Monthly Archives: February 2013

It’s Okay if You Know Where it’s Going: why “predictable” isn’t automatically bad

Okay, this is something that’s honestly been bugging me for years.

I’m sick and tired of “predictable” being an automatic strike against a story. I’m sick of people deeming something objectively bad if they knew how it would end early on. I’m going to go so far as to say that people who think that way don’t actually know very much about stories. Yeah, they’re entitled to their opinion, but THEIR OPINION IS WRONG AND BAD

Same with “formulaic.”

Here’s the thing: I readily agree that there’s a necessary place for good fiction to strike out across borders and expand the boundaries of what we perceive possible in writing. I absolutely agree that taking risks and trying new things is necessary in keeping a genre vital and alive. What I want to question is that not doing those things is intrinsically bad, that there isn’t a place for it in the way that there’s a place for the other. I think this attitude causes one to overlook a lot of the things that are so great about storytelling.

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Line and Orbit: Science and the Protectorate’s original sin

For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.
– Carl Sagan

One of the cool things about writing – and I think this is especially true of writing anything book-length – is that you’re not always aware of what’s going in there. What you’re producing is coming out of you; in that sense what you

courtesy of NASA

write is a jumbled mirror image of all the fragments of you that make you who you are. Your values, your dreams and your fears, what you think you are and what you hope you might become. Fiction is self-reflexive, though it’s that way implicitly; it’s not a memoir but it is a part of the greater whole that makes up the messy history of you.

So it’s always neat when people find things in it that are unquestionably there but that you didn’t notice at the time. Again, my friend Natalie is a great example of this in that she spotted a big overarching ecological theme in Line and Orbit that I didn’t realize was there at all, and that I don’t recall discussing with my co-author aside from a few things about Melissa Cosaire’s orchids.

But it’s also the case that sometimes things come out in such a way that you don’t think what you meant is clear. Or that you didn’t think through the theme enough to specify it clearly – which is always the risk you run when you’re not explicitly trying to Be Thematic, which I don’t recommend doing (it smacks of ham-handed effort and Look How Deep I Am and people can usually spot it). So I was rereading a bit of L&O the other day – always fun when you can read your stuff with enough distance that you can enjoy it as if it weren’t actually yours – and I spotted something that troubled me a little: that the book might be open to an interpretation of being anti-science. (very mild spoilers under the cut)

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Thoughts on Lent from a solitary practitioner

The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display, nor will people say, Look! Here! or, See there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you and among you. – Luke 17:20-21

I missed Palm Sunday this year, and ironically only realized it was Ash Wednesday the other week on account of a great post by a friend of mine who also identifies as an Atheist. This is one of the things that happens when you’re a Christian (though I think some people would contest that self-identification, and sometimes I do as well) but you’re no longer – for all intents and purposes – a churchgoer, when you respect and even enjoy the measured meditativeness of the liturgical calendar but don’t have the practical aspect of it to mark the days.

So, Lent. I like Lent. I realize that I may be a rarity there, given that I don’t especially relish feelings of guilt (I have them, I just really don’t enjoy them). Nor do I enjoy self-deprivation. I’m also pretty bad at it. I also think these things are, by and large, a tremendous waste of time, to the degree that they’re motivated by any extended meditation on just what an incredibly awful person you are. So you’d think that I’d be counted out of most of the things that define the season for most religious people who care about the season at all.  But I like Lent. I like Lent because of what I’ve picked out of it, held onto.

Lent is really about waiting.

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Line and Orbit: Roundup thingy/linkspam

So a bunch has happened with Line and Orbit in the last couple of weeks (aside from just it being released). Here are a few of the highlights:

And just a reminder: Since I’ve seen a couple of people be all like I WANT MORE IN THIS ‘VERSE there are actually two short stories in existence that provide some backstory for a couple of the characters.

  • “Thin Spun”, which was featured in the (fantastic) anthology Hellebore and Rue: Tales of Queer Women and Magic, and which deals with Kae as a child and a meeting with an Aalim in exile.
  • “Starcrossed”, which was published in Help: Twelve Tales of Healing (a benefit anthology for Doctors Without Borders), which concerns Ying the healer and a difficult confrontation with a Protectorate Peacekeeper.

And watch this space for some freebie shorts, which I and my co-author will be posting soon.

And again, to everyone who’s read it and talked it up: Thank you so much. We’re not big names, either of us, so we’re really depending on word-of-mouth to make people aware of this book. And to the people who haven’t read it yet and intend to: The single best thing you can do if you like it is the above. It’s like presents.

But you got the love I need to see me through

I’m coming up on the end of the fourth year of my PhD program (oh my GOD) It’s been a rough-ass four years. Lotta ups, lotta downs. Not sure which outnumbers which anymore, to be honest. Getting into this program made me a wreck. Finishing my MA made me a wreck. Getting through my comprehensive exams made me an incredible wreck, to the degree where I’m still in recovery from it.

But here’s the thing.

Five years ago I got into this program. It meant moving out of state, something that I frankly didn’t want to do. Rob and I were living together, we were engaged, but we weren’t married. We had no formal legal ties. Both of our families were in Pennsylvania. We loved where we lived. Rob had a job he liked. It was wrenching, leaving. It was terrifying and a lot of work. There was crying on my part, and perhaps on his. There was a lot of sleeplessness.

Here’s the thing.

He would have been entirely within his rights to choose to stay behind and send me off on my own, and follow after when he felt like it was safe to do so. He would have been entirely within his rights to ask me to deal with things mostly alone for a while until things were more stable. And he didn’t. He plunged right in with me. He left his job, his life, his family, in the middle of a terrible recession and with not very much in the way of savings, with precious little safety net, to come here with me. To be with me. To take care of me. When nothing was certain, when nothing was safe. He had that much faith in me. In us.

Here’s the thing: This is what he’s always done. He’s propped me up, kept me sane, kept me grounded, taken care of me when no one else would or could. We don’t have a lot of endearments for each other (except, perhaps perversely, in annoyance) but there are a hundred thousand ways that he proves he loves me, every day. When I doubt everything else I never doubt that.

He and I don’t think much of Valentine’s Day. I think most of us can agree that it’s kind of a silly holiday, even an offensive holiday, or at least it’s been made so, at least in as much as it’s become a placate-the-women-folk day, a male-obligatory-feelings-showing day, a day of I-give-you-flowers-and-chocolate-and-you-give-me-slightly-out-of-the-ordinary-sex.

And but so I don’t need an excuse to talk about what he and I have, what he’s given me.

But what the hell. I’ll take it anyway.

Line and Orbit: Looking to the future


image by Etwoo

Release Week for Line and Orbit is almost done, and oh, what a week it’s been. It’s been great to see people reading and reviewing on Goodreads, seeing what people are liking about the book, what’s striking a chord with people – it’s been so much fun. Those of you who have reviewed it already, thank you so much. Those of you who are reading now and come out of the experience pleased, the single best thing you can do for us is to leave a rating or a review, or to blog about it, or to otherwise spread the word, because word-of-mouth is what a book like this really needs.

But as we come out of this week and into the next, I find that what I’m really thinking about isn’t the present, but what’s coming next for this universe. Because yeah, I feel comfortable being very clear about this now: Sequels are in the works. (very mild spoilers for the first book below. hints, really, more than anything.)

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Well, as I write this, my computer clock says it’s 11:48 PM, which isn’t of any special significance EXCEPT that it means that Line and Orbit’s day-of-release is minutes away (!!!!!!).

IT ALSO MEANS that there are now just about 24 hours left to enter to win a free copy. DO IT

I swear, I’d be dancing if I wasn’t so tired and if I didn’t have to teach at 8 AM.

Yay I sold a thing

Today, on the Feast of the Superb Owl, I got word that my shortish take on fairy tales and the Monstrous Feminine “To Increase His Wondrous Greatnesse More” is going to be published by Apex Magazine later this year. Which is happy-making.

What’s even more happy-making is that I’ve been feeling a little frustrated by my writing lately, and that Apex is one of those markets that I’d sort of wondered if I’d ever sell to. And hey, I have. And I also have chicken and chocolate chip cookies.

All hail the Superb Owl and her fearsome beak and catchsome claws.

Line and Orbit guest bloggage!

The delightful Catherine Lundoff – whom I’ve worked with before in the anthology Hellebore and Rue (which, incidentally, features a story set in the L&O universe) – asked me to do a guest post on Line and Orbit over on her LJ/DW, so I can be found there, talking about some of the things about the process of writing the book that were surprising to me or otherwise unexpected in some way.

Thanks to Catherine for offering the opportunity!

Five things fanfiction taught me about writing as a career and five things it didn’t

I got my start writing fanfiction.

Actually, that’s not completely true: I got my start in writing as a six-year-old by putting together a series of stapled colored-pencil picture books about a magic flower. Also by concocting long and extremely involved epic storylines with my model dinosaurs and my Lion King action figures. But after that: fanfiction.

I get the sense that writing fanfic – in one’s past and even more in one’s present – is still a somewhat stigmatized activity among professional fiction writers. Probably less so than it used to be – more and more authors are coming from backgrounds in fanfiction, or are at least willing to talk openly about it – but still, I feel like admitting that I’m one of those amounts to making a slightly uncomfortable confession. Oh, you’re one of THEM. Like it’s something that I should be embarrassed by.

The truth is, fanfiction taught me a lot. The truth is that fanfiction has probably played a huge contributing role in getting me where I am now. I met my Line and Orbit co-author through a pan-fandom roleplaying game on Livejournal; we learned to write together through playing with each other’s characters, and we learned that we enjoyed it enough to embark on something original and novel-length. So it hasn’t been a waste of time, and it hasn’t been without value.

But the truth is also that there are several very important things that fanfiction didn’t teach me. That it couldn’t teach me. And I think anytime we’re discussing the value of fanfiction in writing fiction in general, we also need to be very clear about its limitations.

So here’s some of what it taught me – and some of what I had to learn on my own.

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