Mailing List Activated

July 20, 2016

Writers who are smarter than me (aka writers) keep telling me that I must have a mailing list. Well, fine then. I went ahead and made one.

My plan is to update once or twice a month, but also to provide anyone kind enough to sign up for these updates with some exclusive content: I will send out a free short story or flash fiction every month (from my many previously published pieces for now, but if the list grows popular enough I’ll consider posting something original!) I will also do raffles and share some unique specials through the list. I might even share a few tidbits from my novel-in-progress in the coming months. Which is to say, sign up. Please? With sugar on top?

Click here to sign up.

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Notable SF/F TV series, early 2016 edition

February 26, 2016

I spend way too much time watching television. Time that could be better spent writing, editing, or venturing to what most people call “outside.” However, I’m aware of my vices and I might as well share the outcome of all the research I thus conducted with you. Late last year I participated on the Mind Meld about best genre TV shows of 2015 and I had a fun time writing my portion of that post, so I decided to update it here with the shows that have launched in early 2016:

You, Me, and the Apocalypse

Like FOX’s Last Man on Earth from last year, this show starts off with an apocalyptic premise. The show is part comedy, part horror, and part soap opera. It’s full of crazy twists, but it manages to make the combination work.

You, Me, and the Apocalypse uses the device popularazed by Breaking Bad: they open each episode with a scene that takes place moments before an asteroid is about to destroy humanity. We see the narrator in a bunker with a group of very unlikely characters (including a monkey and someone trapped in a wooden box) while the opening credits roll, then each episode tells the story of how all of them managed to end up there (some from half a world away.)

This is a limited run series. The show, co-produced by NBC and Sky 1, already completed its run in the UK, so I cheated and got my hands on a complete set. It was very satisfying, even if the show lost some of its comedic elements and grew progressively darker in the later episodes. The show’s plot is rather susceptible to spoilers, so don’t spend too much time or effort looking into the details about it online or you might ruin some of the fun for yourself.

It’s unclear whether another series will be produced (there are plenty of intentionally unresolved and tantalizing bits in the finale) but even if the ten-episode run is all there ever is to the series, it is definitely worth watching.

 

The Shannara Chronicles

This one is a mixed bag. It really doesn’t live up to the Game of Thrones, the success of which it is so clearly trying to emulate. It seems clearly designed to appeal to the MTV demographic, which is definitely not me. Having said that, there’s precious little epic fantasy on TV.  If you enjoyed The Sword of Truth or Xena: Warrior Princess, you will probably like this one as well, but don’t expect complex plots, complex characters, or complex anything. Just a bit of well-produced, mindless fun.

 

The Magicians

As I wrote at SF Signal last year, I really enjoyed the pilot. I only managed to catch a couple more episodes so far, but I’m really digging the show. It’s sort-of a gritty Harry Potter for the ’90s generation, with the action taking place in New York City and a school of wizardry university that teaches magic in upstate New York. I like both the vibe and the characters, and look forward to watching more.

Overall I’m pretty happy with what SyFy’s been doing over the course of the last year.

 

 

lucifer

Lucifer

Based on the comic book character created by Neil Gaiman and others, and eventually a star of his own Vertigo comic book, Lucifer becomes bored with reigning in hell and decides to spend some time hanging out in Los Angeles.

I liked the first episode and really enjoyed Tom Ellis’s portrayal of the main character, but since then the show has fallen into a predictable procedural pattern which is less interesting. To be fair, there has only been a few episodes. Person of Interest spent much of the first season in procedural format before it became really excellent, so there’s hope for Lucifer yet. I’m willing to give it a few more episodes but if you aren’t on board already, I’m not sure I can recommend this one.

The only other new SF/F series I can think of that I tried was Second Chance. Another procedural, and pretty well made at that, but it’s almost certainly getting cancelled due to poor ratings, so likely not worth becoming invested in.

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TL:DR version:

You, Me, and the Apocalypse – Must watch!

The Magicians – Very solid so far.

The Shannara Chronicles – Meh.

Lucifer – Meh.

Second Chance – Dead show walking.

 

Have you seen anything good that I missed? Please post a comment. If there’s interest, I will post an update later in the year with my takes on Colony, Preacher, and any other new genre shows that I get a chance to watch.

 

 

 


100 Year Starship

October 30, 2015

I just arrived in Santa Clara, CA. Tomorrow night is the Canopus award ceremony at the 100 Year Starship symposium, for which my short story “The Race for Arcadia” is a finalist. There are a ton of great stories nominated in my category (including works by Ken Liu and Cat Valente) so I’m not expecting to win, but I sure plan on having fun at the ceremony!

And while we await the results, you can enjoy my story published in this week’s Nature magazine, “Staff Meeting, As Seen By the Spam Filter.” You should also check out the blog post which goes with it: I think it came out at least as well as the story itself.

In other news, I sold “Golf to the Death” to Galaxy’s Edge magazine. Mike Resnick is very kind to my work and has published a lot of it; with this story he sent me a rewrite request and his suggestions were SO spot on that I’m confident it improved the story by a ton. Not sure when it will be published, but likely in the next 6 months or sooner.


Announcing the Humanity 2.0 Anthology

September 29, 2015

Humanity20_webversion

I’m happy to announce that I will be editing Humanity 2.0, to be published by Arc Manor/Phoenix Pick in 2016.

This anthology will collect stories that examine how achieving interstellar flight changes humanity itself. Will we choose to upload our minds into a singularity? Enhance ourselves with alien DNA? Will our bodies remain the same, but our culture and societal norms change considerably to accommodate for effects of time dilation, or become subsumed by the more advanced alien societies? What will it mean to be human in such a future? I’d like to feature stories with engaging plot and characters, but where mankind itself is, in a way, a character.

The anthology will feature a 50/50 split between reprints solicited from some very exciting headliners, and original fiction from invited authors.

The cover design is by the very talented Holly Heisey. We’ll add in headliner names once the table of contents is finalized.

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He Who Watches – Fireside Magazine #26

August 3, 2015

The latest issue for Fireside is live as of today and it includes my post-apocalyptic flash fiction story He Who Watches. Click on the link to read but be warned: it’s not the usual light and fluffy fare you’ve come to expect from me!

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John H. Costello Documents

July 13, 2015

readercon

The following scans are from the books and letters that were a part of the personal collection of John Costello, translator and science fiction fan who passed away earlier this year.  John had worked closely with Kir Bulychev, one of Russia’s best-known and beloved science fiction authors, and was actively involved in promoting Russian science fiction in the US.

I felt the following documents might especially be of interest to Russian fandom, and am sharing them with permission from ReaderCon. Click on any of the images to see the full version, and feel free to download/share/post them as you see fit.

Bulychev sig Poselok

There is a number of books in the collection autographed by Kir Bulychev and signed to John Costello. Most of them are merely signed with a brief note of well wishes, as the one above, but there are several with interesting notes that I am posting below. If there’s interest in the other “basic” signatures/dedications, I can scan those upon request.

Bulychev sketch

A self-portrait sketch by Kir Bulychev. He writes “from Igor and the Mouse” though that definitely looks like a cat to me. May have been some inside joke between Kir and John. This is from the flap of “Коралловый Замок” (The Coral Castle).

 

Bulychev sig Comic Book

The only dedication in English. From the flap of “Андрей Брюс, Агент Космофлота” (Andrei Bruce, Spacefleet Agent) hardcover comic book, circa 1993. Comic books were not a well-known media form in Russia; this must have been one of the earlier such publications, and it was based on Bulychev’s writing.

Bulychev sig Who Needs This

A “best of” collection “Кому Ето Надо?” (Who Needs This?). Bulychev writes: This is what’s called “The Best Of…” over there. I think it turned out to be a very pretty book.”

Lukin signature

A signature by Lubov and Evgeny Lukin on the cover page of their “Когда Отступяют Ангелы” (When Angels Retreat). It reads: “With hope that you like it. –Co-authors of this book and friends of Boris Zavgorodniy.”

Dushenko letter

The letter from Konstantin Dushenko to John Costello, granting permission to reprint the translation of Dushenko’s interview with Stanislaw Lem and requesting a copy of the publication. Dushenko goes on to ask how Costello found out about the interview, published int he Review of Books, and goes on to comment on Lem’s assent to the Russian-language publication of the novel “Memoirs Found in a Bathtub” without the foreword he was originally forced to write so the book would be able to get past the censors. Dushenko notes that all previous editions of “Memoirs” in the original Polish and in translation were published with this foreword.

Note: The scan intentionally cuts off the final line of the letter, which includes Dushenko’s address (in case he or his family still reside there.)

 

Kovshun letter 1Kovshun letter 2Front and back of the letter from Igor Nikolaevich Kovshun, a noted UFOlogist and head of “Proteus,” the SF fan club in Odessa, Ukraine.

Kovshun sig

A copy of “The Stars detached from the Sky and Fell to Earth…” autographed by Kovshun.

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Funny Science Fiction Update #2

June 29, 2015
Funny Science Fiction

Funny Science Fiction

I’ve read a LOT of funny science fiction stories so far, and have a good number in my “maybe” pile, but this is an update on the stories that have made it into the book already:

“Observation Post” by Mike Resnick (Beyond the Sun, Fairwood Press, 2013)

“Flying on My Hatred of My Neighbor’s Dog” by Shaenon Garrity (Drabblecast, 2013)

“Whaliens” by Lavie Tidhar (Analog, 2014)

“Half a Conversation, Overheard Inside an Enormous Sentient Slug” by Oliver Buckram (F&SF, 2013)

“Wikihistory” by Desmond Warzel (Abyss & Apex, 2007)

“See Dangerous Earth-Possibles!” by Tina Connolly (Lightspeed Women Destroy Science Fiction, 2014)

“Kulturkampf” by Anatoly Belilovsky (Immersion Book of Steampunk, Immersion Press, 2011)

“HARK! Listen to the Animals” by Ken Liu and Lisa Tang Liu (Galaxy’s Edge, 2014)

“Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs” by Leonard Richardson (Strange Horizons, 2009)

“Miss Darcy’s First Intergalactic Ballet Class” by Dantzel Cherry (Galaxy’s Edge, 2015)

“Pidgin” by Lawrence M. Schoen (Aliens and A.I., Eggplant Literary Productions, 2005)

“Nothing, Ventured” by James Beamon (AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, 2013)

“Troublesolver” by Tim Pratt (Subterranean Press, 2009)

 

If you plan on sending a suggestion, please do so in the next day or two at the latest. I hope to finalize the TOC in the next week.

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H. G. Wells, Secret Agent humor steampunk novella, coming in July 2015

June 12, 2015

I’m happy to share the cover of my upcoming humor novella, designed by the very talented Jay O’Connell:

HGWellsCover

Blurb:

H. G. Wells is a Victorian-era James Bond who must defend England and the world against time travelers, alien incursions and interdimensional threats (if he can learn quickly on the job, and survive the human foes he encounters, that is!)

During his missions, Wells will alternately team up with Anton Chekhov to foil an assassination plot against Prince Nicholas Romanov of Russia, oversee the construction of the giant antenna designed to detect alien invasion fleets (or, as we know it, the Eiffel Tower), rub shoulders with the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Marie Curie, Jules Verne and Annie Oakley, and risk everything to encourage cooperation amongst the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies.

This humorous steampunk novella is filled with Easter eggs and British pop-culture references, from The Beatles and Ian Fleming to Douglas Adams and Dr. Who.

What makes this story different:

Every single named character, from the titular Herbert Wells to the lowest gate guard, is based on a real historical personage who could have conceivably been found at the time and place of the story (which spans from 1887 to 1889.) Although the individuals the characters are based on happen to be real, the story is riddled with intentional anachronisms.

Wells, who is the newest agent of a Torchwood-like organization, wears a Babel Fish translator device, travels in the yellow submarine, and rubs shoulders with some of the most iconic individuals from the late nineteenth century.

Here’s a brief sample. Wells is at a party at the Hermitage Palace in St. Petersburg.

Sample:

Back in the Armorial Hall, Wells sought to soothe his bruised ego with strong spirits. He approached one of several bars set up for the guests. He waited for the bartender to finish serving a glass of sparkling wine to an attractive blonde.

“Have you got any gin?” Wells asked.

The bartender shook his head. “Vodka,” he said curtly. “Seven different flavors.”

“Obviously,” said Wells. “Very well. I’ll have a vodka mixed with a shot of the Kina Lillet you’ve got over there.” Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the blonde watching him with interest. Perhaps this day wasn’t entirely ruined yet. “This mixture is my own invention; I’m going to patent it when I think of a good name. Make sure it’s stirred, not shaken. Wouldn’t want the drink to be weak.”

He turned toward the blonde and flashed his best smile. “My name is Wells. Herbert Wells.”

The blonde giggled and walked off, carrying her glass. Wells sighed as he watched her go. Things really weren’t working out in the way he had imagined. He waited for his drink, composing excuses for Ministra MacLean in his head. His first mission for the Ministry was shaping up to be his last.

Wells took a swig of the proffered cocktail and coughed violently. The drink turned out to be far more potent than he had anticipated.

“You should have added lemon to that. I take a slice whenever I have to drink Cognac. Makes the vile stuff taste almost tolerable.”

Wells looked up at the man advising him, and swallowed the biting remark he was about to make. Standing in front of him was the heir to the Russian throne.

Annotations:

Readers familiar with Ian Fleming’s work may note that Wells is trying to pull a James Bond here. I couldn’t have him order a Martini because this drink hadn’t been invented yet in 1887, but Fleming was very helpful in that he wrote the line, which I steal wholesale, where Bond orders what becomes known as a Vesper Martini.

There are lots of Easter egg moments in the story where dialog or exposition are a nod to some pop culture or historical reference. For those interested in seeing if they caught them all, I’m providing a complete list of annotations after the story, which will also include some relevant images as well.

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H. G. Wells, Secret Agent is slated for the release as an e-book in July.

 

 


The Hook: The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato

June 9, 2015

ClockworkCrown_331x500

The Hook:

As she rode through the snowy wilderness of far southern Caskentia, Octavia Leander’s spirits were buoyed by three thoughts: that although she fled from assassination and capture, she was undoubtedly in one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen; that thus far they had survived a full week without any sign of pursuit by horse or buzzer; and that her companion in the hard journey was Alonzo Garret, a man who had forfeited his career as a Clockwork Dagger–and possibly his life–in order to keep her alive.

Considering the dire circumstances, he made for delightful company.

Alonzo rode ahead on a chestnut bay stallion, their gray pack horse following close behind. This far from civilization, the world was utterly quiet but for the jingling of tack, the horses’ breathing and the steady rhythm of their hooves, and the radiant life songs of the horses, Alonzo, and any wildlife within close range. In particular, she took comfort in the ever-present marching band brasses of Alonzo’s life essence; she would recognize his particular notes in any crowd.

Beth Cato writes:

This is the opening of my steampunk fantasy novel The Clockwork Crown, the sequel to The Clockwork Dagger. That book featured healer Octavia Leander caught in a vicious game of tug-of-war between her corrupt government of Caskentia and separatists in a desolate territory known as the Waste. It had a heavy dose of espionage, royal tragedy, airship travel, and cuteness in the form of little green gremlins.

Writing a sequel is intimidating. There’s immense pressure right away to establish the setting, characters, and the lingering plot issues from the previous book, and to do so without it being a boring info dump.

I opened the book with my heroine, Octavia, making three observations. This style of opening has now become a superstitious stand-by for me. I wrote an urban fantasy novel years ago that opened with three points like this; that book connected me with my agent, though it didn’t sell. I then had The Clockwork Dagger‘s first paragraph also start with three notes.

Yes, I continue this tradition with my next project, too. So far, each of these books has brought something awesome to my life and/or sold. Why mess with a good thing?

Here, I used that technique to introduce the stakes right away: Octavia and Alonzo are being hunted. Since a lot of world-building is necessary right away, I wanted to balance information with a high-tension action scene. You know that things have been uneventful for them for a week, but that’s going to change right away.

With the personal stakes established, I moved on to another important element of the books: Octavia’s magic. She’s a medician who draws her healing powers from a world tree known as the Lady. In the grand tradition of most leading characters, Octavia is abnormally powerful. When she is close to other people or animals, she hears their health in the form of song. Her magical talents are one reason why they are being hunted, and her abilities have gotten stronger over a very brief span of time. This is not a good thing.

Octavia’s insight also introduces Alonzo. I wanted to establish that there is chemistry between these characters and a potential romance, though that’s not the central point of the book. Survival is. In that, Octavia and Alonzo rely on each other and the unique skills they meld to form a solid team.

Until now, I didn’t realize how many plot threads I built into those first 180 words. Huh.

Really, these opening paragraphs are the last moments of peace Octavia and Alonzo will know for the next while. All hell is about to break loose, and I hope that readers enjoy the crazy ride.

Buy The Clockwork Crown on Amazon

About the author:

Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

She’s the author of The Clockwork Dagger steampunk fantasy series from Harper Voyager. The newest book, The Clockwork Crown, comes out on June 9th, 2015.

Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

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The Hook: Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly

May 5, 2015

seriously-wicked

The Hook

I was mucking out the dragon’s garage when the witch’s text popped up on my phone.

BRING ME A BIRD

“Ugh,” I said to Moonfire. “Here we go again.”

Tina Connolly writes:

Seriously Wicked is a lighthearted YA novel about a girl who lives with a “seriously wicked” witch. Cam’s voice just popped into my head one day and the whole novel spilled out.

Now, there was lots of rewriting, of course! I wrote the first draft of this book before Ironskin. Seriously Wicked was my fifth completed novel, and the first what I thought of as a “really-truly” novel, a full-length novel I believed in and loved. Still, Seriously Wicked was my fifth novel, and Silverblind (my most recently-written novel, that came out Oct 2014) was my tenth. So, I like to think I’ve learned a little bit.

And one thing that happened with Seriously Wicked is that I rewrote the beginning. Again and again. Oh, right, and did I say again? Yes. Again. I kept coming back to this book between later novels and rewriting the whole novel, but particularly the beginning, because as we all know, your opening has to work very very hard to set the stage and tone and characters and hook the reader and everything else.

For fun, I thought I’d show you how much better the beginning got over time:

Draft 1. Book title: HOW I STOPPED THE WITCH WHO ATE MANHATTAN

Chapter One: Introduction To Me, aka CASH

Look. Say you’re a girl. And say someday you grow up and decide to be preggers. When you’re carrying around an innocent little baby with blue eyes and a kinda smooshed nose that everyone says someday she’ll grow into, then for the love of pete, do not under any circumstances say you just gotta have pickles dipped in chocolate.

Note: This is a terrible opening. I have no idea who CASH is. Also, as a reader, I don’t want to be accused of being A) a girl, B) preggers, and C) liking pickles and chocolate. The only thing good I can say about this opening is that putting these words down on the page made all the other words follow in a flood.

#

Draft 2. Book title: WITCH GIRL HEARTS DEMON BOY

Chapter One: Hot Seat

If you think your life stinks because you have to take out the recycling or vacuum your room or something normal like that, then listen up.

Every morning before school I got to start by collecting the dragon’s milk and mucking out her living quarters. There aren’t many dragons left, if any, but there’s one for sure living out back in the detached RV garage, big and warm and smelling of regret. The witch says one girl dragon doesn’t make any more noise than a chicken, and those are legal in the city, so so far she’s gotten away with it.

Note: Significantly better, but the opening sentence is still a bit aggressive (READER LET ME MAKE ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT YOU), and then we talk about dragons for awhile and I’m starting to wonder how long this is going on. (Note: It goes on for PAGES. Cam tells you about EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HER MORNING CHORES.)

#

Draft 78 (approximately). Book title: SERIOUSLY WICKED

Chapter One: Girl on Fire

If you think your life stinks because your musical mom makes you practice violin three hours a day even though you’re tone deaf, or your athletic dad makes you stay on the high school diving team even though your best dive is a bellyflop, then listen up.

Here’s what it’s like to live with a witch.

Every morning at 4:55 AM I drag my weary butt out of bed and head straight for the choreboard. The choreboard is a shiny list of magical tasks the witch wants me to do to “understand true witchery” or something, and if I haven’t done every one by the time I leave for school, it magically slices my thumbs with papercuts.

Note: Not really better. Going backwards, I think. Ever heard the advice not to start with your character waking up? Okay then.

#

Draft 233 (approximately). Book title: SERIOUSLY WICKED

Chapter One: Girl on Fire

4:55 in the horrible, horrible A.M., and once again I was staring at a whiteboard framed in gilded wood carved with toothy serpents. A peeling office label on the bottom proclaimed: Chores by Which One Must Understand True Witchery.

The toothbrush dangled from my mouth while I pressed the label back down, picked up the dry-erase marker, and marked off, “Werewolf pup—feed and take outside” with a big red X.

Then yelped as the choreboard gave me a papercut on my thumb.

Note: I rather like this setting, but it brings up weird questions (how does a choreboard give you a papercut? It’s magical, okay? GO WITH IT) and you don’t want the reader having weird papercut-related questions on the first page. Also, she’s still basically just waking up and going through her chores. I do like the juxtaposition between the whiteboard/office labels and witchy things.

#

And then finally (FINALLY!) we get to the real one. The final one.

SERIOUSLY WICKED

Chapter One: TRUE WITCHERY

I was mucking out the dragon’s garage when the witch’s text popped up on my phone.

BRING ME A BIRD

“Ugh,” I said to Moonfire. “Here we go again.”

Note: I kept the most important chore (mucking out the dragon’s RV garage) and then we jump RIGHT TO THE CONFLICT WITH THE WITCH. No detailed explanation of every single one of Cam’s magical chores. No weird musings about papercuts or pickles. It still establishes the humor in the story, which partly comes from the juxtaposition of magic and mundanity: dragons living in garages, a wicked witch who sends her demands by text (the witch is a big texter.) It still establishes that Cam has to work. A lot. And then: Cam brings the witch a bird and the witch tells her she’s planning to take over the world. Just a normal Tuesday.

Buy Seriously Wicked on Amazon

About the author:

Tina Connolly is the Nebula-nominated author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books. Her next book, Seriously Wicked, comes out May 5th from Tor Teen. Her stories have appeared in Women Destroy SF, Lightspeed, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, UFO 3, and many more. Her narrations have appeared in podcasts including Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and she recently recorded the audiobook for Alex Shvartsman’s Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma, which is available on Amazon. She runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake.

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