Uncanny Story and Kit Bonesaw

April 13th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Hello, friends! I have a new story live on Uncanny Magazine: Big Thrull and the Askin’ Man, an oral history / culture hero / dangers of anthropology story.  In which there is a troll.  Named Thrull.

Everybody knows about Thrull. Thrull like legend among us folk—biggest, greenest, meanest, nastiest, and dirtiest of all—with one big difference: legends false, Thrull true. We tell the story of Thrull and the reindeer feast, and the story of Thrull and the Mountain Witches, and the story of how Thrull wrestled Winter and wed Summer on Grandmother Rock, and the story of how Thrull broke Stone Peak making love, but the best story I know, that the story of Thrull and the Askin’ Man. Now pour some hard stuff for yourself, and pour a glass for me. Set your tape deck down and listen. This tells the day Thrull got smart.

Read the rest on Uncanny Magazineor, for bonus awesome, listen to the story, on your computers or phone-adjacent devices, as read by the brilliant Heath Miller on the Uncanny Podcast!

I’m pushing toward the end of a new book, which, depending on the timing of editorial notes on the book after Four Roads Cross, I hope to finish (at least in rough first-drafty form) by late May, in time to devote a month to convention / book launch / publicity season.  In the meantime, Four Roads Cross is up for pre-order, and looks awesome.  I finished page proofs Sunday, and now we’re off to the production races!

Also, well, last week a series of Twitter jokes around an odd murder mystery title led to the creation of Kit Bonesaw, Murder Life Planner, a sort of interior designer Moriarty called in to plan and execute only the finest-grade murders.  Kit now has fan art.

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Clearly a book, or at least a short story, is in order.  Initial notes involved Kit’s RISD graduate apprentice and a sort of Narbonic meets Hannibal vibe.  Scheming to continue.  I’ll keep you all appraised, don’t worry.

Well, maybe you should worry.

The Play’s the Thing, in Which I Run Around and Curse a Lot

March 30th, 2016 § 1 comment § permalink

Two weeks ago, friends and neighbors, in sunny, scenic Orlando, Florida, at the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts, a grand crime was committed against the theater.  That’s right—I acted in a play.

Two plays, in fact!  As part of ICFA’s first annual (I hope!) flash play festival, organized by Doctor (doctor doctor doctor) Carrie J Cole.  A call for play submissions went out across the land, with the stipulation that each play had to contain (1) a bag of bones, an enchanted staff, or a ray gun (choose one), and (2) the line “Relax, it’s only an eyeball.”  All five plays are up in their entirety on Bill Clemente’s blog, featuring the comic and tragic stylings of ICFA’s ThesBot brigade, including Brett Cox, Jenn Gunnels, Alayne Peterson, James Patrick Kelley, Stephanie Neely, Francis Auld, Andy Duncan, John Kessel, yours truly, and Marco “The Editor” Palmieri.  Head to Bill for video of the others—they’re all fantastic in their own way.  I’ve taken the liberty of crossposting the two plays I acted in, here.  We weren’t off-book for these or anything—we had enough rehearsal time for a cold read and some minor blocking, so things get a bit hectic.  Hectic—and PHENOMENAL.  Without further ado, I present to you: plays!

Glitch, by James Patrick Kelley, story of Frankensteins and iPhones (sort of).

ABC, by Kit Reed, in which the term “writer’s retreat” takes on a whole new meaning, and in which I get to live every writer’s dream, except for the alligator part:

Rock on, and I’ll see you all next week!

Didn’t You See Our First Movie? We Drive

March 16th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m on the road, so, only a few updates today.

First: Brian Staveley’s The Last Mortal Bond is out this week!  This is the last volume in his Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne trilogy, a huge event, sharply written, with a deeply morally satisfying conclusion.  Staveley will be drifting through Boston on his launch tour next week, and I’ll be interviewing him at Brookline Booksmith at 7:00 pm on March 24!

Second: every time I pack, especially for long conferences, I thank various Powers and Agencies that I found the following website.  If you travel a lot and like to look, well, unwrinkled on (or shortly after) arrival, give it a looksee.

Chess Thoughts. Hugo Thoughts, Too!

March 9th, 2016 § 3 comments § permalink

I’m working a bit under the weather this week, so: here’s a pretty great video which you may have seen elsewhere.  Chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley challenges a NYC chess hustler to a game, without revealing his true identity.  Got to wonder what the hustler thought about being on camera, but setting that aside, it’s a great clip and well worth your five minutes.

I first saw this video on Boingboing a while back, but when Shut Up and Sit Down reblogged it, they added this link to the actual game played, which is a whole different kind of interesting.  My last exposure to computerized chess was, god, a little over a decade now.  As you walk through the game (right and left arrows move you forward and back, respectively), note how the move list in the left sidebar indicates when each player makes a mistake—not a rules mistake, to be clear, but a tactical or strategic mistake, according to the computer’s calculation.

Also really cool: the health bar beside the board, and the graph beneath, registering the positional advantage of black and white.  You can actually see, move by move, how white loses!  It’s one thing to know, in theory, that positional chess play requires developing pieces and controlling the center of the board.  It’s another to see white take a huge dive in the graph at move 15 when they play Nh2.  This sort of thing really makes clear why people are excited about the Alpha Go result—better computer play offers human players a deeper understanding of a beloved game, and develops the art overall.

(Food for thought, though no guarantees about nutritional content of said food: to what extent is a computer capable of placing the correct moves in a Go game, or a chess game, actually performing the activity humans reflexively describe as “playing go”?  A professional chess player develops patience, mental endurance, and profound mental habits required to bend her omnivore-scavenger brain to the profoundly non-omnivore-scavenger activity of staring at a game board for several hours at a time, oblivious to any potential predators creeping up behind.  These are additional “rules” to the game as played by humans—or at least, they’re constraints to which human players are subjected.  “Learning to play chess,” for a human, is really “learning how to navigate human embodied cognition in such a way as to win a chess game.”  Is a hydraulic car-moving robot stronger than a champion weightlifter?  On paper it can move more weight.  But I suspect we use the word “strong” to mean different things in different contexts.)

(In case this isn’t clear, what I’m not doing here is attempting to qualify away AlphaGo, or computational chess playing, or hydraulic car-moving robots.  They’re all obviously accomplishing the tasks for which they were designed!  There’s no room in a checkmate for qualia.  But along the way, I think developments in artificial intelligence reveal unexamined assumptions about the nature of the tasks they’re designed to confront—they force us to ponder the context of thought.)

(I suppose I for one am supposed to welcome our new robot overlords at this stage in the conversation, aren’t I?)

Setting that aside, news!

Thanks as ever.  Also: check out today’s episode of #ColdWitch!

Magical Deliveries

March 2nd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

What’s this?

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What’s this!!!

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There are t-shirts in the box!IMG_2800

With skulls!IMG_2804

And logos and they rock!IMG_2780Emily Ettlinger, a student at RISD, put together these amazing Craft Sequence t-shirts, complete with King in Red and Caleb t-shirt cartoon!  They are totally great and are now the officially christened Red King Consolidated official corporate volleyball team t-shirt.  I am going to wear mine until the foil comes off.  Check out her behance page!  I am full of excitement!  Also a bit terrified by the unseasonably warm weather that means I can wear t-shirts outside in, you know, February, but the fact the sky is falling shouldn’t prevent us from enjoying ourselves meanwhile.

Other news from the home front: progress on Mysterious New Book and on Bookburners Season Two continues.  I’m sketching out a couple of other really exciting projects the details of which I hope I can share soon.  February has pulled me in many directions—for the most part good ones, but it’s been harder to center the daily practice, so it’s nice to see many of the side hustles reaching a point where I can fold them into the writing schedule.

I’m also putting the finishing touches on copyedits for Four Roads Cross.  This book was so much fun to write, and I love getting the chance to work with familiar characters again.  This feels like a homecoming book to me—not the end, but a waystation.  Remember, folks: preorders are love!

Also in recent news: Nebulas! Nominees for the 2015 Nebulas hit the ‘net a little over a week ago, and the list highlights just how great a year 2015 was for SF.

I’m traveling a bit this week, so I’ll wrap this up here.  We can talk about Hugo Awards and the like next week, unless something wild seizes my attention.

Signing Tomorrow! Also, Boskone!

February 17th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Draft for Book continues apace.  I passed 60,000 words yesterday, writing a couple unexpected scenes; the notecards remain useful.  I’ve switched to drinking tea in the mornings while I write (following the coffee jumpstart), which seems to help keep energy levels high and, well, level, with less of the usual page judder, writing words and deleting them only to retype them.  It’d be interesting to watch my own writing in some sort of programmatic way to see if this was a real pattern.  I’ve considered livecasting the drafting process, but I don’t know that this would interest anyone.  (Also it might be weird on my end—I have a hard time working if I know someone’s looking over my shoulder, for example.)  Anyway, I also submitted a detailed outline to Paizo about the Pathfinder novel, which, glee!

But, all that’s beside the point of the Imminent Things!

First: tomorrow, if you’re in the Cambridge / Somerville area, come out to Pandemonium Books and Games at seven pm to watch Charles Stross, Walter John Williams, and me chat about magic and science!  Or else, like, beanbags or something!  Here’s the event link.

Second: Boskone’s this weekend!  You should drop by the Boston Waterfront Westin for any number of reasons—Boskone has great panels and a good scene generally—but here’s what I’m doing at the con.

The Other Others in Urban Fantasy

Friday 14:00 – 14:50, Burroughs (Westin)

Urban fantasy is packed with all kinds of characters, but what’s left if you remove all the vampires, zombies, and werewolves? What tropes and characters are left to explore? What new and interesting other others are on the horizon?

Melinda Snodgrass (M), Max Gladstone, Barry Goldblatt, Melanie Meadors, Mary Kay Kare

Autographing: Max Gladstone, Sarah Smith

Friday 16:00 – 16:50, Galleria-Autographing (Westin)

Max Gladstone, Sarah Smith

Dating 101 in Urban Fantasy

Saturday 11:00 – 11:50, Marina 3 (Westin)

Magic is in the air! Dating comes with its own unique sets of rules when finding love within urban fantasy novels. You never know what secrets your special someone is hiding — or what’s really so “special” about her. Our panelists share their best advice for how characters can find true love while fighting against the imminent destruction of everyone and everything they hold dear.

Darlene Marshall (M), Max Gladstone, E.J. Stevens, Charles Stross, Lauren Roy

The Grimm Future — The Anthology Group Reading

Saturday 16:00 – 16:50, Griffin (Westin)

NESFA Press presents a special reading for this year’s Boskone Book: The Grimm Future, edited by Erin Underwood. This exciting new anthology of reimagined Grimm’s fairy tales brings you 14 original short stories with a science fictional twist. The Grimm Future features cover art by Boskone 53’s Official Artist, Richard Anderson, and original stories by Guest of Honor Garth Nix as well as program participants Dana Cameron, Max Gladstone, Carlos Hernandez, John Langan, and Peadar Ó Guilín.

Erin Underwood (M), Carlos Hernandez, Max Gladstone, Peadar Ó Guilín, John Langan, Dana Cameron, Garth Nix

Steven Universe and the Cartoon Renaissance

Saturday 20:00 – 20:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

“Believe in Steven!” Cartoons are back with a bang, and the incredible Steven (a half-human, half-Gem hero) is helping save the world. Steven Universe is just one of several adult speculative cartoons that have been praised for their complex characters and rich worldbuilding. From Space Ghost to Futurama to Robot Chicken, these shows have captured our imaginations. Why do we love them so much, and what else should we be watching?

Teddy Harvia (M), Susan Jane Bigelow, Gillian Daniels, Max Gladstone, Julia Rios

Formidable Females

Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

Females were once seen as the weaker sex and assigned weaker social roles. Now, they are  taking full and equal parts, at least within fiction. From Cersei Lannister to Rey, Jessica Jones to Breq, and more, women are taking leadership roles as both protagonists and antagonists within the story. And those are just the characters! What about the writers of these fantastic women? Whom should we be reading? What’s next?

Theodora Goss (M), Max Gladstone, Peadar Ó Guilín, E.J. Stevens

American Gods: The 15th Anniversary

Sunday 14:00 – 14:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

Fifteen years after publication (and winning both Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel), Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is still worshipped by readers new and old. It’s a dark, twisty tale of traditional religious deities battling our new gods. Why does it cast such a long Shadow? Is it more likeGood Omens or The Sandman? Will the upcoming TV series be faithful to the Book?
Max Gladstone (M), Beth Meacham, Diana Thayer, Django Wexler

Events Approach!

February 3rd, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

A collection of thoughts for your pleasure:

  • This Thursday evening, if you’re in the greater Boston area, I’ll be delivering a short talk and Q&A about science fiction and fantasy at the Ames Free Library!  The event starts at 6:30; I’ll read a bit, talk a bit, and answer questions.  Come on by!
  • A couple Thursdays after that, on Feb. 18, Pandemonium Books and Games will host a three-author event in which Charles Stross, Walter Jon Williams, and I will choose champions from the audience to fight to the death with boffer swords (it’s possible to kill someone with a boffer sword, you just have to work harder), or else possibly discuss our books, fantasy, science fiction, and whatever insanity occurs to us at the moment.
  • I, the World’s Slowest Television Human, am five episodes into Jessica Jones now, and still loving it.  Specific greatnesses: how Ritter’s dialogue is beat-for-beat noir, the show’s constant and self-conscious gender-inversion of noir tropes, the soundtrack, Luke, Trish, Jessica, Tenant as a subversion and commentary on his Doctor…  Also, I like how the show abandons the easy procedural formula for a more subtle, HBO-ish “introduce specific series relevant problem-solve specific series relevant problem” structure, to preserve tone and pacing.  (Trying to feature a new case every episode would feel too tight for the noir pacing JJ wants to imitate, IMO—this was basically my only problem with Veronica Mars s1: the procedural elements frequently forced a pace too up-tempo for non-noir.  Which was fine for VM, which wanted to be a combination of noir and Nancy Drew, was fine!  But JJ wants to be a pure-play antihero noir, as far as I can tell, and it’s succeeding brilliantly.)
  • Kaitlin Tremblay’s survey of friendship in video games, and the power of lack of romance, plays into a line of thought I’ve been developing since Agent Carter blew my mind open last year, about the radical nature of friendship.  One day soon, probably after I finish a draft of this book, expect to see a long essay from me on this subject.
  • My next few months are a little wild.  I’m writing a book now; after I’m finished with a draft of this I’ll start drafting another book.  I’ll keep to my once-a-week schedule, but for the near term, expect slightly fewer four thousand word pieces of RPG neepery.  Apologies for that.  I’m fighting to restore your regularly scheduled neepery service with all due speed.
  • Speaking of which, get on board with The Witch Who Came In From The Cold.  Cassandra Rose Clarke’s written our second episode, out today—and the plot continues to thicken.  Subscribe now!

 

The Witch Who Came In From The Cold — Out Now!

January 27th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

 

For the last nine months I’ve been working on another Serial Box project, in addition to Bookburners, and I’m overjoyed to share it with you now: Spies. Witchcraft. Prague. 1970. Lindsay Smith.  Ian Tregellis.  Cassandra Rose Clarke.  Yours truly.  And—MICHAEL SWANWICK!  The Witch Who Came In From The Cold is Serial Box’s foray into magic-and-stale-beer spy fantasy, back-alley betrayals, and occasional golem-fighting, is all-around awesome.  Here’s the description:

While the world watches the bitter rivalry between East and West fester along the Iron Curtain, the Consortium of Ice and the Acolytes of Flame continue waging their ancient war of magic. Kept to the shadows, this secret contest crosses the lines of politics and the borders of nations with impunity – the intrigues of spies may know clear sides but the battles of witches spill out over all. Tanya Morozova is a KGB officer and the latest in a long line of Ice witches and sorcerers; Gabe Pritchard is a CIA officer and reluctant Ice recruit. Enemies at one turn, suspicious allies at the next, their relationship is as explosive as the Cold War itself.

And here’s the trailer!

Witch has been enormous and twisted fun to write, from the tangled feints-within-feints of the first story summit all the way through the nail-biting end.  We have some fantastic villains here, and heroes I love to write for, and everything in between.

And, as always, the first one’s free.  Check it out.

David Hartwell

January 20th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

David Hartwell, giant of science fiction, is in critical condition.  Kathryn Cramer announced on social media yesterday that David suffered “a massive brain bleed and is not expected to recover.”

David bought my first novel.  I met him at ReaderCon in, it must have been 2010—a handshake and a smile and a shirt-and-tie combo you could see halfway across the galaxy.  A friend told me about David’s first con as an editor: showing up with suitcases full of books he spent the entire weekend giving out to people.  Without him, I wouldn’t be here.  I’m not unique in that respect.  Without him, this would be a different field.  I’ve had five years of discovering new reasons, each time I met the guy it seems, to be awed by who David is, and who he’s worked with.

And he was a good human being.  David told me, as I was freaking out after the release of my first book, feeling crushed and insignificant, that the best thing any new author could do was go to conventions and enjoy themselves.  It helped.  One of my first real conversations with him revolved around his concern for an aging friend.  He’s loyal, and charming, and he builds, and he has the best damn ties.

My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.

Boston and Detroit Con Schedules for January!

January 13th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

I tried writing this post in the WordPress app, because Apps are the Wave of the Future of course, but when I clicked *publish*, the app said “a scheduling error has occurred” and promptly ate my entire post.  On the one hand, rassum frassum. (Which I had to wrestle with Autocorrect to properly type, it seems to think I really want to say “reassume Crassus.” I’m not entirely certain what that means.) On the other hand, I’m realizing just how long it’s been since a device just up and ate my words like that.  Time marches on, I suppose.  The question is, in what direction?

Cutting to the point: I’ll be in Boston and Detroit in Official Public Person capacity in the next two weeks!  Come see me and hang out and stuff!

Arisia! Boston, MA (Waterfront Westin), Jan 15-19

I’ll be at the con Saturday and Sunday at least, and helping out at the Choice of Games booth.  Sah hello if you’re in the neighborhood!

Saturday, 5:30 pm 

Cultural Assumptions in SF/F – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Burroughs (3E)
Recent novels such as The Three Body Problem, The Grace of Kings, and Throne of the Crescent Moon join other works that challenge the cultural assumptions behind mainstream (American and English) science fiction and fantasy. How are these genres being reimagined beyond just making the space cowboys swear in Mandarin?
John Chu (m), Max Gladstone, Crystal Huff, Kiini Ibura Salaam, John Scalzi

Sunday, 11:30 am 

Steven Universe: We’ll Always Find a Way – Media, Panel – 1hr 15min – Burroughs (3E)
Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe has been a breakout hit for Cartoon Network. The first series on the network created by a woman, it tells powerful, funny, and moving stories in tiny doses, and has dealt uncompromisingly with issues around gender, childhood, and family in ways both unexpected and delightful. It’s also telling a great long-form adventure story. We’ll talk about all elements of this show in a panel that, like the show itself, will appeal to fans of all ages.
Cassandra Lease (m), Gillian Daniels, Max Gladstone, Juliet Kahn, Cody Mattes

Sunday, 4:00 pm 

Pratchett and His Death – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Burroughs (3E)
Terry Pratchett, tragically lost to us this year, had a unique relationship with Death. Over the course of his Discworld novels, he created a Death who felt like a friend. Death winds through the books with a sense of comfort, showing us that we should not be afraid, we’re merely starting on a different journey. At this panel, we’ll discuss Death and the other great characters and works of Pratchett.
Christopher Davis (m), Vikki Ciaffone, Max Gladstone, Sharone Horowit-Hendler, A.J. Odasso, Sarah Smith

Sunday, 7:00 pm 

Surviving Manliness: Detoxifying Masculinity – Literature, Panel – 1hr 15min – Marina 2 (2E)
Harry Dresden, James Bond and the Winchester brothers seem to suffer more from a kind of toxic masculinity than they do from their antagonists. Many characters who suffer from their manliness seem mired in the same mistakes over and over. This panel is about characters who find a healthier path. What stories and characters provide examples we can use to find a different path in a time of changing expectations on all people, regardless of gender expression?
Erik Amundsen (m), William Ian Blanton, Max Gladstone, Daniel José Older, Sarah Weintraub

Confusion, Novi MI, Jan 22-25 

Friday, 7:00 pm

Mass Tor author signing and tomfoolery!  A grand slate of Tor books authors will be signing at the Livonia Barnes & Noble at 111 Haggerty Road in Northville, MI—John Scalzi, VE Schwab, Greg Van Eekhout, Wes Chu, Susan Doyle, yours truly… You can come to this event even if you’re not a member of the convention, so drop on by!  We’ll have a grand time.

Saturday, 10:00 am

The Fiction of Political SF – Leelanau

Most “political” science fiction doesn’t really deal with politics, it deals with the setting out of ideologies. In other words, it tells stories that have little to do with running a government. The result is a debate of ideas where the political is described by greed and corruption, but never the merely bureaucratic. Why are these tropes recycled time and again? How can politics be approached in a more authentic way and remain interesting to readers?
Kameron Hurley, Patrick Tomlinson, Justin Landon (m), Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

Saturday, 2:00 pm

Beyond the Hero’s Journey – Charlevoix

Joseph Campbell wrote about the hero’s journey in 1949 and it has become the default character arc of western writers for the past sixty years. But, there are many human experiences beyond heroism as narrowly defined by Campbell. What narrative types exist beyond the Hero’s Journey? And why aren’t they more widely used?
Cameron McClure, Brian McClellan, Max Gladstone, Miriam Weinberg (M), Paul Kemner

Saturday, 4:00 pm

Autograph Session!

Saturday, 5:00 pm

Generations of Genre – Isle Royale

For one reader, “traditional fantasy” is pre-Tolkienian, pre-genre, sui-generis works; for another, it’s Forgotten Realms and David Eddings. Equally, for one reader The Hunger Games is a young adult dystopia, while for another it’s science fiction. Can the evolution of such terms be mapped onto changing demographics — is there such a thing as GenX fantasy, or Baby Boomer science fiction? And do any terms retain their currency, and describe common ground across generations?
Laura Resnick, Steve Buchheit, Lynne M. Thomas, Max Gladstone (M), Stina Leicht

Saturday, 6:00 pm

It’s the Economy, Stupid! – Leelanau

National economies are complicated. Far more complicated than Dark Lords and Evil Queens. Nevertheless, books like James SA Corey’s The Expanse series and Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor manage to use economic pressures to create compelling motivations and narrative tension. What are the essential parts for a story built around economics? What’s appealing about these kinds of stories and do the resonate more today than they did a decade ago?
Carl Engle-Laird, Max Gladstone, Kameron Hurley, Ann Leckie, Brent Weeks

And that’s all, folks!  I look forward to seeing some of you in the next few weeks.