Daily Archives: October 26, 2011

Reminder: I’m GoH at SFContario in Toronto, November 18 – 20

That’s right, Canada. You thought you were safe from me. But you are not. I have a passport! YOUR BORDER WILL NOT STOP ME. Uh, unless your border people go, “Dude, turn back, eh?” At which case I will turn back, you big meanies. Barring that, however, I’ll be in Toronto this November 18 – 20 as the International Guest of Honor for SFContario 2, joining fellow guests of honor Karl Schroeder, Gardner Dozios and Trixy Pixie Toyboat (whoops, my error). It will be tons of fun — imperial or metric tons, take your pick.

What will I be doing there? Oh, you know. EVERYTHING. I’ll be on panels! I’ll be doing readings! I’ll be interviewed! I’ll be presenting the live show of the Creation Museum Tour, which has become strangely popular. I might bring my ukulele and sing Canadian songs! Really, there are all sorts of things I’ll be doing. Most legal. You need to come to this convention. It will be more fun than your brain can currently posit. It’s not a slight on your brain, mind you. No human brain can posit the amount of fun we will have. So don’t ask me how I can posit it. You really don’t want to know.

Also, if for some inexplicable reason you cannot manage to make it to SFContario, I will also be doing an event at the Merril Collection on November 17. Here are the details.

So yes, Canada, a whole lot of me, come mid-November. YOU NEED TO BE THERE. Otherwise I will just strap on a feed bag filled with poutine and cry for three days straight. No one wants that. And no, I won’t take pictures. You want to see the Scalzi Poutine Feedbag, then you know what to do. See you there. Bring extra gravy.

The Big Idea: Lia Habel

Sparkly Zombies: A good idea? It’s a question one might ask of Lia Habel, whose novel Dearly, Departed features both romance and the dead. But as Habel explains in this Big Idea, there’s a fine line between creating the dead that can love and might feel love, and just making them hunkly, glittery dream fodder that are only cosmetically dead, so to speak.

LIA HABEL:

I never dreamed that I’d be a published author. I never dreamed that I’d have the opportunity to present a Big Idea. So I’m really despising Past Me right now, because there are just too many damn ideas in my book to choose from. I wrote Dearly, Departed to amuse myself, and consequently threw in everything I love without a shred of remorse or a moment’s hesitation. The book is like my own personal toy box – guns, pretty dresses, kick-ass girls, retrofuturistic machines. The works.

The premise of the book is thus a little tricky, but ultimately entertaining. Hundreds of years in the future, humanity is divided into new tribes. One of these tribes ends up modeling itself on the Victorian era, but through the use of advanced technology – “gilding” their buildings with elaborate holographic façades, disguising their cell phones as miniature sculptures, designing their fanciful gowns and dapper suits with specialized computer programs, etc. In time a new aristocracy is born, to which a growing splinter group, the Punks, reacts quite negatively. Neo-Luddites who despise digital technology and the idea of aristocratic supremacy to the point of engaging in terrorism, the Punks are eventually driven southward to eke out their own civilization.

And into all of this we toss some zombies – a small percentage of which manage to retain their “humanity” for a period after death. Sound good yet?

Long after the mass exile of the Punks my heroine, Nora Dearly, and my hero, Bram Griswold, are born – in different tribes, at different ends of the known world. They never should have met, but death manages to bring them together. As in, Bram dies. And picks himself up again. And that’s when the fun really begins.

When I first started writing D,D I had one goal in mind – and that was simply to create a busy, sprawling young adult novel that starred an obviously undead hero. My premise took care of the first bit, and all of it came to me in a rush over a few brief days. Now I can look back at the activities I was in engaged in at the time (steampunk chats, etc.) and see clearly from whence the ideas hailed, but back then they seemed to be coming furiously, quickly. I’m still untangling them all.

The second bit came from me – from deep down in my own creepy little soul. I grew up loving monsters, despising handsome princes, and championing the ugly and different. I’m still not sure how I ever developed this tendency. My mother raised me on horror movies, but she, being normal, was actually scared by them, whereas her weirdo daughter was simply enchanted, so I’m sure I didn’t get it from her. Nevertheless, the idea that a creature from beyond the grave might be every bit as “normal” as anyone alive, might want the same things, has always seemed quite reasonable to me. In deciding to use zombies as good guys I knew that I was going to have to sell them to both anti-zombie naysayers and those who prefer their favorite monsters to remain “uncorrupted,” though, and therein lay the challenge.

Thus Bram Griswold, two years dead and still going strong, stands on the shoulders of the horror giants that populated my imagination in childhood. Bram was my most important consideration as I began work on the Dearly universe, because I knew that I had to create a male zombie lead that could function as a serious protagonist, as a serious object of romantic interest, and still retain some inhuman qualities. I never write without my tongue firmly lodged in my cheek, but I instinctively knew that the book would triumph or fail based on Bram, and that he had to be handled carefully. Other zombie characters could be ridiculous, outrageous, vile, even comedic – but at the end of the day, Bram had to have soul. And he had to look dead, act dead – be dead. He couldn’t be a hot boy in monster makeup.

I stress over and over again that the book isn’t just a romance, but if I’m honest I have to admit that the heteromortal relationship in the book was the very first thing I thought of, the concept around which the rest of the story was built. I think that’s quite logical, looking back – if you’re trying to sell a cannibalistic dead body as a hero, better show him in the best possible light. Like, say, through the eyes of a girl who comes to love him. Ultimately, though, his viability as a romantic hero comes not from the romantic part of his personality, but from the heroic. I’m personally tired of angsty male leads, especially in young adult fiction, and so I did my best to write Bram counter to this trend. He knows what he is, accepts it, and is ready to move on. He is intelligent, fair, just, and gentle. He has a sense of humor. He’s dead, he’s rotting, and he freaking smiles all the time. He will go to his grave whistling. And all of these qualities shine brighter for the fact that they’re contained in this odd vessel.

I’m so grateful that I’ve been allowed to explore this vision, to take the idea this far. And the fact that Bram is bringing some readers over to Team Zombie for the first time is totally overwhelming. I only hope that I can do the idea justice. (So can I get maybe five more books, Great Publishing Deal Gods? Thanks.)

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Dearly, Departed: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt (pdf link). Read the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.

Shiny Happy Goth Gen-Xers Holding Hands

Two studies I find of some personal interest. The first, from the University of Michigan, notes that Gen-Xers (the generational cohort of which I am a part) is largely pretty damn happy, hardworking but balanced, and optimistic about their lives. The second from an English sociologist who’s been tracking Goth since their teens and early twenties and finds them more committed to their once-youthful lifestyle than kids who are part of other subcultures.

Neither of these I find particularly surprising. Anecdotally speaking, most of the Gen-Xers I know seem reasonably happy and reasonably stable. Some of this may just be because as a general rule I weeded out high-drama people from my life some time ago and most of the Gen-X folks I know are also college-educated and comfortable, but I think there are other factors as well. One, I suspect seeing some of the mess our boomer parents made of their early adulthoods and relationships made us a bit more cautious about our own level of personal stupidity and more likely to consider consequences before we engaged in a course of action. Among other things, I imagine this is one reason why divorce among the Gen-Xers I know seems less frequent than it was in our parents’ cohort.

Two, when you spend most of your late teens and twenties being told you’re recession-era slackers who will never do better than your parents, then your expectations, shall we say, are sufficiently dampened. Everything looks good after that nonsense.

As for the Goth thing, that makes sense to me too, since the genre is pretty much designed to age relatively gracefully. The music isn’t generally specifically about being young (it’s about being mopey, which can happen at any age) and the clothes are black, which you can wear at any age. And it fades nicely into steampunk when the goths want to go crazy and wear brown. Equally importantly, Goth does not require an anti-intellectual pose; indeed, the more you know about Goethe, romantic poets, existential philosophy and the European cinema of the silent film era, the better of a Goth you’ll be.

In short, being Goth is neither inherently about being young or stupid. One can be young, stupid and into Goth. But you don’t have to be. And that helps. Beware Goth’s sullen suburban nephew Emo, however. That’s already not aging well.