New Books and ARCs, 7/21/17

Jul. 21st, 2017 08:53 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

As we ease on into another summer weekend, here are the new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound this week. What do you like here? Share your feelings in the comments!


[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Here’s Sugar curling up with a good book, in this case the ARC of Don’t Live For Your Obituary, my upcoming collection of essays about writing and the writing life, which comes out in December from Subterranean Press. And you can win it! Here’s how:

Tell me in the comments which Beatles song I am thinking of right now.

That’s it!

The person who correctly guesses which Beatles song I am thinking of wins. In the case where more than one person correctly guesses, I will number the correct guesses in order of appearance and then use a random number generator to select the winner among them.

“Beatles song” in this case means a song recorded by the Beatles, and includes both original songs by the band, and the cover songs they recorded. Solo work does not count. Here’s a list of songs recorded by the Beatles, if you need it. The song I’m thinking of is on it.

Guess only one song. Posts with more than one guess will have only the first song considered. Posts not related to guessing a song will be deleted. Also, only one post per person — additional posts will be deleted.

This contest is open to everyone everywhere in the world, and runs until the comments here automatically shut off (which will be around 3:50pm Eastern time, Sunday, July 23rd). When you post a comment, leave a legit email address in the “email” field so I can contact you. I’ll also announce the winner here on Monday, July 24. I’ll mail the ARC to you, signed (and personalized, if so requested).

Kitten not included.

Also remember you can pre-order the hardcover edition of Obit from Subterranean Press. This is a signed, limited edition — there are only 1,000 being made — and they’ve already had a healthy number of pre-orders. So don’t wait if you want one.

Now: Guess which Beatles song I am thinking of! And good luck!


Agent to the Stars, 20 Years On

Jul. 21st, 2017 06:10 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

So, on July 21, 1997, which was a Monday, I posted the following on the alt.society.generation-x newsgroup:

Thought y’all might like to know. I’m happy, pleased, tired.

96,098 words, cranked out in a little under three months, working
mostly on weekends, grinding out 5,000 words at a sitting.

Learned two things:

a) I *can* carry a story over such a long stretch;

b) like most things on the planet, thinking about doing it is a lot
worse than simply sitting down and doing it. The writing wasn’t hard
to do, you just need to plant ass in seat and go from there.

I did find it helped not to make my first novel a gut-wrenching
personal story, if you know what I mean. Instead I just tried to write
the sort of science fiction story I would like to read. It was fun.

Now I go in to tinker and fine tune. Will soon have it ready for beta
testing. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

That novel? Agent to the Stars. Which means that today is the 20th anniversary of me being a novelist. Being a published novelist would have to wait — I date that to January 1, 2005, the official publication date of Old Man’s War — but in terms of having written a full, complete (and as it eventually turned out, publishable) novel: Today’s the day.

I’ve recounted the story of Agent before but it’s fun to tell, because I think it’s a nice antidote to the “I just had to share the story I’d been dreaming of my whole life” angle first novels often take. The gist of the story was that my 10-year high school reunion was on the horizon, and having been “the writer dude” in my class, I knew I would be asked if I had ever gotten around to writing a novel, and I wanted to be able to say “yes.” Also, I was then in my late 20s and it was time to find out whether I could actually write one or not.

Having decided I was going to write one, I decided to make it easy for myself, mostly by not trying to do all things at once. The goal was simply: Write a novel-length story. The story itself was going to be pretty simple and not personally consequential; it wasn’t going to be a thinly-disguised roman a clef, or something with a serious and/or personal theme. It would involve Hollywood in some way, because I had spent years as a film critic and knew that world well enough to write about it. And as for genre, I was most familiar with mystery/crime fiction and science fiction/fantasy, so I flipped a coin to decide which to do. It come up heads, so science fiction it was, and the story I had for that was: Aliens come and decide to get Hollywood representation.

(I don’t remember the story I was thinking for the mystery version. I’m sure death was involved. And for those about to say “well, you didn’t have to stick with science fiction for your second book,” that’s technically correct, but once I’d written one science fiction novel, I knew I could write science fiction. It was easier to stick with what I knew. And anyway I write murder mysteries now — Lock In and the upcoming Head On. They also happen to be science fiction.)

I remember the writing of Agent being pretty easy, in no small part, I’m sure, because of everything noted above — it wasn’t meant to be weighty or serious or even good, merely novel-length. When I finished it, I do remember thinking something along the lines of “Huh. That wasn’t so bad. Maybe I should have done this earlier.” In the fullness of time, I’ve realized that I probably couldn’t have done it any earlier, I wasn’t focused enough and it helped me to have some sort of external motivation, in this case, my high school reunion.

Once finished, I asked two friends and co-workers at America Online to read the book: Regan Avery and Stephen Bennett, both of whom I knew loved science fiction, and both of whom I knew I could trust to tell me if what I’d written was crap. They both gave it a thumbs up. Then I showed it to Krissy, my wife, who was apprehensive about reading it, since if she hated it she would have to tell me, and would still have to be married to me afterward. When she finished it, the first thing she said to me about it was “Thank Christ it’s good.” Domestic felicity lived for another day.

And then, having written it… I did nothing with it for two years. Because, again, it wasn’t written for any other reason than to see if I could write a novel. It was practice. People other than Regan and Stephen and Krissy finally saw it in 1999 when I decided that the then brand-new Scalzi.com site could use some content, so I put it up here as a “shareware” novel, meaning that if people liked it they could send me a dollar for it through the mail. And people did! Which was nice.

It was finally physically published in 2005, when Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press published a limited hardcover edition. I was jazzed about that, since I wanted a version of the book I could put on my shelf. The cover was done by Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik, who among other things knew of the book because I was one of Penny Arcade’s very first advertisers way back in the day, advertising the Web version of the book (those guys have done okay since then). Then came the Tor paperback edition, and the various foreign editions, and the audiobook, and here we are today.

When I wrote the novel, of course, I had no idea that writing it was the first step toward where I am now. I was working at America Online — and enjoying it! It was a cool place to be in the 90s! — and to the extent I thought I would be writing novels at all, I thought that they would be sideline to my overall writing career, rather than (as it turned out) the main thrust of it. This should be your first indication that science fiction writers in fact cannot predict the future with any accuracy.

I’m very fond of Agent, and think it reads pretty well. I’m also aware that it’s first effort, and also because it was written to be in present time in the 90s, just about out of time in terms of feeling at all contemporary (there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors remaining, to pick just one obvious example in the book). At this point I suggest people consider it as part of an alternate history which branched off from our timeline in 1998 or thereabouts. Occasionally it gets talked about for being picked for TV/film. If that ever happens, expect some extensive plot revisions. Otherwise, it is what it is.

One thing I do like about Agent is that I still have people tell me that it’s their favorite of mine. I like that because I think it’s nice to know that even this very early effort, done simply for the purpose of finding out if I could write a novel, does what I think a novel should: Entertains people and makes them glad they spent their time with it.

I’m also happy it’s the novel that told me I could do this thing, this novel-writing thing, and that I listened to it. The last couple of decades have turned out pretty well for me. I’m excited to see where things go from here.


Today's DailyOM Offerings...

NSFW Jul. 21st, 2017 11:18 am
ariestess: (damien thorn -- from annie)
[personal profile] ariestess
( You're about to view content that the journal owner has advised should be viewed with discretion. )

A couple of requests?

Jul. 21st, 2017 01:22 pm
selenay: (Default)
[personal profile] selenay
It's Friday and Jodie Whittaker is still playing Thirteen. I TOLD YOU I WOULDN'T BE OVER THIS SOON.

Anyway, my requests are teeny tiny ones. Apparently now that I've given up on LJ entirely, I've lost the good icon sources.

Can anyone point me to some Thirteen icons? I know ya'll have them, because I've seen some, so point me that way?

And if anyone has some good Bill icon sources?

Actually, if anyone knows where the Doctor Who icon makers are posting to on DW that would help *so much*.

I have posts I need to write. Posts about England/Worldcon trip plan (less than two weeks, OMG!) and arranging meets, an AMA post, probably MORE Doctor Who thoughts. But right now it's hot and humid and my ridiculous big fluffy cat keeps sitting on me and so my brain is too fuzzed out to make them.
havocthecat: the lady of shalott (Default)
[personal profile] havocthecat
For anyone who might be interested, Pixar has Pixar in a Box on Khan Academy.

It's primarily directed at film writing, but I think it can be used for all types of narrative storytelling. I've been listening to The Art of Storytelling video series.

It starts out with "We are all storytellers," (I'm there still) which I think is an admirable point and has a number of their creators talking about their amateur efforts and how they got started, like Betty and Veronica fashion fanart. :)

It leads to characterization and story structure, and while I don't know that visual language is going to be terribly helpful to us print writers, it might give good ideas for descriptions of scenery to go around dialogue. There are also lessons and activities that you can do, should you choose.

(I can't find closed captions on Khan Academy, though. That's my one quibble thus far.)

One of my favorite pieces of writing advice is still this graphic: Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling.

No, I'm not saying they have to be YOUR rules too. I'm just saying I find the list as a useful set of way to help me go through one of my stories and figure out what's not working and what I need to do to make it work. Or sometimes, for me to just let go and stopy worrying at something, and maybe come back to it later.

Comicon and Ripped Bodice

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:52 pm
[syndicated profile] ilonaandrews_blog_feed

Posted by Ilona

We hope to see you at the Comicon or Ripped Bodice in LA.

Friday

SDCC

5:00 PM – Harper Collins Booth #1029.

Saturday

SDCC

11:00 AM Penguin Booth #1515-G

2:00 PM Panel: World Mythology in Contemporary Fantasy, San Diego Convention Center, 111 Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101 (Room 9)

3:15 PM-4:15PM –  After-panel signing.

Sunday

4:00 PM – Ripped Bodice Signing.
3806 MAIN ST CULVER CITY CA 90232

 

selenay: (Default)
[personal profile] selenay
It's possible I will never reach the point of "enough" with her :-D I've even written a fic. More of an alternate ending to the next Christmas episode, but you know. I have written Thirteen. And One. And Bill. So much fun :-D It'll be posted as soon as it's been edited.

Anyway.

Today I had a (very polite, yay) discussion with someone on Twitter about the potential companion choice. It was sparked by a thing I quoted and RT'd about getting a female companion (and the fact that I want it so much), and the person on Twitter (we'll call him Dave) pushed back about why a male companion is important. I don't think he's entirely right, but he had some reasoned arguments and I can understand his view point.

He's concerned that young boys will be put off by an all-female cast (I disagree there--they're only put off if they're told they should be) and that young boys need a male role model to identify with. I disagree with that, too, but that's coming from a position of always being told that I should be able to identify perfectly well with an opposite-gender hero, thank you, so there's no need for a woman Doctor (or a woman Jedi, or a woman Star Trek captain, or...). Of course, my feelings on this can be easily dismissed as a bit of tit-for-tat going on, which is why I didn't use that argument.

My big concern with casting a male companion as the only companion (note, I have no issue with this in a mixed-gender multiple companions team) is that it would very easy for the companion to end up being seen as the hero/leader/authority figure just because of gender. Ask any woman who has had their less experienced/less senior colleague viewed as "the authority" (i.e. all of us, particularly in technical fields) and you'll know how often it happens and how frustrating it is. I don't want to watch that onscreen every week.

Dave's big concern is that boys need to see a male companion respecting the Doctor and treating her well, but without making him weak or lose authority in front of the young boys. Because boys will turn off if he's a weakling. And...I kind of get where he's coming from, but I also rather gathered from his comments that he and I will never agree on what that looks like. He feels that the male non-Doctor regulars have been poorly-served and one-dimensional. I thought Rory was written well, with complexity, and I enjoyed his role in the TARDIS. Jack is...Jack. We haven't had any other prominent regulars. For Dave, Rory was written as weak and a bit subservient and, er, Jack is queer so he probably doesn't count.

Dave also wanted the male companion to be a little in love with the Doctor, maybe, and still able to show respect without ever being weak or allowing the Doctor to dominate him. As an example to give, Dave wanted to see a relationship like Ten and Rose but with their gender roles reversed.

Which, uh, no. That is definitely *not* a healthy example to give. And something like that would be the opposite of what I think would be good for anyone. I have a feeling Dave and I were watching with very different glasses on. If he wanted to use any example of that dynamic, Nine and Rose might have been better, IMO. But still no.

Having a man as the only companion is a potential mine-field. It would have to be cast very, very carefully (which is why this morning's touting of Kris Marshall as the main contender made me scream and shudder) and the writing would also have to be done very carefully. Frankly, I think it's a balancing act they're going to fail on no matter what they do.

If they write the usual Doctor-companion dynamic, with the Doctor given lead hero/authority status and companion asking questions/pushing plot forward by interacting with aliens-of-the-week/being the cipher for the Doctor's solutions, then a certain group of fans are going to complain because the male companion seems "weak". He's not a good role model for the young boys. Etc.

They'll claim Doctor is an aggressive and over-assertive you know what, even though she's doing exactly what she's always done.

If the writers make those roles close to what that group of fans think of as 'equal', all the women watching will cringe at the way the Doctor is overruled, spoken over, and not listened to until her male companion reframes her plan in his words. We'll be questioning why the Doctor suddenly isn't the hero solving everything with her brain, why it's the companion's solution that saves the day 70% of the time. She won't be the Doctor we recognise.

If the writing is amazing and incredibly clever, they could highlight the way women's contributions are dismissed and their male colleagues are automatically assumed to be in charge. It could challenge that. But it would require some very careful writing and I suspect it would make that first group of fans so uncomfortable that they would make very loud ructions.

Making the solo companion a woman would get past a big chunk of that problem and still give some of the writers a chance to throw shade at the way women are treated in these situations. I loved the way they pointed and poked at racism and white-washing and so on through Bill. I'd love to see them do the same with gender assumptions.

(But as with season ten, it's a theme best used carefully and not every episode, or it gets wearing for everyone.)

(It might also be able to do a bit of heterosexual assumptions highlighting, because I can easily see people moaning about the lack of possibility for companion/Doctor shipping and...dude, femslash exists, okay?)

(Is it shallow that I'd kind of love to see a companion/Doctor combination that I could throw my heart into shipping, for the very first time? I'm slightly confused about this whole thing where the Doctor is suddenly attractive to me. Is this what my friends went through with David Tenant?)

Ahem.

Giving us a TARDIS team of one man and one woman would give us the benefits of both options and, I think, negate a lot of the potential downsides of a solo male companions. Are there still going to be fans crying out because the women are "dominating" the narrative? Absolutely. No matter what happens, they'll shout about that. But the combination would give fans like Dave a male role model to look up to, and it would give the rest of us a hope for a dynamic we can watch and enjoy, without bracing ourselves for something cringe-worthy.

Of course, it all comes down to casting and writing. It always comes down to that. They could cast the perfect combination and kill it with bad writing. They could make casting choices that we all loathe at first and then the writing could prove us wrong.

But I am feeling very wary about the possibility of a solo male companion, and Dave's comments have actually made me more worried about that. For me, it's the one option I really hope they don't go with.

(I'll still watch it if they do, of course. And judge loudly if they get that wrong. And possibly write fic of how the episodes should have gone, if Bill had continued as companion. Doctor Who is the one show I can never stop following.)

The Big Idea: Nat Segaloff

Jul. 20th, 2017 01:34 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

When biographer and historian Nat Segaloff sat down to interview science fiction Grand Master Harlan Ellison for his new book A Lit Fuse, he knew that he was in for a challenge. What surprised him about the process was how much it wasn’t just about Ellison, but also about him.

NAT SEGALOFF:

How do you write something new about someone everybody thinks they already know? A writer who is famous for putting so much of his life into his stories that his fans feel that even his most bizarre work is autobiographical? That was the unspoken challenge in late 2013 when I agreed to write Harlan Ellison’s biography, an adventure that is just now seeing daylight with the publican of A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.

I wrote the book because Harlan wouldn’t. He came close in 2008 when he announced he would write Working Without a Net for “a major publisher,” but he never did. Maybe he figured he’d said enough in his 1700 short stories, essays, and articles he’s published over the last 60 years. It wasn’t as if he was afraid of the truth; he always said he never lies about himself because that way nobody can hold anything against him. That was my challenge.

When we shook hands and I became his biographer, I also became the only person he ever gave permission to quote from his work and take a tour of his life. What I really wanted to do, though, was to explore his mind. What I didn’t expect was that, as I examined his creative process, I would also bare my own.

When you sit down with someone for a conversation, it’s fun; when you sit down with someone for an interview, it’s serious. Harlan has been interviewed countless times and he has always been in control. This time, I was. I had to get him to say stuff that was new, and I had to go beyond where others had stopped.

A Harlan Ellison interview is a performance. He will be quotable, precise, vague, and outrageous. He takes no prisoners. He will run and fetch a comic book, figurine, photograph, or book to illustrate a point, all of which breaks the mood. My job was to get him to sit still and not be “Harlan Ellison” but simply Harlan.

Harlan is one of the few speculative fiction writers (along with Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and a handful of others) who became public figures. Part of this stemmed from the quality of his work but much of it was created by his being, as I kept finding in the clippings, ““fractious,” “famously litigious,” and “argumentative.” Indeed, most of the stories I found during my research could be divided into two categories: “What a wild man Harlan is” and “I alone escaped to tell thee.”

Balderdash. What I discovered was a man who takes his craft seriously and fiercely defends others who labor in the field of words. An attack on them was an attack on him, and an attack on him was not to be deflected but returned in kind. “I don’t mind if you think I’m stupid,” he told one antagonist, “it’s just that I resent it when you talk to me as if I’m stupid.”

Even though I had final cut, I ran whole sections past him to get his reaction. He never flinched. In fact, he challenged me to go deeper. It was almost as if – and don’t take this the wrong way – I was Clarice Starling and he was Hannibal Lecter — the more I asked of Harlan, the more I had to give of myself. Both of us put our blood in the book even though I am the author.

—-

A Lit Fuse: Amazon|NESFA Press

 


havocthecat: the lady of shalott (Default)
[personal profile] havocthecat
ETA: Logged out and gone to sleep. Good night, all!

I'm going to be trying to figure out what city I should be setting my urban fantasy in. (Or at least, what it should be an analogue to, geography-wise.)

I'll be on Discord for a couple of hours, if anyone wants to join me:

https://discord.gg/w9PK3Yg

(This time I'll remember to edit the post to say when I log off Discord!)

Getting Lucky With College Costs

Jul. 19th, 2017 07:02 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

The bill for Athena’s fall semester at Miami University arrived a couple of days ago, and we paid it, and I have some various thoughts about that I want to share.

When I went to college, 30 years ago now, I couldn’t pay for it. I did what the majority of people did then and do now — I cobbled together various sorts of funding from multiple sources. A scholarship here, a Pell grant there, a work study job and loans — and still it wasn’t quite enough when one of my funding sources fumbled the ball pretty badly and I had to ask my grandfather for help (which to be clear, he was happy to provide, with the only provision being that I would write him a letter a month, a request very much in my wheelhouse). I graduated with a fair amount of student debt, rather more than the average amount back in 1991, which was around $8,200. I think I was around 30 when we paid it off.

I don’t regret my college debt — I’m of the opinion that my education was worth what I paid for it and then some — but at the time I didn’t really like having the anxiety of wondering how it was all going to be paid for, and my education being contingent on outside financial forces, over which I had no control. I was lucky I was able to find ways to cover it all. I was also lucky that I got a good job right out of college (in 1991, during a recession), and was always financially solvent afterward. That college debt never became a drag or a worry, as it easily could have been, and which it did become for a number of my friends.

I don’t think scrambling for money or paying down college debt added anything beneficial to my life, however. As much as certain people might make a fetish of having to struggle in one way or another for one’s education, and that struggle having a value in itself, I’m not especially convinced that the current American manner of “struggle” — pricing college education at excessive rates and then requiring students and family to take on significant amounts of debt, effectively transferring decades of capital from the poor, working and middle classes to banks and their (generally wealthy) shareholders — is really such a great way to do that, especially since wages in general have stagnated over the last 40 years, the same period of time in which college tuition costs have skyrocketed, consistently above the rate of inflation. Worrying about college funding and paying off college debt isn’t character-building in any real sense. It’s opportunity cost, time wasted that might be productively spent doing something else educationally or financially beneficial.

So: I don’t regret my college debt, but I don’t think it was something that added value, either, to my education or my life. All things being equal, I suspect I would have been better off not having to worry whether I had enough funding for college any particular quarter, or being able to take the monthly post-collegiate debt payment and use it for something else, including investment. Not just me, of course; I don’t think anyone, students or parents (or colleges, for that matter), benefits from the current patchwork method of college funding, or the decade-long (or longer) hangover of college debt service.

We always assumed Athena would go to college; very early on we began saving and investing with the specific goal of funding her education. Along the way we caught the break of my writing career taking off, which meant the account intended for her education plumped out substantially. By the time it was the moment for Athena to decide where to go to college, we were in the fortunate position of being able to pay for it — all of it — wherever it was she decided to go. So, to go back to the initial paragraph, when that first Miami University bill came up, we were able to cut that check and send it off. No muss, no fuss. We’ll be able to do the same for the other college bills over the next four years.

Which is great for us! And not bad for Athena, who will end her college experience debt-free in a world where the average US student with college debt in 2016 was in the hole for $37,000, with that number only likely to go up from here. But let’s also look at everything that had to happen in order for us to get to that point: We saved early, which was smart of us, but we also had the wherewithal to save, which meant we got lucky that Krissy and I both had work, that in her case her gig included health insurance for all of us and that in my case I was in constant demand as a freelance writer, which, I assure you, is not always the case. We got lucky that the books took off as they did; the odds on that were not great. We were lucky that no one of us got seriously or chronically ill, or that other family crises depleted savings. Athena is an only child; that’s not necessarily lucky, but it definitely was a factor when it came to paying for college. We only have to do this once.

All of which is to say that Athena will be getting out of college debt-free partly because we planned early but mostly because of factors that we had only some control over, and over which she had almost none. She didn’t choose her parents or her circumstances; she got what she got. And in this case, she got lucky.

That’s fine for her. But it’s not a very useful strategy for paying for college. “Get lucky picking your parents” should not be the determining factor for whether you leave college debt-free, leave with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, or can’t afford to go to college at all. Every single one of those circumstances can have a substantial effect on how the rest of one’s economic life will go — and how the economic life of how one’s children will go. There’s a reason why in the United States, home of the “American Dream,” it’s actually pretty difficult to move up the social ladder. Yes, I did it, but I also don’t pretend I didn’t get lucky — a lot — or that my path is easily repeatable. Take it from someone who is living the American Dream: It stays only a dream for most of those dreaming of it.

I’m proud that we can pay for our daughter’s college education. I’m also well aware how many things had to break our way to be at this point, which just as easily could have gone another way. It would be better to live in a world where luck, one way or another, is not a salient, determinative factor for whether one can afford college, or whether one can graduate from college without debt. In fact, that world does exist; just not here in the US. College tuition in most developed countries is substantially less than it is here, including being basically free in places like Germany and France. We could do that here, for state schools at least, if we decided we wanted to.

But we don’t. I know we have our reasons. I just don’t think those reasons are very good.


Pre-packing Day

Jul. 19th, 2017 01:02 pm
[syndicated profile] ilonaandrews_blog_feed

Posted by Ilona

Things to do today:

AMA at r/books. We’ll start answering at 11:00 am, but you can ask questions now.

Do laundry.

Fold laundry.

Figure out how many days for the first leg of the trip.

Pack for West Coast and San Diego Comicon: printed T-shirts and capris and shorts.

Schedule an appointment to do my nails, because they are a disaster and I will be signing, so people will be looking at my hands.

Buy more markers while I’m out.

Activate the travel iPads I bought for us, because the laptop is bloody heavy.

Load the iPads with all of the software we need.

Find time to write somehow.

Identify the knitting pattern and make sure I have the proper yarn and needles to work with on the plane.

Identify which audio books I can listen too on the plane.

Ugh.  Uuuuuugh.

The Big Idea: Cassandra Khaw

Jul. 19th, 2017 12:37 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Identity issues can sometimes be a bear, as the protagonist of Bearly a Lady finds out — in no small part because author Cassandra Khaw experienced something similar in her real life.

CASSANDRA KHAW:

The first time I came out as bisexual to a partner, it was a mess. What was a passably tolerable relationship became a wasteland of conspiratorial winks, elbow nudges, and endless attempts to convince me to have a threesome with someone, anyone, just pick an attractive person of the same gender.

Thing is, I don’t blame him.

Bisexual representation in media is a fraught topic. More often than not, bisexual people are characterized as wild, promiscuous individuals with thrilling sex lives, perpetually ready to jump into bed with whomever they find attractive. (Not necessarily untrue or even wrong, but that’s a conversation for another space.) Consequently, we end up with people like my ex, who begin quivering with lascivious curiosity the moment they so much as hear the hum of that first syllable.

But we are getting better at it. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has one of my favorite bisexual characters of all times: Darryl Whitefeather, a middle-aged divorcee who comes out mid-season and proceeds to have a stunningly healthy relationship with his new boyfriend. (That show has its problems, but I will forever love the writers for making sure the queer couple is the happy one.) And genre writing is even further ahead in that department. Take Kai Ashante Wilson’s work, for example, which remarks on polyamorous queer relationships without even the barest breath of hesitation. After all, in a world of dragons and technical-minded gods, what is there to fear about a man who loves a man and also a woman?

I’m digressing.

With Bearly a Lady, I’m hoping to build on that canon. Zelda McCartney is a complicated character, for all that she might sometimes appear like an airhead. She’s been out for a long time; this isn’t a self-discovery story. Instead, the book, which goes into some dark places between the lines, interrogates the idea of expectations, labels, and toxic relationships.

And that is because she is a werebear in a human world, a woman endlessly bombarded by external forces, all looking to chip at her self-esteem for the sake of a quick buck or someone else’s emotional fulfillment. It’s no surprise that Zelda has only half an idea as to which box she belongs. Honestly, a lot of people don’t figure that out. Especially those raised outside of liberal communities.

I’d know. For the longest time, that was me.

(Except for the werebear part.)

So, that’s one of the Big Ideas behind Bearly a Lady. I wanted my main character to be full of internal conflict, certain in her identity but uncertain of the words that one might use to define oneself. A mess of paradoxes and imperfections glued together by bad sitcoms and ice-cream. I’m hoping that, one day, Bearly a Lady might be part of some bisexual teenager’s library, another piece in the puzzle as they figure out who they are. Maybe, Zelda will be an example of who they hope not to be. Maybe, they’ll see a bit of themselves in her. Who knows? That’s not up to me.

Bearly a Lady might be a queer paranormal rom-com with werebears, vampires, and billionaire fairies galore, but it’s also a look into the life of a queer woman who doesn’t always get it straight.

—-

Bearly a Lady: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Read an excerpt online. Visit the authors site. Follow her on Twitter.


Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Jul. 18th, 2017 07:15 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

It’s not just an old proverb. It’s literally happening across the street from where I live.

And yes, I like it that I write about high-tech futures from a place where it’s not at all unusual to see a Mennonite woman bundling hay using a tractor that’s probably as old as I am, and that the hay will probably go to feed the horses that pull the Amish buggies around here. Welcome to rural Ohio, y’all. We have juxtapositions.


KU Recommendations

Jul. 18th, 2017 05:22 pm
[syndicated profile] ilonaandrews_blog_feed

Posted by Ilona

Reminder: please don’t miss the AMA tomorrow. Everything you ever wanted to ask.

Since we talked about scammers on KU, which make it difficult to find good authors, here are some good KU authors.  No affiliate links on these, so we don’t get anything out of it if you try them.  As always, your mileage may vary, so I would suggest trying them in KU or downloading a sample first.

STARSHIP’S MAGE by Glynn Stewart.

starship's mage coverIn a galaxy tied together by the magic of the elite Jump Magi, Damien Montgomery is a newly graduated member of their number.
With no family or connections to find a ship, he is forced to service on an interstellar freighter known to be hunted by pirates.
When he takes drastic action to save the Blue Jay from their pursuers, he sets in motion a sequence of events beyond his control – and attracts enemies on both sides of the law!

Glynn’s website | Amazon

Paperback: CreateSpace, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Audible

An entertaining space opera. Damien isn’t your usual hero, with bulletproof abs and square chin.  He is short and of slight build, but his ethics set him apart.  Damien does his absolute best to do what’s right and save people in his care, even if he has to stand up to Mage-king of Mars himself.  I own this series and I very much enjoyed it.  I need to restart it actually, since I got interrupted on book #4.

TERMS OF ENLISTMENT  by Marko Kloos

cover of terms of enlistmentThe year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to 2,000 calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service.

Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces of the North American Commonwealth, for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or angry welfare rats with guns.

Terms of Enlistment is available from these sources:

Amazon.com (Kindle, paperback, audio) | Barnes & Noble (Paperback, audio) | Audible (Audio)

“One of the most realistic military Sf books I’ve read.”

Gordon.

This was excellent. Gritty, realistic, awesome military SF. Made me really upset when the hero got wronged. Really enjoyed it. Especially on audio.

DARK HORSE by Michelle Diener

cover of Dark HorseSome secrets carry the weight of the world.

Rose McKenzie may be far from Earth with no way back, but she’s made a powerful ally–a fellow prisoner with whom she’s formed a strong bond. Sazo’s an artificial intelligence. He’s saved her from captivity and torture, but he’s also put her in the middle of a conflict, leaving Rose with her loyalties divided.

Captain Dav Jallan doesn’t know why he and his crew have stumbled across an almost legendary Class 5 battleship, but he’s not going to complain. The only problem is, all its crew are dead, all except for one strange, new alien being.

She calls herself Rose. She seems small and harmless, but less and less about her story is adding up, and Dav has a bad feeling his crew, and maybe even the four planets, are in jeopardy. The Class 5’s owners, the Tecran, look set to start a war to get it back and Dav suspects Rose isn’t the only alien being who survived what happened on the Class 5. And whatever else is out there is playing its own games.

In this race for the truth, he’s going to have to go against his leaders and trust the dark horse.

Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

This one comes highly recommended by RT Magazine, which calls the series “truly exceptional.”  Excellent SF romance.

And that concludes our awesome recommendations. Happy reading.

 

Scammers and Kindle Unlimited

Jul. 18th, 2017 02:20 pm
[syndicated profile] ilonaandrews_blog_feed

Posted by Ilona

Sometimes we’re asked why our books are not in Kindle Unlimited.  Usually we mention two reasons.  One, KU is an exclusive kind of game.  Once you’re in KU, you can’t sell your titles anywhere else, unless you are a BNA (Big Name Author) like Hugh Howey, for example. We want our books to be widely available.

Kindle and a stack of booksTwo, you’re paid a tiny amount.  A 400 page book on Amazon priced at $5.99 would net $4.19 cents to its creator.  The same book in KU would earn $1.60.  At first glance, this might look like an excellent opportunity to promote your work. People can try it for free.  But KU isn’t a good promotional vehicle either.  It’s a subscription service that lets its users borrow and read all the books they want for $9.99.  A lot of people who use it are on a limited income.  They are retirees, college students, and people on tight budgets.  They don’t typically buy books.  In fact, half of KU customers have never bought a book from Amazon, which is one of the reasons Amazon created Prime Reading.

But there is a third reason, which we usually don’t talk about, because it’s an author problem rather than reader problem.  I wasn’t going to mention it, but I saw Grace Draven’s post and I agree with her reasoning that readers have the right to know.

KU system is riddled with scam artists.

There is a lovely article on this by David Gaughran, who lays this our much better than I could, available here.

Amazon claims to be taking the problem seriously, but it isn’t even acting on reports of these assholes breaking in to the very top of the US Kindle Store, so that claim is hard to swallow.

Scammers Break the Kindle Store

I hope you read it.  To this I would add only that if you want to avoid such scammy tactics, look at the sales rank of the book.  If the book has been out for a bit and shot up 2 million points in rank in KU and it has abysmal reviews, it’s probably the product of some dirty finagling.  This post isn’t meant to discourage you from using KU in any way. We subscribe to KU.  We just want you to know when you’re being swindled as a reader because someone is gaming the system.

The Big Idea: Michael F. Haspil

Jul. 18th, 2017 02:18 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Getting older often gives you a perspective that younger people don’t have. But what happens when you’re immortal? What is your perspective then? It’s a question Michael F. Haspil has considered for his debut novel, Graveyard Shift.

MICHAEL F. HASPIL:

As human beings, we tell ourselves fictions to make it easier to cooperate one with one another.

Sometimes, the fiction is noble. We are all equal and entitled to certain inalienable rights. This story only extends to imaginary lines drawn on a representative map, a different sort of fiction. After all, “We” doesn’t apply to “Them”.

Many times, the fiction is merely useful. This color of light means “go” and another color means “stop”. All drivers must drive on this side of the street. Pieces of paper have value and you can use them to barter for goods. When people stop trusting in those fictions, life becomes hazardous and disagreeable.

All too often, the fiction becomes a source of human polarization. The entertainment we criticize, others adore. The sports tribes we deride are idols to others even though we select them more often due to geography than anything else. Their ties are red, ours our blue, so they are immoral. We don’t understand the methods they use to heal; therefore, they are wicked. They have a different melanin content than we do; their lives aren’t worth as much as ours are. Our god is greater than theirs; therefore, they are evil.

It’s all about tribalism and defining the Other. We tell ourselves stories and then believe them to such an extent we can justify any action.

Viewed from the point of view of hypothetical immortals, or beings so long-lived that for all purposes they may as well be, the numbers of those who belong to their tribe shrink over time, until almost everyone they meet is the Other. Of what concern is any subject when humans change their minds or stop caring about them in a week, a month, a century?

Combine that idea with how many atrocities immortals might witness, as they become more and more detached from those fictions we humans tell ourselves. How many died because they followed the wrong leader? How many burned at the stake because of paranoia? How many mass graves? How many genocides? The immortals would tell themselves a new fiction. Humans don’t matter. They all die, some sooner than others.

The trolley problem is an ethical thought exercise. An observer stands near a switch as a runaway trolley bears down the tracks. On the tracks ahead of the trolley, several people are trapped, unable to move and will die when the trolley reaches them. The observer can pull the switch and divert the trolley to another set of tracks. However, an individual standing nearby will die when the trolley diverts. The problem lies in the observer’s choice of whether to kill one person to save many or do nothing and allow many to die.

As the immortals pass down through the centuries, the trolley problem breaks. Viewed on their timescale, what does it matter if everyone on the tracks dies? Their lives are so short, they are as good as dead anyway. Why should immortals trouble themselves with the lives of beings that end in a relative eye blink? Why should human morals matter? Or human laws? It’s not that immortals are more or less ethical than humans. It’s that over their eternal lives they tell themselves different stories. New fictions, humans aren’t equipped to understand.

Taken from the human point of view, these immortals inevitably become the Other. By comparison, our short lives would not afford us a window of understanding. Their decisions and justifications would be alien to us. What do fruit flies comprehend of human machinations?

If we knew of them at all, we would fear them. We would hate them. We would hunt them.

In my novel, Graveyard Shift, some of my heroes are so long-lived they may as well be immortal and so they share part of the problems I’ve described. Added to their condition, they often make the difficult choices of committing a lesser evil to prevent a greater one. It is a slippery slope. How many times can one justify collateral damage in the name of the greater good before one becomes a new source of evil?

In many other stories, my heroes — a vigilante, a vampire, a shapeshifter, a mummy — would be the villains. As Nietzsche warns, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster.” But when beings survive for millennia, becoming a monster, may be inevitable.

My characters aren’t nice people. On a good day, they are indifferent to the plight of the everyman. Often throughout the story, they do unpleasant things and they rationalize what they’ve done by convincing themselves it was a necessary evil to prevent something much worse. Most of the time, that’s true.

This was a bit of a struggle for me. How could I convey the apathy of immortals and still portray them as sympathetic heroes?

It ultimately came down to their motivations. The need for atonement drives many of my characters. They view their immortality and their continued service to humankind as a sort of penance for sins committed past and present.

It wouldn’t take much to flip the script and turn them into the true monsters other perceive them to be. This is what Matheson’s Richard Neville discovers at the conclusion of I Am Legend. Often, determining who is and who isn’t a monster, is solely based on the point of view and the fictions we tell ourselves.

—-

Graveyard Shift: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


And now, in fannish news...

Jul. 18th, 2017 01:37 pm
vaznetti: (god will dance for john)
[personal profile] vaznetti
1. I am pleased about the new Doctor -- as much as I am ever pleased by cast changes on Doctor Who. Normally I spend about half a season not sure about the new Doctor or Companion and then decide that I love them. I will certainly miss Moffat and his addiction to ridiculous time travel shenanigans and Time Lordish female characters, but I expect that Chibnall will be fine, and will bring something new and interesting to the show.

2. I am, as usual at this point in the challenge, eying the [community profile] crossovering tag set and wondering about signing up for it. I haven't yet, but who knows, maybe this will be the year for it! There are certainly many interesting possibilities there. The problem with crossovers is that there are stories I want, but I want them in a very specific way.

3. GAME OF THRONES IS BACK!!! and I am feeling all the love )

4. I am still rereading old XF fic. Thank goodness, there is a lot of it, and a lot of it is still worth reading. I do miss Krycek, that cranky, violent, uncooperative asshole (to quote a friend). He was fun to write. (On which note, self, do not write your Thomas Nightingale/Alex Krycek crossover idea. It is not a good idea. No one will read it.)

5. A crossover people would read: Tony Stark and the Westeros Starks. In New York? In Westeros? There is a lot of good crossover potential in the MCU/ASOIAF thing.

Snippet

Jul. 17th, 2017 10:05 pm
[syndicated profile] ilonaandrews_blog_feed

Posted by Ilona

For Micah 6:8 and his lovely wife.  We all hope for swift and easy recovery.

Luther sighed and picked up the ledger.  “Item number 43.  Logged by Joyce Cunningham.  Description: squished-looking doohickey.  Observed magical effect: Turns stabby.”

Brilliant.

I walked into the circle, removed the lid from the plastic bin, and peered at the contents. A dented sphere about the size of a basketball and made of twisted metal strips lay inside.  They didn’t even bother packing it in the dust.  I thought the plastic bin felt kind of light.

I turned the bin on its side, giving it a little nudge, and the sphere rolled onto the floor.  It didn’t look like anything special.

“Where was this found?”

Luther checked the ledge.  “Unicorn Lane.”

Oh boy. Long and narrow, Unicorn Lane retained power even during tech waves, as if someone drove a colossal dagger through the heart of Atlanta’s former downtown and the wound kept bleeding wild magic.  Anything coming out of there had to be bad.

The sphere lay there, perfectly innocent.

“Right then. Deploy the diagnostic rod,” Luther said.

I retreated to the far edge of the circle, picked up the seven-foot-long metal stick that used to be a pool brush handle, and poked the sphere with it.

Poke.

Poke.

Po—

The sphere’s metal strips unrolled, sprouting metallic thorns that looked like fangs, and lunged at the stick, wrapping around it.  Metal screeched as the thorn-fangs ground at it. Sparks flew.

Luther jumped off his chair, grabbed the nearest emergency crate half-filled with magic dust, and dropped it just outside the circle line.  I swung the stick with the screeching metal thing at the top and forced it into the magic dust.  Luther yanked the other crate and dumped the dust from it onto the metal sphere, burying it. I turned the stick, shaking it back and forth.

“Let go. Let go, you damn thing.”

Suddenly it came free.  I pulled the stick out, and Luther slammed the plastic lid onto the crate and locked it in place.

I exhaled.

Luther squinted at the crate.  “Twenty bucks.”

“Eighty.”

“What?”

“I can sell it for a hundred at least.”

“What possible use could it have?”

“Home defense.”

Luther glared at me.  “You’re going to let this thing out there with the general public?”

“Hey, I’m a merc, remember?  Of the two of us you’re the one with the duty to safeguard said public.  I’m just after the money.  Make me an offer.”

Luther opened his mouth and sneezed.

I froze.  An odd green dust was drifting through the room.

“Luther, are you seeing this?”

He didn’t answer.

“Luther?”

He straightened, his eyes blank behind his glasses.

The curtain of dust floated around him, licked the salt boundary of the circle, and stayed on the other side of it. I’d put a fair amount of power into that ward.  Luther could probably break it, but he would have to pour a lot of magic into it.  He could also simply walk into it, since I made it open to humans, but the dust didn’t like it.

Sarrat rested just under the table, out of my reach.  Getting to my sword meant walking through the dust, which wasn’t a good idea considering Luther’s glassy stare.  Running to the door was out of the question. I couldn’t let it contaminate the rest of the Guild.

Luther didn’t move.  The green dust grew thicker. I could barely see the walls now.  It shrouded the entire room in a soft diaphanous veil. The circle remained clear.

Luther opened his mouth.  A puff of dust broke free from his lips.

“Traitor,” he said, his voice sibilant.

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