Monthly Archives: March 2013

Redshirts Nominated for the Best Novel Hugo Award + Hugo Nomination Slate

Wheee! Just to let you know. I’ll be updating with the entire nomination list as soon as it’s posted. I’ll post another entry with my reaction to the slate a bit later.

Update: The entire Hugo award nomination slate:

Best Novel (1,113 ballots)

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit)
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (Tor)
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (DAW)

Best Novella (587 ballots)

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
“The Stars Do Not Lie” by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)

Best Novelette (616 ballots)

“The Boy Who Cast No Shadow” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Postscripts: Unfit For Eden, PS Publications)
“Fade To White” by Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” by Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity, Solaris)
“In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire (Self-published)
“Rat-Catcher” by Seanan McGuire (A Fantasy Medley 2, Subterranean)

Best Short Story (662 ballots)

“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
“Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
“Mono no Aware” by Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)

Note: category has 3 nominees due to a 5% requirement under Section 3.8.5 of the WSFS constitution.

Best Related Work (584 ballots)

The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature Edited by Edward James & Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge UP)
Chicks Dig Comics: A Celebration of Comic Books by the Women Who Love Them Edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Sigrid Ellis (Mad Norwegian Press)
Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who Edited by Deborah Stanish & L.M. Myles (Mad Norwegian Press)
I Have an Idea for a Book… The Bibliography of Martin H. Greenberg Compiled by Martin H. Greenberg, edited by John Helfers (The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box)
Writing Excuses Season Seven by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler and Jordan Sanderson

Best Graphic Story (427 ballots)

Grandville Bête Noire written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Saga, Volume One written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) (787 ballots)

The Avengers Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount)
The Cabin in the Woods Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
The Hunger Games Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
Looper Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) (597 ballots)

Doctor Who:“The Angels Take Manhattan” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“Asylum of the Daleks” Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
Doctor Who:“The Snowmen” Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)
Fringe:“Letters of Transit” Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
Game of Thrones:“Blackwater” Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO)

Best Editor – Short Form (526 ballots)

John Joseph Adams
Neil Clarke
Stanley Schmidt
Jonathan Strahan
Sheila Williams

Best Editor – Long Form (408 ballots)

Lou Anders
Sheila Gilbert
Liz Gorinsky
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Toni Weisskopf

Best Professional Artist (519 ballots)

Vincent Chong
Julie Dillon
Dan Dos Santos
Chris McGrath
John Picacio

Best Semiprozine (404 ballots)

Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore and Michael Damian Thomas
Beneath Ceaseless Skies edited by Scott H. Andrews
Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Jason Heller, Sean Wallace and Kate Baker
Lightspeed edited by John Joseph Adams and Stefan Rudnicki
Strange Horizons edited by Niall Harrison, Jed Hartman, Brit Mandelo, An Owomoyela, Julia Rios, Abigail Nussbaum, Sonya Taaffe, Dave Nagdeman and Rebecca Cross

Best Fanzine (370 ballots)

Banana Wings edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
The Drink Tank edited by Chris Garcia and James Bacon
Elitist Book Reviews edited by Steven Diamond
Journey Planet edited by James Bacon, Chris Garcia, Emma J. King, Helen J. Montgomery and Pete Young
SF Signal edited by John DeNardo, JP Frantz, and Patrick Hester

Best Fancast (346 ballots)

The Coode Street Podcast, Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
Galactic Suburbia Podcast, Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Presenters) and Andrew Finch (Producer)
SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester, John DeNardo, and JP Frantz
SF Squeecast, Elizabeth Bear, Paul Cornell, Seanan McGuire, Lynne M. Thomas, Catherynne M. Valente (Presenters) and David McHone-Chase (Technical Producer)
StarShipSofa, Tony C. Smith

Best Fan Writer (485 ballots)

James Bacon
Christopher J Garcia
Mark Oshiro
Tansy Rayner Roberts
Steven H Silver

Best Fan Artist (293 ballots)

Galen Dara
Brad W. Foster
Spring Schoenhuth
Maurine Starkey
Steve Stiles

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (476 ballots)

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2011 or 2012, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award).

Zen Cho *
Max Gladstone
Mur Lafferty *
Stina Leicht *
Chuck Wendig *

* Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

XPS 12 Two Week Update

For those still interested in what I think of the Dell XPS 12 two weeks in (see here for the two-day report), a few quick additional notes:

* I still very much like it, generally. Good screen, good keyboard, quick responsiveness, etc, with the trackpad (now with updated drivers and configured to my personal preferences) perfectly functional although still not the absolute joy the Apple trackpads are. However, if you are not totally into the tank for Apple (or at least its trackpads), in the realm of Win8 ultrabooks, this is a fine little machine.

* I’m finding uses for the machine’s “tablet mode,” in particular using it to show off pictures and media to folks in a less awkward form factor than “shove the laptop at someone.” I also do find the tablet mode comfortable and easy to use when all I’m doing is reading. I understand some people think the 9:16 ratio in portrait mode is too tall for comfortable reading, but I’m not one of those people. Likewise, it’s heavier than an iPad or other tablets, but as noted before I don’t find myself holding or using it like other tablets, so I don’t really notice the weight as a drawback. Also, the two ridges on the bottom of the computer (there to be  “feet” for the computer and to allow airflow for vents) help to comfortably cradle it on my leg when I have it in portrait mode. I use the XPS 12 in tablet mode enough that I find myself using my other tablets less, which I think says something.

* One thing the XPS falls down on with its flippy screen thing is that when I turn the screen all the way around in laptop mode, it doesn’t rotate the screen, so the images are upside down. It’s not supposed to do that; it’s supposed to automatically flip. I suspect a future update will fix this if it’s not just me not figuring out something.

* Win8’s user interface continues to be less than useful, but I’m finding it slightly less annoying on a laptop/tablet than on a desktop; either that or I’m simply getting used to it.

So in all, works well and I’m happy with my purchase.

That said, I’ve been using it exclusively at home to this point; the real acid test for this machine comes six weeks from now when I take it on the road with me for the better part of a month on my book tour. I’m looking forward to seeing how I feel about it at the end of that trip. I will of course let you all know.

Note to SFWA Members re: Nebula Voting

It’s true. And my disapproving face is very disapproving.

Reminder: Last Three Days to Get Your Gamma Rabbit T-Shirt

If you’ve been thinking to yourself, “Darn, I really want to get myself one of those fabulous Gamma Rabbit t-shirts, but I’m so easily distracted by dental floss and bits of foil,” now is the time to put down those shiny and/or stringy objects and get yourself over to the t-shirt order page. This weekend is the last time you’ll be able to order these particular shirts — once the calendar flips over to April, we’re taking these shirts off the market. Then you’ll only be able to buy one of these fantastic shirts in your dreams (or, possibly at some point, eBay). Point is, these are true collector’s items. Collect them!

And yes, if you bring your Gamma Rabbit shirt to one of my tour appearances this year, I will totally sign it for you.

I Think This Should Be Obvious

If you announce on Twitter that you are coming over to my site to troll my comments, you should not be surprised at the rapidity with which your comments are deleted.

If, after I delete the comments of an admitted troll such as the one noted above, if you come along and ask me why I delete comments rather than engage them, you’re no less of a troll than the first one, and I will delete your comments.

Also, I will be sad for you that this is your life.

The Human Division Tour: Official Itinerary

Yes, folks, I will be touring to support the hardcover release of The Human Division when it hits the stores (and online retailers as a compiled single eBook edition) on May 14. This tour sees me visiting some familiar places as well as some cities I’ve never been to on tour before (hello, Cleveland!). Here is the official itinerary as it stands today (borrowed from the official Tor.com announcement).

The Human Division Tour:

Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21
LA Times Book Fest (Panel and signing on Sunday)
Los Angelas, CA

Friday-Sunday, April 26-28
C2E2 (Panel on 4/27)
Chicago, IL

Thursday-Sunday, May 2-5
RT Booklovers Convention
Kansas City, MO

Saturday, May 11
Mysterious Galaxy 20th Anniversary Party
San Diego, CA

(All the dates above are before the official release date, so hardcovers will not be officially available yet. However, I will be happy to sign your eReaders with the episodes on them, as well as any other books of mine you have.)

Tuesday, May 14, 7:30 pm
Mysterious Galaxy (Redondo Beach)
Redondo Beach, CA

Wednesday, May 15, 7:00pm
Borderlands Books

San Francisco, CA

Thursday, May 16, 7:00 pm
Books, Inc
Mountain View, CA

Monday, May 20, 7:00 pm
University Books (at University Temple)
Seattle, WA

Tuesday, May 21, 7:00 pm
Powell’s
Beaverton, OR

Thursday, May 23, 4:00 pm
A Room of One’s Own
Madison, WI

Friday-Sunday, May 24-26
Phoenix Comic Con
Phoenix, AZ

Saturday, May 25, 5:00 pm
Poisoned Pen
Phoenix, AZ

Tuesday, May 28, 6:00 pm
Booksellers at Laurelwood
Memphis, TN

Wednesday, May 29, 7:30 pm
Quail Ridge Books
Raleigh, NC

Thursday, May 30, 7:00pm
Eagle Eye
Atlanta, GA

Tuesday, June 4, 7:00 pm
Joseph Beth
Cincinnati, OH

Wednesday, June 5, 7:00 pm
Joseph Beth
Lexington, KY

Thursday, June 13, 7:00 pm
Books & Co.
Dayton, OH

Saturday, June 15, 2:00 pm
Barnes and Noble
Woodmere, OH (Cleveland suburb)

If I am not making it to your town this time around: Sorry. Where I go is not up to me, it’s up to the Tour Gods, who move to their own mysterious rhythms. Please don’t be angry, or, you can’t help being angry , please go scream into a pillow rather than taking it out on me. As noted, I am very pleased this tour makes stops in some places I’ve never been before; I’m looking forward to visiting there new places.

Also note that these tours and events are the only places I am currently scheduled to be this year (as noted before, I am largely taking a breather on convention appearances in 2013, although I may pop up a couple of places), so if you want to see me in 2013, these are the places to be.

For those of you who have never seen me on tour, what I usually do is a reading (often of new, exclusive stuff that I only read on tour), followed by question and answer, followed by a signing, followed by the Lambada, the forbidden dance of love. You thought the Lambada was over! It’s not! It lives on! Come experience it, my friends.

(Note: No Lambada where the forbidden dance of love is forbidden. Sorry.)

Anyway. Hope to see you on tour this year. It’ll be fun. Promise.

The Big Idea: Will Ludwigsen

Before you read this Big Idea entry by Will Ludwigsen, about his story collection In Search Of and Others, I just want to say that I, too, loved the In Search Of television series to an insensible degree. And in honor of my and Will’s love of the show, here’s the opening theme.

Yes, that should set the scene for today’s Big Idea piece quite nicely.

WILL LUDWIGSEN:

When I was a kid, a television show called In Search Of hopelessly addicted me to weird epiphany. Hosted by Leonard Nimoy in the late 70s and early 80s, it examined the intractible mysteries of existence like ESP, the Loch Ness Monster, and UFOs. It often “solved” them too, usually with a big pseudo-scientific middle finger to Occam’s Razor.

Why believe that Amelia Earhart crashed and died off Gardner Island when you could imagine she was captured and turned by the Japanese into Tokyo Rose? Why think that settlers built the rock formations at Mystery Hill in New Hampshire when, hey, the Phoenicians might have?

That show (and the crackpot books I also read at that age) seriously warped my scientific education.

For one thing, I felt like an insider privy to arcane knowledge. Pissed as my father was that I couldn’t tell the difference between metric and imperial socket wrenches by touch, I still knew that there were pictures of ancient astronauts on the walls of Incan tombs and that seemed far more important. I figured that if everybody agreed about something, what was the point in knowing it?

For another, my endorphin rush upon learning new things became miscalibrated to the flamboyantly weird and surprising. There are ten times more microbial cells on and in our bodies than human ones? Meh, whatever. But there’s a PLESIOSAUR IN LOCH NESS? OMG!

I outgrew that, more or less, and these days I’m hopelessly skeptical. I’m probably just as mistaken about the world as I was then, but now it’s within the dull and conservative borders of “plausibility”– a confusion between cause and correlation, maybe, or a misjudgment between representative data and anecdote. That hulking shadow on the side of the road is either a bear or a cow, but it almost certainly isn’t Bigfoot.

Yet sometimes I miss being creatively, unabashedly, whole-heartedly, all-in WRONG about the universe in a way that seems most common to kids and lunatics.

Being wrong in that way was comfortably personal. When I was wrong about UFOs, it was because I wanted one to take me away. When I was wrong about ghosts, it was because I wanted to talk to someone with the cosmic perspective to tell me things would be all right. When I was wrong about the Kennedy assassination, it was because I didn’t want a squirrely little jackass to control the course of history.

Being wrong is really just a form of wish-making, isn’t it? You’re fitting what you want of the world onto whatever evidence you have. You’re making your own mythology, which might well have certain virtues over the received ones we take for granted.

Is it possible to cling too long to our wrongness? Certainly. Is it dangerous? Of course. Has being wrong caused millenia of human misery? Alas, yes.

But there’s a good way to be wrong, a way without the arrogance or petulance or zeal. Being wondrously and responsibly wrong means taking a moment to enjoy it, revel in it, and ask ourselves just why we want the world to be that way.

I was drawn to the genres I choose to write and read, science fiction and fantasy and horror, because they seem to be the literature of epiphany. They’re often about people who discover that their convictions about reality are more about them than the universe. I call these moments of “personal singularity,” realizations that change one’s perspective so completely that everything before seems primitive and alien.

I didn’t set out to write a collection of stories about personal singularities, but somehow In Search Of and Others seems to be one anyway. It has ghosts and abandoned houses and homicidal children and botched science fair experiments, and the thing those characters seem to learn over and over again is that you should be careful what you’re wrong about.

Why? Because you never know quite how right your wrongness might be.

—–

In Search Of and Others: Amazon|Barnes and Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read sample stories from the author. Follow him on Twitter.

Big Idea Housekeeping Notice

For those of you who have sent Big Idea queries for April/May: 

I’ll be finishing up assigning those in the next couple of days (i.e., by Friday close of business). If for some reason you haven’t heard back from me by April 1st, one, sorry, and two, assume the slots have been filled (particularly the April slots).

Thanks.

The Big Idea: Adam Christopher

Adam Christopher tried to resist writing The Age Atomic, a followup to his novel The Empire State, but the power of sequels compelled him! Aaaand that’s today’s gratuitous Exorcist reference. Read the rest of this entry now. The power of suggestion compels you!

ADAM CHRISTOPHER:

To be honest, I never really thought I would be a writer of sequels. Don’t ask me why, but when I started taking this writing thing seriously, many years ago, I thought sequels and series were not for me. My favourite author, Stephen King, is – Dark Tower and Doctor Sleep aside – the master of the standalone novel. The young King had a lot of ideas and he burned through them at a remarkable pace in the late 70s/early 80s. If it was good enough for him, my novice writer mind whispered, it was good enough for me. I’m naturally impatient. Done, done and on to the next one, as the song goes.

Of course, I was also totally wrong. Stephen King might write standalone novels but they’re nearly all linked by location and by events, sometimes in very subtle ways. And I was fooling myself, too – as a TV junkie, a lot of the writing I love is part of seriesDoctor Who, Justified, Person of Interest, Firefly, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, and so on – television is all about story arcs and the continuation of theme across multiple, linked adventures. And comics. Boy, comics are in my blood, and yet I totally failed to see what was right in front of me in four-colour glory.

Okay. You get the point. One of the great things about a writing life is that it’s one of constant learning and development; evolution, if you will.

So let’s cut a long story short: I wrote a sequel and called it The Age Atomic. It’s a sequel to my debut novel, Empire State.

The big idea for The Age Atomic was a simple one: I wanted to write a 50s-tinged SF story about atomic robots, because that kind of pulpy, old-fashioned concept just sounds so gosh-darned cool. But it wasn’t going to be a sequel to anything and it didn’t get any further than that, just another idea to file away for a future project.

Around the same time, notes on the atomic robot idea still fresh in my mind, and all the while firmly telling myself that sequels were not my bag, I was interviewed by fellow author Chuck Wendig about Empire State – that conversation appears in the back of the book as a little bonus feature, and in it, you’ll see that Chuck asks me if I’d consider doing a sequel.

Well, I said, scrambling for an answer. Sure. Why not. I mean, the world of the book is bigger than I expected – in Empire State we’re presented with a very specific setting with its own rules… but what if those rules were wrong? What if there was more beyond the perpetual fog that surrounds the city of the Empire State, more than anyone suspected, including the characters in the story and, frankly, including me?

There was my sequel. I’ve found that each of my novels has, so far, been shaped by a single moment of realization where everything comes together and – eureka! I suddenly know I have something.

As soon as the interview with Chuck was done, I started making notes, combining my idea for a book about atomic robots with detective Rad Bradley, the hero of Empire State, discovering there was more to his little pocket dimension than he knew. Much like the first book, a dozen separate notions and concepts that I’d had floating around forever coalesced into something entirely new. As a fan of New York history, I had plenty of weird and wonderful real-life things – people, places, streets, even a strange car and a cigarette-smoking robot – to add in, as I did with the first book.

I learned a lot about writing The Age Atomic, too. I was writing a sequel but I still wanted it to be a standalone novel, enough of a new adventure, independent of Empire State, that someone who hadn’t read the first book would still be able to pick up and enjoy and, crucially, understand. But I’d never written a sequel before – although I’d read plenty, actually figuring out how a successful one works was a different kettle of fish entirely. How much backstory did I need? Did I need to recap anything, and how could I re-establish the world and the characters without falling into the “As you know, Bob” trap of exposition?

Writing The Age Atomic, with its mix of pulp detective noir and Silver Age science fiction, was a heck of a lot of fun, and a very valuable exercise, personally. It taught me about how to write a sequel and how to look at story and characters over a longer arc than just a single novel. Readers love sequels and series because they love characters and want to find out what happens to them next, whether it’s over the turn of the next page or in the first chapter of the next book. Characters are the heart of story; without them, you have nothing.

The Age Atomic changed the way I look at story and character, and I’m very glad I wrote it – and I’m very glad Chuck and I had that chat!

—-

The Age Atomic: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

Today’s New Book Arrivals

In a small reversal from usual trends, the lower five titles are UK releases, so those of you in the US, look upon them and weep (although I suspect most if not all will be eventually released in the US, if they haven’t been already). The top three are from US publishers, however.

Tell me what you see that you wouldn’t mind having for yourself.

The Big Idea: David Walton

The world isn’t flat. But what would it mean if it was? For his latest novel Quintessence, Philip K. Dick Award winner David Walton resurrected this and a few other ideas from antiquity and took them out for a spin. Here’s why he did it.

DAVID WALTON: 

The “big idea” for Quintessence came from reading up on the wacky world of medieval science. People in Europe believed all sorts of crazy things before guys like Galileo and Newton joined the scene. The amazing thing is not so much how insane it all was, but how logical it was as well–as long as you weren’t too bothered about details like verifiable facts. I thought, what if it were all true? What if alchemy and astrology and all the rest of it described the true nature of the world?

Most everyone has heard of the four classical elements–Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. Fewer people realize there was a fifth element as well, in its own way more important than the other four. Quintessence (literally, the fifth essence) was the material of the heavens, the godstuff that glued the sun and moon and stars to the sky and gave them their light and power. It was out of reach, of course, hanging up there where mere mortals couldn’t touch it, and alchemists of the day spent a lot of time trying to distill it out of earthly substances. This gave me an idea. What if the Earth really was flat as well? That would mean that at the edges, where the dome of the sky stretched down to the ground, the normally distant quintessence might just come within reach.

These two ideas–quintessence and a flat earth–flashed together in my mind and lit up like an alchemical retort. A quest to the edge of the world to turn lead to gold, heal any illness, and achieve immortality? It was the stuff of great fantasy.

I knew I wanted to treat the magic of this world seriously, as if it were science, with characters who (like Galileo and Newton) discovered how it worked through experimentation and logical proof. Enter Stephen Parris, a physician who helplessly watched his son die, cursing the inadequacy of his medical knowledge. He would be driven to seek forbidden knowledge, obtained in ways unacceptable to his culture, like the theft of human corpses and secret dissections in an upstairs room. When his daughter, too, fell sick beyond his ability to heal, where would he turn? Perhaps to the alchemist obsessed with immortality and planning a voyage to the edge of the world?

My alchemical potion needed some more ingredients: A menagerie of animals living at the edge, all of whom had evolved to use quintessence for survival. A manipulative villain intent on gaining power. The threat of shipwreck, starvation, mutiny, and attacks from fantastical sea creatures. The mixture really came to a boil, though, when I added a dash of my own personal history.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life thinking about the creation/evolution debate. My Christian faith seemed to demand one conclusion, but my love of science wasn’t satisfied with any of the creationist rationale. In my research, I discovered that evolution wasn’t the first scientific topic to spark such religious controversy. Copernicus’s idea that the Earth might not be the center of the universe drew strong condemnation, for instance. Species extinction seemed impossible to Christians in the 1700s, who believed God had created the world perfect and unchanging, as did the idea that the mountains and oceans might have looked very different long ago. Even Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod met resistance: the lunatic was claiming he could turn aside the wrath of God by strapping piece of metal to his roof!

Most fantasy novels, despite the fact that they take place in medieval settings, ignore the fact that medieval European history was soaked in religious thought and conflict, and practically everyone (even the scientists) tried to understand the world through the lens of Christianity. When I thought about that, I knew that Stephen Parris would have to grapple not just with the religious establishment of his day, but with himself, as the magic he uncovered challenged his assumptions about life and the universe and everything he thought he believed.

By the time I mixed together all these elements, I had a story bubbling with arcane science, alchemy, human dissection, sea monsters, betrayal, torture, religious controversy, and magic: a heady and magical elixir. What else could I call it but Quintessence?

—-

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

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site.

The Human Division, Episode Eleven: A Problem of Proportion is Now Live

Why, hello, Tuesday. May I say you’re looking ravishing today? I may? Excellent. And what is this? You’ve gotten me something? Why, it’s “A Problem of Proportion,” the latest episode in The Human Division! It’s just what I wanted! How did you know? 

And what’s this week’s episode about? Well:

A secret backdoor meeting between Ambassador Ode Abumwe and the Conclave’s Hafte Sorvalh turns out to be less than secret as both of their ships are attacked. It’s a surprise to both teams—but it’s the identity of the attacker that is the real surprise, and suggests a threat to both humanity and The Conclave.

I won’t say too much about this week’s episode because there’s a lot to spoil here and I don’t want to do that — that would be mean — but I will say that I think this particular episode has it all: action, mystery, good dialogue and maybe even a heart tug or two. Plus: Hafte Sorvalh, who is at this time one of my favorite characters in the book. She’s in top form in this particular episode.

As always, there will be a discussion of this particular episode up on Tor.com today, and I will link in when it goes up (update: It’s up!). Additionally, of course, if you read the episode and have something to say about, leave a review on your favorite review-like site: Amazon, Goodreads, your blog, the side of an abandoned building, etc.

Next week: One of the main characters of “The Observers” gets a spotlight of her own — and a conundrum to solve — in “The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads.” Be there!

A Problem of Proportion: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBookstore|Google Play|Kobo|Audible (audiobook) (all links US)

Awesome Neighbor is Awesome

So here’s my neighbor clearing my driveway with his snow plow. Why? Because he enjoys doing it, and knows we appreciate it, and anyway, that’s what neighbors are for. We are in return neighborly and do things for him as well, because again, it’s what you do. But I’m not gonna lie, I suspect I’m getting the better end of the deal here. I’m just glad he has a kick doing it. Otherwise I’d be trapped here until May.

Possibly The Last Snow Day of the Season

And the neighbor children are taking advantage of it.

IN MY YARD.

Which is, of course, just fine. It’s a big yard with an excellent sledding hill on it. Might as well get some use before the snow is all gone.

Meanwhile in Ohio

In 2004, Ohio voters decided to put a ban on same sex marriage into the state constitution. If this poll is correct, however, that ban might not be long for this world:

The constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman passed with 62 percent support.

But now, just days before the U.S. Supreme Court considers a pair of landmark gay-marriage cases, a new Saperstein Poll for The Dispatch shows that 54 percent back a proposed new amendment to repeal the 2004 measure and “allow two consenting adults to marry, regardless of their gender.”

Just 40 percent oppose the proposal, which also would allow religious institutions to determine who they will or won’t marry, and protect such institutions that refuse to perform a marriage.

To which I say, of course, good. As someone who is lives in Ohio, it’s embarrassing to me that this bit of bigotry is in the state constitution, and I’d be delighted to have it expunged, both for moral reasons and (somewhat more technically) because I think constitutions should generally be as uncluttered as possible. The tendency for states to allow genuinely dumbass things to be grafted into their constitutions via simple majorities in a popular vote strikes me as a bad policy in general.

It also reminds me that Ohio really is a middle America bellwether, which is to say, as goes Ohio, so goes the country. Ohio is neither on the cutting edge of social thought, nor is it a heel dragging reactionary state. It’s big and purple and right down the middle (see: the last several presidential elections). If Ohioans have come around on the subject of same-sex marriage, everything its opponents are doing from this point forward is a rear guard action, i.e., slowly backing themselves into Mississippi and hoping the Supreme Court never gets around to saying that not allowing same-sex couples to marry anywhere in the US is unconstitutional.

What’s happened in the decade in Ohio? The same thing that’s happened most everywhere else in the US: More gays, lesbians and bisexuals have come out and have become more vocal about who they are, meaning more people now know that someone they care about is something other than straight. Young people, who have far less of a problem with same-sex marriage, have grown into voting age. Old people, who have far more of a problem with it, are dying off. Same-sex marriage has been in the US for almost a decade now and the nation has not collapsed into a festering pit of licentiousness and sodomy (any more than it already was), meaning that most of the “slippery slope” rhetoric of the anti-same-sex marriage contingent is being seen as what it always was: hand-flapping gay panic.

This is not to say one cannot make a principled stance against same-sex marriage; one can. The problem today — and the problem for the future of those who are against same-sex marriage — is that for an increasing number of Americans who are straight, it’s becoming rather more difficult to parse the practical difference between that principled stance, and simple, garden-variety bigotry. More simply: If your principled stance condemns someone’s child, parent, relative or friend to a second-class existence, the chances are good that they’re not going to think much of your principled stance, or you for having it.

Ultimately, that’s what’s going to sand down opposition to same-sex marriage to a recondite nub: The fact is, almost no one likes to be seen as a bigot, and those who don’t mind being seen as bigots, no one else likes to be seen with. Ohio may or may not strike that 2004 amendment from its constitution this year, but it seems unlikely it won’t be stricken out. The Supreme Court may or may not rule that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages that are legally constituted in their respective states, but it seems unlikely that DOMA will be long for this world in any event. Ohio tells me so; I’ve learned to listen to Ohio when it speaks about these things.

In Which I Invent the Word “Phlegmnation.”

The definition of which is: The act of cursing someone to be afflicted with phlegm; or, to be afflicted with phlegm, with or without moral judgment cast.

Use in sample sentences:

“I cast you into eternal phlegmnation! May Kimberly-Clark have mercy on your soul.”

“I suffer phlegmnation. You may wish to dunk yourself in hand sanitizer.”

A quick Google check prior to the entry being posted shows no instance of the word “phlegmnation,” and only on instance of “phlegm-nation,” being used similarly to “tarnation.” So I claim “phlegmnation” for all time, for use of all humankind. Please use it in good health, as ironic as that might sound.