Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

To My Fellow SFWA Members

As many of you are likely already aware, the nomination period for the next Nebula Awards ballot is currently open, and will remain open through February 15. Nominations can be made by SFWA active members in good standing by means of a paper ballot or by filling out an online form.

I’ve already submitted several nominations for works I think are deserving of recognition in the Novel, YA, and Dramatic Presentation categories. I may yet nominate other works if the inspiration strikes.

On the infinitesimal chance that any of my fellow SFWA members feel inclined to recognize any of my works with a nomination nod, these are my eligible works published in 2012:

Storming Heaven (March 2012)

Cold Equations, Book I: The Persistence of Memory (October 2012)

Cold Equations, Book II: Silent Weapons (November 2012)

Cold Equations, Book III: The Body Electric (November 2012)

Four novels to choose from, two of them New York Times bestsellers, and you can nominate up to five works in the Novel category. … I’m just sayin’.

Not that I think for a moment that any of my books have any chance of making it onto the Nebula ballot. No media tie-in novel has ever even been nominated in the Novel category, much less won, in the entire history of the Nebula Awards. … But a guy can dream.

Thank you, veterans

I’m going to take a moment now from my headless-chicken schedule to remember and be thankful for veterans who have risked everything, and in some cases sacrificed everything, by serving their country, and who by so doing made my cushy life possible.

Freedom was built, and is sustained, in many ways — but the men and women of our armed services have been its defenders. Thank you, veterans, whether you served in times of war or peace, at home or abroad, on active duty or in reserve service, for your courage in swearing an oath and donning a uniform so that you could pledge part of your life to the service of others.

The Fountain of Clockwork Angels

Those who know me are aware that I’m a huge fan of the Canadian progressive-rock power trio Rush. I have been a fan of the band for over 30 years, I’ve attended shows during each of their concert tours since 1982, and I own their complete studio and live-recording catalog.

If you’re familiar with the band’s oeuvre and history, you’ll understand that it’s no small thing when I say that I even love their much-maligned third album, Caress of Steel (1975), and its B-side concept track, “The Fountain of Lamneth.” Not as much as some of their other albums, but I still consider it vintage Rush.

Like many other of the Holy Triumvirate’s faithful legions, I bought their latest studio release, a 65-minute concept album titled Clockwork Angels (2012). And I love it. It’s powerful, personal, and truly epic.

Clockwork Angels also felt incredibly familiar to me, and as soon as I’d finished my first full listen of the album on June 12, I knew why: it’s the same basic story as “The Fountain of Lamneth.”


A Love/Hate Relationship

I love intellectual property law, and I hate it.

As a writer, I depend upon the protections of IP law to help me retain control over the works I create, so that I can earn a meager living from my labors. Although enforcing my rights on the wild electronic frontier of the Internet is exceedingly difficult, copyright law and the DMCA at least give me some recourse when I find my work is being propagated illegally.

Consequently, I understand why other kinds of IP creators — including musicians, filmmakers, and graphical artists — need to enforce their own rights. Things seem to have gotten a bit out of hand, with record companies and organizations such as the RIAA suing private individuals for outrageous sums as “punitive damages”, a tactic that I think undermines public support for IP creators’ rights, but that’s a topic for another time and post. Let it suffice to say that, in principle, I support the enforcement of IP laws.

But when I’m on the other side of the equation, I really hate our current IP laws.

As some of you reading this are no doubt aware, at the end of next month, Storming Heaven, the final volume in the eight-book Star Trek Vanguard saga, will be published. I’ve been planning some special pre- and post-publication promotions for the series’ finale, including some giveaways, some looks behind the scenes into the development of the saga, and maybe an audio interview with the series’ creators and writers.

However, there was one audio podcast I really wanted to share with the series’ readers: a piece detailing the music that inspired the series’ story arcs, characters, relationships, and key scenes. This would have been a really fun podcast, in my opinion, one that would shed light on my creative process and the musical subtext that informed my work on the series over the last seven years.

There is just one problem with that idea: It’s illegal for me to include within the podcast the musical tracks in question. I can mention them by name, describe them, and talk all I want about how they relate to the Vanguard novels, etc., but I can’t quote lyrics or play the music. Which, to be blunt, defeats the purpose of the podcast.

How can I ask a listener to compare and contrast two pieces that show the different sides of a relationship, when I can’t present the music? Without the music, how can I narrate the way in which a particular track provided the beat-for-beat inspiration for one of the saga’s most memorable action sequences? Or explain how one 15-minute track inspired the entire third act and major story developments of the third novel?

The simple answer is, I can’t. And that frustrates and saddens me.

While I respect the need for IP law, and I grasp why the music industry needs to control its products, it disappoints me greatly that, as a consequence of our overly litigious society, it has made creative discussions such as this one impossible to have unless one happens to be rich enough to license all the music in question.

I think it would be interesting to open up a discussion of the influences that various art forms have upon one another, but how can such a conversation be had when the works in question can’t be shared but only obliquely referenced? For instance, if a modern painting sparked a story idea that I executed, and I wanted to discuss that part of the creative process, it would technically be illegal for me to reproduce an image of the copyrighted artwork within the body of my discussion, unless I had prior permission from the artist (or current rights-holder).

I know, I know . . . these are “First-World problems.” But they vex me all the same.

Thoughts on a Rush cover album

Back in September 2010, after leaving the PNC Bank Arts Center following a Rush concert, my friend Randy shared with me a curious idea he’d been mulling: an album of Rush songs reinterpreted, rearranged, and performed by various female recording artists.

We both were intrigued by this notion, and though we had a few vague ideas about how it might play out, we never really worked out the details.

The idea has stayed with me ever since however, and today I sat down for a few minutes and brainstormed twelve Rush songs — a number of the band’s better-known hits plus a few “deeper” cuts from various albums — and a dozen female artists who I think would bring something new or interesting to them:

“The Spirit of Radio” — The Donnas
“New World Man” — Shakira
“Nobody’s Hero” — Sheryl Crow
“Entre Nous” (acoustic) — KT Tunstall
“The Pass” — Adele
“Dog Years” — Liz Phair
“Bravado” — Fiona Apple
“Presto” — Beyoncé
“Fly by Night” — Dixie Chicks
“Closer to the Heart” (acoustic) — Indigo Girls
“Limelight” — Katy Perry
“Tom Sawyer” — Lady GaGa

Part of what I like about this lineup is that it has artists who represent a broad range of music styles.

The Donnas and Liz Phair have the hard-rock chops to deliver kick-ass guitar-driven tracks; Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple, Adele, and KT Tunstall all have soulful qualities that I think could evoke some profound pathos from their tracks; Dixie Chicks and Indigo Girls could bring fresh country and indie-rock aesthetics to two classic Rush songs; and pop artists like Shakira, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, and Lady GaGa would challenge perceptions of three well-known Rush hits plus one “deep” track (and help drive sales, no doubt).

What do you think, readers? Great idea? Terrible idea? Would you choose different tracks and/or artists for such an album? If so, which ones?

ETA: Great suggestion from my friend Brandy Hauman for a bonus track:

“Working Man” — Halestorm

Yes, a touch of metal was just what this lineup needed.

ETA II: Russ Colchamiro suggested this great artist; I added my choice of music:

“Overture/The Temples of Syrinx” — Joan Jett

Upon further reflection, it became clear to me that I had the last two recommendations backward. Listening to Lizzy Hale’s mighty wail, I realized the bonus tracks ought to be:

“Working Man” — Joan Jett
“The Temples of Syrinx” — Halestorm

Yes, much better, I think.

Revisiting old opinions: RUSH

Yesterday, I read an interesting article on in which its author re-evaluated long-held opinions about the oft-maligned television series Star Trek Voyager, Andromeda, and Farscape. It didn’t much change my opinion of any of those three shows for better or for worse, but this sentence got me thinking:

This holiday season and on through til the End of Times, we’re giving each of you the opportunity to ignore a petty prejudice and embrace something new.

It led me to ponder my long-held opinions about three middle-period albums by my favorite band, RUSH. Specifically, Hold Your Fire (1987), Presto (1989), and Test for Echo (1996).


Dishing Up a Tasty Memory

If you’re curious to know what I consider to be one of the finest meals I have ever eaten, head on over to the blog of author Lawrence M. Schoen, who invited me to be a guest blogger today for his weekly feature, Eating Authors.

I admit that it was difficult for me to pick one favorite meal, because my wife and I love good food and wine, but I feel confident that my choice was the right one.