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Hugo Awards

One of the people I follow just posted a bit of news about the Hugo Awards: This year, 80% of the nominees in the fiction categories are women. The spirit of the comment seemed to be somewhat triumphalist. But I can't see that there's much occasion for triumphalism in that news.

On one hand, if we suppose this is just a random fluke, and next year 80% of the nominees could be men, then it doesn't mean anything in particular.

On the other hand, if it does mean something, what does it mean?

Are 80% of current science fiction writers female? Having men virtually abandon the field, or be unable to get published, doesn't seem to me to be cause for celebration.

Are men and women present in comparable numbers, but are women writing much better than men? If men aren't learning to write good fiction, that's a problem with their professional education and development, and one that needs to be resolved.

Are men and women writing in equal numbers and equally well, and are women getting a disproportionate share of recognition? That's an injustice, and since the Hugos are nominated by the fan community, of widespread injustice among SF fans. And if that should be the case, it would be understandable that men might be abandoning the field, if they are.

I have no idea which of these is true, but none of them strikes me as occasion for rejoicing.

the publishing house of Morpheus

In The Sandman, Neil Gaiman showed his readers glimpses of the library of the Dreaming, filled with books that people dreamed of writing. Over the weekend, I had a dream that approached this from the other side: that of publishing. I was looking over my manuscript for a book designed for running roleplaying games. It was set in an extension of Tolkien's Middle-Earth that described the lands far to the east and their inhabitants: rice growing hobbits, river dragons, and the Two Blue Wizards, whom I have long envisioned as the sources of Taoist mysticism and martial arts. I was really happy with my dream of it and wanted to run a campaign there. . . .

trumpets, please!

Just a few minutes ago, I added a couple of short passages to my latest book for Steve Jackson Games, one revising my treatment of an issue and the other covering a newly addressed issue, and then spell checked and word counted. I came up less than one page over the contracted length, which I'm pretty happy with. Then I wrote an e-mail and sent it in.

Now two things happen: I wait for the GURPS line editor to review this draft and return comments, and I wait for the previous book to make it to the head of the playtest queue.

I'm moving forward and I'm happy!

"not clear on the concept"

A little earlier tonight, I sat down to print out tax forms in preparation for figuring my 2018 taxes. I found a page that listed forms. It said that there was a new, shorter version of the 1040, which took the place of the 1040A and the 1040EZ (not that I've ever used those!). And then there were lines on it to enter more information, copied over from other forms, identified as Schedules 1-6.

Okay, I said, and went and looked at Schedule 1, where virtually all my income would go, and at Schedule 4, where my self-employment tax would go. And I found that each of them required filling out other schedules to actually describe the things I was reporting; these were just summary sheets. I still have to fill out the old lettered schedules to report the actual income or taxes.

For example, instead of filling out a Schedule C for business income, and copying the net profit or loss to form 1040, I fill out a Schedule C for business income, and copy the net profit or loss to Schedule 1, and then copy the total from Schedule 1 to form 1040.

Because, you see, the IRS has decided to make filing taxes simpler. . . .

(I'm thinking of Ronald Reagan's sarcastic line, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help.")

forward momentum!

As of a few minutes ago, I wrote the last item for an appendix in my current book project. I'm aiming to turn the draft in on 1 April, so I have a few days to go over the manuscript and clean it up; it needs to have some sentences tightened, some sections moved around for clearer exposition, and maybe a couple of new short passages—and there's one section I want to redraft one more time. But essentially it's done. Or done except for the editorial review, the revision, the playtest, the final draft, and all the stuff Steve Jackson Games has to do before they publish it. . . .

we have the technology

For several years now, one of C's and my household superstitions has been the belief that electronic devices can sense money and will choose to fail any time we start to get ahead. Since the start of the year, we've had a lot of evidence to support that!

* Our television, which we had been using as a combined monitor for C's desktop computer and display for our Blu-Ray (but not as a television; with the digital conversion we could no longer receive the network that showed Lost, so we stopped using our antenna and C later turned it into an FM antenna), stopped turning on. We did some shopping and replaced it with a monitor, since it was very difficult to find any television small enough to fit C's desktop.

* C's cell phone lost the ability to stay connected to our household Wi-Fi for more than a very short time. We found an iPhone of an older model at a discounted price.

* A couple of nights ago, my desktop computer would not come up when I tapped a random key, as it normally did. I had been planning to upgrade to a new one anyway (it was a 2012 model), so I went ahead and ordered one, after verifying that I could use the files on my external hard drive to initialize it. Then we discovered that lots of other things weren't working either, or weren't fully working; we were having, not a blackout (I would have known what was wrong then), but a brownout, and apparently that just wasn't enough for either the computer or the monitor to work. However, even though I didn't strictly need the new machine, I had been planning to buy one, and I have been considered about the old one's continuing functionality, so I didn't cancel the order. (C's desktop, which we use mainly as a media interface, stopped working earlier this year as well, and I had planned to move my older machine over to replace it, so that's what will happen to it now.)

* Just yesterday, I discovered that some of the control keys on our microwave were no longer responding. Now, I could do a workaround by entering two times that added up to the time I wanted, but the failure was an omen of likely further loss of function. So now we have a new microwave.

I really hope our devices have gotten tired of the joke. . . .

the new book

As of noon today, I've finished Chapters 1, 2, and 4 of the current first draft book. Chapter 3, which is roughly twice as long as the others, needs some work, and I need to add some material to an appendix. However, my word count is up to five-sixths of the planned total length.

It's looking as if I'll have no trouble meeting the first draft deadline. I likely will have time to go over the material, tighten it up, make better connections between sections. do a little reorganizing, and maybe redraft a few passages for clarity.

rereading

Just lately, a lot of my reading has been of nominees for the Prometheus Award for Best Novel. But for a break, I picked up a book I haven't read in many years, the collected Sonja Blue novels by Nancy Collins, and I've been reading the original book, Sunglasses after Dark. It reads quite differently now, though happily, not worse. Rather, I'm seeing something I don't remember and probably hadn't noticed before: That a lot of it is hilariously funny, not plotwise (the plot is horror somewhat mixed with noir), but in dry comments and literary allusions and puns and absurd situations. I keep by surprised by short passages that make me laugh—for example, the scene in Sonja's career as a prostitute when she's taken to a party and telepathically picks up one guest's image of her tied to a bed, naked, surrounded by frisky dachshunds. . . .

the cycle of video

Just lately, between finding shows that we want to watch and having new seasons become available for streaming, C and I have had an exceptional number of video options. Currently we're experimenting with trying to set up a regular one show each weeknight (taking weekends off). Our current roster is as follows:

The Expanse: Fairly hard science fiction with political intrigue and astronautic combat in a future solar system without interstellar travel. Complex characterization and a lot of dramatic moments.

Legion: Derived from Marvel Comics' X-men, but it's more a show about people with superhuman powers than a superhero show. The first season was a bit surreal; the second season is more so.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: A young Jewish woman at the end of the 1950s discovers a genius for standup comedy, in a style akin to Lenny Bruce, and sets out to make a career of it. Actually as much drama as comedy, though her comedy bits are funny when they're meant to be funny and painful when they're meant to be painful. Suffers a bit from anachronism; the dialogue uses phrases that only came into use decades later.

The Orville: We were cautious about this, as its presiding genius is the man who made the loathsome The Family Guy, but it's turned out to be significantly better than that; its characters deal with Star Trek-like situations in a way that takes them seriously despite the humor.

And speaking of which, Star Trek: The actual original series, in the original broadcast order (except that neither of us wanted to watch "Charlie X"). It's fascinating seeing the classic tropes emerge one by one, the unevenness of the writing—but also seeing how often Starfleet had people of African or Asian descent in important roles; Roddenberry really was ahead of his time.

contract

After a couple of months of discussion, outlining, and more discussion, tonight I signed a contract for another GURPS supplement. The schedule on this one is a little uncertain, as my previous project, the tech-oriented one, may come up for playtest between now and its first draft deadline. But I've got a lot of ideas for what should go into it, so I'm hoping to make rapid progress. And the two projects are quite different, so they won't fight for the same parts of my brain.