Spoiler-Free Observations on The Last Jedi

Some thoughts on The Last Jedi, after I’ve had a night to chew on it. These thoughts are spoiler-free, because I am not a dick.

1. I enjoyed it and it was a solid entry into the canon, which means that Disney has now made three solid Star Wars films in a row (The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi) which is a thing George Lucas never managed to do. Disney puts a premium on entertaining you, and it shows.

2. But I think the reviews I’ve seen for the film might be generally a smidgen overhyped, possibly because reviewers simply still aren’t used to Star Wars films being consistently solid, and possibly because The Last Jedi is getting extra credit for not being just a rehash of any one particular Star Wars movie, like The Force Awakens was clearly Star Wars (I continue my cranky old person refusal to call it A New Hope) right down to a Death Star trench run. Extra credit as in, “Hey, look! It’s not The Empire Strikes Back Again Once More! Three thumbs up!” The Last Jedi is a good and enjoyable film, but I think people should be wary of expecting the best Star Wars film ever. It’s not that. Which is fine! “Good and enjoyable” means it’s well worth watching if you’re a Star Wars fan, a term which encompasses most of humanity at this point.

(Also, don’t confuse “not exactly Empire” with “there are no obvious callbacks to the original trilogy,” because there are — whoa baby there are — just not tied so specifically to a single film like TFA was with Star Wars.)

3. I’ve noted before that the way I intellectually handle the egregious science and logic fails of Star Wars is to think of the films as mythology, i.e., stories presented through such a deep filter of time and oral tradition that to expect logic is almost aside the point. You don’t expect logic from Star Wars any more than you expect it out of, say, Jason and the Argonauts. With regard to The Last Jedi, let me just say it’s a very good thing that I already have this as part of my world view. Because, whoo boy, it is, shall we say, super-mythy. There were a couple of scenes where I was all “Wait, what? That thing happened, and we’re all just going to… be okay with that?” And apparently the answer was, why, yes, we are, both the characters in the story and the audience in the theater.

4. What it does share in common with Empire, and what I think is not surprising given we know it’s a middle film in a trilogy, is that the film is more low-stakes than the previous installment — no Death Star to blow up, just the rebels desperate and on the run, as they so often are. So we spend more time with the developing characters emotionally, which works to a greater or lesser extent depending on the character. Interestingly, the character I think has the most complete character arc, or at least, most obviously shows it, is Poe Dameron. His through-line, not Rey or Finn’s, feels like the spine of the movie to me. This is kind of… odd, given the general concerns of the film and the title, but I’ll take it.

5. The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars film, and director Rian Johnson packs it full of story, so you’re unlikely to be bored, and even the laggy parts move along. With that said, there’s so much going on in the story and we’re keeping track of so many characters (Luke and Leia and Rey and Kylo and Poe and Finn and Chewie and BB-8 and R2D2 and C-3PO and Hux and Snoke and Phasma and oh look there are new characters too and what the hell are these porg things anyway?) that it can feel thin, and some bits are clearly contrived simply to give beloved characters things to do and/or give us new merchandising yes Porgs I am looking at you (I bought a porg stuffed animal at the show last night so, uh, I fell for it). I think I would have been happier with a sharper focus on fewer characters, and also I’m worried that Episode IX will be three and a half hours long and have five different endings, a la The Return of the King.

6. One thing that is notable about The Last Jedi is that to me it’s the first Star Wars main sequence film that feels cinematically divergent from the others. The first six films in the Skywalker family sequence are of a piece because of the presence of George Lucas, who directed and/or wrote and/or produced and/or was hovering about in the editing room for each of them. The Force Awakens was handed over to J.J. Abrams, who appears to specialize in mimicking the cinematic feel of particular 70s-era directors (See: Super 8, with Abrams in Spielberg mode) and who Lucas’d up TFA like he was supposed to — and, to be clear, in a way I think was necessary to assure fans that the new Disney version of Star Wars was going to give them that certain Star Wars feeling.

But now comes Rian Johnson, who wrote, directed and brings in his own backend crew, and the vibe is different. The story structure is a little off from previous episode. The design is of a piece but certain set pieces are handled differently (one scene in particular reminded me of nothing so much as a Star Trek original series fight scene, done on the stage of an MGM technicolor musical). The editing of the film feels very different to me. The emotional beats don’t land in the same places they would in previous films. The humor in particular is very different; these are not Lawrence Kasdan jokes, they are Rian Johnson jokes.

The Last Jedi is definitely a Star Wars film — but it’s a Star Wars film that’s definitively moving away from the Lucas model and sensibility. I think it helps that Rogue One, the first non-sequence, non-Lucas Star Wars film, came out last year and got audiences used to films in the universe with different beats and approaches than Lucas or Lucas pastiche (and indeed Rogue One was marketed as being a step away from the usual, despite the appearance yet again of the friggin’ Death Star).

I don’t want to oversell this divergence, for two reasons. One, there’s only so much “innovation” the Star Wars universe will take — note that Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy is happy to fire directors she feels are lost in the weeds or are not giving the films enough of a Star Wars feeling, and that pastiche master (this is not an insult) JJ Abrams will be back for Episode IX. But the divergence is there, and its worth noting that Lucasfilm and Disney approve of it enough that they’re letting Johnson scope out a whole new trilogy of Star Wars films. The Lucas mode of Star Wars seems to be coming to an end (probably with Episode IX) and the Johnson mode of Star Wars may — may — be on the way. And that’s very interesting.

7. What about Luke? I will say this: I don’t think I’ve seen Mark Hamill ever give a better onscreen performance than he does here (he’s been a great voice actor for a while now), and no, that’s not damning with faint praise. Hamill’s a solid actor when he has a good director and a good part, and he’s got both in this film. Luke is older and tired and cranky and has had his fill of being a legend, and Hamill nails all of that. Ironically for an actor whose career was for a very long time overshadowed by the character of Luke, this iteration of the character is one I think could finally show to casting directors that Hamill has the chops for non-genre roles. I’d be happy to see Hamill get a career bump from this.

8. And Leia? Well, we’re all going to miss Carrie Fisher, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

9. Others have noted that this film continues the new (and welcome) Star Wars tradition of diversifying roles in the universe; the new important characters are all not white dudes, and the background characters are also suitably all over the place. I’m gonna be honest and note I didn’t give this any sort of thought while I was watching the film, which I think is the one of the points of diverse casting. I will note that I don’t hear the outraged wailing of infantile white dudes about it as much this year, but then 2017 has not been a great year, culturally, for wailing infantile white dudes. Which I don’t mind at all.

10. In terms of ranking The Last Jedi, I’d tie it with Rogue One, which puts it above Return of the Jedi and every one of the prequel films. It’s, again, solid, fun and points toward a new direction for the Star Wars universe. I enjoyed it! And I want to find out what happens next — in the story, and in the real world development of the Star Wars films.

(Comment thread open. Warning: I’m going to allow discussion there to include spoilers. Avoid the comments if spoilers are not a thing you want.)

I’m Still Finishing the Book, So Here’s a Picture of a Cat, Plus Another Question

Sugar enjoys laying on me while I’m trying to type. It’s adorable, but also makes the typing just a little bit slower.

Today’s audience participatory question whilst I am furiously typing:

If you could have one musical artist cover a particular holiday song, which artist and song would it be?

NOTE: This is for holiday song versions that do not already exist, so far as you know.

Mine: Alison Moyet, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Yours? Put it in the comments!

A Question For You Whilst I Finish My Book

I’m soooooooooo close to finishing Head On (which was due a long time ago ugh), so while I’m busy typing, here’s a participatory thread with a festive, holiday-themed question for you:

What was the best-received gift you ever gave for the holidays?

Which is to say, not the gift you thought was the best, or most thoughtful or the most appropriate, but the gift that, when given, seemed to make a real difference to or have a real impact on the person to whom it was given. This is a slightly more interesting question, I think.

Have fun with this question in the comments. I’ll be over here wishing I could type faster.

 

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2017, Day Five: Charities

For the last four days, the Whatever Gift Guide 2017 has been about helping you find the perfect gifts for friends and loved ones. But today I’d like to remind folks that the season is also about helping those in need. So this final day is for charities. If you’re looking for a place to make a donation — or know of a charitable organization that would gladly accept a donation — this is the place for it.

How to contribute to this thread:

1. Anyone can contribute. If you are associated with or work for a charity, tell us about the charity. If there’s a charity you regularly contribute to or like for philosophical reasons, share with the crowd. This is open to everyone.

2. Focus on non-political charities, please. Which is to say, charities whose primary mission is not political — so, for example, an advocacy group whose primary thrust is education but who also lobbies lawmakers would be fine, but a candidate or political party or political action committee is not. The idea here is charities that exist to help people and/or make the world a better place for all of us.

3. It’s okay to note personal fundraising (Indiegogo and GoFundMe campaigns, etc) for people in need. Also, other informal charities and fundraisers are fine, but please do your part to make sure you’re pointing people to a legitimate fundraiser and not a scam. I would suggest only suggesting campaigns that you can vouch for personally.

3. One post per person. In that post, you can list whatever charities you like, and more than one charity. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on charities available in North America.

4. Keep your description of the charity brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the charity and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a charity site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. Comment posts that are not about people promoting charities they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find charities to contribute to.

All right, then: It’s the season of giving. Tell us where to give to make this a better place.

Old Man’s War in Development at Netflix

For those who don’t know, yes, that’s the original of the Old Man’s War cover art. It’s on my office wall. And yes, that’s my hand.

So here’s some lively holiday news: An Old Man’s War movie is currently in development at Netflix. Surprise! Here are the details over at Deadline.com. I’m pretty happy about this.

And now, your questions:

Are you excited?

Hell, yes. One, because I would love to see an OMW movie. But also, two, Netflix is a place where a lot of fantastic entertainment is happening these days. It’s trying a lot of things and taking a lot of chances, and most people I know who are working with Netflix are thrilled about being there right now. It really seems like it could be a great place for the OMW universe.

So is this a movie or TV series?

It’s a movie. On your television!

(Or computer or phone or monitor or wherever you choose to watch Netflix, I don’t judge.)

But can a two to three hour movie truly hold the vastness and complexity of Old Man’s War?

I mean, yeah. It’s a pretty speedy story in that first book. And as to the rest of the universe of the series, if the first OMW movie works and people watch it and like it (hint, hint), we can have sequels. There are six books! We have lots to work with.

Who is going to be in the film? You should get [insert favorite filmmaker/actor here]!

Whoa, there. This is the development announcement, where we announce the studio (Netflix) and the producers (Jon Shestack Productions and Madhouse Entertainment). Now that we’re all on board with making the movie, we’ll start putting all the puzzle pieces together. Don’t worry; when we pick folks, we’ll probably do follow-up announcements.

Hey, wasn’t Old Man’s War in development as a movie, and a TV series, before?

Indeed it was. It was in development at Paramount for a while as a movie, and then at Syfy as a TV series.

What happened?

It just didn’t work out. Both times, really smart folks did a really excellent job and tried to make it happen, but the entertainment industry is what it is, and the stars didn’t align.

But this time will be different!

Well, yes, I hope so. It would be nice. I think we have the studio and producers to make it happen.

How long has this been percolating?

I got the rights to OMW back in the summer. We fielded pitches and offers and then in October, while I was out in California, I had a meeting with the producers. After that it was just waiting on contracts.

Man, lawyers, am I right?

In this case, I’m a big fan of lawyers. Mine (Matt Sugarman) has done very well by me. As has my film/TV agent, Joel Gotler, and my book agent Ethan Ellenberg has been part of this particular brain trust, too. It takes a village to make a good deal.

How involved will you be in the production?

As the article linked above notes, I’m an executive producer on the movie, so I’m pretty substantially involved. Which is nice! I have opinions, you know. I’m going to share them.

So can I have a job?

You’ll have to go through official channels.

You’re an executive producer! You’re an official channel!

Yes, but not that official channel.

Okay, well, can I give you this script of something entirely unrelated?

No.

Hollywood’s changed you, man.

It always does.

So, this is great, but what I really want is a film/TV version of [insert another book/story I wrote here].

I have a number of things in various stages of development, only one other of which (The Collapsing Empire) is currently public knowledge. When/if those other projects get to public knowledge stage, trust me, I’ll be talking about them. Just like this, in fact.

I will say that it’s an exciting time to be me, and that with the projects currently in play, I’m lucky to be working with some incredible people. I feel very fortunate that this gets to be my life. And today, I feel particularly fortunate that we’re working to get this Old Man’s War movie to you.

Arrrrgh I can’t wait HELP ME.

Well, there are the books. And Old Man’s War itself is just newly released in a delightful pocket-sized hardcover edition! Which, by the way, if you order from Jay and Mary’s Book Center through this Sunday, I will happily sign and personalize for you (along with any other book of mine you buy).

I see how you dropped an ad for yourself in there, Scalzi.

Yes, well. I’ve got bills, folks.

I have other questions or comments!

That’s what the comment thread is for. Note I’m on deadline (uuuhh, an actual deadline, not just the entertainment news site), so responses might not be immediate. But I’ll get in there.

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2017, Day Four: Fan Favorites!

For the first three days of the Whatever Gift Guide 2017, I’ve let authors and creators tell you about their work. Today is different: Today is Fan Favorites day, in which fans, admirers and satisfied customers share with you a few of their favorite things — and you can share some of your favorite things as well. This is a way to discover some cool stuff from folks like you, and to spread the word about some of the things you love.

Fans: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Fans only: That means that authors and creators may not post about their own work in this thread (they may post about other people’s work, if they are fans). There are already existing threads for traditionally-published authorsnon-traditionally published authors, and for other creators. Those are the places to post about your own work, not here.

2. Individually created and completed works only, please. Which is to say, don’t promote things like a piece of hardware you can find at Home Depot, shoes from Foot Locker, or a TV you got at Wal-Mart. Focus on things created by one person or a small group: Music CDs, books, crafts and such. Things that you’ve discovered and think other people should know about, basically. Do not post about works in progress, even if they’re posted publicly elsewhere. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. So focus on things that are completed and able to be sold of shared.

3. One post per fan. In that post, you can list whatever creations you like, from more than one person if you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on newer stuff. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on things available in North America.

4. Keep your description of the work brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the work and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a sales site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. Comment posts that are not about fans promoting work they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting gifts.

Got it? Excellent. Now: Geek out and tell us about cool stuff you love — and where we can get it too.

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2017, Day Three: Arts, Crafts, Music and More

The Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2017 continues, and today we move away from books and focus on other gifts and crafts — which you can take to mean just about any other sort of thing a creative person might make: Music, art, knitting, jewelry, artisan foodstuffs and so on. These can be great, unique gifts for special folks in your life, and things you can’t just get down at the mall. I hope you see some cool stuff here.

Please note that the comment thread today is only for creators to post about their gifts for sale; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Creators: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Creators (of things other than books) only. This is an intentionally expansive category, so if you’ve made something and have it available for the public to try or buy, you can probably post about in this thread. The exception to this is books (including comics and graphic novels), which have two previously existing threads, one for traditionally-published works and one for non-traditionally published works (Note: if you are an author and also create other stuff, you may promote that other stuff today). Don’t post if you are not the creator of the thing you want to promote, please.

2. Personally-created and completed works only. This thread is specifically for artists and creators who are making their own unique works. Mass-producible things like CDs, buttons or T-shirts are acceptable if you’ve personally created what’s on it. But please don’t use this thread for things that were created by others, which you happen to sell. Likewise, do not post about works in progress, even if you’re posting them publicly elsewhere. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. Also, don’t just promote yourself unless you have something to sell or provide, that others may give as a gift.

3. One post per creator. In that post, you can list whatever creations of yours you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on your most recent creation. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on things available in North America.

4. Keep your description of your work brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about your work and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a sales site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. As noted above, comment posts that are not from creators promoting their work as specified above will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting work.

Now: Tell us about your stuff!

“Don’t Live For Your Obituary” Arrives at the Scalzi Compound

Look at this lovely book, held aloft by my lovely missus. It’s Don’t Live For Your Obituary, my first collection of writing-related essays in a decade. The official release date is December 31st (yes, New Year’s Eve), but if you pre-ordered the signed limited hardcover from Subterranean Press, I understand they have begun to be shipped. Yes! The holidays are saved!

(You can still order it from Subterranean Press, by the way. It’s in stock there now.)

This is my third book of the year, after The Collapsing Empire and the print version of The Dispatcher. 2017 turned out to be pretty productive after all.

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2017, Day Two: Non-Traditionally Published Books

Today is Day Two of the Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2017, and today the focus is on Non-Traditionally Published Books: Self-published works, electronically-exclusive books, books from micro presses, books released outside the usual environs of the publishing world, and so on. Hey, I put my first novel up on this very Web site years ago and told people to send me a dollar if they liked it. Look where it got me. I hope you find some good stuff today.

Please note that the comment thread today is only for non-traditional authors and editors to post about their books; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Authors/editors: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Authors and editors of non-traditionally published books only. This includes comics and graphic novels, as well as non-fiction books and audiobooks. If your book has been traditionally published — available in bookstores on a returnable basis — post about your book in the thread that went up yesterday (if you are in doubt, assume you are non-traditionally published and post here). If you are a creator in another form or medium, your thread is coming tomorrow. Don’t post if you are not the author or editor, please.

2. Completed works only. Do not post about works in progress, even if you’re posting them publicly. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. Likewise, don’t just promote yourself unless you have something to sell or provide, that others may give as a gift.

3. One post per author. In that post, you can list whatever books of yours you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on your most recent book. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on books available in North America.

4. Keep your description of your book brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about your book and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a bookseller if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. As noted above, comment posts that are not from authors/editors promoting their books as specified above will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting books.

Now: Tell us about your book!

The Big Idea: Ryk E. Spoor

Typing in a minefield: When Ryk E. Spoor took on his new novel Princess Holy Aura, that’s what he guessed he’d be doing. Why? And why did he decide to write it anyway? Read on for the answers.

RYK E. SPOOR:

I did not expect to write Princess Holy Aura.

“Hey, you’re the author, don’t you DECIDE what you write?”

Well, yeah, to an extent. But priority goes to what your publisher’s willing to PAY for, and when you have an average of 4 hours a week to write, that priority generally dominates.

Following my completion of Challenges of the Deeps (the third Arenaverse novel), I had no contracts for any solo novels. So I inquired as to whether they wanted to see any more from me, and they asked me to send them some outlines of things I proposed to do.

I sent them three outlines and two general concepts. One outline was for a crossover-fantasy trilogy titled The Spirit Warriors (which follows the adventures of five young people from Earth who we met for a short period of time in my Balanced Sword trilogy), one for a series titled “Players of Worlds” which would begin as apparent fantasy and slowly reveal its rather creepy science-fictional nature (what if your whole planet was someone else’s MMORPG setting, in real capsule summary), and the outline for The Ethical Magical Girl (which was later renamed to Princess Holy Aura). The two “concepts” were for The Door Reopened (a Narnia/Oz/Andre Norton magical crossover world finds it needs its heroes again… when they’re all grown up with kids and careers) and Adventurer’s Academy (epic fantasy world’s school for would-be heroes).

I was pretty sure that if Baen took any of these, it would be either Players of Worlds or The Spirit Warriors, and I was betting on Players of Worlds, as I’d actually worked out the general concept with my editor Tony a couple months previous. Maybe they’d ask instead for me to flesh out one of the two general concepts.

Instead, I got a contract for Princess Holy Aura… and immediately began metaphorically running around in circles panicking.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write this story. I did, very much so. As far as I knew, no one in the American book market had really tackled the mahou shoujo genre straight-on, and the setup I envisioned would allow me to really examine the assumptions of that genre and both deconstruct and reconstruct it in what I thought would be interesting ways. There was a lot of potential for fun, drama, action, and character in the concept, and I already could see the main characters and understand the general flow of the plot from the outline I had (although, as with pretty much any outline, the details of that outline wouldn’t survive contact with the actual writing of the book).

But there were – are – soooooo very many ways that I could write it badly, with badly possibly being “you offend people so badly that not only does THIS book tank, but your other books stop selling too”. I would be touching on some very volatile concepts – gender roles, personal identity, physical gender changes, friendships across both age and sex barriers, adult VS child rights to make dangerous choices, and a host of others, including the more mundane – but no less difficult – challenges of depicting people who were from vastly different backgrounds due to age and culture gaps than I, the author, would be very familiar with.

Princess Holy Aura is a novel-format take on the anime/manga subgenre of the magical girl warrior (mahou shoujo senshi). This is best known in the USA by the anime Sailor Moon, with some westernized versions including W.I.T.C.H., but with a huge history going back several decades. At its core, the mahou shoujo senshi story is of a young (usually ranging from 12 to 16, with some examples both older and younger) girl chosen/empowered to fight supernatural forces by some benevolent force (that’s often disguised as a cute animal mascot); often the first girl warrior is joined by others to form a group of four or five.

I’d originally conceived Princess Holy Aura simply from an amusing scene that I wrote up in a couple of pages, in which a 35 year old man is the one chosen to become Princess Holy Aura, the first of the five Apocalypse Maidens. The idea of a boy being chosen to become the magical girl isn’t unique; there are at least two or three anime that play with that idea, and several webcomics. However, my outline for the story took it in a very different direction. Not only was my protagonist starting as someone much older, but also I wanted to take the story seriously, even if there would be obviously amusing aspects to the events themselves.

But that opened up a potentially huge can of worms – a can that started looking bigger and bigger and bigger once I was committed to doing the story. Consider, please, some of these points:

  • Steve Russ (the main character in his original form) was going to be changing not just age but sex. This can be a fairly challenging topic in and of itself, as you don’t want to just play this for laughs. Besides the obvious physical differences, body dysphoria (the feeling that there is something inherently wrong about the body you’re in) would be a major factor.
  • The other Apocalypse Maidens were all going to be 14-15 year old girls in actuality.
  • That meant that – in the form of an actual 14 year old girl – the protagonist would be spending a lot of time with other such girls.
  • The general attitude of our society towards a 35 year old man who spends lots of time hanging around young teenage girls is, well, not usually positive. (and recent political events are not making that any easier of a concept!)

These are far from all the key points I had to deal with in just handling the character of Steve Russ/Holly Owen/Holy Aura. To make the book work, all these points, and the others, had to be addressed in a manner that made it reasonable.

That meant answering questions like “why choose Steve Russ at all, instead of another teenager (and why do the others end up teenagers anyway?”, “What makes Steve the right choice?”, “How does Holly Owen (Steve’s civilian-female alter ego) learn to interact with others of her putative age?”, and of course “how can you keep the other girl’s parents from killing Steve and his little magical guide Silvertail if and when they find out the truth?”

This in addition to the normal worldbuilding challenges like “who are Holy Aura’s adversaries?”, “How did this all get started, and why ‘magical girls’ anyway?”, and “how can there be these magical girls and stuff when the world’s otherwise mundane?”.

Even when you have answers to these questions, presenting those answers to the reader in a form that will convince them, ahh, there’s the rub. You can never be sure what will work, since as the author you know what you mean, but that mental state can’t be transferred to all your readers.

I think the first key element that made it possible to even partially tapdance my way through this minefield was clarifying and refining one of the key points of the novel and of the magic of the Maidens themselves: that it was strengthened by willing sacrifice of the participants, but sacrifice not in the simple sense of “I give away this thing”, but “I choose to take this responsibility, despite what it will cost me to do so”.

Specifically with respect to Steve and his initial vital decision, Steve isn’t just “giving up being a man”; that is, it is not “becoming a girl” that represents the sacrifice, so much as “letting go of your entire self-image” – being willing, in a very real sense, to give up your self in order to become another self who is needed. He must go beyond playing “Holly Owen” and “Princess Holy Aura”, and become them, make them real, in order to fully appreciate the powers, and demands, of her new form.

Similarly, the willingness of the other girls to risk themselves, and of their parents to accept the risks to their children – these are important sacrifices and acceptance of responsibility that in the world of  Princess Holy Aura represent a huge amount of mystical power.

Still, to make all that work required another tightrope walk. The main character had to be a sufficiently good person that, as she lived as Holy Aura and made friendships with the other girls, the reader could believe that she (potentially still he) did not pose a threat to the others. The flip side of the coin was that Holly Owen and Steve Russ had to have flaws – issues with their lives and/or the events that surrounded them – sufficient to make them believably real. In addition, whatever I sketched out for Steve’s personality, habits, and adult friends and activities had to somehow jibe with the person that Holly would become; she had to be someone who could be understood as a development of Steve in some way, shape, or form.

AAaaaand I had to do all of this, and at least sketch out to an acceptable extent the characters surrounding Holly Owen – her friends (both those who become the other Maidens and those who don’t), the adversaries, and a few other mysteries. And do much of it early enough to let the story progress to the end.

The latter part turned out to require some changes from my original vision. In a standard mahou shoujo senshi series, each new girl gets added in their own adventure sequence, meaning that before you’ve assembled your whole team – and thus can start to address the real main challenges – you have four or five separate adventures, meetings, revelations, and so on.

I couldn’t possibly do that in one book and keep it even halfway manageable. Princess Holy Aura was already going to have a lot of front-loading of its world and mythology, just to let the readers keep up with what was going on, and I had the additional challenge that I didn’t (and still don’t) know if there would/will ever be sequels to the novel. Which meant I had to wrap up the main plotline, too.

The very nature of the mahou shoujo genre had one more challenge to address from the point of view of the kind of stories I usually write, and that is that such series are to a great extent not about the monsters of the week, but about the people and how their battles affect them. Unlike, say, Kyri Vantage (the central hero of my Balanced Sword trilogy) or Ariane Austin (from the Arenaverse novels), the young heroes of these series are not inherent risk-takers, not adult adventurers who have trained for a dangerous profession, living in some distant future world that’s alien and exciting to any reader; they’re ordinary students (or in the case of Steve, ordinary working man), living in a world very much like ours, thrust into utterly extraordinary circumstances.

More, in mahou shoujo the relationships of the main characters are an essential part of the nature of their success or failure against their opponents. Long before the recent My Little Pony made “Friendship is Magic” a byword, mahou shoujo series had made that the essence of their nature (in fact, you could easily argue that MLP:FiM is a mahou shoujo series). So Holly’s friendships and connections with the other girls had to be brought out and made believable.

I did do research (by talking to the appropriate people as well as doing online reading) to give me some insight into the mindset of those both younger than me and those from different walks of life; I do have a near-teenage daughter to serve as something of an inspiration, and some nieces who are far closer to high school age than I am (with about 40 years behind me since that time). But no matter how much research an author does, ultimately the characters, their behavior, their words, their existence comes from what the author knows, and they can’t easily (if at all) create an emotional connection unless they, themselves, can feel it. So I knew that making them believable and making them realistic/authentic might – probably would – be another balancing act.

So basically writing the book would be riding a unicycle on a high-wire over a minefield while juggling lit Molotov cocktails.

Of course, I had one – well, two – major advantages to bring to bear on this challenge. The first was that I had a contract – a legal obligation to write and finish this novel, or I’d suffer consequences (or, at the least, not get the money for the book). “…when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully,” as Samuel Johnson once wrote.

The second was that I had written books while worried about the outcome before. Not this kind of worry, true, but when I’d first tackled Boundary I’d been scared stiff of the sheer challenge before me of writing believable, worthwhile hard SF. And as I discussed in another Big Idea column, writing a sequel to Grand Central Arena and the challenge of somehow matching its sensawunda in Spheres of Influence kept me up more than a few nights.

So I sat down and started writing and reminded myself that in the end, I could only use the same principle I’d always written with: people are people. That applied to men and women and aliens, there was no reason that it shouldn’t apply even to magical mascots and teenage girls. The details would be different, but the basic motives and feelings? They shouldn’t change. I’d already touched on writing younger people in Castaway Planet and its sequel; all I had to do was just keep doing the same thing. Only, hopefully, better.

And sure enough, they started to speak to me. Not just Steve, but Holly Owen herself – the same person, yet utterly different, like Tip and Ozma – and Holly’s BFF Seika Cooper, Steve’s friend Dexter Armitage who also ends up Holly’s friend, artist Tierra MacKintor and basketball star Devika Kaur Weatherill, Cordelia Ingemar and Silvertail Heartseeker. I followed them through first meetings and frightening combats and shocking revelations that eventually brought them together.

Surprisingly, some side characters also came to life for me, especially OSC agent Dana Kisaragi – who got her own parallel short story “On-Site for the Apocalypse”. And I came to know the adversaries, maybe better than I wanted.

Was it a perilous journey, in terms of potentially creating an “Oh, no, Ryk Spoor, No!” situation? Naturally. And I had to accept that for at least some people, it probably would be exactly that. There’s no way not to “squick” some people with these subjects, not if you approach them honestly, and the nature of the story requires honesty.

So in the end, I strode right out into that minefield and juggled my flaming jars of gasoline while jumping on a trampoline. Because the only way to write the story was to write it straight, just like the characters – the people that I was going to meet – would want it told.

—-

Princess Holy Aura: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

Whatever Holiday Gift Guide 2017, Day One: Traditionally Published Books

Welcome to the first day of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2017 — My way of helping you folks learn about cool creative gifts for the holidays, straight from the folks who have created them.

Today’s featured products are traditionally published books (including graphic novels and audiobooks); that is, books put out by publishers who ship books to stores on a returnable basis. In the comment thread below, authors and editors of these books will tell you a little bit about their latest and/or greatest books so that you will be enticed to get that book for yourself or loved ones this holiday season. Because, hey: Books are spectacular gifts, if I do say so myself. Enjoy your browsing, and I hope you find the perfect book!

Please note that the comment thread today is only for authors and editors to post about their books; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Authors/editors: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Authors and editors only, books only (including audiobooks). There will be other threads for other stuff, later in the week. Any type of book is fine: Fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, etc. If you are not the author/editor of the book you’re posting about, don’t post. This is for authors and editors only.

2. For printed books, they must be currently in print (i.e., published before 12/31/17) and available on a returnable basis at bookstores and at the following three online bookstores: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s. This is so people can find your book when they go looking for it. For audiobooks, they must be professionally published (no self-produced, self-published audiobooks) and at least available through Amazon/Audible. If your book isn’t available as described, or if you’re not sure, wait for the shopping guide for non-traditional books, which will go up tomorrow. 

3. One post per author. In that post, you can list whatever books of yours you like (as long as it meets the criteria in point 2), but allow me to suggest you focus on your most recent book. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on books currently available in North America.

4. Keep your description of your book brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about your book and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a bookseller if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. As noted above, comment posts that are not from authors/editors promoting their books as specified above will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting books.

Got it? Excellent. Then tell the folks about your book! And tell your author friends about this thread so they can come around as well.

Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2017 Starts Monday!

Every year as the holiday season begins I run a shopping guide for the holidays, and over the years it’s been quite successful: Lots of people have found out about excellent books and crafts and charities and what have you, making for excellent gift-giving opportunities during the holiday season. I’ve decided to do it again this year.

So: Starting Monday, December 4, the Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide Returns! If you’re a writer or other creator, this will be an excellent time to promote your work on a site which gets tens of thousands of viewers daily, almost all of whom will be interested in stuff for the holidays. If you’re someone looking to give gifts, you’ll see lots of excellent ideas. And you’ll also have a day to suggest stuff to other folks too. Everybody wins!

To give you all time to prepare, here’s the schedule of what will be promoted on which days:

Monday, December 4: Traditionally Published Authors — If your work is being published by a publisher a) who is not you and b) gets your books into actual, physical bookstores on a returnable basis, this is your day to tell people about your books. This includes comics/graphic novels.

Tuesday, December 5: Non-Traditionally Published Authors — Self-published? Electronically published? Or other? This is your day. This also includes comics/graphic novels.

Wednesday, December 6: Other Creators — Artists, knitters, jewelers, musicians, and anyone who has cool stuff to sell this holiday season, this will be the day to show off your creations.

Thursday, December 7: Fan Favorite Day — Not an author/artist/musician/other creator but know about some really cool stuff you think people will want to know about for the holidays? Share! Share with the crowd!

Friday, December 8: Charities — If you are involved in a charity, or have a favorite charity you’d like to let people know about, this is the day to do it.

If you have questions about how all of this will work, go ahead and ask them in the comment thread (Don’t start promoting your stuff today — it’s not time yet), although I will note that specific instructions for each day will appear on that day. Don’t worry, it’ll be pretty easy. Thanks and feel free to share this post with creative folks who will have things to sell this holiday season.

Away From the Internet Through 12/3

Hey there! I have a book to finish with a hard deadline of, uh, next week, so I am going to hide from the Internet until it is done, or through December 3rd, whichever comes first. This includes Twitter, Facebook, etc. Basically there will be a Scalzi-shaped hole in the Internet for the next ten days.

While I’m gone, two things to know:

1. You can still order signed and personalized books by me for the holidays, through my local bookstore. All the details are at this link. Feel free to share that link.

2. Starting on December 4th I will open Whatever up for my annual Holiday Shopping Guide, for books (both traditionally and non-traditionally published), other creative work, fan favorites, and charitable giving. Creatives, be ready to share your wares then!

Have fine Thanksgiving and/or start of your holiday season. See you on December 3rd.

 

Athena, 11/22/17

My kid is pretty great. That is all.

For those of you in the US, I hope you’ve gotten all your shopping done for Thanksgiving and that any traveling you do will be bearable, and that your time with family and friends tomorrow is delightful and with no extended political arguments. For everyone else in the world, happy Wednesday, folks.

The Big Idea: Molly Tanzer

Absinthe makes the brain grow more creative — at least in the case of Molly Tanzer, whose encounter with the spirit helped to inspire her novel Creatures of Will and Temper. Want to find out how? Sit back and pour a stiff one as Tanzer tells you.

MOLLY TANZER:

I’m delighted to do my very first Big Idea for my new novel, Creatures of Will and Temper, because I actually did have a “big idea” that sparked the project and then informed my entire approach to it.

This is the story pretty much as it happened: I was sitting on my porch one summer morning, drinking an absinthe cocktail and reading Oscar Wilde’s Victorian classic, The Picture of Dorian Gray, when I got to this part in the book…

[Dorian’s ] eye fell on the yellow book that Lord Henry had sent him. … He flung himself into an arm-chair and began to turn over the leaves. After a few minutes, he became absorbed. It was the strangest book he had ever read. It seemed to him that in exquisite raiment, and to the delicate sound of flutes, the sins of the world were passing in dumb show before him. Things that he had dimly dreamed of were suddenly made real to him. Things of which he had never dreamed were gradually revealed.

…and in my intoxicated state, bewitched by spirituous liquors and addled the strong rays of the sun, I thought to myself, What if Lord Henry Wotton was a diabolist and had given Dorian Gray a “yellow book” that was a demon-summoning manual instead of a novel? That would be dope.

This idea took hold of me like the ideas in the yellow book take hold of Dorian Gray, beguiling me and distracting me from what I was supposed to be doing at the time, whatever that was. I can’t remember—probably all that absinthe. Anyway, the important thing is that I started obsessing over what I’d personally want from a Dorian Gray retelling, were I reading it, not writing it, and that served me well.

I knew I’d need to gender-swap Dorian into Dorina Gray, since I like to write about women and women’s issues, and as I wanted to write something exploring the relationships between women, I knew I’d also need to gender-swap Henry Wotton, who became Lady Henrietta Wotton, aesthete and diabolist.

That put the project off to a good start; at least, I thought so. As I continued to think on it, I decided to focus on one of the less explored aspects of The Picture of Dorian Gray—that of mentorship and its various consequences—and for that, I’d need a different take on the Dorian/Lord Henry relationship. In the original, Lord Henry Wotton is not an admirable character, so I decided to instead make Lady Henrietta the Platonic ideal of all the lady teachers I’ve crushed on hard over the years. Similarly, the rather repellent Dorian Gray became Dorina, a mosaic of the artistic young women I went to my small liberal arts high school and college with in prosaic south and central Florida.

But as a lifelong fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I knew I’d also need this motif to be repeated to drive it home—there had to be an “A” plot and a “B” plot that dealt with the same issue in different ways. Dorina’s arc needed a natural counterpart. Thus, enter Evadne Gray, Dorina’s elder sister and a character wholly my creation.

Evadne came to me all at once, just like the idea for this book. I realized that if I wanted to focus on women’s relationships, Dorina needed a sister, not just a mentrix—a sister who was similar to her in terms of her capacity for love and enthusiasm, but so very different in her interests that they’d always be at cats and dogs with one another. Dorina was to be enthusiastic, artistically minded, and socially adroit even while she possessed a healthy dislike of “society”; Evadne needed to be a bit of an awkward jock (fencing is her passion), reserved and concerned with the sort of restrictive propriety that is the last refuge of the born misfit. So often, people cling to that which does not serve them—that had to be Evadne’s core, as an athletic but awkward woman, in contrast to Dorina’s willful rejection of a world that was only too eager to accept her on the basis her youth and beauty, merits she rejects.

Two different misfits who both come to find two different mentors—Evadne finds a fencing tutor as apparently perfect for her as Henry is for Dorina, and every bit as secretly mysterious. And in that way, too, I tried to be “faithful but not” to Wilde’s original novel. Both The Picture of Dorian Gray and Creatures of Will and Temper are about what happens when someone is consumed by passion. In the end, I hope mine is a bit more forgiving of its protagonists, and a bit more hopeful, or at least less cynical in its conclusion about the fundamental nature of humanity.

—-

Creatures of Will and Temper: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

The Big Idea: Tracy Townsend

Take Borges, toss in a library, add a touch of sub-atomic physics, and what do you get? If you’re Tracy Townsend, you get her novel The Nine. Here she is to tell you how all of these came to be a part of her story.

TRACY TOWNSEND:

The best creative decision I ever made was to be bad at my first college job.

I paid for undergraduate in the usual way — a little bit of student loan, some scholarship, and a lot of work-study. I was lucky enough to score a job at the university library, where my employment somehow survived my plot to pretend at total incompetence in the Library of Congress system. There was a method to my madness, of course. When I disappeared for two hours with a single cart of returns, nobody would think twice about my painstaking pace. I mean, it had taken me three tries to pass the shelving exam. (I’d considered throwing the test a fourth time, but that just seemed like gilding the lily.) Truth was, I was dead fast and accurate at re-shelving. I could clear a double-decker cart of volumes distributed over three floors in just over a half-hour. For the remaining hour and a half of my shift, I’d creep to the farthest corner of the reference stacks and start browsing, secure in the time my feigned incompetence had bought.

I love reference books because they’re so eminently browsable. They don’t ask for a reader’s commitment. They’re perfect for those weary moments when you want to feed your mind something, but can’t process a narrative. It was in just such a moment that I picked up  Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings. There, I found an entry titled “The Lamed Wufniks.” (I’m embarrassed to admit it first grabbed my attention because I thought the name was cute – lamed wufniks! Poor little wufniks with bum legs! Little did I realize how mercurial Anglicized spellings of Yiddish words are, or that the words didn’t sound at all the way I sounded them out.) Here’s part of what Borges wrote:

On the earth there are, and have always been, thirty-six just men whose mission is to justify the world to God. These are the Lamed Wufniks. . . . If a man comes to realize that he is a Lamed Wufnik, he immediately dies and another man, perhaps in some other corner of the earth, takes his place. These men are, without suspecting it, the secret pillars of the universe. If not for them, God would annihilate the human race. They are our saviors, though they do not know it.

This mystical belief of the Jewish people has been explained by Max Brod.

Its distant roots may be found in Genesis 18, where God says that He will not destroy the city of Sodom if ten just men can be found within it.

The very idea of God carefully studying mankind in such a peculiarly precise, predetermined fashion appealed to every instinct in my lapsed Catholic body. It would make a hell of a story.

Some elements of it would have to go. I dropped the “lamed” portion of these holy test subjects’ name and invented a spelling of “wufniks” that actually reflected its pronunciation: vautneks. Thirty-six was too many characters. Remembering that nines and threes reign supreme across dozens of cultural mythologies, I pared it down to nine. The notion that God would hand-pick His representatives, knowing already they were just, and simply undo the world when He could no longer find the thirty-sixth man to fill up the game day roster just seemed too tidy. I was more interested in the notion of the experiment itself. Could a tiny, totally random sampling of humanity hope to represent the species well? Is there any way for human beings to know that a creator is studying us, and if we did, what would we do? Do we do “right” only because we don’t want to be caught doing wrong? And what, God help us, is actually “right,” anyway?

I teach at the Illinois Math and Science Academy – Hogwarts for Hackers, where students steep in an equal mix of ethical, humanistic sciences and caffeinated meme culture. It’s the right place for me because as much as I’m a child of the humanities, I’ve always been fascinated by the scientific impulse, the urge to know which is fundamental to human reason. Take physics. So much of its finest details still aren’t understood the way we understand the microscopic details of our own bodies. The idea that there is a particle we can’t actually pin down that’s responsible for why objects have mass is fascinating. Essentially, if we take for granted that everything in our universe is mass or energy (and translatable to one another), then the Higgs boson is a creator-particle, a particle that grants us existence itself, the capacity to be measured and judged and understood. It truly is the God-particle.

As a humanist, my work at a STEM-focused, logic-loving institution recalls the age-old tension tension between reason and faith. If the lamed wufniks were the inspiration for The Nine’s plot, then that tension inspired its world. It’s a world where humanity chains faith and religion to observable, measurable data, and transforms the worship of gained and ordered knowledge into the worship of its creator. I made that world to test my skepticism about the limits of empirical knowledge.

What better way to build that world, and to blow it all up, than to go a little Borges and prove to my character that yes, someone really is watching?

If God is an experimenter, a scientist in His own right, He’s got to keep notes somewhere. And that means someone’s bound to find them, sooner or later.

—-

The Nine: Amazon.com|Barnes & Noble.com|Indiebound|Powells

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

Cat Amongst the Stringed Instruments

Don’t worry, Sugar. They no longer make strings out of catgut. I mean, probably.

How’s the weekend going, folks?

New Books and ARCs, 11/17/17

And here’s this week’s stack of new books and ARCs, freshly arrived at the Scalzi Compound. What do you see here that floats your proverbial boat? Tell us all in the comments.

The Big Idea: Matthew De Abaitua

Work sucks. In The Red Men, author Matthew De Abaitua has come up with an answer. Uh, maybe. He’s here to explain that whole “maybe” part.

MATTHEW De ABAITUA:

From an early age, I was terrorised by the prospect of getting a proper job. A summer spent working as a security guard on the docks convinced me that my intuition concerning work was correct; it was a desperate exploitative world and not for the likes of me. What if I could somehow accrue all the benefits of going to work – a salary and social status – without having to subordinate myself to its deadening routines?

The big idea of my novel The Red Men comes from this yearning, although it in no way solves it. The novel turns around the question of your collaboration with power, how much of yourself you can trade to get on in the world, or can you deny all attempts by the “real world” to control you and instead live freely and imaginatively.

To explore this question, I invented the Red Men. The Red Men are simulations of real people devised by an artificial intelligence. They are not copies. We will not be able to digitally copy consciousness. Mind cannot be separated from body in that way. Instead, our technology will tell stories about us, based on its observations of our desires and behaviours.

In my novel, these stories are The Red Men and – for a regular subscription fee – they will do your work for you: capable of processing data at light speed, and gifted with your way of seeing the world, your Red Man toils in an office job while you are free to profit from their salary and find more a productive way of using your time.

I was first attracted to the idea of a digital self because it promised an incorporeal immortality. Planning the novel out, I realised that a digital land-of-do-as-you-please wouldn’t work fictively. It would be like writing out a long dream. The readers wouldn’t care about what happened in a realm in which all harm can be undone, all damage reversed. I would need to find a way of making the readers care.

All virtual worlds suffer from being as inconsequential as a dream. That’s why, if you die in the Matrix, you die in the real world – its the only way to make the Matrix matter. The novel may have been born of my immature desire to live in a world governed by the pleasure principle but it could not be told from the point of view of a digital person. Rather, the point of view of the novel had to follow the real people who work with the Red Men, and who suffer from their interaction with simulated people. After years of idle planning, it was this realisation of the narrative point of view that kickstarted my writing.

The Red Men is told from two points of view: Raymond is a down-at-heel poet who is drawn into the customer service department managing the interaction between the Red Men and their subscribers; Nelson is more senior than Raymond, having worked for years for the company Monad that creates the Red Men. So Raymond’s point of view, new to this world, as he discovers Monad and its products, accords to that of the readers. Nelson, who is more steeped in Monad, provides insight into the back story of the technology. Indeed, it is Nelson who first devises the name of the Red Men when he first meets the company’s artificial intelligence, and it is Nelson who is tasked with expanding the program in the middle of the novel, when Monad decide to simulate an entire town to help them predict mass effects and reactions to government policies.

The novel is structured according to this question of whether it is possible to deny the imperatives of the “real world” of jobs, mortgages, health care payments and live in a realm of your own imagining and control. Chekhov once observed of Tolstoy that while he didn’t have the answers, he asked the right questions. A novel shouldn’t be didactic, it is a more exploratory form. Power it with a good question rather than your idea of an answer. The question runs through the heart of Nelson’s relationships – whether he should allow work to take him away from his family – and through Raymond’s troubles, as he is drawn into the work of Monad’s rival company Dyad, which specialises in technology that exploits and inhabits the human unconscious.

When I found my emotional connection to the big idea, I was finally able to write it. Only after I’d spent a few years toiling in an office, subordinated to nonsensical corporate cant and bullshit imperatives, having had the shit bored out of me, was I able to put my big idea on a stage crafted by everyday frustrations and yearnings.

—-

The Red Men: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.