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February 1st, 2014

About self-promotion

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There has been some talk lately about authors and awards, and whether it is a good thing to post about the awards your work may be eligible for in the year gone by, or not. The blog that I read today that sparked me to write was Alastair Reynolds’ but there have been a bunch. I’m not thinking about awards right now and I don’t want to get into the area that Alastair addresses, about the way people fight online.
It’s just that reading different views on the subject has made me think about how I feel about self-promotion when it comes to myself.

When I started out as a writer there wasn’t a whole lot of internet to shake around in, and the only piece of self-promotion advice I can recall being given was the suggestion that I have bookmarks printed with an image from my new book cover to give away at conventions (which I did not do, because I was lazy). There was no need to worry about how (or whether) to do a blog tour or what interviews to do or what bloggers to target with your allotment of advance review copies or how to best use Twitter or Instagram.

I feel old!

But also, I feel like I am in over my head with some of this stuff, because the scale of self-promotion that genre authors are now expected to deal with is way more than I ever signed up for. I got into writing because it enabled me to be out in the world without ever having to leave my own head. The fun gets sucked out of it when I’m required to maintain a public persona. I do what I can, in my very minor way. But it goes against my grain. I am a person, not a brand.

I’ve heard it said a number of times over the years that women are at a disadvantage here because we are socialized to avoid blowing our own horns, and that backlash comes a woman’s way when she does. I’m not disagreeing with that, except in the case when it’s used as a lever to imply that women must be more pushy in order to compete. For myself, I just can’t get with that. I reckon people should do what they want, what works for them as individuals.

I don’t want to have to shout about my work. I want to do my work. That’s what I came for. And frankly, I’m a little tired of feeling that this attitude is a deficiency on my part.

At the same time, I’m tired of feeling like I should apologize every time I make an announcement about something coming out, lest I be mistaken for one of those people who bombard everyone in their immediate vicinity with announcements about their 17-volume self-published series (and who can blame them, since this is how self-publishing works?)

How can I feel both of these things at the same time in a single brainsack? I HAVE NO IDEA. I can only conclude that something is crazy here—and you know what? It ain’t me.

Being an author is like being a parent. No matter how hard you’re working, it will never be enough. By the time you figure out how you should be doing it, time has moved on and the parameters have changed. No matter what you do, somebody will be convinced you’re doing it wrong. It’s a messy, sprawling business.

For a few years I made a concerted effort to blog, go on Twitter, become more visible. I felt I had fallen short with promoting my work when my kids were babies and I had no broadband. I realised I would need to hold up my end better. It’s true that I’ve made some great friends online. But honestly? I can’t see any difference between my visibility before I got on social media and after. It was low before and it stayed that way.

One reason why it’s taking me a long time to get this new website off the ground is that between my studies and writing I’m really very pressed. The other reason is that I’ve enjoyed being inaccessible for a little while. It’s been a relief. I’ve been able to hear myself think. And, coming back even a little from this break, I’m conscious of a shift in my thinking about these things.

I’ve finally got a novel coming out this year, and I’m going to need to do some stuff to publicize it. I‘ll make announcements. I’ll blog about stuff. I will do what I can to push the book, within reason. I’ll be available to readers who are interested in my work, as ever.

Honestly, though? The more of this drumming that I have to do, the less I am writing fiction.

Life is short. I know what I’m here for.


Cross-posted from my Wordpress site http://triciasullivan.com/2014/02/01/about-self-promotion/

January 31st, 2014

Do it like a fungus

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It's been so long since I blogged that I feel all shy.

sky-fox photo from srslycute.com via www.globalanimal.org

Thing is, I've been restricting social media use to the bare minimum to avoid distractions, and it's working really well. Still, in the interest of not disappearing altogether, I'm going to see if I can't manage the occasional blog from time to time. Nothing ambitious.

Yesterday I visited Ravenstone Press, which is the new children's imprint run by the same people who bring us Solaris Books. They are publishing Shadowboxer this October as a YA title, and we had a good meeting about how that will work. I came away very happy.

My new website is all echoey and empty due to my administrivia failures.* Until I've got more pages up, I'll just say that the SF Gateway now have some of my backlist available as digital downloads worldwide, specifically Lethe, Someone to Watch Over Me, Dreaming in Smoke and Maul. For readers new to my work, I'd say Maul is the most accomplished thing on the list, Someone to Watch Over Me was generally ignored when it came out and shouldn't have been, and Dreaming in Smoke won the Clarke for 1999. Lethe is my first novel, different in tone to the others, more traditional SF. I was 26 when I wrote it.

Of Lethe: I've just heard from Imogen Church that she has finished recording the audio book. I'll give a shout when it's on the market.

Other than that, I'm heavy into the energy eigenvectors and the spin states. Indistinguishability. Up next: entanglement. Utterly boggley--I'm told you don't grok it, you just do the maths and hope for the best.

The SF novel is creeping forward. Do it like a fungus, do it like a mold. That's my rallying cry for this one.



* (I will be posting this on the new Wordpress site and also on livejournal for now, until I am better organised.)

October 13th, 2013

So I may as well blog.

It's Sunday morning and the kids have had friends for a sleepover, Steve has headed out to teach in London. I have uni work to do today but the cat has just come in and is on my lap acting like he hasn't seen me in ten years.

I've just downloaded some new software for my website. I've had several ridiculous problems when I've tried to update it, so it's remained in the same sorry state for a long time. Rather than try to fix the site I've got, I'm just going to put up a new one sometime in the next few weeks. I'm going to have an integrated blog and I expect I'll get rid of my paid LJ account at that point and just keep this journal for checking on friends.

In a couple of weeks I'll be at World Fantasy Con, but only for the Friday afternoon. Steve has work that weekend, so I'm driving down on the Friday and coming back same day. Not looking forward to all the driving, but I'm really glad I'll be seeing friends there. I'm on two panels:'The End is Now' at 2 pm and 'Do Awards Really Matter?' at 5 pm. I don't know the other participants yet, but I'll try and update this when I find out more.

Sadly, I won't be able to manage Bristolcon this year. It's really too bad, but not a lot I can do. Every time I go to a con on a weekend, Steve has to stay home with the kids. Weekends are his best chance at earning money, so I have to ration my Saturdays and Sundays carefully.

I've started 'The Quantum World'. So far, so good! It's challenging, for sure. But my math skills are improving all the time and I'm hoping it will just be a case of going over the material again and again until it sinks in. I'm also re-doing the big physics course from last year, because I never took the exam. I've forgotten half the stuff! Entropy, entropy--or was it 'Infamy, infamy!'

Writing-wise, I'm still doing the new SF novel. I have a wall covered with big pieces of paper with sticky notes all over them showing relationships and sequence. And I have a GIGANTIC file of material that doesn't fit the structure. I've just gone right back to the beginning and I'm working through it on a different tack. Yet again, I have had to cut a lot of really good stuff, which feels like a test of character.

I'm like: Sullivan, you are really brave for cutting stuff that doesn't fit the developing story logic, but you do realise you're going to have to write something better than what you had to replace it?

To which I respond:

A Surprised Meerkat Picture

Amusingtime.com | Funny Animals | Forward this Picture

August 17th, 2013

fuck tensors

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I'm in the beanbag in the sitting room, under headphones. Lemon cake. Tea. DeBussy on headphones. Notebooks and index cards all over the place. Putting together the bones of this novel.

Last few days I have been conscious of the changing light. This time of the summer always feels poignant to me, because I know that in just over a month the year will turn over to the dark side and life will become much harder work. I have a stack of physics books by my bed that I intended to read or revisit over the summer in preparation for the new academic year. I look at them every day and try to make myself feel guilty for not having ploughed through more than a couple of chapters. But you know what? I'm glad I haven't got to them. Instead, I have actually recharged my batteries for the first time in a long time.

I am blessed with very good health. Yet at the beginning of summer I was falling ill with every little bug. Some of my exam revision was done in bed because I was knocked down by every ratty schoolchild-borne virus, and for several weeks after exams I was unwell off and on. On two occasions in July I had to cancel plans to meet friends whom I really wanted to see because I was running a fever. Me, a fever! What?

I have a tendency to behave as though energy is limitless and I'm always so surprised when I wear out. I know in my head that for many people--anyone with chronic illness, for example--energy has to be measured and conserved with microscopic care. But I forget how this works until some physical setback strikes me in even the tiniest way. And then I realise how much I have been taking for granted.

When we were on holiday I slept and slept and read stuff on my kindle (I particularly recommend The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie). Right now, I'm charging up for winter. I'm getting out in daylight as much as I can, 'resting the eyes' (as my grandmother used to say) on the landscapes of Shropshire, seeing people (Nine Worlds Geekfest was great) and I'm moving forward with my writing work. In October I will probably angst about all the physics I'm not doing. In my heart of hearts I know this is because I don't love physics with the love that a genuine physics person would feel. I really can't help that. I work very hard on my courses, but this analytical problem-solving is never going to come naturally to me. I'm a stranger in a strange land, and that's OK.

So by choosing to come home to writing for the summer, I will have forgotten how to find the moment of inertia of an ice cream cone, even if it's only one scoop and the density is uniform. And I think I need to learn tensors for The Relativistic Universe and my copy of Vector Calculus with All the Tensors in it is staring accusingly at me but you know what? Just for now, fuck tensors.

August 8th, 2013

work in progress

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I've hit on a writing strategy for the summer that's working really well. Instead of my usual approach, which would be to try to get 2000 words a day every day with maybe one day a week off, I'm doing every other day 4000 words each.

What I like about this is that on the off days I'm free to spend time with the kids and get stuff done--always lots of that. And on the on days, I'm so pedal-to-metal that there isn't time to think about what I'm doing. I have to just do it. I actually love writing fast. It's like downhill skiing. OK, I crash into trees a lot, but it's still really fun. It forces me to get over myself.

On the physics front, I saw this article yesterday about places going unfilled in teacher training courses for secondary school physics. I get e-mails and phone calls regularly from the teacher training agency; they are actively recruiting physics teachers and it's really, really nice to be wanted for a job! SO REFRESHINGLY DIFFERENT FROM BEING A WRITER!!!! I have been waffling about whether to go all the way for the BSc honours degree (360 credits) or just take the flat BSc (300 credits) and get on a training programme. If I apply this year for next fall I should be a strong candidate for School Direct, and they pay you a salary to train on the job. This would be really helpful and I'm thinking seriously about applying while I'm doing courses in quantum physics and relativity or maybe quantum physics and astrophysics. Eep! I'm studying quantum physics from October! All the math is finally starting to pay off in setting me up to learn the freaky things.

Trouble is, although I could always pick up the extra 60 credits later, I doubt very much I can teach full time and pick up 30 credits a year and also write at any sort of useful rate. I could teach and write or teach and study but not do all three. And I'd really love to have the honours degree just in case some day I wanted to do a Master's in Applied Maths or maybe statistical biology or...or...gosh, so much interesting stuff out there! I want to learn it all. I keep wishing I'd gone for neuroscience instead of physics because it's such an exciting area right now, but the OU doesn't have the kind of courses I'd need.

So I am not sure. One thing I am sure of is that this SF novel will be going down by the time I go to Fantasticon in September. I don't care if I have to blow up a universe or two to simplify the plot, I'm finishing it!

August 4th, 2013

So this is going to be a very informal post even by my own flimsy standards of formality, because I have a lot going on—but ridiculously, it’s now three months after Åcon so if I’m going to get this up I can’t wait any longer. I am not quite sure how to explain what it was about the trip that gave me so much hope. I probably can’t articulate it, but I will throw out a few scrambled thoughts.

Science fiction and sciencey people in one place

I loved that there were so many scientists in a room talking about science fiction and despite being freakishly smart they were generally so not-wedded to what I’ll call the Benford definition of hard SF. Not once did I see anyone wield their STEM PhD so as to put the fantastically-minded people in their place. This is all I really need from life in the genre.

I don't know if people on the inside quite realise how scary SF is for a lot of people.  I was just at Edge-Lit and a couple of newer writers were talking about growing up reading SF but not having the nerve to write it because they hadn’t the science chops. The school of SF that says it’s gotta at least make the right scientific noises to be SF, I know this has subconsciously fucked with my head for many, many years. I’ve never tried to make my SF Benford-hard. But I’ve certainly warned myself off whole areas because I knew I’d be punished for ‘getting it wrong’.  Not one whiff of that at Åcon--although I certainly heard people critically examining work that they were reading.

You don’t realise how smelly and stale the air in your milieu has become until you get a breath of the fresh stuff. Ahhhh!

The ferries

I was a little worried about the ferry trip. Last time I took a ferry (from Holyhead to Ireland in 1987) I spent half the night puking over the railing. This was sooooo different.

Here is a photo of Sean and his new best friend Hermann from the ferry. Hermann introduced Sean to the concept of a tablet. Life has never been the same since.
Sean and Hermann on ferry
The ferries are the greatest thing ever! We cruised across the Baltic in the most chilled-out fashion.  If all travel were like this I’d become permanently itinerant.
group ferry 2

Karin Tidbeck OMG

At the convention we watched a short film of Karin Tidbeck’s story ‘Who is Arvid Pekon?’ from her collection Jagannath. During the discussion Cheryl Morgan read a tidbit from the story itself, which had a very different feel to the film.  I was unable to appreciate all of the points being made on the panel because I hadn’t read the collection at the time. I have rectified that and can say that not only are the stories superb (all good, three of them absolute standouts for me) but as interesting as the film was, it did not do justice to the story. Genius.

Karin will be at Fantasticon in September as a guest and I am going to fangirl on her, I'm afraid.

Blue skies, blue birds, blue men, blue mesons

It is funny that a country generally associated with cold is not only sunny, but inhabited by people who are so genuinely kind and welcoming. I did not know anything about Finnish hospitality before I got there, but apparently it is legendary and I can see why. I felt that I was around a group of people who were sensitive, caring, thoughtful and often very funny, and they were going out of their way to look after me and make me feel at home. I really was making a lot of noises to Steve on the way home about how could we send the kids to University there? Wouldn’t it be great for them? And stuff like that. I did not want to leave. If I didn’t have such a bad reaction to dark winter nights in the UK, I’d have been plotting and scheming to move.

So if you can vote for Worldcon in Helsinki, I must beg you to do so  and if you can’t, I hope you’ll consider telling your friends who can.  If the committee can win this bid they will put on a megatron of a Worldcon, I’m certain of this.

I had no idea when we left for the trip that Angry Birds originates in Finland. I have never played it, but my seven-year-old son Sean has recently developed an obsession. Here he is using the elastic that holds the bed together in our ferry cabin as a launch catapult for Blue Bird in an attack on Darth Pig.
Darth piggy
When Sean learned that Tommi Markus actually works on the game, he was shocked and awed. Tommi even gave Sean his business card! The rapture!  Sean is busy working on suggestions for what should happen next in Angry Birds (last I heard he wanted an Ice Age Angry Birds). So far I have managed to restrain him from rining Tommi up, but I don't know how long I can hold him off!

Until this happened I don’t think Sean quite realised that these games are developed BY PEOPLE. For me, it was exciting to think about the fact that so much creativity goes into a global phenomenon like this, and in the case of Angry Birds the company is not some monolithic entity like Disney, but a group of people working together creatively. I found this all so optimistic—and that’s the feeling I got in general about Finland. Optimism. The future. Blue sky.

Speaking of blue…there is a tradition at Åcon to find a willing young man and paint his entire body for fun; this year he was blue. Photographer Henry Söderlund was recruited for the role, and aside from having been painted blue, he has an ongoing project to photograph people in goggles. This is where my new userpic comes from, and you can see a great many of the Finnish fandom suspects on the Facebook community Everything is Better With Goggles. Henry and artist Ninni Aalto have a rabbit who resembles Schoepenhauer who also has his own Facebook page. Ninni is working on a children’s animation project collaboration with a physicist in which she is creating characters based on subatomic particles. Finnish children are so lucky! We get Teletubbies, they get bosons and gluons.

There’s lots I’m leaving out, but I’ll close this imperfect post with a shout out to the Science Fiction Book Shop in Stockholm  which is a wonderful place run by an SF reader and writer. They were kind enough to offer me a signing. In return my kids bought a ton of stuff.

sf bookstore stockholm

Finally, I would like to say a very big thank you to Johan Anglemark for sorting out everything about the trip and generally looking after us, to Hanna Hakkarainen and Marianna Leikomaa and Karolina Leikomaa for running the show and to EVERYBODY who hosted me and my family and spent time with us. It was a huge pleasure and one I won't soon forget.

And that is it from me, for now. I am working extremely hard at the moment, but it's all good. I'll try and get some other posts up later this month.

PS I almost forgot to mention the gender imbalance! Some of the panels had token men. These guys took it in good spirits.

July 12th, 2013

O sunny friends

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head shot 2010
I am going offline for several weeks to write. And by offline I mean strictly off the internet. I can be reached by e-mail.

I do have more stuff to post about Åcon in my slow and slower way, but that will be the only exception, I think. Meanwhile I draw your attention to Aliette de Bodard's post about Finncon: http://aliettedebodard.com/2013/07/11/finncon-2013-report/

Tomorrow I will be at Edge-Lit in Derby where among other things I will be moderating a panel in appreciation of Iain Banks.

On 10th August I will be a guest at Nine Worlds Geekfest.

Have a lovely summer, with best wishes from me.

July 9th, 2013

leechcraft

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head shot 2010
I'm back to the SF novel. I have been working on it for quite a long time off and on (mostly off this year) and have discovered that it is being written according to the following pattern.

(1) Write a bunch of stuff, coming at the story from all directions at once, nonsequentially, building up a rough sketch of the Something
(2) Get freaked out by the mess I've made
(3) Work on some sort of outline, a term I use very loosely
(4) Make big cuts of everything written so far in service to outline
(5) Repeat

The rate of attrition of words here is I think at least 75%. With most of my other novels I'm sure at least half the words written would end up in the first draft, and certainly with the earlier books I probably used as much as 80% of what I wrote at first crack. Now I'm down to maybe 25% tops.

I've been aware of this for a while, but I didn't know what to do given that this one refuses to submit to outline. I decided that the simplest solution is to increase my output. The minimum I can afford to write is probably 2000 words a day. I would love to write 4000 a day and keep 1000, but I'm not sure I have that in me right now. So I'm aiming for 2000 with the realisation that 1500 of them will be trashed.

It's always interesting to have a new problem. This particular story is wildish. It wants to go everywhere, all the time. No self control. It's been that way from the beginning, and whenever I try to talk sense to it, the thing dries up and goes stale and pretentious. I think for now I need to just give it its head and let it be as absurd as it wants, knowing that the really egregious nonsense will eventually get cut when I am in a sober and reflective mood. I do this in faith that somehow, by letting everything out, by draining off some of the excess, I will eventually end up with some small handful of clarity.

Working this way gives a deeply unpleasant feeling in terms of performance, a sense of repetitive failure and dismay. And yet it seems I must either do it or be stuck. So: faith.

July 5th, 2013

Åcon Part One: Refugio

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head shot 2010
The months of February, March, April and May are lost to me.  I was grieving, of course, and processing what had happened to my father and mother; but I can’t really talk about that here. What I can remember about those months is the unrelenting weight of learning. I was painfully acquiring new mathematical techniques and physics principles, working on problems for hours and hours and hours every single day.  My bedroom and kitchen table were a whitestorm of failed equations, and though I had dropped every possible obligation and responsibility, I still couldn’t cover all the material in both 60-credit courses. Every day I felt that Jim Carrey and Mike Myers had been horribly miscast in Dumb & Dumber; I could have played both of them in one body.

But there is a little island refugio in that period, a glowing place in my memory, and that’s what I want to share with you. In early May I was Guest of Honour at Åcon (prounced aw-con), a very small relaxacon in the Åland Islands in the Baltic. This convention is the best-kept secret in science fiction and fantasy.  I loved every minute of it.

Åland is an archipelago off the coast of Finland, and technically it is a part of that country. However, Swedish is spoken there. Åcon is conducted in English, which means that I was surrounded by Swedes and Finns and a few people of other European nationalities, and everybody was speaking English and they were speaking it better than I can. There were many discussions of language and its intricacies; I met at least one linguist. I also met a mathematician, a robotics expert, a chemical engineer, a geologist, a couple of physicists, at least one social scientist, some teachers, academics, writers and a translator, various computer people who do computer thingies so arcane (to me) that I don’t know how to describe what they do…well, maybe not every single person was actually a PhD in something neutrally supercrunchy, but let’s just say there was a great density of very clever people.  All passionate, serious, devoted readers of science fiction and fantasy.

And everyone I met was really, really, really super nice.

When I was studying at Bard College so many years ago, I can remember feeling like I had been lucky enough to find a secret door from an uncaring, intolerant world into a place where people were relaxed, nonjudgmental, inquisitive, inclusive, anti-cliquish, and exploratory. The day I graduated I woke up in tears because I had to leave what felt like home to me, a place where I could be myself without having to suit up in imaginary chainmail every day before breakfast, where I could learn and grow without any unnecessary limitations.

Of course I have got used to being out in the cold, and I’ve often thought that by becoming a writer I’ve given myself an excuse to have an outsider viewpoint on the culture around me. Åcon made me feel I’d been invited in to a warm hearth among friends, and it wasn’t merely cosy, but a stimulating environment.  I’d happily have stayed forever.

Because Åcon is a relaxacon (and in fact, it is a place where conrunners go to unwind in between exertions) there was a nice combination of programming and outings around Åland. I’d packed furry hats and coats, but the weather was brilliantly warm and sunny, not a bit like the UK, and the hotel being set right on the water near the ferry port meant that we had a wooded inlet of the Baltic on one side and the entire town of Mariehamn on the other. The environment felt tranquil without being isolated.

The other thing that I hadn’t been prepared for was the food. I was expecting it to be a bit like what I’ve had in northern Scotland or Nova Scotia; i.e., deep-fried and unimaginative. I was mistaken. We had some wonderful food in different restaurants in Mariehamn, and even the buffet meals on the ferry crossing were excellent and varied.

In between the very loose programming stream there were gaps for bus outings to points of interest around Åland. This is one of Cheryl Morgan’s photos of the chocolate tasting we attended, which was held in the old Russian Imperial Posthouse.

cheryl's photo choc tasting

Venezuelan-born Mercedes Urbano-Winquist gave a presentation about how cocoa beans are grown and harvested.  This is a fascinating process and in the case of the best chocolate it involves pollination by a particular variety of mosquito found only in South America. She discussed the making and judging of chocolate after export to Switzerland, and then she gave us a tutorial in techniques in chocolate tasting. We also went into her kitchen and she demonstrated how she makes her original praline creations. Steve and I were particularly touched because Mercedes took a lot of trouble to cater to our children throughout the event. She even gave them mobile phones made from chocolate!

There was another bus outing to Kastelholme. About half the group went off to taste wine at a vineyard; Rhiannon was quite put out when she realised she wasn’t allowed to do this.  The rest of us crossed the road and wandered round the castle. My sons tried on silly hats.

SILLY HATS (2)
As we were getting back on the bus, a cavalcade of bikers roared into the vineyard car park on some very fine chrome. Some of the guys could have been body doubles for ZZ Top. They were gathering for a charity ride. Just recalling the image makes me smile.
Here is something else that makes me smile:

jukka at Kastelholma by sari polvinen
This is Jukka Halme (photographed by Sari Polvinen). Jukka is living legend in Finnish fandom.  He was the master of ceremonies for several events at Åcon, including a game of his own devising where you have to identify SF movie posters from Poland. Jukka has wit and comic delivery second to none.  I think he is the funniest man I have ever met (and I met Greg Proops once on a TV set, and also Craig Charles from Red Dwarf, and they could not touch Jukka). I’m told he’s even funnier in Finnish.

For anyone reading this who might be wondering whether to support the Helsinki bid for Worldcon, you need look no further than Jukka. He alone is worth the price of admission. Trust me on this.

I am stopping here for now. Can’t fit it all in one post. I have more to say about Finland and SF, and a few more photos. Coming soon; meanwhile, Finncon is underway and I hope everyone there is having a great time...

June 28th, 2013

Yesterday on Facebook I saw that Liz Bourke had linked to Rod Rees’ little piece of codswallop, and I made a couple of bleary comments on her Facebook to the effect that (a) the guy can’t write and (b) the post was obviously just a cry for publicity for his sad little novels. Then I deleted my comments because I remembered I had sworn blind to myself that I would stay out of online stuff this summer and concentrate on writing my book.

But here we are again: sexual harassment, SFWA, marginalizing of women writers, the VIDA count…women in genre is the issue of the day. And what is happening at Jo Fletcher Books and with Rod Rees is, in my opinion, nothing more than an attempt to cash in on the outrage and frustration that so many women in this field are feeling. I know I’m bloody feeling it. I feel outraged and horrified about what’s happening in my workplace in the wider context of watching atrocities committed against women worldwide, of watching events in the US unfold that would have seemed unthinkable when I was growing up.

Science fiction is fucked at the moment. As writers we barely glimpse what effects science and technology will have on our lives six months from now, let alone in a thousand years. It has never been more difficult to write science fiction, and never less rewarding as commercial interest shifts increasingly toward other forms of escapist fantasy. But I’m still doing it, shovelling that shit against the tide. And I have a book on submission with Jo Fletcher Books. In the past I would have kept my mouth shut, faced with a post like Rod Rees’, for obvious reasons. But I am at a point where I have seen too many mediocre male writers succeed while my work languishes, unread, that I give no more fucks, flying or otherwise. I have nothing left to lose, you see.

I have had other reasons for staying out of these discussions. One reason is that I can dish it out but I can’t take it. It’s easy to hurt me. I have the world’s thinnest skin. Am I smarter than most of the dudes in this business who sell bigger than I do and shout louder? Yep. Can I write better novels? Damn straight, I can. Could I beat them all up in a fight? Hah, you can bet on it. Do I want to have to succeed by putting other people down or whacking them in the head? No, I do not.

So I have a book on submission at that house, and I ask myself: would I want to be published there if this is what’s happening? But then I ask myself, where would I want to be published that this isn’t happening? And in point of fact, despite being an Arthur C. Clarke Award winner and multiple-time nominee, despite 20 years in this business and accolades by top reviewers and writers such as Ian McDonald, Pat Cadigan, David Brin, Patrick Ness, Justina Robson, Adam Roberts, Peter F. Hamilton and Jon Courtenay Grimwood, I have been struggling to sell work, and because of that I have been struggling to write.

Now, that is no big news. A great many writers are struggling right now. We are legion. But. I am asking myself whether science fiction doesn't deserve all the bad press it gets if it keeps putting its money where its values are.

Is Rod Rees what we want as a field? Shit, we’ve just fucking lost Iain Banks. McAuley and Cadigan have cancer and I hope to God they both beat it. But really, what is the future of the genre in this country when publishers have to resort to cheap tricks like this and when idiots like Rees are encouraged to open their mouths and speak with regard to issues concerning women?

Rod Rees will be down the pub being consoled by his friends that the mean, bitter women have ganged up on him. Me, I will go back to the novel I am writing on spec—this will be the second written on spec in the last few years, because I haven’t sold enough numbers to be offered a contract on a partial—and I will write my heart out, as I always do.

But the trouble is here that the publishing system is in freefall and it’s every man for himself. That means that women support each other and women support men. Why did a woman publisher say to Rees, 'OK, put up that post, we’ll get some hits off that?' Because she is trying to sell books, I'm guessing, and she’s trying to do it any way she can. It’s called survival. Why, when Kari Sperring put up that twitter feed #womentoread, were nearly all of the respondents women? Why did Nina Allan take time away from working on her novel to blog about her top Women To Read while her much more famous partner focused on his own career? Why did the rebuttal against Rees come from Foz Meadows and not one of you blokes?

Where the fuck are you guys? I can count on one hand men who have done anything about this. Niall Harrison. Ian Sales. Um? Anybody else? Oh, Paul Cornell. I guess there must be others but I’m damned if I can call them to mind. Shit, it’s almost as hard to think up these names as it is to think of women SF writers who exist other than Ursula Le Guin and C.J. Cherryh.

What does it fucking take?

Can you tell I’m mad.

PS I’m not linking to anything, you can google if you don’t know
PPS I’m not on twitter anymore but if you are and you want to link to this, feel free.
PPS disabling comments because I have a fucking book to write and not sell. Ha ha.

June 25th, 2013

where have I been?

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head shot 2010
I thought I should just clear my throat and say a couple of things, since I seem to have vanished myself for the better part of a year.

I've just finished a very difficult academic year with partial success. I took the applied maths exam, results pending, and deferred the physics exam although I've 'banked' a series of very nice marks for the continuous assessments. I expected the year to be tough and it was, and the fact that my father died halfway through did not make it any easier. I've done virtually no writing since last October and I'm only just now beginning to reconnect with my kids, who have been primarily under Steve's care all this while.

I wanted to say a few words about Twitter. I cancelled my account in the run-up to exams because I found that my feed was too toxic at times. By 'too toxic' I mean, too toxic for me and my extremely limited tolerance for bullshit; this is a personal thing. There were people I was in contact with only on Twitter, and I regret that  I have lost those contacts, but it couldn't be helped. Friends had suggested I try using lists to manage what I was reading, but that's too much for me to organize. I like to keep things really really simple.

It's been interesting for me to observe myself thinking about this and making my decisions. For several years, I felt guilty that I was not doing enough to promote my work, that my obligations to babies and young children were interfering with my work, that I couldn't travel, and on and on. I went on Twitter purely because I was advised to do so by friends in the industry. Some things about it were great and some not so great. Every time I would think of leaving some part of me would say, 'No, you're not allowed to do that. You have to be a professional.' It is shocking to me that at the age of 45 I seem to have internalized some notion of what I am and am not allowed to do. Anyone who knew me at 20 would laugh their head off at the very thought. Yet there I was. Asking permission in my own head.

In the end I felt a bit horrified that I was quailing before the 'shoulds' and so I will remain off Twitter for now.

So. I have some things I want to blog about, the first being my recent trip to Sweden and Finland for Åcon 6, where I was lucky enough to be guest of honor. This actually happened in May but it may be early July before I get round to writing it up. These few days were the highlight of the year for me and they rapidly restored my faith in writing and reading SFF, so I want to share with you what it was like. In the course of doing this I will be giving a big shout to the Helsinki in 2015 Worldcon bid.

I should also say that I am on Facebook regularly. I know, Facebook is evil and everything, but it's the place where I can connect with family and old friends, the people I know in real life. It's personal, not professional, and I intend to keep it that way.

I will be writing all summer.

August 13th, 2012

what have I done?

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I paid my tuition fees this morning.  I'm now full time with the OU, taking a big physics survey course and the dreaded MST209, about which I've quaked in the past. I've consulted with lots of people and it seems that, despite having performed not-so-well on the MS221 exam, I'm considered as ready for this level of challenge as I'll ever be. I've been waffling for a good month, and today I made up my mind.

So here's the thing.  I have no idea how I will handle the demands of all this learning, but I've been working to prepare academically and also in terms of time management.  A lot of things are going to have to be adjusted in our household--and in my head--to make this possible. Each course is slated at 16 hours per week but anecdotal evidence suggests that MST209 needs more like 25 hours a week, and I know in my heart that I'm going to find it difficult because maths doesn't come naturally to me.  I am mustering all my powers, but my powers are feeling weedy and insignificant just now.

I've come off Twitter. I'm on Facebook mostly because there are course groups there where I can interact with other students.

I feel like I should wave a little flag and say, 'I'm still a writer,' but right now I've got to do this other thing pretty much exclusively. It would have been great if I could have juggled writing with part-time study and raising the family, but it hasn't worked out that way. I hate having to see my writing as an income stream (or not). These studies will eventually get me a job, and then I can go back to my former attitude of who fucking cares what the industrial superfungus wants?

I've still got half an SF novel that...what can I say about it? I think I can safely say it's unlike anything else out there. I want to do it justice.

I'm scared. Did I mention that?

We're just about to leave for the coast for a few days. I'm not taking the computer, so forgive me if any comments go unanswered?
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July 17th, 2012

learning to learn

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So, the meta.  The meta of studying. It looms.

I've taken 130 credits with the OU in the last eighteen months.   But I'm only now starting to get a grip on how to study. Starting. 

It's true that in the beginning I had to juggle a young child at home for at least half the school day, and it was hard to work on anything in the evenings because the house was so loud and everybody was all, 'Mum...?'  I couldn't stay awake at night, or get up early in the morning due to aforementioned child climbing in the bed in the middle of the night and refusing to stay asleep unless I was there.  OK. The first year was tricky for its own reasons, but the science side of the coursework wasn't very difficult so I half-assed a way through.

The kids are now all in school for six hours, and even when they're home I can usually grab some time without worrying what mischief they're up to. I can stay up late.  I get a solid 7 or 8 hours of sleep most nights, which means that by day I'm operating with full faculties. All of this is recent.

And what have I realised?  I don't have a clue how to study. I have a Master of Arts in Education, and I managed that while student-teaching more or less full-time and commuting, so it wasn't exactly a walk in the park.  I remember doing a lot of reading, writing papers, going to seminars. I think I expected some of the skills and habits I picked up back then to cross over into the work I'm doing now.

They don't.  They really don't. Right now I'm trying to get ahead in the big physics course that starts in October.  I'm working through the first text, doing all the problems, going online to find some supplementary problems, sometimes watching MIT lectures, and working through old assignments to get really familiar with the principles and their equations. What I'm finding is that I can do this and move on to the next section, and when I come back I've only retained a fraction of what I thought I had understood. So everything has to be gone over again.  And sometimes a third time.

I never experienced anything like this in the humanities.  Usually I can read something, pick up what I need, work with it, and move on.  I might take notes and refer to them, but I never actually had to re-read an entire book or go outside the curriculum materials to understand a concept.  What's going on now--and it happens with math, too--is much more about attacking a topic repetitively and from different angles, and it really is burning up a lot of time and energy.  

I wonder if it's a processing-speed thing.  I'm a fairly fast reader, and writing has always come pretty easily, so maybe I just don't know what hard work feels like because I've never done it (novels are qualitatively different, btw). Maybe I never did a program that was challenging enough to put me on my toes. That makes me sound like such a slacker! (Or is that just part of the typical novelist's job description? Slacker in all other areas. We'll draw a veil over those novelists who are also PhDs, lawyers, doctors, etc so as not to spoil this convenient assertion).

The process of learning how to learn is interesting.  I mean, yeah, I'm a little discouraged at how slow my progress can be--I haven't even got into the meat of the subject yet, after all--but mostly it's illuminating and challenging to be stretched like this and feel unequal to the task. It's fun to try out different approaches and see what works best.

We'll see how long I think it's fun before I actually keel over...

July 6th, 2012

My verdict on the moleskine that I received from a mysterious benefactor is that it will never work for writing because it has lines (ugh) but it's utterly wonderful for tracking to-do lists and making little notes and plans. And that's what I've been using mine for, to the point where I feel a little nervous if it's too far out of reach.

I had this stupid idea in my head that I was having the summer off to work on the SF novel. 

You wouldn't know that to look at the inside of my moleskine. There's just far too much going on every day for my comfort. It is all important, vital stuff. But it results in a lack of staring time, and I need my staring time.

Still, I press on. I did one more pass on Shadowboxer because I'd had a sudden insight about the plot that I should have seen about two years ago, but I can be slow like that. This draft is now going out to some beta-readers for help with culture. I'm apprehensive about the scope of changes I may have to make, but this is my absolute favourite of all the novels I've written so far. I never could have hung in there like this if I didn't love it like a furry animal. 

Depending on how my exam results turn out, I may have a full-time university course load this year.  I'm trying to get ahead in case this happens. It means most of my online/e-mail time is getting redirected ruthlessly to the moleskine list.

Listen to me. I sound so focused.  This can't be good.

June 29th, 2012

This is the third in my series of posts about my e-book backlist from Orbit. 

Double Vision
and Sound Mind were experiments in autobiography using a cross-sectional view that addressed the more abstract undercurrents of what so-called  ‘normal life.’ 

To a certain extent I used autobiography in these books in the same way I would have used found sound in composing music. I took pieces of my own life and dropped them as chunks into the SFnal narrative, observing the way they interacted with their new environment. (You could argue that all stories are built this way to some extent, and I wouldn’t disagree; but with these books I was intentionally cultivating this.)  I made certain alterations to the autobiography so that I could work it into the story, but I stayed as close to my own personal recollection as I could. In this way I created parameters for my fictional experiment. 

One of the problems with this approach lay in the loaded racial content I was working with, including massive environmental racism.  It was in the air everywhere when I was growing up, and coupled with it there was an utter denial that it even existed. This fucked-upedness found its way into my fiction in various ways. 

There is an episode where one of the minor characters in Double Vision has a dodgy sexual encounter with an Okinawan karate master who she naively believes is taking her aside out of interest in her martial arts ability. Something very similar actually happened to me when I was sixteen on a trip to Okinawa and Japan. In the novel some details are altered and some aspects are exaggerated, but the gist of it is out of my life  and I lifted a good bit of the dialogue straight out of things that were actually said.

And here’s where the question comes: can you just drop stuff out of your life into a story and expect it to work as story? Well, in this case, not so much.  Certainly as a white writer portraying non-white characters, I might have thought through the implications of what I was putting on the page much more carefully.  When I read Requires Hate’s review  where she quoted some of these passages, the bottom of my stomach dropped out. There were a lot of angles I hadn’t considered.  I ended up parroting the racism of that time and place when I might have been unpacking it instead.  

Guess what? I didn't see what I was doing. I'm not very happy with myself, because I should have seen it.

I was working out my personal issues with karate on the page. I had been with a group of Americans travelling to Okinawa to train, and while we were there I learned a little about the American presence on the island.  It was only years later that I began to hear of the abusive behaviour of US soldiers toward the Okinawans—especially the women. But I didn’t think this through when I was writing.  I’m ashamed of the fact that when I flipped the roles around in Double Vision and made the Okinawan masters visitors to the US (which I did for storytelling convenience) I completely failed to see the ways in which I was reversing the more typical scenario of US male sexual assault upon Okinawan females. I couldn’t see it at the time. I was too busy trying to deal with the way it felt to write about what had happened—the karate side of things more than the sexual side, to be honest—and so I didn’t look at the material properly.

The reviewer also flagged up a character’s use of the word ‘robotic’ in connection with karate.  This is something where I think I can offer some partial explanation.  I will show you three clips of Japanese martial arts so you can see what I’m talking about.  This is judo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgVoMD1RhYg

And you can see it’s free, natural movement which displays technical facility as well as athleticism.  And this is sumo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G72bQBMZmzs

 Again: tremendous physical expression and use of the body for a deliberate purpose, to get the opponent out of the ring.  Now by contrast this is karate, and here is what I meant by robotic, because the style of movement is unnatural and contrived. The better you are at karate, the more controlled and unreal your movement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky0tumrBK4w

It never occurred to me that in this choice of phrase I was playing into a slur against Japan associated with its technical industry, because there are lots of Japanese martial arts that are not robotic at all. When I read the passage in question I’m more embarrassed about the height thing and the broken English. I’m not even sure what I was trying to do with weight and food in that book. I honestly don’t even know.  I will say that I’m working on my blind spots and my ignorance, and I expect to be doing so for the rest of my life.

The power gradients in the world flow in favour of white Americans getting to say whatever we want about anybody, not just in a freedom of speech kind of way but in a go-to-the-bank-and-collect-lots-of-money-and-also-prizes kind of way.  We often receive praise and money for what we write about other cultures even when it is misrepresentative and hurtful.  This kind of entitlement is something that I think many of us (especially white) USians take for granted, so that we are shocked and horrified when it is challenged even in a small way.

In her thesis Technology and the Vulnerable Body in Feminist Post Cyberpunk SF  Kathryn Allen pointed out a racial approach in Maul that I doubt I would use so blithely now. I used racial stereotypes like they were candy; I exaggerated everything I could find. When Maul works, one of the reasons it works is because I took the crappiest of crap that was in my head and let it come out in ways that were sometimes intentionally ugly. 

The self-hate that Sun expresses in the book was intended as the kind of adolescent self-loathing and cynicism that I recognised in myself. But I am a white member of the dominant culture and Sun comes from a mixed background with more than one cultural allegiance. I was wrong to think I could just get into her head and substitute my experience for hers as if our perspectives were somehow interchangeable. And so, unlike my own white girl everything-sucks-in-a-generic-way mindset, Sun’s attitudes read as racial self-hate. Which is really squicky coming from me as a white author.  At times I mangled Sun’s viewpoint because I was too quick to assume I knew how she would react; I don’t. Some of Maul is cringe-making to read, now, and I don’t attempt to excuse it. There are things I messed up about the non-binary nature of gender for sure.  Gender-wise, I did what research I could with the resources I had, but the fact is I was in way over my head in more ways than I can count.

Similarly, writing about Cookie as a black woman—and a woman of size-- was a risk that I probably would not undertake quite so readily were I writing the book today.  I went charging in with an entitled attitude: isn't it cool that I'm writing about people who aren't white and including them in my work?  I was a little uncomfortable, a little bit conscious that I might be trespassing. But it didn't really hit home with me that I'd taken liberties--that what I was doing might be unwelcome by members of the groups I was writing about--until RaceFail.

I didn’t have beta-readers to help me with Cookie.  I didn’t have Nisi Shawl’s and Cynthia Ward’s book Writing the Other, nor access to the wide range of online discussion now available for writers working cross-culturally. Because of my isolated circumstances, I didn’t have real people to talk to, either.

I did have a sincere desire to make Cookie a kind of hero—but most of my working material ended up coming from the weakest parts of myself. For my own reasons, I needed to work with those foibles and failings, and maybe by doing that in the context of a black character I created a negative impression of what it is to be a black woman—or for that matter a large woman—in America. That kind of association was never my intention.

As Cookie develops, she becomes more self-assured and she ends up as a mythic figure who assumes power in the symbolic world.  But I was never sure if I did the right thing by her in the end.  I couldn’t quite work it out.  The truth is, when I was writing the books I didn’t have an answer for what might be possible for a being like Cookie, in this world or any other.  Her eventual fate was more of a note scrawled on a Post-It sticker rather than a definitive statement carved in the stone of story.  Knowing her spiritual trajectory, I doubt she would stay where she found herself at the end of Sound Mind.

I've been turning these issues over in my mind for a good few years now.  The e-books coming out seemed like as good a time as any to set down a few words on the subject.  Maybe this post comes across like I’m just trying to cover my ass. I’m sure that on some level that’s what I’m doing, because I don’t get a do-over with regard to the way I handled race and gender in these instances.

Sincerely, I need to get this out there and be honest about it.  I was paid to write these books and I’ve received a certain amount of praise and attention for them, and I think it’s only fair to say that there were places where I messed up.  Mea culpa.

June 27th, 2012

Double Vision

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This is the second in a series of blogs exploring some aspects of my UK-published science fiction backlist, now available electronically through Orbit books.  (I have several other novels that are out of print, in case anyone reading thinks that Maul was my first novel. It was my fourth.) Today I'll write about Double Vision.

double vision cover

This book was originally titled Cookie Starfishes, after the behaviour of the protagonist (Cookie) who can stretch her consciousness across what she believes is interstellar space and also after the name of a fictional breakfast cereal.  Yeah, that’s what I said.

I was interested in ecosystems.  I’ve always been curious about mathematical modelling as a way of representing factors and forces we can’t directly apprehend, of tracking them and making them perceptible.  I kept wondering about the behaviour of ecosystems that aren’t biological, but ideational, informational.  When I thought about the world I had grown up in (and much of my youth was spent watching TV), I had the itchy feeling that an ideational  system was being built that wasn’t under the control of its creators; indeed, it didn’t even seem to be within the perception of its creators. I wanted to bring this itch into some kind of focus for myself.

I called the system The Grid in honour of Tron, because after all the book is set in 1984 and when I thought of SF of that time period the luminous graph-paper cyberspace of that movie came to mind (I've never seen it, oddly enough).  But my Grid was not cold.  It seethed with life, not to mention consciousness.  And we could only see it through the eyes of Cookie.

When I first began writing about Cookie, she was a white man in an abortive short story.  The only things the original character had in common with Cookie were his weight and his SF fan status, and those things were there because I wanted a dramatic disconnect between the protagonist's day-to-day life as a sedentary corporate drone and his ideational life as a flier in an alien war.  But he was soulless.  I soon realised this was because I’d conceived him straight out of a stereotype; he wasn’t a person.  So I decided to write about a black woman, because, hello, SF? Where were your black women? Few and far between. Once I made that decision I became nervous and uncomfortable about what I was doing, but this seemed like a better place to be. Suddenly I had a character who was talking back to me.

At the time I was writing Double Vision I was going through a hard phase with a baby son who demanded more energy than I had (I literally could not keep weight on), and our living situation was unstable. It was fraught, actually. There was enough money for food and minimal heat, full stop.  Our dial-up internet was rarely used and I often went weeks without talking to another human being apart from my partner.  I coped by bundling my son in a waterproof pushchair or backpack and walking for several miles a day. The physical discipline kept me from cracking up. 

I thought about survival: what it means, how we do it, where it diverges from what is called victory.

I made my soldiers female, and while I was writing I kept comparing my own experiences as a stressed-out mother with theirs. Until I’d had children I’d never really felt particularly womanly and there was a part of me that didn’t quite accept being female—maybe because I identified with strength and self-reliance, and women generally seemed to be short-changed in that department.  After going through pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding and all the usual I started to redefine my ideas about what strength can be, and I began to question the validity of self-reliance. Having a baby totally dependent on me restricted me, stretched me, changed me—and it made the me of me at times irrelevant. I began to see myself as part of a larger system whose inner workings were mysterious.  All of this fed into the way I wrote about the Grid.

Here’s an excerpt from the point of view of Serge, one of the soldiers who has inadvertently reproduced within the generative intelligence that is the Grid; she now has nine alien children.

            They took her to the place where the missile had fallen. It didn’t look the same to her now. She was still aware of all the misfit equipment arranged above the dust bowl, but the importance of the human artifacts seemed reduced in her new eyes. She noticed now that the Grid was woven into a spiderweb, a concentric series of irregular rings crosshatched with pulsing beams of something forever caught in a state halfway between solid matter and sheer light. And she knew what had happened because the Grid’s memory was a part of Serge: it lay in the bottom of her lungs, the coming of the MF missile with intent to destroy all life at the logic mines and being instead itself pulled down by the defensive system that these little girls had created.

            Oh, they had built it, for sure.  Six would have provided that aptitude in his ejaculate.

            They had sacrificed miles of the Grid’s sinew, wedded it to stolen stereo components and transistors, poached body parts thrown in for good measure; and now by the will of the Grid, whatever that was, the dead zone was coming alive in some sneaky and hard-to-fathom way.

            The girls went down into the dust, proud of their creation.

            She looked at them, jerky little Sergettes with music around them like a smell.

            She was no longer wanting to have them exterminated.

            She was well and truly screwed.  What good was she, Captain Bonny Serge, with the Grid leading her around by the nose, literally? Information hung in the air.  It thrummed in the branches. It simmered in the well. She was just another storehouse, a mobile one, but a member of the club now all the same.

            ‘Holy Poobah,’ said Serge. ‘I’ll never be just me again. I’ll never be an individual. From here on out, I’m always part of something else, something alive.’

            She paused, chewing her lip.

            ‘I don’t like that.’

            My next blog in this series will be about some of the racial and cultural issues that I messed up in these novels, and what I’m learning from the mistakes I made.

June 26th, 2012

Thunder and Lightning

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A couple of weeks ago I got hold of Natalie Goldberg’s Thunder and Lightning.  Natalie, of course, is a Zen Buddhist who uses writing as a spiritual practice.  I have been wanting to share this bit with you guys for some time, and I finally had a few minutes so here it is.  I don’t think I need to explain.  Just read it:

‘I never gained control of my mind—how do you dominate an ocean?—but I began to form a real relationship with it.  Through writing and meditation I identified monkey mind, that constant critic, commentator, editor, general slug and pain-in-the-ass, the voice that says, “I can’t do this, I’m bored, I hate myself, I’m no good, I can’t sit still, who do I think I am?” I saw that most of my life had been spent following that voice as though it were God, telling me the real meaning of life—“Natalie, you can’t write shit”—when, in fact, it was a mechanical contraption that all human minds contain.  Yes, even people with terrific, supportive parents are inhabited by this blabbing, resistant mouthpiece.  But as I wrote longer, went deeper, I realized its true purpose: monkey mind is the guardian at the gate.  We have to prove our mettle, our determination, stand up to its nagging, shrewish cry, before it surrenders the hidden jewels.  And what are those jewels?  Our own human core and heart, of course.’

Natalie Goldberg, for me right now this is gold! Thank you.

She goes on, ‘I’ve seen it over and over.  The nearer I get to expressing my essence, the louder, more zealous that belittling voice becomes. It has been helpful to understand it not as a diminishing parent but as something universal, impersonal, a kind of spiritual test. Then I don’t have to wither or sneak away from censoring dad, carping mom, or severe schoolteacher with sunken chest when I hear that onerous yell.  Instead, it is my signal to perservere and plow through. Charge! I scream with pen unlanced.’

I hope this can be of use to some of my writer friends.  Unlance your pens!

June 22nd, 2012

Today I'm over on the Orbit books blog talking about the release of Lightborn, Sound Mind, Double Vision and Maul in electronic format.  None of these books have been available for e-readers until now, so I'm very happy. I'm doubly happy and grateful that so many people have signal-boosted already. 

Over the next few weeks I will be putting up some samples and talking a little more about the books--especially about the older ones, because when they came out I was not in a position to blog about them.

For now, I give you the opening of Maul, because I can.

*********

      It feels smooth and heavy and warm when I stroke it because I've been sleeping with it between my legs. I like to inhale its grey infinite smell for a while before I pass my lips down its length, courting it with the tip of my tongue, until my mouth has come to the wider part near the tip. This I suck, and blow gently into the hole. It becomes wet in my mouth but doesn't soften. It remains achingly solid and I put it between my legs. Its tip snuggles around my clit. On the day I bought it, I had to test out several models before I found one that fitted, and Suk Hee's gangster cousin Woo kept trying to look around the side of the van to see what I was doing. Woo was afraid someone would come and he'd get caught with the van and everything. I came. It was the only way to be sure I had the right one. 
      It's narrow enough that I can slide it into my cunt without breaking the hymen. I grope around for a while trying to find my G-spot but the urge to pee is too great when I press there and anyway I think the whole thing's gotta be a myth so I go back to where I started.
      Astronomy.
      Bodies of light fence and entwine on a mantle of blue. Leo and the Hydra.
      The fine hairs on my arms are electric and there's a tingling down my legs and up the back of my head.  It's a tropical kind of feeling. The Lynx and Ursa Major, which looks like a reindeer not a bear. My nipples are standing up and rubbing against the sheet. My clit gets more sensitive first in one spot, then in another; but it can't elude the round metal that encircles the glans and works every aspect at once.
     Orion, Orion, Cassiopeia and Auriga buried deep in the milky way. 
      It's good if I twirl the cylinder, a spinning circle around my flesh sinking also into, and. Come in. Its muzzle seeks me out: Factory made in New Mexico, it noses toward its original home. Deep deep.  Into the danger; the curves, the trigger. Its steel pin has butterflied me; I'm spread out on a card. The metal wraps me and I wrap the earth in starpaper. I can see myself now in the third person. She is splayed across the planet: a contortionist, her hands and feet meet behind her head, she is whirling fast and the stars become lines become a ribbon of light becomes a curtain. Her body. MY. Appearing, the taut, her legs. 
      SEE HER a torn place, there's a dark SHE'S darkness beginning to split open now tears the curtain THE GOLDEN a wet rending sound the consequences if seen IAM
      a deep place of no light. NOW yeah yeah yeah
      the missile, it's--YEAH
      A deep PLACE. Something's THERE. It's really BIG and it's going to, deep in the earth where it's hot there's a core of IRON it's coming towards sliding metal on metal black black fire
      LYRA! SCORPIUS!
      Iron FE chemical number 26 which is made of the original matter of the SUN a great gob that split away in the primordial moments of deep in the consequences if seen a rending Plieades like a doll's veil
      YOU ARE MADE OF STARS
      and here comes the big missile past the point of recall it's it's it's it's it's
TOO LATE now oh it's much too late you CAN'T stop YEAH
YEAH
yeah!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
don't end
!!!!!!!! !!!!!!
PLEASE stay
!!!!!! !!!!
no. oh. no. don't go.
!!!
      Hmm. Not bad.
!
      Not bad.
      Pretty good.
      What time is it? Late. Better quit here. Stay hungry.
      I lie back in bed and grope for a cigarette.
      I smile.
      I used to wish I had a boyfriend but now I know better.
      Even a hypothetical boyfriend wouldn't understand
      How I feel.
      About my gun.


****************************

June 16th, 2012

integral-calculus_~k5752758

I have a lot of processing to do after the math exam so I’m putting this very long post behind a cut.


Read more...Collapse )

Meanwhile, I gratefully thank everyone who has encouraged me and listened to my whinging and who has said, ‘You can do it.’ I have needed and used every speck of that help and I appreciate it so very much.

Now I have to get on with everything I’ve been neglecting, including e-mails. I feel a bit floppy. I may need to be a comatose rabbit for a day or two.

June 12th, 2012

If you think colonialism is dead... think again. Globalisation has indeed made the world smaller--furthering the dominance of the West over the developing world, shrinking and devaluing local cultures, and uniformising everything to Western values and Western ways of life. This is a pernicious, omnipresent state of things that leads to the same unfounded things being said, over and over, to people from developing countries and/or on developing countries.

It's time for this to stop. Time for the hoary, horrid misrepresentation clichés to be pointed out and examined; and for genuine, non-dismissive conversations to start.

Accordingly, here's a handy bingo card for Western Cultural Imperialism--and we wish we could say we've made it all up, but unfortunately every single comment on this card was seen on the Internet.


CulturalImperialismBingoCard

Card designed by Aliette de Bodard, Joyce Chng, Kate Elliott, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, @requireshate, Charles Tan, @automathic and @mizHalle. Launch orchestrated with the help of Zen Cho and Ekaterina Sedia in addition to above authors (and an army of volunteer signal boosters whom we wish to thank very much!)

Any signal boosting on this much appreciated!

http://aliettedebodard.com/pics/2012/CulturalImperialismBingoCard.png

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