Puppets and the suspension of disbelief

Puppet and admirerAt Christmas every year, there’s a giant gathering of family. I usually have a puppet because… because puppet. Anyway, one of my favorite things is introducing my newer cousins to the puppets.

There’s an interesting thing that happens developmentally with little kids. You know that whole willing suspension of disbelief thing? Little kids haven’t started doing that yet.

I can move the puppet and they’ll respond to it as if it is real, because for them it is. If I speak with the puppet though, they are confused. They look at where the sound is coming from — at me — and not at the puppet because they haven’t yet learned to play the game where we all pretend that the puppet is speaking.

I remember playing with one of my cousins when he was around five or six. I had a sea witch and he loved being chased around the yard by her. Periodically though, he would have to stop and say, “She’s not real, right?” I would reassure him that she wasn’t. Mind you, I was fully visible and not doing ventriloquism, but he still needed that reassurance, and then it was fun again. At this point, he wasn’t doing willing suspension of disbelief, he just believed and need to remind himself where the real world was.

His dad, and the grandfather of the fellow in the picture, would watch his kids talking to the puppet and join in the conversation. Then his kids would wander off and he’d keep talking to the puppet. Then he stopped. “I’m talking to a puppet.”

“Yes, you are,” the puppet said.

And then he kept talking to her, with his willing suspension of disbelief in full force. It’s a social compact that we make in a lot of art forms, and I love watching it develop and evolve.

When was the last time that your suspension of disbelief was strong enough that you didn’t question it?

Today is the first day of Month of Letters. Are you in?

A Month of Letters Challenge (3)

I started this challenge back in 2012 on a whim, and it turns out that I’m not the only person who enjoys sending mail. It’s like I know a bunch of writers or something. Fancy that.

A couple of things about the challenge, for those of you who are looking at it and feeling like it is too intense.

  1. I’ve seen you do NaNoWriMo. This is way fewer words.
  2. It’s only 24 items.
  3. People love getting physical mail.
  4. They don’t have to be handwritten.
  5. They don’t have to be letters. A postcard. Fabric swatch. You name it.
  6. To repeat, people love getting something personal. They love getting real mail.

But, awkwardly, this year, I have a favor to ask: Don’t write to me.

I know– I know it is totally counter-intuitive, but the thing is that as the founder of Month of Letters, I get more than my fair share of mail. I’m still working my way through the mail I got last February in fact, which cause me more than a little anxiety. So… What I’d like to ask is that you pick a friend who maybe doesn’t get mail and write to them, even if it is unlikely that they will write back to you.

There will still be a connection with that person. So take a moment, sit down, and send someone a tangible expression of the fact that you are thinking about them.

It’s fun. I promise.

Do you mentor early career writers?

Periodically, I get people asking if I’ll mentor them. I don’t, because my schedule is tight enough that I don’t feel like I can take on another job and do it justice. But I know that there are people who do and it occurred to me that I could just ask y’all if you’re one of those writers who is willing to be a mentor.

(And I should say that I think that this is a service and that mentors should be compensated for their time. That might be a barter thing, but no one should feel entitled to instruction for free.)

Anyway, if you have acted as a mentor and are open to new mentees, here’s a thread where you can hang out your shingle. Tell folks, who you are, what your specialty is (ie SF novels, fantasy short stories, structure, etc, and a link to more information.

My Favorite Bit: Jennifer Brozek talks about NEVER LET ME

My Favorite BitJennifer Brozek is joining us today with her omnibus Never Let Me. Here’s the publisher’s description:

An omnibus edition of the first three books in Jennifer Brozek’s Melissa Allen series.

What would you do if you discovered that everyone, in your house, on your street and in your town was dead? Then you discovered you weren’t alone–and whatever was out there was hunting you?

Melissa Allen, a troubled teen under house arrest, is the only person left alive in South Dakota. After discovering the mysterious deaths of her guardians and hearing of the massacre on the news, she realizes that there are monsters out there. They are pretending to be human, and they’ve have begun a door-to-door search–for her.

Melissa is unable to leave the quarantine zone and has no help except for Homeland Security agent David Hood on the phone. Before the government takes drastic action, she must figure out what killed everyone and stop it from happening again.

…or did Melissa herself, in a psychotic fit, murder her guardians–and the rest of the apocalypse is only happening inside her mind?

This special edition features the first three books in Jennifer Brozek’s Melissa Allen Series: Never Let Me Sleep, Never Let Me Leave, Never Let Me Die as well as a previously unpublished short story.

Never Let Me takes you head first in to Melissa’s troubled, paranoid world – and it will never leave you alone.

What’s Jennifer’s favorite bit?



Never Let Me is the omnibus of my YA SF-Thriller trilogy (Never Let Me Sleep, Never Let Me Leave, Never Let Me Die, with the new short story, “Never Let Me Feel.”) starring Melissa Allen.

In the first book, Never Let Me Sleep, she is on her own in a town filled with everyone she’s ever known dead of mysterious causes but she’s not alone and what’s out there is hunting her. Locked in a quarantine zone with only a Homeland Defense agent on the phone to help her, Melissa has to solve the mystery while being hunted before the government takes matters in hand to an extreme and lethal end with Melissa as collateral damage.

Melissa is a troubled teen who questions her sanity on a regular basis—with good reason. She is bipolar, schizophrenic, and prone to hallucinations under stress. She was also under house arrest at the time of this apocalypse. She is a teenager who hasn’t been allowed to take care of herself or take responsibility for things around her. Now, not only must she take responsibility for her actions, the rest of the world is depending on her to do so.

My favorite bit comes about halfway through the first novel. It is the point that Melissa mentally shifts from someone who just reacts to one who acts and chooses to act. She has been attacked multiple times, been told what she needs to do to save everyone—including herself—and is on her way to do just that. She’s walking down the main hall of the local high school and she catches sight of herself reflected in the trophy case.

… I saw my reflection in the trophy case at the end of the hall. In the dim light, I looked bad ass. Dirty clothes, a bat in one hand, a bent butcher knife in the other, and a determined walk. I stopped and looked at myself. I realized something: I no longer wanted to be rescued, no longer felt like I needed to be rescued. Yes, I was scared, but I wanted to rescue myself and to do what needed doing.

It was a marvelous sensation. …

The image of Melissa, bloody and determined, making the conscious shift to taking control and giving herself agency, makes me happy. It’s a mental shift that she continues throughout the rest of the series. In the second book, Never Let Me Leave, she extends taking responsibility to protecting other teens like her. In the third, Never Let Me Die, it morphs from more than a duty into caring for her chosen family.

Melissa’s acceptance of her own agency will always be my favorite bit.






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Jennifer Brozek is a Hugo Award-nominated editor and an award-winning author. Winner of the Australian Shadows Award for best edited publication, Jennifer has edited fourteen anthologies with more on the way, including the acclaimed Chicks Dig Gaming and Shattered Shields anthologies. Author of Apocalypse Girl DreamingIndustry Talk, the Karen Wilson Chronicles, and the Melissa Allen series, she has more than sixty published short stories, and is the Creative Director of Apocalypse Ink Productions.

Jennifer is a freelance author for numerous RPG companies. Winner of the Scribe, Origins, and ENnie awards, her contributions to RPG sourcebooks include DragonlanceColonial GothicShadowrunSerenitySavage Worlds, and White Wolf SAS. Jennifer is the author of the YA Battletech novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, and the Shadowrun novella, Doc Wagon 19. She has also written for the AAA MMO Aion and the award winning videogame, Shadowrun Returns.

When she is not writing her heart out, she is gallivanting around the Pacific Northwest in its wonderfully mercurial weather. Jennifer is a Director-at-Large of SFWA, and an active member HWA and IAMTW.

My Favorite Bit: Daniel M. Bensen talks about GROOM OF THE TYRANNOSAUR QUEEN

My Favorite Bit iconDaniel M. Bensen is joining us today with his novel Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Former soldier Andrea Herrera isn’t happy with where her life’s taken her. Specifically, Hell Creek, Montana, 65 million years before the present. As far as careers go, making sure the dinosaurs don’t eat her paleontologist clients comes in a pretty dismal second choice to serving her country. But when their time machine malfunctions, Andrea and her team are trapped in a timeline that shouldn’t exist with something a hell of a lot more dangerous than terrible lizards: other humans.

Kidnapped by the stone-age descendants of a lost time colony, Andrea finds herself stripped of her technological advantages and forced into a war against the implacable armies of the Slaver Empire. Even worse, the Slavers have captured the time machine and the mission’s one surviving paleontologist, using his futuristic weapons for their own ends.

Andrea’s only hope lies with the ferociously intelligent and violently insane tribal war-leader, Trals Scarback. Armed with his mystic sword, his trained velociraptor, and his herd of war-triceratops, this former slave has the resources and motivation to take on the empire. But can Andrea persuade him to see her as a partner rather than a tool for his ambitions? Only if she beats the barbarian at his own game and becomes the Tyrannosaur Queen.

What’s Daniel’s favorite bit?



What would it be like to meet a tyrannosaur? That’s the question that everyone who works with dinosaurs wants to answer. What did this animal look like? How did it behave? What sounds did it make? What smells? How did it fit into its landscape? Answering those questions —and a surprising number of those questions do have answers — will give you a picture of an animal.

(Tyrannosaurus rex by Daniel M Bensen)

(Tyrannosaurus rex by Daniel M Bensen)

But, here’s another question: Why are you meeting a tyrannosaur? What are you doing in the late Cretaceous? What are you going to do if that thing attacks? How the hell are you going to survive this? Answering those questions will give you a story.

The speed of the tyrannosaur was shocking, an insult to all sense of physics and decency. The predator executed a turn, still moving faster than a galloping horse. Andrea’s overstressed HUD could only give her a confused blur of sweeping tail, huge bunching thigh muscles under dark feathers, a snapping mouth. Jaws the size of a compact car tore through the prey’s skin and muscle in a waterfall of blood.

The tyrannosaur slowed, stopped, and stalked back to where its injured prey had collapsed. Blood splashed around its feet and the mouth tore downwards. The head lifted, scooping out a chunk of meat about the size of Andrea. It froze, as if posed for a photo. Little black eyes glinted from behind charcoal-colored feathers. Muscles curved in smooth tensegrity lines from the back of the skull to the powerful chest. Meat-hook claws cocked. Barrel ribs shifted as the lungs inflated. Bloody jaws clenched. The little bird eyes squeezed shut, and the tyrannosaur swallowed its mouthful.

“Holy shit,” said Andrea again. “You people know how to ride those things?”

“So the legends claim,” Trals grinned at her. “Let us find out if they are true.”

Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen started out as a series of encounters between people and dinosaurs. Some of them were from the perspective of a modern person: a time-traveler. Someone like the characters in L. Sprague de Camp’s “A Gun for Dinosaur.” Others were more like James Gurney’s Dinotopia: pre-industrial human cultures that had grown up around dinosaurs. Realizing I could have both was the kick that gotGroom of the Tyrannosaur Queen up and running.

So I set to work on a story about a group of paleontologists and their bodyguard making a wrong turn in their time-machine and stumbling across a lost time-colony of stone-age humans. And, since I had just listened to the Writing Excuses episode about the Three Act Structure, I set up the beats in my outline based on how these people dealt with the creatures they found. A legion of soldiers driving a baggage train of triceratops. A particle cannon vaporizing a charging nodosaur. A kidnapper using a velociraptor to hunt down a runaway. Riding a tyrannosaur.

Those are the best bits. The dinosaurs. They’re smelly, they’re enormous, they’re just barely under control. Sometimes all the human characters can do is to hold on and enjoy the ride.


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Daniel M Bensen is a father, English teacher, and author. He lives in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Sadie + peacock feather + winter static = hillarity

One of Sadie’s favorite toys is a peacock feather. During the winter, the combination of our wool rug and her very fluffy coat leads to the feather sticking to her. And then she chases it.

If you’ve been having a rough day, this is my gift to you. You’re welcome.

Oh and lest there’s any concern for her well-being? When she finally gets it off, she comes back and sits on it again.

David Hartwell’s sartorial splendour 1941-2016

David Hartwell HugoOne of the things that David was known for was his flamboyant and weirdly paired outfits. It was easy to laugh at his clothing choices as either a seriously mutated fashion gene or as someone mocking the need to dress up.

But it was way more interesting than that.

Let me back-up slightly. For reasons involving a hotel screw-up, at the Nebulas in Orlando, I had a suite with two bedrooms, a fold-out couch, and a kitchen. David and his family had… no room at all. So I invited them to stay with me. Bear in mind, I’m still a brand-new author and this felt nerve-wracking and audacious to issue the invitation to David God-almighty! Hartwell.

He and Kathryn and their kids were fantastic. It wound up being like a summer beach vacation, just with, you know, one of the top editors in the field. But during this, we got to talking about clothes.

David was a fashion junkie. I know– I know exactly what you’re thinking. That a man who would wear paisley and pinstripes is not an example of sartorial sense. But wait. He collected haute couture pieces. Those jackets, terrifying ties, shirts, and trousers had been the height of fashion when it was produced.

He might spend years tracking one down. Often, he was wearing them in combinations that the designer had actually intended. When I saw him at conventions after that, we didn’t talk fiction. He would tell me the story behind whatever pieces he was wearing and talk about the designer and the theory behind why this particular combination had been fashionable in its day. He wasn’t buying clothes because they were tacky; he was buying them because he was enjoying this whole meta-conversation about fashion and taste.

It was fascinating and I wish I had taken notes.

So when I look at pictures of David and his wardrobe, I remember that his devotion to science-fiction and fantasy, yes, but also that his passion for the rare and the odd was deeply embedded. I think, in part, that might have been why he’s such a good editor.

Edited to add: Thanks to Liz Gorinsky for pointing out David Hartwell: Fashion Theorist.

It includes Hartwell’s Three Laws of Fashion

  1. To Dress in ignorance of Fashion is to Dress badly.
  2. To Dress knowingly in Fashion is to become invisible.
  3. To Dress knowingly in opposition to Fashion is to have your own style.

And then he goes on to draw corollaries to writing. Read it.

Why aren’t there more women in the SFF section?

During my travels, I started to notice that SFF sections in airport bookstores had disturbingly few women. So at a certain point, I started taking photos and counting. In this informal survey, only 18% of the books on sale were by women.* I should note that gender is not the only disparity in bookstores, it was just the one that I could count while waiting for an airplane.

This is what the airport SFF sections in bookstores look like.Survey of gender in SFF bookstores

It’s easy to chalk this up to something like, “Well, women don’t write as much SFF.” The problem is that I know that the gender breakdown for published SFF in the US doesn’t support that.  According to Strange Horizons, in 2014, 53.9% were by men and 42% were by women and non-binary authors.

So why, then, were the numbers so disparate?

Fortunately, after one of my tweets, Christine Thompson, the buyer at Barbara’s Bookstore reached out. This is the only bookstore that got in touch with me. (And please note, the improvement in their numbers after I brought the matter to her attention.) She agreed to sit down with me and talk about the problem.

As we talked, it became clear that the fault doesn’t rest with a single source. It’s the result of a ton of decisions, each of which is probably fueled by unconscious bias and then reinforced by a feedback loop.

For instance… When airport booksellers are stocking books, they look at multiple factors, one of which is the print run numbers. Higher print runs mean that the publishers have more faith in that book, ergo, it will probably sell well.

When publishers have an investment in a book, they are more likely to invest co-op dollars in it. Which essentially means that they pay for endcaps and placement of certain authors. Those books sell better, because they are out in front of readers.

SFF has a long history of bestsellers written by men. So men often have higher print runs, which means… You see the cycle?

And while one can say that it’s all economics, and it’s about what people want to buy, it’s much harder to buy a book that’s not in front of you. And certainly, not all men get huge print runs. Being a guy doesn’t guarantee a stellar publishing career, but… it does stack the deck 82% in their favor.

One of the questions that came up was: “Is it the big houses?” They are the ones with the co-op dollars. I have no idea what the gender breakdown of SFF is by publishing house, but Christine thought that might account for some of the disparity. The big houses are the ones with the most money in the way of co-op dollars and print run sizes. Smaller houses might create the parity in terms of publishing numbers, but with smaller printruns might have a harder time getting representation into stores.

It happens again when you look at which books get reviews. Again, this is a major source for discovering new authors.

But the final thing that came up in our conversation was that, even if a bookseller wants to improve the representation in their store, it’s difficult to do so because catalogs aren’t sorted by gender.  This… this is something we can fix though.

We can crowd-source a list.

That’s right. You can help crowd-source a list of women and non-binary authors in SFF in order to help book buyers create a more balanced list for their stores. Because this disparity is reinforced by reviews, which focus on authors who are publicly identified as male, it is difficult for booksellers to discover authors who are not male identified.

(tl;dr: There are a lot of guys in the bookstores. Please don’t use this list to tell us about guys, even if they’re LGBTQ.)

So, you can add books written by women and non-binary authors through this form. (Don’t worry about duplicates, I’ll clean up the list periodically, since it’s sortable.)

You can also use the list as a discovery guide.

If you had asked me, before I started this informal survey, if a young woman should choose a male pseudonym, I would have said “Absolutely not.” I am less certain now.

*Methodology: I counted the total number of authors. Then I counted the women. If I couldn’t tell and/or didn’t know, because the author used initials or a gender neutral name, I counted them as male. The reason I did this, instead of leaving them out, is because I was looking at the perception of gender rather than actual gender. If a woman is making choices to obscure her gender, that says loads about the current environment.

Edited to add: Ro Smith, in comments, has made an excellent point about how my methodology contributes to the erasure of non-binary, agender, and genderfluid authors. When I am counting this year, I’ll be counting the three categories Ro suggested: Stereotypically male names, Stereotypically female names, and gender-non-specific names.  I encourage anyone who is also counting to do the same.

My Favorite Bit: Dan Koboldt talks about THE ROGUE RETRIEVAL

My Favorite BitDan Koboldt is joining us today to talk about his novel The Rogue Retrieval. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Stage magician Quinn Bradley dedicated his life to a single purpose: headlining for a major casino on the Las Vegas strip. But just before his dreams come true, two modern mercenaries show up to make him a puzzling offer. Half a million dollars for six months on a private assignment. Their corporate employer has discovered – and kept secret – a gateway to a pristine medieval world called Alissia.

For fifteen years, they’ve studied it beneath a shroud of secrecy. Now, the head of their research team has gone AWOL, with a backpack full of disruptive technology. They’re sending in a retrieval team, and they want Quinn Bradley to come along. His talents for illusion, backed with the company’s considerable resources, should make for some convincing magic.

It will need to be convincing. Because Alissia has the real thing.

What’s Dan’s favorite bit?



I’ve been reading fantasy and science fiction since the 4th grade. I’m a sucker for world-building, and it showed in the books I went for. I didn’t just read the doorstopper fantasy novel. I read the glossary, the genealogy, and the forums on Dragonmount.

When the time came to write my novel, I wanted to create an equally compelling secondary world . So I asked one of my favorite authors, Scott Lynch, how he does it so well. He said, “I am absolutely not afraid to take a place or a specific detail that I’m keen on and world-build everything else around it.”

When I took his advice, I learned something interesting. Apparently, my favorite bit is the booze.

Alcohol comes in many forms in Alissia, my novel’s secondary world. Whether it’s the rough ale they drink in the cold north of Felara, or the color-changing liquor from Valteron, every society leaves their unique stamp on the time-honored tradition of inebriation. Alcohol is more than just a way to get drunk. In many societies (both real and fictional), it’s a crucial element of culture and tradition.

I like exploring booze in a secondary world because it’s so versatile. You can produce alcohol by fermenting grain mash (beer), grapes (wine), fruit juice (cider), rice (sake), and even honey (mead). You can distill it into high concentrations for spirits like vodka and gin. Humans have been fermenting things since the late Stone Age, and look how far we’ve come: the worldwide alcoholic beverage market last year was over $1 trillion.

That kind of money changes things, and here’s proof. Every year, my family takes a vacation to Traverse City, Michigan, home of the National Cherry Festival. One of our favorite parts is driving up the Old Mission Peninsula to look at the cherry trees. Over the past few years, however, vineyards have replaced many of the orchards. I’m told they’re far more profitable.

I love wine as much as the next guy, but I miss the cherry trees. And I hate the idea that profit margins are the reason they’re gone. It made me wonder how far a society would be willing to go to produce an expensive alcoholic beverage. That’s how I came up with the most famous and expensive drink in my book’s world, Caralissian wine:

The only time they got any notice from the locals was when they encountered a wine caravan. Ten wagons, each pulled by a pair of draft horses. These were hardly visible behind the mounted riders that escorted them, who happened to be some of the hardest mercenaries that Caralissian gold could buy. They looked up at the sound of the approaching horses. Hands went to sword hilts. Two of the men reached down into the nearest wagons, probably for spears or loaded crossbows.

“Caravan coming at us,” Logan warned over the comm link. He slowed his mount and moved to the side. “Keep your hands visible, no sudden moves.”

The mercenaries knew their business—­they only got paid if the shipment arrived safely. Their casual positions only looked haphazard. If Logan were to attack, three or four would engage him from multiple angles. An equal number would stay with the wagons. And a few would ride for the nearest Caralissian outpost for reinforcements. Bandits tried raiding wine caravans from time to time. Some even got hold of a cask or two, but they rarely made it far enough to enjoy a taste.

All of this grew from a simple idea: a drink that cost its weight in gold. I started thinking about economics of that, in a pre-industrial society. The exploitative labor practices required to produce it. The impact on international trade. The armed guards you’d need to protect it.

Caralis is a monarchy, so only a few can enjoy the vast wealth brought by Caralissian wine. The queen, of course, and her pet nobles. That leaves an entire populace out in the cold. Forfeiting most of their crops to the Caralissian vintners. Starving while the chosen few grow rich.

Looking, perhaps, for a way to take revenge.


Visit the author’s website, Twitter feed, or Science in Sci-fi blog series.

Check out the book on Amazon, Barnes & NobleGoodReads, or HarperCollins.


Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and sci-fi/fantasy author from the Midwest. He’s co-authored more than 50 publications in Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, Cell, and other journals. Dan is also an avid hunter and outdoorsman. Every fall, he disappears into Missouri’s dense hardwood forests to pursue whitetail deer with bow and arrow. He lives with his wife and children in St. Louis, where the deer take their revenge by eating all of the plants in his backyard.

My Favorite Bit: Marie Brennan talks about CHAINS AND MEMORY

My Favorite BitMarie Brennan is joining us today with her novel Chains and Memory. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Manifestation was only the beginning.

The Otherworld has returned — bringing with it the sidhe, the source of humanity’s psychic powers. Some mortals welcome these creatures of legend, some fear them . . . and no one is ready for the change their presence will bring.

Last autumn Kim and Julian stood at the center of that storm. Now they face a challenge closer to home: a battle over the laws governing wilders, the closest genetic relatives of the sidhe. Many feel that change should wait until the current upheaval has ended . . . but Kim sees opportunity in the chaos, a chance to free Julian and all his kind from the chains of the deep shield that locks their gifts away.

The roots of that shield run deeper than she knows. The quest to destroy it will lead her and Julian back into the world of the sidhe, where they will uncover ancient lies, face betrayal on all sides — and gamble everything on the possibility of freedom.

What’s Marie’s favorite bit?



My favorite bit in Chains and Memory is both a moment and a thread that runs throughout the story.

It also, not coincidentally, happens to be the core of what drove me to write the book in the first place. You see, when I wrote the original draft of Lies and Prophecy so many years ago, I intended it to be a stand-alone book. I knew the story didn’t tie up in a neat bow at the end . . . but I didn’t see any way for what happened next to be something my protagonists could still protag in.

Little details kept drifting into my mind, though — most of them background for the secondary protagonist, Julian Fiain. I’d decided, in drafting Lies and Prophecy, that he belonged to a minority of psychics whose gifts manifested at birth rather than in puberty, and that such people were raised as wards of the state. But because the first draft of that book was the first novel I ever finished, I hadn’t put a lot of thought into how that whole “raised as wards of the state” thing worked. Over the following years, as I revised and rewrote and revised again, the picture began to fill in — not all of which fit into that first book.

So my favorite bit of Chains and Memory is the culture and society of wilders, and how those things interface with the rest of the world they live in. The main protagonist of the series, Kim, wasn’t raised by the state . . . but in order for her relationship with Julian to function, she needs to understand what that life is like, and how it affects those who grew up that way. And Julian in turn needs to open up to Kim, rather than closing her out the way wilders usually do.

Half the time this expresses itself in little details, like when Julian telekinetically yanks an object to his hand rather than walking over to pick it up, then admits to Kim that he trained himself out of the habit when he went to live among ordinary psychics. But there’s also a watershed moment in the story where their entire relationship reconfigures itself: Julian realizes he’s been undercutting Kim in a serious way, entirely without meaning to, because of his subconcious habits and assumptions. Changing his behavior is hard . . . but he makes himself do it, and the result is utterly transformative.

I wrote that scene long before I started drafting the book. (That one, and a couple of others playing off the same conflict.) I had to revise it, of course, because by the time I got there properly the story wasn’t quite the same as I had imagined — but the core hasn’t changed. And its fire is the reason that “stand-alone” book became the start of a series. Lies and Prophecy is, among other things, the story of how Kim and Julian got together; Chains and Memory is the part I find more interesting, the part where they have to work out how that relationship is going to function, despite the differences between them.






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Marie Brennan is an anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material.  She is currently misapplying her professors’ hard work to the Victorian adventure series The Memoirs of Lady Trent; the first book of that series, A Natural History of Dragons, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. She is also the author of the doppelanger duology of Warrior and Witch, the urban fantasy Lies and Prophecy, the Onyx Court historical fantasy series, and more than forty short stories.

My Favorite Bit: Megan E. O’Keefe talks about STEAL THE SKY

My Favorite Bit iconMegan E. O’Keefe is joining us today with her novel Steal the Sky. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Detan Honding, a wanted conman of noble birth and ignoble tongue, has found himself in the oasis city of Aransa. He and his trusted companion Tibs may have pulled off one too many cons against the city’s elite and need to make a quick escape. They set their sights on their biggest heist yet – the gorgeous airship of the exiled commodore Thratia.

But in the middle of his scheme, a face changer known as a doppel starts murdering key members of Aransa’s government. The sudden paranoia makes Detan’s plans of stealing Thratia’s ship that much harder. And with this sudden power vacuum, Thratia can solidify her power and wreak havoc against the Empire. But the doppel isn’t working for Thratia and has her own intentions. Did Detan accidentally walk into a revolution and a crusade? He has to be careful – there’s a reason most people think he’s dead. And if his dangerous secret gets revealed, he has a lot more to worry about than a stolen airship.

What’s Megan’s favorite bit?



If I’m being truly honest, my favorite bit of Steal the Sky changes based on my mood. There are a lot of moving parts in the book, and which one tickles me the most at any given time varies quite a bit. I suspect that’s probably true for most writers – it’s like asking us to pick the favorite part of a dear pet. But what I come back to again and again, what I feel is truly the heart of the book, is the deep well of friendship between Detan, my conman protagonist, and his best friend Tibs.

When we first see them together in Steal the Sky, they’ve already been friends for awhile. They rely on one another to keep their tempers in check and their heads on straight when they’re neck deep in mischief. They know one another’s deeper secrets, and the darker aspects of each others’ natures, and accept those things. They even help each other to overcome them when necessary.

But while their relationship runs deep, they tease one another ruthlessly and don’t hesitate to call out when one or the other is being an idiot. Though, to be fair to Tibs, it’s usually Detan being the doofus.

Disagreements between them are hashed out quickly, and usually with sly jibes. In the excerpt below, Detan has just upset Tibs by using his family name – Honding – to gain social leverage over someone who had pushed his temperamental buttons. The Honding name is an old and respectable one. One Detan’s powerful aunt is very protective of having used in unscrupulous circumstances.

When he and Tibs were back on the solid rock of Aransa, the old rat gave him a sturdy punch in the arm.

“You’re a mad bastard, Honding.”

“Pits below!” He jumped and rubbed at the ache. “I was perfectly safe navigating the vents. I got a good look at them from above.”

“It’s not the vents I’m about.” Tibs said as he marched ahead, taking the lead back into the winding ways of the city. Detan ruffed his hair in frustration, then shook himself and scurried to catch up. Dusk was descending over Aransa, the purple-mottled sky making Tibs little more than a silhouette before him. He stomped with every step he took, wiry fingers curled into knobby fists at his side. Detan slowed his steps and shoved his hands in his pockets, ducking his head down like a whipped dog.

“Is it the clothes?” Detan ventured, “Because, well, I figured that—”

“Nope, that ain’t it either.”

“Err. Well…”

Tibs stopped cold, pinning Detan down with his gaze as easily as he’d drive a nail through a board. “Dame Honding is going to hang you from your toenails, using your name with just anyone like that.”

“Oh! That. Well, it is my name Tibs.”

“You had better write her a letter, sirra, before the rumors get back.”

Detan sighed and sat down hard on the top of a low, stone fence, heedless of the dust that undoubtedly coated his backside. “I suppose. Wouldn’t want the old badger to worry, eh?”

“I suggest you do not address it to ‘the old badger’.”

“She’d laugh!”

“She’d fly right out here and beat you with her parasol.”

They move on to discussing other worries that venture into spoiler territory, so I’ll cut it off there. Their easy rapport is something that always makes me smile and is a joy to write, even when they’re having arguments. Well, let me be honest: they’re a joy to write especially when they’re having arguments.

Strong friendships are an element of fiction that I love to find in stories, and I’m delighted to add my own manic duo to the bunch.


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Megan E. O’Keefe was raised amongst journalists, and as soon as she was able joined them by crafting a newsletter which chronicled the daily adventures of the local cat population. She has worked in both arts management and graphic design, and spends her free time tinkering with anything she can get her hands on.

Megan lives in the Bay Area of California and makes soap for a living. It’s only a little like Fight Club. She is a first place winner in the Writers of the Future competition and her debut novel, Steal the Sky, is out now from Angry Robot Books.

My Favorite Bit: Eric James Stone talks about UNFORGETTABLE

My Favorite Bit iconEric James Stone is joining us today with his novel Unforgettable. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Out of sight, out of mind.

In the near future, a fluke of quantum mechanics renders Nat Morgan utterly forgettable. No one can remember he exists for more than a minute after he’s gone. It’s a useful ability for his career as a CIA agent, even if he has to keep reminding his boss that he exists.

Nat’s attempt to steal a quantum chip prototype is thwarted when a former FSB agent, Yelena Semyonova, attempts to steal the same technology for the Russion mob.

Along with a brilliant Iranian physicist who wants to defect, Nat and Yelena must work together to stop a ruthless billionaire from finishing a quantum supercomputer that will literally control the fate of the world.

What’s Eric’s favorite bit?



For sentimental reasons, my favorite bit of Unforgettable is the original beginning of the novel.  When I started writing that first scene I had no idea I was starting a novel. I just had an idea of a character who could not be remembered, and I wrote it simply to meet my daily writing goal.  It wasn’t until later, when I showed snippets about the character to my writing group and they told me I needed to write a novel about the character, that I came up with the plot of the novel.  So here’s what I wrote on the first two days of January 2008:

I straightened the tie I’d stolen from Macy’s that morning and stepped into the interviewer’s office.  Becoming a CIA agent was my only choice if I wanted to go legit.  I had to make a strong impression.

The balding man behind the desk looked up.  “You don’t look twenty-seven,” he said.

“I’m not.  I don’t have a Ph.D. in math, either.”  My words rushed out, and I sat in a chair to force myself to slow down.  “I copied someone’s resume, just hoping to get the interview.”

He leaned back in his chair and pinched the tip of his nose a couple of times as he looked me over.  “You’re what, eighteen?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Fresh out of high school and watching too many James Bond movies?  Tell you what–I admire your creativity.  Go to college, get a degree in something useful, and I’ll guarantee you an interview when you graduate.”

“I can’t go to college.  Anyway, I need a job that will pay me now, and I think you can use someone of my unique talents.”

“I hate to disappoint you, but you’re not much of a liar.”  He held up the resume I’d sent.  “A good candidate would have been able to walk through that door and convince me he was the man on this sheet of paper.”

“I’m not a good liar,” I agreed.  “My talent is different.  I have to show it to you.”

“What is it?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.  You have to see it first.  Write this down on a piece of paper: Nat Morgan promised to show me his talent.  Then sign it and put the date and time.”

He gave me a skeptical look.  “I don’t have time–”

“Please.  I promise you’ll be impressed.”

“Nat Morgan’s your real name?”

I nodded.

After a moment, he picked up a legal pad off his desk and wrote.  “Done.  Now what?”

“Now I step outside for a minute and come back in.”  I stood up and walked out the door, closing it behind me.  I counted to sixty, just to be safe, then walked back into the office.

The interviewer looked at me, blinked rapidly a few times, then shook his head as if to clear his thinking.

“You don’t look twenty-seven,” he said.

“My name in Nat Morgan,” I said, “and I promised to show you my talent.”

“Sorry, I don’t remember that.  You’ll have to make an appointment, because I’m supposed to see–”

“Look at your pad of paper.”


I pointed to the pad.  “Read it.”

He pulled the pad across the desk and looked at it, then looked at his watch.

“You must have snuck in here and written that while I was at lunch.”

“Is it your handwriting and signature?”

He leaned back in his chair and pinched the tip of his nose a couple of times.  “You’re a forger?  It’s pretty good work.”

“I’m not a forger”  I waved my finger in a circle.  “Do you have video surveillance of this room?  That’ll make things quicker.”  I’d have brought my own video camera, except security would have confiscated it on the way in.


“OK, the fact is you wrote that when I was in here a few minutes ago, but you forgot I’d been here after I stepped outside.”

A version of this scene is still in the novel, though it is no longer the beginning.  But it’s still my favorite bit because it’s the seed from which the novel grew.



Barnes & Noble





A Nebula Award winner, Hugo Award nominee, and Writers of the Future Contest winner, Eric James Stone has had stories published in Year’s Best SF 15, Analog, Nature, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Blood Lite anthologies, among other venues.  His debut novel, science fiction thriller titled Unforgettable, was published by Baen.

One of Eric’s earliest memories is of an Apollo launch on television. Thanks to his father’s old science fiction collection, Eric grew up reading Asimov and Heinlein.

Eric attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp and the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Eric lives in Utah with his wife, who is a high school physics teacher, and their daughter.  His website is

My Favorite Bit: Marieke Nijkamp talks about THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS

My Favorite Bit iconMarieke Nijkamp is joining us today with her novel This Is Where It Ends. Here’s the publisher’s description:

10:00 a.m.

The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m.

The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 a.m.

The auditorium doors won’t open.

10:05 a.m.

Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

What’s Marieke’s favorite bit?



When I started writing This Is Where It Ends, I knew I wanted the entire story to take place over the course of fifty-four minutes and follow various different characters. In short, it seemed like an impossible task. Because not only did I have a ridiculously short time frame to play with, several of the characters also happened to be in the same enclosed room. Everything one character did, immediately influenced the others, and vice versa. And even in the few cases where I did not have to relate the events consecutively, there were entire chapters that took place over the course of a minute, and I could only focus on simultaneous happenings for so long without messing up the balance of the story.

It took me all of two chapters to figure out I needed a very clear roadmap for this story. Now I wasn’t too fazed. I plotted stories before. I was convinced I could do this.

The story didn’t quite agree. It sort of maybe fitted one structure but not quite. It needed elements of another. It was to the drawing board and back to the drawing board for me.

Eventually, with the help of Excel, two massive pots of coffee, and the famed example of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spreadsheet, I started creating what turned into my story blueprint: the Massive Spreadsheet of Doom.

A spreadsheet that tracked most, if not all on-page characters on a minute-by-minute basis, from shortly before the story started until the very end. I plotted where they were, what they did, how they did or didn’t influence others, and in what order their scenes appeared. The last was color coded, of course.

And there is something about forcing yourself to think through the movements of every character on such a micro level that drove me up a wall while I worked though the spreadsheet… and became such a massive help when I was writing the story. It helped me to see the shape and the balance of the story. Whenever I felt blocked, I only had to refer back to the spreadsheet to get myself back on track. I could play with minor elements without disrupting the overarching narrative. And with every revision, I could color code problem areas to reshuffle, revise, rewrite.

The spreadsheet became the thing I geeked out about most. My favorite bit, and the perfect example of exactly what I hoped to do with the story. Besides that, it became a really cool thing to show to both readers and aspiring authors. I figured it might be the perfect method for someone else too, and it’s inevitably one of the behind-the-scenes things readers ask about first, whenever I’m skyping with schools or libraries.

So of course, when the next story reared its head, I knew I had found the perfect method—my favorite method. Except, as stories are wont to do, this one didn’t quite agree with that format. The perfect structure is the perfect structure for a single story—not for all of them. So it’s to the drawing board again. And here’s to a new favorite blueprint.


Author website


Amazon US

The Book Depository


Amazon UK


Books of Wonder

Barnes & Noble




Marieke Nijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. A lifelong student of stories, language, and ideas, she is more or less proficient in about a dozen languages and holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies. She is a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. Her debut young adult novel This Is Where It Ends, a contemporary story that follows four teens over the course of the fifty-four minutes of a school shooting, will be published by Sourcebooks Fire in January 2016.

Read about the Worldcon supporting membership grant recipients, in their own words.

When I offered to sponsor people who couldn’t afford supporting members for WorldCon, I also said that I would share as much as I could about who received these membership grants. With their permission, here are 83 entries from people who received a supporting membership. This isn’t all 100, because some people didn’t feel comfortable having any form of their information out there. With the ones that agreed, I redacted their identifying information, but otherwise am presenting them unedited.

It is interesting to read this cross-section of folks who are serious lovers of SFF, but can’t afford to attend conventions. What I love best about this collection of paragraphs is that it really makes it clear that people who love SFF come from every walk of life. Liberals, Libertarians, moms, students, teachers… we all love this geeky stuff.

But here, you can read about them in their own words.

  1. “I’ve been a general geek/nerd my whole life. I’ve read most of the big names, many of the little names, and anything from Award Winners to cheesy media tie-ins, Grimdark to old school adventure.I am a “”fan””, but I’ve never attended a con. Not for lack of wanting, simply could never justify the expense when there are always bills to pay.I’ve honestly never really cared about the Hugos before. I’ve seen it talked of as the best, and I’ve always checked out the shortlist for interesting reads, but never knew one could simply join and be heard until recently. Unfortunately, it’s yet another Fandom cost I can’t really justify.

    At any rate, I’d like to thank you for being one of the voices of reason during this episode in the community. And for making this offer in the first place.”

  2. I started reading SF/F as a young teen and into my early 20s until I overdosed on fantasy and my love of Romance took over (started with Heyer at somewhere between 10-12). Returned seriously to SF/F via Bujold, Asaro and Lee/Miller in the late 1990s. Attended Denvention where Lois was GoH in 2008. Good times (apart from the 3+ months lasting con crud, ho boy). Not active in fandom because I was busy breeding and exhibiting cats for many years. Now that I’m retired from that I’m sadly very broke (as we say in the fancy, cats don’t cost a small fortune, they need a large one and then some :) so $40 is out at the moment but ever since the Sad/Rabid thing started I’ve been feeling something I care about is under attack.
  3. I have always been interested in genre fiction, but before now never really dreamed of being a hugo voter. I’d be really excited to read all of the nominated works and vote for whatever I think most deserves the prize. I’m really grateful to get a chance to join in the process. Thank you for doing this. Poor college kids have a shot at participating in something meaningful.
  4. I am a wife, mother, hobby book blogger, and an avid reader and lover of SFF in many forms. I’ve always wanted to make my voice heard, but since my husband lost his job right after our son was born, I haven’t been able to read the newest works available, or support the work being done in the SFF world. I have considered myself part of fandom (or many ransoms) for at least 10 years, and the troubles of the SFF worlds are showing themselves in comics and gaming as well, and it frustrates me that someone would try to shut out diverse voices in all of these related fields.
  5. “Being a brazilian SFF fan, I’ve always watched enviously as american an european fans talked about going to cons like it’s not an incredible privilege to be able to just “”swing by”” a place and experience the beating heart of fandom.
    We don’t have cons around here (some comic cons, of course, comics people are better with that) and our community is scattered through this immense country. It’s hard to find people, hard not to feel alone. I’ve been reading/watching SFF for 23 years and it took a lot of digging on the internet before I found other brazilian fans. But finding the anglophone online fandom? That was easy as browsing the Geocities directory or finding the right LiveJournals (because that was how it was back then. Nowdays it’s all about Tumblr, of course).
    That was because you are organized, because the community created the cons and the cons sustain the community. You have a beautiful thing going on with that cycle and I’m sure not everyone sees how fantastic it is, how great it is just to have someone to disagree with. Disagreement means there are enough of you to have different opinions. Different opinions are what makes meaningful conversation possible, and conversation means the narrative changes. SFF is a gigantic conversation about humanity, society and what is what. So, please, do not break this. The rest of us, all around the world, are watching and hoping.”
  6. i attended Worldcon for the first time last year, and I would really like to be able to continue to have a voice in SFF convention fandom, and the Hugo Awards. SFF is important to me, and I believe we should all be able to see ourselves in the genre, and in the Hugo Awards.
  7. I’m a 26 year old woman from [Canada]. I have enjoyed reading fantasy novels since elementary school, and have more recently gotten into sci fi by way of dune. I went to school to get my degree in biology, found out there are no jobs for someone with an undergraduate degree in biology, so I followed my passion and have started a business making glass beads and sculptures. I would love to scrape together the money for a supporting membership but $40 is quite a few beads to sell! I would very much appreciate the opportunity to vote if my name is chosen.
  8. I am 48 years old and have been reading sci-fi/fantasy since I can remember reading. My interests range from hard science to soft science sci-fi. I also am very partial to the areas that overlap between sci-fi and horror or fantasy or crime/thriller. I try to keep up with the Hugo’s each year and try to read as many of the nominees/winners as I am aware of. I was the president of the sci-fi group of the college I attended, as well as convention manager for the annual convention held by that group.
  9. I can’t afford the cost right now because I’ve just barely gotten settled from a nice/job changed in December, and then had surgery a few weeks ago. But if not for that, I would have loved to buy a membership and be able to vote for not only the Hugo Awards, but the site selection for upcoming cons. I am frustrated at the current system and the large number of people who feel that no one nominated this year should be proud of their “tainted” nominations; while I’m opposed to the slate, there are others who got there fairly, who deserve us to take the time to read and vote. Regardless of if I’m chosen, thank you for steering up to give less financially stable fans a chance to be part of the process.
  10. “I’ve been a close to lifelong reader of science fiction and fantasy, but only became an interested follower of the Hugo Awards in the past few years, when I realized how easy it was to find most of the short fiction nominations online…and from there to discover how much SFF short fiction in general is available for free on my favorite authors’ websites and various other places online. I was also pleased to find that the Best Graphic Story category had been added to the awards, since comics are another of my passions. (I was less pleased at how repetitive the initial years of this category were, and how underrepresented [imo] DC and Marvel Comics have been among the nominees, but I do see signs of change in those areas.) Unfortunately, though I’ve recently become more invested in the Hugos as an outside observer, these past few years have also been years of underemployment and some pretty crippling student loan debt for me, and a supporting membership just hasn’t been feasible.Regardless of whether I’m selected as one of the people to receive a supporting membership, I wanted to thank you and everyone who’s matched pledges for this effort. It’s really lovely to see a response to the Puppies slates that involves explicitly welcoming people into SFF fandom and doing your best to strengthen and grow that community.”
  11. I’m a part-time federal employees who had to cancel vacation because of sequestration and other DC shenanigans. I like Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails, Fleetwood Mac, and Halestorm. Tattooed, ponytailed, and unrepentant.
  12. Hi Mary :) I’m a writer of four years, currently unpublished and seeking an agent. I’m married, and a mother of two boys, ages 5 and 2. I’ve loved SFF since I was a kid, begging my mom to let me stay up and watch Star Trek: TNG with her. As a teen I read David Eddings, Harry Potter, of course, and Tolkein, along with school stuff. Now, my tastes lean toward epic fantasy or YA Adventure fantasy. Despite that, I enjoy just about anything with magic! Thank you for this opportunity!
  13. “I’m a retired commercial fisherman (not horrible successful one at that) living on SS retirement benefits. Although a life long SFF reader, I’ve never voted on a Hugo before; but because of all this “”flap”” I feel I’d like to cast a vote for books that I enjoyed, and not because they’re on somebody’s slate. I feel slightly outraged at the thought that somebody out there is trying to “”game”” the awards. That “”Hugo Award Winning Author”” or “”Hugo Nominated Author”” sticker has always been a sign to me that the story was probably pretty good. I’d like to personally thank you for lending your wordsmithing to help the rest of us understand what this controversy is about and for the time and effort to help spread the voting block a bit wider.
    /a tip of the hat and a warm handshake.”
  14. I’ve been reading science fiction since I was in junior high school, which was a long time ago. I really started loving science fiction when I found Ursula K. LeGuin. (I was a Biology major in college and don’t know whether that makes me hard or soft — probably soft to an engineer.) I want to be part of a solution, not part of a problem. I don’t want, any longer, to sit back and say that the problem isn’t my problem. It is — and I want to help.
  15. “Hi Mary,I read a lot of manga and can’t believe Hunger Games wasn’t more recognized by the Hugos. I hope some of the nominees are good enough to vote for.Thanks”
  16. Hi Mary. I’m an avid SFF reader and a fantasy writer. I’m also a stay at home mom in my spare time. I’ve been wanting to get more involved in the SFF community, and a membership to WorldCon would be a great way for mw to do that. Given my current occupation, a membership is a luxury I can’t currently afford. Thank you and the other sponsors so much for offering memberships. This is such a great community.
  17. Of course I’m steamed about this whole affair– but as a bookseller, I read and recommend a lot of SFF. It’s important to me. I want to enjoy it and I want other people to enjoy it! I also can’t afford a membership and everything else I need on my weekly pay. I’m on my phone and can’t type very well using it but if you want to know more about me, I’m also on Twitter ([redacted]).
  18. “I’m an aspiring SFF writer and long-time listener to Writing Excuses (since sometime early in Season 1, in fact). I think I first became aware of your work through your guest appearance there, or possibly through your Big Idea at Scalzi’s blog, and it’s been on my List for a while now. It took me a while to get around to it, but I’m on Glamour in Glass right now and having a grand time. (The List is currently slated to take rather longer to complete than I have life remaining, and I have two young kids, so don’t consider it any slight to you that it took a while).I’ve wanted to vote in the Hugos for years now, especially in the years since they started making many of the nominations available digitally to voters, but it’s never quite been in the cards financially when Hugo time rolled around. I’m hoping to make it in to the voting one way or another this year, but doubt I’ll be able to spare the money; the chance to get a voting membership for free means a lot to me, particularly given the significance of this year’s Hugos. I’m disappointed that the ballot this year has been engineered the way it has – there’s likely to be somewhat less that I’m interested in reading this year than normal – and I’m still struggling with what to do where the Sad Puppies nominations are genuinely good pieces of work.”
  19. “Mary,I love this post and fully agree that the SFF community can’t disregard new fans when we are all finally starting to get the recognition that so many wonderful authors and works deserve. I’ve wanted to join World Con and vote on the Hugos for several years but have yet to take that step. Hopefully I will be one of the lucky ten chosen and will be able to add my voice to this year’s cacophony.”
  20. “Hi,I am a 52 year old fan, who has been disabled since 2002, and whose father worked on the original Star Trek series. I’ve published one short SFF story and raised three fannish boys. Unfortunately I have been out of work for three years, earning literally 350 dollars last year and no dollars this year. (I have started a little business that will hopefully be lucrative later in the year.)Anyway, my middle son (who works in gaming, on [redacted]) has been supporting the family and I don’t want to ask him to chip in for a supporting membership for me. If would be great if someone could sponsor me.”
  21. I’ve been a fan of SF and fantasy since the 1970’s when I discovered Andre Norton. I’ve read voraciously for years and actually managed to attend one convention. (Loved it – too invested in raising my family to afford another.) I ran a SF critique group in 2004, and watched several of our members become published. I’ve never been able to afford the supporting membership to participate in the Hugos; nor can I now. I’m awaiting my disability hearing while living on 600.00 a month. It doesn’t cover meds, much less votes. Thank God for libraries! Anyway, if I’m chosen, I promise to read all entries and vote for the one in each category that I best like. I promise to read broadly and nominate according to my favorite works for next year. And I thank- you for this kind offer. Either way, I thank-you for such a gracious way of explaining and encouraging the true development of diversity in our wonderful arena.
  22. I’m a student from Finland who is currently writing a master’s thesis on the information-seeking behavior of science fiction and fantasy writers. I’m also a writer myself. Living in the northern and less populous part of Finland, I haven’t yet had an opportunity to attend a SF & Fantasy convention. Getting a supporting membership to Worldcon would ease my situation a little bit.
  23. I love to read SFF. I mostly like the lighter themes. But I worked at a bookstore for 10 years and read many different kinds while I was there. Right now I’m unemployed but enjoying reading ebooks from the library. That’s where I found your writing.
  24. I’ve been a part of both fandom and just being a fan for years, then I launched into the life of being a step mom to two wonderful boys and had a little girl of my own and the finances that allow for conventions have gone to soccer games and dance classes and getting them reading SFF too. I have great hopes as they grow that my husband and I will be able to rejoin the fans outside of our immediate area and the internet. But despite all of that neither of us has ever stopped being connected to the community as readers and supporters and, at least in my case, aspiring to join it as an author. I’d love to be involved in the voting and planned a membership this year, but unemployment said that $40 buys a lot of diapers. :) So if we can get some help joining up we’d love to, and if not we’ll still be reading and watching and maybe joining up next year.
  25. As a reader of science fiction and fantasy from the mid 90’s, until the late 2000’s I was a fan of many nominated novels, but I could never figure out why in the recent years they left me so disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I mostly lean libertarian, any conservative values I may have are fiscal. But this is not about politics, it’s about merit, and now I know that the hugos has lost much of its meritocracy. I still get angry over how Robert Jordan was treated by the hugos over his career, but Sad Puppies has helped revive my excitement in the hugos, as well as my faith in the process, and I want to show my support. :) Thanks.
  26. I read SFF and have done my entire life. But I’ve never felt a good enough fan to go to a convention or get involved in awards. I’d like to change that – I can’t afford conventions this year but I want to understand what is going on and be a part of it.
  27. I love science fiction and fantasy. I’m more of a science fiction guy but I love them both. I’ve always been fascinated by the Hugo award, and I’ve set a goal to read all Hugo award winning novels. (Though, I’m currently less than a third of the way there.) I’d love to participate in the voting process.
  28. I’m a massive SFF fan, but am in a crappy minimum wage job; I’d like to vote in the Hugos (and have a friend who ALWAYS votes and always obtains all of the things to vote on, so I can do so in an informed way by borrowing the things to vote on from him) but I just can’t justify the outlay when my daughter needs food and clothes.
  29. I have been a huge science fiction and fantasy fan for my entire life and have always followed the genre awards, not just the Hugos. I’m always excited to see my favourite writers win an award and in the back of my head I always dream that I will win one day, too. Vox Day and his foul supporters are ruining something that I love and I don’t want them to do that but I don’t have the money to stop them. My credit card is maxed out, I’m underemployed, and I have trouble affording food, let alone the $50 Canadian the vote would cost me.
  30. I just found out about the controversy a few days ago from facebook and just became a “friend” of Larry. I am a teacher and an aspiring writer of speculative fiction. I have written several short stories as I improve as an author. I love “Writing Excuses.” I need to become more aware of this community and being a member would help me. Thanks.
  31. “I’m a longtime fan of F and SF. When I was younger I used to help run conventions that I lived near (Wiscon then later Minicon) due to health and financial issues I had to stop attending Cons but I still love the stories.
    I want to see the best pieces win and the only way to judge that, is to read them.”
  32. “I’m a 27-year-old relative newcomer to fandom. I attended my first con two years ago (the first annual, now defunct Backwoods Comic Festival in Louisville, MS) and have been to a handful of others since. I’ve been reading SFF since I was 13, but I wouldn’t say that I was REALLY into it until I got a Kindle for my birthday about four years ago. Having a Kindle made it possible to read immense tomes and epic series’ (serieses? series’s? whatever.) because I actually had room to store these monstrosities. I want to become more active in the SFF community by voting for the Hugos, and I can’t afford to do this on my own (I work in TV. In Mississippi. Bad life decisions, anyone?). Even if I’m not chosen at random, I will still feel like I’ve participated in the process by submitting this, so thank you for this.”
  33. “I’m forty-four, and I’ve been reading F&SF since I was maybe eight years old. Started with the Narnia books, after the TV broadcast of the animated The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, quickly moved on to Asimov’s Lucky Starr, and never looked back. Now I’m a children’s librarian.I wish I could really articulate why I’d like to have my say, beyond an admitted visceral dislike of Vox Day, but in the end? It just feels important. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to afford a supporting membership, and had resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t going to be possible this year.”
  34. The Hugo controversy has renewed my interest in reading more new short fiction. I’m going to try to read as many 2015 Short Stories as I can. So I am better prepared to nominate for next year’s Hugos.
  35. I have been a life long fan of science fiction. Having started reading as soon as I could get s library card .Now as a disabled vet my fixed limited income allows me a library card and access to ebooks. I have been lucky enough to meet Joe Haldeman in person and even chat with Harlan Ellison. My dream is still to attend a World Con and we m a Hugo nomination
  36. Aspiring writer here who would like to make sure that future sci fi and fantasy awards aren’t restricted to the few who meet a certain predefined set of rules. Seems to violate the entire premise of being sci fi or fantasy writer.
  37. “I have wanted to be involved in Hugo voting since I learned I could be. Last year I splurged and bought a voting membership for the first time. It was a lot of fun reading the nominations. It’s been a rough year and I can’t justify money for a membership right now.
    I’m an aspiring writer and lifelong Sci-Fi fan, veterinary technician and mother. Your Teddybear spider story is one of my favorites.”
  38. I never realized that Hugo awards were fan-voted, not juried or industry-selected. I want to vote! Everyone should vote! The first SFF I ever read was The White Mountains, which I found in my Jr. High school library. I’ve been reading the genre ever since.
  39. I’m a community library tech in Canada, and I am always trying to improve our Sci Fi/Fantasy collection, because I think it is rather pathetic. I can usually get our collections manager to order the Hugo award winners and nominees which has been awesome, especially lately because it has been such a cool mix of writing styles. I was thinking it would be neat to participate, but find spending 50$ just to vote/nominate is a little hard to justify.
  40. I am a supporter of the local library system and believe that reading is the key ingredient of education. Anyone can better themselves by taking advantage of your library!
  41. My husband and I have attended WorldCon twice in the past decade. We’ve been debating buying supporting memberships to vote this year since the shortlist was announced. (I confess that we failed to vote last year, despite having supporting memberships for LonCon3.) We can swing one membership easily; two is more of a challenge.
  42. My wife and I write and publish under the name [redacted]. We are both lifelong fans of SFF and we are deeply committed to representation and diversity within our genre, both by writing it and by promoting other works with good representation through social platforms. We think the pushback from these so-called “Sad Puppies” is both deplorable and alarming. Of course we work in a political industry, but this is rather extreme. Unfortunately, as we are both disabled and currently on a fixed income, we can’t afford a WorldCon membership, and we would dearly love to be able to vote for books that deserve consideration based on artistic merit, not based on conservatives whipping up votes from a relatively small pool of nominators. Thank you -so much- for taking this stand and offering this opportunity.
  43. Hi Mary! I’m a 25 year-old graduate student working in a male-dominated field. I’ve decided to spend 2015 only reading books by women and POC. It’s required me to do some research and be more thoughtful about what I pick up to read, and, so far, I’ve been BLOWN AWAY by the books I’ve read, many of which I’d never heard about previously. I want to make sure these amazing books get their fair chance at recognition, and I think it’d be great if all fans had a chance to see themselves reflected in their favorite stories.
  44. “Hi!I’m an aspiring writer and a graduate student in anthropology at the University of [redacted]. I’d like to have a supporting membership for several reasons. While this year’s Hugos are controversial, they are also especially important this year because of that controversy. In a way, the Sad Puppies have brought even more awareness of the need for diversity and intersectionality within SFF … perhaps in a few years we’ll look back and see the way they had the opposite of their intended effect.Another reason why I would like a supporting membership is simply because I cannot afford one at this point. As I said before, I am a graduate student and it seems to be in our nature to be “”starving academics”” … I am no exception. :)

    Finally, I’d like a supporting membership simply for the experience of reading all the nominees and then voting. I’ve never done it before, and would look forward to the process if selected.

    Thanks for reading (if I’m selected! yay!).

  45. “Scifi/fantasy has gotten me through the worst times in my life and made the unbearable, bearable, because I could escape for hours at a time to worlds completely unlike my own. I ran away to Tembreabrezi and Narnia. I went on missions with Friday and walked the pattern with Corwin. I rode a dragon with Lessa, and learned about ruthlessness on Arrakis. I learned the magic of Xanth. Terisa Morgan and I sat for hours in front of mirrors waiting for our Geradens. And through it all I learned how to better relate to the people of my own world.I’d love a membership, of course, but apart from that it’s lovely to see everyone else’s comments about how and why they love the same things I love. Thank you for doing this, for bringing people together.”
  46. “I voted in the Hugos last year and it was great fun. I’d been playing with the idea with the idea of getting a supporting membership before then, but the strangeness of last year and getting the Wheel of Time on e-book spurred me on last year. I was able to read the nominees while I was on my maternity leave (well, not ALL of WoT).Things are a bit more tight this year with the baby and all. I have already read one of the nominees for Best Novel, The Goblin Emperor, and look forward to reading many of the other nominees.”
  47. I’m a writer, artist, and single mother with two daughters. The three of us love science fiction and fantasy books. My youngest prefers graphic novels while my eldest reads through my high school favorites at lightspeed! We attend cons and are a part of the culture and community both online and in person. We see the need for diversity at every level, from the book creation and marketing to who is deemed welcome and worthy to attend events and speak about Sci fi, fantasy, and so forth. This is a wonderful undertaking. Here’s to opening up the gates to all!
  48. I am a sci-fi/fantasy/horror writer and fan. I would appreciate adding to the diversity of the fandom world. Thanks.
  49. I’m a speculative fiction fan for over 35 years now (ever since I saw Star Wars in the theater as a boy). I’ve long thought about getting involved in World Con but with a family to raise, job, etc., it seemed like a waste of precious resources. I am involved with organizing and planning [redacted convention].
  50. I like to think of myself as a second generation nerd. I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy from my parent’s bookshelves. I still have most of those books and comics. I wouldn’t be the person I am if they hadn’t been fans. Last year I convinced at least a few reader friends to buy supporting memberships. This year I can’t afford to buy one myself because the bookstore I worked at closed and I’m currently unemployed. Working with books for 15 years showed me how passionate readers can be. If more fans knew about Hugo voting works, I think more people would support WorldCon, and the voter pool would be larger. The idea that the Hugo Awards can be tarnished in this way is depressing. If I’m ever eligible for a Hugo I want it to mean something.
  51. “I have a long rant on my Facebook, under this name, about the Sick Puppies. I would love to have a supporting membership. I am on disability, and therefore have no extra income, but I would like to be able to vote this year.Thank you.”
  52. “Dear Mary,First, I’m so glad you’re doing this. Every year I read the Hugo nominations, and I was surprised this year to see so many of the same name on the ballots, and when I heard why, it made me quite upset. Speculative fiction is a genre of change, a genre that, at its best, embraces the ‘other.’ It’s sickening when something I cherish so much becomes the impetus for tyrannical behavior that speaks more of third grade playground drama than an award that celebrates art.A little about myself: I’m a fledgling writer–I’ve had a couple of speculative fiction short story and poem sales, and I am working on the 2nd draft of my first novel. To make ends meet, I work three jobs–I’m an English adjunct instructor, I tutor, and I work at a used bookstore. I read about 100 books a year, and almost as many short stories–some of my favorite venues for those being, Lightspeed Magazine, Clarkesworld, and Strange Horizons. I only mention this to show that I keep up with current fiction.

    I’d like a supporting membership to honor my love of speculative fiction, to honor the art that’s made me into an optimist and dreamer; to honor the fiction that always looks to the unreal and the someday possible, and therefore shapes futures.”

  53. I wrote the first dissertation devoted to the complete works of [redacted]. I’ve been teaching as an adjunct: $2200 per class, max. 7 classes per year. I just don’t have the extra funding to support cons as much as I would like. I know SFF and fandom, and I would like to be a part of this important conversation. My academic email is [redacted]. If I am in class, please leave a phone message. PS: You and Scalzi and so many others have done a fine job with SFWA and promoting new writers. Thanks not just from me, but from so many of us who love your writing and professional service.
  54. Hello, Mary, thank you so much for the kind offer and effort to organize this! I’ve attended one WorldCon in the past, and would ordinarily happily buy a supporting membership this year to help preserve the spirit of the Hugos. However, we had to move this year for my wife’s [redacted] post-grad-school fellowship and I have had trouble finding steady work since the move, hence money is tight. Even if I don’t land one of the memberships, thank you again for everything you do to support SFF! Favorite bit of SFF? Eesh, where to begin… just looking at my bookshelf and selecting the first of many favorites to jump out at me, Silverlock by John Myers Myers.
  55. I’m a fan of science fiction and fantasy, with a preference for the kinds of stories that open new worlds and new ideas to me. My parents claims I taught myself to read by the time I was a year old; I don’t remember, so I just kind of take their word for it. I’m 34 this year, and still banging on rough drafts that I hope to polish enough to submit to publishers and perhaps one day be able to put an award on a shelf next to a published book. I’m not a fan of reactionaries who try to hijack things in outrage over their privilege being taken down a notch, particularly when the claims they make are demonstrably false. I’d like to have a supporting membership to take part in making it clear that people who want to close off and shut down attempts to open things to the marginalized aren’t going to have anyone just bow down to them. I am myself a minority group member, as I am both an asexual and of a non-binary gender, identifying as agender and using xe/xer/xyr as my pronouns.
  56. “I am a UK citizen living in Canada with my Canadian spouse. We had to leave the UK when her last visa expired because I did not earn enough to qualify her for a spousal visa (I was in the process of finishing a PhD; I’m now looking for postdoctoral jobs that will qualify); now we are in Canada the reverse is true, I cannot work and I am only here on a visitor’s visa and we live with her parents. The rhetoric in my country is so exclusive and hateful towards diversity and immigration; I’m hoping that we will be able to change that with our elections next month. Now it looks like the same kind of rhetoric is being spouted about the Hugos, and I would really like to participate in that discussion. I was unable to attend Loncon 2014 for financial reasons; it would be good to be able to participate in the Hugo Awards despite those restrictions. I’ve taken the Hugos as a good guideline for what’s worthwhile in SFF for a few years now, often seeking out works that have won (especially if they have beaten other works I’ve really liked).Also, if I were selcted and next year I have a job and possibly a spouse with a visa I would like to be able to pay back this scheme and contribute a supporting membership to another person who cannot afford it, if possible.”
  57. “Hiya,
    I’m a teacher (college prof) but a really poorly compensated one. I write across genres and have just finished a degree. I have been horrified in waves by the various controversies that have roiled the SFF world over the last few years. Is this normal? Please say no. :-)Thanks for doing this! Hope I can participate, as I’d like to read and fairly evaluate the entries, which I imagine far too few people will do.
  58. I’d like a chance to give back to the SF/F community and to offer a fair shot if the “puppies” are deserving of any recognition.
  59. My introduction to SF/F began when I was six and my mother read me The Hobbit and The Lord of the RIngs as a bed time story. I’ve been reading it on my own since I wasn’t much older than that. I’d love a supporting membership because I’d like to start moving from just being in the SFF Community and being a fan, to being active in the fandom. I’d buy my own membership, but I lost my job 18 months ago, and have gone back to school full time to change careers (sadly the library field is shrinking, accountants on the other hand…. And they’re both just organizing data and getting into a format that people can find and use, right?)
  60. “I’m a British fan, 54yo, who has only started going to cons in the last few years. I can’t get to Seattle, and being unemployed, I can’t afford even a supporting membership this year.Other random facts can be discovered by reading my LJ at [redacted]”
  61. I am a long time reader of SF&F who has been meaning to buy a supporting membership for the last couple of years. Financial issues involving car repair, job loss and new children has made doing so… problematic. While things are starting to look up, I cannot in good conscience purchase one at this moment. Either way, regardless of whether I am selected or not, thank you!
  62. I’m a lifelong fan of SFF, but only rarely in fandom; I’ve spent most of my adult life in relative poverty and even a supporting membership to WorldCon has been more than I could afford. I consider myself a writer, although my published work has been almost entirely in games – mostly through [redacted].
  63. love SFF pretty much all I read. Didn’t realize community was in such turmoil. Maybe if I got involved would become a part of the solution not the problem.
  64. I’m an aspiring writer of fantasy, and I’ve always lurked on the fringes of fandom; I haven’t had the chance yet to break into actual fandom, but I’d love the chance to feel more a part of the community I love.
  65. I’m a fledgling writer and longtime sf reader, and I’ve wanted to participate in the Hugos for years. After going back to college, money has been too tight, alas, to make that happen. Just earlier today, I found myself thinking, “well, maybe once I’ve made my first sale, I can buy a membership. I’ll deserve to cast my vote, then.” But maybe that’s nonsense– maybe my voice is worthwhile now, even though (or perhaps *because*) I’m nobody special. I love that you’re offering memberships to those of us who couldn’t otherwise vote in the Hugos– that’s truly making the community more inclusive.
  66. I started reading SF when I was in 6th grade and my brother handed me a copy of Zahn’s first Star Wars novel, Heir to the Empire. I got teased endlessly all throughout middle and high school for my love of SF and later Fantasy, but clung to it because it spoke to me as a lonely kid in a bitty little town. I’d like a supporting membership because while I am generally a very liberal person, my tastes run the gamut of authors who represent the conservative and liberal voices of SF&F, i.e. Heinlein and his Starship Troopers, Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, LeGuin and her Left Hand of Darkness, and so much more. If it’s engaging and entertaining, I’ll read and recommend it. For me, SF&F is about creating and exploring new worlds, not setting narrow parameters and excluding others. Thanks for enabling those who cannot afford membership to have to opportunity to participate.
  67. “I’ve always been an avid reader and writer, and lately the Hugos have been coming to my attention because a couple of my friends are supporting members, and they talk about it and agonize over their vote choices to me, and we discuss what they’re reading and sometimes they recommend things. Normally I would be able to afford this myself, but coincidentally the first year I’ve felt a more pressing need to make my voice heard is also the year I’m digging out from under a year of emotional to physical hell, so it’s less feasible for me to afford it right now…. also I see you’re coming to [redacted], hopefully I can see you there and say hello in person!”
  68. “My husband’s been out of work so long that we’ve run out of unemployment. So the con is impossible for us.I’ve been going to WorldCons on and off since 1981, and I hate to see all this rancor.”
  69. Thank you for everything you do! This was a very well-reasoned and articulate reply. I’ve been reading sci-fi and fantasy since I was a kid, negotiating a deal with my parents for books in exchange for good report cards. My uncle was really the only adult in my life that shared my passion, and he loaned me a copy of Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy right before he passed, which remains one of my most treasured possessions to this day. I’m not in a desperate situation for money right now, but my budget is tight and when I first read about all this I was bummed that it wasn’t an amount I could really spare. I like fandom best when it is people talking about stuff they love rather than stuff they hate, and I appreciate you helping to facilitate this!
  70. Thanks for the opportunity to expand my horizons. I’m a 53 year white female who has medical issues. Money’s tight within my part-time budget so springing for a membership is out of my range at the moment. I’ve been drawn in by the many varying views on the two prevalent sides of the issue.
  71. I’ve been going to cons since ICFA in 2001, when I was one of the [redacted], and as a teacher of kids from very diverse backgrounds, I’m really interested in reading and writing works they can connect with. I’m currently suffering from an extreme case of Poor, but would really like to be able to vote for these awards.
  72. “I’m a soon-to-graduate college student. I’ve always been interested in science fiction and fantasy–sometimes when I hear the cool things people were doing in high school (starting businesses, extensive charity work, running marathons), I joke that I was becoming familiar with a wide range of science fiction and fantasy works. I think the mind-opening perspective fantasy and science fiction can bring contributed to my decision to major in International Development. I’ve always followed the Hugos but I’ve never bought a membership since I’ve never had an extra $40. I’d love my voice to be represented in the voting though–I’ve always felt like a minority as a woman who loves hard science fiction.”
  73. I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy and now write it myself. If I had known that the Hugos were open to voting like this I would have bought a membership years ago.
  74. “After many years of studying and doing graduate research in Biochemistry, I have reached a point in my life where I can’t pretend to myself any longer that I might ‘one day finish a story’. I decided to stop holding myself back and to take this year to wholeheartedly dedicate towards improving my skill at spinning stories in the hopes that I might at last produce a complete piece of work that isn’t too full of rubbish.During my first serious forays into the community of creative writers, I encountered Writing Excuses which is by far my favorite source of writing wisdom! It’s not just that you guys gift us with practical advice – you guys also show us how one should conduct oneself as a writer and friend to others in the field. Hearing your stories made me more confident and excited to go out there and join real writing communities instead of hiding off by myself, feeling embarrassed about my underdeveloped storytelling skills. My goal is to finish my story this year and perhaps join the Writing Excuses Retreat!For now, however, I am financially strapped. I feel guilty even purchasing a supporting membership for Worldcon when I can’t be sure I will have enough grocery money to last me the month. I’m totally fine with following Worldcon from a distance, for now, but since you were offering Worldcon supporting memberships, I thought – why not apply? Thank you for being such a positive figure in the field, Mary! You, Brandon, Howard and Dan are people that always make me feel cheered up and motivated to write.”
  75. “I am 61 years old and have been reading SFF for over 50 years. We used to attend Worldcon, but haven’t been able to afford it for many years. These days my husband and I are both on disability. Once, I attended 8-10 cons a year, and lately it’s just the 2 or 3 where I am on staff.I read as much diverse fiction as I can. I like hard science fiction, space ships in a future where we have spread beyond this fragile small globe. I am terribly excited by Ann Leckie’s books, as well as Bujold, Sharon Shinn, Elizabeth Moon, Connie Willis, Zenna Henderson, Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Esther Freisner, Scalzi, Pratchett, Dickson, Jo Clayton, CJ Cherryh, Jo Walton, Dianna Wynne Jones, Tolkein and CS Lewis, Andre Norton (when I was 12, a librarian told me these were “”boys books””, I checked them out anyway!), Linnea Sinclair, Kate Wilhelm (including her recent mystery novels), and many others. I’m also a fan of Georgette Heyer, and immensely pleased by crossover regency/SFF books like yours and Patricia Wrede, and a few of the things that Bujold has written. I’m also a big fan of D E Stevenson, so it isn’t all SSF.I’m female, liberal, Christian (and strongly dislike the hate groups that call themselves Christian). I’m a burned out programmer, a fiber artist, and in a wheelchair for the last 12 years. In High School, I refused to take home EC and took drafting instead, the first girl to take it at my school. I was angry that they made me take the test for “”Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow””, and was almost as please by having the highest score, as I was with being in the top 1% in math. In my spare time, I translated a 16c German cookbook, the hard way – looking up virtually every word.”
  76. I’ve never been to a fandom con. A million years ago I went to GenCon and was treated like crap by vendors because I was a teenaged girl. A decade ago I went to ComiCon a few times and the shine wore off pretty fast. I’ve been an SF/F reader since I had my own library card but a lot of what I liked was “junky” “soft” stuff and I never felt like a real serious fan (or fen or what have you). I tried to push myself into reading some of the more classic, “hard” SF a long while back thanks to Neil G’s book of introductions and essays, and in the past couple of years, I’ve funded a bunch of Kickstarters and IndieGogo campaigns to directly subsidize work that piqued my interest. There’s a lot of great stuff out there.
  77. I’ve been reading Sci-Fi/Fantasy since I could read. First book was probably the Hobbit, but it was the first of many. First time I ever knew I could vote for the Hugos was last year when Jordan was up and people were talking about what a great deal it was to get a supporting membership and get e-book versions of the entire Wheel of Time. I didn’t, due to procrastination. But I figure I might just do it this year, even if I don’t get picked by you. Thanks for the chance!
  78. When I was seven, my parents read me The Chronicles of Narnia as a bedtime story, followed each morning at breakfast by a fairly thorough exegesis about the Christian underpinnings and the moral and narrative choices involved in the various installments. Even now, despite losing my faith in God, I am still prepared to strenuously argue that reading Magician before Wardrobe might render you soulless. I’m in my thirties now. I’ve read a lot of good works, and a lot of bad stuff. I’ve idolized good writers, and learned some of them are really cool people. I’ve learned about others who leave me confused as to how someone so hateful or closeminded can write something I enjoyed, and of course, I regret the resulting taint to the works that I can’t ever read in good faith any more. I am a librarian, and I buy the SF and Fantasy collection for an entire county. I try to stay on top of recommendations and awards, to have a wide variety of perspectives and types of stories represented – but I’ve always been hesitant to be involved personally. With the fracas last year, and the chaos this year about the Hugos, and ideological lines being drawn, I feel like it’s time to become involved. Sadly, because of the whole librarian thing, school debt and bad pay means that the price tag on involvement is a little high this time around. Regardless, I’ve decided to be part of the process, and I’m budgeting for a supporting membership next year.
  79. I have been drawn to Science Fiction and Fantasy, for as long as I can remember, starting first with Shapechangers by Jennifer Roberson in 4th grade, since then I’ve read a plethora of books. I’d like to have the membership because as a transwoman of partial color, it was the diversity in my reading that helped shape who I am today.
  80. “Hi Mary I’d love to have a supporting membership so I can vote for the Hugo’s and do a little but to help keep things level. Unfortunately funds are a bit tight right now.So if you can let me take one of the donated memberships I’ll put it to good use. Thanks so much for doing this!”
  81. “I’ve been a member of fandom even before my first convention in 1981. By 1985, I was working conventions, particularly [redacted], where I eventually was the [redacted], and [redacted], where I am the [redacted]. I also worked on two WorldCon bids, [redacted] and [redacted]. I voted for the Hugos every year I was able, and I would definitely appreciate the opportunity to do so again this year.By the way, we have met, briefly: I watched your puppetry performance at [redacted]
  82. “I thought I would love to try voting and choosing the next year’s nominations.I am a humble reader from [redacted], Czech Republic, Europe and I would like to apply (or rather “”apply”” as I suppose this is going to be a rather friendly, not-so-official offer from you) for the World Con supporting membership.I am an aspiring F and SF writer, with some minor publications in the [redacted] and anthologies with short stories from various competitions. Since I am a teacher of English at a secondary school by profession, I try to follow quite a lot of English-based magazines, because it gives me the freedom to indulge in some top-quality speculative fiction and keep up to date with modern English writing at the same time. I have only very recently started to write in English, too.

    The ability to vote for the Hugo Awards would give me some great reading experience and insight. I could offer my keen reader skills, an open mind not touched by conventions and last but not least the cultural background of a Czech culture, unique and self-contained, the culture that gave birth to golems, robots and some of the classic fairytales.”

  83. I have been involved in attending and staffing cons since the mid-1980s, and primarily staffing as that is the only way I can afford to attend in most cases. (I’m the costumer who [redacted]) I was pulled in at the last minute to be on staff at [redacted], and as a result I (eventually) received a membership refund which included nominating rights for the following year. I took it very seriously, but I was not able to afford a supporting membership to vote on my nominations. I promise that I will at least attempt to read all the nominated works (can’t promise that I’ll get all the way through) and will vote for what I consider the best works in each category. I have gotten so much out of fandom over the years, and want to continue to take part in the conversations about what we are, where we come from, and where we are going.

Weird uses of puppet making skills number 347 — dying a hat

Rob has a favorite hat, which is an Afghan shepherd’s hat called a pakol. He’s had several of these over the years, but the one he wears to the winery is the most comfortable. It is also, unfortunately, undyed wool and so over the years the sweat and wine stains made it somewhat…disreputable.

This weekend we decided — and by we, I mean “I” — we decided that I had become my mother and that the only possible compromise would be to dye it to cover the stains. Here is the before picture, after Rob washed it twice to remove the worst of the dirt. Twice.

This is my husband's favorite hat, after two rigorous washings. I'm about to dye it for him.


Usually, I use the washing machine when I want to dye things, but with wool you run the risk of it felting from the agitation. So I grabbed our largest soup pot, dumped in three gallons of water, a cup of white vinegar, and the entirety of a bottle of Rit “wine” dye. I could have gotten away with a half bottle, but I wanted it to be really dark and intense. I stirred it on and off for half an hour and voila…

I say, voila, but really, that encompasses five rinses, washing, and another two rinses, but at the end of that, voila!

A wine red that is so dark it is almost black. Rob says that it is Petit Syrah.

Here is Rob's favorite hat, now dyed a really deep wine red, or as he says, a Petit Syrah.

And I say that it is no longer disreputable.