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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Thank You! The Craft Sequence is a Hugo Award Finalist!

I am amazed. Agog. Thrilled.

My weird law wizard religion justice books are finalists for the first ever Hugo Award for Best Series. The Craft Sequence has, thanks to your sharing it, reading it, shouting about it, gaming in it, drawing fan art of it, and shoving it in the hands of your friends and relations, been nominated for a Hugo. Thank you all. I wouldn’t be here without your efforts, your joy, your enthusiasm. Books are hard to write—there are so many chances to doubt yourself, alone with your keyboard. But every time I heard from someone excited about this world and these characters, I remembered that I don’t write because I have some twisted need to sit alone at a keyboard (though I do, often). I write because I like telling stories, and having them read.

I’m writing this on the road in Ottawa, where I have the singular joy of participating in this moment alongside my good friend the fantastic writer and poet Amal El-Mohtar, who it turns out is also nominated for the 2017 Hugo Awards—in this case for Best Short Story Hugo for her (really really great) tale “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” which you can read here. (Or in the Starlit Wood anthology.) This is an utter coincidence! I’d been planning a trip up north for months, I’m reading tonight at the Chi Series, I’m talking to a class on Wednesday… and it turns out that somewhere in this mix we have a lot of celebrating to do.

Thank you all! Your support means so much. I first found out about the Hugo Award from a Roger Zelazny paperback—the book that really hooked me on science fiction and fantasy as a literary genre. My sense of the award and what it meant developed with my sense of science fiction and what it could do, and vice versa. It’s wild and wonderful and strange to come tangent to it in this way.

If your friends are wondering what all the fuss is about, well, Tor has a convenient electronic omnibus edition of the Sequence for them to try!

But for now, take it easy. Enjoy the moment. We’ve all earned it.

How to Start

Hi, friends. Been a while.

Those of you in America: we’ve had a rough week. I’m scared for my friends. I’m scouting options. I’m trying, as Al Giordano has suggested, to clean my house.

Part of that includes starting up this blog again.

I’ve been heartened by the instinctive response I’ve seen from my communities: friends reach out to friends, not only to reaffirm connection and seek warmth, but to pool resources, and advice, and options. We’re all of us better than any of us. That’s a start.

We need to start.

I don’t have answers. The answers I do have, aren’t optimistic, but they aren’t final, either. If you’re curious, head over to Twitter: I’ve been spending far too much time there in the last nine days, passing around information that seems useful. I’m trying to resist answers, and lean into process.

A cloud of thoughts follows. Read these as my letters to myself—personal goals, issues, concerns:

  • There is a great deal to be done. A good tactic for the near future would be to regard any suggested course of action as if it were prefaced, in good faith, with: “in addition to the range of other things you are and should be doing, how about also trying…” Nothing is enough. I doubt the writer of that thinkpiece believes the course of action they recommend would, by itself, save the world. Beware of “one neat trick,” “one cool hack.” They cheapen the work. Consider, as you critique, that despair is an agent of stasis. It is the friend of the powerful.
  • Invest in information security. The Feminist DIY Guide to Cybersecurity is a good place to start. Also consider the Signal messaging app, for end-to-end encrypted texts and phone calls. Technology will not save you. It will not save your friends. It will not even protect your individual data against a dedicated state. But encryption, broadly adopted, makes the job of the surveillance state harder. Its job should be as hard as possible.
  • Invest in the integrity of your information. By which I mean, at least in part: journalism. Seek independent local outlets if you can find them, and international outlets too. Also: find friends who know what’s going on. Lean on them.
  • Talk to your representatives. Even if you didn’t vote for them. Their phone lines are whiskers with which they feel the world. If you do not brush them, they will not feel you.
  • If you don’t like the world you see outside your window, run for local office. Or, find someone who’s running for local office who cares about you, and cares about your friends, and support them. Even if you do sort of like the world you see outside your window, consider doing this anyway, because if you don’t, the people who don’t like that world, will step up. If you are a Democrat, or a progressive of any stripe, this is the area at which you and your party are weakest. Invest in the ground. You live on it. Join your local community. You live there. You are not afloat in Twitter. You are not meme magic. You have a body. Remember here that when I say you, I mean I. I am writing this story because I need to read it.
  • One error progressive folk in the US make, maybe an error US folk make generally, maybe a human error, is to assume some big hero will come along and fix our shit. We reinforce this tendency with heroic education, focusing on great leaders and hinge events; we reinforce it with storytelling. We assume the courts will save us. We assume the President will. Historically, the courts have been for property, against human beings. (Historically, courts have made human beings property.) The increasingly Imperial presidency has always been worrying, but especially so now.
  • Especially if you, like me, are a straight white dude working in a city, with family back home—there are ways to reach out to conservative family. it depends on the situation, but I’ve started by sharing my fear for my friends’ well-being. Emphasize ties. Easy for family to ignore this or that removed, mediated fact. Harder to ignore “my friends are in danger.”
  • People handle this moment in different ways. Respect the difference. Respect the grief, and its processing. But we will have to braid ourselves together to get through this. Be ready to braid with people whose priorities you don’t share. One fear I have of the months to come, arises from the difficulty of this braiding.
  • Identity statements work. They told us, in the campaign, to say things like “thank you for being a voter,” to reinforce the person’s conception of themselves as a voter. It occurs to me that statements like “Fuck you for being a racist” probably have a similar effect. I don’t know what to do with this, because racism and other forms of kyriarchy are real problems, and played an enormous and insidious role in this election. But language is a tool, and one of its uses is persuasion. I need to get better at persuasion.
  • We need a vision of a future society. I can articulate a vision of a future culture: one sheltering and celebrating and upholding people of all backgrounds, faiths, languages, races, genders. But a vision of future society—a sense of how those people live, what they feel, what they strive for, day by day, how the food gets to their mouths—something to reach toward—that’s lacking. Authoritarian regimes take power based on appeal to a vanished and largely imagined past—so they crash, spectacularly, over time, because the one truth about all human societies ever built, is that they failed. We have not yet built one that succeeds. We have to envision such a thing to strive toward it. That positive vision will be harder, and more important, than ever, now.
  • We also face a philosophical challenge. If meaning comes from context, then those who control context control meaning. Is there a way out of that trap? Is there a way out that doesn’t involve retreating to Enlightenment positivism, or games of ideal form?
  • Listen.
  • How can we protect our friends?

I have other thoughts, but they will take time.

The most heartening piece of text I’ve read in the last week, was this small bit from Nnedi Okorafor. Specifically the second sentence:

Thanks

I’m writing after a bit of a silence to say, thank you.

On October 2, 2012, I walked to my friendly neighborhood book store and saw a copy of Three Parts Dead on the shelves for the first time.

Then I took a long walk on a bright autumn morning down the bike path under leaves just starting to change. Friends texted congratulations, and screenshots of the book on their phones and e-readers. I checked Amazon, which I’d never do these days, and saw a ranking number higher than the number had been the day before! This seemed exciting, though I had no idea what the respective numbers meant. (I still don’t.) Anyway: breathe that autumn air, smell the world die and rise again, it’s your first day as a newbie novelist.

Then I circled back around home, took the trusty AlphaSmart into my living room, and started writing Full Fathom Five.

It’s been a hell of a ride.

Four years, five novels, two games, a few short stories, three seasons of serials, a handful of award nods, and an awful lot of conventions later, I’m writing on a different keyboard, with different music on the stereo, but the action stays the same. I’ve made new friends, and kept most of the old, and every day I wake up, make coffee, walk my wife to the train, and find some place to sit where I can dive into the work.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved telling stories. Writing calms and focuses me. I like watching a pen make marks on paper. I’m one of those weirdos who enjoys the action of typing. (Don’t ask me for my opinions on keyboards. Neither of us have enough time.) When I’m at my desk (or, let’s be honest with ourselves, at a table in a local coffee shop—sorry, True Grounds!), the dust bunnies in the corners of my dining room and the grocery shopping I should have done before and all the half a dozen business things I haven’t done yet all fall away, and the goal gets simple. When I surprise myself—or when I bait a hook I know someone will bite—there’s this neon glee.

And readers have been with me all along.

That remains the most gratifying part: people read my weird stories about wizard lawyers and vampire dads and folk tale trolls, and love them, and pass them on. For all I like writing for its own sake, I don’t think stories take place in some sort of sacred space independent of audience, and even if they did, publishing those stories places them in a context, whatever we will.  To publish—the verb we still use, even when we’re talking only about moving bits around—is “to make public.” As far back as you go, stories are written for folk to pass around and discuss, from little hand-printed illustrated zines like the ones that eventually became The Tale of Genji to the traveling storytellers who read chapters from Journey to the West to kids in villages they passed. We tell stories and hear them to make sense, to take strength, to be drawn to laugh or cry or love or think, in a world built to numb.

Sometimes this feels vital.  Sometimes it feels like fighting in a long, slow war on many fronts, in which an engagement may take decades, a battle centuries, and none of us will last to see whether we, as a species, win or fail.  Sometimes, happier times, it feels like a useless activity, in the best, most Zhuangzi-esque form of uselessness: the sort that denies others the power to use us. You probably remember the story about Zhuangzi and the envoys from Chu? King of Chu sends two envoys to recruit Zhuangzi as his minister. They find Zhuangzi down in a holler out back of a shaggy shack, in his PJs, fishing. “Zhuangzi,” they say, “come to the palace of the King of Chu, and be prime minister!”

Zhuangzi says, “Well, boys, I hear in the king’s palace there’s an ancient sacred turtle, dead these last few thousand years, and every day the king prays to it, and lights incense, oh sacred turtle, thank you for your gifts, and so on. Now, if you asked that turtle, do you think it would rather be dead in the palace, or here, alive, dragging its tail through the mud?”

“Alive,” the envoys say, “dragging its tail through the mud.”

And Zhuangzi says. “Me too!”

So, thanks for playing in the mud.

There’s more to come! I’m writing a space opera with strong Journey to the West overtones; over on Twitter I’ve been talking a lot about the current project, a Pathfinder novel with a sort of Nick and Nora sensibility if Nora were from a Dorothy Dunnett novel and Nick were a woman and a cop in Mechitar, city of undead. (The Pathfinder folks seem to think I would be a good hand at writing undead things. I wonder why?) The Highway Kind heads back to Tor sometime in the next couple weeks, and boy am I excited to share that one with you.

But for now, I just wanted to say: thanks.

Four Roads Cross Sample Chapters

Four Roads Cross nears.

goddessblinks

This week, Tor’s posting sample chapters!  You can read them here.  Advance warning—these chapters, especially the first one, contain pretty substantial spoilers for Three Parts Dead.  If that matters to you, then perhaps pick up Three Parts Dead while it’s on sale!

Sample chapters over on Tor.com:

Chapter One, in which Tara confronts certain responsibilities of her new position, and hides a body.

Chapter Two, in which old friends pursue a side hustle, and

Chapter Three, in which Tara visits a market, are on the same page.

Chapter Four touches on the press, and the freedom thereof, while

Chapter Five, on the same page, features Tara confronting old friends about the possible deleterious effects of their side hustle.

Other news: Margaret Dunlap’s episode of Season Two of Bookburners is live today!  Check out the new season.

Craft Sequence on Sale and Other New Developments!

The big news: it’s almost my birthday, and all the Craft Sequence Ebooks are on sale (in the US, at least—still trying to extend to international markets)! Three Parts Dead, Two Serpents Rise, Full Fathom Five, and Last First Snow are all available for just under $5 each!

Here’s an Amazon link, and here’s one for Barnes & Noble!

This means that you and your friends can pick up all the gentrification conflicts, bankruptcy, zombie dragons, and lich-king utility executives you desire—for just $20.  Looking to get rid of those unsightly Jacksons in time for the fresh new Harriet Tubman green?  I’ve got you covered.  Want to convince your friends to read my books?  Check out this handy guide!

If you already have the books, may I suggest dropping a pre-order for Four Roads Cross at your local purveyor of fine books and similar?  Preorders are love, especially for a (comparatively) long-running series like this.  Pre-orders convince booksellers to order more books; bookseller orders inform how many books the publisher prints; how many books the publisher prints determines (to a certain extent) how much attention their sales and marketing people give to a particular title, and so it goes.

Changing subjects a little: we’ve had a hectic couple of weeks over here in Casa Gladstone, between pushing the Bookburners Season One collection out the door and working on New Projects, including more Witches, Monsters, and Wizard Lawyers.

Fun things are afoot on the Serial Box front: Serial Box shows are now available with a “season pass”—with one click, you can purchase the ebook and audio of every episode in a given season of Bookburners, Tremontaine, The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, or Whitehall!  We’ll have omnibus electronic editions available soon, but this way you get the text and the audio at once.  Catch up, listen along, and enjoy!  (The Witch Who Came in from the Cold just finished recently, so if you’re in the mood for a good bitter spy-fest now that the weather’s cleared up a bit, now’s the time, to quote Lucy Liu in that movie with the decapitations.)

In the mood for more fun listening?  The Skiffy and Fanty Show’s Wonder Tales episode features Amal El-Mohtar, Usman Malik, and yours truly discussing Wonder Tales, which were the theme of this year’s World Fantasy Convention.  We really got into the back-and-forth on this episode—friendly, intellectually vigorous debate!  No swords were produced, which is rare when Amal and I are involved.

Speaking of which, the Lightspeed Magazine wins the pennant for the first review of Four Roads Cross, and it’s a doozy!

If anything has thus far marked the Craft Sequence for me besides the engaging characters and infuriating intelligence of its scheme, it’s pace: Each book has had something of the relentless to it, a narrative clock ticking inexorably down while plot gears align and interlock. Four Roads Cross is no exception—it’s exhilarating, action-packed, and beautifully structured—but it also features some of the most moving and quietly heart-breaking writing I’ve seen from Gladstone yet.

Relentless, exhilerating, action-packed, heart-breaking.  Good words to hear as we bank into the next two months.  Watch the skies!

The Hack Strikes Back

While reading about Algeria, I discovered a great piece of history. See, the Young Algerians movement, in the early twentieth century, was (as I understand it—research ongoing!) a collection of young Algerian activists pushing for full citizenship rights for Algerians. Algeria had, at this point, been colonized by France, and native Algerians were subjected to crippling second class citizenship restrictions, oppressive and unrepresentative court systems, and systematic wealth extraction. The Young Algerians published newspapers to support their position and coordinate their activities, much as modern fans create Twitter accounts to support and coordinate our analysis of the level of emo-ness of certain Star Wars characters. (May the Fourth Be With You—knew I’d sneak it into the blog post somehow.) And one of these papers, first published in 1911, was called El Hack.

Now, El Hack was a contemporary romanization of a word that would probably be rendered Al Haqq today, meaning “The Truth,” which is a great name for a newspaper. And I’ll be the first person to admit—I’m not an etymologist. But I really, really hope that when I look into the matter, I’ll find that the colloquial English designation of journalists as “hacks” dates back to 1911.

The English “hack” means, on its face, someone who produces dull, unoriginal work, especially journalism—but for me it’s accumulated this weird noir nobility. A hack is an unshaven knight of the press, never respectable, never upstanding, often angry, always on time, but only just. A hack is desperate, a seat-of-the-pants striver—sprinting always one step ahead of the forces of power that try to quash stories, or collar the press, writing words too quickly to edit them because what matters is making that all-important press deadline. Hacks aren’t slick, they don’t know how to behave, hacks are rarely to be trusted. But hacks work. And hacks are necessary.

So it tickles me—lacking any proof whatsoever—to imagine some educated, well-traveled English speaking Young Algerian making an at-least bilingual pun here: El Hack, “The Hack,” the newspaper of eager ink-stained journalistic strivers, looked down upon by ‘polite’ ‘society,’ who will fight against corruption and drag into the light, at the very last, Al Haqq, “The Truth.”

Personal note: Hello, all! I’ve been away from the blog for a while—books and Bookburners and various other work snuck up on me, and I lacked enough energy to do even simple blog posting. I’m trying to get back on schedule, but in order to do so, I’m starting small. There will, no doubt, be future ten page monstrosity posts—but give me time.

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

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!

Signing Tomorrow! Also, Boskone!

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

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

 

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

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.