Monthly Archives: September 2010

Edit Comments

One of my regular tasks as administrator of this site is to moderate comments to the various WordPress blogs — News, Reviews, Perspectives, Roundtable, and my own personal Views from Medina Road. All comments submitted to the blogs are held pending an email sent to me to either approve or disapprove their posting. The disapprove options include ‘spam’ and ‘trash’. There are also options for ‘reply’, ‘quick edit’, and ‘edit’, though I’ve never used those.

I mention this to explain first, why some comments submitted by users don’t appear on the site for some hours — that is, because I’m away from locusmag email during the workday (I have a dayjob; running this site is an afterhours task), and don’t see these comment emails until evening (or the next morning, for those submitted overnight US west coast time).

Alas, spammers attack blog posts with fields for comments. A few weeks ago I tried solving the persistent spam submissions by restricting commentators to those who could log in to WordPress. Unfortunately, this seemed to block many legitimate commentators, which in retrospect explains why, as I remarked in On Mixed Marriages, there hadn’t been any comments to a Perspectives post by Gary Westfahl. So… I removed the restriction and became resigned to dealing with the many approval emails from spammers every day. This continues.

The second reason I mention this is that I can’t resist noting that there is a persistent spammer, who submits comments — consisting of dozens of links to various international sites with suffixes such as and, and whose title (do not Google this) is aeroriJeots — to a certain Cory Doctorow column called “Persistence Pays Parasites”…

Well, they are indeed persistent, but I spend a few minutes every day trying to assure that their persistence does not pay.

That’s all for tonight.

Butterflies are free to fly

I am reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, in part as something completely different from anything else I’ve been trying to keep up with lately, and in part because it is a current, topical book, recently released and still under discussion in the blogosphere and, frankly, to some extent the act of reading any book isn’t just to improve or inform one’s mind with the essential goodness of a particular text, but rather to participate in the cultural assimilation, via reaction and discussion (online, these days), of how a significant new book is received.

I am about half-way through.

I will say this: It is engrossing. It is a ‘realistic’, contemporary, story about the members of Minnesota family, and it cannily switches perspectives, from one family member to the next, to give a kaleidoscopic perspective. It explores the relationships of the family members, in psychologically astute detail; almost to the point of clinical examination, but never less than fascinating and, as I said, engrossing.

As a reader of science fiction (and, sometimes, fantasy), I can’t help but reflect, as I often do on reading literary novels, on what the point of any work of fiction is. Literary mavens routinely dismiss SF/F on the basis that its works contain no real characters, and thus cannot be comprehended, as being too abstract.

It would be easy to react to literary novels, this Franzen in particular, as being entirely too self-absorbed. It is all about its characters. So what? Any person, any character, contains multitudes; fine. Is there any larger meaning? That larger meaning is generally what SF/fantasy is after.

I’m half-way through, and there are suggestions of larger perspectives — namely, issues of overpopulation and global warming. I suspect these are abstract issues, incidental in the context, not really what the book is after. If anything, the larger issue is suggested by the title — the issue of how any person lives their life, finds meaning in their life amidst the infinite possibilities inherent in the concept of freedom. With so many ways to choose how to live one’s life, how does one make it meaningful?

But I might well be reading into it more than is there; or missing the point. I’ll say more once I’ve finished.

Drilling Down the Inbox; Hugo Results

The most effective way to do so — as, for instance, after a long weekend of relative inattention, when 600 or 700 emails have accumulated in 3 or 4 days, not to mention the backlog of another couple hundred — is, as I’ve concluded today, to sort the inbox by subject. Magically, irrelevant items become clustered, and are easily deletable. It also helps to be a tad woozy with cold medication; decisions become easier.

I’m sorry I was unable to attend Worldcon in Melbourne, but I’ve been fascinated to see reactions to the Hugo Awards results, mostly via comments in a couple Yahoo groups that I subscribe to, and then by inspecting the voting report [pdf] with the ranked results and lists of nominees that didn’t make the final ballot…

Remarkable that Bacigalupi and Miéville were tied from the beginning, diverged a bit in subsequent steps, then tied again at the end.

In the screenplay, er, dramatic presentation long form, category, Avatar placed last.

David G. Hartwell withdrew his Best Editor, Long Form nomination, a generous gesture.

Sad to see that Jonathan Strahan led in the Best Editor, Short form category through several rounds, losing ground only as voters who preferred Stanley Schmidt and Sheila Williams were eliminated and their 2nd/3rd/4th place votes were counted, ending up with Ellen Datlow’s win. (Something roughly similar happened, as I recall, when Locus Online was nominated for Best Website in 2005, and lost to Ellen’s Sci Fiction by…. one vote.)

I’m personally please to see that the home-continent advantage held for Shaun Tan, who won for Best Artist.

Congratulations to Clarkesworld for its Best Semiprozine win, though of course I’d have been pleased to see Locus win; but Locus has won many times before and can’t feel too badly about losing this year (though it was Charles N. Brown’s last nomination). It is curious, however, that last year’s winner, Weird Tales ended up only in 4th place this year; I don’t know how the differing voting constituencies, of conventions on different continents, might have affected the results.

The most commentary I read on the newsgroups concerned the Best Fanzine winner — last year it was Electric Velocipede, which many felt wasn’t really a fanzine; this year it was StarShipSofa, a podcast site, which many feel isn’t really a fanzine. And which did in fact campaign for a Hugo, itself a contentious issue.

There is always the question of how informed voters really are. Did those who voted for Frederik Pohl as Best Fan Writer — however fascinating his writing at The Way the Future Blogs has been — respond to the celebrity of his name, or were they as familiar with the other nominees and make a completely informed decision? Similar questions can be asked about every category. (How many voters in the Best Novel category read all of the nominees?)

As administrator of the SF Awards Index, these issues fascinate me, but only in an abstract way. I don’t take any awards results too seriously, or rather, I take them seriously for what they are, but not because any of them are in any sense a scientific poll. It would be fascinating if such a poll could actually be done.