Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for the 'Meanderings' Category

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!

A Glossary of Hazardous Cooties in Science Fiction

Monday, October 21st, 2013

This post was originally published at Book View Cafe.

It’s dangerous out there, people. There are risks involved in reading the wrong sorts of science fiction, and while advice and counsel is available around the web, the time has come for a concise glossary of the most common debilitating parasitic memes, most frequently referred to as “cooties,” that are known to infect vulnerable readers. Knowledge is power. As a writer who has risked association with ALL listed varieties, I felt compelled to share my observations and experiences.

This book is known to contain the following varieties of cooties: girl, hard SF, military SF, male protagonist. Read with caution!

This book is known to contain the following varieties of cooties: girl, hard SF, military SF, male protagonist. Read with caution!

Found in: science fiction written by girls
Who’s at risk? boys
What happens if you catch them: possible loss of manhood generally through exposure to romance and excessive clothing descriptions; moderate risk to self-image in cases where female characters are not competing to win attention of male characters; possible nausea when female reproductive issues (non-coital varieties) are involved; in general, subversion by the alien female.

Found in: science fiction that attempts to extrapolate from known science
Who’s at risk? girls
What happens if you catch them: possible loss of womanhood with severe risk of personality collapsing into cardboard, resulting in long-term loss of emotional empathy. Occasionally associated with right-wing conversions.

Found in: science fiction about military service; rarely: found in association with Hard SF cooties.
Who’s at risk? girls and boys
What happens if you catch them: possible loss of empathy for those outside your unit, frequent development of might-makes-right approach to problem solving; reduction of color vision—in worst cases even shades of gray are lost.

Found in: science fiction with a female protagonist
Who’s at risk? boys
What happens if you catch them: Little-to-no risk has been found with the “kick ass” variety of female-protagonist cooties. For risks of other varieties, refer to the listing for girl cooties.

Found in: science fiction with a male protagonist
Who’s at risk? girls
What happens if you catch them: effects vary greatly. Some male-protagonist cooties are benign, some induce a severe allergic reaction. The most potent induce a hallucinogenic state wherein the victim comes to feel empathy for the alien other.

Warning: some science fiction is known to be infected with multiple species of cooties and should be considered especially hazardous. Read with caution!

SF Signal: Mind Meld

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Every week, SF Signal poses a question to a collection of writers. We answer separately, and the results are posted on Wednesdays. This week I got to participate. The subject: How has reading science fiction and fantasy changed you as a person or changed your life?

The other authors who answered this week’s question are Myke Cole, Evie Manieri, Gillian Polack, James Patrick Kelly, Howard Andrew Jones, Michael J Martinez, Ken Scholes, E.J. Swift, and Abhinav Jain.

Find this week’s Mind Meld here: How Science Fiction Changed Our Lives

A Few Photos For July 4

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

This was originally posted on Independence Day 2013, but in this tainted year of 2017 it’s more important than ever to recall the sentiments in these images, so I’m pinning this post to the top of my blog. Happy Fourth of July!

In early May I visited Washington DC for the first time. It was a fantastic trip, and though I still haven’t managed to blog on it, I thought I’d post a few photos to celebrate the Fourth of July.

From the Roosevelt Memorial

From the Roosevelt Memorial

From the Jefferson Memorial

From the Jefferson Memorial

...and another from the Jefferson Memorial.

…and another from the Jefferson Memorial.

At the Jefferson Memorial

At the Jefferson Memorial

More On Hard SF From Ronald Zajac

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Vast by Linda NagataSeveral days ago I posted on the tired old meme that hard SF is “emotionless” writing. Since then I’ve seen this meme repeated two or three times by other writers, which is both hugely discouraging and infuriating. I strongly encourage you to go read a post by Ronald Zajac called “Can we rethink this whole “hard vs. soft” business?” Ronald’s post looks at the issue from a more historical perspective:

Clearly, if we rewrite our definitions of the genre in a way that lets readers appreciate Lem and LeGuin, Clarke and Delany, together, for their different qualities, we will be doing all of SF a favour. At the same time, perhaps, we’ll be eliminating gender divides that have no place in a forward-thinking genre.

Ronald’s post led me to a twitter debate late last night with @AthenaHelivoy, as we have different perceptions of the problems in and around so-called “hard SF.” My final conclusion to this debate is very simple: whether we like the term or not, the concept of “hard SF” exists as a marketing category, and when sweeping statements are made condemning the subgenre as “emotionless,” those statements hurt me and many other writers who are not remotely guilty of the charge. So I object, and will continue to object.

I suspect I’ll be writing more on this subject soon…

Times Change: “SF” vs “Sci-Fi”

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Long ago it was taught to me that within the science fiction genre we should never say “Sci-Fi.” If we want an abbreviation, we use the initials “SF.” Otherwise it’s “science fiction.”

The general reason given for avoiding “sci-fi” was that logically it should be pronounced “skiffy.” (Shaun Duke and Jen Zink have turned this right around by creating The Skiffy & Fanty Show).

Really though, I think it’s a tribal thing. Within the genre, “Sci-fi” was seen as a term used by dilettantes, those who might have picked up a Michael Crichton novel or two, watched some Star Trek or Star Wars, but in all likelihood knew little to nothing about the core of the genre.

I used to wince when someone would say to me, “Oh, I love sci-fi!”

But you know what? Times change. I now freely use the term “sci-fi” — and twitter is the reason.

Twitter allows a maximum of 140 characters per tweet. “SciFi” without the hyphen takes up five. “Science Fiction” requires fifteen. That’s a HUGE difference when I’m trying to tweet something like:

“There Needs To Be A War Going On Somewhere” The Red: First Light is a near-future scifi thriller. Read a sample:

That’s 136 characters. Spelling out “science fiction” would break it.

So why not use “SF” which is even shorter? Because for most people “SF” stands for “San Francisco.” Yes. Truth. I have confused people by using SF in a tweet. I may be an “SF Writer” but I’m not a writer from San Francisco and The Red: First Light is not set in San Francisco.

So I have taken to heart a quotation from Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon:


I’ve put aside my tribal prejudice and, on twitter at least, I’ve adopted the use of “Sci-Fi.” I understand this is a kind of heresy, but then, I’m a fiery revolutionary indie publisher…or at any rate, I’m a pragmatist.

Ya’ gotta’ do what ya’ gotta’ do.

You know?