Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net


On Self-Rejection

February 8th, 2017

Two or three years ago I wrote a short story called “The Martian Obelisk.” I finished it, but I didn’t feel happy with the result. It was grim, and I didn’t want to write grim. I was further discouraged by well-meant critique comments. Nevertheless, I worked on the story for a few more days. But my doubts persisted, and in the end I self-rejected the story. I stopped working on it, and never sent it to any market.

This past December I decided to take another look at “The Martian Obelisk” and much to my surprise, the story was far better than I remembered. It still had issues, but enough time had passed that I could see them with fresh eyes. So I devoted more hours to revising it. Then I emailed Ellen Datlow, who acquires stories for Tor.com, to ask if she would like to see it. I explained its history and mentioned that it felt more appropriate now, in the context of our grim present times, than when I had first drafted it.

Much to my surprise and delight, Ellen accepted the story. “The Martian Obelisk” is scheduled for publication on July 19.

I’ve often lectured others on not self-rejecting. It’s good advice. 😉

Launch Pad 2017 – Apply Now

February 4th, 2017

In the summer of 2012 I was lucky enough to attend Launch Pad, a week-long, wide-ranging crash course on current astronomy put on by Mike Brotherton, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Wyoming. Launch Pad was created for writers, editors, and people in film and other media, with the goal of improving the scientific accuracy of our stories and promoting a culture of science.

The sessions are a lot of fun! And the time is now to get your application in for this year’s session.

Find more information here at Launchpad’s website.

Check out the list of past attendees!

Silence Is Consent

January 29th, 2017

For a long time, I didn’t discuss political issues here or on Twitter but I ended that policy last fall. Failing to object, to protest, the actions of the new administration constitutes failure as a citizen of the United States. Silence is consent — and I don’t concede to any of this.

Here is my understanding of the latest transgression undertaken by this administration:

Yesterday, the president signed an illegal executive order that effectively bans immigration from certain countries on the basis of religion. The executive order affects countries that are predominantly Muslim, but does not include those Muslim countries in which the president does business, for example, Saudi Arabia, source of most of the 9/11 terrorists. The order affected not only refugees, but also green-card holders including those presently serving in the United States military. Immigrants just arrived in our country, with legal paperwork that took years to obtain, were stopped at customs.

The ACLU, along with other organizations, immediately called on the courts to intervene, and they were successful in part, getting an order to release those being illegally held at airports. Some were released. Then reports surfaced that some Customs/Homeland Security staff refused to obey the court orders — an illegal act — saying they would only obey the president. This is how government works in a dictatorship, not here in the United States of America.

All of this seems to have been done with two purposes in mind:

(1) to further split the American public between those who want a law-abiding government loyal to the Constitution, with checks and balances to limit the power of each branch so that our freedoms are not compromised and we do not wind up living under a dictatorship, and those who, in the words of the president himself, would continue to support him even if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot someone.

(2) to distract from the ascension of alt-right icon and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon to the National Security Council, while removing both the the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as regular members.

Here is a statute defining who can be on the NSC. Note that the Chief Strategist is not included, and that those who are need to be vetted by the Senate. A question I would like answered: Does Bannon have a security clearance?

This is but a small part of the damage the president has done in his first week in office.

American democracy will only survive if the American people want it to. We are rapidly sliding toward dictatorship. Everyone of us who fails to object is, by their silence, consenting to this dictatorship.

An excellent essay by Eliot A. Cohen calls this “a clarifying moment in American history.”

For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.

Make no mistake: What you are witnessing now will comprise a major chapter in history classes in the future.

What can you do? Call your Congressional representative and your senator. Talk to their staff about specific issues. Let them know you will not stand for the corruption of the American system of checks and balances. Demand that they take specific action to protect our Republic. Demand that they begin impeachment proceedings to remove this vile and dangerous man from the highest office in the land.

Be vigilant. Be persistent. Stand up for your country.

This is the symbol of the resistance:

What is an executive order?

For more information and links, see my Twitter account.

Recommended Audiobook:
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

January 13th, 2017

The full title of Trevor Noah’s childhood memoir is Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. I picked this audiobook because it had been named a best book of the year by several publications, and because the sample I listened to hooked me immediately.

I can’t say I was a fan of Trevor Noah before this. Really, I knew almost nothing about him except that he was the new host of The Daily Show. But I’m a fan now.

Trevor Noah reads the audiobook himself. He has a wonderful voice and is multilingual, speaking not just the various accents of the characters in the story, but also speaking brief sentences in native languages as he narrates incidents.

The title, Born a Crime, refers to Trevor himself. He was born under apartheid, the son of a black woman and a white man — his very existence evidence of an illegal act — and for the first several years of his life his parents hid him from officials and nosy neighbors.

The quality of the storytelling in this book is amazing. Trevor relates many experiences, beginning in his childhood and progressing through the start of his career as a comedian. Throughout, he reflects with great insight, intelligence, and empathy on what he’s seen and what he’s done. He speaks truths without outrage, but rather in a “let’s talk, let’s get real” style that is easy to listen to, but still powerfully communicates the hardships and the challenges faced by those who endure bigotry, poverty, and destructive cultures. He delves into issues of misogyny and the rights of women, and the incredible strength, independence and stubbornness of his own mother. He discusses racism, skin color, apartheid, poverty, education, the police, life in an abusive home, and making a living when your options are few.

Despite all that, this book is in no sense a downer. Quite the opposite: The strength of spirit and determination that exists in every story that Trevor tells is both inspiring and uplifting.

Highly recommended.

Recommended Reading: Ninefox Gambit

January 7th, 2017

I started, and failed to finish, three or four novels before picking up Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit. If you’re looking for something different, something challenging and endlessly interesting — a puzzle to be figured out — try this one.

I’m still not sure what it’s about.

Usually I say very little about the plot or even the background of the books that I recommend here, because I think a book is best appreciated without preconceptions. But I’m making an exception this time. So if you’re already intrigued, go off and read Ninefox Gambit. Otherwise, read on for just a bit of discussion about the book.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recommended Links

January 5th, 2017

Two recent articles you might find interesting:

At The Atlantic Joe Fassler has gathered what for him is “The Best Writing Advice of 2016.” These are quotes from literary writers talking about writing. I was particularly interested in Lydia Millet’s thoughts on writing fiction that’s based around current conflicts and politics:

In approaching these ideas in a fictional vein I’ve had to wrestle, on the technical side, with the trickiness of balancing the aesthetics of contemporary writing (grounded in the subjective and averse to the didactic, committed to the personal and hostile to the general) with what might unfashionably be called a moral vision
[…]
In fiction, philosophical, political, or religious ideas tend to be most convincing when they arise organically out of a character.

And in the same article, some cold truth from Mark Haddon:

I’ve come to accept that I’m going to be bored and frustrated for long periods. I’ve come to accept that I’ll be regularly dissatisfied […] I have to be patient and slog onward and trust that something better will come along.

…for me, the job of writing is pretty uphill most of the time. It’s like climbing a mountain — you get some fantastic views when you pause or when you get to the top, but the actual process can be tough. I’m sure there are people out there who enjoy writing, and I wish them all the best, but I’m not like that.

This describes my own process with eerie accuracy. I know there are people who think writing is fun. Wish I were one of them!

At the New York Times, Gideon Lewis-Kraus writes about “The Great A.I. Awakening.” This is a fascinating article on “how Google used artificial intelligence to transform Google Translate, one of its more popular services — and how machine learning is poised to reinvent computing itself.” Read the whole thing if you have time. If you don’t, at least read the epilogue. Here are a few excerpts:

We’re not only talking about three and a half million truck drivers who may soon lack careers. We’re talking about inventory managers, economists, financial advisers, real estate agents. What Brain did over nine months is just one example of how quickly a small group at a large company can automate a task nobody ever would have associated with machines.
[…]
The most important thing happening in Silicon Valley right now is not disruption. Rather, it’s institution-building — and the consolidation of power — on a scale and at a pace that are both probably unprecedented in human history.
[…]
…once machines can learn from human speech, even the comfortable job of the programmer is threatened.

I wonder how long until computers get good at writing near-future science fiction…?

Hey, maybe the Red is already here.

* * * Early Warning * * *

January 1st, 2017

COMING IN JUNE 2017
FROM MYTHIC ISLAND PRESS LLC

Scarred by war. In pursuit of truth.

THE LAST GOOD MAN

A near-future thriller

This is not the cover art! It’s just a placeholder until cover art is acquired.

Army veteran True Brighton left the service when the development of robotic helicopters made her training as a pilot obsolete. Now she works at Requisite Operations, a private military company established by friend and former Special Ops soldier Lincoln Han. ReqOp has embraced the new technologies. Robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence are all tools used to augment the skills of veteran warfighters-for-hire. But the tragedy of war is still measured in human casualties, and when True makes a chance discovery during a rescue mission, old wounds are ripped open. She’s left questioning what she knows of the past, and resolves to pursue the truth, whatever the cost.

THE LAST GOOD MAN is a powerful, complex, and very human tale.

Uh, the last line of that description was supplied by my agent. 🙂

The “cover art” I’ve posted above is just a placeholder. The back-cover description and taglines are preliminary and subject to revision. But the novel is real. It exists. It’s complete as is, though I plan to do one more draft before I send out review copies.

If you’re a book reviewer and you’d like a copy please send me an email at linda at mythicisland dot com, letting me know who you are, where you review, and whether you prefer an epub or mobi (Kindle) ebook file.

There’s no preorder option yet, but PLEASE DO signup for my newsletter. You’ll not only get news about The Last Good Man as the publication date approaches, but you’ll also get news about DEALS on my other books — including one that’s coming up very soon.

Writing Goals For 2017

January 1st, 2017

I wish everyone a Happy New Year. Let’s do the best we can, okay? Given the president we here in America are about to be encumbered with, I suspect 2017 will prove to be a bitter, divisive year. I hope I am wrong and that we are, by some grace, better off at the end of it.

In the meantime, there is the work.

Here’s what I hope to accomplish in 2017:

1. Write a NEW NOVEL. It may or may not be the one I’ve already started, but I want to have a new novel, either in my agent’s hands or ready to publish myself, by the end of the year.

2. Write a SHORT STORY. I’m only going to require one. Science fiction or fantasy, but unrelated to any existing work. If any additional short fiction happens, that will be a bonus.

3. Write a NOVELLA set in an existing story world. This is an unmet goal carried over into a third year. I still want to write it. There is a chance it will turn into a novel. So it goes.

4. PUBLISH the novel I finished writing in 2016. (More on that in the next post.) It’s going to be a complex process, but I’m looking forward to it.

That’s it! This list gets shorter every year, either because I’m getting older, or I’m becoming more realistic about what I can do.

What are YOUR writing goals for 2017? What are your reading goals? Share them here!

Looking Back, and Looking Ahead

December 28th, 2016

Here we are at the end of the year. It’s a good time to take stock of writerly things. This isn’t meant to be a whiny post. More of a looking-reality-straight-in-the-eye post — and looking ahead at what’s to come

~~~~~

Some writers have nicely ascending career paths. There may be a few setbacks, but overall the trend is up. For many of us – dare I say most of us? – that’s not how it goes. Oh sure, we enjoy the occasional triumph, but our careers are mostly a long, lonely slog through tough, soggy, mosquito-filled terrain, with only an occasional glimpse of snow-capped peaks rising in the distance—the Olympian heights! (This being a metaphor for bestseller lists, in case you missed that.)

For a while, it looked like The Red trilogy was going to be my path out of the fens — if not to the magic mountains, then at least to more solid ground. I mean, the critical response was pretty damn encouraging. Check out some of the crazy quotes here.

If you’re new to this blog and you’ve never heard of these books, here’s a brief history:

Back in 2013, I decided to self-publish the first of the trilogy, The Red: First Light, rather than trying to sell it to a traditional publisher. This was my first science fiction novel in ten years, and it went on to become a finalist for the Nebula award and second runner-up for the John W. Campbell Memorial award. It was picked up by Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press, given a gorgeous new cover, and in that incarnation was named as a Publishers Weekly best book of 2015. Saga Press published the second and third books in the trilogy in quick succession. Book 3, Going Dark, tied for first runner up for the Campbell Memorial award.

So I had reasons to get my hopes up, right?

These books had the most commercial potential of anything I’ve written. They are action oriented, and they extrapolate on real-world technology and politics. They are also heroic stories in which the actions of individuals do matter. Yes, they are written in a cynical tone (an amusingly snarky tone, I hope), but this was cynicism wrapped around a core of idealism. In other words, they’re culturally appropriate for a large swath of American readership. As evidence of that, they’ve had multiple inquiries regarding film and TV rights, and in fact were optioned for TV (an agreement now expired).

This was all far more than I’d expected … but the path peters out if potential readers miss those reviews, or if they decide for reasons of their own to skip the books, or if they never hear of the books at all because they don’t read reviews and rely instead on chance, name recognition, or word of mouth to choose their next read.

The trilogy garnered enthusiastic readers — and I’m grateful for every one of you! — but despite all the good omens, it failed to capture the attention of enough readers to make it a success. Sales languished. The books sank out of sight.

Hell, yes, this was disappointing. And I could write a long, disgruntled post speculating on the reasons why it happened — in fact I did — but I’ll spare you that. We’re here at the turn of the year and it’s time to move on, because…

I’VE GOT ANOTHER NOVEL ON THE WAY!

::cheers::

::confetti::

Hey, I’m excited about it. I hope you are too. I really, really hope you’re excited, because I’m going to need you’re support on this.

So what’s it called? What’s it about? That post will go up at the New Year. But here’s a hint:

In these crazy, frightening, rapidly changing times my focus has been captured by the near future. Where are we going? What are some of the implications of our rapidly developing technologies? What impact might they have on the way we see ourselves, and on what we value in ourselves, given that we are still operating under the templates of our ancient tribal minds? These are some of the themes behind a thriller that’s written on a very human scale.

So check back soon. And in the meantime, if you haven’t done so already, sign up for my occasional newsletter (see the form in the upper right column). It’s one more way to keep in touch.

Merry Christmas!

December 25th, 2016