“Today I Am Paul,” by Martin L. Shoemaker. Clarkesworld #107, August, 2015.
I am just back from my annual pilgrimage to Superstars Writing Seminar, and I have returned with enough material for several blog posts rattling around in my head. But before I go there, in fact, while I am going there, please go read a wonderful short story by Martin L. Shoemaker called “Today I Am Paul.”
“Today I Am Paul” has been picked up by pretty much every Year’s Best or Best Of anthology, and it’s sold to several foreign markets.
This means you need to read it. NOW! 🙂
Thanks and kudos to Clarkesworld for publishing it.
I live in one of those places where the mail doesn’t come to the house. We all have PO boxes, so getting the mail requires a trip to the local post office. And that’s what I was doing a few days before Christmas when an unexpected package arrived. Believe me, no child on Christmas morning could have been more delighted than I was when I saw what was inside.
Yes, Virgina, it was my Jovian Award, and it’s breathtakingly beautiful. The photo doesn’t do it justice. The swirls are a deep, rich purple, and those sparkles near the bottom are coppery. The award is weighty, and it arrived in a velvet-lined presentation box.
The award came with a certificate that praised both the story and the way I conducted myself throughout Hugo season.
I’ll be frank, here – after everything that went on, this brought tears to my eyes. So thank you, Jovians, whoever you are.
Goodness gracious! Has it really been that long since I’ve posted? Apparently it has, so onward and upward.
Sasquan was my first WorldCon, but it won’t be my last. It was a great convention with a few not-so-great moments (such as food poisoning, followed by a raging case of bronchitis thanks to the smoke).
I met so many wonderful people at Sasquan that there’s no way I’ll be able to name and thank them all. I’d like to call out two in particular, though.
One is Shahid Mahmud, my wonderful publisher at Galaxy’s Edge, who made sure I didn’t go home rocketless no matter what happened at the awards ceremony. The lovely red rocket he gave me now has a place of honor on my brag shelf. 🙂
The second is my fellow nominee, Ken Burnside, who graciously sent out 3D-printed Crashlander Awards. THREE-DEE PRINTED! How cool is that? It, too, has a place of honor on my brag shelf.
I offer my heartfelt thanks to both of them for their kindness and generosity.
I don’t consider myself a spokesperson for the SP, or even an SP notable, but I’ll say it. I never got involved in this with any idea that I’d even make the ballot, much less that VD would run his own campaign or that there would be a ballot sweep. If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have participated. To the extent that I’ve been part of that, even unknowingly, I apologize.
Let me elaborate a little.
If you read Totaled and loved it enough to nominate it, thank you. That’s exactly how the Hugos are supposed to work, and it shouldn’t matter to me or anyone whether you identify as a Puppy or not. So if you’re one of those readers, then rock on. I am humbled and grateful for your support.
But as we know, Bob, there was a push this year to nominate things sometimes without having read them, and for reasons that had little to do with fannish enthusiasm. I never asked to be part of that, and had I been given the choice, I would not have wanted my work used that way.
I’m also not comfortable with the ballot sweep. My sense from the Sad Puppies is that locking up the ballot was never one of the goals of the movement, and that it was accidental, unintentional and unforeseen. If I’m wrong, and nominating five works in some of the categories was a deliberate attempt to sweep the ballot, then I wouldn’t have wanted to be part of that, either.
The Hugos should represent all voices, so if Sad Puppies is about drawing attention to works that might otherwise be overlooked, I can support that and I’m happy to stand for it. But if it’s about shutting out other voices and other work, if it’s about politics or pissing off certain segments of fandom, that’s not something I can get behind.
The whole point of fandom is that our love for the genre unites us. It’s about having a place where genre is paramount, where literature comes first. So if that’s who you are, and that’s what you want, then I’m with you. That’s why I invited everyone to talk about books here on my blog.
But if you’re in this with some other agenda, take it elsewhere. I don’t want to be part of it.
I’ve been watching this Hugo thing unfold with an ever-growing sense of disquiet. A lot of people are angry right now, and the anger isn’t helping anyone. In fact, it’s hurting people all over fandom, no matter where they stand on the Hugos.
Sometimes anger is productive, but I haven’t seen anything remotely productive out of this yet, so maybe it’s time to start talking about books.
“Oh, so we’re supposed to make nice and sweep it all under the rug?”
No. Talking about books doesn’t sweep anything under the rug. What it does is build common ground, and common ground is that place where productive conversations can eventually happen. Anger and more anger just makes everyone defensive. Doors slam, walls go up and people become more insular, not less.
“Why us, Kary? Why do we have to go first?” Because there’s a lot of our stuff on the ballot.
If you love it so much that you nominated it, it’s time to tell the world about it. Which is your favorite, Dark Between the Stars or Skin Game, or was it something else entirely? Write a post on why your pick is so awesome. Put it on your blog, your Tumblr, your Facebook, etc. Heck, put it here as a comment.
Then do the same for your second favorite or something in one of the other categories. If we all do that, the internet will be brimming with book recommendations instead of outrage, which, frankly, would make it a much nicer place to be than it is now.
“But they started it!” At some point, it doesn’t matter who started it.
You know what started it? Books started it. Stories we love, by authors we love. Middle Earth. Ringworld. Westeros. Gotham City. That’s what started it. Mary Shelley. H.G. Wells. Jules Verne. They started it, too.
So let’s take a page from the Dread Pirate Roberts. Let’s put down our swords and rocks and talk about books like the genre intended.
The illustration is by artist Megen Nelson. Stop by her website and check out her other work!
Sometimes you can get to know a whole town by understanding just one man. In the seaside village of Summerland, that man was Peyton Jain. Peyton was in his 60s, as best I could tell. His face was craggy and weathered, with a beard like sea foam on rocks and eyes of Poseidon’s blue.
Illustration for “Poseidon’s Eyes,” by Megen Nelson
Some folks thought of Peyton as a nuisance to be reported or a vagrant to be run off, but I knew different because it was Peyton who put me right with Summerland’s spirits. The locals have joked about spirits as long as anyone can remember, but it took the murder of the Kelly children to remind us just how real—and how powerful—the spirits could be.
Summerland sits like the Pythia over a cleft in the rock, soaking up the vapors of prophecy along with the California sunshine. Spiritualists started a commune here over a century ago. Egalitarians at heart, they outlawed money and divvied the land into tent-sized plots.
Oil—oil money, really—edged the Spiritualists out. Derricks took over the beach, and the Spiritualists’ canvas utopia turned into a shantytown for oil workers. My house was made from two of those oil shanties sandwiched together. The shanties had been built before electricity, so the wiring came up through holes in the floor, and the doorbell was an old ship’s bell, corroded green with salt and time.
The house had no foundation, just posts and piers and seven jacks. When the floor sagged, Peyton crawled beneath to twist the jacks until everything was more or less level. That was a blessing to me because I couldn’t abide the narrow crawlspace with earth pressing in around me and voiceless whispers winding snakelike over my skin.
The county said the whispers were nothing to worry about. Radon gas. Natural seepage. Buy a detector and install a fan. But radon doesn’t creep up through the floorboards in silver ribbons until it pools in the corners, like living smoke. Radon doesn’t whisper in the darkness like waves on sand.