Monthly Archives: July 2010

Heading Out

And now I’m off for a month and a half. You kids have fun, take care — and take care of each other, okay? I’ll see you in September, on the 12th anniversary of Whatever.

Until then,

JS

A Pre-Hiatus Gift to You: A Free E-Book!

Before I head off for my six-week hiatus, I thought I’d leave you a little reading material. A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries which I called “That Was The Millennium That Was,” chronicling what I thought were some of the best, worst and weirdest things of the last millennium. It was a pretty good series — good enough that I was able to repurpose some of the essays for resale and featured a couple others in Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded. But the whole run of the series has been off the site proper for over seven years, which means that many of you haven’t seen most of these pieces.

So, as a parting gift, here’s the whole series as a free e-book, DRM-free.

Click here for EPUB format

Click here for MOBI format

Clicking on the link should download the thing to your computer, and then you can transfer it to the e-book reader of your choice. Between EPUB and MOBI, I think I’ve just about covered every current e-book reader out there, and if you have an e-book reader that doesn’t read either of those formats, well, I guess I don’t know what to say to you, except, possibly, here’s the free MobiPocket reader for your computer.

Two notes:

1. This is an amateur e-book, created by me cutting and pasting the entries into an RTF file and then running it through a format converter. So a) it is very lightly copy-edited and you may run into a few flubs here and there, b) it’s not a brilliant work of e-book formatting. Hey, it’s free, and I think I caught 95% of the misspellings. You can handle the rest. No, I don’t want you to send me an e-mail telling me when you find a flub. I’ll be on hiatus, remember?

(Update, 5:20pm: Whatever reader Béranger has been kind enough to add a table of contents to the epub version; I’ve updated the file with the new version. Thanks, Béranger!)

2. Feel free to share the e-book on a non-commercial basis (i.e., one-on-one with friends, etc), and to mention it on your blog, in tweets, and so on — and if you do, thanks very much. But do me a favor and link to this post when you tell people about it, because that way I can have a reasonable gauge of how many copies have been downloaded, which is information I would actually find useful for thinking about free e-books in the future. Please don’t upload it to repository sites like Scribd, or to torrents or other such things, again, so I can have a reasonably clear idea how many people are checking the thing out. Thanks.

One final note — this e-book is offered for free, as a gift, with no expectation of payment. I’m good for now, thanks. That said, if after reading it you feel moved toward compensation one way or another, I would be pleased if you took a dollar or two (or three, or five, or ten) and sent it to a literacy charity of your choice. Two that I like are Reading is Fundamental and First Book. Literacy is a good investment for everyone, and helping kids and adults learn to read is one of the best ways to “pay it forward.” So give it some thought, if you enjoy what you read. Thanks.

Meet the Guest Bloggers

No, Ghlaghghee will not be a guest blogger while I am on hiatus over the next several weeks. I realize that breaks the heart of some of you. You’ll just have to live with disappointment. For everyone else, I am pleased to introduce to you the folks you’ll be spending the next few weeks with here at Whatever. Your guest bloggers, in alphabetical order:

John Anderson: John Anderson is a friend of mine from my AOL days — that would be the mid-90s, when AOL occupied the same mindspace Google does now (and Google folks hate when you make that comparison) — and more recently was one of the founders of Comics Alliance. I also get a more or less monthly e-mail from him telling what stuff I should be listening to right now, and he’s usually right.

Mykal Burns: Another friend from way back, although in this case way back is waaaaaaay back, since I’ve known Mykal since I was in the sixth grade. Yes! I know! No one was even alive back then. What can I say. Mykal writes now and then for blogging.la, and when he’s not busy with other things, he’s a roller derby referee.

N.K. Jemisin: You may recall Nora from her recent Big Idea piece on her massively critically acclaimed debut novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, or you may know her because you’ve been reading through this year’s Hugo and Nebula nominees, and her short story “Non-Zero Probabilities” was on both shortlists. Or you may read her own blog.

Mary Robinette Kowal: Oh, you all know Mary by now, right? Campbell winner? Hugo nominee? Current SFWA Vice President? Author of the fabulous debut novel Shades of Milk and Honey, which officially comes out next Tuesday? My partner in crime for “John and Mary Show You Their Shorts“? Yeah, you all know Mary.

And overseeing it all will be the site manager Kate Baker, who some of you may know as an accomplished audio reader (for example, here’s her reading the Parsec Award-nominated “The Things,” written by Peter Watts), among the many other things she does.

THEY ARE ALL AWESOME. Really, I ran tests, and that’s what the tests came back saying. They all officially start on August 1 and continue through September 12.

What will they post? Whatever they feel like, just like I do. When will they post? Whenever they feel like, just like I do. So basically the place will run just like it normally does, just without me for six weeks. I hope they all have fun with it, and I hope you all have fun with them as well.

The Big Idea: S.A. Swann

How do you write a sequel for a book that you wrote without thinking of a sequel at all?It’s a pretty puzzle, and one that happens more often than you might think. S.A. Swann faced this problem with Wolf’s Cross, an unexpected sequel to his novel Wolfbreed. His solution to the situation? Read on, dear friends.

S.A. SWANN:

When I wrote Wolfbreed I wasn’t concerned for markets, or genre, or much else beyond having my muse promise not to beat me senseless.  It was written outside of my contracts for DAW, so I had no real constraints on what I was doing, and no expectations of anything beyond its fiery conclusion.  Everything had been wrapped up, the still-living characters all had their main conflicts resolved.  All the plot threads tied up with a nice bow made of human entrails. . .

That gave me a bit of a problem when Spectra decided to by the book, as long as I signed a contract for a follow-up.  How do you follow-up a book that wasn’t written with a sequel in mind?  It’s very hard to read Wolfbreed as the first chapter in an ongoing series.  This was especially true in the earlier drafts.  The main plot engine was the relationship between the three main characters.  Once that was resolved, there was very little that could be done to continue with those characters without seeming completely arbitrary or diluting the resolution of the book.

My idea then, with Wolf’s Cross, was to use a different main character.  Simple enough.  I could set the sequel in a different place and time, but in the same universe, and I would have a new set of characters to run through their paces.  But I also needed Maria (the protagonist of Wolf’s Cross) to not just be a different individual from Lilly (the protagonist from Wolfbreed), but someone radically different in nature— or I was in danger of rewriting Wolfbreed and just moving it from 13th Century Prussia  to 14th Century Poland.

So for Wolf’s Cross, I developed Maria as an inverse shadow of Lilly.  Lilly was raised as an animal, Maria was raised as a human child.  Lilly starts psychologically broken and tries to regain some semblance of sanity as the story goes on, Maria is about as well adjusted and normal as you’d expect of a medieval peasant girl.  Lilly’s first major scene is tearing a bunch of knights apart, Maria’s is when she helps tend wounded knights from the same order. Lilly was denied her humanity, Maria is terrified of losing hers.  This contrast worked its way throughout the whole of Wolf’s Cross, Maria becoming as dissimilar to Lilly as she could while still remaining a werewolf.

They are two very different women, with very different backgrounds, leading to two very different stories; but stories with very similar themes.

—-

Wolf’s Cross: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|IndieBound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit S.A. Swann’s blog.

A Passing Thought

I now have in my possession a pocket-sized computer which, when I speak a question to it (“Who is the author of Kraken?” “Who was the fourteenth president of the Unites States?” “What is the name of John Scalzi’s cat?”) provides me an answer in just a few seconds. If I take a picture of something, the same pocket computer will analyze the photo and tell me what I’m looking at. Oh, and it makes phone calls, too. Among other things.

None of that is the cool part. The cool part is, when I speak a question to my pocket computer and it gives me a bad answer, I get annoyed. Because here in the future, when I talk to my pocket computer, I expect it to get the answer right the first time.

I think I’ve said before that one of the neat things about getting older is that you really do become aware just how much things change. To be more specific about it, as you get older, at some point you cross an arbitrary line and are aware that you are now living in the future. I’m not precisely sure when it was I crossed my own arbitrary Future Line, but I’ll tell you what, I’m well past it now.

That is all. Carry on.

The Upcoming Scalzi Hiatus: What You Need to Know

As I have mentioned earlier, starting this Sunday, August 1, I am taking a six-week hiatus from Whatever, concluding on or about September 12 (9/13 will be the 12-year anniversary of the site). However, Whatever will still be up and running during that time, for your continued reading enjoymentary. Because I realize these two apparently opposing facts may cause some unpleasant cognitive dissonance, this entry aims to give you further guidance on the subject.

1. How can the site continue when you’re not here? Because I have assembled a SUPER-MEGA-AWESOME team of guest bloggers to blog whilst I am away, and also hired a site manager to handle things like comment moderation and the site back end in my absence. Together, they will ensure the site functions and has interesting stuff to read over the next several weeks.

2. Who are these super mega awesome people who will keep the site going? I will introduce them to you formally on Friday. For now, suffice to say that I picked people who I have found to be interesting people in their own right, and I’ve encouraged them to share their own interests/passions/gripes/whatever with you. They’re not substitute versions of me; that would be boring. They are people I think you’ll find are worth reading in themselves.

3. I’m worried that while you’re away the comment threads will not benefit from the Mallet of Loving Correction™. Fear not! For while I am away, the MLC and all its powers will be fully invested in the site manager, who I have also told to err on the side of Malleting. So if anyone thinks the hiatus will be a fine time to test the commenting fences, Jurassic Park raptor-style, I would beg them to reconsider their incipient plans for commenting obnoxiousness.

4. Will the Big Idea feature continue during the hiatus? Yes; it’s fully scheduled for August and September.

5. Where will you be during this hiatus of yours? For about a week of it, I will be in Australia for Worldcon, but for the rest of it I’ll be in Ohio, and mostly at home. I’ll be alive; I just won’t be on Whatever.

6. Seriously? Not online at all? Hey now, I didn’t say not online — although to be honest I do intend to minimize the overall amount of time I’m doing online stuff. That said, during my hiatus I’ll continue to publish my FilmCritic.com column (and will likely have pointers to it from Whatever), and will probably offer up a tweet or two, or an occasional Facebook status update. I’m also scheduled to take part in a discussion on Tor.com in the middle of the month. And finally, if something really cool happens, like, say, I win something in Australia, I might pop in to tell all y’all about it. But all that added up won’t count for much time online. Basically, don’t expect to see a lot of me. That’s the point of taking a hiatus.

7. What has brought about this hiatus? Is everything okay? ZOMG ARE YOU DYING?!? I’m not dying and everything is perfectly fine. I just decided to take a break. Some but not all the reasons: I have other writing I need to focus on, I have immediate SFWA business and some future planning to do and I have a few home projects to complete. But mostly, hey, you know what? It’s been a while since I had a break from Whatever, and I’d kind of like to have something approaching a summer vacation. This will be it.

8. I don’t know how I will survive without your constant online presence in my life. Dude, do we need to have another talk about that restraining order?

9. No, no. I get it. Okay, good.

10. I’ll just sit here and sob quietly into this soft, plush Scalzi toy I made. Okay, now I’m just plain creeped out.

More seriously, if you have any other questions about the upcoming hiatus, drop them in the comment thread.

Droid X Day II: The Droidinationing

Because I’m getting lots of e-mail from people who want to know more about the Droid X, presumably because they are in the market for a new cell phone themselves, some more thoughts on the thing. Note that some of these thoughts will be about the Android platform in general, not just about the Droid X.

1. First, the coolest damn thing ever: Google Goggles, which (for those of you who like me a day ago and hadn’t really heard of this thing) does a creditable job identifying things when you take a picture of them with your phone and send it along to Google’s server farm. I spent a fair amount of time today wandering about the house to see what things Goggles recognized and what it didn’t. Art posters on the wall? Got the artist and the original picture. Book covers? No problem. The cats? Well, apparently Ghlaghghee isn’t famous enough for the Google servers. But two out of three isn’t bad.

2. Second thing I like: The Droid X has mobile hotspot capability, which I paid for, and which is paying off right this very moment because my broadband is down for some unfathomable reason, and I’m using the mobile hotspot to be online. The hotspot has a bandwidth cap of 2GB per billing cycle; since I don’t really plan on downloading lots of data-intensive stuff on it I suspect that will be just fine. I travel enough at this point that having a mobile hotspot to call my own will be worth it; I’m looking forward to not paying for hotel Internet anymore.

3. The Android interface and apps are nice but also generally a shade less slick than their Apple counterparts. That said, they’re slick enough and miles ahead of the apps on the Storm, so I don’t think of this as much of a problem, actually. I also notice that a lot of apps in the Android market are priced a couple of dollars higher than their counterparts in the Apple app store, and I do find this a bit annoying.

4. I’ve found the Droid X actually very comfortable to hold and use. The reviewer whining about the size seems even more non-sensical to me two days in; the thing fits well in my hand and the ridge in the back (where the camera juts out a bit) gives it a secure feel in the hand whether one is holding it vertically or horizontally. The screen looks great and things are easy to read on it and my ability to handle it with a single hand continues unabated. Basically I think the size complaints are bunk.

5. Some things I don’t like so far: I think the physical buttons on the phone are a little wonky, although part of that is me used to a slightly different function configuration on the Storm. I also notice the browser takes a while to access and load sites, even when wifi is on. Some of the apps could use better internal navigation. The camera is adequate but not great. I’ve played with the Swype keyboard and am a bit underwhelmed with it; I can type faster the old-fashioned way. The Droid X does not make me either smarter or more attractive.

But in all so far a very worthwhile investment and something I suspect will fit my needs for a smartphone very well. If you’re in the market for a new phone and are a Verizon customer, I’d say it’s worth checking out.

Marjorie M. Liu and Kelley Armstrong Have a Conversation About Writing

In my neverending quest to get other people to do my work for me completely selfless attempt to bring interesting writers and their books to your attention, because I love you, here’s something new for you, and we’ll see what you think: Two authors chatting with each other about their new books, and about writing.

Today’s two authors: Marjorie M. Liu and Kelley Armstrong, both New York Times bestselling authors of paranormal fantasy, each with new books out today: A Wild Light, which continues Liu’s “Hunter’s Kiss” series, and Waking the Witch, which does the same for Armstrong’s “Otherworld” series. Their topics: Writing styles and process, and how those relate to their new books.

MARJORIE M. LIU:

Kelley, I’d love to talk to you about writing styles.

One thing I love and admire about Waking the Witch is how tightly it’s plotted.  It’s fast, cut lean, and every word counts.  Once I started reading, it was incredibly difficult to put down — I felt the momentum, a gathering of strength in the story and characters — and the ending!  I did not expect that at all, but it was perfect.

I’m still figuring out how to write each new book, but do you have a process that you’re most comfortable with?  When you’re sitting down to write a novel, what’s the one piece of the puzzle that you need to set in place before everything else tumbles onto the page?

KELLEY ARMSTRONG:

Marjorie, my writing style does tend to be fast-paced.  I consider it taking my weaknesses and trying to put a positive spin on them <grin> I’m not good at description and setting.  Nor is my prose rich and poetic.  It’s very much a bare-bones style with the focus on action and dialogue.  If I can avoid the temptation to meander (or at least cut all that in edits!) I can turn it into tight pacing.

It’s funny, though, because after years of being praised–and sometimes criticized–for the pace of my books, now that I’m writing for teens, I get comments like “it was kinda slow starting” or “some parts dragged.”  Their expectations are different from many older readers, and it’s like a splash of cold water, waking me from that complacency of thinking I know what my strengths are.  It makes me take a harder look at the parts of my writing I’ve brushed off as “oh, but I know I’m good at that.”

One thing I admired about A Wild Light is the depth and richness of your writing.  Your prose is very lush, but you still keep up the pace and the action, which is a rare combination.  Do you feel that’s your natural style?  Or something that’s developed over the years?

As for process…

After seventeen books and countless pieces of short fiction, my process still changes.  I think now, though, that it’s “shaking things up” rather than refining the process.  Sometimes I’ll have a ten page outline.  Sometimes, I’ll have two paragraphs.  I’ll write long-hand for two books in a row, then switch to direct keyboarding for the next two.  But the one thing I must have in place is the main character.  Nothing works without that.  If it’s a new character, she’ll be refined over the course of the book, but when I sit down to start page one, I need to feel I know this person well enough to slip into her skin.

So I’ll toss the same question back at you.  What do you need in place before you start?

MARJORIE M. LIU:

Regarding style…

You know, when I was a freshman in high school, reading Borges and Neruda, and Allende — all of them were a revelation to me.  Which sounds dramatic, but sometimes you read works that shake you up and show you a new world of words.  I didn’t know stories and poetry could be written like that.  I hadn’t thought about the color of language, or how words could evoke a place, or person, or the soul of that person.  I internalized that in a very deep way.

But that was good and bad, because there’s a fine line between being lush and being overwritten, and I know I cross that line more often than I’d like.

My style has evolved over the years — and it’s still changing.  I experiment a lot, trying to be aware of the words I use, and how fragments and structure can affect the feeling of a moment.  For example, in the beginning of The Iron Hunt, I use mostly sentence fragments to tell the story.  It’s sharp and hard, with a particular rhythm.  That was intentional, because I was trying to evoke urgency and vulnerability — winter, death, solitude — a particular immediacy.

I’m writing another book (not part of the Hunter Kiss series) that is very bare-bones.  I’m really stripping my language down — focusing mostly on action and dialogue, and nothing else.  I don’t know if that will stick when it comes time to write the next Hunter Kiss novel, or if it’s the series itself that evokes a certain style.  I think it’s the latter, honestly.

And my process always changes, too!   Each novel I write has a different temperament, and requires a different approach.  I can’t explain it…sometimes the words come easily, and the ideas just spark fire — but then there are the days when I’m banging my head against the wall, and I’m reevaluating this and that, and how I write — and I tell myself that maybe an outline will help, but then I outline and I have to throw it out — and so on.

Like you, though, I HAVE to know the main characters.  I need to be right inside their hearts.  The journey spills out of that.  I also need to have a good first sentence in place.  Even if it changes over time, having a really strong, powerful beginning creates a certain momentum that I use to propel me forward into the story.

It is interesting, though, how writing for a different audience forces us to reexamine our craft and storytelling.  That happened when I moved from writing just romance to urban fantasy — which was a harder transition than I thought it would be — and then it occurred again when I began writing comic books, which is a completely different style altogether.

Look! I Am Drawing Your Attention to These Things!

Because, you know. Why be subtle about it.

1. To celebrate the arrival of the author copies of Shades of Milk and Honey, and the book’s imminent release (as in, next Tuesday), Mary Robinette Kowal is having a caption contest to give away two signed copies of the novel. Yes! Signed! To you, even! That is, if you win. But I totally know you’re going to win. Because you’re creative like that. Remember that one time, when you said that thing, and I said “wow, that was really creative?” It’ll be just like that all over again. Only with a signed book at the end.

2. Congratulations to my fellow Viable Paradise instructors Debra Doyle and Jim Macdonald, whose new alt-history novel, Lincoln’s Sword, hits bookstores today. Fans of alternative history will be all over this, and if you’re not a fan of alternative history, you know what? Maybe in another time line, you are. And maybe that version of you is a much happier person. Think about that. And speaking of the general subject of alternate history, Debra Doyle has a great guest post on Making Light talking about alternate history, the Civil War and why people get spiky about it, and her and Jim’s new novel. Meaty food for thought.

3. You know who else is having deep thoughts today? Cat Rambo, that’s who. Specifically, she’s having smart and cogent thoughts on print and electronic publishing, how they differ and how they’re the same, and what it all means. She’s doing it on a guest post at the SFWA blog, and you should all go now to read it because I don’t know that you’ve thought about traditional versus electronic publishing enough today. Really, how you get through your day not thinking about it, I just don’t know.

4. But, John, you say. What about you? Aren’t you going to link to something about you? Because how can you call yourself a venal, grasping egotist if you don’t? Those are some excellent questions, my friend, and in response let me present you with this essay on METAtropolis, in which the author posits that the near-future anthology I edited and contributed to is, in fact, a work of “outsider anarchism.” And once you’ve read that, check out this response to the essay at Futurismic, which discusses the role of outsider anarchism in science fiction more generally. I’m not personally going to address the topic at this point, since I think it’ll be more interesting to let other people bat it around, and anyway, what does the editor/co-author know about such things? I am merely a vessel. (Note for the irony impaired: I am not merely a vessel.) I will say I do enjoy people taking the work seriously. We aimed to entertain, but quite a lot of thought went into the construction.

And there you are. Get linking.

The Big Idea: A.C.E. Bauer

The great thing about Shakespeare – as if there were just one great thing about him — is that he offers so many opportunities for other writers to explore his work, ask questions and then build their own stories from there. He’s a lodestone of inspiration, and even some of the smallest elements of his tales lend themselves to expansion. To make this point, author A.C.E. Bauer is here to tell us how Come Fall came from wondering about a character in a Shakespeare play, whose role is so small that it doesn’t even have a single line… and yet inspired fascination all the same.

A.C.E. BAUER:

I fell in love with A Midsummer Night’s Dream when I was a teenager. The story, the sets, the costumes—everything charmed me. And the blowhard with the ass’s head was named Bottom! What wasn’t to love?

Over the years, as I reread the play and saw new productions, something began to puzzle me.

Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies, fight over a boy the queen adopted at the request of the boy’s mother. Oberon becomes jealous, calls in Puck, and sets in motion a series of hilarious mismatched love affairs thanks to a magic potion. The argument resolves when Titania agrees to give up the boy, and the story ends with all the young players getting married—as all young players in a Shakespearian comedy should.

But what about the boy? He had been given to Oberon. What next?

The boy was something of a mystery. We were told he was from India, that his mother died in childbirth, and that Titania was her goddess. But the boy had no lines, nor were there any stage directions for him. In the productions I’ve seen, he didn’t even appear on stage. I caught a glimpse of him once, in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman issue about A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But there he was Shakespeare’s son, dressed up for the part..

And so I speculated. If I were Oberon, given a child whom I despised and wanted to hide from my consort, what would I do with him?

The boy’s memory needed to be wiped out, so I reduced him to infancy. Then I sent him far away, to another plane of existence, on the other side of the world—to Bridgeport, Connecticut. For the next fifteen years, I kept him clear of all things fairy, to avoid Titania’s eye, and had him spend his life in foster care, moving from one family to the next.

There. Done.

Except for one thing. Although Titania gave the boy up, she had promised his mother that she would care for him. And a queen is not so easily forsworn. So, despite the boy’s banishment to New England’s suburban hinterlands, she would have kept track of him, Oberon’s jealously notwithstanding.

Here’s where another idea came in. The boy was human. What if he had no idea that this swirling world of magic existed?

Okay, back to my childhood for a second.

Sometime after I learned how to read, and sometime before puberty confused the heck out of me, I truly believed in magic. Oh, I didn’t believe in magic tricks. They were tricks. But there was a place out there, somewhere, elsewhere, where magic existed. And sometimes, when I walked through the woods and talked to trees, or if I stared just right at complicated tilework, or when I scratched a rock with a stick, or threw a pebble into a lake, I thought I glimpsed it—not the whole place, only a shimmer or a sliver of it—and if I played it right, I knew could walk in and be magical, too.

But then I’d be called to dinner, or forced to brush my teeth, or asked to do any number of childhood chores. Day in and day out, I dealt with this world, without magic. And eventually I realized I couldn’t get there from here.

I wanted to explore this relationship to magic from my childhood.

Since the boy had been banished here, I made him live in our world—a place where bullies don’t get jinxed away, and foster parents don’t suddenly grant wishes, and bottle caps are simply bottle caps, not some talisman to conjure up a djinni. Though he might glimpse the magical world and believe it was real, he couldn’t reach it.

I wrote his story without visible magic. Titania and Oberon were engaged in an all out tug of war, but they were off-stage, and the boy only saw the fallout in the here and now.

After several hundred pages, I had intriguing characters, a good story arc, and a hint of the mysterious. The boy made friends, good friends, who did brave things, and I really liked them.

My editor at the time said, “There’s something missing here. Why are these kids encountering so much trouble? You hint, but you don’t give us enough.” She turned down the manuscript.

Well duh. I had left out half the story! So I set out to fix the problem—a remarkably easy fix, I thought at the time. I had already created a raging fight between the king and queen in my head. It was a simple matter of putting it down on paper. And since the this world part was written, it’d be easy. I recruited a crow who already played an important role in the story. Puck made the perfect go between. Voila, I had it. Right?

“Hmm,” my current editor said. “It’s kind of dark.”

“A little. I guess,” I said.

“Hmm.”

This wasn’t going well.

“Then there’s Titania,” he said.

“What about Titania?”

“She’s throwing a tantrum.”

“Well, she’s pissed, you know.”

“For the entire book?”

Okay. I had work to do.

I went back to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and spent time with Puck and the queen. I reworked several plot lines and drove my family crazy with “What if” questions. I rewrote. A lot. But it was worth it.

Come Fall strikes a balance. On the one hand there’s the world of a great king and queen who are at odds while dealing with fairies’ foibles. On the other is our mundane world where we’re stuck weeding gardens and dealing with ordinary humans. But these two worlds connect and influence each other. And if you look at things just right, at a slant, with a bit of willingness, you can catch a glimpse of that elsewhere.

—-

Come Fall: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Read A.C.E. Bauer’s LiveJournal.

Droid X First Impressions

With the exception of having to tap twice to make a comma, I’m liking my Droid X so far. Bear in mind that I’m coming from a BlackBerry Storm, on which nearly app and function was like a wart-bearing, arthritic version of the same app or function on the iPhone or Android phones, so in terms of phone experiences there wasn’t much place else to go but up. And indeed that’s where we are: Everything is much prettier and shinier and runs better and what have you. Color me happy. Reviews have noted some clunkiness here and there, but once I decluttered the home screens and started personalizing the thing, everything was groovy. I’m liking it.

I will say that one thing I don’t get is that every review of the Droid X had a comment somthing along the lines of “ZOMG IT IS SO HUGE YOU COULD STUN A BEAR WITH IT,” and noting how people will small hands will struggle with the thing. Well, you know. I don’t exactly have massive lumberjack hands, and I’m not having the slightest bit of trouble using the thing, one-handedly speaking. It does make me wonder if technology reviewers, as a class, have the hands of leprechauns.Yes, I know what you’ll say to that: those poor handless leprechauns. Hey. That’s not funny.

Anyway. I’ll probably have more to say about the Droid X as I work with it but for now: So far, so good.

The Trouble With Mid-Career Advice

Recently Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell and Sherwood Smith have all been discussing mid-career writer advice, and why it’s harder to give advice to people in the middle of their careers (let’s call that 5+ years in the business) than it is to people who are just starting out. Well, there’s a good reason for that, and it’s noted by the authors I’ve linked to: When you’re starting out, your writing career is pretty much like everyone else’s, and the advice you can use is going to be generally applicable to anyone else. When you’re in the middle of your career, it’s its own damn thing. The advice that works at mid-career for one writer may not be at all useful for another, because their careers may be dramatically different.

To make this point, let me trot out a group of people for you: The Campbell Class of 2006, being the six writers who were nominated for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer the same year I was. You’re eligible for the Campbell when you first professionally publish in science fiction, and you’re eligible for the award for two years. This means that everyone nominated for the Campbell when I was first got professionally published in science fiction in 2004 or 2005, and this means we’ve all also crossed the five-year threshold that constitutes being mid-career.

So in 2006, we were all just starting out and our careers (as most of us got onto the ballot with first novels) were more or less in the same place. At the moment:

* One of us writes comic books and media tie-in novels in addition to our own original work.

* One of us has hit the number one spot on the New York Times Best Seller list.

* One of us will be publishing our next novel under a pen name after the modest sales of our(critically acclaimed!) previous series of novels.

* One of us has a fourth book which has been published in the UK but not in the US.

* One of us publishes a novel about once a year on average and makes a good living from it.

* One of us has not published a novel since our debut novel several years ago.

That’s a pretty wide spread of career states there.

Now, ask yourself: What professional or creative advice could you give that would be more or less equally applicable to the lot of us? There’s a little (I’m a big fan of “get a good accountant”), and there more that is applicable to some of us, if not all. But overall the specifics of our careers are divergent enough that blanket advice doesn’t really work. And this is just six of us who are now mid-career in our writing endeavors. Spread this out to all the other sf/f writers in science fiction/fantasy who are mid-career and you sense the scope of the issue. Now apply it to everyone writing fiction in general — and then to those writing any sort of books at all — and you can get overwhelmed.

And thus, the difficulty of giving good, useful, general mid-career writing advice, especially relative to the ease of giving good, useful, general advice for people at the beginning of their writing careers. This doesn’t mean mid-career writers can’t or shouldn’t give advice to other mid-career authors. I do think it means they should be aware that the advice will be the very soul of “your mileage may vary,” and that the advice is likely only to be a starting point in a larger discussion. Which is, of course, not a bad thing at all.