Mark Your Calendars! My Upcoming Story in Uncanny Magazine

Uncanny Magazine | Issue 25

Hello readers! I am pleased to announce I will have a short story titled “My Name is Cybernetic Model XR389F, and I Am Beautiful” appearing in Uncanny Magazine alongside these very fine contributors. The date next to the contributions reflect when the short story will be available to read online. For more information, please visit UncannyMagazine.com.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 25 Table of Contents

Cover
John Picacio- La Valiente

Editorial
The Uncanny Valley (11/6)

Fiction
Isabel Yap- “How to Swallow the Moon” (11/6)
T. Kingfisher- “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society” (11/6)
Naomi Kritzer- “The Thing About Ghost Stories” (12/4)
Monica Valentinelli- “My Name is Cybernetic Model XR389F, and I Am Beautiful” (12/4)
Cassandra Khaw- “Monologue by an unnamed mage, recorded at the brink of the end” (12/4)
Reprint
Sofia Samatar- “An Account of the Land of Witches” (11/6)

Essays
Diana M. Pho- “ConCrit in Comments Only: What Writing Fanfiction Taught Me as an Editor” (11/6)
Steven H Silver- “Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Primer” (11/6)
Sarah Goslee- “There and Back Again” (12/4)
Nilah Magruder- “Through a Painted Door: An Ode to Children’s Science Fiction/Fantasy Art” (12/4)

Poetry
Beth Cato- “smile” (11/6)
Hal Y. Zhang- “cardioid” (11/6)
Leah Bobet- “Osiris” (12/4)
Sharon Hsu- “Translatio” (12/4)

Interviews
Caroline M. Yoachim Interviews Isabel Yap (11/6)
Caroline M. Yoachim Interviews Monica Valentinelli (12/4)

Podcast 25A (11/6)
T. Kingfisher- “The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society,” as read by Erika Ensign
Hal Y. Zhang- “cardioid,” as read by Stephanie Malia Morris
Lynne M. Thomas Interviews T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon)

Podcast 25B (12/4)
Naomi Kritzer- “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” as read by Stephanie Malia Morris
Leah Bobet- “Osiris,” as read by Erika Ensign
Lynne M. Thomas Interviews Naomi Kritzer

Redwing’s Gambit Sale, Novella Excerpt, and Design Essays

Today, I am pleased to announce that Redwing’s Gambit, which takes place in the fun, romping Bulldogs! universe, is on sale through Saturday, May 13th at DriveThruFiction.com. Written in 2012, this novella is an earlier look at my storytelling — perfect if you’re waiting for my upcoming stories to come out! When Redwing’s Gambit first debuted, I wrote notes on the story’s and setting’s design, and am re-sharing those here in addition to one of my favorite scenes.

If you’re interested, here’s a link to Redwing’s Gambit on DriveThruFiction.com. The story is formatted in ePub and PDF; you receive both when you order the file. Additionally, I pulled some links to design essays I wrote about the novella for you, too!

  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Research and Background Part 1 of 5 – The first question I asked myself was not about what story I wanted to write, but how I wanted to present the tale in such a way that felt more like Fate than d20. In my mind, the Fate rules really emphasizes and focuses on relationships or the ties that connect and bind the characters to one another.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Characters and Treatment – Part 2 of 5 – The treatment evolved from the original concept for a number of reasons. At the time, I thought the story required one perspective, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. One mystery in a closed environment was “okay,” but it wasn’t enough for the readers to get a feel of what makes Bulldogs! a cool science fiction setting. Initially, my thinking was that an observant character could really dig into and tell a tale, highlighting the different aspects of the alien races and the worlds. Boy, was that ever wrong! While that technique sounds good, it didn’t work when I started writing it because I bored myself going on and on and on…
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Structure and Plot – Part 3 of 5 – After I had an approved story and treatment, I went to work writing the first and second draft. My inclination was not to offer one perspective, but to offer several. A mystery just did not work from an observer’s point-of-view because I had a lot of characters and they’re all not physically located in the same place on the ship. The logistics of having Dan sneak around like a ninja were not only boring — but creepy and Clueish. So, I added in other perspectives straight off the bat. I knew multiple viewpoints (there are three) was outside of how I normally write, but I felt it was necessary for a good story.
  • Constructing Redwing’s Gambit: Revisions and Cut Text – Part 4 of 5 – I have about 7 to 10,000 words of cut text that I removed from Redwing’s Gambit during the revisions process. Once I erased Dan Daget’s character, I restructured the flow of the different perspectives and ensured that they read correctly. The biggest reason for the revisions, however, was to reduce any extraneous worldbuilding or plot hooks to keep the pace strong. With this being a novella, that meant minimizing certain aspects and also changing the strength of the relationship between Violet and the security chief to one of hidden, but mutual, feelings for one another. This first bit was altered because the spying robots was less important than Xax or Edna’s kidnapping.

Redwing’s Gambit Excerpt

One of the characters that readers really enjoyed was an angry teddy bear/mercenary named “Fang”. This short scene is Fang’s debut! The angry bear is a stowaway on board the ship, and he’s facing off against a feline robot.


Deep within the bowels of the cruiser, a small bear-like creature crawled through a grimy pipe and dropped down through a narrow opening. He wiggled his way down, down, down until he landed on the floor of a sooty vent.

The animal bared his teeth, hunting for signs of the enemy, but could not see his prey.

Turning a corner, he came face-to-face with a cat. It nudged its cool body against him and purred.

The mechanical noise grated his ears. It wasn’t a cat, it was cat-like. A robo-cat. And it was colored a bizarre shade. Watered down red. No, pink. An albino cat?

“Out of my way,” the creature hissed. “You will move for Fang.”

A clicking sound. Then, a high-pitched squeal. An antenna poked out of the metallic cat’s mouth, its red tip blinked urgently.

“Move. Now.”

The small bear stepped forward, but the robo-cat would not budge.

“Stupid cat.” Fang grabbed the robo-cat’s antenna and yanked back hard. The pink robot yelped in pain, its head spun faster and faster until a thin plume of smoke escaped from its pointy ears. Crouching low, Fang swept his foot and knocked the cat on its back. Then, the creature pulled out the robo-cat’s leg and beat its rosy body with it until he was satisfied.

It was an empty victory.

Redwing’s Gambit is available at DriveThruFiction.com.

Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop Applications Due March 1

Launch Pad is a workshop for established writers held in beautiful high-altitude Laramie, Wyoming. Launch Pad aims to provide a “crash course” for the attendees in modern astronomy science through guest lectures, and observation through the University of Wyoming’s professional telescopes. We generally cover all workshop expenses including meals and lodging, and are sometimes able to offer travel assistance as well.”

Now that you know what the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop is, I’m going to tell you why you–yes you!–should apply today.

I applied last year, because I felt very intimidated by all the amazing and wonderful authors I’ve read in science fiction. I’ve also been working on the Firefly universe since 2013, and after a while I felt inadequate. Sure, I did hire writers and editors who had a better background in the sciences than I did, but I could tell I had a gaping hole of understanding that needed to be filled. I anticipated that my work in genre would only increase, and as I enjoy researching and reading the hell out of whatever I’m doing I needed a starting point.

It’s impossible to describe how intense and rewarding that week was. Did it trigger (most) of my neuroses, as deadlines wait for no space camp? Yep, it did. But, I got to learn alongside so many other brilliant and talented individuals as we listened to even more brilliant and talented individuals talking about things like accretion disks and what black holes really are (Hint: they’re not “holes”). Oh, and all those stupid questions you want to know the answers to–but were too afraid to ask? We asked them, too.

I wanted to go to Launch Pad because I am actively working toward being more science positive. I have the deepest and utmost respect for scientists who do all the things I cannot. I can read, I can research, but in the end I am an entertainer–and this workshop pointed out why and how writers can embrace the sciences even if we’re not professionals. Plus, the workshop environment with its labs, discussions, and field trips facilitated that awe, that wonderment, that feeling you get when you look up at the stars and think “What if?” That, by itself, is an irreplaceable feeling.

So, what if you applied? That’s the question I’m asking you today. Not because you’re second-guessing what you’ve done (or what you haven’t), but because of what you want to do for the science fiction genre. Set aside your insecurity and your Imposter Syndrome for a moment, and remember that all science fiction writers–from the late Octavia Butler to Robert J. Sawyer to Kim Stanley Robinson–all wrote one story, one screenplay, one game at a time.

Our world needs writers who look to the future and see more hope than disaster, who hear about all the work NASA is doing and think about the possibilities, who want to facilitate a science-positive atmosphere in our stories, our own workshops, and beyond. That writer could be you. If that’s the type of work you want to do, I strongly encourage you to submit your application to the Launch Pad Workshop today. If I can do it, then you absolutely can, too!

Dystopia and Deprivation

You're An Idiot, Starscream

Week number four of my social media hiatus begins, and I’m very happy with how this month has been shaping up. Perhaps the biggest benefit I’ve seen, once again, is that deprivation does help clear out my headspace, and helps me focus. I had a friend mention recently that I seemed more relaxed–and this is true, after a fashion. The less attention-grabbing headlines pop into my brainpan, the stronger my focus is on my own work. Mind you, I don’t feel this is an issue of time, necessarily, but emotion. A lot of what’s happening online these days is very upsetting, because fights are now public and sides/factions/what-have-you form around issues. Politics is a fantastic example of this, for example, as individuals jockey for votes slashing and burning public health programs–like Planned Parenthood(1)–along the way, touting cries of someone else‘s immorality, to make themselves appear as virtuous beacons of light(2) to gain power.

To me, these hot button issues have an impact on our creativity, but they always have to varying degrees. I feel the trick is knowing when to throw your hands up and walk away. I thrive on positivity when working, not negativity, which means I have different pressure points than you might have. Sometimes the issues-of-the-day have been couched in allegorical or symbolic terms to represent meaning without being direct about it, but that requires Deep ThoughtsTM. It is always safer, it seems, to introduce a new idea in an old way–through a story. For example, The Blob (1958) is about the spread of Communism, and was probably terrifying to audiences at the time. Now? Communism doesn’t hold the same meaning in today’s society, so the allegory is lost on us, and we think it’s a movie about a pink blob that consumes everything in its path. Thus, that story has since evolved into something safer, more digestible(3), and more palatable for audiences who hold diverse viewpoints, because we are different. The message is still there for those who want to see it, however, and thank the stars. People are infinitely more complex than a simplified perspective or -ist/-ism, and allegories like these facilitate critical thinking, of which I’m a huge fan.

The movie Advantageous (2015) is an example of a movie where the message is more overt than subtle, and it is a very cynical look at our future. It is also a great example of a dystopian film, for the story is small enough to give us a sense of what it’s like to live in this world, as opposed to tearing down the dystopia. I feel the reason why this film has gotten mixed reviews, is because people might be uncomfortable with the idea that some of these issues already exist in our own reality, and they weren’t expecting its slower pace a la Melancholia (2011). The pressure for women to be young is amped up to 11, here, but it absolutely exists in our reality. Hollywood, for all its glitz and glamour, often pairs older men/younger women together, and there is a thought that once you turn 30 your career is over. While, of course, much of that is conventional wisdom based on perceptions about that magical land of California, it’s become part of our zeitgeist, that women over a certain age/weight are unwanted (4). And, we’re only desirable for our ability to have children. Once that happens, who cares?(5)

Add overpopulation, social and religious morays, megacorporations, and a high cost of living to the mix. This is what Advantageous explores, and I thought the film was extraordinarily realistic. There is one bit in the movie I wanted to comment on. I’m not giving anything away by mentioning that there’s a line about how people thought it’d be less risky to have homeless young women than homeless young men. Now, there’s a thought that women either cannot be violent or aren’t so(6), thus it is safer for society to put women out on the streets than men. The causality of wars aside, what I noticed in this film was that the director, Jennifer Phang, did not film certain age groups of women in a state of homelessness. I felt that this was a nice touch, because it put the emphasis on the value of a young girl–e.g. as opposed to showing gangs of teenage girls. Which, to me, is probably what would happen. Desperation makes people do funny/crazy things, and that’s part of what this movie is all about.

(1) Forgive me for saying this, but since when does anyone else but me have a right to tell me what I do with my vagina?
(2) Yes, this is my cynical side showing.
(3) *rim crash*
(4) Kyle Buchanan has written a bunch on this topic for Vulture.com. Here’s one such article–with graphs!
(5) Oh, I could say a lot of things about that in particular, which pretty much ends and begins with a flipped middle finger.
(6) Here’s a link for you regarding Women and the Crusades. Since social norms suggested that women remain at home, their time in battle wasn’t covered by the historians on the invading side of the equation. So yes, telling women to stay in the kitchen is positively medieval. And, you can see how well that worked out for the status quo, even back then.

    Mood: Hungry. I am consumed by the thought of making a mole sauce.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Let there be coffee.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Brisk walk, and celebratory booty dance for making headway on my office.
    In My Ears: Nameless dubstep beats.
    Game Last Played: Ugh. This jewel-addicting monstrosity.
    Book Last Read: The Silmarillion by Tolkien
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Hunger Games
    Latest Artistic Project: Thinking about it.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters
    Latest Game Release: Dread Names, Red List for Vampire: the Masquerade and Ghosts in the Black for the Firefly RPG.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update and My Departure from the Conan RPG.


[My Guest Design Essay] Dystopia and Cybernetic Birds at Apex

Apexology: Science Fiction and Fantasy CoverToday I popped in to Apex Book Company and talked about my new story entitled “Tailfeather,” which was written for Apexology: Science Fiction & Fantasy. As I was writing the story, several themes emerged between the paragraphs.

When I sat down to write Tailfeather I did not craft the tale with these themes in mind. I imagined a place where there are so many people the food has to be rationed. I pictured a world where some societies have split in two, where half their population operates at night and the other half during the day. I thought about what people — women, especially — would to do survive. What would they be willing to do for food? Shelter? Love? — SOURCE: Dystopia and Cybernetic Birds in TAILFEATHER for Apexology

I hope you will do we the honor of giving the essay a read. If you’re interested in the anthology, it’s only $2.99 in digital and contains several stories.

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