All posts by Tobias Buckell

28 Aug

Digging on artist Mike Winkelmann’s futuristic illustrations here

What I love about this is the John Berkey sense of scale in these. Berkey’s massive starships almost always guaranteed a purchase from me when I was browsing the used book store.


Artist Mike Winkelmann has been making an illustration every day for eight years. As his website will tell you, he hasn’t broken routine for 3,039 days—and over that time his illustrations and process have drastically evolved. In his most recent digital illustrations, he imagines dreamlike futuristic landscapes.

A lot of artists and great thinkers throughout history have had rigorous daily routines that keep them productive and creative, all the while honing their specific set of skills. One of the impressive things about Winkelmann’s practice, besides sheer longevity, is that he switches the tools that he uses to create the images each year.

(Via 3 | This Illustrator Has Created A Picture A Day For The Last Eight Years | Co.Design | business + design.)

26 Aug

Some thoughts on the herding of POC writers into diversity panels

Kate Elliott writes:

In the wake of 2009’s #Racefail discussion, LJ blogger delux-vivens (much lamented since her passing) asked for a wild unicorn herd check in to show that people frequently told they don’t read SFF and aren’t present in SFF circles do in fact exist. In some ways I personally think of this as the first unofficial “diversity panel.”

I seem to recall the token diversity panel goes back further than that. I sat on a panel at Conjose in 2002 called “Ebony Age of Science Fiction?” with Wanda Haight, Steven Barnes, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Bill Taylor. And it was incredible seeing a (slightly) more diverse audience than normal Worldcons come to that.

It was, in 2002, packed, by the way. People have been hungry for diversity for a long while, even as others shouted ‘no no no’ and put their fingers in their ears.

Future Classics, a fannish history site it seems, has a lot of panels from Worldcons up. I still remember catching a small piece of Vandana Singh’s Imaginative Fiction: A Third World Perspective panel in 2003 Noreascon. If I recall right, there were some corridor discussions there.

In 2009 I was on a panel at a Worldcon called Writing Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Geographic Terms. You can see a good write up here. If I recall correctly there was much angry aftermath when the panel was over by some people you’ll recognize as ‘sad puppies‘ today (that shit ain’t new).

So while I’m not sure there weren’t token panels before 2009, I do think Kate’s right that around 2009 due to Race Fail there started being more dedicated panels.

Oddly enough, it was about that time I started refusing to be on them due to a reason Kate points out:

Now, however, without in any way suggesting that the need for discussion is over or that we have solved the problems, I am wondering to what degree the “diversity panel” may be beginning to become less effective and perhaps even to exacerbate the problem.

I have begun to agitate, among those who will listen to me, to propose panels with large numbers of PoCs that have nothing to do with diversity. At a couple of cons, I’ve conspired to suggest putting PoCs on futurism or science panels and shock the audience by then proceeding to not talk about race but all the cool shit the PoCs are interested in about said topic.

The one place we managed to get this done I heard was a success, and while some people in the audience were a bit confused, it was a lot of fun.

When I went to Det Con recently I took myself off of diversity panels and their like and asked for hard sciences and futurism. I was on almost no panels with any people of color. At *Detroit Con.* When appropriate, I represented PoC books and media about the future and science to the audience, which I doubt would have been done had I not been explicit about making sure I was on those non specialty panels.

And then, when I was out walking around, several times, people asked ‘oh, hey, I was surprised I didn’t see you an [diversity-related panel X].’

Which is why I did it that way.

I’m not lecturing PoC panelists, by the way, to start spreading around. No, the diversity panels are great. But some day, at a Worldcon, or any other con, I hope to be on a panel of with a large number of people of color that talks about Developments in Near Space Access.

Mainly because I’m trying, in small ways, to fight back against the ‘diverse books book displays’ issue, where a bunch of diverse books are stacked together in a specialty display that… people ignore as they come in.

I think there is a place for that. But I also think honestly representing that diversity means including it not just in cordoned off spaces. Yes, we need diversity panels, and suggestions for diverse books for those of us looking for that. But if that’s the only place we’re showing up, or that a panel-creation committee automatically thinks to stick us… then we’re always going to be in an echo chamber.

So I myself, while championing what others are doing and supporting the diversity panels and sometimes being on them, am trying to more and more to get some PoC friends on a panel with me to talk about other topics, to make those panels diverse just by who is on them.

I haven’t gotten very far with it, it’s still all nascent, but there you go.

24 Aug

Queen’s Young Leaders looking for more Caribbean applications for people working with youth or amazing young leaders

This came through my inbox, I thought I’d pass it along duly. If you are in the Caribbean and doing anything with the youth, you might want to nominate youths doing spectacular things or nominate someone doing something for the young folk:

I am writing on behalf of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, Comic Relief and The Royal Commonwealth Society, with a request for you to support the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards.

Following the success of the 2015 Queen’s Young Leaders Awards, the search is now back on to find the 2016 Award winners. Here’s a short film showing the highlights from the ceremony These awards will discover and celebrate inspirational young people from across the Commonwealth who are making a difference in their communities.

We are planning a burst of social media activity over the days before the application deadline, from now until the 7th September. We are asking influential artists from the Commonwealth nations to help us highlight this very special opportunity for young people in their own country, and encourage a final flurry of applications. We’d love to have some more applications from Grenada!

If you would like more information about the programme or how you can help us, please do not hesitate to contact me.

You can see more at Queen’s Young Leaders.

23 Aug

What the alternate Hugo Ballot would likely have been

I haven’t seen anyone post something showing what the ballot for fiction would have looked like without the ballot stuffing, so here was my quick attempt to piece together what it would have been:

Best Novel

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
Lock In by John Scalzi
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennet

Best Novella

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Pat Rothfuss
The Regular by Ken Liu
Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress
Grand Jete by Rachel Swirsky
The Mothers of Voorhisville by Mary Rickert

Best Novelette

The Day the World Turned Upside Down by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Each to Each by Seanan McGuire
The Devil in America by Kai Ashante Wilson
The Litany of Earth by Ruthann Emrys
The Magician and Laplace’s Demon by Tom Crosshill

Best Short Story

The Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon
The Breath of War by Aliette de Bodard
The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar
When It Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster*
A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone*

JWC Award for Best New Writer
Wesley Chu
Andy Weir
Alyssa Wong
Carmen Machado
Django Wexler

Quick reactions:

Man, everyone go out and buy City of Stairs. I’m buying Robert Jackson Bennet drinks for a night the next time I run into him. Bennet: I witness you!

In Novella, Pat Rothfuss was amazing with Slow Regard. What a loss. Ken Liu is one our best short story writers alive today, a missed chance to honor him. Mary Rickert, she’s another stunning writer.

Novelette. Go read Kai Ashante Wilson. Now.

That short story ballot would have been diverse and amazing (hell, the whole ballot).

Max Gladstone, I witness you!

The JWC ballot would have been, also, amazing. Wong and Wexler are standouts. All in all, an amazing list of talent, go read these people.

Then, also go read the people who withdrew their stuff from the puppy slates:

Matthew David Surridge. His withdrawal placed Laura J. Mixon on the ballot, who ended up winning. Not possible without him.

Marko Kloos, who is responsible for placing Three Body Problem in the list. In fact, I might be being unfair in leaving his name off the alternate ballot. There’s a very good chance we’ll be seeing more of him in the future on lists.

Annie Bellet, who dropped out of the short story ballot.

This list was put together due to everyone emailing or texting me Annalee Flower’s pictures of the data.

Update: there’s now a link to the full stats PDF.

*Update: I’m told there’s a 5% rule that *maybe* knocks Eugie Foster and Gladstone off the ballot for short story above. I’m leaving them up as great stories to consider reading.

23 Aug

Congratulations Hugo Award Winners. Meanwhile, Sad Puppies smacked on nose with newspaper

I tuned in via UStream to watch the Hugo Awards as I was too busy with deadlines for it to be feasible this year as a trip.

Fandom rejected sad puppies very strongly in favor of no award for any of the areas dominated by slate voting. They’re already spinning defeat as a win, which is funny as they tried so fucking hard to win. Sour grapes.

Interestingly, the one sole category that sad puppies posted a decent piece of art was in movies. Guardians of the Galaxy as a result won. So when they say everyone was part of a social justice conspiracy to vote one way, you know it’s bullshit. Fans were happy to ignore the sad puppy support of GotG and voted for it.

Everything else: fandom basically said ‘don’t piss in a punch bowl and blab about how awesome it is and then tell us it’s a conspiracy against good punch.’

Here are the winners.

Meanwhile, I’m curious to see what the stats are so I can see what great literature was bumped off the final ballots for further reading.

Also, two translated works won. I’m sure chroniclers will update us, but that seems like a big first and it puts the world in Worldcon.

Update: viewing by this pic of one of the voting stats by Charles Stross it is a huge preference for No Award on novella:

Annalee Flower has been twittering posts of the nomination lists, so we can see the lists of writers who were kept off the ballot by puppies slate voting:

Basically we learned the puppies forced a lot of amazing women and people of diverse backgrounds off the ballot.

21 Aug

Twitter Vacation Until October 15th

A long while ago, I read some very good articles about the impact of news.

See, news works on us by making us anxious. Six things under your sink could be killing you! Turn it at eleven. You won’t believe this horrible thing that happened that could have been to someone like you! If it bleeds it leads.

I’d seen the effect that had on people who consumed heavy media diets. My stepdad’s grandmother in Florida, once she was unable to get out of her house much (and in pre-Fox News times) consumed so much news. When I, a geeky underweight nerd, traveled with family to Florida I found that she kept leaving the room whenever I walked in. Turns out that since the only thing she’d seen about ‘teenagers’ was them robbing or beating up people that she was terrified of me.

A diet of constant alarm and fear puts you into a state of fight or flight. I drastically curtailed news shows, media, and such and began to engage with news extremely carefully and mindfully. Began focusing on deeper dives into topics if I was curious.

I do dearly love the water cooler aspect of twitter, and I learned a great deal from so many people linking and explaining important experiences to twitter over the last years. However, the media part of social media means that bleeding leads. I’m not going to bang on about ‘outrage’ culture, that’s not what I’m getting at. I love twitter. It’s a tool. I’ve been on it since 2008. It’s not about that. This is a problem that’s as old as any media. What I’m getting at is that we click and pass on stuff that scares or horrifies us much more than other items. It’s simple human nature, just like more of us turn in to scary news than happy news. We focus on bleeding for leading, always have. And because of the social aspect of social media, it’s been delivering things that I used to engage with more mindfully in a way that is a bit of a firehose.

Right now, I have a tight deadline, and a larger than normal amount of freelance work to do. I’m noticing that social media is fine when I have a lot of emotional energy to handle and negotiate my media intake, but when I’m stressed and overworked my ability to handle it goes down. And when that happens, I’m over flooded with horrible news that’s important, but since social media has so many vectors and ways to deliver fearful news to me, it generally takes away energy that I need for doing my own important work because I have to engage, think about how to react, dig deeper, or move, which often doesn’t work because I then have guilt about either not signal boosting or grappling with something.

This isn’t about people sending me things on twitter or disagreeing with me or anything, it’s just about constant heart-breaking stories being linked that take energy out of me.

So, out of simple self preservation, I’m taking a cleansing break. I’ll be taking it until the middle of October.

The bonus? I will be blogging. And my blog posts will auto post to twitter.

I will not be reading @ replies or twitter. DMs will come to my email, however I won’t be getting on twitter to DM back, I’ll likely just email. You can always email me on the site!

Twitter has been uninstalled from my phone, bookmark deleted from my computer for now.

Ironically, I’ll be using more dead media to make sure I’m not uninformed, and doing more reading during this period. Just in a carefully controlled way so that I’m able to keep a balance going that does not lead to me feeling drained, and figuring out where I can invest my energy best.

As a result, I may even end even up blogging a bit more.

12 Aug

Yes, Virginia, people of color do fucking read SF/F

Here’s an article in SF Signal about the lack of SF/F books with people of color on the cover. And here’s a fairly typical SF/F fan response in the comments that I want to highlight by a commenter called TheAderian that wraps up all the ignorances I’ve had tossed my way in one big bundle. Here are a couple of quick snips I want to respond to (I can’t respond to all of them, I just can’t):

Firstly, I work in a largely black city in the human services field and have done so for a very long amount of time. It’s my job to get to know people and know them well and so I understand the interests of huge amounts of people. It’s not scientific, but I have a pretty good example of the interests of at least one group of “people who have color”


There are no African nations interested in space flight, exploring space, etc. I have never met an urban black person who talks about science fiction concepts wonders what’s on some planet, some star, etc or laments the loss of the space program, they would rather that money spent in their community. I have met black people who grew up in white areas who dream about these things though, thus proving to me that it’s all cultural.

I see it’s that time of year for the ‘poc don’t read SF/F’ statements from the willfully ignorant.

So, no. Just no.

Meanwhile, here is a post where I walk through an entire con devoted to things SF/F in Barbados, where a large percent of the population shows up:

And here’s a list of online SF/F fans of color standing up to be counted:

Hey, even rappers/musicians are into SF/F: and and many more, I literally just grabbed two links off the top of my head, this shit is all over the place.

So yes, Virginia, POC *do* read SF/F, and it’s common. To remain ignorant takes serious work.

Insisting we don’t exist is a tactic in making us invisible, and a huge part of the problem. Please stop this ignorance.

There is much more ignorance in this comment as well. “There are no African nations interested in space flight, exploring space, etc.” Seriously, 30 seconds with Google easily disproves this.

Fucking ignorant.

06 Aug

Four Hacks I’ve Used to Focus Harder While Writing with a Computer, Plus One that Rules Them All (For Me)

I’m ADHD, which means for most of my life I’ve been dealing with distractions and interruptions that constantly thread through life on what can be sometimes a minute by minute basis. I was not diagnosed until I was an adult, by a psychologist who was at a very long practice ceremony next me that I’d been told ‘would be quick’ and ended up being hours. Usually I would have taken a book or notepad with me. Because I hadn’t, I started acting out. They were surprised I was unmedicated.

I remain so.

Over the last three decades or so, I’ve developed habits and coping mechanisms that help me create islands of focus to get things done.

What is interesting about modern life to me is that, over the last 15 years, everyone else has become exposed to ADHD life in a way. Whenever I read articles lamenting the devastating impact of continuous partial interruption, like this one at Entrepreneur Magazine:

It is very easy to lose track of whom you have just followed up with — you end up sending your follow-up email twice or reference something you were discussing with someone else or, worse yet, send an email to the wrong person entirely. (Who hasn’t done that?) Continuous partial attention keeps you from being alert, attentive and focused and can hamper your post-event follow up not to mention your day to day activities.

We have supercomputers in our pockets connected to satellites connected to a universe of instant information. But people are getting swamped with it all.

Well, that’s pretty much what I feel like most days with just the world around me. Only, you can turn off Facebook pings, email dings, etc. I cannot turn off the world. It’s always there, always interesting, and always tapping me on the shoulder. Continuous partial interruption may be new to many of you, but it’s nothing new to me.

As a result, I do not have this loathing of connectivity and all it’s distractions. It’s just another environment that needs careful engagement, much like I have to be careful about how I engage the rest of the world.

Many people around me seem to view connectivity as something that masters them and not an appliance that needs controlled. Which, as someone with ADHD, I inherently view it as.

I’m starting to see this realization spreading as people begin to control their computing environment to get more writing (or any other kind of work) done. They’re realizing they need to turn off email pings and try to create focused spaces. There are four approaches I’ve seen. I’ve tried them all, and so far my favorite is #5.

I’ll walk through them.

1) Shut Off Notifications

This is the most common advice given in taking steps to control your working virtual environs. Turn off text announcements, email pings, pop up notifications and so on.

It’s not a bad first step. But sometimes different work setups require things to be setup to interrupt you. With a work setup, personal communications set up, social media layer, and other functions all stacked up in one workspace, the different functions step over each other.

If you can get away with it, sure. We should all cut back on notifications. But it doesn’t work for me due to the varying ways I use the same computer. I do freelance consulting, eBook design, social media and business and personal communication, browsing, research, and finally writing fiction…

2) Use Virtual Workspaces

I found the use of virtual workspaces a bit more helpful in separating out the various functions I used. Using Spaces in OS X meant I could stick all my writing app windows in one Space, all my comms in another, and so on.

However, notifications from different worlds could still pop up.

Also, it was easy to slide over from one space to another when I was losing steam. Stop writing, just pop over to my communications window and check email… just for a second.

Nope, not a long term solution for me. But it could work for someone who was able to focus easily if notifications were all silent (from tip #1).

3) Disconnect from the Internet

A lot of writers struggling with focus get apps, like Freedom, which disconnect the computer from the internet for a set period of time. That’s usually a fantastic hack for focus. Prevents you from getting incoming notifications. Eliminates the ability to get online and check social media.

I used Freedom back when it first came out and rather liked the focusing effect.

Downside, I do have to do some work online for my freelancing gigs. Also, as someone who has ADHD, I use noise canceling headphones and music to create focus. I stream music. Without internet, I’m out of luck.

Also, I’m obsessive about backing up. I use dropbox to constantly get a backup of my writing, including the ability to revert documents. Hours offline make me nervous.

4) Use a dedicated, disconnected computer to write on

I know some writers who use dedicated devices to write on. I liked the idea of creating a custom environment dedicated to the task at hand. But the expense of an extra computer?

Also, the issues in the last paragraph of tip #3 still stand. I want to be backing up my files.

5) Use Multiple Log Ins

This is the productivity hack I settled on over the last couple months, which has really saved my sanity. I stole the idea from watching a fantastic Python programmer and close friend, Brandon Rhodes. While working with me on a piece of code, I realized he had a login for work for his employer, a login for work on his own custom code, and a login for email and other communications-type work. Each login had a different workspace and set up aimed at the focus it had.

Up until then, I’d been using virtual desktops and clamped down notifications, with internet disconnecting apps during crunch times. Now I sat down and created 4 different logins for the different focuses I had.

One login, my default, opens to a desktop where I do email, browse the internet, do social media, blog, balance the checkbook, get texts, etc etc. This is a chaotic and interruptive place, but that’s okay. That’s what it is.

The next login is my freelance consulting gig. There, my email client logs in to just the email for that job, as well as a to do list… just for that gig. The browser autoloads tabs for the places I need to go for it, and all the apps on the dock are… only for that gig. When I log in, the last opened apps all open up, and last loaded tabs all open up. This login can be interruptive, which it is supposed to be when I’m engaged in it. But when I log out… it is all shut down. If I have to jump back over to my general comms login, for something briefly, I can moved between logins. But the friction of having to log over, type in a password, and wait a second for that place to resume, it’s just enough friction that I don’t do it unless I really have a compelling reason.

My eBook design login is set up to focus similarly on just doing that. All my scripts and templates and software are easy to reach on the dock. The focus again means when I’m there, I’m doing just that.

My Just Write! login contains nothing but writing software and a desktop with access to my Dropbox writing files. In this case, I have elected to leave it connected to the internet so that files are backed up, I have my preferred music streamed, and I can look up facts on Wikipedia.

However, there are no bookmarks to social media or email. To get online, I have to go to my applications folder, select Safari. It defaults to Wikipedia on open. A hint to myself. This Safari has none of my passwords memorized for online services like Facebook, or Twitter (those are long, random strings that are kept in a password manager in the communications area). In other words, I CAN get to those places via that login, but it’s a hassle.

When writing, I tend to be logged out of everything but writing.

The hassle of having to log in and start up the other areas creates friction to the ‘oh, I’ll just quickly jump over and check…’ and makes the brain go ‘eh, that sounds like work. Let’s just stay here.’

There’s a last hack with multiple logins, for those not worried about constantly backing up. You can create a login with child protection safety guards on the writing account to block yourself from getting online, or control where you go.

On each of these logins, I use Dropbox to manage my files. Yes, setting up Dropbox 4 times for 4 logins was a bit slow. And setting it up if I move to a new laptop down the road will be slow as well. But it’s worth the productivity gain.

There are a number of creative things you can do with tailoring environments to your needs, I’m not exactly cutting edge here. But over the last couple months a lot of writers I’ve talked to have lit up when I’ve mentioned doing this and a few have said it has been a big help to them, so I figured this was worth blogging.

Your mileage, of course, may vary.

09 Jun

What the ever loving fuck? I stand by Irene Gallo as well

I owe the second pseudonymous novel I’m working on by Friday.

Friday people.

But I had to weigh in.

This is my own opinion, as are all things on my blog. Obviously.

Chuck Wendig already has a great blog post covering much of what I’d like to say.

Irene Gallo made a statement on her private Facebook page (note those words: “private Facebook page”) that said the following when asked to explain the Sad/Rabid Puppies phenomenon:

“There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, sexist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.”

This, of course, made the assholes angry. Because when you call assholes assholes, they tend to flail around and make louder asshole noises — it is the asshole’s natural defense mechanism.

The result was that the publisher of Tor, Tom Doherty, felt the need to pen a public letter of apology to the other spurned authors and readers (translation: the Sad and Rabid Puppies) assuring them that this has been dealt with because Irene Gallo is a naughty, naughty editor (/clucktongue). You can read that message here: “A Message from Tom Doherty.” You should note that someone thought it was a very good idea to leave the comments open (!) and there are now 100+ comments gurgling in that septic system. You can read them if you care to remind yourself what sometimes gets clogged in the pipes below this here Internet.

That letter ends with the following two paragraphs:

“In short, we seek out and publish a diverse and wide ranging group of books. We are in the business of finding great stories and promoting literature and are not about promoting a political agenda [sic]

Tor employees, including Ms. Gallo, have been reminded that they are required to clarify when they are speaking for Tor and when they are speaking for themselves. We apologize for any confusion Ms. Gallo’s comments may have caused. Let me reiterate: the views expressed by Ms. Gallo are not those of Tor as an organization and are not my own views. Rest assured, Tor remains committed to bringing readers the finest in science fiction – on a broad range of topics, from a broad range of authors.”

The first thing I thought was, “where was the public post for Jim Frenkel serially harassing women all throughout many cons for how long with public apology or note regarding how editors should behave?”

Chuck calls this is a triple standard, and I have to say, I believe much the same thing.

As Kameron Hurley says:

I’d like to tell you there’s no solution to it, and corporations are corporations, and this is how it is, but one can write a politic letter reminding people that a company’s employees are not speaking for the company on their personal social media pages (which the Neilsen-Haydens have been doing for YEARS without public reproach) without calling out one particular person who simply explained on her personal page in simple terms the politics of a handful of people who hijacked an award ballot, the politics of which have been well documented in pretty much every major news piece (including one I wrote!). Funny, isn’t it, that nobody was publicly castigated by their employer for comments related to RaceFail or FrenkelFail but my god a woman said some dudes are sexist bigots because they have said sexist bigoted things and pushed a slate that resulted in fewer female nominees for the Hugos than in recent years past and OMG:


If you’re an employer faced with a mob of bigots because a female employee said a true thing in public, maybe take a step back and ask how you’d have responded (if at all) if they came after one of your top dudes for saying the exact same thing. You may not even have to think very long because they probably already have.