An interesting word for Wednesday is the noun hibernaculum (hi-ber-nak-yoo-lum), meaning winter quarters or the den of a hibernating animal. I think I’ve used this word before, and probably right around this time of year.

Cons:

SWFA has put out a sampler of its programming examples for its Nebula Weekend, scheduled for May 28-31, 2020, in Los Angeles.

From funny cats, two sleeping cats. Is this a hibernaculum?

Is this a hibernaculum? (Image from Funny Cats.)

Books and Writing:

Right around Christmas, the Romance Writers Association (RWA) had a kerfuffle that escalated into a full meltdown. They tried to sanction a member, highly successful romance writer and former RWA board member for using Twitter to comment harshly on the stereotypical portrayals of Chinese women in another writer’s novel. Christine Milan, who writes as Courtney Milan, is Chinese-American and has long been known as an outspoken advocate for racial equality. RWA was taken by surprise when Milan, who was being scolded for using Twitter, made the situation public on Twitter. Before the dust cleared, board members resigned, the actions against Milan were rescinded, and there’s a movement to recall other board members and the acting president. This article on the NBC News blog, by Mikki Kenall discusses why this kind of thing matters, from a reason so obvious it’s often overlooked: Money. (Thanks to File770 for this link.)

Claire Ryan took on the arduous task of creating a timeline and compiling the existing documents in this situation. I applaud her. (I also can’t help noticing some other issues crop up – noticeably, the RWA is cozy with certain publishers, and they didn’t help some writers get their royalties, which is what these organizations primarily exist for.) If you have a couple of hours, check this out.

SFWA stepped in to offer support for romance writers who were debating leaving the RWA. SWFA President May Robinette Kowal pointed out that if romance work has a speculative element it could qualify for SFWA. The Writer Beware Blog Facebook Page has some information about this – and some controversy as you’d expect.

Mark Lawrence shared some one-star Amazon reviews that complain about things beyond the writer’s control – really beyond their control. The post is funny, but Lawrence also points out that those reviews affect earnings.

From December, Alastair Reynolds discusses  the best books on extraterrestrial visitations.

In preparation for the latest WAYWARD CHILDREN book, Seanan McGuire stopped by the Tor.com offices and provided this recap of the previous books.

Giveaway:

I will give one commenter a copy of An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard.

Internet:

Fantasy Faction has a list of 2019’s best anime.

A graphic of perihelion, courtesy of Universe Today

Perihelion as a graphic, by Universe Today.

Science and Tech:

Ars Technica takes an acerbic look at tech companies who, umm, didn’t live up to their potential in 2019… or else really did live up to their potential. Their potential for failure.

Space:

Will the ‘20s be the Decade of Mars?

On January 5, the earth reached perihelion.

Earth:

This is a powerful personal essay about the fires in Australia.


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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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11 comments

  1. I’ve always found the 1-star reviews directed at Amazon very unfair. Complaining about a transaction error and penalizing the author for it doesn’t make much sense. Amazon doesn’t care about the 1-star reviews.

    I’ve come across 1-star reviews that complain about typos in a book or badly formatted ebooks. Even those are not always directly controlled by the author. I believe it still is too harsh for the author, but at least they have the merit of talking about the book or ebook that the reader paid for.

  2. Noneofyourbusiness /

    I’ve seen some ridiculous one-star reviews that are about the service by Amazon. In a way, it reminds me of people misusing the horns on their cars.

    Thanks for the giveaway! I’m very interested in “An Unkindness of Magicians”.

  3. Paul Connelly /

    Are Amazon reviews useful at all now? In the early years I found many of them to be helpful (if they didn’t contain inadvertent spoilers). But then they got infested with multiple glowing 5 star reviews for books by unknown authors, often ones who started out self-publishing.

    If you traced down the review history for these reviewers, you would find that the book in question was the only book they had ever written a review for (and frequently the only product period). Or maybe all their reviews would just be for that author and random cleaning products or car batteries, etc. So you pretty much knew: sock-puppets, family members, friends, etc. There were a couple of authors subsequently described as best-selling who started out like that.

    One of the best things Amazon used to have was something called ListMania, where customers could enter their own reading/listening lists for others to see, like “12 Books Resembling Gormenghast for Dark Fantasy Lovers”, etc. I found a ton of interesting books and CDs via those lists. For instance, whoever “Jan P. Dennis” was, they were a terrific source of interesting new jazz recordings. ListMania may still exist somewhere in Amazon, but it’s obfuscated to the point that I never find it now, where it used to be featured on most product pages.

    • People tell me they are important. The problem for writers, I think, is that Amazon now sells everything and people treat Amazon reviews like Yelp reviews. Thus, the book one-star reviews that have nothing to do with content.

  4. Lady Morar /

    Listmania sounds very useful. Why would they get rid of that?

    Ars Technica reminds me of Ars Magica, the medieval roleplaying game by White Wolf about a version of the same Order of Hermes that later appeared in Mage: The Ascension.

    • Paul Connelly /

      My recollection is that in the late 1990s Amazon was mostly selling books, CDs and some PC/Mac software, which are the types of things many customers would’ve been enthusiastic about sharing their favorites lists for. When Amazon started selling everything under the sun, there may have been many products that customers bought one of for utilitarian purposes, making it unlikely they would be creating a list for others. Like who would be making a list of “10 Best Batteries for American Cars”? (I know, there is probably one fanatic somewhere who would!) So maybe it got removed from the product pages because too few products now had people creating ListMania lists for them. But I’m not ruling out more sinister explanations! ;-)

  5. John Smith /

    The picture of the possible hibernaculum is next to a paragraph that uses the word “kerfuffle.” Perhaps the cats are having a “kerfluffle”!

  6. The Distinguished Professor /

    I did not know that things were so contentious in romance publishing.

    I’d certainly love for us to fully explore Mars both above and below and finally gain a complete understanding of our sibling planet.

  7. Sethia /

    I love Mark’s blog! I found the one star review very interesting, the poor authors!

  8. Yagiz, if you live in the USA, you win a copy of AN UNKINDNESS OF MAGICIANS!
    Please contact me (Marion) with your US address and I’ll have the book sent right away. Happy reading!

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