Not dead, just traveling. Back to home, this time. Yay!
Hope your Cinco de Mayo is full of Cincosity. No, I don’t know what that means either. But it sounds nice, doesn’t it.
Not dead, just traveling. Back to home, this time. Yay!
Hope your Cinco de Mayo is full of Cincosity. No, I don’t know what that means either. But it sounds nice, doesn’t it.
In case you missed the Twitter updates about this yesterday, the results of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America board of directors election are in. Steven Gould will be the new president of the organization as of July 1, joining current members Rachel Swirsky, Bud Sparhawk and Lee Martindale (who were re-elected into their positions as VP, Treasurer and South-Central Regional Director, respectively), Matthew Johnson, Jim Fiscus and Cat Valente (Canadian, Western and Eastern Regional Directors) and is newly joined by Susan Forest and Tansy Rayner Roberts (Secretary and Overseas Regional Director).
As the current president, I’m pleased with this outcome. Some of you might remember that I had endorsed him in his candidacy for the presidency, so it’s nice (but honestly not in the least surprising) that the majority of SFWA members who voted agreed with me on this particular matter. I expect very good things from Steven and the next board.
As noted, Steve and the rest of the new board take office on July 1, so I’m still in office for another two months. Most of that time, hopefully, will be given over to helping make a seamless transition from one administration to the next.
After three years at the helm, I’m happy to be handing over the reins; I believe it’s best for the organization for it to have new people in the mix on the board, with fresh perspectives and energy. But I’ve enjoyed being president, and I’m not going to lie; I’ll be a little wistful when I’m done.
This has been a good job. I’m happy that the next guy to have it is a fundamentally good person. Well done, SFWA voters.
RT Booklover’s Convention is primarily a convention by and for romance writers and fans, and so the attendance skews heavily female. It’s a very interesting experience, in a positive way, and I’m having a lot of fun. And as you can see from the photo above, I am opening myself up to new experiences, like walking a mile (or at least standing) in another writer’s shoes, in this case Rachel Caine’s. I’m not sure that color is right for me, but I am assured that the red makes the whole ensemble “pop.” Well, then.
Someone suggested that the picture meant they had blackmail material against me. So I showed her the pictures of me from Jim Hines’ Pose-Off. That settled the issue of blackmail. Sometimes being a man without shame has its advantages.
Also, my feet hurt just standing in those shoes. Honestly. I don’t know how people who regularly wear heels do it. Respect, y’all.
(Photo by Colleen Lindsay)
That headline is basically the summation from Paul Miller, who spent a year offline (on purpose, he wasn’t in jail or anything) and has now posted an article to tell folks what he learned about himself in the process. He’d hoped that being offline would help him get in touch with the “real” him; he found out basically that he was pretty much the same person online and offline. Being off the Internet didn’t make him into a better or purer person, it just made him a dude who didn’t go online.
And, well. Yes. Not terribly surprised about that. The online world can be distracting and alienating, but it is often so because people are often inclined to be distracted and alienated. If you’re one of those people, it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, you’ll still be inclined toward distraction and alienation. You could be in a monastery on the slopes of the Himalayas and get distracted by the snowflakes. No satori for you! On the other hand, dude, snowflakes.
That said, I’ll note that I do think it’s fine to get away from the Internet from time to time, to break some default patterns and to just remind one’s self that there are other things one can do with one’s time than just stare into a screen all the time. I took advantage of being on a cruise earlier this year to remove myself entirely from the Internet for a whole week, which was the longest time that I had done that in years. It was pretty great, actually. And when I got back I had changed my online behavior a little bit, which I thought was beneficial as well. On the other hand, I wouldn’t expect at this late date that being away from the online world would change me in any significant way.
I’ll tell you a story. In 1995 — before this whole Internet thing really took off — I went on my honeymoon, and for the entire honeymoon, I did not look at a newspaper or magazine, because, you know, I wanted to focus on this whole honeymoon thing, not what was going on with the rest of the world. And it was great. And on the plane ride back, the dude in the seat in front of me was reading a newspaper and I put a crick in my neck craning to try to read it. Which amused my wife. She had no illusions as to who I was, even then. These days it’s the Internet rather than newspapers/magazines (mostly), but it’s still the same dynamic. I’m still me.
So, again, not entirely surprised by Miller’s epiphany about himself and the Internet. In the end, the Internet is an external thing. If Miller wanted to get in touch with his “real” self, that’s got to be an internal thing, I think.
DELILAH S. DAWSON:
Yes, that’s a dude in a blouse with an oiled chest, but I promise you’re in the right place. My books might end up on the romance shelves, and there may be a steamy hot scene on an airship brothel. But there’s a Big Idea at work—and one that goes far beyond frivolous bodice ripping and sparkly vampires. See, it’s a little known fact that at the heart of every romance book, there’s something very special.
An empowered woman who likes to have sex.
And that’s not a bad thing, a shameful thing, or an embarrassing thing. That’s a great thing!
There’s this strange discrepancy in the book world: at the base of everything we do, human beings crave love and sex, and yet to delve too deeply into romance alters how a book is critically viewed. A little love in a good book makes it great and iconic; what would Tolkien’s books be without Aragorn and Arwen? And yet once you open the bedroom door and describe a woman’s passion, much less a man’s testicles, the entire tone of the book changes, and suddenly it’s on a different shelf and not “literature”.
In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, romance writers get no respect.
At least not until they hit the New York Times Bestseller list or make seven figures a year, which actually happens pretty often, and for good reason. Romance books can have characters just as complex and stories just as masterly as any other genre– the heaving bosoms are just a bonus. And you can pick up some good tips for the bedroom, too.
I didn’t actually set out to write romance, and I’m not going to lie: as a shy Southern girl, I had to get drunk to write that first sex scene. I’m a geek, and my Blud series started with a dream I had after watching too much Buffy: I woke up naked in a weird forest with a hot dude in a top hat staring at me. He sounded just like Spike, and I knew that he was a blood drinker but not a vampire. The world of Sang expanded from this tiny seed. Half the people are blood drinkers, but I didn’t want to follow the rule about wealthy vampires ruling the world. So I ghettoized them and filled the forests and back alleys with likewise blood-drinking animals. The adorably fuzzy rabbits want to suck your bone marrow with a straw, the horses are man-eaters, and the rats are the size of corgis and a hundred times more vicious. Transportation is therefore handled by armored train, dirigible, and submarine, and clockwork animals fulfill the roles of pets.
Voila! A new steampunk science fiction/fantasy world is born.
But you won’t find it in the Scifi/Fantasy section of your bookstore or on i09. Not only because Blouse Guy is on the cover or because I was asked to add hot sex scenes to my fantasy adventure, but also because the focus is on the heroine, Ahnastasia.
I’ve always felt like Princess Anastasia Nikolaevna got a raw deal in history: she was killed for political reasons before she was even a threat. That’s why I’ve given my Ahna fangs, talons, and the nature of a fierce and royal predator. When she first meets Blouse Guy, she tries to eat him. Luckily, she fails. Their romance is dogged by extraordinary hindrances, like vampiric political assassins and bloodthirsty unicorns, but they also face the same sort of problems you see in our own world: prejudice, destiny, pride, duty, addiction, bad choices, and trying to understand who you’ll become in a relationship without losing yourself completely. It takes a strong man to love a strong woman, so don’t let that blouse fool you; this romantic couple can fight back to back and leave a pile of drained bodies in their wake.
And you know what? There’s awesome sex, too. Because no matter how erudite we might like to appear, at the heart of all good stories is love, and at the animal root of all love is terrific sex. Finding her power as a sensual woman and taking control of her sexuality is part of Ahna’s journey to becoming a queen, and the story would be incomplete without opening that door for the reader. Although romance might not garner respect in literary circles, the romance genre takes a huge chunk of the market, with 48% of mass market paperback sales categorized as romance. From historical fiction to urban fantasy, the majority of these stories focus on a woman who undergoes a major life change related to owning her own pleasure and finding confidence, love and/or her destiny.
And women like that sort of thing.
Guys should, too, because a confident and passionate woman is far more likely to rock your world, in bed and out of it.
So that’s my big idea: it’s empowering to have great sex, to write about great sex, and to read about great sex, even if you do so covertly on your e-reader.
Your homework is to do at least one of those three things today and report back about how you feel afterward. If the answer isn’t ”awesome” or “empowered”, remember that practice makes perfect. And if you ever need recommendations for intelligently written romance, just ask. If I can get over my embarrassment and write a sex scene in a submarine, so can you.
Tomorrow I am on yet another plane, to yet another exotic location — this time, mysterious Kansas City! Which is not (mostly) in Kansas! I know, right? I will be there for the RT Booklovers Convention, which I expect to be a ton of fun, frankly. Here’s my schedule:
8:30pm: RT’s 30th Anniversary Formal Ball. I will be wearing pants, y’all.
1:15pm: RT Book Reviews Awards Ceremony. I shall also wear pants for this! It’s a pattern!
5:00pm: Panel — How SF Seduces Your Mind and Heart. Because it does. Often with a Tribble. Other panelists: Stacey Kade, Janet Miller (aka Cricket Starr), Beth Revis, PJ Schnyder, Sarah Zettel.
10:30am – 2:00pm: Giant Book Fair. Rumor has it this will be large. Also, it is the portion of the event open to the public (there is an entrance fee), so if you’re in the KC area and want a book signed, this is when to do it.
6:30pm – FAN-Tastic Day Party. I show up to be ogled and adored. As it should be.
If you’re going, see you there. If you are not going, then try to have a nice weekend anyway, okay?
Also, while we’re on the subject of RT Book Reviews, The Human Division is the magazine’s Top Science Fiction Pick for May. w00t! The review is here, and this is the blurb from it: “[A]n immensely entertaining novel… Scalzi’s talent and humor really come through in this story, which will be enjoyed by fans of the series as well as new readers.” Can’t complain about that.
The contest is simple: Caption the picture above, in which Zeus the cat and Daisy the dog are clearly up to something.
One submission (one post, one caption) per person, so make it good — there’s no prize for being first, just best. Entries have to be in the thread attached to this post; if you leave them on Twitter, Facebook, etc, they won’t be considered. Winner gets an ARC of The Human Division, which I will sign and (if desired) personalize. Open to anyone anywhere on the planet. Contest runs to 11:59:59pm Eastern tonight, May 1, 2013. I’ll pick my favorite caption and announce it in the next couple of days and ship out the ARC next week.
Update: Contest now closed — I’ll look through the entries and announce a winner soon(ish)!
My pals over at Industrial Toys have just released a glimpse of one of the enemies you’ll face in Morning Star, the video game I am working on with them. Meet the Renfield. Yes, he looks goofy. He is goofy. He can also totally murder your ass several times. I know from experience, y’all. Come learn a little bit about him at the Industrial Toys site.
Because spring, that’s why.
More and/or larger pictures are here. And yes, you may use them for computer wallpapers/personal use.
I originally had a little trouble pinpointing the Big Idea for The Lives of Tao. Should I use the big idea I had when I first conceived the story, or should I go with the other big idea that manifested at the end? After all, big ideas could morph, couldn’t they?
I’m not great at elevator pitching, so for The Lives of Tao, I developed a little skit between the aliens in the book and humanity:
Alien: I’ve possessed you. Now, do as I command.
Human: Hmm… yeah, no. I don’t think so. I’m going to go watch TV instead.
Alien: But I’m all wise and advanced and…and stuff.
Human: How about this? Make it worth my while.
I’m one of those writers who love to build a mousetrap, plop the little fuzzballs in, and watch them suffer. In The Lives of Tao, I began by asking this: “What if many important historical events since the beginning of time were just part of a war between two alien factions using humanity as pawns in a massive game of chess?”
Now, aliens messing with mankind is a time-honored tradition in science fiction. We’re just so easy to mess with. For some reason, they’re always here to eat us, enslave us, take our resources, or steal our women, and they usually have a pretty easy time of it. After all, they’ve got the ships, technology, and in Joss Whedon’s case, space chariots. Humans only ever win, thanks to good ole’ fashioned ingenuity, in the last thirty minutes of the movie.
So that was my original mousetrap. I had assumed we humans were the mice and the aliens, known as the Quasing, were part of the trap. But then, I made two crucial decisions that changed the entire concept of my original big idea. I decided that, in order to complicate the plot and the relationship between the humans and the aliens, the inhabiting Quasings couldn’t control the humans; they could only talk to them. Then I made it so that once the alien inhabited the human, they couldn’t leave until the human host dies.
Suddenly, the aliens weren’t part of the mousetrap. They were right there alongside the humans trying to figure things out. This is when the big idea morphed. See, it is one thing to be someone in a position of power: when you’re the boss, captain, or leader, you give orders and others follow. Easy as pie. There’s little deviation from that chain of command.
However, what if you’re not the boss? What if you’re an all-wise ancient alien inhabiting a human and you want him to do something, but he refuses? Toss in thousands of years of alien manipulation, a civil war over control of humanity’s evolution, and now the bigger, better mousetrap is set. Time to put the little fuzzballs in and see what happens.
At the beginning of The Lives of Tao, Tao’s host had just died while on a mission for the Prophus, one of the factions fighting in the alien civil war. Unable to survive long in Earth’s atmosphere, Tao fled into the first available human, Roen Tan, an overweight lazy guy meandering through life.
I had created complete histories for Tao and Roen, and wanted to see how their personalities clashed. On one hand, we had Tao who was an all-wise alien who usually inhabited super spies and once had inhabited the likes of Genghis Khan, Lafayette, and the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. On the other hand, we had Roen, an overweight thirty-something loser who still ate frozen pizzas for dinner, got tongue-tied around women, and sucked wind every time he climbed a couple flights of stairs. As expected, the relationship started out testy, but what grew out of that trial by fire gradually turned into the highlight of the book, and it surpassed every other plot point in the novel.
So in the end, the big idea for The Lives of Tao is about the friendship that grew between Roen and Tao as they worked together to achieve both their objectives. Along the way, Roen helped Tao continue the fight against the humanity-manipulating Genjix while Tao helped turn Roen into a dynamic character who managed to lose weight, develop a stiff jab, find love, and ultimately discover a purpose in life.
All Tao needed to do was give Roen a reason to make it worth his while.
But first, a milestone announcement: This is the 8,000th post on this iteration of Whatever. Go me!
Now, then: As most of you know, I have begun my book tour season, with events for the last two weekend, an event this next weekend, and then a full-fledged tour starting the weekend after that (here are the dates on all of that). This will, understandably, likely have an effect on my posting here, as will the work I need to get done between now and the formal start of my tour.
Which means: posts will tend to be shorter and (depending on how far along I am during the tour) possibly a little dazed. Don’t panic; this is all very normal. Things will likely return back to normal once I get back from the main portion of the tour, in June. In the meantime, however, don’t expect too many long, thinky pieces. You may have noticed this already the last couple of weeks.
(Or course having said that I will note that I was at the Nebulas last year when I wrote the “Straight White Male” piece, so honestly, who knows.)
It’s also possible that while I’m on tour I might do something fun (and easily programmable) on a daily basis to keep you all amused, but we’ll see how things go. It’s also possible but somewhat less likely that I may bring in (a) guest blogger(s). We’ll see how that goes, too. And before you ask, please don’t volunteer — if I decide on (a) guest blogger(s), I will ask them directly. There will be Big Idea posts through May.
Finally, I will be trying to keep on top of comments (and/or may bring someone in to help keep on top of comments), so we don’t have to worry about the site becoming a fulsome garden of trollage. That said, on the occasions when I am in one of those backwards aircraft that don’t have wifi or am busy doing an appearance (or, you know, sleeping), a troll might still wander by. Remember that the standard operating procedure is to ignore them until I or my appointed help come along with a Mallet. Please don’t feed the trolls; just let their stupidity stand as its own monument until it gets leveled.
And now you’re all caught up.
Interesting. I do like it, although it’s more about selling the book as science fiction than being 100% accurate to the content of the book (to be fair, there are soldiers in the book). It also keeps with the general German tradition of space ships on my cover, but they aren’t the main focus. They’ve also changed the title, as they sometimes do in Germany. This one means “The Last Unit.”
If you are a German speaker/reader, this edition will be out in December — just in time for Christmas. So that’s one bit of shopping done.
Zeus is obviously not impressed. Hey, cat, you’d be impressed if you knew this was paying for your kibble. Not to mention that chair you’re so comfortably napping on. Respect the novel, damn you cat.
Unimpressed cats aside, I have to tell you that I hope we never do go to pure digital output as far as books are concerned, because there really nothing like having a finished, printed, physical copy of your novel in your hands. It’s what makes it really really real. I never get tired of it. I hope I never will.
Sidewise Award-winning author (and my college classmate) Martin Berman-Gorvine likes playing with time, space and narrative forms, all of which combine not only in his latest novel, Seven Against Mars, but also in this very Big Idea, in which the heroines of his novel, shall we say, have their opinions on the book, reading and several other topics.
I sighed and took my fingers off the keyboard. “Girls, how can I finish this essay for John Scalzi’s blog if you keep interrupting me?” I said.
“But part of the point you’re making is that characters gain a life of their own and take over your story,” 15-year-old Rachel Zilber said in her lilting Polish accent. “So we’re not interrupting, we’re helping you!”
“Yeah, you writers think you’re all that,” Katie Webb said, her Texas Panhandle twang thicker than… I’d better not complete that simile, she’s pretty sensitive to any perceived slights to her country, and in the 22nd century, whence she comes, the Republic of Texas is one powerful piece of the former USA. “But without readers, your stories just lie there on the page like cow flops on my Daddy’s back forty. Ain’t that right, Rachel?”
Rachel’s red curls jiggled as she nodded agreement. “That’s what I found out, Katie. I mean, I sure was surprised when the silly stories I wrote on my typewriter to keep my mind off things…”
“…like the fact the Nazis had you and your parents trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto along with thousands of other Jewish people who hadn’t never done them no harm…”
“…somehow came to life, and I woke up on the jungle planet Venus, where my very surprised hero Zap-Gun Jack Flash practically tripped over me, and then you practically tripped over both of us! But even more surprising was…”
“The fact that your heroine, the beautiful Martian Princess Anya Olympulska, looked just like you and spoke Polish, only she thought she was speaking Martian?”
“She does not look like me—” Rachel said, as Katie snorted— “and stop interrupting, Katie.”
I put my head in my hands and groaned. “I wish you’d both quit interrupting and let me get back to work!” Why did I have to make them teenagers, anyway? I have two teenage sons, you’d think I’d have had my fill of annoying adolescents. But I’ll get my revenge on Rachel and Katie in the sequel, where they’ll have to rescue an even younger, much brattier girl from the tyrant of Venus.
“As I was saying,” Rachel said, “it was even more surprising that once I was there, in my own ‘fictional’ world, I couldn’t make any further changes to it just by writing about them.”
“Less’n you showed them to me first,” Katie put in. I eyed her warily. She was the same age as Rachel, a little shorter even, but with muscles solid from farm work in a country that had gone back to a pre-industrial age. But was her accent always this strong, or was she laying it on a little thick now for some reason? Testing me, maybe, to see if I was apt to confuse a rural diction with low intelligence? I hoped not, partly because I was the one who’d created her but mostly because I didn’t want to wind up with a black eye.
“Oh, and by the way, you can have these back,” Rachel said, handing me books by Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida. “Neither of us could make head or tail of them.”
“But some people might say that Seven Against Mars is postmodernist science fiction, in the same vein as Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books or the Zoe Kazan movie ‘Ruby Sparks,’” I said, carefully reshelving the books in the special section of my room I reserve for books I swear I’m going to get around to reading but never do.
“It’s a lot of hogwash, you ask me,” Katie said. “And I’ve washed a lot of hogs in my time, and let me tell you, when I’m done that water don’t half stink. I ain’t surprised I ain’t never heard of Monsieur Bar-thees and Monsieur Derriere in the universe Rachel and I live in, ’cause their stuff must come from some parallel universe where people find French literary theory interesting!”
I wasn’t surprised she felt that way. Postmodern theory never held much appeal for me, even when I had to study it as an English major at the University of Chicago, and in recent decades many of the novels written in this mode seem to have devolved into a game for readers, albeit a game with all the fun drained out of it.
“It’s not a game for us,” Rachel put in, as if reading my mind. “We only wanted to use our ‘powers’ to rescue our parents from the real world—mine from the Nazis and Katie’s from a bunch of marauding Alabamans.”
“Don’t give away the whole story, Rachel,” Katie said. “We still want people to read the book. It’s got an evil villain it, and laser guns, and space battles, and that dangerous mix of virgins and live volcanoes. What’s the matter? What did I say?”
Rachel was turning redder than the planet Mars.
If you wanted a signed, personalized edition of The Human Division and you won’t see me on tour, today’s the last day to preorder it from Jay and Mary’s Book Center. Here are the details. Don’t dawdle, folks.
Heading home from Chicago in just a bit. C2E2 was a bundle of fun.
As a view, this does not suck.
Hope you’re all having a good Saturday. Tell what your plans for the day are.
And here they are!
One! You only have until Sunday to pre-order from Jay and Mary’s Book Center to get signed, personalized copies of The Human Division from me! Here are the details!
Two! Remember I will be in Chicago starting today for events at the University of Chicago (today) and C2E2 (tomorrow)! Here are the details for that!
Three! Hey, it’s soon to be the weekend! Relax and enjoy life!
Four: If you use too many exclamation points, they take them away from you for a while. Yes, I can now not use exclamation points until Monday. I know, right?
Be excellent to each other; I’ll probably check in a bit later in the day.
Still working on this movie treatment thing (that’s what I’m doing with my day). Here’s a picture of a cat to get you through the rest of your afternoon.
It’s lovely. Especially if you like bluegrass and/or banjo. If you don’t then, uh, too bad, I guess.
If you like it, consider buying it. You know, as one does.
I’ll be back when my stuff is done. May be a bit.
I see some cool stuff from my front yard sometimes.
Larger versions are here. Feel free to use ‘em for computer wallpapers if you like.