How Not To Deal With Activists, Courtesy the Britain Stronger in Europe Campaign

I believe that in the forthcoming referendum, Britain is likely to leave the EU. I believed it as soon as the referendum was announced, but became convinced when the board of directors was announced, with its director of strategy being Ryan Coetzee, who was personally responsible for the Lib Dems’ massive success at the last general election, when he was paid £110,000 a year as its General Election Director of Strategy, and managed to take the Lib Dems from a paltry fifty-seven seats to a gargantuan eight.

With the rest of the board being a similar bunch of overpaid failures and politicians’ children, I thought our only hope of not leaving the EU, and thus losing what little influence the country still has, any human rights, and first-world status, was for them to at least learn from the mistakes of the AV referendum campaign, and to have a volunteer-driven ground-up campaign, so it wouldn’t matter how incompetent the leadership of the campaign was.

So a few months ago I signed up to volunteer for the Stronger In campaign, in the hope of maybe doing anything useful. However, I am autistic, and one of the ways that manifests itself is in detesting telephone calls (those few of my friends who have my number will know that when you *do* call me it’s often difficult to get me to stop talking, but I am *terrified* of telephone calls interrupting me — it’s one of the more important reasons I refuse to own a mobile phone). The forms wouldn’t let you continue unless you filled in a phone number, so I put it in, but said that I wanted *only* to be contacted by email, and didn’t give them permission to contact me in any other way.

To be fair to them, I *have* since received a whole four emails from them — two surveys about what volunteering I’d like to do, which they haven’t followed up on, and two requests to share things on social media. All four also coming with requests for money to put into their vital survey-ignoring and meme-sharing work.

They *might* have also wanted me to actually do something, as I’ve stated I’d do, but I’ll never know, because the only personal, as opposed to bulk, communication I’ve had from them has been when they’ve telephoned me. The first time, about a month ago, my wife answered the phone, and I told her to tell them not to phone me again. The second time, about two weeks ago, I answered the phone and told them not to phone me again, but to communicate with me by email, as I had asked. The third time, last night, I was woken from a doze, disturbed the dog that was sleeping on my lap, and hobbled painfully and arthritically to the phone, to discover them phoning me yet again. I fear that my request that they not phone me again was phrased rather less politely than it would have been were I not half-asleep and in pain.

And that was going to be the end of my rant about the Stronger In campaign’s complete inability to organise a piss-up in a brewery. Except that in order to check how many emails I have had from them for the paragraph above, I just checked my account, and read one from yesterday.

This email was from Will Straw, the head of the Stronger In campaign whose main personal achievements have been to, as a Labour candidate in the last general election, see the Tories increase their majority by 1200 votes in his constituency; to be removed as the governor of a primary school by Lambeth council because the school wasn’t being run properly; and to have had 50% of his genetic material shoot out of the penis of a former Home Secretary — the latter, rather than his other achievements, being the apparent principal reason for his success in life.

This email from the founder of the Left Foot Forward blog, which contributed so much to Labour’s electoral success in 2010, asked me to share an “infographic” on social media. That infographic praises David Cameron’s renegotiation of the terms on which the UK will be in the EU, and in particular the fact that “migrants” will now have to wait four years before being entitled to claiming any benefits.

I repeat, the campaign to stay in the EU asked me to share an image saying “Limiting migrant access to benefits until they’ve paid in for 4 years” (poor English the image-makers’ own).

Quite apart from the personal consequences to me of sharing that image — I suspect my marriage to an immigrant who is currently claiming benefits for her rather severe disabilities would not last very long after doing so — the tactical stupidity of this is breathtaking. In a fight between “in Europe” and “out of Europe”, playing up myths about immigrants being benefit scroungers will only ever reinforce the ideas of xenophobes, and while not all those who want to leave the EU are xenophobes by any means, I’m pretty sure that all xenophobes want to leave the EU.

So I’m out of this utter shambles. I’ve heard this tune before, when it was the AV referendum and “whatever you do, don’t discuss the new voting system we’re advocating, just hand out leaflets about making MPs work harder and don’t say why it would do that, and whatever you do don’t deviate from the central messaging”. And I’ve heard it when it was “‘Unity, Stability, and Decency’ isn’t a crypto-fascist slogan at all and will definitely appeal to Liberals. Also stick the face of the most despised politician in Britain all over the leaflets — that’s a sure vote-winner. And whatever you do, don’t deviate from the central messaging”.

I am sick, as a volunteer activist, of putting time and energy I don’t have into using a tiny bucket to bail water out of sinking ships while rich imbeciles are being paid triple my wages to fire cannon at the hull of our own ship. I’m sick of being on the right side of the argument but being told to share mealy-mouthed apologies that concede the principle to the other side. And I’m sick of getting phone calls from people who apparently think they’re above the law when it comes to their use of personal data.

So I’m not going to be involved any further with the official Stronger In campaign — not that they’ve yet given me any opportunity to be involved. I’ll be involved in the *LIB DEM* campaigning on the issue, because the Lib Dems as a party have finally, under Tim Farron, rediscovered the campaigning spirit we should have had all along. And if any of the activists I know locally are planning any off-message campaigning, let me know and I’ll do what I can. But I’ll not share UKIP leaflets with UKIP crossed out and “please stay in the EU anyway” scribbled in its place.

There is some small honour in being a lion led by donkeys. But if I kept letting them lead me, I’d be letting them make an ass of me, too.

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What Music Is, Part Two

So we’ve established in the last post roughly what we mean by music, and we’ve also established that from now on I’m going to narrow down my meanings quite a bit, but that it’s worth bearing the broader definition in mind.

So let’s look at melody and harmony. The two are rather interlinked, and what they have in common is the idea of a scale. But to get to what a scale is, we have to look at what a note is, because scales are made up of notes.

Sound, as you may have learned in school, comes in waves — pulses in the air. When you hit something, or pluck it, or force air through it (the only three ways of making music up until the mid twentieth century, and still among the most popular), the thing you’re hitting or plucking or blowing moves, and that in turn shakes — vibrates — the air. Those vibrations are what we hear.

The particular type of vibration we’re interested in is called a sine wave. That wikipedia link goes into far more mathematical detail than we need, but what you need to know is that a sine wave looks like this (pinched from Wikipedia):

What you can see from that picture is that a sine wave is made up of regularly repeating peaks and troughs. This regular repetition is very important. Every pure musical note is a sine wave, and we know what note is what by the number of peaks per second. This number is known as the frequency — meaning how frequently there’s a peak — and it’s measured in hertz (written Hz), which is just a label meaning “number of oscillations per second”.

The higher the frequency of the sound, the higher the note sounds, and the lower the frequency, the lower the note. For an example of this, let’s look at a piano keyboard (again pinched from Wikipedia):
keyboard with middle C highlighted

The note highlighted there is called “middle C”, and it’s about in the middle of the range in which music is generally played. Its frequency is 261.626Hz, which means that there are 261.626 waves every second when someone plays a middle C.

Let’s look at the C note above that:
C-above. You can see from looking at the keyboard that these keys look similar, and from my writing that they’re both called “C”, but this one is 523.251Hz — almost exactly double the frequency of the previous note. And it’s higher as a result.

If you want to know how much higher, think of the first two notes of the verse to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” — “Some… where“. That leap is the leap between those two notes.

Now we’ve said that those two notes have the same name, and they certainly sound OK together, one after another. So what’s the reason for that?

Well, in nature, one very rarely gets something that vibrates at only one frequency. Most things vibrate at multiple frequencies at once, and pure sine waves on their own sound very strange as a result.

Now, when two waves have their peaks and troughs at the same time, those peaks and troughs go together and reinforce each other. When they happen at different times, they can cancel each other out, partly or wholly. In sound, we call the reinforcement harmony, and the cancellation dissonance. (More precisely, dissonance is when you get partial cancellation that sounds irregular because the two frequencies constantly shift in and out of phase with each other. We call *total* cancellation silence…)

Generally speaking, people like sounds that are in harmony, rather than dissonant. This is not always the case — some people like dissonance in music a lot, myself included — but generally speaking, when we use dissonance in music, it’s to provide a little tension, so the listener is thinking “I hope it becomes harmonic again soon, I wonder how they’re going to do that” — at least on a subconscious level. When the average listener hears dissonance, they want it to become harmony again, and get very annoyed if it doesn’t.

Now the most harmonic you can get is to be at exactly the same frequency, because then all the peaks and troughs will line up previously. This is called unison, and it’s boring to talk about musically, because it’s just two things being the same as each other.

The next most harmonic you can get is to have frequencies that are integer multiples of each other. If you have two frequencies, and one of them is double the other, then when you play them together you will get the peaks matching half the time. These notes match so well that we give them the same name — double the frequency of a C note is another C note, double the frequency of an A is another A, and so forth.

The distance between one C and another (or between one A and another, and so on) is called an octave. If you look at the piano key diagrams above, you’ll see that there are eight white keys on the piano between the two Cs, and that’s where the “oct” part of an octave comes from. We’ll look at why that is in a future post, but for now, just accept that that’s the name.

And finally, for today, we’ll look at the next most harmonic note. That’s when the frequency of the higher note is one and a half times that of the lower, so every third peak of the higher note reinforces every second peak of the lower note. This note (for reasons we’ll again come to in a future post) is known as the fifth or the dominant, and if the low note (or tonic) is C, then the high note will be G. (You can count C-1, D-2, E-3, F-4, G-5 along the white notes on the keyboard).

When you play two or more notes together, you have what is known as a chord. If you play C and G together — with or without a higher C played at the octave — then what you have is the single simplest type of chord, the power chord. Lots of rock music is based around power chords — the guitar intro to “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks, for example, is just made up of two power chords, with the tonics being F and G.

We’ll look at more of this soon, but I think that’s enough for this post. Please let me know in the comments if I’ve not explained anything thoroughly enough, and I’ll try to explain better.

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The Beach Boys on CD: Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks of THE BEACH BOYS Salute NASCAR and Union 76 Gasoline

And so we come to February 1998, the worst month in the Beach Boys’ history.

Mike Love and Alan Jardine had, over the previous few years, grown increasingly distant, to the point where it was almost impossible for the two men to work together, with Carl Wilson being the peacemaker who could allow them to be on the same stage. For some time, Love had been planning to replace Jardine with David Marks, who had shown up for occasional shows (notably a performance for Baywatch in 1995) [FOOTNOTE: Love claims that Jardine was likewise planning to replace Love, with Peter Cetera from Chicago] — Love and Marks had remained friendly, and Marks had become a remarkably proficient guitarist in the decades since he had left the band.

But all these plans became up in the air when in early 1997 it was announced that Carl Wilson (who had been seeming increasingly unwell for some time) had cancer. Carl continued to perform until the end of August, often having to sit through the performance and use an oxygen mask between songs (though he always stood for “God Only Knows”, no matter how much effort it took him, according to those who were at the shows). But after August, he was no longer capable of performing, and David Marks replaced him, rather than Jardine, for the last few shows of 1997.

After that, Love performed a few shows as The California Beach Band, with the Beach Boys’ backing band members, and sometimes with either Marks, Bruce Johnston, or both, but without Jardine. And Love was making plans to have a “Beach Boys” that would no longer involve Jardine at all.

The first that Jardine realised this might be a possibility was when watching the Superbowl on TV, on January 25th, 1998, when he saw the pre-game show, featuring “A Tribute To The Beach Boys Featuring Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, David Marks, Glen Campbell, Dean Torrence, and John Stamos”. He’d not been told about the show.

And also watching the Superbowl together were Brian and Carl Wilson. They discussed Brian’s forthcoming solo album, Imagination, on which Carl had been planning to guest on a track. Carl told Brian that he wouldn’t be able to do it, and that he was dying. He said “You know, Brian, I’m not gonna be able to make it”, and Brian’s response, the last thing he ever said to his brother, was “I think I’m gonna stay for a while”.

Carl Wilson died on February 6, 1998. Other than a single previously-contracted private show [FOOTNOTE Oddly, on the same day as Brian’s first solo show, a TV taping to promote the Imagination album, at which Johnston also appeared.], Al Jardine wouldn’t appear with the Beach Boys again until 2011. Mike Love would soon get the license to use the Beach Boys’ name for his own touring band (featuring Johnston and, at first, Marks), but the Beach Boys as an actual band died with Carl Wilson.

And the evidence of this came almost straight away.

Love had, over the years, recorded many tracks with Adrian Baker (who had been the touring falsettist with the band in 1981-2 and 1990-92, and would rejoin in 1998, staying with Love’s band until 2004). Various of these tracks have turned up over the years on promo recordings and limited-edition releases. The most well-known of these, because of its February 1998 release date, is Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and David Marks of the BEACH BOYS Salute NASCAR and Union 76 Gasoline, a CD that was available for a limited time through participating petrol stations only, released by Love’s MELECO label.

This CD is, in this series of essays, standing in for all the various releases of material from the Mike and Adrian sessions, such as Summertime Cruisin’ (a CD that was given away free in 2001 by participating Canadian Chrysler dealerships to people who test-drove a car). Other than two Baker originals on Summertime Cruisin’, these CDs all consisted of rerecordings of Beach Boys hits, along with a few covers of similar-sounding 60s hits.

While the CD claims Love, Johnston, and Marks as artists, Marks is inaudible on the album — it’s claimed he supplied guitars for the album, but the guitars sound identical to the guitars credited to Baker on other such CDs, and I suspect he’s not present at all. Johnston’s only musical contribution is apparently the keyboard on “Don’t Worry Baby”, the closing track (some of the backing vocals sound a little like him, but I’m reliably informed he wasn’t present for any vocal sessions).

I specify “musical” contribution, because Johnston is present on the excruciating intro, in which over a synthesised instrumental backing similar to, but legally distinct from, “Good Vibrations”, we hear the following spoken:

Hi, this is Mike Love of the Beach Boys. As you’ve probably figured out by now, cool cars and hot fun at the beach have always been close to my heart. That’s why I’m pleased to have recorded, with the help of Beach Boys Bruce Johnston and David Marks, and our buddy Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean, some of our all-time favourites.

This is Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys. Beach lover, NASCAR lover, and the fuel that fuels me from high school all the way to my family life? 76. A million thank yous to Adrian Baker, our music producer, and I hope you enjoy our music.

[Mike again] This CD is brought to you by 76, the official fuel of NASCAR, and I’m hopin’ these songs will bring you as many good vibrations as a chequered flag at Daytona Beach.

This will give you an idea of the level of the whole CD.

There are ten tracks proper on the album, eight of them remakes of Beach Boys car songs, plus two covers of Beach Boys-sounding car hits from the 60s: “Little Old Lady From Pasadena”, with Dean Torrence guesting on vocals, and a version of Ronnie & The Daytonas’ “Little GTO”.

“Little GTO” is one of only two listenable tracks — it actually has quite a bit of energy, and Adrian Baker sounds surprisingly like mid-60s Brian Wilson on it. The other track worth a listen is the surprising inclusion of “Ballad of Ole Betsy”. This is a song that Love has always had a strong personal affection for, and which he regularly includes in his band’s shows (usually now sung by his musical director Scott Totten). Here, Love takes the lead, in his lower register, and he actually manages a remarkably affecting performance — were it not for the cheap drum sound, this version might actually be better than the original.

But past those two — neither of which is great, but which are both not unpleasant — the CD is dire. The harmonies, mostly by Baker and session singer Paul Bergerot, are horrible. Baker’s tone is all wrong, sounding more like Frankie Valli than the Beach Boys; his vowel sounds are all off, as he’s a British person putting on an unconvincing American accent; and his pitching is inconsistent. He can occasionally (as on “Little GTO”) sound OK in a backing vocal role, but when he takes lead parts, as on the chorus to “I Get Around”, he just sounds unpleasant. His version of “Don’t Worry Baby”, the final track here, is astonishingly poor.

Love doesn’t sound much better. In the late 90s and early 2000s Love was having his own pitching problems, and sounding almost self-parodically nasal. And the backing tracks are rough approximations of the originals, but created largely digitally, with bad drum programming, and with Baker’s guitars sounding like the only live instruments. The tracks sound like karaoke backing tracks to which Love has added lazy vocals.

These days, Love sounds as good as he ever has, and the touring Beach Boys are once again a band that more than does the music justice. But in 1998, with this coming out within weeks of Carl Wilson’s death, the album seemed to be a tacky plastic tombstone on the Beach Boys’ career.

But while the Beach Boys were winding down, Brian Wilson’s solo career was restarting itself…

[The next “what is music?” post will be up either tomorrow or Monday]

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A Question About Patreon, for Non-Patrons

(Proper post later… I’m embarrassed to be posting this one at all, but…)

Before I start this, I just want to say there is no pressure, implied or otherwise, to support my Patreon, intended in this post. I only support a tiny percentage of those Patreons, Kickstarters and so forth that I consider worthy, and understand that people have limited funds, resources, interest in my writing, and anything else. This blog will always continue to be free, everyone will continue to be welcome to read it, and I will never think worse of anyone for not supporting my Patreon, or for removing their support, or anything else.

Which said…

Currently, my Patreon stands at $48 per post. This is far, far more than I ever hoped or expected to make from it. I’m quite astonished that people value my work that much. That actually means that for an 800-word post (slightly, but not excessively, below my average, which is around 1000 words), I’m being paid a professional writing rate (SFWA’s qualifying rate for a professional market is 6 cents a word).

This is, frankly, astonishing to me. That I can do the same thing I’ve done here since 2008 without pay, and make a professional rate from it, is quite absurd, but in a good way.

Of course, the more Patreon-charged posts I do (those ones with the link at the bottom, which I charge Patreons for — things like this, or the one about my anniversary, or the linkblogs, are free), the less per post I get, because people quite rightly put limits on how much they pay per month (and if any of my Patreon patrons *HAVEN’T* done that, please, please do!), or I could post ten thousand short posts, charge for them all, and clear out everyone’s bank account. But at the moment I’m getting about $48 per post.

And this has me thinking.

If I could get up to $100 per post on average — consistently, allowing for people’s monthly limits — I could do this as a job. I could do a thousand-word or more post a day, every day, easily if I didn’t have to worry about a day job. (I could do that now, if I were healthy. I’m not). It would be a substantial pay cut, but not an unaffordable one, especially if my wife were to find a job — and it would allow me to produce a LOT more writing than I do now, which in turn would mean that other sources of writing income like sales of books that I wrote as blog posts could cover some of the difference. It would also raise the quality of the posts here — when I have an idea for a series of posts, I could write them all in one go. No chance of unfinished series that lose steam, or months between posts like the Batposts. I’d know I could write about current affairs on the day they happened, rather than having to wait til I had free time, when they might no longer be relevant, and so on.

So, my question is — is there anything I’m not doing which, if I did it, would encourage you to back my Patreon if you don’t already?

I’m not interested if the answer’s “no”, incidentally. If you read this and nothing could persuade you to back me, *THAT’S FINE*. But you don’t need to tell me.

But if, for example, me starting podcasting my posts again (which I stopped because no-one was listening, and I changed the way the Patreon was working, but I could start again), or more Patreon-exclusive or advance posts, or writing posts on subjects of Patreons’ choosing, or something, would make you more likely to become a backer, please let me know in the comments. Don’t worry, I won’t hold you to it if I do what you say and you still don’t back me — chances are that someone, sometime, will.

One thing I *am* considering is, when I’ve finished writing the mystery novel I’m working on at the moment (which I’d also been considering shopping to publishers) making it available to Patreons, putting it on sale, and then serialising all sixty or so chapters here, so any non-Patreons who are reading it would have an incentive to buy the complete version to avoid having to wait.

So, if you’re not already a Patreon backer, but could be persuaded to be, what would persuade you?

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Music Basics part 1: What *Is* Music Anyway?

A couple of days ago, on Twitter, Tilt Araiza asked me “did you once do a “what music is” post? I was trying to explain what harmony is to a friend and, well, I’m a drummer,” and when I said that I hadn’t, he said he thought I could do a good job.
Another friend has, in the past, asked me to explain some of the very basics of music to her, so on the basis that at least two people think I could explain this well, I’m going to do a few posts this week just looking at the fundamentals.
There’ll be, probably, four posts on this, and they’ll be what Terry Pratchett called “lies-to-children” — oversimplifications and outright lies, but ones that give you the right sort of idea (like “the world is round like a ball, and goes round the sun in a circle”). I hope that, after four posts, anyone who didn’t previously know anything about music will come away at least with a general understanding of the shape of what it is they don’t know, which is all one can hope for most of the time.

So, what *is* music?

At the most basic level, music is what the composer Edgard Varèse called “organised sound”. Frank Zappa, who was an admirer of Varèse, expanded on this in The Real Frank Zappa Book, in a passage which, when I read it as a teenager, was the beginning of my own understanding of what music is on an intellectual, rather than visceral, sense:

The most important thing in art is The Frame. For painting: literally; for other arts: figuratively — because, without this humble appliance, you can’t know where The Art stops and The Real World begins.
You have to put a ‘box’ around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?
If John Cage, for instance, says, “I’m putting a contact microphone on my throat, and I’m going to drink carrot juice, and that’s my composition,” then his gurgling qualifies as his composition because he put a frame around it and said so. “Take it or leave it, I now will this to be music.” After that it’s a matter of taste. Without the frame-as-announced, it’s a guy swallowing carrot juice.

(Typographical idiosyncracies Zappa’s).

This kind of definition seems, to me, to be the only useful one — music is *any sound which someone has chosen to perceive, or to ask others to perceive, as music*.

This is important to note at the beginning of these posts, because I am immediately going to start acting as if music is much more limited than it is. All my examples in these posts will come from British or American popular song, usually from the twentieth century, maybe with a little folk music as well. All the theory I talk about will be theory that was developed to analyse Western “art music” (a term that encompasses what people refer to as “classical music” and jazz), and that can be applied to Western popular music.

Basically, the further we get from the Beatles’ Rubber Soul or the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, sonically, temporally, or culturally, the less applicable this will be. But I think it’ll be a good start. Much of it will apply to other forms of music — for example, when I talk about the pentatonic scale, that applies to many forms of music around the world, from Indian classical music to Irish folk — but I’ll be generalising far more than is strictly accurate, so it’s worth asking yourself about everything “does this apply to both the third Brandenburg Concerto and a man gargling carrot juice with a microphone attached to his throat?”

With that out of the way, what interesting ways do people often organise sound?

Well, traditionally, we can look at music in terms of four aspects — melody, harmony, timbre, and rhythm (there’s also counterpoint, which is sort of a halfway house between melody and harmony).

Melody is “the tune” — the bit you can whistle or hum along to, whether sung by a human or played by an instrument. A melody is a sequence of individual notes, one after the other. If you can sing it on your own (and you’re not a Tuvan throat singer) it’s a melody.

Harmony is what happens when you have two or more different notes played or sung at the same time. When the Everly Brothers sang together, with Phil singing a high note and Don a low one, they were singing in harmony. When you strum a chord on a guitar, or play one on the piano, that’s also harmony.

Timbre is everything about a sound that *isn’t* the note. If I sing a high F, I sound very different from Brian Wilson singing the same note on Wouldn’t It Be Nice, and we both sound very different from the same note played on a piano, or organ, or harmonica, or violin, or electric guitar. Those differences are what we call timbre.

And rhythm is the beat of the music, the way the music is subdivided into regular, repeating or similar, phrases. If you tap your feet to a song, that’s the rhythm you’re responding to.

In the next few posts, I’ll look at these in turn. The interesting thing to note, though, is that three of these four aspects all come from one thing — the properties one finds in a sound wave.

I’ll go into this in more detail tomorrow, but sound waves are vibrations in the air, and they have a frequency (measured in Herz, a measurement of number of vibrations a second). What that frequency is, more than anything else, determines how something sounds. The higher the frequency, the higher the note.

But sounds in nature aren’t usually one pure wave. And tomorrow, we’ll look at how things in nature vibrate, and at resonation, and at why that makes some notes sound good together.

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My Preliminary Picks For Hugo Nominations

I’m going to be nominating in the Hugos this year — last year I tried but couldn’t get the website to work, but this year I will be nominating no matter what, even if I have to do so by post, given the debacle last year.

I’m posting my thoughts about what I’ll be nominating here *NOT* as any kind of a slate, but as a way of finding something I don’t already know about, so please let me know if you’ve read anything better than my ideas in the comments. I’d especially like to know about good works by women and BAME people, as my current list is a bit white-male heavy.

I’m behind on reading Obverse’s short story collections this year (I still haven’t read Furthest Tales or The Perennial Miss Wildthyme) so I don’t know what my short fiction nominations will be, except that I’ll be nominating …And I Show You How Deep The Rabbit Hole Goes from Slate Star Codex.

For graphic story I’ll probably be nominating Multiversity and the recent Sandman mini, the latest Cindy & Biscuit, The Cleaner 2 by Fraser Geesin, and I’m not sure what else yet.

For dramatic presentation short form, I’ll be nominating Brenda Has Risen From The Grave, from The Brenda And Effie Mysteries by Paul Magrs. I still have to listen to the BBC radio versions of The Stone Tape and The Bed-Sitting Room. I’m sure I’m missing something here, too…

For dramatic presentation long form, The Martian. I’ve not seen many of the films that I suspect I would nominate — I’ve not been to the cinema as much in the last year as I otherwise would. I’ve seen people calling for nomination of “the Sad Puppy Saga” in this category too, and I’m tempted…
(I thought The Force Awakens was quite fun, but that’s all. I’m not really a Star Wars person.)

For best novel, I suspect I’ll be nominating The Just City by Jo Walton, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, The Locksley Exploit by Philip Purser-Hallard, Charles Dickens’ Martian Notes by Simon Bucher-Jones, and The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu.

For fan writer, I’ll probably be nominating Jack Graham, Andrew Rilstone, Abigail Nussbaum, Alexandra Erin, and Lawrence Burton. Several of my fellow Mindless Ones would be nominated if the site had had enough posts this year.

I’m not sure if he should come under fan artist or professional artist, but I’ll also be nominating Lawrence Burton for one of those for his covers for the Faction Paradox releases this year.

I’ll be nominating Stuart Douglas for best editor (long form), Philip Purser-Hallard for best editor (short form), and Michele-Lee Barasso and Jonathan Laden of Daily SF for best editor (short form). Given that I have little or no way to tell what input editors have had into other works, the only editors I can judge are those I’ve worked with. Happily, they’ve all been excellent, so I’ll just nominate them.

For best related work, Whoniverse by Lance Parkin, Guided By The Beauty Of Their Weapons by Phil Sandifer, Harry Potter & The Methods Of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky, John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author and I Myself Am Quite Popular by “Theophilus Pratt” (Alexandra Erin). I’m not sure what else to nominate here, but Obverse has put out a couple of Doctor Who related things that I’ve not read yet, and I suspect at least one of those will end up on the list.

For fanzine — File770.

The other categories, I don’t really know enough to judge yet. Anyone have any suggestions for great things I’ve missed?

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Ten Years

Ten years ago today, give or take a time zone or six, I got married. (Coincidentally, so did my wife.)
I’m not very good at talking about my feelings, so I won’t talk about how much I love her, or how lucky I am, or any of that. And the wedding day itself is not one we particularly look back on with any great pleasure — it was less than two months after Holly’s brother died, and she was moving to another continent away from her family, which among many other things made the dynamics of the whole “not losing a daughter but gaining a son” thing rather different, and not in a good way.
But our wedding *was* the occasion of the one actual romantic gesture I’ve ever made, so I can at least mention that.
Holly and I both enjoy the work of the songwriter Stew. I’m a bigger fan, but we both knew and loved albums like Guest Host and The Naked Dutch Painter. These days Stew is a Tony Award-winning writer of musicals, but back then he and his band The Negro Problem didn’t have even the small level of celebrity he does now.
And because of that lack of celebrity, Stew offered an occasional service where he would write and record songs on commission. So — with the financial help of several friends who helped me pay for it as their wedding gift to us — I managed to scrape together enough money to pay for a song about Holly, for our wedding. (This was a major effort. At the time I was working three jobs just to pay off enough debts to get into a position where I could meet the financial requirements for her getting a spouse visa).
Here it is.

To help make sense of some of the less obvious bits of lyric, my wife’s name is Holly, she comes from Minnesota (“the land of ten thousand lakes”), we’d met over the Internet originally (this was back when that was a relatively rare thing), and she was moving from the US to the UK.
I still think it’s a truly great song, and I’m pretty sure I’d think that even if it wasn’t about a truly great person.

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