Because I know you want to have me in your ear at all times, just like Jiminy Cricket, here are two audio interviews with me. First one is from WYSO’s Book Nook program, with Vick Mickunas. That’s about a half-hour. Then there’s this one from Dungeon Crawler’s Radio, which I did just last night, and I think that one’s about an hour. The interviews have some overlap in which I talk about The Human Division, but there’s other stuff in there too. Have fun with them.
This isn’t quite exactly a Big Idea post, more of a “Hey I think Jane Yolen is awesome so there” post: She’s releasing four of her adult-oriented books electronically today, including the novel Cards of Grief, and asked if she might borrow Whatever to talk a little bit about them. Well, sure, because Jane Yolen.
Oldest Living Luddite Recants
by Jane Yolen
Yes, I am the world’s oldest living SF writing luddite, you know, those folks who use to break up machines because such automatons violated God’s laws.
Yes, cell phones and computers have been known to die as I walk by.
Yes, I was married for 44 years (till his death) to a man who was an early Fortran programmer and later on tenured professor and even later on Chair of the University of Massachusetts Computer Science department. He loved me anyway. Or at least forgave me my shortcomings.
And no, I don’t own a kindle, or any of its kin.
So why are the first of my old out-of-print books being rolled out in e-book formats, bright and shiny from Open Roads Media for everyone else to be able to read but me? Four of them–Cards of Grief–my very first sf novel–and three short story collections: Dragonfield, Merlin’s Booke, and Sister Emily’s Lightship (the last contains my two Nebula-award short stories.)
Why indeed. Well, I may be electronically challenged, and have so far been incapable of using a GPS or a VCR or anything that is named in capital letters, but I ain’t stupid. If there’s a reader out there who only reads online or in ciphers, I want them to be reading my books.
And maybe, just maybe,if I am lucky and the stars align, they will love me almost as much as my darling late husband did. Or at least forgive me my shortcomings.
Written on a MacBook Air, so sue me!
Here’s a brand new video about the making of the Morning Star, the video game I’m working on. This video is focused on the story and script, both of which, as I’m sure you know by now, I’ve had involvement with. There’s even a bit of me in the video. I know, try to contain your excitement.
From an actual conversation this morning, on the occasion of today being our anniversary.
Krissy: Eighteen years, baby. That’s a lot.
Me: Yes. Our marriage is now old enough to vote.
Krissy: But not drink.
Me: Well, not legally. As if that would stop our marriage.
That’s right. Our marriage is a reckless teenager, crossing the threshold to adulthood! You can’t tell it what to do anymore! You’re not the boss of it! It’s going to get its own apartment with some friends and party all night if it wants to! You can’t stop it! So there. And yes, it plans to go to college, one day. But right now it’s planning a year to hike around Europe and Asia. What do you mean with what money? It has a job as assistant manager at Cinnabon! What do you mean that if it gets its own apartment it won’t have money for Europe? Look, you just don’t get it, do you. Stop trying to control its destiny! It would argue more with you, but it has to get to the airport and open the store. Those Cinnabites won’t glaze themselves.
Our marriage, man. It is awesome.
(Note: it really is.)
The Carl Brandon Society has released a statement on donations made on June 13th and 14th, which you may read here. The short version of it is that on those days, the society received:
* Over $8,200 for its general fund;
* Over $5,000 for its Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship;
* Over $3,600 for the Con or Bust initiative (which I did not pledge match for here, but which I wholeheartedly support, so, w00t!).
So, all told, around $16,900 raised for the Carl Brandon Society and the programs it supports in a couple of days. Those donations will now go to help an organization whose mission is “to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction.” It’s a good goal, and (obviously) one I support.
Thanks to everyone who donated on the 13th and 14th. And if you didn’t donate on those days, but still want to, then of course you still can, and should.
Where a lovely crowd of folks helped me end my Human Division touring on a high note. Thank you, Cleveland.
Today is Father’s Day, which is nice, but more importantly it’s the 20th anniversary of my first date with Krissy. For those of you who have not read it, I wrote a column about that first date three years ago. For those of you have, here’s a nice acoustic version of the first song Krissy and I ever danced to. Skip to the one minute mark for the actual song (it ends at the four minute mark).
Happy Sunday, wherever you are.
For my event today at 2pm at the Woodmere Barnes & Noble. If you’re in the are, come on by.
In my absence, allow me to recommend this piece on writing by Scott Lynch. Pay attention, he’s speaking truth.
This is a fact: My event tomorrow (6/15) at 2pm at the Woodmere Barnes & Noble is the very last book tour date I have this year. The very last! It would be lovely if you would come to it. And you know what? I think your dad would love to come too. It’ll be a one-day-early Father’s Day thing. And if you are a dad, why not bring your children? It’s a family friendly reading with hardly any swearing! Honest! If you aren’t a father, either because of gender or personal circumstance, you should come anyway. Don’t let those dads have all the fun.
Seriously, though: Last book tour stop of 2013. Come on down. Remember, 2pm — in the middle of the afternoon. So you can still make plans for Saturday night. See you there.
In the mail yesterday, a letter from my non-fiction agent with confirmation that my books The Rough Guide to the Universe and The Rough Guide to Science Fiction Movies were officially out of print, and that the rights to them have reverted to me. While it’s nominally sad to have any book go out of print, I will note that the reason for going out of print was not related to lack of sales (both were selling fine, and The Universe indeed had a second edition), but because Rough Guides has decided to focus on travel books (its original core competency). I think you can try to make an argument that the Universe book, at least, is in some way a travel guide; however, the powers that be at RG appear to disagree. So that’s the end of these books’ lives as Rough Guides.
But is it the end of these books entirely? Well, that’s the nice thing about living in this particular publishing era, isn’t it: It doesn’t have to be. I could try to find a new publisher for the books (they would need new names, at the very least), or I could publish them myself, or I could repurpose the content for other books/projects, or I could just say “screw it” and put them up on my Web site. It’s up to me at this point (and, uh, a publisher wanting to release the book(s) in at least a couple of scenarios). The books aren’t dead; they just have different options now.
These two books being out of print means that all my Rough Guide books are now OOP (the other one, The Rough Guide to Online Finance, has been out of print for years and is never ever coming back). Three books out of print out of twenty, over the course of more than a dozen years, is not a bad percentage, actually.
Serious author is serious. Seriously!
You know what, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, I think today would be a lovely time for people to support the idea of inclusion and diversity in the field of science fiction and fantasy. And that brings to mind the Carl Brandon Society, a non-profit group dedicated to increasing the “racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction.” Well, that sounds good to me, and I’ve participated in the work they’ve done before, specifically the Con or Bust program, to help sff fans of color go to and enjoy science fiction and fantasy conventions. In short, a fine group, doing laudable things for a goal that’s to the benefit of the entire genre.
So, here’s my plan. Today (which for this purpose runs through 11:59:59pm Pacific Time), I will pledge match donations made to either The Carl Brandon Society or The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund (which is administered by the organization), up to, oh, let’s say, $1,000. So, if you donate a dollar, I donate a dollar. You donate $10, I donate $10. And so on, up to $1,000 total. The donate buttons are there on the pages I linked to. And because the Carl Brandon Society is a 501(c)(3) organization, if you’re in the US, your donations are tax-deductible.
Why am I doing this today? Oh, as I said, for no particular reason whatsoever. In a general sense, however, any day is a good day to say, “hey, I support the idea that science fiction and fantasy is a genre open to and inclusive of everyone, including people of color.” I think most of you believe that too, so I want to encourage you to financially support a group that helps make that happen. And why not today? Today is a fine, fine day for it.
So go donate. I’ll match it. Let me know in the comments if you do. Thanks.
Update: First, we have another pledge matcher for that first $1,000:
— ArachneJericho (@ArachneJericho) June 13, 2013
We also have someone ready to pledge match for the $500 after the first $1,000. So go!
Update, 6:25pm: Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld have announced they’re are fundmatching the next $1,000 in contributions. So if you haven’t donated yet, here’s a very good reason. Thanks, Justine and Scott!
The game of love has a different set of rules today than it did even a few years ago — or so Hugo-winning author Will McIntosh recently learned. How will this affect how the game of love is played in the future? McIntosh speculates in his book Love Minus Eighty, and also, here in this Big Idea piece.
In the future, single people will have access to databases containing millions of potential mates, complete with photo galleries and detailed information about their interests. Elaborate matching software will be available to assist in their search for suitable mates…
Wait. That’s the present.
When Orbit books expressed interest in seeing a proposal for a novel based on my short story, “Bridesicle”, they suggested I expand it by creating a larger vision of love and courtship in the future. Doing a little research, I quickly discovered that my ideas about love and courtship in the present were a little out of date. For one thing, I learned that people don’t go on dates any more–that the word date itself is dated. Now, I met my wife a mere six years ago, so it’s not that I’ve been out of the dating pool for very long. Evidently even when I was dating, I was an out-of-touch throwback. I asked my wife for her input on this, and she confirmed that she felt like she’d been whisked back a few decades when we first met, what with me calling on the phone to ask her to go to dinner, and offering to pick her up and all that.
So I dug in and learned what I could about modern dating, with an eye toward how this might affect courtship in the future.
Evidently the modern approach to courtship is indirect. Men don’t call women they’re interested in–they text them. And in those texts, they don’t directly express interest in the woman, they just ask if she wants to hang out with him and his friends. This allows men to avoid the sting of rejection.
There was also a recent article in The Atlantic about a guy who bounces from relationship to relationship, utterly incapable of settling on one woman, because there are just too many single women online to choose from. The article concluded that online dating is destroying commitment and intimacy. This is a fairly common SF idea, often depicted in the form of marriage contracts with time limits.
I’m not convinced we’re really headed in that direction, and this is reflected in my novel. There have always been people who are uneasy with commitment, and people who thrive in a committed relationship. I think online dating will make single people choosier, not necessarily more reluctant to commit. Online dating offers people the opportunity to customize. If you want a partner who loves Elvis Presley and exploring abandoned buildings, doesn’t want children, is a Methodist but not a churchgoer, and plays the trombone, you can locate her in under a minute. The thing is, she likely doesn’t live anywhere near you, so those who are easily mobile have an advantage.
If you’re not sure who you’re looking for, don’t worry–dating professionals are always working on more precise algorithms to help you find the perfect match. In the future, those algorithms may become scary accurate, because dating sites are doing a ton of research. For example, want to improve your odds of getting a reply from that person you’re convinced is your soul mate? Crunching millions of initial messages and response rates, dating sites have very specific advice for you. First of all, use an unusual greeting, like Howdy, or How’s it going, instead of the stale and overused standard, Hi. Don’t compliment your future soul-mate’s physical appearance. Make a joke at your own expense. Be an atheist (seriously, that was one of their findings). And for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t misspell words.
If you’re not a good speller, there’s more good news: there are people out there who will write your profile for you, for a fee. In Love Minus Eighty, I extrapolated this trend, creating dating coaches who feed you lines as you interact with your date (I just can’t figure out how to avoid using that word), so you can make a good impression by being funny in a self-deprecating way while resisting the temptation to mention what a great butt your future soul-mate has.
When it comes to the future of love and courtship, I’m betting the big changes won’t come from advances in information technology. We’re reaching a saturation point in terms of connectivity. Yes, one day soon we’ll be able to interact with 3-D projections of people from the other side of the planet, but really, how different is that from what’s available today? I think the real action will come in biotechnology. Imagine how different things will be for people seeking romantic partners when brain imaging advances to the point where you can tell whether someone is feeling love or lust, when extremely reliable lie detection is not only possible, but cheap, and when you are in possession of your entire genome, and are expected to share that information with potential romantic partners.
I incorporated some of these truly futuristic elements into Love Minus Eighty, but in the end, the heart of the novel became as much about love in the present as in the future. Maybe that’s because I feel as if I’m already living in the future when it comes to love, and how we go about finding it.
This just surfaced on Facebook. I had no idea this existed. I am not sure it should exist. Nevertheless, it does. And I am showing it to you. Spoiler: We’re not good. Prepare yourselves.
Context: The name of the band is Dead Rats Don’t Fly, and it was the brain child of my friend Tom Kim, who took on the role of the producer of the band. Scott Moore is there on vocals, my friend Kevin Stampfl is on bass, Chris Godfrey’s on keyboards, George Huang and John Herpel on guitar, and I’m on the drums (there was also a second vocalist, Steve Shenbaum). The song being performed there at the beginning is called “It’s a New Reality,” and I will note I wrote the lyrics. In my head, it sounded like a Van Halen II-era rock and roll rave up. I want to emphasize: In my head.
So: Not good. But you know what? We had fun pretending to be rock stars. And our friends had fun watching us pretend to be rock stars (we opened for an air band contest, speaking of pretending to be rock stars). It was fun being young.
Also, I still have that drum set. It’s in my basement. I’m totally going to play it soon. Just for fun.
(Thanks — and curses! — to Eric Hutchinson, who uploaded this thing to YouTube)
(Also, for those of you wondering, yes, I have since done other music. Slightly more competently! You can find it here.)
I think I have it pretty much where I want it at the moment, though I might do a little bit of further tweaking around the edges.
For those who are curious, the design is WordPress’ “Twenty Thirteen” theme, lightly tweaked via basic personalization (colors, images) and with a little CSS work to shrink the headlines down from their previously somewhat obnoxious size and to bump up the size of the main body text. Also, if your computer has the font Cambria in it anywhere, you’ll see the body text in it; otherwise it should be some sort of san serif.
Generally speaking, I like the new look. It feels a little more open and airy to me than the previous iteration of the site, and I suspect the bumped up typeface of the body text means it’s easier to read on retina-level tablets and laptops (also, for those machines, the sidebar automatically slides down underneath when your tablet is in portrait mode/your browser window is sized smallishly). In all, it brings the site up to, well, 2013, without making it overly complicated. It’s mostly the same, in fact; just a little bit prettier.
I’ve decided I’m officially bored with Whatever’s design, which has been the same for about two years now. I’ll be making some changes today, effective around 3pm Eastern. Between then and whenever I’ve said I’ve stopped, the blog may look weird or wonky for a bit, and features may disappear, reappear, or otherwise flicker and shift. Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out.
First things first: Hey, Dayton and the surrounding area, why not come see me at Books & Co at the Greene in Beavercreek tomorrow at 7pm? Why not bring the kids? And the parents? And the neighbors? And their pets? Especially if they are ferrets? Because I love me some ferrets, man. There’s nothing I enjoy more than doing a reading positively covered in ferrets. It’s, like, a bucket list sort of thing. So bring everyone and their ferrets! And if you don’t have a ferret, well, that’s okay. Come see me read and answer questions and sign books anyway. I don’t judge.
Second: Below, for your pleasure, the Chinese versions of both Old Man’s War and Fuzzy Nation:
Fun fact: That’s actually the second Chinese edition of Old Man’s War; the first version had a rather, uh, more somber cover. It’s a new publisher who’s also changed the title. Well, I hope it works for them.
I like the Fuzzy Nation cover, however, especially because I discovered this is actually the slipcover art; underneath the slipcover is this book cover art:
Yeah, that’s really kind of cool. Well done, Chinese publisher! More of this, please.
Hey. That horse won’t ride itself.
Author David J. Schwartz is offering his latest, Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib, as an Amazon Kindle Serial: Buy it, and every couple of weeks a new episode drops into your eReader. A neat concept (and I know from episodic content), but what’s the story? Well, as Schwartz explains, head to the 1940s… and swerve.
DAVID J. SCHWARTZ:
I don’t know about you, but I spend an embarrassing amount of time wishing some things had never happened, or had happened differently. Part of what’s embarrassing is that a lot of these events I think about changing happened in high school, and the changes I would make mostly have to do with helping me appear a lot more With It than I was then or indeed ever have been since. My own personal alternate history, in other words, with divergence points like that time in ninth grade when–to be honest, I’ve blocked most of those things out by now. Trauma, you know.
A divergence point, as you probably know, is the event upon which an alternate history hinges. Take the battle of Gettysburg. Back in 1931 Winston Churchill wrote an essay from the point of view of an historian in a world where the Confederacy won the American Civil War, titled “If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg.” Alternate histories tend to focus on big events, because big events tend to have more consequences. Lee wins at Gettysburg, so the South wins the war, so–well, that changes everything. And that’s how science fiction is supposed to work: you change one thing and explore the implications.
My serial Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib isn’t science fiction; it’s contemporary fantasy with an alternate-history backstory. The primary divergence point, and in some ways the central idea for the entire world and story, is this: there was a top secret research project in the United States during World War II, but its object wasn’t the development of an atomic bomb. Instead, a team of magicians–including the late Aleister Crowley–found a way to weaponize demonic energy. As a result, magic has at least temporarily supplanted science as the preferred way of doing things. Instead of microwave ovens there are salamander-powered MagicWaves. Teleportation (known as “portalling”) is mainstream. Computers and the internet exist, but aren’t as reliable–or as relied upon–as in our world. Cellphones were never invented, but most people carry personally attuned crystals that allow them to place person-to-person calls–they never drop a call, but there is the occasional problem with ghosts picking up the line.
As you might imagine, magic has become a gateway for dozens of careers. File clerks and travel agents get certified in Spatial Distortion. Want a job with Dow or GE? An Alchemy degree might get your foot in the door. If you want to freelance for the rich and famous, putting up security wards around their lavish homes, Security Magic might be the path for you.
The school of the title is, in many ways, an unremarkable one for its world. It’s located in Gooseberry Bluff, Minnesota, just across the St. Croix River from Wisconsin. It’s more or less a technical school, not a fancy school for higher magic studies, like its crosstown rival, Arthur Stag College. It’s a good school as trade schools go, but not one that attracts much attention, until a couple of events attract the attention of the Federal Bureau of Magical Affairs.
That’s another thing that Aleister Crowley did, in this world; the U.S. government was so pleased with his research in weaponizing demonic energy that they asked him to head up a new law-enforcement agency, charged with protecting the public from the threats and abuses of magic. And there are plenty of those. Among the most frightening and mysterious are the Heartstoppers, terroristic attacks in which dozens–sometimes hundreds–of people are left lifeless, though not technically dead. The attacks are fueled by demonic energy, and have taken place all over the globe.
That’s the world in which my protagonist, undercover FBMA agent Joy Wilkins, has to maneuver. It’s a world that’s been dealing with the implications and complications of magic for seventy years, and I try to reflect that. Some of the most fun I’ve had with the story has been in making up things like the Magical Currency Destabilization Act, figuring out how a conflict over magical/intellectual property rights might influence an interrogation, or all the utterly awesome ways in which libraries might exploit magic to, say, make Inter-Library Loans obsolete by enabling you to simply walk through the stacks to the library in the next town.
Joy has her own built-in challenges. She’s a rookie agent who comes into Gooseberry Bluff to investigate the disappearance of a professor and the illegal trafficking of demons. She sees auras, but she has trouble with faces; she has prosopagnosia, or face blindness. In a way, I think that has determined what this story is about, at least thematically: it’s about the deception of appearances. The deeper she gets into her investigation, the more difficulty she has deciding who to trust, and where to turn for help.
That’s the story, but the story doesn’t happen without the world, and the world of Gooseberry Bluff is built on that simple science fictional premise. Demons instead of atoms. That could change everything.
Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib: Amazon
Hello! This is my 8,000th post on Whatever!*
*Not actually the 8,000th post on Whatever, because other people have made guest posts over the years. This is actually the 8,093rd post on Whatever.**
**It’s not actually the 8,093rd post on Whatever, either, because the posts here currently only go back to March of 2002, and I was writing on the site far earlier than that (going back to September of 1998; September 13th, 1998, to be precise). There’s probably between 1,000 and 2,000 posts unaccounted for.***
***Speaking of unaccounted posts, I don’t know that Big Idea posts should count as posts by me, because they are mostly written by other people; I just put in an opening graph and post them, which means the WordPress software counts them as mine.****
****Also, now that I think of it, there are some guest posts from several years back which I accidentally deleted and then reposted, which are now reposted under my account. They probably shouldn’t be counted as mine, either.*****
*****Also, I think there may be at least a couple of duplicate posts, caused when the database of entries was ported over to the WordPress VIP servers back in 2008.
So, uh. Yeah.
Hello! I’ve been writing on Whatever for a really long time now.
Here, have a picture of a cat.
I live here! It doesn’t suck.