Daily Archives: December 27, 2013

My 2013: A Quick Recap

Photo by Alan Wagner-Krankel

So, barring me falling down some stairs in the next couple of days or some similar incident that drags down the curve of the year, I can say pretty authoritatively that 2013 was a very good year — a career year, in point of fact.

Some highlights:

1. Well, obviously, winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Redshirts was a big moment for me. And I’m not gonna lie: Several months along, it’s still damn cool. Let me put it this way: I’ve won my fair share of awards, and winning awards is fun and cool and nice when it happens. But there’s only one writing award I actually dreamed of winning when I was kid, and that was the Best Novel Hugo. And now I have one, it’s right here in my office, and every once in a while I look back into my bookshelf and see it and think, holy shit, I won a Best Novel Hugo. Only 25 other living people on the whole planet have won this thing. The teenage version of me hasn’t stopped dancing about the room in joy. 

2. I also won the Locus and RT Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Redshirts (in their respective Science Fiction categories) and a Seiun Award (that’s the Japanese Hugo) for The Android’s Dream. I was also nominated for awards in Germany (for Redshirts) and Spain (for Fuzzy Nation). That’s not a bad awards season overall, and I am of course immensely grateful.

3. The Human Division came out in episodic format starting in January, one episode a week for thirteen weeks, and each episode made it onto the USA Today Bestseller list. One author getting thirteen separate titles onto the list in thirteen consecutive weeks is, we’re pretty sure, a record of some kind. It’s in the same sort of record category that, say Most Career Sacrifice Bunts is in (that record, incidentally, held by Eddie Collins). But you know what? I’ll take it (also, Eddie Collins? In the Baseball Hall of Fame). It’s done pretty well in hardcover, so that’s nice, too.

4. The Mallet of Loving Correction, my second collection of Whatever posts, also came out in 2013. It’s my ninth non-fiction book.

5. The Whatever (the blog you’re reading right now!) celebrated fifteen years of existence, which in Internet years means it was around when dinosaurs walked the earth. Considering that when I started the blog AOL was still the largest online service in the world, this is absolutely correct.

6. I helped raise over $16,000 in donations for the Carl Brandon Society this year, and helped garner over $60,000 in pledges for organizations dedicated to fighting racism, sexism, homophobia and sexual assault. I feel pretty good about both of those.

7. I finished up a three-year term as president of SFWA, not without a bit of drama, to be sure. That said, overall I feel pretty good about having left the organization on better financial and organizational footing than when I came in.

8. Pledged not to attend as a featured guest conventions that did not have harassment policies or the willingness to promote and enforce them if they did. I was delighted that over a thousand pros and fans co-signed the pledge.

So, in all, a pretty good year.

Downsides to 2013? Well, I’ve been running more or less full out for about three years, in terms of work, tours and public appearances, so 2013 found me a little crispy around the edges. I cut back the number of appearances I did in the year and made sure I had a little time to relax and recuperate (I’m feeling better, thanks for asking). I also had a small group of online twits spend a whole lot of their time being assholes in my direction. They were adorable. In any event, the upsides outweighed the downsides by a considerable margin.

Onward to 2014.

The Big Idea: Jason Fry

Intergenerational family dynamics — in spaaaaace! This might sound like an odd combination at first blush, but with any idea, it’s the execution of the concept that matters. Author Jason Fry is here to tell you how he made it work in his new middle grade novel The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra.

JASON FRY:

The Jupiter Pirates, my middle-grade space-fantasy series, didn’t start with a big idea at all, but a little one. While walking through Hudson River Park with my wife Emily, I mused that it might be fun to write a kids’ book about space pirates. We chatted about that and the ideas started clack-clack-clacking into place, in a faintly miraculous way that almost never happens to me or any other writer.

“Space pirates” became “a family of space pirates.” Then “a family of space pirates” became “there’s a family starship – the mother’s the captain, the father’s the first mate, and the children are midshipmen.” And then the last domino: “As a ship’s crew, the children have to cooperate. But they’re also competitors. The rank of captain is handed down from one generation to the next, and only one of the children will be the next captain.”

Emily and I looked at each other. That did sound like fun. In fact, it sounded like a lot of fun.

Starting with that little idea, I layered in ingredients inspired by stories I loved. Star Wars went into the mix, of course – I was eight years old when the original hit theaters and have written some two dozen Star Wars books, so it was guaranteed to be in there somewhere. There was a helping of Treasure Island and all its descendents, a pinch of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, and even a dash of “The Sopranos.”

But the big idea came later, while I was writing what would become The Hunt for the Hydra. My first glimpse of it came as I figured out the backstory. When my protagonist Tycho Hashoone was a baby, there was a big battle in which warships from Earth ambushed and destroyed many of the Jupiter pirates. After that the Jovian Union outlawed piracy, but gave some of the surviving pirates letters of marque as lawful privateers. The family patriarch, Huff Hashoone, was so badly injured that half his body was replaced with cybernetic parts and he had to step aside as captain. His daughter Diocletia was raised a pirate but became the captain of a privateer. And her children – Carlo, Yana and Tycho – would grow up thinking of piracy as a thing of the past.

And that’s where my mind started to go beyond carbines and tattoos and unironic uses of “Arrrr!” (Though all those things have been great fun.) The kids are privateers, learning space law and standards of conduct. Their grandfather is an unreconstructed pirate, given to grousing that the end of piracy was the ruin of the family tradition. Their mother and father are caught in the middle, ex-pirates trying to teach their children to stay on the right side of the law.

That made for a basic, fundamental family conflict beyond the competition to be the next captain. And that, in turn, showed me the path I wanted for my protagonist.

Tycho is 12 years old in Hunt for the Hydra, insecure about his skills and doubtful that he can eclipse his twin sister or his older brother in the struggle to become captain. Hunt for the Hydra starts as a mystery (with a side of courtroom drama) and ends with a hammer-and-tongs fight between warships and their crews. By the time it’s over, Tycho’s learned he has capabilities he hasn’t guessed at, and that some of his skills are more important to commanding a starship crew than he thinks.

I think that makes for a satisfying story — but there’s also a shadow of what’s to come for Tycho. He’s trying to measure up to his famous grandfather and his formidable parents, but he’s not growing up the way they did. As he gets older, Tycho will start to question the value of the Hashoone family tradition. He’ll discover family mysteries and become obsessed with solving them, even though he might be better off leaving them alone. He and his siblings will wind up valuing very different things. And he’ll ask himself hard questions about what he thinks is right and what he really wants.

That’s the big idea that came into focus: What happens to the hero’s journey if the hero changes his mind? I think answering that question will lead to a more believable path than those taken by some heroes, one with unexpected roadblocks and detours and a chance of getting thoroughly lost. That’s something I think kids will understand – you’re a different person at 18 than you are at 12. Now, it’s my job to make sure future books in the series fulfill the promise of that idea, while making sure Hunt for the Hydra feels like a first step and not a feint in a different direction.

The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s

Visit the official site, or download an excerpt. Jason’s site is here. Follow him on Twitter.