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 in 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'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.
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!
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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.
...was a very strange, very good day. We're legal. Oh my god, we're legal.
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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.
"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.
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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.
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.
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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
• 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”
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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What Bear said.
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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.
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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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.
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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:
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What I liked:
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"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:
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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.
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.
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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.
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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"Litany of Earth" was my SFWA-qualifying story. This means that I'm now able to nominate for the Nebulas, a slightly daunting duty.
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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?