Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for the 'Meanderings' Category

Worse & Worse

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

I’ve been reading a lot of election analysis over the past week and, incredibly, much of it seeks to point fingers of blame for the Republican victory at the Democratic party, or at “social justice warriors,” or at very generalized groups. Today’s guilty party was straight middle-class white women, of which I am one. Blame me if you want to, but it’s bullshit.

The Republican candidate won either because the election was hacked (and no one is talking about it), or because enough people rejected a fully qualified candidate in favor of one who lacks good judgment according to 74% of exit poll respondents.

Granted, we now know that polls are utterly worthless. But it appears that people knew what they were buying, and they bought it anyway. This is mind boggling to me. Honesty, humility, knowledge, and a propensity for public service used to be valued traits in this country. Apparently, no longer.

Book Quote Wednesday

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Nagata-hepen_the_watcher_BVC133x205I’ve participated in “Book Quote Wednesday” on Twitter for the past several weeks. Though the activity was created as a promotional tool, my experience shows it to be ineffective in that regard. I haven’t seen any effect on sales. Nevertheless, it’s kind of fun.

The idea is that a group of writers are given the same, simple word. They find an example of the use of that word somewhere in their work, and post the snippet on Twitter.

I’ve collected all my quotes from one novel — Hepen the Watcher — book 2 of my under-read and overlooked fantasy duology, Stories of the Puzzle Lands. The two books in this set are totally unlike anything else I’ve written. They’re straight up fantasies with magic — sardonic, violent, and darkly humorous. Sword-and-sorcery maybe. Of the first book in the duology, Fantasy Review Barn said:

“…It is the amount of heart this book has that really sells it for me. It is a book that falls into the gritty fantasy label for sure, but with a certain amount of sweetness. I will be reading the second of the duo in the near future, and have no problems recommending this one.”

So, back to Book Quote Wednesday. Each participating writer is asked to include the hashtag #bookqw in their tweet, so readers can check out other participating writers. Since I couldn’t fit a decent-sized quote within Twitter’s character limit, I started by posting simple screenshots of text.


Back from Japan.
Did anyone miss me?

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

This is a post about partially disengaging from social media—primarily Twitter.

Lake Biwa, Hikone, JapanYesterday I returned home from a nine-day trip to Japan. We had Internet while there, but I didn’t post anything on Twitter or Facebook, and only briefly checked what others were posting — and it was nice to take a break.

Twitter can be fun, and it can be a fantastic source for links to cutting edge science, technology, politics, or whatever you might be interested in. For writers like me, with strong hermit tendencies, it’s also a means to interact on occasion with fellow humans…or perhaps just to lurk and observe the interactions of fellow humans.

But for me, more and more, Twitter has gotten to be about what it shouldn’t be about: measuring my own popularity — or lack thereof! 😉

Welcome to Insecure Writerland!, where the brain becomes absorbed with such critical questions as:

* Who’s following me?

* Who’s not following me and WHY? (Always the more important question!)

* Why has no one responded to my beautiful sunset picture? It’s been five minutes …. ten … thirty. Not even a like? WTF? I have over two thousand followers! Clearly I’m not on any special pay-attention-to-these-people lists! I’ve been filtered out! Maybe even muted!

* Should I take that sunset tweet down? (Yes, I have taken down sad and lonely tweets.)

Aside from social validation, the other great illusory promise of Twitter for hermit writers like me is that it offers a means of influencing the course of a career. Back in the old days, a book was published and either magic happened and sales took off or, more likely, magic didn’t happen and the book quickly went out of print. Sure, you could go to conventions and try to push the book to target readers and maybe that would get you some momentum, but from a return-on-investment perspective, money spent on conventions will never be made up in book sales, unless you are already a big-name writer. (This is especially true if you live in Hawaii, and have to fly to the mainland.)

So social media feels empowering because it’s a way to promote your work, and maybe survive as a writer, without emptying the bank account. I do think social media is helpful. For writers with skills at this social stuff I think it helps a lot. But you get what you give. (Maybe. Sort of. If you’re lucky.) In any case, growing an audience takes time and talent that might otherwise be spent writing.

So yesterday when I reappeared on Twitter and asked:

…it was something of an experiment, a means of checking my Twitter footprint — and at first it didn’t look like I had one! 😉

In the end though, I got some likes and some responses, and it’s all good.

Still, I am a hermit writer. I do better work when I’m focused on the work, rather than on whether or not I’ve managed to get a response out of Twitter.

So I’m going to try to blog a little bit more and check in on Twitter a lot less. My time away taught me that it’s at least possible to disengage from social media. We’ll see how it goes long term.

Oh, and expect a couple of brief posts on Japan!

What Your Computer Dollar Bought in 1983

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Columbia computer price list-200pxI was cleaning out a closet and found this most awesome document. The price list for a Columbia portable computer, as offered by a computer company on Oahu, in 1983. Click the image to see it big.

I don’t remember who wrote those helpful notes that appear on the price list. But notice that 128K of additional RAM is available for only $445!

Below is the invoice of what we actually bought. You can see we got a nice discount on the $395 dot-matrix printer!

Columbia computer invoice


We must have been insane to spend that much money — but at the time I felt it was necessary since I wanted to be a writer.

By the way, I got the computer in lieu of a diamond engagement ring. To this day, I wear only a gold wedding band. No regrets! 🙂

Addendum: I just found the HANDWRITTEN original draft of the first novel I ever wrote. It was a “closet” novel, meaning unpublished. I had totally forgotten that I’d been handwriting the thing. I’m impressed with the fortitude of my younger self — and totally understanding of why I was willing to pay so much for a computer.

Launch Pad 2015 – Apply Now

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

In the summer of 2012 I was lucky enough to attend Launch Pad, a week-long, wide-ranging crash course on current astronomy put on by Mike Brotherton, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Wyoming. Launch Pad was created for writers, editors, and people in film and other media, with the goal of improving the scientific accuracy of our stories and promoting a culture of science.

The sessions are a lot of fun! And this year, with some funding from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, travel stipends have returned. The other bit of good news: Mike tells us that this year they “managed to secure the ‘Honors House’ on campus, which should be a major step up from the dorms.” The dorms where I stayed during my visit we’re pretty rugged, but mostly they were hot.

Click this link for more information about Launch Pad, along with the application form.

Route Map

Monday, September 29th, 2014

One of the really cool things about flying in one of Hawaiian Air’s Airbus 330s is the flight tracker that plays on the video screen. It provides all sorts of continuously updated data such as airspeed, air temperature, windspeed, altitude, time in the air, time to the destination, distance flown, distance remaining. It also shows the plane’s position on maps displayed at different scales, including one of the entire world, with night/day shown.

Here’s a really awful, shaky photo of one of the maps, taken just before we arrived on Maui:
Route map

The only reason I’m inflicting this on you is because I am so intrigued that seamounts and oceanic trenches are included on the map!

If you squint you might be able to make out that, west of Seattle, two seamounts are labeled: the Bowie Seamount, which is apparently a navigation hazard to ocean-going traffic, and the Eickleberg Seamount, which Wikipedia refers to as the Cobb-Eickelberg Seamount chain. There is also the Cedros Trench off Baja California, and the Hawaiian Ridge.

Why are these features on the map?? Knowledge of their positions can’t be of any use to an aircraft — they’re all underwater. And why are these features on the map, and not other underwater features? I have no idea! I do like having them labeled though. It’s an acknowledgement that there’s more to the world than we usually notice. I just want to know why! 🙂

Constitutional Questions

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Writer and attorney Nancy Jane Moore just finished a beta read of The Red: Trials. She says it got her thinking about constitutions, resulting in a new entry for the series of legal posts she’s been writing at Book View Café.

Here’s an excerpt from Legal Fictions: Worshipping the Constitution:

Under monarchies, soldiers pledge their loyalty to the king, but in a democracy the loyalty is to the law. And no one – not even the president – is above the law. This makes for good principles and good fiction.

It also means that the U.S. Constitution has almost religious status for soldiers, not to mention for a lot of lawyers. In the legal profession, constitutional law is considered an elite area of practice. When the Supreme Court says something is “unconstitutional,” it implies that the law in question betrays something fundamental in our country.

Yet a constitution is only a set of rules that detail how we’re going to run the country. While it defines the ground rules of society, it’s not scripture*.

Find the complete post here.

More on Awards & Self-published Books

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

At the end of December I wrote a post “Awards & Self-published Books” as a response to Shaun Duke’s thoughts on the logistical problems of considering self-published books for literary awards.

Shaun has responded to my response, and while I have not persuaded him (and he has not persuaded me), he has some interesting thoughts. Here is his conclusion: (SP ==> self-published)

I’ve read some amazing SPed books, mostly by chance or word of mouth, but the field is so overwhelmed with people hoping they’ll be the next super rich SPer that it becomes nearly impossible to survey the field in any meaningful sense. I can’t effectively make those consumer evaluations because assessing the quality of a given work becomes nearly impossible. What is this author’s track record? I don’t know, because this is their first book. How do I know they got their book edited? I don’t. How do I know the words inside are better than the cheap cover on the outside? I don’t. How do I know they treated the writing process like a professional? I don’t. The gambles pile gets larger and larger…

All of which should be taken as excellent, persuasive reasons for indie writers to treat their book with at least the care a traditional publisher would take with it — and hopefully to exceed that level of care. As Shaun points out, the situation is especially challenging for a first-time novelist with no track record at all.

I offer no advice on whether to try for a traditional publishing career or to go indie. Everyone is different, and all of you will have to consider your own circumstances and ambitions, and decide for yourselves. What I do advise is to strive to sell in the short fiction markets to establish yourself, and to read, read, read — know your genre, and know what you like and why. What is it that sets the work of your favorite authors apart from all the others? Understand that, and translate the lessons into your own work.

As for getting super rich? Well, there is always the lottery. 😉

Read Shaun’s post in full here.

Awards & Self-published Books

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Shaun Duke — who was kind enough to do a podcast interview with me last spring for his website — recently wrote an essay — “Self-Published Books vs. Literary Awards: A Logistical Problem?” It was a post that I found … troubling.

The main point of the essay is that there are so many books being published, both traditionally and independently, that logistics do not allow all books to be considered for literary awards, and that the simplest way to narrow the field and make the administration of an award more feasible is to limit that award to traditionally published books. My experience is with science fiction and fantasy, and in our field awards tend not to have this limitation. I would very much like to keep it that way.

I understand both the urge and the need of an awards committee to limit the number of qualified books and qualified authors. Every annual award presumably faces this challenge every year, because just the number of traditionally published books alone is staggering, and there will always be far more possible contenders for any award than there is time to consider them all.

The awards that might have the possibility of getting closest to the ideal of universal consideration may be the publically-voted awards like the storySouth Million Writers Award for short stories or the Locus Awards — but it’s not as if those who participate in the voting have read all the books. That will never happen with any award. The likely result is that awards like these probably have a very long-tail effect, in which many books and stories get only one vote, while a few, by better known authors, do far better.

The way I see it, there are two main purposes to a literary award: (1) to bring attention to specific books and authors, and by so doing (2) to shape the genre. Whether (1) & (2) come to pass or not, neither purpose is harmed or diminished by consideration of a self-published work.

Shaun asks: “why would SPed authors want to win these awards anyway?” That’s an easy one to answer: for the publicity and for the credibility. Every writer – traditional or not – is desperate to be better known, to sell just a few more copies. Some awards are great for this purpose; others, I’m sure, don’t make much difference to the bottom line, but can still be a moral victory. As for credibility, Shaun notes that “There’s crap in traditional publishing, too, but my experience has always been that it’s much easier to find good things in traditional publishing, whereas the inverse is still true in the self-publishing world.” This is still a common assumption, so credibility is extremely important for a writer who chooses to publish her own work.

I’m an author of six traditionally published science fiction novels, but with my last three novels I’ve turned to self-publishing, not because I think my new work is inferior, but because the business model makes more sense to me, and having more control over the production of my work makes me vastly happier. I am not now and have never been a well-known writer, so winning another award would definitely be a boost to my career. But if the open nature of the awards in our field change so that only books that come up through “the system” can be considered — that would consign me and former midlist writers like me to an outsider status because we’ve decided to do things a bit differently. Then, the only way to be taken seriously as a writer within the genre would be to return to traditional publishing, giving up creative control, and in many cases, making less money.

All that said, the problem Shaun noted still exists: too many books are published to consider all of them for awards. But it’s always been that way. Only select books are ever truly considered for most awards, and especially for juried awards. How are those selections made? Traditional publishers might pick what they consider their best two or three books. Other books might get positive word-of-mouth or recommendations from respected authors, or they might earn a spot because the author has a reputation as a novelist or short story writer. This is the old way of doing things, and while it isn’t entirely fair either, it at least avoids arbitrarily disqualifying books simply because of the way they came into print.

Highly Distractible

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Today is my birthday. I’m fifty-three years old. I’m sure that sounds ancient if you’re in your twenties or thirties, and terrifying if you’re in your forties, but honestly, it’s not bad. My advice to anyone of any age is to get in shape and stay in shape. The journey’s a lot more pleasant when you take care of yourself. Go check out this book: Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. Very inspirational.

So what did I get for my birthday? An `ōhi`a tree, because we’re weird like that. 🙂

This is a tree native to Hawaii and very common in the mountains where native forest lingers. The new tree has yellow flowers. It will complement our much older `ōhi`a tree, shown below, which has vermilion flowers:


After I took the photo above, I noticed an odd green color right in the center. This required investigation, so I took another photo with increased telephoto:


Yes, just as suspected, a Jackson chameleon photobombed my `ōhi`a pic!

Here’s a closer shot, taken from underneath the tree:


I’m happy to report that the mature tree was absolutely buzzing with honeybees. We still have a healthy bee population in this neighborhood.

But — as this little photo-excursion demonstrates — I am easily distracted from the real business. I need to finish both an essay and a novel — so back to work!