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Becoming Meat

I had to go to the doctor yesterday, which is something I have to do often and have come to hate and resent more than is probably appropriate. I had not been to my endocrinologist for nearly a year and a half, which isn’t to say I haven’t been to the doctor in all that time. I’ve been in for two surgeries and some followups, and been to urgent care twice. Which is probably why I was avoiding my endocrinologist, whom I’m supposed to see every 90 days.

When you go to doctors this often and get interrogated about your habits and your health and then jabbed with needles, prodded by fingers and knocked about the feet and knees to test your reflexes to ensure you’re feet aren’t going to fall off, well, it gets to you. I get so angry walking into the reception room that I have to start cutting things away, disassociating myself from… well, myself, and pretend all of these invasive indignities are happening to somebody else.

I learned this trick with strong emotion early on. I feel things as intensely as anybody else, but in times of great stress, trauma, or emergency, freaking out and breaking down aren’t useful. Nor is screaming at people when you’re angry, because they tend to just tune out. Emotion is seen as a weakness in this culture, and when women do it it just reinforces stereotypes about hysteria. So I learned to cut away those parts of me that were angry or overwhelmed and just endure things like they were happening to someone else. It comes in handy during doctor visits now. I honestly don’t think I could endure them without this trick, because the alternative would be to burst into an angry tirade at my doctor and ask her what the fuck all these appointments are for.

We go over the same litany – do you exercise? Do you test your blood sugar? What vitamins do you take? What do you eat? And then there’s the same boring tests every damn time, the same height/weight (am I expected to SHRINK every three months?) tests, the blood pressure, the pulse, the thyroid test, the reflexes tests, the breathing tests, and then, of course, the blood test and finger pricking and blood drawing.

And when it’s all over, every three months, I hear something to the effect of, “Well, nothing’s wrong yet. I’ll see you in three months. “

Chronic conditions are huge downers, because it’s not like after five years post-cancer they declare you cancer free and you run off into the sunset saying, “Fuck you cancer!” and you can at least tell yourself at night that the chances of recurrence after a certain point are very slim. Instead, there’s this expectation that every day, I get closer to dying. That we’re just waiting until something goes wrong. It’s a disheartening way to live. It’s not like I go in every three months and we talk about new treatments and therapies, or advances in insulin pumps or cheaper testing strips or some other thing that will make my life better, faster, longer. No, it’s just “Well, nothing’s wrong yet.” And then I pay out a couple hundred bucks and leave with some prescriptions for daily medications that will cost several hundred more dollars each month (all of this *after* insurance). Even if I have a slightly higher than my usual A1c, it’s not like we have a chat about ways to fix that, because, yanno, if my blood sugar numbers have been higher than usual, I pretty much know exactly why. It’s generally not some mysterious thing, it just means life won during those particular three months. Some days my struggle is easier than others. The last year of craziness meant something had to slip, and my numbers certainly did.

So if I know what I’m supposed to do, and nothing’s ever going to get better, what’s the fucking point of this? Why am I spending hundreds of dollars for someone to tell me I’m still sick? The “best” outcome of any visit is just to hear that “nothing’s wrong yet.” Catching things that are wrong early is great, but do I really need to come in every 90 days for that?

The indignities you put up with as a constant patient are exhausting. You start to feel like a thing, a slab of meat. And then people have to treat you like you’re stupid. During this particular appointment, there wasn’t even any small talk. It was all business. It was kind of exhausting, and it felt so pointless that I was angry for hours afterward. “Do you test your blood sugar?” she asks me, and I nearly lost my shit at that. “WHY NO I JUST SPEND HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS ON TESTING STRIPS BECAUSE I’M BUILDING HOUSES FROM THEM.” I mean, what kind of stupid thing is that to ask somebody with an immune disorder like mine where not taking synthetic insulin for more than 48 hours results in death? I mean, come on. Seriously?

And yes, before folks ask, I have the best endocrinologist in the area, one who isn’t taking any more new patients, and who I know I’m lucky to have because she’s so thorough. This is the best of the bunch. It’s just the way it fucking is. And you know, it gets to me sometimes, how you start to just have to tune out from the whole process, because it’s so exhausting and humiliating. It reminds me of my defective body, the one I learned to love after so many years of being told by the media that I was a useless person because I wasn’t femmy eye candy. I learned how to revel in my body’s strength and power, and to be put in a position where I’m seen as defective again is just aggravating. How do you combat perceptions that you’re defective meat when you know it’s true? When you know that a hundred years ago, you’d be dead, and you’re only hanging onto life through constant monitoring and multiple daily shots of a synthetic hormone that your body no longer makes?

My illness is largely invisible, and most people don’t realize how bad it is, and how seriously I rely on synthetic insulin to live. I appreciate a lot of that invisibility, and maybe that’s the issue. Because when I go into the doctor, I get treated like a sick person. In real life, I get treated like a healthy person who can hit things hard. That’s nice.

But on the slab, I’m just another defective body. Another piece of meat.

Genderblindered: “We’re both queens. So who will hang out the laundry?”

I read an old proverb once that went, “We’re both queens. So who will hang out the laundry?”

I think this is an important point that a lot of seemingly imaginative fiction fails to take into account when creating societies.

I was on a panel about women in combat at Epic Confusion when Scott Lynch brought up the fact that he often wrote in female guards and background characters in traditionally masculine roles without making a big deal about it. The idea was, to paraphrase, that equality was just something that was in his world, and the role of women in these positions went unquestioned in the society, and thus, in the book.

This is actually a more-or-less common thing for folks to do in SF in particular (and even in some noteworthy fantasy like Lynch’s), but it’s been nagging at me for a while. I mean, “everybody’s equal” should be a positive thing, right? Women can be soldiers and shopkeepers and boxers and bankers. How many people, day-to-day, reflect on why it is that women in our society hold those positions (or even question why they hold them in such fewer numbers than men, or why they’re paid less for them)? Oh, sure, there’s a long, turbulent history of women fighting for the right to hold those positions at all, but it’s not generally something that’s on everybody’s mind as they go about their business.  And ya’ll know I’m not the one to say we need more infodumping in fiction. So it’s cool.

But. Here’s the thing. It’s actually a bit blindered. It’s focusing on about 52% of a world’s population and how they comport themselves. And it ignores how the other half of that society is going to have to change even in the face of the kind of uneasy, tepid, on-paper-equality we have in the U.S. Cause anybody can tell you that as the expectations for what women did, and could do, have changed even in our own country, the expectations of what men were suppose to do, and expected to do, have changed, too.

See, if you’ve got a society that’s truly, really, totally “equal” you’re not just going to have women guards, lawyers, and bodyguards. You’re also going to have an equal number of male child caretakers, kindergarten teachers, nurses, secretaries, receptionists, sex workers, and housemaids (unless you have cunningly created a society that doesn’t have sex work, and if it’s truly equal, I can tell you that it probably won’t. But that’s another rant).

“Equal” societies aren’t just about putting women in armor and calling it good. It’s about totally breaking down the assumptions of gendered work – for everyone – and rethinking, from the ground up, how that society builds, organizes, reproduces, communicates, and even what it dreams about.

More likely, what you’re going to see in more-or-less equal societies created on paper is that somebody is being oppressed to allow another subset of people to be “equal.” So if women are bodyguards working twelve hour shifts, somebody else had better be running take-out food stalls that feed them, the creches that care for their children, and the stores that do their laundry – or you need to have some really advanced technology that takes care of all of that.

If men and women aren’t sharing work, then they’re likely fobbing it off on somebody else – whether it be service-oriented businesses or slaves or servants (and if if they’re doing that, sure, you may have a society that doesn’t have specifically gendered work, but it’s certainly not a society that’s “equal”). Or everybody pays in to have the state take care of their kids. Or they create houses that clean themselves (the old “technology will make us equal” thing).

I do get annoyed in conversations about casual equality in fantastic societies, because they tend to focus on what women need to do to be equal. Equality just means that women will be stronger and better educated and get better jobs, right? They’ll be real people – just like guys! Like everything else, we measure the oppressiveness or openness of a society based on “what women are allowed to do” instead of what the people are free to do.  It glosses over just how massive the change will be.

But what isn’t addressed is that in order for this to work, the men in these societies will have to change, too. Cause if everyone is equal, somebody is losing power and privilege. And that’s going to piss some people off.  It’s why things aren’t equal today, because the folks who used to have unquestioned power are very well aware that they’re slowly but surely losing it, and they’re fighting it tooth and nail.

There are all sorts of ways to construct the social dynamics of societies, many of them with real current and historic examples, which is why I’m often so disappointed that in a book that spends three years trying to get its science right, the woman’s in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant while her husband reads the news in their two bedroom, two bath future-condo.

I  mean, really?

There’s a great article on the changing expectations of fatherhood just in the last couple centuries, including some alternative child caring expectations in other societies (yes, societies here on EARTH, even!) that should at least get folks to thinking about how things have been and thus, could be different.

I mean, you guys – we’re writing/reading fantasy, OK? There is absolutely no excuse for things not to get out-there-crazy fantastic. Including your effing family and gender dynamics.

It’s not just about changing our conception of what women’s work is, or what women’s place is or women this, women that, wear this, wear that. Because I can tell you, after spending several years hip-deep in Abrahamic religions and people’s interpretations of them, I’m kinda bored with seeing societies who overly focus on and define themselves (and are outwardly defined by others) entirely on the appearance and conduct of the women within those societies.

Innovative worldbuilding is about asking, really asking, what it means to be a man in this society too, and what exactly constitutes men’s work – if there is such a thing.  What can men wear? What can they say? What jobs can they hold? And… why? If you’ve got gendered work, there should be a good, non-cliched reason for it. If you don’t, great.

But when you finish writing a book, or reading a book, you should have a good idea of who’s hanging out the laundry.

 

Because unless you get hit by a bus, life goes on

Jeff VanderMeer had an interesting post up awhile back that got me to thinking. I don’t remember if it was on his blog or Facebook, and I can’t find it now, but it had to do with how, over time, writers tend to fall by the wayside, overcome by the biz, by personal tragedy, by regret, by challenges, by success, and any other number of things that can knock you out of the writing and publishing business. After a time, as more and more folks fell off the grid, the remaining folks after twenty or thirty or forty years together on this long road, the ones left, had this kind of mutual respect for one another, even if they didn’t exactly like one another.It was the kind of thing that came from having gone through all the shit and joy this business has to offer, and still getting up every morning and trying again.

I started thinking about this again tonight because I had a professional setback this week that hit me harder than I thought it would.

Growing up, my parents always taught me that if you work hard, you’ll succeed. You’ll get all the things you want. This is a very nice idea, but as many of us realized as we grew older, it just wasn’t true. A woman could be president – when the country was ready for it. We could go to Mars – if the public would ever get behind it. We could… we could… we could…

Who wouldn’t want to get hit by this cute bus?

When we talk about “I” accomplishments in the U.S., we tend to ignore the fact that our place in life isn’t always solely up to us and our decisions. Oh, it’s nice to think it is. It makes it easier to think you have control over things that you don’t actually have any control over.

So we tell ourselves that keeping an upbeat attitude will save us from cancer, or being nice to strangers means people will be nice to us, or if we just work hard, it won’t matter who our parents are, or what our race is, or what our gender is, or if we’re too fat or too gay – we’ll simply be rewarded by the glorious, unbiased, us-focused world.

The thing is, the world really does not care about us or our success. Or our failures.

I can beat myself up for getting laid off at a prior job because the owner lost funding. But the fact is, nothing at all I could have done at that job, no matter how good I was or how well I negotiated, would have stopped me from being laid off.

When I woke up in the hospital when I was 26 and told I had an immune disorder that would require me to be on life-sustaining drugs the rest of my life, well, there was nothing I could have done to prevent that, either. “Genetics,” they told me. “Bad roll. Sorry.”

And when God’s War was dropped by its first publisher, well, again – it didn’t matter how good (or not) the book was, or how well I wrote it or how well I championed it. Due the circumstances of how it was acquired and the crashing economy, the book was dropped. It wasn’t personal, and had very little to do with me or how well I did or didn’t write it .

Bad things happen. Unfortunate things happen. We like to say there’s a reason for it, because if you work so hard for something and don’t get it, there’s a big part of you that wants to say, “For fuck’s sake, is this really worth it?” And if all of us did that, we’d just sit on a log somewhere until we got eaten by scavengers. “What’s the point?” is the first question on the road to your downfall.

Because, let’s be honest. Sometimes you do work hard, and stuff works out, yeah. And sometimes you don’t and stuff works out anyway, but it happens less often. So even though there are plenty of times we work hard and we fail, we hear about that less. We just keep hearing the same mantra. “Just do good. Work hard. You’ll get everything you want.” When really, what they mean is DEAR GOD KEEP GOING OR YOU WILL GET EATEN BY SCAVENGERS.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m working too hard, if I need to work smarter. And then I start to go around in these circles like, “What if I wrote Vampire YA instead?” or “What if I gave up novel writing and focused on being an executive?” or “What if I flew to Mars?”

And then I think about what the hell my definition of success really is. When my parents or grandparents said, “Work hard and you’ll succeed” they probably meant “You’ll have a roof over your head and not go hungry,” not “You’ll be debt free and have an iPad and a new car that doesn’t require constant maintenance.” My definition of success is staggeringly out of whack with what came before. I market all day, so I know this definition is all fake. It’s made up to sell things, and that’s cool, but in order for me to live sanely in this world, I need to figure out my own definition of success.

And my own definition of failure.

Because one of the truths I’ve learned over the years is this:

Failure happens. To everybody. All that separates the people who achieve things and the people who don’t is whether or not they get up again. And whether or not they’re hit by a bus before they give up the final time.

Life isn’t what’s done to you. It’s what you do with what’s done to you.

When I lost that job, I thought I was done for. But some very fortuitous circumstances combined with some very kind and gracious colleagues and referrals, and I was back in the game again, and onto a succession of better jobs that I have excelled at.

Some people who get my immune disorder get so fucking mad at the world that they just fuck everything away because, “There’s no point and I’m going to die anyway.” But instead, after a year of my own wallowing angst, I decided to re-prioritize my life and figure out how to be a better person with the 15 fewer years I’ve got on everyone else.

And, yanno, God’s War getting dumped didn’t keep it from being an internationally award-winning novel (ha ha, boo-yah, I can TOTALLY SAY THAT NOW!).

I hate failure. I hate setback. I hate feeling like I’m not in control of anything. But there are two ways to handle it. Freak out and tell the world to fuck off while getting eaten by scavengers, or suck it up, move forward, and formulate plans for how to work around it, work through it, work past it.

Because unless you get hit by a bus, life goes on.

That, at least, I’m pretty certain about.

 

The Self-Sabotaging Writer

Death by the pen. Truly mightier than the sword.

When I first started writing violent, feminist-y things, people told me, “Nobody’s going to buy that. People won’t read that. You won’t ever sell a million copies. You’re a niche writer.  You’ll just be a marginalized writer. So long as you know that, it’s cool. Maybe you should write some YA instead.”

And, you know, I accepted that. I accepted it rather blindly, because hey, that’s what it’s like when you write stuff that isn’t mainstream popcorn/established bestseller niche, right? Nobody reads you. Only critics take you seriously, sometimes (and even then, only long after you’re dead).

As I’ve been working off last year’s weight gain by listening to too much Jillian Michaels and watching too many episodes of The Biggest Loser while getting in my 90 minutes of cardio every day, there was this recurring theme on the show, and with the folks Jillian deals with, that really got to me. It was this notion that our internalized version of ourselves that we have soaked up from the world is our real selves. We outwardly express who we perceive others believe us to be.  Anybody who has found themselves confronted by prejudice knows this feeling intimately. As a nerd, a fat kid, a woman, I’ve encountered it many times, and when I felt I couldn’t fight it, when I’d internalized all the external hate so completely that I wanted to beat somebody’s head in, I simply retreated from it.

One of the reasons I’m intensely introverted and live over 2,000 miles away from my family is because I am a mimic. It’s very easy for me to internalize what I believe others think I should be, and express that. Being a mimic is one of the reasons I’m such a great corporate copywriter. Somebody can hand me something I’ve never done – brand standards guide, templated literature sheet, executive summary, email to a specific customer segment – and I can write up something else with a similar feel and tone fairly quickly. In just five minutes with a brand manager or executive and a few bullet points, I can turn out a communication that’s very nearly spot on to what they were asking for– quickly and consistently.

But those things that make me a good mimic – empathy, a good ear, a knack for translating what it is people are trying to say – also make me very good at regurgitating versions of myself that I feel will be best received. It’s why my first relationship in high school was rather abusive, and why I stayed so long. And if I feel wholly inadequate to give people the performance I fear they’re looking for, I simply bow out and avoid people all together. If I don’t, I short circuit. It’s not good.

I have certainly gotten bolder in my old age, with my big boots and loud voice and crazy hair. In fact, for many years I have happily bumped along, not giving a shit about what other people think, and I’ve been pretty happy. But writing fiction for public consumption can make even the boldest loud-mouth totally neurotic. It pulls up a lot of old concerns about what people think, what they infer, what they expect of you.

When God’s War launched, my expectations were pretty low. I figured I’d sell about 5,000 copies. I’d consider 10,000 a pretty substantial success. After all, it was a weird book. It was feminist. There was swearing. Blood. Religion. Weird pacing. Plotting issues. And I was largely unknown.

When I sold 6,400 copies in the first six months after release, I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Nor of the reviews, which were largely positive despite the above weaknesses. When it got shortlisted for an award… well, I’m still processing that.

But it wasn’t until today when I saw the fourth or fifth mention of author guests at a book club on Twitter that I realized I’d gotten stuck in my own narrow view of myself, and my chances of success. Because whenever somebody talks about this particular venue I think of how it’s not exactly known to be the most friendly and welcoming community to women.  I think, “Wow, imagine how harsh that crowd would be. Guess that’s one more place that won’t be overly excited about my fiction.”

And sure, when I went ahead and actually looked at the book club, yeah, there weren’t a lot of female guests, but I saw that there were, in fact, SOME. Like a lot of SF in particular, it’s still mostly guys talking to guys. But not exclusively. I couldn’t pretend that if I never got an invite, it was just because I wrote weird feminist books.

But what shocked me in that moment when I went from “I will always be an outsider” to “oh, uh, well, maybe when I’m uber-famous” was that I was going to let myself sabotage myself. I was just going to say, “Well, that can never be done” instead of just merrily quipping off my usual, “Of course that can be done. I just need to work harder than other people to achieve it.”

I had let all the writer-freak-out-shit get to me.

I’ve talked a little about internalized misogyny, and my lowered expectations as a writer are a good example of it. “Oh, no one will ever read my books because they’re feminist,” is kind of a cop-out. There are plenty of other reasons if, say, my sales suck, or that no one comes to a reading. Is there sexism in the world? Are folks averse to reading really bizarre, uncomfortable fiction? Sure, but there are also people averse to wading through what amounts to a 50 page prologue and reading about morally bankrupt characters who muddle their way through poorly blocked fight scenes.

I found myself hobbled by this mindset at Epic Confusion, too, thinking the whole time, “Well, you know, it’s not like anybody knows who the hell I am. Who’d want to talk to me? Maybe I’ll just nap a lot.” So when some people did want to talk to me, I found it… really odd. I was still struggling with the fact that there were people coming up to me who actually knew I sucked air. I mean, I AM NOT ANYONE, PEOPLE.  I WRITE WEIRD BOOKS THAT NO ONE HAS READ.

This last year has been a transitional one for me. The business end of writing fiction is not an easy place, or a kind one. It’s heart-wrenching sometimes. As somebody with a chronic illness who will always need health insurance, I’ve spent the last five years coming to grips with the fact that I will always have to have a day job. For somebody who grew up wanting to be a full-time fiction writer, the reality of that is pretty brutal. I grew up with this passionate belief that you could do anything you wanted to do, as long as you were willing to work harder than anybody else for it.  But making anything less than Rowling-level dollars, one good cancer diagnosis for me or my spouse will wipe us out pretty completely without insurance (honestly, if we had no insurance now and one of us got cancer, we’d just die, because we couldn’t afford treatment without insurance).

So I had to decide this year if I was going to keep writing despite the bullshit and neuroses. And if I was going to keep writing, how I was going to make it a career that worked in parallel with my day job.

Basically, I needed to shit or get off the pot.

In the end, I made the decision to write, with the goal of a book a year – and a better book every year.  It’s a tall order, and I have to work hard for it. But the alternative, well….

The alternative is to just give up, give in. To just say be happy being a niche feminist writer that surely no one wants to read or talk to because, wow, man – WEIRD.

But you know what? It’s not like Perdido Street Station was run-of-the-mill fare, either.  I mean, WEIRD.

And today, I made the decision to stop trying to sabotage myself. I decided to start expecting more. Expecting better. And believing that what I have to say isn’t necessarily for a certain sort of reader, and that I have to just be content to sell enough to pay off the occasional credit card or take a trip to Florida. There will always be a passionate group of folks I wrote these stories for, and I will always love them best, but believing that I’ll never have more than a hundred true fans sells myself short. It sells my fiction short. And worst of all, it sells all my future endeavors short. It sabotages me before I even get started.

Failure is always easier than success. It’s easy to say that you failed because of some external thing. It’s harder to get up, dust yourself off, and say, “Next time, I’ll do better.” There will always be people around to beat me down, set my expectations, explain “the brutal reality” to me.

But, you know – I don’t need to be one of them.

Epic ConFusion Reading Lists – Race/Gender/Class & Non-western Fantasy/SF

At Epic ConFusion this weekend, I was on a couple of panels where we also gave some reading suggestions to the audience. Afterward, I had an attendee come up and ask if I could actually write up my list somewhere so she could access it later.

Well, folks – you ask, I deliver.

Below is a very, very, very abbreviated reading list that I just pounded out top-of-mind before the panel. There is a massive epic ton of good stuff out there.  For more, visit The Carl Brandon Society and Feminist SF. Note that there is also some crossover between these lists.

 Race/Class/Gender Reading List

The Female Man, Joanna Russ

We Who Are About To, Joanna Russ

Carnival, Elizabeth Bear

Dust, Elizabeth Bear

Triton (Trouble on Triton), Samuel Delany

Illusion, Paula Volsky (lots of explorations of class, and often overlooked)

The Women Men Don’t See, James Tiptree Jr.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman

Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson

Kindred, Octavia Butler

Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler

Non-Western Fantasy (and SF) Reading List

Moxlyand, by Lauren Beukes

Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed

The Desert of Souls, Howard Andrew Jones

Redemption in Indigo, Karen Lord

Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemison (am told her new trilogy is more so)

Ragamuffin, Tobias Buckell

Dune, Frank Herbert

Necropolis, Maureen McHugh

China Mountain Zhang, Maureen McHugh

The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson

Wild Seed, Octavia Butler

Acacia, David Anthony Durham

Why you should never quit your day jobs, kids….

This time of year, folks in the U.S. get a sobering picture of exactly how much it was they made the year before. For writers, this can be even more humbling.

Though I can’t share my actual day job income numbers due to policies and all that, I can share exactly what percentage of my income this year came from where.  Honestly, I thought my writing income for the year was pretty high.

Yeah, folks: this is a GOOD writing year, in which I had TWO books published.

 

Epic ConFusion Programming: WHY YOU SHOULD COME

I’m leaving tomorrow for ConFusion. I don’t actually “know” a lot of people there, which makes this very unlike Wiscon, which was my regular con there for a few years.  That means I am very likely to be unscheduled for most of this con, so here’s where you can find me and – more importantly – why you might want to…

 

7pm, Friday Salon G: Race, Class, and Gender
Steve Piziks, Kameron Hurley, Kristine Smith, Sarah Zettel, Jay Lake

WHY YOU SHOULD COME:
Oh, come on, YOU DON’T WANT TO HEAR ME TALK ABOUT THIS WITH THESE OTHER COOL WRITERS? Most of the panels I’ve done have been at Wiscon, which means this panel is pretty much up my alley. Prepare for heavy ranting, when I’m not deferring to the far more interesting things my fellow panelists will be saying. If you’re a fan of GOD’S WAR/INFIDEL and you’re interested in my take on just how vital I think these things are to creating a believable world, don’t miss it.

11am, Saturday Salon H: Killer Parties (yes, the sort that kill people! kh)
Kameron Hurley, Cat Rambo, Steve Buchheit, Myke Cole, Michelle Sagara West

WHY YOU SHOULD COME:
For some bizarre reason, I will be moderating this panel. That means I get to ask questions like, “Who REALLY writes the best ensemble casts?” and “How do you choose which party member to kill first?” and “What’s the benefit of having the biggest asshole in your mercenary group survive til the end?” and “Why write a plot when you could write a killer party?” Ok, maybe I will be the only one excited by that last question. But for sure, I know we’ll have to talk about the lowest point your band-of-rogues/adventurers can get before they throw in the towel. And how we push them to that point. Muwhaha hahaaha.

4pm, Saturday Salon F: Non-Western Fantasy
Peter V. Brett, Kameron Hurley, Christian Klaver, Howard Andrew Jones, Saladin Ahmed

WHY YOU SHOULD COME:
Besides the fact that I’m here to blather on about worldbuilding and why pseudo-European-medieval may not be the most inventive, fantastical way to go, you’ll also have the chance to hear from folks who do actual Middle Eastern-type settings instead of post-apocalyptic settings like me – Howard Andrew Jones and Saladin Ahmed have written some lovely, evocative stuff. Come listen to us chat!

5pm, Saturday Salon E: Mass Autograph Session

WHY YOU SHOULD COME:
Because Night Shade isn’t at this con and I’m not sure how many vendors are going to have copies of my books, I’ll be bringing exactly 10 copies of GOD’S WAR and 10 copies of INFIDEL to the signing table for $10 a piece, so if you’ve been having trouble finding a hard copy, here’s your chance.

Really, though, you should come to sign and chat because there is nothing worse than sitting around behind a desk twiddling your thumbs while everybody lines up behind Rothfuss and Abercrombie.

11am, Sunday: Reading. Michelle Sagara West, Kameron Hurley

WHY YOU SHOULD COME:
Readings tend to be lonely times (EVEN LONELIER THAN SIGNINGS, HINT HINT) so I am not above bribery. I will be putting names in a hat and giving away two copies of GOD’S WAR at the end of the reading.

Also! I’ll be giving the audience a chance to vote on what they’d rather I read: the first chapter of GOD’S WAR or a select, not-too-spoilery exclusive chapter from RAPTURE (which not even my agent or editor has seen yet).

1pm, Sunday Salon F: Women in Combat
Carrie Harris, Jim Hines, Kristine Smith, Scott Lynch, Kameron Hurley

WHY YOU SHOULD COME:
It’s a little-known fact that my Master’s Thesis was an examination of the propaganda used by the African National Congress to recruit female fighters during apartheid. I have a lot to say about the perception vs. reality of female fighters, and for the most part, I don’t bullshit about it in my fiction, either. We are all, I take it, folks who write about women who fight – and not just metaphorically. Kristine Smith’s Jani Kilian books are many, and feature a fine fighting heroine. And Jim Hines… well, Jim Hines is this guy. I mean, do you really want to miss that?

My Stance on Fan Fiction

Since I’m heading to my first con as a “real writer” next week, I thought it was time I put up a post about my take on fan fiction written in my worlds/featuring my characters, since there is, uh, rumor that some may be floating around.  That way I can refer back to it whenever I get asked the question (because it’s inevitable this will come up, unless you’re the type of writer who doesn’t write character-driven fiction, in which case, nobody cares enough about your characters to bother. Cat Valente says this all much better than I can).

First, I’m incredibly happy you love these worlds and characters enough to write about them. That is so wacky awesome I can’t even say. When you write all kinds of wicked crap like I do, all you can do is hope somebody loves a character or two half as much as you do. To find folks who love them MORE than I do is great.

That said, PLEASE do not send me links to fan fiction of my work, or tell me where to find some. Here’s why:

There is this tricky law to do with copyright that says that if I actually see somebody “infringing” on my copyright (writing in my worlds/about my characters), I must “defend” that copyright by immediately issuing a cease and desist and etc. If I don’t do this, then a lawyer could argue that because I didn’t defend it then, that anybody could just start publishing copies of GOD’S WAR (with or without my name attached) and start selling them for $50 a pop and not only would I not get a cent, but there would be nothing I could do about it – because I hadn’t defended my copyright on the work when it was initially infringed by a fan fiction writer just doing it for fun.

That… sucks. There’s nothing I’d like better than to share and engage with fan fiction (I would LOVE to have a whole fan fiction message board here! Alas), but if that opens the door to somebody else writing and selling books with characters I created and making money off it while I’m still alive (or even my own books! And not pay me anything for them!) – well, sorry. Book money pays for stuff like vacations, home improvements, car repairs, and holiday gift-giving. Yes, I can do without that stuff, but I have absolutely no intention of my 15 years of hard work (and continuing work) just evaporating overnight. I like to have a good time with what I do, but I’m not a fucking doormat.

Folks vastly underestimate the time and effort that goes into writing books. I work a 40-hour day job (copywriting), do freelance writing an additional five hours or so a week, and then write an additional 10-20 hours of fiction a week. This doesn’t including blogging, interviews, marketing time, accounting time, or any other administrative work. All that additional work netted me about $8,000 last year (before taxes).

It’s not like I’m swimming in gold, here.

So though I may not personally give a care in the world if you write, share and post fan fiction (just don’t tell me about it! I’m not allowed to read it!), the minute somebody tries to sell something that infringes my copyright, well, THEN I am going to “become aware” of it – and that’s when the agent, the publisher, and the lawyer get involved.

So, quoting Cat Valente again: “Don’t make money off it and we’re cool.”

I love writing books. I love people reading my books. I love people loving my books and the people in them.

Thank you for loving my books.