Monthly Archives: January 2006

Scam Scam?

First, thanks to those who, reading the comment thread to an earlier post, actually sent donations in support of Locus Online and/or the Awards Index! Much appreciated. Gives me motivation to work those refinements and finish those enhancements and produce a marketable product. I’ll move that Paypal donation button — still at the bottom of the Locus Online homepage — upward on the site real soon.

Second, I’m still somewhat behind on routine posts, my FTP access being restricted during certain times of day…

Third, interesting email today, from someone who claims she received a phone call about resubscribing to one of the SF mags before rates increased, only to find it was a scam from some service no longer actually dealing with that magazine. But an initial query to confirm the story with that magazine produced no confirmation… What could be going on here? The clever ways spammers and scammers invent to solicit a response are never-ending…

One More Slice

I added one more summary results page to the Awards Index site today — Major Novel Winners, 1951-2005, inspired by a listing I saw posted in a blog somewhere recently (of course, now I can’t remember exactly where). There are infinitely many ways to slice and filter the awards data, and this is just one more. Other ideas welcome.

Oh, and Locus Online’s Best of 2005 essays, by Matt Cheney and Claude Lalumière, went up today.

The next issue of Locus Magazine mails next week, Tuesday the 31st. I have until then to set up the online Locus Poll & Survey ballot… and the Locus Recommended Reading List.

Version 1.4

The awards index is updated again, with only a couple hiccups in the upload causing missing pages that a couple readers promptly notified me about, and so far just one typo in a book title similarly notified. The attention on the awards index update has left a backlog of several dozen less-than-urgent items in my inbox, which I will be attending to in the next few days, as well as a couple prominent features for the site, namely the ‘best of year’ essays by Matt Cheney and Claude Lalumiere, which I’ll try to get posted in the next day or two. Further on, Monitor listings of recent books and magazines.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I do intend to update the awards index incrementally over the coming year — from now on. Ideally, every new set of nominations that appears — like, today’s BSFA awards nominations — would go into the database and generate a new page in the index, rather than just an offsite link from the Locus Online homepage. In practice, there’s usually not time to type the nominees into the database, verify spellings and sources, etc., at the same time such news comes in. The technical difficulty with periodic updates involves the links between nominee names in awards listings and and the nominee indices. When the entire site is updated, the indexes are re-paginated and the index versions of the nominee names are resequenced. To update incrementally will require regenerating pages of the indices without repaginating, inserting new nominee names in the existing pagination, and so on. Perhaps that’s how it should be done anyway; the worst that could happen is that some index pages would grow to be longer than others. As technology advances and more and more people have high-speed internet access, I’m less and less worried about long pages of text.

Ultimately, I’ve always imagined that the Awards Index would be issued on CD ROM, for sale, as Bill Contento provides the Locus Index on CD ROM. (I’m hardly in this for the money, but a little pocket change couldn’t hurt.) He establishes an incentive to buy the CD ROM by posting each new year’s data online only as a separate index. If you want the latest years’ data integrated with the previous index, you buy the CD ROM, which has everything integrated into a single index. I’m not quite thinking along those lines, but I am thinking about what features of the awards index might be removed from the online site and withheld for a CD ROM edition — or, conversely, what extra features I might add the CD ROM edition that would provide an incentive for buying it. There’s always that long-planned expansion of the awards index that I rarely mention any more…

Traffic; E-mail; Workplace Restrictions

Lawrence Person posted a note late Sunday on Slashdot about his Ghost in the Shell review, resulting in a predictable huge spike in traffic to Locus Online on Monday: 23,010 visits, from 24569 distinct Internet addresses. 14,101 of the total entered the site at Lawrence’s review, and 13,845 of them left the site from that page. (I hope some of them clicked the banner ad while they were there!)

Meanwhile, the effects of the sale of my day job employer by one large aerospace concern to another large aerospace concern last Summer have finally reached the desktops of me and my fellow employees; this past week our PCs were ‘transitioned’ (via simply swapping out the hard drives) to a new standard platform installation, which includes MS Office 2003, different e-mail addresses, and greater restrictions on web access. The change in e-mail has meant that a few people have gotten confusing bounce responses when sending e-mail to me at, because I’d had those e-mails auto-forwarded to my old work address. Apologies; it should be cleared up by now.

The greater restrictions on web access are a matter of corporate philosophy, I suppose. The old company prohibited only obvious porn sites, as far as I knew; the new one prohibits web-based email pages (AOL, Yahoo, etc.), sites about games, and ‘personal storage’ sites, just to mention the ones I’ve come across already. Nothing critical to anything I’d do in support of the website… not that I, cough cough.

Video Hugo

I haven’t remarked much on the announcement of a special Hugo category for ‘Interactive Video Game’, because it’s not a form that especially interests me (aside from once every year or two Myst sequels, which seem to be over). But Cheryl’s remarks that “I suspect there’s a good chance that we’ll discover that very few Hugo voters actaully play video games” prompted me to check some results from last year’s Locus survey, FYI. In response to “which of the following related subjects are you interested in?” the results were:

movies: 71%
NF/science: 56%
mainstream: 50%
mystery: 43%
comics/graphic novels: 43%
historicals: 39%
YA fiction: 32%
small press/fanzines: 31%
Star Trek: 29%
Star Wars: 26%
computer/video games: 26%
Buffy/Angel: 25%
gaming/RPG: 19%
Stargate: 18%
romance: 12%

In contrast, 68% said they read online publications, a percentage almost as high as the result for movies, which seems consistent with reports that the Best Website category was one of the more popular categories (along with the dramatic presentation categories). Computer/video games don’t attract a great deal of interest, apparently, at least among Locus readers, but then neither do fanzines (according to this survey), and that hasn’t stopped the Hugos, which after all are fan based, from continuing to host fan categories for all these years.

Best and Worst

Cheryl Morgan’s response to my post yesterday reminds me of a principle that I’ve always kept in mind (as I compile self-published books on the one hand, and compile evidence to identify those ‘canonical’ books in the field on the other), to wit:

  • There is no work of art, however awful, that someone, somewhere, does not think is a work of genius; and
  • There is no work of art, however classic or canonical, that someone, somewhere, does not think is awful and a complete waste of time.

This is probably Somebody’s Law, though I don’t know whose, and I don’t remember where I first heard it. (Obviously I’m paraphrasing.) As evidence for the former, see Cheryl’s comment. For the latter, any collection of Amazon reviews of ‘classic’ works of literature (or SF), or the occasional compilations of egregious examples of same.

Writers and Readers

Sometimes I wonder if there aren’t more aspiring writers out there, intent on publishing their stories and novels by whatever means (even via self-publishing), than there are readers. Especially — self-involved or naive writers vs. discriminating readers. I get a certain number of self-published books in the mail for listing on Locus Online (and I list them; you’ve seen them), and I’ve just finished a survey of short fiction published in 2005 (for Locus Magazine’s February issue) that made note of certain websites that enable anyone to self-publish their stories (e.g. SFF World). I can’t help but wonder, every time I see one of these writers’ works, how many of these writers bother to read their compatriots, much less read widely in the field, much less are familiar with the works of the generally acknowledged best writers in the field, much less are familiar with the generally acknowledged canonical books of the field, much less are familiar with the generally acknowledged canonical books of contemporary or world literature.

And still feel they have something new to add, that commands your (my) attention?

Vanishingly few, I’d suppose. Most of them, instead, feel the ‘restless urge to write’ and implicitly suppose that there’s an audience out there waiting for what they have to say.

But from a reader’s standpoint, it boils down to the question — Why should I read your story or book, rather than anything else??.

I’ve been doing my annual survey/tallies of short fiction for many years — over a decade — and the bottom line result is that there are more stories published every year. Magazines and websites come and go, and anthology trends wax and wane, but somehow, the story totals increase every year. Where are all those writers coming from… if not from readers? The circulations of the professional magazines are declining every year!

I suppose the trend is due to technological advances — it’s easier and easier to self-publish, via POD, or websites.

Still, what are those writers thinking? Do they realize what they’re asking, what their odds are?

OK, I’m being harsh, too cynical. Many writers of works that have become regarded as best or canonical started out as unknown as all the currently self-publishing wannabes. Give ‘em a chance.

And beginning writers know that they’re not really in competition with the grand masters. They’re in competition with each other. Time will pass. A few of them will survive to become professionals, and fewer of them will survive to become recognized as masters, and a few in a generation will even survive to become grand masters, authors of canonical works.

Still, as a reader, one has to prioritize. Life is short. After a certain amount of time being receptive to newbies, one realizes there is only time to read so many more books, ever. Frankly, this was a factor in my giving up trying to review short fiction, 4 years ago now, feeling the obligation to spend much time every month reading as many new magazines and anthologies as I could. There’s only so much time, and there are so many more rewarding things to read. OR: Maybe it’s more meaningful to manage information that helps other people decide what they should read. Maybe that was it.

Filling in the Gaps

No progress on the awards website update today — though I did get two replies to my numerous e-mail queries about the gaps in what I’ve compiled so far. The first, in fact, was from those very nice folks from the Aurealis Awards, with a complete list of this past year’s winners. And my friend Lawrence Schimel supplied the Lambda nominees and winners, and a contact e-mail for further information.

Instead I spent most of today compiling counts of short stories published in the various 2005 magazines and anthologies… something I started years ago when I actually read and reviewed short fiction for Locus Magazine… and which I still do even though I don’t read enough current fiction anymore to be one of the magazine’s summary reviewers.

Another week or so before the awards site is updated, I expect.

Awards Gaps

I’ve spent a long day compiling data about this past year’s awards nominations and winners — about 1100 entries in the database over the past couple days, in addition to about 500 records for the ‘major’ awards already compiled over the past year — and I’m here to appeal for leads on missing data, and to express irritation over unhelpful websites. The leader in that group would have to be the site for the Australian Aurealis Awards, which has a nice advert for the upcoming 2006 ceremony, but nowhere that I can find an actual list of the winners of the 2005 awards. Click on ‘winners‘, and you see a bunch of icons, and no information at all. You can click on ‘finalists’ to see the final nominees for the ’05 awards — but only in one category per page. Click click click, and in crude tables with no cellpadding. I’ve tracked down winners in most categories in a print issue of Locus Magazine, but not for all categories…

The James White Award site is similarly unhelpful. It lists five stories selected as finalists — but only the titles, not the authors. And not the winner. Was the winner announced at Worldcon? If so, I haven’t found it in print, or on the web.

I’ve also had no luck tracking down the nominees and winners of the Lambda Literary Awards, whose website has nothing about recent years. I’m sure I saw a list of finalists a few months ago, but I can’t find it on the web or in e-mail (I thought I forwarded the list to the magazine, but apparently they never printed it, and I can’t find the e-mail).

Still, there are 80 some awards compiled in the Locus Index to SF Awards, and I’ve found ’05 results for most all the others. The few that are still missing are the Ignotus, the Italia, and the Rotsler. (Not to mention several that, it’s increasingly apparent, are defunct.)

My resolution for 2006 is to figure out a way of updating the awards index site incrementally, rather than just once a year. The difficulty is that the full site, with all the inter-connected links between author names and indexes and awards pages, takes many hours (aside from simply compiling the data) to validate and generate and upload; incremental updates would require short-circuiting some of those steps, posting listings of the latest nominations without links to the indexes, perhaps, or without updating all the tables and tallies. I’m working on it.

Web Sources, Awards

It’s odd how some SF awards, though established for decades in some cases, have no permanent or reliable web resources, still in this day and age…

I’m sitting at my computer tracking down the past year’s award results for compilation into the update of the Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards. I’ve compiled most of the major awards already, over the course of the past year, but there are still several dozen relatively minor awards to compile. It’s disconcerting to do a Google search on an award name and find my own Locus Index to SF Awards turn up as the primary source! This happens when the previously identified site has apparently disappeared… Thus, at the moment, for example, there’s no current Lambda Literary Awards site; no Ditmar Awards site (I’m relying on the copy of the nominations list in Jonathan Stahan’s blog for the latest year’s nominations). Other sites are remarkably casual (or perhaps simply poorly designed) in their presentation of their latest results; one site, for example, doesn’t bother to spell out nominees’ first names in some cases. Fortunately, the Locus Magazine staff has done some of the legwork to verify and fill in details for various awards’ nominations; and so I’ll be paging through the past year’s issues of the magazine to double-check, and in some cases use as primary source, some award nomination listings.