Hugos! and NecronomiCon!

CliqueThe Hugo Awards were last night. I did not stay up to watch the livestream because I’m an old lady (they didn’t even START until 11pm EDT). However plenty of people did, so there are a lot of postmortems floating around.

You may remember the controversy a few months ago when the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, a group of angry conservatives who felt that the reason they weren’t winning Hugos was because of a secret liberal conspiracy and not because they failed at writing good books, teamed up with GamerGaters and stuffed the Hugo nomination ballots with tons of their own works. Even after the ineligible works of theirs were disqualified, a lot of the awards were entirely filled with puppies nominees. Vox Day, head of the group, threatened that they would continue to hold the Hugos hostage every year until people finally gave in and voted for him. Later, when it became apparent that a lot of people were planning to vote “No Award” in those categories where they felt none of the nominees deserved it, Vox Day and the other puppies decided that losing was actually a moral victory for them and that had been their plan all along.

Speeding trainANYWAY. Last night were the Hugos, and here are the results:

  • BEST NOVEL: The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books)
  • BEST NOVELETTE: “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Lia Belt translator (Lightspeed, 04-2014)
  • BEST GRAPHIC STORY: Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt, (Marvel Comics)
  • BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, LONG FORM: Guardians of the Galaxy, written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION, SHORT FORM: Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”, ” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America)
  • BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST: Julie Dillon
  • BEST SEMIPROZINE: Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
  • BEST FANZINE: Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia, Colin Harris, Alissa McKersie, and Helen J. Montgomery
  • BEST FANCAST: Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
  • BEST FAN WRITER: Laura J. Mixon
  • BEST FAN ARTIST: Elizabeth Leggett
  • JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER: Wesley Chu
  • Best Novella: No Award
  • Best Short Story: No Award
  • Best Related Work: No Award
  • Best Editor Short Form: No Award
  • Best Editor Long Form: No Award

Congrats to the winners! And congrats to No Award most of all. Not a single puppy won an award. The puppies believed that they were taking the awards out of the hands of a liberal minority hell bent on forcing diversity on the world and putting them into the hands of a silent conservative majority, but from the results of this vote, it’s pretty clear that silent majority doesn’t exist. I guess now we wait to see what next year’s awards will bring.

Victory

We'll be backFor further reading:

Chuck Wendig: “The Obligatory Hugo Awards Recap Post

Nicholas Whyte: “Hugo Awards 2015 – full analysis

Tobias Buckell: “What the Alternate Hugo Ballot Would Likely Have Been

Wired Magazine: “Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why It Matters

END HUGO RECAP

BEGIN NECRONOMICON COVERAGE

That Cthulhu Sunrise was very tasty.

That Cthulhu Sunrise was very tasty.

So I went to NecronomiCon Providence this weekend! Sort of. I wasn’t actually registered for the con itself, but I went to some of the peripheral events, including the Eldritch Ball, Lovecraft’s 125th birthday celebration, and the dealer’s hall.

NecronomiCon is a conference celebrating the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft was a Providence native and many Providence landmarks made it into his books. Miskatonic University is thought to be modeled after Brown University. Lovecraft’s grave is famously inscribed with the words I AM PROVIDENCE. When I was living off Hope St in Providence, I walked through that graveyard very often.

A tiny Cthulhu on Lovecraft's grave

A tiny Cthulhu on Lovecraft’s grave

The con happens every other year (though this is only the second time it has run), and has attendees from all over the world. Many of the panels are academic, and the con makes it quite clear that though they love his work, Lovecraft’s bigotry and racism are not being overlooked. The setting of the con is gorgeous, with events taking place in the Biltmore Hotel, the Providence Athenaeum, and the First Baptist Church in America.

Overall, a very enjoyable con, with a lot of friendly and enthusiastic attendees. Walking through the city, it was very easy to pick out the con goers out of a crowd. Some of the local response to the con seemed a little stilted (“Hey there NecronomiCon attendees! Boy am I a big fan of that…” *looks at smudged ink on hand* “…Cathy?”) but I may actually register for the con next time and attend it for real.

Big Nazo's Intergalactic Band

Big Nazo’s Intergalactic Band

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#PitchWars mentee bio

Hi there, Pitch Wars mentor! Welcome to my blog. I know that everyone involved in this really likes gifs, so let me say that again in gif form:

And I love you

I’m Bennett. I live in or near Providence, Rhode Island, depending on when you ask me. I work from home, which right now involves a lot of home maintenance projects, but I do some writing in there as well. I just sold a short story to Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine, which should be coming out within the next few months.

A lot of what I write is on the darker side of fantasy and science fiction, with a bit of humor mixed in. It’s mostly novel length stuff, though occasionally I’ll write a short story or two. The novel I’ve submitted for Pitch Wars is science fiction, and I’m really excited about it. I hope you are too.

Science!

I’m in the middle of reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson right now. I’m also in the middle of reading The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, because I just can’t read one book at a time. Some of my favorite authors include China Mieville, Chuck Wendig and Mira Grant. Next on my reading list is…well, I got a whole stack of books at Necon when I went last month so I have a lot to choose from.

I just really wanted to use this gif.

I just really wanted to use this gif.

When I’m not writing, I’m rock climbing, taking photos, drawing or playing video games. I occasionally review video games on my blog. Rarely, I’ll post art. I don’t watch very much tv anymore, preferring to binge watch entire seasons on Netflix when they come out. The one show I still watch religiously is The Walking Dead. It has its problems, but it’s a guilty pleasure of mine.

I don’t have a lot of appropriate gifs for this

I don’t have a lot of appropriate gifs for this post

So that’s about it! I hope you enjoy reading my first chapter. I feel that this novel is just on the edge, and with your help, we can make it great. I know there’s a lot of applicants, though, and your choice is going to be really tough, so good luck!

5th element bye bye

How to renovate your bathroom in 22 easy steps

So you want to renovate your bathroom! I myself just finished doing so, and I decided to impart my newly acquired wisdom on the world in the form of a handy blog post for easy reference. Here goes!

1. Decide that you want to renovate your bathroom

Not everyone gets a raised dais for their porcelain throne.

Not everyone gets a raised dais for their porcelain throne.

This is the easy part! Take a look at that hideous thing. The ugly wood paneling that’s not even real wood, but a sort of papery wood-colored veneer over plywood, stapled to the wall studs. The 70s style yellow linoleum floor, peeling up at the edges. The weird platform that your toilet is sitting on, because whoever did this bathroom didn’t feel like sinking the pipes into the cement floor, so just perched the toilet on top of them. Okay, you’re not going to be doing anything with those pipes either, so that platform is staying, but the rest of it should be pretty easy to fix, right?

2. While vacuuming the room next door, bump the vacuum head into the molding and notice how it crumbles like stale bread

Apparently the stud on the left was much tastier.

Apparently the stud on the left was much tastier.

This part may seem unrelated, but it’s actually closely linked. That crumbling molding? Termites! Call in a carpenter to rip out the entire wall, exposing the termite-eaten studs that are squishy to the touch. Have him spend a week replacing the studs and hanging drywall. Since this room is paneled in the same gross wood stuff, you might as well repaint the entire room when he’s done, instead of just the one wall. Buy yourself a couple buckets of paint for the room and spend some time redoing it. Is there some paint left over? Great! Now you’re all set to start your bathroom remodeling.

3. (Optional) Spill an entire iced coffee in the office while painting it

This part is up to you, but I recommend it for the added experience of giving your blood pressure a workout. If you’re not an iced coffee drinker, make sure that whatever beverage you substitute is equally cold, refreshing and delicious.

4. Finally get around to priming the bathroom walls

Since it’s wood paneling, you should probably use Kilz first to prime it. That’s an oil based primer and the idea is that it stops oily yellow wood sap from leaking through the finished paint job. That probably won’t happen with this fake wood paneling stuff, but eh, might as well. If you wear contacts, this step will be a breeze. If you don’t, prepare to flee from the room, eyes streaming in chemical-induced agony. If you have lungs, try not to use them.

5. Paint!

Smooth as a baby's bottom

Smooth as a baby’s bottom

This part is pretty easy because the bathroom is so small. Don’t worry about getting paint on the floor, since you’ll be replacing that. You probably should have patched up the nail holes and stuff in the wall before starting but it’s too late now. Oh hey, looks like some of that wood veneer stuff is peeling straight off where it got damp from long term sink use. Just rip that right off and paint over the plywood. No one will notice the texture different, right?

6. Now it’s time for the linoleum

It's probably nothing.

It’s probably nothing.

For the lower floor, you can probably just put the tiles right on top of the stuff that’s there. For the upper floor, the edges of the linoleum are peeling up so you might as well rip it up. Why is it pulling up crumbly plaster? Where did all this rotted wood come from? Has the toilet been leaking under the wood all this time? Can you just…cover this up and cross your fingers?

7. Turns out you can’t just cover it up and cross your fingers

Faces blurred to protect the innocent.

Faces blurred to protect the innocent.

Call back your carpenter and have him rip out that entire platform. First he’s going to have to remove the toilet, which necessitates vacuuming out the water in the bowl with your wet/dry shop vac. Oh right, remember how the shop vac vents air straight out the top? Yeah, it’s going to do that with the water, too, so your freshly painted ceiling and walls are now coated in a muddy splatter. Thank god you cleaned the toilet before you let him do that.

8. Fix up all those new gouges in the wall

The carpenter isn’t so great with delicate work, and he’s left a few gouges in the new paint job, as well as all that mud splatter. Wipe up the mud and paint over all the new holes. They’re not really noticeable once you sand down all the splintered veneer.

9. Prime the new platform and tile it

Instant class

Instant class

You bought peel-and-stick linoleum tiles, so this part is pretty easy. Of course, there’s not a straight, level line in the entire bathroom, so cutting the tiles is pretty fun, but at least it cuts easily with an x-acto knife. Buy some vinyl staircase nosing to cover the edge of the platform and step and keep the linoleum from peeling back up. You’ll need to go to two different hardware stores to find the right stuff, and most of the people you talk to there will stare at you blankly when you ask for it, but you’ll get there eventually.

10. Buy new baseboard molding

Kitty hates change. Me too, kitty. Me too.

Kitty hates change. Me too, kitty. Me too.

Since the carpenter had to rip out the old platform, he had to rip out all the molding up there too. He said he was going to do it gently so you could nail it back on, but lol no. It’s all splintered and shattered. That’s okay! You can just buy some new stuff and have the guy at Lowe’s cut it to the right length.

11. Miter the molding

Artsy instagram shot of a Sisyphean task

Artsy instagram shot of a Sisyphean task

You know that thing where you have to cut the molding on a diagonal so it meets up flush with the rest of the molding in the corner? That’s called mitering, and the guy at Lowe’s says his machine doesn’t do it. Do you have a table saw? No? Well I hope you have a miter box or something. Is the molding too big for the miter box? Okay, try doing it by hand. NO DON’T DO THIS BY HAND. IT WILL NEVER LINE UP. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW LATE YOU STAY UP, SANDING AND RE-CUTTING. Oh and make sure you cut the diagonal going the right way, because boy will your face be red when you realize you didn’t, and now you have to cut it again, and now the molding is too short. No one will notice that two-inch gap, right? Give up around midnight, leaving the good-enough molding on the bathroom floor. Don’t nail it in yet, just in case you have energy in the morning to try again.

12. Nail in the molding

So when you bought the molding, it came in white, which doesn’t really match the paint job of the rest of the bathroom but you ran out of trim paint and you’re really lazy. Even though you carefully padded the vice before clamping it in to miter it, the molding is now scuffed, but that’s okay. When you go to nail in the first bit of molding, try choosing a nail that’s too long, so despite a lot of hammering, a good inch of the nail sticks out. Then try pulling the nail back out with the claw of the hammer, without causing extra damage to the molding. You won’t manage that, by the way. Now the molding looks really crappy. Okay, I guess you’re going to paint this molding.

13. Paint the molding

Bring the molding to the garage to paint it. But wait, why is the molding wet when you pick it up from the bathroom floor? Where is all this water coming from? Oh hey, the water supply valve has been leaking. Leave a bucket under it overnight and come back to more than a cup of water. That’s a lot of water. Google “water supply valve replacement” and watch some YouTube videos. Not too difficult, right? Before you go to the hardware store to buy the supplies, check to see which part of the valve is leaking. None of it? Wait, where the hell is this water coming from? How is it just squeezing straight through the metal like that?

14. Call in that carpenter again

Well, first you call the carpenter to cancel, since he was supposed to come back in and install your vanity, but he tells you he can do some plumbing, so bring him back in. He’ll look at it and then tell you he has to run to Home Depot to get a shark bite tube thingie to replace it. He replaces the water supply valve too so no more leak. Yay!

15. Put the toilet back in

The carpenter can do this for you. You already bought one of those wax ring things for him, but it turns out the bolts are too short so he just has to run back to Home Depot to get new ones. It’s because he’s not really a plumber, he says. He’d have thought of that earlier if he did this sort of thing more often.

16. Install the vanity

Batman? Is that you?

Batman? Is that you?

You bought a vanity a few days ago. It’s nice and fancy and has a spiffy new faucet too. The carpenter will have to take out the old sink. When he does that, he’ll discover that the sink has been leaking too. You kind of knew that already but you’d decided to pretend it wasn’t an issue. Turns out it’s an issue. He has to call in his friend to help. His friend arrives on a bicycle. He doesn’t actually tell you his friend is coming, so it’s a bit weird to hear another man enter your house and start talking.

17. Replace the old plumbing

The carpenter just has to run to Home Depot to grab some more supplies. The old plumbing doesn’t really fit the new vanity, and when he fills the sink with water and then drains it, the water pours out onto the floor instead of down the pipe as it theoretically should.

18. Cut a hole in the wall to fit in the new plumbing

It’s sort of a big hole? But once the sink is in place it’ll be fine. Oh he’s also going to have to cut the molding off the wall because the vanity has to sit flush to the wall. No big deal. Once he runs to Home Depot, he’ll be able to get everything in there nice and snug.

19. The carpenter is done! Time for the decorative touches

Decorative touches in this case refers to the towel rack, toilet paper roll holder, toothbrush holder and door stop. You’d actually taken the door stop out before the carpenter arrived because you knew he’d manage to rip it out of the wall somehow. The towel rack, toilet paper roll holder and toothbrush holder all have these wall mounts that they attach to so that the screws aren’t visible on the finished product. The first two also come with cardboard templates that you can tape to the wall so you can drill the holes in the right place. So helpful!

20. The cardboard templates are wrong

Time to drill new holes.

21. Screw in the mounts

This is really easy to do in the places where there were no studs behind the molding. Sure, if the towel rack and everything was going to hold up something heavy, this would be an issue, but since it’s not, you just attach it to the paneling. Except in that one place where you did manage to find a stud. Holy hell, it’s hard to get the screw in there. You’d drilled out a 1/16″ hole for the screw, but there is NO PHYSICAL WAY to get the screw in that hole. Your electric drill is not strong enough. All you’re doing is stripping the screw. Try doing it by hand. Nope. Drill the hole a little deeper. Nope. Get a 3/16″ drill bit, which is actually wider than the screw, and drill the hole again. The screw goes in pretty easy now, doesn’t it?

22. Done!

Worth it.

Worth it.

Enjoy your new bathroom. Now wasn’t that worth it?

This is not a review of ARK: Survival Evolved

I was going to review ARK: Survival Evolved, which is the new survival game involving dinosaurs, still in early access. It looks awesome and I’ve seen some funny playthroughs, but unfortunately on my computer, it plays at 1 frame per second. And this is after it takes half an hour to start up.

I made it to the character creation screen, which is really detailed and gives you quite a lot of freedom with body type and skin color. Unfortunately, if you try to click and drag the character to a different position, it takes a second to respond, and then goes too far, so you go from full frontal view, to a nice view of your character’s scalp, to an up close and personal view of your character’s lovingly crafted crotch folds.

I’m fully aware that my three-year-old laptop is just not powerful enough for this game, but considering that I can run most games, and that this was all the way down to its absolute lowest graphic settings, I feel like maybe their requirements are excessive. Or maybe I just need a new computer.

Still, I’m sad that Maddy Longlegs is never going to see the light of day.

Able to reach objects on high shelves in a single bound.

Able to reach objects on high shelves in a single bound.

On unlikeable characters

This guy can be kind of a dick too.

This guy can be kind of a dick too.

I’m working on finishing up my most recent writing project, and as I wrote a scene today, I realized that one of the main characters in the novel is unlikeable. I knew this already because my writing group had mentioned having issues with her character, but it was only today that I began to figure out why I myself didn’t like her.

Then I thought, should I fix that? After all, it’s not a bad thing to have an unlikeable character. There’s a world of difference between an unlikeable character and a bad one. A bad character is one that isn’t developed well or doesn’t contribute much to the story. An unlikeable character can be well written and indispensable for the plot, but is just kind of an asshole.

On the other hand, I think there’s also a world of difference between a character who’s unlikeable to people in the story, and a character who I personally hate. I might not want to be best friends in real life with Darth Vader or Dexter or Dr. House, but I love them as characters and love watching them on screen. However, the character of the cowardly lion in Gregory Maguire’s book A Lion Among Men was so detestable that I will still rant angrily about him to anyone who expresses interest in reading the series.

Maybe the clearest example of this is the difference between Draco Malfoy and Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series. Draco Malfoy is a jerk to Harry, but he’s a very popular character among readers, partially for the glimpses of his rocky home life. Umbridge is also a jerk to Harry, but readers universally despise her because she’s disgustingly smug and always in control.

Making a character likeable is often as simple as giving them something a reader can relate to, and perhaps a way to justify their bad behavior. Dexter is a serial killer, but he has a family to protect and he tries to only kill other serial killers, of which there are a disturbingly large amount in Miami. House is an absolute dick to everyone he meets, but he’s brilliant and he suffers from chronic pain. Sherlock Holmes, at least in the modern BBC adaptation, is also a dick to everyone he meets, but he’s a lonely genius. Hannibal Lecter eats people and cuts off someone’s face, but he’s a gentleman who respects Clarice and helps her track down another killer. Even when we see them at their most brutal, it’s usually turned against people we dislike. Dexter can violently stab someone else to death, but as long as that someone is a serial killing rapist and not a character we know and love, the viewers will root for him.

I was reading the Pitch Wars wishlist blog hop yesterday, and one of the things I noticed several authors and editors looking for was unlikeable female characters. Since women in novels are often presented as the hero’s reward for completing his quest, they’re written as nice and morally pure. Even if they kick ass, they can’t run the risk of being unlikeable because then they wouldn’t be an adequate reward. When they’re the only female in the whole work, they usually show up as the platonic ideal of womanhood. There’s not a lot of leeway in there to be unlikeable.

It follows, then, that if you have an unlikeable female, it means that her purpose in the novel is not simply to be a romantic interest and/or the representative of her whole sex. An unlikeable female can’t be replaced by a sexy leg lamp, because in order for her to be unlikeable, she has to do something that provokes emotion other than sit there and look sexy. Yes, that’s a very low bar to clear, and having an unlikeable female character isn’t the key to a great story, but it is a sign that the writer is putting a little more effort into characterization than the bare minimum. What those #PitchWars mentors want when they ask for unlikeable female characters are women who are allowed to be flawed and human; characters who don’t need to be likeable for the sake of being a romantic interest.

Your female protagonist.

Your female protagonist.

So where does that leave my unlikeable character? She’s unlikeable because she believes that since she’s the good guy, the morally reprehensible things she does are justified. Her holier-than-thou attitude is irritating. If, as the writer, I never presented a differing opinion to hers in the story, readers might think that I also thought the bad things she did were justified.

Maybe that’s the key. I’m willing to put up with unlikeable characters in stories as long as I assume that the author is intentionally making them unlikeable. I know that Rowling was making Umbridge insufferable because that was the push Harry needed to make Dumbledore’s Army. When I don’t finish a book because of its unlikeable characters, usually it’s because I feel the author is trying for cool and snarky but is failing. Sherlock, unfortunately, has been crossing this line more and more; the writers seem to think that his intelligence excuses his obnoxious personality. I much prefer Elementary, where Sherlock can be a jerk but we’re not expected to love him for it.

In my character’s case, I don’t think I’ll be making an effort to make her more sympathetic. Now that I fully understand why she is the way she is, I can write her a lot better. As long as her motivations are believable, I don’t think she needs to be anyone’s best friend.