The Hugo Awards, writing and the shifting world

As soon as the Nebula Awards wrapped up, I reluctantly looked at the Hugo nominees, hoping there might be a few new glittering titles worth reading. Now that’s a pisspoor attitude to have toward one of the few popular award programs for my preferred genres of good writing, but there we are. After several years of small-minded snipes and scandals, I was not excited about the Hugos. I must admit, however, the 2017 nominees look pretty good on the surface. Will 2017 be the year that we stop trying to make science fiction great again and simply try to produce good writing and tolerate our unique talents and differences?

The full list of nominees is here. You will see  a lot of overlap with the Nebulas in several categories and a smattering of titles that bellow their continued alignment with a particular contrariness purporting to be authentic, bold and politically incorrect. They may be any or all those things to some readers. I just find them boring and/or childish, but this is not another critique of the Sad Puppies, or whatever they are calling themselves now. It’s a musing on how our polarized literary landscape mirrors the polarized political landscape. It seems that the reactionary protests among some authors about “real” science fiction, fantasy and horror and their disgust with writers and works that don’t follow the traditional scripts and genre features were just foreshadowing of what we see happening today in many different parts of society and political expressions.

I hope the writerly community is on an upward trajectory, but even if it is questions and considerations remain. Where, in the continuum of motivations, does this reactionary surge come from? Is it more fear- or hate-based? Can that even be quantified or does it simply depend on the individual? While we go on arguing nature versus nurture, my experience in the world of public health makes me wonder if perhaps fear/hate is caught like a virus. If it is the latter, how do we inoculate ourselves? The well-known public health preventive measure of social distancing seems exactly what we should not do, so maybe that metaphor doesn’t hold up.  Continue reading

The first Ray Bradbury Day is today!

I hereby proclaim today, August 22nd 2016, to be the first Ray Bradbury Day, which shall be celebrated every year as a tribute to this great American writer and also to the idea, dramatized in Fahrenheit 451, that books and stories are important. There are many reasons to celebrate writing of all kinds, but, at the heart of it, the importance of books rests on the fact that they record and bear witness to human civilization, especially the imagined worlds that exceed our reality. No book can ever really be destroyed so long as we cherish and remember the stories within.

A piece of the first chapter in Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is my choice for presentation this year. It’s one of my favorite books and beautifully written.

For more on what inspired this exercise and how you can join in, check out my post here. We’re using #RayDay on Twitter. If you decide to celebrate Ray Bradbury Day, please send me a link to your presentation.

Let’s remember Ray Bradbury and celebrate our favorite books on August 22nd

I have always wanted to find a fitting tribute for Ray Bradbury to express how much I loved his writing and how grateful I was to have discovered him when I was a young reader. I wish I had come up with a tribute while he was living, but nothing is perfect and it’s never too late to celebrate greatness so I am going to make my tribute on his birthday–August 22nd–and I invite you to join me.

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Until Bradbury’s death in 2012 he entertained and enthralled us during his long career with novels like Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, collections like The Martian Chronicles, and dozens and dozens of short stories. Before I had read any of these works–I must have been around 7 years old–I remember seeing the film Fahrenheit 451 on TV. I didn’t understand much of the movie, but I was really intrigued by the ending where everyone was memorizing books and reciting them, in a camp in the woods.

A few years later, when I read the book, this idea about the fundamental importance of reading deeply impressed me. For the first time in my life, I felt it was not only okay for me to do it, but it was actually important. Bradbury opened a door for me that changed my life, and I know I wasn’t the only one.

So here’s my idea. Let’s celebrate “Ray Bradbury Day” (#RayDay) on August 22nd by memorizing a short excerpt from any book you cherish. Record your excerpt on audio or video and share it with your friends in any way that makes sense to you. Here’s an example.

If you clicked on that last link you saw me recite a little from Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s not a climactic scene, but for all we associate with Bradbury — Martians, space, the future, horror — that novel is a testament to Bradbury’s ability to convey love for messy human beings through tender and thoughtful writing. Who better to celebrate and how better to celebrate the importance of the written word — an issue close to Bradbury’s heart — than taking cherished written words, preserving them in our minds and sharing them with others.

Beautiful illustrated novels are still out there — but not for the masses / Hermosas novelas ilustradas todavía existen — pero no para todo el mundo

Stumble around long enough and you will find…something.

My quest to discover why we don’t see more illustrated fiction, particularly illustrated novels, continues. I have begun to pester a few authors whose work clearly calls out for beautiful illustrations and illustrators whose work has impressed me. I’m querying them about what barriers there may be from both the writer’s and the illustrator’s perspectives, and how those barriers could be overcome. I hope I’ll have some significant responses above and beyond “It’s too expensive” to share with you in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I found The Folio Society.

I got so excited when I saw this amazing cover for their illustrated edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which is coming out in April. The illustrator is Sam Weber, and while you’re on his site, check out his work in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

I think I knew about The Folio Society before, but I had pushed that information into a dusty corner of my head. There are many…dusty corners. The point is, yes, works that are deemed classics may indeed be illustrated one day. But doesn’t that seem overly selective? (More grumbling here.) Continue reading