Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Puppies in the heartland

After three conventions in five months - in Kansas City, Houston, and Oklahoma City - I have to say I have not seen any animosity against the Sad Puppies effort, and in fact, many statements of support.

The Puppy Kickers would have you think that if you are a Sad Puppy and you go out in public, people will spontaneously attack you in righteous indignation. The fact is, the s-f literary establishment is cliquish and, while the Puppy Kickers have been feeding each others' nutty outrage (nutrage?), most fans don't care as much about the Hugos as they do, and many fans have over the years noticed the social inbreeding and the tendency to ostracize anyone who doesn't fit into their narrow political parameters. I've seen and heard many fans express satisfaction that someone has stuck it to the snobs.

The leading lights in literary s-f are on a political spectrum with Obama on the right and extending God knows where to the left. And as for God, forget it. Any professions of faith get you branded an idiot at best, usually a bigot. The characterization by Tor Editor Irene Gallo of the Sad Puppies as neo-nazis, homophobes and racists is pretty much the party line.

There are a lot of Christians and Republicans between the west bank of the Hudson and San Francisco, but these people don't seem to know it. The Puppy Kickers are scattered all across the U.S. - John Scalzi lives in Ohio, George R.R. Martin in New Mexico - but let's face it, wherever they live is a little suburb of the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

In the places I have been this summer, the fans - if not people of faith and Republicans themselves - know people who are and have friends who are, and they don't have that visceral hatred towards the average American that the Puppy Kickers have. If the U.S. had a parliament instead of a Congress, we'd have a Republican Prime Minister. As someone who's followed politics both personally and professionally for as long as I have. I know the only reason the Democratic Party gets as many votes as it does is the relentless ballot box stuffing in the big cities. Most Americans vote Republican.

Most people also identify themselves with some religion. But it seems the Puppy Kickers don't seem to know anyone who goes to a church, mosque or synagogue, or who votes Republican. Being privileged by birth, wealth, or political correctness, the Puppy Kickers see no reason to be fair or care about the conditions that led to the slapdash backlash against their cliquishness.

The assertion the elites didn't orchestrate efforts to nominate certain works each year is specious. A friend asked me at one of my recent conventions if I think there is a blacklist against aspiring authors. I told it it wasn't necessary, the opinion leaders are so uniform in their outlook any formal list or slate was unneeded. For the last few years, all I had to do was look to see what Scalzi, Jim Hines, Rachel Swirsky and Mary Robinette Kowal was blogging about to know what was going to be on the Nebula and Hugo ballot.

The fans in the heartland know and recognize the narrow base of social acceptance in literary science fiction and most are happy to see some backlash against it. Fandom remains open and accepting of all types of people in a way that literary s-f left a number of years ago.

The Puppy Kickers cite well-known authors who are known conservatives - Mike Resnick and Larry Niven are two - but they came up through the ranks years ago. People like Larry Corriea and Brad Torgersen have entered the field in the past ten years, and have seen and felt first-hand the snubs and insults of the snobs. Both were nominated for the Campbell Award for Best new writer in their first year of eligibility. They didn't win. Now, that award allows you two years of eligibility, and over the years many writers have has two shots at winning - but neither Larry nor Brad were even nominated in their second years of eligibility.

The Puppy Kickers would assert it's because as people got to know them better, they realized they sucked as authors. I suspect it's more likely they were shunted aside because they do not conceal their Mormon faith.

In 2012, when Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for president, most of the leading lights in the s-f  literary world combined their hatred for people of faith with their hatred for Republicans by attacking Romney in the most vile language. Quite frankly, I personally believe there are some things you should never say to or about people, regardless of the subject. In light of the attacks on Romney, is it any wonder all the Mormon s-f writers went off the reservation? It's almost a human rights issue - "you can't say that about one of my coreligionists.

I doubt most of the Puppy Kickers have any Christian friends, and certainly no Mormons. But here in Middle America there are plenty of Christians, Mormons, and even - as Jay Lake used to say - "low church atheists" - people who don't believe in the supernatural, but, like Jay, didn't mind if you needed a faith.

I remember when Jay said the source of so much ill feeling were the "high church atheists" - people who didn't believe in God, and wanted to stamp out your religion, too. Jay was a smart man and a nice guy.

As I have made the convention circuit, I have been heartened by the many people who have been kind and supportive of my work, and either supportive or tolerant of the Sad Puppies effort. It reminds me that most people are thoughtful and considerate human beings, and the internet is a tool that is - like the machinery left behind by the Krel as depicted in the s-f classic movie "Forbidden Planet" - letting the darkest and worst innermost aspects of human nature loose upon the land.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Back home

Coming home from SoonerCon in Oklahoma City reminds me that I've attended three conventions in just about five weeks - ConQuest in Kansas City May 22-24, ApolloCon in Houston June 19-21, and SonnerCon June 26-28. Now for a break - I have a week off for a summer vacation this week. My next convention will be ArmadilloCon Convention in Austin July 24-26.

A Facebook friend asked me today, "What do you get out of this much con-going? It's not a financial benefit is it? I'm curious."

I replied that I do it for self-promotion and networking. I have seen the benefits accumulate over the years of people getting to meet and know you a bit, to know that you're a real person. I suppose it works for me because I'm very outgoing, and I'm also a much better public speaker than a writer.

I also feel this year I have a special obligation to get out there because of my Hugo nominations. I feel if I'm asking people to consider my virtues as a writer, they have the right to see me and buttonhole me.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Off to Oklahoma City

Patricia and I will be driving to Oklahoma City tomorrow to attend SoonerCon. Then next week I will have my summer vacation - the first vacation I've had since 2013.

Last year I had two weeks' paid vacation cancelled when the newspaper I worked at was sold and the new owners said as far as they were concerned I was a new employee and I had to work a year before I had any vacation time. That's why I was unable to attend LonCon in August.

I worked seven years under the previous owners but "Poof!" - My vacation evaporated. I'm as much in favor of private enterprise as anyone, but it's these little cheats from greedy corporations that turn people against business.

However, korporate karma can be brutal.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Hugo nominations

I received two certificates in the mail Monday from the Sasquan Hugo committee for my two nominations, in the Short Story and Best Related Work category. Patricia says she will get them nicely framed so they can be hung in my home office.

By the way, I am only the fourth person (as best I can tell) ever to be nominated in a fiction and non-fiction Hugo category in the same year (Mike Resnick has done it twice). This has happened before in the following cases:

Mike Resnick - 2001

Redchapel : novelette
Putting It Together: Turning Sow's Ear Drafts into Silk Purse Stories : related book

Old MacDonald Had a Farm : short story
I Have This Nifty Idea...Now What Do I Do With It? : related book

Michael Swanwick - 2002
The Dog Said Bow-Wow : short story : 2002 (winner)
Being Gardner Dozois : related book : 2002

John Scalzi - 2009
Zoe's Tale : novel
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 : related book (winner)

Monday, June 22, 2015

My #1 fan

Back from ApolloCon in Houston. Patricia and I had a great time, and John Alexander Husisian made my con when he showed up wearing this!

John said when he contacted the company that made the shirt, he was told it had to be personalized, which is why it says "John is" at the top. He said he was told that without that, it would be seen as merchandising, since I am a celebrity!

John said he knew I would be tickled to be called a celebrity.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Off to Houston

My wife and I are driving to Houston Friday to attend ApolloCon. The weather continues to be stormy, with intermittent thunderstorms, but it's not like we will be on the back roads. Houston is pretty much due south of where we live in East Texas. It's a five hour drive. After the drive I made to Kansas City Memorial Day weekend for ConQuest, this will be a breeze, and I have my lovely wife with me.

I look forward to attending this year. Last year it was held the same weekend as SoonerCon in Oklahoma City. I accepted SoonerCon's invite before I got ApolloCon's. This year I can attend both; SoonerCon is next weekend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Updated ApolloCon schedule

Here is my updated schedule for ApolloCon​ this weekend:

Friday 4 p.m. That's Funny - Humor and strangeness go hand-in-hand. Panelists discuss the elements of humor in speculative fiction.

Friday 8 p.m. Sm'tkRoyani and Bob - It's one of the great unspoken rules of Sci-fi and fantasty: don't let your characters' names make the reader wonder whether your cat walked over the keyboard. Still, you might not want to call your alien buffalo-squids Dick and Jane, either. How can you create inventive, original, internally-consistent names, and what are some of the best (and worst) examples in popular fiction?

Saturday 10:00 a.m. What We Know Now - Twentieth-century writers predicted many different technological advances. What do we have in 2015 that these writers didn't foresee?

12:00 p.m. That Old (Black?) Magic - Discussion of what makes magic believable and examples of magic systems that work well or don't.

2:00 p.m. Autographing.

4;00 p.m. Small Press Pros & Cons - An honest look at the pros and cons of publishing with a small press. Audience questions are welcome.

Sunday 11:00 a.m. Autographing

Sunday 1 p.m. Reading - I will be reading my Hugo-nominated short story "On a Spiritual Plain".

This update reflects my autographings, plus a panel change - I was taken off the Saturday panel on Underwear and added to the Friday panel "That's Funny!"


Today marks the 12th anniversary of the publication of my first piece of fiction. "Silvern" was published by Revolution SF on June 17, 2003. It is still archved on-line.

Thanks to then-editor Jayme Lynn Blaschke who gave me my start.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sasquan schedule

I have received my preliminary schedule for Sasquan. I have a reading Thursday at 2 p.m. (for 20 minutes), and on Friday I have the Sidewise Awards & Panel: What if "Science Fiction" Had Been Called "Speculative History?" at 2 p.m.

The Sidewise Awards for Alternate History will be awarded at the beginning of this panel. Participants will be Steven Silver (M), David Brin, Eileen Gunn, Derryl Murphy, and myself.

The panel description is as follows:

While speculative fiction was born with the "what ifs" of Sir Thomas More's Utopia and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, many of the "what ifs" over the centuries have explored various historical incidents. Â Explore the history of speculative history, and think about "what if" the field had been more focused on history than science.

Saturday is taken up with a rehearsal, reception and then the Hugo awards ceremony.

This doesn't include any workshops or kaffeeklatches. I have already agree to help with a workshop. The writing workshops are three hours each, panels are 45 minutes, readings are 20.

The Century Mark

I just realized that, with 94 short stories having been published since 2003, and five pending publication, my next sale will be my 100th published story.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Barring unforeseen circumstances, my wife and I will be at ApolloCon next weekend. Here is my program schedule:

Friday 8 p.m. Sm'tkRoyani and Bob - It's one of the great unspoken rules of Sci-fi and fantasty: don't let your characters' names make the reader wonder whether your cat walked over the keyboard. Still, you might not want to call your alien buffalo-squids Dick and Jane, either. How can you create inventive, original, internally-consistent names, and what are some of the best (and worst) examples in pupular fiction?

Saturday 10:00 a.m. What We Know Now - Twentieth-century writers predicted many different technological advances. What do we have in 2015 that these writers didn't foresee?

12:00 p.m. That Old (Black?) Magic - Discussion of what makes magic believable and examples of magic systems that work well or don't

3:00 p.m. Changing Your Underwear - Like other garments, fashion in underwear changes. Panelists discuss underwear and foundation garments of the past, present, and future.

4;00 p.m. Small Press Pros & Cons - An honest look at the pros and cons of publishing with a small press. Audience questions are welcome.

Sunday 1 p.m. Reading - I will be reading my Hugo-nominated short story "On a Spiritual Plain".

Friday, June 12, 2015

Taken from the headlines

This was a photo I took myself of the demolition in Sept. 2013 for the local newspaper.

It's always nice to start the day by dropping a contract in the mail.

Crosstime Publishing will be printing my ghost story "The Last Run of the Piney Woods Express" in its upcoming anthology, "Bewitched, Betwixt and Between".

This story is based on a real event, when the Union Pacific Railroad tore down an old depot - without any advance notice to the community - rather than deal with possible asbestos mitigation. The city and county would have liked to have had the opportunity to restore the old depot for historic uses. But the railroad decided it was cheaper and easier to just knock it down and plant grass.

Which is just what the SOBs did.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Keeping perspective

I want to take a minute to thank the many people who have been supportive and encouraging to me in the wake of the controversy engendered by this year's Hugo nominations.

I am proud of my work. No, I am not the greatest s-f writer on the planet. I am not in the Top Ten. Heck, I don't know if I am in the Top 100. But there are many people who enjoy my work, and they're the reason I write. I certainly don't do it for the money. I write for the fans and the enjoyment it brings both them and myself.

Many people take the whole subject way too seriously, and social media is prodding society into a collective slow-motion nervous breakdown. We all need to slow down, unplug, take a deep breath, and remember what is important in life - family and friends.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The early voters

Every day I see another hateful "review" of stories by myself and fellow Sad Puppies on some blog. What makes me chuckle is how the drumbeat of prejudice continues, but - and anyone who had ever been involved in an election knows - the voters left are probably the undecideds.

You see, in any election, the diehards and extreme partisans will always be the ones to vote early, because their minds are already made up. They know how they are going to vote, and nothing will dissuade them. Most of the Puppy Kicker ballots have already been cast.

The people left are those who are undecided and/or willing to make up their own minds. The Puppy Kickers who are still ranting on the web are shouting in an empty theater.

I suspect, the "reviews" being as biased and bitter as they are, that most reasonable people are now being repelled by these screeds. The other comments are not helping, either. David Gerrold has become a tedious scold. Attacks, such as the one by Irene Gallo of Tor books which came to light recently, only create sympathy for Sad Puppies.

Neither side has covered itself in glory, but from what I see, when Sad Puppies have behaved badly, it is because they have been viciously and unfairly attacked. It's a defensive reaction. I am the first to admit that, if you insult and attack me, it's quite possible I'll lose my temper. I'm Italian, remember?

On the other hand, I get the impression most of the viciousness from the Puppy Kickers has been cold-blooded and heartless. Given the choice between wearing my heart on my sleeve, and not having a heart at all, I'll take my chances with losing my temper - and being hurt - by keeping my heart.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Ahh, the beat goes on...

I posted a version of this screen grab Saturday, but I deleted the thread later because I had to go to work and I did not want the discussion exploding while I was away.

I have since found a larger screen grab which shows some context to the comment.

There have been assertions in other locales that Gallo's comments are libelous. They're brutal, obnoxious and hateful , but trust me - as a journalist, I know whereof I speak - they are not libelous.
In the U.S. libel is a civil suit. She did not cite names in her post, so there is no one with standing to sue for libel.

It's protected free speech opinion. Now - as many people have noted in the past in other contexts - being able to exercise your right to free speech doesn't mean you are protected from ramifications. The government is barred from stifling your free speech, but individuals can exercise THEIR right to tell you what they think of what you said.

I think a lot of people are wondering what is going on with Tor publishing, but that's another - although related - subject.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

"The Mole and the Sun"

I've been contemplating compiling another collection, with an "Atlantis" theme. Over the years I've written many stories that reference Atlantis as a historical fact. The most recent is "The Queen of the Lesser Gods", which has been published in C Spot magazine.

Strangely enough, the one story I've ever written that actually takes place at that time has never sold. I first wrote it in 2004. A year or two later it underwent a major revision as a result of a collaboration, but that version was also never picked up.

As a result of the publication of "The Queen of the Lesser Gods" - and thoughts about the Atlantis-themed collection - I decided to tackle the story again. My collaborator and I are no longer chums, so in deference to him I decided to go back and revise my original version. I had to pull it off a back-up floppy disk that's probably been sitting around for ten years.

I found it interesting that while I was somewhat proficient at the time I wrote the story - I had already sold "A Rocket for the Republic" to Gardner Dozois at Asimov's - I still hacked off hundreds of words of clunky prose as I rewrote the story last night. The word count dropped from 2,500 to 2,064.

The story is now called "The Mole and the Sun". Back in 2013, the television show "NCIS: Los Angeles" used a similar idea - a sleeper agent hiding an atom bomb to destroy an enemy city. In my story, the "mole" exacts revenge for the destruction of Asvin (Atlantis) by detonating a hidden "sun bomb" in the enemy capital.

I sent it off this morning to a market that opened a submissions window on June 1st.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Mid-week update

Taking stock today of where I am with my fiction writing, I note I have a novel in the slush pile of a major publisher, five short stories pending publication, and 17 short stories in slush piles around and about. Plus I'm exploring the idea of another themed collection, this time of stories that tie in somehow to the legends of Atlantis.

Considering I'm a full-time journalist, I'd say that's not bad for a part-time speculative fiction writer.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

"The Queen of the Lesser Gods"

C Spot magazine, where I work part-time as managing editor, wants to start running short fiction as part of its mission to promote the creative arts in Texas, so I donated a short story, "The Queen of the Lesser Gods". It has a particularly nice layout (which I had nothing to do with).

It's my 94th short story published in 12 years, since my first short story "Silvern" was published in Revolution SF in June 2003.

I noticed that my entry in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia was recently updated to reflect the fact that "Silvern" was my first published story. For the longest time it said my first story was "Double Crossing the Styx" which was published in Continuum Science Fiction in 2004. I assume that was because my bibliography in the Internet Science Fiction Data Base (ISFDB) starts with "Styx". I suppose free online pubs such as Revolution or Bewildering Stories don't show up on their radar.

Whatever happened to that old Sunbelt?

By LOU ANTONELLI Managing Editor It’s rained almost daily for the past four months. The ground is saturated; walking across grass is lik...