SEE ALL THE SHINY HERE!
(Her baby Yondu -- yes, I wrote a fic with a small child version of Yondu in it, HUSH -- is the cutest thing I have ever seen. THE ENORMOUS RED EYES!)
Also, thanks to mific for volunteering to co-mod the comm. :)
I have a little bit of free time this weekend to plan out some introductory activities. And then the next step will be to signal boost the comm. Exciting! *___*
I know it will be a pain to find some variation of "myname" at Gmail, and Google already owns a lot of my life, which I don't love. And oh my god, the maintenance I'd have to do to change everything to a new address. But I use my Yahoo email way too much to curse every time I use it.
Maybe I just need to get rid of my alternate accounts, and then I'd never need to worry about the login page. Hmm.
Anyway, yeah, that's my life. Except I did just get back from Europe (summary: fun time, also exhausting post-back surgery, no more southern Europe in summer). Now I have the mental room to get excited about my next trip to the UK in October! I've never been to Scotland, or to many other places in England except London, so I can't wait. Which means I should buy a plane ticket or something.
I'm about five weeks post-surgery, and everything is mostly fine. The scar tissue is tight and a little tender, which causes vague twinges of pain occasionally. The more irritating thing is the hamstring in my right leg, which has decided to tighten the hell up. I can't stand or walk for long periods, though if I sit down for just a minute or two, it kind of resets and I'm fine until it happens again.
I'm trying to be diligent with exercise, and if it doesn't get better, I see the surgeon again next month, and maybe it will be time for more physical therapy. But the surgery definitely fixed the problem it was meant to fix, and walking for short periods of time is certainly better than not walking at all.
A Publishers Weekly review is, or was (probably still is), considered rather a coup for an aspiring writer. I remember how excited my agent was for my first one; she mailed me a clipping, which should give you an idea how many years ago.
posted by Lois McMaster Bujold on June, 24
I'm sitting here brainstorming community names. Basic names like Art, Artists, Draw, Drawing, Drawings, Drawn are already taken. Anyway, this is the kind of stuff I'm coming up with:
drawpaint, drawnow, drawit, drawthis, idrewthis, idraw, drawnbyhand, drawntoart, readysetdraw, drawingskills, wedraw, groupdraw, drawingtogether, drawingroup, drawyes, drawesome, drawpaintgrow, drawyay, yaydrawing, drawn2art, drawn2fanart, 123draw, quickdraw, lovetodraw, drawsomething, drawingroom, drawmore.
I...kinda like drawmore, wedraw, or drawthis. IDK.
What are you guys partial to? Got any other suggests?
Hey, did you know I’m currently writing a novel? I am! It’s called Head On, and it’s coming out in ten months. Also, it’s not done yet, and the deadline is real soon now. I need to make some real progress on it in the next few weeks or else my editor will give me highly disapproving looks. Which would be no good. My problem is that whenever I make any real progress and take a break to see what’s going on in the news, it looks like this:
And, well. That’s not great for my focus.
The world is not going to stop being like this anytime in the near future, alas, but I still need to get my work done, and soon.
So: From now until the book is done, my plan is to avoid the news as much as possible, and also, to the extent I do see news, to avoid writing about it in any significant detail. Tweets? Maybe. 1,000+ word posts here? Probably not.
Note that I’m going to fail in avoiding the news entirely — I live in the world, and next week I’ll be at Denver Comic Con, which means that at the very least in the airport CNN is going to come at me, and anyway whichever way the Senate plan to murder the ACA falls out, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna know about it. Be that as it may I’m going to make an effort to keep as much of it out of my brain as possible.
Incidentally, yes, just in case you were wondering, this is confirmation that at least one of your favorite writers — me! — finds it hard to get work done in these days of the world being on fire. “The art of the Trump era is going to be so lit!” people have said. Dudes, when you’re worried about friends losing access to health care and American democracy being dug out from below because the general GOP attitude to the immense corruption and bigotry of the Trump administration is “lol, as long as we get to kick the poor,” just to list two things about 2017, the creative process is harder to get into, and stay inside of. I’m not the only one I know who is dealing with this right now.
But the work still needs to get done — and not just for you folks. I like getting caught up in my work. It feels good when the writing is moving along.
So, again: News break.
This doesn’t necessarily mean fewer Whatever posts over the next few weeks, since I’ll have July Big Idea pieces and other posts in the pipeline. It does mean the posts that show up probably won’t touch much on world/national news or politics.
I mean, I hope they won’t. But I also know this is a thing, especially with me:
So. I will try to be strong.
Also, when the book is done, oh, how I shall opine.
In the meantime, I don’t suspect you will have difficulty finding other opinions on news and political events. It’s called “the Internet.” You may have heard of it.
If you’re a fan of the Midnight Star video games I helped create, here’s something fun for you: John Shirley, legendary writer and lyricist, has written “Purgatorio,” a serialized story set in the Midnight Star universe. He’s written it for Bound, a new company (and iOS app) specializing in serialized fiction. Which is pretty cool.
And, it’s the first time someone’s done media tie-in work for a universe I helped to create. Which is also pretty damn cool, if you ask me.
Here’s the post on Bound’s site talking about the story. If you have an iOS device you can also download the app there.
Friday is almost finished with this first draft…
- Dogs acting weird
- Glass blowing/glass art video compilation (I find this stuff ridiculously soothing to watch.)
- Redditors design the worst volume sliders possible (The curling one made me laugh)
Big Ideas are great for a book (I mean, that’s kind of the whole point of the “Big Idea” pieces). But as Laura Lam explains about her novel Shattered Minds, sometimes the Big Idea is just the jumping off point.
Sometimes you get the big idea for the story. Sometimes that’s not enough, even when you’ve written the damn thing.
My first idea excited me and got that fire of creativity going. I wanted to play with the Dexter notion—the serial killer who feels conflicted about it. A character who loves killing in rather inventive ways, who thrives off violence, but has enough of a glimmer of a conscious to want to change. A serial killer who doesn’t want to kill innocents is sort of like a vampire who doesn’t want to drink human blood—can they suppress that thirst or will they succumb? We as humans love staring into that darkness. It’s why we read about serial killers, about mythological creatures who prey on humans, or it’s why we watch horror. Carina, the protagonist of Shattered Minds, is a serial killer who becomes deliberately addicted to a dream drug called Zeal so she’s only killing people in her imagination.
The first big idea: serial killer lost in dream drugs. I knew this book would be more violent than my other work and have some cool, trippy dream sequences. I also wanted to build on the world I created in False Hearts, which came out last year (the Pacifica novels are a series of standalones set on the West Coast of the formerly United States). This book is set in Los Angeles instead of San Francisco. The series blends psychological thriller and near future tech, with a big nod at 80s and 90s cyberpunk. Shattered Minds has hover cars, floating skyscrapers and mansions, bright moving ads against the sides of buildings. People can change their appearance at will thanks to flesh parlours. Moving tattoos are etched on their skin, and their eyes might glimmer in the dark from extra implants. Pacifica is a shiny ecotopia that’s an ugly dystopia once you scratch the surface.
I wrote Shattered Minds, and the plot worked, for the most part. Carina scared me, but not quite as much as the villain, Roz (if you watch Orphan Black, Rachel is a big inspiration for her). I did a lot of research on serial killers, especially female ones, and neuroscience, hacking, corporate espionage, and more. But something was missing. All the pieces were there, made sense, but it was just . . . lacking. The puzzle pieces had the right images but they weren’t slotting together. And that was terrifying. This was going to be my fifth published book. Shouldn’t I have a better handle on this by now? I’d put in all this work, and I could tell something was wrong. This is where good editors are worth their weight in gold. Together, we found the second big idea to bring the project back to life.
It became a Frankenstein retelling. I struck the thing with lightning, basically (har, har). In the first draft, Carina was a serial killer just because . . . she was. There wasn’t much explanation or reason. No purpose (to use the most overused word said in lectures on the MA in Creative Writing I help teach at Napier in Edinburgh). In the next draft, Roz experimented on Carina when she was a teen, reprogramming her brain to be cool and collected—the perfect unbiased scientist, unbothered by things like empathy or ethics. (Note: this isn’t a spoiler—you find all this out in chapter three after the third murder in a row). However, Roz’s experiment went wrong. Carina started feeling things again, with the side effect of her also wanting to kill everything around her. Now Roz has a much stronger reason to want to take down Carina rather than just greed. Carina is the broken experiment that much be eradicated. The one who got under her skin. The one she couldn’t let go.
The next draft just worked. I loved editing Shattered Minds as much as I had hated writing the first draft. Scenes slotted into place, Carina and Roz finally worked, circling each other like sharks. It was glorious fun to make my dark, bloody book even darker and more twisted.
Sometimes, maybe a book needs more than one big idea. More than just “what if” question. Maybe something is missing in the first draft and you just need to add a little lightning to revitalise the corpse.
Fandom: Pod Save America (RPF)
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Jon Favreau/Jon Lovett
Characters: Jon Lovett, Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Pundit (Pod Save America RPF), Leo (Pod Save America RPF)
Additional Tags: First Time, Friends to Lovers, Fuckbuddies, Jon POV Character is Lovett
Jon doesn't want to talk about it, Favs doesn't know what he's talking about, and Tommy would like everyone to shut the fuck up.
( emotion in fic )
I find the process of learning this new skill fascinating, if you can't tell, and will happily chat about it for hours. So let me know if you have any comments or further suggestions!
- Boy, this was just peak Hugh Grant.
- They're lucky they had Hugh Grant, because the character's actually a pretty terrible person.
- Andie Macdowell. Yeeeeah.
- I started out mentally substituting Amy Adams for her. Then I decided to substitute Haley Atwell, even though it made no sense, with the character being American. Then I decided to substitute no one, because she is also an awful character.
- The movie really shows its age with the Simon Callow/John Hannah relationship. No one ever says the word "gay", they never kiss, and John Hannah is introduced at the funeral as "his closest friend."
- I almost wish for Kirsten Scott Thomas' character to end up with Hugh Grant, except not, because as noted above, terrible.
Senate Republicans have finally released what appears to be the draft text of H.R. 1628, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.”
It’s 142 pages, and to be honest, I’m having a hard time deciphering it all. (Not a lawyer or a legislator.) But here are some things that stood out at me…
Elimination of the individual and employer mandate. (Pages 10-11)
Tax repeals on medications, health insurance, health savings accounts, etc. (Pages 25-29)
This includes the “Repeal of Tanning Tax” on page 29.
The continuing attack on abortion rights.
“Disallowance of small employer health insurance credit for plan which includes coverage for abortion.” (Pages 8-9)
“No Federal funds provided from a program referred to in this subsection that is considered direct spending for any year may be made available to a State for payments to a prohibited entity,” which is then defined as an entity providing abortion services except in cases of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger. (Page 35)
According to a USA Today analysis, this bill would:
- Reduce or eliminate most subsidies for individuals and families
- “Eliminate the ACA’s requirement that insurers can’t charge older customers more than three times what younger customers pay for the same coverage. Instead, those in their 60s could be charged five times as much, or more.”
- Eliminate penalties to large employers who choose not to offer health insurance. (Elimination of the employer mandate.)
- Make it easier to drop coverage for things like maternity care and mental health issues.
CNN points out that the bill would also:
- Defund Planned Parenthood for a year.
- Require coverage of preexisting conditions. However, it also lets states “waive the federal mandate on what insurers must cover… This would allow insurers to offer less comprehensive policies, so those with pre-existing conditions may not have all of their treatments covered.”
A PBS article says the bill would:
- Cap and reduce Medicaid funding, and allow states to add a work requirement for “able-bodied” recipients of Medicaid.
- Provide $2 billion to help states fight opioid addiction
- It preserves health care for people with preexisting conditions (with the potential exceptions noted in the CNN bullets, above), and allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance plan through age 26.
- It expands health care savings accounts.
- It provides a short-term stabilization fund to help struggling insurance markets.
The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release their report on the senate bill next week. The CBO estimated that the House-passed bill would result in 26 million fewer insured Americans by 2026, and would cut the budget by $119 billion over the same time. (Source)
Nothing here is particularly shocking. I’m glad I and my family can’t be kicked off our insurance for our various preexisting conditions…though some of those conditions might no longer be covered, which sucks. It would hurt the poor, the elderly, women, and the mentally ill, among others. None of my readers will be shocked to hear that I think this is another step backward. The ACA was far from perfect — it’s like a patient with a broken leg, but instead of trying to fix the broken leg, we’ll just throw them through a woodchipper, because hey, it’s cheaper!
It looks like this may be a tight vote, which would make this an excellent time to call your Senator.
Please keep any comments civil. I’m angry about this too, but I don’t have the time or the spoons to moderate fights and nastiness today. (Which probably means I shouldn’t have posted this in the first place, but I never claimed to be that bright…)
First, my initial thoughts, as rendered on Twitter.
Now, let me talk a little bit more about the part where I say “rich people don’t miss their taxes,” since I think there are people who may be reasonably skeptical about this. Warning: I’m going to talk about my money. Then I’m going to talk about other people’s money.
To begin: I pay taxes on a quarterly basis, because I’m self-employed and the IRS, alas not entirely unreasonably, questions whether self-employed people will keep track of their money for a full year in order to pay off one big tax bill. So every quarter, I pay taxes. And in each of those quarterly tax payments, I pay in taxes roughly what I grossed (and definitely more than I netted) in income from the entire four-and-half years of my first job out of college, working for a newspaper. Add up my yearly tax bill, and it’s close to what I grossed my first ten years of being a professional writer — and there was never a time in there I didn’t do okay; it was a solid continuous progression up the middle-class income ladder.
So these days, whenever I see how much I pay in taxes annually, my first thought is always something like HOLY CRAP that’s a lot of money. I could totally use that! As someone who grew up poor and has worked his way steadily up the income ladder, it’s a freakin’ huge amount in terms of the raw dollars.
And then I pay my taxes and I discover that anything I would have used that ridiculous wad of tax money for, I still have enough in my net income for. I literally cannot think of a thing I want — or need — that my post-tax income can’t handle. Because as it happens, even with federal, state and local taxes, my tax burden is reasonable. I don’t pay taxes in 1980, when the highest marginal federal income tax rate was 70%; I pay taxes in 2017, where top federal tax bracket maxes out at just under 40%. With state and local taxes, I have to break a sweat to have a total top marginal tax rate of 50% — and my real world taxes indebtedness doesn’t come anywhere near half my income, because of how marginal tax rates work and because like lots of people in my position I have a very smart accountant who finds me lots of deductions.
So even with literally the full (pre-deduction) tax burden someone in Ohio can pay — we max out all the marginal rates — there is more than enough left over for pretty much anything that we want to do, individually, as a couple or as a family. We save a lot, invest a bunch, and thus take that money out of the short-term income pool we use for bills, household spending and, uh, “consumer activity,” and we’re still just fine, thanks. I suppose it’s possible that we could spend so much of our post-tax income that we’re left with little or nothing and thus would wish we had some of the money that we paid in taxes back into our hands, but speaking from experience, this takes effort, and some willful stupidity about your money. Yes, I’m looking at you, Nick Cage and Johnny Depp. But if you’re not the sort of person who spends $30,000 a month on wine, you’re probably going to be fine.
We do just fine. The other people I know who have similar or better incomes than we have also do just fine. The ones I know with substantially better incomes than we have are also doing just fine. No one at my income level or better actively misses the money they spend on taxes, because they’re still rich after they pay taxes.
Would I like to pay less in taxes? When I look at the raw number of dollars I send to the IRS, sure. When I think about the actual impact on my day-to-day life having that money would make, versus the actual and positive impact on the day-to-day life of millions of other people, when people like me pay our taxes? Nope. I have certain (in more than one sense of that word) opinions about how those taxes I pay in should be used, and whether they are being used effectively, and whether I’m getting value for what I pay, to be sure. Those are different issues, however.
Cratering health care for millions in the United States (and crippling Medicaid in the bargain) in order to give people like me a tax cut means that we are taking something from people who need it, often desperately, to give something to people who don’t need it and may not even notice it in any substantial way. In the House version of this legislation, you have to make more than $200k to get any tax benefit from it; people with incomes between $200k and $500k a year would get a tax break of $510 on average. $510 is not a lot to get in return for asking millions of other Americans to be potentially priced out of health coverage, have lifetime insurance caps reinstituted, be denied for pre-existing conditions, get sicker and die earlier. And the roughly 95% of Americans who don’t make $200,000 a year won’t even get that.
Rich people don’t need any more tax cuts. They’re doing just fine. They will continue to do just fine. And no, their tax burden isn’t onerous. Trust me, I know. I live that tax burden daily. It doesn’t hurt. What does hurt is knowing that people I know and care for will likely die sooner and sicker than they should just so someone like me gets back a few more dollars they won’t notice. Don’t come at me with “but the rich earned those dollars.” Dude, I earned my dollars, too. I earned them in a country that helped me get where I am in part through taxes. I earned them understanding that getting rich came with an obligation to the society I live in and benefit from, an obligation discharged, in part, by paying a perfectly reasonable amount of taxes.
The motto of the United States is not, in fact, “Fuck you, I got mine.” It was, and should have remained, “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one. We’re all Americans. We all deserve the blessings this country can provide. This one is willing to pay his taxes for the benefit of the many.
CURTIS C. CHEN:
It is very likely that I set Kangaroo Too on the moon because of The Fifth Element.
In that movie, there’s a throwaway line of dialogue when Korben Dallas’ mother telephones him and complains that he never visits her on the moon. I had totally forgotten this until I went to see a 20th anniversary screening this year (yes, we really are that old), but it must have been stewing in my subconscious all that time.
Because why wouldn’t you put a retirement community on the moon? Gravity there is only one-sixth of Earth’s, so elders with mobility issues will find it easier to get around. Every habitat needs to be pressurized and climate-controlled anyway, so it can be as tropical as residents want. The only downside is that your family will have even more excuses for not visiting. Q.E.D.
Using the moon as a setting also let me put characters in a wider variety of awkward situations. Most of the first novel took place in a single location—a cruise spaceship traveling from Earth to Mars—but each hemisphere of the moon is roughly as wide across as the entire continental United States. Add a futuristic high-speed subway connecting population centers, and a reckless secret agent can get into plenty of trouble all over the place.
One lunar feature I latched onto early in my research was a “crater of eternal darkness.” The moon is tidally locked to the Earth (i.e., one hemisphere always faces toward us), and there are places along the day/night terminator that either always or never see sunlight. If you want continuous free electricity to power a transportation network, put solar panels on mountaintops near the north pole; if you want to keep something hidden, bury it under the deepest crater at the south pole.
And, of course, I had to include visits to at least a couple of Apollo landing sites, which are preserved as historical museums in this future. I’m sure the same thing will happen in reality. As soon as people can affordably travel to other planets, there’s going to be a booming space tourism industry. Everybody wants to stand on the Lunar surface, see the Earth rise over the horizon, and cover that blue marble with their thumb.
But back to aging on the moon. NASA recently conducted a Twins Study in which they followed identical twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly for one year, while Scott lived aboard the International Space Station and Mark remained on Earth. The final report isn’t out yet, but researchers are already seeing unexpected results (e.g., telomere lengthening) which raise many interesting questions. It seems possible that humans could naturally live longer in low gravity environments.
Of course, the most important scientific question raised in Kangaroo Too is: could we actually keep chickens on the moon, and therefore have fresh eggs? The only way to know for sure is to establish a Lunar base and start breeding livestock up there. Make me a liar, Fish!
I’m getting a smidgen better at taking pictures of these little glowy dudes. The secret, which is not a secret at all, is long exposures on steady platforms, and low ISO settings so you don’t blow out the picture. This one, which is actually a detail of a larger photo, is a 20 second exposure at ISO 250 at late dusk (close to 10 pm here because it was literally the night before the solstice), so the sky was darker than it is here. I used the birdbath in the front yard as a platform.
I was focused on the fireflies but as you can see a little here, and rather better in the photo linked above, I caught some stars in there too, as well as twenty seconds of their movement across the sky, which was apparently just long enough to catch some streaking. I think this is pretty cool.
I’ll probably post one or two more firefly photos before the season is done. I think they’re pretty.
I have also acquired an h/c bingo card! This is round 8, which means it's been going on for 8 years (omfg!). And I've been doing it almost every year. I think there was a year in there I didn't do it, and there have definitely been years I haven't completed a bingo (and one year I blacked out my card - though admittedly it took me 'til the amnesty period to do it), but in general, I really look forward to getting each year's card. So here is this year's.
( 2017 h/c bingo card )
2. The wind chime hanging there.
3. The herb garden in a window box there.
4. The pretty string of solar-powered LED lights I just festooned there, to bring sparkle to the long evenings.
5. Sunshine, blue sky, sweet breeze, greenery all around.
Remarkable Creatures is the fictionalized story of two real-life people, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, who were fossil hunters in Lyme Regis in England back when we were just starting to like, figure dinosaurs out. It follows their relationship, and their struggles to be seen as legitimate contributors to the scientific record, for several years.
I didn’t actually know the account was based in real life until after I’d finished reading, which did ameliorate some of my disappointment with the book, because it’s hard to make a climactic narrative out of peoples’ real lives – reality just doesn’t flow as smoothly as fiction. But I won’t lie: I am still pretty disappointed that Elizabeth and Mary didn’t end up together. I thought that was totally where we were heading.
Mind you, the story of their friendship is compelling, and Chevalier did find a way to create rising action within the story, even though as she put it in the afterword, Mary Anning basically did the same thing every day for years, in terms of hunting fossils.
As an account of fossil hunting, of the religious wrestling that people had to do with the concept of extinction, and of the way women were treated in the era, it’s a really great book. And it’s also a fast read, which I’ve come to expect from Chevalier. And honestly, this is the first book of hers I’ve read where the female leads don’t get married, though this is in part because the real-life Mary and Elizabeth didn’t either.
But it still feels like Chevalier’s books are always about women settling. It’s the same problem – I know that’s what women have had to do, and I’m sure she does it intentionally at least in part to remind us of that fact. I just want more for these heroines.
But if you’re interested in paleontology, Do Recommend, it’s a good book. Less frustrating than The Last Runaway, certainly, and the characters feel more compelling, more three-dimensional, than some of those in Girl With A Pearl Earring.
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2rR0LC8
For The Last Good Man, author Linda Nagata decided to take a risk with one of her characters, who is not the usual sort for the literary milieu Nagata has her story inhabit. Who is this character? And what were the repercussions of that risk?
For most of my career, I’ve written novels based only on what was intensely interesting to me at the time. In the early days it was nanotechnology, cryonics, the vastness and wonder of space, biotech, and artificial worlds. My settings would regularly shift between near future and far.
And then, abruptly, I abandoned science fiction and took a turn into pure fantasy.
“With magic?” one hard SF writer asked me in dismay.
So much for author branding. Clearly, market savvy was not part of my process.
But older and wiser, right?
Not exactly. I made another abrupt turn and dove into military science fiction with the Red trilogy—high-tech thrillers published by Saga Press in 2015. The books were well-reviewed. The first volume was a Nebula-award nominee and named as a Publishers Weekly best book.
It seemed logical to follow up on that seeming success so I resolved that for the first time I would approach my next book with a little market savvy. I would write another military-themed story, again with a near-future, high-tech setting. That way, I told myself, I’d have a better chance of holding on to the readers I’d gained with the trilogy because I’d be giving them something similar-but-different.
Next, it occurred to me that if I set the new book even closer to the present time, I might have a chance of pushing beyond the science fiction genre and making inroads into the military thriller market.
Hey, we can all dream.
The Red trilogy was written around a unit of US Army soldiers. Following that similar-but-different philosophy, I decided the new novel would involve a private military company, because that would allow for more freedom with the plot.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, this all still makes sense to me. But in selecting my protagonist, I embarked on a major gamble.
My version of brainstorming is to engage in swiftly typed stream-of-consciousness question-and-answer sessions. It’s the best way I know to develop ideas. I was brainstorming the possible identity of my main protagonist when I typed this:
Hey. Maybe she’s middle aged. (How to kill a novel in one bad move.)
Generally speaking, middle-aged women are not considered to be cool main characters of the sort that commonly inhabit techno-thrillers. So this was a perfect example of the creative and logical parts of my mind contending with one another. The logical part immediately recognized the risk, but the obstinate, defiant, creative part turned out to be in charge. Later on, in the same session, I typed:
Man, I like the retired-army-woman character.
I liked her—at that stage it was just the idea of her—because she was an atypical protagonist for the sort of book I wanted to write.
On Twitter there has often been talk of how middle-aged women don’t exist in science fiction. That’s an exaggeration, of course. Looking back at my own work, the protagonist of the second novel I ever had published was a woman of “mature years.” Still. I felt as if a gauntlet had been thrown down and I wanted to pick it up, accept the challenge, and write a riveting but realistic story about a can-do, older woman. I knew it was a market risk. Nevertheless, I thought I might persuade at least a few readers to go along with me, and besides, it’s fun to kick clichés to the side of the road.
So my “retired-army-woman character” stayed, becoming the Big Idea behind The Last Good Man.
Of course there is a lot more going on in this novel. The Last Good Man is a fast-paced, high-tech, military thriller that deals with autonomous weapons, big data, A.I., surveillance, remote warfare—and their effects on human relationships. But from the first day that the story truly started to take shape, I knew it would be centered on a woman. Specifically, True Brighton, retired US Army soldier, former helicopter pilot with frontline experience, a forty-nine-year-old mother of three who’s been happily married for three decades, and who is not at all ready to retire.
True works for a private military company and despite her husband’s misgivings, she is a valued part of the company’s hostage rescue team. She’s also realistic about the limits that aging will place on her. I’m reasonably athletic, so it was fun to foreshadow those limits, working from my own experience.
Middle age is an interesting time. There can be more freedom as children reach adulthood, but there is also a sense that time is getting short and that old age with all its limitations is just around the corner.
True feels the pressure of time, and she also carries an extra burden. She is haunted by the death of her oldest son, a soldier too, who was brutally killed in the line of duty. When a chance discovery during a hostage rescue mission indicates there is more to his death than she’s been told, a mother’s resolve comes over her to uncover the truth, regardless of the cost.
This was a challenging novel to write, I think in part because deep down, I doubted the marketability of it from the start. Somewhere along the way though, it became a novel I needed to write.
Still, my doubts were not misplaced. New York publishing houses didn’t know what to make of it. No one said specifically, Middle-aged mom? No way! But it was implied that marketing The Last Good Man would be a challenge that no one quite knew how to handle.
So The Last Good Man went out under my own imprint—and I’ll admit to sweet satisfaction when it earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
I hope you’ll give it a try. After all, it’s readers who ultimately decide if a Big Idea is “market savvy.”
( Pictures under the cut )
It's Alright (To Be Little Bitty) (10217 words) by Dira Sudis
Fandom: Captain America (Movies), Marvel Cinematic Universe
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: James "Bucky" Barnes/Steve Rogers
Characters: James "Bucky" Barnes, Steve Rogers
Additional Tags: Age Play, Daddy Kink, sexual age play, Dissociation, Internalized Kink Shaming, Cuddling & Snuggling, Bedtime Stories, Hair Braiding, Light Feminization, Hurt/Comfort
Series: Part 2 of Little Bitty
Bucky and Steve have a good morning; Jemmie and Daddy have a good night.
I mean, I was happy to give Entertainment Weekly an exclusive for a day, but now this cover needs to here at home.
Also, I really like it. Credit to Irene Gallo, Tor’s art director, and Peter Lutjen, the cover designer (he also did the design for Redshirts and Lock In). Tor always does right by me in terms of covers, and this is no exception.
On LJ, I loved being part of drawmelot, a community for traditional artists in the Merlin fandom. I especially always enjoyed their collaborative projects, eg. Tarot cards, Zodiac signs, Celtic animals.
I was wondering if there's anything like that out there on DW, fandom-specific or multi-fandom? And if not, would any other fan-artists be interesting in using such a comm?
Anyone wanna help me get something like that started?
“We’re so conditioned to believe that white is the default that we write ourselves out of the worlds that we create.”
Dawn Xiana Moon is one of the contributors to Invisible 3, which comes out on June 27 and includes 18 essays and poems about representation in science fiction and fantasy. You can preorder the collection at:
(It will be available for Nook as well, but we don’t have that link yet.)
Any profits from the sale of the collection go to Con or Bust, helping fans of color to attend SF/F conventions.
As with Invisible and Invisible 2, the contributors to this third volume have shared work that’s heartfelt, eye-opening, honest, thoughtful, and important…not to mention relevant to so much of what we see happening in the genre today.
Of Asian-Americans and Bellydancing Wookiees, by Dawn Xiana Moon
We have always existed.
In the early days of the internet, back when we were on Prodigy or CompuServe and email addresses were long strings of numbers with a comma in between, I was answering distress calls on derelict starships. America Online (because it wasn’t yet AOL) launched an ad campaign that envisioned an internet with graphics; I dodged Borg at Warp Six. I outsmarted Q when he appeared on my bridge, launched photon torpedoes at Romulans, and flirted with fellow Starfleet officers in Ten Forward. I was thirteen. And like a good overachiever, I wondered if I could list being second-in-command of the CompuServe sim group Fleet 74 on lists of my activities and accomplishments, right next to years of piano lessons, parts in theatre productions, dancing and singing in the community show choir, and the environmental and video game clubs I’d started (and of course led as president).
My father is an aerospace engineer; by the time we moved from Singapore to the US, I was five years old and already lived in a world where discussing wrap drive was normal. My AP Biology teacher was shocked when I mentioned a singularity in class one day, surprised that a high school senior would know the term (which she made me define in front of the class before she was satisfied), but I’d been raised on a steady diet of Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, and every science fiction and fantasy novel I could get my hands on—my father handed me Isaac Asimov books in elementary school and I read them, wondering why I didn’t have a robot nanny or automatic food-making gadgets. I am a native speaker of technobabble.
All that to say: I’ve always been a nerd. And proudly so. But growing up I rarely saw people that looked like me onscreen—sure, we had Sulu, but George Takei was closer to my grandparents’ age than mine. Asian characters were few and far between, and girls? Girls didn’t like Vulcans or computers. Girls especially didn’t like dancing and princesses and talking about the space-time continuum all at the same time. Or so I was told.
But I was Asian. And female. And I existed.
I was the girl who hung out at the arcade playing Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, first surprising boys who saw a girl in front of a fighting game, then shocking them when I won. I was the foreigner who walked into first grade in the middle of the school year, a Chinese kid from another country but a native speaker of English. I was the founding member of the high school forensics team who learned quickly that judges gave higher ratings to performances of minority stories by minority students than they did mainstream stories by minority students—so while the handful of black students I competed against performed passages from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, I lent dramatic flair to Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club. I often won.
And now? I’m the bellydancer, firespinner, singer-songwriter, and nerd who designs and codes websites. I obsess with sparkles and sequins and makeup and then wrestle with merge conflicts in GitHub. I flirt with audiences and shimmy to Balkan brass bands and then debate backstage whether Daleks or Cylons would win in a fight. I sing 19th century French poetry layered on piano parts in 7/8 time inspired by traditional Chinese folk music, Americana, and jazz. I break stereotypes into tiny pieces and eat them like candy. I exist.
Growing up, the few Asians I saw in media invariably fell into tropes: the martial arts master, the submissive woman, the uber-nerd/scientist, the Dragon Lady seductress. None of these matched my personality. While I was able to beg my way into flute and voice lessons—in addition to piano—my father refused to let me study tae kwon do on the grounds that it would be “like handing a kid a loaded gun and telling him not to use it.” People told me I was bossy—my heroes were characters like Princess Leia and Babylon 5’s Delenn, forces of personality who were fully themselves and didn’t need rescuing. I was more Captain Kirk than Yeoman Rand. I was a geek, but I had far more interest in music and dance than I did in math or chemistry; science interested me primarily as story. And I had no idea what it would mean to be seductive—my conservative evangelical church preached “modesty,” and Bible camp banned spaghetti strap tank tops, two-piece swimsuits, and short shorts on the grounds that they would evoke lust in the boys.
I didn’t exist.
I grew up around Americans who discussed race in black and white terms, expressing couched racism with the assumed understanding that I was one of them. Those were the same Americans who complimented my English, told me my face was flat, and pontificated about how eating Chinese food was great except that you were hungry again immediately afterward. After the last election, CNN disseminated a chart of votes with breakdowns by both race and gender: Black men voted this way, black women this way, Hispanic men and women these ways. Asian-Americans didn’t appear on the chart—we were literally “Other.”
As an Asian-American theatre major, so often I was cast as that literal Other: I spent two summers performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in college. The first year, I was one of the fairies. So were most of the black students. The one who wasn’t a fairy was cast as Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons. The second year, we reprised the show; I was cast as Hippolyta. All of the black students were fairies. The Greeks and lovers were uniformly white.
How often do we cast an Asian-American as the protagonist, the superhero whose origin story we follow? How often do we allow an Asian-American to lead a movie as a swashbuckling rogue, the resistance fighter who marries a princess along the way, the rockstar with thousands of screaming fans? Hollywood casts Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell, Mackenzie Davis as Mindy Park in The Martian—with so few roles available to begin with, we’re often denied even characters who should look like us. We’re over 5% of the US population, but only 1.4% of the lead characters in studio films released in 2014. According to Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, the majority of media features zero named or speaking Asian characters. Zero.
Two years ago I attended a curated acoustic music showcase where every single one of the musicians was a white guy with a bushy beard. Most of them wore plaid. Producers often think of diversity in terms of instrumentation or musical style; I’ve released two albums of original music, toured 10 states, and performed hundreds of shows, but it’s rare to see another folk singer-songwriter of color. While the genre is dominated by white people, Asian-Americans are making this music. And making it well. We exist, but we’re not part of the narrative.
Living in a world where people who look like you are functionally non-existent yields odd fruit. As an ambitious elementary school kid, I wrote (what I considered then) a novel. Starring ninjas. Based heavily on the Ninja Gaiden video game. Of course I Mary Sued my way into the story. But I always envisioned my surrogate as white. And male. (Because, we’re told, the appropriate protagonist of an adventure story is white. And male.) Likewise, when I wrote other stories, every character—heroes, villains, NPCs—was white.
Bryan Lee O’Malley of Scott Pilgrim fame talks about how he never realized that he’d whitewashed himself out of his own story until seeing his comic in movie form and realizing that no one looked like him. As I’ve talked with other Asian-Americans, I’ve realized that I wasn’t the only one—many of us did the same thing. Even the excellent Ted Chiang—one of my favorite writers, and the first Asian-American I can recall encountering in science fiction—falls into this. We’re so conditioned to believe that white is the default that we write ourselves out of the worlds that we create.
I refuse to be invisible.
Faced with a culture that minimizes the existence of Asian-Americans in the arts, I’ve long created my own projects. In 2012, I founded Raks Geek, joining my love of geekdom and dance to form a nerd-themed bellydance and fire performance company that features a primarily Asian and LGBTQIA cast. While our society pigeonholes Asians as socially-awkward scientists, perpetual foreigners, and weak submissives, I’m determined to show Asians can be creative, tough, and unconventional.
“To dance is a radical act.”*
A body on a stage makes a statement. A female, POC body on a stage makes a statement. When I dance, I’m changing the narrative, the story of what an Asian-American woman is allowed to be. When I dance with Raks Geek, I’m making an audience laugh at the ridiculousness of a Wookiee shimmying, but I’m also bringing a new audience to an insular dance form, teaching them what bellydance looks like at a high level of technical and artistic proficiency, and defying a host of model minority and immigrant stereotypes.
Visibility matters. Few would conceive of an Asian-American bellydancer performing as a Wookiee. Or Mystique. Or the TARDIS. But I do, and I hope to challenge perceptions of who we are and can be every time. We exist, and we have always been here.
* “To dance is a radical act because doing so implies that there are forms of knowing that cannot be mediated to us in words, which give words their meaning.” -Kimerer LaMothe
Dawn Xiana Moon is a lifelong geek that has worked professionally in almost every area of the arts. She the Founder and Producer/Director of Raks Geek, a nerd-themed bellydance and fire company that’s garnered acclaim from WGN-TV, MSN, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Mail, and UK Channel 4 TV. As a singer-songwriter, Dawn has performed in 10 states and released two solo albums; her latest CD, Spaces Between, fuses elements from traditional Chinese music with jazz and alt folk pop. She performs with Read My Hips tribal bellydance, spins fire with Acrobatica Infiniti circus, works as a UX designer and web developer, and has written for Uncanny Magazine, The Learned Fangirl, and RELEVANT Magazine. Though she loves Chicago, she periodically needs to flee the US; her wanderlust has brought her to 20 countries (and counting!) thus far.
In her Big Idea piece for The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, author Theodora Goss makes an observation about classic monster stories that I, personally, never picked up on, but now that she’s pointed it out, seems obvious. It says something about me that I missed it, and something about her that she’s used it as a cornerstone for her novel.
“The remains of the half-finished creature, whom I had destroyed, lay scattered on the floor, and I almost felt as if I had mangled the living flesh of a human being.” –Victor Frankenstein
It’s hard to identify where a novel comes from, but if The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter comes from anyplace specifically, it’s that moment when Frankenstein, having created a female counterpart for his creature, disassembles her. Then, not wanting to leave her remains for the peasants to find, he puts them in a basket, weighs it down with stones, and throws it into the sea. There goes the Bride of Frankenstein…
I was studying Frankenstein and his creature because I was writing a doctoral dissertation on late Victorian gothic monsters–Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Count Dracula, the Beast Men on the Island of Dr. Moreau. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein isn’t late Victorian, of course, but I wanted to understand this iconic monster narrative so I could apply some of what I learned to those later works. Well, one thing I learned is that there’s almost always a female monster, and she’s almost always destroyed.
Let’s take some examples from the later works I was studying. Some of these you’ll recognized, but some may be obscure enough that you won’t know what I’m talking about. That’s all right! Late Victorian gothic is like a wonderfully fearsome labyrinth. The fun is in exploring . . . So let’s start with Sheridan Le Fanu’s Camilla, in which the titular vampire is destroyed according to standard vampire protocols for the crime of seducing the innocent Laura and trying to turn her into a vampire as well. (Bonus: lots of sexual subtext from an era when books about same-sex romantic relationships were still banned.)
In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was deeply influenced by Carmilla, both vampire Lucy and Dracula’s brides are staked and beheaded. In H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, the Puma Woman escapes from Moreau’s terrible House of Pain and kills him, but is herself shot. In Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan, the mysterious Helen, who has the power to summon Pan and his minions, is forced to hang herself. You don’t even have to be a technical monster: in H. Rider Haggard’s She, the irresistibly beautiful Ayesha burns in the fire of immortality–which is a good thing, because she was thinking of claiming the British throne. And where would that leave Queen Victoria, I ask you? Ayesha isn’t a monster, but she is monstrous–a woman who has the power to kill with a gesture, and whom no man can resist. No wonder the novel has to get rid of her.
We find the same thing earlier in the century and across the pond with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” the beautiful but poisonous Beatrice, who kills herself so that her lover may live. Beatrice gets more sympathetic treatment than other monstrous women–she is, at least, a romantic heroine. Like Ayesha, she gets to tell part of her own story, although the focus of the narrative is not, finally, on her, despite Hawthorne’s title. But she too dies in the end. They all do. One exception is Queen Tera in Stoker’s less-known novel The Jewel of Seven Stars, where the resurrected Egyptian queen triumphs at the end–but guess what? In the second edition, the ending was rewritten (perhaps by Stoker, perhaps by his editor), and she too is exterminated.
(Perhaps most strangely, women creep into these works even when not officially present . . . In Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which contains almost no women at all, Hyde himself is feminized, suffering from “hysteria,” and Jekyll tells us that he finds turning into his alter ego “unmanning.” Of course, Hyde has to die, taking Jekyll with him.)
The field of monster literature is strewn with female bodies. Why? Well, monsters die just in general, so it’s not all about being female. But female monsters are presented as particularly dangerous. Frankenstein does not complete his creation because she might breed with the male monster, and their progeny might outcompete man. Beyond that concrete biological danger, a female monster does not fit the cultural category “female” as it was conceived in the nineteenth century (or earlier: we have a fearsome female monster who must be destroyed in the classical figure of Medusa). Carmilla must be destroyed specifically because she threatens the good women. She might–gasp–turn them into monsters like herself!
So the big idea behind my novel is really very simple: the female monsters did not die. They’re alive, and they’re telling their own stories. That doesn’t mean all the female characters in the novel are good–villainesses are too delicious to dispense with, and anyway, I wanted to make sure that in my narrative, female characters got to be all sorts of things, both good and evil.
But it started with the idea that female monsters have served, throughout literary history, as supporting characters for primarily male stories. They have been the sirens or harpies at the edge of the hero’s journey, the sphinx posing riddles . . . The late nineteenth century was particularly obsessed with monstrous women, as we can see from the many pre-Raphaelite and Aesthetic paintings of these mythical figures. (It’s probably not a coincidence that this was also the era of the New Woman and the suffrage movement, when “unnatural” females were agitating for such shocking things as the right to vote or attend university.)
In my novel, the women talk–a lot, sometimes over each other. But hey, they’ve been silent (and silenced) for so long that once I let them start, they had an awful lot to say. They tell us their stories as they really happened. (Jekyll had a daughter! The Puma Woman survived! Frankenstein’s female creature was not disassembled after all!) I wrote The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter because I love the older novels–I can’t imagine a better afternoon than one spent with nineteenth-century monsters, with tea and cookies on a nearby table, while outside the mist and rain create a suitably gothic atmosphere. But this time, I wanted the women to have their say . . .
This lesson brought to you courtesy of my small but intense panic when my laptop shut off and came up with a "boot drive not found" error, and then a "hard drive not installed" error when I found my way into the diagnostics. Gah.
Happily, it looks like it was just overheated/overhumid and a bit unhappy from some jostling, and it let me boot up a while later. At which point I sacrificed my good USB stick to the whole recovery-media thing pretty damn fast, lemme tell you, while crossing my fingers it wouldn't black-screen at me in the middle. (It did not! \o/) And then once that was safe I updated the backup software to the new version, and here I am.
... and yet, when the laptop popped up a chirpy "there's a new version installed, we need to update your backup media", I nearly hit "remind me later" because I was typing this post. *facepalm* *hits 'update now'*
And, uh, hi!
I mean, I’m not unhappy about it. And thank god for a great paid leave package. I’m going to be traveling to cool places and doing neat things. It’s just kind of surreal. Like how last year I was only in the office for one week in all of June.
from Tumblr http://ift.tt/2rJJg6R
The Sword of Winter, by Marta Randall. In the cold and dangerous land of Cherek, emerging from an era of magic and confronted by technological advancements, Lord Gambin of Jentesi lies dying and chaos reigns.
A Rumor of Gems, by Ellen Steiber. Enter the port city of Arcato: an old and magical town set somewhere in our modern world, a town where gemstones have begun to mysteriously appear . . . gemstones whose mystical powers aren't mere myth or legend but frighteningly real, casting their spells for good and ill.
Travel Light, by Naomi Mitchison. The story of Halla, a girl born to a king but cast out onto the hills to die. She lives among bears; she lives among dragons. But the time of dragons is passing, and Odin All-Father offers Halla a choice: Will she stay dragonish and hoard wealth and possessions, or will she travel light?
Nemesis, by Louise Cooper. Princess Anghara had no place in the Forbidden Tower, and no business tampering with its secrets. But she did, and now the seven demons are loose and her world is cursed, prey to the wrath of the Earth Goddess.
Racing the Dark, by Alaya Dawn Johnson. Lana, a teenaged girl on a nameless backwater island, finds an ominous blood-red jewel that marks her as someone with power, setting in motion events that drive her away from her family and into an apprenticeship with a mysterious one-armed witch.
My Soul to Keep, by Tananarive Due. When Jessica marries David, he is everything she wants in a family man: brilliant, attentive, ever youthful. Yet she still feels something about him is just out of reach. Soon, as people close to Jessica begin to meet violent, mysterious deaths, David makes an unimaginable confession: More than 400 years ago, he and other members of an Ethiopian sect traded their humanity so they would never die, a secret he must protect at any cost. Now, his immortal brethren have decided David must return and leave his family in Miami.
Gabriel is a mason’s apprentice in medieval England. The mason is cruel, so when a troupe of traveling Mystery players comes to town, Gabriel is delighted to briefly escape his wretched life by watching the play. Then, when the mason sadistically tries to chop off his giant mop of beautiful blonde curls that Gabriel’s lost mother told him to never cut, Gabriel flees and is taken in by the players, who whisk him away and cast him as an angel.
Gabriel assumes the man playing God is wonderful and the man playing Lucifer is terrible. But no! Garvey, who plays God, uses Gabriel to create fake, exploitative “healing” miracles which he convinces Gabriel are real. Lucie (Lucifer) is unhappy about this, but that only makes Gabriel think he must be bad.
I have no idea how old Gabriel was supposed to be. At the beginning I assumed he was around twelve, but later I decided he must be closer to ten because he was so stupid and naïve. Then he got even stupider and I wondered if he could possibly be seven or eight, or if that was way too young to be an apprentice mason. Not that young children are stupid, but the less you know about the world, the more likely you are to take everything at 100% face value, as Gabriel does.
In a totally unsurprising turn of events, Gabriel is eventually shocked to learn that people are different from the roles they play. This is exactly as anvillicious as it sounds. And while I often love books in which the reader knows more than the characters, I like it when the reason is that the characters are not privy to information or context that the reader knows, not because the characters are too stupid to pick up on incredibly obvious stuff. I don’t mean to call characters with cognitive disabilities stupid, as “intellectually disabled character fails to understand what’s going on” is a well-populated subgenre. (Which I also dislike.) I’m referring to non-disabled characters who are oblivious because they just are.
It's not that I think a child has to be stupid to be tricked by adults. Even a very bright child (or adult) could be fooled into thinking they're a miracle-worker by a clever con man. It's that the way it's written, from Gabriel's POV, makes him seem like a total idiot.
However, that’s not why I gave up on the book. The reason was the incredibly unpleasant emotional atmosphere: Gabriel smugly stupid, Garvey and the mason smugly awful, Lucie and his daughter sadly suffering (with a side of smugness, because they know the real deal.) I disliked the lot of them and did not want to be around any of them. Which is too bad, because I liked the backdrop of medieval Mystery players a lot.
The prose was good, but not good enough to make me keep reading. However, it won the Whitbread award, so my opinion may be very much in the minority.
A Little Lower Than the Angels