Tor.com has released the cover for a story I sold Ellen Datlow not long ago, “The Color of Paradox.” The image is by Jeffrey Alan Love and it’s very creepy and appropriate. I feel as though I could fall into it, staring for endless hours… or possibly just until the kittens do something irresistible. (Attention spans are lamentably short at Dua Central right now.)
The elongation of the figure and its placement in the upper left corner draw the eye first, delaying the moment when you track down to the city and see that Bad Things are happening. The brushwork is delightfully scratchy, and naturally I headed right off to Love’s blog to see what the rest of his work looked like. He’s got an image for Tolkien’s Beowulf that is sheerly amazing, and I liked his take on Excalibur, “The Sword in the City” very much.
“The Color of Paradox” is a first attempt to write something I have been trying to wrap my head around for years: a series or novel or some damned thing set in a universe where there’s time travel, but it only moves backward. All of the missions are one-way missions. You can receive instructions and resources from the future, but your only option for responding is to essentially leave time capsules where nobody else will find them.
It is also one of those stories that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I dropped everything and wrote it in a bit of a mad haze. It’s very different from Stormwrack and the impulse was probably driven by a desire to write in a different key.
Another thing about the story that delights me is having gotten to work with Ellen Datlow again, because she is a brilliant and generous editor and it had been too long since I had anything to send her.
It will be live on the Tor site and readable, for free, on June 25th, the same day Child of a Hidden Sea hits bookstores.
That’s right, it’s just over three months away! You can expect to hear more as we get closer to April 10th–there will be at least one contest, and I or TOR will almost certainly put up a first chapter, and I have yet to figure out what else.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! In just a couple weeks I’ll have a new story up on Tor.com. It’s called “Among the Silvering Herd” and I hope you all enjoy it very much. Or, if you’d rather get your Whedon fan on, watch the TOR blog for my 2012 Buffy Rewatch series, coming any second now.
AND A SET OF STEAK KNIVES: there are still exactly three slots open in my winter UCLA course, “Creating Universes, Building Worlds,” which begins January 25th. Come spring, I’m scheduled to teach Novel Writing I… and I’ll let you know when registration’s open for that. Finally, I will be teaching Novel Diagnostics at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle on Sunday, January 29th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m..
What have you all got going on?
Thursday’s words came to 360 on the story and 696 on the novel, bringing my total to 4024 words.
And I posted the following sentence from the story temporarily known as “Wetness” to M.K. Hobson’s Buck for Your Best Sentence challenge:
“Blue-tinted, mad-eyed, with the monstrous slickness of a newborn, it flailed, trying to gain control of its storklike legs.”
And here’s a silly photo for you all:
I have been trying to finish up a few non-fiction projects before diving into the next one(s) and the story intros are one of the things have been waiting. I set out to write a little something about those stories of mine that are available online in some format, and now I’ve pretty much finished all of them except for my baby werewolf story, “The Cage.” Saving it for last seemed reasonable, since it’s the piece that appeared most recently. It has only been a year since I wrote it, so it’s far less of a blast from the past than something like “A Key to the Illuminated Heretic.”
But I realized last week that when “The Cage,” made the LOCUS recommended reading list, it also went on what they call the drop-down list for the LOCUS reader’s poll. This probably should have been a no-brainer, since I did once write a fair number of reviews for LOCUS and contribute to that list, but I didn’t make the connection until I bought my tickets for the LOCUS shindig in Seattle in June. There are so many lovely things by people I adore on the drop-down list: M.K. Hobson‘s The Native Star is on there, and so is Chill, by Elizabeth Bear and stories like Cat Rambo’s “Clockwork Fairies.”
But this is a wide-open to all readers kind of poll, and you don’t have to restrict yourself to the drop down list. You can write in books and stories, like–for example–Jessica Wynne Reisman‘s “The Vostrasovitch Clockwork Animal and Traveling Forest Show at the End of the World,” or … hey, tell me about all the great fiction you published last year, folks! You’ll be reminding me about stuff I loved, or at the very least stuff I meant to read and temporarily lost in the pile.
Anyway. “The Cage” began with an anthology invite: my agent knew someone who was doing a book of urban fantasy stories with a specific theme–she’d told ‘em I was just the thing, and I got the guidelines not long after that. I started researching March 2, 2010 and had a polished draft in hand by April 5th. But not fast enough: the antho filled. Between one thing and another and with a rewrite in between, it ended up zipping off to Tor.com on June 8th, where it got to be the final story in their urban fantasy spotlight.
As my intros for “What Song the Sirens Sang” and “Faces of Gemini” probably show, I love story assignments that come with a bit of a restriction in them. They push me out of the box, moving me into areas I wouldn’t necessarily have gone on my own. Some of my strongest shorts are the ones I wrote for Mojo: Conjure Stories, Alternate Generals III (v. 3), and The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm.
In this case, I merged the less familiar element–home renovation–with my own backyard. I made extensive use of my neighborhood and certain communities within Vancouver in writing “The Cage.” The Britannia Community Center branch of Vancouver Public Library, where the story begins, is just a few blocks from my home in little Italy. It is where I pick up my VPL holds and where I got my blue belt in aikido.
The physical terrain is quite faithfully rendered, in other words.
The community is stickier: people always are. But the story draws on the best of my experiences as an activist in the local feminist and queer communities. Catching us on a fictional best day maybe presents a bit of a rose colored view, but it’s not as though that version of the community doesn’t exist. It does–just not all the time. I believe that humans, in singles and in groups, oscillate in and out of states of perfection. That the statement “Nobody’s perfect” should be amended to “Nobody’s always perfect.”
In “The Cage,” Jude’s alternate family discovers or creates one of those perfect moments–one of those days when everyone’s pitching in and pulling together, when nobody’s too burned out or sick or pissed off or scraping after funds or endlessly chewing after consensus on an irrelevant frippery, at a meeting that’s gone on far too long. It’s Team Good Guys FTW, and Chase, Paige and Jude are the ones who benefit.
All that, and it even has romance!
It looks like my baby werewolf story, “The Cage,” is available on iTunes at last. I don’t know about Indigo Springs, but will check soon.
Folks have told me that my East Van lesbian werewolf romance, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading list for 2010–I haven’t confirmed this with my eyeballs, but I hear that M.K. Hobson and Cat Rambo are on it too. Anyway, it was nice to hear and I want to cyber-hug all my friends and acquaintances who also made the list. (And, really, all my other friends and acquaintances too.)
In other news, Indigo Springs and “The Cage” are both available in an electronic bookstore called Diesel. I’m not sure how this works, formatwise, but they can be had. And they are both in the Sony Ebookstore now, too. iTunes is supposed to have them, but continues to lag behind.
It’s boggling, really, how many things have just become ours for the clicking.
Edited to add: The list is up again, here.
“The Children of Port Allain” is the example I pull out when someone asks me where I get my ideas… because I happen to remember exactly.
The story is a distorted vision of life on the rainy, forestry-dependent West Coast of B.C., this place:
It was back in the days when I still followed current events, which would put it before 2001. I would usually have CBC Radio One on for an hour or two when I was cooking or playing Asheron’s Call, and in that time I might catch the local news twice, as well as a national or international broadcast.
On one such occasion, the B.C. news had two stories back to back. The first was about a Vancouver Island town whose core employer, a pulp mill, was closing down. The town council was, therefore, wooing a medicinal marijuana operation to come in and set up shop, the idea being that the government-anointed pot growers would replace the lost jobs.
The second story was about a newly paroled pedophile who was getting hounded from town to town. He’d settle somewhere, there’d be an outcry, and eventually he’d try somewhere else.
“Where should these people go?” the interviewer asked one of the most recent hounders in this story.
“What do we care as long as it’s not here?” was the reply.
What happened, naturally, was my writerbrain came up with a mashup: the same desperate pulp-mill town, working up a scheme to create jobs by becoming a haven for paroled child molesters.
“The Children of Port Allain” is a prickly, uncomfortable story. There’s no overt violence in it, but it’s unsavory by design: if it was something you found in the back of your fridge, you’d imagine you could still smell it weeks later, even after giving your kitchen a nice bleach flambe. It’s about how kids live where their parents do, whether it’s next to a toxin-emitting mill or a prison; it’s not a great conspiracy, just a fact of life. It’s about the idea one hears lofted, sometimes, that anything is okay as long as one’s creating jobs. It wasn’t much of a surprise, once it was written, to find I had a little trouble finding it a home. But then I found myself at Norwescon on a panel where someone asked where my inspiration came from. I told the above anecdote and my friend, Derryl Murphy, who happened to be in the audience, said I should send it to On Spec.
“It’s too long,” I replied automatically. (Their word limit, then as now, is 6000 words.)
“Tell ‘em I said it was okay,” Derryl said, and the eventual result was that the story appeared in their Summer 2003 issue.
First, an exciting contest announcement: Favorite Thing Ever is giving away a copy of Indigo Springs. Entering is easy: surf here, leave a comment, and you’ll be in the running to win. No skill testing questions are involved.
Speaking of skill-testing, I am embarking on a new novel this morning.
I had been thinking to write a couple more squid stories, to go with the three already published and the two that are about to hit the market. However, after a couple of weeks of thrashing around the Battle of Las Vegas, I’ve conclusively determined that my head’s not currently in the Proxy War. So, as an experiment, I switched over to detailed planning on THE RAIN GARDEN, my next mystery project. Things clicked immediately. Presto, plotto, kazam!–I have an outline.
My plan as of two weeks ago had been to blast through a very rough draft of this book in November, as a Nanowrimo thing. Barring fire, flood and the common cold, I find that two thousand words a day for thirty days (less a couple days off) is a pretty sustainable pace for me. But since I’m ready now I’m darnwell gonna start now, keeping the end-of-November finish date but moving at more of a 900-word daily target. That will leave time for days off, a visit to Alberta, and Orycon.
I like the sustained push-push-focus of Nanowrimo, but it does tend to leave me bug-eyed and gibbering well into December. And there’s no reason to hold off if I’m ready to write the book now.
So, hey! What are all of you working on this autumn?