A Few Good Women…

Earlier this year, Barnes and Noble did a great article featuring 7 speculative fiction books that feature strong female characters.

Is it exhaustive? By no means. But it has a nice mix of modern and classic and also had the good sense to include the queen of Caribbean speculative fiction, Nalo Hopkinson. Seriously, if you haven’t read ‘Midnight Robber’ you’ve…well, you’ve robbed yourself of something truly special.

See what I did there?

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Have fun with the list. I have it on good authority all the books are great, even the ones I haven’t read.

What are your favourite scifi or fantasy books with strong female leads? Sound off in the comments below. And if you buy and read (or already read) any of these, be sure to let me know what you think.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

The New York Times Is Loving Our Food!

Here we go in the New York Times again!

This lovely little article about a Trinbagonian family cooking and living in New York has definitely captured the essence of us.

We are no faded copy of any ‘mother’ country. Trinidad and Tobago is a blend of races and foods uniquely its own, and like all other places, we like food the way we like it. Our curry is not like India’s, but in a really good way according to most visitors. Many Trinis will tell you stories of traveling abroad and missing roti, especially if they’re an East Indian family. I spent two weeks in Barbados once and almost cried when I was able to come home and eat doubles lol. I love travel and I love to try new foods (another Trinbagonian trait), but after a while, you just want a good souse or plum chow and you can’t get that the same way anywhere else but home.

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Speaking for the islands though, when it comes to Caribbean food, there are ideas people have about us that are mostly wrong, so two hints. One, we wash most meats with vinegar and/or lime and water to cut the gamey taste (a lot less with pork though). Two, we don’t really roll savory foods in coconut flakes. We use coconut milk in everything, and put flakes in dessert, but coconut shrimp is NOT Caribbean.

What’s your favourite cuisine and what do other countries get wrong about it?

Growing A Penis At Twelve

Yes, you read that right. In the Dominican Republic, there is a small town where many men first present as girls when they are born, and grow a penis later, during the onset of puberty.

The absolutely fascinating article above explains it has to do with a deficiency in a certain enzyme that affects the conversion of testosterone in the womb.

What’s truly amazing is that because of this discovery, the pharmaceutical company, Merck, was able to develop a drug that has been successful in treating issues like benign enlargement of the prostate.

It never ceases to surprise me how much we still have to learn about ourselves. Often, the frontiers outside take up most of our attention. We marvel at space, at the oceans, at the animal kingdom. But we fool ourselves that we know and understand our own bodies, for the most part, when this is so not the case.

We even have a habit of ignoring information that doesn’t fit into society’s common understanding of human development and biology. For example, research has has turned up the fact that our sex chromosomes can be a bit sloppy when sharing genetic information. That can lead to a situation where someone can develop as a male, but be genetically female. And as it turns out, sex determination varies widely in humans and across the plant and animal world. Even more shocking, our entire understanding of the X and Y chromosomes and the part they play in gender determination is wrong. This article touches on some of the misinformation that has been spreading in science classes for generations. Yet I’ve seen none of this on the weekend news, or in the pages of newspapers.

That’s mind-boggling when you consider the implications for gender and the way humans develop. This article explains most of the new research and its ground-breaking discovers. For one, there’s the fact that mothers sometimes trade genetic material with the boys they carry in the womb and retain them, essentially testing male after birth. And science has proven there is not just male and female–there is a literal sex spectrum. Gender is, biologically, far more varied than we ever thought or taught.

Since I happen to be building a world where gender and magic are interrelated, all of this has inspired me hugely. Each new day brings new frontiers in our understanding of ourselves. I can’t help thinking it’s a great time to be a speculative fiction writer.

The sky is nowhere near the limit.

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The New York Times Mentioned Trinidad and Tobago!

It was no big deal though. Just a bit in their travel section about the new hiking trails we opened, but at least we were in their headline.

Still, we tiny nations so seldom get into the news I was quite proud to see us listed there.

Now, if only we could get this kind of recognition for Carnival. That’s when tourists would really enjoy us. Just ask Nikki.

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Have a good weekend and remember to have one on me guys!

Amazon In Space

So apparently Jeff Bezos is not content with taking over the entire retail world on Earth. He’s expanding his reach to the stars.

I’m not sure I really want the same guy who sells me my discount historical novels to be dallying with everything from on demand TV to space flight. I fear it distracts him from what really matters, like cheaper, smoothly delivered toilet paper.

However, as a spec fic author I have to applaud the gumption and entrepreneurial spirit it takes to assume your company must–and can, and will–do everything.

I wouldn’t want to hold stock in a company that has this many identities, but it is fascinating to watch Bezos try to be all things to everyone.

Even if he fails in that, he just might succeed at space travel and Lord knows Elon Musk needs some competition, and the ISS needs regular deliveries.

So you go, Blue Origin! We’re rooting for you!

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Tantie, Papa And The Mango Tree On Diego Colony

A bit from a story I’m still working on. Funny thing is, I finished another story with the same character and it got an Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest last year, but for some reason this story is just not cooperating. It won’t tell me how to get to the ending, just yet.

Guess I’ll just have to trunk it until it does…

The day I turn ten, my mother walk into the corrosive sea on the western edge of Diego colony.  She used to cut sheself during her depressions, so she wasn’t no stranger to pain.  She didn’t even whimper when the hissing lilac waves attack her legs and red stains start to drift ’round her in threads. 

I don’t know if I scream or say anything.  I remember her sinking into the waves, graceful, graceful, and I remember running toward her.  I was lucky–I trip and kilkitay on my face. I fling out my right arm, trying to save myself, just as a wave come toward me.  My hand started burning, as if a thousand flames was under it, and I could still see the lilac coming toward my face, hissing all the way.

That was a bad day.  The worst day.  I could deal with anything because of that day.

I keep telling myself that as I walk down to the pier, sand sucking and trapping my shoes all the way.  I have to prepare myself before I get to the crowd on the beach or crapaud smoke my pipe.

I have to forget the waves biting the shore in front me.

I almost reach them when they turn as one to look at me.  Resentment and anger shifting and molding so many faces.  It fascinating how them faces is every shade between white and brown.  You don’t notice them things when you pass people on main street, but here, together, I can’t see nothing else.

I blink and shake off the distraction.  The metal in me like patterns. Is just the wired side of me, fixating, as usual.

The crowd split as someone push they way toward me.  Manno.  He bare arms shiny with sweat in the midday sunlight.  He nutmeg brown face twisted with grief and rage.  Big man, Manno, but usually no trouble.  Today, with his son John John in a coma back at Diego’s only Clinic, he definitely my biggest problem.

Before the crowd shift and fall back in behind Manno, I see Boyie standing next to the pier. He scared, poor thing. Beyond him, at the end of the metal platform, he tiny ferry rising and falling on the lilac waves. 

“Now you reach?”  Manno’s voice almost cracks.  “Now?”

“Is Market Day.”  I reminded him.  “I come when I hear.”

“Well, we don’t need you.”  Esther, Manno’s wife, push through behind him and grab he arm.  She small and bald with big grey eyes in she cappuccino face.  Today, the look she give me make them less beautiful.

“Esther,” I nod my head at her.  “I very sorry for what happen, but don’t forget who you talking to.”

“You threatening us?”  Esther’s eyes narrow.  “Who food you does eat every day?”

“So you exempt?  You could do what you like because you run the hydroponics lab?”  I shake my head.  “Esther, I not Tantie for some–I Tantie for all.”

“You protect him long enough,” Manno says through tight lips.  “No more.  Not after John John.”

A murmur of agreement goes through the crowd.  I ignore it.  People will talk theyself into anything if you let them.  My job is not to let them.

Wondering if to even bother to finish it. Perhaps I should just move on to other stories instead of wasting my time?

Decisions, decisions…

Stay thirsty, my friends!

Skeleton Trees & Bad TV

So in really odd news…

A skeleton came rising up out of the ground thanks to a really old tree tipping over.

Now, if that isn’t a story just waiting to be told, I don’t know what is.

Violently killed young man given a proper Christian burial ends up nourishing a tree for over 200 years.

I sense an urban fantasy coming on… Possibly Arthurian, but hopefully not as pointless as five seasons of Merlin was.

I do still love Morgana, however…

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Katie McGrath deserved better than to die badly in Jurassic Park, especially after spending so much time as a criminally underused and excellent Morgana. But the world isn’t fair sometimes.

As the guy who used to be that skeleton no doubt knows.

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SciFi From Around The World

There’s a cool article in the Guardian today for anyone looking for links so they can start reading scifi that isn’t default American/English.

Scifi from all corners of the globe has always been around, but recently some of those works have been hitting the mainstream, culminating in this year’s Hugo Awards, where the Chinese novel, The Three-Body Problem, walked away with Best Novel. There are so many stunning, unique, fascinating and entertaining stories out there now, coming from completely new and original points of view.

There are also writers, like myself, who take the old myths and legends, stir them up with beloved scifi troupes and try to find a story that’s fresh and unexpected in it.

The same thing is happening in Fantasy, and across spec fic. It’s been a long time coming, but we have spec fic in the Western world that’s beginning to show a little of the huge market that’s out there.

I think that’s cause for celebration, don’t you?

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Okay, maybe not quite like that…

Best part of this article for me is that a former OWW member, Aliette de Bodard, is mentioned. Hurrah for my writing workshop! For those of us who have been there forever, hurrah for the Zoo and the good old OWW! It’s amazing how many truly great writers have left the OWW and gone on to great things: CC Finlay, Elizabeth Bear, Aliette de Bodard, Jim Butcher, Rae Carson, Fran Wilde, N.K. Jemisin…the list goes on and on.

The great thing about these writers is they’re all doing their part to push against the boundaries and turn spec fic on it’s head in the best way possible. By giving a voice in the mainstream to those who had no place there before.

Congratulations to all you guys for being part of a revolution! This is only the beginning, because we have a lot more stories left to share and new writers all around the world popping up and joining the club every day. Welcome everyone, and congrats. Keep it coming!

Have a great weekend and stay thirsty, my friends.

Excerpt: The Nightward – A Battle Approaches

I’m a bit busy today, so I thought I’d post a tiny excerpt from The Nightward wherein the Lady Gretchen and her Amazores prepare to do battle with an ancient weapon called the Dark.

The Amazores waited in the cold.  Even the walls above were empty of their presence.  Behind Lady Gretchen, the sounds of banging doors and dragging furniture drifted out from within the Court.  She didn’t look back.     

“Your swords.”     

Metal shrieked as over seventy swords, all engraved with the same script as the Lady’s, were drawn and piled neatly on the colorful tile.  Lady Gretchen added her sword last, then stepped back from the heap.  Palms forward, she chanted a short spell, the words taut as the expressions on the Amazores’ faces.     

The Lady’s sword began to burn a fierce yellow.  Then golden wraithlight with a heart of green slid along the edge of the blade, limning it with a cold, magical glow.  The wraithlight kept going, jumping from blade to blade, circling each one until the entire heap shone with its light.    

Lady Gretchen lowered her arms and gestured at the Amazores to take their swords.  They did so in silence, the wraithlight throwing multicolored shadows on the gold armor.  Around them, the wind howled and tiny veins of frost began to spread in the cracks in the tile beneath their feet.     

She motioned the archers forward, directing them to pile their quivers on the ground.  Another spell and yet another heap glowed with the unearthly light.  The archers collected their property, dropping the straps over their heads and settling the quivers against their backs.     

“Be warned,” the Lady shouted above the wind.  “Each time you plunge your sword into the Dark, it will take away some of your wraithlight.  The sword is useless without the magic.  If it fades, retreat.  Do not attempt to engage the Dark without it or you will die.  Now, to your positions.”      

See you later, alligators!

Fun With Scammers

Mashable has a hilarious exchange between a scammer and an Englishman called James Veitch. Seems James has been spending two years replying to all those spam emails that come to your inbox asking you to hide the wealth of a Nigerian prince, or purchase their cheap Viagra.

I used to have a boss who liked replying to the money scammers. Nigerian princes, lottery ticket officials, stranded tourists, you name it, they would all reply and stretch out the con game as long as he let them. He would string them along for a time, asking questions and insisting on various types of proof until they lost their temper or stopped replying. Sometimes he would send them several emails asking why they had cut him off, as if a new friendship had been severed. He wasn’t very good at speed typing though, so sometimes I would type his emails for him. I never got over how stupid scammers think you are.

Imagine how many people have lowered the bar they have for stupid to the point where they will blissfully say the crap they said to my boss and James without blinking an eye.

Moral of the story? If you didn’t buy a ticket, you didn’t win. And if someone who doesn’t know you wants to give you millions of dollars–don’t try to take it, okay? Just…don’t.

It’s Election Day on Monday, and I’ll be headed out to vote, so stay thirsty, my friends, and have one on me as the bars are–sadly–officially closed on Election Day here until after 6pm.

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