Book Launch: The Hugosauriad

Two hundred and fifty two million years in the making, a book that spans geological eras, astronomical bodies colliding, and people getting upset at award ceremonies. Space! Big game hunters! A surprising number of priests! Atheist therapods! This is a book that has everything but a simple premise!

Let’s go back to the beginning. The Permian-Triassic extinction event aka “The Great Dying” was our planet’s greatest extinction event that we know of. Over 90% of marine species and 70% land species died off…hold on…that’s too far back. Fast forward a bit. The USA of the 1950s! A time of optimism, change and technology! Into that exciting era of rock-and-roll stepped the Hugo Awards for Science Fiction. The awards, often controversial, usually provocative and always interesting would become the premier science fiction & fantasy awards for books written in English.

Jo Walton’s Informal History of the Hugos did an excellent job of combing through the eras of the award to give a sense of the changes in taste and the dynamics of the voters. However, with so many categories and so many notable finalists, any attempt to capture the full breadth and depth of the awards is nearly impossible. There are many Hugo read-through projects (e.g. Nerds of a Feather’s current Hugo project http://www.nerds-feather.com/search/label/Hugo%20Initiative ) but I did not want to cover the same ground. So while I had considered a Hugo history project for this blog I never could find the right approach or a way in that would not be just repeating what more skilful people had done better.

The nomination of Brooke Bolander’s “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” set me thinking. 2019 was, by my reckoning, the first truly “post-Puppy” Hugo Awards — the first year since 2013 in which the extreme right-wing campaign to influence the award was not directly visible on the nomination process. That set me thinking of an arc of three stories in which the Puppy debarkle had played out:

  • Rachael Swirsky’s movingly lyrical If You Were A Dinosaur My Love — a story hated by the right wing factions behind the Puppy campaigns.
  • Chuck Tingle humorous monster erotica “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” — nominated by alt-right trolls but which led to a spectacular counter-trolling by Chuck Tingle himself.
  • And the Brooke Bolander’s story in Uncanny Magazine, a combination of author and platform that was a fair illustration of where the Hugo Awards had come to in the wake of that conflict.

So, there was a hook. The past five years of the Hugo Awards could (sort of) be traced in terms of a set of stories with dinosaurs in them. It was, a decent enough idea for an essay. Now what would the first paragraph of that essay say? “Dinosaurs have often featured in the Hugo Awards.” Hmm, was that true or would I just be talking out of my cloaca? I’d need to do a bit more research and that meant surveying the awards lists for dinosaur stories: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/05/11/what-have-i-missed/

Thanks to helpful readers here, I tracked down stories and the shape of the Hugosauriad became clear. I would write not a biography of the Hugo Awards but a dinography — a history using dinosaurs as the instrument.

Picking a single theme opened up a way into the huge scope of the Hugo Awards. Instead of just winners, I could look at notable finalists as well but more than that, I could look at stories that weren’t even nominated (in some cases because they preceded the Hugo Awards) but which were influential. It also meant that I could trace how one theme had changed and shifted in the genre over decades but also how features of the Hugos (such as the infamous No Award) had played out in multiple eras.

To my delight and surprise other themes volunteered themselves as if eager to jump on the bandwagon: the boundary between science fiction and literary fiction, the influence of changing scientific ideas on science fiction, the role of humour in science fiction, the representation of women as both authors and characters in the awards.

The Hugosauriad is not a comprehensive look at the Hugo Awards nor is it a comprehensive look at dinosaurs as a theme in science fiction but it is both a deep and varied examination. I have tried to vary the style and approach of the essays. Some are serious, one at least is very silly. Some deal with a single story in depth, others are focused on the wider context.

The original essays can be found on this blog https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/hugosauriad/ but I wanted to ensure there was an ebook version that could be read as a complete history. I considered quickly bundling things together but I was sensibly persuaded to spend at least some time tidying up. Thanks to JJ, quite a substantial number of typos and clunky sentences have been fixed! More may have crept in since!

The Hugosauriad: A Dinographic Account of the Hugo Awards is now available in multiple ebook formats. As always the cost is FREE and half price for dinosaurs.

It’s available at most ebook distributors except for Amazon:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1023724

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/au/book/the-hugosauriad-a-dinographic-account-of-the-hugo-awards/id1515818792

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-hugosauriad-camestros-felapton/1137089686?ean=2940164092702

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/au/en/ebook/the-hugosauriad-a-dinographic-account-of-the-hugo-awards

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/463446289/The-Hugosauriad-A-Dinographic-Account-of-the-Hugo-Awards

Homunculus Cartographer

The newer of the two big-project things for next weeks blogiversary finale week is the insufficiently-long novel (aka the MEGA-novella) Homunculus Cartographer.

What is it?

It is a serial story with its own blog with its own exciting URL which is https://homunculuscartographer.home.blog/ and it is sort of in a blog format (mainly because that’s what I know how to write). It will appear every Thursday and Sunday from next week until early September. Every other week I’ll do a summary post with links here.

I wasn’t sure what the best interval should be for posts. Daily matches the story but as some chapters are on the same day in the plot, a ‘live’ style would mean several posts on some days. That works for a real blog but for a story I think once people missed a couple of days, it would be hard to keep up. On the other hand weekly felt like the story would have no momentum. Twice a week makes it easier to catch-up and will make the blog seem active.

It is all written and all scheduled, so the whole thing will happen now even if I got abducted by voles and was forced to live in a vole kingdom until I bested their champion and became Vole King only to return after a year and a day (there are no voles in this story though). Every post has a map or a diagram of some sort and there is a plot (but I must stress again, no voles).

What’s it all about?

Fantasy stories are famous for their maps but who makes these maps? Also how do they make these maps given the often Dark Age/pseudo-medieval settings? In the world of this story it a notable family of Alchemist Bears who have a famous map making business. To help them they brewed up an artificial person whose job it is to wander around collecting data and take bearings and make notes which he eventually takes back home. The blog are their notes and sketches.

The world they are in is inside our world. I wanted to mix in some of that Pellucidar/hollow Earth vibe but with more oddness. The setting is one of several tiers folded up geometrically inside the solid mass of our planet. Among those tiers is a kind of hell, mainly because I wanted demons in the story as well because somehow demons became a running theme on this blog over the years.

I also wanted the main weird exotic people the main character encounters to be humans. So while the main character is odd by human standards they are visiting human people rather than say elves etc. Also most people in English-language fantasy stories speak English for convenience and so the humans are literally speaking English in the story (mostly). Like Tolkien, I spent a long time considering a complex linguistic background for my universe but my answer was “they all speak English”.

While the main character has a mission and later on a quest of a kind, I also wanted the whole thing to be sort of inconsequential — like of all the people the story could have followed at this point in the world’s history, we picked an interesting one but not a very interesting one. In my head there’s a whole bigger plot with bigger fantasy machinations that all happened (and then carried on happening beyond the end of this story) to a different character. That character has a destiny etc etc but only appears twice and doesn’t have a name and has no material impact on the actual story that gets told.

Put another way, this is a heavily sabotaged fantasy story. So while I’m at it: infodumps. There are whole chapters of them Moby Dick style (but shorter). There is a whole cosmos that needs explanation as well an unusual ship to describe and a chemically unusual ocean. TELL DON’T SHOW as they say but also SHOW by drawing pictures.

Is it funny?

It’s not a parody and it is lean on jokes. There’s a war and some tragic history and a police shoot out, so not obvious humour material but there is a lot of silliness and a main character missing the point plus some jokes. There’s a kind of joke here about taking writing advice and doing the opposite but as jokes go that one is mainly for my own amusement.

Will I like it?

Maybe, I hope so. Fair warning though, the same core principle is in place as operates with the Camestros Felapton blog: write what’s in my head at the time and put it out there regardless of whether it is good. Creative self-indulgence is the name of the game!

Will there be a chapter were somebody does some actual housework for once?

Yes.

Is this a product of the Covid-19 lockdown?

No. I wrote most of it in October, November and December 2019 and then a final chunk of it February. A lot was done during the Solar System hiatus and the Beer Hiatus. The lockdown disrupted production because I didn’t have my normal train ride back-and-forth any more. The simple solution to that was LESS EDITING! Hoorah! So do not be afraid — the normal level of typos misspellings will be there!

Is Timothy in it?

He has a brief cameo early on but isn’t named and he doesn’t have any lines. Maybe a location visited is Bortsworth in the final section but that’s not canon.

When is it live?

The blog page is live now: https://homunculuscartographer.home.blog/

That link will always take you to a static title page with a link to the latest chapter. There’s a chapter menu at the top right. I’m using WordPress as per usual but I’ll probably play with navigation features and things.

Ten Days, Five Years

This month has been blogiversary month and the party is still going. May 29th is the official five years since the very first post on this blog (https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/hello-world/ ) and we have two big-ticket items to come.

Sometime next week will be the book launch for ebook version of The Hugosauriad. I’m really excited by that, mainly because of how well everything worked out with that project but also because of the help and encouragement I received from people. I’ll post more details when everything is cooked. Dinosaurs, Hugo Awards, No Awards and time travel!

The other big-thing next week will be the launch of the serial mega-novella (bigger than a novella, shorter than a novel). Entitled Homunculus Cartographer, it’s about a fantasy character whose job it is to make maps. It’s a giant mess of info-dumps, a main character missing the main action of big fantasy war in which they are really a side character, hollow Earth weirdness, flying reptiles, alchemist bears (who never actually appear in the story), demons, hell and a trip to the Greenwich Maritime Museum. It’s not a parody per-se and has a much lower joke quotient than McEdifice… but it is intended to be a fantasy story that has its priorities and grasp of genre conventions out of whack.

The story will run in twice weekly episodes on its own blog starting late next week. Every second week, I’ll run catch-up links to chapters here for those who would rather read bigger chunks. It’ll be fun, sort of or a disaster or most likely a fun-disaster 🙂

Certantibus in medio catulorum: May 2015

I mangled Latin using Google Translate when I put together a timeline of the Puppy Debarkle. The problem is, I have no idea what I was trying to say with some of these tags, other than to give sections of the timeline a portentous feel. I think maybe it was an attempt at “certainly this is the middle” but who knows?

Perhaps a better tag would have been a Latin version of “it is all over bar the shouting”. In truth, all the core arguments had been made about the attempt to game the votes of the 2015 Hugo Awards. The shouty part was still going but despite the noise even that was dying down. The constructive part i.e. voting reform was well under way.

The shouting would continue but much of it would wait until next month. Irene Gallo’s comment on Facebook characterising the two Puppy groups as “extreme right wing to neo-nazi, respectively” sat unremarked during May. Weeks later, Vox Day would use the comment to keep the pot boiling. It was a clever tactic on his part and drawn from GamerGate: keep the angst high, escalate the argument and give people something to do i.e. boycott Tor Books.

Gallo’s comment would even draw some criticism from parties beyond the Puppies (Eric Flint for example in this disappointing post). Now? It seems very tame. From key Sad Puppies we’ve since seen more aggressive anti-gay and anti-trans sentiment, we’ve seen tolerance of genocide, extreme anti-Roma prejudice, endorsement of authoritarian regimes and policies and encouragement of violence against protestors and politicians for having the views they don’t approve of. To what extent that was reflected in broader Sad Puppy support back in 2015 we’ll never know but “extreme right wing” was putting it mildly and “neo-nazi” as a term remains a case of distinguishing small kangaroos from large wallabies. Ironically Flint’s post would have seemed a sensible move on his part, attempting to heal a growing fracture but as a Marxist he really should have spotted that the fracture was far deeper than a spat amid one community but rather part of deep social divisions becoming more manifest.

  • 2015/5/1 Voting opens for the Hugo Awards [124]
  • 2015/5/2 On File 770 Juliette Wade provides an account of how Brad Torgersen invited onto Sad Puppies 3 and why she later withdrew. Brad disputes her account in the comments. [125]
  • 2015/5/4 Brad Torgersen implies on Twitter than John Scalzi is gay. Scalzi replies saying “If Brad Torgersen wants to insult me, insinuating I’m gay won’t work. It’s not an insult to be gay. Be an insult to be a Sad Puppy, however.” Torgersen later apologizes. [126]
  • 2015/5/6 Alexandra Erin reviews “The Little Prince” in character as John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired) – a satirical Puppy commentator [127]
  • 2015/5/7 Vox Day describes himself as ‘the leader of Gamergate’. [128]
  • 2015/5/10 John Scalzi posts an essay on why he regards the Hugos as not broken. “the flaw is fixable by addressing the nomination process so that a) slating is made more difficult, while b) the fundamental popular character of the Hugos (i.e., anyone can vote and nominate) is retained. There are a number of ways to do this (the simplest would be to allow folks to nominate three works/people in each category and have six finalist slots on the ballot; there are more complicated ways as well), but the point is that there are options.” [129]
  • 2015/5/11 Tor Creative Director Irene Gallo posts a message on her personal Facebook page that describes the Sad and Rabid Puppies as “extreme right wing to neo-nazi, respectively”. The comment goes unremarked beyond her Facebook page at the time. [130]
  • 2015/5/12 At Making Light, Keith ‘Kilo’ Watts posts the wording of a proposal for the Hugo Awards to adopt a single divisible vote with least popular eliminated system (SDV-LPE) [131]
  • 2015/5/14 The Sad Puppy 4 blog goes online with a post from Amanda S Green promising that on September 3 ‘more goodies to end Puppy-Related Sadness will start appearing here’ [132]
  • 2015/5/18 Hugo Packet (a collection of nominated works made free to members) is released online for members. [133]
  • 2015/5/19 At Making Light the name ‘E Pluribus Hugo’ is first suggested by Joshua Kronengold, as a name for the SDV-LPE proposal, [134]
  • 2015/5/24 A $3.4 million deal between Tor and John Scalzi is announced. [135]
  • 2015/5/26 At Making Light a thread starts on finalising the wording of the E Pluribus Hugo proposal [136]

Whatever happened to Voxopedia?

In 2018 I wrote one of my occasional posts about “Infogalactic” aka Voxopedia, saying:

“Yes, the shambling undead creature assembled from rotting remains of articles discarded by Wikipedia continues to lurch through the countryside occasionally gurgling the word “brrraainnss” (or is it “editorrrrsss”). Somehow it is still not dead despite being edited by a tiny number of people, two of whom seem to be at war over which kind of weird conspiracy theory complex is the right one.”

https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/you-havent-mocked-voxopedia-in-a-long-time/

Although I’ve touched upon the site occasionally since then, the basic situation has remained unchanged. The same small core of editors keep trying to keep it updated with occasional forays into editing out all the “BCE/CE” date designations back to “BC/AD”. Meanwhile, there is a couple more editors using it as a personal blog for their own conspiracy theories and I think maybe as a place to edit a screenplay? It’s amazingly not dead but instead has slowly drifted into irrelevance. There was a point where various alt-right websites would link to it over Wikipedia but sightings have become rare in the wild.

Today though, even Vox Day himself couldn’t be bothered linking to his own vanity wiki:

Yet it had such dreams and ambitions back in 2016 when it first appeared ttps://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/vox-days-vanity-wikipedia/

By November 2016 the fundamental problem with even maintaining a bad version of Wikipedia was obvious: not enough editors and not enough updates: https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/a-tale-of-an-encyclopedia-in-graphs/

People really did sign up in droves. What they didn’t do is start editing or curating. Looking at recent changes today, it is more-or-less the same handful of editors making the same number of editors per day as it was in 2017. Of those, several are just pursuing their own niche articles dedicated to either pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, transphobia, or anti-Semitism.

The development roadmap appears to have stalled in 2017. The encylopedia’s own page on its roadmap (https://infogalactic.com/info/Infogalactic:Roadmap ) hasn’t been updated since May 2017. None of the promised unique features for the wiki whereby people could somehow see different perspectives on an issue have ever come into being nor, if the technology existed and the concept made sense, would the wiki have enough people to write them.

Back in October 2016 the mood was quite different. In what reads like a weird parody Day announced:

“On Monday night, the Techstars held a meeting, and after a series of intense discussions, it was decided to radically modify our development schedule. Instead of utilizing the existing MediaWiki engine to incorporate the new features we are planning, both the Techstars and the Star Council agreed that Infogalactic will be better served by replacing the MediaWiki engine with a superior engine of our own device, codename DONTPANIC.

We also decided to add additional levels of administration and editing in order to better maintain cohesion in content modification until the preference filters are operational and render content management unnecessary. There will be three levels of Galaxians, create page only, create and add content only, and create, add, and remove content. This will permit the Starlords to more easily contain and constrain the behavior of any editors whose behavior is not in line with the Seven Canons or the objectives of the Star Council.”

https://infogalactic.blogspot.com/2016/10/roadmap-20.html

A better summary of the state of wiki is provided by this page on “Infogalactic”

Mr Praline enters the pet shop to register a complaint about the dead Norwegian Blue parrot just as the shopkeeper is preparing to close the establishment for lunch. Despite being told that the bird is deceased and that it had been nailed to its perch, the proprietor insists that it is “pining for the fjords” or simply “stunned”.

https://infogalactic.com/info/Dead_Parrot_sketch

As this is technically a blogiversay round-up post, I’ll leave you with my favourite post on the topic: the time Voxopedia had an argument with me about whether pi=4 [spoiler: it doesn’t] https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/alt-pi-voxopedia-replies-again/

Blogiversary: A different selection

In an earlier post I went through the year-by-year greatest hits i.e. the posts per year that had the highest traffic. Of course, a lot of those were driven by issues of the day and so posts commenting on bookish/fannish news dominate. I wanted to do a different list. Not personal favourites but still posts that have, over the span of the five years, got traffic but which fell outside arbitary categories. I’ve avoided posts abut kerfuffles or unpleasant people and mainly avoided reviews. I also intend to do a Timothy round-up later and once I’ve caught him also do a round-up of his greatest “hits”. I also left out posts covered in the How To Science Fictionally book and the Hugosauriad because they’ve got their own books 🙂

So here is an alternative greatest other-kind-of-post hits. The order is semi-random.

Also, if you’ve got a favourite post from the past that I haven’t covered yet, tell me in the comments!

More Blogiversary Stuff

Thank you to everybody who has downloaded a copy of How to Science Fictionally. Blogiversary month has been a lot of fun so far and there will be more occasional posts to come.

The actual blogiversary day is May 29. The week prior will be the second big book launch! Yes! TWO BOOKS! The long awaited version of The Hugosauriad with fewer typos will be launched in ebook versions sometime in the week starting Monday 25 May. I’m very excited – mainly because the whole Hugosauriad idea was so silly but somehow it turned out rather good. Really excited for this and thanks to JJ’s help, it actually had some editing.

You are probably thinking “well that’s MORE than enough” but wait…there’s more! Always keen to innovate here at Felapton Towers and our boffins in the skunk works have given up trying to invent skunks and instead have created the world’s first MEGANOVELLA. What’s that? Well a meganovella is like a regular novella but LONGER! More satisfying and will stave off hunger pains until tea-time. In fact, the meganovella is too big to fit on this blog and so will get ITS OWN SPIN OFF BLOG!

Yes! A serial meganovella with its own blog! But wait…there’s even more! I know how much people love the great things about fantasy novels: the maps and the lengthy world-building infodumps. Yum! However, so many fantasy novels these days are padded out with boring old plot and characters and events. What if you could have a fantasy story that has a map EVERY CHAPTER and focused on the important stuff like OVER COMPLICATED WORLD BUILDING AND BACKSTORY MYTHOLOGY??? Well, that is exactly what you are going to get PLUS a major character is a pangolin*. Thirty-one serial chapters of maps, info-dumps and a central character slightly missing the point. It’s like Moby Dick but shorter**.

I’m so excited that I may have to have a lie down.

*[We did extensive market research in October 2019 to find the most charismatic animal not to currently featured in a major fantasy series. Yes, we are aware that pangolins may have some…less than great publicity since but THAT’S NOT THEIR FAULT.]

**[No whales but there are some rhamphorhynchus, two bicycles and an iphone]

Blogiversary: Greatest Hits

Five years of all this nonsense but what nonsense were people reading and when? I’m down here in the archive stacks of Felapton Towers and blowing the dust off the weird old filing cabinets to find out. These posts are just the numbers-game hits rather than special favourites and often other factors drove the traffic to them.

2015

The first year out for the blog and Puppy-kerfuffling was already in full on kerfluff.

2016

2016 was the year that the unreality field started spilling out everywhere.

2017

2017 was dominated by Rabid Puppy shenanigans. In particular Vox Day’s spoiler campaign for John Scalzi’s new sci-fi trilogy.

2018

I was downloading a report from an online database the other day and I was entering a date range. I wanted to cover the whole set of records which started in 2011. So I picked 2011/1/1 as the start date and that day’s date which I typed as 2018/5/8. What? I think my brain stopped updating the year and I’ve been stuck in 2018 ever since.

The reality dysfunction was going full-on as world politics got even stranger. Meanwhile this blog was forced into self-referentiality as I got caught up in my own Sad Puppy kerbungle and then later became a Hugo Finalist.

2019

At the very start of January 2019 I considered winding down the blog. Later I decided to post something every day. I’m fickle. Surprisingly, it was the Nebula Awards that drove traffic to the blog.

2020

The year isn’t finished yet but it started on fire and followed up with a global pandemic. This is a first-quarter list but I think some of the themes for the year are clear…

Coming soon…not one but two book launches

Blogiversary May madness continues as we work our way to the fifth anniversary of this blog. This month we’ll have TWO new(ish) books from Cattimothy House (an imprint of Felapton Towers Press). The second one will be later in the month and will be the long anticipated collected edition of The Hugosauriad (now with fewer typos!).

However, one book launch is insufficient for this auspicious month. So to wet appetites and to flex our epub file debugging muscles, we have ANOTHER BOOK! Heck, we are being downright prolific!

How To Science Fictionally is a collection mainly of all the various How To… posts that I’ve been running here as an irregular series on such things as teleporters and time travel and other trope-based sci-fi conceits. For variety, I’ve added in some other posts that fit the theme and which could be retitled to fit the theme. The contents are at the bottom of the post and the original essays run from June 2015 to this year, so a fitting birthday present for the blog.

When is it available? Technically you can download it RIGHT NOW (gosh!) from Smashwords here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1020219

But it usually takes a few days (and sometimes a revised upload) for the book to be available through other outlets. So expect a more launchy book launch soon followed by mini-launches as it hits different online book outlets.

…then expect even more fanfare when The Hugosauriad collected edition makes its big entrance with out second May book launch!

Blogiversary Nibbles Menu

There’s a party coming at the end of the month and I promised there would be nibbles. Obviously there is copious amounts of beer but there will be plenty of finger food…although it has to be of a virtual nature.

Let’s see what we’ve got in the pantry: