scifi

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!

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.

Stephen King On Stephen King

Sorry I was off for a while. Wasn’t feeling too well. Better now and hoping to get back on schedule with everything.

The New York Times ran a great piece by Stephen King on prolific writers, which you might have already read. Like him, I think every writer has their own process and their own speed. I’ve found that I’ve gotten better at the craft as I go along, but I’ve also slowed down a lot because of that, both in reading and writing speed.

With reading, I have less patience for bad now and no burning desire to finish no matter what. Life’s too short now and I will put a book down if it isn’t working for me. I can find others that will, I reason. With writing, I think it’s mostly doubt about if it’s working. I get paralyzed all the time from doubt and from not knowing how to get from point A to B. I know where I’m going, but sometimes the path is shrouded in mist. And sometimes I’m just tired and lazy. Writing can become an exercise in pulling teeth that way, but I feel like a heel if I don’t write, which leads to paralysis, and thence begins a vicious cycle.

Thankfully, I can usually find my way back out.

King also had a Q & A session yesterday though, and it was really interesting. He’s the writer that inspired me most as a young person, and he some great wisdom and quirky answers here. His response to Jake from Wisconsin wasn’t what I expected, but he’s right. If someone’s made up their mind, why bother playing their game?

I have to try that pillow behind my back thing while I’m writing though. I can feel the relaxation now…

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Stay thirsty, my friends!

14 Writers Who Rock

And who happen to be women.

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Huffington Post has an article about women who write scifi and fantasy and stand head and shoulders above all others. It’s not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it is a good place to start if you want to add to your list of great women writers.

I’m extremely pleased to see Nalo Hopkinson on the list. Her ‘Midnight Robber’ blew my mind when I first read it in school and I couldn’t understand, then or now, why it wasn’t required reading in our English classes. I haven’t been in a school in ages, so I’m hoping that has changed, but even if it hasn’t, here’s hoping it does eventually.

I have heard of Sophia Samatar, but my reading list is so far behind, it pains me to even look at it. At the moment, I’m reading Nnedi’s Who Fears Death and enjoying it, so at least there’s that.

Let me know who on the list is your favourite and why in the comment section.

Catch you on the flip-side!

Excerpt: IACTA ALEA EST – Mr. Gae Is Expecting You

A little bit of Shalon from the sequel to LEX TALIONIS, to keep you company as you go into the weekend.

Framed in that archway, directly across from the lift, stood a hovercar, its dark blue curves iridescent as a beetle’s wing.  Shalon strolled over to it, careful to keep her body as relaxed as possible.  She was almost to it when the back door on her side faded, letting out the smell of fresh car polish on a breath of cool air.  She recognized the form seated next to the opposite door, and climbed in without hesitation. 

The seat beneath her felt butter soft.  When the door solidified again, complete silence descended. A yellow light came on, illuminating the beige interior and the tinted panel in front of her that extended from floor to ceiling.  Shalon noted the not unexpected fact that there was no way to open the doors from the inside. 

“I didn’t expect such luxury,” she said to Luc, leaning back and wondering why the car had not moved yet.  She shifted so that her right side was turned toward him and kept her hands within easy reach of her gun-belt.  Remember, he isn’t Orgalian any longer.   

“Mr. Gae wished you to be comfortable.”  In one easy movement, Luc’s hand dipped into his sleeve and reappeared holding a small dark gun that Shalon recognized as far more deadly than its size would indicate.  “Perhaps you could start by removing your gun-belt.”  

Did you really expect anything less?  Shalon sighed.  “I’m very attached to these.  What if I just promised not to shoot Mr. Gae?” 

“They will be safe in my possession until I return them, should that become necessary.” 

Shalon arched an eyebrow.  “Not a betting man?” 

Luc did not reply, he just held the tiny gun in a very steady hand.  Salon slid the belt off and handed it over.  “Anything else?” 

“No need.”  Luc tapped at the door and a compartment eased open next to him.  He dropped the gun-belt in.  “You were scanned as you entered the vehicle.” 

Of course.  She watched as Luc returned the gun to his robe.  “So now what do we do?” 

He leaned forward and knocked once at the panel.  Shalon felt the smooth tilt of the vehicle rising and turning. “Now,” he replied, “we go to see Mr. Gae.” 

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Stay thirsty, my friends!

We Live In A Weird And Wonderful Universe

Once again, we’ve identified a new species of fish that seems to have been created just to give us nightmares.

Scary New Fish Discovered in Ocean Depths

This gorgeous George is apparently a ceratioid anglerfish. That funny looking glow-stick on its head is used to lure fish looking for nightclub to dance the night away into its jaws instead.

The diversity of life on this planet alone is just mind-boggling to me. It’s one of my favourite things about world-building in my novels, by the way. Using the explosion of life on Earth to inspire creatures and aliens in my stories. I figure, as weird as this world and its inhabitants are, you can never go to far in imagining worlds that are even stranger.

So the next time you’re thinking about where you want to set your story, challenge yourself. Look up the bacteria, flora and fauna that populate our world. Branch off of that and take it to the next level. Go crazy. Get inspired.

And then get to writing. ‘Cause that’s the best part.

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Stay thirsty, my friends!

Science News: Odds And Ends

This is a fantastic article that interviews a teen inventor about her ideas and why she thinks it’s important to start teaching kids ‘Inventing 101’ classes.

My favourite quote comes at the end. “Inventors are basically anybody and everybody who’s ever tried to solve a problem.” So true! And we could use a lot more of them. I worry sometimes that this culture of kids having games handed to them on screens and in phones will slowly kill the impulse to think outside of those technological boxes. That the free time and interaction with the world we took for granted in previous generations–which I firmly believe had a part to play in us learning to problem-solve, learn social skills, and develop the imagination that leads to artists, engineers, inventors and scientists–is dying out.

I don’t think many realise how important it is to keep preserving a hands-on interaction with the world, to keep encouraging children to think and grow and learn, not just swallow and regurgitate what’s already available. If we don’t do that–if we stifle imaginations, curiosity and can-do spirit under the mass-produced, money-making fantasy play-fields of movies, games, tv shows and merchandise–how will anyone develop the skills to keep making those things that give so many of us joy?

So I totally support her idea. It’s amazing and sometimes all a kid needs to know to succeed is that they can do whatever they put their minds to. Sure, the world isn’t going to be that easy for every kid, but even kids who don’t have it that easy can take heart from the accomplishments of others and chart their own course.

Two divers are working on our food supply problem by building underwater greenhouses. Sure, there are kinks and we’re not even sure this is viable, but anyone who is thinking about how to grow more food, cheaper, better and where we haven’t thought to do it before is performing a huge public service. Articles I’ve read recently have direct predictions for our food supply once climate change is taken into consideration. And I’m talking the climate change we’re experiencing now, in our lifetimes. Not 100 years or more down the road.

This article, for example, talks about how dire some scientists see the situation as, and how much push-back they endured, and are still enduring, for trying to talk about it.

Scifi author Tobias Buckell, who was born in Grenada, wrote an amazing book on the kind of world we might see after climate change. ARCTIC RISING is a great thriller, fully researched and thoughtfully written, but he still gets reviews from readers and climate change deniers convinced he’s an alarmist. If you read the book though, and you saw this article about the US Navy’s conclusions about the loss of Arctic sea-ice, you’ll realise he’s one of many canaries in a coal-mine. If the US Navy is freaking out, shouldn’t the rest of us join them in actually trying to do something?

Okay, rant over.

And because we all need to laugh a little, here’s a joke I pulled from my favourite Twitter account, Science Porn:

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Stay thirsty, my friends 😉

Excerpt from LEX TALIONIS Sequel: Iacta Alea Est – Analise Mentions An Old Friend

I allowed myself to become completely distracted by “So You Think You Can Dance” so my post is late today. And because I’m being lazy, I’ve decided to give you a little excerpt from my other Work In Progress. This is from the sequel to LEX TALIONIS, which I’m calling IACTA ALEA EST (The Die Is Cast) for now. In it, we meet Shalon again, and one of her new friends. It’s not perfect (lots of editing passes to go) but I hope you have fun with it.

Analise Macon swept his wet, orange tongue over his broad face and black-bead eyes before gracing Shalon with grin.  “Shalon, how nice of you to call.”

“Analise.”  Shalon propped her foot up on the console in front of the captain’s chair and settled back into her seat.  “How have you been?”

“Not as good as you.  A Kaag freighter?  You are even more blessed by the Will than I thought.”

“God had nothing to do with it, Analise.”  Shalon smiled at the holo, which had been set to show Analise as he relaxed on the pillows in his office.  It was impossible not to like the rotund Roulon factor.  Even if he had proven himself to be one of the cleverest and most ruthless black-market operators around.

“Like the wind against a flag, the Will moves all things, even those that are unaware of its existence.”  Analise stretched his small jaw, revealing pointed teeth, cream in his mottled pink and brown face.  “But enough of this existential poctae.  One of my clients is very interested in the weapons shipment the freighter was supposed to be carrying.”

“How lucky for me.  I’m very interested in selling.”  Shalon flicked at some dirt under her thumb-nail. 

“Would an hour’s time be too soon to begin negotiations?”  

Damn it.  “Actually, yes.  I have a prior engagement.”

Analise made a grating noise that sounded like the prelude to an attack, and meant that he was surprised.  “More important than my offer?”

“Much more important.”

The Roulon waved a six fingered hand.  “I am saddened by how little I mean to you.  I count you amongst my true friends, yet see how you brush me away.”

Shalon rolled her eyes.  “You’ll get over it.  I’ll come by the hotel with an inventory tomorrow, so don’t go anywhere.”

“I would not miss your visit for all the wealth in Sudamin’s palace.  Wherever it is.”

And before I forget…  “By the way, Sojo said you linked me earlier?”

“Yes.”  Analise cocked his head.  “I have a visitor at my hotel who asked to see you.”

Shalon frowned.  “Me?  What is he, a mercenary? Soldier?”

The Roulon coughed, an expression of amusement.  “You would not ask that if you had seen him.  No, he is not of our world.  He is a doctor.  Colin Mayfeld?  He said you would know who he was.”     

Shalon covered her start by gathering her hair behind her neck.  My God.  She took a breath, forced her heart to stop racing.  Colin Mayfeld.  A name out of a past she had thought gone for good.  Colin had saved her life years ago, in more ways than one, but she’d only contacted him a couple of times since then.  In the last few years, her network had checked up on him now and again so she could make sure he was okay and remained well clear of her enemies.  So why is he here now, and asking for me?

“Did he tell you why he wants to meet with me?”

“He said it was private.  That he could only speak to you.”

Stay thirsty, my friends!

Writers Write Different

A while back, there was a conversation on one of my email lists about an award-winning author who had announced her intention to quite the publishing game. I can’t remember her name (it was QUITE a while ago) but I remember she was a British literary writer who had won awards. Her problem, as far as I can remember, was that she felt she couldn’t produce her best work within the timeframe and pressure of publishing deadlines. She was a fairly slow writer who took years to get to the end of a manuscript and the pressure of deadlines was stifling her, so she announced she would no longer be publishing.

What surprised me was the vitriol on my list toward her. I wasn’t participating on the list at the time, due to some deadlines of my own, but I was reading the posts and every one of them went something like, ‘How dare she? I would kill for her publishing deal and the ungrateful [insert uncharitable phrase] is throwing all that away because she’s SLOW?!’ Followed by contemptuous recountings about how many books they could finish a year (ranging from two to one a month), and how she should just suck it up and stop whining.

Personally, I completely get how that writer felt. I’m fairly slow for a writer depending on what I’m doing. I’ve been working on one novel for several years, for example. LEX TALIONIS took me 6 months to write and another 6 months to edit to my satisfaction. It then took me several agent and publisher submissions and huge rewrites over several years to get it edited well enough to publish, but that’s another story. (Hint: You never stop editing. Never. The book will be on the shelf, available for sale for months and you’ll see another typo and pull your hair out.)

However, I also finished a book in one month once, and a story (which I published) in a total of 2 hours writing time and about 3 hours editing time spread out over a week as beta readers responded. I’ve noticed that I wrote more, and faster, when I was younger and making a lot of mistakes, and that as I mature in the craft, I’m getting slower on the bigger projects (like series) and faster on the stand-alones (like stories).

My point is this: writers do not approach writing the same way. Writers write different. And sometimes, the same writer writes different. Some writers take 10 years to finish a novel, and I know a writer who once took 10 days. Some writers do better with deadlines, and some feel pressured and can’t produce at all under one. Some writers can be all of the above on different projects, or days. I’m like that. Sometimes a deadline helps me focus. Other times it paralyzes me. A famous writer once said, the best gift you can give a writer is free time. Without it, I feel pressured to get the housework done, or focus on my paying job, rather than give myself the time needed to write. I know from talking to other writers that I’m not alone.

Look, rather than let our petty jealousies about awards and publishing deals get in the way, let’s give ourselves permission to acknowledge and respect each other’s processes. The writing craft is hard, time intensive and doesn’t ever end. Anyone who has managed to get a book out of it deserves respect. Anyone who has managed to get someone else to pay for that book has accomplished a freaking miracle. And all of us could use support whether we get there or not.

Part of my process involves taking forever on some things, and finishing others in a flash. But quality is not determined by speed of production. A writer should not be condemned because they chose to be honest about the way the publishing world affects their craft or the way they get to a manuscript they feel proud of. In fact, writers can learn a lot from each other and the different ways we go about things. I know the best part of learning to write was all the time I spent reading and making friends with other writers on the OWW. I knew writers there who worked on books for years and others who worked on them for months. They were all eventually published. You know why? Because readers, publishers, agents–they only care about the work.

It would do a lot of beginning writers a lot of good to realise that’s all they should care about too. Criticizing people who already put themselves out there does no one any good and only serves to make you feel self-satisfied.

Here’s a better idea. Learn from other writers. Don’t repeat the mistakes you think they make. Do copy all the things they do right. Respect and support other writers. And most of all, keep writing the way that works best for you. Let the awards fall where they may and the criticism come from elsewhere because you are too busy being true to yourself.

In the words of Kid President, ‘Be Awesome!’

Because, life is too short, you know?

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Stay thirsty, my friends!