View From a Hotel Window, 4/23/19: London

We’ve moved into town and are staying at the hotel we were at for our 20th anniversary, and which also happens to be reasonably well located for the meetings and meet-ups I have planned over the next couple of days. Ytterbium, this year’s Eastercon, was lovely and everyone involved was also lovely, and we could have not asked for a better time.

Remember: This Thursday at 6pm, I’ll be at Forbidden Planet in London, signing books and being visible. Come on down and see me, and maybe get a book or two signed.

And now, off to lunch with a friend.

New Books and ARCs, 4/19/19

I may be in London right now but that doesn’t mean I can’t still show off the new books and ARCs that came to the Scalzi Compound this week! Here they are. What here intrigues you? Tell us all in the comments.

Happy Birthday, Kristine

This fabulous person who also happens to be my wife is celebrating a birthday today, and in the UK, no less. If you wished to convey your birthday felicitations to her, I would not look askance upon it. She’s the best person I know.

View From a Hotel Window, 4/18/19: Heathrow

It’s a parking lot, not only in an entirely different country, but in an entirely different continent! And Heathrow Airport is in the background, which is actually cooler than it sounds.

I’m here for Ytterbium, this year’s Eastercon, where I am a Guest of Honor, and everything is lovely so far. The convention begins properly tomorrow — today we relax, get some sleep in and prepare for the weekend. Three cheers for a lovely spring day in the UK.

How are you? Please describe in words that do not include “redacted Mueller report” in any way, shape or form.

The Big Idea: Lara Elena Donnelly

When, as a writer, you find yourself caught between two tropes, what do you do? And is it a bad thing that you’re confronting two separate writing tropes in the first place? In her series that began with the book Amberlough and continues now in Amnesty, the third book, author Lara Elena Donnelly confronts her tropes and finds a way through them.

LARA ELENA DONNELLY: 

For a long, long time, Amnesty was nothing but a big idea.

My debut novel, Amberlough, was meant to be a standalone. A tragedy with a bitter ending, the only hope in a burgeoning resistance driven by death and loss. A story about people who fail, over and over again, to communicate with each other. Who fail to stake a moral, political, or emotional claim early enough to make a difference.

The character who fails biggest is Cyril DePaul. Already back-benched when the book starts, after a botched mission that’s left his confidence shattered, every decision he makes has his own interests at its heart. Nobody else’s enter into it. Even his gambit to save the life of his lover is self-centered; who wants to save their own skin only to live on lonely?

When I first wrote Amberlough, Cyril perished on the page. I had read enough spy novels to know that the bad spy usually dies. It’s not a job you can half-ass or bumble around in and still expect to avoid a bullet in the back of the head.

But I had also read enough fiction to know that being queer is another way to end up dead by the end of the novel. Cyril’s death fell pretty neatly into the trope known as “Bury Your Gays.”

I was caught between two tropes: one I wanted to lean into, and another I had frowned over in many other media properties. And I had gotten myself there by thinking how satisfying it would be to queer such a macho genre as the spy novel (though let’s be honest: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy had already done it, and done it well).

But all of this isn’t my big idea. My big idea came when feedback from my editorial team poked at the ending–both my agent and my editor earmarked the potentially problematic death. Could we not just make it a little more open-ended? Not quite so…death-y?

I was torn, and also confused and kind of angry. I had written this ending knowing full well the risk I ran, and chosen to keep it during submissions because it felt right for the story and the character’s arc. I also didn’t think I would have been urged to unkill a straight character.

I have a lot of complicated feelings about tragic queers. But as several friends have said to me lately, “complicated is good. Complicated means it’s worth discussing.”

I felt then–and still feel, a lot of the time–that often there is a pressure on queer characters and queer stories to combat the “Bury Your Gays” trope, or the gay villain trope, or any number of other tropes, by telling stories without death, without tragedy, without detestable people. And yes, the world deserves happy, heroic queer characters. But it also deserves nuanced stories about flawed and fully-developed queer characters who sometimes hurt others and are hurt themselves.

Queer characters have been dying in fiction for a long time: as moral censure, as motivation for straight characters, to lend tragic savor to the story of straight heroes. Often the queer character who dies is the only queer character in story, and death is the only end we see for them. And obviously that’s a problem.

Unfortunately, nowadays the labor of undoing the harm caused by these tropes usually falls on stories that center queer characters–often on stories by authors who are queer themselves. Many queer authors hesitate to write stories based in their own experience, wondering if they are too dark, if they perpetuate the tragic queer narrative. And many times, straight authors including queer characters in heroic, happy narratives write versions of queer people that feel disingenuous or flat; that don’t engage with the nuances of living with a queer identity, some of which can be complicated and yes, painful.

I don’t like the idea that tropes–even Bury Your Gays–should be avoided at all costs. It’s not only simplistic, it’s impossible. If you write fiction, you’re going to write a trope someday. My take on tropes is that when they show up in a story they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, but interrogated, turned on their head, and shaken down for their milk money.

So, I wrote two more books. And here we come to my big idea. There are spoilers ahead, so be wary if you mind that kind of thing.

Removing an explicit death scene and replacing it with a much more open-ended culmination felt strange to me, as an ending for a standalone. And the idea that this simple elision addressed the tragic queer trope didn’t quite scan for me; the book is still a tragedy. It still features queer characters. Changing that final scene with Cyril was symbolic, yes, but felt hollow somehow–like it lacked the intended resonance of the original ending. It felt like avoiding a trope on a technicality.

Still, given the feedback, I began to envision a further arc to the story; if Cyril didn’t die, what would his life look like? As a bad spy, a poor communicator, a child of privilege, and a fascist collaborator burdened by guilt, where would he go in this world turned upside down by political upheaval? And, if he ever surfaced again, how would he be treated by his friends, family, lovers, and public opinion?

Essentially: if death was not the final note in a tragic character arc marked by personal failures, what could I replace it with? What was a fate worse than death, to and for Cyril DePaul?

Facing the music, of course.

In Amberlough, death was a consequence for a long string of bad decisions made by a desperate man with flexible morals. I started thinking of the stack of consequences Cyril would have to face if he lived. There were a lot of them, ten times more complicated than a clean death might have been. And they were harder for Cyril to take, as a character, which as any writer knows makes for rich material.

In essence, my big idea was, “If I avoid this trope, it won’t be on a technicality. It will be on my own terms. And those terms will be devastating.”

In the actual writing of the book, things turned out differently than I had envisioned when I set out. But I hope I still succeeded in turning the simple evasion of a trope into something much thornier, that has readers asking themselves questions about guilt and redemption and who is forgiven for what, by whom, and why.

—-

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

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

Sunset, 4/16/19

Enjoy it because it’s the last one I’ll probably post for a bit — I’m traveling for a couple of weeks to places where buildings get in the way of sunsets. But this is a pretty one at least. It should hold you.

The Big Idea: Ashok K. Banker

For this Big Idea, Ashok K. Banker writes an epistolary essay to someone who is not me, about his new novel, Upon a Burning Throne. Who is the recipient of this letter, and why is sent to them? Read on.

ASHOK K. BANKER:

Hey there, Effie.

We’ve known each other a while, you and I.

That’s why I get to call you Effie. I know you don’t let anyone else call you that. It’s our special thing.

The folks reading this are wondering what I’m on about. Who the eff is Effie, they want to know.

John, whose blog this piece is appearing on, also wants to know What’s the Big Idea.

I’m getting there.

First, let me introduce y’all to someone who needs no introduction.

Epic Fantasy.

EF, in short.

But she’ll always be Effie, to me.

Effie and I have been close for a very long time.

In a sense, she was my first love.

I first discovered her in an encyclopedia called The Book of Knowledge. It was this set of oversized hardcover volumes bound in midnight blue cloth. In the articles on Mythology, I first came across the world of fantastic beings, demi-gods, legendary heroes, amazing quests, epic battles, incredible worlds.

Sure, it was called Mythology.

But even back then, I saw it for what it really was.

Epic Fantasy.

I devoured all those articles over and over. I tried tracing out the wonderful illustrations (mostly classic paintings reproduced) and coloring them so I could pin them over my bed. I was really young at this point, so young I don’t even want to admit how young I was, and reading those articles in that encyclopedia also made me aware of how easy and enjoyable this thing called reading could be. So much so, that it got me hooked to reading way above my age level, a practice that continued throughout my childhood and adolescent years. So in a sense, Effie was the one who got me hooked on reading for life.

Soon, I graduated to entire books about mythology, myths, fables, fairy tales, and inevitably, science fiction and fantasy.

You have to remember that back then, Epic Fantasy as a publishing label didn’t really exist.

Back then, people like Isaac Asimov were still arguing that all imaginative fiction was really fantasy, a view which (as I recall) didn’t go down well with many die-hard conservationists of “hard” science fiction. Tolkien was only just starting to be rediscovered by a whole new generation of readers in America. And most epic fantasy books tended to be really short standalone paperback novels a couple hundred pages long at most. They were put out by the same imprints that published SF and there was often an apologetic air about them, almost as if the publishers and editors were saying “Hey, here’s a side order of fantasy to go with your SF. Now, let’s get back to talking about our main course, Science Fiction, the big granddaddy of all genre.”

But I could always recognize you, Effie, even when they covered you up like a nun with a bad habit.

You went by many names, like a secret agent donning multiple disguises for a variety of undercover missions.

You were Mythology. You were Legend. You were Science Fiction. You were Adventure. You were Historical. You were Superhero. You were Speculative.

And always, you were Epic and Fantastic.

Effie, forever.

As time went by and Tolkien became a rage in America, setting off a feeding frenzy among readers, publishers, authors, all hungry for “more of the same but different”.

A rumbling army of writers went to work. Reprocessing Tolkien but with more American-friendly prose and dialogue. Reworking the tropes but tweaking them just enough to make them their own, but also undeniably more…American.

The Americanization of Effie began, even as people acknowledged that Effie herself existed.

The gatekeepers processed you through the Ellis Island of US Publishing and turned you into an Apple Pie version of yourself.

A lot of terrific books came out of it.

Some better than others, some truly awesome, others…not so much.

Always readable, occasionally brilliant, but always… American.

Even when there were orcs and trollocs, goblins and elves, stone castles on high mountains, sieges and battles, great roaring armies of the undead, dark lords and white knights, somehow it all read like it had been processed through a machine that marked everything with a “Made in USA” tattoo.

American hero in a strange land. Fantastical worlds that looked different at a glance, but were really just American versions of what were supposed look to like “other” worlds.

Gone were the inscrutable mysteries of cultures and minds that were so far removed from our own present day that they were truly different.

Gone was the magic of bygone eras that had never existed and probably never would.

Gone was the sense of wonder that came from discovering fantastical worlds perceived through genuinely alien eyes.

In their place were now the familiar characters, personalities, ways of talking, acting, responding, behaving, as any of the equally familiar puppets that moved their lips and hips in American TV shows and movies.

Everything was “relatable”.

The fascination of the unknown, the shock of the unseen, the delight of the never-before-experienced was gone.

Replaced overnight by doppelganger tropes that simulated the original ones but were really just super chain franchise product.

They pretty much effed you up, Effie.

Turned you into something that went against the very grain of what you were.

Even at its most diverse, its most inclusive, its most genre-bending, globalizing, all-embracing best, American Epic Fantasy was now painfully…American.

So here’s my Big Idea.

(Yeah, finally.)

I took this epic poem called the Mahabharata, composed in Sanskrit some thousands of years ago. Some say, it’s the oldest story ever written. Whether or not that’s true, it’s certainly the biggest, and the most audacious, ambitious, mother of stories you’ve ever read. It’s truly a mothership of Epic Fantasy. Every genre, every trope, every plot, every character, every twist, every scene you could possibly think of, is in there, and then some.

There’s a line in the Mahabharata itself about itself – yes, this is an epic that spends a lot of time talking about itself, the ultimate self-aware sentient story cycle – that says “Everything you seek is here. What is not here, is nowhere else.” After decades poring over it time and again, I can pretty much confirm that with two thumbs up.

But I didn’t just take this epic and Effie it up.

No, sir.

I set out to write an original Effie that would not reference anything, anyone, or be in any way, American.

A genuinely “other” Epic Fantasy.

The result, Effie, is my love song to you.

It’s called the Burnt Empire Saga.

Like the title, it’s just a tad bitter at first taste, because, well, it’s not the usual fare served in America.

It’s spicy, as in, real Indian spicy – not the stuff that they serve up in (the wonderful) Indian restaurants here in the USA – the kind of Indian spicy that has sweat pouring down your face and all your mucus membranes (and I do mean, all) on fire for several hours, but is goddamn awesome. It sets your hair on fire and you will never again be able to settle for sugar-laced American chain food once you acquire a taste for it.

The first book is called Upon a Burning Throne.

It sets bookstores on fire on April 16, 2019.

And just to prove how un-American it is, Effie, let me give the readers of this piece a teensy-weensy example.

The main protagonist of the entire series only appears very briefly in this first book.

And she’s just a baby in that one chapter.

Her story actually begins in Book 2, A Dark Queen Rises, which comes out next year.

Because this is not an American Epic Fantasy.

It’s not even an Indian Epic Fantasy.

Sure, it’s inspired by Indian mythology, and the DNA of the Mahabharata is all over it.

But that’s like saying I’m Irish because my grandmother was Irish. (True.)

Or that I’m Portuguese because my grandfather was Portuguese. (Ditto.)

Or that I’m Sri Lankan. (Ditto.) Or Indian. (Ditto.)

I’m all those things and then some.

And the Burnt Empire Saga is a lot of things too.

But one thing it’s not is American.

Check it out if you want to see what that’s like.

As for me, I’m happy to take back Effie to her roots.

The unknowable, inscrutable, not-quite-human-yet-intensely-humanistic mythopoetic mystery realm of the forgotten, the never-was, and never-will-be.

That’s where you belong, Effie.

That’s my tribute to you.

Accept this offering with all my love and humility, Effie.

It’s yours now.

—-

Upon a Burning Throne: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt (scroll to the “excerpt” button). Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

View From a Hotel Window, 4/12/19: Los Angeles

Los Angeles is looking a little noir today. 

And I had an adventure getting here; my connecting flight from Chicago was diverted to Denver when it was discovered that the toilets on the plane wouldn’t flush. I mean, fair call, and probably the right decision, but I had a meeting this afternoon I needed to be at. Fortunately it was rescheduled and I arrived for it literally to the second for when it was supposed to begin. Timing is everything.

Now I’m in my hotel room and on one hand there are friends to see, but on the other, room service and sleep. It’s going to be a tough call.

Reminder: I and Cory Doctorow are in conversation on Sunday afternoon at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. If you’re in LA, come down and see us.

The Big Idea: Michael Moreci

If you’re a writer, is it better to be the proverbial tortoise or the proverbial hare? And does either matter as long as you’re still running the race? Michael Moreci considers this topic today in his Big Idea, and how it relates to his newly released novel, We Are Mayhem.

MICHAEL MORECI:

Selling books is hard.

Now, I’m certain this isn’t news to most people who read this blog, or anyone familiar with the book market in general. It’s no secret that most books are not bestsellers. In fact, most books end up losing money for their publisher. I came into the book world from comics; when my debut novel, last year’s Black Star Renegades, was published, I already had a track record writing both original and licensed comic books. And, to be certain, comics and books aren’t all that dissimilar—especially when it comes to profitability. Still, I experienced a learning curve when entering the book world, and I’m still learning today.

I’ll never forget what my sales rep told me, soon after Black Star Renegades was released. We’d met by happenstance—well, happenstance and some assistance from my friend and bookseller extraordinaire, Javier—and she imparted a piece of advice that has stuck with me. She said: The important thing is for your book to keep selling; so many books come out, sell for a few weeks, and vanish. They never sell again.

I thought, at the time, this had to be hyperbole. I was wrong.

Weeks later, I was at a book signing, and I was seated next to another first-time author. Unlike me, she had a tremendous amount of publishing knowledge from her time working at one of the major book houses. She gave me the same advice as my sales rep, reinforcing the idea that for books to be successful, they have to stick around. She—and I don’t want to reveal her name, for the sake of her privacy—told me a story about a book that her publisher had paid over $100K to acquire; this book had been out for two months and had sold ~two hundred copies. The math on that, as you might assume, isn’t good.

From the day Black Star Renegades was released, I was determined to make it a success; I doubled my efforts upon learning these horror stories of books that get released and, massive advance or not, disappear weeks later. Look, being candid—I knew Black Star Renegades wasn’t going to be a bestseller. The trick, I figured, was to make sure it stuck around.

I forget the exact numbers, but I did something like 40 events in 2018, ranging from bookstore signings, book festivals, comic conventions, and library appearances. Granted, I love this stuff; I love being part of book clubs, leading library workshops, and talking about writing in general. But 40 is a lot. And I’m exhausted.

The results, though, are real. Between Black Star Renegades and its sequel, We Are Mayhem (just released this week!), I’m going to earn out my advance (meaning my publisher will recoup the money they paid me to write these books). Would I consider these books to be a runaway successes? Nope. But—there’s something to be said about finding success in longevity. Because that’s what publishing is, for many writers: the ability to stick around. It’s what my writing teachers taught me, and what I teach my own students. Making it in this field is a marathon, not a sprint, and the marathon doesn’t end when your book is out.

Getting to the actual books, having the temerity to stick around is something that’s often on my mind. At the core of both Black Star Renegades and We Are Mayhem is a story that centers around what happens when the messiah figure (and we all know the prevalence of the messiah complex in fiction, and in real life) is taken off the playing field. What happens when a magical someone isn’t going to fix all the world’s problems?

I volunteered for the Obama campaign back 2008, and I’ll never forget the day after he won, when everyone saw the campaign’s success as the end goal—they figured Obama was going to fix everything, and that would be that. But that’s not that. Like finding success as a writer, the goal of bettering the world is an ongoing effort. You have to endure. You have to be dedicated to your cause and strive and sacrifice to make things work. That’s what I wanted my characters to discover once their messiah is gone and their backs are pushed against the wall. They face tremendous odds in having to topple an evil galactic empire, and without any hope for a magical solution to help see them through. But in this vacuum, they find hope in unity; hope in the will to defy the ruling order and fight for what’s right. And I think that’s a story we all need in our lives (especially these days).

So, We Are Mayhem picks up where Black Star Renegades left off. The galaxy is at war. Ace pilot Kira Sen is leading a group of resistance fighters against the Praxis empire while Cade Sura wrangles with the destiny—in the form of a powerful, mythical weapon—that was shoved in his hands. The book is a little bit of Star Wars, a touch of Arthurian legend, and a whole bunch of space adventure fun.

We Are Mayhem: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

The Springing of Spring, 2019

It’s a nice spring day here at the Scalzi Compound. I even went for a walk.

How is it where you are?

How Not to Congratulate Someone

I wrote this on Twitter today, and am posting it here both for archival purposes and also because, hey, it’s applicable in this medium as well.

A general statement because it’s happened to me more than once here on Twitter and elsewhere:

So, hey, if I’m noting a good thing happening in my career and your response to it is to dump on another author/creator in some way, you’re ruining it for me.

Now, here’s why (thread).

1. Because that author/creator you’re dumping on might be a friend, or someone I otherwise like and respect. It’s not fun to have someone else dump on your friends, even (especially) when it’s couched in praise for you.

2. Because success is not a zero-sum game: In nearly all cases I do not succeed by making someone else fail. Dumping on other authors/creators to praise me plays up the Highlander Theory of Success (“there can be only one!”) which is really not how it works at all.

3. Because when you dump on someone else while praising me, whether you know it or not, you leave me in the position of either having to say something about it, or saying nothing, which can be taken to be an implicit acceptance of the dumping. You make me police a happy moment.

4. Because, really, it’s kind of weird. It’s okay to just say “Congrats!” or some such without then going on to trash some other person. If you find yourself doing that, please give some thought to why you thought you needed to do that.

Now, I understand that some of you don’t intend to be rude or awful, you mean to be clever and funny. But remember that the failure mode of “clever” is “asshole.” Someone who is being trashed on will see your words but not your intent (as will everyone else). So think.

Also, I understand that some might feel that if the person you’re trashing on is (by your estimation) famous and/or rich, then maybe a little online trashing is par for that course. But a) ugh, and b) it doesn’t follow that you should do it in that thread. Make your own.

You don’t raise me up by trashing other people. You drag me down. And when you do that you make it less likely I’m going to share good news here, because I don’t want to have to wade through people trashing on friends and colleagues in what should be a happy moment.

So, please, keep in mind, for me and for others: You can be happy for the people you like without trashing other people. Give it a try. Thank you.

Top of the Heap, For a Bit

For a bit of time Sunday night and Monday morning, I was Amazon’s #1 author — not just for science fiction, or for science fiction and fantasy, but for all books. JK Rowling was number two, James Patterson was number six, and Stephen King was number ten.

So, that’s nice for me. I’ve been in the top five of the Amazon Author rankings before, but this is my first time at the actual top of the heap, and while I am as always reminding people that Amazon’s rankings are opaque and fiddly and not necessarily indicative of much other than Amazon’s opaque and fiddly rankings, still, it’s nice to be even temporarily on top of a list that includes Rowling and Patterson and King, and — well, every single other author who sells their work on Amazon, I suppose.

So, I’ll enjoy the moment, thanks. Mind you, it won’t last. But that’s all the more reason to enjoy it.

Sign of the Times

My friend Olivia came to visit Ohio for a few days, and so I showed her the sights of the area, including this particular traffic sign, meant to alert automobile travelers that this particular road is frequented by Amish buggies, so they should be aware of them. To Olivia’s disappointment we did not see any buggies this particular trip, and I was taking her to the airport to return home. But then I saw three buggies on the way home. The Amish, they hide, apparently.

I took this picture because I think there’s something resonant about someone taking a picture of a traffic sign about very old technology, and taking that picture using very modern technology. And of course I used my own cell phone to take this photo, so here we are. Techception.

Sunset, 4/6/19

There it goes, behind the neighbor’s barn. So long, sun! See you again in about ten hours, more or less.

Smudge Welcomes You to the Weekend

“You enjoy the nice weather, okay?”

Hope your weekend is a good one, folks.

The Big Idea: Caitlin Starling

The people authors know in their life are often significant in their fiction, either through their presence or their absence. In discussing her novel The Luminous Dead, author Caitlin Starling reflects on a person in her life who is very important to her, and how that person has made herself known in Starling’s writing.

CAITLIN STARLING:

When I was nine years old, my mother died.

It’s strange, losing a parent that young. I was old enough to remember her, but young enough that while I knew she’d been sick since I was born, and had a name for her death sentence (AIDS) since I was two, I hadn’t understood. After she died, I insisted on going back to school within a day, maybe two. I finished fourth grade. I finished elementary school, middle school, high school, and to all appearances, I moved on. I didn’t cry more than a normal child, didn’t act out more, didn’t really think about her as I grew up.

And then she started appearing in my writing.

It’s a well-worn trope, the dead mother who is convenient for the plot. She provides motivation, as well as logistical handwaving. The character doesn’t go to her parents for help, because she has no parents! And look, she has something to be appropriately angry about when the plot calls for it, but otherwise we’ll ignore the messiness that sort of death leaves behind in the real world. I learned from that playbook, of course, but instead of convenient, the dead mother began to dominate my characters’ lives. In my fandom days, I would fixate on figures who had suffered loss, estrangement, guilt, shame, and I would pry into them until I might as well have been writing original fiction.

When I finally began writing The Luminous Dead, I went back to what I knew. Gyre, the main character, doesn’t have a dead mother, but she does have a hole in her life in the shape of that mother. She has a father she’s emotionally estranged from, thanks to that hole they both share. And then there’s Em, who (spoiler!) lost her father young, then watched her mother fade away and, ultimately, disappear. The Luminous Dead is a claustrophobic story, a thriller set in a cave with just two characters, but more than that, it’s an emotional psychodrama. Every inch of the plot is drenched in grief, before we even know exactly what’s been lost, exactly how that’s pushed and pulled at the characters until they’ve arrived where they are.

Grief is not simple. It is not predictable. It is not clean, but not quite the mess you expect, either. It strikes at unexpected moments; after years of barely thinking about my mother, she roared back into my life because I was angry, angry that she wasn’t here to know my spouse, or to read my book, or just to sit and talk with me so that I could know her as an adult, not just a confused child. And then she was gone again.

I have friends who lost their mothers as young adults. I have sat with older relatives as they became orphans in their fifties. Every response is different, shaped by the relationships lost and the lives lived up until that moment. Even my own, which I know so well, looks different in different lights, at different times of day.

I see the world the way that I do because she is no longer in it. I treat distance and death in much the same way; when I can’t see somebody in front of me, my conscious mind forgets them, to save me the pain of losing them. When somebody dies, they simply stop existing, until a dream reminds me that we will never talk again.

Each story I write is drawn back to this first loss, whether I intend it to or not, and each time, I find a different facet of grief to delve into, to tease apart, to use to express elements of my own pain in dramatic form.

It doesn’t heal, necessarily.

But it does help.

—-

The Luminous Dead: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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

The 2019 Hugo Award Finalists

Here they are! I have a ton of friends in here, and I’m thrilled for them all. I hope I will see them in Dublin this August!

Best Novel

  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
  • Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
  • Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Novella

  • Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press / JABberwocky Literary Agency)

Best Novelette

  • “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho (B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, 29 November 2018)
  • “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections,” by Tina Connolly (Tor.com, 11 July 2018)
  • “Nine Last Days on Planet Earth,” by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com, 19 September 2018)
  • The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” by Naomi Kritzer (Uncanny Magazine 25, November- December 2018)
  • “When We Were Starless,” by Simone Heller (Clarkesworld 145, October 2018)

Best Short Story

  • “The Court Magician,” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, January 2018)
  • “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” by T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine 25, November-December 2018)
  • “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington,” by P. Djèlí Clark (Fireside Magazine, February 2018)
  • “STET,” by Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine, October 2018)
  • “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat,” by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine 23, July-August 2018)
  • “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex Magazine, February 2018)

Best Series

  • The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (most recently Tor.com Publishing/Orbit)
  • Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (most recently DAW)
  • The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press)
  • Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work

  • Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works
  • Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee (Dey Street Books)
  • The Hobbit Duology (documentary in three parts), written and edited by Lindsay Ellis and Angelina Meehan (YouTube)
  • An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953- 2000, by Jo Walton (Tor)
  • http://www.mexicanxinitiative.com: The Mexicanx Initiative Experience at Worldcon 76 (Julia Rios, Libia Brenda, Pablo Defendini, John Picacio)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing, by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon (Tin House Books)

Best Graphic Story

  • Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)
  • Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford (Marvel)
  • Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden (First Second)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 4, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 9, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Annihilation, directed and written for the screen by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer (Paramount Pictures / Skydance)
  • Avengers: Infinity War, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Marvel Studios)
  • Black Panther, written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, directed by Ryan Coogler (Marvel Studios)
  • A Quiet Place, screenplay by Scott Beck, John Krasinski and Bryan Woods, directed by John Krasinski (Platinum Dunes / Sunday Night)
  • Sorry to Bother You, written and directed by Boots Riley (Annapurna Pictures)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, screenplay by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (Sony)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate,” written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck and Naren Shankar, directed by Simon Cellan Jones (Penguin in a Parka / Alcon Entertainment)
  • Doctor Who: “Demons of the Punjab,” written by Vinay Patel, directed by Jamie Childs (BBC)
  • Dirty Computer, written by Janelle Monáe, directed by Andrew Donoho and Chuck Lightning (Wondaland Arts Society / Bad Boy Records / Atlantic Records)
  • The Good Place: “Janet(s),” written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan, directed by Morgan Sackett (NBC)
  • The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy,” written by Megan Amram, directed by Trent O’Donnell (NBC)
  • Doctor Who: “Rosa,” written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall, directed by Mark Tonderai (BBC)

Best Professional Editor, Short Form

  • Neil Clarke
  • Gardner Dozois
  • Lee Harris
  • Julia Rios
  • Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas
  • E. Catherine Tobler

Best Professional Editor, Long Form

  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Anne Lesley Groell
  • Beth Meacham
  • Diana Pho
  • Gillian Redfearn
  • Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

  • Galen Dara
  • Jaime Jones
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Yuko Shimizu
  • Charles Vess

Best Semiprozine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, editor-in-chief and publisher Scott H. Andrews
  • Fireside Magazine, edited by Julia Rios, managing editor Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, social coordinator Meg Frank, special features editor Tanya DePass, founding editor Brian White, publisher and art director Pablo Defendini
  • FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, executive editors Troy L. Wiggins and DaVaun Sanders, editors L.D. Lewis, Brandon O’Brien, Kaleb Russell, Danny Lore, and Brent Lambert
  • Shimmer, publisher Beth Wodzinski, senior editor E. Catherine Tobler
  • Strange Horizons, edited by Jane Crowley, Kate Dollarhyde, Vanessa Rose Phin, Vajra Chandrasekera, Romie Stott, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and the Strange Horizons Staff
  • Uncanny Magazine, publishers/editors-in-chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, managing editor Michi Trota, podcast producers Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue editors-in-chief Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and Dominik Parisien

Best Fanzine

  • Galactic Journey, founder Gideon Marcus, editor Janice Marcus
  • Journey Planet, edited by Team Journey Planet
  • Lady Business, editors Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay & Susan
  • nerds of a feather, flock together, editors Joe Sherry, Vance Kotrla and The G
  • Quick Sip Reviews, editor Charles Payseur
  • Rocket Stack Rank, editors Greg Hullender and Eric Wong

Best Fancast

  • Be the Serpent, presented by Alexandra Rowland, Freya Marske and Jennifer Mace
  • The Coode Street Podcast, presented by Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe
  • Fangirl Happy Hour, hosted by Ana Grilo and Renay Williams
  • Galactic Suburbia, hosted by Alisa Krasnostein, Alexandra Pierce, and Tansy Rayner Roberts, produced by Andrew Finch
  • Our Opinions Are Correct, hosted by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders
  • The Skiffy and Fanty Show, produced by Jen Zink and Shaun Duke, hosted by the Skiffy and Fanty Crew

Best Fan Writer

  • Foz Meadows
  • James Davis Nicoll
  • Charles Payseur
  • Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
  • Alasdair Stuart
  • Bogi Takács

Best Fan Artist

  • Sara Felix
  • Grace P. Fong
  • Meg Frank
  • Ariela Housman
  • Likhain (Mia Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth

Best Art Book

  • The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, illustrated by Charles Vess, written by Ursula K. Le Guin (Saga Press /Gollancz)
  • Daydreamer’s Journey: The Art of Julie Dillon, by Julie Dillon (self-published)
  • Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History, by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer (Ten Speed Press)
  • Spectrum 25: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, ed. John Fleskes (Flesk Publications)
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – The Art of the Movie, by Ramin Zahed (Titan Books)
  • Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, ed. Catherine McIlwaine (Bodleian Library)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • Katherine Arden (2nd year of eligibility)
  • S.A. Chakraborty (2nd year of eligibility)
  • R.F. Kuang (1st year of eligibility)
  • Jeannette Ng (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Vina Jie-Min Prasad (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Rivers Solomon (2nd year of eligibility)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

  • The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz)
  • Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books)
  • Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
  • The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic)
  • Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen)

ON STAGE AND FULL OF RAGE or at Least Doing a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof

Photo by Steve Petrucelli. All rights reserved to him.

Sure looks like I’m screaming the ever-living hell out of my lungs whilst doing my best Rob Halford imitation, does it not? In fact I’m singing a Disney tune. This one (and this variation of it):

Which is slightly more in my range than most Judas Priest songs, I have to admit. Also it was a lot of fun. Also I am a huge, huge ham.

This is from the JoCo Cruise, incidentally, which is already taking reservations for next year’s sailing (and which is already 90% booked, so, uh, hurry if you’re interested).

In a Last-Minute Casting Change, the Role of “Cat Who Lies in the Middle of a Stair, Causing the Humans to Carefully Route Around It” Will Be Portrayed By Smudge

Usually this critical role in the Scalzi house drama is played by Sugar, but clearly Smudge is proving an able understudy. Also, if you ever hear that I have died from a fall down the stairs, a cat will almost certainly be the reason why. Please act surprised nevertheless.

New Books and ARCs 3/29/19

Well, would you look at that, it’s another week, month and quarter of a year just about wrapped up. Hope it’s been a good one for you. Here’s this week’s collection of very fine new books and ARCs that have some to the Scalzi Compound. If you see something you like here, shout it out in the comments.