Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Free speech

Just a reminder, as we approach the end of the voting period for the Hugo awards, of the tone maintained by many of the opponents of this year's Sad Puppy finalists.

Brad, of course, refers to Brad Torgersen, who coordinated the assembly of this year's list of recommendations. He will not be able to attend the Hugo ceremony, insofar as he is in the military and currently deployed in the Middle East - protecting the right of fellow Americans to express their free speech opinions.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Amazed

Most on-line reviews of Hugo-nominated short fiction this year are being done in bad faith by people who have an elitist agenda and who seem to want to teach the uppity peasants a lesson by showing them how shitty their writing is.

Which is accomplishing nothing because any honest and intelligent observer can see their obvious bias and antagonism. If not openly hostile, at the very least they hold this year's finalists to a much higher standard than usual.

Most of the personal comments I have received over my story - either online or face-to-face - have been positive. But blog posts have usually been a hatchet job. Occasionally some valid criticisms peek through. But generally the blatant hostility is obvious. I don't know why people make the effort for this; they must have a lot of time on their hands and hate in their hearts.

Interestingly, some of the most nuanced reviews have come from people who I've had run-ins in the past, and who seem to be trying to be fair when they know they have a personal bias against me. Although overall critical, they will hit on weaknesses even I would concede.

This all being the case, here's a review that's overall positive. I stand amazed.

Review of “On a Spiritual Plain,” short story by Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, 11-2014)
July 18, 2015

Lela E. Buis

I’m currently reading the Hugo nominations so I can vote. Here’s my second review.

Lou Antonelli’s story is about Earth-people at a base on a planet called Ymilas, and it’s narrated by the base chaplain, a young Methodist minister. Because of the planet’s strong magnetic field, it traps particles that show up as fantastic auroras. When one of the work crew named Joe dies, it becomes evident that it also traps ghosts. The young minister consults with the local alien religious leader and discusses the problem, finds that the spirits of the local dead are also trapped and that they must go on a pilgrimage to the north polar region where they can pass through a gate and dissipate into nothingness. The minister sets out with the religious leader on the pilgrimage and Joe, supported by the local Helpful Ancestors, passes on. When the next man dies, the minister knows they need to go on another pilgrimage.

I rather liked the premise here. The story is well-written, though not very complex, dramatic or exciting–a bit short on conflict. The setup with the magnetic field and the ghosts is creative and provokes questions about the nature of the human soul a.k.a. the electromagnetic imprint left by humans after they die. There is very mild humor in the base commander’s anxiety about the safe return of the transportation equipment the minister uses. Three stars.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My ArmadilloCon schedule

The programming for ArmadilloCon Convention​ has gone live. My schedule is as follows:

Fr1700D Alternate History
Fri 5:00 PM-6:00 PM Ballroom D
Antonelli, Brown*, Dimond, Kimbriel, Mills, Waldrop
Why is this gere so fascinating, and how does it relate to the rest of speculative fiction? What special challenges does it pose for the write -- and reader?

Fr2000E The Art of the Short Story
Fri 8:00 PM-9:00 PM Ballroom E
Allen, Antonelli, Bey, Griffin, Mandala, Wade*

Sa1200DR Autographing
Sat Noon-1:00 PM Dealers' Room
Antonelli, Clarke, Mallory, Moyer, Porter, Wood

Sa1530B Reading
Sat 3:30 PM-4:00 PM Southpark B
Lou Antonelli​

Sa2100D The Hugo Award's Struggle for Relevance
Sat 9:00 PM-10:00 PM Ballroom D
Antonelli, Landon, Muenzler*, Reed, Weisman
A discussion of recent challenges to the award.
The outfit that wants to reprint "On a Spiritual Plain" is Nemira Publishing House, from Bucharest, Romania. Nemira was founded in 1991 and is now one of the largest and most popular publishers on the Romanian market.

As I said, this is a first. Looking forward to it.

Otherwise, looking forward to ArmadilloCon coming up. I will post my schedule as soon as it is finalized and public.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Foreign reprint rights

Well, this is a first - someone's asked for a foreign reprint. A magazine in Romania would like to publish "On a Spiritual Plain".

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

ArmadilloCon schedule

Got my preliminary schedule for ArmadilloCon Convention coming up July 24-26. Very pleased with the panels. I will post my schedule later when it is finalized. but looks great to me.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Different, not bad

One of the problem some people have in evaluating creative arts is that they don't know the difference between "different" and "bad". For example, I've always thought John Cage was a great musical innovator. I personally didn't like his works, but I occasionally listen to it, even "4'33"". I can recognize genius when I see it. I know it's different, but that doesn't mean it's bad.

One of the benefits - and drawbacks - of being privileged in society is that you don't get contradicted. Unless you are intelligent enough to realize your own limitations, you become either oblivious - or contemptuous - of different tastes.

I've noticed how many reviews and critiques of Hugo-nominated woks this year are being subjected to blatant hatchet jobs. A bystander might suppose these are being done in bad faith, but the truth is more depressing - these people simply don't understand people of different backgrounds.

If you have lived all your life privileged by birth, wealth, or political correctness, you may really have problems understanding different kinds of people.

A while back, I was a bit stunned - during an online discussion regarding the Sad Puppies - to find someone who didn't know "Gentleman's Agreement" is a pejorative term. It makes me wonder what social setting this person - very anti-Puppy - grew up in. I learned about Gentlemen's Agreements when I was very young. My father had a job transfer and my family had to move when I was 13. I noticed that as we looked for a home, real estate agents kept steering us to the same town on the South Shore of Massachusetts. I realized Italians weren't supposed to live in some towns. Years later, when I received a scholarship to attend an Ivy League school, I would see people whose social backgrounds were astoundingly inbred. I assumed they thought "The Addams Family" was a reality show.

Mind you, I know many people who are very different from me who are tolerant, pleasant and understanding. Oftentimes I trust and respect them more than people I should have natural sympathies with. If you are a Christian, conservative and straight and you get cheated, double-crossed or back stabbed by some hypocrite, you learn tolerance and respect really fast. You learn to appreciate an individual's quality of character. The absolute worst things done to me in life have been by people who should have been my colleagues based on religion and politics.

Socrates said "Know thyself." I know I have limitations based on my upbringing and life experiences. I think of these when I look at strange and new things. I try to be self-aware. Of course, being human I sometimes fail. But I try.

I would suggest that some people, in evaluating Hugo-nominated works, have been a bit harsh because they didn't understand, maybe didn't think to try to understand, what the author or artist was out to accomplish or wanted. That means the works may have been different, not necessarily bad.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"On a Spiritual Plain"

It's just about three weeks until the end of voting for the Hugo awards. I took some time Friday and made a video of myself reading "On a Spiritual Plain", if you would like to hear the story read by the author his own self. This takes 20 minutes.

(I picked the most quiet place I could find read it, which was the newspaper morgue room - which in our case happens to be an old bank vault.)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Making a "point"

This is my response to both sides in the ongoing literary dispute who have turned the award into a political football.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Anniversary

We're coming up on the tenth anniversary of the publication of my short story, "A Rocket for the Republic", in the Sept. 2005 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction. Publication schedules being what they are, the story went out to mail subscribers in July 2005. It was pretty exciting to see my name in the prestigious magazine.

The story of how I submitted 16 stories to Gardner Dozois at Asimov's in a year and half, and how he finally bought "Rocket", is chronicled in my book "Letters from Gardner", which is a finalist for Best Related Work in the Hugo awards this year. That was a time.

Gardner retired after he accepted my story, making it the last one he bought. In the spring of 2005, there was a discussion on the Asimov's discussion board regarding the upcoming issues, as the last stories from Gardner's inventory were being published. I said that "A Rocket for the Republic" was the last one he bought.

Gardner confirmed that, posting on April 17, 2005, that "Yes, Lou's "A Rocket for the Republic" was the last story I bought--I figured, hey, after buying THIS, the ne plus ultra of stories, the story of stories, there was no point in going on, and so I hung it up."

Which gave as all a chuckle.

"Rocket" was well-received by Asimov readers and came in this the next year in the annual Readers' Poll in the Short Story category.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Illegitimus non caninus

You know, some people encouraging slate voting was not a good idea, and IMHO turned into a real fiasco when a narrow range of stories ended up dominating the Hugo nominations in some categories - but the backlash of advocating No Awarding in those categories, and the spew of reviews of those works obviously done in bad faith is equally wrong.

The internet brings out the worst in people, and the sneers and taunts from both sides in the current literary dispute are sad. Next year I expect we'll see a little more variety in the nominations - I, for one, will not have anything to do with any more recommended lists - and I hope after this back and forth things will settle down somewhat.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Genrecide

Here's a neologism for you: Genrecide.

The dispute that arose when the Sad Puppy selections did so well in the Hugo nominations has probably created a permanent split of science fiction fans - not one created by the literature, but for social reasons.

Both sides have said such horrible things about each other that I doubt the rift will ever be healed. I wouldn't be surprised if some semantic distinction arises later - such as the Sad Puppies' type of fiction being called spec fic as opposed to science fiction.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden and her blog Making Light started the civil war when she realized her chums - the usual suspects - were not getting their Hugo nomination notice emails as usual. She blew up and started the vituperation a week before the actual announcement was made - proving the point, as Larry Corriea was pointed out, that there is an insider clique after all.

Mike Glyer, who's been running his fan site File 770 since dirt was invented, unfortunately has kept the wildfires burning by collecting up Puppy posts and republishing them on his site. The comments threads there have become the clearing house for all Puppy Kicker resentment.

I don't believe either side of completely right or completely wrong, but it really doesn't matter anymore, because regardless of how or who started it, and how it ends, thanks to the internet too much has been said attacking too many people by so many people that there will probably be a long-term drop in readership and popular support.

Perhaps in the future people will say they read magic realism, or space opera, or dystopia, or alternate history - but as a result of the Puppy Wars, no one will actually want to admit they read "science fiction" because of all the negative connotations in the wake of the current unpleasantness.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Spell my name right

The statement, "I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right" - attributed to many historical figures over the years - has been cited as an example of the fact that, in the long run, all publicity is good publicity.

One colleague said recently that, in a few years nobody will remember the details of the Sad Puppy controversy, but they'll remember my name. I'm not so totally assured of that, but on the other hand, I definitely see signs that my name has gotten around more.

I'd like to think that communications and rejections have gotten a little more personal and polite. At least it seems that way to me. I've only had one acceptance since April 4, when the Hugo nominations were announced, but I'm getting feedback with rejections I didn't get before. Being a lone writer in a small town - and not having access to any writer's group - getting any kind of feedback from an editor is valuable.

On the other hand, I just may feel that way because of all the abuse that's been directed towards the Sad Puppies. At this point, not being called an asshole, neo-nazi, homophobe or misogynist on any given day is positive.

Since I am a fellow traveler, not a ring leader of the Sad Puppies, I've never felt the same emotional investment as other people. I do know that I have a temper that can be set off by punching the wrong button, and I've always tried to control that. Some bystanders to the ongoing controversy have noticed that, too.

When I was growing up I was called Pollyanna by my mother because I refused to punch out people who disagreed with me. My father considered any discussion that ended short of gun play as cordial. It was an atypical childhood.

In a discussion yesterday on a web site about my blog post yesterday, one person said:

"I find Antonelli a bit more reasonable than the rest of the puppies. He has stated that the slate was a big mistake, has said that he doesn’t like the use of the word SJW and has said that it shouldn’t be a SP4 next year.

"I think he’s one that it is actually possible to have a discussion with and not just getting talking points back. Main problem is that he seems to have the temper of an irritated grizzly that missed his morning trout."

In light that I am Italian, have diabetes and the body build of a bear, this is the most insightful thing anyone has ever said about me. Got me down, cold.

P.S. I still think any incarnation of Sad Puppies next year is a bad idea, and I will certainly not participate in any manner.

P.P.S. I didn't realize until after I posted this originally that some people don't know I am a first generation American. Both my parents came to the U.S. in the 1950s. My father was illegal when I was born. I am the first member of my family to be a citizen, speak English, and complete my public school education. So I identify strongly as an Italian, and in fact, I would be granted Italian citizenship automatically if I asked.

The spin rack is STILL making a comeback!

I'm still engaged in my policy of buying genre books from the spin racks in Dollar General stores to encourage them to stock these &q...