SFWA.Org Currently Under DDoS Attack

Reposting this here by way of getting the word out to SFWA members:

For those who don’t know, a DDoS attack basically means someone is hitting our web site with automated  frequent requests with the intent of blocking access to it. We’re not speculating on who or why; what we’re focused on is getting the site back up. Our Web folks are fixing it as we speak.

Update: We’re back up.

The Human Division Episodes: Official Bestsellers

No lie, it seems both The B-Team and Walk the Plank hit the USA Today best seller lists in the last couple of weeks. Sweet! I have no idea if a serialized novel has had individual portions of it hit that particular list before, although I imagine (so long as this particular list existed then) that The Green Mile did it. So maybe it’s possible I’m the first person since Stephen King to do it? Maybe? I could find out for sure but then I might learn someone else did it and I don’t want that, so HEY EVERYBODY ME AND STEPHEN KING ARE IN A SPECIAL CLUB AND YOU CAN’T JOIN NYAH NYAH NYAH. We’re gonna sit around and talk baseball and writing and classic rock bands, and throw ice cubes at Joe Hill while he cuts the lawn with a manual mower. It’s gonna be great.

(Also: thank you, folks. Really.)

My Poor Stoned Puppy

Daisy has developed a nasty cough and the vet gave us some cough suppressant, which she warned might have the side effect of making Daisy drowsy. Well, it has the side effect of making her stoned, is what it does; after I gave it to her, she sat one of her beds, head wobbling, and just, like, really looked at her paws, man. For hours.

Poor puppy.

The Big Idea: Betsy Dornbusch

Sometimes, to get at the big idea in your story, you have to ask someone else about it. For Exile, author Betsy Dornbusch asked one very special person, with a… unique perspective on the events of the book.


I admit it. I struggled to nail down exactly what Exile’s Big Idea is.

I started with the Twitter pitch. A half-breed, ex-slave bastard falsely accused of murdering his wife is exiled to the arse-end of the world. And I came up with lots of ideas, but I kept getting distracted by the fun parts of the book. There’s prejudice. (Epic fantasy!) A crisis of faith. (Swords!)  Slavery. Crushing grief. (A quest!) Guilt. Suicidal tendencies. (Magic!) Revenge. Never belonging anywhere again. (Evil spirits!) Corruption, power, and civil war. (A ghostly Greek Chorus!) The role of the anti-hero…

Er, well…I needed to narrow my focus. Overwhelmed, I did what I do when I write stories. I asked the protagonist, Draken, what he considers his Big Idea.

He promptly discarded the notion of hero or anti-hero. He has no intention of saving the day. Prejudice he’s been dealing with his whole life; nobody likes a half-breed. He’s bitter, not grieving. Guilt he’s got in spades, but he was taught to buck up early on by slave whips. And never mind the suicidal tendencies, life isn’t worth living without his wife anyway.

Really, the only thing keeping Draken going once he drags himself onto the wild shores of Akrasia is thoughts of revenge against the man who killed her. He feels guilty as hell about failing to protect her and knows revenge will solve nothing. He knows he’s going dark-side after a life of overcoming significant odds. But morality, honor, and truth don’t put food in your belly when you’re banished to enemy territory.

Draken commits more crimes on his first day of exile than he’d ever been accused of: lies, robbery, murder. From there he moves on to making himself useful to the powers that be, except this time ethics be damned. Despite a deeply-ingrained religious prejudice against magic, he allies with an influential necromancer. Soon he’s navigating a dangerous foreign court by telling enough lies to start a war. While everyone from lowly slaves to the very gods conspire to sway him to nobler purposes—rescuing an abused young princess, solving an assassination attempt on the queen, negotiating peace—he uses all of Akrasia’s hostilities and bigotry to serve his own lust for vengeance. And if Akrasia is destroyed in the process, well, it’s a backwards, godsforsaken kingdom he never pretended to like anyway.

Except… other characters are loyal to Draken. His friends keep his secrets, acquaintances admire him, his enemies give him grudging respect. He is completely mystified by it. After all, his accent is awkward, his skin color is wrong, his attitude is bad. He’s always been a man who makes strangers loosen their swords in their scabbards when he walks into a tavern, but the Akrasians trust him. They ask him for help, and offer it. The gods gift him with magic and power. He collects so many unlikely friends his merry band feels like LOTR all over again.

So Draken’s question, his Big Idea, is pretty simple: why do they like me?

I think it’s because we’re fascinated when decent people who have every chance to do the right thing choose the wrong things for the wrong reasons. They’re curiosities of humankind, aren’t they? Driven, accomplished, wounded, sometimes narcissistic, always charismatic.

Draken keeps salving his wounds with lies and immoral choices even when he succeeds for the betterment of others, even when life would be easier if he chose righteousness over corruption. He tests the boundary between their love and his dishonesty. And just like real people, the other characters are obsessed with him and his darker nature, even as he clings to revenge right to the bloody end.

Besides. Epic Fantasy! Swords! Magic! Evil spirits!


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

Read an excerpt. Follow her on Twitter.

Space Marines and the Battle of Tradem Ark

Today’s thing people in e-mail are clamoring for me to comment about: This, in which the sale of a self-published book by M.C.A. Hogarth was blocked from sale on Amazon after Games Workshop complained that it violated its trademark for the term “space marines.” If the linked post above is at all accurate, apparently Games Workshop, which uses the term “space marines” in its Warhammer 40,000 games and has a trademark in that area, has branched out into handling its own ebooks and therefore believes that trademark carries over into the literary world as well.

I am not a lawyer, so factor that in here. That said: Games Workshop, really? You know, a simple search on the term “space marines” over at Google Books shows a crapload of prior art for “space marines” in science fiction literature, from the 1936 Amazing Tales novelette “The Space Marines and the Slavers” by Bob Olsen, to Robert Heinlein’s novel Space Cadet, to the very recent use of the term in The Sheriff of Yrnameer by Michael Reubens and So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel by Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwitch. There is no lack of evidence that the phrase “space marines” has been used rather promiscuously in science fiction literature up to this point.

To argue, as Games Workshop must, that the phrase “space marines” has a distinctive character in science fiction literature relating only to their product involves, shall we say, a certain studied ignorance of the field. Table top games? Possibly; I’m not an expert. Science fiction literature? You have got to be kidding. It’s pretty damn generic in this field, and was long before 1987, when Warhammer 40,000 was created in game form . Nor does it seem, as far as I know, that Games Workshop attempted to claim trademark on the phrase “space marine” before, despite a veritable plethora of Warhammer 40K tie-in literature using the phrase.

So, yeah, this seems like pretty weak sauce on the part of Games Workshop. If it believes it has a trademark claim it has to defend it, but the fact it believes it has a legitimate trademark claim on “space marine” in the field of science fiction literature is absurd (or, alternately, if it believes it doesn’t have a legitimate trademark claim but is attempting an intellectual rights land grab anyway, it is odious). It’s easy enough to pull this crap on a self-published author who doesn’t have the resources to fight the assertion. I’ll be interested to see what happens if they try to pull it on an actual publisher, with actual lawyers. That should be fun.

(As people will ask what this means in terms of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, of which I am currently president: Well, obviously it’s on my radar. I’m not going to say anything more in that capacity for now.)

In the meantime, I don’t know. As apparently Games Workshop is asserting this trademark in the field of science fiction literature through its expansion into ebook distribution, maybe this is a good pro bono case for the EFF. Someone go tell them. Alternately Games Workshop could just stop being jerks and let this writer sell her book. Seems doubtful anyone will be buying it instead of a Warhammer 40k story, or will confuse it for one.