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11 August 2009 @ 10:55 am
nightmares and book awards  
Back in Florida with some time to catch up.

(Answering some queries in sff.net -- )

Karen, yes. We'll be at World Fantasy. It's the one not to miss.

(Asking about why I felt I had to restructure _Earthbound_, the current novel-in-progress) Neale, I guess it was a matter of not seeing the forest for the trees. The series of events that I had planned out for the first part of the novel were interesting and very sciencefictional, but they led right down the rabbit hole -- there was no place for the novel to go but unrelenting tragedy and pathos. I didn't want to spend a year writing that, and perhaps my readers wouldn't want to spend $24 reading it.

To be more accurate without being too specific -- no spoilers here -- I couldn't see a way out of the rabbit-hole spiral without introducing elements difficult to believe. The trilogy already has its share of "technology so advanced that it's indistinguishable from magic." My instinct says that you can get away with that in a story, setting up a problem. But you can't reach into the hat and do it again, to solve the problem. Your people have to do that with what they've got.

(Asking whether I would post a sample of _Starbound_) Bluesman, I'll do that -- I'll put the first chapter up on my web page. Once I clean up the web page. Which I'll do with hammer-and-tongs html. Screw these "so easy a child can do it" programs.

We had almost zero time to play tourist in Montreal, which we knew would happen, before we arrived, from the heavy programming. Annoying but better than being ignored. We've been to Montreal a couple of times before, anyhow.

Monday morning we strolled for a couple of hours at breakfast time and then went up to the dealers' room, where I was scheduled to sit for autographing at the SFWA table for an hour. I bought a fetching baby-blue SFWA T-shirt, because I didn't have any clean lightweight shirts to wear on the plane.

On the way home I read from Stephen King's collection _Nightmares and Dreamscapes_. "Dolan's Caddilac" was a nice Poe homage. Most of the stories were entertaining, but really, his forte is the novella, and these were mostly too short to be much more than a scary gimmick. He does bent characters well, like the child abductor in "Popsy." (That could have been a great story at novella length, with a less pat and predictable ending. The character and set-up were wonderful. But then Enter Vampire Stage Left.)

As to the Hugos . . . congrats to the winners, and I'm sort of glad I wasn't up for _Marsbound_. I would've hated to have lost to Neil for _The Graveyard Book_, which I'm sure is good, won the Newbery for children's lit and all. But the Hugo used to be a science fiction award. _The Graveyard Book_ is a fine ghost story.

I can't complain about the award being influenced by personality, since I'm sure I wouldn't have won as many if I just sat here and wrote, rather than going out and exposing myself to the fans. But still. A YA ghost story?

Well. I shall shake the scales of Montreal from my soul and get back to clearing the underbrush from _Earthbound_'s deforestation and replanting.

Brent Kellmerskaldic on August 12th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)

This doesn't have anything to do with your post on Montreal, but I seem to recall that you mentioned something at one point (either on LiveJournal or elsewhere) that you'd used voice-to-text software to read your work onto the computer. If I may ask, what do you use, and does it work for you? I've got some issues with my wrist that have been slowly getting worse and was looking at Dragon Naturally Speaking as an alternative, but wanted to find someone who'd used the technology first.


Brent Kellmer
joe_haldemanjoe_haldeman on August 13th, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)
voice to text
Brent, I experimented with Via Voice years ago, when it was new, and was sort of impressed. But the text was so rough it took me almost as long to edit out the errors as it would have to type it out in the first place.

I probably didn't use it long enough to call it a fair trial. The translation power does increase with use -- training your own voice as well as training the computer's ability to identify and translate phonemes.

David Weber is the only writer I know who has used it in complete exclusion of normal typing. (Broke his wrist, too.) Probably be worth looking him up on Facebook or LJ or wherever.

Good luck . . . let me know what you find out.

joe_haldemanjoe_haldeman on August 14th, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC)
Brent, last night at a Mac users' group meeting, a guy demonstrated the new Dictate program. Amazingly accurate with very little training. I ordered one, and will report here.

Brent Kellmerskaldic on August 14th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)
Re: voicetyping
Thanks, Joe. I talked to a few folks about Dragon Naturally Speaking to get their input, and on the strength of that, ordered a copy myself. It was inexpensive enough that if there's something better out there, I can give it up without much pain, but I figured I'd try the cheap option first to see if it was at all worthwhile. I'll let you know how it turns out.

(Anonymous) on August 14th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
Well, the first ever Hugo (an award explicitly for SF and fantasy since the get-go, although it's always tended to go more to SF) for short story went to Bob Bloch's "That Hellbound Train" -- a ghosty deal-with-the Devil story.

And while The Graveyard Book was published in the US as YA, it's being published in other countries (including the UK) as Adult Fiction. (This is also the second "YA" book I can think of that's won the Hugo for best novel in recent years. And the other was a fantasy too. And wasn't Starship Troopers written as a juvenile?)

But it's comments like that that make me glad that I declined the nomination for Anansi Boys a few years back, and half make me wish I'd not listened to Charles Brown and declined the nomination for The Graveyard Book this time. (Part of his argument at the time was that if I took it off the ballot, whoever won would have people saying "It won because Neil didn't let The Graveyard Book compete" no matter how true that would or would not have been). I'd like to think The Graveyard Book won the Hugo this year because enough people liked it to nominate it for the award, and enough voters liked it best to vote for it. I strongly suspect it also won because someone in Neal Stephenson's camp decided not to permit Anathem to be given free to Hugo voters in the Hugo Voter Reading Pack that John Scalzi organised, which meant that all the Hugo voters could, in theory, have read all the prose nominated for awards -- a lot of the voters read all the other books and didn't read that one, so didn't vote for it, or rated it lower on their lists.

Not sure how I feel about the "cult of personality" implications. Does that mean that when I lost the Hugo for best short story for "How To Talk To Girls At Parties" to Tim Pratt a couple of years ago my Cult Of Personality was not strong enough? Or that Tim has a bigger Cult of Personality? I don't think that name recognition had a lot to do with it... I liked (and still like) to think it was because the readers who voted for Tim thought "Impossible Dreams" was the best of the nominees.

I know that grumbling about Hugo winners is probably the most enjoyable and longest tradition that the Hugos have, and that I shouldn't really even comment. But I don't think you've quite thought this one through, Joe.

joe_haldemanjoe_haldeman on August 14th, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)

You're right, Neil; my thinking cap is often not turned up to 100% when coasting through the blogosphere. Of course the Hugo often goes to fantasy . . . I have one myself, for the novella "The Hemingway Hoax," which has less science in it than the average cereal box.

I think Charlie's argument for not taking _The Graveyard Book_ off the ballot is sound, but a more compelling one (if it were me) would be that you'd always wonder whether you might have won. That would nag at me for years, as it may you for _Anansi Boys_.

I would never put my cult of personality up against yours, Neil. Yours are young and strong and wear black. Mine are middle-aged, at best, and wear pocket protectors full of pens.

I'd never heard of the Hugo Voter Reading Pack. Googling, I find the announcement on John Scalzi's page, and I guess another must have come to me as a member of Anticipation. Another bobbing treasure lost in the e-mail cataract.

(Not being in that may have hurt _Anathem_, a $30 doorstop-sized volume. Especially if the actual Hugo voters are heavily weighted toward the Pack people, which may be.)

Sorry to have caused offense with my grumblings. I should have Gay read these things before I hit the Send button.


(Anonymous) on August 14th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Hugos
No offense taken. Someone sent me a link to someone that had linked to this and the comment that "I'm glad someone in the industry has finally spoken up about this kind of thing." And I thought you should know that you were now a poster child for something I didn't think you actually thought.



No, it doesn't nag at me about Anansi Boys: if I'd wanted it on the ballot I would have kept it there. I believe it made John Scalzi infinitely happier to have a book on the Hugo shortlist than it would have made me to win it. (The winning of the American Gods Hugo was one of the happiest, most astonishing moments of my life, mind.)