Feb 23, 2012

Fact: Internet Polls Suck.

Tor released a curious best of 2011 list today as voted by us, the apparently incompetent internet populace. It's a bad list and they know it, as evidenced by their attempts to ferret out the causes behind the self-described "interesting" results.
  1. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (140 votes)
  2. The All-Pro by Scott Sigler (105 votes)
  3. The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (63 votes)
  4. The Seventh Throne by Stephen Zimmer (63 votes)
  5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (55 votes)
  6. The Final Arbiter by Mark Rivera (55 votes)
  7. A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (53 votes)
  8. Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (52 votes)
  9. Dancing With Eternity by J.P. Lowrie (50 votes)
  10. Among Others by Jo Walton (49 votes)
Um, yeah... Why are we allowed to vote for anything?

I agree with Tor.com that something is definitely amiss. I'm not pretending to be the be-all, end-all when it comes to genre literature but when I haven't heard of 3.5 (familiar with Scott Sigler but not The All-Pro) novels on a voter defined Top 10 list, it's a bit unusual. 

It appears certain authors may be gaming the system. Getting on to the list only takes 50 votes, and you would only need 141 to climb to first. Both of those numbers are definitely doable with a sufficiently motivated fanbase.

But that would be unfair of me to assume right?

There's no way that Stephen Zimmer's shameless plugging on his website had nothing to do with his 4th place slot, nor the fact that this monstrosity took home Best Cover of 2011.

It's like putting Dan Fogler on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Edition.
I mean really? Zimmer must have a garage full of kidnapped puppies somewhere.

Then there is Mark Rivera's constant updates on his book's facebook page. It is surprising that he got 55 of the 82 people who liked his page to go vote for him. I'm impressed - I've got 40 odd cousins and I thought that was a big family.

J.P. Lowrie got in on the act as well. And internet campaigns? Not without Scott Sigler.

BUT WAIT!, you say. You're being unfair, you're not using logic. Maybe it's possible that these books were just really good self published novels. Maybe a lot of people read them, liked them, and voted for them without being asked to by the authors.

Fine. Let's get freaky. -nomically at least.

Let's compare by matching this up with the number of amazon reviews each book got. While the # of Amazon reviews isn't a good indicator of quality, it is a fairly good number of the people that read your book, assuming a comparable % of readers are reviews. I would even assume that people that read self published fiction are MORE likely to review it based on what is likely a closer familiarity with the author. Face it, it's harder to stumble onto self published books than mainstream ones.

My theory is that the more people that read your book, the more people that can vote for it. (Assuming that there are no people who voted for a book without reading it, who would do that?) And since this is purely a numbers game, if 10% of 1000 that read a book like it, you would have more votes than a book that was liked by 50% of 100 readers. And that's being considerate - the numbers of readers for Name of the Wind versus The Final Arbiter are probably more in the neighborhood of 500,000 to 1000.

Lets take a look at the numbers.

Now, I reduced A Dance With Dragons's numbers because it skewed the chart too much at a whopping 31.1 reviews/vote but I think you might be able to guess which of these books might have had their own voting campaigns. Three books have a virtually non-existent ratio and the 4th (Dancing With Eternity) appears to be boosted by some fake Amazon reviews. A pseudonymous reviewer who writes a very short, very positive 5-star review for that specific book and nothing else on Amazon? Look out for herbivores -  you are a plant.


What is the point of having these lists if you can't trust them to be anything more than the most popular books of last year combined with the most mobilized fan community? Complain all you want about juried awards but I'm starting to think those are the way to go.

And Tor.com, is this really a list you want to put your name on? You're better than that.

Here is the raw data for those who care.

The Wise Man's Fear - 713 reviews / 140 votes - 5.09 reviews/vote
The All Pro - 16 reviews / 105 votes - 0.15 reviews/vote
The Allow of Law - 150/63 - 2.38 reviews/vote
The Seventh Throne - 3/63 - 0.05 reviews/vote
Ready Player One - 613/55 - 11.15 reviews/vote
The Final Arbiter- 2/55 - 0.04 reviews/vote
A Dance With Dragons - 1650/53 - 31.1 reviews/vote
Fuzzy Nation - 113/52 - 2.17 reviews/vote
Dancing With Eternity - 40/50 - 0.80 reviews/vote

Among Others - 48/49 - 0.98 reviews/vote

Feb 18, 2012

Covering Covers: Discount Armageddon - Seanan McGuire (Or This Is Why e-Readers Were Created)

I'm sorry but as good a writer as Seanan McGuire (and her psuedonymous counterpart Mira Grant) is/are, there is no way I'm reading a book with a cover this audacious in public. If it weren't for the genre cred the 2010 Campbell award winner earned with here Newsflesh and October Daye books, I wouldn't give this book a second glance.

However, if you can stand the Baenish cover long enough to pick it up and turn it over, Discount Armageddon (whatever that means) does sound a least a wee bit interesting...
Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity-and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...

I'm going to have to leverage the relatively anonymity of the YetiKindle to read this one.

And let's just hope to Lord Sauron himself that Jim C. Hines doesn't see this one. I apologize in advance for that mental image.

Feb 14, 2012

Covering Covers (and Contents) - The Apex Book of World SF 2

I love surprises.

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea that Lavie Tidhar was planning a follow up to his 2009 anthology The Apex Book of World SF.

Then I saw this.

An expedition to an alien planet; Lenin rising from the dead; a superhero so secret he does not exist; in The Apex Book of World SF 2, World Fantasy Award nominated editor Lavie Tidhar brings together a unique collection of stories from around the world. Quiet horror from Cuba and Australia; surrealist fantasy from Russia and epic fantasy from Poland; near-future tales from Mexico and Finland, or cyberpunk from South Africa: in this anthology one gets a glimpse of the complex and fascinating world of genre fiction – from all over our world.
Also included was the full Table of Contents:
  • “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life” - Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
  • “Mr. Goop” - Ivor W. Hartmann
  • “Trees of Bone” - Daliso Chaponda
  • “The First Peruvian in Space” - Daniel Salvo (translated by Jose B. Adolph)
  • “Eyes in the Vastness of Forever” - Gustavo Bondoni
  • “The Tomb” - Chen Qiufan (translated by the author)
  • “The Sound of Breaking Glass” - Joyce Chng
  • “A Single Year” - Csilla Kleinheincz (translated by the author)
  • “The Secret Origin of Spin-Man” - Andrew Drilon
  • “Borrowed Time” - Anabel Enríquez Piñeiro (translated by Daniel W. Koon)
  • “Branded” - Lauren Beukes
  • “December 8th” - Raúl Flores (translated by Daniel W. Koon)
  • “Hungry Man” - Will Elliott
  • “Nira and I” - Shweta Narayan
  • “Nothing Happened in 1999” - Fábio Fernandes
  • “Shadow” - Tade Thompson
  • “Shibuya no Love” - Hannu Rajaniemi
  • “Maquech” - Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • “The Glory of the World” - Sergey Gerasimov
  • “The New Neighbours” - Tim Jones
  • “From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7” - Nnedi Okorafor
  • “The Slows” - Gail Hareven (translated by Yaacov Jeffrey Green)
  • “Zombie Lenin” - Ekaterina Sedia
  • “Electric Sonalika” - Samit Basu
  • “The Malady” - Andrzej Sapkowski (translated by Wiesiek Powaga)
  • “A Life Made Possible Behind The Barricades” - Jacques Barcia
I've only read a few of these authors - Lauren Beukes, Hannu Rajaniemi, Ekaternia Sedia, Nnedi Okorafora - but if those names are indicative of the level of talent contained in this collection, it will be a great one indeed. So much (too much) of the science fiction and fantasy I read is written from a disturbingly small number of perspectives and it's often easy to forget there is a world of voices out there, each with their own story to tell. Books like this are a welcome wake-up call.

The Apex Book of World SF 2 is scheduled for publication in April of 2012 but if you preorder now, you can pick up the first volume for just $5 (also the current Kindle Price).

Has anyone read any of the other authors on this list? Any favorites?

Feb 13, 2012

Who Needs Hoth?

On Saturday, I finished Tobias Buckell's thought provoking ARCTIC RISING. It's an eco-techno-thriller set in a near future world where Arctic trade routes have opened as the ice has receded, creating an entirely new theatre for global politicking. I'd really like to see more of this type of science fiction - stuff that speculates on the near future of world dynamics - be it 20, 50, or 100 years out. So much of SF is devoted to depicting worlds that no one alive today will likely ever see and it's refreshing to jump into a world clearly derived from our own. Good stuff and I expect to have a full review up sometime this week.

On Sunday, Lake Michigan decided to avenge its glacial ancestors by throwing a little land invasion of it's own. Giant waves, high winds, and freezing temperatures combined to create a landscape unlike any I'd even seen before. Luckily, Yetiwife and I had our cameras at the ready. [EDIT: You can see the full session here.]

How was your weekend? What are you reading?

Feb 10, 2012

2013 Promises Blood (and More Bearded Debut Authors)

I'm still pulling together my list of 2012 debuts worth looking out for but I thought I would jump in the TARDIS for a quick look ahead to 2013.

I never get publishing contracts for my birthday...

Sometime in the past few months, Orbit outbid a few other houses for the right to publish PROMISE OF BLOOD, a debut fantasy novel from Brian McClellan (pictured above) as well as the 2nd and 3rd volumes of his intended trilogy. Now that the contracts have all been signed it's possible to share a little bit more about the book.

Here's the back of the baseball card as far as I be able to confirm:

Titles: PROMISE OF BLOOD / Untitled / Untitled
Series Title: Untitled Fantasy Trilogy
Release Window: Spring/Summer 2013
Release Format: Unknown
Elevator Pitch: Magic and Muskets
Burj Khalifa Elevator Pitch: Field Marshal Tamas and his powder mages have
staged a coup against the king of Adro. Their one night of bloody revolution
sparks the first war between the Nine kingdoms in fourteen hundred years as
the old regimes of nobility and Privileged sorcerers strike hard against the
upstart powder mages. Ancient sorcerers emerge from the woodwork as forces
take sides in the conflict and rumors of gods once thought long dead walk
the city streets.
Intended Series Length: 3 Books
Contract length: 3 books

Here's The Publisher's Marketplace announcement, lifted from McClellan's blog.

Brian McClellan's PROMISE OF BLOOD, a debut trilogy set in a world inspired by the revolutionary turmoil of 18th-century Europe complete with guillotines, starving peasants, fanatical royalists and a hero whose survival depends on a small group of honorable mages, including his own estranged son, to Devi Pillai at Orbit , in a good deal, in a three-book deal, for publication in Summer 2013, by Caitlin Blasdell at Liza Dawson Associates (World English).
Field Marshal Tamas has staged a coup against the king of Adro. His powder mages have slaughtered the king's Privileged cabal of sorcerers and the nobility has been rounded up to face the guillotine with their king. Tamas has brought revolution to his country in one bloody night to save his people and right the wrongs caused by the old regime. Yet his actions have far-reaching consequences of which no reasonable man could have conceived, and the king will prove the easiest obstacle to overcome in his quest to free Adro.

Captain Taniel Two-shot is a powder mage of considerable skill. Gunpowder makes him stronger and faster than other men. He can manipulate its properties to shoot out a man's eye at twice the length of a battlefield. It makes him perfect for killing the old Privileged sorcerers with their destructive magic. One of those Privileged has escaped Tamas' cull. The problem is, she's stronger than any sorcerer Taniel has ever seen, and the mercenaries sent to help him track her are of dubious reliability.

When Adamat is summoned to the palace in the middle of the night, the last thing the veteran investigator expects is to arrive during a regime change. His new employer is none other than the man responsible for overthrowing the current government and he has some unfinished business with the king's sorcerers. The dying Privileged cabal has left the Field Marshal with a riddle. It could be nothing, but Tamas does not like loose ends. Adamat knows from long experience that one doesn't ask questions unless one is willing to learn--and believe--the answers. To add to his problems, the Field Marshal isn't the only one interested in the answer to the dying sorcerers' riddle. As enemies emerge from the shadows and the investigation takes a disturbing turn, Adamat must decide where his loyalties lie.

Now I haven't had the opportunity to read any of PROMISE OF BLOOD yet but I did have the opportunity to speak with McClellan about his upcoming work at ConFusion. Based on that conversation and the fact it the rights went to auction, I wouldn't be surprised to see it as one of Orbit's flagship debut titles next year. I'll be sure to keep an eye out and post more when I have it but if you want to follow him directly feel free to bookmark his blog.

Feb 9, 2012

Go Read This. For Serious.

Dreaming Awake by N.K. Jemisin

Just a little reminder that all the nonsense I write here is a) fantastically shallow and b) not in any way well written. The post linked above is commentary on writing done right.

You might also want to check out some of Jemisin's fiction. She's a pure storyteller - plain and simple - in the vein of Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, or Octavia Butler.

Feb 8, 2012

Chronicle of GLORY!!!

Now I'm not usually one to boast but I received a special something in the mail today and I had to share...

Behold My Prize!!!

That's right, one of the first ARCs of The Coldest War - Volume Two of The Milkweed Triptych. And signed by Ian Tregillis no less...

All it took was a few obsessive compulsive days spent puzzling over the narrative challenge that was Chronicle of Sorrows, an ARG-esque enigma built into Tregillis's website. You can get the full scoop here. While all of the prizes have already been claimed (yetiwoot!) I would really recommend you give the game a try. It's fiendishly tricky AND it provides some pretty cool context to the first chapter of the excellent Bitter Seeds.

And if you haven't read Bitter Seeds yet, shame on you. Not only was it one of the best books of 2010, it's so good GRRM put off publishing A Dance With Dragons for another year just to avoid competing with it on Best of 2010 lists. The triptychular structure of the book is so awesome, Tor can't even calm down long enough to publish them on time. Stop what you are doing now, go read the book, them return here.

[::waits patiently::]

Welcome back. How good was that? Like me, you are now eagerly anticipating the follow up volume. Unlike me, you do not have a copy. But don't feel too bad. Although you probably won't be able to get a print copy of The Coldest War until it's release date in July, you can listen to the audiobook as soon as RIGHT NOW!!! over on audible.com. For reasons not entirely clear to me, the book has been edited for a long while, just not printed by Tor. As a result, the final edited copy was published via audiobook back in January. I can't do audiobooks, but if you can, have it at.

So to recap:

1) I've got a copy of The Coldest War. Bwa-hah-hah-ha.
2) Ian Tregillis has a really cool narrative game on his website. You should try it.
3) If you haven't read Bitter Seeds yet you should. It is awesome and available now..
4) The Coldest War will be available July 17th from Tor.
5) If you can't wait that long, The Coldest War is currently available via audiobook from audible.com.

I'll be in my bunk.
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