Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Oscar Nominations Are Out

I'll be honest. I don't care that much about the Oscars. Traditionally, they reward a certain type of movie...one I don't remotely like.

This year, Black Panther was nominated - the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture, to my knowledge. Sadly, I doubt very much that it will win. Roma is my prediction.

Black Panther did get seven nominations, but was shut out of key categories. And no women were nominated for Best Director. Come on people, it's 2019, we can do better.

Once more, Black Panther was also shut out of all of the acting categories...and this time was shut out of screenplay too. Really, do these people think people in "action movies" don't act. Probably.

Even more ridiculous, it was shut out of Best Makeup & Hair with only three movies being nominated. What's going on there?

Genre nods that did happen:

Best Costume - Black Panther and Mary Poppins Returns.
Best Original Song - "All the Stars" from Black Panther and "The Place Where Lost Things Go" from Mary Poppins Returns. Sadly, they're competing with Lady Gaga.
Best Original Score - Black Panther and Mary Poppins Returns. If you're seeing a pattern, so am I.
Best Sound Mixing - Black Panther and First Man
Best Sound Editing - Black Panther and A Quiet Place
Best Production Design - Black Panther, First Man and Mary Poppins Returns
Best Visual Effects - Avengers: Infinity War, First Man, Ready Player One and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Are we counting Christopher Robin?

Animated Feature is pretty much always fantasy in some way.

Nominees:
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

I don't care that much about the Oscars, but if Spider-Verse doesn't win...

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Farpoint!

I have my schedule for Farpoint (As always, this is pending potential change at the con).

Friday, 3:00pm - Cities In Space (MOD) - Space stations as a setting.
Friday, 10:00pm - Farpoint Book Fair
Saturday, 11:00am - You Killed My Father! (MOD) - Why do heroes so often have dead (or otherwise unavailable) fathers? We all do it...why is the trope so enduring and intransigent.
Saturday, noon - Reading with Gregory Wilson and Kenneth Rogers, Jr.
Saturday, 2pm - Signing with Kenneth Rogers, Jr.
Sunday, 10am - The Good Doctor - the Doctor Who panel as always ;).
Sunday, 1pm - Heroes, Villains & Healing - a panel on mental health/trauma and reading comic books
Sunday, 2pm - Signing with Kenneth Rogers, Jr.
Sunday, 3pm - Reading with Steven H. Wilson and Valerie Mikles

Kenneth? I'm not con stalking you. Honest.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Review roundup

Because I like to express gratitude for good reviews.

SFRevu gave a "Well done" to Temple of Children. Rocket Star Review gave it an average, which I'll take...they found it amusing and it's hard to get more than three stars out of them.

"Jim" on Goodreads really liked Dropping Rocks (this is an older review I hadn't noticed). He compared it to Star Trek ;).

And one from a while back. Jon Mollison liked Only A Coward (Cirsova 8) so much he called the opening scene "a clinic on tight writing."

Mostly I'm just picking up my ego after too many rejections in one day (it happens) ;).

Friday, January 18, 2019

Science By Accident

So, in another example of how the best science is done by accident, scientists accidentally discovered how to breed mice...with exceptionally long tails.

They were trying to breed mice with a certain cancer so they could test drugs, and found the genes that regulate tail length.

In fact, two groups managed to do it. One bred mice with very long tails, and the other bred mice with short tails that also had some differences in spinal development.

Mice fanciers ahoy? ;)

(Seriously. This is why we have to be careful with gene editing. Because weird stuff like this can happen).

Also, they're making a Monopoly movie. Like. Please. Stop.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Critic's Choice Awards

Meant to do this a couple of days ago, but got distracted.

Best picture was some Netflix movie called Roma, which has been mentioned quite a bit, but which I literally know nothing about, except that it also won Best Foreign Language Film.

Black Panther won for Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best Visual Effects - the usual sops given to a "popular" movie, but at least it didn't get snubbed.

Into The Spider-Verse, though, was best animated feature. Crazy Rich Asians was best comedy (which is important because it probably helped Marvel make the decision to greenlight the Shang-Chi movie with an Asian director).

A Quiet Place got best sci-fi or horror. First Man got Best Score.

On the television side, the best genre nod was Thandie Newton as Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role in Westworld.

Black Panther did get the second most awards after Roma, so I suppose I can't complain too much.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

On Reviewers and Book Bloggers

So, reviews.

Reviews are vital to authors. Word of mouth is, ultimately, how you sell books. Which is why I've been spending a lot of time sending out requests to book bloggers.

There are three kinds of reviewers:

Professional reviewers work for a publication, such as Analog's Don Sakers. They are paid by the publication. Some also work freelance, but they syndicate their columns to multiple outlets. You see professional reviews in magazines and newspapers, or on their websites. Some are full time.

Customer or "organic" reviewers. That's the person who just likes to put reviews up on Amazon or Goodreads. Paradoxically, they're often the most valuable.

Book bloggers fall into the area in between. They have their own outlet for their reviews, but don't work for a publication or get paid by one. Book bloggers have followings that range from a handful to thousands (and some of those can, indeed, work full time).

It's book bloggers I want to talk about right now. There are hundreds of the and, of course, they are not made equal. Most will take review requests from authors or publishers, but not always follow through because they get so many books. Some will only review books they actually liked.

They put in a lot of effort and they want...and deserve...to get some compensation beyond free copies of the book.

Which means that a sadly high percentage decide to obtain that compensation by charging authors and publishers for reviews (or, alternatively, charging to be put at the top of the to be read pile).

It might seem reasonable. After all, they're providing a great marketing service.

The problem is: It's simply not ethical. Now, I love book bloggers. I have quite a few legitimate, ethical reviewers willing to read Daughter of Fire. Some of them may give me a one star, and that's just a hazard of the situation. Besides, bad reviews can actually sell books. I would never knock those people.

But the ones who charge?

First of all, it's against Amazon's TOS to pay for reviews or to even give free product in exchange for a review. They make an exception for books because it is a tradition to provide ARCs and other review copies, as long as they don't find out you're asking for a GOOD review. (If a reviewer gives you a 1 or 2 stars it can actually help keep you out of 'zon jail). If you're caught, you can lose your entire Amazon account permanently. No more selling books on Amazon, which can be career-ending for an independent author. And no more buying anything from Amazon, no more Amazon Prime, no more functional Echo. Yes, they have done this to people. Some people have gotten their accounts back.

Second of all, and even more of a concern: Once a reviewer starts accepting money from authors or publishers, then those authors and publishers are their customers. No matter how honest you think you are, if somebody is paying you for something, you want to keep them happy. That's just human nature. And even if you do manage to not push everyone up a star to keep them happy, if readers find out, they will assume you are. Your reviews will become tainted and suspect...and thus of no value to authors.

Finally, if a blog is getting its money from authors they have no incentive to market and increase their traffic, which means they probably have fewer followers anyway.

As an author, never pay for reviews. Also, never send review copies to anyone who admits on their website to charging for reviews. Readers and vendors may assume you are paying even if you aren't.

As a reviewer, you want to get paid? Good. I want you to get paid too. Here are some things you can do:
1. Charge for other promotional services, whilst stating up front that they're sponsored and that you never charge for reviews. You can, for example, make a bit of money charging for cover reveals and launch announcements. If you do, then only use copy provided by the author.
2. Get a Patreon. I don't know why so few book bloggers have a Patreon. You can leverage it by giving subscribers access to reviews a few days early, or you can offer other material such as long form analysis of books.
3. Set up a digital tip jar. Use a service that allows you to receive tips anonymously. That way, authors who DO want to send you money can...and it's fine because you will never know they did it and it won't bias you.
4. Run ads on your blog. Be aware that giving priority to authors or publishers that buy ads is still compensation. Blogspot has good tools for allowing you to run ads without a lot of hassle.
5. Join affiliate programs and set up your links so when people click through direct from your blog you get commission.

As a reader, what should you do?

1. Follow only blogs that do not charge for reviews. As a note, Urban Caver and The Reading Bud both charge, but don't admit it on their website. Also, if the blog appears to have a lot of language aimed at authors or publishers, consider going elsewhere. They are more likely to be stealth charging. Remember, the target audience should be you, the reader. You are their customers, not the authors.
2. If you really like a book blog and have a bit of cash to spare, give them a tip. If they don't have a way for you to do so, email them and ask them why.
3. Share reviews you find useful to you on social media to help both the author and the book blogger.
4. Many book bloggers have affiliate programs, so if you click through their blog to buy the book they just talked you into buying they'll get a small commission.

But never pay or charge for reviews. It can and has ruined everything for naive authors who are desperate to get some promotion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The All-New Space Probe Propulsion System: Steam

Go ahead and laugh. I did.

But it's actually serious. WINE (World Is Not Enough) propulsion is a highly sophisticated system that would allow a space probe to refuel anywhere there is water (and there's more of it in space than you think) and keep hopping from asteroid to asteroid to do mineral surveys.

The probe would last until some vital part of it broke - the primary limitation on probe mission range/length is fuel and battery power.

Also.

Steam powered spaceships. (Although whether it will scale up for something man-rated...)