Daily Archives: January 11, 2011

Oh, And –

Old Man’s War currently at #1 on that Tor.com Best SFF Novels of the Decade poll. For today, anyway — I really don’t expect to keep that ranking, considering how many very good SFF novels were published in the last decade. But for today: w00t! Thanks.

If you’ve not voted in the poll yet but would like to, use that second link above. You can vote for as many SFF novels from the last decade as you think should qualify as the best, which I think is a good way of going about it. Vote’s open through Friday.

(And to be clear: Vote for my books only if you would have done so anyway. I’ll still love you even if you don’t think my books are the best of the decade. And by “love you” I mean “will consider you a prime source of bus fare.”)

Update: Uh-oh, Neil’s just tweeted about the thing to his 1.5 million Twitter minions. Sigh. My reign was fun while it lasted.

Chicagoland: SOON I WILL BE IN YOU

A reminder to all and sundry that in less than a month from now I will be Author Guest of Honor at Capricon XXXI, which will take place February 10 – 13, at the Westin Chicago North Shore, Wheeling, Illinois. Whilst there I will be on panels, probably do a reading and/or a Q&A session, sign books, and show you crazy earthlings the true meaning of love. Yes! All that and more. And I will be joined in Guest of Honorosity by John Picaco (awesome artist), Janice Gelb & Stephen Boucher (fantastic fans) and special guest Bryan Palaszewski of NASA.

If you are in the Chicagoland and/or Tri-State area and you miss this, your nerd accreditation will be revoked. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is. Hey, I don’t make the Nerd Rules. I’m telling you simply that they will be enforced.

Also, you will probably be amused by my Guest of Honor bio.

Also, for those of you for whom this matters, at the moment this is my only scheduled public appearance in Chicago for 2011 (obviously, I’ll be back in 2012), so if you want to see me this year in or at least near the great city of Chicago, this is probably the time to do it.

See you there.

The Big Idea: Kelley Eskridge

Being alone: we all experience it at one point or another in our lives. The question is: what do we do with alone? Is it a time for reflection and restoration, or do we wish it to end as soon as possible? Each of us deal with it in our own ways. Author Kelley Eskridge knows about the power and mystery of alone, and in her newly-reissued novel Solitaire, examines the condition and how it plays out in the telling of her tale. Here’s Eskridge to tell you about it.

KELLEY ESKRIDGE:

I always knew I would write about being alone.

I’m an only child, and I grew up in a neighborhood without any kids. I spent my time reading, or riding my bike endless miles, an intrepid explorer of my Florida town’s urban zones and weed-choked alleys and tony enclaves where the streets were still paved with red brick. It was fabulous. It never occurred to me there was anywhere I couldn’t go alone.

Alone in those days meant by myself. It wasn’t until my twenties that people began using it to mean you must be lonely. But they aren’t the same thing.

Alone. By myself. Individual. Self-determined. Without needing help. Without having it. Disconnected from others. Unencumbered. Insular. Afraid. Autonomous. Joyful. Small and stuck. Free. Limitless. Singular. Solitary.

I wrote Solitaire to explore the complicated landscape of alone. I found a character named Jackal who defines herself foremost in terms of her community and her connection to others; then I took all that away, and trapped her in the most alone place any of us can go – inside our own heads. Jackal ends up in virtual solitary confinement facing an utterly realistic experience of being locked in a cell for eight years. What happens to her there – her journey through alone – changes everything.

But change is never the end, is it? It’s only the beginning. And so it was important to bring Jackal back from her solitude into the human world, and to see whether, and how, she would find her way to reconnection.

Those three parts of the book – connected, alone, struggling to reconnect – were very different to write. Parts 1 and 3 are pretty straightforward narrative. But how to show the inward journey when there is nowhere for Jackal to go, and no one for her to talk to? Nothing to ‘show’ and no good way to ‘tell’? “As You Know, Bob” dialogue is even worse without a Bob.

The trap of sequences like this one is the temptation to do only the surface work. Eight years alone, that’d be awful! Let’s give her a big dose of the awful and get her out of there. But no one wants to see a character rolling around in the misery mud for eight years. It’s depressing – and worse, it’s boring.

And so I leaned heavily on structure. There’s a display in Jackal’s cell that shows the count of her days, and the story gives us snapshots of her behavior and thinking as being alone changes her. What would you do on Day 1 of 2,920 days? Perhaps by Day 205 you would think you had a coping system in place. Perhaps by Day 377 you would know it wasn’t working. What happens when you get into serious trouble inside your own head, and how in hell do you get out of it? And what happens when you get into serious joy inside your own head, the kind of joy you can only have alone?

I went as deep into alone as I could for this book. I pulled up everything I know about it, and took a long hard look. And then I wrote the moments I thought would best provide the blueprint for the reader to imagine the rest: the long, hard, bright, hopeful, stubborn and sometimes ecstatic days of Jackal’s time alone.

Alone is the part that gets the most attention, but it’s not where I had most of my head-banging I suck at writing moments. That was Part 3, when Jackal comes back into the world. I had to throw out 11,000 words at one point, and it hurt: I had a demanding job and limited writing time, and those words were a year’s work gone. But the words were wrong. They were misery mud, and that was a sign that I was only doing the surface work.

The deeper work was this: Jackal’s journey made me face the reality that I am not that girl on her bike anymore. Begin human is the grand dance of alone and together. There are places we must go by ourselves; there are places we can only go with others. That’s what Jackal and I both learned in the last part of Solitaire.

There’s power and wonder in being alone. There’s power and wonder in finding our way to ourselves. And then we find our way to each other.

—-

Solitaire: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read the first chapter. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.