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

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:2015-06-27 09:59
Subject:Yesterday
Security:Public

...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
Security:Public

"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
Security:Public

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:

THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF CTHULHU: NEW LOVECRAFTIAN FICTION
Paula Guran, Editor

CONTENTS

      • 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
Security:Public

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
Security:Public

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...
Security:Public

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
Security:Public

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
Security:Public

"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
Security:Public

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
Security:Public

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?
Security:Public

"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
Security:Public

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
Security:Public

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
Security:Public

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
Security:Public

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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Date:2014-08-21 23:03
Subject:Sale: The Deepest Rift
Security:Public

To Tor.com, and due out early next year.  Aliens, AIs, and academic politics.

...and that actually basically clears out the short stuff queue, except for the lesbian steampunk mad science epistolary story.  The entire genre should be embarrassed that there aren't more markets that are obvious targets for a 2700-word lesbian steampunk mad science epistolary story.  In any case, I must write more shorts, but not until after I finish the novel.

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Date:2014-08-20 20:59
Subject:Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land
Security:Public

Seven Commentaries on an Imperfect Land is up today on Tor.com.  Those of you who've been here for a while may remember the first couple of sections: the early drafts were created as, um, commentary, on the question of whether there's a Jewish Narnia and what it would mean if there were.

The issue of what it means to have a homeland may have gotten more political since I wrote the story.  No regrets; it still says what I want to say on the topic.

Lest I make it sound like a heavy read, this is probably the nicest story I've ever written.  It has magical mint and dolphin alliances and bread baking and cross-cultural friendships and a really good library.

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Date:2014-07-06 01:01
Subject:Functional Definitions of Genre
Security:Public

Sarah and I were talking in the car today, on our way to the "visit a place that's too expensive" step of furniture-buying.  (This was not an intentional step, just a necessary one.) We started by arguing about the appropriate box for Charlie Stross's Laundry books, and moved on to the more interesting question of why it's worth putting them in boxes at all.  We came up with two ways of looking at genre that are useful for something other than organizing a book store. I hasten to add that these are not the definitions in common use, and I'm not claiming they are.

1) Genre as conversation.  A genre or subgenre consists of a set of stories in conversation with each other, or with the same set of tropes.  The Laundry books are in conversation with Lovecraftian horror, but also with a particular set of spy novels, and also with Dilbert et al.  They are mostly not in conversation with, say, urban fantasy, even though they involve supernatural/extradimensional beings living in modern London.  Anita Blake sees the Laundry and crosses quietly to the other side of the street.  Marla Mason, in conversation with both urban fantasy and Lovecraftian horror, gets along with it splendidly.  (Crap.  I just thought about one particular Laundry character getting ahold of that cloak, and I'm going to cross the street and keep right on going as fast as I can.)

2) Genre as shared reading protocols.  This gets a lot more discussion, and actually is a useful way of thinking about genre--it explains why people who normally read SF are more likely to enjoy, say, Gillian Bradshaw's historical fiction than The Road.  Or at least it explains why I am--Bradshaw's worldbuilding rewards exploration and investigation much as a good SF novel does, while McCarthy frustrates it.  The people who enjoy McCarthy are reading for the language and the mood and the allegorical familial relationships, and don't care what caused the apocalypse and why the characters can breathe with no plants.  I love a story that plays with language and mood, but my reading protocols won't leave those questions alone.

(papersky does something amazing with this--she goes ahead and reads books with protocols that the author never intended, and then writes books of her own with the results.  Among Others is about someone doing this--about someone with science fiction protocols trying to deal with living in a fantasy.)

This is also relevant to a particular reflex of mine that I'm trying to make more nuanced.  When I read that a new book or story "breaks down the walls of genre," "is groundbreaking and genre-bending," or similar, I tend to put it as far from my reading list as possible.  And I think it's because many books described in this way are not in conversation with other books and not amenable to any existing set of reading protocols.  But there's another kind of genre-breaking that's really interesting--books like the Laundry books that are in conversation with more than one genre and amenable to more than one reading protocol.  Instead of a guy sitting in a room talking about how awesome this party would be if anyone else was cool enough to come, it's a gorgeous shindig where you invite your knitting friends and your writing friends and your filk-singing friends and your work-snark friends and at 2 AM everyone is sitting around the living room arguing about medieval Spanish convents while playing Cards Against Humanity.

I want to read more books that are like that party--books that combine protocols and conversations to give you new and wonderful perspective on everyone in the room.

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Date:2014-06-16 00:54
Subject:Continuing research
Security:Public

Things I've successfully learned today:  40s car models, history of "first aid" as a thing that exists, how a man could end up separated from his family at the start of the WWII Japanese American internment.  I already knew that George Takei was awesome, but am reminded of it as I go through his autobiography. Clear, honest, unadorned descriptions of his time at Rohwer and Tule Lake, along with historical context and some serious blunt truth on the things you miss when you're four.

Things where I have failed at search: Can anyone recommend good resources on civil rights and interracial dynamics in late 40s Massachusetts?  I'm looking for fairly practical stuff: how much trouble will this character (who is African American) have getting into libraries, restaurants, or stores?  How segregated are most settings?  How much fuss are bystanders likely to make about an obviously interracial group wandering around?

Any insight into how people in the northeast would slot a Japanese American woman into those laws or cultural restrictions would also be awesome, but that may be something I'll need to try and infer from experiences in New Jersey.

The past is another country.  A country that is deeply fucked up.

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