“The Failure of Flappy Bird”: A Very Short Short Story By Me, in Popular Science

The magazine Popular Science asked me to write a very short story about the future, on the topic of technology, so I did. It’s called “The Failure of Flappy Bird” and you can find it at the Popular Science Web site. Oh, plus very short stories from Ian Tregellis, Ann Leckie, Melinda Snodgrass, Elizabeth Bear, Seanan McGuire, Mary Robinette Kowal, Scott Lynch, Daniel Abraham and Karl Schroeder. You know, if you want to read them too.

(P.S.: For you print fans, the stories are also available in the August 2014 issue of the magazine, on sale now.)

(P.P.S.: Or if you have an iPad and you want even more stories, you can get this! For $4! Cheap!)

What Happened After I Reported: Elise Matthesen, WisCon, and Harassment

My friend Elise Matthesen last year filed a report at the WisCon science fiction and fantasy covention, because she believed that (then) Tor editor Jim Frenkel had sexually harassed her. Harassment policies are not only about what those policies say, but how those policies are administered and those reports handled. Here’s Elise telling you how WisCon, which identifies as the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention, handled her report. The short version: It did so very poorly.

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Last year at WisCon 37, I told a Safety staffer that I had been treated by another attendee in a way that made me uncomfortable and that I believed to be sexual harassment.  One big reason I did was that I understood from another source that he had reportedly harassed at least one other person at a convention. I learned that she didn’t report him formally, for a lot of reasons that aren’t mine to say. I was in a position where I felt confident I could take the hit from standing up and telling the truth. So I did.

I didn’t expect, fourteen months later, to have to stand up and tell the truth about WisCon’s leadership as well.

More than a year after I reported, following an outcry when WisCon revealed that they had lost other reports of misconduct — and after the person in question had not only attended WisCon 38 but had been one of the volunteer hosts in the public convention hospitality suite —  WisCon appointed a subcommittee to investigate my report, along with others they had received about the same person, and to determine what action would best benefit WisCon.

That subcommittee made their statement on Friday, July 18.  Their decision seemed to focus on the rehabilitation of the person, and to understate the seriousness of the conduct. I found their decision inadequate and troubling, and could not understand how they had arrived at it. A week later, on Friday, July 24, I compared notes with Jacquelyn Gill, a member of that subcommittee. (I am incredibly grateful that she made a public statement about her experience on the committee, which allowed me to reach out to her.) We discovered to our mutual dismay that WisCon leadership never gave her all the details I had reported as evidence upon which she could make her decision. Instead, WisCon leadership gave her a version that watered down my account of the harassment, including downplaying the physical contact significantly enough to make the account grossly misleading.

I don’t know whether the relevant details were removed or summarized away from the report I made, or were never written down in the first place. As yet I have seen no evidence that the safety logbook itself contains them. I wonder whether the chairs at WisCon 37 were ever even given the details.

When the subcommittee was formed this year after WisCon 38, Debbie Notkin chaired it. While I can see the sense of having the Member Advocate – which was also Debbie — participating in the subcommittee, I was shocked to learn after the decision that the Member Advocate was also the chair of the subcommittee.  To my way of thinking, that was a clear conflict of interest which I would have balked at, had I been informed. Still, since she was present when I reported in detail, I can’t imagine why she didn’t see that the watered-down summarized version presented to the subcommittee was materially different than what I reported. Despite that knowledge, she allowed the subcommittee to base their decision on inadequate and frankly misleading information. And the subcommittee cooperated with that. The subcommittee performed no follow-up with me or the witnesses, or with other reporters and their witnesses.

What has happened here is beyond my comprehension.  People other than me will have to figure it out and do whatever needs to be done. I hear Ariel Franklin-Hudson has built improved systems for collecting information on incidents, and that’s needed, but what went wrong here is deeper than that.

A proper harassment investigation takes some thought and training, but it is well within the abilities of a good-faith WisCon committee to conduct one.  Experts who train people on harassment investigations emphasize the essential elements of an investigation:

(1) act promptly,

(2) gather all existing written information and reports,

(3) based on those, thoroughly interview the complaining witness, the accused, and any witnesses to the complained-of conduct,

(4) ask those witnesses for other witnesses or evidence (like documents) that might help illuminate the situation;

(5) document what you learn and maintain control and privacy of the documents, and

(6) make a decision based on all of the information that you’ve gathered in a methodical and effective way.

WisCon, instead, lost reports of complaints, selectively interviewed only the accused, failed to conduct follow-up interviews with complainants and other witnesses, and failed to probe whether the reports on which they relied were complete or accurate.  In other words, in addition to disputing the result, I think that the process was haphazard.

I will not blame Debbie for everything that went horribly wrong, because this isn’t just one person. Debbie made a grave error of proper investigation and decision-making, but this is not just Debbie. This is the safety chairs who didn’t investigate further. This is the con-chairs who didn’t follow up and didn’t ever interview me and Lauren. This is the subcommittee members who didn’t push further and contact me and Lauren and Mikki. This is lots of people, some unwitting, some just preferring not to look at the ugly stuff, not to learn something that would require that they confront someone — or confront their principles.

This is a system. And it is fucking powerful and it is fucking broken. I’m not the only one who’s said so. I don’t like putting these details out here. But this is all I have left to do, at this point: stand up and tell the truth.

I would prefer that what this has cost all of us not be wasted. If you care about WisCon, rebuild it. I wish I knew how. I’m at my limits. But as Kameron Hurley said,

“There’s a future that needs building, but somebody who’s actually courageous and principled needs to take up the fucking spade and build it.

“Is it you?”

A First Class Trip to Hell is Still a Trip to Hell

So, the good news about yesterday’s flight home is that I was bumped to first class. Yay! Extra leg room!

The bad news about yesterday’s flight home: It left 30 minutes late because they hadn’t finished (or possibly even begun) fueling the plane before we boarded; a dual line of thunderstorms diverted hundreds of miles out of our path, necessitating an unplanned stop at Dallas-Fort Worth in order to refuel; the refueling stop took more than two hours, at least 30 minutes of which came down to waiting for maintenance to say “uh, yeah, you can go, I guess,” that last bit of delay being the thing that caused me to miss my (already once-rescheduled) connecting flight, which was also the last flight of the day to Dayton; and when we landed in Charlotte, nearly five hours late, we had to wait an additional 30 minutes to get to the gate because it had rained too hard.

Yay! Extra legroom!

All of which is to say that I am still not yet home. I am in Charlotte, having gotten a couple hours of sleep at a (thankfully comped) hotel, waiting to see whether the presumably first flight out to Dayton will actually fly, or whether it will be delayed because, oh, let’s say, hamsters in the engines.

I am sitting with hoi polloi for this leg of the journey. Let’s see if it makes any difference.

Update, 1:41pm: Back at home and rested. Hooray!

Yesterday in San Diego

Walk to go get a hat and a Coke Zero. Walk back to hotel. Walk to go find out where my event is. Walk back to hotel to hang out at the Wired Cafe. Walk to event. Walk back to hotel. Walk to bar to hang out with friends. Walk with friend to his next appointment. Walk to the Balboa Theater for w00tstock. Walk from w00tstock to the LA Times Hero Complex party to give away books. Walk from Times party to the Geek and Sundry party. Walk from G&S party back to w00tstock. Walk from w00tstock back to G&S party. Dance a bit. Walk friend back to her hotel. Walk from her hotel back to my hotel.

Sleep until my feet no longer hurt.

Wake up. Get ready to walk to breakfast.

San Diego.

Hope you’re getting your exercise too.

San Diego Comic-con Addendum

I’m quoted today in this Los Angeles Times piece on San Diego Comic-con and issues of harassment. It’s an interesting article and worth reading if you’re not up to date on the issue. I have a couple of addendums to it which I think I worth noting briefly now (I will have some longer thoughts on the whole subject, but they will have to wait until after this weekend):

* The article notes that SDCC for the first time sent out e-mails to badge-holders pointing out that it doesn’t tolerate harassment. And you know what? That’s an excellent move and a good way to make the point to 100,000+ people that harassment won’t fly at the convention. I have nothing but positive things to say about that. So good on SDCC for sending those e-mails. I should also say I think SDCC is actively thinking about harassment issues this year, both as a matter of course and because others outside the convention (aside from me, I will note, and in a much more publicly active way than I) are making noise about it. That’s good too, and credit where credit is due.

* However, SDCC still doesn’t actually say on its site (or otherwise as far as I can see) what it thinks harassing behavior is. Which is a really big problem in my book — it leaves no guidance for attendees. Not all harassing behavior is as blatant as a grope; attendees on the receiving end of unwanted attention may not be aware that their harassment qualifies under SDCC standards — nor in the absence of guidance may they be convinced, if they feel harassed, that SDCC will agree with them. That’s a huge hole. I understand SDCC reasoning for not offering that guidance, but with due respect for the thinking behind it, it’s flat-out wrong in my opinion. Not having that language makes the convention less safe, not more. It’s the reason you won’t see me at the convention center or on the floor of the show.

* That said, I noted earlier that my event today, which is off campus (it will be at the Horton Grand Theatre at 1:30pm) was affiliated with SDCC in some way. Certainly the tickets to the event note that affiliation:

I think it’s better for me to put these tickets on the table, as it were, than have someone else do it. As I noted earlier, doing this particular event off-campus allows me to keep a closer eye on things (or as I wrote previously, “if someone acts like a harassing asshole at my event, I can have them bounced and reported”). I’m very sure SDCC knows my thoughts on harassment, in any event.

* What I hope is that all of this helps to make this particular SDCC the safest one so far — and thus the most enjoyable SDCC so far for a large number of its attendees — and keeps the momentum going for the convention to continue making improvements in this area. As I said earlier, the e-mails are a start, and a start I can applaud. There’s more to be done.

Hello San Diego

And you are looking lovely this evening.

I am in town. I have signed books for Tor to give away at its booth. I am going to get something to eat, and then I am going to go to sleep, because my brain is still in the Eastern time zone. See some of you, hopefully, at my reading tomorrow (details here). Or later today, since this is likely to go out with an Eastern time zone timestamp. You know what I mean.

Paul & Storm: Ball Pit is Out!

A friendly reminder to you all that my pals Paul & Storm have a new album out called Ball Pit, and it’s terrific and funny, and I’m not just saying that because it features two songs I commissioned from them (“Fuzzy Man” and “(The Shadow War of the Night) Dragons of the Night”), nor am I saying that just because they paid me a shiny penny to say it, although they did, and to be honest, the penny is only moderately shiny. Well, you should buy the album anyway. It’s available at BandcampiTunes,  Amazon, and Google Play as downloads, with physical CDs coming soon.

If you get it and you like it, Paul and Storm would be obliged if you posted a review of it and/or tell other people about it. Because that’s how people find out about these things.

And yes, they paid me another shiny penny to tell you that. And this penny isn’t shiny either. Damn it.

(Seriously, though: A fine album which I like a whole lot. Get it!)

Subscription Services and My Writing

People have asked me if I have any particular thoughts on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription plan, and whether my own work will be on it (and one presumes, on other similar subscription services, like Oyster and Scribd). So, some thoughts:

While one should never say never, I don’t anticipate any of my novels being on subscription services in the immediate future, no. One, Macmillan, who has published all my novels to date, hasn’t started working with any of the subscription services. Speaking with no direct knowledge whatsoever of their corporate thinking on the matter, it seems unlikely to me that they will, unless there’s a clear economic benefit to them in doing so. Two, even if Macmillan decides to opt in, contractually they’ll probably have to ask my permission first — at which point I have to decide whether there is a clear economic benefit in doing so.

And is there a clear economic benefit to me putting my novels on a subscription service right now? At the very least, some early analysis suggests there would be a better economic benefit for me than for many self-published authors, thanks to the fact I am “traditionally published” — an irony for those who still labor under the impression that publishing is an “us vs. them” sort of business — but I have to say I would want to see some actual, useful data on how writers actually get paid from subscription services before I’d want to jump in with the novels.

Part of that hesitation is based on the experience of musicians with their own streaming services, such as Spotify or Rhapsody — many musicians earn substantially less from streaming than from sales, and unlike musicians, most writers can’t really try to make money from touring (some could. Not many). Now, to be clear, early reports say that the subscription services credit a full sale after someone reads 10% or so of a work (although how much a “full sale” counts for seems to be contingent on several factors, including whether one is “traditionally published” or not — again, see the link above).

That’s not bad. But I’m less than entirely convinced that there won’t be near-immediate pressure to push that compensation downward; say, by trying to cut into the money credited for a “full sale,” or by pushing back the percentage of a book read before a “full sale” to 25% or 33%, or by any other number of ways which I can’t now think of off the top of my head but which the subscription model will in some way enable. For me the question is not if such a push will happen, because it will. The question is when.

So the question becomes: Why would I want to do that?

(Note: This question is asked not in the “why would I want to do something that stupid?” sense but in the “so, what’s in it for me?” sense. As is the next question –)

Why would I, as a writer and a businessperson, want to enable a model that introduces another layer of opportunity for others to drive down the amount I can make from my work? The uninformed may fulminate about how publishers are parasitic middlemen, but in point of fact my publisher does a lot of work for me: Editing, copy-editing, art and design, marketing and publicity and distribution. I argue with my publisher on what my cut of the takings should be (these are called negotiations) but there is an exchange of services. So what is the exchange of service a subscription model would offer me? Does it offer enough to compensate for another potential slice to be taken out of my income? Does it offer enough to replace or at least augment the distrubtion model which already exists, and from which I benefit?

If it does — and it might! — then that’s great. Let’s get to it. If it doesn’t, however, then we have a problem.

(This line of inquiry does not consider at all whether a subscription service might be good for readers. It may or may not; I suspect the answer will entirely depend on how many books one actually reads a month. Be aware that buffets make money because they charge you more for the food you eat than you the amount of food you can on average consume, and that this is a buffet, with books instead of crab rangoon. Also be aware, in the case of Amazon in particular, that the long term plan is to make it so you never ever have to go anywhere else to buy anything, ever, and that running Kindle Unlimited at a loss for a while would be fine if it serves that long-term goal. Neither of these things are particularly good or evil in themselves — once again Amazon (and other subscription services) is acting in its own self-interest, as businesses do.

However, none of that conversation is of interest to me when I have my “working writer” hat on. My immediate focus is my own interest — whether a subscription service is good for me, and my business, and my ability to make a living. And you may see this as immaterial or even selfish, especially if you like the idea of drinking from the book subscription firehose. But I gotta tell you, if the amount I can make writing fiction falls through the floor, so will the amount of fiction that I write, as my time will have to be spent doing things that pay my mortgage. We do not live in a glorious socialist paradise here in the US; I have to make money. So do other writers.)

The flip side of this is that every new distribution model offers opportunities tuned to that particular model of distribution — the question is whether one is smart enough to figure out what the strengths of any distribution model are, and then saavy (and lucky) enough to capitalize on them. For example, I think a subscription model might be a very fine way to make money from shorter works: short stories, novellas, less-than-book length short fiction and so on. That’s something I could definitely see pursuing aggressively, while (if necessary) keeping longer-length work in distribution channels that are more profitable for it.

The key is not seeing any distribution model as a threat, even as you’re looking at it critically, but in finding the way it can work for you, and how you can take advantage of it. Right now, I’m in the “still looking at how it can work for me” phase of things. We’ll see how it goes from here.

This Thursday (and Elsewhen) in San Diego

Yes, I’ll be in San Diego this week, and all my events are on Thursday, the 24th. Here’s where you will find me:

1:30pm: Reading at the Grand Horton Theater, 444 4th Avenue (between Island and J streets). I’ll read a bit from Lock In, or I might decide to do something else. You never know! Be on edge!

9:00pm: I’ll be making an appearance at the LA Times Hero Complex party.

Thursday evening I may also be making appearances at w00tstock and/or the Geek and Sundry party, depending on several factors. Twitter will be the best place to find out where I will be that evening (and if I know earlier than that evening, I’ll note it here).

I’ll also be in town Friday and Saturday. Much of that will be for private business — I’ll be having meetings, y’all — but I might decide to park myself somewhere and do “office hours” at some point. Again, Twitter will be the place to learn about that. If I do office hours I will be happy to chat and/or sign books.

I will not be at the convention center or on the SDCC floor. Here are the reasons for that.

If you can’t/don’t see me this week in San Diego, I will be back on September 8, 7pm, at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore as part of my Lock In tour. Details on my official tour schedule.

See you in San Diego!

My 80s Dance Set List from Detcon 1

I’ve been getting requests for the set list of songs that went into the 80s dance I DJ’ed at Detcon 1. I had a source list — songs that I selected as the ones ready to queue up — of 346 songs, with everyone from Africa Bamabaata to Cher to Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy to Ozzy Osbourne on it. Of those, I ended up playing 45 songs, or about 13% of the available playlist. Those songs (as best as I can remember them — I was busy DJing at the time) are listed below, alphabetically by song as opposed to by order of play.

For those wondering how I chose which songs I was going to play, the answer is outside of the first two songs (“Let’s Go Crazy” and “Dancing With Myself”) two songs at midnight (“Time Warp” and “Rock Lobster”) and the final song (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”)*, I just read what the crowd seemed to be into, and also took requests. The overriding DJ philosophy was to give that particular crowd at that particular dance as much fun as possible over the course of three hours.

And now, without further ado:

The Detcon 1 80s Dance Set List!

Addicted to Love — Robert Palmer

Beat It — Michael Jackson

Bizarre Love Triangle — New Order

Blister in the Sun — Violent Femmes

Call Me — Blondie

Cars — Gary Numan

Dancing With Myself — Billy Idol

Dead Man’s Party — Oingo Boingo

Don’t You (Forget About Me) — Simple Minds

Genius of Love — Tom Tom Club

The Glamorous Life — Shelia E

Head Like a Hole — Nine Inch Nails

Hungry Like the Wolf — Duran Duran

I Feel For You — Chaka Khan

I’m So Excited — Pointer Sisters

I Want Candy — Bow Wow Wow

Jungle Love — The Time

Just Like Heaven — The Cure

Kiss — Prince

Let’s Dance — David Bowie

Let’s Go Crazy — Prince

A Little Respect — Erasure

Lucky Star — Madonna

Master and Servant — Depeche Mode

Mirror in the Bathroom — English Beat

Miss You Much — Janet Jackson

My Sharona — The Knack

Pour Some Sugar On Me — Def Leppard

Relax — Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Rock This Town — Stray Cats

Safety Dance — Men Without Hats

Sexual Healing — Marvin Gaye

Situation — Yaz(oo)

Sledgehammer — Peter Gabriel

Smooth Criminal — Michael Jackson

Super Freak — Rick James

Tainted Love — Soft Cell

Take On Me — a-ha

True — Spandau Ballet

Under Pressure — Queen with David Bowie

Walk Like an Egyptian — The Bangles

We Got the Beat — Go-Gos

* There were three songs not from the 80s that were played: “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (because it’s a Michigan SF/F convention tradition to play that song at midnight); “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s (because I thought it the best song to follow “Time Warp”); and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (because it was the last song of the dance, and I think the song pretty much closed the door on the 80s era of music).

Also, because I haven’t said it before: Thanks to the Detcon 1 folks, and particularly Detcon 1 head Tammy Coxen, for asking me to DJ the dance. I had a ton of fun doing it, and I think the folks at the dance had a lot of fun as well. It was a personal highlight of a convention that was already pretty damn terrific.

Detcon, Briefly

Me and the wife at the Detcon 1 80s Dance Party, at which I was DJ. Photo by Al Bogdan.

I spent the weekend at Detcon 1, the North American Science Fiction Convention, held this year in Detroit, and had a pretty fabulous time. The convention was held at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, and it was the first time I’ve been downtown Detroit for a couple of decades. Those hoping for a report on a blighted hellscape will be disappointed — we walked around downtown quite a bit and it was was perfectly fine; a decent number of restaurants and shops and such, with the extra added benefit of Canada on the other side of the water. I’d be happy to visit again soon.

I kept myself busy at Detcon 1 with several panels and events. All of my panels were good ones, which is a happy thing, since that’s not always a guarantee. But every panel had a good mix of smart panelists and engaged audiences, so I came away from each feeling pretty good about them. I also had an excellent reading, in which I was paired up with Jacqueline Carey. What she writes and what I write are sufficiently disparate that we both worked on the assumption it would be a fine time to introduce ourselves to at least some portion of the audience. It worked out pretty well, or at least, the audience didn’t divide into two camps and decide to have a knife fight. So we had that going for us.

My big event without question, however, was the 80s Dance Party on Saturday, for which I was the DJ. I had DJ’ed a dance party at a science fiction convention before — at Capricon, a couple of years ago — and on the basis of that I was asked to host a dance here. I overprepared just a bit, in that I had a playlist of 23 hours worth of music for a three hour dance, but it worked out well for me in that I had a lot of options for when the actual dance. The dance took place in a pretty ideal space (the 42 North lounge at the Marriot hotel) and the convention threw in a laser light show for free, so if I screwed it I couldn’t blame the location.

Fortunately, it does not appear that I screwed it up. The dance floor was full for the very first song (Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”) and it was full for the last song (“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” because it was the song which officially closed the door on 80s music), and it was full for all the songs inbetween — which is, to my mind, is the relevant standard for a successful dance party. I also hopped about like a madman for three hours straight, occasionally going out on the dance floor myself, and at least once getting up on a chair to pump up the crowd. It was a ton of fun, but man, am I feeling it today. Worth it, though.  And I got offers to DJ other convention dance parties, so if this whole writing thing falls through one day, it’s nice to know I have a backup skill.

The only downside to Detcon was that on the way home I seem to have been hit with a case of sudden onset con crud and ended up crashing out in the back bench of the minivan for most of the ride home. I’m still fairly out of it; I suspect tomorrow will largely be spent sleeping and staring glassily into the TV. Again, worth it for such a fine weekend. I would do it again.

View From a Hotel Window, 7/18/14: View of Two Countries Edition

In the foreground of this picture is the United States; in the background, and unusually, south, is the great Nation of Canada. From these facts you may ascertain that I am very near the waterfront in Detroit. Also, when Steve Perry sings of someone being “born and raised in South Detroit,” he may be speaking of someone growing up, Eloise-like, in this very hotel, because as far as Detroit goes, this is as south as it gets.

Detcon1 is a very good convention so far; I had one panel yesterday which seems to have gone well, had dinner in Greektown and then hung about in the bar with friends until it was time to lose consciousness. In all, an excellent day. Today I have two panels, a reading and I’m taking part in the mass autographing. Which is to say a pretty busy day. I’m gonna get to it.

Off to Detcon1

By the time you read this, I will either be at or be very near to Detcon1, this year’s NASFiC (an acronym which, if you already know what it means, suggests you are exactly the sort of geek who will be at the convention already). Once there, I will commence with four days of general nerdery, and I will speak on panels, read from my work, sign books, and DJ what is sure to become the most infamous 80s dancein modern history. Can’t wait.

It does mean that posting here is likely to be sparse through Sunday (the end of the convention), however. As always, in trying times such as these, I suggest keeping tabs with me through the magic of Twitter. The last few tweets of mine are always on the sidebar here, but here’s my actual Twitter page. Keep it open and with you at all times (or, you know, just follow me on Twitter, which is the less dramatic but probably easier option).

Have a good weekend, y’all.

The Big Idea: Sarah McCarry

On the road again — or perhaps, on the road for the first time? Sarah McCarry is a writer who perceived a certain lack within a particular narrative trope. Dirty Wings is her attempt to address it; here she is to tell you about it, and the book.

SARAH McCARRY:

When I was nineteen or twenty I used to drive up and down the west coast like the length of the 101 was a trip to the corner store. I had fallen in love with someone who was good at getting into trouble, and then it turned out I had something of a knack for trouble myself. Out there at the edge of the world with the silvery mass of the Pacific at my feet, a wilderness of stars pricking to life in a darkening sky so big the bright spark of my own life shrunk to nothing—out there it was easy to believe that nothing much mattered, that any want I dreamed up was a reason to keep going, that running away and running toward were only different ways to tell the same story.

We don’t tell girls to set themselves free. My own life, up until the moment I left home, was a more or less ordinary one. I wanted something bigger, but I didn’t have the words to name the shape that size might take. When I was very young, I believed in dragons, thought there was one out there waiting just for me—waiting to pluck me out of the mundane (tormented on the playground, awkward, too mouthy, too smart, not quite right for a girl) and carry me into the fantastic, where the qualities that made me unwelcome among my peers would reveal themselves to be a hero’s gifts. But in a few years I saw that the idea of a story with a girl like me at its center was itself so fantastical that the dragons would’ve been more likely. I hankered after far horizons, but good luck getting there, young lady: the road is no place for a girl. There was a home in the world for clever girls—that I didn’t doubt. But I wanted to be more than clever. I wanted to be bad news.

“When a man steps onto the road, his journey begins. When a woman steps onto that same road, hers ends,” Vanessa Veselka writes in “Green Screen,” her magnificent essay on the lack of female road narratives. The older I got, the more often I met girls who were living the stories I wanted, the stories that taught me how to make my own life in their image: girls who hopped trains, hitchhiked alone across continents, vagabonded through other countries, bicycled solo for thousands of miles, wandered without company through wildernesses. But for the most part, those girls’ stories—our stories—are left off the printed page. We get dragons, sure; we can be sorceresses and princesses, witches and swordswomen, assassins and vampires and robber brides and queens. Sometimes we even get to be monsters. But a girl whose heart’s too big for her body, a girl whose whole self says go out the door and keep going—that girl’s still got to write her own book.

So I did.

Dirty Wings is about a lot of things: it’s about love and death and music, and it’s about what happens when old stories catch up with new ones—the old story, in this case, being the death-tinted romance of Persephone and Hades. Underworlds both literal and imagined, labyrinths within the heart and below the earth. It’s about the magnificent allure of truly bad decisions, and it’s a little bit about magic, and a lot about friendship. It’s about the wide salt home of the Pacific, and that ribbon of the 101 that’s stitched still, forever, through my heart as much as it is the hearts of the girls I wrote about: Cass and Maia, new friends and twinned spirits on a road trip that will alter both their lives.

But really what it’s about—what it’s about for me, anyway—is being that girl with her eye on the edge of the world, that girl who says yes to all the wild things, that girl teaching herself how to run for the sake of running, choosing the uncertain, writing her own rules. Telling her own story, drawing her own maps. That girl who decided not to wait around for dragons. I wanted a story about girls who made their own trouble, and so I wrote it. Here’s hoping you like trouble, too.

—-

Dirty Wings: Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | WORD Bookstore (signed copies) | iBooks

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s website and blog. Follow her on Twitter.

On Book Reviews at Whatever

One of those “post once for future reference” posts.

I’m getting a lot of requests for book reviews, many from indie/self-published authors who are, understandably, hoping to see their book talked about, but also from editors/publicists from established presses. So please allow me to note:

I do not regularly, nor do I plan to in the immedate future, review books here on Whatever.

The primary reason for this is simple: I have a finite amount of time, and that time needs to be spent on my own books. I don’t get paid for reading books; I get paid for writing them. The secondary reason for this is that I’m not a gentle critic, and I don’t expect that people asking for reviews would be happy with what I have to say if I don’t like their books.

This does not mean that I don’t read other people’s books; I do. I read them for fun and enjoyment, not with an eye toward formal reviewing. I may from time to time write a quick review or comment here about a book I particularly liked (or, and rather substantially more rarely, gripe about a book I didn’t like). This should not be construed to suggest I intend to regularly review books here.

In lieu of regularly reviewing books, I do the following:

1. I present the Big Idea feature here, in which authors talk about their books. Here is how to be considered for the Big Idea. Indie/self-pubbed authors: please note the criteria for inclusion.

2. I (usually weekly) note new books/ARCs that are sent to me, both here and on my Twitter account. As I take a picture of these books/ARCs, a physical copy of the work is required. Here is how to be considered for this particular feature. This is open to any author.

Either or both of these achieve what I suspect is the goal of most people asking for reviews, which is exposure here on Whatever. It’s also easier for me. Everyone wins.

Requests for reviews will largely be ignored. I don’t have time to respond to each review request. Sorry.

Editors/PR folks at established presses, I understand review requests are part of your boilerplate. However, please take a moment to update your contact information about me. I’m happy to consider your authors’ works for inclusion in the Big Idea feature, but please note that I will not request their participation. You (or they) must ask. Thanks.