Monthly Archives: February 2005

What Was in the Mystery Package

1) A CD Rom, with a loose yellow paper label beginning “I am converted to you, Children mine!”

2) A cover letter, of sorts, with a five-pointed star graphic in the header aligned with Russian text; and in Roman text, an 11-page letter, decorated by religious icon graphics, beginning “I am, God Supreme, your Father meet your” [sic] and signed on the first sheet “God Supreme”; paperclipped to a turquoise slip with text beginning “Only what I want from my Children it have been understand me.” [sic], and a pink slip with header “Message you Creator messenger” [sic] followed by Russian text and a handwritten telephone number 8(443) 29-54-91, followed by “GOD SUPREME” and further Russian text.

3) Several sheets of English text, beginning with “( At 13years the schoolgirl the third eye >>) has opened<<" [sic], stapled to several double-sized (17x11) sheets of photocopied articles in Russian.

4) 161 double-sided, single-spaced pages of manuscript beginning with a large red-font header “The First Book / The man lives in other world after death” [sic], and ending finally with the para “Means, we have hope for the future. Nikolay, I shall keep in myself thy image, carry him in years. And now leave me. I do not wish to thee troubles at work. And before meeting… Before meeting…”

[sic]

Counting the Bests

Today’s release of the final Nebula ballot, and publication of SF Site’s editors’ choice list, prompted me to spend a couple hours today finishing up this year’s version of Locus Online’s annual compilation of various best of the year lists. This year I’ve done it as a subset of the regularly-updated directory pages, and included the awards nominations to date, rather than as a separate tally such as last year’s.

Glancing down the 2004 list it’s remarkable how little consensus there is, beyond the small handful of already well-known titles– by Susanna Clarke, David Mitchell, Gene Wolfe, Philip Roth. Minister Faust’s book emerges as a surprisingly frequently cited title.

I watched a bit of the Grammy Awards the other night, more for a glimmer of all the acts I’m unfamiliar with than anything else. What strikes me about the Grammys more than any other award for popular art is how balkanized the form is. There are roughly 100 categories, and I’d guess that most people, even most music industry people, are interested or knowledgable about only a handful of them, knowing nothing about the others aside from the rare ‘break-out’ act. This is why when the entire group votes on the best album category, it so frequently goes to a dead guy–or to someone living for some sentimental reason–becoming in effect a lifetime achievement award rather than reflecting any kind of judgment about the albums themselves. The LA Times music critic Robert Hilburn has become so incensed by this that in his write-up on Monday he said in effect “Academy–please stop this!” Noting that Ray Charles should have won for an album 40 years ago that lost to a Bob Newhart comedy album…

It seems like there are a lot of SF awards, but it occurs to me that if you added up the number of categories in all those awards the total would be somewhere around the number of Grammy categories, around 100. The difference is that in SF there are independent constituencies determining the various specialty awards. The Hugo, perhaps, is where everyone comes together… While the Nebulas, on the other hand, are one kind of constituency.

Traffic

• This isn’t giving anything away, but for a couple years now Locus has offered its interview subjects links to special subscription pages on the Locus website whereby readers of their websites can either order the Locus issue with that person’s interview postpaid, or subscribe for a year and receive said issue for free. You’ll have noticed this if you’ve visited the websites of those who’ve been interviewed lately, or if you’ve been interviewed yourself. (A few interviewees, by the way, decline the offer of the link, uncomfortable with the matter for one reason or another, but the majority agree.) What brings this to attention now is that just yesterday Neil Gaiman’s Journal posted an announcement of his own offer, subsequent to his interview in the February issue, and the response has far and away exceeded any other such offer — some 30 responses just today, in the first 24 hours. (I create and post the special subscription pages and monitor the traffic from the website.) The point being, Neil evidently has a wide audience that extends far beyond the little globular cluster that is Locus, a spiral arm perhaps — as I type another Neil sub email popped in — and the beam he’s shown in our direction is drawing them our way. Welcome to the party, we hope you’ll stay.

• My email problems are more or less fixed, as I explained in a comment to the previous post, though not entirely. I’m beginning to suspect a weak or flaky wireless router is part of the problem. Still, I will try not to whine too frequently about my computer problems; not thinking myself special for any reason, I must suppose that most people have similar problems from time to time, and find better things to write about in their blogs than those problems. I will try too.

• 150 Locus Poll ballots received to date, and nearly 120 Best-fantasy-story poll submissions. I’ve run a tally on the former and seen some preliminary results. As always, it will be interesting to see how the early tallies compare to the final results. (Last year only a few of the early leaders eventually won.) I said last year I would run some queries on the ballots to reveal various voting patterns — e.g., what percentage vote for novels only, or short fiction at all, etc. — and never got around to it. I’ll do so this year.

Technical Difficulties (Yet Again)

Still having trouble with outgoing email from my home PC via the locusmag.com mail server, which has worked just fine until recently. Checking account settings in Outlook, everything checks OK except for ‘send sample email’, which fails. I submitted a trouble ticket to CI Host and they responded that their test showed everything is fine. Grr. If I haven’t answered your email recently, this is why. (At least I have an excuse.) If I haven’t answered your email from 2 or 3 weeks ago, well, it’s just because I’m behind as usual.

Best of Year, Hereby

I’ve posted best-of-year essays by Claude Lalumiere and Jeff VanderMeer today, finally, after having both of them for one or more weeks, their completion being backed up by work to update the SF Awards index, and then the 2005 best fantasy story poll. January has been a busy month.

Meanwhile, I’ve seen that the best fantasy story poll has elicited much commentary over at Jeff V’s section of the Night Shade Books discussion area. I would only add that, according to the initial definition of the poll, I did omit pre-1900 stories from the final list posted yesterday. That’s why no Edgar Allan Poe, etc. Though in some cases, the decision to include or omit was based on genre-affiliation as much as anything. Mark Twain? L. Frank Baum? Some titles were in fact published after 1900, but I left them off anyway since the titles seemed obscure (i.e. I didn’t recognize them).

If any voter objects to the selectivity of the posted list, all they have to do is use the write-in boxes to vote for whatever stories they feel worthy, whether or not they are included in the posted selections. Anyone who deeply objects to the posted selections is free to email me; I’m happy to consider amending the posted list to include additional items. The voting is open for nearly three more months, after all.

End of year/beginning of year is a busy time; at this moment there are, um, four ‘monitor’ listings due to be posted: fourth week January new books; second half January new magazines; classic reprints seen in January; new paperbacks seen in February. (Given the way paperback reprints are published, the ‘new in paperback’ page can be ready very early in the month.) Ideally these would all be posted by now; practically, it will take another week or so.

Tally Options

After a couple days of e-mail exchanges among various expert consultants about this year’s special Locus poll category for ‘best all-time fantasy story’, a much-expanded version of the form for this category has been posted– https://secure.locusmag.com/2005/Issues/02FantasyStoryPoll.html. The initial 50-title seed list has been replaced by a list of nearly 300 titles, drawn from awards winners, expert recommendations, and classic anthologies. Since the presence of suggested titles, by means of drop-down boxes or a nominee list, might easily be seen as influencing the voting, anyone who submitted votes from the earlier form is invited to resubmit their votes, if they choose to do so, after considering the expanded list of suggestions.

Compiling and formatting this list has, however, spent my available website time for today, and so the special-to-Locus-Online best-of-year essays by Claude and Jeff promised earlier will be delayed another day or two.

85 email ballots have been received so far from the main poll & survey form–an impressive beginning, it strikes me, though I don’t have last year’s results to compare against. (I’ve changed computers since then.)