July 26, 2016
So, this happened
Posted by Patrick at 11:18 AM * 67 comments

Changes at Tor

It’s a big change, and a lot of new responsibility. And I won’t deny that I’ve had moments of self-doubt as it was all coming together. But it’s the right thing. And Devi Pillai is outstanding.

To clarify one thing: I’m still an editor. I still plan to work with the books and authors I’ve got, and to bring new ones to the house. No matter what my business card says, there isn’t any future version of Tor in which I would stop doing that.

July 21, 2016
The awesome Laurie Penny
Posted by Patrick at 07:56 PM * 40 comments

Laurie Penny, journalist and, more recently, SF&F writer, at the RNC.

It doesn’t matter that [Milo Yiannopoulos] doesn’t mean it. It doesn’t matter that he’s secretly quite a sweet, vulnerable person who is gracious to those he considers friends. It doesn’t matter that somewhere in the rhinestone-rimmed hamster wheel of his mind is a conscience. It doesn’t matter because the harm he does is real.

He is leading a yammering army of trolls to victory on terms they barely understand. This is how we got to a place where headline speakers at the Republican convention—one of the most significant political events in the national narrative of world’s greatest superpower—are now actively calling for the slaughter and deportation of foreigners, declaring that Hillary Clinton is an agent of Satan, and hearing only cheers from the floor.

They ventriloquise the fear of millions into a scream of fire in the crowded theatre of modernity where all the doors are locked, and then they watch the stampede, and they smile for the cameras. […]

What’s happening to this country has happened before, in other nations, in other anxious, violent times when all the old certainties peeled away and maniacs took the wheel. It’s what happens when weaponised insincerity is applied to structured ignorance. Donald Trump is the Gordon Gekko of the attention economy, but even he is no longer in control. This culture war is being run in bad faith by bad actors who are running way off-script, and it’s barely begun, and there are going to be a lot of refugees.

Read the rest. Laurie Penny is two and a half feet tall and made entirely of cigarette smoke and hastily-scribbled Post-It notes. She has reported first-hand on people you’d pay your monthly rent to avoid ever having to meet. And she has written what is possibly the greatest single piece of journalism to emerge from this astonishing event.

July 18, 2016
On sale at MidAmericon: Making Conversation by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Posted by Patrick at 10:05 AM * 85 comments

MAKING CONVERSATION cover.jpg Twenty-two years ago, there was Making Book. It was a finalist for the 1995 Hugo Award for Best Nonfiction Book, but lost out to the dead guy. It’s been through three printings and is still available from NESFA Press.

Now:

Making Conversation, selected from TNH’s writing since 1994, will be first available at MidAmericon 2, and afterward from NESFA Press in softcover and e-book form. 222 pages, 59 essays (long and short) about time, space, genre, editing, gardening, saints, libraries, food, democracy, drink, insanity, fear, hamsters, chaos, moderation, palimpsests, fanfic, clichés, books, slush, spelling, scams, sleep, fantasy, policing, infundibula, trolls, writing, knitting, fandom, habaneros, exposition, management, Selectrics, Brooklyn, literary agents, pygmy mammoths, and the true cure for scurvy.

From “Dispatch from Staten Island” (GEnie SFRT, 1 Sep 1994):

“And this is in America, a country in which more than one normal, intelligent adult has had to spend time examining the question of whether, for the last decade and a half, I’ve been faking narcolepsy—including all the high-tech inpatient testing procedures and scary medical bills—in order to be allowed to drive up into the Bronx once a month to purchase my prescription stimulant drugs, instead of buying them from a local street vendor like normal people do.

“I think they should worry instead about how any idiot—me, for example—can walk into Rickel Home Center and buy bags of premixed quick-drying concrete without anyone so much as asking whether I know the difference between cement and Hamburger Helper. Instead, the employees ask whether I know they’re having a special on bricks. This strikes me as gross social irresponsibility. A few hours after you take them, drugs are history, but masonry can be a semi-permanent error.”

Some notices:

“If Teresa writes it, I will read it.”
—Neil Gaiman

“Teresa Nielsen Hayden is a bloody good writer.”
—David Langford

“This is a terrific book. I mean, I had no idea. It is a convulsively funny, shrewd and sharp collection of anecdotes well-told, observations well-observed and jokes hilariously cracked, all the while tracing secret histories of fandom, the ins and outs of being diagnosed narcoleptic at a time when such diagnoses were considered spurious and radical by much of the field, of the gypsy life of a con-running, APA-publishing foremother of the blogging masses whose ‘personal publishing revolution’ has its origins in the dim days of mimeographs and ditto machines.”
—Cory Doctorow, reviewing Making Book in 2003

NESFA Press. ISBN 978-1-61037-320-3. $15.00. August 2016.

Onward.

July 13, 2016
The NECESSITY of a Spoiler Thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:10 PM * 16 comments

He says, Ἀνάγκη ἥψατο τοῦ ποδὸς ἐμοῦ.

I say, Necessity only grabbed your foot? You got lucky, then; I’d already lost my head by that point. Twice.

—Νίκη


You know the drill. This is a thread for discussing Jo Walton’s recently published book, Necessity. It’s full of spoilers.

July 12, 2016
On sale today: Jo Walton’s Necessity, the concluding novel of Thessaly
Posted by Patrick at 04:45 AM * 17 comments

necessity.jpg On sale today in hardcover and e-book. Excerpt here. Author website (with upcoming appearances) here. Of particular local interest, Jo Walton and Ada Palmer will be reading and signing together tonight (Tuesday, July 12) at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and tomorrow night (Wednesday, July 13) at WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York.

(Making Light posts about the previous two books: The Just City and The Philosopher Kings.)

My flap copy (warning: spoilers for the previous two books):

More than sixty­-five years ago, Pallas Athena founded the Just City on an island in the eastern Mediterranean, placing it centuries before the Trojan War, populating it with teachers and children from throughout human history, and committing it to building a society based on the principles of Plato’s Republic. Among the City’s children was Pytheas, secretly the god Apollo in human form.

Sixty years ago, the Just City schismed into five cities, each devoted to a different version of the original vision.

Forty years ago, the five cities managed to bring their squabbles to a close. But in consequence of their struggle, their existence finally came to the attention of Zeus, who can’t allow them to remain in deep antiquity, changing the course of human history. Convinced by Apollo to spare the Cities, Zeus instead moved everything on the island to the planet Plato, circling its own distant sun.

Now, more than a generation has passed. The Cities are flourishing on Plato, and even trading with multiple alien species. Then, on the same day, two things happen. Pytheas dies as a human, returning immediately as Apollo in his full glory. And there’s suddenly a human ship in orbit around Plato—­­a ship from Earth.

Some notices:

“Riveting…As before, Walton has done a superb job of world building and character development, giving readers a novel that both stimulates and satisfies.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A glorious kitchen sink of genre, combining philosophy, time travel, aliens, and the gods….Engaging food for thought.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

July 06, 2016
“Things have never been okay in this country.”
Posted by Patrick at 08:10 PM * 283 comments

For My Son, In The Event The Police Leave You Fatherless.

But in case the police to take me away from you forever, I want you to know some things. If I encounter police just know that I didn’t reach for their gun. I didn’t try to fight them. I didn’t resist arrest. I wasn’t a clear and present danger. Just know that if I’m approached by police, I’ll be thinking about you and your mother and your sister and how much I want to survive to be home and see you. As soon as the officer approaches me, I’ll wonder if I’ll ever see you again. I’ll want to fight or run but I know that’ll only increase the chances of you sobbing in front of cameras that don’t give a damn about how you’re feeling.

In the immediate days after my death, you will see pictures of me from college in baggy clothes, maybe with a drink in my hand. You will see old tweets where I made an off-color comment. You will see the media portray someone who seems like a complete stranger. Because he is. You know your father. Better than they do. You will know me and the man I am. Remember me as that man and not the one you see in the news reports that are used to make police look justified in their actions.

If the police take me from you, there will be people who will see you cry for me and tell you how to mourn. They will tell you to be angry. They will tell you to forgive. They will judge you for your emotional reactions to your father being murdered. I wish I had an answer for the right way to react. But I have none. I’ve found that as more Black bodies line the streets I’ve been unable to find answers to make you feel better about this world I’ve helped bring you into. The difference is, tonight I can hold you and just tell you everything will be okay—an exercise that sometimes feels like it’s more for my own edification than yours. If the police murder me like they did Alton Sterling, then I won’t be able to tell you things will be better anymore.

July 01, 2016
“The nation must be taught to bear losses.”
Posted by Teresa at 05:29 PM * 55 comments

The Battle of the Somme began 100 years ago today: July 1st, 1916. The British took 57,470 casualties the first day, and lost roughly 420K men by the time the battle ended 141 days later. Total French losses were lower, 200K - 250K, but that’s because so much of the French army was busy manning the meatgrinder at Verdun. German losses were roughly half a million.

It’s hard to wrap your mind around the fighting in 1916. The major European offensives were conceived of as wars of attrition, meant to force the other side to bring in troops from other battlefields where they were fighting other wars of attrition. All of them went on as long as the weather permitted. Verdun was the longest, at 303 days. The Brusilov Offensive was the largest — the Russian army attacked German and Austro-Hungarian forces along a 150-mile front — and killed the most people.

But it’s the Somme that haunts our memories, at least in the English-speaking world. July 01 was the single worst day the British military ever had. Inexperienced troops scrambled out of their trenches, advanced across no-man’s-land, and got mowed down by machine-gun fire.

Some quotes from their commander, General Sir Douglas Haig:

“Success in battle depends mainly on morale and determination.”

“The way to capture machine guns is by grit and determination.”

“The machine gun is a much over rated weapon.”

“The nation must be taught to bear losses. No amount of skill on the part of the higher commanders, no training, however good, on the part of the officers and men, no superiority of arms and ammunition, however great, will enable victories to be won without the sacrifice of men’s lives. The nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists.”

I dislike Haig. It strikes me as unkind and unnecessary to tell troops their attack will succeed if only they try hard enough. Grit and determination haven’t reliably beaten superior firing rates since the Napoleonic Wars.

=====

An extraordinary observance of the Battle of the Somme took place today in the UK.

Small groups of reenactors — really excellent reenactors — quietly appeared in public places, looking just like they’d have looked in 1916. They didn’t speak, but if approached they’d give you a small card with the name, rank, unit, and age at death of the man they were recalling to memory, 100 years after his death.

Photographs of them have accumulated at Pinterest, and probably elsewhere as well. Go look.

June 13, 2016
Pulse, and the days that follow
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:14 PM * 97 comments

I had a hundred fragmentary reactions when I heard the news. I’m still having them.

I knew it would be someone the press could call a Muslim when they used the word terrorist. I reread In This Hour, Mike Ford’s recommendations for coping after Katrina. I knew Twitter would be awful, TV would be awful, the papers would be awful. I was half right; they were both awful and full of kindness.

I recognized consciously what I’d always unconsciously known, that these nightclubs are a sanctuary, a hearth where community is kindled, where love is nurtured and given a place to grow. Those of us who honor sacredness and the spaces it inhabits must honor them.

And I cried about the phone calls to parents, both because they were made and because they were answered, listened for, hoped for. If there’s one thing that makes me realize that this gunman was too late, a generation too late, for any kind of victory, it was that.

But I’m white and straight and far away, safe in every fashion. I’ll give the floor to the people who have more to talk about than me.


Message from Idumea: Be gentle with one another, dear people. Be careful and give space for complexity, for pain, for disagreement about means to our shared ends. Write carefully and listen generously. Seek to make each other smarter, wiser, and more joyful.

Copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.