Jim C. Hines's Blog, page 2

April 12, 2017

This weekend, I’ll be the author guest of honor at Minicon in Minneapolis, along with science GoH “The Pope’s Astronomer,” Brother Guy Consolmagno, and fan GoH Mark Oshiro.


They’ve posted the preliminary schedule. Here’s where I think I’ll be for most of the weekend:


Friday



5:30 p.m. – We Suck: The Importance of Failure
7 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies
8:30 p.m. – Internet Presence

Saturday



10 a.m. – Exploring Creativity
11:30 a.m. – Koffeeklatch
1 p.m. – Interview with Jim C. Hines
5 p.m. – Costume Contest
8:30 p.m. – Reading
9:30 p.m. – Autographing

Sunday



10 a.m. – The Business of Writing
1 p.m. – Progressive Story
2:30 p.m. – Feet of Clay
4 p.m. – Closing Ceremonies

And then at a little after 8 that night, I’ll fly back home to Lansing.


It should be a fun time! Looking forward to seeing folks!

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Published on April 12, 2017 10:04 • 7 views

April 11, 2017

Odyssey Con is a Madison, Wisconsin convention scheduled to take place later this month. I want to share two tidbits from their website.


From their harassment policy:


“It is the intention of Odyssey Con to create a safe, friendly, welcoming environment…”


From their Who is Odyssey Con? page:


James Frenkel, Guest Liaison


#


I’ve talked about Frenkel on the blog before.



How to Report Sexual Harassment, by Elise Matthesen
WisCon, Harassment, and Rehabilitation (A follow-up to the previous link, about the 2013 incident)
A discussion with a different victim of Frenkel’s harassment prompted a post in 2010 about Reporting Sexual Harassment in SF/F

As have others.




Cherie Priest: “[W]hen Tor first brought me on board back in 2002, my fellow writers quietly warned me about him.”
[B]ack in 2009 when this picture of Frenkel staring at my breasts was taken  it was in many ways just one of those things…” -Mikki Kendall

As is the nature of these things, there’s a lot more that isn’t written about publicly. I’ve spoken with other people harassed by Frenkel who chose not to post about it online, or to file complaints. Given the way we tend to treat victims of harassment and assault — demanding details and proof, blaming them, excusing the harassment, telling them why they’re wrong or overreacting, and so on — I can’t and won’t blame anyone for making that choice.


Even so, knowledge of Frenkel’s history is widespread in the SF/F field. He lost his job with Tor Books shortly after the 2013 incident. He was banned for life from Wiscon. Hell, some of this stuff is on his freaking Wikipedia page.


In other words, there’s no way Odyssey Con was unaware of this history. But they still chose to allow Frenkel to serve as their Guest Liaison.


That’s their right. It’s their convention, and if they want to put a known repeat harasser on staff, they can do so. But that choice has consequences. Consequences like their Guest of Honor withdrawing from the convention. Or having other guests withdraw because the con prioritized a harasser over the safety of their guests.


#


I haven’t seen a public response from the convention yet, but I’m bracing myself for the typical refrain:


“But he’s such a nice guy. I never saw him harass anyone!”


He was a nice guy to me, too. He was genuinely kind and supportive when I was a nobody starting out in this business, and I hated learning about this other side of him. But the fact that he was nice to me doesn’t mean he’s nice to everyone. Harassers can be quite charming, and they learn to isolate their victims.


It would be like saying, “But Hannibal Lecter never tried to eat me, so how can you say he’s a cannibal?”


“He has a long history with the convention.”


Yes…he also has a long history of harassing women. What’s your point?


ETA: Called it! From the Odyssey Con program chair:


I have been personally acquainted with both Richard and Jim for many years, and, as program chair, I am 100% certain that they will both conduct themselves in responsible and appropriate fashions. Both Jim and Richard have made valuable contributions to Odyssey Con for years and I expect that they will, given the opportunity, continue to do so for years to come.


“He hasn’t done anything wrong since Wiscon 2013. Doesn’t he deserve another chance?”


Some things aren’t mine to share, but I question the assumption behind that statement. As for deserving another chance…personally, I think it depends. What work has he done to try to earn another chance? I do believe that everyone deserves the chance to learn and grow…but not at the expense of their victims. In other words, why is giving Frenkel yet another chance more important than giving your convention attendees a safe, welcoming event?


“It’s a witch hunt!”


Oh yes, of course. I’m sure it’s a big old conspiracy between Matthesen, Kowal, Priest, Kendall, Wiscon, Tor Books, and everyone else who’s spoken out about their experiences with Frenkel…


#


You can try to create a convention that’s safe and welcoming and friendly. Or you can put a man with a long, public history of harassment in a position of authority, with access to your guests.


You can’t do both.


#


ETA: Odyssey Con has posted a statement on Facebook (now removed, but screencapped by Natalie Luhrs), which includes this gem: “Odyssey Con is now, always has been, and always will be, open and welcoming to all. We do not allow anyone, not even a guest of honor, to dictate that someone else must be excluded from it.” (Read the full statement for context.)

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Published on April 11, 2017 12:04 • 30 views

April 10, 2017

Borderline: Cover ArtJust finished reading Borderline [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Mishell Baker. This is a Nebula award finalist, and having raced through the book, can see why. Here’s the official description:


A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.


For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.


That description sells the book short, in that it ignores a huge part of the book. Those “inner demons” are a reference to the fact that Millie has borderline personality disorder. In fact, everyone who works for the Arcadia Project has some form of mental illness, for reasons that are gradually explained and explored throughout the book.


I don’t know enough about BPD to judge how true Baker’s portrayal is, but it’s clear she’s done her research. Some of Millie’s comments about therapy and the techniques she’s learned to manage it ring very true to techniques my wife (a mental health therapist) has talked about. It feels respectfully written, which shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve read some of Baker’s posts and essays about mental health.


The central idea of fey serving as muses for big Hollywood names, and the effects and consequences of that magic, sets up a good story. But it’s the characters that really elevate the story. (I think Caryl was my favorite by the end.) They’re all portrayed with a sense of honesty and respect. BPD affects a lot of how Millie processes and reacts to things, for example, and sometimes that goes pretty badly. The story doesn’t try to justify or excuse Millie’s actions in those cases, nor does it condemn her as a horrible person. It’s presented as part of who she is, and we see her awareness and her struggles to manage being borderline.


The same holds true with Millie’s physical disability. Baker clearly did a lot of research about Millie’s prosthetics and the other effects of her disastrous attempted suicide. The metal in Millie’s body disrupts fey magic, but it isn’t played as just a clever way of giving her an advantage over the fey. I don’t have first-hand experience here, but it’s handled and written in a way that feels true to me.


The ending felt a little bit rushed, and got a little darker than I’d expected, but it worked well both to wrap up the story and lay some groundwork for the sequel, Phantom Pains, which just came out a few weeks ago. I’ve already added it to my reading list.


You can read an excerpt on Baker’s website.


For those of you who’ve read it, what did you think?

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Published on April 10, 2017 11:53 • 41 views

April 7, 2017

Friday will be at Minicon next week!



Animals who just don’t give a damn.
LEGO Megazord made of separate LEGO Dinozords.
Photobombing Cats. (A few look Photoshopped, but they still made me smile.)
Animal Memes.
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Published on April 07, 2017 08:04 • 15 views

April 4, 2017

Author Dave Freer has a post at the Mad Genius Club talking about the mass market edition of his book CHANGELING’S ISLAND…which was supposed to be available in February…


…except that the mass market was cancelled in fall of 2016.


From what Freer describes, there were multiple major communication failures. Starting with the failure to notify the author that the mass market edition had been cancelled.


The fact that Freer received page proofs in December — for a book cancelled months earlier — suggests internal communication failures as well. The book was listed for pre-orders on Amazon. It was posted on the Baen website. Freer had promoted the release in good faith.


This is prime author nightmare material.


Freer at one point compares his distributor to Hitler, which seems a bit much, but I can understand his frustration and disappointment. Reading about his experience with this book, it stuck with me enough to inspire blogging. I hate being reminded that other people’s mistakes can have such an impact on my career and success. The fact that yes, things can go very wrong through no fault of your own…it’s scary.


I should note that in my experience, and from authors I’ve spoken with, this is not normal.


Freer mentions never being told the release dates for his books. I sympathize — I usually find out when my books are coming out when they pop up for pre-order on Amazon. Overall though, most of my releases so far have been thankfully drama-free.


So what’s the takeaway here? What should authors do to protect ourselves?


The short answer: Hell if I know.


The longer answers: I’m not sure we can. One suggestion in the comments on Freer’s piece was to go indie, which obviously gives the author much more control, and eliminates much of the potential for miscommunication and other people dropping the ball. With indie publishing, you pretty much hold your own balls.


I should probably rephrase that, but I’m not going to.


Realistically though, self-publishing isn’t for everyone, and isn’t going to work for everyone. With my writing pace and day-to-day schedule, it’s not an option for me, and I know that. If it works for Freer, then I wish him all the best on that road.


I also find myself thinking about Baen and my own publisher, DAW. Both are in some respects small, family-type companies. They’re distributed through larger companies, but they have a little more of the control and freedom you’d find in a smaller business. In some ways, this is an advantage. I love the relationship I have with DAW. I love the loyalty they have for their authors — and I’ve seen some of that with Baen and their authors, too.


At the same time, I know there are times when DAW gets crunched. Having fewer people seems like it could increase the possibility for things to fall through the cracks.


Not really an answer at all: Publishing can be a rocky business. Sooner or later, things go wrong. I don’t believe this is generally out of malice, or even incompetence. (Easy for me to say, when I’m not the one dealing with the fallout.)


There’s no lesson here, really. Nothing I can point to and say, “Hey authors, if we avoid doing ______, we’ll be safe!”


…but maybe that is the lesson.

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Published on April 04, 2017 16:28 • 56 views

March 31, 2017

March 29, 2017

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Published on March 29, 2017 17:08 • 29 views

March 28, 2017

A while back, I posted something on Facebook about a rejection I’d received on a project. I was a bit taken aback when several people offered to “have a talk” with the editor. Others questioned the editor’s mental health for rejecting a Jim Hines story. It was flattering, in a way — I love that I have fans who are so enthusiastic about reading new stuff from me — but I think it might also reflect a basic misunderstanding.


Rejections are part of the job. They don’t suddenly stop when you become more successful. They’re less frequent, yes. Much less frequent, and my own mental well being is unspeakably grateful for that. But with the possible exception of folks like Rowling and King, we all risk rejection when we write.


Over the past year, I wrote a short story for an anthology that got cancelled. Another editor said they were interested, so I sent the story their way. They read it, said some nice things, and rejected the story. And they were right to do so.


I’ll be honest, I would have loved to sell a story to this particular editor and venue, but the story I had written didn’t match the tone and style of the venue. I appreciate them taking a chance on reading the story, but they have every right to turn it down. It’s their job to turn it down. Because it wasn’t the right story for them.


I have another project my agent has been shopping around. We’ve gotten some very nice rejections, generally saying things like it’s not quite right for that particular line, or it’s close but this or that or the other didn’t work for them.


In a slightly older example, I had a friend reject me because the story I’d written utterly missed what they were looking for in the guidelines.


Does it still sting? Sure. Twenty-two years into this, I still hate getting rejections. But I’m not unrealistic enough to think every word I write is made of gold and perfectly-suited to all editors and publishers in the world, bar none. Sometimes I’m able to sell the rejected work elsewhere, to an editor/venue that’s a better fit. Sometimes I’m not.


That’s how the business works. Even after 12 books and 50+ short stories in print. Not because the editors are misguided or wrong or blind to my brilliance, but because they’re doing their jobs.


As someone who’s currently on both sides of the desk (co-editing Invisible 3 with Mary Anne Mohanraj as well as continuing to write my own stuff), let’s keep in mind that being a good editor is hard, just like being a good writer.


As for those rejections? I recommend three things.



Get the story back out there.
Keep working on the next one.
Eat ice cream as necessary.
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Published on March 28, 2017 14:12 • 103 views

March 24, 2017

…and then the Fridays began.



Japanese Dwarf Flying Squirrel. Too much cuteness.
Cats being demonic.
Deadpool Musical “Gaston” Parody. NSFW (it’s Deadpool), but it made me laugh.
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Published on March 24, 2017 08:41 • 15 views

March 23, 2017

Shadowshaper Cover ArtI continue to snag books out of my son’s Scholastic book order forms. One of the latest was Shadowshaper [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], by Daniel José Older. It’s an enjoyable, relatively quick read. Here’s the summary:


Sierra Santiago planned to have an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.


With the help of a mysterious fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for herself and generations to come.


The “About the Author” section notes that Older lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, which is where the book takes place, and it shows. Sierra’s world feels real and fully developed, populated with interesting people and places. It’s a far cry from some of the generic pseudo-New York settings you sometimes get.


I love the concept of shadowshaping, the way the magic works as a collaboration between spirits and shadowshaper, and the possibilities of that power. One of my favorite scenes was watching Sierra discovering what she could do with a simple piece of chalk.


Sierra and the rest of the cast are great, all with their own personalities and flaws and conflicts. They feel like real people…it’s just that some of them can bring their artwork to life.


My only complaint is that the villain felt a bit flat and obvious. But the ideas behind that villain, the theme of the privileged cultural outsider barging in and making a mess of things, are totally valid and powerful. I wouldn’t want that to change; I just would have liked to see a little more depth to them.


And kudos for the awesome librarian.


I’ve seen a number of reviews praising the diversity in the book. On the one hand, I do think that’s worth recognizing, and I definitely appreciated it. On the other… I don’t know. I wish we could reach a point where we don’t have to praise authors for showing the world the way it is, and could instead just note when authors fail to portray a realistically diverse world. Does that make sense? I dunno…probably something that needs a longer blog post to unpack.


Anyway, to wrap this up, the ending was lovely and made me eager to read Shadowhouse Fall, which comes out in September of this year.

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Published on March 23, 2017 10:38 • 26 views