Tag Archives: line and orbit

News and an excerpt from a novel-in-progress

I haven’t posted in a bit. Nothing major to announce at the moment, except that I sold a short story – “A Shadow on the Sky”, a tale of a drone queen because of course drones would need one – to Mythic Delirium.

AND here’s a novel update: I’m currently working on two concurrently, because I’m out of my mind. The first is Rookwar, the final installment in the Casting the Bones trilogy – which I am very behind on and need to push hard at this month – and also an as-yet untitled one that I began on a whim. You know how I seem to keep coming back to the Line and Orbit universe? Well, this is the story of Kae, how he met his wife Leila, and how – together – they saved the entire convoy from starvation, managed a conflict between a lost human colony and a sentient biosphere, dealt with Relationship Feelings, and somehow didn’t murder Lochlan.

I’m not very far into it, and like any baby novel its future is uncertain, but I’m feeling pretty good about it and so far it feels like it’s coming relatively smoothly. If you like, here – with the usual caveats about a work-in-progress (rough draft, may not make it into the final product if there is one, etc.) – is an excerpt.

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In the Roots: being privileged and writing problematic

Note: I waffled a good bit about writing this. Then I waffled a bit about posting it. The general rule of thumb is to not engage with reviews beyond a polite “thank you”. That said, I think there’s some stuff here that deserves consideration and discussion, and that I want to address.

Yesterday Dear Author reviewed Line and Orbit. I think it’s a great review – thoughtful, fair, and full of that which ideally all authors want: useful, constructive feedback. Sunita liked some stuff, didn’t like other stuff, and it’s all good. But there’s something she said that bothered me deeply at the time, and is still bothering me a lot: That the Bideshi, my nomadic space-faring magic-users, align at least somewhat with the problematic-and-tired “noble savage” trope.

It didn’t bother me because I thought she was wrong. It bothers me because I think she’s right.

Let’s rewind a bit. I’ve said more than once that when you’re a white, privileged Westerner – which I am – and you’re writing about things like race and colonialism, you’re going to get stuff wrong. It’s just a matter of time. It’s very easy to say that, easy to recognize that it’s true. It’s much harder, when the time comes, to admit to your own fuck-up. It’s harder still to take it and try to learn from it, to grow.

Line and Orbit was a debut novel written by two white people, five years ago. I say this to provide context, because it was written at a time when I was just starting out in my sociology PhD program, when I was getting my first serious exposure to critical race theory and intersectionality and postcolonialism, when I was first reading people like Franz Fanon and Achille Mbembe and Arturo Escobar. I was just self-aware enough to realize that this stuff was changing me, that was stuff that, if I was going to take my own writing seriously, I had to write about. But self-awareness is not an event. It’s a process. And when you’re coming from a position of privilege, even when you’re undergoing that process, there are things you won’t be able to see. There will be things you miss. There will be things you get wrong. This is in no way an excuse; it’s a warning that I wish I could go back five years and deliver to myself and my co-author.

As we were writing Line and Orbit, I was becoming aware of the noble savage trope, of how not-good it is, and also of how pervasive it is, of how it touches a more profoundly culturally ingrained story that white Westerners like to tell ourselves and have been telling ourselves since we started ruining other continents. It’s one of those deep stories, those folktales that show up everywhere. It’s the Hero’s Journey of white colonialism.

So I was at least sort of aware of it. To some degree, I was conscious of the alignment to it in the book. I hoped to subvert it in some ways – Adam is not much in the way of a super-Bideshi, he doesn’t do everything they do but much better, but that’s not all there is to the trope, and now, looking back on it, I have to concede that if we were trying to subvert it, we weren’t entirely successful. It’s there, and it’s not being questioned particularly hard, if at all.

Are you ready for the irony? I hate that trope. I fucking hate it. True fact: Avatar came out halfway through writing the book, and I think my exact words were “oh, fuck no.”

And yet it’s there. I love the Bideshi so much, I love those characters and that world, they’re so dear to my heart, but I’m looking at it, and… Yep.

This is the great irony of subtle racism and the colonialism that is its ugly sibling. Even if you hate it, even if you want to end it, it works its way in there. It’s insidious. It’s a cultural disease, a miasma in the air that we – that I – have been breathing since I was born. And if you’re privileged, especially if you’re white, it’s deep in you, so deep – so in the roots, as Ixchel would say – that it can take a lifetime to dig it out, and before you can do that you have to see all of it, which is nearly impossible.

But you have to try. If you don’t, you don’t grow. We only grow with friction. We only evolve when someone or something comes along and makes us do so.

So now I’m faced with a choice. I can ignore that it’s there and carry on as before, or I can look harder, try harder, grow.

I can also just not write about this stuff anymore, run no risks, not tell the stories that I feel like I need to tell. But that doesn’t seem like a solution to me. I think my initial impulse five years ago was a good one. Running away from this kind of thing seems like cowardice. I want to keep writing about race, about class and gender and disability, and the marginalized, the oppressed, the voiceless. Doing so when you’re someone like me is fraught with problems and peril, but I think turning away is the wrong move, because then I never have to confront anything. I never have to grow. There will be deeply uncomfortable moments like this… and I think I have to be okay with that. I think I have to learn how to be.

So I appreciate this. I appreciate the opportunity. I hope I’ll do better. I hope you’ll all come with me, and help me understand when I’m less than successful.

Otherwise I don’t think there’s much point to this wacky journey at all.

LINE AND ORBIT giveaway update

Just a heads up: IF BY ANY CHANCE YOU WANTED TO GET A FREE PAPERBACK COPY OF LINE AND ORBIT that just so happens to be a thing you can now do in not one but TWO(!!) places. They are as follows:

  • HERE. This copy happens to also be signed by both me and my co-author.
  • GOODREADS. (sadly closed to anyone outside of Canada and the US)

Both end on February 4th, which is the date of the book’s release. And I suppose no law necessarily prohibits you from signing up in both places. Except maybe South Dakota. Might be illegal in South Dakota.

LINE AND ORBIT ~*~*paperback*~*~ giveaway!

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This time next month, the trade paperback edition of Line and Orbit will be available to purchase. Isn’t that exciting? But wait!! YOU DON’T NECESSARILY HAVE TO PAY FOR YOUR OWN COPY. Because I’m giving one away, you see (one of those pictured up there, oh they are so pretty). And even BETTER: it will be signed by me and my lovely co-author.

Want to enter? Simply fill out this handy form. I promise to guard with my very life, and completely forget, via extensive sessions of hypnosis, all of your personal information as soon as the contest is over. At midnight on February 4th, the contest will end, and I will select one lucky person.

ENTER HERE

I got an early Christmas present

Yesterday I received an unexpected package.

BcMg46DIEAAAsBE.jpg largeYes, that is what it looks like. I didn’t honestly expect to get my contributor copies until mid-January at the earliest, so this is fantastic. Just in time for gifting.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be giving away one of these babies, signed. Stay tuned.

Line and Orbit sequel news!

The news is that I’m rewriting it. Almost completely. Not going back through and changing some scenes around, not making some major adjustments. I mean I’m scrapping what I have and starting almost entirely from scratch. With the exception LineandOrbitof one subplot, and a few characters, it’s going to be a totally different book.

There are a number of reasons why I’m doing this. Some of it is that, on further consideration, there are  a number of aspects of Fall and Rising as the current version stands that simply don’t work as well as they could. I took on a lot in that book, and I’m not confident that I pulled all of it off as well as I might have. I’m not averse to failure, even in public, but it’s something that I also see no reason not to avoid if at all possible. A lot of Fall and Rising is uncomfortable, and I’m not convinced that all of it is uncomfortable in a good way.

Another reason is money. I want to sell this book and I want to get paid.

I haven’t had any luck finding a publisher for it as it is. This is a problem, and the problem is compounded by the fact that it’s a sequel, not a standalone novel. It’s also much bleaker than Line and Orbit, and while I love and value my bleak writing – my short fiction can be just brutal a lot of the time – I’m not sure that bleak is the right tone for this series. I don’t believe that sequels have to perfectly match their predecessors in tone, but I also don’t believe that they should be vastly different.

So while I dearly love Fall and Rising and while I’ve very proud of huge chunks of it, it’s going into the proverbial drawer and something else is happening. I view this as a learning experience. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I don’t think the effort I put into it was wasted. It just isn’t going to be what I thought it was.

The takeaway is that this never stops being an educational process.

So, as of right now, here are the things (I think) I know about this new version of the next chapter of Line and Orbit:

  • The focus is back on Adam and Lochlan. I love Eva and Kyle, and I think they’ll be showing up in a major way, but Adam and Lochlan were among the primary things that people seemed to fall in love with in the first book, and I think it makes sense to stick with them. That means that this is back to being primarily “M/M” (scare quotes because I am still not 100% comfortable with that categorical marker). There are a number of reasons why I think this is a Good Thing on the whole.
  • It’s not going to be as goddamn bleak. I think a lot of bad things will still happen, but not nearly to the degree that they were happening in the first version of the book.
  • Spoiler alert: For those of you who’ve read my story in Hellebore and Rue, you may see some familiar faces. I’m really pleased about this, and I’m happy that I’m doing this rewrite if only because I get to circle back around in that way.
  • Nkiruka, the would-be replacement for Ixchel, is still in the game.
  • The villain remains the same guy with  the same characterization. Because I love his perfect face.
  • It does essentially the same job as the first version. That is, setting up the third and final book in the series, in essentially the same way. We end at basically the same place, we’re just getting there by a very different route.

So that’s where things currently stand. I’ve started work on it and I don’t expect to blast through it nearly as fast as Labyrinthian (which takes place in the same ‘verse so will hopefully act as an appetite whettener), so we’re ideally talking a finished MS by the end of January at the latest. I’m also supposed to be writing Rookwar, the third book in the Casting the Bones trilogy, so Fall and Rising may get pushed back depending on what my priorities end up being. Oh, yeah, I’m also theoretically writing a doctoral dissertation. So there’s that.

Anyway, for those who are interested, them’s the haps.

In which I’m seriously dorky about music and my writing

Okay, so while I procrastinate re: the Line and Orbit sequel (I should just really start calling it Fall and Rising, except I feel like L&O has more name recognition right now) I thought I’d post a couple songs that have been serving as mood-setters for a while now.

One of the dorky (see above) things I do when I’m writing something huge that I love is to find songs that could sort of serve as the “end titles” if what I were working on was a movie. I’ve had one for Line and Orbit for a while that I’ve been referring back to, and now I have one for Fall and Rising as well.

So, Line and Orbit:

M83 ft. Susanne Sundfor – Oblivion

This song is effing perfect, at least in my mind. I didn’t see the film and after reading the general review consensus I don’t much want to, but this song has it all: epic scope, soaring chorus, lyrics about night and stars, and this heartbreakingly lovely little solo piano coda. I can’t imagine any other piece of music serving as well.

Fall and Rising:

Young Beautiful in a Hurry and Bear McCreary – I Forever

Whereas Oblivion is sweeping and epic, this song is smaller and more intimate, which I feel like actually fits the book better. In many ways it’s a smaller, more intensely intimate book, though epic aspects are certainly still there. And I think those aspects are wonderfully captured by the elegant piano and strings, while the vocal pulls you in much closer. It’s also a love song that isn’t necessarily about romantic love, which I think serves to accommodate the range of different relationships I’m working with here.

So that’s it. I’m sure by the time the third as-yet-untitled book rolls around I’ll have something ready for it as well, and I’m sure I’ll be dorky when that happens too.