I went to LoneStarCon in 2013 and was eligible to nominate for the 2014 Hugo Awards. I did not, but out of respect for the awards.
I spent a lot of time last year reading the previous year’s nominees and actually putting some effort into my final votes for the 2013 roster. I wasn’t blown away by every category, nor did all of my top picks win, but I read or experienced most or all of those nominated for last year’s Hugos. At the same time, I spent a lot of time ready old series I’d never experienced before. A Song of Ice and Fire, Lilith’s Brood, The Culture, Sandman, etc. As a result, I didn’t read much of what came out last year. I didn’t feel I had enough exposure to everything that came out last year to feel I ought to nominate for this year’s Hugos.
That isn’t, however, to say that I did not become familiar with many of the big titles from last year and so the 2014 Hugo shortlist looks pretty familiar. Many of the titles represented are already on my Goodreads to-read list, though I imagine I won’t get to as many as last year. I’d very much like to find time for Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross. I never saw much appeal in Robert Jordan’s series and unfavorable comparisons between it and LotR have done nothing to drive me that way. Sad to say that though I think Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant is an awesome part of the community, I’m wasn’t a big fan of her Newsflesh series. Tend to prefer her short fiction. I have no interest in Larry Correia’s shortlisted novel (and I understand that his nomination is controversial but so far I’m not sure why).
And that’s just the novels.
As with many readers, I look forward to the shortlist because it often points the way to the works I missed over the last year. This year was no exception, but I’m kinda thrilled to see that my recent immersion into genre fandom has paid off. The list is less foreign that it was last year and far less so than the year before as I’ve brought my familiarity up to date with the big actors in the field.
Of course, not everything is positive. Many are commenting their shock and revulsion at Vox Day’s inclusion in the novella category. Honestly, I’m not too happy about it either. Some have point to his shameless call to arms to his apparently active readership to nominate. While some find that distasteful in general, I find it only personally so. If that’s how he wishes to play it, oh well.
What I find far more disturbing is that in the increasingly open world of genre fandom (I know we have far to go, but SFFH is far less the white boys club it once way), an unapologetic bigoted troll like Vox Day isn’t drowned out by the new cultural zeitgeist.
My hope is that we as a community see his inclusion as out own call to arms. Rather than point and blame and lose heart, we see his relative prominence as an aberration and continue fighting for an inclusive genre world.
Oh, and if you can’t attend, maybe consider a supporting membership to throw votes to some a little less racist, misogynistic, and homophobic? You know, like anyone else. That’s my thinking, at least.
While everyone else is raving about the events from last night’s Game of Thrones (I know, right, Oh Em Gee, Purple Wedding FTW!), I’d like to point to a show from last night that’s getting a bit less attention.
I’ve been super into Bob’s Burgers from the start. I’d have gone as Louise last Halloween if the thought hadn’t occurred to me too late to find bunny ears. Often I don’t find animated series until a full season is out and available and getting its due, but this time was different. Already a fan of Archer, all I had to hear was Jon Benjamin and I was down.
One of the elements of the show that struck me from the first was the amazing family dynamic. It’s in the first episode that Bob Belcher, the family patriarch, utters perhaps one of the best known lines from the show:
"Listen, you’re my children and I love you but you’re all terrible at what you do here and I feel like I should tell you, I’d fire all of you if I could."
"You’re terrible, you’re all terrible." But Bob, an underachiever with great heart and a true passion for his work, is a supportive father and husband. Of course, he has to mess up because why else would we watch, but more so than with many shows, I really love their family dynamic.
Last night’s episode managed to make the show salient for me a new ways, and revealed a constant thread throughout.
Bob’s Burgers is a sexually progressive and open show, and I don’t quite know how I’ve missed it so far.
In season one, episode 6 (“Sheesh! Cab, Bob?”), Bob moonlights as a taxi driver to give his eldest daughter Tina the birthday she deserves. She’s a social awkward—her first words in the show are lamenting an itch crotch—tween turning teen but she’s intelligent, unique, and a super sweet older sister to Louise and Gene. Linda, the matriarch, doesn’t have to push much to convince Bob that they need something special for her 13th birthday and so for weeks Bob drives a midnight cab and lives on 15 minute naps.
It also does wonders for how we see Bob. He quickly realizes that most of his clientele are either gross—like toss your cookies in a cab and then run away gross—or they’re transgender sex workers. Guess who he becomes friends with? And, you know, often a show like this might have him connect with the sex workers only to drop them with the credits, but Marshmallow comes back several times over the series. They’re still friends. It’s pretty great.
Then there are the throwaway jokes from Gene, the middle child and only son, who often refers to himself as the pretty daughter, or to how he’ll grow up to be a confident woman. Only they’re not really throwaway jokes, are they? They’re frequent, and funny, and ever so slightly tinged with the fact that Gene is in the middle in many ways. He certainly wants to connect with his siblings—the more traditionally masculine Louise and the boy/zombie-crazy Tina—but these jokes also feel genuine in a way. They’re supposed to mess with Bob, but they do so only up to a point. I’m not implying that Gene is gay or trans or anything. He’s just a goober little boy right now, but Bob and the rest of the family accept him for who he is.
So long as he only says “beefcurtains” on his birthday.
These elements of the show have always been funny but they took on a greater meaning with last night’s episode. “The Equestranauts” starts off like a straight parody of the often strange world of Bronies. If you’re not sure what that is, I’ll wait here while you read this. Very quickly, however, Bob jumps into this strange subculture—of which Tina is an unknowing participant; she thought the con was for all the fans, not just the adult men—to defend his daughter after she’s taken advantage of in a non-sexual, non-creepy way by one of the fans.
But the show is not content to write off all of the fans as loons. The vast majority of the Equestranauts are fun, nice people who are into something a little outside the mainstream and they’re not judged for it. Linda sees Bob in his horse costume and makes apparent references to an interest in pony play. Louise, the youngest daughter, makes a comment about discovering a new kind of men (those who loves a young girl’s television program). And though there are comments about the whole con being a little sexually awkward, Tina admits that’s part of the reason it’s in her wheelhouse. She is a little sexually weird, as are all thirteen year olds. Even if they weren’t, they might as well be. What the hell is that new hair about?
What’s far more significant than a little strangeness is the open, safe environment that the con represents, not the cloistered strangeness of one of the participants. He’s written off as the aberration, rather than indicative of the subculture as a whole. For Bob and Bob’s Burgers, what is most important is love, acceptance, and inclusiveness.
There’s no need for judgment because everyone is interested in working together. Sometimes, that just means getting the in-laws out of the house. Other times, it means cementing their love for one another in novel ways.
Seriously, if you aren’t watching Bob’s Burgers, get on it. Hilarious, forward looking, incredibly awkward.
I’ve hit a rough patch with the novel and as with all things writing, I’ve come here for my self-mediated therapy. Here we go.
How does one know when to take a break. To ensure that I’m always putting work in, whether I want to or not, I assign myself daily word counts. I tell myself, often, that it’s ok to write the count only to delete it the next day. Of course, I never do. It’s hard to delete words I’ve written, even when they suck, so I usually archive them away to sit in a file that I’ll never open. Might as well delete, but I don’t.
I write every day with infrequent and brief breaks at most. Over Spring Break, I didn’t write anything and managed to get by without worrying about it much. This past weekend, I did the same. My lady and I needed some time out on the lake devoted to fun and one another, and we got it at the expense of a couple thousand words. Again it felt good.
But when I sat down to write this morning I was all doubt. I doubt often. I read something recently that good writing is plagued by self-doubt, revision, deletion, and lots of feelings of inadequacy and wishes to give up. Bad writing just requires typing. It’s a nice thing to hear as someone who doubts their writing often, but this has been different. For a few weeks, my doubts have extended beyond the chapter, and the character’s motivation, and the general plot out to the series itself, which I increasingly want to finish just so I can archive the whole thing as an experiment before moving on to something better.
So how does one separate the usual doubt and reticence, which ought to be met with renewed vigor, from the undeniable truth that this story or character or scene or whatever needs to be let alone, for a while if not indefinitely?
One thing that seems to characterize the latter as distinct from the former is a lack of care, both for and about the subject at hand. One alone, for instance a lack of emotion for the character you are writing or a lack of care about the devotion you’re giving to the story, is problematic enough but when coupled with the other is pretty fair evidence that you’re getting ready to spiral out of control and loss the work you’ve been pouring yourself into for ages.
Spontaneous Problem Solving
You have to worry, if you’re a plotter rather than a pure discovery writer, when you’re constantly having to save the story from your poor planning. Lately, I’ve felt that not enough is going on in the story and I have to fight between the urge to push the envelope and the resulting clean up that necessitates. When you create problems not central to the story you’re telling, for the sake of mixing things up, that can be a problem. Then again, something a scene just needs some mixing. Or a plot needs some random fussing. Again, this is a fine line and probably different for everyone, but I like designing a plot as a solid framework and allowing the vines to embellish without overtaking the structure. If the structure is struggling, beware. If the foundation is cracking, fix and run away. At least for a while.
I’m far less certain about this one. It may merely apply to my ilk. I happen to think that, though will power is finite, you should general possess a consistent level of motivation and enthusiasm for telling a story. If you need to write but never want to, that’s consistent. If you look forward every day to working, again consistent. It’s when you start to wobble, start to oscillate wildly, that you ought to be concerned.
Of course, we’re not machines, and you also have to be conscious of other circumstances that might be the root cause. Poor drivers have a lot of accidents, there is no degree of separation from cause and effect there. Drug addicts with severe anxiety don’t have a drug problem so much as a severe anxiety problem, treated improperly, so of course you have to be careful how you connect the dots.
So if it’s all subjective, how it it helpful? I think that’s part of a process. This is one of the reasons I like to write posts directed outward that are very much about what I’m experiencing. The end result is, hopefully, as much for you as it is for me. Watching and knowing yourself allows you to monitor major changes and what needs to be done to make a project of your life better, but we don’t do any of that in a vacuum.
Duh, I know, but platitudes and aphorisms are repeated for a reason.
How, then, does one take a break without disengaging?
This is a big concern for me. I don’t ever want to take time off just because something isn’t working. Struggle is important and helps on the process to learning from mistakes and bettering yourself and your process. And my girlfriend pointed out this weekend that I’m of a strange mind that very much appreciates and prefers the European attitude towards time off and play while holding myself to a very American style of overwork and hard earned time off. She says, and I believe, that we deserve time off by virtue of being thinking, breathing beings. Easier applied to others than myself, though.
What form does the break take? I’m inclined to perhaps spend more time researching while always keeping an eye out for mere procrastination. In the past, I’ve let one project sit and worked on another, smaller one to clear the mind. You can, and I do, keep an idea buffer for a list of interesting writing prompts.
Of course, it may be the case that none of these quite works for you. Maybe none of these will help you get that struggling work back on it’s feet. But maybe you look at Heinz 57 and think of the 56 earlier attempts that all amounted to practice. Or the million light bulbs attempted before one worked and changes the very nature of evenings.
Maybe all of this is to say that there is always a positive light to shine on difficulties. I’ve certainly been pretending this is the case for long enough, making sure that I always feel up to any task. Some certainty that I can stand to the task is always a boon.
And so too is boredom. Sometimes you just need to let an idea sit in the ether and if it doesn’t grow maybe that’s your answer.
Of course, I’m not there yet. For now, I’m just in the torturous uncertainty in between, pretending to know more than I do because at least while I’m pretending, I know that the answer is somewhere in there, kicking around and waiting about 55 attempts to come forth with what I need to make the next step in the right direction.
work on something else, or allow wandering and hope for the boon that can be boredom.
Work Hard. Remain Humble.