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Ashni's Journal
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Date:2014-05-12 23:57
Subject:Welcome Post
Event type:Sticky

Hello, and welcome.  You've reached my irregularly updated Livejournal.  A sampling of reasons why it is irregular:

1) I write fiction: you can find some of it online at Strange Horizons and Drabblecast--and on this journal, where I reprinted a story from Analog for Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day.  My most recent stories, The Litany of Earth and Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land, are available at Tor.com.

2) I write non-fiction: you can find some of it at Green Minds, my rarely updated blog on the psychology of sustainability.  With Anne M. Pillsworth, I also co-write a Tor.com series on rereading Lovecraft.

3) I have a large, complicated family.  They're hard to count because they move so quickly, but I'm fairly certain there are at least 3 children, at least some of the time.  I definitely have a wife, who is wonderful and the main reason I ever have time for all this other stuff.

Date:2015-10-23 01:10
Subject:What It's Like Being a To-Be-Published Novelist

Things I've done over the past two days:

  • Bounced a lot

  • Gotten congratulated a lot, and been pleased by the number of people who seem to think this is good news for them rather than for me

  • Been pleased and a little worried by the various prayers to Nyarlathotep, Cthulhu, and Mother Hydra for the book's success. I'm pretty sure that's not the scale these guys work on...

  • Been terribly distracted by Miriam learning to wave

  • Jotted down ideas, way too far in advance, for publicity swag (Esoteric Order of Dagon Temple Fund cookbook outtakes; flyers for events at Miskatonic...)

  • Jotted down ideas, way too far in advance, for a post-launch party at Wiscon 2017 (salted chocolate and caramel, tome exchange, probably can't afford to feed everyone sushi...)

  • Been terribly distracted by the possibility of alien megastructures 1500 light years away. Tried to convince myself that weird comets and dust-free planetary collisions would also be awesome. Tried to figure out whether 1500 years is long enough to finish building a Dyson cloud.

  • Been very grateful that I ended up with a publisher who works ridiculously quickly.  Twenty-seventeen is a long way away, and to imagine my state of mind with the usual time frame of novel sales and publication is not to be borne.  I know a lot of people who've managed it; I remain deeply grateful that Carl is as impatient and deadline-driven as I am.

  • Found out which characters my editor ships.

  • Repeated to myself: "Before novel acquisition, carry water, chop wood; after novel acquisition, carry water, chop wood" as I wash dishes, feed the baby, and clean wildly in preparation for this weekend's visit from my in-laws.

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Date:2015-10-21 21:52
Subject:It's a book!

Winter Tide, the first Aphra Marsh novel, will come out from the Tor.com imprint in early 2017.  The sequel, which has a working title of Deep Roots, will follow a year later.

I'm beyond excited and amazed to finally be able to make this announcement.  And I'm very grateful to my agent, Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Agency, and to my editor Carl Engle-Laird, for making this happen.  We all look forward to sharing the next part of Aphra's story.

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Date:2015-09-13 15:45
Subject:Hugo Long List anthology kickstarter, plus bonus sonnet

David Steffen, of Diabolical Plots, is kickstarting an anthology of the 2014 Hugo long list.  It's already funded at the basic level, covering the short stories, and is a couple hundred away from including the novelettes--including "Litany of Earth" as well as awesome things like Alaya Dawn Johnson's "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i."

In the service of creating a proper Hugo Reading Packet for 2014, I'm offering 3 custom sonnets or sestinas for $50 backers, each coming with both paper and e-versions of the anthology.  At the same level, you could instead get one of Sam Miller's sketches of an animal of your choice working at the occupation of your choice, or you could pay a little more and get story critiques, custom audio books, and spiffy art prints.

David asked me for a reward description.

Not Exactly Shakespeare

It isn’t Shakespeare: I’ll admit as much;
They’re what I write when I’m not up for prose.
The forms of old are comfort food that shows
The tired writer hasn’t lost her touch.

But though these poems are nothing like the sun,
They might give hazy thoughts a form and shape,
Or make you laugh: give sharpness to a jape;
All poems have purpose, else they lie unspun.

I could compare your love to summer nights,
Abstract your dissertation so it scans,
Or villainous, declaim your cunning plans:
I’ll write an ode to whatever delights.

Still, I reserve the right to add my spin,
So trolls beware: the bard will always win.

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Date:2015-08-26 00:08
Subject:It's an Honor Just to Not Be Nominated

M woke up crying at 6 AM Sunday morning. After I finally got her back to sleep, I checked my phone and discovered rather more Twitter mentions than usually appear in the midnight to 6 AM window, or indeed in a single day.  I had some trouble getting back to sleep!

Many thanks to everyone who nominated "Litany of Earth" for a Hugo, and everyone else who said they would have voted for it given the opportunity.  It would have been part of a pretty sweet ballot, and I would have thoroughly enjoyed losing to Seanan McGuire's "Each to Each" or Kay Ashante Wilson's "The Devil in America."  (I still need to read Crosshill's story, and shall.)

New plan: Support E Pluribus Hugo, and write even more kick-ass, rocket-worthy stuff in the future.

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Date:2015-06-27 09:59

...was a very strange, very good day. We're legal. Oh my god, we're legal.

We can visit relatives in Michigan, friends in Louisiana, and not worry about what happens if one of us gets sick. We can confidently drive our daughter through any state in the union. And people are getting married who've been waiting for decades in Texas, in Georgia, in Arkansas... and that 82-year-old couple in Atlanta can finish growing old together and know that they'll be able to take care of each other with the state's help rather than obstruction.

What's weirder is that ten years ago we were a boogyman that the bad guys could reliably use to scare out their voters, and the 'good guys' didn't dare speak well of aloud. And yesterday people were literally dancing in the streets around the country, lighting up the Empire State Building--the president gave a speech about how awesome our marriage is--newspapers around the country printed updated maps of where same-sex marriage is now legal and the New York Times covered the page above the fold with same-sex couples kissing.

There's still so much left to do.  There's always more work to do--but it's so rare to win a battle that we should celebrate when we have the chance. And it's not unpleasant, but extremely startling, to have most of the country celebrating with us.

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Date:2015-06-25 00:59
Subject:The Deepest Rift, Maps, and Detours

"The Deepest Rift," my science fiction story about exploring alien worlds, translation error, and the perils of academia, went up this afternoon at Tor.com.

This story comes with a story, and a giveaway. Way back in 2010, it was Saturday and I was at Wiscon. If you go to the Journeyman Writer's meeting, you miss the lunch break, and I hadn't yet learned the "send your spouse for sandwiches" trick. So I snuck in late to "The Story in the Object, The Object in the Story," and hid out in the back of the room trying not to make my crumbs obvious while elisem, Catherine Crowe, and Kat Byer talked about similarities between art forms, the way we use art to create relationships as well as make (or fail to make) a living, and the importance of sometimes giving things away. Elise passed around an amazing tektite, and Catherine showed off beautiful copper bowls.

Towards the end, Elise was talking to Ellen Klages (in the audience) and told her that she knew what to do with that project they'd been working on. She asked for six volunteers. I'm not an idiot: I raised my hand. She then told us that a couple of years previously, they'd done a collaboration: Ellen found stones, Elise made pendants of them, and Ellen named them.  We'd each get a random pendant, to be picked up later in the con, and make something else with it or based on it--and then pass it on again.

For those of you who don't know Elise's work, she's a professional muse. Go click through onto her LJ--her sticky post shows everything she's currently got available. Every item has a title. Many have stories hidden in them, or poems, or major life changes.

When I went down to the dealer's room later, she asked me for a number between eggplant and lettuce. I told her "zucchini," and she gave me this:

I could see right away the sides of the unimaginably deep canyon, the forests down in the dark, the wind that swept up over it carrying strangeness from the mist below. But it was not only story, but also oracle: at the time I was just starting to feel my way towards leaving academia, and routes and detours and the question of whether it was even possible to get to Point Q from where I stood were very much on my mind.

I started writing almost immediately, but stalled out for a couple of years when I solved my real-life dilemma before finishing the story that I was using to map it.  (This was a good problem to have.) Last year I finally figured out what was missing, sent the story out to Carl at Tor.com, and here we are. And so now I'm finally done with the pendant, and I will miss it but it needs to find a new home where it can keep doing its job.

If you feel you could make use of a map with detours, please leave the following in the comments before 6 PM EST on Monday, June 29th:

- A brief, true explanation of what you'll make with it. The explanation doesn't need to be complete--"My story needs plot bunnies" or "trying to make a path through a crisis" are as good as "I'm on a quest to find the holy grail, the latest clues lead me to believe it's in the grand canyon, and this looks like something that will help me find my way."

- A promise that you'll pass it on when you're done with it, to someone who will keep the same terms. This doesn't need to be quick; I've had it for five years, after all.

- A way to contact you if you aren't posting with an LJ handle.

On Monday, I'll pick a name via random number generator, because I am not myself an oracle, and will contact the winner for mailing information.

Disclaimers: Mailing times dependent on the vagaries of baby and DC snail mail system. Not responsible for lost, misdirected, or temporally displaced merchandise. Device may not operate as intended. Effects may not be synchronous.

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Date:2015-04-21 19:08
Subject:The Surviving Fragments of the Dread Pnakotic Manuscripts

I'm delighted to announce that I'll have an original story in The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction, which will be coming out in June 2016 in the US and April 2016 in the UK.

No Deep Ones in this story, but it does consider carefully the proper Library of Congress heading for forbidden tomes.

I'll be in excellent company:

Paula Guran, Editor


      • Laird Barron - “A Clutch”
      • Nadia Bulkin - “I Believe That We Will Win”
      • Amanda Downum - “The Sea Inside”
      • Ruthanna Emrys - “Those Who Watch”
      • Richard Gavin  - “Deep Eden”
      • Lois H. Gresh - “In the Sacred Cave”
      • Lisa L. Hannett - “In Syllables of Elder Seas”
      • Brian Hodge - “It’s All the Same Road In the End”
      • Caitlín R. Kiernan - “The Peddler’s Tale, or, Isobel’s Revenge”
      • John Langan – “Outside the House, Watching for the Crows
      • Yoon Ha Lee - “Falcon-and-Sparrows”
      • Usman T. Malik - “In the Ruins of Mohenjo-Daro”
      • Sandra McDonald - “The Cthulhu Navy Wife”
      • Helen Marshall - “Caro in Carno”
      • Silvia Moreno - Garcia - “Legacy of Salt”
      • Norman Partridge - “Backbite”
      • W. H. Pugmire - “A Shadow of Thine Own Design”
      • Veronica Schanoes - “Variations on Lovecraftian Themes”
      • Michael Shea - “An Open Letter to Mr. Edgar Allan Poe, from a Fervent Admirer”
      • John Shirley - “Just Beyond the Trailer Park”
      • Simon Strantzas - “Alexandra Lost”
      • Damien Angelica Walters - “Umbilicus”
      • Don Webb - “The Future Eats Everything”
      • Michael Wehunt - “I Do Not Count the Hours”
      • A.C. Wise - “I Dress My Lover in Yellow”

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Date:2015-04-07 00:33
Subject:In other news

New Cthulhu 2, which reprints "The Litany of Earth" and many other fine stories, is out. B read the cover upside down across the table, and asked me, "Why does it say 'more percent weird'?" And I had to admit that while it did not, in fact, say that, it would have been an appropriate and delightful description.  (He got the rest of it right--pretty good for a 6-year-old reading upside down.)

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Date:2015-04-07 00:25
Subject:Hugos: Resilience and Anarchic Resistance

What Bear said.

And while it's a bit less impressive coming from me, I'll make the same pledge: I have not in the past and I will not in the future participate in any popular award voting slate, public or private. I will not vote for any story or person or institution that is nominated for a popular award after agreeing to be on such a slate. Actually, I won't vote for any story or person or institution that is nominated from a slate, whether or not they wanted to be there--I believe that slates are more toxic than one person failing to get an award they deserve, even though the latter sucks quite a bit.

I believe without reservation that fandom is better off without any party system other than the one that results in late-night snacks and drinks and good conversation. There's no law that can prevent one from developing if people are determined to game the system; there are, however, customs that can make them useless.

Also, to repeat what I said earlier on Twitter:

You don't need to read anything that likely includes abuse towards you in order ot have the "right" to vote. You don't need to read anything that insults you or hits your triggers--you get to dislike that stuff without "giving it a chance." Hell, if you've never liked urban fantasy and one's on the ballot, you don't have to read it to vote. You're allowed to know your own tastes.

What I didn't say on Twitter: I've got a friend who's just getting out of an abusive relationship. Insignificant Other keeps whining about how if my friend were being fair, they'd let him prove himself without taking his earlier actions into consideration. Because trust. Because rules. Because if they aren't "fair" according to his exact definition, he knows he can't win.

People who don't play fair don't get to define fairness, and don't get to demand anyone's time or headspace. If you want to take the time to give VD a full read, feel free, but don't let anyone tell you it's your duty.

Personally, I'm currently filling my must-read pile than I can actually read it.  My entire "reading bigots" quota is given over to Lovecraft blogging. Lovecraft has many advantages in this domain: 1) his work is entertaining more often than it's upsetting, 2) he's dead, 3) for all his unchained adjectives, he writes better or at least more amusingly than most modern bigots, 4) by all accounts he was actually pretty polite to the people he was prejudiced against when actually talking to them, 5) he never tried to game any damn awards, 6) he never claimed that he had a right to reader's time and attention, 7) he's in the public domain and I can get awesome story ideas out of reading him.

In a hundred years, I hope the puppies are a nearly-forgotten footnote, the Hugos are strong and healthy, and whoever's doing the Hugo Reread braincast gets some really entertaining snark out of this whole business.

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Date:2015-03-04 21:13
Subject:Everything is signed and sent and...

I'm delighted to announce that I, and Winter Tide, and any other books I manage to turn out, are now represented by Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

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Date:2015-02-01 17:34
Subject:Awards Eligibility & Bonus Recommendations for 2014

In early January, Amal El-Mohtar reposted an excellent rant about eligibility lists, why they're important, and why authors shouldn't be embarrassed to post them.  And I thought, "Well, that makes sense.  I should do that thing."  But I had a 2-week-old baby and a new writing deadline, and so "eligibility post, no really," has been on my to-do list for nearly a month.

And, but, so.  I'm going to do some of the dithering El-Mohtar talks about, because most of the reasons in her rant don't so much actually apply to me.  My stories this year have gotten plenty of attention (some of which I'll mention below, because this is my living room and I get to boast here occasionally).  I'm also not ashamed to admit that I think they're pretty good, not that my opinion is particularly the one that matters.

I also don't think eligibility posts get anyone to change their minds about how good works were--I think they 1) remind people what came out in a given year, and by process of elimination what didn't, and 2) remind people what category works fall into.  As someone with a lousy memory and an iffy feel for word count, I appreciate this, and consider it a useful service when other people provide it.

What I published:

Read more...Collapse )

What I liked:

Read more...Collapse )

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Date:2015-01-23 23:01
Subject:New Cthulhu 2

"The Litany of Earth" will be reprinted in Paula Guran's New Cthulhu 2: More Recent Weird, due out in April.  The full table of contents makes for delightful company:

The Same Deep Waters As You, Brian Hodge
Mysterium Tremendum, Laird Barron
The Transition of Elizabeth Haskings, Caitlin R. Kiernan
Bloom, John Langan
At Home With Azathoth, John Shirley
The Litany of Earth, Ruthanna Emrys
Necrotic Cove, Lois H. Gresh
On Ice, Simon Strantzas
The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward, Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette
All My Love, A Fishhook, Helen Marshall
The Doom That Came to Devil Reef, Don Webb
Momma Durtt, Michael Shea
They Smell of Thunder, W. H. Pugmire
The Song of Sighs, Angela Slatter
Fishwife, Carrie Vaughn
In the House of the Hummingbirds, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Who Looks Back?, Kyla Ward
Equoid, Charless Stross
The Boy Who Followed Lovecraft, Marc Laidlaw

I'm supposed to be proofing my own story, but keep reading everyone else's instead.  Deep One fans are going to be happy--I count at least three such stories aside from mine, and I haven't finished reading yet.

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Date:2014-11-28 10:55
Subject:The Social Justice Warriors Eat a Turkey

We aren't following our usual Black Friday tradition of going hiking, because there's a foot of snow on the ground and S is 8 months pregnant.  Instead we're following our new Black Friday tradition of hanging around the house and writing and yakking and maybe playing chess if we feel really ambitious.  But not acting smug about it, because this article kind of schooled me on the similarities between Black Friday and the Hunger Games.

Both B's and C's schools had 'traditional' Thanksgiving pageants this year and both came home with construction paper "Indian headdresses."  Alas, neither is old enough to emulate Wednesday Adams on the matter.  I was disappointed, because I'd somehow gotten it into my head that, in the decades since I was in elementary school, most places had picked up a clue and stopped doing that.  Apparently not.  Now pondering the best suggestions for alternatives, as every good behaviorist knows that you're more likely to get someone to stop doing something if you can suggest something better in its place.

Option 1: Follow a slightly older tradition.  Go back a hundred years and make Thanksgiving more like Halloween or Carnival.  Dress up and parade through the streets, and put on a wider variety of costumed pageants.  Minus the "dressing as caricatures of other countries and classes" bit.

Option 2: Go back to the holiday's real origins, and put on a pageant about Abraham Lincoln trying to figure out how to heal the country post-Civil-War.  Still problematic, given the general failure to do so in the years since, but more historically accurate and includes the opportunity for everyone to dress up representing their own cultures and talk about how they've contributed to the country.

Option 3: Teach about real cooperation between Europeans and American Indian nations and have kids put on plays about the syncretic communities that sprang up shortly after contact--the ones where plague survivors took in runaway slaves and Europeans who found Puritan life too constrictive, and where "kidnapped" women for some obscure reason refused to go back when their families tried to rescue them.

All historically accurate, and all still fun and positive.  I know there are good reasons to focus on non-positive things on Thanksgiving, but given how most kids' families celebrate they are not going to go for that.  And for families where the holiday really is a rare opportunity for feasting and togetherness, or for people who aren't descended from colonists and aren't benefiting from the current system, pretty seriously not cool anyway.  Guilt-focused curricula that assume everyone is rich and/or white are starting to piss me off almost as much as curricula that just ignore the problematic bits.  Erasing your audience isn't better than erasing history.

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Date:2014-11-16 02:26
Subject:Oh, there's my inspiration; I left it under the bed

Story due December 1st has finally come unstuck, and now has plot and character that actually go together.  Also mysterious libraries, carnivorous books, and a sprinkling of my housemate's horror stories from rural Louisiana.

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Date:2014-11-15 10:29
Subject:Nebula Nominations - Suggestions?

"Litany of Earth" was my SFWA-qualifying story.  This means that I'm now able to nominate for the Nebulas, a slightly daunting duty.

I feel comfortable with the novels, and the Reading List suggests that my own preferences line up pretty squarely with everyone else's.  And at my current reading rate (and likely post-baby reading rate) I am not likely to fit in all that many more before mid-February.  But I feel a bit behindhand on shorter works, and more confident in my ability to fit them in around editing and nesting and changing diapers.  What should I be looking at in novellas, novelettes, and short stories that I might not have seen yet?

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Date:2014-10-16 05:05
Subject:The next day, Mr. Earbrass is conscious but very little more

It's 5 AM, and that's a draft.

Mr. Earbrass is also conscious of the fact that he has let his inbox get kind of out of hand during the last couple of weeks.

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Date:2014-09-20 23:36
Subject:Better Ideas

As I get older, I've learned to appreciate people who actively work on their shit--as opposed to ignoring potential problems and pretending everything is just fine.

The extremely diverse DC suburb where I live is planning a series of community discussions about whether we have any cop-civilian tension, and what to do about it if so.  I haven't noticed any, but I'm female and pretty white-looking--I plan to sit in the back of the room and listen.

Apparently our police department did receive a humvee through that horrible military-surplus-for-police program.  The city council had just said no to a bunch of things that cost money, and felt like "free equipment" was an easy thing to say yes to.  We use the humvee for snow removal, so we don't just want to get rid of it.

One of the proposals on the table, therefore, is to repaint the humvee as an art car in order to reduce the potential for testosterone poisoning.  This, explained the neighbor who's planning to host one of the discussions, would "better reflect community values."

Which is true.  I do love this town.  It's far from perfect, but it's actively working on its shit.

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Date:2014-08-29 08:41
Subject:Cultural shifts

Okay, it's time to do a pass for smoking, and for the minefield that is women's choices of hats (or no hats) in 1949.

Does anyone know:

...whether smoking would have been permitted in a library--in this case an ivy league academic library?

...in bookstores?

My instinct is what the hell are you thinking, but I can only just remember what it was like to have everyone smoking inside in the first place?  (It sucked, that's what I remember.  But people mostly got used to it.)

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Date:2014-08-25 01:21
Subject:Writing Progress

Good: The rest of the Aphra novel is basically outlined, and I know most of what happens...

Bad: ...except for the climax, currently listed as "and then they do a thing."

Good: I like writing by the seat of my pants, and if I thought I knew what the climax looked like I'd be wrong anyhow.

Good: I've finished writing the annoying-but-necessary transitional bit before sh*t hits f*n for the rest of the book.  (Annoying to me, hopefully not annoying to readers.)

Bad: I've looked over how long scenes have taken on average, so far, and have counted up remaining scenes, and that's a longer book than I thought.  Which means either busier writing nights, or a busier editing season--because Baby M's birth date is not going to be affected by whether I've finished my other big projects.

Good: I find deadlines very motivating.

Fingers crossed.

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