Aaaaand it’s out!
City of Hope and Ruin, a fantasy-with-lesbian-romance novel by Kit Campbell and yours truly, is now out in the world! You can buy it in the following formats:
I’m signal-boosting for another author today! Sacramento-based J. Scott Coatsworth is celebrating the release of his science fiction novel The Stark Divide.
On his website, Scott says:
I write stories that subvert expectations, that seek to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something new and unexpected. I also run both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with my husband Mark, sites that bring people like us together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects our own reality.
My writing, whether romance or genre fiction (or a little bit of both) brings a queer energy to my stories, infusing them with love, beauty and power and making them soar. I imagine a world that could be, and in the process, maybe changes the world that is, just a little.
That sounds a lot like my own writing philosophy, although mine isn’t focused around solely queer ideas (and my spouse isn’t the same gender as I am, but who’s counting?). So I’m delighted to host Scott and celebrate what we authors call his “book birthday”. Happy book birthday, Scott! Take it away…
Some stories are epic.
The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.
Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.
From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.
Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.
Book One of Liminal Sky
“DRESSLER, SCHEMATIC,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.
A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.
Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.
“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.
“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.
He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.
All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.
At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.
The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.
“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.
The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.
“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”
The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.
Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”
A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.
“Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.
Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.
He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.
All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.
We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.
Scott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.
He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.
His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.
Starting in 2014, Scott has published more than 15 works, including two novels and a number of novellas and short stories.
He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.
Links to learn more about Scott and follow him around the Internet:
Hi folks! I’m coming out of blog hiatus to share some good news that’s been a looong time coming — my first sale to a publisher! (Turtleduck Press is co-run by me, so it’s a different ballgame.) Technically it was a website contest, but I’m getting paid and my work is appearing in an anthology, so it’s the same thing as far as I’m concerned.
Here’s the part that’s even more awesome: I placed third in the contest, out of over 200 entries.
And equally awesome: my story got an illustration. How cool is that?
The piece in question is a 300-word flash fiction SF story called “Urban Renewal”. I’ve rarely written stories that short, so I’m very pleased with how well this one turned out.
Content warning: some of the stories in the anthology may be sexually explicit, although mine is not one of them.
Full info about Renewal is below. It’s available in ebook or B&W paperback, with a full-colour version to follow. (If you’re not in the US, be patient — it may take a few weeks to appear on the international Amazon sites.)
The website Queer Sci Fi has a new book out, the latest in a series of flash fiction anthologies:
1) Resuming an activity after an interruption, or
2) Extending a contract, subscription or license, or
3) Replacing or repairing something that is worn out, run-down, or broken, or
4) Rebirth after death.
Four definitions to spark inspiration, a limitless number of stories to be conceived. Only 110 made the cut.
Thrilling to hopeful, Renewal features 300-word speculative fiction ficlets about sexual and gender minorities to entice readers.
Welcome to Renewal.
Because these stories are only 300 words each, we’re not supplying long excerpts, but here are the first lines of several of the stories. Enjoy!
“Griselda pulled the weeds from between the rows of Valerianella locusta plants in the garden, careful not to disturb the buds that would grow into the babies that were her only real income-producing crop.” —The Witches’ Garden, by Rie Sheridan Rose
“I didn’t know how truly the world was in trouble until I went journeying to look for Anisette’s bluebonnets.” —Bluebonnets, by Emily Horner
“The ship’s drive malfunctioned at the worst possible time.” —The Return, by Andrea Speed
“Before we continue, there’s a rather macabre fact about me I should share.” —Rejuvenation, by Christine Wright
“When I died they buried me at the bottom of the garden and returned to the fields.” —Below the Hill, by Matthew Bright
“The world is ending and I can’t look away from your eyes.” —Sunrise, by Brigitte Winter
““Losing one’s superpowers to your arch nemesis sucks donkey nuts, I tell ya. And trust me when I say I suck a lot of them.” —Rainbow Powers, by Dustin Karpovich
“The day I was born again was damp, rainy—a good day for rebirth, all things considered.” —The Birthing Pod, by Michelle Browne
“Intwir’s twelve eyes roved over the container, taking in the cracked outer lock and the elasticated fabric stretched tightly over its exterior.” —In a Bind, by S R Jones
“‘You’ve reached Androgyne HelpLine. Press one to start service. Press two to interrupt or cancel service. Press three—’” —Auto-Renew, by Ginger Streusel
“The doctor tells me that my wife is dying, but I already know.” —I Will Be Your Shelter, by Carey Ford Compton
“‘San Francisco was the first to go dark, followed by Los Angeles.’” —When Light Left, by Lex Chase
“My fingers lingered on the synthetic skin, trailing soft patterns across my work.” —Miss You, by Stephanie Shaffer
Andrea Felber Seligman
Carey Ford Compton
Carol Holland March
E R Zhang
Elsa M León
Eric Alan Westfall
Foster Bridget Cassidy
J. Alan Veerkamp
J. P. Egry
L M Somerton
L. Brian Carroll
Leigh M. Lorien
Lloyd A. Meeker
Martha J. Allard
Mary E. Lowd
Mindy Leana Shuman
R R Angell
Redfern Jon Barrett
Rory Ni Coileain
S R Jones
Zev de Valera
This weekend I saw two films about the performance of masculinity, coming-of-age stories about struggling with machismo, as well as surrogate fatherhood and flawed role models.
One was the critically acclaimed, multi-award-winning Moonlight.
The other was the critically panned Chappie, Neill Blomkamp’s answer to Robocop.
I don’t feel qualified to talk about Moonlight (though there’s a great discussion here: “Masculinity and ‘Moonlight’: Eight black men dissect Barry Jenkins’ momentous film”), and besides, this blog is mostly about science fiction and fantasy. So I’ll just say that the accidental juxtaposition of the two films gave me a different lens for Chappie, and one that I think improved the viewing.
In Chappie, an escaped police robot is taught how to behave, how to think, how to be by two very different influences: the cultured but amoral engineer Deon and the countercultural trio Ninja, Yolandi, and Amerika. (I’d call them punks, but the Internet tells me they’re “Zefs”, the South African equivalent.)
A good chunk of the film revolves around Chappie’s education: Deon brings him paints and books, going for a well-rounded education of the mind, while Ninja teaches him how to swagger, swear, and shoot (and Yolandi provides an unconventional yet feminine, nurturing touch). Chappie veers into feminine pastimes and Ninja tries to “man him up”. Simplistic and played for laughs? Yes, but also poignant, as Chappie tries to navigate these competing influences, please everyone who matters to him, and understand what makes a man.
Deon’s rival at work, Vincent, is yet another representation of masculinity: an ex-soldier full of repressed rage, trying to get approval for his military-grade killer robot, whose ambitions are being held down by his female boss (the fabulous Sigourney Weaver–capable but sadly underused in the role). Deon, slim, bespectacled, and feminized or perhaps asexualized, is everything that Vincent hates.
Chappie’s level of success at integrating these influences determines the outcome of the film…but I won’t spoil it.
If you’re looking for an accurate and nuanced depiction of AI learning, you won’t find it here, but as a more metaphorical exploration of what it means to be a man, Chappie is worth seeing.
It’s travel blog time! I left off relating my travels in India by talking about Jaisalmer, the Golden City. (Several cities in the state of Rajasthan are named by colour: Jaipur is the Pink City, Jodhpur is the Blue City, and Udaipur is the White City.)
It’s possible to do long multi-day camel treks, or ones that last just a few hours. My travel companion and I decided to go for the in-between option: trekking a few hours, sleeping in the desert under the stars, and trekking back the next day.
We researched trekking companies online and with the help of our guidebook (The Rough Guide to India). What our research didn’t tell us was that at least some of the companies use child labour. On our trek, run by a company incongruously named Sahara Travels, a couple of preteen boys helped the adult guides with the cooking and taking care of the camels. Were they learning useful skills? Were they helping to support their families? Was it still uncomfortable? Yes, yes, and yes. Unfortunately, we didn’t know until it was too late.
Our trek started with a drive, by jeep, to an abandoned village. We never did get the full story, but it was chock-full of beautiful architecture…
Then we were introduced to our camels. A word of warning: camels are really, really tall. You get on them when they’re lying down, and then they stand up with an awkward lurch (they don’t seem very well put together, somehow) and you think you’re going to fall off. They’re also very bumpy when they walk. (Later in our India trip, I had the chance to try an elephant ride. Also very tall, but a completely different motion.) Having horseback-riding experience might have helped. As it was, I clung on tight the whole way.
Word to the wise: put on your sunscreen before you get on the camel! And you will absolutely need sunscreen. That desert sun is fierce! I also wore a wide-brimmed hat, a scarf to cover my neck (the hat alone didn’t do it because the sun’s rays bounced up off the sand), long sleeves and pants, and closed-toe shoes.
After a few hours, our guides started looking for a spot to camp. Things to know:
Hilarity ensued as the various tour guides tried to find camping spots out of sight of one another (and the windmills) so their respective groups could each have that “alone in the desert overnight” feeling.
This was managed eventually. Our overnight group consisted of a retired British couple and a younger group of Brazilians. We chatted over dinner (served by the two preteens), a simple meal of dal (lentil soup) and naan (flatbread) and hot chai (tea). The British guy boasted that he had fallen off his camel, but hadn’t hurt himself because he went limp as he fell. This was not very reassuring.
Sunset came. As you might imagine, the stars were spectacular. SO MANY STARS.
Unfortunately, as night fell, so did the temperature. Note to the wise: bring layers! Our bed was simply layers of blankets on the sand (we slept in our clothes), and let me tell you, that was not enough. I did not sleep well at all. But I did see lots of stars throughout the night.
(Side note: the bathroom was simply a designated spot behind some bushes. I brought a Shewee, which helped.)
In the morning we woke early, walked about to try and get warm, and congratulated ourselves on sleeping overnight in the desert. I’ll always remember the beauty of the early-morning sunlight on the dunes.
Then we had a simple breakfast of boiled eggs and toast and some very welcome chai, and got back on the camels. It wasn’t any easier than the day before, and we were just a tad sore by then. Nothing much to report from the return journey, except that I’ve never been so glad to see a jeep.
Also, we had sand everywhere. Thank goodness for hot showers.
Conclusion: my travel companion and I agree that we are not really cut out for this sort of adventure, but we’re both glad for the experience!
Have you been on a desert trek? Any tips to share?
I have an abusive inner voice.
Perhaps you have one, too. It says things like:
That idea sucks / this scene sucks / your plot sucks / your housework sucks / you suck.
Oh, and why can’t you work harder?
You can’t write consistently, so you’ll never be successful.
You’re not good enough to have a writing career / an editing career [even though I do, in fact, have a 15-year editing career and have published a novel and multiple short stories on my way to having a writing career].
You’re not doing enough.
You’re not enough.
I don’t know where this voice came from–nobody important in my life spoke or speaks to me like that, and my loved ones are all much kinder to me than I am to myself. I do know I’m far from the only person to struggle with such a voice–destructive self-criticism is pretty common among writers and other creative types. Like many creatives, I’m also a sensitive soul, which makes it that much worse.
The question is, my friends and fellow sufferers, what do we do about it? How do we silence it, or at least ignore it long enough to do what we want to do with our lives?
Many writers do manage to push on regardless. I used to know how. I’ve done it before. I’ve read books on the topic, and countless articles and blog posts, and some of them have helped. But this voice has been getting worse over the years, instead of better. I try to fight back, and sometimes it works for a bit, but it’s so hard and I’m so tired.
Right now, the voice is quieter, but I’m trying to write and there’s nothing there. I’ve been crushing the life out of my own creativity.
I don’t have any answers for you.
All I know is that this voice has held me down too long. I’m in an abusive relationship with my Inner Critic, but I deserve better. So I’m naming it, I’m opening my dark secret to you, in the hope that it will begin to lose its power.
I want to tell myself a new story about who I am.
I have a voice, too. It’s time to make myself heard.
Do you have a critical inner voice? What does it say to you? How do you break it of its power?