both of whom were on the “Sad Puppies” list.

My nominations for Best Professional Editor (Short Form) were:

  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Trevor Quachri
  • Bryan Thomas Schmidt
  • Edmund Schubert
  • Sheila Williams

Surprise, surprise — here I also nominated people with whom I’ve worked. Each of them has been my editor, in one form or another, and I respect them all. The 2015 category lineup, with 870 nominating ballots, consists of Jennifer Brozek, Vox Day, Mike Resnick, Edmund R. Schubert, and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. My score: 3 out of 5, all of whom were on the “Sad Puppies” list.

My nominations for Best Related Work were:

  • Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli (Merry Blacksmith Press)
  • “Lockstep: A Possible Galactic Empire,” Karl Schroeder (Analog)
  • Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy, Dan Koboldt (http://dankoboldt.com/science-in-scifi/)
  • “Spanking Bad Data Won’t Make Them Behave,” Michael F. Flynn (Analog)
  • “Why Science is Never Settled,” Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)

Here, you might get the impression that I like the science fact articles in Analog — and you’d be right. What you may not get is that Dan Koboldt and Tedd Roberts are friends of mine, Lou Antonelli is an acquaintance, and I think they do fine work. The 2015 Hugo nominees in this category, with 1150 nominating ballots, include works by Ken Burnside, Lou Antonelli, John C. Wright, Tedd Roberts, and Michael Z. Williamson. My score: 2 out of 5, both of whom were on the “Sad Puppies” list.

My nominations for Best Short Story?

  • “Ashes and Starlight,” David Farland (Shattered Shields)
  • “First Blood,” Elizabeth Moon (Shattered Shields)
  • “The Keeper of Names,” Larry Correia (Shattered Shields)
  • “No Lonely Seafarer,” Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed)
  • “Totaled,” Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge)

Controversy must abound here, since most of my favored nominees were stories I enjoyed from a particular anthology that means something special to me — including two by authors personally known to me. The other two are also very good stories by friends of mine, who sent them to me for consideration. But controversy is where you find it. The 2015 Best Short Story nominations, tallied from 1174 nominating ballots, are by Annie Bellet, Lou Antonelli, John C. Wright, Kary English, and Steve Rzasa. My score: 1 out of 5; yes, another on the “Sad Puppies” list.

My nominations for Best Novelette were:

  • “Beneath the Ice of Enceladus,” James C. Glass (Analog)
  • “Dancing with Death in the Land of Nod,” Will McIntosh (Apocalypse Triptych, Vol 1)
  • “Life Flight,” Brad Torgersen (Analog)
  • “The Magician and Laplace’s Demon,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld)
  • “Mind Locker,” Juliette Wade (Analog)

Can you tell yet that I like Analog stories? And, yes, I know almost all of those authors.

Turns out the 2015 nominations for Best Novelette (with 1031 nominating ballots) are by a guy with my name, plus Edward M. Lerner, Michael F. Flynn, Rajnar Vajra, and John C. Wright. My score: 0 out of 5. Shocking!

I only submitted three nominations for Best Novella:

  • Calendrical Regression, Lawrence Schoen (NobleFusion Press)
  • “Claudius Rex,” John P. Murphy (Alembical 3)
  • “From Earth I Have Arisen,” Matt Rotundo (Alembical 3)

Why only three? Because these fellows are also friends of mine, and sent me their tales to read; and, I didn’t even look at any other novellas from 2014 — not even the ones in Analog. Sue me.

The 2015 Best Novella nominees, based on 1083 nominating ballots, are by Tom Kratman, Arlan Andrews, Sr., and John C. Wright. Mr. Wright, it turns out, has three nominations in this category, which for my money is a little bit ungracious and not very sportsmanlike; had he asked my advice, I would have suggested that he set a new precedent by selecting the best of his stories and declining the other two nominations. But since we’ve never met, alas, my advice remains about as valuable as most advice. (Which is to say, not very.) My score: 0 out of 5. Perhaps I should be outraged? On second thought, I’d rather not; I tend to say things I regret when I am outraged. And sometimes even when I’m not.

And, finally, my nominations for Best Novel were:

  • Black Tide Rising (series), John Ringo (Baen)
  • The Chaplain’s War, Brad Torgersen (Baen)
  • Monster Hunter Nemesis, Larry Correia (Baen)
  • A Plunder of Souls, D.B. Jackson (Tor)
  • Trial By Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)

Why so many titles from Baen? Aren’t I more widely read than that? Not usually, no. Remember, as a contractor to Baen I’m charged with selecting novels for us to publish so I need to keep up with what our authors are producing. (Yes, I also need to keep up with the field in general. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I don’t read as many Baen titles as I should, let alone titles from other publishers.)

As it turns out, the 2015 Best Novel nominees (1827 nominating ballots) are by Ann Leckie, Kevin J. Anderson, Katherine Addison, Marko Kloos, and Jim Butcher, though Larry Correia turned down a nomination for MHN. My score: 1 out of 5 until Larry dropped out, then 0 out of 5.

So, all in all, I didn’t do so well on the nominating front.

C’est la vie.

Why, you ask? Why didn’t I nominate everything on the SP3 list? Am I not concerned, do I not want to remediate if not eradicate Puppy Related Sadness?

The simple answer is, I’m not a drone. And I prefer to think that other people are, likewise, not drones: that they are capable of making informed decisions even in the face of strong recommendations from people they like and/or admire. In my most optimistic moments, I think that’s exactly what happened; in my most pessimistic moments, I think that many people straight-voted the SP3 list or the alternate “Rabid Puppies” list without considering other worthy contenders, even though the SP3 organizers encouraged people to read the works and make up their own minds; in my all-too-infrequent realistic moments, I believe the truth is somewhere in the middle.

So, many of the recommendations from the “Sad Puppies” list made it onto the Hugo Awards ballot, including my own novelette. And there has been much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth — some of it, my own.

An episode from my youth may illustrate why I cannot muster the enthusiasm to cheer the overwhelming “success” (scare quotes intentional) of the “Sad Puppies” and especially the “Rabid Puppies” program. If you’re tired of this discussion, feel free to skip this next part:

When I was a senior in high school, an arsonist burned down our school: Winyah High School in Georgetown, South Carolina. (Some readers may think the general reaction should have been, “And there was much rejoicing,” but for many if not most of us that was a very dark day.) In response, the school board took the opportunity to plan for a new school, in a new location, and to merge WHS with the crosstown school. I was part of a group that began studying what mascot and color scheme the new Georgetown HS would have. We met; we solicited and came up with ideas; we took the ideas back to our respective schools and let the students vote. And when we came back together, our school’s votes had split among the different options while the crosstown, smaller school’s votes were nearly unanimous in favor of one particular choice, which won the day. Had they coordinated their voting, with encouragement to vote for that single option? Almost certainly. And for those of us whose school had been burned down, and now exists only in memory, disappointing barely scratched the surface of our emotions.

I say all that to say this: When I signed on to the SP3 list — and, yes, I was invited and agreed — I had no inkling that it would see such “success.” I anticipated a few finalists would hail from the list, but that other worthies would join them in every category. I remember well that old feeling of being shut out, the deep disappointment of feeling that my vote and my effort had been wasted, and I had no intention and certainly no wish to leave anyone else in the position. I didn’t, and don’t, think “Sad Puppies” was orchestrated to achieve that effect, and I regret that its “success” came at such a cost. I imagine that is a cold comfort to some of my friends.

Now, having procrastinated too much …

The Ideas. Something I observed during my years in the Air Force and subsequent years in a university setting is that the people who benefit from (or under) a system are often less likely to find fault with it. That is, officers who were promoted, or selected for command billets or other choice assignments, under the extant evaluation and selection systems tended to view the systems pretty favorably: after all, the systems recognized them as promotable or highly qualified — a favorable result — and therefore the systems could be trusted to produce other favorable results. Likewise, professors with tenure rarely complain about the tenure system; the system worked for them, so they are naturally disposed to think of it as a good system, if perhaps a bit onerous. No matter the organizational system, those who benefit from it often do not perceive its faults or look for ways to improve it. I submit that was true for those who benefitted from the Hugo Awards system before the “Sad Puppies” program, and I submit that it is true now for many who benefitted from the “Sad Puppies” onslaught. It is, in my experience, quite natural for this attitude to develop.

N.B.: That does not (I repeat, not) (I-tell-you-three-times, not) mean there is anything nefarious going on in the system, or that the people running the system are engaged in any kind of wrongdoing. Everyone is doing their best. And in general, everyone believes they are doing the right things.

Enough intro. For anyone who’s interested, I present below three ideas to consider for the Hugo Awards. I do not claim them as original, but I also have not scoured the hundreds of Hugo-Award-related blog posts with their thousands of comments to see if they have been put forth by other people. Undoubtedly they duplicate to some degree what others have suggested. I include them here based on the idealistic notion that the Hugo Awards might truly represent more of science fiction and fantasy fandom than simply WorldCon fandom; if, as some have suggested, WorldCon members wish to keep the Hugos to themselves, then these ideas would not apply.

1. Remove the limit of 5 entries per category, and put everything that gets more than 5% on the final ballot. A friend called my attention to a version of this, involving a more complicated scheme, but I think this simple idea would work in terms of inclusivity and ease of implementation. Simply, enlarge the pool of nominated works. Ties for 5th place already allow for a 6th nominee, but why stop there?

The statistics for this year are still being held close by WorldCon until after the awards ceremony, but had this idea been in place last year, there would have been 10 finalists for Best Novel, 13 for Best Novella, 7 for Best Novelette, still only 4 for Best Short Story, 7 for Best Related Work, 10 for Best Editor (Short Form), and 12 for Best Editor (Long Form). To examine just my category, Best Novelette, in more detail, the finalists out of 728 ballots cast would have been:

  • “Lady Astronaut of Mars,” Mary Robinette Kowal
  • “The Exchange Officers,” Brad R. Torgersen
  • “The Waiting Stars,” Aliette de Bodard
  • “The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling,” Ted Chiang
  • “Opera Vita Aeterna,” Vox Day
  • “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King,” Ken Liu
  • “Forbid the Sea,” Seanan McGuire

The outcome would probably have been the same — “Lady Astronaut of Mars” was a fine story (if I recall, I placed it 2nd on my ballot) — but what would it have hurt to have included Ken Liu and Seanan McGuire’s stories on the ballot? Or to have included Lauren Beukes, Sofia Samatar, Sarah A. Hoyt, Helene Wecker, and Scott Lynch on the Best Novel ballot? Etc. Is it better for the ultimate award recipients to be counted as the best out of 5 because of an arbitrary cutoff, or as the best out of 7 or 10 or more that met the 5% criterion?

Yes, it would mean more in the voter packet to read. So what? Hugo Award voters like to read, from what I understand. Plus, it’s not as if reading everything in its entirety is a requirement to vote. Folks will read as much as they want of what they want, regardless of anyone enjoining them to consider all the finalists on the merits. (Some friends have even told me that because my story was on the “Sad Puppies” list, they will vote “No Award” for it regardless of any merits it might have, and I suspect some will not read it at all; that’s disappointing, but well within their rights, and I appreciate at least their honesty about it.)

One more “counterfactual,” alternate-history-type scenario to consider with respect to this notion: If there had been no artificial cap of 5 per category, in 2013 there would have been 15 finalists in the Best Novel category, including Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia. Again, the outcome might have been the same — my daughter enjoyed Redshirts and suggested that I would, too, though it remains on my ever-lengthening “to be read” pile — but the ballot would have been demonstrably more open, more inclusive. And there might have been a little less Puppy Related Sadness in the world.

2. Establish arrangements for members of other conventions (e.g., Dragon_Con, GenCon, any of the Comic Cons) to receive nominating privileges. I have seen in several places the idea of reducing the price of WorldCon supporting memberships to enlarge the voting pool, and this could be an adjunct to that idea. It need not be limited to large cons, though at first they may be the most able to implement it.

Again, this would only apply if WorldCon wished to invite other con-goers to participate. Other conventions might have the choice between automatically enrolling all of their members or establishing a separate “Hugo Nominations” or “WorldCon Partner” membership with a nominally higher price, perhaps as low as $10 or even less, an amount that would be passed through to WorldCon. At the partner conventions, mentions in program books and at opening and closing ceremonies, plugs during literary and other panels, and later direct e-mail contact would serve to make more fans aware of the Hugo Awards and what they represent.

If Dragon_Con, for instance, became a “WorldCon Partner” at only $5 a head, WorldCon would get a cool quarter-million dollars. And if these were “nominating only” memberships, WorldCon could still sell full supporting memberships that conferred the right to vote on the nominated finalists.

I have no idea how many members of other conventions would nominate under such a program. I get the impression that some of the serious fen at WorldCon might dislike the idea of allowing more casual fans to submit nominations, especially if they might prove susceptible to outside influence. But it could make an interesting pilot program for a few years, to see if it gained any traction and had any impact.

3. Restrict professional publishing employees from in-house nominating. With respect to my nominations above, I pointed out that several were for Baen Books personnel or publications, and that I have a professional relationship with Baen as a consulting editor. I see no reason to be coy about that, to wink or pretend otherwise; indeed, I consider it quite natural that I would be more aware of and even more appreciative of Baen’s people and products than I am of other publishers’. I suspect the same is true of those who are employed by or work closely with other publishing houses, specific magazines, etc.

That is not to say that we do not read what other publishers produce; we do, though maybe not as much as we would wish. (You can take that as the “royal we” if you don’t like me speaking for other people.) But it is natural for us to consider the things we work on and those we are affiliated with to be superior. If that makes me sound biased, then guilty as charged; in my experience, everyone is biased one way or another, to greater or lesser degrees. The most problems creep in when we let our biases blind us, when we let them become prejudices.

The question, though, is whether these biases have ever skewed nominations one way or another. I cannot say. It may be that any effect they have had is negligible. But one way to minimize the possibility of any such biases would be to restrict convention members who are employed by specific magazines or publishing houses from nominating works from their own companies. (In some respects, this would be similar to the restriction from self-nomination in the Nebula Awards.) Writers and artists, often contracted to multiple companies rather than employed by one, would not fall under such a restriction. And the restriction would only apply to nominations; once a work was on the final ballot, anyone would be able to vote for it.

So What? In the main, I’ve typed this and hung it out here to get it out of my head. I don’t expect anyone to take it too seriously, for two reasons. First, there may be a thousand reasons why these ideas are bad, but I’m too biased to see them. Second, I’m still a newcomer to all this.

Yes, I consider myself a newcomer. I probably always will. While established writers my age were working on their writing craft, paying their literary dues, going to conventions and whatnot, I was making a career out of the Air Force, paying different dues, going TDY and whatnot. Some people are able to carry on both a writing career and another career; for a long time, I was not. I even gave up writing fiction for many years, and came back to it in more fits than starts. I have been on the fringes of fandom, aware of it, much longer than I have been involved in it.

As such, I confess my own naivete: for a long time, I believed that the Hugo Awards represented all of fandom, not just WorldCon fandom, not just “serious” fen. I believed that even though they were administered by the WSFS and WorldCon, decided upon and conferred by them, that the Hugos stood for the entire field. I believed that the WSFS and WorldCon were carrying out a duty equivalent to a sacred trust, on behalf of the entire universe of fans.

And even though I have recently been disabused of that notion, in my idealistic cors cordium I still believe it. As such, I would like to see the Hugo Awards remain a glorious ideal, a pinnacle of achievement, prestigious for all the right reasons, even if it means that I never receive one.

A Final Word. I apologize again for the length of this screed. I could probably use a good editor.

Thank you for some of your precious time.

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