Wednesday, September 9, 2015

PPSSSST You're My Favorite

“What’s your favorite of your stories?” is one of those dumb questions that authors get a lot. It feels a bit like a kid asking “Who do you love more, my brother or me?” (I do know someone who genuinely said, “You’re my favorite; don’t tell the others” to her daughter. NO PRESSURE THERE.)
Most of the time, writers don’t want to admit that they have a favorite. You want people to approach a story on their own terms, rather than thinking, “even the writer didn’t like that story like I did.” Also, why give an excuse to ignore your other works?
That said, screw it… The Child Support of Cromdor The Condemnedis my favorite.
The story is a Conan pastiche/parody/deconstruction (you’ll laugh, you’ll quaff ale, you’ll go “hmm”) about a retired Conan type whose previously unknown son shows up and asks for a favor not even Cromdor The Condemned may be able to fulfill, though he will, with his trusty loincloth and sword, try.
When I first read Conan, at the age of 15, I was dimly aware that, along with James Bond films (I had just seen Goldeneye), he presented a specific model of manhood, one where being taciturn, confident and rough led to constant success in life and with women. Twenty years later, this story grew out of my reflections on who I was then, and who I am now. Despite reading the Conan stories, I am now a father, a writer, and not a taciturn dude who quaffs ale and sends panties flying with a smoldering gaze.
I’ll unpack more of this in future blog posts, but FIRST I hope you’ll go give it a listen (iTunes link here), as it’s only on audio right now, or you can leave a comment, Tweet at me, or FB at me, and I will email you a text version.
And I’ll just say these two things.
1) This story got me my first reeeelly real FAN MAIL. Squee! An excerpt:
I’ve read it 3 times and listened to it twice now… Your story did something I’ve never seen a piece of fiction do so well, and with a character like Cromdor/Conan especially. It showed me a man who is both shaped by contributes to a culture of misogyny, balancing the tragedy of it for Cromdor against the damning fact that his personal tragedy does not excuse or ameliorate the impact of his behavior on the people around him.
2) If you are a member of SFWA or Worldcon, and you’re nominating for Hugos or Nebulas next year, well… *humblebrag* *humblebrag* a few people have told me this is on their early nomination list. Keep it in mind.
It is my favorite. Just don’t tell the other stories.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lion Tamer & The Fires of Mercy Are Up

Whussup, y’all!
Lion Tamer, my collaboration with Tina Connolly from her new book Seriously Wicked, is alive and kicking on SF Signal. Go read about it. This was a fun project of realizing a song from Tina’s new book, in which a sweet boy, perhaps too sweet for rock n roll, is possessed by a thoroughly rockin demon.
The Fires of Mercy is also live at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, in fiction and podcast form. This cool little story was drawn from a very long and complicated mythology that I’ve been working on for ages. One-and-a-half million words, four novel drafts, and here’s this 4k short story to show for it. A wee iceberg tip, peeking above the water.
(Actually, that’s not quite fair to my 2 million words–a previous BCS story came from the same world.)
I wanted to root this story, a kind of founding myth for the world, in something very understandable–a desperate group, on the run, and someone caught between two loyalties. The aphorism “every act of war has at its heart an act of mercy” isn’t something I believe, but it I wanted to create the sort of philosophy that could drive an order of assassins and allow them to live with their deeds.
This story is the foundation for a much larger magic system, a world where jin are a kind of fuel for magic. I’m currently working on a four-story cycle that takes place a thousand years later, and then I’ll get back to the (sigh) novel.
By the way, if you're still reading this blog, I tend to spend more time with my WordPress site these days:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

As Years Go, This Was More of a Month

Sometimes, you think you're just about done processing January 2014 when you realize the whole darn year's gone. That's what this last year was like.
As a child of the 80s, 2015 has always been THE FUTURE in big capital letters. Hoverboards and flying cars and all that, yes, but also an old Marty McFly with a broken hand and Flea getting him fired. By fax. (That's scary, knowhumsayin? I might get fired by fax this year.)
This was a hell of a year. We bought our first house one week before the start of 2014. I spent the year ignoring various issues with the house, including mildew and a sump pump. I have now paid the price, for I have scrambled around under a house fixing a pump, and I have chopped out hideous rotting carpet. Much like Calvin, I suspect I built character, and I loathe myself for it.
I started a new job this year. For years, I'd been teaching English full-time at Argosy University Online, a job that was flexible, but not really challenging, and not much in terms of long-term prospects. The world is teeming with online English teachers, and unexpected unemployment could be dangerous. When the local tribal college, where I was also teaching part-time, had an opening for E-Learning Coordinator, I went for it. It's been fun, and exhausting. I went from feeling bored to feeling a little too useful, as I run the online program, design and teach online classes, and coordinate our videoconferencing classes.
The new job seems to be good for the writing, and bad for it all at once. I wrote not one, not two, but (almost) three novels this year. Each one clocked in under 70,000 words; one barely topped 50,000. I decided to consider this an unintended personal victory.
(This is not the same as when eating fifteen cookies is an unintended personal victory.)
In high school, when I wrote a novel, it topped out at over 200,000 words. For years, my comfort level with my big robberclobbering fantasy tomes has been somewhere between 140,000 words and 200,000 words. For those who don't count the teeny little words, that's between 600 and 1000 pages. So writing short novels feels good! Just imagine, if I had actually sold a novel by now I might not have learned this skill. Yay?
Of course, the job has taken over a lot of the time I had for things like blogging, managing submissions, thinking... but I did manage to put out quite a few interviews and articles on Bleeding Cool this year. I'm quite proud of the one with G. Willow Wilson, if you can't decide where to start.
Just about every year I wonder whether I can make this the big "My Year," in which I hit some writing-career-defining milestone. I think I did more writing and submitting in 2014 than I have in a while. I got a story in F&SF, another in Every Day Fiction, and have one forthcoming in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
Still, I don't think I've had "my year" yet. 2015, you are the Future. Are you also My Year? Tell me, but not by fax.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Missing My Own Ball

Oh my gosh, well, color me silly. I totally missed that my story“Talking Animals” went up on Every Day Fiction!
It’ll only take you a couple of minutes to read it. So go read it!
Now that you have read it.
This is one of my very favorite pieces I have ever written. It fell out almost completely perfect, and referenced a lot of my favorite books. I really enjoyed thinking about a twisted version of anthropomorphic animal stories, since those were always my favorite books as a child. I also enjoyed blurring the lines between fantasy and reality as I wrote about the ways the rats–are they real? are they not? you don’t know!–destroyed the other animals.
The final line was originally “and cheered for NIMH.” I love that line still, but after enough comments about the specificity of the reference, I decided it needed to be “the rats.”
This post, and my bibliography and other fun stuff, can be viewed at

Monday, August 18, 2014


This was meant to be a post for the end of the Clarion Write-a-Thon. Ha. BUT. I've been writing like crazy.
First, my soft underbelly: I post fanfiction related to James Roberts' Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye comic series (NO SHUT UP IT's ART OF THE HIGHEST CALIBER) at under the name bumblemusprime. Get the comic series, then read my sticky fan tribute!
I swore off fanfic in 1994. See, after reading Mossflower to pieces, I wrote my own Redwall novel, and, with no Internet to guide me, sent it to Brian Jacques. He sent back a note saying "Your story is well written, but you need to think of your own ideas and characters!"
I vowed to heed him; sorry, Brian Jacques, but the MTMTE series is that good. Vow broken.
PS: Brian I not-so-humbly submit that my novel, at the age of fourteen, was fourteen badgers' worth better than The Bellmaker. You phoned it in on that one.
I reached my Write-a-Thon goal earlier this week. I completed a short novel at 51,000 words, which is pretty good for me, considering my typical novel runs around 150,000 words. Life goal achieved: be brief!
I cooked on this novel. On high heat. Broil, lots of salt. Extended food metaphor here.
When I cook my prose quickly, I don't cut and rewrite. A crucial character needs a whole new plot and arc, but I just wanted to get through to the end and so I limped him along as a passive whiny brat.
I learn from writing badly, in theory. Well, I learn but it's hard to say what at this point... which also comes from writing quickly, because one ends in a stunned daze, a few pounds overweight, sucking chocolate and coffee like a babe at the teat. Usually I can see the cracks and the poor judgment and the curdled milk in the cake at the end of a hot, hard session (METAPHORICAL, you pervs)(the cake is a lie, too).
I'm not sure that I improve by writing fast. I produce, though! Afterward I'm a bit too dazed to really find the good heart of a piece. Herein lies a great critique of NaNoWriMo: that in its heart, each NaNo is a bucket of diarrhea. Whaddya think, dear readers who are writers? When you charge ahead, heedlessly vomiting words, saving any self-analysis for revision, do you learn? Or do you, yes you, right there in the corner, excise and revise?
There is a comment section--use it! The ghost of Brian Jacques is watching.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Going Dark

I am going dark for a bit on social media.
“No!” you gasp, gasping for more gasps, “why, the horror?”
Because the world doesn’t deserve any more sentences as bad as that one. Among other things. I’ve got a project I’d really like to finish. I needta update my Clarion West Write-A-Thon goals to reflect completion of this project, a space opera, rather than the historical novel I was working on, which I’m setting aside to percolate for a bit.
So I’m taking a week off, and hoping just to write through the week.
Wish me luck, and chocolate.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What It Means To Give A Platform to Hate Speech

So, I'm a writer, yes, (with a story forthcoming in F&SF!) and I've finally achieved some measure of "success," as we gauge such things. I publish short stories. Some of them are reprinted or podcast. I hang out with a lot of people in this field and enjoy their company and their respect.

I'm not a fan of self-publishing or nontraditional approaches. It works for some people, but I want my work to be a part of the professional sf field as much as I want an audience.

At least I did until this weekend.

Vox Day, the neo-Nazi who was removed from SFWA for hate speech, has been nominated for a Hugo. This is due, at least in part, to conservative blogger and writer Larry Correia's recommendation.

Correia's confrontational and dismissive of his opponents. I don't like his politics or his tone. But he's absolutely right that there's no "ballot stuffing" in the Hugos. People widely campaign to win these popularity contests. I thought Lev Grossman was a poor choice for the Campbell in 2011, when a writer as original and refreshing as Saladin Ahmed was on the bill. For that matter, Correia was too. But Grossman, who made the transfer to sf from a long career in mainstream fiction, just plain had more friends. That's how the award works.

So Larry has a platform. He promotes work that he thinks needs exposure in the Hugos, and wants a greater voice for conservatives in the mostly-liberal organization. Some of his recommendations are right-on. Toni Weisskopf at Baen is overdue for a nomination as long-form editor, whether you like Baen's quirks or hate them. Don't mistake this, though, as simply a promotion of work based entirely on quality. Larry is promoting a slate of work that reflects conservative and conservative-friendly work.

He can do what he wants. But he sure isn't doing his field, his people, or his allies any favors. When Larry recommended Vox Day, he included the works of a known eugenicist, spreader of hate speech and misogynist. I'm not going to repeat Day's disgusting words--Bleeding Cool repeats plenty of them above.

And the simple face is that if Larry had respect for his community, he would have drawn the line at including Day. He would promote genuine dialogue between liberals and conservatives, not liberals and neo-Nazis.

Instead, it's probably more important to him that he irk John Scalzi, who drummed Day out of SFWA for his hate speech, and is well-known as a liberal. And this under the pretension that this is about "quality of story."

Let's wake up. It's 2014. Realpolitik, people. No one votes by quality of work in a vacuum. We've all read our friends' stories first. I'd like to see more Native American writers represented in sf, by hell, because I work on a reservation, and I think Native voices are an important part of the most imaginative of fiction genres. It would be stupid for me to pretend otherwise. I will read everything I can and vote for the best work, but no human being is without bias entirely.
We are a community. We need to think about who we are giving a platform to by supporting their work. What happens when a scumbag like Day is given a platform, and given support by, a majority of people in this community?

This community is built on the beauty of the imagination. Everyone has a right to imagine the future, to imagine faraway lands, and everyone can access the beauty of the imagination. Day's platform and Correia and his fans' support for Day says that certain imaginations are not welcome.

(Triggers coming up)
Day is recycling and prettifying every abusive man's "stupid cunt" and "fucking bitch" toward women. And many women who look at the sf field will see it as just another domain of abusive men and those who support them. They will take their voices and their imagination elsewhere

Day is recycling and prettifying every racist's "dumb Indian" and "black thug." And many Native Americans and African-Americans who look at the sf field will see it as just another organization that gives racism a voice. They will take their voices and their imagination elsewhere.

Correia doesn't seem to get that just because he can recommend Day and he can rub John Scalzi's face in it, he has a responsibility to his community not to. He hasn't stopped to think that maybe, if more conservative voices need exposure, he shouldn't alienate minority and women's voices in the process. Because he's characterized his opponents as whiny liberal wusses, he's not going to bother to engage, he's just going to provoke the blanket opposition.
Just because you have civil rights, doesn't mean you negate your civil responsibilities.