Love science fiction and fantasy series? Better also love being patient

 Game of Thrones fans have grown so impatient for the return of their favorite series they started creating their own Season 7 posters, such as the one above. Many of these fan posters used the tagline "The End Begins."

Game of Thrones fans have grown so impatient for the return of their favorite series they started creating their own Season 7 posters, such as the one above. Many of these fan posters used the tagline "The End Begins."

My love of anime and manga first hit me when I attended a Japanese high school as an exchange student. The school’s library overflowed with manga titles. I watched the pioneering anime Akira and was astounded by the story and ideas and characters bursting in unworldly colors before my eyes.

When I returned to the United States I discovered, to my excitement, that Marvel Comics was translating and publishing an English language edition of Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga version of Akira. Every month I stopped by the comic book store and bought a new issue. If you love the animated Akira then know the manga is far more epic, twisting through a storyline which counts among the best post-apocalyptic stories ever created in a visual storytelling medium.

So imagine my irritation when the delay between issues began to grow.

Akira was, in some ways, a victim of its own success. The manga’s English translation was the first major comic to be colorized using computers (a practice which is now an industry standard). But while the colors in the print editions blew the minds of readers like myself, the colors were also labor intensive. In addition, Otomo kept reworking the original artwork of the collected Japanese editions of Akira, which the translations were based on. Marvel also engaged in the now-discredited practice of flipping the manga, meaning the art wasn’t read on pages from right to left as is the practice in Japan but instead left to right as with Western-style comics.

All of these concerns slowed the release of each issue. Instead of being coming out monthly, the last eight issues of Akira stretched across three years. Every time I stopped by the comic book store, the response to my queries devolved to a single word: Patience.

Which is something all lovers of science fiction and fantasy must continually learn and relearn. Because rest assured, no matter if you’re waiting for the next volume of a beloved fantasy series or a sequel to that SF blockbuster movie which ended on an unbelievable cliffhanger, patience is all we fans have.

The posterchild for delays between volumes of a bestselling fantasy series is, of course, George R. R. Martin, whose A Song of Ice and Fire has been a worldwide phenomenon and the inspiration for the Game of Thrones TV series.

But with popularity comes pressure from fans and publishers to release new volumes in the series. Martin has long been known as a methodical author, which means years go by between the volumes in his series. There was a six-year gap between the fourth and fifth volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, and the sixth volume is still unpublished. The most recent season of Game of Thrones and the upcoming seasons are now covering stories not based on Martin’s published works.

Another popular series fans complain about delays around is The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. Four years went by between the first volume, The Name of the Wind, and volume two, The Wise Man's Fear. Volume three remains unpublished, although Rothfuss has released two novellas set in the series’ world in recent years.

A few authors in our genre are able to crank out new volumes in series in very short order, with new books appearing every year or so. But most authors can’t do this. Some create more detailed worlds and stories, a situation in which I’d place both Martin and Rothfuss. Other authors simply need more time for their storytelling. And others simply follow their own rhythms in life and writing.

However, our social media infused world often ignores these distinctions as fans complain loudly when they can’t immediately read the next volume of a story. Add in a growing impatience among consumers of media content around the world — fueled, perhaps, by on-demand technologies such as Netflix, which encourages viewers to binge-watch TV series and movies — and it’s easy to understand why fans appear to be losing patience at waiting years to continue their favorite series.

One way to solve this problem would be for authors to complete an entire series before it is published, instead of only individual volumes. Jeff VanderMeer did this with his Southern Reach trilogy and the publisher released the three volumes in less than a single year. The trilogy was a massive success, with the first volume winning the Nebula Award and media outlets highlighting and praising the rapid publication of the bestselling series.

The success of VanderMeer’s series may convince other authors and publishers to do the same.

However, the biggest hurdle to doing this is that the creative process varies so differently between authors.

For example, Samuel R. Delany, whose Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is one of the most famous works in SF, has stated that the novel’s second part will likely never be finished. Delany says the novel resulted from both a relationship he was in at the time and a specific cultural period in US history. When both ended, he found himself unable to continue writing the story.

Which brings us to what everyone should remember about the stories we love: They’re created by human beings, not machines.

Or as Neil Gaiman said in 2009, "George R. R. Martin is not your bitch."

Gaiman’s comment was in response to complaints about Martin not cranking out the latest volume in A Song of Ice and Fire. After confirming that authors are indeed human and not machines, Gaiman added that “It seems to me that the biggest problem with series books is that either readers complain that the books used to be good but that somewhere in the effort to get out a book every year the quality has fallen off, or they complain that the books, although maintaining quality, aren't coming out on time.”

In Gaiman’s view, authors are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

My suggest to people waiting for the next volume in a beloved series: Be patient. And remember that, at least with SF/F stories, good things do eventually come to those who wait.

Info and links for Hugo Award nominations (including my Campbell Award shortlist)

The nomination deadline for this year's Hugo Awards is March 17. To nominate you must be a member of MidAmeriCon II, Worldcon 75 and/or Worldcon 76 in San José. If you're a member you should have been emailed a personal link for your nominations. If you're not a member it's too late to join and nominate although you'd still be able to vote for the finalists later this year.

Below are links to information I've collected as I worked on my Hugo Award nominees. I hope people find this useful.

And in a blatant self promotion, my "Blood Grains Speak Through Memories" is a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette and also eligible for the Hugo Award in that same category. If you read and liked my novelette please consider it for a nomination.

On with the info and links.

General Hugo Award info and links

  • Hugo Nominees 2017 Wikia — This is a great resource to learn about the potential nominees in the different categories (and especially in the less-known Hugo categories). Highly recommended.
  • Rocket Stack Rank's Hugo Awards overview — RSR focuses on short fiction reviews, with their Hugo overview listing rankings for different stories based on number of reviews and year's best reprints. However, their page also includes additional info on the eligible professional artists (with a "lightbox" sample of their art) along with best editors and other categories.
  • Hugo Award spreadsheet — The people behind Lady Business have pulled together a great spreadsheet of eligible Hugo nominees suggested by themselves and fellow fans. Click through the tabs for each category and, if you wish, make your own suggestions.
  • 2016 Nebula Awards finalists — Lots of great stories and novels on this list, all of which are eligible for the Hugos.

Campbell Award Shortlist

The John W. Campbell Award is given to a new SF/F author whose first published genre work happened in the previous two years. Because of this rolling two-year eligibility there is sometimes confusion over which authors can be nominated.

An excellent resource is Writertopia's list of Campbell-eligible authors, which breaks down all the eligible authors and also lists whether they're in their first or second year of eligibility.

I've compiled a short list below of the eligible authors who have caught my eye with their fiction over the last two years. I list their eligibility year after their name and also link to their websites. This names below form the basis for my Campbell nominations.

The Voices of Martyrs by Maurice Broaddus

Today sees the release of The Voices of Martyrs by Maurice Broaddus, a must-read short story collection from one of today's must-read genre authors. I've long been a fan of Maurice's writings and was thrilled to blurb the book.

Here's what I wrote:

An outcast in the distant past struggling to survive. A religious captain rationalizing away the evil of the slave ship he commands. A future biomech warrior in a literal culture war. The stories in The Voices of Martyrs again prove why Maurice Broaddus is one of the most exciting writers of today's genre fiction. His vision spans space and time while staying grounded in the stories —  in the very voices —  which make us fully and tragically and hopefully human.

Go read this collection. And do yourself a favor and buy a print copy. Rosarium Publishing does beautiful design work and printing and The Voices of Martyrs is one of those books where you'll enjoy the stories, enjoy the book itself, and be oh-so-happy with the entire reading experience.

Cover for Chinese edition of "Blood Grains Speaks Through Memories"

Been a good two days. Yesterday my novelette "Blood Grains Speak Through Memories" became a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette. And this morning I received an advance look at the cover for the story's Chinese translation, which is being released as a stand-alone book by Douban Reads.

Wow. WOW. Wow! I love this cover.

To purchase the book go here.

Douban Reads has already released translations of my Nebula Award nominated novella Sublimation Angels, my short story collection Never Never Stories, and "The Ships Like Clouds, Risen By Their Rain." All of these works are listed on my Douban Read author page.

As always many thanks to my Douban Reads editor Pei Liu for translating and publishing these stories. And many thanks to the readers in China who have responded so positively to my writing.

"Blood Grains Speak Through Memories" is a Nebula Award finalist!

My novelette "Blood Grains Speak Through Memories" is a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette. The novelette was originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and will be reprinted in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2017 Edition, edited by Rich Horton.

My reaction to learning this news: "Really!?! Really!?!" Followed by a stunned and humbled rambling and lots of dancing. I'm also excited to see all the amazing authors who are Nebula finalists this year. There are some excellent stories and novels on the list, so go check them out.

A deep, sincere thanks to BCS editor Scott H. Andrews, who requested the story and gave excellent editorial feedback. And equal thanks to everyone who read and enjoyed the novelette, including all the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America who nominated it for the Nebula.

"Blood Grains Speak Through Memories" can be read online or downloaded in the following formats:

Below are a sample of the reviews "Blood Grains Speak Through Memories" has received.

  • Rocket Stack Rank, which ranks the year's best genre short fiction, calls the novelette Hugo Award worthy and gives it 5 stars. See the complete review for more
  • Rich Horton in the May 2016 Locus Magazine gives the novelette a "recommended" rating and says "It’s cool and strange stuff, almost gothic at times, thought-provoking and honest."
  • Eric Kimminau at Tangent Online calls the novelette a "marvelous piece of work" and adds "It is unlike any story I have ever read and I give it my highest possible recommendation."
  • Maria Haskins writes "Sanford skillfully sets up an intricate, weird, and uniquely imagined world where land-anchors are set against day-fellows (don’t ask, just read), and where memory, family, protecting the land, and finding a place to call home are complex and potentially dangerous things. It’s a story that made me want to read more about the world it conjures."
  • Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews calls the novelette "rather moving" and adds that it's "a fine story and one well worth its fairly substantial weight. Indeed!"
  • Tethyan Books says "With its creative setting and deep emotional stakes, this story was my favorite of the month."
  • Tadiana Jones at Fantasy Literature gives the story 4.5 stars out of 5, says "Jason Sanford has created a unique and compelling world in this novelette ... The characters have complex motivations that are equal to the unusual setting, making this intricate SF tale a delight to unpack."
  • Four stars from Reading Trance. "Imaginative and original, with great characterization.
  • Named to the Tangent Online 2016 Recommended Reading List.