Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Archive for December, 2012

Writing Goals for 2012: The Assessment

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

At the beginning of the year I published my writing goals for 2012. It’s time to assess how I did:

1. Re-publish my Puzzle Lands novel The Dread Hammer with a new cover, and publish the second book in the series, Hepen the Watcher, in ebook and print versions.

Done! The Dread Hammer was re-published in February, and Hepen the Watcher was published in March. My flirtation with the use of a pen name is over for now, and I’m glad to have both books out under my own name. I see these two fantasy novels as a quirky and interesting addition to my science fiction list.

2. Finish two original novels.

Technically, done! At least if “finished” refers to completed drafts. But there are caveats.

When I wrote this goal, I was 20,000 words into a new novel. Let’s call that Novel A. Things were not going well, and in March I took what I had and converted it from third person to first person point of view. Things went better after that, and by April 30 I had a first draft. I set it aside for a while, and then toward the end of May I did some edits…and after that I abandoned it.

Novel A is problematical. It reads fine, and it’s a decent story, but on reflection I think it’s just not a “Linda Nagata” story. It doesn’t have any edgy complexity to it. Ironically, I suspect for that very reason this could be my most popular work, but probably not with my usual readers. Then again, what do I know? At this point, Novel A needs a few background scenes, and then an appointment with an editor. This would be easy enough to do. What’s really holding me back is that this is not a stand-alone book. It needs a sequel — more likely two — and right now I’m not enthused about writing those. For the first time in my career I am flirting with the idea of persuading a co-writer to work with me — though I’m not at all sure that would be a good idea either.

And Novel B? Here’s how I feel about Novel B: 😀

Novel B came out of nowhere. It’s not a book I planned to write. It wasn’t anywhere in my goals for the year, but it demanded to be written. I started on it in early June, sent a draft to beta readers in October, applied their suggestions, and will be sending the nearly final draft to a professional editor in just a few days for a last look-over. Novel B will be published in March.

So, again: 😀

3. Finish four pieces of short fiction.

Fail! I finished only three short stories, though I did get to sell all three to good markets.

Update, December 31: In the comments one of my most supportive readers, Willy B, took me to task for calling this a fail, and then pointed out I had four days to write another short story … so I did. I finished a solid draft last night, and even though I still have to read it over and (I’m sure) fix it up, it IS a finished story, so I’m switching this from “Fail” to “Done.” Thanks, Willy B!

4. Consult with a professional editor on the potential and direction of my long-evolving novel The Wild, and either bring it to fruition or put it away permanently.

Done! I did consult with a professional editor early in the year on this many-times-rewritten fantasy novel, showing her the opening chapters of the last complete draft, as well as the new opening, written in a new style, that I’d done in 2011. She agreed that the new opening was better and more active…but you know what? I’ve finally moved on. I don’t want to rewrite the book again, not at this time in my life. What I’ve decided to do instead is to serialize the older version here on my blog — one chapter every Friday, beginning on January 4.

Bonus Points:
These didn’t happen. In last year’s goals I talked about possibly starting a third volume of Stories of the Puzzle Lands, as well as contemplating another book in The Nanotech Succession. On the plus side, I did make some vague notes on each, and I even started plotting a sequel to my novel Memory, but no bonus points for me this year!

How did you do this year? Did you meet your goals? Or exceed them?

Signal Boost: Fearful Symmetries

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Ellen Datlow is currently running a Kickstarter project to fund an anthology of all-original horror fiction to be called Fearful Symmetries.

Who is Ellen Datlow? Ahem! Just one of the most prominent short fiction editors in the speculative fiction field. Ellen was fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and SCIFICTION and has “edited more than fifty anthologies, including the annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror for 21 years and the Best Horror of the Year for the last five years.” Oh yes, and as editor of SCIFICTION Ellen bought my novella “Goddesses” which went on to win a Nebula Award. 🙂

If you’re a fan of horror fiction, consider supporting Fearful Symmetries. It’s sure to be an impressive anthology. You’ll find a lot more information here at the project’s Kickstarter page.

Writing a Book Because It Demands to be Written

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

In January I’ll have more to say on my upcoming science fiction novel, but in the meantime, I highly recommend this post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Where Art Meets Commerce. It says a lot about the emotional process of writing a book that demands to be written, the market be damned. Back in September I wrote a post — still unpublished — with similar sentiments. I’ll get that one out in January, but in the meantime, here are a couple of highlights from Kris:

In her creative office, every writer should feel like she’s on a high wire twenty stories off the ground over a major highway with no net to catch her if she falls. She should worry that this book is beyond her skill level, that she might not know enough to write this one, that she might not be good enough to pull this off.

At the same time, she should be having fun—but an adrenalin-junkie kind of fun, an I-can’t-believe-I’m-up-here-trying-this kinda of fun.

Statistics and underlines and social media be damned. The sales force should be having fits if they hear about what the writer is trying to do while the book’s in progress. Because it should go against that “what everyone expects” on some level or another.

Yep. That pretty much describes what went on in the process of writing this book — not because the story itself is particularly difficult, but because the near-future setting demanded a degree of realism that I had to carefully construct since I did not have the right background and experience to draw on — while many other people do. As Kris says in the preceding quote, I had to face the doubt that I “might not know enough to write this one.”

But you know what? I love this book. Naturally enough, I hope other people do too, but regardless, I’m glad I wrote it. At this point, the beta reader comments have been processed. At the turn of the year, the manuscript will go to an editor for one last pass, and then it will be “done.”

Kris says:

Commerce comes later, after the art is finished. Then you must sell what you’ve done. As it is. And take the risk that the audience might not like it.

The risk is real, believe me, and it’s scary, but that’s the way the system works. Finger crossed!

Reader vs. Author Gender

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

There is a meme that shows up now and then in my twitter stream (today for example) and it goes something like this: women will read books regardless if they are written by men or by women, but men tend to read books only by men.

My experience is the opposite.

My very rough estimate is that only 20% of my readers are women. This is based on such things as reader emails received over the years, “Likes” on my facebook page, people who comment on my blog, people on twitter who are interested in my work, and statistics on a recent sale of a story of mine republished as an ebook.

All of my readers are fantastic. Men and women both are incredibly supportive and I would be nothing without them…but more and more I can’t help wondering why more women don’t read my work.

Yes, it’s true that most of my work has been hard science fiction – generally assumed to be a genre dominated by male readers and I don’t disagree, but still – why don’t more women read my work? Is it simply the label “hard SF”? But don’t women read “everything,” regardless?

In the last couple of years I’ve put out two “scoundrel lit” fantasy novels, darkly humorous and very concerned with male/female relationships. So far as I can tell, mostly men have read them.

I don’t think I write for any particular gender. I write the books I want to read. I often write from the male point of view, but probably just as often I write from the female point of view. I like to think there is a great deal of emotion in my stories, and that there are meaningful relationships.

So why don’t more women read my books? What is it in general that determines if men or women will read a book?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, men and women both.

My Mind is Blown

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Nahiku West & Nightside On Callisto by Linda NagataIt’s been a truly gratifying year on the short fiction front. If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’ve had some short fiction sales in 2012 — five in fact. Three of those stories have been published; two are pending. Now comes the season when the contents of the best-of-the-year anthologies are announced — and I’m astonished to report that two of my stories have been included, one of them multiple times.

“Nightside On Callisto,” originally published by Lightspeed Magazine, will be in Gardner Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Thirtieth Annual Collection, to be released on July 23, 2013.

“Nahiku West” will be in Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume Seven, The Year’s Top Ten Tales of Science Fiction 5 an audiobook compilation edited by Allan Kaster, and in Rich Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2013 Edition (table of contents not yet posted).

I’ve never before had any of my stories in “best of” editions so, yeah, my mind is blown.

Both stories are currently available together, in ebook form, from the usual vendors:
Book View Café (worldwide) USA
Amazon UK
Kobo Books (international)
Barnes & Noble

Senator Daniel K. Inouye, 1924-2012

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Daniel Inouye passed away today at the age of eighty-eight. He’s been a senator from Hawaii for as long as I can remember — for almost as long as I’ve been alive — having been first elected in 1962. He was the most senior member of the United States senate, a man who came from poverty, served heroically in World War II, had a large role in the push for statehood, and elected to the Senate at the age of thirty-eight.

In middle school I remember reading his autobiography, Journey to Washington, written with Lawrence Elliott, and being hugely impressed.

No one is perfect, but Daniel Inouye served his state and his country for nearly all of his life. He will be greatly missed.

The Star Advertiser has a detailed biography on the senator, not presently paywalled.

Snippet: The Bohr Maker

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

The Bohr Maker is an award-winning novel of nanotechnology, adventure, and high-tech revolution.

* * *

The light of the cab drew nearer. He raised his satchel to gain the driver’s attention. But he jerked his hand back down as a woman screamed in terror from a nearby alley. Immediately, the street village was plunged into silence.

Phousita grabbed the doctor’s elbow and drew him backward until they were pressed against the door of the warehouse. “What is it?” he hissed. She shook her head, uncertain. The street was dark. Gas fires, stars, a few scattered flashlights: in the diffuse light she could make out the thoroughfare and the village that crowded the wayside, but she saw nothing that would—

She caught her breath as two great beasts trotted into view from the alley. They paused for a moment in the center of the thoroughfare, their armored heads swinging slowly back and forth as their nostrils tested the air. She could hear them snuffling. “Police dogs,” Zeke Choy muttered. He said it like a curse.

Phousita stood very still, wondering whom the dogs sought tonight. They were the servants of the Commonwealth Police. Their massive heads reached as high as a man’s shoulder. Phousita had seen one crush a woman’s skull in a single bite.

The dogs trotted slowly down the street, pausing now and then at a rickety shelter to lower their heads and examine visually the cowering inhabitants. In the harsh headlights of the approaching cab, their armored skulls glinted purest silver.

* * *
Tom Easton, Analog:
“…phenomenal….This one is a winner–grab it when you see it…”

Fred Cleaver, The Denver Post:
“…excellent….bursting with ideas and adventure…”

Available in print and ebook editions.

Republic, Lost

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

My latest read was Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It, by Lawrence Lessig. The book poses the question of why the big issues facing the United States are forever kicked down the road by Congress, and as a corollary, why the issues that Congress does spend its time on are not the issues that matter to the great majority of the American people.

The answer posed by the author in a very convincing manner is that the single greatest concern of most senators and Congressional representatives is to get re-elected, and re-election takes money, and money comes from – well, you know the answer. Money comes from corporations and well-funded organizations seeking to advance their bottom line.

The fascinating argument of this book is the author’s explanation of how this funding system works, and it’s not by outright (illegal) bribery. He describes a complex system involving personal relationships, gift culture, well-connected and well-paid lobbyists, and “donations” of a few thousand dollars that can be leveraged into millions if only the right piece of legislation is passed. And it’s all legal.

There is much more – enough to derail the most optimistic among us, I suspect. At the end of the book, Lessig offers several strategies that might solve the problem and return our representatives to what should be their true work: representing the voters who put them in office, not the contributors who made their campaign possible. None of the solutions struck me as likely to make any difference. The most promising one was to work on getting the required plurality of states to call for a constitutional convention to address campaign finance reform – and of course we’re a long, long way from that ever happening.

Strangely enough, this book affirmed the cynical worldview that’s a background element of some of my upcoming work, particularly the story due in an issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction and, sadly, it’s affirmation that I did not go too far in my extrapolations.

Snippet: Tech-Heaven

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

Tech-Heaven is a near-future political thriller that imagines the rise of nanotechnology in our world through the eyes of Katie Kishida, a mother and business woman whose life takes an extraordinary turn when she is widowed, and her husband’s body is cryonically frozen against a time when advancing technology will allow his resurrection.

* * *

Katie Kishida rode into the little Andean village of La Cruz on the back of a bony black steel mannequin. Through her VR suit she directed each crunching step along the mineral soil of the village’s lone street. A freezing wind whistled through the mannequin’s external joints and soughed past the rim of her VR helmet. She clung to the mannequin’s back, studying the helmet’s video display, anxiously searching the village for signs of life. But there was nothing—not a wisp of smoke or a scrounging bird, or even a cat slinking through the cluster of worn, wood frame buildings.

She commanded the remotely controlled unit to stop. The village made a neat frame for an imposing line of white peaks supporting a heavy ceiling of storm clouds. Bass thunder rumbled there, arriving almost below the range of hearing, a deep vibration that set Katie’s slight, sixty-four-year-old body trembling, and snapped the brittle tethers she’d placed upon her fear.

The Voice cops had forgotten her.

She didn’t want to believe it. Certainly in Panama they’d tried to stop her. Failing that, they’d seized her holding company, Kishida Hunt. They’d confiscated her assets, declared her a criminal, and then . . . nothing. She’d journeyed south for weeks with no sign of pursuit, and that worried her most of all, because the Voice cops wouldn’t give up unless they thought she was dead . . . or disarmed. Maybe they knew about her bootleg copy of the Cure. Maybe they’d seized it before it could be shipped to La Cruz. Or maybe the life-extension schedule was a fraud, and there had been no pursuit since Panama because there was no Cure—and no way to restore life to the cryonic suspension patients hidden in a clandestine mausoleum in the mountains above La Cruz.

Fear had become her default emotion.

She shut down the remote, then slid from her perch on its back to stand on her own stiff legs. Her lean muscles ached and her ass was forever sore. She lifted the video helmet off her head. The wind streamed past her cheeks, its bitter touch oddly familiar. She thought she could feel Tom’s presence in the mountains’ unremitting cold. Tom had been dead thirty years. Or maybe he’d just become a crystalline life-form when his heart had stopped, his body and their marriage both immersed in liquid nitrogen, –196 C, a cold that had haunted her life.

A child’s laughter broke her reverie. Katie looked up. Motion drew her gaze up the street to a single story building slightly larger than all the others, with a hand lettered sign by the door declaring Provisiones. Katie remembered. This was the same store where she’d bought a cup of hot coffee fifteen years ago. Back then, the building had been painted a shade of blue that matched the sky. But time had bleached and chipped away the paint until now there was only a hint of color left between the cracks. The walls were further abused with rusty staples, a few still clenching the tattered corners of handbills that had long since blown away. A little girl was peering past the partly opened door, bouncing up and down in excitement as she exclaimed in lilting Spanish over the skeletal aspect of the remote.

In her eagerness, Katie dropped the helmet in the street, forgetting it before it hit the ground. She hobbled toward the battered building, fighting muscle cramps in her legs. If the Cure had been successfully shipped from Vancouver, then it would be here, in the village store. She could claim her package and push on, higher still into the mountains, to the hidden mausoleum where Tom waited. If she could get to that quiet place, with the Cure in hand and no cops on her trail, then perhaps she could finally confront the ghost that had haunted her for thirty years.

* * *
For more on the book, see my blog post “Musings on Tech-Heaven.”

Available in print and ebook editions.

Story Rave: “Homecoming” by Robin Hobb

Friday, December 7th, 2012

So…I was tired last night. It seemed like a good idea to go to bed early and catch up on my sleep. I would read for just a few minutes first…

Big mistake!

When it came out not long ago, I grabbed a Kindle sample of John Joseph Adams’ anthology Epic: Legends of Fantasy. The first story is “Homecoming” by Robin Hobb, originally published in 2003. This was actually my second attempt to start the story which, oddly enough, opens with a detailed inventory of an artist’s household goods that didn’t strike me as exactly gripping. I was in a more patient mood this round and kept going. Very soon I was entirely caught up in what proved to be a novella. I got to the end of the sample, purchased the ebook, and kept going until I finally finished at midnight.

So much for getting extra sleep!

But it’s fun to be caught up and swept away by a story. Honestly, that doesn’t happen all that often anymore.

“Homecoming” is an adventure story of great trials and hardships, strange landscapes, and hard choices, but it’s the protagonist’s voice that makes it fascinating. It’s written as a series of journal entries so that we see the unfolding events entirely through the protagonist’s viewpoint, while we see her change and adapt to new circumstances.

If the rest of the stories in Epic: Legends of Fantasy are just as good, I’m going to be losing a lot of sleep.