The Big Idea: Guy Gavriel Kay

For today’s Big Idea, Guy Gavriel Kay is here to share a favorite passage from a writer of histories, and what that passage has to do with his latest novel, Children of Earth and Sky.

GUY GAVRIEL KAY:

I’ve told a cute (and even true!) origin story of Children of Earth and Sky elsewhere. It involves my Croatian publisher driving too fast on a Roman road from Zagreb to the Dalmatian coast and suddenly getting An Idea: he told me I really needed to write a book about the Uskoks – Renaissance era pirates of the Adriatic whose town had been just ahead of where we were. (I didn’t know that back then, either, don’t feel badly.)

That was a decade ago, just about, but I did write that book. My new book. Eventually. Two other books came first, but…

But what I want to talk about here is another element of the origins of the novel. It isn’t the funny part, with me urgently asking him to please watch the twisty road instead of gesturing excitedly with both hands and twisting to look at me. This is the, well, the ‘thinking about the past’ part. Serious? I guess. But that’s what I do, for better or worse. I read a lot in history, I correspond with scholars, I buy them drinks, I travel, I steep myself like a Canadian teabag in boiling branch water. (Yes, I mixed northern and southern geography big time there, but I like it, so just … leave it alone, John Scalzi!)

So, the other key to Children coming together for me was a passage in a book. A great book. A monument of historical writing called The Mediterranean World In the Age of Philip II, by Fernand Braudel. I could write an essay on the greatness of Braudel, but I’ll let those intrigued google him (then read him!). I’ll say I first read this magisterial work when I was researching A Song For Arbonne 25 years ago, but it occurred to me that I might just possibly not have it entirely memorized, and a reread might be useful for the new book, mixed in with the books and articles I’d collected as I entered the research phase for Children.

Good idea, that. I get them sometimes. There is so much to be learned in Braudel, for anyone interested in the subtle, long-term forces that act upon history – and therefore on us. But here comes the point, for this essay. One passage. A short passage in a massive book leaped out at me, made me grab pen and notebook and write it down. Here you go:

Between two enemy religions it would be unwise to imagine a watertight barrier. Men passed to and fro, indifferent to frontiers, states, and creeds. They were more aware of the necessities of shipping and trade, the hazards of war and piracy, the opportunities for complicity or betrayal…”

It wasn’t that this was a shocking new thought. It is a motif I’d even touched on before in books, but the awareness came hammering home that this – this! – was a part of what the new book was going to build itself around. I was already thinking about borderlands, lives lived there, the instability (often violently so) of where the borders were, the wars waged to change them, the decisions of the ‘great’ hugely impacting ordinary lives.

What Braudel reminded me was that it went the other way, too! Men and women did not necessarily subscribe to the desires and ambitions of their leaders. They wanted to get on with their lives. Feed and shelter their children, cut enough firewood for the coming winter, build fences to protect the livestock, walls against raiders, trade with the so-called enemy (even ‘infidels’ at times) if it would help get food for those children. They wanted to arrange to marry their daughter to the son of the farmer next door (unless they hated the farmer next door). They were preoccupied by a laborer’s illness at the wrong time (harvest season!), by an insult in the tavern, by fears for their own immortal soul. They thought about trade goods and desire and gossip and needing new oxen and the pleasures of a spring morning with the leaves coming.

These ideas, these priorities in the lives of people locked in for me as core themes for the new book. I’d aim for a novel that touched upon, that even appeared generated by a massive conflict among powerful empires and states. But I’d use that as a backdrop, a framework, for a book that paid really close attention to how men and women sought (with varying success) to live and shape their own lives in such times, across such borders, during the wars.

That’s what a single passage in Braudel brought back home to me, and what Children of Earth and Sky told me it wanted to be about, right then. That’s what I’ve tried to make it. The stories of the ‘great’ are not the only stories we have to tell.

—-

Children of Earth and Sky: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

Where I’ll Be in Chicago This Weekend

If you live in or near Chicago and want to see me and maybe even get a book signed by me this weekend, there are two events I will be at for you to find me at:

Friday, May 13 at 8pm: I’ll be participating in the SFWA Conference Mass Signing, in the Red Lacquer Room of the Palmer House Hilton. And not just me but literally dozens of science fiction and fantasy authors, including many of this year’s Nebula Award nominees (click on the link above to see them). This signing is free and open to the public; you can bring your own books or booksellers will be on hand to sell you things. You may also, if you like, attend the full SFWA Conference, which will have panels devoted to professional enrichment for authors — here’s more information on how to attend the whole weekend.

Saturday, May 14 at 2pm: I’m signing at Bookcon, at the West Building of McCormick Place, booth 1958. And again, not just me: There will be many authors signing books and doing panels at Bookcon, including some of the very hottest of YA authors. Bookcon is a ticketed event.

These are currently my only scheduled public events in Chicago for 2016, so if you want to see there — this is the time!

The Big Idea: Ada Palmer

Gentle reader, was it chance or providence that brought you here today to read Ada Palmer’s Big Idea piece about her novel, Too Like the Lightning? And does it matter if it were either? And what do chance and/or providence (or the mindset that would attribute your presence here to either) have to do with Palmer’s novel? Gentle reader, read on.

ADA PALMER: 

Too Like the Lightning has a cover with flying cars swooping in to land on a sparkling futuristic city above a modernist sans-serif title font. Its first page has 18th century period typography and woodblock ornaments, with permissions in French and Latin saying that its publication has been approved by religious censors and the King of Spain. The cover and title page together give you a kind of temporal whiplash, and genre whiplash too: is this historical fiction or SF? And that temporal/genre whiplash is exactly what the book is like.

In college I read Voltaire’s short story “Micromegas” (1752), one of the oldest works we can unreservedly label science fiction. In it, a pair of giant aliens—one from Saturn and one from a huge planet orbiting Sirius—visit the Earth. Since they stand many miles tall, at first they think Earth is uninhabited, but then they spot a (tiny tiny) whale, and then a ship, which turns out to be swarming with (microscopic) creatures with language: humans.

So far this First Contact story could run in Analog, but the fact that “Micromegas” is 250 years old manifests, not in its premise, but in what the humans and aliens talk about once contact has been made: How is the Hand of Providence visible in the designs of our three planets? Is Descartes right? Newton? Which is the best form of government, absolute monarchy or constitutional monarchy? Thomas Aquinas says God designed the whole universe for the good of mankind, what do you think of that, mile-tall giant aliens who live for 50,000 years? (They laugh.)

For me, the exciting difference between “Micromegas” and a modern short story is what I call Voltaire’s “question palette”, i.e. the big hot issues of Voltaire’s day, which he used aliens to investigate, the same way modern authors have used them to investigate 20th century questions, like the limits of what it means to be human, or the possibilities and consequences of democracy, empire, fascism and other modern political movements. Science fiction’s question palette has shifted many times over the 20th and (now) 21st centuries too—reacting to Marxism, DNA breakthroughs, the Cold War, and 9/11 as Voltaire reacted to Hobbes, the microscope, the War of the Austrian Succession, and the Lisbon Earthquake—but shifts over decades are nothing compared to shifts over centuries.

When you read Voltaire’s science fiction, his unfamiliar questions make it feel like you’re reading science fiction written by an alien as well as about an alien, since its author is an alien in time. Given how complex and weird history is, a mind from 1750 is often a lot stranger and more alien than the aliens we invent to populate our alien planets, and anyone who reads or watches old SF (think original Star Trek) can see the mores of the decade it was created leaking through in every “alien” society.

That’s what I wanted to do in my Terra Ignota series, to write something that would feel alien the way Voltaire feels alien, by writing in a classic SF setting but with an 18th century question palette. Too Like the Lightning takes place in the 2450s, in a pretty great future, not perfect, but full of flying cars, glittering cities, robot helpers, and school trips to the Moon, the classic signatures of World-of-Tomorrow type Golden Age SF futures. But the narrator writes in an Enlightenment voice: personal, opinionated, intimate like memoir, with long tangents about philosophy and history, and personal addresses to the “Gentle Reader.”

The question palette is Enlightenment to match: “Do you think it was Chance or Providence, reader, which made his flying car touch down on that particular morning?” We meet these kinds of questions a lot in historical fiction, and period fiction, but no one has asked them of a Golden Age type science fiction future before. They bring out different issues: constitutional governments vs. tradition-based governments, balancing religion and Reason, the best kind of monarchy, cultural relativism when it was a quirky new idea, and questions about the place of humanity in the cosmos when the cosmos was a very different shape.

I put a lot into my world building—new government models, family structure, identities—but I tried to build these out of 18th century trends too, imagining a future with roots in the long continuity of historical change. I don’t skip the 20th century—this future has continuity with our present—I just did my “What should be different in the future?” brainstorming by focusing on the things which started to change 250 years ago and are still changing now, instead of concentrating on 20th century changes. For example, Enlightenment radicals really wanted to reform the justice system, to get away from torture and the death penalty, and try deterrence-based justice instead of retribution-based justice.

We’re still deep in that same reform process, discussing the definition of torture and the utility of incarceration, so my 25th century judicial system uses 20th century ideas, and 18th century ideas, and even 16th century ideas that are all part of one long-term debate. After all, ideas get revived a lot in history. If the authors of the US Constitution were looking in part at ancient Greek democracy, then aren’t political reformers in the 2450s as likely to get ideas from 1750 as 1950?

So, that’s why my cover and my title page seem like a mismatch, but both are just right for a future built out of the past, rather than out of the present, and approached with a question palette from the past as well. And it turns out that, if you ask a different century’s questions, a Golden Age flying cars future has a lot of new things to tell us.

When you do a public reading of the first chapter of your book, you always get some un-answerable questions, the ones whose answers would be a huge spoiler, like “Who planned the break-in?” or “The narrator is a convict, but what did he do?” But I was shocked (and delighted) at my very first ever reading to get exactly the right un-answerable question, the one which Voltaire, and Diderot, and the Marquis de Sade (he’s from the Enlightenment too, after all) would have asked right away of any book like this. A question which proved I’d started the book off right: “So, is there Providence?” Spoiler!

—-

Too Like the Lightning: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site and blog. Follow her on Twitter.

 

47

Yesterday morning, on the eve of my 47th birthday, Krissy asked me “do you feel old?” The question was rooted partly in the fact that today is my 47th birthday, partly because we were talking about time passing in a general sense, and partly because — and this is a thing they don’t tell you very often when you’re younger and you probably wouldn’t believe it even if they did — you don’t really ever feel different no matter what your age. You just go through life and then one day you’re 47 or something.

Here’s one answer to the question: No, I don’t feel old. 47 isn’t actually old, unless one has a career in sports, and I don’t. I certainly have more aches and pains than I used to. Last week I went in to get my leg checked because the spot where I tore my calf muscle last year was acting up again and the doctor said, basically, dude, you’re in your mid-40s, maybe you should stretch every once in a while. I’m balder than I used to be and I find it harder now to lose weight than I did even a few years ago, and my knees appear to be frequently unhappy with me.

But on balance these are minor things, and overall I still get to do what I want to do, physically, when I want to do them. Mentally I’m chugging along as well as I ever have, or least that’s how it appears from the inside; as far as the outside is concerned, well, you tell me. I don’t feel old, I just feel like me.

That said, another answer to the question is that I don’t feel young anymore, either. Some of this is due to the fact that there are two full generations of adults younger than me now, and some of those adults aren’t particularly young, either — sorry, everyone in their mid-thirties. Two generations of adults being younger doesn’t make me feel old, but it reminds me that the only way I’d be considered “young” is if I ran for president or landed on the Supreme Court (very unlikely in both cases). I’m also aware that adults responsible for big things are now my age or younger — the new mayor of London is younger than I am, and both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who ran for president, are younger than I am, too. Lots of important people now are people I could have gone to high school with; part of me finds that vaguely terrifying.

The other part of me doesn’t, however, which brings me to my third answer, which is that I don’t feel old, but I definitely feel like I’m an adult. This is one way of saying that I don’t look around anymore to find out who the grown-up is in any room. It’s me, or at least I’m one of them. Part of being an adult to me is knowing what your skills are and being confident in them (and when you don’t have particular skills, not being embarrassed about it — life’s like that). Part of it is being able to make decisions for yourself and others and being able to make a plan, even if that plan is “find someone who knows what the hell they’re doing.” Part of it is being responsible for yourself and, when appropriate, for others. And so on.

This doesn’t mean adults can’t be uncertain, or neurotic, or exasperated or whatever; I’m all of those things from time to time. It’s more of the knowledge that even with those things, no one else is coming to do the things you need to do. You might as well get on with it. I’ve been with that program for a while now.

I don’t think it’s that hard to be an adult, especially when one is in one’s forties; presumably by that time you will have had some practice. This is why I’m always surprised and usually sad when I see people well in the full flower of their thirties and forties or even older than that, amazingly, acting like petulant or obnoxious children, not just once in a while (we all have our moments, alas) but pretty much all the time as far as I can tell. Age does not in fact bring wisdom, unfortunately. With these folks generally I try to be charitable and assume they have some adulting skills somewhere that I’m not seeing, and otherwise steer clear of them when I can.

I like being an adult; I happen to think I’m pretty good at it. My wife is better at it, I will note, and I can rattle off a number of people of my acquaintance who I think are better at it than I am, some of them younger (and almost all of them women, as it happens). Nevertheless I know my strengths, and my weaknesses, and have several of each. I work on each of them as needed and appropriate, in part because I know that at this point, there’s no way out of being an adult. I’m going to have to keep doing it for the rest of my life. That’s fine by me.

I think in some ways the word for how I feel at 47 is “settled,” in what I think is a very positive sense. I am well-established in my career, and happy in my personal and professional life. I have enough in my past that I feel secure in what I do and my place in the world, but I think I have more accomplishments and opportunities in still front of me. It’s a nice place to be, and it’s a nice place from which to set out to do other things. I’m looking forward to it, and to the next year.

New Books and ARCs, 5/9/16

That’s right, we’re still working through the immense stack of new books and ARCs that have come into the Scalzi Compound recently. Some excellent books here, though, so this is not exactly a burden to do. What here excites your eyeballs? Tell us all in the comments!

Pre-Prom Pictures

Athena and her beau Hunter are off at prom right now, but before they left, I took something like 250 photos. Ten percent of them are in a Flickr set for your perusal, if you are of such a mind to take a look. The set is here. Enjoy!

New Books and ARCs, 5/6/16

A supersized stack today, in terms of the number of titles here. Lots of good stuff here. What here excites you beyond all reason? Tell me in the comments!

A Baker’s Dozen of Terrible Things I Have Called Ted Cruz

In celebration of his exit from the 2016 presidential race, and by request, here is a more-or-less complete collection of all the horrible ways I’ve described Ted Cruz during the campaign (plus a couple bonus bits from 2013, when Whatever readers awarded him the title of Asshole of the Year, besting other luminaries such as Rob Ford, Justin Bieber, and, yes, Barack Obama).

Ted Cruz is:

  • a malignant teratoma with a law degree
  • a shambling assemblage of skin tabs and ego
  • a gross and despicable avulsion that yet managed to sprout opposable thumbs
  • a jowly gobbet of tubercular phlegm
  • the Platonic ideal of an asshole
  • a necrotic self-regarding blight on the face of American politics
  • an odious fistula that walks the earth in a human skin
  • Newt Gingrich minus the charm or political savvy
  • the final obnoxious form of a college dorm “Devil’s Advocate”
  • a bipedal mound of pig offal that yet manages to form words
  • an overripe pustule of hateful need who deserves to be dropkicked into historical oblivion
  • a political dead man walking

Goddamn, I will miss him. But not enough to want him back. Ever.

Update: It’s been noted I forgot I also called Cruz an “ambulatory cloacal splotch.” Duly noted!

The Big Idea: Katrina Archer

Real-world tragedies, best-selling action novels and the Canadian undead — these are some of the influences that Katrina Archer had in mind while writing The Tree of Souls. What did she take from each and how did they come together in her novel? Archer is on it, below.

KATRINA ARCHER:

The Tree of Souls was born from not one, but three ideas that together ask one Big Question.

The first idea: school shootings. Which sounds strange for a story set in a world without gunpowder, firearms, or even schools, but The Tree of Souls might never have seen the light of day if not for a school shooting in my hometown. I was outlining the sequel to my first novel, a young adult fantasy, when it happened. I go to a very dark place when these events occur, because I was in engineering school in Montréal when a bitter, envious man gunned down 14 female students at a neighbouring school. Including women in my circle of friends. So yet another shooting nearby made me feel like nothing had changed, and my light fantasy for teens took an inappropriately dark turn.

Instead of forcing a story I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to write, I channeled those unhappy energies into the characters of The Tree of Souls. Some of whom feel the same sense of rage combined with unchecked entitlement that I suspect drives a subset of mass shooters. While there’s no single root cause for these (I don’t have the training to really delve into the psychology), picking an emotion to focus on was my way of trying to make sense out of events I’ll never truly understand.

The second idea is why I sometimes pitch The Tree of Souls as “The Bourne Identity for fantasy readers.” Because my protagonist is an amnesiac—here, a woman named Umbra—with dangerous skills, who doesn’t know if she is on the side of right or wrong. As the Magic 8 Ball might say: signs point to “wrong.” (Herein end any similarities to The Bourne Identity.)

I’ve always loved the amnesia trope. One of my favourite characters ever is Roger Zelazny’s Prince of Amber, Corwin. He of the less than complete memories. Yet people often advise novice writers to avoid the amnesia cliché. A wise person once told me I’d likely only get one shot at it in my career, so choose wisely when to tackle it.

Amnesia creates drama precisely because the character doesn’t know what type of person they really are. I used it as a plot device to force Umbra to see herself as others do—even if she ultimately doesn’t enjoy the view—because she’s now a stranger in her own life.

The tricky line to walk with this as a writer is: how do you get a reader to empathize with a character who doesn’t particularly like herself? It took a few drafts to get that balance right, before Umbra started to feel like she was fighting for herself rather than simply against her sketchy past.

All of the above might sound unrelentingly grim. Which brings us to the third idea: I love vampires. Sexy vampires especially. I’d love to write the great Canadian vampire story. But. I had nothing new to say about them (I do solemnly swear that if I ever come up with anything, my vampires won’t be sparkly. #TeamLestat). The lack of a vampire idea obliged me to create a different kind of seductive, conflicted character, one who looks human on the surface, but also has deadly supernatural skills.

And thus was born Umbra’s power over souls. One that was very fun to write, and that gives her some cool options for getting into and out of trouble. On the surface, it’s this power that makes her a creature of death, but ultimately her human failings—her inner demons—are at the root of her travails.

Umbra can’t move forward unless she exorcises these demons and learns how to use her power for good. If she fails, I wrote a tragedy. If she succeeds, I wrote a redemption story. The one I committed to paper is *** SPOILERS ***.

Put together, the three ideas force Umbra to ask herself that one Big Question: “Am I a monster?”

Guess where you’ll find the answer.

The Tree of Souls: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

New Books and ARCs, 5/4/16

Another day, another stack of excellent recent and upcoming releases to show off to you. Tell which of these books excites you, down in the comments.

Five Quick Notes on Indiana

Original photo by Gage Skidmore, used under Creative Commons. Click on picture to go to original photo.

1. So on one hand, Ted Cruz, a shambling assemblage of skin tabs and ego, has left the presidential race. That’s good!

2. But on the other hand, Donald Trump, angry racist billionaire, is definitively going to be the GOP nominee for president. That’s very very bad.

3. Dear Republicans: Your party is a raging trash fire of hate, obstructionism and stupidity, most recently evidenced by the fact that Trump is going to be your nominee, and that Cruz, a jowly gobbet of tubercular phlegm, was your second choice. Oh my God, please fix yourselves.

4. But more immediately, inasmuch as you seem unlikely to do that in time to do anything about Trump with respect to him being your nominee, and I would never suggest that you just not vote, let me say these two words to you: Gary Johnson. I mean, I understand most of you gag at the thought of pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton. Fair enough! Johnson’s positions on (most) issues are going to be closer to your own, probably, and this way you also don’t vote to drop a straw-haired ball of dangerously inchoate rage into the White House. Everybody wins! Except Trump, which is the point.

5. Hey, Bernie Sanders won Indiana last night! Good for him. The netted him a total of five delegates, which puts him on track to take the 2016 Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton, oh, let’s see, let me carry the one here, ah, there we go, never. I think it’s fine for Sanders supporters to keep dreaming, and for Sanders himself to maneuver himself into the discussion of the Democratic platform. I also think it’s fine for Hillary Clinton to start serious prep for dealing with Trump, because really, that’s where we are, and everyone knows it. So let’s stop pretending. Because, holy shit, Trump.

The Big Idea: Ruth Vincent

In today’s Big Idea, debut novelist Ruth Vincent essays this issues of depth, darkness and delight, as they relate to novels in general, and her novel Elixir in particular.

RUTH VINCENT:

Does a story need to be dark to be deep? Does substantive always have to equal depressing in fiction? I’ve always firmly believed no, and in my debut novel my goal was to hit that point of intersection between joyful and thoughtful. My series fits the nebulous category of ‘urban fantasy’ because it takes place in modern times albeit with magic, and it’s set at least partially in a city (not just a city, but the city: New York). But I’d grown tired of the gratuitously grim urban fantasies that had become something of a trope in the genre. I wanted my book to be unabashedly fun, without being fluff.

How to do that, I realized, rested almost entirely on the narrative voice. And thus I wrote my story in the first person POV of a fairy. Fairies don’t have the same level of damage as vampires, werewolves, or other such supernatural creatures. They’re not cursed; they’re not tortured – they’re not necessarily good, but they’re hardly ever grim. Even the fairies in Celtic folklore, while a far cry from the sanitized pixies of Disney films and frequently malevolent, are usually depicted as playful. If I wrote a fairy heroine who wasn’t enjoying her own story, I wouldn’t be being faithful to the mythological roots.

My heroine, Mabily “Mab” Jones, has a unique perspective in that she’s a changeling; she’s in the human world but not of it. It’s a position that comes with inherent conflict – loneliness, inability to ever truly belong, plus hurt at her betrayal (she was tricked by the Fairy Queen into getting stuck in human form) and a deep-seated guilt over the human girl she unwittingly displaced. However, twenty-two years after the switch, when the story begins, Mab has learned to make the best of a bad situation. She’s a bit of an amateur anthropologist – a student of the human society into which she’s been thrust. She finds us humans fascinating, frustrating, but always wryly amusing. In the hands of a different author or through the eyes of a different narrator, this could have been a much darker story – but Mab still sees her human life as a grand adventure (though one she never chose) and her optimism is the filter through which we read some of the more brutal and disturbing aspects of the book.

Writing a book that reads as effortless actually requires a lot of effort, perhaps more than one that doesn’t. I wrote almost 1,000 additional pages of drafts that I ended up throwing out before I honed in on the voice I was seeking. Luckily, since it was my first book and I didn’t have a deadline breathing down my neck, I had the luxury of time to do that (this will not be the case with Elixir’s sequel, which releases later this year!)

When I say Elixir was the first book I ever wrote, what I mean is it’s the first book I ever finished. My hard drive is a burial ground where many unfinished manuscripts have gone to die – weighty, ‘important’ works that I grandiosely day-dreamed would win me respectable literary acclaim, but then ultimately abandoned, because I didn’t find these stories fun enough to sustain me when the writing got tough (as writing inevitably will.)

This doesn’t mean I don’t explore the dark side of the human heart in my fiction – I find fantasy the best medium for doing that – or that I can’t explore deeper societal issues. My stories have never been overtly political, and yet the opportunities for metaphor are rich. The series is about a society (fairies) utterly dependent upon a limited, non-renewable resource (Elixir) that powers all their magic and their way of life. They do increasingly unethical things to produce and control it, and innocent children caught in the crossfire pay the ultimate price. Sound familiar? But a reader could easily miss all that and simply be entertained by an adventure tale with a touch of romance. I tried to never lob readers over the head with any heavy handed message. I’ve always believed writers should just tell the story – and not deprive readers of the pleasure of their own interpretations by telling them what it means.

I was academically trained to write literary fiction, and I was afraid, if I wholly embraced writing the genre fiction I so delighted in reading, I would never become a “serious writer.” Perhaps that’s true. Urban fantasy novels don’t exactly get reviewed by The New Yorker. But in writing Elixir I realized I didn’t want to be a serious writer; I wanted to be a joyful writer.

Maybe we write the books we want to read? As a reader, I wanted a less brooding, less bloody book, a fantasy whose epic battles are of the internal variety. And as an author, I know what a long hard slog writing a novel can be. The only thing that sustains me, once the heady infatuation of the initial idea wears off and the rewrites seem Sisyphean, is joy.

It’s joy that I want to spread through my stories. After all, the world is depressing enough on its own – we don’t need all our novels to be.

—-

Elixir: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Google Books|Kobo

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

Two New Books in 2016 That Have Me In Them. Well, Three. Actually, Five

As we all know, I don’t have a new novel out this year — although the mass market paperback of The End of All Things is out May 31, hint, hint — but that doesn’t mean I’m not showing up in new books in 2016. Above you’ll see two new books that I’m in, one already out, and the other upcoming. The one that’s already out is The Books That Changed My Life, edited by Bethanne Patrick, in which notable folks (including, uh, me) talk about the books that made a real impact on them. Other folks featured in the book include Margaret Atwood, Rosanne Cash, Dave Eggers, Kate Mulgrew and Al Roker. This is a pretty wide net, folks.

The one that hasn’t come out yet is Mash Up, which is the printed version of the audio anthology Rip-Off! which you may recall came out about three years ago. The audio version did very well — nominated for an Audie Award, whilst Mary Robinette Kowal’s contribution scored a Hugo — so it’s lovely to finally see this anthology in print. And as you can see on the cover, this is a hell of a line up of authors. Mash Up will be out June 7th — also, coincidentally, the release date of the other anthology I’m in this year, Black Tide Rising, which features a story I co-wrote with my pal Dave Klecha. Basically I have a very busy two weeks coming up at the end of May and early June.

So, that’s three books in 2016 so far! Plus my audio-first novella The Dispatcher should be out later this year (with the print version from Subterranean Press to follow after the audio’s exclusive period), plus, speaking of Subterranean, I’ve turned in another book project to them a couple of weeks ago, which should be out later this year. I’ll wait until Subterranean officially announces that before I say anything else about it.

So, to recap:

  • The Books That Changed My Life — already out.
  • Mash Up — out June 7.
  • Black Tide Rising — also out June 7.
  • The Dispatcher — scheduled for this year in audio.
  • Secret SubPress Project — also scheduled for this year (I think!).

And the mass market paperback of The End of All Things, out May 31st.

Wow, for not having anything out in 2016, I sure have a lot of things out in 2016.

New Books and ARCS 5/2/16: Special Baen-apalooza Edition

I got a smidge behind in showing off the new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound, so I figure the semi-hiatus would be an excellent time to catch up on this score. To that end, please peruse this very fine stack of books courtesy of Baen Books, all titles that are just recently out or about to be. What looks good to you? Tell me in the comments!

Today is the Day I Figured Out My Wife May Be the Highlander

The first picture here is of Krissy in 1994, when we got engaged; you can see my goofy face cropped halfway off there. The second is from 2007, nine years ago. The third is from 2011, five years ago. The final one is from this weekend, at Penguicon.

Best guesses: Highlander; vampire; has a painting in the attic; deity slumming around on planet Earth just for kicks. I mean, you tell me.

No matter which it is, I’m happy to spend my time with her.

I do not look like I did in 1994. Alas.

May 2016 Semi-Hiatus is Now ON

Get ready for less!

(Although I will probably post a kitten picture when I get home from Penguicon later today. I’m not a monster.)

One quick note: As part of the deal with the semi-hiatus is spending less time here, I’m trimmed back the time entries are open to comments to two days. This means some previously active comment threads here are now closed. I figure most of you will be fine with that. Commenting periods will be back to their usual length in June.

View From a Hotel Window, 4/29/16: Southfield, MI

It has not just a parking lot, but an entire parking garage. And a vaguely Ballard-esque high rise in the background. Don’t forget that.

You guys have a great weekend.