That Tor Library eBook Lending Thing

Last week Tor Books announced that it would start windowing ebooks for libraries, which means that new ebook titles from Tor would now be available to libraries four months after their commercial release. So as an example, a book that’s released in August would be available to libraries in ebook form in November (print versions of the book will continue to be available on the official release date). Tor/Macmillan initially stated they’d seen some impact on retail sales because of ebook library lending, and is now participating in a study to dig deeper into the issue. Here’s a full writeup on this from Publishers Weekly, if you are interested in more details.

As I am a high-profile Tor author, people have been emailing me to ask what I think about the policy and/or to complain about it. I’ve been traveling for the last few days and doing events so I haven’t been able to dedicate any real brain cycles to it until last night, when I got home for good. Now that I have looked it over, I will tell you what I think, but I ask you to read completely to the end, as I will attempt nuance, and we all know how that goes.

My personal, first-blush reaction was that I’m not in love with this new strategy. I know my own personal sales, ebook and otherwise, and they’re perfectly healthy. Likewise as a supporter of libraries in general I like to see my work available to them, and to their patrons, in every format, on release day.

With that said, here are things to consider:

1. I am a bestselling author whose sales profile, length of contract and contractual compensation (both in amount and in scheduling) insulates me significantly from a lot of the immediate, first week/month sales pressures that most authors face these days. What works or is fine for me might not be what works or is fine for a new author who is trying to break into the field, or a mid-list author who needs to hit specific sales numbers to get that next book contract.

2. Tor says that it is noting a general impact on ebook sales because of library lending (its initial statement was more adamant about it, it appears, than some followups). I haven’t seen anyone’s sales numbers but mine, but I do know Tor’s data game is pretty strong — we use it to maximize my own sales and we’ve done a pretty good job there. Its data-mining history has some credibility for me.

3. Tor has not been a troglodyte either in how it proceeds with ebook tech (remember that it was one of the first major publishers to offer ebooks DRM-free) or in sales/marketing. It’s taken risks and done things other publishers didn’t/wouldn’t do, sometimes just to see what would happen. I have my own example of this: Tor’s ebook-first serialization publication of The Human Division and The End of All Things helped provide Tor with much of the data it used to build its successful Tor.com novella line.

So with all that noted, let’s go back to my first blush statement. I don’t think having day-and-date ebook library lending has had a detrimental effect on my own sales situation. I’m also aware I’m not in the same situation as most authors with regard to sales and attention. Tor has a financial and fiduciary duty to sell books, for itself and for its authors. If Tor wants to try a pilot program to window ebook library lending to find out what impact it has on its sales in general, as much as I don’t think it makes sense for me or my books, I also recognize I don’t see all the data Tor sees across its entire line. I’m also willing to believe, based on previous experience, that Tor is neither stupid, excessively greedy, nor unwilling to make changes if the data tells it something different than what it expects.

So: okay. Try it and see what happens. Then use that information moving forward.

In the meantime, things to remember: First, the print versions of books will still be available to libraries on release day, i.e., your library can still have the book(s) available when they come out. Let your library know you’re interested in the books so they can order print copies. Second, if you exclusively get ebooks from your library, waiting sucks but while you waiting there are lots of other books and authors to fill that interim. Read widely! Try new stuff! That time does not have to pass idly, I assure you. Third, whatever you think of this new tactic, remember at the bottom of this is a publisher trying different things so the authors whose work you love get compensated (and the publisher too, let’s be clear). Sales do matter for whether you get more books from an author, and whether an author gets paid enough for the books to write more of them.

Finally, a small plea: I get that people complain to me about Tor policies and practices, since I put myself out there and am accessible and I am basically a franchise player for my publisher. That’s totally fair, and I’m happy to be that; I’ve passed along the complaints and kvetches you’ve sent to me, and I’ve also shared my own thoughts on the matter. But if you’re contacting other Tor authors about this, please please please be kind to them. They didn’t have any say about this pilot program, can’t do much to change it at this point, and might feel they can’t respond for whatever reason. Not everyone feels, shall we say, as insulated from consequence when they open their mouth as I do, and making authors feel neurotic about things over which they have no control is not going to do them or you much good. Practice empathy, please.

Or, even better, let Tor and Macmillan know directly what you think. They’ve set up an email for you to do just that: elending.feedback@macmillan.com. That’s going to be so much more effective than making some poor author twitchy. Please tell Tor and Macmillian what you think! Straight to the source! Thanks.

Travel Itinerary Plus Photos

Hello, everyone! I’m here today to tell y’all about my upcoming travel schedule. On Tuesday, I leave for New York City, where I will be staying with my wonderful friends, Meg and Will. New York City is such an awesome place and I’m so happy to be going for the third year in a row. My last two visits there were so amazing, from doing tourist-y stuff to kayaking at a lake house, I had a seriously awesome time and cannot to go again.

I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures when I was there the past two times, but here’s a couple I really like.

Here’s a view of Manhattan from the Flatiron:

Freedom Tower:

Skyline across the water:

And here’s me and Meg splashing around in a waterfall!

So, after New York, I’ll be back home for a couple of days before I leave to visit my family in California. We went to Tahoe for Easter, and I visited them in January, so even though I’ve already seen them twice this year I just love them so much that I’m willing to make the five hour flight to Cali to see them yet again.

While I’m traveling I’ll be sure to post all about my adventures. This time, I’ll be sure to take a few more photos than I did the last couple times. Have any of you been to New York before? Or maybe you live there? What’s the best place to eat? What’s the most fun thing to do? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

News Books and ARCs, 7/20/18

Another week of summer passed, another summer weekend on tap, and a perfect time to catch up to these new books and ARCs that have arrived at Scalzi Compound. Anything in this stack that you’d enjoy reading on a warm summer night? Let us know in the comments!

View From a Hotel Window, 7/20/18: Cleveland

And what exactly am I doing in Cleveland? I have a private speaking engagement! Which, uh, means you can’t come unless you’re part of the organization I’m doing the speaking engagement for. Sorry, Cleveland. Know my love for you exists anyway.

Hope you’re having an excellent Friday regardless.

Learn More About Me: My Favorite Anime

One thing about me you should know is that I love anime. If you’ve seen any of my “What You Should Be Watching” posts, you’ll know that I love cartoons, too. Anything animated! Artists are amazing! But that’s a separate thing entirely.

So today I’m going to tell you about my all-time favorite anime, Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji). It was the first anime I ever watched, when I was twelve, and only because my friend recommended it so highly that I couldn’t resist. Also, it was on Netflix at the time so I didn’t really have an excuse not to watch it. I’ll admit, I was skeptical. I had never watched anime before, not even Dragon Ball Z or Yu-Gi-Oh! when I was growing up.

Despite my skepticism, I watched it. And I absolutely loved it. My twelve year old mind was blown. It was like a cartoon, but so much darker and violent. A little bit about Black Butler, it’s about a thirteen year old noble boy named Ciel Phantomhive in late 1800s England whose parents were murdered, so he forms a contract with a demon in order to get revenge on the people responsible. The demon poses as Ciel’s butler and together they solve mysteries, bust illegal drug gangs, find Jack the Ripper, etc., all while Ciel runs the company his parents left him in charge of and tries to maintain his appearance as a normal noble.

Black Butler is one of those “mainstream” anime, the kind that has merch in Hot Topic and F.Y.E, and you’re guaranteed to see at least a dozen Ciel cosplayers at any anime convention. Like I said, it was on Netflix at some point, so you know it’s pretty popular. Not only is the show popular, but the manga has sold around 25 million copies.

It has so many awesome elements to it. It’s action-packed, mostly because Ciel orders his demon to massacre the bad guys, but there’s more to it than just pure violence. Although, to be fair, it is pretty dark. I mean the whole premise is that a child who has lost everything sells his soul just to avenge his parents. The only person in his life who protects him and takes care of him is eventually going to devour his soul. So, yeah, it gets heavy sometimes, but it’s also really funny at times! The characters each have their own unique personalities, you’re sure to have a definite favorite. Another great thing about it being so popular is that the English dub actually has really good voice acting, and the demon, Sebastian, is played by one of my favorite voice actors, J. Michael Tatum.

One of the best things about Black Butler is the art. Though, this can’t really be applied to the first two seasons. The art is truly extraordinary in season three and the two following films, but the first two seasons are just average. I’m sure this is due to animation budget, as the show made more and more money after it got popular and whatnot. But the difference really is stunning.

I think my favorite part, though, without a doubt, is Sebastian. The greatest anime demon of all time. I just want to a take a moment to appreciate all of THIS:

 

Anyways, one thing you should know about Black Butler is that even though it’s my favorite anime, it has a ton of flaws. Like the second season. The ENTIRE second season. It’s terrible, and I hate it. Basically, they stopped following the manga and did something completely different for the second season, and then when the third season came out, it was back to following the manga and acted like the second season never happened. So, yeah, season two is basically not canon and like, never happened. There’s also a lot of episodes in season one that are different from the manga, and the second half of season one is basically as nonexistent as season two, canonically speaking. So, if you’re going to watch Black Butler, I recommend to stop watching season one after episode 15, and then immediately go to season three. However, if you want to stick strictly to how the manga goes, then you should watch episodes 1-6, and 13-15, and then onto season three.

I know that’s like, really confusing, but if you watch past episode 15 or any of season two, you will more than likely just be confused and unhappy; I know I sure was. And season three plus the two movies are so worth it! They are amazing.

To top off this post, I’m going to share some of my favorite Black Butler AMVs. I’ve actually posted one before to show where I first heard a song I recommended, but I’m going to post it again because it is a killer AMV! Of course, these AMVs contain spoilers, but they’re cool to watch if you don’t care about spoilers.

 

So, while this anime might not be the best anime in existence, and it certainly has its flaws, it is still my favorite and has a very special place in my heart. I’ve seen dozens of anime, and it remains #1, and Sebastian is still my favorite character of all time.

If you get around to watching this anime, let me know what you think! If you’ve seen it before, do you have a favorite character or a favorite opening? Openings are like, a key factor in any anime. Anyways, have a great day!

The Big Idea: Jason Denzel

Someone once said that life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. Jason Denzel can relate to that — life certainly happened to him between writing his previous book on his new one, Mystic Dragon. Here’s how he incorporated what was going in his life into the writing.

JASON DENZEL:

There’s that old saying writers hear all the time, “write what you know”, and I never really bought into it until I wrote my second novel, Mystic Dragon. To understand the Big Idea behind this book, you have to first go back to Mystic, the first book in the series.

I wrote Mystic during a secure, happy, and prosperous time of my life, and for the most part, the book reflected that. It showcased a young, bright-eyed protagonist named Pomella who, despite being dealt a rough hand in her culture’s caste system, uses her unrelenting tenacity, talent,  and enthusiasm to achieve her goals. (Sort of).

Before 2015, I could relate to Pomella’s youthful spirit. As a debut author, having an opportunity to be published with Tor was a dream come true. I’d been connected to them, and the entire fantasy community for a long time due to my work on Dragonmount, the ginormous Wheel of Time website, and for a while everything went beautifully. My publisher was excited for the book, there was positive buzz, a tour was planned, and early reviews were positive. Life was good, man.

Then a life-sized mystical dragon, breathing red-hot-fuck-it-all fire, burned my life down.

Mystic Dragon was written during a period in my life in which I went through a painful divorce after 15 years of marriage, was laid off from my tech job I’d been at for the same length, and unexpectedly lost my father to a heart condition. I had to sell my house, rebuild my life, find a new job, deal with a multitude of relationship issues, keep it together for my kids, and still find time to write the next book. A book which had to, in my mind, surpass the first one and also not buckle under the weight of being a middle book in a trilogy.

When life sucked the most, I channeled my pain and sadness into my story. I’d decided years before that I would set Mystic Dragon seven years after the events of the first book. This decision didn’t necessarily follow the standard advice given to writers in this genre, but it felt even more right when I began drafting the manuscript in earnest. Pomella and her childhood friend Sim aren’t teeangers anymore. In this second book, each of them have their own version of a mystical dragon breathing red-hot-fuck-it-all fire onto their lives. While they don’t deal with divorce and unemployment, they deal with their own versions of their worlds burning down around them. (Literally, at some points). And there’s a new character, Shevia, who’s centrally featured on the cover, who coalesced into existence during those inevitable days where I wanted to scream and smash and cry. If Pomella represented my last loss of innocence, then Sim was my sadness and perseverance, and Shevia was my anger at having to deal with it all.

Simply put, all of the characters in Mystic Dragon had to grow with me. We had to find our way out of the smoldering ashes of our old lives in order to find a new sun.

Now, several years removed from that difficult time of my life, and with the book finally complete and on shelves, I’m glad I had it as an outlet for my emotions. For better or worse, Mystic Dragon echoes what I went through during that time in my life. And as I write the concluding volume in the trilogy, Mystic Skies, I can already see that the events of the second book will stay with the characters in a similar way. The wounds might mostly heal, but the experience of it stays with you forever.

—-

Mystic Dragon: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s

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

 

You Deserve A Flower

Summer blooms.

A post shared by Athena Scalzi ⭐ (@ascalzi98) on

Hey everyone, you all deserve a flower! What for? For whatever you think you did well on this week! Maybe you cleaned your room for the first time in months, maybe you did really awesome at your job recently, or perhaps you drew a really pretty picture. Whatever small or big thing you accomplished this week, I just want to say good job! Please enjoy this complimentary flower, and have a great day!

View From a Hotel Window, 7/18/18 : Cincinnati

I’m doing a thing this evening in Cincinnati, and usually when I’m in Cincy I head home because it’s drivable, but tomorrow I’m doing a thing in Kentucky, so it made sense to stay here in town. And then on Friday I head to Cleveland for another thing! I am just doing a lot of relatively local travel, is what I’m saying. This is the life of a writer who does not currently have a deadline.

How are you today?

The Big Idea: Nicole Kornher-Stace

Nicole Kornher-Stace has some esoteric random influences for her novel Latchkey, which include a classic philosophical work, a popular video game… and a disease. Well, sort of for the last one. Here she is to sort it all out.

NICOLE KORNHER-STACE:

When I was eight years old, I had a teacher with advanced chronic Lyme disease. We knew this because she couldn’t keep our names straight — even by the end of the year — and she kept apologizing for it. She was, I don’t know, early forties at most, and yet her memory was eroding in a way that we, as kids, assumed was the eventual destiny of really really old people, not somebody just a few years the senior of my mom. I remember thinking: this is the most terrifying thing. Having your memory eaten by something you can’t even see. It immediately bumped whatever topped my 8-year-old fear-list down to number two. Tornadoes, maybe.

But I live in upstate New York, where you get Lyme disease like most people get colds. (I just read that a solid 50-something percent of tested ticks from 2017 around here were infected, so THAT’S FUN.) The first time I got Lyme was in my early twenties. I didn’t have the bullseye rash, so in my eternal optimism — the kind that only rears its head when you’re trying to get out of doing something deep down you know you need to — I convinced myself it was a particularly long-lasting nightmare flu, so I didn’t go to the doctor until at some point I emerged from my month-long fever haze and went you know, this probably isn’t normal. Nobody seems to be able to tell me if I still have it or if the antibiotics killed it in time. (Go to the doctor with unexplainable month-long fevers, people! Don’t be me!)

The first thing I thought when I was diagnosed is: oh shit, I’m going to turn out like Ms. ——. Unable to keep twenty names attached to faces anymore even after looking at them six hours a day, five days a week, for ten months. Surely I was too young to forget everything. Then again, so was she. Then again, so is everyone. I don’t care how old you are. That shit is scary.

So for a few years I’d tentatively probe the situation, the way you poke a painful tooth with your tongue. Is my memory crashing and burning or am I just tired? Or is it just because I’m pregnant? Or because I’m chasing a toddler around all day? Or am I too overworked? And so forth.

It entered the mixed bag of random unintentional influences that made up the world and characters of my 2015 YA debut Archivist Wasp and its 2018 sequel, Latchkey. And I do mean random. The most succinctly I can make this point is probably to say: the framework of the protagonist’s world landed in my head of a piece one day while I was reading The Golden Bough and playing Fallout 3 concurrently.

I say the protagonist’s world specifically because in these books there are three worlds in total. One is the Golden Bough-meets-Fallout-3 world in which Wasp, ghosthunter priestess, lives. In Archivist Wasp, she ends up going on a buddy quest into the underworld with a ghost she was supposed to capture and exploit, but instead cuts a deal with; the second world is the one this ghost comes from, a near-future society collapsing into high-tech all-out civil war. The underworld is the third setting in the books, and this underworld — along with the ghosts in it — is literally constructed of memory. Think personalized pocket afterlives sort-of like What Dreams May Come, except more crowdsourced, more interconnected, and you can travel between them easily, if you can find the doors. The memories that shape you as a person acquire physical form in the underworld. An area that’s richly realized, full of detail, is that way because it is built and rebuilt and reinforced out of the memories of many dead together. There are entire buildings, entire cities, based on these communal memories.

But ghosts, too, are made of memory. Here, think of residual self-image as in The Matrix. Except that the longer you stay dead, the longer you wander the underworld, the hazier and more fallible your memories of your life — and yourself — become. Eventually you lose your sense of self, your image of yourself, and you revert to a faceless silvery cutout, like a paper doll the approximate size of you. There are ways of regaining those lost details of your life, but it’s difficult, and almost impossible to do alone. The ghost that Wasp cuts her deal with has forgotten vast swathes of his life and has spent centuries making half-assed guesses at all those lost details, rebuilding the constellation of his past around a few bright remembered stars.

Without spoiling anything, memory plays an even bigger role in the sequel, Latchkey. And, hilariously, it took me until after I drafted the sequel to pinpoint where these books’ fixation on memory, and loss of memory, came from. I still mentally interrogate myself sometimes, giving my own memory little pokes to make sure it’s still running. I don’t really know how I’d know if it wasn’t. My memory seems to be as selective as my kid’s, which retains where you were and what you were doing when you said such-and-such thing, verbatim, but blanks entirely on what he did earlier that school day. For now, mine still has a stranglehold on: story notes, grudges, song lyrics I last heard when I was twelve, way more high school Spanish than I give it credit for, quotes from cartoons that I can insert into conversations at opportune moments of maximum obnoxiousness, etc. and completely drops the ball on: names, dates, what I went into a room for five seconds after entering it, etc. I say this to people and they shrug and go meh, sounds normal to me.

So maybe eight-year-old me was freaking out over nothing. Maybe all our memories are just weird jumbled messes, the mental equivalent of desk clutter or a crowdsourced underworld. For now, mine can hold its shit together long enough to write the exact books I want to be writing, and they’re getting out there and finding their readers, and honestly, that’s all I’d ever want to ask of it.

—-

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

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

 

Sunset 7/17/18

Or, as I noted elsewhere: “Tonight’s Sunset as a Hotel Room Painting.”

I think I could get at $25 for this!

Here’s what it look like zoomed out a bit:

We do have pretty skies here, I have to say.

The Big Idea: James Patrick Kelly

Today, Hugo and Nebula Award winner James Patrick Kelly is here to tell you why you need more short stories in your reading diet. And coincidentally, The Promise of Space and Other Stories, his latest collection of short stories, just happens to be out!

JAMES PATRICK KELLY:

I rise in defense of the humble short story. My Big Idea is that you should be reading more of them. My Other Idea is that my new short story collection, The Promise of Space and Other Stories, might be a place to start. So here’s my case for upping your short fiction intake:

First: this is the Golden Age of short stories. There are more markets and more writers writing at top form than ever before. Yes, ever before. Of course, I know all about that Other Golden Age, which the Science Fiction Encyclopedia puts at roughly 1937 to around 1950. I grew up with a headful of Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Sturgeon, Williamson and Pohl. Hell, I even met some of them! I’m not saying that these writers were not some of the greatest of All-Stars. But I’d argue that we can easily match that lineup with a much more diverse roster of writers publishing today. Not only that, but our bench is way, way deeper. In addition to the skill of the current crop of writers, consider the accessibility of their fiction. Lots and lots of it is free. And it comes to you in multiple formats: print, print online and in the last few years, audio. Every month there are upwards of a hundred new stories published, wonderful stories that you may be missing.

Second: Stories are not short novels. Rather they are a different art form altogether. Look, have you ever skipped over a lyrical passage of landscapery in a novel because you wanted to get back to the plot?  Doesn’t happen in a story. Or how about that supporting character in an otherwise enjoyable novel who annoys you but whom the novelist can’t get enough of? No time for that in a story, because the clock runs too fast. Things have to happen ASAP in Storyland. In my revenge story “Soulcatcher,” in which a desperate clone hatches a plot to rescue her kidnapped clone sister, everything goes terribly wrong in about a half an hour of story time. And here’s the thing:  the more stories you read, the better a story reader you become ….

Third: … because a short story puts you to work as a worldbuilder. Because there isn’t time to spend (waste) describing the barren landscape of the desert world, or explaining the wizard’s necromantic rule book, the best short story writers leave hints and point at clues which encourage the reader to make up parts of the story for themselves. Of course, a story has to succeed at its most superficial level and the naïve reader should be able to get 80-90% of it on the first read. But as you improve your story reading skills, working through these subtextual prompts gives you a kind of ownership over the content you’ve added.  In my novelette “One Sister, Two Sisters, Three” set among the inscrutable ruins of a long dead alien civilization, the sisters of the title practice a religion based on recognizing Fibonacci sequence patterns in the universe. I’m trying to get you to start thinking about all those Golden Ratio coincidences too.

Fourth: Short stories are the most nimble kind of fiction. It’s possible for story writers to reflect late-breaking developments in our culture in near real time. Suppose there was some horrendous political anomaly and know-nothings found themselves in our seats of power. Story writers would be the first to publish If-This-Goes-On pieces of the literary resistance. What, that couldn’t ever happen? Okay then consider that if aliens land in Ohio next week, short form writers would be submitting work that reflected our new status in the universe while novelists were still sending proposals to their agents. Over the past year or so, I’ve read a lot of hyperventilating journalism about the coming of sexbots. Not that the idea is new, but now that the reality is around the corner, people are paying closer attention. Sean Wallace, my editor at Prime, required that my collection include an original story, so I decided to tiptoe into the minefield of gender politics with “Yukui.”

Fifth:  The best stories will have an unique and visceral impact. It’s not that novels can’t make you bleed, or cry or shout with joy.  They can generate all those amazing reactions, but in a more diffuse way. Every time you look away from a novel and rejoin your life, the dream dissipates. Because a story is most often a continuous and complete experience, you only emerge from it when the writer is done with you, for better or worse. But a good story doesn’t end at the last line. One thing I strive for are stories that resonate after you put them down. Maybe you’re still filling in the world that I sketched, maybe you can’t believe my protagonist would do that thing. Or else something in the denouement, that ending just past the plot’s climax, turns the story on its head. I teach writing and I love it when my students toss a reinterpretation bomb (imprecisely known as a twist ending) in the last paragraph. One of my personal favorite reinterpretation bombs comes at the last line of “Happy Ending 2.0,” a fantasy in which a formerly happily married couple get a chance at a do-over. Hijinks do not ensue.

Understand that I write novels too – six of ‘em, including last year’s Mother Go – but nothing saddens me more as a writer than to hear a reader say that she reads only novels. Don’t be that person, if only because your favorite writer more often than not writes amazing stories too. My Big Idea is that there are many, many strange and wonderful reading experiences that are shorter than 40,000 words. My Other Idea is that The Promise of Space is my sixth collection and that maybe I’m finally getting the hang of writing short.

—-

The Promise of Space: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read a story. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

And Now a Brief Procedural Update on The Consuming Fire

Which is that I got the first pass page proofs this morning and read the book through, front to back, for the first time since sending it in a month ago.

Folks, this book is really good.

Like, better than I remember it being when I sent it in. Which is not too surprising since when I sent it in it was 7am and I had been writing all night and my brain was the consistency of tapioca pudding. But even so.

It really moves. And it flows really well. And your favorite characters from The Collapsing Empire are back doing some pretty cool stuff.

Can’t wait for you all to read it.

Uh, in October. Sorry.  But it’ll be worth the wait.

The Big Idea: Wendy Nikel

People with a familiarity with time travel tropes may have heard of the “grandfather paradox.” But now, author Wendy Nikel proposes a corollary for her newest, The Grandmother Paradox.

WENDY NIKEL:

As an author, I struggle with titles, and I don’t normally settle on one until a story is completely written, usually borrowing from bits of description or dialogue I’ve written within the text. Not so with The Grandmother Paradox. This title was the inspiration and starting point for this second time travel novella in the Place in Time series as I delved deeper within the world I’d created in The Continuum.

A “grandfather paradox” is an event in time travel where altering elements of the past causes inconsistencies in the present. Returning from the past, a traveler may discover that things aren’t as they left them; something they’ve done has caused a ripple of change. The paradox gets its title from the most frequently cited example: A time traveler visits the past, kills their grandfather before their parent was conceived, and thus prevents their own birth.

Some of my favorite time travel stories play with this trope. Think of the original Back to the Future, where Marty must help his parents get together to fix the timeline before he and his siblings fade out of existence. Or the Doctor Who “Father’s Day” episode in the Ninth Doctor’s era, where Rose rescues her father from a car accident, causing all sorts of damage to the timestream.

In The Continuum, professional time traveler Elise Morley travels forward in time and has to face a situation where history seems doomed to repeat itself, but I knew that with the second book in this series, I wanted to send a character into the past and force them to confront another time travel conundrum: whether it’s possible to change the past and – if it is possible – whether they should. Thus, the title of The Grandmother Paradox felt like the perfect fit, and I built the story around that premise, though with the slight alteration that it’s not the protagonist’s ancestor who’s in danger, but the ancestor of someone important to him.

So when Dr. Wells, the head of the Place in Time Travel Agency (PITTA) suspects that someone’s trying to use the concept of the grandfather paradox to eliminate the family line of our first book’s heroine in order to prevent her existence (and thus prevent the events of the previous book from taking place), he’s unable to turn to her for help. Instead, he recruits the very man whose life she saved and who thus has just as much to lose if she ceases to exist.

Former secret agent Chandler, the protagonist of this novella, travels back to the year 1893, where Juliette Argent, Elise’s great-great-grandmother is working as the assistant to a traveling magician. But she’s not an easy person to protect. With her bold and fearless attitude and her fascination with time travel (of all things!), Chandler finds it more and more difficult to keep her safe and keep his purpose there secret.

In The Grandmother Paradox, I was able to explore a fascinating time in history, more deeply examine some of my favorite characters from the first book, and even dabble in a bit of romance. But most of all, like the first book in the series, I enjoyed being able to play around with the twists and turns of time travel, the logic puzzlers and paradoxes that make this subgenre so much fun.

____

The Grandmother Paradox: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | World Weaver Press

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

 

The Bright Side

Hello everyone! Today I’m going to tell you about this awesome comic that a reader of this blog told me about (when I posted about Death as a character). It is a comic about the personification of death, otherwise known as Dee, befriending a teenage girl named Emily! They become besties and she teaches Death all about society, people, and life in general.

This comic is adorable and funny a lot of the time, and is mostly pretty light-hearted, a real slice-of-life sort of thing. Though there are times where it’s serious, and morals about the order of the universe come into play. There are also scenes that are very serious involving actual death, not just Death as a fun, awesome character.

I think my favorite thing is when Death and Emily talk about philosophy. They bring up a lot of good points and debate well, and it’s really interesting to hear what Death’s opinions on things are.

The Bright Side is ongoing, and has 580 some pages so far, so it’ll definitely take you a hot minute to read, but it’s been great so far! You can read it here (I linked to the first page of the comic, just hit the flower that says “next” on it to go to the next page).

You can also buy the first thirty chapters of the comic here! And you can follow the author/artist on Twitter.

I hope you enjoy this webcomic, I know I have been. And thank you to Michael for recommending this to me! Have a great day!

 

Smupdate

In other words, Smudge update! This little guy has been living it up here in the Scalzi compound and is being an adorable pain in the neck! He is the most playful kitten we’ve ever had, Sugar and Spice as kittens don’t even compare to how crazy this dude is. He loves chewing on cords, which is kind of an issue, especially since we have a lot of different chargers in this house. And he loves attacking literally any part of your body, not just toes, as most kittens do. He will straight up attack your hair or your thigh, totally unprovoked. He’s a real wild child.

But, as you can see, when he’s sleeping, he’s a little cuddly angel who does no wrong. He is also a major explorer! If you leave a door open, he will not hesitate to venture forth into the unknown. Smudge is also very unafraid of the other cats, even though they still largely dislike him. They hiss and bat at him, and yet he still charges at full speed towards them. He doesn’t take hints very well.

Well, anyways, enjoy this adorable picture of Smudge, and have a great day!

New Books and ARCs, 7/13/18

Friday the 13th is a lucky day here at the Scalzi Compound, because I get to show off all these new books and ARCs to you. What here would you consider yourself lucky to read? Tell us all in the comments!

The Big Idea: Raz Greenberg

My first personal awareness of Hayao Miyazaki didn’t occur until I was well into adulthood, but for Raz Greenberg, his journey with the great animator started much earlier, and led him to write a book on the filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki: Exploring the Early Work of Japan’s Greatest Animator.

RAZ GREENBERG:

The roots of the big idea behind my book, Hayao Miyazaki Exploring the Early Work of Japan’s Greatest Animator, go back to a childhood experience I share with many other members of my generation – that is, kids who grew up in Israel of the 1980s. We only had one television channel back then, the national broadcast channel, and it had a very strict, pedagogic agenda about what kids are supposed to be watching. One show that fell into this category, which the channel broadcasted many, many times during that decade (almost every other summer vacation), was known in Hebrew as Halev (“Heart”). It was an animated adaptation of a short story included in Edmondo de Amicis’ classic 1886 children’s novel of the same name, and it followed a courageous boy named Marco on his journey from Italy to Argentina to find his mother, after letters from her stopped coming.

The original novel, with its deep patriotic themes, was already considered a classic in Israel; many young Israeli parents who read it in their childhood were overjoyed to discover it again and watch the show with their children, following Marco’s weekly adventures all the way to the happy end. But there was one element in the show that left both its young Israeli viewers and their parents puzzled: why would a show about an Italian boy travelling to Argentina have Japanese end credits?

Yes, that was my generation’s first major exposure to anime. We’ve had a couple of science fiction shows to watch as well (Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets), but for the most part, we were raised on a healthy diet of Japanese-produced adaptations of classic children’s literature, with Halev being the one show that all the ‘80s children remember.

Flash forward to the end of the ‘90s: my interest in comics led me to the discovery of the world of anime and manga, which in turn led me to major in Asian studies during my BA. It wasn’t long before I became acquainted with the works of Hayao Miyazaki, first through his incredible manga epic Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and later through his films. This was a few years after Princess Mononoke made a lot of noise in the Japanese box office, and a few years before Spirited Away made Miyazaki a household name all over the world, a time when little of Miyazaki’s work was actually available in translation, but even the very few items I could get my hands on made me fall completely in love with what I saw. The more I got into Miyazaki’s work, the more I realized that something in his design style feels very familiar. A few searches through the internet revealed that indeed, Miyazaki was one of the animators who worked on Halev.

My initial reaction was “cool!” and that was pretty much it. But when I started working on my MA thesis about childhood in Miyazaki’s films, by which time most of his cinematic filmography became available for the non-Japanese audience, I realized that this filmography actually tells only part of the story. Miyazaki directed his first feature-length film in 1979; during the 16 years that preceded this movie, he worked as an animator in other people’s films and television shows, and also as a director in various televisions projects. There was an entire Miyazaki filmography here to be discovered beyond his familiar cinematic work. At some point, I realized that I want to write a book about it.

I started collecting materials – relevant films, television episodes, comics, books, articles and interviews. As often happens, other stuff got in the way: I was struggling with my PhD thesis (my academic focus now being animation theory in general, rather than Japanese animation), work, other stuff… but when I finally set down, and started writing, I began to understand that it was no coincidence that the animator who worked on a Halev is also responsible for classics like My Neighbor Totoro, other than the very obvious elements of the former that echo in the latter.

Like all great storytellers, Miyazaki’s works are about people – and whether these people come from Japan, Italy or anywhere else, he always takes his audience in an unforgettable journey as they watch his protagonists grow emotionally. Exploring Miyazaki’s early works and seeing how they inspired (as explained in the book’s concluding chapters) his later acclaimed works gave me a fascinating perspective on how Miyazaki himself grew as an artist. I hope readers will find it equally fascinating.

—-

Hayao Miyazaki: Exploring the Early Work of Japan’s Greatest Animator: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s site.

What You Should Be Watching: Final Space

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of “What You Should Be Watching”! Today I’ll be telling you about Final Space, a TBS original adult cartoon. It’s a sci-fi that takes place in an Earth where aliens are totally normal, and the Earth has a military-style organization called “Infinity Guard” that has spaceships and lasers and all that cool stuff.

There’s only ten episodes currently, but the plot is pretty interesting. Basically, there’s this super adorable planet-destroying creature (see above) that the bad guy, Lord Commander, is after. The main character, Gary, a prisoner aboard an Infinity Guard prison ship, finds the little creature floating around in space, and now Lord Commander is after Gary in pursuit of the super weapon, who is now named Mooncake. The ten episodes follow Gary and Mooncake on their adventure to save the universe and stop Lord Commander, and include a variety of interesting characters you’re sure to love.

If you’re thinking, “another sci-fi adult cartoon right after Rick and Morty?” I can assure you, the two are pretty different. And what’s wrong with there being more than one sci-fi adult cartoon out at a time? Don’t you all like sci-fi?

Anyways, not only is this show super cool because of its sci-fi technology and weapons and cool planets and aliens, but also it’s hilarious! It made me bust up laughing a good number of times. It’s not just what’s said out loud that’s funny, it’s a lot of little things, like the fact one of the characters is named Avocado, or that the main character can never obtain the chocolate chip cookies he so desperately wants. It’s honestly really funny without being that “too vulgar” or offensive kind of funny that a lot of adult cartoons seem to do.

It’s also surprisingly emotional! I actually teared up, like, three times! The characters have real backstories and emotions, and a lot of them have very realistic personalities.

Anyways, I highly recommend this show to anyone who likes funny, action-packed cartoons. If you’ve seen it, did you like it? Do you have a favorite character? Let me know, and as always, have a great day!

The Big Idea: Jay Schiffman

What is best in life? If you are, say, Conan the Barbarian, you have one sort of answer. If you are Jay Schiffman, or one of his characters in his novel Game of the Gods, your answer might be very different indeed.

JAY SCHIFFMAN:

There are two aspects of my life that have significantly shaped my worldview, and in turn, influenced my novel Game of the Gods. Family and politics.

Therein lies the big idea.

I’m from a big family, married into a big family, and have created a big family of my own. If numbers matter: my wife and I have 6 kids; my wife is from 6, and I’m from 4. I can fill a small school bus with nieces and nephews and they just keep coming. Even if I wasn’t close with my kin (I am), the sheer volume of siblings, in-laws, cousins, nieces, and nephews would probably define who I am. I can throw a rock and hit a relative.

Similarly, my love of politics, academic background as a political scientist, and my current political obsessions have greatly influenced my work as a writer. I’ll keep my political views to a bare minimum and simply say I’m a political junkie addicted to all things Trump. A New York Times piece about the underbelly of Trump, Inc., coupled with a caffeine chaser, is my drug of choice.

Politics and family lie at the heart of my novel and pump life into its dramatic passages and character development. At its core, my novel is a sci-fi action adventure. The main character, Max Cone, is an accomplished military leader and judge in a futuristic nation that is losing its power. His family is taken and his friends are killed. He assembles an unconventional band of outcasts to help him fight for his loved ones. This talented, but unpredictable group must navigate a dangerous world filled with despots. Action drives the narrative, but what motivates the characters is integral to the story.

If there is a single animating idea tying these disparate characters together it’s the significance of close personal relationships versus collective identities. For some characters in Game of the Gods, the bonds of family are far more important to their human experience than transcendent ties to religion, country, or politics. “Truth” is more likely to come from a child’s hug than from a charismatic clergyman. Some characters know who they are and what’s important to them, while others struggle aimlessly—meandering through different “isms” and oscillating between the terra firma of family and the lofty dogmas of religious movements.

The tension between close family ties and transcendent ones often takes the form of characters questioning what they once believed to be right. For some characters, questions arise about the truthfulness of a father or spouse, and for others it’s their faith in the divine.

Max was once a “True Federate,” an accomplished military commander and the highest judge in the Federacy. But we learn early on of his disillusionment, and soon after, the heartbreaking reasons why. In Max’s case, the love of family and nation are in direct conflict. The Federacy deemed his wife a traitor and punished her harshly as a result. Max recognizes that she was in fact disloyal, but he cannot forgive the Federacy for her punishment. As we follow Max on his adventures, his relationship with his wife, country, and God are called into question and he must come to terms with the authenticity of each.

Max’s group of outcasts faces similar existential concerns. Mavy Sway, a loyal emissary for the world’s most powerful religious leader, the Holy Father, balances the love of her family with her desire to see the truth about God’s purpose. Trace Rollins, a natural cynic, spends much of his life shuffling through different collective identities—revolutionary, partisan, abstainer, dissident. Finally, he gives up and becomes a drug addict. But whereas Mavy has a major crisis of faith in her family and her God, Trace, an otherwise lost soul, never questions his commitment to his loved ones. Each member of Max’s group struggles with questions of identity and meaning.

Except one. Pique Rollins.

Although Pique is only 13 years old, it is not her age that causes her not to question. To the contrary, it is her wisdom.

I should say here that Pique is my favorite character and one that is modeled on women in my family I greatly admire. Pique has all the “answers” to life, but only because she has so few questions. She’s content. She knows herself. There’s no existential crisis. No need for deeper meaning. She finds fulfillment in friends and family.

When Max first interviews Pique to see if she’s worthy of becoming a Federate citizen, she tells him that all he needs to know about her is that she’s a good fighter and she doesn’t lie. To the extent Pique has a guiding moral philosophy, it’s humility about sweeping claims.

In an important exchange between Pique and Mavy, we see their different worldviews, and Max’s take on it:

“Either there’s one righteous path that the Holy Father is leading us down or there isn’t,” Mavy says. “If you prove to me that the Holy Father isn’t the shepherd I believe him to be, then I don’t know what to make of this reality we’re living in. I need to trust him. You hear me. I need to trust him.”

Pique nods her head as if she understands. She doesn’t, but the most important thing for her is that Mavy feels like she does. For Pique, it’s not about Truth with a capital “T.” It never has been. It’s about the little truths people share every day: honesty, caring for loved ones, showing compassion to strangers, being better than our instincts. Her idea of what’s important couldn’t be farther from Mavy’s. “I’m a good fighter and I don’t lie,” Pique tells her. “I don’t understand a lot more than that. I’m not sure I want to. But I know one thing. Someday, I hope you and I can be close. Like sisters. Okay. You and I can be sisters.”

Pique understands what I—and my alter-ego Max Cone—only sometimes appreciate. When you’re surrounded by loving friends and family, there’s little reason to search elsewhere.

—-

Game of the Gods: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

My Three Sons, One a Parrot: A Twitter Story

It began innocently enough.

What a heartwarming tale of love and acceptance of Myke Cole, my son, who identifies as a parrot.

Postscript: