Writer’s Ink: Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear is the award-winning author of a whole bunch of stuff! How’s that for specific? Her most recent book is One-Eyed Jack [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], one of her Promethean Age novels. She’s part of SF Squeecast, co-created the Shadow Unit web serial, and has taught at a number of different SF/F writing programs and workshops.

She also has a spider on her arm, which she explains thusly:

As you can see, my body doesn’t have much use for colored ink, especially red. So much for permanence!

I got this after I moved back to New England. The spider is a local wall-crawler: I’ve always had a fondness for spiders, and they’re a bit totemic for rock climbers, which happens to be my sport. And the sugar maple leaf is a reminder of home: this is the place I have always been happiest, and autumn is my favorite season. I actually brought in a particularly spectacular maple leaf for the tattoo artist, Steve Gabriel of Guide Line Tattoo in East Hartford, CT, to copy.

WI-Bear

I definitely recommend clicking to enlarge the picture and see the details. The one on the left is when the tattoo was brand new. The one on the right was taken a few days ago for this post. My theory is that the spider has been waking up at night and feeding on the red ink. Makes me wonder what it will eat when it runs out…

ApolloCon GoH & SF Signal Mind Meld

Announcement the First: I’m very excited to announce I’ll be the author guest of honor at ApolloCon in June 2015. I’ve never been to Houston before, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this convention.

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Announcement the Other: I’m part of the latest SF Signal Mind Meld, talking about disabilities in SF/F. I talked about my love of the movie How to Train Your Dragon, which I’ve also blogged about before. David Gillon also raises some good points in his comment at the SF Signal post.

New Project: Rise of the Spider Goddess

A few weeks ago, I got an idea. I got a wonderful, terrible idea…

Almost twenty years ago, when I was a sophomore in college, I started writing the adventures of my D&D character after the end of a campaign. It was bad. Really bad. But it was this 50K novel that made me seriously consider the possibility of becoming an author.

I read an excerpt of this story as part of a fundraiser in January of last year, and people told me it made them laugh — both the story itself, and my editorial asides. A few people even said they were interested in hearing what happened next…

…you’re probably starting to see where this is going.

I’m thinking about publishing an annotated version of that 20-year-old book. The prose itself would be unedited. That’s right, every paragraph of purple prose, every time a character takes a drawn-out infodump, every adjective and adverb stacked up like a linguistic Jenga tower, it would all be there for your amusement.

My thinking on this is threefold.

  1. Giving my own bad fiction the MST3000 treatment could be entertaining.
  2. For writers, this could be a helpful tool, both to show that even “successful” authors had to start somewhere, and by highlighting my various mistakes so others will learn what not to do.
  3. Truly completist fans might get a kick out of having my very first book. Plus you’ll see a few ideas that showed up in later, published books.

It would probably be a $3.99 ebook. I’m dubious about a print edition, but we’ll see. I’d probably do the formatting like so:

“Time, as we understand it, is an illusion. It is not a line, but an intricate web in which all events are interlaced. Creation and destruction—they are one and the same.”

—Taken from the Journal of Averlon Lan’thar

Every book should open with a pseudo-deep and utterly
meaningless quote from a character we know nothing about.
Also, gratuitous apostrophe abuse should be punishable
by Taser.

I haven’t come up with an official title yet. A few ideas:

  • Rise of the Spider Goddess
  • Curse of a Fallen Goddess Drunken Muse
  • Godslayer and Prosekiller

What do you think? Does it sound like the kind of thing you’d be interested in checking out?

Radiant, by Karina Sumner-Smith

Radiant cover artI was fortunate enough to receive an advance review copy of Karina Sumner Smith‘s debut fantasy novel Radiant [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], which comes out on September 23. It’s a dystopian future fantasy, billed as book one of the Towers trilogy.

From the publisher’s description:

Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.

When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.

With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.

The central premise made me think of Ursula K. LeGuin’s story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” You have the same horrifying choice: the Towers can create a utopian existence, but only by horrifically enslaving and using their Radiants. We meet the Radiant, Shai, and see first her fear and pain, but as the story progresses, we watch her realize that if she does choose to stay away, she’ll be dooming her home Tower. It’s a great setup for the book.

Xhea doesn’t know a lot of this at first. She just knows she’s been hired to deal with a tethered ghost (Shai). It’s how she earns a little extra money and a hit of magic, which acts very much like a drug for Xhea. The summary talks about how Xhea’s experiences awaken a new, dangerous magic within her, but I think what’s even more powerful is the friendship and loyalty Shai awakens. Xhea has grown up in the dystopian ruins on the ground beneath the floating towers. Shai has grown up a tool of her society, little more than a glorified super-battery. Neither of them have much experience trusting others, nor reasons to do so. Which makes the relationship that develops between them that much more powerful. It feels like a well-written love story without the romance, if that makes sense. That relationship is great, and was for me the most touching and engrossing part of the book.

The secondary characters were well done too, often hard-edged and worn down by their broken society, but you still see glimpses of humanity and kindness and more.

There were some times when it felt a little bumpy — description that didn’t quite come together to create a clear picture in my mind, or scenes were the pacing felt a little off. All of which is pretty standard for a first novel, and none of it bumped me out of the story or diminished my enjoyment.

While this is book one of a trilogy, Radiant is relatively self-contained, coming to a satisfying ending while leaving some of the bigger, societal conflicts for the next books. I just hope Xhea has an easier time of it in the next one, because that girl ends up on the receiving end of more than her share of breaks and bruises.

You can check out the first chapter on Sumner-Smith’s website.

GFX in Detroit and Booksigning in Kalamazoo

I’ll be at Geek Fan Expo 2014 in Detroit this weekend, doing … you know … geek stuff. Expoing. That sort of thing.

Here’s my more-or-less finalized schedule, in case you’ll be in the area and want to say hi:

Friday, September 5

  • 4:30 pm, Authors Unite!
  • 8:00 pm, Jim C. Hines – Autographs
  • 10:00 pm, Authors Readings

Saturday, September 6

  • 11:00 am, Diversity in Geek Culture with Jim C. Hines
  • 12:00 pm, Living on the Edge: Technology and social trends that will grow in fiction
  • 3:00 pm, Jim C. Hines – Autographs
  • 4:30 pm, The Collective Works of Jim C. Hines
  • 5:30 pm, How to Screw Up Your Stories
  • 8:00pm, World Building

Sunday, September 7

  • 12:00 pm, Getting it Out There
  • 2:00 pm, Blogging with Authors

More schedule information is available on the GFX website.

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If that doesn’t work for you, next Saturday I’ll be at Kazoo Books with author Tobias Buckell for a joint booksigning/reading/spontaneous ice bucket challenging/whatever we feel like doing, really. One way or another, it should be entertaining.

That’s September 13 at 2:00 pm. at Kazoo Books Parkview.

Nude Celebrity Photo Hacking

I wonder how many disappointed people are going to end up on this blog post after a Google search flags that title…

Anyway, Chuck Wendig has a blog post that says a lot of what I’ve wanted to say on this topic: A PSA About Nude Photos.

A few highlights:

“If you don’t want nude pics leaked, don’t take nude pics with your phone —” *Tasers you* *steals your shoes* SHOULDN’T WEAR SHOES BRO

— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) September 1, 2014

It is not rape, but it is deeply demonstrative of rape culture because it is an act that exploits a woman and her body without her consent. And then, as if to vigorously rub salt into the wound with the heel of one’s callused hand, the judgey-faced shitty-assed judgments of countless men follow in the wake of the violation: victim-blaming, slut-shaming, Puritanical finger-waggling.

“But wait!” the commenters say. “I’m not blaming the victims, but the reality is that there are bad people out there, and you have to be prepared!”

Here, have a quote from Diana Rowland:

Here’s the problem. Let’s say I’m a celebrity. I have a photo that I took of my boobs. It’s on a password protected phone/computer/drive what have you. But according to your line of thinking, BECAUSE I’m a celebrity I should be prepared for someone to steal that pic and post it (which is, of course why I have it behind encryption, etc.) Yet some clever soul manages to get through my encryption, steals the pic and posts it. But, hey, I should have expected that to happen because I’m a celebrity, right?

Let’s say I’m still a celebrity. I have boobs. I keep them covered up in public, and I even have personal security. But some clever soul manages to defeat my personal security guard, rips my shirt off, and gropes my boobs. But hey, I should have expected that to happen because I’m a celebrity, right? I should keep boobs under even MORE clothing and hire MORE security or, hell, just not go out because, after all, I’m a celebrity. I should have been better prepared.

It all boils down to this: I should be *prepared* to be assaulted, and when it happens it’s obviously because I didn’t *prepare* enough, no matter what steps I took, and I didn’t “recognize the reality.”

No. That’s wrong.

“But the internet isn’t secure! If you take nude photos on your phone, you have to know there’s a risk of them getting out!”

And if you order something online, you have to know there’s a risk of your credit card information getting stolen or your account getting hacked. If you carry a wallet, you have to know there’s a risk of someone stealing it. If you leave the house, you have to know there’s a risk of getting hit by a runaway ice cream truck. If you inhale, you have to know there’s a risk of swallowing a freaking spider.

This isn’t about people living in the delusional land of marshmallow-flavored unicorn farts and spontaneously rainbow-generating kittens where nothing bad ever happens. We spend a ridiculous amount of time and energy teaching women to protect themselves. “Don’t walk alone, don’t walk at night, don’t go on a date alone, don’t let your drink out of your sight, don’t take a drink from anyone you don’t know and trust, keep your hand over your drink , don’t drink at all, carry mace, carry pepper spray, carry a gun, don’t wear revealing clothing, don’t wear headphones, don’t carry too many packages, lock and deadbolt every door and window in the house, close every curtain and blind, and so on.”

And yet somehow if a crime is a) in some way sexual and b) committed against a woman, all a lot of people want to focus on is what she did wrong. As if they haven’t heard these messages all their lives, and if they’d only follow all the Right Steps, then they would finally be 100% safe and secure.

The idea that women would be safe if they’d only follow these steps? That’s your land of unicorns and rainbows and ignorant naivete right there. And the assumption that they’re not already taking precautions? That’s just arrogance and ignorance on your part.

And if you’re one of the people who immediately went searching for these photos? Did it ever even occur to you that you were getting off on the sexual violation of another human being? Or that every time you share those pics or increase the page counts for the websites hosting them, you’re rewarding the people who committed those violations?

Let’s keep the focus on the fact that stealing and distributing someone’s private photos is a crime. It’s not just the price someone pays for being a celebrity. Or for being female.

Magic ex Libris, Book Four

Mostly for my own reference, today I wrote the opening paragraphs of the as-yet-untitled fourth book in the Magic ex Libris series.

I would share the first few lines, but they won’t make much sense until you’ve read Unbound [B&N | Indiebound | Amazon].

Anyway, yay! Deadpool approves of new books. And also of random violence, which should be starting in this next scene. Poor Isaac…

DEadpool2

Magical Words Guest Post: Despair

My final (for now) guest post at Magical Words went up on Friday. This one was about the down times in the writing career.

We don’t talk much about the despair, at least not publicly. I think there’s this belief that authors should project an air of confidence, because if we ever admit our neuroses we’ll drive away all of our fans and readers and then nobody will buy our books, and suddenly we’re back in the Black Cloud of Despair™, and oh God this blog post is going to be the one that destroys my career, isn’t it? Why oh why didn’t I write about rainbow-farting unicorns? Quick – go look at some cats!

But do you want to know a secret? Get a writer somewhere quiet, and most of us will admit to having had some bad times. Pretty much every long-term I’ve talked to has described at least one time they thought their career was over. Even #1 NYT Bestselling Authors get times of feeling like a fraud or a failure…