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[links] Link salad knows you can’t sleep alone in a strange place has two more of my books up: Rocket Science & Death of a Starship

Rowling and “Galbraith”: an authorial analysis — This is pretty interesting stuff around language geekery and automated textual analysis.

Your Favorite Movies Laid Out as Vintage Treasure Maps — This is weird and cool. (Snurched from Steve Buchheit.)

31 More Images Of Hot Steampunk Girls & Guys — Ah, costuming. (Via [info]martang.)

U.S. Pat. No. 1,926,420: Monkey Dog Saddle — I’ve been on dates like that.

Exercise in a Pill? The Search Continues — (Via David Goldman.)

Scientists put nature’s infinite playlist on iPods to monitor wildlifeWireless listening posts allow remote real-time IDs of tropical species.

North Sentinel Island — I’ve heard of this place. Very strange.

Growing Your Own Bridge — These are elegant and beautiful. (Via [info]threeoutside.)

Flying with a little help from friends — This is crazy cool robotics. (Via Steve Buchheit.)

Space-Time Loops May Explain Black Holes — Also the state of my sock drawer.

British space penetrator passes icy test — Bang bang, shoot shoot? Somehow this is very Buck Rogers (Snurched from Steve Buchheit.)

A Waterspout in Florida — I have always wanted to see one of these. I have been through fires, foods, hurricanes. I’ve even seen a volcanic eruption. But never a tornado or a waterspout.

Why Ancient Earth Was So WarmGreenhouse gases in the atmosphere kept the planet toasty, model shows.

Thousands of Years of Rising SeasA study estimates the ultimate effect of greenhouse gases on ice sheets, after the gases have persisted for hundreds of years.

Behold, the six types of atheists — Hmm. Interesting but simplistic. (Via [info]garyomaha.)

One hell of a deal: Pope Francis offers reduced time in Purgatory for Catholics that follow him on Twitter — Is that really how God does things? I’m damned glad I’m an atheist, so I don’t have to keep up with this kind of ludicrous score keeping.

Robertson Wonders If Obama Is A ‘Crypto-Muslim’ — This isn’t a difference of opinion. This isn’t contrasting governing philosophies. This is lunacy, pure and simple. This is your Republican party.

The Banality Of Richard Cohen And Racist Profiling — Ta-Nehisi Coates hits hard on the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger strain of racism.

Health Plan Cost for New Yorkers Set to Fall 50% — Obamacare is a real disaster, isn’t it? What’s this country coming too when people pay less for a better service from a conservative ideal that happened to be sponsored by a Democratic president? This is the very definition of creeping Socialism.

Titles of Laws as Propaganda — This is a function of soundbite culture as much as any thing, I think.

US ties outweigh intelligence ‘squabbles’ – PutinRussian President Vladimir Putin has said bilateral relations with the US are more important than “squabbles between special services”.

QotD?: Can you sleep with somebody else?

Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 6.75 hours (solid)
Body movement: 0.0 hours (away from home)
Weight: n/a (away from home)
Number of FEMA troops on my block supplying black kids with Skittles: 0
Currently reading: Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program by Sharon Salzberg; Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

[politics|religion] Where should the rules come from?

Yesterday on Facebook, a conservative friend said, I suspect part of the issue is that most writers and artists of the last 150 years working in the fantastic field have been (more or less) refugees from religion, of one sort or another. To them, a more perfect (or at least more fun) world is a world where god and church… are just not present. God and church mean rules and we work in genres inhabited (more or less) by people who hate rules. On their persons. On their choices. On their thoughts and ideas.

(No link, because I don’t want to accidentally create a dog pile.)

As it turns out, I somewhat mistook the context of my friend’s remark, but I still wanted to repost what I said, because I think it may have some value. Below is a synthesis of several comments of my own:

I think you’re oversimplifying terribly. I don’t know a single liberal or atheist who doesn’t believe firmly in the social contract, and the social contract requires rules. Frankly, from our point of view, it’s conservatives who have been abandoning the rules in working so hard over these past decades to void much of the social contract.

As an atheist myself, and definitely a proud refugee from religion, I write about religion all the time in my fiction. See my entire Mainspring series, as well as my Green series, as well as a large percentage of my short stories, as well as Death of a Starship, whose protagonist is an Orthodox priest, and my yet-unpublished Sunspin, one of whose key characters is also a Christian priest. Portrayed with loving care and as much internal honesty and morality as I can manage, not with liberal snark.

To oversimplify on my part, the fundamental disagreement you’re so casually alluding to isn’t over the question of rules vs. no rules, it’s over the source and meaning of the rules. I don’t think any single faith should be the source of societal rules. How would you as a conservative Christian feel about living in a society based on rules drawn from the Sharia, for example? That’s how I feel about living under Christian rules. Though in all fairness, the vast majority of the secular rules I favor and the Christian rules I presume you favor are in alignment.

In my personal case, I have a particular allergy to both Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, but I also work pretty hard to talk about religion fairly in my writing. I’m an atheist, but I’m not a fool, and religion is one of the defining human experiences/institutions.

Likewise, on the political front, the assertion that the US is a Christian nation is obvious religious fantasy when contrasted with the blackletter content of the Constitution as well as the writings of the Founders taken as a whole in context (as opposed to cherry picking ‘gotcha’ quotes). Nonetheless, it is an act of intellectual idiocy to deny that we are overwhelmingly a Christian nation in a cultural and historical sense. To me, freedom of religion means freedom from religion. That in turn is the single most important protection any particular religion or denomination or sect or individual faith-holder has in pursuit of their own religious freedoms.

To sum up, those of us who reject religion in our own lives are not the libertine1 anarchists of conservative fantasies. We’re just people who think there are better ways than arbitrary faith in revelation to organize society. Better for everyone, including faith holders.

1. Well, okay, I personally am something of a libertine, but that’s not the point here.

[links] Link salad is one of the cats that you meet on the street who speaks of true love

A reader reacts to Green — Interesting review. They started out very suspicious of the book, and wound up liking it a lot.

A reader reacts to Death of a Starship — They liked it.

Hotel Replaces Bible with Fifty Shades of Grey — (Via [info]willyumtx.)

How to Write — Hahahah.

Friends of a Certain AgeWhy Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30? This article is a mix of the banal-and-silly with the fascinating.

Sunken World War II submarine found off Nantucket

Biochemically, All Is Fair[P]assionate love has the same biomarkers as addiction and obsessive compulsive disorder. This is completely unsurprising.

Vampire Stars Suck Life Out Of Stellar PartnersMany massive stars in our galaxy have smaller companion stars that are slowly being drained of gas.

Pastor Rick Warren tries to blame shooting on evolution? — Christianists are asses. Full stop.

Bang Bang Crazy — More on guns and society from Jim Wright. Long, worth the read. (Snurched from Steve Buchheit.)

The Olympics and the Muslims

Obama campaign doesn’t sell merchandise for Muslim supporters — (Via David Goldman.)

Half of Americans Do Not Know the President’s Religion — So let me see if I have the conservative narrative straight. We’re all supposed to be outraged over President Obama’s twenty year relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but we’re also all supposed to pretend we don’t think he’s a Christian. Got it.

What drives the Obama doubters and haters? — Unfortunately, that question pretty much answers itself. Some pretty interesting detail here about the president’s biography, however.

?otD: Are you sitting and crying at home?

Writing time yesterday: 1.0 hour (60 minutes on Other Me)
Body movement: 60 minute suburban walk
Hours slept: 7.0 (solid)
Weight: n/a
Currently reading: The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems by Henry Petroski; Ironskin by Tina Connolly

[process] Do we need Sauron and Voldemort?

A day or two ago, I asked the question on this blog, “Do we need Sauron and Voldemort”? By which I meant, do we as writers need strong antagonists to make a story compelling?

Obviously, that’s a storytelling modality that works very well. One can hardly argue with the commercial success of either Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Either of those series probably moves more books in any given month than I’ll sell in my entire publishing life.

Humans, or at least humans living in the storytelling and cultural traditions of the West, have a strong affinity for dualism. Perhaps we’re all birthright Manichaeans. The simplicity of moral contrast, of a binary choice, appeals strongly to us. Many people distrust nuance in ethics, in morality, in politics, in law. There’s something very comforting about a simplistic good-vs-evil dynamic. You know who the “us” are, and you know who the “them” are. And certainly in both Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, that is unambiguous on the page.

Yet there’s a gentleman down in New Mexico who’s shifted more than a few million books writing about a world where the good guys aren’t very good, and most of the bad guys have mixed or even noble motives. Kind of like real life, where everyone is a protagonist, a hero of their own story. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire has proven in a big, big way that you don’t need stark moral dualism to sell well. Damned near everything in those books is ambiguous. There is still a decidedly strong moral dimension. It’s just ambiguous and complex to the point of being non-Euclidean.

So I think about my own work in this context. Most of my books don’t have clear-cut, central antagonists. (Well, maybe none of them do.) My plots tend toward one of two models — the hero(es) opposed by a shifting collage of shadowy forces; or a set of interlocking protagonists with conflicting goals. I like what I write. Bluntly, if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t write it. But I don’t write like Tolkien or Rowling. Or Martin, for that matter.

I write like Jay Lake. And Jay Lake is a guy who sees the world as complex and nuanced, and largely filled with people who think they’re trying to do the right thing, even if too many of us cannot see the consequences of our own actions and beliefs for what they really are. (Yes, that’s a not-very-veiled reference to contemporary American politics, but it also really is how I see the world in general.) So I write fiction where the world is complex and nuanced. I don’t think I could write a Sauron or a Voldemort. I just don’t believe in pure evil for evil’s sake, any more than I believe in pure good for good’s sake.

So, no towering antagonists for me. Which makes me wonder about Sunspin, which is decidedly in the vein of interlocking protagonists. Much as the precursor novel Death of a Starship was. It also makes me wonder about my sales figures. Am I really writing stories people want to read? Or am I doing it wrong?

What do you think? Do we need Sauron and Voldemort? Or does George R.R. Martin have the right of it? Where do you fall as a reader? Where do you fall as a writer?

[process] Mature characters with backstory

Saturday evening I was texting with [info]bravado111 (urban fantasy author J.A. Pitts) about how much we both liked Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent | LiveJournal ]. John observed that the book read like the fourth volume of a series, and compared it to the original Star Wars movie, now known as A New Hope.

This got me on to thinking about mature protagonists, a topic which has already been on my mind somewhat of late. Mature characters come with their own backstories, their own histories. (For that matter, so do infants, but in dramatic narratives, people with fully formed life histories are usually more interesting.)

Among my books, Rocket Science, Mainspring, Escapement, Pinion, Green, Endurance and Kalimpura all center around young protagonists. Death of a Starship and the Flowers books deal with people in middle age. (The Before Michaela Cannon, core protagonist of Sunspin‘s ensemble cast, is 2,000 years old, so she’s a bit of an outlier.) With those younger protagonists, a major aspect of the story being told is their own journey to maturation and discovery of their life path. The older protagonists have a lot of backstory and implied action embedded in their preferences, desires, choices and reactions to the unfolding of the plot.

Certainly that latter effect is what Saladin achieved in Throne of the Crescent Moon. Hence [info]bravado111‘s reaction. Those characters had been around a long time, had experienced many prior adventures, had lived.

What I’m now chewing on is whether I think it’s a bigger challenge to write a youthful protagonist or to write an older protagonist. How does this affect the reading experience? Green and its subsequent volumes would be very different books if she were middle aged at the time of the action. Some of the key underlying themes of Sunspin would be null and void if Cannon weren’t literally the oldest human being who had ever lived. And Ahmed’s Doctor Adoulla Makhslood wouldn’t be anything like he is if he were still living in the bloom of youth.

Food for thought, indeed. What’s your take, as either a reader or a writer, on the age of protagonists?

[writing|process] Poetry and fiction

Yesterday, the inestimable [info]jimvanpelt made a terrifically interesting post about recasting prose as poetry in order to more effectively see what kinds of language choices the writer had made.

Being me, I of course immediately had to try this. It’s, well, interesting. I give you several examples.

The opening to Mainspring, recast as poetry.

The angel
Gleamed in the light of
Hethor’s reading candle
Bright as any brasswork automaton
The young man
Clutched his threadbare coverlet
In the irrational hope
That the quilted cotton scraps
Could shield him
From whatever power
Had invaded his attic room.
He closed his eyes

The opening to Green….

The first thing I can remember
In this life
Is my father
Driving his white ox
To the sky burial platforms
His back was before me
As we walked along a dusty road
All things were dusty
In the country of my birth
    Unless they were flooded
A ditch yawned at each side
To beckon me toward play
The fields beyond
Were drained of water and
    Filled with stubble
Though I could not now say
Which of the harvest seasons it was

The opening to Death of Starship

“Z-flotilla’s gone over to the rebels!”
Shouted one of the comm ensigns
Sweat beaded on the boy’s
Shaved head
He was still young enough
    To be excited by combat
NSS Enver Hoxha‘s battle bridge
Was wedge-shaped
Command stations
    At the narrow aft end
A giant array of displays
    At the blunt end
All finished out in military-grade carbonmesh
    And low-intensity gel interfaces
A dozen duty stations
Arrayed before and below Captain Saenz
Eighteen officers and men
Laboring wet-backed and trembling
In the service of their own
    Imminent death
Everything reeked
Of panicked men
And distressed electronics

That last one’s a little strange, but I think they all three hold up okay. Am I poetic? Lyrical? Who’s to say from three opening passages?

How does this work on your fiction?

[links] Link salad wishes for improbable food

[info]selfavowedgeek with a review of my short novel Death of a Starship

Deciding to fish or cut bait. Jonesing for MMORPGs. — Urban Fantasy author J.A. Pitts on why he used to game obsessively, and why he doesn’t any more. I could have written this same post, except that I quit RPGs before MMORPGs came along. As I’ve said before, if Everquest or World of Warcraft had existed in my teens or twenties, I wouldn’t have a writing career today. I’d be an umpteenth level wizard-thief or whatever instead of an author. And I continue to wonder how many voices never came to being in SF/F because they chose the rewards of a collaborative, immersive gaming environment over hours, days and years alone at the keyboard. Who knows what stories we’ll never read?

Fantasy: High, Low and…? Part Two: Saving the World Six Times before Breakfast (Or Not) — Author A.J. Luxton continues their ruminations on fantasy.

B&N and DC: Exclusivity Rears Its Ugly Head Once Again — Crap. I’ve been boycotting Amazon for the past year and a half for doing eaxctly what Barnes & Noble just did. That is, abuse its market power to punish print authors for an only tangentially related dispute in a different product line. B&N’s actions don’t affect me directly, as I’m not a DC comics author nor a reader, but god damn it, I don’t want to run out of big bookstores. (And yes, I buy independent when I can, but sometimes big is useful.)

World’s oldest running car fetches $4.6 million at auction — Now this is just awesome. (Snurched from [info]jimvanpelt.)

Electric TRON Lightcycle Outed by Parker Brothers — (Via David Goldman.)

Will the Large Hadron Collider Explain Everything?

Octopi Wall Street! — (Thanks to [info]danjite.)

Herman Cain: pizza boss, radio host, ballistics expert, minister. President?Once the butt of late-night comedians, the Tennessee-born politician has emerged as the unlikely darling of the right.

Palin pulls a PalinSarah-watchers were not surprised when she announced she wouldn’t run for president. It was never her goal. A con’s a con. Thank you John McCain for visiting this woman upon America. She will be your political legacy.

Will Romney-Perry race be Christian vs. Christian? — I will point out that claiming the Mormon church is not Christian isn’t equivalent to saying it’s a cult. Whether something is a cult is a matter of perspective. As an atheist, to my view Mormons are no more or less a cult than Southern Baptists. As for Christian, I’m not in charge of those labels, but that would seem to be a definable matter. What I do know is that conservative party is infested with Christianists, that is, people who use the trappings of Christianity as clubs to wage political and cultural war for their personal bigotry and wilful ignorance. Mormon, Southern Baptist, I could not care less; it’s the Christianists I fear and despise. It’s the Christianists who’ve been busily destroying the social fabric of our nation my entire political lifetime.

Why Not Question Romney’s Religion?Back in 2008, the only moment when the Obama campaign looked to be in some difficulty was when the GOP attacked his church and firebrand pastor Jeremiah Wright. The attack itself was dishonest in that the McCain campaign took the words of the sermon out of context. On the one hand, I’m perfectly happy to see the Republican party eating their own young for a change instead of pissing in the national pot as usual. On the other hand, even as atheist, I don’t think this is a legitimate line of attack. My own belief in freedom of religion is absolute, but I likewise believe it absolutely stops at the edge of the public square. In other words, Romney or Perry or whoever can believe what they will with my full support, but they can’t impose those beliefs on me on or anybody else. It’s in the second part of that belief that I find my lifelong quarrel with American conservatism, not the first.

?otD: Melon balls or mountain oysters?

Writing time yesterday: 3.5 hours (revisions and WRPA)
Body movement: 30 minute stationary bike ride
Hours slept: 8.0 hours (solid)
Weight: 218.0
Currently reading: The Cassini Division by Ken MacLeod

[interviews] Another reader interview with me

Per my recent call for questions, here’s another reader interview with me. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

djelibeybi_meg: During all your cancer treatment, how did you manage to continue to motivate yourself to write and to keep up your regular blogs? If there were days when you didn’t manage it, what impact did this have upon you?

Jay Lake: The fiction writing eventually fell away, during month four of chemotherapy. That part of my brain essentially went to sleep for about three and a half months. Which was tough, because it’s a huge part of my identity, as well as being a very important activity. The blogging never stopped. In fact, if anything it stepped up. While I was in treatment I seemed to be able to focus on that kind of brief, non-fictional narrative in a way that was very distinct from my fiction.

I never really fell down on the blogging except on infusion days and in the time immediately around my surgeries. I was frankly very depressed and upset about losing the months of fiction writing time.

djelibeybi_meg: Are there particular characters (of yours) which have helped you through the treatment and recovery?

Jay Lake: I don’t suppose I think of it that way, mostly because I don’t think in terms of character so much as I think in terms of story. At one level, the character of Jay Lake in The Specific Gravity of Grief might fill that role. Though in truth I did not expect to become him so much as I have. I’ve also spent a lot of time this last year with Green, of Green, Endurance and Kalimpura, as well as the Before Michaela Cannon of Sunspin. Their stories have been important to me.

djelibeybi_meg: Do you have a favourite book or story to which you return when you need a “comfort blanket”? (Mine is Ringworld by Larry Niven)

Jay Lake: Two series, actually. Discworld by Terry Pratchett, and the Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold. My tolerance for re-reading books is actually fairly low, but I’ve returned to both of those time and again. Plus I discovered while on chemo that I couldn’t process new books mentally, but I could re-read familiar stuff. Which, incidentally, did include Ringworld. But also most definitely Bujold and Pratchett.

eljaydaly: You’ve spoken about how challenging it was to make the shift from short stories to novels (at least, I think you have!), and the difficulty with changing from one span of control to another.

Jay Lake: You are right. I certainly have addressed those issues before. And it was quite an intimidating transition. I ran scared of novels for a long time before I embraced the process and let myself become absorbed in them.

eljaydaly: Speaking as somebody who’s made the difficult transition from writing “voicey” short stories to novels… how did you do that? How did you manage to stretch your thought process (or shrink it) so that muscles that were used to working in short, dense idea-chunks got used to handling a very long span? How did you teach yourself to switch from making a single very dense dish to making a seven-course meal?

Jay Lake: Essentially my early mistake was to assume that short stories and novels were the same craft. For me, at least, they are not. (Note, this is not generic advice, merely my observations concerning my own experiences.) A short story is like a piece of cabinetwork — finely crafted, with many carefully executed details. A novel is like framing a house — lots of big strokes and long runs of heavy, rough material. No matter how carefully one crafts a novel, it’s simply a different animal than the supple twistiness of a short story.

The deceptive aspect, to further abuse my metaphor, is that both crafts use similar or analogous tools. Saws, hammers, braces. They just use them differently.

So the retraining of my thought processes was rather like the retraining of a cabinet maker to become a framing carpenter. I still bring my cabinetry skills into the housebuilding. The lessons learned from housebuilding have improved my cabinet making. But realizing and embracing the notion that short stories and novels are distinct-yet-related arts was a huge step for me.

As to how I taught myself to make the switch… The same way I’ve taught myself everything else I’ve learned in my career. Practice, practice, practice; leavened with editorial feedback, critical commentary from other writers, reader response and plentiful self-examination. But mostly practice. That is to say, writing more. Thinking about what I’ve written. Then more writing more.

eljaydaly: Day to day, how did that process look? How did you manage to wrap your head around it all? Compared with the eleven years it took you to start selling, how long would you say it took you to get a comfortable handle on such a different way of thinking and writing? Or did you actually not find it so very different? (I don’t want to make an inadvertent assumption.)

Jay Lake: Well, it took me eleven years from when I first started writing short stories seriously to when I began to sell them. I wrote my first novel in 1994, The January Machine. Someday I might even produce a edition of that, just for laughs, but trust me, it’s definitely a first novel. Post-millennial religious terrorism amid the collapse of the Westphalian model of statehood. With rogue AIs, zombies, global warming, and time travel.

Did I mention that it was a first novel?

So figure about ten years from that effort until I sold Rocket Science, my first novel in the independent press. And yes, as discussed above, very different. Along with lots of practice.

Did I mention how important practice is to developing as a writer?

And to be clear, “practice” does not mean polishing your Great American Novel endlessly. It means writing another one, then another one, then another one. Revision is an important skill. Critical, even. But don’t ever neglect drafting.

eljaydaly: I’m not sure that question (er… bunch of questions) even makes sense. But there it is. I’d be interested in your insights, as always.

Jay Lake: Well, I hope I covered what you intended to ask. Certainly the questions made sense to me. Let’s see if the answers make sense to you or any of my other readers.

ruralwriter: You’ve mentioned that you wrote hundreds (or some value of “a lot”) of stories before publishing a pro story; are you ever tempted to return to any of those pieces and revise them? Or do ideas from those stories sometimes reappear in your newer work without your consciously returning to revise those stories?

Jay Lake: Yes.

Oh, wait, you probably wanted more detail than that. Off the top of my head, “The Rose Egg” (Postscripts issue one) was one such story idea pulled from the deep trunk and re-addressed. My short novel Death of a Starship is another. And certainly the old ideas re-appear in the newer work. I am occasionally alarmed at how closely I can unknowingly repeat myself. On the other hand, if I’m repeating myself, that probably means the idea was strong in the first place.

Or possibly I’m just perseverating.

An example of this is my realization about two years ago that cancer has been a long time recurrent theme, albeit on a minor note, within my work. For years before it became a concern in my daily life, in fact. I’m not sure I ever would have noticed the trend if I hadn’t fallen down that particular rabbithole myself.

That was fun. Feel free to ask followup questions in comments here. In a month or so, I’ll probably post another call for new reader interview questions. My thanks to those who participated by asking this time.

[links] Link salad cherrypicks reviews

Don’t forget the METAtropolis contests — Today is the last day to enter.

A reader reacts to METAtropolis

Another Locus review of Is Anybody Out There? — In which my story “Permanent Fatal Errors” appears.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt reviews my novel Death of a Starship

How do they get to be that way? — Roger Ebert on racism. I grew up in Africa and Asia, but come from an old Southern family that’s white as Ivory soap, and have a multiracial family today. I know quite deeply how life experience can contradict cultural programming.

Dark Roasted Blend with Unusual and Marvelous Maps, Part 2

One Tablet per ChildOLPC may drop “$100 laptop” in an attempt to develop an innovative $75 tablet computer.

Jupiter Impacts Add Up — Hoovering the outer system so we don’t have to.

ETA: Did you miss the ?otD?

Writing time yesterday: n/a (chemo exhaustion)
Body movement: Stationary bike ride to come
Hours slept: 8.5 (solid, with plentiful naps during the day)
This morning’s weigh-in: n/a (forgot)
Yesterday’s chemo stress index: 9/10 (on the pump)
Currently (re)reading: Faust Eric by Terry Pratchett

[awards] Updated pimpage for Nebula and Hugos

We’re at the end of the Nebula window, and in the Hugo window, so I thought I’d so some updated pimpage here.

My favorite picks are in bold.

Oddball Nebula eligibility (but not Hugo) due to rules change:

* “America, Such As She Is”; Alembical; ed. Lawrence M. Schoen and Arthur Dorrance, Paper Golem Press; November, 2008 [novella]
This is probably my favorite published story of my own to date, and I wish it had received more attention. If you’re a SFWA member interested in reading it for consideration this weekend, please contact for a .pdf.

2009 Published Science Fiction:

* “On the Human Plan; Lone Star Stories; February, 2009 [short story]
* “Rolling Steel: A Pre-Apocalyptic Love Story (with Shannon Page); Clarkesworld; April, 2009 [short story]
* “To Raise a Mutiny Betwixt Yourselves”; The New Space Opera 2, ed. Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan, Eos, April, 2009 [novelette] [in Sunspin continuity]
Leopard“; Jim Baen’s Universe, June, 2009 [short story]
“Black Heart, White Mourning”; Grant’s Pass, ed. Jennifer Brozek and Amanda Pillar, Morrigan Books; August, 2009 [short story]
* “Chain of Stars; Subterranean, October, 2009 – [novella] [In Mainspring continuity]
“Last Drink Bird Head”; Last Drink Bird Head, ed. Jeff vanderMeer; Ministry of Whimsy Press, October, 2009 [flash]
* Death of a Starship; MonkeyBrain Books, November, 2009 [novel]

2009 Published Fantasy:

* “Golden Pepper; Flash Fiction Online; February, 2009 [flash]
“The True Secret of Magic”, as Joe Edwards; Crime Spells, ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Loren Coleman, DAW; February, 2009 [short story]
“Witness to the Fall”; Crime Spells, ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Loren Coleman, DAW; February, 2009 [short story]
To Stone” (with Shannon Page); Morrigan eZine, May, 2009 [short story]
* Green; Tor Books, June, 2009 [novel]
People of Leaf and Branch“; Fantasy; June, 2009 [short story] [in Green continuity]
“Tale of the Poet and the Dog”; Japanese Dreams, ed. Sean Wallace, Prime Books; Summer, 2009 [short story]
“An Elderly Pirate Recalls the Death of Love”; Electric Velocipede Issue 17/18 [short story]
* “Red Dirt Kingdoms”; Realms of Fantasy, October, 2009 [short story]
Madness of Flowers; Night Shade Books, November, 2009 [novel]
“Bone Island” (with Shannon Page); Interzone, Fall, 2009 [novelette]
“Shedding Skin; Or How the World Came to Be”; Shimmer (Clockwork Jungle Issue), Fall, 2009 [short story]

[links] Link salad goes back to the Day Jobbe

with an interesting take on my new short novel, Death of a Starship

Andrew Wheeler reviews Finch — A most excellent book I’ve been meaning to review glowingly.

Longacre Square: 1904Shorpy with a photo Times Square, way back when.

Evaporation Ponds, Salar de Atacama, Chile — Another cool photo from NASA’s Earth Observatory.

Juan Cole contrasts Bush response to shoe bomber with Obama response to underwear bomber — More to the point, contrasts press and commentariat coverage of same. Your Liberal Media, enabling conservative lunacy for years past and to come.

?otD: Work or play?

Body movement: 30 minute ride on stationary bike
Hours slept: 5.5
This morning’s weigh-in: 225.5
Currently reading: Bangkok Tattoo/em> by John Burdett

[personal] Obligatory year in review post for 2009

Writing and Publishing

(All figures subject to some revision, due to the vagaries of both record-keeping and publishing.)

I wrote twenty pieces of first draft short fiction, totalling 92,100 words. (Some of these were collaborative.) Due to a combination of circumstances, largely involving cancer, I only wrote one complete first draft novel this year, Endurance at 114,500 words — an unusual burst of brevity for me. Extensive revisions or rewrites to Pinion, Heart of the Beast (unfinished collaborative novel with Jeff VanderMeer), The Rockefeller Plot (unfinished collaborative novel with my dad) and Our Lady of the Islands (complete-but-in-revision collaborative novel with .) Also a number of articles, interviews and the usual avalanche of blog postings. Without getting too precise, I probably wrote about 500,000 words this year, which is a very small year from me.

I sold seventeen original short stories. Five of them were written collaboratively with , two more collaboratively with . I also have two forthcoming year’s best appearances for 2009 material, both for “On the Human Plan“, which originally appeared in Lone Star Stories in February of 2009. Those seventeen short fiction acceptances were balanced by twenty-three short fiction rejections. Also had ten reprint sales, including the YB inclusions, most of the rest of audio or foreign rights.

Approximately fifteen short stories of mine were published this year, including a number of the collaborations. I saw exactly three novels published this year: Green (Tor Books; June, 2009), Madness of Flowers (Night Shade Books; October, 2009) and Death of a Starship (MonkeyBrain Books; December, 2009). Contracted two more novels with Tor, Endurance and Kalimpura, which will extend the Green story. Those are my ninth and tenth novel sales. The anthology Other Earths, edited by Nick Gevers and me, also appeared this year, to strong critical reception, as well as the anthology Footprints, edited by Eric Reynolds and me.

Delivered Pinion to Tor (the third Mainspring book), The Sky That Wraps to Subterranean Press and The Specific Gravity of Grief to Fairwood Press. Drafted Endurance (the second Green book) for delivery next spring.

In 2010, I expect to see Pinion published by Tor Books, as well as my collection The Sky That Wraps from Subterranean Press, and single-title novellas The Specific Gravity of Grief (a cancer tale, from Fairwood Press) and The Baby Killers (high concept steampunk, from PS Publishing).

Attended a number of conventions, the highlights being my Toastmaster gig at World Fantasy in San Jose, and the lovely time we had at WorldCon in Montreal. We do plan to attend WorldCon in Melbourne this coming year, along with the New Zealand national SF convention the weekend prior. Those will be part of my “I survived chemo” celebration.


My relationship with has continued to solidify and blossom. That is a balm to my heart and delight to my life. Many other friendships and relationships have prospered as well, including the discovery (by me) of the delightful , and the ongoing evolution of my long-term friendship with .

Unfortunately, my relationship with cancer has also continued to solidify and blossom. 2008’s colon cancer came back with a lung metastasis, this after significant scares regarding liver and lymph metastates. In November I had a partial thoracectomy to remove a single grape-sized tumor from my left lung, along with a patch of lung tissue the size and shape of a Dorito. In December I had a port implanted in my right chest to facilitate chemotherapy. This coming January, I start a series of twelve infusions of a FOLFOX-Avastin cocktail, a chemotherapy combination with a range of potential side effects that would give anyone pause.

Chemo means my writing life will be pared down through next summer, though by what degree is not obvious. I have only retained two contracted commitments, one a major editing project, the other to revise and deliver Endurance. I’d also like to finish revising Our Lady of the Islands, my collaborate novel project with , so we can go to market with it, as well as make further progress on The Rockefeller Plot, the diplomatic thriller I am writing with my father. Beyond that… With luck, the second half of the year will see me restored to normal production, as I need to draft Kalimpura and I’d like to take a crack at Sunspin.

Hope your year was as happy and productive as mine, and considerably healthier. All the better for the New Year to you and yours.