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2016: Awards Eligibility AKA What I Wrote This Year

Like many of you, I opened up my awards ballots for this year and promptly forget everything I’d read in 2016, and everything I’d written.

To assist you all (and me) in remembering what I wrote in 2016, here’s the roundup:

Best Series

In a shocking twist, File 770 says the Bel Dame Apocrypha/God’s War series is actually eligible in this weird category because a novella in the series, The Heart is Eaten Last, was published in 2016. It’s for reasons like this that I think the Best Series category is flawed, and I’m not sure it would be a good addition to the Hugo list. But hey, the Bel Dame Apocrypha/God’s War series is eligible. So if you loved it, put a ring on it, etc.

 

 

Best Novelette Eligible

Both of these were published on Patreon in 2016 as well as in their respective reprint markets, where you can read them free:

These other four are patron-only works that were published this year, but haven’t yet been reprinted, alas. If you’re a patron and you’ve read them, they’re eligible this year in the novelette category. If you haven’t read them, access is $1.

 

Best Novella Eligible

Again, this was published first last year on Patreon, and later in the year reprinted in Forever Magazine, so it’s eligible in the novella category:

 

 

 

Best Related Work Eligible

Due to a push in dates for The Stars are Legion from fall 2016 to February 7th, 2017, GFR is my only eligible book-length work this year. While some of these essays were published prior, there are 9 new essays included exclusive to the collection, which I think makes its eligible for this year.

 

Best Fancast Eligible

I have somehow become a regular guest on Ditch Diggers hosted by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace. I love this show to pieces, as it’s of great help not just to newer writers, but to intermediate and pro writers as well. We need more like it. Check it out if you haven’t already!

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Now I am off to go and look at other people’s awards-eligibility posts so I can fill out all these ballots…

 

 

Christmas 2016 & Ruminations on the Future

I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday. I start listening to Christmas music in October. I decorate the house, whenever possible, the day after Thanksgiving (and only that late because my spouse insisted many years ago: No Decorations Until After Thanksgiving, which is fair). We like to get the tree the first week of December, so we can enjoy it through New Year’s week. It’s a lot of work to put up a tree that’s only up for a week.

But this year has been a tough one, as it has been for a lot of people. We both got sick just before Thanksgiving, and though we had a great trip out to see family and friends in Albuquerque, it meant it took us even longer to recover from being sick. Since this summer, my spouse has also been being treated for some health issues, which culminated in a lot of tests and doctor’s appointments and hospital visits in December (he is OK). Last week I realized I was just too tired to get a tree and decorate it this year, and neither of us had the energy to put up the Christmas lights. I managed to get up the Christmas village and hang some bulbs on the trees outside, but that was it.

We burned through all of our savings and too much credit earlier this year trying to save our dog, Drake, who finally died in July of an antibiotic-resistant staph infection. We had some checks we anticipated getting this month (including reimbursements from pet insurance) that haven’t arrived, so things are tight here, and it’s not the usual blow-out extravaganza of presents I like to do, but we do have cash flow, so it’s not like we’re poor, just… not the usual holiday. We cashed in our Chipotle Chiptopia reward of catering for 20 and ate that all last week because we were both too tired to cook and hey, it would save us on groceries! So that gives you an idea of our energy levels.

The exhaustion and political horror of the last couple of months can sometimes mask the fact that good things happened this year, too. The Geek Feminist Revolution came out in May (May! Feels like a lifetime ago, and a whole other world ago) and is selling OK. Reader reactions to that one have been amazing; it’s got the highest rating of any of my books on Goodreads. I also finished writing The Stars are Legion back in… March? And now that review copies have gone out, reader reactions are coming in, and it’s blowing people’s minds in just the right way (a lot of people didn’t believe it could possibly be a book with ALL WOMEN in it. Ha ha it’s a sci-fi world! There’s even a sci-fi reason! See, writers can do anything! Your own worldbuilding excuses are invalid!).

I continue to have a stable job that doesn’t eat my soul, provides health insurance for me and my spouse, and gives me the flexibility I need to stay sane. In 2016 and the years to come, this is pretty rare, and something to celebrate. Before the election my goal was to move to writing full time by the time I was forty. Now, without access to affordable health insurance through the ACA in the next few years, that’s not going to happen (“access” to health insurance is not “affordable” health insurance. I’m sure the new admin would be happy to let me pay $50k a year to get covered and call that “insurance access for everyone!”). The ACA was a cool dream. The dream is most likely over, so I’m adjusting my future goals accordingly.

As for my own health, a series of poor test results (increasing blood pressure, increased A1C, another weight jump) led my doctor to try a few different drugs this year to see if they could help. We seem to have hit on one that both helps my body process the insulin I have to inject for the rest of my life and reduces appetite dramatically. I no longer think about food all the time and I admit I keep wondering, “Is this how skinny people feel all the time?” After I dieted back in 2012 to drop the 30 lbs I gained after God’s War came out, my hunger came back with a raging vengeance, and it’s been nigh impossible to stop the uptick, to the point where I thought there was something seriously wrong with me, metabolically. Don’t crash diet, people. Seeing the scale number jump significantly backwards for the first time in many years, I find it ironic, once again, that weight gain or loss is still considered a moral matter in this country, like you’re somehow better if you can be thinner, when there are in fact all sorts of hidden bodily reasons that people stay thin or fat. Our Puritan idea that we must suffer hunger and toil, and that a slender body is the outward manifestation of this, is just bizarre. Let me tell you, with the raging hunger I’ve had for the last four years, it took some suffer and toil to be only this size. If this side effect to my meds continues, don’t think I’ve got some secret later this year when you see me and I’ve lost weight. There’s no secret. There’s no magic. It’s just that bodies are weird. I’m the same person at every weight. The dissonance I’ve felt inside my weirdly messed up body does bleed over into my fiction a lot. I am very aware of being a gooey sack of meat.

In other news, I’ve also joined the local YMCA, which is just $30 a month and which is just down the street from my day job, so I can swing by there a few times a week for some quick cardio (not suffering and toil. Quick cardio!). I’ve been writing a shitbrick of articles this year for the day job about health and wellness, and there are two things that all of the research agrees on: people who exercise 20 minutes a day and eat green leafy vegetables tend to live longer and in better health. Oh, and smoking is bad. But that should be a given, these days. That’s it. So I am getting back to moving again, for actual health as opposed to toil, and that should help solve the blood pressure issue, too. 2017 is no time to die of a heart attack. I mean, the Resistance will just be getting started…

As I look ahead to the next year, I see a lot of uncertainly, like many people. I have the final book due in my Worldbreaker Saga, The Broken Heavens, in April (wait until you see the cover! Squee!). I also have another stand-alone SF book due to Saga Press at the end of next year as well. Those are the last of my contracted books, so I’ll be working with my agent this year on a few other projects. We also have many other irons in the fire, some with the God’s War books/possible spin-offs, a possible story collection, and one pilot script project that’s spinning its wheels. We’ll see what happens.

My motto for this year and perhaps the next few is going to be “Survive.” That is my goal, really, to dig ourselves back out of dog medical debt, to write some great projects, to persevere, to survive. Thriving would be great! But sometimes you have to be OK with survival, and this year, of all years, I’m OK with survival. I admit this means I have no pithy hopeful statements about the future (though I find the idea that I’ll survive into the future pretty hopeful!). Instead, I have only the guarantee that I will do what I can to survive, and that I will stick it in here beside you as I always have.

As I’ve told some people, one of the tricks I’ve manufactured to get myself through the relenting badness that is the news these days (besides reducing time on Twitter) is to imagine myself looking back at this time from a point far in the future when things are much better. I had this striking dream of myself as an old woman on this timeline, living in an adobe house in the desert, opening the door to some young kids who’d brought copies of Geek Feminist Revolution and who thought I was some kind of ancient seer. They had come to talk about the past, about the world I lived in that spawned that book, and all the books that came before and after it.

That sort of dream may not seem very powerful to you, but to me it was. With my shitty health the last few years and all the political turmoil, I was honestly worried about my chances of making it to old age. That dream gave me the vision of some other timeline, a vision I could use to plot my way forward through the coming years, which may be rough in order to get me to wonderful. We all need a story to see us through the darkest times. Do you need a story of that hopeful future? Write yours, too, and cling to it tightly. We’ll need them.

Apocalypse Nation: Nowhere to Run

I once watched an episode of Doomsday Preppers in which the Preppers included two women who had type 1 diabetes. They talked about how they would keep their insulin cool in bags in streams. They never once addressed the fact that if society collapsed, even a stockpile of insulin wouldn’t be good for more than a year, maybe 18 months if you stretched it by using the less reliable expired stuff as long as possible.

Heading for the hills during violent political upheavals only works if you’re in good health and have someone with mad medical skills with you, and it means leaving everyone else down in the valley to die. Something as simple as an infected scratch can kill you. How long are your iodine pills and antibiotics going to last? The truth is that millions will die during the long collapse.

One of the things that always bothered me about the apocalypse scenarios is how they focused so hard on surviving. I mean, is all of society really gone, or just yours? And with 6 billion other people in the world, do you have a species imperative to survive, because really – life goes on. Ya’ll wonder why I like Russ’s We Who Are About To so much, and it’s this honest acknowledgement that becoming a broodmare to “save humanity” is a con. Survival isn’t everything.

I’ve been trying to figure out my options since Wednesday morning. Heading out into hill country is a great idea if you don’t actually need access to modern medecine. Canada may seem like a good option for now, but when fascism comes, it tends to swallow and swallow and swallow. Remember that we’re handing over the nuclear codes to a vindictive narcissist with sympathetic ties to Russia. I’ve been watching the media headspinning, telling us we should hope this guy is “successful” and I’m like – successful for who? Did you all forget the stuff he promised to do? Have you read his plan for his first 100 days? The willful way Americans are looking away from what somebody actually said he’d do, the things he campaigned and ran on, is bizarre. Ok, not bizarre, I admit, because I’ve seen it before in a lot of countries that find themselves with a crazy guy in power. “Maybe it won’t be so bad,” they all say, because they want life to go on as usual. But the changes are going to start happening very quickly now. The Obama years postponed our 80’s apocalypse future, but it’s here. Willfully trying to unsee it is just living in a fantasy novel. Now I’m watching a lot of fellow lefty folks eat each other over safety pins and whether or not Bernie would have won while a conman gives his children and business allies cabinet positions and is celebrated by the KKK – a guy who told people throughout his campaign that he was keeping an enemies list and who threatened to jail his opponent. Folks are talking about organizing for elections in two years and four years and I’m like, “You are very confident there will be elections.” You can try rewriting the story, folks, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve seen this road before. If we avoid it, great! I will happily be wrong. But I have made my peace with what’s coming. Spare us your “wait and see” and “maybe it’s not that bad.” Those empty platitudes help no one prepare. They lull them back to sleep.

Anyway, as I’ve said elsewhere, I’m done trying to convince people that yes, what you see is what you’re going to get. Smarter people than me, those who have studied fascist regimes in far greater depth, are giving the same warnings. In fact, have been giving the same warnings for a year. Like many, I didn’t listen, because I believed in America. And while it’s true that most Americans are still good – Hillary is set to win the popular vote by a million votes, millions of voters were suppressed by the dissolution of the Voting Rights Act, decades of Republican gerrymandering came home to roost, and there’s been interference from Russia related to this election the whole cycle – I’ve also studied South African history, and I know how brutally a white minority can rule over a majority.

And after examining all the options, I’ve come to realize that there is no running away from this. There is no “better place” in this global economy. Countries are shifting far-right faster than we can keep up, and with the US and Russia both moving together now, we’re looking at powers with huge numbers of nuclear weapons who will be spreading this agenda outward. There is no where to run that they cannot reach.

I stayed up watching the last two Hunger Games movies and realized the point at which things turn is when people realize the capital is going to kill them anyway. This is why I have reiterated and accepted early that this is the new normal, and that it’s following a typical fascist rise to power narrative. Because once you accept that you are among those on the chopping block, you realize you have nothing to lose. And it becomes easier to throw yourself into the fray as willing cannon fodder so the folks with the battering rams can come in behind you if you know you are going to die anyway.

And if you can’t run, and if, like me, you’re likely to die under this regime anyway…. you might as well stay and fight.

I have nothing to lose that isn’t already in jeopardy.

I Rebel

My grandmother was born and raised in Nancy, France. Germany invaded parts of northern and western France in May of 1940. This included my grandmother’s hometown of Nancy. Over the next four years, she would live under a nationalistic and antisemitic puppet government, the Vichy regime, which openly collaborated with the Germans. My great-grandfather, her father, was a member of the French Resistance, the Maquis, and spent a good chunk of time tortured by Gestapo. She remembers the Gestapo coming to her house, and I have used stories of those events to flesh out a lot of the war stories I write, including “The Women of Our Occupation.” I also relate a story here about her and her friends finding a severed foot in a Nazi boot, and note what the consequences could have been for that. My grandparents met during the war. He was an American GI of German descent. He spent a good chunk of his post-war time trucking out bodies from concentration camps.

I grew up knowing all about the very worst that people could do to other people, and also how it came about: in incremental shifts, in normalization of the outrageous, and then suddenly, all at once. I became fascinated by history, especially the history of resistance and revolution. I know too much about tyrants and dictators and the fear that fuels the minority who bolster their ascent to power.

Rebellion is in my blood.

I saw the distinct possibility of this regime change coming, but honestly believed we could preserve the path we’ve been on, the path toward that more hopeful future. Instead, we got close enough to see the glimmer of the light and then watch the darkness fall again. If you ever thought, “What does it look like when fascism comes home to roost?” Like, this is it.

The fascinating part has been watching all of the rationalizations and “Maybe it’s not that bad” and normalization of what is happening now in the wake of a self-identified rapist, racist, and narcissistic demagogue with confirmed ties to a Russian dictator being elected president of a country with more nuclear weapons than any other. I expect it was that way for France, too. “It’s not like we’re REALLY invaded by Germany! I mean, we have a government! It’s not THAT bad. I mean, we just need to give them the Jews and they’ll leave us alone. Ok, and the Roma. And the disabled. And the rebels. And our grandmothers who immigrated here and…. oh shit.”

Oh shit indeed.

We are going to hear a lot of rationalization over the coming days, months, years. The normalization of the things done and said by this regime is going to be fast and furious, because things are going to move so quickly that we won’t be able to keep up with everything. And you are going to hear, as things escalate, a lot of rationalizations. “Yes Muslims need to register but it’s not like they’re going to camps!” and “Yes all immigrants need to go to camps but at least they aren’t being murdered outright!” and “Yes they got rid of ACA but they will totally fix healthcare some other way” and “Yes abortion rights are gone but you can just go to Canada.”

You will hear this a lot.

It’s the same in every country. We rationalize because if we didn’t then we’d have to admit that we need to do something, and that we’ve made a mistake. A lot of voters for this regime, just like those who voted for Brexit, are working furiously to tell us things aren’t that bad and we aren’t giving it a chance when in fact from the very beginning this candidate has told us exactly what he is going to do and exactly what his vision for this country is. There will be no surprises or reversals. This is it. They have stated very clearly what they plan to do, and it will dismantle decades of progressive policy and human rights initiatives. It could also very well lead to the economic breakdown of this country.

I have a chronic illness, and I can tell you right now that as you are all bunkering down preparing for apocalypse, I simply don’t have that “Run away and live in the woods” option anymore. If inflation hits, healthcare regulations are lifted, and trade tariffs destroy access to my meds, I will die. There’s no “Maybe I can wait it out” or “This will be just like Fallout!”

A lot of us are going to die if this goes down the way they have stated they want it to go down.

I am one of them.

So this is very real for me.

Folks have been asking what to do besides despair. I have a solid narrative of rebellion to look back at. It helped me rally and get up Wednesday morning. I imagined my grandmother standing in the streets of France while the tanks rolled in. I imagined my great-grandfather risking torture and death because he knew what was right despite all the people around him saying it was going to be fine, that it would work out and there would totally be checks and balances and hey just give them the Jews or the Muslims or the immigrants…

You get up. You move. You rebel.

So start calling other people out on this. Yes, this means your families, too. Like many, I have demurred during family political squabbles, but we’re no longer talking about tax rates, we’re talking about people’s lives. The repeal of ACA will kill tens of thousands of people a year, and it’s already been stated as high on the list for repeal in January. It’s coming. Conversion therapy for LGBT folks is going to cause suicide rates to skyrocket. And the hate groups have legitimacy now. They will feel emboldened, and they will be attacking and killing people on the streets. This is not alarmist. It’s already happening. When you see members of the KKK out in their full hooded regalia celebrating the election of the new regime, well, you know what? It’s alarming. It’s fucking time to be alarmist. All you need to do to see what they want to do is to go to the regime’s website and look at their stated platform. Watch the recordings of what this guy has said. He told you exactly what he’s going to do. There are no surprises, and this is not hyperbole. This is me stating that they now have the power to act out all the things they intend to do, and as they know, it will be devastating for millions of Americans.

So here’s some stuff you can do:

  • First, protect yourself online and off. If you’re targeted by the actual government, this is moot, but my biggest concern on a day to day basis is the regime’s supporters. And all those hate groups and trolls are going to hit and hit hard in the coming months and years. Lock your shit down.
  • Second, if you see someone being harassed – especially if you’re white and male – step in and shut it down. Make it clear this is not OK. I have a healthy sense of “fuck you” and have been doing this myself for a decade now, but I know not everyone feels comfortable doing it. But the alternative is your silence, and silence says, “What I see happening is OK with me.” And it will embolden more attacks.
  • Third, if he wants to register Muslims? Then let’s ALL register as Muslims. They will have to take all of us.
  • Fourth, don’t become despondent. I promise, other countries have gone through things like this and survived. I have been thinking about my grandmother a lot. That said, yes, the danger here is real. Not just from the regime but from all the hate carried by the people who his win have legitimized. This is not a joke, it’s not funny, and it’s very real. Take it seriously. That’s not being alarmist: this shit IS alarming, and it’s going to get worse. So prepare yourself and your loved ones and look out for each other.
  • If you are someone who needs help, reach out now and connect with your allies immediately. Have an escape plan and know who to turn to if you are in trouble. If you are someone who can offer a bed to sleep in or a place to go for someone who’s likely to be targeted, raise your hand. We need to take care of each other.
  • Finally, if you choose to be loud, accept that bad things may happen to you. I’m well aware that depending on how bad this goes, I am toast. I also know that I can’t sleep at night just running away to Canada or hiding in my house and not speaking up in defense of others and myself. It’s safer to stay head down while other people suffer, and some of you may need to do that, and no one judges you for that. But understand the risks.

There’s going to be lots of people saying everything is fine, including, enragingly, the very Democrats who saw this for what it was too. They keep trying to treat this like a normal election. This is not normal.

Folks. It’s not fine. And you are not crazy for thinking it’s not fine.

This. Is. Not. Fine. 

Hold onto that, and get ready.

Epilogue: My Wish for You

This is excerpted from the epilogue to The Geek Feminist Revolution

My gift to you today:

——

My goal is to change the world. Change it into what, though? Into a better place, I’d hope. Into a place where we don’t have to fight as hard to be heard. Into a place where we have not equal opportunities, but true equality that lets us all start out our lives on the same footing. I want the world to be a demonstrably better place when I leave it than it was when I came into it. Not just for me, or for people like me, but for every one.

The truth is, though, that I don’t know how to do that. All I know how to do is write (and drink, to the limit my illness allows). I know how to persevere in the face of bullshit. I know how to not be afraid. I know how to live. Sometimes living, and speaking aloud, is the most subversive act one can manage.
That, perhaps, is enough for me. But is it enough for you?

I am getting older, and though some may scoff at that, the fact is that death and I have danced before, and though she did not win that time, each day I can hear her breathing in my ear, with every shot of medication I take and every low sugar reading I get while hiking out in the woods alone, and I am reminded that she will get me eventually, as she gets us all, because her dance card is long, and she is more persistent even than I.

I have no children, and no legacy but my work— and you.

I have the power to reach back to you long after I am dead, through these spidery marks on paper or pixels, and remind you that you have a voice, you have agency, and your voice is stronger and more powerful than you could ever imagine, and long after I am gone, you can pick up this beer beside me and carry on the work we are doing now, the work we have always been doing, the work we will always do, until the world looks the way we imagine it can be.

I am a grim optimist, and this is my hope for you: that you will be louder than me, and stronger than me, and more powerful than me, and that you will look back at me as a relic, a dinosaur, as the minor villain in your own story, the rock you pushed against in your own flight to fame, to notoriety, to revolution.

That is my wish for you.

 

 

It’s Morning in America

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” – Hermann Goring

It’s morning in America.

I laid in bed with my spouse a little longer this morning after checking 538. My spouse and I lay pressed back to back; a bit of mammalian comfort to get us both through the day ahead. I got up and I petted my dog and told him he was a good boy and everything was OK and I turned on the coffee maker. I took the dogs out on a walk in the darkness of the pre-dawn. It was so, so quiet. We walked, and walked.

It was so quiet.

Nate Silver said the chance of the darkest timeline was one in three. No one wanted to listen to those odds.

I would like to say something soothing and hand you the rest of my bottle and pretend it will be OK. But it won’t. History teaches us this, as it taught us the dangers of going this route.

But white people never listen.

All the progress of the last eight years will be rolled back. Financial markets are already crashing, as they did with Brexit. America has been careening into the end times for awhile now, but just like with climate change, we’ve finally reached the tipping point.

On a personal level, gutting healthcare is going to ruin my family. Instability in the markets will hurt my job prospects, my freelancing ability. We’ll need to cut back and hunker down. All those crazy fringe people, all those racist uncles on the internet, have free reign now. A lot of vulnerable people are going to suffer horribly, and a lot of people who thought they weren’t vulnerable are going to find out otherwise. Already, we’re all casting about trying to figure out how fucked we all are, turning inward. All that energy we projected outward to make things better is sweeping inward. I want to tell you that talk of the apocalypse is hyperbole, but that was the problem: we told people this would be the apocalypse and no one listened. Now it’s here, and it’s not a joke, it’s not a reality TV show, it’s not just liberals calling everybody Hitler.

Living in the end times of an empire is pretty shitty.

It’s that bad. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

I have a sign up in my room that says, “In times like these it’s important to remember that there have always been times like these.”

Other people have gotten through fascist regimes, including my grandmother, who lived in Nazi-occupied France. We always wondered how that shit happened, but this is how: fear and lies. It works every time. Other people currently live in fascist regimes, and in war zones. America liked to pretend it was a shining beacon of hope and light against the darkness, but it’s not. We never really were. It was a beautiful story, though, pushing down the story of fear and racism and writing a new one. But all it takes is a megalomaniac to bring out the worst in people, the truth in people.

History is not the story of progress. Far from it. History is eight steps forward, ten steps back.

This is our story.

 

Wait, is the Apocalypse Cancelled?

Rubbed my bleary eyes this morning while sucking down coffee only to blink once, then twice, when I saw that the Cubs lost… wait, the Cubs WON the world series for the first time in 108 years, breaking the Billy Goat Curse (and probably a million others), and the UK courts announced that the government can’t leave the EU without actually getting Parliament’s OK on their plan and I was like, what the fuck, what happened to my Darkest Timeline?

Have we cancelled the apocalypse?

Only time will tell.

Buck up, folks. Not everything is shit.

WE CAN DO IT.

GO VOTE GO MAKE THINGS FUCK IT UP BURN IT ALL DOWN BUILD IT ALL BACK UP.

I will head back to the word mines.

 

 

NaNoNoNo

I’ve been largely absent from the noise and social hubbub of the world lately, and for good reason. I’ve been fairly burned out. This was clear to me in July when I went out to do a cabin writing retreat to get some work done and found I could barely squeeze out 500 words when my goal was to produce 20k over the long weekend. Talk about an epic brain freeze.

While writing hasn’t been all that fun in a couple of years, it was, at least, still flowing. But after I finished The Stars are Legion all in one epic race earlier this year, the words just sort of left (in fact, I worried a lot that I’d botched this book. I’ve never once read it all the way through in one go. Really. And it’s at the printer. But the reviews so far are amazing, so clearly I did something right that writing weekend).

Last night, though, I finished a SUPER rough Nyx short story for the Patreon, and felt like some of the old fun was coming back. Some of that has to do with simply revisiting these characters. Writing these stories is like writing my own fan fiction. I’ve known these people for so much of my life now that they feel like family. It was nice to do something fun and finish it, even if it’s rough and needs some work.

What it did do is kick loose the part of my brain that’s been seeing all writing as a deathless slog the last year and change, and that’s great. It felt like I’d shoved past some massive mountain that was standing in my way. Finally, I was able to sit at the keyboard, in the dark, with a beer and a skull candle, and just completely inhabit another world. In my mind’s eye I was surfacing back in Nasheen again, running around a contaminated desert, dodging bursts and bombs, and trying not to care about my companions too much because the world had already ended and living was so very glorious. That’s the sort of writing experience I crave, when you feel like you’re not making things up so much as dictating a story as you’re living it in your head.

As I’m finally feeling better, I decided to take advantage of the glorious madness that is November to knock out some word count on The Broken Heavens. Revisiting the Nyx gang made me realize I was ready to start putting down some serious word count with my other gang of outcasts and weirdos as they try and save the world(s). As everyone who read Empire Ascendant can attest, that was a dark, dark, book, and I needed a break before really settling in to finish.

Here’s to hoping for a good writing month for all.

 

The View on the Ground in a Swing State

I’ve lived in Dayton, Ohio since 2007. Elections are, understandably, a big deal here. It’s a swing state. The divide here is sharp, and fairly stereotypical. I live very near downtown, where you are highly unlikely to see a sign up for the Republican candidate. We live in a traditionally black neighborhood, and Dayton itself is split when it comes to race, with about 46-48% of the population nonwhite, and growing as we welcome new immigrants who are kickstarting businesses all across this once dead manufacturing town.  It’s Hillary/Kaine all the way down.

But drive up the hill into Oakwood (where convicted rapist Brock Turner went to high school), and the houses get bigger, the tax rate jumps up, and it’s white folks on every corner. When you see someone not white, it’s likely they are being pulled over by police (dead serious. They are THOSE kinds of police). Oakwood is that kind of place. And, predictably, there at the base of the hill, you start to see the signs for the Republican candidate pop up. It always reaffirms my insistence on not living in Oakwood.

We have representatives from every Dem group imaginable coming to our door every day now, reminding us to vote. I tell my spouse to just stop answering the door, but he is endlessly polite. I joke often that I think he’s secretly Canadian. We vote every time at a church up the street. At this point, I’ll likely just be voting Dem all the way down, and approving every single measure that requires us to pay more taxes to fund more services. Voting in Ohio takes on an extra urgency that I never felt in any other election. The first presidential election I could vote in was in Alaska, the infamous Gore/Bush darkest timeline Florida recount Jeb Bush calling the state for his brother crazy times. Even knowing that Alaska would go red, I voted (it always goes red. Tho I’ll note that right now it has a 1/3 chance to swing to Hillary this time, which is wild).

Voting for Obama both times was a far more satisfying experience. He was able to churn up positive emotions for hope and change in a way that I hadn’t seen since Regan (tho it turned out Regan’s “change” began the rapid dissolution of the American social services and safety nets, alas. Emotion still works). This time around all I feel is fear, which is the other side of the emotional spectrum and which does, alas, work just as well. Fear is driving all voters this election cycle: just toward different candidates.

As many have noted, this election is the Sad Puppy fiasco writ large. The media has given a voice to extremist wank because reporting extremist outrage causes reactionary outrage, which causes more extremist outrage, until we have no actual idea of what anyone really thinks in the middle. The fact that I read a lot of news and still have absolutely no idea what the hell is going on in real life is pretty fucked up. The media has become one big comment section, literally, as news stations now make entire stories out of people’s tweets and comments. The more extreme the view, the more the clicks, the more they get paid, the more skewed our view of what’s “normal” out there.

The only real I see these days, then, are in the neighborhood signs. The clear demarcation there at the bottom of the hill shows me the expected slice. The fact that I see no Republican signs downtown, but do still see Hillary signs up there in Oakwood amid the Republican ones, tells me more truth than the news. Not everyone has taken the extremist train to racist-sexist-xenophobia land.

Let’s just hope they all show up to vote the way they did at the Hugos.

Fresh Fiction: Hammers on Bone

In March of this year I got a DM from Cassandra Khaw asking if I’d take a look at her novella, Hammers on Bone. I get a lot of blurb requests these days, so stuff really needs to hit my buttons to keep me reading. I am a fan of Khaw’s short fiction (there’s plenty to check out, but here’s “Breathe” and “When We Die on Mars“) and she was first on my Campbell nomination list this year.

Khaw’s fiction runs the gammit of science fiction, fantasy, horror, urban fantasy, and weird. Hammers on Bone is a creepy Lovecraftian urban fantasy weird (?) novella that I read all in one gulp poolside in Orlando (some TW’s for violence against women). As I am short on time these days, I will simply share the blurb I wrote with you, and urge you all to check it out:

Cassandra Khaw’s explosive, evocative prose is a treat to read. Khaw’s ability to transform the mundane into the deeply phantasmagorical is nothing short of magical. Prepare to take a long leap into the gory, the weird, and the fantastic in the hands of a fresh new voice in fiction.

Enjoy!

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