Monthly Archives: July 2012

Comic Con Catchuppery

I haven’t done a full Comic Con report yet, partly because I had other things to do and partly because, damn, there was a lot of Comic Con and it’s hard to take it all in. Suffice to say that I had a fantastic time, Comic Con is overwhelming, and that I want to live in San Diego, possibly sooner than later.

That said, I do have people to thank, and here they are.

First, the folks at Comic Con itself, for inviting me as a guest this year. Given the general insanity of Comic Con, I had resolved not to go until I was invited (and thus, could avoid the madness of trying to find a hotel room anywhere nearby), so I didn’t know what I was missing until now. Now I know. It also helped that this particular Comic Con seemed very well-timed for me, both for showing off Redshirts and for announcing The Human Division. I could say more on that score but I will leave that all mysterious for now.

Second, Patrick Rothfuss, who not only was my willing partner in crime at w00tstock, but also stepped in at the last minute to moderate my spotlight panel when Wil Wheaton realized he unfortunately had a prior commitment. He did a fantastic job at both and thus ascends higher on my List of People Who Can Ask For a Kidney.

Third, Paul and Storm, who in addition to inviting me to perform at w00tstock with Pat (a decision made, presumably, with Wil and Adam Savage as well), also did me a solid by being the opening band at my signing at the Tor Books booth last Friday. They rocked the crowd with their latest hit and generally got people in a good mood. They do not ascend my Kidney List, however, because there are two of them, and I need at least one kidney. It’s a technicality, but an important one.

Fourth, my very good friend Deven Desai, who patiently shuttled me from place to place while I was in San Diego and then also took me to get Indian food, because, hey, Indian food.

Finally, my family, who was very patient with me while I did work-related stuff in the middle of their vacation. Fortunately, they did have all of San Diego to play with.

I also saw tons and tons of people, and rather than try to list them all I will note some of the cool folks I met for the first time and spent more than five minutes of quality time with: Grant Imahara, Amy Berg, the Doubleclicks, John Roderick, Rob Reid and Morgan Webb, Colin Ferguson, Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins (who I have known for more than a decade but had never actually, you know, been in the same room with), Bill Amend, Marian Call, Bonnie Burton, Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt and a bunch of folks who write and/or produce the shows Eureka and Big Bang Theory. There’s also everyone on the “Humor in Science Fiction and Fantasy” panel, who made me look good as a moderator by being smart, funny and engaged. I’d met Richard Kadrey and Rob Reid by the time I was on the panel, but everyone else was new to me, and it was nice to meet them all.

There are other people I know I met for the first time and I am forgetting them (many of them who I met at w00tstock), but that’s one of the annoying things about making lists like this: You forget things. I hope they will forgive me and know I found them lovely company regardless.

And thus: Comic Con 2012.

Bad Reviews: I Can Handle Them, and So Should You

On Twitter, a hopeful request:

Oh, well, okay. Since you asked.

For those who don’t know, “Stop the GR Bullies” relates to a Web site created by some folks to go after people on Goodreads who write reviews that the people who founded the GR Bullies site find to be “bullying” in some way or another. It appears that the plan the GR Bullies folks have to deal with this issue is to be bullies themselves to the people they’ve decided they don’t like. This is the sort of recursive stupidity that makes you wonder how self-aware people actually are on a day-to-day basis.

I could go further into detail about it, but instead, let me commend to you Foz Meadow’s observations on the matter, author Stacia Kane’s rather appalled post from a writer’s point of view, and SB Sarah’s general comments about criticism and reviews online. These are all rather sensible points of view, and in a general sense I find myself in agreement with them.

However, because it wouldn’t be any fun if I just pointed you at other people’s thoughts and said “yeah, that,” some brief thoughts on the matter, in handy numbered form. First, for those folks who are fans of a particular writer and his or her work:

1. Everyone is entitled to their opinion about the things they read (or watch, or listen to, or taste, or whatever). They’re also entitled to express them online.

2. Sometimes those opinions will be ones you don’t like.

3. Sometimes those opinions won’t be very nice.

4. The people expressing those may be (but are not always) assholes.

5. However, if your solution to this “problem” is to vex, annoy, threaten or harrass them, you are almost certainly a bigger asshole.

6. You may also be twelve.

7. You are not responsible for anyone else’s actions or karma, but you are responsible for your own.

8. So leave them alone and go about your own life.

Speaking for myself as an author, I am a big boy and can handle criticism just fine. I can’t imagine most people I know going frothy on someone who doesn’t like my writing, because I’m not the sort of people who inspires Justin Bieber-like foamyness in my fans, and anyway I assume most people who read my work are emotionally developed to the point of recognizing inappropriate behavior. But just in case some of you aren’t one of those people, a handy guide:

When I need your help with a negative review, I will ask for it.

If I don’t ask for it, I don’t need your help.

If I do ask for it, you should consider me temporarily out of my head and ignore me.

If you decide to attack someone in my name without consulting me, you make me look bad. That will annoy me, and I may take it out on you, possibly publicly. It will also make me wonder what the deal is that kept you from learning impulse control.

Consider the above in effect for all eternity.

Finally, if you’re an author who thinks it’s peachy for folks who post negative reviews of your work to be harassed by vengeful mental infants for the dubious crime of expressing an opinion, please grow the fuck up and stop embarrassing the rest of us. Thank you.

I trust this makes my position on this matter sufficiently clear.

The New Desktop, Completed

It is thus.

As noted before, the new desktop is a Mac Mini, which I got for a number of reasons. This first is, simply, it’s relatively cheap; the other computers I was looking at were a couple of multiples more expensive, and I decided for this round of computer acquisition that I just didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money. Losing an expensive MacBook Air kind of took it out of me for this round, you know?

The second is, hey, this thing is tiny. And that’s not a bad thing because I have a small desk and I kind of don’t want it cluttered up. And not just the desk; with the last tower I had there were wires snaking all over the place. This time things are a bit less snakey. Third, I decided that I want this computer to be primarily a work computer rather than a game computer I also worked on. One advantage to this is that the Mac Mini is almost entirely silent while my tower always had fans chugging along. Maybe I’m just getting old or something, but I don’t miss the fan noise.

I’ve also realized, damn, I forgot how big a 24-inch screen is. Some of the other computers I was looking at had 27-inch screens; aside from the fact I’m not sure they would fit on my desk, that’s just a massive amount of real estate to scan across. Working on a 13-inch screen for a better part of a year and then going back to the 24-inch screen is kind of overwhelming. It may take me a few days to get used to it.

One major difference this time around is that I’m (at least temporarily) ditching a mouse for the Apple trackpad, in part because I got so used to using it on the Air and in part because Apple’s trackpad technology is sufficiently advanced to make it easier to use than a mouse. I may change my mind (and I will probably plug in my Logitech mouse when I am playing games in any event), but for now I’m trying it out and liking it.

There, now you are all caught up on my tech. Aren’t you happy.

 

 

Things to Do Today

In no particular order:

Pick up the dog from the boarders

Set up the new desktop computer I have ordered (it’s a Mac Mini) which will arrive today

Write on the video game I am working on

Write more on The Human Division

Polish up the president’s quarterly report

Clean up my office so I will not be found under a collapsed pile of books

Send out books and money I have promised to people

Restart my diet because I am now ten pounds above my ideal weight (I blame six weeks of more or less constant tour/travel, plus sloth)

And, oh, I don’t know, write something else here besides a list of things I need to do.

That last one will probably come much later in the day.

Also: Uh, it’s Tuesday, right?

My w00tstock 4.0 Performance: “To Sue The World,” Featuring Patrick Rothfuss

I think you can tell we had fun with this. And if you watch closely you’ll see an extra special cameo!

Many thanks to “retrogradeheart” for recording and posting this!

And Then, When I Came Back Home, These Were the Books That Were Waiting For Me

Ermahgerd! Berks! Let me know if there’s anything in this pile you lust for. A larger version of the picture is here.

In other news, I and all my family members are now back at home after 10 days away. It was a lovely vacation and Comic Con was a blast (apparently I also won it, which is convenient because I have a yard to fit my share of the winnings in), but it’s nice to be home and HOLY CRAP I HAVE SO MUCH WORK NOW. Er. Mah. Gerd.

Anyway: Hello, Ohio!

Monday is For Travel

I’m heading back to Ohio after a nicely busy ComicCon. I have Internet on the plane but will be using it to catch up on some work rather than be here. I know, what sort of person am I to prioritize work over this blog. Even so.

Have an excellent Monday and I will catch up with you all when I get back home.

Take a Moment Out of Your Day to Shame an Appalling Thief

Namely, this dude, who uploaded to Amazon Kindle Store under his own name a bunch of science fiction works by others, including myself, CJ Cherryh, and Robert Heinlein. I’d note that in my case, in addition to ripping me off, he’s also ripping off Bob Eggleton, who did the inside art for the story. A bunch of scathing one-star reviews would be nice.

I will of course be filing a DMCA claim against this schmuck with Amazon in short order (as should all the folks or estates affected), but in the meantime mocking this dude for being stupid enough to think he could get away with this is the order of the day.

Also, Amazon: A little more oversight of Kindle submission process would be lovely.

update: Looks like they were taken down by Amazon. Thanks, you wide river, you!

Thesis: ComicCon is Awesome But Sucks Time From You

Seriously, I am amazed at how much stuff I am doing and how quickly time gets away from me. Just yesterday I:

* Met with my editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden and talked future projects;

* Walked the ComicCon floor and met Jerry and Mike from Penny Arcade in real life for the first time, after having known them online for more than a dozen years;

* Hung walked the floor some more with Paolo Bacigalupi as we caught up and talked business;

* Did an interview with Sword & Laser about Redshirts and other stuff (not up on their site yet, but I imagine will be soon);

* Did my signing at the Tor booth with featured Paul and Storm as my opening band;

* Hung out after my signing with Scott Westerfeld and my friend from high school Hiro (last name not Protagonist);

* Went to a writer’s meetup where I caught up with Paul Cornell and roughly all of the writers and crew of The Walking Dead;

* Finished up at Adam Savage’s party with most of the gang from w00tstock, and folks from Big Bang Theory and Eureka.

All of which is why I have pretty much nowhere near teh Intarweebs yesterday. Sorry.

On the agenda today: More wanderings, meetups, signings, a spotlight panel on me me me me and then parties. Interesting things are afoot. I hope your own Saturday is likewise full of fun.

Today’s Schedule

Wake up (done).

Shower.

Go down to local public radio station for my interview on Talk of the Nation (3:30 Eastern!)

Hang out with friends.

Go to my sound check for w00tstock.

Hang out with friends.

Perform at w00tstock.

Hang out with friends.

Sleep!

Somewhere in there I might eat and poop and Twitter (although not all at the same time).

That’s a whole day right there.

What are your plans?

I’ll Be on NPR’s Talk of the Nation Tomorrow

The headline says it all! I’ll be on at 3:30 Eastern (please adjust for your own time zones) to talk about Redshirts, and, I assume, other stuff as well. Here’s a link to the show’s Web site, in case you don’t have it already. This should be fun.

The New New Phone

Here it is. It’s a RAZR MAXX, which means that I have a phone which is misspelled twice. Nevertheless, since I had the Galaxy Nexus crap out on me, I decided to give this one a shot, primarily because it has a magnificently large battery which means that I might not actually run out of power during the day, which has been a problem with the Nexus (I did like the Nexus overall, but was not impressed with the battery life). The Nexus was under warranty, which means they are shipping a replacement Nexus to my home, but as it happens I really need a phone while I am in San Diego. So I shelled out the cash for this one. Such is the life of a nerd.

 

My Technological Karma Continues its Downward Slide

My phone died last night. The phone which I’ve had, you know, for not very long at all. Now I must away to a Verizon store and get a new one.

This is my way of saying that for the next few hours at least, contact will be intermittent. Best to send me e-mail. My computer is still working.

FOR NOW.

The Big Idea: D.B. Jackson

You may have heard the phrase, “you have to know what the rules are before you can break them.” Well, that basic concept comes into play when one is researching history in order to throw a little magic into it. Author D.B. Jackson explains why, and how learning history mattered before breaking it in his new novel Thieftaker.

D.B. JACKSON:

Who would spend literally months doing research for a historical fantasy novel, taking every care to get right even the smallest details, and then turn around and base the entire concept for the book and series on two complete historical fallacies?

Well, if you must know, I would.

My latest book, Thieftaker, book I in the Thieftaker Chronicles, is a murder mystery set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. On the night of the Stamp Act riots in 1765, a young woman is murdered. Officials of the Crown wish to blame the rioters, but of course our hero, Ethan Kaille, conjurer and thieftaker, has other ideas and soon finds himself enmeshed in a web of magic and politics. Hi-jinx ensue…

I have a Ph.D. in history. I take the idea of historical authenticity seriously, and so when I started working on Thieftaker, I made every effort to create a physical backdrop for my story that is as accurate, rich, and compelling as possible. I read biographical essays and books on the various historical figures who interact with my fictional characters, in the hope that I would make the two sets of personalities — fictional and historical — blend together seamlessly. I took great pains to portray correctly the subtleties and intricacies of pre-Revolutionary politics.

And having done all that, I inserted these historical elements into a novel whose two key concepts are completely ahistorical. Sort of.

First — and I suppose this comes as no surprise to anyone — there were no conjurers in 18th century Boston, or anywhere else in the colonies for that matter. The spellcrafting abilities of my lead character make for fun reading and what I like to think are some truly exciting plot twists, but they are about as historically inauthentic as any literary device could be. This is fantasy after all, and so I didn’t hesitate to insert a magical element into my worldbuilding for the series.

And second, while thieftakers were common in 18th century English cities, and even appeared for a short while in the United States in the early 19th century, there were no thieftakers in any American colonial city. None. In my book, Boston has at least two of them: Ethan, and his nemesis, the lovely and dangerous Sephira Pryce, who is modeled loosely on London’s most notorious thieftaker, Jonathan Wild. But, of course, in my book, the Wild character is a woman, another historical conceit.

What makes my historical inaccuracies work, however, is that both of them address, albeit indirectly, true circumstances. There might not have been conjurers in 18th century New England, but there were witch scares going back nearly a hundred years. In Salem, not far from Boston, well over one hundred men and women were jailed as witches in the spring of 1692. Twenty were executed. And during the 18th century, fear of witches persisted throughout the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

In Thieftaker, conjurers and witches are not the same thing. Witches are the stuff of myth; preachers rail against witchery and “black magick” in their sermons in order to frighten their congregations. Conjurers, on the other hand, are real. But fear of one is conflated with the other; Ethan and other conjurers must keep their abilities secret, lest they be hanged as witches.

Similarly, while Boston had no thieftakers in the 1760s, conditions in the city were ripe for some sort of private law enforcement infrastructure. Boston had a sheriff: Stephen Greenleaf was sheriff of all of Suffolk County. But he had no constabulary force at his disposal. British troops had yet to occupy the city, and those men of Boston’s night watch who weren’t incompetent were as likely to break the law as to enforce it. So, though there were no thieftakers in Boston, it is easy to imagine how, under existing circumstances, thieftakers could have thrived.

And for me, this is the big idea. Crucial parts of my story are at odds with historical fact, but I have tried to fit the fictional elements of my worldbuilding into actual historical conditions. My goal in writing historical fantasy is not to create a perfectly accurate portrait of 1760s Boston. This is fiction, after all, and fantasy at that. I want to tell a story, and despite all my research, my first allegiances as a novelist have to be to character and narrative, rather than to historical exactitude. But while I am not set on recreating a Boston that was, I do strive to create a Boston that could have been, that is as believable and nuanced and alive to the senses as the real thing.

To my mind, history is another tool, like character, plot, setting, and voice. It has to enhance the story, and bring elements to it that would not otherwise be there. As soon as concerns about accuracy get in the way of storytelling, the history is no longer a boon to good writing. It becomes an obstacle, something that will prove to be an annoyance for writer and reader alike. Now don’t get me wrong: I would never suggest that we ought to play fast and loose with the facts. Instead, I look for a balance.

On the one hand, I draw upon history to bring flavor to my narrative, ambiance to my setting, cultural context to my characters. On the other hand, I also know when to allow my imagination to take over so that I can concentrate on spinning the most exciting and absorbing yarn possible. Because with historical fiction, as with all fiction, everything comes back to the two words that make all big ideas possible: “What if?” My version of 1765 Boston might not match what we see in textbooks, but it is a realistic portrayal of what the city would have been like with conjurers and thieftakers. And as it turns out, that’s a pretty cool place in which to set a novel.

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

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.