Speaking of the Hugos

Ann Leckie receiving her Hugo at the LonCon 3 award ceremony in 2014.
Ann Leckie receiving her Hugo at the LonCon 3 award ceremony in 2014.

Was reading one of (many, many) online discussions of the Hugos and SFF fandom the other day, and it was mentioned that a surprisingly high number of people aren’t aware they they’re not a juried award.

So, to be explicit:

If you are a fan of science fiction and fantasy, you can buy a Worldcon membership.[1] That lets you nominate on and vote for the Hugos.

The ballot is already set for this year; it’s here. But a supporting membership to Worldcon still lets you vote to rank the works on the ballot, and nominate works for the ballot for next year.

You certainly don’t have to, but you can.

[1] Okay, I mean, technically if you’re a legal person who can buy things, you can buy a Worldcon membership, but I can’t imagine why you would buy it if it wasn’t from an interest in the genre.

Well, that happened

I swear to God, I go incommunicado (mostly), and my phone bings to tell me that there’ve been more views on this blog in one hour than there were in the month before that. (I suspect it was most likely someone’s cat standing on the F5 key. Good on you, kitty. You make sure you’re getting up to date info.)

I’m visiting family in Sault Ste Marie; I got in late due to weather, and then went to dinner, and then stayed up late talking and looking at old family photo albums.

I had never before seen a picture of my paternal great-grandfather, and the one I got to look at was from 13 January, 1934. (Yes, an 81-year-old photograph. It was printed as a Post Card, by “Pictorial Studios”, which were located on 29 Newport Road, Near Scala Cinema, MIDDLESBROUGH. Which was about where he lived.)

There was also another picture, much smaller, of him in his work clothes. He was an egg-and-poultry man, apparently, and he also loaned money. (But honestly. It was made clear he was not, you know, a loan shark or anything.)

I am oddly disconcerted by this. I was always told that my heritage was, all in one breath, half-Ukranian quarter-Italian eighth-Irish eighth-Scottish. No-one ever mentioned British. Ever. We lived in London for four years when I was a kid and no-one ever told me I had a grand-uncle three hours drive away.

(And apparently he was a pretty nice grand-uncle, too. Which quashes the first explanation which springs to mind.)

I don’t know. It’s late and I’m tired; I will turn this over for a while, and consider.

I didn’t read Heinlein.

Not the edition I would have picked up in the bookshop.
Not the edition I would have picked up in that bookshop.

Okay, that’s a lie. I read a Heinlein novel during a university course on science fiction. It was Starship Troopers, and it was contrasted with Haldeman’s Forever War. And I may have read part of The Puppet Masters, but since I only remember a bit about how some clothing (hats? coats? tops?) was being outlawed, it is more probable that I just picked it up at the neighbourhood secondhand bookstore and read a few pages. I liked to hang around the SF section and do that sometimes, and it’s left me with an eclectic collection of snippets–that bit, something about a Doctor Who novelization in which a villain had attached a canister of horrible mutagen to Peri[1], and a rich tourist who went to the Savage Theme Park of New York and was stuck there after it was closed for the season.

(Those bits are rather vague, since I would have been between seven and eleven at the time–more than two decades ago.)

But when I was growing up, I didn’t read Heinlein.

I have been thinking, lately, about a line from Toni Weisskopf’s blog post, “The Problem of Engagement,” which runs:

Well, Heinlein is one of the few points of reference those fans who read have. Of course we all read Heinlein and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not?

I am a fan who reads; horror by first choice, yes, but I always read SF and fantasy when there wasn’t enough horror around. I have loved Worlds-That-Are-Not (or Worlds-That-Are-Not-Quite) for many many years, and I found them through books. I have been, I would have said, one of those “fans who read” for a very long time.

But I didn’t read Heinlein.

See, the first time I picked up Heinlein with a recognition of who the author was supposed to be (this name I’d heard about, seen on book spines, was told was incomparable), in the hope that I would enjoy it? I would have been about twelve; my family was in Algeria at the time, and the English fiction library we had access to was in a repurposed basement. The entirety of the genre section was a single bookshelf, and I made a heartfelt effort to go through all of it.

This, on the other hand, is the exact edition of Phantoms I read in that library.

I’m going to digress for a moment, and talk about Dean Koontz.

I discovered Dean Koontz and Stephen King on that same bookshelf (while I’d seen a secondhand hardcover of Cujo a few years earlier, I hadn’t been allowed to read it). Dean Koontz was easier to get a hold of, and often more snappily paced, and I would guess I read a good twenty or so of his books in the next few years. I probably overdid it, and I’d occasionally joke about how I could summarize the commonalities of plot of his novels in a single sentence. I got bored with him, and quit reading. (I’m drifting back, now, but that’s another story.)


When I was twelve, when I was bored and had basically no-one to talk to, when I was starving for something to read and I went through that bookcase, here is what I found in the first handful of pages:

  • The first Heinlein novel I picked up, I read about a guy watching his daughter strip her top off and being proud that she was checking with her husband instead of with him to be sure it was okay.
  • The first Koontz novel I picked up, I read about a doctor who was taking care of her little sister and who’d bluffed an evil biker gang leader[2] into believing that she was too damn scary to mess with.

Goddamn right I wasn’t interested in more Heinlein. And my take on his work is and remains “I don’t know it,” and I don’t think that’s informed or detailed enough to count as an opinion.

And when I was back in Canada… well, I met other people I could talk to about this genre thing, and we swapped recommendations, and I know some of them liked Heinlein but none of them ever made anything he’d written sound cool enough for me to bump him onto my must-read list. And then there were things like university and work and now, sad as it makes me, I don’t have the time to read that I used to. For a little while in eighth grade I was getting through five books a week. These days I’m lucky to clear eighty books a year.

It doesn’t make me happy, but I can live with that.

So when it comes to the question of

Of course we all read Heinlein and have an opinion about his work. How can you be a fan and not?

It’s not that hard. You just find other things that suit you better, and listen for things that people describe in such a way that they sound actually enjoyable, and you don’t have unlimited time.

And to that, Weisskopf wrote:

So the question arises—why bother to engage these people at all? They are not of us. They do not share our values, they do not share our culture.

I can live with that, too. And my reaction to that is much the same as my reaction when I put down Number of the Beast. I don’t have time for this, I have not seen enough to suggest I will enjoy this, and so I will leave this behind and go find something that will brighten or deepen or enrich my day.

And if that decision means I am not of your culture, that I do not share your values, I am sure we will both be much happier for it.

[1] Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. If I recall correctly, the mutagen canister was removed from where it was attached to Peri’s belt, and was ?thrown? at the villain, where it interacted with a wooden stake he was standing near. The mutagen then worked on the wooden stake, causing it to explode outwards into a spiky lattice of stake-y wood and skewer the villain to death.
[2] I am not saying Phantoms was particularly nuanced. (Jeter, the man in question, is further developed later in the novel. I would say the development was done to add horror, not subtlety or multi-faceted characterization.)

Driveby cute, and reasons.

White-and-grey cat in a green-and-black hat. This is a hat that I knit

  • partly to stashbust,
  • partly to try out a pattern from Doomsday Knits, and
  • partly because a friend of mine collects hats for the kids at the school where she works. So.

The project is called “Rewoven Threads”

  • because Threads is really a pretty classic post-apocalyptic movie (and an incredibly bleak one, I will add),
  • because knitting a hat to give away to someone who needs it seems specifically to address some small reweaving of the broken threads of the aforementioned movie, and
  • because I needed to weave in fourteen ends.

The cat is in the picture because

  • I apparently have no sense of self-preservation.

(He is plotting my demise. Oh yes. Do not be fooled by the sad kitty-eyes.)

Tidying up.

Still over a week to go before 2014, but I have decided that now is a good time to formally note down a handful of things I have found online that I really like. (This will also enable me to close a few tabs in my browser. I am trying to get better about doing this. I have had tabs open for over a year.)

First, the artlog tag on EliseM’s LJ is often filled with lovely things. (I mention it first because the 3 Woman Sale is over tonight. January is looking to be chill and grey and unpleasant, and I am thinking something from that showing up in the mail is not the worst thing that could happen.  I am waffling particularly over a couple of the earrings.)

Second, Captain Awkward is an advice blog that is shockingly sensible, and very good on reminding people that you actually get to have boundaries, and that you can’t actually make other people feel things.

Written Kitten‘s cache is pretty amazing, since I have stuff still saved in there from… er… four months ago? I should copy that to a file and back it up properly. Also, you know, kittens.

TV Tropes is dangerously likely to be a timesink, but I think it’s nice to have tropes–these and others–layed out so explicitly and discussed. I felt kind of the same way about The Tough Guide To Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones.

Knitty.com‘s– oh, dammit, a new issue is up. Okay, not closing that tab. Anyway. Yes. Knitty’s an online ‘zine for knitters; free patterns, articles, how-tos, assorted usefulness, lovely pictures. The latest issue seems to have a lot of cables. I love cables.

Hmh. Remaining tabs (all, er, hundred-plus of them) appear to be falling into broad categories. May sort them out and come back later – for the moment, I think it’s time to go light a fire.