Here’s the Egregious, Mealy-Mouthed Clump of Bullshit That is the 2015 World Fantasy Convention Harassment Policy

It is thus, complete with shoddy copy editing (which I learned about via this tweet by Natalie Luhrs, and subsequently confirmed via two WFC members emailing me copies of the program they had been sent):

As a compare and contrast, here’s the New York City Comic Con policy on harassment, which for the last two years has been visibly and prominently featured on six foot-tall banners at the entrances of the Javits Center, among other places. Note well that NYCC exists in the same state as this year’s World Fantasy Convention, and is subject to the same state laws:

I am not a lawyer, but I expect that ReedPOP, the company that runs NYCC (among many other conventions around the US) has maybe a few lawyers on its staff. If NYCC is utterly and absolutely unafraid to promulgate a harassment policy even though there is a legal statute defining what harassment means in the state of New York, I expect it might have been possible for World Fantasy to have done likewise, if they chose to do so.

Now, over on the 2015 World Fantasy Convention Facebook page, there’s an argument that WFC calling something harassment that is not exactly in line with the legal statute exposes the convention to the risk of libel. One, see the NYCC policy above — either all these things are covered under the NY harassment statute, or NYCC/ReedPOP’s phalanx of lawyers determined that it’s actually okay for a private entity to state that for the purposes of their own private event, the definitions of harassment for that event are thus, and that those found violating those definitions would be tossed from the event, even if the legal standard of harassment was not met.

Two, if you’re absolutely paranoid that calling harassment harassment is libel if it does not meet a certain statutory bar? Then fucking call it something else. And indeed in its statement the WFC already does: “incorrect/uncivil behavior.” Dear World Fantasy Convention: if you cannot or will not create a harassment policy, why won’t you create an “incorrect/uncivil behavior policy?” That almost certainly will not leave you open to a libel lawsuit! And as a template, please see the NYCC policy above.

This also, incidentally, solves the appalling and utterly pathetic rationale the 2015 World Fantasy Convention gives for punting on having an actual and useful harassment policy, i.e., that the staff isn’t trained on recognizing the legal definition of harassment in the state of New York. Leaving aside the cogent point that the staff had most of a year to get up to speed on the matter, if they so chose, especially considering that they were apparently already consulting with the county district attorney and the local police on the harassment policy, if instead there’s an “incorrect/uncivil behavior” policy, the convention can define that behavior however it likes. It’s a private event which can define what it deems incorrect and/or uncivil behavior without referent to the legal statute on harassment. And it can very easily train its staff to recognize and act upon those examples of bad behavior, and it can likewise very easily communicate to convention goers what that inappropriate and uncivil behavior is.

Let’s call the World Fantasy Convention’s decision to hide behind the legal statute of harassment for what it is: Cowardly bullshit. The convention is abdicating its responsibility to provide a safe environment for convention-goers by asserting that it can’t do anything to deal with harassment unless and until it reaches a specific legal definition of harassment — which the convention doesn’t even bother to fucking cite in its material.

When your convention harassment policy boils down to “don’t bother us until you have to call the cops,” you have completely failed. The World Fantasy Convention should be embarrassed and ashamed to have let down its members this way. I’m not a member this year, but if I were, I would cancel my membership. I’d have no interest in attending a convention that decides the best course of action when it comes to the safety of its members is to punt.

(Update: Natalie Luhrs, whose tweet was the means by which I found about this, has thoughts on the matter here. She’s not happy either.)

(Update, 10/28: Via Jon Meltzer in the comments, WFC is attempting to improve its policy. Let’s see what it says when it’s finally published.)

View of a Hotel Window, 10/25/15: LA

My hotel room is on the first floor, which means that the view out of it is a little on the nose for where I am, so instead here is a view of the window itself, with some of the outside world visible from it. It’s a very nice hotel room, though, so. No parking lot.

I’m in LA for meetings and for seeing a couple of people, but no public events, so, sorry, folks. Maybe next time. I came down from the Seattle-Tacoma area, where yesterday I did a writing workshop and reading, and both went pretty well, in my opinion. No one booed and threw rotted vegetables, in any event.

Off to take a quick walk down to the local convenience store. I’m here in LA for a couple of days. Better stock up on essentials, and yes, I mean Coke Zero.

Fall From the Air

Taken as I was taking off from O’Hare to Seattle/Tacoma this morning. Just a few minutes ago, in fact. Yes, I am posting this from the middle of the sky. Right now it’s just all clouds and blue. How are you?

Remember Tacoma, I’m doing an event for you tomorrow at the Tacoma public library main branch. See you there!

New Books and ARCs, 10/22/15

I’m traveling tomorrow, so I’m getting this week’s new books and ARCs up a day early — lots of novellas in here! See something that looks interesting to you? Tell me about it in the comments.

Reminder: Writing Workshop and Reading this Saturday, October 24, at the Tacoma Public Library

The headline pretty much says it: I’m coming to the main branch of the Tacoma Public Library this Saturday for a whole day to do a writing workshop in the morning, and a reading/Q&A/signing in the afternoon. The workshop will cover some of the practical and creative aspects of being a writer in today’s world, and will include Q&A on those topics; it will be more informal than not. In the afternoon, I’ll do some reading, including new(ish) stuff, have a Q&A on my work and personal thoughts on things, and will sign books.

It’s all free and open to the public, so come on down. Here are the details. See you there!

The Big Idea: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

In their novel Illuminae, authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff decided to break stuff. What stuff? And why? They’re here to explain.


The Big Idea behind Illuminae?

Break the idea of what a book could be.

Epistolary novels aren’t a new concept. The conceit of telling a story through documents—be they journals or letters or diary entries—has been around since pistols at dawn and pantaloons were all the rage. But there hadn’t been much science fiction that played with the epistolary structure, or expanded it beyond the traditional journal/diary/email format.

And that’s where we started with Illuminae, too: A science fiction mystery, set in a refugee fleet fleeing a collapsed world, in which two unlikely heroes stranded on two different ships would communicate via text and email. Even though we were told “editors don’t buy SciFi”, we thought it was a cool enough idea to tinker with, and our Hacker Grrl and Pilot Boy were enormous fun to write. But around 30 pages and quite a few drinks into our first draft, we came up with the thought that’d break Illuminae out of the mold, and maybe break the idea of what a book could be.

What if one of the narrators was a damaged artificial intelligence, whose worsening madness would alter the documents in the novel? What if the way this AI perceived events would change the visual nature of the files, and the fundamental design of the entire book? Imagine a dogfight in space, where the chaos of battle was communicated visually as well as verbally. The effects of a computer virus unfolding typographically in front of your eyes. A book which ceased to be a simple medium for the story, where the object in the reader’s hands became part of unravelling the mystery of what went on aboard this fleet?

“That’s so pants-on-head crazy it might work,” we said. So we pulled together a 130pg sample, with Jay utilizing the design skillz he’d learned during a misspent youth in advertising agencies, selling petrol guzzling monstrosities to undersexed men and toilet paper to anyone with a bottom. And fortunately we found an editor crazy enough to not only buy our pants-on-head crazy idea, but help us push the boundaries even further.

It was vital to us that the story came first—that any design elements would be used to augment to novel, rather than be used as a crutch for shoddy storytelling. So the creation of Illuminae really came in two phases.

The first, the actual, you know writing part. Co-authoring is a strange and awesome experience—two styles and two mindsets colliding on the page. But two heads always seems to trump one, at least in terms of devising fiendish ways in which to torture protagonists. And so we put our two heroes and their AI nemesis/saviour through every kind of disaster, turn and twist we could devise. Pursuing enemy ships. Virulent plagues. Command conspiracies. Murder and mayhem and mutagens, oh my. But in between all this chaos, we also found the chance to ask a few of the Big Questions. What is it to be human? What would you sacrifice to save the ones you love? What is the meaning of life, the nature of mortality, the reason for all this? Our little SciFi mystery/romance/thriller took us places we never expected, and in the end, stopped being all that little (the final copy clocks in at 600 pages).

The second phase was design, in which no idea was considered too left field or too crazy. We were writing an insane artificial intelligence, after all. Gravity goes out aboard the fleet? We’ll just have the typography float. Want to visually explore the nature of a nuclear explosion on an atomic level? 5 hours in photoshop and half a bottle of Jack Daniels and watch the magic happen. And again, this wasn’t a new idea; Alfred J Bester’s classic The Stars My Destination incorporated experimental typography alllll the way back in 1956. But no one had done it to the scale we were pushing. Nobody had pushed it this far. We’re not kidding around when we tell you Illuminae is like no book you’ve ever read before in your life.

And in the end, did we break the idea of what a book could be?

You can always click on the links below and see. Either way, it was a lot of fun to try.


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

Visit the book site. Visit the sites of Kaufman and Kristoff. Follow Kaufman on Twitter. Follow Kristoff on Twitter.

Get Steppin’

I needed a new bathroom scale (contrary to what I wrote on Twitter and Facebook, I did not kill the last bathroom scale with a hammer for the crime of informing me I was overweight; in fact one of its battery contacts had corroded, rendering the electronic scale useless), so I went looking for one yesterday. This being the future, the one I found that I liked was one that connected to the Internet and could talk to my phone in order to keep track of my weight-loss progress (or, uh, otherwise); it was the Fitbit-branded Aria. Since I was getting that scale, I figured I might as well also get a Fitbit band too, in order to help me keep track of the amount I actually, you know, move. And so here it is, my Fitbit band.

And on one hand, yes, I’ve become just another one of those jerks wearing a fitness band, which is sort of the electronic version of a kale smoothie. On the other hand, I currently weigh 186 pounds, which is 26 pounds over my general ideal weight, and from experience I know I do better with fitness-related things if I gameify them in some manner, which is probably some residue from a misspent youth playing video games. So, here we are, with me owning a Fitbit band and scale. We’ll see how it works.

This is also me saying, hello, I’m actively exercising and watching my weight again. I’ll start the actual “being more careful what I stuff into my face” part more assiduously in about a week, when I get back from my last trip of the year (I mean, I’m counting calories at the moment, but I tend to worry about them less when I travel). This week will be given over to figuring out how this Fitbit thing can actually help me with my goals.

To be clear, I don’t believe the mere possession of gadgets designed to help you track fitness stuff is a magical thing that either increases one’s virtue or replaces actual fitness-oriented work. Owning a Fitbit (or any such thing) is not the same as being fit. The thing will be useful only to the extent it can help me with that aim. We’ll see if it does. I hope so, otherwise I’ve just spent money stupidly. Which has been known to happen. Hopefully not this time.

Why I Don’t Drink Coffee, Featuring Maureen Johnson

The Big Idea: Catherynne M. Valente

I could write a lot about Catherynne Valente and her new novel Radiance, but instead let me just say two words:

Space whales.

Space whales, people!


Radiance doesn’t have a big idea at its heart.

It has about six. It’s a decopunk alt-history Hollywood space opera mystery thriller. With space whales.

Over-egging the pudding, you say? Too many cooks going at the soup? Gilding that lily like it’s going to the prom? I say: grab your eggs and hold onto your lilies because I am cannonballing into that soup FULL SPEED AHEAD. It is the souping hour up in here and I’ve got a rocket-powered ladle ready to go.

The year is 1944. But not our 1944. No Blitz, no rationing, no Russian front—not yet, anyway. In fact, most of Earth is looking a little empty. The Solar System, however, is bustling, buzzing, bursting with human life. Each and every one of our familiar planets is inhabitable and inhabited, from the red swamps of Venus to the frozen neon streets of Uranus to the opium fields of Pluto. New industries and intrigues are everywhere—and the Moon is where they make movies. Silent movies, mostly, for the scions of the Edison family keep an iron grip on their sound and color patents. In the world of Radiance, Space exploration began around 1870, but film still streams along in black and white silence.

By the early 20th century, the solar neighborhood has become one big boomtown. But here and there, quietly, horribly, on these faraway worlds, colonies are vanishing, leaving little behind but a few shredded houses and shattered souls.

When Severin Unck, a documentary filmmaker, travels to Venus to uncover the truth behind the destroyed settlements, she loses half her crew to death and madness and disappears off the face of the planet. Radiance is the search for Severin. Her father, her lover, her stepmother, and her studio bossestravel the length and breadth of nine worlds to find her, but the only one with any hope is the the lone survivor of the lost Venusian village, a lost little boy grown to a bitter, angry man.

And that’s not even getting into the giant space whales who lactate a substance that everyone drinks and no one understands, the Plutonian buffalo, the Uranian porn theaters, the movie studios fighting IP wars with guns and tanks, or the murders, riots, money, gossip, sex, and celluloid secrets that are part and parcel of a frontier Solar System on the brink of colossal change.

Plus, there’s a musical number.

I’m not going to lie. This book is crazypants. I threw everything I had into it. Heart and soul and probably some cartilage and eyeball fluid, too. I wanted to write a melodrama about a wild, living and breathing and squabbling Solar System. I wanted to write a horror-romance about huge, elemental aliens. I wanted to write a non-linear postmodern SF novel that was also a page-turning thriller because I secretly always wanted to write a hardboiled noir murder mystery. I wanted to write a badass adventure about film patents. I wanted to write a book about movies. About seeing and being seen. About what the camera does to us when it never leaves our side. About who has the right to speak, and who has to buy it. About the meaning of science fiction in a science fictional universe. And through it all I wanted to write about a lost girl who didn’t come home. It all hangs together, I promise! I think. I hope. Because everything really is like that. Everything really is about a thousand things at once, all the time. All the lilies, and eggs, and soups, pouring into an ocean of story the size of Neptune.

Radiance is easily the most ambitious novel I’ve ever written. And I’m a pretty ambitious girl. It’s also my first adult novel in four years—which means I got to swear again! And make people shoot each other and hop into bed together! Oh, I’m just screamingly proud of it, my bouncing baby abomination. It’s a world that came into my head fully formed—cross a story about silent filmmakers with Golden Age SF pulp-style planets with huge Lovecraftian monsters and it just appeared, all squirmy with art deco tentacles and gin and black eyeliner. I wrote a short story called The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew in 2008. It took seven more years to become a good enough writer to get the rest of that world into a book. I just wasn’t good enough in 2008. I didn’t know how. It was too big for me. Here’s hoping I got big enough to do it right.

Full speed ahead.


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

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

Always and Never

Here’s a question I’ve been sitting on for a while before I answered, mostly because of travel and other commitments but also because I was waiting for a good time to answer it. It comes from Avdi Grimm, who writes:

A question for if you’re ever bored and out of anything else to blog about (hah):

I just wrote an update on our family’s ever-so-slow movement towards some semblance of economic security. It got me wondering: was there ever a point in your career where you felt like “OK, I think my family is safe now”? And if so – where/when was it?

I’ve written before about when I felt I had “made it,” which provides an answer close to this question, but not precisely on topic. That question was about my own personal feeling of security; this question is about the state of my entire family. And in thinking about it, I find the answer to it is more complicated than I would have originally assumed.

The first part of the answer is that to a great extent I always felt my family was economically “safe.” My own major personal economic crisis — when I was laid off from AOL and had to decide whether to try to find another regular job or go freelance — was in February/March of 1998, and Athena was born in December of that year (do the math there). By the time December rolled around I was doing very well as a freelancer and Krissy, who had been working part-time before I was laid off, was taken on full-time and was given full benefits, giving us a stable base on top of which my freelance income could ride. So our daughter emerged with us economically happy and comfortable.

By and large that situation has continued for us. With the exception of a couple of months right after we moved to Ohio, Krissy has never not worked and never not provided a stable base of income and benefits for the family, and I have never not done reasonably well in terms of income as a freelancer and author. We always made more than we needed to live on, which also allowed us to save and create a “cushion” in case something happened.

We’ve also been fortunate in other ways that indirectly but materially helped with our economic security. I’ve always been able to work from home. which means when Athena was very young I could be a caregiver to her while Krissy worked out of the home. Later, when I began to travel more, Krissy was able to get top-notch daycare from the local community college she took classes at for the eye-poppingly low rate of $2 an hour (the daycare was part of a child education program at the college). And of course where we live — rural Ohio — allows for a pretty good standard of living for an amount relatively low to other places in the US. It all adds up.

We were smart about things, and I also fully acknowledge we were lucky. I was and have continued to be lucky that I have been able to make a good living writing, both before I was a novelist and after that become my primary job description; not every writer I know has been fortunate as I have been. I have caught breaks in my life — which I then proceeded to exploit reasonably intelligently, to be clear, but that doesn’t change the fact that some things just plain fell in my lap. There were lots of opportunities for things to go poorly through no fault or effort of my own; they didn’t.

Likewise, we were fortunate not to have the world fall in on us at any point. Neither Krissy nor I ever got sick or required substantial care in a way that made it a focus of our lives; Athena’s been happy and healthy since she was born. Our house never burned down. We never got hit by a bus. We were never devoured by bears. We were, and are, lucky, and we used that luck to build the economic structures that will help to keep us “safe.”

So that’s the first part of the answer.

The second part of the answer is that I’m not entirely sure that I will ever feel my family is economically “safe” — that is, entirely insulated from economic pressures — because I don’t think that’s a realistic scenario. We’re by any standard pretty well off, but it’s also pretty easy for things to go to hell in a moment. I could get sick. Krissy could get sick. Athena could get sick. A member of our extended family could get sick. People could stop buying my books. The economy could crater so spectacularly that no one is spared, including me or my family. Things could otherwise go sideways in lots of different ways that I can think of off the top of my head which scare the crap out of me. And in nearly every case, the things that can strip me and my family of economic security are things over which we have little or no control over.

In that scenario, one is never “safe.” Really, almost no one is. What one has is “margin”: The amount of space, and time, and money, one has to maneuver one’s way out of a trainwreck of woe bearing down on you and the people you care about. Depending on the circumstance and scenario, the same amount of margin can be more than enough, or not nearly enough at all. If you’re not aware of that, you may not be paying attention.

Now, I realize that those last couple of paragraphs have gotten really dark, and it might seem that I’ve gone from regular friendly ol’ Scalzi to a guy who has barrels of beans and rainwater in his basement, along with a lovely assortment of ranged weapons for when the Takers come for all I hold dear, which will be soon. I assure you on a day-to-day basis I feel fine about my life, and I suspect things will generally turn out just fine for me and mine. We’ve worked hard for years to make it so. What I’m saying is that my optimism about the economic safety of my family is tempered by a worldview that recognizes that shit happens, whether you think you’ve prepared for it or not. I’m not waiting for the other shoe to fall, but if it does, I don’t want to be surprised by it. I want to be able to look at it, say “huh, that’s a hell of a big shoe somebody dropped,” and hopefully find a way to work around it.

So the answer to Avdi’s question of when I felt my family was economically safe, basically, is “always, and never.” In the moment, so far, it’s always been the case. Existentially, well, nothing’s safe, is it. I don’t think these are contradictory positions to hold. It’s not a case of looking at a glass and asking if you’d describe it as half-full or half-empty; it’s recognizing it’s both, simultaneously. It’s also saying “Cool, we have enough water today. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

The 1% of Problems

Today’s Thing About Rich People Appalling the Internet: “Wealth therapy tackles woes of the rich: ‘It’s really isolating to have lots of money,'” an article in the Guardian about therapists who help the rich deal with the apparent loneliness and isolation of having a shitload of money. Here’s one of the more choice quotes from the piece:

From the Bible to the Lannisters of Game of Thrones, it’s easy to argue that the rich have always been vilified, scorned and envied. But their counsellors argue things have only gotten worse since the financial crisis and the debate over income inequality that has been spurred on by movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Fight for $15 fair wage campaign.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement was a good one and had some important things to say about income inequality, but it singled out the 1% and painted them globally as something negative. It’s an -ism,” said Jamie Traeger-Muney, a wealth psychologist and founder of the Wealth Legacy Group. “I am not necessarily comparing it to what people of color have to go through, but … it really is making value judgment about a particular group of people as a whole.”

The media, she said, is partly to blame for making the rich “feel like they need to hide or feel ashamed”.

Oh, lordy, lordy, lordy.

So, point one: Rich people do indeed have problems, and while their problems are problems that most people would like to have, because those problems don’t generally involve lack of money, it doesn’t mean they are not genuine, actual problems that cause stress and unhappiness. I think money can indeed be isolating and strange, especially if you have money and those around you do not; money is inherently powerful and changes power dynamics and how people perceive you. I think rich people also probably need to be able to talk to other people without judgment about their particular and unique set of problems, just like anyone needs to. Otherwise their loneliness and alienation will get worse. It’s difficult for many people to imagine a ton of money being a curse, but if you don’t know how to deal with what money does to you and other people, sure, it can be a curse.

Point two, holy fuck does this article quote absolutely clueless people. “I am not necessarily comparing it to what people of color have to go through, but …” I mean, wow. This is the therapist-to-the-rich-people’s version of “I’m not saying it’s aliens… but it’s aliens,” especially since later in the article she directly makes a comparison by encouraging people to replace the word “rich” with “black” to see the problem with how she says people speak of the rich.

Here’s a handy pro tip for you: When describing the problems of the rich — who are, statistically speaking here in the US, a very white cohort; the 2010 Census has 96% of the 1% households being white — do not bring up in comparison, even to say that you’re not necessarily comparing them, the problems of people of color. Here’s what some of the problems of people of color are, wealth-wise:

The Great Recession, fueled by the crises in the housing and financial markets, was universally hard on the net worth of American families. But even as the economic recovery has begun to mend asset prices, not all households have benefited alike, and wealth inequality has widened along racial and ethnic lines.

The wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Likewise, the wealth of white households is now more than 10 times the wealth of Hispanic households, compared with nine times the wealth in 2010.

So, yeah. This on top of every single other thing that people of color in the US have to deal with. One of the reasons the “replace ‘rich’ with ‘black'” formulation rings hollow is because no one who is not utterly delusional believes the average experience of a black person in the US and the average experience of a rich person in the US is anything alike, either in the day-to-day experience or in the power dynamic between those expressing the opinions and those on the receiving end.

Again, I’m sympathetic to the idea that the rich have their problems; everyone does. But I suspect that Ms. Traeger-Muney, whether she wants to own up to it or not, was trying in a sad and clumsy way to appropriate the dynamic of racial inequity to describe the absolutely entirely different dynamic of rich people problems, even while denying she was doing it. If you’re not necessarily comparing them, then don’t bring it up at all — it compromises your argument and makes you part of the problem. You help neither people of color nor the 1% by this formulation.

Point three: The media is making “the rich feel like they need to hide or be ashamed”? Really? Huh. She’s seeing different media than I’m seeing, at the very least. If you’re a horrid little shitlord like Martin Shkreli, who appears so cartoonish as a human being it’s amazing that he hasn’t actually been photographed diving into a pool of money, a la Scrooge McDuck, then yes, you may feel the media is trying to make you feel ashamed. But it’s not because Shkreli is rich. It’s because he appears by all indications to be a genuinely terrible person, and he appears enabled by money (and his control of it) to be a genuinely terrible person in ways that affect innocent others.

Indeed that’s the hallmark of what rich appear to be castigated in the media: they’re doing terrible or clueless things, often to other people, and use their money to further those ends, or use the money to insulate themselves from the consequences. Even the fictional very rich noted in article are like that. People don’t dislike the Lannisters in Game of Thrones because they’re rich. They dislike them because they’re a family of sadistic schemers who will absolutely cut off your head or have you gored by boars or whatever if you get in their joyless, unhappy way. The single good thing about the Lannisters is that they’re rich; they famously always pay their debts. It’s everything else about them that’s the problem.

So, yes. If you’re very rich and you’re acting like an asshole — using your money to rise prices on parasite-treating drugs or blocking access to a public beach near your house or trying to buy an election or shutting off electricity to grandmothers during a heatwave to make money on the margins or cutting off the head of the Hand of the King even though you agreed to spare him and let him take the black — people are going to not like you very much. People tend not to like assholes. This should not be a surprise.

More generally, the rich also have the circumstance of getting manifestly richer in an era in the US and the Western world in which literally everyone else is seeing their real incomes drop, sometimes by negligible amounts (in the upper heights of the middle class) and by more noticeable amounts the further down you go. Should this make the rich anxious? Probably, because if they’re decent human beings they will recognize the increasing inequity of wealth is no good for anyone in the long run, because it’s already giving rise to systematic problems that will take generations to correct. Should they be fearful? You know what, if the heads of the rich are not already on spikes after 2008, it seems unlikely they ever will be, so I’m gonna go with “no.”

In my observation of things, neither people nor the media seem to dislike people either becoming or being rich. I can speak to this a little bit personally: after my deal was announced earlier this year, I’d say 99% of the response to it, in the media and out of it, was “cool, well done” (1% was the usual people who dislike me continuing to dislike me, and, you know: HA HA HA sucks to be them). I know people who are worth substantially more than I am; there doesn’t seem to be a reflexive dislike of them, either. If anything, the media and people in general are tuned to like and admire wealth and those who have it. It’s that particularly American version of the Protestant Work Ethic which says that in the US there are two types of people: The rich and those who aren’t rich yet. You have to work hard (no pun intended) to make people dislike you when you are rich. It’s much easier — again, speaking from experience — for people to dislike you because you are poor.

So, yeah, no: I’m not inclined to believe the media is particularly hard on the rich.

Yet again, this is not say the rich don’t have problems, including alienation, loneliness and anxiousness. I’m sure many do, and I’m also sure that for many rich people having their wealth be their initial outwardly defining characteristic is not a happy one. It’s okay to have some sympathy for the rich. But it’s also okay to recognize that the problems of the rich are their own set of problems, often unlike the problems that most people have or, honestly, will ever have. They are the 1% of problems.

A Tale of Two Tablets

I’m doing some work on a project that requires iOS, and my ipad 3 is now sufficiently out of date, processor-wise, that it makes no sense to use it for the project (and anyway, the home button stopped working, too), so I went and ordered an iPad Mini 4, which arrived about a week ago. I’ve been playing with it ever since, and now of course I have some thoughts about it and about tablets and brands and so on and so forth.

The first thing about it is that the iPad Mini confirms again for me something I already knew, which is that I prefer my tablets smaller than “full-sized,” i.e., the size of the standard iPad and other 10-inch tablets. The mini has a 7.9 inch screen and is roughly “paperback”-sized in the same way my Nexus 7 (appearing alongside it in the picture above) is. It’s easy to hold and work with one hand in the way standard-sized or larger tablets aren’t; I generally find standard-sized tablets unwieldy to hold and work on.

For me, at least, the 7-to-8 inch tablets make sense as the intermediary computing device between a smartphone and a laptop, where 10-inch tablets pretty much always just felt like hobbled laptops. I realize other people like 10-inchers just fine. I suspect they have larger hands than I do. That said, as a matter of proportion, on a smaller tablet, I think I prefer the 16:10 ratio of the Nexus 7 to the 4:3 ratio of the Mini; it’s slightly more comfortable to hold in a single hand. Again, this may be an issue of tiny hands on my part. But either way, when it comes to tablets, smaller is better.

The second thing about it is that it confirms another thing that I already knew, which is that Apple makes pretty, pretty objects that make you look cooler just for being near them. I don’t know what terrifying deal Jony Ive made with the devil, but it’s working, because in taking the Mini out of the box, I just about petted the thing and called it My Precious. You (or at least I) want to use Apple products in a sort of compulsive way that doesn’t apply to other manufacturers, and when there’s a problem, you (or at least I) feel like you’re letting the computing object down, rather than the other way around. It’s a little like dating someone who is vastly more attractive than you; you fumble about and try not to give it an excuse to leave you for (depending on your tastes) someone like Channing Tatum or Rosario Dawson.

Compare, once again, to my Nexus 7, about which I definitely do not feel the same way. I really really like my Nexus 7. It’s my pal, my buddy, my friend. It’s perfect-sized for me and super-capable. It does everything I want a tablet to do. But it doesn’t make me feel cooler, or alternately, insecure/incompetent when something on it doesn’t work the way I want it do. It’s just… my pal the Nexus 7. I put it down, it doesn’t call to me to pick it back up. I put the iPad Mini down, and, I don’t know, I feel… reproach? Emanating from the general direction of the iPad Mini? Kind of feels like it.

Yes, yes, I’m overthinking it. That’s what I do. Nevertheless, I pick up the Nexus 7 and it feels like, dude, you wanna get on the Internet? Me too! Let’s go look at things on the Internet! Come on! Whereas I pick up the Mini and it’s all you may not actually deserve me, but I’ll make you look good scrolling through Facebook. And then it does. Curse you, Jony Ives.

My iPad Mini, while lovely and supremely capable, also points out yet another thing that I already knew, which is that with the exception of a few bits here and there, it follows the Apple trend of being slightly behind the times, spec-wise. The machine runs an 1.5GHz multi-core processor with 2GB of RAM, separate GPU and a nice bright LCD screen with a ppi of 320+ — which is to say, pretty much the same specs as the Nexus 7, which was released in 2013. Spec nerds will now descend on me to point out the various difference between the chips Apple uses and the chips Asus used to make the Nexus 7, and so on and so forth, but from a practical point of view, i.e., how people use these machines, these two tablets are in the same ballpark when it comes to their guts.

Likewise, iOS 9 is a very fine operating system, but in a number of ways it lags behind Android (which itself just came out with a new iteration, although I have not played with it yet). iOS’s notification system and handling of apps is less capable than Android’s, in my opinion; likewise Siri isn’t as good at her job than Google is, when it comes to understanding my voice or understanding what information I want. Android has onscreen keyboards that have numbers and most punctuation available via long-presses; Apple’s native onscreen keyboard is still kind of terrible for actual communication. And so on.

This doesn’t mean the Nexus 7 is better than the Mini 4, or Google better than Apple; the experience of the tablet isn’t just about the guts of the machine or how the software does what it does. It does mean that Apple, for its own reasons, isn’t interested in playing the spec game, in terms of hardware or software, on anyone else’s terms but its own. I think it sees its primary competition as being previous Apple products, not current products from any other manufacturer. And if so, you know what? They’re probably right. At this point in the tech manufacturing world, most people wittingly or unwittingly chose their mobile OS allegiance three or four cellphones ago. If you go from Android to iOS, there’s enough of a difference to be exasperating; likewise the other direction (I know, Microsoft. I’m leaving you out of this particular conversation. But look, you’ve got, like, 3% of the US market. Sorry).

Also, Apple is more interested in the best experience of everything than the first experience of anything. It’s not the guy hacking through the jungle with a machete to make a path; it’s the guy coming through laying down an asphalt road and setting up a rest station with a Starbucks inside. Mind you, the “best” experience is a subjective thing; in this case it’s defined as “Whatever the design folks at Apple decide it is.” But they have a pretty good track record, and they’re willing to wait to let other people make all the mistakes, because that means they’re on someone else’s time and budget.

They’re not wrong to do it that way. I remember having a Creative MP3 player (this one, in fact), and being underwhelmed when people started losing their brains about the first generation iPod. And then I saw one in the flesh and started playing with it, and oh my God it was soooo much better. My Zen Nomad had better specs and more memory and Creative EAX sound processing, which really did make crappy low-bit MP3s sound better. But the iPod just worked, in terms of finding and playing music. It’s why Apple sold millions and millions, and Creative became a “me too” in a field they were one of the first to be in.

So, in sum: iPad Mini 4 is very pretty and capable and makes me feel like I need to stand up straighter, wear better shirts and brush my teeth more often to be worthy of it. Nexus 7 is friendly and capable and if it were a person I would probably hang out with it and trade sarcastic zingers. And there you have it, the fundamental difference between these two tablet experiences, at least as I approach them.

New Books and ARCs, 10/16/15

A double stack this week, for your pleasure (if for some reason you’re finding it hard to read the titles, here’s a bigger picture). What looks like a nifty read to you? Tell me in the comments!

Soda Madness

You may ask: Now that I have a little bit of spare cash lying around, what do I choose to spend it on? The answer: Obscure soda brands! Note the collection of soft drinks above, which I found at the local Rural King store. I may have squeed a little when I saw them on the shelf. I’m not sure I’m going to like them all — I’m not going to lie, I’m a little skeptical of the banana soda — but I’m going to try them all, just to see what they’re like. I don’t drink alcohol, so this is the closest I suspect I will come to a bender. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

I and Ana Marie Cox Geek Out About Politics and Science Fiction

Ana Marie Cox is a well-known political wonk type of person (heck, she was the Wonkette, back in the day), but she’s also a fan of science fiction, and also, as it happens, a fellow alum on the University of Chicago, where our tenures overlapped by a year or so. When I was in Minneapolis this last weekend, I sat down with her to talk about science fiction, politics and all the way those two topics combine for The Brouhaha, her new podcast.

We had a grand time, and our conversation is now available in two flavors: One, as part of the official Brouhaha podcast, in which I appear along with Rebecca Traister and Hayes Brown (who have separate interview sessions); and two, as a “mini-podcast,” which is just me and Ana talking on the subject for almost exactly an hour. Pick which one you like! Or listen to both! It’s all good.

Here’s the link to The Brouhaha Podcast page. My interviews are in the October 9th, 2015 heading (for those of you who see this later than this particular week). If you prefer your podcasts through iTunes, here’s a link for that. In either case, if you enjoy the podcast, subscribe to it. That would make me, and Ana, happy.

We’re Installing Trees!

As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago we had to take down a bunch of ash trees in the front of our property because they had been attacked by the emerald ash borer. It was sad for all of us, most especially the trees. Once they were down, however, we didn’t want to just leave the front of the property bare; trees are esthetically pleasing. So, today, we’re having new trees installed: Four maples to replace the ash trees. The maples are pretty hardy and (for the moment at least) have no predators like ash borers, and of course they’re very pretty in the fall. They seem like a good choice. We’re having the tree people install them for us right now; I can hear the beeping of heavy machinery backing up as I type this. When they’re finally installed I’ll go out and update.

And Now, From the 1994 Version of the World Wide Web: A Free Form Essay

As old people do, I was just reminiscing about the very early days of Web, on account of this Atlantic article about the impermanence of the Web, which among other things presented this tidbit of fact:

In 1994, there were fewer than 3,000 websites online. By 2014, there were more than 1 billion.

Which floored me because I had a personal Web site back in 1994, which meant that I was at the time literally a measurable percentage of the whole damn Web. That’s amazing.

(I mean, technically, I’m still a measurable percentage. But you get what I’m saying.)

That particular Web site of mine no longer exists; it was a hand-rolled site on a local ISP in Fresno that was bought out and lost to the mists of time not too long after I left that town in 1996. But trolling through my files I was able to find one piece of it: A “free-form essay” based on questions that I originally found either on Prodigy or the USENET, and then put up as its own Web page. Being 25 and fancying myself a clever lad, I made snarky responses to each question. Oh, I was a card back in the day!

Anyway: Here! Unearthed from the crypt! 25 year old me! In 1994! Being…. “funny”!



Free Form Essay

Something to tell you a little bit about….me

1. Describe your physical appearance and attractive attributes… 
I have these rough, horny pads on my back, which I use mostly to buff fine old wood. I feel that this distinctive quality is of great use to me when I visit people’s homes, especially if they have nice cherry banisters.

2. Briefly describe your personality… 
Dark, introspective, moody…Soren Kierkegaard once told me to lighten up. I hit him. He cried, and then broke up with his fiancee. Wimp.

3. If you could change anything about yourself what would it be? 
I’d sure like to get rid of this extra pair of thumbs I have. Seeing as they jut out from the back of my knees, they’re frankly of no utilitarian use at all.

4. What kind of person would you most like to meet? I’d most like to meet someone tall. Like, 8 feet or so. “Hey!” I’d say. “I bet we all look like ants from up there!” Or, maybe, “Hey! There’s cloud forming around your neck!” Then we would laugh, and we’d go have tea.

5. What’s the perfect first date? 
The perfect first date is plump, sweet, certainly fresh from the tree, and promising of other dates to be consumed. Personally, I enjoy my dates with a just a dab of jam or cream cheese. But hey, that’s just me.

6. What do you expect or hope for on a first date? 
I just don’t want to be hit. Usually when I go out I wear a full complement of goalie pads. This isn’t so bad, except when Gretzky scores off of me in the final minutes of the third period. Man. I hate that.

7. Who do you think should pay for a date? 
Whoever can’t get one any other way, I suppose.

8. Do you have a quiet place to take your date afterwards? 
Well, there’s the cellar right behind the house. Go on in. There’s a light just as you come around that bend. No, I don’t smell anything funny. No, after YOU.

9. Do you prefer large, small, or intimate parties? 
Intimate, just me and my multiple personalities. You’ve never played Twister until 13 different people are using the same body!

10. A long term best friend would have to be… 
Damp. Otherwise they crack. Believe me, I know.

11. Favorite actors/actresses, movies, and tv shows… 
How about that Rod Steiger! If he’s in a film, you know it’s a classic!

12. The groups and music you like most… 
I’m sort of into an atonal thing right now. In fact, I just got this great album: “An Atonal Christmas,” featuring Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Aaron Neville on harmony, of course.

13. What sports do you enjoy participating in and watching? 
Hot oil Parcheesi, Spam hockey, congressional hearings.

14. Any other interests or hobbies? Unusual activities? 
I have a large collection of pre-Columbian remote control units. They don’t call them “clickers” for nothing!

15. What kind of magazines and books do you read? 
Dixie!: The Jesse Helms Quarterly 
Squirmy: The magazine for earthworm enthusiasts 
And Discover magazine, for the swimsuit issue.

16. The most exciting or death-defying thing I’ve ever done is… 
Tell my mother I slept with her Pomeranian. She’s very possessive.

17. The most exciting or death-defying thing I’d like to do is… 
That Pomeranian is still out there, you know. Not that it ever returns my calls. 

18. Do you like to travel? If so, where have you been or would like to go? 
No! I like it here in my room! Don’t come in!

19. What kind of work do you do, and do you enjoy it? 
I’m a repo man for a select clientele of numismatic firms. It doesn’t sound very exciting, just to hear about it, but, let me tell you, when you’re hauling ass down the 405, narrowly avoiding the hot lead being blasted at you by a Latvian crazed by the sudden loss of his ill-gotten 1954 Ben Franklin half-dollar coin, only then do you experience adrenaline rush you can get nowhere else!!!

20. Do you have children, roomies, or someone who depends on you? 
I am a foster parent to the entire town of Delano, just north of Bakersfield. Oh, you should see how the faces of the townspeople light up as I stroll through town, distributing sponges and Pez to all the needy children and dentists. Some people say it’s too much for just one man to do, but so long as there is Pez, I will be there.

21. Are you considered comedic, serious, average, boring or psychotic? 
I think when most people consider me, they consider me as I’d want to be considered; as a roiling mass of chemicals. “Now, there’s a fine specimen of Potassium!” They would say. And they’d be right.

22. Anything else you’d like to say about yourself? 
Just one reminder: Bus fumes are NOT as tasty as they look. Really.

My Thoughts on Nerdcon:Stories

I attended Nerdcon:Stories as a featured guest this last weekend, and let me tell you why I think it was one of the best conventions I’ve been to in a while.

1. It was shockingly well-run, especially for a first-time convention. From my point of view as a guest, everything went off almost without a hitch, and when I did have a hitch (my family’s badges went missing), it was resolved in roughly a minute and a half, without any sort of fuss. The backstage areas were tightly and professionally run, Nerdcon staff were on top of things to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be, and the guests were provided places, during convention hours and outside of them, to relax and hang out with each other. It ran more smoothly than nearly any other convention I’ve been to, much less a first-time convention, in which it was understood this was the “shake-out” cruise, as it were, to see where the problems were for next time.

I suspect that one reason it ran so smoothly was that while it was a first-time convention, the people running it were not first-timers; it was Hank Green and his crew from VidCon. VidCon’s been around for five years now and the 2015 iteration of it had 20,000 attendees, so Nerdcon’s 3,000 (or so) attendees probably were not a huge challenge to manage relative to that. I expect Hank’s team grafted some of their best practices at VidCon onto Nerdcon, and tweaked from there as the show went along.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, a first-time convention is a first-time convention. There are things you don’t know that can go wrong simply because they’ve never happened before. You’re flying blind, basically. The Nerdcon staff handled it all very very well. As someone who’s been in the chain of command for running a convention, I was impressed.

2. It wasn’t too big. 3,000 is a healthy size for a convention — ask most science fiction conventions if they’d like to have 3,000 attendees — but what I mean by “big” here is that Nerdcon didn’t try to do every single possible thing the first time out of the gate. The convention had “main stage” track of events, three auditoriums to run panels out of, and a signing room. By and large the “main stage” programming didn’t cut into the panels and signings, and vice versa. There was enough to do, but it didn’t feel overwhelming, or that some guests (and fans) had been flung off into some far province of the convention. Also, from the guest point of view, it also meant that everything you participated in was well-attended, which is a nice thing, too, for various reasons.

3. The featured guest list was well-curated, diverse and multidisciplinary. The emphasis for the convention was on storytelling (as evidenced by the convention’s full title, “Nerdcon:Stories”), but the convention took a small “c” catholic approach to what “storytelling” was, which meant that among the featured guests there were writers and pod-and-vid-casters and musicians and performers and playwrights and others, and all sorts of combinations of the above. The convention also made the point to reflect the diversity of creativity in terms of who creates as well, very easily giving lie to the idea that it’s somehow difficult to find enough amazingly talented people from diverse backgrounds to fill a convention’s featured guest roster.

In short, Nerdcon’s guest list wasn’t just “the usual suspects,” however you imagine that phrase to function. This was great for the convention, but it was also good for the guests, including me. I can guarantee you that a very large chunk of the Nerdcon audience had no idea who I was before the convention. Now they know me, if nothing else, as “the guy who got killed on stage during the puppet show.”

4. None of the featured guests were jerks. The guest list was also well-curated in that everyone involved, as far as I can see, was really into the idea that we were all storytellers, and that we were happy to cross the streams to engage and perform with each other, not just on panels but in other events as well. None of the featured guests — again, as far as I could tell — fell into hierarchical panic mode, trying to figure out who was the most famous or talented person in the room, and if someone did, they were probably defeated in the attempt by the fact that since so many of the guests were from different creative fields than they, any stab at a ranking would fail.

Which is good! Screw hierarchy! Better — and more fun for everyone, guests and attendees alike — if everyone on the stage just plain trusted their colleagues up there with them to be interesting and smart and talented. It seemed to work. This is was a refreshingly ego-free (or at the very least, ego-reduced) convention. I liked it. And I liked what came out of it: A chance to get up on a stage with other really talented, very smart people and put on a show for a willing audience. Which leads to the next point:

5. The convention placed an emphasis on keeping the crowd entertained. Small fan-run conventions are often more about the fans running (and attending) the conventions than the people invited as guests; large, comic-con-sized conventions are often more about being a marketplace of toys and art and autographs. This isn’t a complaint in either case — I enjoy cons large and small for the reasons mentioned above — but as a guest and in a very real sense a performer, I liked that Nerdcon was about putting on a storytelling show for an audience that had come to see that very thing.

I especially liked the “Main Stage” chunks of the convention, which featured a number of fast moving bits (rapid fire Q&A, three-song-concerts, mock debates, etc) that gave the convention an almost vaudeville feel, as in, “bored with this bit? Wait a few minutes.” That combined with the performers’ general willingness to dive in and just plain entertain meant that even if something flopped (and very little seemed to do that) it wasn’t because those of us up on stage didn’t make an effort.

(On the flip side, it helped that Nerdcon was also a very forgiving audience — they wanted to be entertained, and seemed delighted that we were willing to oblige. Thanks, folks!)

6. It didn’t go on too long. The convention was two days and done: Friday and Saturday and that was all she wrote. Enough time for everyone to have fun, not so long that one got that “hangover” feeling on the last day of the convention (“why are we all even still here?”). This is not to say two days is somehow the optimal length for a convention, merely that it seemed to be the optimal length for this one.

Having praised Nerdcon:Stories highly, let me now note I’m not saying that every convention should be like Nerdcon; they shouldn’t. Nerdcon feels to me like a very specific species of a larger genus of “convention.” It’s not a small science fiction convention or a comic-con-sized media convention, and it’s not like a book fair or trade show. It’s a specific, tuned event: a cross-disciplinary, performance-based convention. In a very real sense there’s not much out there that’s like it — the closest thing I can actually think of to it is the JoCo Cruise, in point of fact, although there are a whole lot of differences there as well.

I think that a lot of what Nerdcon has done could be applicable to other cons (for example, how they ran their signing room, which featured a sitting area for people waiting for autographs, which was brilliant and makes me wonder why it was the first time I’ve seen that outside of a bookstore event, where people were already sitting before the signing), but I don’t know that the gestalt of Nerdcon is transferable. It may be its own thing.

Or, it may be the start of another type of thing: of cross-disciplinary, diverse, performance-centered conventions like Nerdcon. Which I certainly wouldn’t mind — if they were done as well as Nerdcon managed this time.

All of which is to say: Nerdcon:Stories was a blast. I’m glad I was part of it, and glad I got to meet really excellent people, on its stage and off of it. I want to come back and do it again.

John Scalzi was the last to arrive so he had to make a grand entrance. Well done, sir. #nerdconstories

A photo posted by Genevieve (@gen719) on

John Scalzi and @maureenjohnsonbooks at @nerdconstories .

A photo posted by Genevieve (@gen719) on

The great flying Scalzi at @nerdconstories .

A photo posted by Genevieve (@gen719) on

The Big Idea: David Barnett

In today’s Big Idea for Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper, author David Barnett admits to some of the things he doesn’t know… or didn’t, until he started writing this book.


One of the first things you get told as a writer is “write what you know”.

Which is a fine idea, out of which you will probably get precisely one book.

First novels are wonderful things, into which we pour everything, all our heartbreak and joy and love and hate and intimate knowledge of the internal combustion engine and the 1969 Football Association Challenge Cup Final.

They can be a cathartic experience. Sometimes they can actually be good novels. And on occasion, they can actually be published. But they’re a necessary step on the road to becoming a novelist, and once they’re done they free up the writer to do the stuff that’s really fun about writing books, and which no-one really tells you about.

I’m talking about writing what you don’t know.

The third book in my Gideon Smith series of alternate-history Victorian fantasies (oh, go on, then, call it steampunk if you want to – I’m feeling in expansive mood) is published today, via Tor in the US and Snowbooks in the UK. It’s called Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper and it’s absolutely stuffed to the gunwales with things I don’t know – or at least, I didn’t know before I started writing it.

If there’s one big idea in Mask of the Ripper, I suppose it would be identity, and whether we really are what we think ourselves to be and what other people tell us we should or shouldn’t be. This is explored in various ways – the (nominal) protagonist Gideon is stripped of his memory and set adrift in a riot-torn London of Christmas 1890; a major character is charged with murder and their identity which we have come to accept is revealed to be a carefully constructed fiction. Then there is Maria, the mechanical girl introduced in the first book, who is seeking some answers concerning her own place in the world.

But dancing around the big idea are lots and lots of little ideas, and these zephyrs which keep the main theme aloft are largely composed of things of which I knew nothing before writing the book, or at least knew very little.

It can be quite exciting. It’s pointing your airship at the bit of the map marked terra incognita, here be dragons, do not cross. It’s stretching your writerly muscles, rather than just chucking in the same old same old.

Thus, for Mask of the Ripper, I found myself learning all about the early days of research into DNA. It was quite important for me that the trial of the character on a murder charge featured this timeline’s first usage in criminal proceedings of DNA evidence. Only problem was, 1890 was a little early for this in reality.

So I had to find out when it all happened, fit it into my own alternate-history, and spend long hours chewing over often impenetrable essays so I could work out whether or not I could have what I wanted: a device or machine that would allow DNA samples to be tested in front of a Crown Court jury with rather dramatic results.

(The scientists among you will be throwing up their hands in horror; relax. This is fantasy. I got all of the science together, gave it a bit of a stir, then made some stuff up. It happens).

For another character, I needed some motivation that would put him in London’s sewers with a team of Thuggee assassins. I came up with the Great Famine of 1876-78 in India. The sub-continent at that time was, of course, under the control of the British Empire, both in reality and in Gideon Smith’s world. The British were building a great canal, a show of strength, a Victorian architectural and engineering marvel – but ultimately a folly. Hundreds of thousands of Indians died in the famine, and the British made it worse by putting them to work on the canal that would ultimately carry their rice and grain away from the starving masses and on to British dinner tables. So, yeah, motivation there.

And finally, I had Gloria Monday. Gloria is just a supporting character in the book, and I wish I could have made more of her. Gloria is a trans woman, another concept I had to bend to my steampunk will to make it fit into my timeline. I’m indebted to Cheryl Morgan, a writer an publisher who looked at my Gloria chapters and deemed them to be, if not wonderful, at least not as offensive as they could be.

Because as a white dude from the north of England, the chances are I’m going to have screwed that one up substantially. And fear of that almost made me not write Gloria.

But… write what you don’t know.

Why? Well, a writer who repeatedly dashes off novels that require no research or stretching of imagination and knowledge would, eventually, be doing their readers a disservice, I think.

Certainly, I would. If I wrote only what I know, or was comfortable with writing, it would make for very boring books in the long run, safe books, books that take no chances.

There’s always a risk with taking chances that you will offend, upset, just plain get it all wrong wrong wrong and piss everyone off.

Or you may get it completely right and be the toast of book-land.

Or, which is more likely, you may get it both right and wrong, but with a bit of a tailwind you might get it more right than wrong, have learned something in the process, and planted your flag in a tiny little bit of terra incognita… at least for you.


Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s|Amazon UK

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