“Large Interior Form, 1953-54,” a sculpture, at the Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013.
“Large Interior Form, 1953-54,” a sculpture, at the Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013.
Lopsided Cat has graciously deigned to sit for a portrait this Thanksgiving Day.
BE THANKFUL, DAMN YOU.
Interior of the Rockefeller Chapel, the University of Chicago, November 2013. The lights at the altar were being strung to celebrate the beginning of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.
If you’re in the US, Happy Thanksgiving. If you are elsewhere in the world, have a good Thursday (or possibly even Friday now, depending where you are).
Which is to say it is done. Exactly 76,000 words.
What next? I spend the next few days (although not Thursday, that’s Thanksgiving) combing through the text, tying off various loose ends, reconciling plot points, making obscure bit less of obscure, and punching up dialogue. I am also trying to decide whether to add a few more bits to it here and there. Indeed to read the whole thing through in one go to figure that out. Which is to say I don’t expect it to stay 76,000 words exactly. I expect it to creep upward slightly before I ship it off to my editor on December 2nd.
And then I get the rest of the year off! Whoo-hoo!
For those wondering where Lock In fits in terms of length of my books, it’s about the same length as Fuzzy Nation or Redshirts (with the codas. Without the codas it’s considerably shorter). The Human Division, for comparison, was my longest book at about 130,000 words. Yes, I know. All of those are novelettes compared to a George RR Martin book. Honestly, I think I would go insane trying to write a book that long.
I’ll talk more about this book at some point in the future, but for now I will say I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got here. This is in many ways a different kind of book for me, and I was curious if I was going to pull it off. I think I have. I hope you think the same when you see it next August.
(Also, for those who are hoping this means a full bore return to Whatever starting tomorrow, no. Please note I’m spending the next few days buffing and polishing. But I expect you’ll see me being positively garrulous in December.)
Beluga whale at the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, November 2013.
In other news, I am so close to finishing the novel I can taste it. Off to write.
Couple all cultured out, The Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013.
From the Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013.
For those wondering, the book writing is going well. Optimistic about finishing by Thursday. Trying not to jinx myself.
Sleeping cat, Bradford, Ohio, November 2013.
At the Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013.
Fall foliage, Bradford, Ohio, November 2013.
Also, a programming note. I’m going to be trying really hard to finish the novel before Thanksgiving. You will likely not see me here again before it is finished, excepting the posting of the daily picture (which, as you might imagine, will run through the end of the month). Wish me luck.
Cobb Gate, the University of Chicago, November 2013.
MARY ANNE MOHANRAJ:
I live in a bifurcated timeline. Perhaps all immigrants do, but rarely are the differences so dramatic. In this timeline, the bright one, I have a job, a house, a partner and two healthy kids. In the darker timeline, I could easily be dead.
My family left Sri Lanka when I was two years old. They didn’t plan to stay in America; they came here to work, maybe for a few years. Like many immigrants, they thought they’d save up some money and then go home, but as their kids grew up, went to school, as they settled into their American lives, it became harder and harder to imagine going back.
Still, in 1983, when I was twelve, my parents planned to send me back for a summer, to live with my grandparents, to reconnect. They were still thinking we might all move back to Sri Lanka. But then, a few days before my flight, my dad received a telegram. Don’t send her. There’s trouble coming. He cancelled my flight.
It’s called Black July in Sri Lanka. Riots erupted in Colombo, the capital city, killing thousands of Tamils, the ethnic minority group, the group to which I belong. Brutal chaos ensued – friends of mine who were there tell horrifying stories. They saw tires put around men’s necks, saw them lit on fire. They saw women and children dragged from their homes, pulled from cars to be raped and killed in the street.
I saw none of this, but the stories haunt my fiction. Whether I’m writing mainstream lit or fantasy or science fiction, I keep coming back to the war in Sri Lanka. I keep thinking about the life I would have had, if my parents had made different choices. If we had stayed there, and been killed in the riots. If I had gotten on that plane. If we had fled, as so many of my aunts and uncles did, and ended up as refugees in Canada or elsewhere.
When I started writing a science fiction novel, after twenty years of publishing erotica and mainstream lit., I planned to write something light, something fun. I was going to write about South Asians! In space! With lots of sex! Oh, I’d start with a war, because every story needs some conflict – the first interstellar war, in fact. People would hear the news, and would take to their beds – a reasonable response to the end of the world. I was aiming for smutty, funny, maybe even charming.
But as I wrote the book, the tone shifted. This was, after all, the darker timeline. The darkest. I needed a reason for the war, and it turned out that it was the pure humans against everyone else – specifically, both the aliens and the humods, those genetically engineered to be different from human.
Yes, it’s a race metaphor. Of course it is. Writers write what troubles them, what disturbs them, and on a fundamental level, I cannot quite believe that there’s a place in the world where complete strangers are willing to kill me because of my perceived race. Tamils and Sinhalese speak different languages, are typically of different religions (Hindu/Catholic vs. Buddhist). But I grew up in America, and I can’t tell by looking at a Sri Lankan which ethnic group they belong to. Can Palestinians tell Israelis by sight? Do Hutu know Tutsi at a glance? And even if they can – by the color of their skin, the shape of a face – why is that worth killing for?
When you read the newspapers from lands torn by ethnic conflict, you’ll see rhetoric about purity. Racial purity, ethnic purity, language and religion and culture. When a group feels itself under attack, divisions tend to harden, and people tell themselves stories that justify their hatred. In America today, it’s clear that many conservative white people now feel themselves, their way of life, to be under attack. Political positions grow rigid, and people harken back to a ‘lost’ way of life, an idyllic time when things were better. In Sri Lanka, many nationalist Sinhalese still talk about the Tamil ‘invaders’ who took over their island, even though both groups came to Sri Lanka more than two thousand years ago.
The title for The Stars Change comes from a university motto: Sidere mens eadem mutato: The stars change, but the mind remains the same. I think the university meant it to be hopeful, but there’s a darker reading – that even when we go to the stars, we carry our minds, our prejudices and fears and hatreds, with us.
The Stars Change is set at a university, on a planet settled by South Asians. As with many major university towns, there’s a diverse population, and sometimes, with those differences, conflicts emerge. There are outside forces, agitating for war (because with war comes profit, among other things). There are buried resentments that erupt into violence. There is pain, and fear, and death. I totally failed to write the light, smutty book that I’d originally aimed for.
But despite the darkness of this timeline, there is brightness too. There is hope. In the end, this is a book about frightened, divided individuals, human, humod, and alien. People who have good reason to fear and even hate each other, yet manage to put aside their differences and come together as a community. When a missile threatens to obliterate the Warren, the alien ghetto, there are some who would stay safe in their beds and let it burn. But there are others – there will always be others – who run towards the flames, trying their damnedest to help.
In Sri Lanka, during the riots, there were so many Sinhalese who sheltered their Tamil neighbors from the brutal thugs. At the risk of their own lives, they stood up to those with hatred burning in their hearts. In the end, theirs is the story I wanted to tell. Even in the darkest timelines, I believe a light can burn.
I’ve seen some grousing about the relative lack of content here this month, so I’d like to remind folks I have a book deadline and pay copy has to take a precedence to writing here, for reasons which should be obvious but if not are related to me eating and having a roof over my head. Don’t worry, after the novel has been turned in and I’ve slept for, oh, three days straight, I’ll probably be back to my usual chatty self.
In the meantime, enjoy the pictures. They’re pretty. And that’s not nothing.
Almost certainly because it’s Audible’s Deal of the Day, available for $2.95 until 11:59 Eastern Time today (I would have noted it sooner here, but, hey, I was on the move.
If you’ve wanted to try one of my audiobooks but never got around to it, this is a pretty good one to try; in addition to being a pretty good story in itself, it’s narrated by Wil Wheaton, and the two of us share an Audie Award (the audiobook industry’s top prize) for it, in the category of science fiction. So, yeah, it’s not bad. Enjoy.
Frog at Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, November 2013
Headline says everything, doesn’t it?
1. But to begin, Metatropolis, the Hugo-nominated near-future anthology that I edited, has finally come to trade paperback form. And in the five years since the anthology came out in its original form (audiobook), the stories in it have only gotten more pertinent — which is to say that reality has tuned itself more to this future than it was back in 2008. I don’t know how to feel about that, personally. But I do know that the stories by Jay Lake, Toby Buckell, Elizabeth Bear and Karl Schroeder stand up excellently well (and mine is okay, too). Its arrival in trade paperback form positions it nicely for holiday gift giving, hint hint, nudge nudge. More on that in a minute.
2. For those of you interested in Midnight Star, the video game I’m working on, gaming Web site Pocket Tactics has an in-depth look at the game, the first of three installments (the second and third installments will be up later today and tomorrow). They cover some nifty ground in this interview, including play mechanics and the need to get people right into the game.
3. To back to the whole “holiday gift” thing, a reminder that I’m signing and personalizing my books for the holidays, through my local bookstore, Jay & Mary’s Book Center. So if you know someone who would love a signed book under the tree (or wherever you may place such thing), here are the details.
Now I gotta go write things. Excuse me.
Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, November 2013.
– and today.
1. To make sure none of you are in suspense about this, the Scalzi Compound was largely unaffected by last night’s storm, other than losing power for about an hour or so. We are fine, the pets are fine, the neighbors are fine. Unfortunately not everyone in the Midwest can say the same. Keep them in your thoughts.
2. My plan to encourage people to vote for other nominees in the Goodreads Choice Awards has been apparently failing miserably, since The Human Division has made the final round. This is a great irony for anyone who believes my readers slavishly follow all my dictates. However, it is not too late, as there are nine other final nominees to vote for. So, damn it, pick one of them already. Thank you.
The main quadrangle at the University of Chicago, November 2013.