My mate S. C. Flynn has had a book released very recently: an Aussie YA SF novel called Children of the Different. Obviously, it takes place in Australia and naturally is brimming with weird creatures, insects and more. Stuart is just popping in to discuss his novel and what has influenced this project. Enjoy!
THE CONTINENT OF INSECTS
by S C Flynn
There were huge clumps of ants now, dragging bigger and bigger loads. She bent down to see what they were carrying. Something round and white. An eye. A human eye.
My homeland of Australia is justly famous for its strange mammals. However, Australia is, above all, the continent of insects. The vast, hot land is home to billions of them. Insects were, and still are, a great inspiration to me. Some were there millions of years ago and are still there, living the same way they always have. Others are facing new challenges: the threat from introduced species extends even into the insect realm. The native Australian bee has no sting (of course – where I come from, swans are black) and is up against the more aggressive European stinging bee.
Humanity is so small in the context of Australia that, although we descendants of Europeans have destroyed a lot in the last two hundred years, the insect empire largely goes on exactly as before. If the termites decide that their plans require your partly wooden house to be demolished, they send in a squad and bring it down in a few years. The human government has a specialised sub-department of experts to deal with them, but there are always billions more. And so it goes.
This kind of endless war of the new arrivals against the primordial masters was and still is inspiring to me. Thousands of the termites’ amazing air-conditioned nests that can reach three metres in height stretch to the horizon, all facing north to create the coolest temperature inside. Like all social insects, the organisation of the termite empire is complex and intriguing. However, I used to find them too creepy to pay a lot of attention to up close.
My preferred insects were ants, who have been fighting the termites on and under the ground for millions of years. In the resulting arms race, both sides have developed specialised warriors with massive pincers and shielding designed to combat their opposite numbers.
Ants of course have very sophisticated social structures. One notable exception used to fascinate me. And not only me – it was mentioned two hundred years ago by the German philosopher Schopenhauer as an example of the drive and destruction of the “will to live”. I am talking about the formidable bull ant. It forages alone and has enormous pincers and a poisonous sting that is extremely painful to humans.
Her strong pincer jaws gripped. She clung harder and swung her abdomen under her body and then thrust forward, driving her sting and her venom.
I used to closely observe ants and make up stories about them – keeping away from the bull ant. In the ant world as I conceived it then, one nest might declare war on another, friends might find themselves separated by the fighting, and much more. I also liked to imagine the diplomatic relations between different species of ants, the journeys that groups went on between one nest and another. All of this offered food for imagining heroism. And horror.
About the Author
S. C. Flynn was born in a small town in South West Western Australia. He has lived in Europe for a long time; first the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of his ancestors. He still speaks English with an Australian accent, and fluent Italian.
He reads everything, revises his writing obsessively and plays jazz. His wife Claudia shares his passions and always encourages him.
S. C. Flynn has written for as long as he can remember and has worked seriously towards becoming a writer for many years. This path included two periods of being represented by professional literary agents, from whom he learnt a lot about writing, but who were unable to get him published.
He responded by deciding to self-publish his post-apocalyptic fantasy novel, Children of the Different and, together with an American support team, aimed for a book as good as those created by the major publishers. S. C. Flynn blogs on science fiction and fantasy at scflynn.com. He is on Twitter @scyflynn and on Facebook. Join his email newsletter list here.
In recent years the SF/F community has attempted to increase the diversity of the work being published and the authors publishing them. Which is a good thing. Obviously.
But there’s one tiny elephant in the room that we’ve all managed to somehow avoid talking about, and that’s international diversity.
By this I mean moving outside the US and looking for ways to bring cultures and nationalities into the mix. Yet somehow this is almost non-existent in the Dyson sphere that is contemporary fandom. Barely anyone’s discussing the nationality of authors and ensuring that we’re buying stories by writers from Russia, Brazil, South Africa and Australia. People are happy to discuss the dominant presence of other groups – but there’s naught a whisper of Americans dominating the space or making our genre more nationally diverse. When diversity is mentioned, it’s to be measured up by American standards and how to diversify the American pool and what it means for Americans. Hardly anyone’s pushing to get non-Anglo authors in ToCs or viewpoints from other cultures, and that’s not even covering the almost-all American sweep at that is the Hugos. And that’s problem. It’s been a problem ever since I first came into the genre.
So my question is: why?
It makes sense in a way. US is the publishing center of the world. NYC is its home, most agents reside there, amoung a hundred other reasons, not least of all the presence of Hollywood. The genre is where it is today because Americans popularized it and brought people into the fold – you can’t change those facts even if you wanted to. I am in no way suggesting that we relocate or try to push Americans (or anyone) out. It’s counterintuitive to punish people for simply existing in the genre, as if they don’t deserve to be. There’s no need for any form exclusivity.
Which is why I’m writing this. We don’t need to take publishing away from the US, but the US needs to broaden out and acknowledge that not only are things different in other nations and cultures, but that non-Americans want this point to be acknowledged and publicized.
Yes, it’s getting better. Agents and publishers and editors are far from ignorant on the matter, and The Three Body Problem winning last year’s Hugo is a glorious start, but there’s still a long way to go. There are people out there that recognize this problem. And then are those that don’t. By way of an anecdote: this discussion was brought up on a forum with resulting comments along the lines of “Americans created the awards, be grateful” and, “you can’t comprehend our traditions” or the inevitable: “if you don’t like it, get out and make your own”.
People, who are offended, mortified even, at thought of increasing diversity or covering a blind spot might soil an “American tradition”. It’s these sorts of people who hold fandom back. And as someone who’s sitting 20,000 kilometres away and unable to have a physical presence in fandom, least of all attend a con or workshop, it’s frustrating in the most dourest of ways to see people reacting with such hostility to the suggestion of branching out. As Vajra Chandrasekera writes in his Strange Horizons column (amoung other things): it’s called WorldCon. So why isn’t it representing the world?
Our genre is not what it was thirty, or even five years ago, and we all need to acknowledge that – especially as something so encompassing and influential as US publishing has the potential, perhaps even the obligation, to do so. The rise of translated works like Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Hex is proof of that things are moving in the right direction. But more on that subject down the line.
One of the most prime examples of this is the whole Puppy wars farce. I do not wish to discuss that mess – but I will say that the entire topic is fundamentally an American one – between Americans and about what American all genre fiction should be. The rest of the world is just watching and waiting for the acid spewing and bickering to stop. It’s exasperating to watch the genre be held back by banal bickering when we could be doing so much more.
In my PoC Destroy SF essay, I said that diversity cannot possibly exist in America alone. I still stand by that. Diversity needs to move past what one sole nation (regardless of what that nation is) acting as arbiter. And that means branching out on a number of levels: bringing non-Anglo, non-English speaking authors into the fold. Accepting non-American views and cultures and languages.
It’s not just the genre itself that’s dominated by Americans, it’s the terminology. The rhetoric and argot – to the extent that it’s almost language. A prime example of this is being the American-exclusive term “people of colour”, which I wrote about in the aforementioned Lightspeed essay. Tim speaks about it here – but I had A Very Prominent Person (I’m not going to give her the dignity of name-dropping) lecture me publicly about my own identity and how I’ve got an obligation to align my thinking and cultural viewpoint with that of an American one.
This happened again with someone else attempting to convince me that the term “people of colour” was used around the world and in Australia on every level of situation, from formal to everyday speech. It’s one of the many examples of how the very subject of diversity is expected to fold around an American viewpoint and apply its standards.
It’s as if these people are enraged that there could be another differing perspective. We align ourselves with the American perspective or we’re completely invalidated. Aliette de Bodard speaks about it in her brilliant PoC Destroy SF essay: there are people out there who don’t understand that not everyone shares the same hegemonic US-ian view, described as “strangling everything else”. Again, there’s nothing wrong with having an American viewpoint. But we all should acknowledge our cultural differences and how others have alternatives views and that’sperfectly okay.
But that would require some thought beyond the onion-thin deep and we all know how the perpetually enraged are incapable of such.
There are perspectives I don’t understand: cultural or otherwise. But I accept that these views differ and we agree to disagree. That’s what tolerance is. And it’s not fun having almost everything you say and do be skewered through a perspective that eschews your own. It’s a classic tactic: instead of putting up with an opposition, you don’t just tear it down. You seek to invalidate its very existence, as if it cannot possibly be valid in the first place. As if the non-conformity in of itself is not an option on the table.
So when these certain Americans go out of their way to tell non-Americans that their views are invalid and that they have no business understanding or commentating on an American tradition or bringing a new view to the table: it’s telling us we can either dumbly agree or not be part of the conversation. Simple. It’s easier to do that instead of accepting a difference: there cannot be a difference because there’s only one point of view.
And guess what? It sure as hell ain’t the rest of the world’s.
Earlier up I said that America is center of publishing: that we can all agree on. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to get published if you’re in America, but it does mean it can be harder if you’re not. Mostly this comes down to funding. There’s just more money in America and so that’s where the action is. I’ve had industry veterans, authors, agents and even editors tell me that in Australia almost all the publishing houses are nothing more than dusty outposts of the mainframe US department. The sales figures (mostly due to the population), the distribution, marketing, what have you, absolutely pales in comparison to that of the American ones.
I’ve had several of these said editors tell me to get a US agent, not even a UK one, (let alone an Aussie one), and treat the rest of the world as a foreign market, such is the chasm between publishing borders. Hell, the imprint of Harper Voyager down here in Australia – the publishers of A Song of Ice and Fire – doesn’t even pay advances. As for our awards and conventions? They don’t even begin to compare. And let’s not even pretend that connections and getting to meet Important People in person don’t matter. Even as something as simple as sharing time zones with the majority of industry professionals makes it all the harder to get noticed.
So you see why us international fans/Mad Max-ians want a crumb of the colossal pie that is American fandom and publishing?
And we have the privilege of speaking a mutual language. Imagine how much harder it is for writers and fans in places like Poland, India, and Spain to be included.
I’ve had editors tell me to remove or change things in my stories because cultural conflicts before. I’d love to write a novel in Australia or even somewhere like Japan or Malaysia, but I’m afraid that it won’t have commercial appeal to an American audience. I had a friend write an urban fantasy set in Australia and had an agent tell her that it wasn’t “exotic” enough to sell, nor was it in America, but she could have a much better chance of selling the novel if the setting was changed to a major American city. (Some) readers don’t seem to want to do the legwork to engage with foreign principles (see why The Killing was given a remake). They’re more than happy to read about a future planet or alternative society but hit a roadblock when they see a phrase or cultural reference from a neighbouring country.
I’d didn’t know that huge authors like Jay Kristoff and Greg Egan were Australian authors – they are both so popular and making a splash in the US markets I presumed they were American or British. Egan doesn’t even allow his stories to be reprinted in the Best Australian SF/F short fiction anthologies and win Australian awards; such is his disdain to be shoehorned into the label of an Australian writer.
Again, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with considering an American audience in mind. I’m a sucker for that creepy small-town horror /rural American subculture that Stephen King exploits every few years and I love New York City as a setting as much as anyone else. But it’d not America being America that’s the problem: it’s the hesitance, perhaps even refusal, to branch out and accept other views, other stories and other voices. It’s getting better, but it’s also got a long way to go. American publishing is a mammoth-sized tent, and there’s enough room for all of us. Let’s make WorldCon actually represent the world.
I don’t have all the answers. There are always exceptions, irregularities and points that I’m surely missing. I am in no way the arbiter on this discussion, and this isn’t supposed to be the end-all commentary on this subject. As an editor myself there are ways I could improve, absolutely (this being a starting point). But right now, based on what I’ve seen and experienced as a fan, writer and editor, American standards don’t just expand to the point where they swallow everything else: they render other viewpoints and perspectives obsolete. If we want to achieve diversity (as we all should), then we need to not only recognize these views but to also move out and transplant diversity outside of America and welcome the rest of the world. In the sort of stories that are published, by international authors, in the awards system, the cultures in which these said stories take place, and other aspects that I’ve skimmed. I’m saying this because I’ve noticed it from the moment I came to fandom and I’m sick of feeling like I’m the only one.
I don’t pretend to have the solution, but I know what not to do, and that’s to continue on doing what we’re already doing.
So. I just got back from a preview screening of Suicide Squad here in Sydney. My smart smart sister managed to procure two tickets to the event through a competition. And we went. Not only did you get a free shot of whiskey, every single seat was supplied with a mega-sized box of popcorn and a drink. They also gave away an Xbox One for best cosplay, but sadly we didn’t win it.
(ETA: Since some folks over on Reddit and Neogaf (thanks for linking guys!) are concerned about spoilers, I’ll say there that this review is spoiler free. You may read without peril).
Oh, how was the film?
It was pretty damned amazing.
It’s easily one of the best superhero films around. It’s the absolute epiphany of grunge, the alt-punk aesthetic dripping from every frame. It leans towards the unconventional and stylistic, especially towards the beginning where all the characters are introduced to use by way of a montage. It’s bursting with psychedelic colours; it’s in your face and down your throat and it’s proud of it. As much as I love the gritty urban realism of Nolan’s rendition of Batman, it’s a breath of fresh air to see the zaniness leaping off the screen.
That isn’t to say that it isn’t intense or dark or visceral; it’s all of those things and more. It pushes the “PG-13” rating to the limit and then some (some day I’ll actually be able to process US-ian rating systems – or anything the US says or does – through my Aussie brain). The action is razor-sharp and just as wild and insane as you’d expect, although sometimes it’s so chaotic that untangling the cacophony makes your head hurt.
But it’s not the straight-forward story, by-the-by scenario, or even the (somewhat lackluster villain) that makes the film inciting: it’s the characters. They’re constantly hurling razor-sharp remarks, deflecting the verbal blows and bouncing it right back. There’s a chemistry here that can only be compared to magnets: opposites attracting in the most warped of ways. These guys are insane and they know it. And they don’t care. They relish it.
At least half of the cast has a compelling personal history and/or demons looming over them that drive their motivations – if they don’t constantly pop up through the film they loop around by the end. Make no mistake: this is about as character-driven as a superhero film as ever been. In all other Marvel and DC films the camera is distant and detached, more interested in the space around the characters than themselves. The opposite is true here: we get treated to close ups and medium close ups of the entire cast, peeling back their layers and their histories and motivations. The camera cares about these people and their attachment as a group, as by extensions so do we. There’s a point around 3/5s through the film that I was waiting for, when their relationships all started to cement, their personalities evolving. There’s one incredible extreme close up at the film’s climax that sent shivers down my spine, the relationships and banter and collective charisma building up right until this point and executing it flawlessly. Easily some of the most fleshed around characters that any superhero film has ever offered up. The highlights were Deadshot and (of course) Harley Quinn, but I would have loved more backstory on Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang, although we did learn one of them has a fetish for pink unicorns. Have a guess which one.
The film isn’t without it’s solid flaws. Leto as the Joker was underwhelming, particularly with the character being given minimum screen time. The film also went through re-shoots and they stick out like a sore thumb if you’re looking hard enough. The pacing is somewhat inconsistent, and to say that the villain is meh is an understatement. Leto’s Joker doesn’t hold a candle to that of Ledger (RIP), but we all knew that from the start.
But these are small flaws in what’s certainly one of the better superhero films to grace our screens. The characters are a sadistic joy to watch in all their gory train-wreck glory, the action is solid and the dialogue top notch. Highly recommended.
ETA: Whoa, 25,000 views in less than twenty hours. You guys are amazing and I love you all for reading my rambling, incoherent mess that is somehow a review everyone wants to read. If you liked the review please do check out my other published short fiction (mostly science-fiction) and critical reviews, all catalogued over here on this page under “Bibliography”, it’s all free to read, and it perpetuates my fantasy of being a writer/critic. So if you checked that out it would be awesome. PS: I also co-edit a podcast.
Feel free to leave your responses in the comments. I seem to be getting a lot about Leto’s Joker. By all means, keep ’em coming (and thanks again for reading, it means a lot to me!)
It’s done. 123,566 words and I typed THE END on my space opera noir novel.
After 91 days, it’s finally, finally done.
It was done last Thursday, but I’d written 6,000 words that night and I didn’t want to see another keyboard for a weekend at least. But now I’m happy to announce that it’s done and finished.
The first draft, that is. It’s going to take a mountain of effort to unscramble that mess and knock it into something resembling a coherent narrative.
But it’s done.
I feel like Uma Thurman from Kill Bill, standing above the restaurant dojo of Crippling Self Doubt and seeing all the defeated brain weasels on the bloody floor and saying, “All your words are belong to me”.
I wrote everyday for over three months. Every single day. Even the day where I had a ten-hour shift and went out in the evening, even if it was 100 words before collapsing asleep. I kept chiseling away to get the end result.
I absolutely love this novel. After my last project burned me out I had to write exactly what I wanted to write. Genre tends or hot-off-the-press type work be damned. I wanted to take a shot at writing a murder mystery in the deepest reaches of space, with a strong sense of space opera exuberance, and I did.
My plan is to write up a sketchy synopsis of the novel, as well as a detailed list of things that need to be fixed. But I’ll be taking a bit of a break. After a few weeks I’ll try my hand at a short or two, polish up an ugly draft that I’ve got sitting around, maybe do some nonfiction, and then it’s time for revision. A lot of revision.
But for now, I need to clear my mind and take a mini-holiday. After writing almost 125k in 91 days, I think I’ve earned it.
And I’m going to try my best not to think about just how much it sucks and needs work. Wish me luck!
So. Something’s been brewing behind the scenes at StarShipSofa. Something we’re sure you’ll all be excited about.
But some backstory first.
It goes without saying that all of us at the District of Wonders welcome stories from all over the globe. We’re an international podcast, and naturally interested in finding stories published in another language. With English-speaking (particularly American) stories dominating the market – and understandably so – it can be quite difficult to get work translated from another language into English to reach a wider audience, and even harder to find them once they have. We have authors such as Andrzej Sapkowski and Cixin Liu rising to popularity, but for the vast majority of non-English authors it’s maddeningly hard to shatter that language barrier and find an audience they deserve.
So I’m doing something about that.
Starting soon, StarShipSofa will be playing one whole month’s worth of stories translated from other languages as part of our Translations Month Special. These four stories are diverse in content and sub-genre as they are in country of origin. Ranging from cyberpunk to time travel to transgressive dystopian, our stories come from France, Japan, Russia, and China. The table of contents are below:
“The Smog Society” by Chen Qiufan, translated by Ken Liu and Carmen Yiling Yan (translated from Chinese).
“Sense of Wonder 2.0” by Laurent Queyssi, translated by Edward Gauvin (translated from French).
“White Curtain” by Pavel Amnuel, translated by Anatoly Belilovsky (translated from Russian).
“Violation of the TrueNet Security Act” by Taiyo Fuji, translated by Jim Hubbert (translated from Japanese).
Half of these were picked up directly from slush, the other half were procured with assistance from John Joseph Adams and the team at Skyboat Media. A big thank you to them.
This project has been a long time in the making. We’re looking very much to bringing these incredible stories to you, showcasing the international diversity of science-fiction and the different favours that each country specializes in. And of course, we’re always open to broadening our horizons and welcome both more translated stories, and authors and narrators from all territories. But for now, I hope you enjoy what’s on tap this month and all the stories to come.
If you like our stories and the work we’re doing, please consider making a donation on Patreon. Every bit helps to cover our server costs and work towards becoming a paying market. The District of Wonders has adapted and published over a thousand stories over a decade-long period, and with your help we’ll go for another decade yet. The link is here: https://www.patreon.com/districtofwonders
As always, let us know what you think of this project and the stories on Facebook, Twitter or email. And please, enjoy this special Translations Month, coming soon to your earholes in a podcast near you.
I’m late to the party on this one, but I thought I’d announce it on my blog anyway.
My story, “The Galaxy’s Cube” which was originally published at Abyss & Apex, has gotten two reprints sales. The first in audio to The Overcast, which is a fantastic venue in of itself (you’re all listening, right?)
The second is to Science Fiction World. If they’re unfamiliar to you, it’s because they’re a magazine in China, with a one million plus readership. They bought the distribution and translation rights to my story and are translating it into Chinese as I write this. Which is…huge.
When I first started writing, getting just a very eyeballs on my work would have been promising. Now potentially over a million people will be reading this story, and in another language on the other side of the world.
So you could say I’m pretty chuffed.
I’ll be getting contributor copies, and I’ll post ’em when they arrive. Until then you’ll have to suffice with the English version.
Most of you probably already know this, but earlier this year I had an essay published as part of Lightspeed’s People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction. It wasn’t an easy thing to write; I had to dunk my head back into some rather sweet slash sour memories, but I’m glad I did. I felt I something to contribute, namely to the (arguably imperialistic) term people of colour. After having my voice drowned out by Americans telling me what to think and assuming that their standards and cultures are somehow applicable to the rest of the world, I had the opportunity to say something through the official channels. And say something I did. Just not as passive-aggressive and ham-fisted as those last two sentences.
My editor, Sunil Patel, did an ace job with both my essay and all of them as a whole. The essays had a fantastic response, from folks like Neil Gaiman, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Diana Pho, amoung hundreds of others. I saw people say that said my essay had left them speechless and the essays as a whole made them cry. I’m particularly pleased with that, but particularly the latter.
And it’s not even out yet.
But that’s going to change soon, because team Lightspeed just unveiled the cover and the ToC. Feast your eyes on this sucker.
Yeah. Pretty incredible. I’m in this. In a print copy of this. And it’s going to sit on my shelf. And I’m in it. And I’m in it.
And I’m not the only one. My ToC mates include Samuel Delany, Octiva E. Butler, Sofia Samatar, Steven Barnes (Star Wars novelist), Vandana Singh, Daniel H. Wilson (Robopocalypse), Aliette de Bodard, Ken Liu, and almost 100 other amazing writers.
This issue is part of a much larger group known as the Destroy issues. And guess who else is part of them? Chuck Palahniuk – the author of a little known novel cum film called Fight Club. And then there’s Jessica Sharzer, the producer of American Horror Story. And there’s more: Gemma Files, Pat Cadigan, Joyce Carol Oates, Tanith Lee, Christopher Barzak, Kameron Hurley, Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Edmée Pardo, David Gerrold…
The list literally just keeps going on and on and on. And they haven’t even announced the ToCs for the last two anthologies. Everytime I think about how I’m part of thThere’s hundreds of voices in the destroy projects. You won’t agree with all of them, or even like any of all. But there’s something there for everyone. And if you wanna pre-order People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction you can do that. Right over here. You know you want to.
The full ToC is over here. Much destroying. Such quality. Very explosive. Wow.
Original Short Stories (edited by Nalo Hopkinson & Kristine Ong Muslim)
A Good Home by Karin Lowachee
Depot 256 by Lisa Allen-Agostini
Salto Mortal by Nick T. Chan
Digital Medicine by Brian K. Hudson
The Red Thread by Sofia Samatar
Wilson’s Singularity by Terence Taylor
Fifty Shades of Grays by Steven Barnes
Omoshango by Dayo Ntwari
Firebird by Isha Karki
As Long as it Takes to Make the World by Gabriela Santiago
Original Flash Fiction (edited by Berit Ellingsen)
An Offertory to Our Drowned Gods by Teresa Naval
Other Metamorphoses by Fabio Fernandes
Breathe Deep, Breathe Free by Jennifer Marie Brissett
Morning Cravings by Nin Harris
The Peacemaker by T.S. Bazelli
Binaries by S.B. Divya
Chocolate Milkshake Number 314 by Caroline M. Yoachim
Four And Twenty Blackbirds by JY Yang
A Handful Of Dal by Naru Dames Sundar
Hiranyagarbha by Kevin Jared Hosein
Reprint Fiction (selected by Nisi Shawl)
The Evening and the Morning and the Night by Octavia E. Butler
Double Time by John Chu
Delhi by Vandana Singh
1965 by Edmée Pardo
Empire Star by Samuel R. Delany
Author Spotlights (edited by Arley Sorg)
Nick T. Chan
Brian K. Hudson
Nonfiction (edited by Grace Dillon)
Because Some of Us Survived by Samantha L. Taylor
Doing Dhalgren by Terence Taylor
The Thunderbird’s Path by Misha Nogha
Music Medicine by Zainab Amadahy
Interview: Daniel H. Wilson by Grace L. Dillon
Book Reviews: June 2016 by Sunil Patel
Artists Gallery by Alan Bao, Odera Igbokwe, Sonia Liao, Christopher Park, Pugeroni, Tanna Tucker, Melanie Ujimori, Victoria Ying
Well, this is certainly overdue. But no matter: my short story “The Galaxy’s Cube” went live at Abyss & Apex for their 58th issue, Q2 2016. It takes place on a Thailand-inspired colony world – there’s a strong biopunk favour, lavish descriptions of haunting cities, dormant AIs, relationships and the sense of wonder and sorrow. It’s also a bit of a love letter to the choatic, beautiful sprawling mess that is Bangkok, Thailand and the wonderful people who reside there. I’ve lived in the place and visited it more than a dozen times and I’ve never had a bad experience.
I wrote this story back in late 2014 or so. It gave me hell at the time of writing, I had no idea where I was going with it, what I’d do, how it would turn out, etc. But I pressed on, finished it, and sold it to Abyss & Apex very quickly. A&A have published work by Aliette de Bodard, Marie Brennan, Rae Carson, J. N.K. Jemisin, Will McIntosh C. J. Cherryh, Paul Di Filippo, Jay Lake, Tim Pratt, and others, so it’s an honour to appear in their pages. So far it’s gotten pretty good reviews, including one in SF Revu where they called it a “fantastic, heartfelt story.”
It’s not perfect of course, considering I wrote it a year and a half ago, but I think it’s one of my better stories, and I feel it’s one of those stories that I “leveled up” with. Considering that they only publish 20 or so stories a year, and frequently get Honourable Mentions in the Year’s Best, I’m pretty happy to be in their pages. Many thanks to my editors Wendy and Tonya who pushed for it to be the leading story of the issue.
I normally don’t talk about topical subjects here. I figure there’s enough of that stuff floating on the interwebz as it is and I don’t want to rally my voice to that pot. But this time I’ve been drawn into it. We all have.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d have heard about the Puppies, especially of the Rabid variety. If you haven’t heard of them, best to keep it that way. Abandon all hope yet who continue reading.
I’m not going to go into that now – enough ink and pixels have been spilled in just that. No, I’m going to talk about something else, something that concerns me and the whole team at District of Wonders.
Tales to Terrify, our horror podcast, earned itself a Hugo nomination.
It was on the Puppy slate.
The Rabid Puppy slate.
There’s a lot of stuff going on about the nominations, the places/people on the slate, and if it’s worth withdrawing solely based on the fact that these items were on the slates. George R. R. Martin nails it brilliant over on his blog where he says that withdrawing is the absolutely last thing anyone should do. It’ll give a certain glorified troll power and one sane person wants to do that.
On that same note, sending a Noah Ward (no-award, that is) nuke to anything on the slate as well? Also insane. Because Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, etc, were on the slate, it means we should punish them with a No Award, even though we’d have voted for them anyway? Beyond insane. Again, John Scazli, George R. R. Martin and others nail this far better than I ever could, check out their words on the matter.
But coming back to Tales to Terrify, the entire team has found ourselves in a very difficult position, none more so than Stephen, Scott, Philip and Laura. We’re in the middle of a mud fight we didn’t know we’d be dragged into. And it sucks.
But something has got to be done.
We’ve written out a letter for Tales to Terrify, distancing ourselves from the Rabid Puppies and their mangy jaws. You can find it over here. Please give it a read and share it around. It’s important people know we’re not a part of this mess and that we had no idea we were on the slate.
I’m not going to lie when I say this wasn’t easy. All the editors at Tales to Terrify were gutted – Stephen wasn’t able to sleep last night and Scott mentioned that he felt like he’d been kicked in the stomach. We hate the fact that we’ve been caught up in this. But we’re not going to pull out. It’s not about us. It’s not about hiding in a corner and waiting for it all to blow over. It’s about fandom as a whole. It’s about telling the Rabid Puppies that their bullying tactics are not okay. That we’re not going to dance to their tune. If we withdrew, we’d be telling them that they can do this every year and to everyone.
It’s a long, bitter and bumpy road ahead, and every bit helps. We’re prepared for the criticism, the smearing, and negative attention and whatever else comes with it. Because we refuse to give Day an inch and because we want to play it straight. Whatever happens, we’re standing our ground. We feel we’ve got something of worth going over at Tales to Terrify, and we’re not going to let the Rabid Puppies ruin that. We owe it to fandom. We owe it to the hundreds of authors, narrators, editors and fans we’ve had the privilege of having on the show. We want their work and their contributions to mean something. We’re not letting Day and his band of semi-literate misfits destroy that.
Sympathies to anyone and everyone caught up in this nonsense. It sucks harder than a baby whale. Amoung other things.
For those of you who’ve been following my tweets recently, I’m neck deep in a new project. Not a new short story, a new novel. I finished my YA epic Slavic fantasy about a month back. I took a short break before thinking about what I was going to do next. I didn’t want to jump into edits straight away – me and my YA fantasy didn’t have a very good relationship in the last third of the book. We needed, need, time away from each other. In a couple of months I’ll come back and start hacking away at it with an axe.
But until then I needed something else. I’ve had this idea boiling in the basement of my skull for quite some time, but didn’t have the backstory to support it. I took a few days to flesh it out, do some outlining, then threw myself into writing. No side projects, no short stories, no editing. Nothing. Just words words words.
I stated that book two and a half weeks ago, about 18 days. Right now it’s sitting at 19,000 words. That’s my part time job at the moment. Butt in chair, pouring my mind on the keyboard and screen. No inspiration quotes, no #amwriting hashtags on twitter, no in-the-zone yoga mind experiments.
Just black words on white paper.
My minimum target is 1,000 words per day, not including plot outlining, world-building, and running off to jot down some cool idea. And so far I’m not doing too badly. I know where my characters are going, where they’ve come from, and (most) of the world around them. I can’t say much about the project, but it’s a space opera crossed with a murder mystery. It’s not YA either, my first adult book since my first rubbish attempt at writing a SF/F when I was in highschool.
I’m not thinking about how to sell it, how to pitch it, if the current market is good for it, nothing. I’m just having fun and getting that work down. It’s hard sometimes, and I hate every sodding word on the sodding page, but I’m doing it. It’s going to be one ugly half-breed when it’s done (coming from a half-breed), but it’ll be done.
One of the worst things I ever did was let my YA fantasy sit and rot for whole months at a time over a stretch of one year and three months while I was finishing university. It grew old and stale, and even now it’s in desperate need of a scrub up and tweaking. So I’m not making that mistake here. I’m living and breathing this world and this world alone, and it’s pouring out of me fast.
By this time next week I hope to be at 26,000 words, perhaps a little more. By the time this is over my fingers are going to be worn down to the bone and my brain having gone through a deep fat fryer, but no one said this job was meant to be easy.