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 and The Deepest Rift, are available at Tor.com. Winter Tide, a novel following Aphra Marsh's story after "Litany of Earth," will be out from Macmillan's Tor.com imprint on April 4, 2017.
2) I write non-fiction: you can find some of it at Green Minds, my old blog on the psychology of sustainability. With Anne M. Pillsworth, I 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.
I've spent much of today sorting through e-mails, setting up filters to make the flow of suggested actions a little less overwhelming, making phone calls, and starting to get a bit overwhelmed. But look what just came in!
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I have been waiting for this box since I saw Back to the Future in the theater, which is exactly as long ago as you think it was (unless you're my age, which, sorry, it was probably longer). It is a box full of books which I wrote and were printed and are now books. They are shiny and beautiful, and several of them have places they need to go that are not my house, but for now I'm an authorial dragon sitting on my hoard.
They've updated the cover quote from the ARC, because Seanan McGuire said extremely nice things:
For everyone trying to squint at that, it says: "This is Wicked for the Cthulhu Mythos: never quite contradicting, but dancing through the shadows and dredging up beautiful things out of the deep."
And it will be in stores in less than a month!
This post originally appeared at http://ashnistrike.dreamwidth.org/120913.html. Comments are welcome both here and at http://ashnistrike.dreamwidth.org/120913.html#comments. There are comments on Dreamwidth.
In addition to the book launch, I've got a few more appearances scheduled:
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May 26-29, Madison WI: Wiscon! I've put in for a Lovecraftian Girl Cooties party and a reading, along with Anne Pillsworth and any other posse members who
come too close happen to be in the vicinity and want to join us.
July 13: Pandemonium Books in Boston.
July 13-16, Boston: Readercon
August 17-20, Providence: Necronomicon. My cover artist, John Jude Palencar, is also going to be there, along with Anne and several other Tor.com Neolovecraftians. What happens when our schedules align, no one can say.
Still working out a couple of other possible book store appearances, and figuring out cons for the Fall. Also to do before April 4th: Hand in Deep Roots, write about a million guest blog posts, get proper Enochian pronunciations to my audiobook reader, check with the Yith to see if they'll loan me a time turner.
This post originally appeared at http://ashnistrike.dreamwidth.org/120604.html. Comments are welcome both here and at http://ashnistrike.dreamwidth.org/120604.html#comments. There are comments on Dreamwidth.
Winter Tide comes out April 4th! I'm so excited to share it, and also feel a bit like hiding under the bed.
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If you're in the DC area, I'll be holding a launch party at East City Books the night of April 5th. There will be a reading, traditional Innsmouth feast food, and an assortment of knitted and stuffed eldritch abominations. If I'm nervous you may catch me hugging a shoggoth.
This post originally appeared at http://ashnistrike.dreamwidth.org/120386.html. Comments are welcome both here and at http://ashnistrike.dreamwidth.org/120386.html#comments. There are comments on Dreamwidth.
That was definitely the movie I needed to see at the beginning of 2017.
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This post originally appeared at http://ashnistrike.dreamwidth.org/120284.html. Comments are welcome both here and at http://ashnistrike.dreamwidth.org/120284.html#comments. There are comments on Dreamwidth.
This is a test of what happens when I post at Dreamwidth and attempt to crosspost on Livejournal. If you are able, please comment on one or both so I can test that functionality as well.
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I am not leaving LJ. However, recent events suggest that back-up and redundancy are good.
ETA: Okay, what happens if I update? And will the link to the original post appear now?
This post originally appeared at http://ashnistrike.dreamwidth.org/119989.html. Comments are welcome both here and at http://ashnistrike.dreamwidth.org/119989.html#comments. There are comments on Dreamwidth.
I'll be at Arisia in two weeks. I'm excited to go--it's my first time since college at one of my favorite cons, and my first time paneling there. I'll be on:
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Judaism's Influence on SF/F - Adams - Sat 1:00 PM
Jewish theology and culture permeates science fiction across all mediums. What effect has Judaism had on the development of SF/F and fandom in general?
Michael A. Burstein (mod), Ruthanna Emrys, A Joseph Ross, Danny Miller, Ariela Housman
How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things – Alcott - Sun 4:00 PM
*Lord of the Rings*. *Stranger in a Strange Land*. *Scott Pilgrim vs. the World*. Many of us like things that are deeply problematic! Liking these works doesn’t (necessarily) make you a jerk. How can we like problematic things and not only be decent people, but good, social justice activists? How does one's background matter? How does one address the problems? This panel will discuss how to own up to the problematic things in the media you like, particularly when you feel strongly about them.
Gwendolyn Grace (mod), Chris Brathwaite, Ruthanna Emrys, Mink Rose, Jared Walske
Grounding Your Audience in a Sensory World – Douglas - Sun 7:00 PM
The five senses are appallingly underrepresented in modern fiction. Without sensory information, it's difficult to grab your audience and drag them into your protagonist's body. How do you portray senses other than sight? Can you use it to portray emotion? Where can you scrounge up alternatives for the words see, hear, feel, taste and smell, or 'sixth sense' (psychic intuition)? Come learn how to describe your world in all of its glorious, sensory detail.
Ken Schneyer, Keffy R.M. Kehril, Ruthanna Emrys, Greer Gilman, Sonya Taaffe
Routing Around Cognitive Biases – Alcott - Mon 10:00 AM
Most of us have a friend who always plays the same lottery numbers, refuses to travel by airplane "because they're not safe," and thinks music was better when they were a kid. Your friend - indeed, most people - suffers from multiple cognitive biases. How do you make people aware of the flaws in their thinking so that they have the critical tools to avoid such biases in the future? What about the more difficult task of identifying your own biases?
Heather Urbanski (mod), Ruthanna Emrys, David G. Shaw, Stephen R Balzac, Andrea Hairston
Aside from that, I'll be wandering around the con taking advantage of their child care, trying not to spend all my money on dealer's row, and giving away "Lovecraftian Girl Cooties Posse" badge ribbons. And catching up with all my friends who very sensibly live in Boston--who's going to be there?
For Deep Ones, darkness is safety and comfort, the longest night a time of revelation. Honoring the hope of safety, comfort, & revelation, I’m giving away an ARC of Winter Tide for Winter Tide. Share your favorite made-up holiday tradition by 9PM on the 22nd, & I'll pick an entry at random (from here and from Twitter) to get a Winter Tide ARC.
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There may also be Deep One recipes tucked into the package, because it's dark and cold & people need feeding.
I'm at the Fort Totten train station, on the liminal boundary between DC and Maryland, colony and state, travel beneath the earth and above it. On either side, a grassy slope cuts down to the platform. It's late afternoon, and leaves drift down like snow, and the light shines through like an oil painting. Two deer stand in the light, dipping their heads to taste the green. Their tails flick lazily even as the trains rumble past.
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I'm at our neighborhood rally--"Not On Our Watch"--listening to a Hawiian Sovereignty activist. She tells us how she wore dark glasses to vote. The people around her were so excited about the likely Clinton win, and she didn't want them to see her crying. Clinton's policies would do terrible harm to her people and her cause--and she mourned that this was the best option on offer.
My daughter smiles when I lift her from her crib, and babbles, new words every day. She's the only morning person in the household, so we're the first downstairs. Even the dog is asleep; this is as quiet as our house gets. Outside, a squirrel is eating the pumpkin we left out on the stump, bushy tail waving. M demands "mana" for breakfast. When I give her the banana, I ask, as I always do, "Can you say thank you?" For the first time, she responds: "Dak oo!"
I'm watching Zootopia and crying. It seems so painfully and wonderfully optimistic. This week I have also cried at Belinda Carlisle's "Summer Rain" and the mere thought of putting on Hamilton.
My landlord is eating stir-fry in my dining room. We're listening to a pitch for solar panels--we've been talking for a couple of years about getting them on the house eventually, but we've agreed that it's time now. It turns out that the solar sales guy is from the same small Colorado town as one of our housemates; they're joking about snow. The sales guy seems relieved to be pitching to people who understand both architecture and math.
I'm in a Day Job meeting about innovation and crowdsourcing when I make the mistake of checking Twitter. This is how I discover that, over the weekend, the building where I used to work rented space to a bunch of nazis. I run into the bathroom and manage to avoid throwing up; a friend on Twitter talks me down so I can finish up the meeting.
I'm playing the old FASA Star Trek RPG with my household--my household is in fact a college role-playing group that decided to raise kids together; now we all chip in for sitters so we can game. We're trying to track a federation vessel that shot at a neutral ship, before it starts a war. We're convinced that it's a breakaway group of Andorian terrorists. Instead it turns out to be a bunch of refugees who got away from a fight through time travel, and think their own war's still going on.
"Are you okay," we ask everyone we meet. "How are you holding up?" Some people have already experienced the open bigotry, had to make new medical plans, realized the loss of possibilities that depended on particular laws. Some are still stuck on finding arguments for their own reassurance. I think about how the incipient dystopia permeates everything, and yet the moments of beauty and joy keep happening. I try to imagine how those moments will feel when the dystopia is no longer incipient. I try to fold myself around them, to store them, and to remind myself that they will keep occuring, in some form, regardless of what happens around them.
Anger and fear are settling down into what I hope is a sustainable banked fire, something to keep me moving and acting and loving for the duration. I keep encountering new indications that this will not be normal. Yesterday it was Japanese internment suddenly being invoked as a perfectly reasonable policy precedent. Today it's the threat of FADA, which both houses of Congress have said they will pass and T**** has said he will sign. Then there are the ongoing additions to the Cabinet of Deplorables...
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I've made the first Congressional Office calls of my life, something I always left to the extroverts before. Yesterday my hands were shaking for an hour afterwards; today I just felt a little queasy. We've gotten a quote on solar panels. Going to a neighborhood Not On Our Watch meeting this weekend, hoping to solidify the looking-out-for-each-other energies that we've found talking with neighbors individually.
Before this, I had let the day-to-day business of job and kids and household come before actively working to repair the world. In the abstract, I felt that making a better world was a vital part of parenting, of householding, of a full adult life--but in practice there was so much I didn't get to. I'm not hubristic enough to think that me, alone, speaking up more would have changed the election. But me and thousands of other busy people, overwhelmed by the minuata of daily life... I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way now. I'm heartened by the number of people I see being galvanized around the country. Even hopeful, some moments.
I think my writing must be part of this repair. My "yay, 1st book coming out" excitement feels like an artifact of that brighter alternate universe. I'm trying to focus now on sharing strength and empathy, and speaking truth in the best way I know how. For a week before the election I was too distracted to write, and for a few days afterward too much in mourning. Now the words are coming again, the second book going in a slightly different direction than I thought it would, truths clarified by current events. I'm trying to weave solace and hope and truth: strange bedfellows. Aphra's stories have always been about understanding across barriers, fighting for survival with allies who are themselves eldritch to you. We have always described groups of people in monstrous terms when we wanted an excuse to treat them badly; therefore any description of a whole group as monstrous must be questioned deeply and forcefully. And yet we also need to know how to recognize and fight the real monsters...
A little of everything that needs doing, every day.
We just lost tamnonlinear. To depression and MS and fucking Donald J. Trump.
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She is not the first or only loss these past two days, just the first loss of someone I knew. I know there will be others. May their names be blessings, and curses against their enemies, and protective scars on the foreheads of those who still live to fight.
If you are ideating, know that you are loved and needed, and that when you aren't feeling strong enough to march by our sides we'll carry you. We'll all be carrying each other, sometimes, these next few years.
I am feeling very shaky on words right now. Maybe I'll have better ones tomorrow, when I've slept more than I did last night.
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It is okay to mourn, to cry, to feel numb and stare blindly into space, to be angry, to throw yourself immediately into organization. Now is not the time to apologize or feel ashamed of your reactions; now is not the time to expect others to react as you do. Only remember that we dare not despair for long.
I always knew that the good times don't last and hatred waxes again, that we build and lose and build a little higher next time, that the good times are worth making but the loss comes eventually to some generation. And yet somehow, until about 1AM last night, I held onto the hope, even the expectation, that the burden would not fall on my generation. And I'm ready to fight even harder for a civilization that values everybody--where it's one of the good times for everyone. Something we hadn't yet made, but were working towards, were getting closer... maybe I'll live to see the rights and protections regained that we still have in this moment. Maybe my daughters will live to see us do better.
When I write stories, I write about people working together across differences, overcoming fear, facing darkness with courage--because that's the humanity I know and understand. That feels important tonight, and maybe tomorrow when I've slept I'll find the strength to write that truth again.
I wrote Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land, in part, to say that true homelands, civilizations, countries, are carried in the hearts and actions of those who count themselves as citizens. Not in Aslan, but in Puddleglum's realization that it's better to act like a citizen of Narnia even if Narnia only exists in your imagination. That feels important too.
And still my tongue is dry with fear, and my stomach too twisted to eat more than a few bites. Maybe tomorrow, trying to find words won't hurt so much.
"Try to go to a lot of cons," my editor says. "Twist my arm," I say. In 2017, you can probably find me at:
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Arisia (1/13-1/16, Boston) - In college, this was the one we saved up for all year. Now they have child care. The general rule is that I will go to any con that has child care and is compatible with my schedule/budget, even if co-parents are actually watching the kids. Because that is a thing that should be encouraged. In this case, the kids are in fact coming along, because the entire household is coming along, because this is the one we used to save up for all year in college.
Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference (2/8-2/11, DC) - Because I got invited to pinch-hit on "The Infinite in the Finite: One Hundred Years of H.P. Lovecraft's Legacy." The programming looks awesome. Among other things, this is the one where Daniel Jose Older is doing the "Writing White Characters" panel.
Fogcon (3/10-3/12, San Francisco) - Tentative, because budget. But I've been hearing awesome things about this con for years, and they have child care.
April book launch mysteries - Tentative because we're still trying to make all the puzzle pieces fit together. There will almost certainly be a launch party in DC. There may be something at Lunacon (4/7-4/9, Westchester NY). If Lunacon happens, there may be an appending event in New York. The universe is inherently chaotic and unpredictable.
Wiscon (5/26-5/29, Madison) - I haven't been back to my home con in three years--way too long! They have child care! A Lovecraftian Girl Cooties party, featuring me and best co-blogger Anne M. Pillsworth, and
anyone else we can dragoon all our wonderful co-conspirators, is in the works.
Readercon (7/13-7/16, Boston) - I've been hearing so many good things about this one, too.
Necronomicon (8/17-8/20, Providence) - Because of course.
Nothing planned past August, so far. The universe is inherently chaotic and unpredictable.
I'm now a little under halfway through Deep Roots, the sequel to Winter Tide. I'm learning things. For example, that writing around a toddler is harder than writing around a pregnant wife who sleeps a lot. Who knew? And that I need to write something new every day, even when prior-book edits intervene, because the ease of getting started the day after a 50-word day is noticeably better than the ease of getting started the day after a 0-word day.
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Publication changes my writing process, both because of the practicalities of the editing cycle, and because I've learned things from writing and editing the first book. Winter Tide isn't my first completed novel--it's my 3rd--but it's the first where I've had to go beyond making a few cosmetic changes based on beta reader feedback. Structural edits have always scared the hell out of me. I couldn't see how to fix a lopsided plot or a lack of foreshadowing, or how to stitch in and rip out entire threads of plot or theme. I could get away with that--right up until a book was accepted for publication. I owe Carl and Cameron endless gratitude for demanding those changes, and then holding my hand through several rounds of them.
The structural changes that Winter Tide needed weren't even major, relative to some I've heard about. The overall plot is still essentially what it was at the beginning. I added a few scenes and changed a few lines, but didn't have to cut any characters or subplots. The climax is the one I wrote originally. But the things I did have to do were scary for me. And having done them, I now know that I can. The end result is that I'm now much more willing to follow the way of the Crappy First Draft. I can take risks I wouldn't have before, when I assumed I'd be stuck with any roads that veered off cliffs. This is probably annoying for my alpha reading wife, who's dealing with in-line notes like <add a better transition here> and <people have faces, describe them> and <have Charlie do something or cut him from this scene entirely> in lieu of semi-polished prose.
Meanwhile, in the galleys, I'm learning that I really like to repeat words. One of the major things we did during line edits was to fix places where I'd enjoyed a piece of vocabulary so much that I used it three times in a paragraph. (Lovecraft never had an editor to catch these, thus the ever-amusing "cyclopean" count.) We must have fixed a couple hundred instances of this problem. Now, going over the galleys... I'm finding even more of these. My only theory is that the Great Old Ones really like repetitive words, and demand them of their scribes as tribute.
Structural edits = Foreshadow this ending; make this threat scarier, turn up the volume on on your themes
Line edits = Make this paragraph comprehensible, cut half your cyclopeans, did you mean this dialogue to sound like flirting
Copyedits = Did you mean discrete or discreet, argue about hyphens, I don't care whether or not you capitalize Archpriest but be consistent
Galleys = Oh Great Cthulhu how did I miss that
...with a sprinkling of "fix this anachronism" throughout, because historical fantasy is hard and 1949 is a strange country.
@linsilveira on Twitter wins the ARC. Some of these monster questions are inspiring; there may be drabbles in the offing if I can find five drabbly minutes between editing and drafting on Deep Root. So basically next time I'm blocked because my aliens won't talk politics to my point of view character.
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I haven't posted for a while, have I? *Looks around, dusts off surfaces, surreptitiously wipes hands*
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But look what came in the mail today!
I'll come up with clever plans for the rest later, but for now I just want to share my delight at finally having actual books, made of actual matter, with my name on John Jude Palencar's spiffy cover. So here's the deal. Between now and a deadline of Whenever the Baby Goes to Bed tomorrow night, tell me your favorite monster, and something you wish you knew about them. I'll pick an entry at random to receive an ARC.
Fine print: I'm posting to Twitter as well; it's the same ARC and the same contest on both platforms. I'm willing to ship anywhere, but if you're overseas it may arrive on the very slow boat. Or quickly, but very wet and delivered by someone with gills.
The first year of one's child's life is expected to be both exciting and stressful (it was). One isn't expected to get much done other than take care of the child, and go to one's day job if one has one (I didn't). In our case, the major reason for not getting much done was that M--while quite good at everything else--totally failed to learn to go to sleep on her own or sleep through the night. So for the past year we've had an unpredictable 1-4-hour intensive process involved in putting the baby to bed, and most nights gotten woken up by her crying 1-3 times. S, bless her, did most of the getting up and getting her back to bed, but it was still no fun for anyone. At one point we tried the standard ferberization technique that's "supposed to" work for everyone, leaving her alone in her crib and coming in at slightly increasing intervals to check on her, which resulted in her not sleeping and being phobic of her crib for a week.
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Also this year, I sold a book. This was awesome, and among other things eventually resulted in the arrival of a book advance. Part of which we spent on a sleep coach. This is possibly the best decision I've ever made short of getting married to my wife. For the last couple of days M has fallen asleep downstairs in her own space, needing one of us in the room for less than half an hour, and slept for 11-12 hours. And taken a 2-3-hour nap in the afternoon. (Did I mention that she rarely napped, previously?) And we're less than halfway through the process that is supposed to result in a nice, easy bedtime routine and a child who can fall asleep without adult supervision. All of a sudden, I have back 3-4 hours every evening. I can talk with my wife and read and catch up on chores and correspondence and write or edit, without feeling like every second spent on one of those is stolen from the others.
Probably someone wants to know what a sleep coach does. About half of it is taking textbook behaviorist stuff that I could lecture on in my sleep, and explaining how to turn it into an on-the-ground intervention that I would not have been able to intuit correctly even without the sleep deprivation. Basically we're doing a variation on habit deconditioning or phobia fading--sitting a little farther away from the crib each night and providing a little less scaffolding for her falling asleep. The other half is family-specific--she talked to us about everything from when M gets fussy during the day to the fact that she may have a predisposition to anxiety, and helped us adapt techniques and figure out when in the day to apply them based on that input. If we'd known the technique, we probably could have figured everything out eventually, but it made the whole process smoother and less stressful for everyone involved.
The other other half is coaching--reassurance and on-cheering and a heads-up on what pitfalls and patterns to expect. After the fubar with the ferberization, it helped tremendously to know that we had expert back-up if something went drastically wrong again.
All of which is to say--if I've barely spoken to you for the past year, or always been rushing off somewhere when we have a moment to talk, or neglected e-mails or posts, I hope and expect that my time and energy will be much less constrained in 2016. Ditto if I, um, owe you novel edits. Just as a hypothetical example.
But for now, I'm going to go to bed, and very likely stay there for a few hours. Best Christmas present ever!
Things I've done over the past two days:
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- 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.
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.
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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.
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."
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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.