Category Archives: Uncategorized

Good Endings and Bad Deaths – on The Walking Dead’s mid-season finale and writing in general

[Hey, guys – meant to edit this earlier, but this is just to say… I no longer believe all of this. In part because of the very things I’m talking about here, which I frankly find unbelievable. Possibly just in the denial phase, but come February, well, we’ll see if there’s actually another writerly analysis post to write. Because I think there might be, and that might be really cool for a number of reasons.

Scott Gimple would still be an asshole.

Carry on.]

Okay.

This is going to be sort of a weird hybrid dinosaur-unicorn of a post – except way less cool than such a thing would ever be – wherein I’m half sobbing tantrumy 14-year-old and half Author Who Has Opinions About Writing. I’ll try to make it more the latter than the former but no promises.

Massive, massive spoilers to follow.

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Silence for Ferguson and thanks for the fighters

I meant to do this at noon today, but for one reason and another I didn’t manage it. But I feel like it’s important, and I feel like doing it at 9 pm is better than not doing it at all.

Tomorrow I’m headed up to Philadelphia to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. I have a lot to be thankful for. But there’s a lot of ugliness in the world right now, and I think this should be more of a time to meditate on that, and on what we can do, and on what light we can bring into the world ourselves. How we can attack oppressive structures, and how we can help others fight injustice. And for those of us who benefit from those structures to take stock of how and to recognize it.

I’m thankful for the people who fight, every day. I’m thankful for their strength and their courage, and for how they refuse to be beaten.

So I’m going to be silent for a moment.

And then I’m going to go here: The Ferguson Public Library donation fund | The Ferguson Defense Fund | The St. Stephen’s Food Bank

Here be my 2014 awards post, yarr

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2014 was a decently productive year for me, publication-wise. It was also a year full of awkward, jerky stops and starts and a bunch of things ended up being way bigger and way more exhausting than I thought they would (and the year isn’t over yet), but overall I’m pleased with things. I’ll be doing a year round-up post around New Year’s, but for now here are the things by me that are award-eligible this year. Most of them are free to read online. If you’re reading for awards and you want copies of any of the stuff that isn’t, feel free to get in touch with me and I’ll shoot it your way.

Short stories

  • “So Sharp That Blood Must Flow” – Lightspeed – February 2014. I’ve been referring to this as my Misandrist Little Mermaid story, and so it is. It’s a violent, vengeful take on the fairy tale, and it was somewhat cathartic to write. I would actually consider it horror more than fantasy. I’m very proud of how uninterested it is in taking any prisoners.
  • “To Increase His Wondrous Greatnesse More” – Apex Magazine – March 2014. In some ways this can be read as a companion piece to the above. It’s not necessarily a take on any one fairy tale as it is an attack on tropes common to many of them. A maiden, a dragon, and a queer meditation on storytelling and the monstrous feminine.
  • “Across the Seam” – Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. An extremely personal story about Baba Yaga, a Slavic immigrant coal miner who’s also trans, and a massacre that ended a miner’s strike in Lattimer, Pennsylvania. You can read more about it here.
  • “Cold as the Moon” – Strange Horizons – August 2014. Got a “recommended” from Lois Tilton at Locus. This one came from the image of the very first line and became a story about neglectful/abusive parents and children who have to grow up far too early. It’s an angry story. A lot of the stuff I published this year was angry, actually.
  • “Singing With All My Skin and Bone” – Nightmare – September 2014. If there’s a single story I’m most proud of in 2014, this is it. It’s by far the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It’s basically autobiography with a speculative veil. Writing it was an incredibly raw, visceral experience – appropriately so, given the subject matter. Which, speaking of, you should be aware of if you have any self-injury triggers.
  • “What Glistens Back” – Lightspeed – November 2014. This is the other one I’m most proud of. I’ve taken to saying that it’s a first contact story and a last contact story; it’s about discovery but it’s also about saying goodbye to a loved one in the moments before death. Apparently it made a bunch of people cry. Good.

Novels

So that’s it. If you’re reading for awards, I hugely appreciate you giving them a look. If you’re not, hey, give ’em a look anyway. I mean, I think they’re all right.

A few things

Doing a run-by because I have a million stuffs to take care of and it’s already noon.

  • I’ll be at WFC tomorrow and Saturday. No, not officially, because I couldn’t afford to go because WFC frankly needs to do some soul-searching. But I’ll be hanging out in the bar and going to dinner with people and such, and I hope very much to see old friends and make new ones.
  • My story “What Glistens Back” is out in Lightspeed. I read it at Capclave, where it got a pretty good reception, and I’m immensely proud of it. It’s probably one of my favorite things that I’ve ever written.
  • I thought I was gonna finish a book by the end of this week. I’m not gonna finish a book by the end of this week. I really think I’ll be done in the next week or so, though.
  • I’ve sold my story “The Horse Latitudes” (originally appeared last year in Ideomancer and can be read here) to Michael Matheson’s anthology The Humanity of Monsters, which will be out from ChiZine Publications in November 2015. The ToC is amazing so far – check it out here.
  • Three of my stories were in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror #6 (2013) Honorable Mentions (“Love in the Time of Vivisection”Shimmer #17, “The Horse Latitudes” – Ideomancer, “Event Horizon”Strange Horizons). Pretty chuffed, especially given the company I’m in.
  • Rookwar, the final book in the Casting the Bones trilogy, is a month away from release. Labyrinthian is a little over two months. Watch for more stuff regarding them, including stuff that is free.
  • I’m finishing up an edit job for a client, so I have an editing slot open. If you have an SFF manuscript that you need help on, or you know someone who does, I’m your individual. And to be frank, any work in that area really helps us out right now, so I appreciate anyone spreading the word.

Okay, back to work.

#INeedDiverseGames – and #WeNeedDiverseBooks – because anything less is shitty writing

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There’s been some great stuff said in the #INeedDiverseGames hashtag in the last couple of days, though if you check it out – and you should – be aware that of course people with other agendas have found it and are being ugly in it. Not all of it is overtly ugly, though, in the same way that not all of the people supporting the GamerGate crowd are actually monstrous assholes. One of the things I saw linked – and I’m sorry, but I can’t now seem to find it, so you’re just going to have to take my word for it – was a rather long post that picked apart the demographics of people who play games, delivered an analysis, and ended with the claim that there’s no solid evidence that lack of representation in media has detrimental psychological effects (untrue) and questioned whether diversity really is necessary in games. “It would be nice, sure”, said the author (I’m paraphrasing somewhat). “But is it something we really need?”

Okay.

I mean, maybe you don’t think we do need it. Maybe you don’t think it’s actually necessary. Maybe you think it would be cool and you’re not against it as such, but you think people are making kind of too much of a Thing out of it and they’re just looking for something about which to be loud and angry. As the demands for more diverse and inclusive SF&F have intensified we’ve seen the exact same kind of claims, usually along with protestations that things aren’t actually that bad anyway. It’s not necessary.

Okay.

Got a question for you, then: Do you care about good stories?

Just that. That simple. Presumably you do – if you read books, if you play games, if you watch TV and movies, presumably you’d prefer to be reading and playing and watching stuff that’s actually good, right? You’re not going to embrace stuff that’s shitty and boring. If someone came up to you and said “wow, you sure do prefer tame, safe, bland, status quo-embracing shit, don’t you?” you’d probably push back against that pretty hard, right? And yeah, a lot of us like stuff that’s loud and silly and focused entirely on being entertaining with no pretensions toward anything more and that’s great, but I don’t think any of us would cop to loving it because it’s shit and wanting nothing except more shit for the rest of whatever.

Right?

And if you write books and short stories, if you make movies and TV and games, I’m guessing you feel even more strongly about this. You’d ideally like to be making good stuff. You probably don’t want to make shitty, boring, unimaginative things. You probably wouldn’t like to see your chosen field choked with shitty, boring, unimaginative things. We all want to be proud of what we do, and we want to be proud of the community in which we’re doing it. If we’re creators, we want to be creating good things, and we want to be surrounded by people who are making good things, because they push us further, make us want to do more, make us reach for greater creations. Even if you’re writing pulpy, silly stuff, even if you’re making those same big, loud, entertaining, unpretentious spectacles, I’m sure you want to make the best damn big, loud, entertaining, unpretentious spectacle you can. If you’re a creator, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you actually give at least a little bit of a fuck about what you’re making.

Right?

So here, if you refuse to accept anything else, is the reason why we need diverse games and books and stories: Anything less is shitty writing.

If your writing is full of white men, it’s shitty writing. If your writing erases any sexual or gender identity other than straight cisgender people, it’s shitty writing. If your writing reduces women to (usually injured, kidnapped, or killed) motivations for your male characters, it’s shitty writing. If your writing presents histories in which people of color play no role at all and you defend it with “but historical accuracy!”, you’re wrong and also it’s shitty writing.

It’s status quo, it’s tired, it’s boring, it’s bland, it’s unimaginative, it’s been done to death, it’s shitty shitty shitty. And if you give even a little bit of a fuck about your craft, you have no excuse whatsoever for being satisfied with it, let alone defending it.

Know what else? It’s also not true. Because here’s the thing: writing stories is about telling lies that are fundamentally true, and any writing that doesn’t do that on a foundational level is shitty writing. Telling a story is about creating characters who feel real, who are recognizable to us even if they aren’t like us. Truly great writing will open a way for us to feel connected to people who are very different from us, who themselves represent an expansion of how we see the world. And the world is diverse. Fabulously so. The world is rich and wild and beautiful with diversity – it’s a treasure house of diversity, of so many different people with so many different experiences, knowledges, struggles, histories. These are deep waters, friends, and they are teeming with glorious diversity. Each element of difference is a chance to tell a new story, to weave a thread into a larger, grander tapestry. And the stories that do this don’t have to be anything but entertaining. They don’t have to be the next Academy Award-winning film, the next show to get showered with Emmys. They don’t have to be books and short stories that win Nebulas and Hugos and Campbells. They can be loud and big and silly and fun, and aim for nothing more.

That doesn’t mean they can’t also be true. It’s not a burden to make them true. It’s not difficult. It’s easy. Just be willing to write stuff that isn’t shitty.

This is why the whole “but it’s bad to be diverse just for the sake of being diverse!” argument is utter bullshit. How about being diverse for the sake of writing well? How about being diverse for the sake of being real? How about doing it for the sake of writing true? How about doing it because it is not that goddamn hard?

If you really think that – if you really think it’s silly, that doing it is sacrificing some kind of artistic principle, if you really think people are making a Thing out of it, if you really think it’s unnecessary – fine. But in that case I have no choice but to conclude that you’re a lazy, shitty writer or a consumer of lazy, shitty writing, and that’s what you’re satisfied to do and to be.

And dude. Dude. Dude.

No.

Writerly Roundup – September 2014

Sneaking this in at the last minute, and it’s not going to be all that long – this wasn’t a very heavy month. A few things happened. And I’m omitting the RP stuff this time because I don’t have enough concrete new stuff to really warrant it.

Here’s what happened:

  • I finished Rookwar. Which means I’m done with the entire Casting the Bones trilogy, which is the first novel trilogy I’ve completed. Rookwar itself clocked in at just under 110k words (after editing), which makes it roughly 20k words longer than either of the other two. I still don’t know what happened. That’s just the length it felt like it had to be. Release is still December as of now. I really cut it close so that might change.
  • I kept working on Untitled Kae Book. It still has no title. I think I’m about halfway through it. There’s a lot about it that I’m still not sure of. Onward.
  • I submitted three short stories. Got a very lovely no on one I sent out a couple months back (I mean that, really good Rs are almost as good as acceptances, at least to me) and another nice R on another, and am waiting to hear back on the other two.
  • I finished two short stories. I think I like one. Not so sure about the other. I’m thinking that one of my current story problems is that not enough happens in them.
  • “Singing With All My Skin and Bone”, which is probably the most personal story I’ve ever written, came out in Nightmare. I look forward to the day when I feel comfortable reading this one aloud in front of people. It might be a while.
  • I went to the Baltimore Book Festival and had a great time. I read, I hung out, I met new friends, I got to be on great panels with great people. It was a time.
  • I started freelance editing. I have no idea how this will go. I hope it will go well.
  • Coming in October: Capclave. And not much else, at least nothing solid yet on the radar. Watch for news.

 

My Capclave schedule

small_dodo_transparentHere’s what I’ll be doing at this year’s Capclave. I mean, I’ll be doing a LOT, but here’s what I’m officially doing. Pretty excited.

  • Oct. 11 (Saturday) – 10:00 am – The Charms of Dystopia
    Panelists: Paolo Bacigalupi, Tom Doyle, Sunny Moraine, James Morrow, Norm Sherman (M)
    Why is it that anyone would want to read a dystopia? Why are books like The Windup Girl popular and what does the writer and reader get out of them?
  • Oct. 11 (Saturday) – 2:30 pm – Reading
  • Oct. 11 (Saturday) – 5:00 pm – I Hate His/Her Politics But I Love His/Her Books
    Panelists: Day Al-Mohamed, Paolo Bacigalupi, David G. Hartwell, Larry Hodges, Natalie Luhrs, Sunny Moraine (M)
    Should a personal evaluation of an author be separated from how you view his/her politics? Many people refused to see the movie Ender’s Game because of Orson Scott Card’s statements on homosexuality and other writers charge that political views influence award nominations and who is picked for con programming. Is this true and if so, is it a good thing or a bad thing?
  • Oct. 11 (Saturday) – 6:00 pm – The Suck Fairy and Feet of Clay
    Panelists: Barbara Krasnoff (M), Natalie Luhrs, James Maxey, Sunny Moraine
    What do you do when you reread your beloved childhood classics and find they have been visited by the suck fairy and are now sexist, racist, etc? What do you do when you find out that that author that got you through junior high turns out to have giant size 30 clod-hopping feet of clay or was actually kind of evil? How do we deal with problematic works and authors?
  • Oct. 11 (Saturday) – 7:30 pm – Mass Signing
    Participants: Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Sarah Avery, Paolo Bacigalupi, Holly Black, Marilyn “Mattie” Brahen, Neil Clarke, Tom Doyle, Andy Duncan, Scott Edelman, Jim Freund, Charles E. Gannon, Max Gladstone, David G. Hartwell, Alma Katsu, Pamela K. Kinney, Barbara Krasnoff, Dina Leacock, James Maxey, Will McIntosh, Mike McPhail, Sunny Moraine, James Morrow, Sarah Pinsker, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Lawrence M. Schoen, Darrell Schweitzer, Alex Shvartsman, Jon Skovron, Alan Smale, Bud Sparhawk, Janine Spendlove, Genevieve Valentine, Michael A. Ventrella, Lawrence Watt-Evans
    The Saturday evening mass autographing session.
  • Oct. 12 (Sunday) – 11:00 am – Romance and SF/F
    Panelists: Catherine Asaro, Victoria Janssen (M), Pamela K. Kinney, Natalie Luhrs, Sunny Moraine
    A significant number of science fiction and fantasy books are reviewed in publications such as Romance Times and nominated for awards in the romance genre. Were the genre line distinctions always artificial? What are romance readers’ expectations with respect to the plot and its resolution? HEA vs. the tragic romance. Is romance handled better or worse in YA SF/F? Are certain types of romance plots (such as first love) more likely to show up in YA?
  • Oct. 12 (Sunday) – 3:00 pm – When Did Fangirl Become a Dirty Word?
    Panelists: Emmie Mears, Sunny Moraine, Sherin Nicole, Janine Spendlove, A.C. Wise
    It used to connote enthusiasm, now it implies contempt. Why is this? What can be done to combat this attitude?
  • Oct. 12 (Sunday) – 4:00 pm – Why Does My Protagonist Look Like Julie Bell?
    Panelists: Ron Garner, Will McIntosh (M), Sunny Moraine, Lawrence Watt-Evans
    How do books get their covers? What are the best and worst cover illustrations you’ve ever had? Issues such as whitewashing of protagonists of color.

Writerly quote therapy

This is what I’m doing when I should be finishing my editing pass on the draft of Rookwar.

Today is a Tough Writing Day, mentally. I’m guessing that any of you who write at all regularly – fiction or nonfiction, pro or not – are familiar with this feeling, that all your best work is behind you and that work was “best” in only a very relative sense. That you will never be the writer you want to be (this one is honestly probably true) and trying to be so is a bad joke and a fool’s errand (this one is probably not true).

I like this quote at times like this. It doesn’t make it stop but at least it’s a good articulation of the problem.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it. – Anne Lamott

And this one.

Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. – Stephen King

Back to work.

Thoughts on ludonarrative difficulties and The Walking Dead: Season Two

Note: This is all my interpretation of a game and a story that allows for a multiplicity of interpretations; that’s one of its strengths. So when I say “the game is doing X” or “the game meant Y” that’s not meant to be a conclusive statement of fact. These are things I think, results of my experience as a player and as someone who constructs narratives professionally. Take them for what they are.

HUGE SPOILERS, NATURALLY

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On The Walking Dead S2, Sarah, and why it all matters

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I just sent this to feedback@telltalegames.com, regarding episode 4 of The Walking Dead: Season Two. Massive spoilers for that episode within.

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