If you’re in the greater Boston area and have any interest in steampunky-type stuff, come to the Watch City Festival this weekend! There’ll be a sidewalk parade, music (including Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band!), dancing (a belly dance show on Sunday!), discussions, debates, and very likely many gorgeous costumes.
Oh, and I’ll be reading on Saturday at noon. Come see me ham it up! I’ll probably be reading “The Governess and the Lobster” just because that one’s so much fun to read aloud.
Those of you who’ve read Wild Hunt will know why this is such a big deal for me. I suppose it’s a risk when working with real-life situations and mysteries that one of them might be solved after the book comes out. Hard to regret it, though. (And hey, it’s not like I haven’t run into this before — I remember having to revise an early draft of Spiral Hunt after the Sox won the World Series, which till then had been a major plot point.)
I am so going to be following this story. And I really hope they get the paintings back, and that they’re in good condition. Those frames have been empty far too long.
“A Family for Drakes” is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
This story has a strange genesis. About six years ago, I dreamed the scene at Traben’s Crossing, ice, drakes, Vigil, and all. I remember dreaming I was one of two children, and that when the drake spoke I could understand it.
I also remember being convinced in the dream that this was a trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Which was mildly boggling when I woke up and remembered that no, there wasn’t anything like this in The Two Towers.
I tried to write a story with what I remembered from the dream, but it crumbled in my hands. My narrator (Bron, at the time) didn’t have any believable motivation, the drakes themselves seemed irrelevant, and I really had no idea where it would go after that one clear scene. Hell, I didn’t even get to that one scene; I was bogged down in getting there, and abandoned the draft.
A little while back I started thinking about dragons. (As one does.) About ownership of dragons, such as that could be, and what circumstances could contribute to them turning up out of nowhere, and about responsibility for dragons. And with that came some thoughts about family, what responsibility one has to family, when it is time to turn away.
And this story surfaced in the middle of that, and finally I had the context for that one scene.
I’m not sure how much of that dream remains in this story, but the story itself is one I’m proud of. I hope you enjoy it.
She pushed up to her hands and knees as a third drake, this one smaller than the others, landed in front of her. Its eyes gleamed, red glass in a mask of bone and black wood, and furnace-stink swept over them. The drake turned its head to regard her with its other eye, lipless jaws parting in a grin.
A few updates for a Monday morning:
- I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet, but “Sunlight Society” has been reprinted in Rich Horton’s anthology Superheroes, out now! With stories by Peter S. Beagle, Kelly Link, Leah Bobet, Carol Emshwiller and more, the anthology is amazing, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
- “Serpent in the Gears” has been reprinted, this time as audio fiction in the Steampunk Specs compilation. Available both as audiobook and CD, the audio anthology includes some fantastic stories by steampunk masters, and my story as well.
- A new story will be out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies later this week: “A Family for Drakes,” which, though not explicitly set in the same industrial fantasy world, could certainly have some of the same hallmarks if you move back a few centuries. It’s a bit grim in places, though I think ultimately hopeful. It’s also a bit strange, in that I dreamed a scene in this story about ten or so years ago, and it’s only just now made it into a real story. Inspiration from dreams is a chancy thing — do it too often and you end up with the Tale of Missing Your Flight While Naked And Also Behind On Your Deadline — but now and then, something’s come through that way. I’ll say more about it when the story’s up, but that post may be a little delayed, because…
- I’m going to FogCon this coming weekend! Which, yes, means that I’ll be on the West Coast for about a week. It’s been far too long since I was in San Francisco. I’ll be with family for a lot of it, but if you’re at FogCon, come say hi! (Really. It’s my first time there, and I suspect I’m going to feel so very very lost.)
Writing-wise, I have one more round of revisions to do before I hand this draft over to BRAWL (biggest problem: make the ending understandable) and because of that “Detective in Urban Fantasy” panel at Boskone, I now find myself with a first-draft Hercule Poirot pastiche set in a semi-urban fantasyland. I don’t even know any more, man. Inspiration is nuts.
And off to Boskone next! Revisions are done, and with any luck by the end of Boskone I’ll have an idea whether it’s a book or a bunch of stuff strung together. (At this stage, the distinction is eluding me.)
Here’s what I’ll be doing at Boskone:
Friday, 8pm: Mythology in Science Fiction
Julia Rios (M), Debra Doyle, Greer Gilman, Margaret Ronald
How have myths and fables from our past affected SF writers’ development of fictitious off-world or future-world mythology? Are most of their myth systems just the old stuff dressed up with different names, or is anybody coming up with anything truly new? Does a mere hint of myth make an SF story a fantasy?
(Oh, I have thoughts on this. So many thoughts. Some of my favorite SF stories draw on myth as part of the underpinnings, and I’m a sucker for well-mixed fantastic and science-fictional elements. Yep, I’m getting my fantasy cooties all over your SF!)
Saturday, 1:30pm: Reading
(I think I’ll read something relatively light about dead bodies and mad science. What? Why are you looking at me like that?)
Saturday, 3pm: Magic on the Street: The Detective in Urban Fantasy
Margaret Ronald (M), Bob Kuhn, Ellen Asher, Dana Cameron, Toni L. P. Kelner
We’ve discussed cross-genre and mystery/fantasy. Now let’s turn the microscope on the sleuth in urban fantasy. Probably no Miss Marples here, but hard-boiled detectives, and certainly the half-dead and half-sidhe. Plus many of these dicks are dames. How else do these eldritch investigators compare to more mundane gumshoes, and to each other? And does magic spoil a reader’s chance of solving the mystery fair and square?
(I’m moderating this one, and in the grand tradition of moderators everywhere, I’m getting sidetracked by part of the panel description. Why aren’t there more Miss Marples in urban fantasy? Where’s my Hercule Poirot among the eldritch horrors? Don’t worry, I promise to talk about more than just this. It’s just bugging me right now.)
Sunday, 10am: SIAWOL: Steampunk Is A Way Of Life
Jim Frenkel (M), James Cambias, Margaret Ronald, Julia Rios
Steampunk fans don’t just read the stuff. We also rock the goggles — and the cosplay cons, and the Victoriana motifs for everything from our tablets to our tattoos. Does the lifestyle circle back to influence the writing? What’s changed since the start? What’s the current state of the field, and what further enthralling developments are even now in gear?
(I really don’t know too much about what’s out there beyond the literary side of steampunk. Advice, gentle readers?)
Sunday, 11am: The Spirit of the Place (B48)
Margaret Ronald (M), Sharon Lee, Steven Popkes, Darlene Marshall
In certain tales of the fantastic, scenery is so much a part of the fabric of the fiction that it practically becomes a character itself. Let’s talk about stories set in these unique locales. Don’t they contradict the modern fashion that says character and dialog are all, and scenery is at best a light decoration and at worst a distraction? In the best work, how is this effect justified — and accomplished?
(Is there really that “modern fashion” out there? I mean, I can think of a few SF and fantasy novels where the setting is not necessarily a focus, but there are many more where it’s absolutely integral to the plot. Have I missed a trend somewhere?)
After the con, I’ll probably be headed out shortly for some downtime; I took Arisia in very small doses, and I suspect I’ll need to curtail some of my Boskone time as well. And after that…more revisions, most likely.
Oh hey. I have an Arisia schedule. And apparently no sense of timing.
Saturday, 2:30pm: Portal: Beyond the Cake (Andy Hicks (m), Maddy Myers, Margaret Ronald, Carolyn VanEseltine, Brianna Wu)
How does a game that started out as a side project by some kids playing around with the Half Life 2 engine, become a geek culture phenomenon? Why does an abandoned laboratory ruled over by a passive-aggressive supercomputer resonate with us? Is it the perfect metaphor for life in 21st century America?
(I am so looking forward to this. I loved presenting my Portal paper at Readercon, and I’m very curious to see what we come up with. Also, I have opinions on this subject. Oh, do I have opinions.)
Saturday, 7:00pm: Reading: Hashway, Nurenberg, & Ronald
Authors Kelly Hashway, David Nurenberg, and Margaret Ronald will be reading selections from their works.
(I’m a little torn — do I read the Governess and the Lobster again, or do I try something new and unpublished about mad science? Or go with an older story?)
Sunday, 1:00pm: Keeping Track of the Action (Mary Catelli, Debra Doyle (m), Suzanne Palmer, Margaret Ronald)
Let’s say you’re writing a complicated plot with many characters, scenes in multiple places, and perhaps a convoluted time sequence. How do you keep track of it all? Spreadsheet? Story board? Or do you keep it all in your head? What if you have a pile of background research to keep track of for the technological or historical realism that you’ve researched? What tools keep it all organized for you?
(Since I’ve used methods that range from Scrivener to complicated POV charts to scraps of paper tucked into notebooks, I can speak a little bit on the usefulness of each. Spoiler: scraps of paper are not the way to go.)
I will likely only be attending Saturday and Sunday, since I’m hoping to claim tonight for some quiet time and revision. This draft has fewer flaws than I’d thought, but it’s also taking longer to revise. Bah.
First things first: I am thrilled to announce that “The Governess and the Lobster,” originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, will be included in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2013, edited by Rich Horton. I am incredibly honored to be in such company, and especially with such a fun little story as this one. (It’s also more fodder for my theory that some of my best stories come from writing down whatever damnfool first sentence pops up and going from there.)
But that’s not the only lobster-related piece of news. Look what arrived in the mail recently, surrounded by the detritus of the day’s post!
Yes, it’s a mechanical lobster! My very own mechanical lobster, here to sit on my desk and glare balefully at unwanted mail. The wonderful and talented AuntieLou gave it to me in November, and it’s just taken me so dratted long to get the photos together.
This is absolutely delightful. I couldn’t ask for a better gift. Thank you, AuntieLou, and thanks to all of you who’ve read my stories. May you all have a joyous New Year and may the holiday season bring you joy and, if you like, eggnog.
Meanwhile, I’m going to try to feed the
lobtster lobster what it likes best.
The promised lobster will have to wait until I can get my camera to 1) work and 2) communicate with my computer. Drat.
In the meantime, here’s something to give you an idea of what I’ve been working on: Read the rest of this entry »
Edited by Ann VanderMeer, Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution includes legends of the genre and new talents, pushing the boundaries of steampunk and driving it far beyond corsets and goggles. (Although there’s plenty of that, too, for those who like a bit of goggling with their fiction.) My short story “Salvage,” originally in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, appears in this volume, and I’m thrilled and honored to be in such company. It’s a beautiful book, full of work by outstanding authors. Take a look at these reviews if you want a second opinion (Shelf Awareness, Tor.com).
And oh hey, it’s just in time for the holidays! Hmmm…know anyone who’d appreciate a gorgeous book of amazing steam-powered stories?
Tomorrow: lobster! And after…maybe some word on what I’ve been up to.
The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Year Three is now out! My story “Letters of Fire”appears within, along with a lot of fantastic work from BCS authors. If you have a moment, go take a look. (There’s also a special offer at the moment — buy The Best of BCS Year Three and get a copy of Year One or Year Two free!)
Work on the new draft is going well, but I’m outlining about a chapter ahead of where I’m writing the draft. I feel a little like those cartoons where Bugs Bunny is laying down the railroad track about two feet ahead of the train (I’m sure there is a Looney Tunes cartoon with that schtick, but damned if I can remember which one). My general outline remains the same, but the details — the passage from A to B — is changing day by day. Still, it’s getting done and on the page, and I like how it’s turning out. On!
Some days it’s a slow stream, just strong enough to keep the mill wheel turning.
Some days I can feel the story forming, still so fragile that if I poke at it too much it will collapse into a heap of unusable shards.
Some days I have to catch it before it slips away — or, more likely, before I realize that it’s a bad idea.
Some days it is a bad idea, and I do it anyway, giggling over just how ludicrous this is and what am I even thinking to write this. (Somehow, those often seem better when I come back to the drafts.)
Some days the plots spin out one after the other until I’m curled up in bed well after I should have fallen asleep, scrawling barely-legible sentences in my notebook.
Some days there’s a pressure at the back of my head because I’ve almost got it, I’ve almost found the key, and when the last piece slides into place it’s like the world finds a new axis.
Some days it’s just putting one stone on another.
And some days I can look back and see that yes, I’ve built a lot and yes, there’s still a lot to add, and the world is just getting bigger around me.
Hello world. I’m writing again. How are you?
Let me say this straight off: Readercon was delightful.
However, I went from Readercon to a lovely vacation and then smack into a personal clusterfuck when I got home, so I’ve had very little brainspace to think of putting together a con report or even remember that I have a blog in the first place. Things are better now, but I will not be sad to see the last of this July. Ugh.
In the meantime, I have more revisions to take care of — including the Portal paper that was very well received! — and stories to send out. And strangely enough, that sort of work is a balm for many aches.
Not much going on for me at Readercon — one reading and one short talk.
Friday July 13, 9:00 PM: Carrying a Gate through the Labyrinth: Portal and Greer Gilman’s “Girl, Implicated”.
Greer Gilman’s essay “Girl, Implicated: The Child in the Labyrinth in the Fantastic” posits an archetypal female journey in which “the solitary girl child in a labyrinth… charts her own way out of it, driven by her curiosity and courage.” A recent interactive take on this motif appears in the video game Portal and its sequel, in which a lone woman must find her way through a deserted testing facility while facing her own “genius or nemesis” in the form of the game’s main antagonist. Margaret Ronald will explore how Portal and Portal 2 propose not only a series of labyrinths-within-labyrinths but a new approach to escape by situating this narrative in a gameplay context. (This idea lodged in my head at Boskone and would not go away. It’s a little off the track for Readercon, but I think I’ve hit on something interesting. Also, oh crap why did I propose anything even pseudoacademic at Readercon I am going to be eaten alive aaaaaaa.)
Sunday July 15, 11:30 AM: Reading. Margaret Ronald. Margaret Ronald reads her short story “The Governess and the Lobster.” (Matron Jenkins on a Sunday morning. What more could you want?)
I’m planning on staying Friday night, leaving Saturday afternoon for some family time, and returning Sunday morning for the reading. I also intend to block out some time specifically for wandering through the dealers’ room and gazing longingly at the many, many books I cannot carry away with me.
Huh. I really have been hiding under a rock, haven’t I?
Well, it’s been a productive rock — a first draft of a short story, revisions on an older one, and 450 pages of other revisions, half of which are now covered in purple pen. Yes, it’s that last revising push, and then back to composition. I also have my Readercon schedule, which I’ll be posting later this week and about which I only have this to say: oh CRAP what have I gotten myself into?
In the meantime, though, there’s a new anthology out from Beneath Ceaseless Skies: Ceaseless Steam, a collection of steampunk stories that have appeared in BCS. “Salvage” appears in this anthology, for those of you who need more of the Professora in your life, as well as many other fantastic stories.
Hope you enjoy it!
This is the first Memorial Day weekend in a good long while that I haven’t been at Wiscon, and I can’t help feeling a little melancholy. I’d gotten very used to that moment of connection and thought and outright silliness. (And there’s a very materialistic part of me that misses the clothing swap, but since I hit the jackpot last year I really have no right to complain.) My thoughts are with everyone there; raise a glass for me.
In the meantime, I’m drowning my sorrows in Rock Band, cinnamon rolls, and hiking, not in that order. I also took a quick break from revision to write something new, and while I’m still too close to know whether I did a good job, it feels like a good story. Not least because I got to write several mad-science monologues.
Best part of revision recently: fixing a logistics problem and in the process making one character delightfully more sinister. No matter how well it’s justified or how true it is in-story, the line “this is for your own good” immediately makes the scene a little more unsettling.