Not a Blog

Lords of Fantasy

July 30, 2021 at 8:55 am
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The upcoming World Fantasy Convention has just announced the winners of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards:

MEGAN LINDHOLM and HOWARD WALDROP.

I could not possibly think of two more worthy winners.

Megan Lindholm, writing under the name Robin Hobb, is one of the premiere fantastists of the last thirty years.   Her Farseer novels, featuring Fitz and the Fool, are classics of high fantasy.   If you have not read them, you don’t know what you are missing.   She has also done some great work under the Megan Lindholm byline, stories that fall more in the realm of urban fantasy and magic realism, just as engrossing and memorable as her epics.    She was long overdue for some major recognition.

And Howard Waldrop… what can I say about Howard Waldrop?  (That I have not already said in my introduction to his collection HOWARD WHO?)  What can anyone say about Howard Waldrop?   H’ard (as Gardner Dozois liked to call him) is one of a kind.   There has never been another writer like him, in fantasy, in science fiction, in literature.   Over the course of a career just as long as my own, he has only produced two novels… and one of those a collaboration… but he has turned out reams of short stories.

And WHAT short stories!   “The Ugly Chickens” won the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award (a long time ago, when it was still the Howie) and lost the Hugo.   A great story, but Howard has produced many other tales just as good.  “Heirs of the Perisphere.”  “Night of the Cooters.”  “Custer’s Last Jump.”  “Black as the Pit, From Pole to Pole.”  “A Dozen Tough Jobs.”   “Fin de Cycle.”  “God’s Hooks.”  “Save a Place in the Lifeboat for Me.”   “Do Ya, Do Ya Wanna Dance?”   “Flying Saucer Rock ‘n Roll.”  “Mary-Margaret Road-Grader.”  “Heart of Whitenesse.”  “Ike at the Mike.”  “Man-Mountain Gentian.”  “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway.”   Oh, and more, and more… I could go on and on.

Waldrop never writes the same story twice.   He writes stories that no one else could possibly write.   Funny, and sad, and whimsical, and erudite, and… words fail me, but they never fail H’ard.   In a just world, he would have a dozen Nebulas and as many Hugos by now.  SFWA would have named him a Grand Master ten years ago, and some worldcon would have made him its Guest of Honor.   But such accolades seldom come to short story writers, no matter how singular and amazing they may be.   This year’s World Fantasy Award panel of judges deserve kudos for recognizing this genius in our midst.

This year’s World Fantasy Convention will be in Montreal in early November.   I hope that both Howard and Megan will be able to make it, to accept their Trees in person.  I doubt that I will be able to make it myself… though I am tempted, I am so tempted… but that sound you hear will be me, applauding madly from afar.

(Oh, and watch this space.  I hope to have some more exciting Howard Waldrop news soon).

Current Mood: happy happy

Back to the Midwest

July 16, 2021 at 4:09 pm
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I am so far behind in my Not A Blogging.   This post should have been posted back in June,  but…  better late than never, right?

ANYWAY… I was on the road for ten days back in June, to Evanston (where I went to school, 1966-1971), Chicago (where I lived after school, 1971-1976), and Dubuque (where I taught school, 1976-1979).   It was the first time I’d left home and/or cabin in a year and a half, since the start of the pandemic and the quarantine.   I have to say, it was great to get away from my office chair, even if it was only for a few days.

First stop was Northwestern, and the convocation for the graduates of the Medill School of Journalism, where I was given an honorary doctorate.   Professor Emeritus Roger Boye gave me a very kind introduction, and presented me with my new hood as Doctor of Humane Letters.   And then it was my turn.

The Northwestern campus has changed a great deal since my days as a student, half a century ago.  So has the city of Evanston.   Old landmarks gone, new buildings everywhere… but still, enough remained to give me some vivid flashes of memory of years gone by and friends and lovers and teachers who changed my life and… for good or ill… helped make me the person I am today.

Thomas Wolfe said that you can’t go home again.   Maybe so, but you can visit.    Thank you, Northwestern.   It was nice to be back, however briefly.

After Evanston, I spent a few days in Chicago, accompanied by my loyal minion, Sid.   That was great as well.   Of course, we had to visit Greektown for some saganaki at the Greek Islands, where I first learned to love flaming cheese while still a student at Northwestern.  OPAA!  OPAA!   I also got to enjoy dinners with Mary Anne Mohanraj, one of my wonderful Wild Card writers, and Eve Ewing, who presented me with the Carl Sandburg Award on my last visit to Chicago, both of them amazing writers.   That was fun too.

While I was in Chicago, I did an interview with the local PBS station.

Next we took to the road, across Illinois and through the scenic and historic town of Galena (Abner Marsh’s home town) to Dubuque, where I once taught journalism at Clarke College and acted as advisor to the student newspaper, the COURIER.   The reason for my visit was… ah, well, no, can’t tell you that, not yet… but I got to see a few old friends, eat chili at Mulgrew’s in East Dubuque and pizza in Dubuque proper, and… take a ride on the riverboat TWILIGHT.   Okay, it’s not a real steamboat, not even a paddlewheeler, but it’s a cool boat all the same, and I loved sailing down the Mississippi for a few hours.   I even got to visit the pilot house and blow the whistle.

We got back home on June 23rd.   It’s always nice to be back in Santa Fe and the Land of Enchantment, but I have to admit, it was great to get away for a few days.

Of course, during my ten days on the road and away from the internet, the email piled up, and I found some eight hundred letters waiting for me on my return.   Which may help explain why I am weeks late in making this post, but…

That’s all for now.   The woods were lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and books to write before I sleep.

 

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

What’s Up, Doc?

April 29, 2021 at 4:26 pm
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Come June, I won’t be able to play cards with Nelson Algren any more, I guess.

I am very pleased and proud to announce that my alma mater, Northwestern University, will be presenting me with an honorary doctorate at this year’s commencement, on June 14.   Here’s the official announcement about the event:

https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2021/04/commencement-gwynne-shotwell/?utm_source=nnow_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=commencement

This year’s commencement will be virtual, so the presentation and my acceptance will be taped.

It is hard to believe that it has been half a century since my own commencement from Northwestern, in 1970.   Where have the years gone?

If I could go back in time and tell 1970 Me that this would happen one day, he would never have believed me.  (On the other hand, 1970 Me believed that one day he would vacation on the Moon, so… he may have written science fiction, but predicting the future was not his strong suit).

 

 

 

Rocket Time!

June 30, 2020 at 9:10 am
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Worldcon is coming up in a month’s time, down in Wellington, New Zealand…

Or at least it would be, if not for the pandemic.   Which New Zealand has handled splendidly, for what it’s worth.   If only America had done half so well..

In any case, there will still be a CoNZealand, but it is going to be a virtual worldcon.  (Which is a damned shame for all those who will miss the chance to visit New Zealand, truly one of the most beautiful countries in the world).   And as CoNZealand’s toastmaster, I am going to be there… virtually… taking part from my fortress of solitude in the mountains and my theatre (now shuttered) in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The toastmaster wears many hats at worldcon, but probably the single biggest part of the gig is hosting the Hugo Awards ceremony.   I am going to be doing that with a combination of live streaming and pre-recorded videos, which we will (I hope I pray) edit seamlessly together.   This week I have started recording some of those videos.   It has been fun, if a little surreal, to be reading off the names of this year’s Hugo finalists when voting has not actually started yet.   And trying to be amusing (one hopes) while talking into a camera without the feedback of laughter (or moans, boos, or soul-chilling silence) from an actual audience is challenging as well.   But so it goes.

SFWA did a great job with the virtual Nebulas.   (Hats off to Mary Robinette Kowal and her team).   We want to make the virtual Hugos just as much fun.   An evening of joy and celebration in these dark days of plague, riot, and police brutality.   We all need a little laughter.   I know I do.

The Kiwis are doing all they can to make Virtual CoNZealand a success.   I applaud them for their efforts, and hope it all comes out splendidly.  That being said, I also hope we never have to do it again.   Over the last half-century, worldcon has become an enormously important part of my life, I have come to realize.  I see people online — younger writers, most often — describing worldcon as a “professional conference,” and yeah, maybe, a little bit, for them… but not for me.   There are professional aspects to conventions, sure, networking and promotion and all that, but for me worldcon has always been a celebration, a party, a holiday, Christmas and Thanksgiving and Halloween all rolled up in one.   Most of all it is a family reunion, a place where I get to laugh and drink and share meals with old friends, meet new friends, and catch up with so many of the people I love, people I do not get to see anywhere else.   So let’s work hard on that vaccine, all you docs out there; I will be at CoNZealand in spirit, but I want to be at DC in the flesh.

((And before anyone starts to panic, “oh my god he is making videos in place of writing,” OF COURSE I am still working on WINDS OF WINTER as well.   That really should go without saying, yet somehow I need to say it, or someone might make stupid assumptions.   I am also doing some editorial work on three new Wild Cards books, reading scripts and making notes on a couple of exciting Hollywood projects, texting with agents, editors, and friends about this and that, eating several meals a day, watching television, reading books, and from time to time using the toilet.   Just because I do not mention it in every Not A Blog does not mean it is not happening)).

 

 

 

Current Mood: busy busy

The Amazing John Picacio

June 19, 2020 at 8:37 am
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SFWA held its Nebula Awards ceremonies last week, and John Picacio, artist extraordinaire, was one of the winners of this year’s Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award… not for his art, but for his contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community.

I had the honor of presenting the award to John.   Well, that is to say, I had the virtual honor of presenting a virtual award to the virtual Picacio.

For all of you who could not be there — which is everyone, thanks to our friend Covid-19 — here is what I had to say:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YV6qoTdD_3MZEQe3ulSNNiJrgT1RfSuM/view?usp=drivesdk

Congratulations once again, John.    Very well deserved.

Current Mood: pleased pleased

Haeems Wins Terran Prize

June 17, 2020 at 9:07 am
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When astronauts look down on Earth from orbit, they don’t see borders, national boundaries, or linguistic groups; they see one world, a gorgeous blue globe spinning in space, streaked with clouds. I don’t know if humanity will ever reach the stars (though I hope we will), but if we do, it won’t be Americans who get there. It won’t be the Chinese or the Russians or the British or the French or the Brazilians or the Kiwis or the South Africans or Indians or the folk of any other nation either. It will be humanity; in the language of the SF of my youth, it will be Terrans or Earthlings or Earthmen. The future belongs to all the peoples of the world.

With that in mind, back in 2018 I established THE TERRAN PRIZE,  to bring an aspiring SF writer from abroad to the Taos Toolbox, the graduate level writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams runs every summer in the mountains of northern New Mexico.  The Prize is given annually and covers all tuition and fees to the Toolbox (but not travel).

Here’s the official announcement of this year’s winner:

The Terran Prize for 2020, consisting of a scholarship for the Taos Toolbox writing workshop, has been won by Maurice Haeems of Mumbai, India.

Taos Toolbox was forced by the Covid pandemic to move from its original June dates to September 6-19, in Angel Fire, New Mexico. The workshop will be taught by Nancy Kress and Walter Jon Williams, along with special lecturers George R.R. Martin and E.M. Tippetts.

Maurice was born in Mumbai and has a bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the University of Mumbai and an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Over the last 30 years, he has lived in Mumbai, London, Hong Kong, Taipei, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dubai while pursuing professional careers in mechanical engineering, investment banking, and software entrepreneurship.

 

Recently, Maurice turned to his fourth career and first love – Writing, Storytelling, and Filmmaking. His first project, the multi-award-winning sci-fi feature film Chimera, which Maurice wrote and directed, was released in April 2019 and is now available on VOD and DVD. Maurice is delighted and honored to be a part of the 2020 class of the Taos Toolbox.

Maurice says, “My goal in reading and writing speculative fiction is simply to explore the hypothetical though, as a bonus, I am often rewarded with an improved comprehension of my reality. It is a privilege, as a writer, to gaze into crystal balls and magical devices, to contemplate their revelations, and to translate the resulting visions into words.”

 

Current Mood: creative creative

Hugo Finalists Announced!!!

April 7, 2020 at 5:11 pm
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The final ballot for this year’s Hugo Awards was announced today, via Facebook and YouTube, by my friends at CoNZealand.

Congratulations to all the finalists… and condolences to all those who did not make the ballot.   Take some consolation in the knowledge that much fine work gets overlooked every year.

The Hugo Award is the oldest and most prestigious award in science fiction and fantasy… not only for writers, but also for artists, editors, and fans.  First given in 1953, it was the original award.  Many worthy honors have joined it in the half century since: the Nebulas, the Bram Stokers, the World Fantasy Awards, the Dragons, the Tiptrees, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Prometheus, the British Fantasy Award, the Ditmars, the Auroras, the Saturns… even the Alfies.   (Yes, I have forgotten some, beyond a doubt).  All wonderful honors.   But the Hugo Awards remain the greatest accolade that our field has to offer.

One of the reasons is that it is an award chosen by the members of worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention, the granddaddy of them all.   By fans, in other words.  By YOU, if you like.   You need not even attend the convention: supporting memberships, considerably cheaper, also allow you to cast a Hugo ballot.  So if you would like your voice to be heard, head over to the CoNZealand website and sign up.

Sad to say, no one will actually be attending this year’s worldcon in Wellington, thanks to coronavirus.   The concom, prudently, has decided to make this year’s convention entirely virtual.   A necessity in this time of pandemic, I think, but a sad necessity.

I am the Toastmaster for CoNZealand, the host at the awards ceremony,so originally I was going to get to be the guy handing out the rockets come Hugo night, a once-in-a-lifetime honor that I was looking forward to immensely.  I am still the Toastmaster, as it happens, but I guess that now I am going to be a Virtual Toastmaster.   I suppose I qualify.   I did once write two scripts for MAX HEADROOM, after all (though neither one was produced, which could be an omen).  Alternatively, I could just tie the rockets to the legs of ravens… really big ravens…

Current Mood: excited excited

RIP Mike

January 14, 2020 at 7:33 pm
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I was deeply saddened this week to read of the death of Mike Resnick, one of the true giants of contemporary science fiction.  Mike has been battling serious illness for some time, so the news did not come as a complete surprise… but it came too soon, too soon, and our field and our community will be the poorer for his absence.

I don’t recall when I first met Mike, but it was a long, long time ago, back in the 1970s when both of us were still living in Chicago.  I was a young writer and he was a somewhat older, somewhat more established writer.  There were a lot of young writers in the Chicago area in those days, along with three more seasoned pros, Gene Wolfe, Algis Budrys, and Mike.   What impressed me at the time… and still impresses me, all these years later… was how willing all three of them were to offer their advice, encouragements, and help to aspiring neo-pros like me.   Each of them in his own way epitomized what this genre and this community were all about back then.  Paying forward, in Heinlein’s phrase.

And no one paid it forward more than Mike Resnick.

He was fine writer, and a prolific one, as all his Hugo and Nebula nods will testify.  After they started giving out those little rocket pins for Hugo nominations, Resnick would wear them on his shirt like medals: pointed up for a story that won, down for a story that lost.  That always charmed me.  Mike won the Hugo five times; once for novella, once for novelette, thrice for short story  (like me, he never won the big one, Best Novel).   He lost a lot more (we had that in common as well).   He took that in stride, with a shrug and a smile, in the true spirit of a Hugo Loser.

He never won for Best Editor either, and as best I recall he was nominated only once, under unfortunate circumstances.   That was a pity.  He deserved more recognition for his editing.   He edited something like forty anthologies, I believe, and he always made a point to fill them with a lot of young aspiring writers, new names and no-names making their first or second or fifth professional sale.  I can’t say how many careers he helped launch, but it was a lot.  In modern times, only Gardner Dozois was more assiduous in searching out new talent.   Mike called his discoveries his “writer babies” and they called him their “writer daddy,” and many a time I would see him  in the lobby of a con hotel, with a dozen of his literary children sitting around his feet as he shared his wisdom with them… along with a funny story and ribald anecdote or two.

His last great act as an editor was the founding of GALAXY’S EDGE, a new SF magazine that he launched… in an act of madness that was all Mike… at the time when the old magazines were struggling to survive.   GALAXY’S EDGE always featured a lot of new writers too, and Mike paid them decent rates… a feat he accomplished by twisting the arms of old coots like me to give him reprints for pennies, to free up more money for the newcomers.  (Lots of us old coots were glad to do it.  Like Mike, we believe in paying forward).  I hope and trust that GALAXY’S EDGE will keep going strong, as a lasting testament to his legacy.

These days, all too often, I meet writers who come to conventions only to promote themselves and their books.   They do their panels, and you bump into them at the SFWA Suite, but nowhere else.   Not Mike.  Mike Resnick was fannish to the bone.   You’d find him at publisher’s parties and the SFWA suite, sure, but he’d also pop up at bid parties, in the bar, in the con suite.  He made more than one Hugo Loser party, both before and after the days I was running it.  You’d see him in the dealer’s room, at the art show, at the masquerade… his Chun the Unavoidable costume, from Jack Vance’s DYING EARTH, was a classic.   When he appeared on panels, he was funny, sharp, irascible, irreverent, always entertaining… and he would do entire panels without once plugging his own new book, a trick more program participants should learn.  The place you’d find him most often at worldcon was the CFG suite, the redoubt of the Cincinnati Fan Group.  He was the professional’s professional, sure, but Mike was also the fan’s fan.   For some writers conventions are for selling, selling, selling… for Mike, they were more about giving, giving, giving.   And having fun.   That too.   Mike always seemed to be smiling or laughing.   He loved science fiction, fantasy, fandom, writing, reading, cons… and he shared his passion with everyone around him.

Science fiction has lost a fine writer, a unique voice, a magnificent mentor… and a profoundly good and decent man.

Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

Hugo Nominations Open

January 6, 2020 at 2:57 pm
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CoNZealand, this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, has announced that nominations are now open for the 2020 Hugo Awards.   To nominate, you need to be a member of either this year’s worldcon, or last year’s Dublin convention.  You can nominate either electronically, or with a paper ballot (though very few chose the latter method these days).

Details can be found at https://conzealand.nz/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/2020-Hugo-Nominations-Ballot-Printable-US-Letter.pdf

Members can nominate for the Hugos themselves, the two “Not A Hugo” categories, and for the Retro-Hugos that honor outstanding works published during the years when no Hugos were awarded.

First given in 1953, the Hugo is not only the oldest SF and fantasy award, but by far the most prestigious.   The list of past winners reads like a Who’s Who of our genre (and, honestly, the list of past losers is equally amazing).   No, you don’t need to read everything that was published last year to nominate.  You don’t need to nominate in every category either.  Just nominate the works you read and loved, and you’ll be fine.   Other fans will take care of the rest.

Even if you only nominate a single work in a single category, I urge you to NOMINATE.  Let your voice be heard.  The Hugo is fandom’s award, worldcon’s award, one of the greatest honors our community can bestow.  Winning a Hugo is an amazing experience… but earning a nomination is almost as exciting.   Far fewer people take part in the nomination round than vote on the final ballot, so this is the stage of the process where you can have the greatest impact.   There have been instances in the recent past when a single nomination was the difference between making the cut and being left off the ballot.   Just last year, my own imaginary history FIRE & BLOOD came six votes short of being nominated in Best Related Work (though, as it happens, I was later informed that it would have been disqualified in any case, for having too much fictional contest).   Almost only counts in horseshoes and grenades, as we all know… you wouldn’t want your favorite story off the year to be left off the ballot because you forget to send in a ballot.   So NOMINATE.

Speaking of which… for the last decade or so, I have been making recommendations of my own favorites (in certain categories, at least) on my Not A Blog.  There’s so much good work being published each year it is easy to get overlooked, so I wanted to do what I could to draw attention to worthy books, movies, and individuals.   I will not be making any recommendations this year, however.   I am going to be the Toastmaster this summer at CoNZealand, the guy on stage emceeing the event and handing out all those nice shiny rocket ships.  It would not be appropriate for me to go on record as favoring certain nominees (and, by implication, dis-approving of others… though that would be a shaky assumption, since I don’t always get around to reading everything in every case).   It behooves the Toastmaster to be neutral, I believe.  Which is not to say that I won’t be cheering on some winners and being aghast at others… but not in public.

I expect that I will go back to recommending work next year, when worldcon moves to Washington and it is someone else’s turn in the barrel as Toastmaster.

Current Mood: cheerful cheerful

Toolbox Opens

December 16, 2019 at 3:57 pm
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Walter Jon Williams informs me that he is now taking applications for the 2020 version of the Taos Toolbox, his “graduate level” workshop for aspiring writers of science fiction and fantasy.   This year’s gathering will be June 7-20… not actually in Taos, confusingly, but nearby in Angel Fire, in the Land of Enchantment.  Walter Jon and Nancy Kress will be the instructors, once again, and I’ll show up myself one day for a guest lecture and a meal.   You can find all the information here:  http://www.taostoolbox.com/

This year, once again, I will be sponsoring the TERRAN PRIZE, a full scholarship for a promising writer from a non-English-speaking country.   The winner will need to write in English, however…but we’re all Terrans here, and we all share this planet, and a love of imaginative fiction.   The scholarship covers tuition, fees, and lodging, but not travel or meals.  Applications can be made through the link above.

 

Current Mood: busy busy