Saturday, December 12, 2015

Novel sale: STAY CRAZY to Apex Publications

It's on the publisher's blog, so it's official: I'm going to have a novel published. Here's the blurb:

Nineteen-year-old stock girl Emmeline Kalberg isn't surprised when voices start speaking to her through the RFID chips embedded in frozen food containers. Ever since she left college after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, voices have been a mainstay of her life, something to be ignored. But when Em's fellow employees at Savertown USA start dying around her, victims of a mysterious suicide plague, she decides to listen in. What she hears has the potential to tear apart the fabric of her small western Pennsylvania town -- and maybe the entire world.

The story of Stay Crazy began in 2006, when I wrote a novel called Entity that melded my experiences working for Walmart in that strange-ass year after I graduated college with my love of stories that question the nature of reality. Then a year later I quit writing for reasons that made a lot of sense at the time, and the novel was basically trunked along with the rest of my writing. But the story never left me, I always wished I had done something with the novel, and that wish especially grew stronger when I un-quit and my writing reached a whole new level. Some time last year, I pulled out the novel and well... I'm a much better writer than I used to be. So I rewrote it, line by painstaking line. I gave the story the writing it deserved.

And now... it's going to be published. My weirdo reality-bending category-bending novel with a mentally ill, working-class protagonist living in a shitty small town is going to be available for anyone to read, anytime, anywhere. I'm especially stoked to be published by Apex, since they've released a whole lot of books I've just loved.

Publication date is set for August 2016, so mark your calendars! In related news, I will be at WorldCon next year, so... book release party? Book release party, yes.


Friday, December 4, 2015

I Bet Owning a Gun Is Awesome

Like everyone else, I'm somewhat shocked but mostly desensitized about the mass shootings in... you know what, I don't even have to name a city here, because there's just gonna be another one tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. I don't understand why people can't see that all of these shootings are connected to the fact that guns in the United States are plentiful and unregulated and that we have a culture that worships guns. I can't see why the right to own a gun should be more important than the right not to be shot by a gun.

However, I think there might be an aspect to this that I've been overlooking. Because, like a lot of people who criticize gun culture, I've never owned a gun.

I mean, what if owning a gun is literally the absolute best thing ever? What if the mere fact of owning an automatic weapon is like the greatest high that a human being can ever hope to experience, like snorting a bunch of coke and high-fiving the Pope while riding a golden unicorn? And what if the sensual pleasure of gun ownership intensifies every time you leave the ammunition in, or store it out of its safe, or let your children play in the same room as the gun?

Pictured: a first-time gun owner.

Because that would explain it, right? If you take a group of rational humans and tell them that gun control will save hundreds of lives, if you tell them about Australia and some other stuff about Australia and also show them charts aplenty, then nearly everyone will be like "yeah, maybe we should get rid of some of these guns, because come on look at this shit." But maybe instead it's like telling a group of junkies about the dangers of heroin. Sure, they can rationally understand that heroin will kill them. Contrary to popular stereotypes, most addicts are not in denial about their preferred substances. They just can't stop.

And what if there's withdrawal symptoms? Maybe taking a gun owner's gun away is like going cold turkey on OxyContin. You get the shakes, you start hallucinating tiny European monarchs in your house taxing you without representation, shit like that. Man, I wouldn't want that to happen to me! Why do I gotta go through gun detox when I'd never shoot anyone? C'mon bud, just gimme one little Kalashnikov to get me through the end of the week. Maybe it's almost cruel to make gun owners give up their guns, although not as cruel as sitting around with our thumbs up our asses while hundreds of people die or anything.

In closing, based on no evidence whatsoever I believe that owning a gun must create a high so incredibly great that it makes you override your natural empathy and rationality to get a taste of that sweet, sweet steel. Therefore, I propose a new slogan for the gun control movement:


Monday, November 30, 2015

My Stories for 2015

As I have no additional stories coming out in 2015, I guess it's high time for me to list the stuff I had published this year, as is the style of the time.

Anyway, I had eight stories published this year. Damn! Three of them are flash, five of them are not. Probably the most "important" one, the one you should read first, is "Loving Grace," which marked my return to Clarkesworld Magazine after a whole eight and a half years, which must be some kinda record. You can read story notes here, but basically it's about what happens when human minds (and governments) are too small to accept the gift of post-scarcity. This story was originally titled "Fables of Post-Capitalism" until I realized that title was extremely pretentious (I did keep the fables, however).

I also had a return to the pages of Shimmer with "States of Emergency," which is another story I really like because like life it's just a lot of insane stuff that happens for no reason. If "Loving Grace" is too political, maybe you'll like a story with a sin-eating shredder, I don't know.

In flash country, my Queers Destroy Science Fiction piece "Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Two Weeks Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind" got some buzz (the concept of buzz for one of my stories is new to me) and I'm happy that most people seemed to realize what I was doing (implication over action).

I don't know why I thought this was
the best photo to illustrate this post.
Additional stories published in 2015, some not available online:

"The Species of Least Concern" in Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show: Genetic engineering! Disabled protagonist! I was reading a lot of Nancy Kress when I wrote this story and that's not a bad thing at all.

"Clarity" in Daily Science Fiction: May just be the most depressing story I have ever written.

"A Slow, Constant Path" in Cats in Space: Robot cats and cyborg girls on a doomed generation ship. It's cute!

"Dear Conqueror" and "Summer in Realtime" in Daily Science Fiction: More stories to enjoy, and only one of them is about death!

I also had quite a few reprints published this year, including my debut in Escape Pod ("The Silent Ones"), which was very exciting! Even if nobody on the message board understood the story (not that I ever know what my stories are about either).

Other things I did in 2015, writing-wise:

  • FINISHED MY GODDAMN NOVEL. No, seriously this time, it's been submitted and everything. The one thing I wanted out of 2015 was a completed novel and that's what I got. So that's pretty sweet.
  • Started another goddamn novel, the rough draft of which will probably be finished this year. Maybe I can not drag on the revision/abeyance stage as long as the last one?
  • Finished nine short stories (and counting?), which doesn't seem like a lot, but one of them is a friggin' novelette and that one took forever so I think it counts as like four stories. Most would disagree. All of these are either sold or on submission. Crossing fingers.
  • Started teaching occasional adult extension writing classes at Portland Community College. Want to take a class from me? You can! (Well, if you live in Portland.)
  • Did a lot of freelance editing and here's a link for that too.

Anyway, that's 2015 for you. Not as productive as I should have/could have been, but isn't that always the case? Looking forward to what next year brings!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

OryCon Schedule!

Orycon 37 is next weekend (November 20-22) at its new location, the Waterfront Marriott Hotel. Here are my panels:


2:00 - 3:00PM: Endings: Cuddling with the Reader - You've just blown your reader's mind with your story's climax. Make sure they'll come back for more--give them a good denouement! David D. Levine, Erica L. Satifka (M), Anna Sheehan, Ann Gimpel, Grá Linnaea

3:00 - 4:00PM: Strong Characters in SF - What are the truly memorable characters in SF and what makes them so? Is memorable the same as strong? How do writers develop excellent characters that are integral to SF settings? Esther Jones, Andrew S. Fuller, Erica L. Satifka, Clayton Callahan (M), DongWon Song


7:00 - 8:00PM: Short Stories, Novelettes, Novellas, and The Markets Who Love Them - Online markets for speculative short fiction have blossomed since the 1990s. What are the ins and outs of the spec fic short fiction markets in 2015? What are these markets publishing? What might the future bring? Andrew S. Fuller (M), Erica L. Satifka, Wendy N. Wagner, Rob McMonigal, James Patrick Kelly


12:00 - 1:00PM: Structurally Speaking - Stories have rhythm. Is there One True Pattern, or can we mess with it? Are we really bound to the Hero's Journey, or are there other models? Doug Odell, Leslie What, Grá Linnaea, Erica L. Satifka, Anna Sheehan (M)

1:00 - 2:00PM: The Death of the Stand-Alone Book - Trilogies, tetralogies--we're not even sure of the right names for five, six, seven-book series! Where does the madness end? Is there no market any more for non-series books? Mike Shepherd Moscoe, Fonda Lee (M), Erica L. Satifka, Esther Jones, Doug Odell

2:00 - 2:30PM: Erica Satifka Reading - Erica Satifka reads from her works. (Probably this one.)

See you there! Watch me defend the honor of the stand-alone novel!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Some New Stories!

Hola, amigos. I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I have two new-ish stories out:

"Summer in Realtime" in Daily Science Fiction is a little YA virtual reality story:

"What's it like down there?" asked the woman sitting next to her in the mess hall. 
Tina closed her eyes, recalling the glory of the simulated Earth. "Well, you remember it. Don't you?"
"No. I've never been in the program." 
"Oh," Tina said, feeling sympathy. "Well, it's bright and green all the time. Nobody ever gets sick. Nothing's ever broken down or rusted over. You get everything you want by pressing buttons in your hand." She held hers up, examining it. Tina felt the loss of her palmtroller like a phantom limb.

There's also a reprint of my flash story "Real Plastic Trees" up at Fantastic Stories of the Imagination this month, which is its first time on the web! So check it out.

Meanwhile, I'm a little over a third of the way through the first draft of my second novel that counts, and man that is a lot of prepositional clauses. Like my first novel that counts, it's an SF story set in the present day with a ton of paranoia, because I guess I run to type? This is going to have an incredibly long bake time and I don't even know for sure that it will "count," so I don't want to provide too many details. But that's mostly what's been happening.

I also might spend the rest of December after I finish the first draft of this novel working on a novella. Or not! It's wide open!

Monday, September 21, 2015

"Loving Grace" Audio Version & Story Notes!

In case you missed it, the audio version of my story "Loving Grace" came out a little while ago on the Clarkesworld site. So if you like stories, but hate reading, give it a listen. Thanks to Kate Baker for the excellent narration!

While I think the story is fairly self-explanatory, notes seem to be the thing to do, so I figured I'd talk a little more about what inspired the story. It springs (sprang?) from one simple question: Why do we still have a forty-hour workweek?

Because when you think about it, we shouldn't. Advances in automation should have made our lives easier, but instead, people are working longer hours than ever. What makes it even worse is that so many of the jobs that we do are unmitigated bullshit. The job I have now is real, but I'm sure I'm not the only person who has had a job warming a desk for hours upon hours a day, not really doing much of anything at all. What is a "project manager"? Machines are taking our jobs, which is a good thing (as Marybeth says in the story, "machines can do things better than we ever could"), but we aren't seeing the benefits of automation, only a shift into jobs built on endless paperwork. Politicians talk about "job creation," which is another way to say "make work." Nobody is saying the obvious: that we need a Shift in the way we think about jobs and money, that we are closer to fully automated luxury communism than we know.

This could be us if we want it to be.
In the world of the story, luxury communism is within society's grasp. But because of the American work ethic, nobody is willing to just accept the fact that capitalism is transitory and enjoy this bountiful stage of advanced civilization. Or rather, they might accept it... except that the government has made it illegal to revel in your fully automated life. So in addition to the employment lottery, things are shoddier than they have to be. The characters could have real food, fine clothing, adequate transportation, but they haven't "earned" these things. Hell, setting up a draft and keeping everyone cowed is more work than just letting utopia reign, but living in luxury without "earning" it is obscene. Never mind that there is no actual way to earn it! The workers are psychologically invested in this racket as well (e.g. draft volunteers, Chase being anxious about the Shift instead of joyful, and so forth).

I believe in a basic income. I believe BI is the pathway to post-capitalist economic liberation, and that if we had one, scientific and artistic progress would skyrocket. But we'll never get there if people who stand to gain the most by a massive automation-fueled economic Shift remain obsessed with "welfare queens" and the concept of "earning" things we should have by rights.

So anyway, that's the story. Read or listen! Support basic income!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"Loving Grace" up at Clarkesworld

So happy to announce that my story "Loving Grace" is live at Clarkesworld Magazine. Here's a sample:

When full automation made human employment superfluous, the first reaction was panic. Pink slips fell like confetti. Even Chase had protested against the coming of the machines at first, though Marybeth hadn’t.
“It’s a paradigm shift,” she’d said. “Relax, Chase. It’s the way things were meant to be. Machines can do things better than we ever could.” 
The early days of the Shift were a time of great upheaval, as people who’d spent their whole lives working suddenly found themselves without a job, a purpose. The solution was drastic: a complete social safety net, and a draft. Every day, a few people were called for employment, targeted by the drones that also swept the city clean, monitored crime, and performed chit drops. Stretches of employment varied from a few months to a few years. 
You’ll come back, the Employment Bureau said. Everyone will come back. We count on it. Chase knows nobody who has returned, but that doesn’t prove anything.

This issue also features fiction by Robert Reed, Bao Shu, Elizabeth Bourne, and many others! I'm not going to break my usual pattern of not talking about my stories, but I will say that the article "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs" by David Graeber was a huge inspiration for this piece, and of course this poem by Richard Brautigan. Read it if you want to, and let me know what you think!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Erica's Infrequent Book Reviews Presents: CHAFFS by Douglas P. Lathrop

Every dystopia actually reveals the writer's anxiety about the present. In Chaffs, Douglas P. Lathrop follows the Tea Party movement to its natural conclusion: a fascistic nightmare state that slaughters people of color, tortures queer people in reeducation camps, and spies on its citizens, all for the glory of the "Fourth Great Awakening," headed by President Muldoon, a cult of personality leader whose framed picture hangs in every home.

The narrator, Tyler Treppenhouse, knows there's something odd about himself, that he doesn't quite fit into the rigid masculinity required of all males of his world. But it's not until he meets handsome skater boy Casey that he realizes the truth: he's gay, and in America after the Fourth Great Awakening, that means he might as well be dead. As their relationship develops, Tyler gradually learns that his world is built on horror upon horror, and he must make the ultimate sacrifice to save Casey's life: becoming a mole at a reorientation center. Yet, queer folks aren't the only ones who suffer under the Muldoonian regime, and during his mission Tyler learns that the resistance is bigger than he ever thought possible.

For all the talk about diversity, there really doesn't seem to be that many gay protagonists in YA fiction, and very few in YA science fiction*. Actually, I can't think of any right now, though I'm definitely not as well-read in YA as some folks. The love story which drives the plot feels raw and true, and Tyler's gayness isn't a tacked-on identity. Nor is it the kind of gay love story that's written to be titillating to straight women; there is a lot of sex, but it's all necessary to the plot, and in a world where either of the main characters could die at any moment because of their love for each other, the sex carries a lot of emotional weight.

The setting of Chaffs also hits much closer to home than most dystopias, there is the real sense that this could be our world (and if you don't think that, then you must have not been around in the 2000s). One interesting quirk is that aside from weaponry and surveillance, technology has been pushed backwards, so there's no Internet, no smartphones. Much like North Korea, the Muldoonian government tries to stifle revolution by isolating people from one another. Queer people who came of age before the Internet might also find this especially true to life. Tyler's isolation from any sort of queer community, his feeling like he's the only gay person in the world, was something that really resounded with me. LGBT rights are mainstream now, and even in the most rural areas gay teens can find some kind of community. But twenty years ago this wasn't true at all, especially in small towns, and the confusion of not knowing what you are and the fear of being found out all felt very honest to me. Even if I never had to deal with fascist shock troops, I still grew up at the tail end of a period where queerness just wasn't discussed except as a slur. It Got Better, but if you came out (if only to yourself) before the turn of the century, you don't forget what it was like back then. As a gay man a generation older than me, Lathrop was clearly mining some personal experience here.

Lathrop was an excellent writer, with a knack for believable dialogue, well-detailed description, and tightly-paced plotting. Sadly, this is his only novel, as he died last year. A truly great loss, as I think Chaffs was only the beginning to a great career. It's available from Amazon now, and I'm guessing there will be an electronic version as well. Whether you're queer or straight, an adult or a young person, this is a book that wins both on its politics and on being a fast-paced adventure into the heart of a sinister alternate America that could have been... and could still be, if we're not careful.

*Or adult science fiction, honestly. Especially gay males. I know there are exceptions, and I know things are changing rapidly, but... publishers still gotta cash in on that straight male nerd demographic. But that is an article for another time!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"States of Emergency" Is Live!

My insane short story "States of Emergency" is live on Shimmer! Here's an excerpt:

The house always wins. So does the Autonomic SmarTrak DwellingUnit 3.0. 
Step inside. Allow the polished servo-mechanisms to lift you up, float you through the air like a luck-kissed cherub. Spin the wheel. Roll the dice. Make merry. Have another scotch. Ante. Raise. Call. 
Later, when the lights go dark and the thrill of winning is gone, sink into the luxurious honeycomb of the fully furnished basement. Order some room service. It’s on the house.

I spend a lot of time in the shower thinking about stories, which I found out is actually a pretty common thing. This story, though, was a first in that it was inspired by the shower, or more specifically the new curtain we bought at Fred Meyer when we moved to Portland.

For a couple of months, I amused myself by imagining all the terrible, personalized fates that could befall residents of the fifty states. Then I wrote them down, because why not? And from there, a story was born. It's fragmented on purpose, can be read in almost any order, and is pretty wacky. Hope you enjoy!

Also, I haven't mentioned it yet because this blog is severely neglected, but I'll have a short story out soon in Clarkesworld. Yes, after an eight-year gap, I'm finally going to be in Clarkesworld again. It's an unabashedly political story about drones and full luxury communism, and I can't wait to share it with the part of the world that reads short stories.

Friday, July 3, 2015

New Stuff!

Issue #26 of Shimmer is out! This issue includes my story "States of Emergency," an insane travelogue set in an altered America:

In a no-tell motel just outside Billings, the psychotic cattle rancher known as Paranoid Jack freezes when he sees the baby-blue eyeball glowering at him from the mouthpiece of the Bakelite phone.

This issue also contains stories by Lavie Tidhar, Roshani Chokshi, and Cat Hellisen. My story will be online in August, but if you want to read it now, go grab a copy.

Meanwhile, some rad folks had some nice things to say about "Bucket List, etc." Over on, Brit Mandelo calls it "a nice brief punch of feeling," while K. Tempest Bradford at io9 Newsstand named it as one of her stories of the week. What are you waiting for? Get the full issue of Lightspeed's Queers Destroy Science Fiction now!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Destroying Science Fiction, One Flash Story at a Time

The special "Queers Destroy Science Fiction" issue of Lightspeed is out, and my story's in it! Along with a lot of other awesome stories! Check out "Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Two Weeks Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind" as part of the free content, or better yet buy the issue and unlock stories by Sarah Pinsker, Rose Lemberg, and many others. I really enjoyed "Emergency Repair" by Kate M. Galey, which you can also read for free.

I've been having a hell of a time finishing stories lately. Over the past month I've started at least five different stories, three of which were variations on a single theme. Sometimes, no matter what you do, a story just won't gel and none of these were working. They were technically good, but felt lifeless. Protip: if your own stories seem lifeless to you, then they definitely will seem that way to an editor.

Most of my stories written in the past two years have been plotted instead of pantsed (improvised) and I've become kind of an evangelist for plotting. However, I think plotting was strangling these stories. They were just sort of limping along from one scene to the next, and while I probably could have "fixed it in post," all of them eventually became chores to write. (And also, five stories. Kind of hard to care about any individual story when your focus is so divided.)

So I started fresh. I reread a few stories that had inspired me in the past and were close to the tone I was trying to set down, figured out the narrator's voice, and just started writing. The new story has pieces in it lifted from the five different stories, but it's really its own thing. It's perhaps a little similar in theme to stuff I've already done, but hey, lots of writers run to similar themes (including some of my all-time favorites). I wrote 1700 words in the first session and plan to finish the story in a second session today or tomorrow, to achieve maximum freshness. I hope this story gels! I think it will. It feels like it will, even if I already see a whole laundry list of tweaks I'll need to tend to.

Not really sure why I felt the need to document this. Perhaps it's just a way to keep myself honest?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

New Stories: Intergalactic Medicine Show, Cats in Space

IGMS story art by Andres Mossa
My short story "The Species of Least Concern" is now available to read at Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show... if you're a subscriber. But hey, check out that art! This is a somewhat hard SF story about agribusiness run amok and deceptively adorable artificial animals, featuring a disabled protagonist in a futuristic corporate-controlled Kansas. It'll be temporarily unlocked for subscribers in two months, but if you want to read it now, subscribe! I hope to have story notes for this one in a bit.

And because these things always come in clumps, the short anthology Cats in Space, which includes my story "A Slow, Constant Path," is now available in hard copy from Paper Golem Press. See link here. What happens when human beings revolt on a spaceship staffed by talking robo-cats with electronic brains? Obviously, nothing good. Also includes stories by Jody Lynn Nye and Beth Cato, among others.

In other writing news, I am thirty percent of the way through the final ever pass through my novel. (Well, not counting the passes an agent or publisher will do. Let's not even think about those.) It's an excruciating process, to put it lightly. But so near the end(ish)!

Friday, May 22, 2015

New Story at Escape Pod, New Classes at PCC

My short story "The Silent Ones," originally published in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, is now available for free reading and listening at Escape Pod! Here's a sample:

Not everything happens all the time, everywhere. 
That’s the first line on every bit of literature dealing with the alternate worlds. Want to visit a world where the triple World Wars never happened? You can. Want to see a place where computers run on steam power and even the horses wear corsets? Go for it. 
This makes sense in context.
Or you can just muck about in a world full of beautiful hillbillies or debauched Atlanteans. That’s more your personal speed, anyway. 
Most of the planes open for travel aren’t that different from your world. The atmosphere has to be breathable, at least, and it’s helpful if the inhabitants are roughly human, and mostly your size. Nothing will destroy a plane’s Yelp rating quite like a tourist crushed by forty-foot-tall giants. 
Nobody stays in an alternate world for long. The languages aren’t remotely learnable, and the social structures are often even denser. But it sure beats a week at Grand Cayman! 
You keep the glossy travel brochures in your nightstand. Sometimes you fan them out, a little universe. And only fifteen days of vacation a year, you think wistfully.

Also, I have TWO classes upcoming at Portland Community College this summer! Here are the details:

First, it's the inaugural TEEN SF/F writing workshop, a four-day class where students aged 12-17 can learn the finer points of writing fantastical literature, receive feedback from their classmates, and most importantly have fun!:

Title: Teen Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Workshop
Dates: July 14, 16, 21, and 23, 2015 (Tuesdays and Thursdays)
Time: 6:30 PM - 8:20 PM
Location: Southeast Center, 2305 SE 82nd Ave.
Cost: $65
Note: Please bring pen and paper or a computer to class.

I'm also teaching another adult SF/F writing class:

Title: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy
Dates: July 11 through August 1, 2015 (Saturdays)
Time: 10:00 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Southeast Center, 2305 SE 82nd Ave.
Cost: $55

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

More Recent Publications!

I have some new-ish stories out this week:

First up, my paranoid VR suburbia story "Days Like These" is up in audio form at The Overcast and narrated by J.S. Arquin. This is a new podcast focusing on speculative fiction from writers in the Pacific Northwest. There certainly are a lot of us here! I hope you'll check it out.

Also, my short story "Hand of God," originally in PodCastle, is now in "print" in Fantasy Scroll magazine! This is an older story, one of the first that I wrote when I started writing again in 2011, There's also an interview with me up at the site. I may have blathered.

Also re: Hugos: I have never cared about them, but now I really don't care. I know that by all rights I should have An Opinion About This. It probably doesn't say anything positive about my character that I don't. Yes, the Puppies' tactics (both sets, though one much more so than the other) were skeevy. But also, it's an award. Just an award. If I were one of the fans who has been attending WorldCons for years or spent the past decade as a supporting member, I might care. But I'm not. I don't have the money to travel to faraway conventions and while I could afford the $40 for a supporting membership, I'd rather use that money to buy books (you get books with the supporting membership, but they might not be the ones I want to read).

I appreciate that people are upset about this and they have the right to be angry, but I also have the right to be indifferent. Seeing the words Hugo (or Nebula) on a dust jacket has never made me any more likely to pick up a book. There are hundreds of quality works published every year and only a fraction of them will ever win awards. That's life. This year, a different and possibly less quality slate of works were nominated. But does that mean no more great stories will be published? It certainly does not. If works of lesser quality are nominated from here on out? Perhaps that's a little crappy, but you always have the option to not care about the Hugos. Care about a different award instead. Or care about... no awards at all. Crazy thought, I know!

Selfishly, I am unhappy that my first WorldCon will be marred by tense conversations about a stupid award. Every panel: award talk. Hugo talk at the bar, Hugo talk at the pool. Maybe all WorldCons are like this? Or maybe by that point nobody will care. That's the best case scenario, a world in which we all just kinda say "you know what, this doesn't matter." And then we all go read things we like, and write other things we like. The work is the prize. All else is gravy.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

One-Year Portlandiversary!

1. Today is our one-year Portlandiversary!

The view from the car almost exactly a year ago.

As I told Rob earlier, my life is basically 95% perfect, and it's all because we took a chance. It has been a truly exciting year. In this year I:

  • Secured a part-time day job, the schedule I wanted.
  • Wrote something like a dozen stories.
  • Re-wrote and re-re-wrote my novel (it's done now).
  • Started teaching classes at Portland Community College.
  • Got some kick-ass tattoos.
  • Slayed the dragon and drank his blood.
  • Did not have to look at snow for the first time ever in my life.
  • Started up my freelance editing business.

It's been an awesome year, perhaps the most awesome year ever. Seriously, the only year that could possibly compare to this one is the first year I lived in Pittsburgh (and if you want to know what I was like back then picture Kimmy Schmidt sans bunker). I am looking forward to many, many, many more years here in Portland with Rob, doing what I do, letting the tiny animal statues downtown alert me to the changing of the seasons because the weather sure doesn't.

They are wearing tiny hats! This isn't a real city!

I figure next year is the year when I'll finally be Oregonian enough to tell those damn transplants to get off my lawn.

2. I have a new flash story up at Daily Science Fiction, "Clarity." It is really depressing! Read it and weep, but also feel paranoid, because if I try to elicit any sort of emotions with my writing those emotions are depression and paranoia.

3. I also sold a flash story to Lightspeed's special Queers Destroy Science Fiction issue! The title is very long! As a bisexual woman married to and monogamous with a male-bodied person living in the most liberal city in America, I am aware that my queerness is largely invisible unless I come out and talk about it, which I rarely do because... sometimes I think it's not relevant? Although it is, and it certainly was in the past, and I think it's important for people with misplaced straight privilege to come out. So I'm out, I've never been in, but now I'm visible and I am thrilled to be destroying science fiction with many fine writers. Full list of authors/stories here.

4. I have Thoughts about this year's Hugo Awards, which you can read beneath the jump cut below (it got long).

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Class! New Angst!

First off, registration for the next cycle of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing class at Portland Community College is open! This is a four-week Community Education (non-credit) class based around short speculative fiction writing, with one week each devoted to plotting, worldbuilding, characterization and voice, and a class critique session. After this class I'll be moving over to the Southeast campus for a while, so if that affects your desire to take the class, sign up now!

Since getting back from the Rainforest retreat, I've fell into a bit of a writing funk. Part of it is simply that I've been spending far too much time editing, and not enough time writing. And while editing is (usually) a necessary part of the writing process, you don't get the same sense of forward momentum, and it's clearly not as exciting as actually writing. Right now I have at least five stories that need to be edited, some of which have been through first-round edits by my in-house editor, a few which haven't. And it's so daunting! Two of these stories are also novelettes or nearly so, and one of those is in a genre that I've never written before. There's something like 25k words that need to be looked over, scenes rearranged or eliminated, new scenes that need to be written, and in the case of one of those stories, research. It's a lot of work, and it leaves me drained for writing new stuff. I need to finish what I start, not just keep piling on new projects.

Another reason for the funk is that I've been way too focused on originality. I wrote a couple of stories in late 2014/early 2015 that I thought were incredibly original (she says pridefully). I'm sure that someone else who's better read -- or just differently read -- than me could be able to point to half a dozen stories that are similar to those stories, but I'd never read anything with those concepts behind them before, at least before I wrote them. So now, when I try to write something new, I'm trying to make it even more original than those stories. Then I get stuck, because every story feels like "nope, seen it before, discard." Which is dumb, because there are no new ideas... but some ideas are fresher than others. Some people will fight me on this, but I maintain it's true. So far, none of my new outlines (as in, written in the past month) are passing my own personal barrier for originality. It's a moving bar, yeah, but it's my moving bar, and unfortunately just going through the motions of writing doesn't get me in the mood to write. I have to be excited about the idea. And the better-read I become in genre, the more I see that a lot of what I do has been done before. Maybe not done in quite the same way, but it only takes a whiff of similarity to take the bloom off the rose.

Anyway, I'm sure it's just a temporary thing that will fade once I get this huge set of stories (or at least half of them) revised and sent off. I know what a real slump is and this isn't it. Just... revision is kind of the worst, you know?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Marching Into March

First, I have a new-old story up on Drabblecast this week, a reprint of my "classic" (hah!) story "Sea Changes," first published in Ideomancer in 2008. Check it out! This all-flash episode also contains stories from Keffy Kehrli and Jonathan Schneeweiss.

Second, I now have a tab that lists all the Community Education classes I have upcoming at Portland Community College, or you can just follow the link here. The next four-week cycle of classes starts April 11 and the sign-up isn't active yet, but once it is, I'll let the world know.

Last weekend Rob and I went to the Rainforest Writers Retreat in Lake Quinault, WA. I had a great time, though I didn't get as much done as I wanted to. I only wrote a shade under 15,000 words, all on short stories. We also went on a hike (well, Rob went on the hike, it was too slippy for me) and saw waterfalls and a herd of wild elk. I'd recommend it for anyone looking for a laid-back place to hang out and write for a few days. We likely won't be going back next year since we're saving up for a possible East Coast/Readercon trip, but if you want to go, register fast! It always sells out.

Some jerk elk sticking his tongue out at us.

Finally, today it was 55 degrees and sunny all day oh wait I mean it rained all day and was terrible don't move here. Man, everywhere in the entire country sucks except this place.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Let Me Spam You

First: my flash fiction story "Dear Conqueror" was published last week at Daily Science Fiction. It's the sordid tale (do I have any stories that aren't sordid, really?) of a future American tyrant and his equally tyrannical wife. Enjoy!

Second: I now have a mailing list! And you can sign up for it with the handy form below! It will contain information about recent publications, cons I'll be at, upcoming classes at Portland Community College, and other stuff, I'm not sure what. Updates will be rare and sporadic, so you don't have to worry about me blowing up your email. Anyway, form is below and also on the sidebar:

Third: From February 18-22 I will be at the Rainforest Writers Village in Lake Quinault, WA. I'm a bit worried that I'll get there and "run out of ideas," or worse, that everything I write there will be unpublishable crap. Even if it is, I guess I get a vacation out of the deal. I'm shooting for 5000 words per day, all in short stories. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Erica's Infrequent Book Reviews Presents: ELYSIUM by Jennifer Marie Brissett

Note to people recommending books to me: all you really have to do is say that the book deals with the shifting nature of reality. I will snap up that book like other people snap up sasquatch porn or cat-themed mysteries. Granted, I will be horribly disappointed if the book in fact is not about the shifting nature of reality, but Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett totally is! This experimental SFnal book, published by Aqueduct Press, is a book in the grand weird tradition of The Lathe of Heaven (my favorite book of all time) and everything PKD ever wrote, though with an Afrofuturistic and queer bent that places it firmly in the modern era.

(Note to readers: this review is chock full of SPOILERS although I was spoiled before I read the book and I still enjoyed the hell out of it. Elysium is really not a book that you read for the plot.)

Central character Adrianne/Adrian is ostensibly a human being who shifts through genders, ages, and scenarios. The only thread which is consistent in each of these scenarios (none of which last for more than a chapter or two) is her/his relationship with Antoine/Antoinette. Sometimes it's a parental relationship, with the two trading off roles. In others they are spouses or lovers. Other characters are also constants in the book, likewise swapping genders, sexual orientations, backgrounds, etc. As the story unfolds, Brissett slowly paints a picture of the true reality: an Earth overtaken by aliens, where the scant population of remnant humans lives underground, slowly dying off and being replaced by projections. Surprise! Adrian(/ne) is not a human at all, but a piece of AI tasked with uploading the human history of Earth onto a massive datanet. The coda states that the relationship of A. and A. is inspired by the relationship of the Roman emperor Hadrian and the Greek boy Antonius, and I really appreciated the book all the more when I read up on them afterwards.

The scenarios are interesting enough in and of themselves, but the main "plot" here is the AI's fractured psyche and above all its devotion to its mate/counterpart. Even though the relationship between the two is constantly changing (** BREAK **), it's also the thread that binds this crazy-quilt of a novel into a mostly cohesive whole. Though it would never be classified as such, Elysium is at its heart a love story and an examination of both parental and romantic relationships. It's also worth noting that Brissett accomplishes all this in only 199 pages in a time when most writers think they need three to seven books to tell a complete story. And best of all, Elysium is a debut novel, so we should have many more of her novels and stories to read over the years to come.

Elysium is nominated for this year's Philip K. Dick Award, and while I haven't read any of the other nominees yet, if it wins it's an honor well deserved. This is really not a novel for everyone. If you like your prose told plainly and your plots straightforward you probably won't like this. But this book is parked right in my own personal wheelhouse of strangeness and unreality. So read it if you're me is what I'm trying to say here, I guess.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Last Days to Sign Up for My Writing Class!

With only two weeks to go, my science fiction/fantasy writing class at Portland Community College is filling up fast! Here's the link, if you are so inclined. This is a four-week, eight-hour class devoted to writing speculative fiction, mostly of the flash variety. Extra details:

Title: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy
Dates: January 24 through February 14, 2015 (Saturday)
Time: 10:00 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Cascade Campus in North Portland, 705 N. Killingsworth St.
Cost: $55

The class is going to be repeated, so if you can't make it this time, check back for new class dates in the next few weeks!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Best Books I Read in 2014

Yeah, we're well into 2015 and I'm just now making my list of my favorite books from last year. Well, what do you expect, this is free content. Suckers.

Anyway, I read a lot of books last year, but very few of them were actually released last year. But that won't stop me from making a list! No rereads, because otherwise The Lathe of Heaven would be on my list every other year. Oh, and it's an alphabetical list, but the first entry is probably my #1 anyway.

On to the list!

Afterparty by Daryl Gregory (2014): Long review here. Oh come on, of course this was going to be on my list. This book follows a former scientist who accidentally created a "God drug," and now has an angel tagging her every move. The research team (who have all overdosed on the drug, and have their own personal gods) decides never to release the drug, but it gets out anyhow, and the thrillerish plot involves Lyda's quest to reach the drug's source and wipe it out. There's also fun stuff like a gentle rancher of miniature bison who takes a drug to become a contract killer, frat boys who take pills to turn "gay for a day," and a CIA operative who overdoses on a drug to promote mental clarity and now sees people as amorphous blobs when not jacked up. There are a LOT of drugs in this book, okay? And a lot of examinations of the nature of faith, mental illness, addiction, etc. It's like the author took everything I like to read about and put it in a blender. I'm hella nominating it for the Nebula and Hugo, and not only because it was the only SF novel I read that was released last year (though I should have the Southern Reach books soonish).

Emissaries from the Dead/The Third Claw of God by Adam-Troy Castro (2008/2009): Yes, this is two books, but it's a series, so whatever. These are mysteries set in an SFnal world that Castro has visited in several of his stories. What I liked about these books were how good they were as mysteries. Often in books that blend speculative tropes with other genres, the other genre takes a back seat. Whereas here, while Castro's universe is well-sketched and immersive, they are at heart more mystery than SF and the books are written like traditional mysteries: interrogations, logical deduction, a final reveal scene, and kooky sidekicks. Claw is in fact a locked-room mystery, and his sleuth (a six-year-old war criminal all grown up) uses brains more than tech to get to the truth. I absolutely love Castro's short fiction ("During the Pause" is one of the most perfect stories I've ever read, and "The Thing About Shapes to Come" is a recent favorite... you know, just go read all his stories right now), and his style holds up just as well in a longer form. I wish there were more of these books. I wish I could read a new Andrea Cort book every year, and you all know I am not a fan of series books by and large. But these exist, anyway, and you should read them.

Empty Space by M. John Harrison (2012): Seeing as how I've reread the other Light books several times over the years, I should have read this when it first came out, but somehow it slipped through the cracks. It follows the adventures of humans living near the cosmic event known as the Kefahuchi Tract, except for the strand that follows serial killer/astrophysicist's Michael Kearney's ex-wife. There's weird shit happening on every single page, from data infecting human flesh to people turned into spaceships to a rain of baby shoes on an alien beach to a summerhouse that burns intermittently but is never consumed. Anyway, if you're already a fan of the Lightverse you'll like this. If you're looking for a more traditional space opera, go elsewhere.

Look Straight Ahead by Elaine M. Will (2013): Long review here. Graphic novel, not genre. A fictionalized autobiography (according to the author) of a teenager with bipolar disorder, drawn in a multitude of styles to portray the protagonist's spiral into madness and the struggle out of it. Jeremy (the protagonist) is an artist, and while that should annoy me in the way I won't read books where the characters are writers, it works here as Will expertly shows Jeremy's fear of losing his creative capacity with treatment. I've sort of fallen away from reading comics, because a lot of what I was reading wasn't really inspiring me. One weird quirk I have is that for as much as I love SF prose, I pretty much only like "mundane" comics. Maybe that's because so many SF comics are about superheroes, which I find kind of boring and insular for people who aren't in the know. And while I read very few graphic novels this year, I'm so glad I read this.

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks (1988): Somehow I managed to avoid reading the Culture series until last year, despite the fact that it's about a far-future anarcho-socialist utopia. How the hell did that happen?! Jernau Gurgeh, a "man of the Culture," is invited to an alien world to play an extremely complicated game which forms the foundation of the backwards capitalistic Azadian Empire. The plot is really just an excuse to explore aspects of the Culture and compare them to a society based on our own, but I totally don't mind that when the ideas are so interesting. I also loved the fact that the Culture is an unabashed utopia, so refreshing in these days where you have your pick of outwardly dreary dystopia or a bright happy future that's a dystopia in disguise (and my own work isn't helping matters). I can tell there will be many visits to the Culture in my future.

(NOTE: All but one of these books are from the 21st century and most of them are series novels. Either my reading tastes are changing or I've just run out of all the good books from the last century.)