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February 2009
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March 2009

Elizabeth Bear in top form in 2008

Elizabeth Bear wearing the JWC tiara

Thinking about the short fiction in 2008, one of the writers whose work really stands out is Elizabeth Bear. In 2005, she won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. And in 2008, her story "Tideline" won a Hugo. Her novel forthcoming in 2009 will be the Norse fantasy By the Mountain Bound.

 She published several really superb stories in 2008. 

• "Shuggoths in Bloom," which just made this year's Hugo ballot, was published in Asimov’s. It is an extraordinary contemporary Lovecraftian story set in about 1939 off the coast of Maine, and constitutes an original reinterpretation of some elements of the Chthulhu mythos. The atmosphere of cosmic dread is particularly well established, and the New England setting spot on. (It will appear in our Year's Best Fantasy 9, forthcoming from Tor.com.)

• Her collaboration with Sarah Monette, "Boojum" was published in the excellent original anthology of fantasy and SF pirate stories, Fast Ships, Black Sails, edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. It turns the premise of the anthology on its head. A tale of living spaceships and brain-thieves, this story, in the tradition of Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Sang, is one of this year's most entertaining. That one will appear in our Year's Best SF 14, forthcoming from HarperCollins.

Her stories were among 2008's high points for me.

Elizabeth Bear


Mobsourcing: a term I've been needing

I just learned an interesting new word: mobsourcing.  It is a word I've been needing for a variety of  situations I've observed on the Internet. The Wikipedia-style crowd-source ideal should in principle bring consensus close and closer to the truth. My observation with Internet mob behavior, the large number of participants can make the group impervious to factual corrections.  

From the Web 2.0 Blog, by Ken Fischer, 12/26/08: Mobsourcing vs Crowdsourcing: Can conformity occasionally make for a more reliable crowd?

In my last post I started to examine the claim of the cluetrain manifesto that a more networked audience is more intelligent or at least a better detector than an individual. The #Mumbai victim list twitter distribution illustrated 4 ways which a network can apply truth filters and 2 ways in which the network affects might work against detecting falsehoods over the short term.

One recent tweet from Deb Lavoy questioned whether crowdsourcing will always generate good ideas, because after all a mob is also a crowd. Mobs are famous for poor and emotionally driven decisions and actions rather than intelligence and innovation. So how do we prevent crowdsourcing from becoming mobsourcing? Do connections between audience members, which a mob seems to have, mean better decision making? . . .

. . . and Ken Anderberg, January 2008, Is it a crowd or a mob?

Most of us have seen the Western movie, where the crowd lathers up at the saloon, grabs weapons and rope, and marches, mob-like, down to the sheriff's office, ready to string up some alleged villain down at the livery. The villain wants the sheriff to let him out so he can defend himself. The sheriff grabs the 12-gauge and any handy deputies, and meets the mob outside the front door of the jail. . . .

These mobs always have one thing in common--a few people, always in the front, are the instigators, the ringleaders. Everyone else is mostly just jazzed up, liquored up maybe, and just going along with the crowd. That is, with the mob.

The sheriff, using his knowledge of how mobs work, points his shotgun and his pistol at the mob leaders in the front of the pack, and says, "You know, Amos, there are way too many of you, but I guarantee that the first two shots out of ol' Betsy here will be aimed directly at you, and I'll get a bunch more of you with my Colt."

Right about then, the mob leaders figure they will be dead before anyone is hung, and they won't get to enjoy the fun. So they decide the effort is not worth the price and go home, grumbling as they retreat. The mob also disperses.

So, too, is it with crowdsourcing. A few people lead the pack, provide most of the input, while most of the rest of the crowd is little more than onlookers, perhaps somewhat lathered up about the topic, but really without much expertise to add anything meaningful to the discussion.

Is that really crowdsourcing, or is it more akin to mobsourcing?

Creating politically motivated mobs to spread a harmful meme about a candidate was, for example, a very common tactic during recent elections.


The Hugo ballot: A very male fiction ballot this year

The Hugo ballot is out. Looking over the fiction nominations, it seems a very male ballot. Of the 21 authors listed in the fiction categories, four are women (19%).

Best Novel
(639 Ballots / Bulletins)

Best Novella
(337 Ballots / Bulletins)

  • “The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
  • “The Political Prisoner” by Charles Coleman Finlay (F&SF Aug 2008) – Read Online
  • “The Tear” by Ian McDonald (Galactic Empires)
  • “True Names” by Benjamin Rosenbaum & Cory Doctorow (Fast Forward 2) — Free download
  • “Truth” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)

Best Novelette
(373 Ballots / Bulletins)

  • “Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Jan 2008) — Read Online
  • “The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2) — Read Online
  • “Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel (F&SF Jan 2008)
  • “The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” by James Alan Gardner (Asimov’s Feb 2008) — Read Online
  • “Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008) — Read Online

Best Short Story
(448 Ballots / Bulletins)

  • “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Jul 2008) — Read Online
  • “Article of Faith” by Mike Resnick (Baen’s Universe Oct 2008)
  • “Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Two)
  • “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)
  • “From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 2008)

My own reading of the fiction of 2008 suggested to me that this was a much better year for sf&f by woman than that. Of the 23 names on our Year's Best SF 14 table of contents, 9 of the authors are women (39%). (We haven't announced our fantasy TOC yet, but assuming we get all the stories on which we've requested permission, the ration there will be 12/29 or 41%.) 

Of course, we used a different sample: short fiction. Nonetheless, I find this difference striking.

And here we are:

Best Editor, Long Form
(273 Ballots / Bulletins)

  • Lou Anders
  • Ginjer Buchanan
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Beth Meacham
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden

. . . and . . .

Best Semiprozine
(283 Ballots / Bulletins)

  • Clarkesworld Magazine edited by Neil Clarke, Nick Mamatas & Sean Wallace
  • Interzone edited by Andy Cox
  • Locus edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, & Liza Groen Trombi
  • The New York Review of Science Fiction edited by Kathryn Cramer, Kris Dikeman, David G. Hartwell, & Kevin J. Maroney
  • Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal


Year's Best SF 14 Table of Contents

YBSF14 cover Year's Best SF 14, David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer, eds. table of contents. 

Arkfall • Carolyn Ives Gilman
Orange • Neil Gaiman
Memory Dog • Kathleen Ann Goonan
Pump Six • Paolo Bacigalupi
Boojum • Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette
Exhalation • Ted Chiang
Traitor • M. Rickert
The Things that Make Me Weak and Stange Get
Engineered Away • Cory Doctorow
Oblivion: A Journey • Vandana Singh
The House Left Empty • Robert Reed
The Scarecrow’s Boy • Michael Swanwick
N-Words • Ted Kosmatka
Fury • Alastair Reynolds
Cheats • Gwyneth Jones writing as Ann Halam
The Ships Like Clouds, Risen By Their Rain • Jason Sanford
The Egg Man • Mary Rosenblum
Glass • Daryl Gregory
Fixing Hanover • Jeff VanderMeer
Message Found in a Gravity Wave • Rudy Rucker
Mitigation • Tobias Buckell & Karl Schroeder
Spiders • Sue Burke

The book is forthcoming from HarperEos in May

If the last few fantasy permission forms are waiting in our PO Box, I may be able to announce the Year's Best Fantasy 9 contents within a day or two.


Thursday morning at home.

Both kids are home sick and David has just set out with a van loaded with boxes headed for Orlando.

I haven't gotten the car I wrecked a couple of weeks ago back from the body shop yet, so this morning we rented me a car, since David is driving our van to Florida.

It appears I'm going to have to drag the sick kids along to this afternoon's ultrasound of my thyroid. The plot of life is running much too fast for me right now. 

damage to my Chevy HHR 2/22/09On February 22nd, I encountered a patch of snow and had a car accident. No one died. Though there were sore muscles, the kids and I walked away without the proverbial scratch. But the car -- the loyal Chevy HHR whose safety features performed as they were supposed to -- sustained $7,400 worth of damage.

I went to the doctor to be checked out to make sure I was OK. He sent me for X-rays. The radiologist didn't like the look of something on the X-rays and so sent me for a CATscan of my neck. On the CATscan, my vertebrae didn't look as weird as on the X-ray. 

The radiologist thinks he saw something possibly wrong with my thyroid, and so this afternoon, I head out for a thyroid ultrasound. I want to be confident that this is going to be one of those medical "oh, never mind." Situations, but I know next to nothing about thyroids. So they will just have to tell me.

I feel sort of stupid that I had to look for pictures on the Internet to find out where my thyroid was supposed to be. Now I know.


Welcome, Ambrose

Ambrose

This morning we filed adoption papers wit the North Country SPCA for Ambrose, a cat we have fostered on and off since July. He is a wonderful charismatic cat who came to the shelter as a kitten rescued from an Adirondack cat colony. All of his siblings got adopted. But not Ambrose (whose shelter name was "Bro").

He had persistent respiratory issues that were resistant to treatment. He lived for more than a year in the shelter before we first fostered him. It seemed that maybe the issue was allergies, but he didn't respond to cortisone shots either.  My husband, David, was for obvious reasons reluctant to adopt a chronically ill cat.

Finally, after much patient trying, the cat's health finally seems to be stable, and he has also become a treasured member of the family. He likes to sit in the middle of cross-sections so he knows where everyone is. He reminds of of Kathy & Jim Morrow's late border collie Pooka; perhaps Ambrose was a border collie in a past life.

Please welcome Ambrose!


Our dying book distribution system

Two news stories:

  • From Jason Boog at GalleyCat: Four Publishers Sue Anderson News for $37.5 Million

    Publishers Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Random House, and Simon & Schuster have sued Anderson News in federal bankruptcy court, trying to recover the total of $37.5 million the companies say they are owed by the distributor. 

    Founded in 1917, Anderson News sells "magazines, books, comics, maps, collectibles and more" to 40,000 retail outlets around the country.

  • MailOnline: Thousands in scramble for free books after Amazon supplier abandons warehouse: The photos are great. This what the 21st century is really like.

    She said: 'It's an unbelievable site when you walk in here. Lots of the bookcases have been knocked over and the books are everywhere. It doesn't feel right having to walk over all these wonderful books to find what you want. But given the cost of new books these days, who's going to refuse this?'

    Why exactly do we coast along on the assumption that the edifices holding up our Internet literary culture are solid? They're not.


The mugshot of Joseph A. Cafasso, Jr. aka "Robert Stormer"

Joseph A. Cafasso, Jr. mug shot, 1/22/09

Here is the mug shot of Joseph A. Cafasso, Jr., who in 2006 -- while using the alias "Gerry Blackwood" -- stole my computer and lived on my Amex card for a month without my knowledge or permission. He's in jail in Porter County Indiana, where he has been since 1/22/09. The alias he was using in Indiana was "Robert Stormer," the name under which he also blogged.

There are two new news stories about Cafasso out this morning, both from the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana:

My main page about him is HERE.

Joseph A. Cafasso, Jr. on the front page of the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana