Daily Archives: May 2, 2012

ANNOUNCING: Redshirts Fan Art Contest, Top Prize $250 Entries Due 5/16

So, here’s the deal:

I think it might be fun to do a slideshow of Redshirts-related fan art in advance of the book release, but I have a problem: I don’t have any Redshirts-related fan art. Possibly because the book isn’t released yet.

How do I solve this problem? As so many problems are solved — by throwing money at it! Thus, a fan art contest for Redshirts (or more accurately, featuring the poor schmucks who are red shirts) that anyone can enter.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

1. Original art by you (this is important), not of any specific copyrighted universe except my own (i.e., no Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, etc — this is also important, because I don’t want to get sued), featuring red shirt characters, mostly being doomed in interesting ways, as red shirts so often are. This lends itself amusing situations for artists, and I encourage that, but the art doesn’t have to be funny; you can make it tense or exciting or sad or whatever. It should be not especially gory — think PG.

(For those of you who want to make your red shirts part of the Redshirts universe, here’s a link to an online excerpt of the book. Note you’ll have to register with Tor.com to access it. If you don’t want to do that, the excerpt is available for free in the US on Kindle, Nook, Google and iTunes. For the purposes of creating the artwork for the contest, I will grant you a Creative Commons non-commercial license to make a derivative artwork from the text.)

This should probably go without saying, but: The red shirt characters? Dress them in red shirts, please.

2. Artwork should be at least 1920 x 1080 and in those proportions regardless of size (i.e., HD-sized, and wider than tall — I do want to standardize the images) and in high-quality .jpg form, and sent as an attached .jpg file to “rsart@scalzi.com.” You may submit more than one entry if you’re feeling ambitious.

3. All artwork should be sent by 11:59pm (Eastern time) Wednesday, May 16, 2012.

Here’s what I have planned, and what you agree to:

I will look at each entry and pick the top 25 to 50 (or so) and then show those to my hand-picked jury, who will pick the five they like the most. Those five I will post here on my Web site to let my readers select the one they like the best. The top vote-getter will receive $250 and a signed ARC of Redshirts; the second place vote-getter will get $100 and a signed ARC; third place gets $50 and a signed ARC.

I may want to show off some or all of the pieces that made the initial cut through a slideshow, possibly with done as a YouTube or other video to accompany (non-disparaging) audio commentary and/or music. If I use your artwork, I may pan/crop/spotlight, etc., but otherwise will not alter the work.

If I choose to use your artwork for the slideshow, I will pay you $10 for a non-exclusive license to do so. The license will allow me to use your artwork in the slideshow/video, and will allow for the artwork, as part of the slideshow/video, to be shared via Creative Commons. I will make no other claims to your work (except as noted above, with regards to CC non-commercial licensing). You made it; it’s yours. I just want to be able to show it off.

Likewise, I have no intent to make any money from your artwork, except in the indirect sense that people may be inspired to rush off and get the book (I may include links or information on how to do that, but probably not over your artwork).

If I use your artwork for the slideshow/video, I will give you credit, either during the slideshow/video, or here on Whatever. I’m big on giving credit where credit is due.

(The top three pieces will of course be featured as well, under the same guidelines, although the $10 license is incorporated in the winnings.)

If you enter the contest, you do so with the understanding that I may choose to use your artwork for a slideshow/video and that you agree to allow me to do so, if I want to, under the terms noted above. Likewise, that you are aware that I may choose not to use or highlight your artwork, in which case there will be no compensation for your work (sorry).

Finally, I reserve the right to cancel the contest if I deem it necessary to do so, in which case I will not make any claim to any submitted artwork in any sense (nor will I give out contest awards). Let’s hope that’s not the case, though; I’m mostly just putting that there to cover my ass.

Who can enter:

Anyone, as far as I’m concerned. It would help me if you had a valid PayPal account, however, so I could send you whatever money I owe you as easily as possible (for me). That said, you’re responsible for awareness of all your local laws regarding contests and payments, blah blah blah.

Any questions? Put them in the comments. And yes, please feel free to send this to anyone you’d like.

The Big Idea: N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin is has been on a hot streak for the last couple of years; her novel The Kingdom of the Gods was nominated for the Nebula Award this year, and its predecessor The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was nominated for both the Nebula and the Hugo. That being the case, it’s not entirely a surprise that her latest novel, The Killing Moon, the first of two “Dreamblood” titles, is garnering starred reviews and other praise. So it might surprise you that the original idea behind The Killing Moon was maybe just a little silly. But as Jemisin explains, it’s not always just the idea, it’s what you do with it, and where it takes you.


I’m supposed to talk about the idea that touched off the Dreamblood duology here, but if I talked only about that, this would be a really short post. That’s because it wasn’t a very big idea, at least at first; really, I just wanted to write about ninja priests. Nothing grand or revolutionary, nothing especially thought-provoking, no gods or universes at stake. Just shadowy figures who would creep into people’s rooms in the dead of night and… I dunno, bless them to death or something. “Missed you at confessional today, Bob.” “Wha — AGCK!” That was how all this began.

But that’s the punchline of a bad joke, not a story, and fortunately the image that popped into my head to accompany it was considerably less silly than the idea itself. I envisioned a man — tall, shaven bald, remarkable in his stillness both physically and spiritually — standing at the foot of a bed and contemplating the person who slept there, whom he meant to kill. This man, this priest, would work only at night; indeed, night would be a holy time for him. And the clincher of his character was that he wouldn’t be doing it for some paltry material reward or to satisfy a bloodthirsty god; he would be doing it because he cared. He would intend only the best for his victims; indeed, he would be trying to save them from a far worse fate. He would love them. And what could be more effective — or relentless — than an assassin motivated by love?

This was the Gatherer Ehiru, protagonist of The Killing Moon, who spun himself in seconds from subconscious nothingness into conscious near-completion as a character. Once I had him, though, I had to begin the much more difficult work of figuring out what sort of society would harbor a man like this, and consider him an asset rather than a monster.

From the beginning I envisioned this story taking place in a land of warmth and water. I had a vague idea at first of placing it in pre-Columbian South America, possibly a fantasy analogue of the Incan Empire — but the place in my head felt much older, relatively speaking. It would be a society weighed down by tradition, I felt instinctively, and wealthy enough to support a large, powerful priesthood. It would be a civilized place, full of sprawling cities and temples, with an enormous populace and monuments huge enough to inspire awe… kind of like ancient Egypt. Since at the time I knew squat-all about ancient Egypt beyond what I’d picked up from many bad movies, I started researching it, and that only confirmed my choice. Egypt was perfect.

Next I tried to figure out why Ehiru — his name popped into my head too — would be sneaking into someone’s home to kill them. Obvious answer is obvious: for mercy. To ease pain or a lingering death. But that seemed too easy. Lots of societies have had to wrestle with how to care for their dying elders or deathly ill; none that we know of have evolved a cadre of mercy-killing priests. That suggested to me that there had to be something more involved. Something that would give the whole nation a stake in not only allowing but encouraging this priesthood’s activity. What could a priesthood provide that would benefit every citizen so much that they might be willing to sacrifice their sick and old…?

Health and longevity, of course, for the rest.

There are some obvious real-world inspirations here. Gujaareh is in many ways a land out of a Sarah Palin nightmare; every older citizen’s final days are decided upon by a literal “death panel” consisting of both priests and the person’s own relatives. Also, as an American I live under the constant shadow of worry that I will fall ill or get hurt during a time when I’m without insurance. For most of us that means bankruptcy at best, homelessness or a terrible death at worst. This fear peaked for me a few years ago, when I took time off 9-to-5 life to write the last two books of the Inheritance Trilogy — just as the housing crisis triggered the Great Recession. So although in day job life I’m a career counselor who’s never previously had much trouble finding employment when I needed to, I did that time. Oh, I had insurance via the Freelancers’ Union, for the “affordable” price of $400/month. (If I hadn’t lived in New York, where there’s a critical mass of freelancers [including writers], it would’ve been $1100.) But as my “writing year” ticked into 15 months, then 18, my savings dwindled first to dregs, then fumes.

I was lucky: I found a job about a month before I would’ve had to cancel my health insurance. But I know many, many people who haven’t been so lucky. And while in theory the Affordable Care Act might alleviate some of this fear (if it’s allowed to stand by the Supreme Court)… it’s not really a solution to the problem, just a small and ill-fitting band-aid.

But Gujaareh, the Egypt-esque land in which Ehiru plies his trade, has found a workable solution. In Gujaareh every citizen contributes to the system: they are required to make monthly tithes of dreams. In the hands of skilled narcomancers — the priests of the Goddess of Dreams — these dreams can be used to generate a kind of supercharged placebo effect, accelerating wound-healing and boosting immune response to nearly every disease. Wet dreams can be used to encourage abnormal growth — the regeneration of lost limbs, for example — while nightmares stop abnormal growth, such as cancer. But the most powerful dreams, which can ease the most debilitating mental or physical pain and extend life itself, is obtained only at the moment of death. That’s where Ehiru and his fellow priests come in… and that’s when I realized I had a real story on my hands.

I also had to figure out Ehiru himself, and the circumstances that drive him to kill people out of love; the priesthood that supports and controls him like a family, and the theological cosmology behind it; the political and economic pros and cons, and the kinds of hard choices Gujaareen citizens have to make; and most importantly I had to figure out all the ways this whole system could go horribly, horribly wrong. But I don’t want to spoil any more.

So I guess we’ll have to see which part of the story attracts more readers: the adventure and conspiracy? The magical examination of socialized medicine and its consequences? Ehiru, the loving killer? His companions: Nijiri the killer-apprentice, Sunandi the nation-killer? The magic system rooted in psychodynamic dream theory, the medical system based on the collective unconscious? The promise of a sequel which will come out in just another month?

‘Course, if it’s the ninja priests that intrigue you, I won’t judge. That’s what did it for me, too.


The Killing Moon: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read the first three chapters. Read the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.

9 Scifi Films You Should See That You (Probably) Haven’t

The penultimate column of my FilmCritic.com career is upon us, and I’m using it to look at nine science fiction films I suspect most science fiction film fans (and those who would like to suggest they are science fiction film fans) have not seen, but should. It’s a list of important but semi-obscure films, and there is room for you to add a suggestion for a tenth film on the list in the comments. Go! While you can!