Archive for September, 2015

Off to Arizona

September 30, 2015

This past week, Jim and I completed the last scheduled trip in this fast-moving September.  On Sunday, we drove to the Phoenix, Arizona area so that I could take part in the premier event in the SFAZ Author Reading and Signing series.  Nearly two years had passed since we had made the drive to Arizona, and we quite enjoyed the trip.  It’s a fairly long drive – nearly five hundred miles each way – but if you like stark scenery, it’s quite lovely.

Blood Moon Omens

Blood Moon Omens

Leaving west from Albuquerque, we drove along I-40 through what Jim said archeologists (and probably other people) call the Red Mesa Valley.  Words don’t quite capture the setting, because “valley” to most people implies a dip in the landscape.  The Red Mesa Valley isn’t so much a “dip” as a wide, flat area bordered on either side by huge sandstone mesas (and probably some buttes) which tower up to frame the landscape in various shades of red and orange.

The lack of vegetation any taller than piñon or juniper (and the occasional line of cottonwoods, huddling along the rare watercourse) adds to the impact of these mesas.  This is a landscape so devoid of trees that many times I saw a cow taking advantage of the small amount of shade cast by a telephone pole.

Sadly, the Red Mesa country does not stretch all the way to Phoenix, or even all the way to Flagstaff.  (More about Flagstaff in a minute.)  Eventually, the mesas vanish or are, at best, distant outlines on the distant horizon.  You’re driving through the middle of nothing.

Remember Eagles’ song with the bit about Winslow, Arizona?  I bet the reason the girl in the flatbed Ford slowed down when she saw a man standing on a corner was because she was so astonished to see anything at all.  Winslow and its neighboring (as in about forty miles away) town of Holbrook are set in some of the most hypnotically repetitious landscape I’ve had the pleasure to travel through.

You find yourself commenting on freight trains, cows, or the occasional hawk because scrubby grass and shrubs aren’t exactly notable.  Happily, near Holbrook, someone has constructed a bunch of the worst dinosaur sculptures you could ever hope to see.  But their lack of realism doesn’t matter.  They’re painted in bright colors and break up the monotony.  I love them.

Sometime after we left the Red Mesa country, Jim and I turned on a recorded book.  We’d brought along The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman.  Hillerman’s mysteries are set in the same general area through which we were driving.  His protagonists drive hundreds of miles just to question a suspect.  I first encountered these novels when I still lived in Virginia.  There – among the crowded woodland, where a field can become a forest within a couple of years (if someone doesn’t take care to grub out the saplings) – the landscape Hillerman described seemed almost alien.  Now that I live among it, it still has the power to evoke awe and wonder.

Jim hadn’t read any of Hillerman’s novels, so now these are among our first choices when we know we’ll be driving in through the West.  One bonus is that sometimes we pass a setting featured in the novel.  This time it was the Hopi Travel Plaza and the town of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Flagstaff, Arizona, is everything that Arizona is not supposed to be.  Set among the San Francisco Peaks, the piñon and juniper give way to towering Ponderosa pines, the area is green and lovely, if not exactly lush.  It’s cooler, too, a welcome break from the heat of the lowlands.  While I can’t quite figure out why anyone would settle in Holbrook or Winslow, I have no problem understanding why travelers heading west decided to break their journey in Flagstaff and then decided to stay.

Leaving Flagstaff, we dropped down into hot, dry reaches again.  Soon the saguaro cactus began to make their presence known, standing out even among a landscape full of weird-looking plants with twisting limbs and an ample array of not just thorns, but spikes.

Phoenix is a vast, sprawling metropolis about which, I feel, the less said the better.  Many towns, including Scottsdale, where the SFAZ book event was being held, have been swallowed up and now exist as little more than enclaves within the greater creature.  Our drive there on Tuesday was accented by a quick, violent rainstorm, which is how rain tends to fall in the desert, when it bothers to fall at all.  Jim had to pay attention to the incredibly complex traffic patterns, but I got to enjoy a magnificent double rainbow.

The SFAZ event was held at the quirky SIP Coffee and Beer House.  Victor Milan, Melinda Snodgrass, and myself were seated at a long table of highly polished dark wood set at one end of the long room.  Attendees sat at tables for two or four arrayed around the room.  It was a nice setting in many ways, evoking the classic literary coffeehouse.

However, no matter how great for mood, low light isn’t wonderful when trying to give a reading…  I mentioned this as I was struggling both to read from the opening of Artemis Invaded and keep an eye on the clock. To my surprise, one of the patrons slipped his portable reading light into my hand!  It definitely helped.

After we gave our readings, we took questions.  These were many and quite varied, which made for a fun time for the panelists.  After, we had a chance to chat in a much more relaxed fashion than is usual at a book event.  I was particularly happy to meet reader Emily Newman, a winner of this summer’s “Help Make Artemis This Summer’s Hot Destination” contest.  It was also nice to catch up with writer Mike (Michael A.) Stackpole, who I hadn’t seen forever.

Now we’re home…  An inch plus of rain fell while we were away, so much of the garden is still going strong.  The lunar eclipse was eerie and strange.  But now I’m ready for normal.  I look forward to getting back to my various projects, including an idea I have for a story…

FF: To Arizona and Back

September 25, 2015

Another busy week.  Last Sunday, Jim and drove over to the Phoenix, Arizona area so we could visit with my mom and a few other friends and family members.  Then, on Tuesday I took part in the inaugural SFAZ Premier Author Reading and Signing series along with Victor Milan and Melinda Snodgrass.

Arizona's Signature Saguaro Cactus

Arizona’s Signature Saguaro Cactus

During parts of the drive, we listened to audiobooks.  We also spent oohed and ahhed over the scenery.  This is spectacular, except between Windslow and Holbrook where – if it wasn’t for the fake dinosaurs –  it would be mind-numbing.

Even so, reading time has definitely been stretched thin.

The Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazine articles.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of descriptions or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Queen of Thorns by David Gross.  Sword and sorcery in the Pathfinder gaming universe.  Two highly diverse point of view characters give the story more depth than it might otherwise have.  I enjoyed.

The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman.  Audiobook.  We picked this one because we were driving through some of the areas in which the story is set.  When we drove by the Hopi Travel Plaza, I bounced up and down and pointed, because a character a chapter back had stopped there for coffee.

In Progress:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  Audiobook.  Interesting start.  However, left at home, so haven’t gotten too far in.

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett.  The formerly “medieval” into “Renaissance” Discworld seems to be entering the Industrial Revolution.

Also:

Some interesting articles, toward a potential future project.

TT: Cute But Not Always Sweet

September 24, 2015

JANE: After we finished chatting last time, I realized that the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is, in many ways, a response to Bug-Eyed Monster stories like The Thing.  The film’s full title, since I didn’t mention it last time, is The Thing From Another World so there’s even a sort of parallel there.

Fuzzie: Proto-Ewoks?

Fuzzie: Proto-Ewoks?

In both stories, a solitary alien is stranded on Earth and, presumably, would like to improve its situation.  I say “presumably,” because we never do find out if The Thing is reacting from panic and fear (as Dr. Carrington, the chief scientist, believes) or from hostility (as the military folk believe).

E.T. has enormous eyes, which definitely qualify him as “bug-eyed” (although “doe-eyed” is equally accurate).  However, unlike most BEMs, he’s gentle, empathic, and intelligent.

ALAN: Oh! Cute aliens. I have something to say about them, but that’s far too much of a tangent at the moment. Finish off what you were saying and remind me later…

JANE: In The Thing the scientist who wants to communicate with the alien because it must have “wisdom” to share, is clearly a nutty idealist.  The Air Force personnel who want to blow The Thing up are the heroes.  (Though they lose points even in their own estimation when they destroy the flying saucer in the process of trying to free it from the ice.)

In E.T. the scientists and military folks are the bad guys who nearly kill their friendly visitor…

Each movie spoke to the concerns of its time.  The Thing is an artifact of the Cold War, while E.T., which came out in 1982, reflected a hope for communication between different “peoples” – something emphasized by the almost mantra-like repeated phrase: “E.T. phone home.”

ALAN: That idea of the alien as allegory is a potent one. It’s a common literary device, used to reflect the zeitgeist. For example, Jack Finney’s pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Robert Heinlein’s parasitic puppet masters who ride their human hosts to death (in his novel The Puppet Masters) are clear dramatisations of the consequences of a communist takeover that America was so concerned with in the 1950s.

Amusingly, in his novel A Plague of Pythons, the avowed left wing writer Frederik Pohl examined the same theme and came to much the same conclusion as Heinlein, who was writing from a right wing perspective. Pohl’s novel doesn’t have aliens in it (his puppet masters are human), but that only goes to show how symbolic the aliens actually are.

JANE: That’s an interesting point!  I hadn’t been aware of the unintentional agreement arrived at by two different approaches to the same theme.

However, I do think that there’s a lot more to aliens than mere allegory.  If they were only allegorical figures, I don’t think they’d have so much lasting appeal.

And speaking of lasting appeal…  You mentioned cute aliens.  Are they really as prevalent as you said?  I cudgeled my brain, but other than the Fuzzies and some aliens who fit more into the “companion animal category” (which I also think bears discussion) I couldn’t think of any right off the bat.

ALAN: Thank you for reminding me. I think that cute aliens are a staple of SF.  You mentioned Fuzzies and that’s probably the archetypal example. They appear in H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy  and its sequels (and John Scalzi has also written a Fuzzy novel).

The Fuzzies are so cute and sugary that you can almost get diabetes from reading about them! Nevertheless, they are delightful and it’s a perfectly valid way of addressing the problem of defining the alien – we’ve got a myriad of examples of that in our own animal kingdom. Nothing is cuter than a meercat, but they are fierce warriors when roused…

JANE: Indeed!  Even housecats can be fierce, as the four who share my household go out of their way to remind me daily.

I seem to recall that your Harpo has similar delusions of fierceness…

ALAN: He’s not delusional, he is fierce. When his eyes glow red, the wise know that it’s time to retreat…

However, now that I think about it, cute aliens are rather more common in movies and TV than in books.

Ewoks spring immediately to mind, as do the tribbles from Star Trek. Though having said that, the tribbles owe a lot to Robert Heinlein’s flat cats from the novel The Rolling Stones (aka Space Family Stone). There’s a rather cute baby with squid-like tentacles in the movie Men In Black, but there’s also the squidmoth in Vonda McIntyre’s Starfarers novels which somehow manages to be both cute and alien at one and the same time.

JANE: Interesting…  “Cute” is definitely easier to do in a visual medium than in print.  If you think about it, “cute aliens” are sort of the reverse of the “monster aliens.”  Ewoks turned out to be nice, tribbles dangerous.  And if one slides the scales over to pure monsters, the movie Gremlins shows both side of the question.

ALAN: We SF geeks sometimes refer to aliens as “little green men” and there are some rather cute little green men in the movie Toy Story.

JANE: Uh…  It’s been years since I’ve seen the movie, but do you mean the little green army men?

ALAN: No – the Little Green Men are prizes in a game of skill at Pizza Planet franchises. They are little, they are green, they have three eyes and an antenna sticking out of the top of their heads. The Little Green Men are all in telepathic communication with each other (presumably via the antenna).

JANE: I remember now!  Yes…  They were definitely cute.

ALAN: I’m also rather fond of the very funny (as well as cute and extremely annoying) little green men-Martians in Fredric Brown’s novel Martians Go Home!

JANE: Henry Kuttner had some annoying cute aliens in one of his short stories…  Darn!  I’m blanking on the title.  The story was one of the ones with his alcoholic genius character, who I didn’t care for, so I gave the book away…  Can you remember?

ALAN: Oh indeed – the story was called The World is Mine and the aliens are called Lybblas. Here’s a quote:

The ears were huge, round and furry, the eyes enormous and a pink button of a nose shivered and twitched. Again the creature cried:

“Let me in! I gotta conquer the world!”

Later the Lybblas discover a corpse, dead but still warm. Feeling chilly, they sit on it until it gets cold…

JANE: That’s them…  Cute but really weird and creepy.

I bet that the Lybblas were the inspiration for the aliens from the planet “Cuteatron” who appeared on a  “Pigs in Space” portion of one of Jim Henson’s shows.

The aliens from Cuteatron looked like long-haired, fluffy bunnies, and fired a ray that turned their opponents cuter one piece at a time.  It was a very silly sequence…

ALAN: Jim Henson’s shows were marvelously science fictional. Wonderful stuff!

But once we start looking at the cute alien theme more closely, don’t you find that it quickly segues into the “companion animal” kind of alien?

JANE: That’s a fruitful topic and one for which I can think of quite a few examples.  Let’s come back to it next time.

“Incipient”?

September 23, 2015

Back in August, knowing that my life was going to be getting incredibly busy, I solicited questions from the readers of these Wednesday Wanderings.  For several weeks, Louis Robinson’s question gave me plenty to talk about.  (See “The Cost” part One, Two, and Finale.)  However, that doesn’t mean I forgot that “heteromeles” had tossed a few thoughts my way.

Where Might the Stories Go?

Where Might the Stories Go?

Here’s what he said:

“As for what I’d want to see? Well, I always wondered how that incipient conflict between the humans and the wise animals in Firekeeper was going to play out (and what role the Dragon of Despair might play in it), and I was disappointed that the series veered away from that.

It might even be fun to revisit the Changer, hear his views on social media and climate change. He’s been through the latter, after all.”

I’m not completely certain heteromeles understood that I was asking for Wanderings topics, not what he’d have liked to see in one of my books, but his comments have stayed with me, especially his use of the word “incipient” in regard to some of the action in the Firekeeper books.

Let’s start with the dictionary definition of “incipient.”  My Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines “incipient” as “Begin to be or become apparent.”

“Incipient” is commonly used in reference to things that are showing but not quite realized, like a pregnant woman’s barely visible “baby bump” or a bud that is unfurling into a blossom.  However, it is certainly appropriate to use the word “incipient” in the context of the plot of a book or other form of story.

Certainly, military fiction is full of “incipient” action, because most stories are framed around the developing of a conflict, then the actual conflict unfolding, followed by (in some cases) the aftermath thereof.

Where I feel that the use of “incipient” is incorrect is when readers feel that their expectations or anticipations regarding the developing plot are in fact predictions – and that the author must do what was expected or risk disappointing the readership.

As a reader, those books where I can anticipate every turn of the plot are frankly boring.  That’s one reason I’ve never been a reader of romance novels.  The tropes are so set that even a relatively casual reader can usually tell what’s going to happen.

I understand that this element of predictability is part of the appeal of such works.  I’m not immune to the charm of knowing that no matter how twisted the case, Miss Marple will make sure the right person is brought to justice.  However, one reason I delight in Agatha Christie’s stories is that how this is done usually contains some element of surprise.

As a writer, I do not feel that it is my responsibility to do what my readers expect or anticipate.

I don’t go out of my way to avoid fulfilling expectations, if that’s where the story seems to want to go.  However, I do not, will not, provide “fan service.”  I think this is important for me to state because of how frequently I receive requests either to continue a series or to write a sequel to a “stand alone” novel.  Anyone who asks this must accept that the novel they’re asking for and the novel that I will write might not be the same.

Regarding the Firekeeper novels, the conflict heteromeles felt was “incipient” was, in fact, never part of any vision I had for the series.  I’ve never wanted to write a war novel, not even a guerilla war novel.

Certainly, “conflict” can take other forms.  If the human population decides to press over the Iron Mountains into territory currently resided in by the Wise Beasts, there would be some adjustments to human expectations.  Basically, they’d learn that the “empty” lands already have residents.

However, note that Prince Barden not only moved into that territory, but also set up a fortification – and all of this without conflict with the Wise Beasts.  In fact, given that the child who would become Firekeeper was raised by the Wise Wolves, there is ample evidence in the existing text that “conflict” was not an element of the situation at all.  Yes.  Later we meet some wolves who resent Firekeeper and all they feel she represents, but they are hardly “community leaders.”

Authors often face how readers impose their own views of a situation or characters on a story.  In his talk at the National Book Festival, David Weber said: “No one has ever read a single novel I’ve written.”  Then he went on to talk about how each reader brings his or her own biases, preconceptions, and the like to a book, so that each novel as read is really a collaboration between the author and the reader.

However, the novel as written and the process of deciding what will be in that novel belongs solely to the author.

I like collaborative storytelling or I wouldn’t be a gamer – and I certainly wouldn’t be a gamemaster, since the best games involve flexible responses on all sides.  However, when I’m writing, the story is mine and mine alone…  That’s one reason I don’t workshop and why even Jim doesn’t see a story until it is complete.

As for the Changer and his views on social media and climate change…  I find myself giggling as I envision how that laconic Ancient would take to being cross-examined by some well-meaning, honest soul.  Like as not, he’d shift shape into a bird or butterfly, then take wing…  And that would be an answer.

So, any more questions?  By the time you read this, I’ll be done with the final event in my busy travel schedule and heading home from Arizona.  However, that doesn’t mean I’d not welcome the opportunity to chat with you about topics related to my works or to writing in general that interest you.

Let me know!

FF: Fair Season Reading

September 18, 2015

It’s been a busy week.  Last Saturday, Jim and drove down to Las Cruces for a book signing (also featuring Victor Milan and Melinda Snodgrass).  We did the round trip in one day, listening to Agatha Christie short stories for part of it.  Then Sunday we went to the State Fair…

A Heap of Bunnies

A Heap of Bunnies

In between, I’ve been catching up from the last trip…  Reading time has definitely been stretched thin.

The Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazine articles.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of descriptions or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.  Audiobook.

To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix.  Short story collection, stories grouped by theme, which is sort of odd and had a potential for spoilers.  Still, I enjoyed a great deal.

In Progress:

Queen of Thorns by David Gross.  Sword and sorcery in the Pathfinder gaming universe.  Two highly diverse point of view characters give the story more depth than it might otherwise have.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  Audiobook.  Just barely started.

Also:

Snippets here and there from 101 Sci-Fi Movies, edited by Steven Jay Schineider.  I’ve never been much of a movie goer, so this is proving fun window into a part of the field of which I am more ignorant than many.

TT: BEM’s and Other Extraterrestrials

September 17, 2015

JANE: Last week we discussed aliens who are not really “aliens,” because they are actually native to Earth and are, in fact, often created by human agency. But this week I want to talk about extraterrestrial aliens.

Shambleau and Friends

Shambleau and Friends

ALAN: It’s an obvious SF topic, and they’ve been there in the stories right from the beginning. But they have often been quite crudely depicted. Generally they were just bug-eyed monsters which were little more than plot devices to allow the hero be heroic by fighting and destroying them.

JANE: This doesn’t mean the stories are bad.  Sometimes they can be amazingly creepy.  I’m very fond of the 1951 movie The Thing, which is based on the short story “Who Goes There?” written by John W. Campbell Jr. under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart.

Basically, a UFO is found in the Arctic ice.  A military/ scientific team is sent out of study it.  Something starts hunting them…  I know it’s old-fashioned and has been repeatedly imitated, but I don’t care.  I really enjoy it!

ALAN: Me too! I’m a sucker for stories like that. Perhaps that’s why I’m so fond of the writer A. E. Van Vogt. He is my very favourite writer of terribly trashy SF. I truly cannot recommend his stories – they have not aged well and are probably best read with your eyes closed so that the words never manage to reach your brain. Nevertheless, I love him dearly. In one of the novellas that comprise the fix-up novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle, we meet an alien who is obsessed with reproducing his race. To that end, he rampages through the space ship, kidnapping crew members and implanting parasitic eggs in their stomachs.

The plot is so close to that of the movie Alien that Van Vogt actually sued the makers of the film for plagiarism. The case was settled out of court.

JANE: I didn’t know that.  I’m not really familiar with the story either…  So, do all aliens as creepy monster stories belong to the benighted past?  I mean, we’re both talking about stories from the 1930’s.

ALAN: No, they certainly don’t. David Gerrold’s enormously popular “Chtorr” novels detail a struggle against non-sapient alien plants and animals that are taking over Earth’s ecology. It is not clear if the alien beings have been “seeded” by a more sophisticated intelligence or if the invasion is just an interstellar accident. But the aliens we directly encounter in the stories are just ravening, mindless monsters and the battles are thrilling…

JANE:  Good to know…  I haven’t read these but it sounds as if they would do very well with the new interest in “cli-fi” (or SF dealing with climate change and related issues).

I think before we move on to the more sophisticated aliens, we should acknowledge that movies and the need for simple, cheap costumes popularized the BEM element in SF as much or more than print.

“Monster” movies are perennially – and cross-culturally – popular.  What’s funny is that every wave of advance in special effects (and one could consider film itself a special effect, since drama has a very old heritage) seem to breed a new wave of such movies.

ALAN: Perhaps it is time to film Gerrold’s Chtorr novels. They certainly prove that there can still be a place for ravening bug-eyed monsters in modern SF. But once you’ve had a fight, what else is left? Well, quite a lot actually…

Probably the earliest example of an alien that had more sophistication to it was in Stanley G. Weinbaum’s short story “A Martian Odyssey,” which was published in 1934. It completely changed the way writers (and readers) thought about aliens. The Martian creature Tweel that Jarvis and the other explorers from Earth meet in the story is so alien that they really have little insight into his/her/its motives. For example, Tweel travels in huge leaps and bounds that end with his beak buried in the ground. Why does he do that? We never find out.

Tweel does learn to walk like the Earth people so that he can travel with Jarvis at his pace as Jarvis explores. Tweel even learns some words of English, but the Earth people learn nothing at all of Tweel’s language. From beginning to end, Tweel’s actions remain largely incomprehensible, dare I say, “alien”?

JANE: Hmm…  I’ve got to admit.  I’m not familiar with “A Martian Odyssey,” and since your comment pretty much contradicts what I was going to say, I’d better…  Let’s see if I have a copy.  Ah, yes.  It’s the first volume in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame edited by Robert Silverberg in 1971.

Can you go walk Jake or something while I read it?

ALAN: No problem. He’s sitting here watching me type and he thinks I’m being very boring…

JANE: Okay… I’m back.  Thanks for mentioning the story.  I really liked it – although I suspect the style would be impenetrable to many of our younger readers.  I don’t think you did it justice!  Compared to some of the creatures Jarvis encounters during his hike with Tweel, Tweel is practically comprehensible.  After all, it seems to have a concept of friendship and a desire to bridge a HUGE culture gap.

But the critters with the pushcarts…  And I loved the walking blades of grass.  Perfect for a desert!

ALAN: Oh indeed – and I really like the silicon-based life form that (quite literally) shits bricks…

JANE: However, I think you are wrong about never understanding why Tweel travels so oddly. I thought the story made it very clear why it travels like it does; Jarvis even comments that it’s a very efficient way of using low grav.

ALAN: Perhaps I need to re-read the story. It must be at least forty years since I read it. But I think the fact that much of it has stuck indelibly in my mind for so long proves just how powerful a story it really is.

JANE: There’s a story that predates “A Martian Odyssey” by one year that some say beats it in presenting an alien who is truly alien.  Can you guess which one?

ALAN: No, sorry.  I can’t.

JANE: The story I have in mind is “Shambleau” by C.L. Moore.

ALAN: Ah! I’ve not read that one. Tell me more.

JANE: In his introduction to The Best of C.L. Moore, Lester del Rey says the following: “Here for the first time in the field, we find mood, feeling, and color.  Here is an alien who is truly alien – far different from the crude monsters and slightly-altered humans found in other stories.”

However, having just re-read both stories in close proximity to each other, I’d agree with you that Tweel in “A Martian Odyssey” is more alien.  Shambleau is creepy because she begins as more or less human (which is why Northwest Smith steps in to protect her from an angry mob) but, by the end of the story, she is seen as a truly alien creature.  Still, I think Shambleau belongs on the side of horror, while Tweel is firmly within the SF camp.

Part of the reason I’d say this is that, while at the end of their respective stories both remain mysterious and incomprehensible, Jarvis asserts that he believes the gap between humans and Tweel can be bridged – the scientific explanation.  However, Shambleau is a mystery thousands of years old and we are given to believe, will remain so.  So, Tweel is an alien, while Shambleau is a figure of myth.

ALAN: And being mythic, Shambleau therefore remains outside of the “rational” universe that SF writers were starting to examine, largely under the direction of John W. Campbell, the hugely influential editor of Astounding magazine, (later Analog).

Campbell famously challenged the writers who submitted stories to his magazine to: “Write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.” But Campbell did not take over the editorship of Astounding until 1937 and it was several years before he really hit his stride. So Weinbaum’s story clearly pre-dates the Cambell era. Indeed, it may well have been the story that inspired Campbell’s challenge in the first place. But after Weinbaum’s story, there was really no excuse anymore for the cliched BEM.

JANE: Or perhaps rather than saying, “no excuse” since there’s always room for a good monster story, we should say that there was now room for more elaborately constructed aliens.

Maybe next time we can take a look at some of these!

Casual and Intimate: LOC National Book Festival

September 16, 2015

Over Labor Day weekend, I was a guest of the National Book Festival, hosted by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.  Here’s a window into what that was like.

National Book Festival Stuff

National Book Festival Stuff

Since we were flying East, Jim and I had to get up at 3:45 to make our 6:23 a.m. flight.  Even for people who routinely get up at 5:30, this was a bit much.  We arrived at the airport to find it much busier than we had thought it would be – probably because of Labor Day weekend. We then flew to Dallas, got a sandwich to eat later on the plane, and flew from there to D.C.  Our flight was fifteen minutes late landing because of turbulence, but otherwise things went well.

We took a cab to our hotel near the D.C. convention center.  When we checked in, we were informed that David and Sharon Weber were already there and were on the same floor.  Once we got into our room, we called them and arranged to take a cab over together to the Gala that was the opening event of the Festival.

The Gala was in the main hall of the Library of Congress.  I’d forgotten just how elaborate that place is: the painted dome, the gilding, the statues.  Add in about four hundred people in various degrees of dress-up clothing, waiters circulating with trays of weird little canapes, and you have the scene.  The four of us happily oohed and aahed, then managed to find a little table and visit before we were all herded into a theater for the formal presentation.

This formal presentation featured video remarks from Laura Bush (who had help found the Festival), and remarks from four authors.  Jim and my personal favorite was poet Kwame Alexander, who managed to be both thoughtful and funny.  David McCullough (noted historian) gave special remarks on the founding of the Festival fifteen years before and on the Librarian of Congress who is apparently retiring after 28 years.

The organizers had allotted an hour for this segment, which was pure lunacy, since it was evident that each speaker had been told to speak for ten to fifteen minutes.  Add in the opening statements, closing statements, McCullough’s talk, and the awarding of a special poster to the Librarian of Congress and they were doomed to go over.  This sort of weirdness characterized the event in general – lots of planning but a problem with the reality interface.

Eventually, closer to 8:30 than the scheduled 8:00 pm, we were sent out to a buffet dinner.  The food was excellent and varied, with selections of beef, chicken, and fish, vegetables, salads, and either an{ a } nice macaroni and cheese or rolls (or all of the above, if you wished).  Dessert featured lots of chocolate, which made me happy.

Additionally, “real” silverware and plates had been provided.  Jim and Weber – who had both had to take off their belts because of the buckles when we went through the metal detector at the entrance – had some choice comments on the logic of this.  However, although at least 400 people were attending, only a very limited amount of seating had been provided.  Most of that was reserved for sponsors and their guests.    Eventually, I scoped out a wide marble bannister, and we used that as a picnic spot.  Weber even found that a high newel post made a good table for him at his great height!

Once fed, we did some touring to see more of the beautiful building and ogle some rare books (like a Guttenberg Bible).  We then chose to depart (by now Jim and I were getting very ragged).  Here we discovered another logistical glitch…  No arrangements had been made for taxis for departing guests.  Traffic at that end of Capitol Hill at that hour on a Friday was minimal.  Happily, a very nice member of the LOC staff flagged one down for us.

The next morning, Jim and I slept in.  We opted to skip breakfast so I could review my thoughts for my talk, which was for shortly before noon.  We then went over to the Convention Center to discover another logistical glitch.  Although we had been told there was an Author’s Pavilion (the terminology was a hold-over from when the event was held outdoors on the Mall), almost no one knew where it was!   We learned that this was because they were protecting the authors’ privacy…  but it seemed extreme to protect us from ourselves.

Eventually, following hints and rumors, rather like Hansel and Gretel following a trail of bread crumbs, we found the pavilion, only to meet up with more security.  However, about this time my assigned escort, a very nice woman named Agata (Polish form of Agatha; she was born in Poland) found us and helped defuse confusion.  We made it into the Green Room just in time to snag a bagel and something to drink before they cleared what was left away.  (Weber and Sharon, who arrived a bit later, found nothing and lunch still being set up.)

Agata informed me that I had several interviews to do – something no one had mentioned to me! I did one with a nice young man who blogs for the LOC.  However, the people who were supposed to be set up in the Media Room weren’t ready and I dodged that one.  Agata had carefully scouted out the terrain in advance and got us down to the room where I was to give my talk with ample time

Now, I’d been told that the tone for the Book Festival was casual and friendly.  I had been told not to read a talk and that, if I was going to read from my book, to keep it brief.  Imagine my astonishment on arriving in the room to not find the “informal” setting I expected but a MASSIVE hall with a stage at one end with two podiums and ENORMOUS video screens on either side, projecting the speaker so that anyone at the back could see all details.

When I got up to talk, I discovered that very bright lights shone on the stage, making it impossible to see the right (my right) side of the hall at all.  NOT at all casual or informal or…

Yeah.  However, I decided that I could still try, so I got up there, bobbled my water bottle (they hadn’t provided anywhere for water to be put down, never mind that we were scheduled to talk for 45 minutes!), and set everyone at ease…  The nice young fellow from the Washington Post who introduced me had been on crutches, so we were in good company.

I talked for about thirty minutes, focusing on my growing up shy in D.C., loving books etc.  Having been turned off by writers who seemed to think it was their job to impress everyone with how young and brilliant they had been, and how they had always been perfect, I focused on overcoming disappointment and failure.  Lots of people told me it was an excellent talk, but I never can tell.

I left fifteen minutes for questions and, happily, there were a lot.  Two microphones had been set up, press conference style, on either side.  I could barely see the people using the one on the right but enough to know if someone was there.   After questions, we had a moment to chat with people before Agata spirited us away to get lunch in the Author’s Pavilion.  There, we were informed (contrary to information given earlier) that ONLY authors and their LOC escorts could have lunch, companions (like Jim) could not.  Sheesh.

I shared my sandwich with Jim, then we went down to the signing area.  I had a nice long line of people wanting books signed.  I was particularly touched by the people who brought their tattered copies of various novels.  Nice to know that my works are among someone’s treasures.

After that, I was off-duty.  Jim and I wandered around a bit, looking for Tom Angleberger whose “Origami Yoda” books I had been reading shortly before.  However, he had a very long line and we didn’t want to get in the way of the kids.  We found Weber down in the signing area finishing off his stint.  We then accompanied him (and Sharon) to his talk.  He did a very nice job, including playing off of comments I’d made, which worked well since we had overlap in our audiences.  Then (since he’d been scheduled to sign before his talk) we were all free.  Sharon coveted an event tee-shirt, but they were out by the time we got there.  (Again, you’d think they could have supplied one to speakers or at least given us a chance to purchase one.)  However, Weber got her a bag, and he and Jim got caps.

Eventually, we went back to our hotel and had dinner, then talked until Sharon needed to go lie down.  We escorted her to their room, then went back to our room with Weber where we sat visiting until 11:30 p.m.  It was really nice…   The next morning, we packed, then met Weber and Sharon for breakfast, before they went to pack and we went to meet my mom so we could visit with family out on the Chesapeake Bay…

FF: Reading in Transit

September 11, 2015

Last Friday I went to D.C. for the National Book Festival.  I did get to read quite a bit, although not as much as I thought I might.  Blame David Weber, with whom Jim and I sat up one night until quite late catching up.  So nice to see an old friend.  Also saw family, which was delightful.

Reading Room

Reading Room

In case you’re new to the FF…  The Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazine articles.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of descriptions or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The Books of Great Alta by Jane Yolen (aka a compilation volume of her novels Sister Light, Sister Dark and White Jenna.  Very interesting stylistically.  Legend of the rise of a warrior queen, complete with commentary and music.  If the characters hadn’t been interesting this would have been a disaster!  But they were so it wasn’t.

The Finisher by David Baldacci.  Dystopian YA with a female protag…  Except, honestly, she could as easily have been a “he,” so much so I found myself wondering if the change in gender had come later.  Various plot elements raised a lot of questions for me.  I don’t think I was the intended audience.

In Progress:

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.  Audiobook.  Had to leave this one at home, so I’m just getting back to it.

To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix.  Short story collection, stories grouped by theme, which is sort of odd.  I’m enjoying.

Also:

Read a variety of articles in randomly selected periodicals.  Sometimes I’m amazed at the things people find important.

TT: Aliens of Our Own Creation

September 10, 2015

JANE: Last week, when we were talking about my fascination with non-human characters, it occurred to me that I’m far from alone in that. Don’t you have a fascination with triffids?

Southwester Triffid

Southwestern Triffid

ALAN: Indeed I do – I was nicknamed “The Bearded Triffid” many years ago by a friend who was amused by my fanaticism about SF. The nickname stuck and I’ve used it proudly for forty years…

JANE: So what was it about the triffids that caught your fancy?

ALAN: It’s all my mother’s fault. One day she mentioned that she’d just read a book that she thought I might enjoy. The book was The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham and I read it with jaw-dropping amazement. It was the book that turned me into a science fiction fan in the first place.

Triffids were mobile plants equipped with a vicious sting which could kill with a single lash. They were not a threat until the world’s population fell blind from the glare of a comet’s light, giving the triffids a serious advantage in the struggle.

The novel was a huge best seller in England and the word “triffid” entered the language. A whole generation of British children grew up convinced that any plant they were unable to identify must be a triffid, and that given the least bit of encouragement, it would chase after them and sting them to death…

JANE:  I wonder, would this make the kids more eager to eat their vegetables or less?  I could see a skillful parent convincing the kids that they’re vanquishing monsters when they eat their broccoli.

ALAN: Not if the broccoli eats them first; a very real possibility.

JANE: But I don’t quite understand why triffids are so fascinating?  Can you elaborate?

ALAN: Yes, I think I can.  Every child knows that delicious feeling of helpless terror when the monster under the bed creeps out at night. Triffids are just a personification of that imaginary monster – a peril that we are helpless to combat. They speak directly to our deepest fears. I suspect that’s exactly why the novel was such a huge success

JANE: That’s a good point…  The blindness caused by the comet could be taken as an allegorical representation of the darkness when the parents turn out the light and leave you in the dark.  And what could be scarier than a moving plant?  Compared to animals, plants are safe.  They stay in one place, they don’t have teeth, but triffids move and they “bite.”

 It strikes me that the triffids belong to a larger subsection of creatures in SF, one with a very distinguished pedigree that reaches all the way back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – stories about “aliens” that we ourselves have created.

ALAN: Indeed they do. Both the triffids and Frankenstein’s monster were created by humans in the laboratory. It is that very act of creation (and the fact that eventually we lose control of our creations) that gives them their power as literary devices.

In terms of detail, the two of them quickly part company – the triffids are just monsters pure and simple. However (despite what Hollywood would have us believe), Dr. Frankenstein’s creation was a sensitive, sophisticated and intelligent being who had to learn how to be a monster (in our terms) from the reactions of those around him.

But when Frankenstein refuses to create a mate for him, the monster goes on a rampage in which Frankenstein’s wife and daughter are killed. So Frankenstein’s creation does have his bad aspects…

It is that central act of creation and subsequent loss of control which remains such a striking image that writers return to it again and again, though usually the creations are closer to the “intelligent monster” of Dr. Frankenstein than they are to the rather dumb and simple-minded triffids.

JANE: You definitely understand where I’m coming from…  It seems to me that the SF cautionary tale evolved hand and hand with the rise of science.

Another good example is The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells.   Here the science in question is vivisection – the scientific practice of cutting into living creatures in an attempt to learn something about how they work. (This is as opposed to doing it for no real reason, when it’s just called “torture.”)

Moreau is trying to create human-like creatures from animals.  Short version: It doesn’t work.

ALAN: I enjoyed the Wells novel when I read it in my teens, but the term “vivisection” always bothered me. I think of vivisection as a destructive act rather than as a constructive one – taking a biological object apart to see how it works, rather than putting one together to turn it into something else. I think Wells chose the wrong word and given that he was trained as a scientist, he probably should have known better. I’ve often wondered why he used that word.

JANE: I think it was because Moreau is cutting apart living creatures to adapt them.  I don’t think he’s in Dr. Frankenstein’s camp and using dead bodies.  From what I recall, Wells’ novel came out at a time when the scientific community was feeling uncomfortable about the ethicality of vivisection.  Wells wrote the novel as a way of bringing the practice to the attention of a larger community.

SF has a long tradition of using “what if” as a means of providing a dramatic wake-up call through entertainment.  The current trend of “cli-fi,” or SF dealing with various aspects of climate change, is a more current example.

ALAN: That’s true. It’s always important to consider a book as a product of its times and to make allowances when some phrasing sounds odd to you.

JANE: David Brin updated and expanded the “Moreau” concept in his various “Uplift” novels, in which humanity has “uplifted” chimpanzees and dolphins to human or nearly human levels of intelligence.

However, “stress atavism” can occur, usually with unfortunate consequences for all involved.

ALAN: Brin’s uplift universe was an utterly brilliant concept. The novels assume a moral imperative for sapient species to uplift pre-sapients. These uplifted species then become clients of their patrons (and provide service to their patrons for some several thousand years). Clients themselves will become patrons to other species, and so the wheel keeps turning. All sapient species can trace their patronage back to an original progenitor species.

However, humans are an anomaly. They appear to have no patrons, though they themselves do have clients (dolphins, chimpanzees, gorillas and possibly dogs). It is not clear whether humans did actually evolve independently or whether they were abandoned long ago by an unknown patron. The subject is controversial and causes much debate among the patrons and the humans.

Your mention of the idea of uplifting species to sapiency also reminds me of Cordwainer Smith. The creation and eventual emancipation of the biologically engineered underpeople is a central theme in Smith’s stories about the Instrumentality of Mankind.

JANE: Hmm…  I agree that it’s a “central theme,” no problem there, but the “underpeople” are far more than Moreau’s monsters – or even Brin’s “Uplifted” creatures.  The underpeople are, in their own way, sophisticated, even gentle…

If the “moral of the story” in stories like “Frankenstein,” “Moreau,” and even “Uplift” is “Beware of what you create,” Cordwainer Smith’s focus is close to that of the Civil Rights movement – the awareness that shape and color and origin have nothing to do with the value of a person.  That a Person is a Person – not an “underperson.”

ALAN: More importantly, a Person is a Person irrespective of species. Robert Heinlein addressed this very problem in a short story called “Jerry was a Man” in which a genetically modified chimpanzee attempts to argue that legally he should be considered human, and that he should have all the human and legal rights that that implies. Just a few months ago, a case like this was actually considered by a court in New York. As far as I can tell, no verdict has yet been announced, so the point remains moot.

I suppose  all these stories are asking what makes a person. In 1920, the Czechoslovakian playwright Karel Capek came up with an intriguing answer in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). It describes the plight of artificial beings grown in vats as mass-produced slaves. These “robots” (as he called them in the play) eventually acquire souls, and go on to conquer their makers. But have they become human themselves?

JANE: I’m sure there are plenty of other examples of the interesting “human-created” aliens, but I’d love to take a look at the Real Aliens, creatures from Out There, in all their infinite variety.  How about next time?

The Cost — Grand Finale

September 9, 2015

I’m just in from the National Book Festival and staying on for a few days to visit friends and family in Washington, D.C..  Still processing the event, so I’ll tell you about it next time.  Promise!

My Books, By Obsidian Tiger Press

My Books, By Obsidian Tiger Press

For the last several weeks, I’ve been answering a rather complex question asked by Louis Robinson.  For those of you who are just “tuning in,” you might want to read “The Cost” Part One and Part Two.

For ease of reference, I’m going to repeat Louis’ original question here: “Well, my immediate reaction was to wonder how much we’d have to raise on Kickstarter to  pay you to write the 4th Breaking the Wall [hmmm… should I maybe be taking that series title literally, or at least more so than I have so far?] book. And no, you don’t need to answer that, or even think about the answer. But it did lead me to something that might be answerable: what does it cost you to produce a new book – in terms of time, of resources, of blood, sweat, toil and tears? And how do you judge that you’ve been fairly recompensed for your labour?”

Last week, in our journey into the creation of a book, I’d reached the point where I’ve written the book, self-edited it, solicited editorial input from at least one other reader, and maybe even hired a professional editor.  When all of that was done, I had it copyedited.

Now I’m going to take us to the point where I’ve sat down with the copyeditor’s comments and made suggested changes, all the while wincing at my inability to be consistent.  Now that I have a finished manuscript that’s as good as I can make it, the time has come to get it set up in book form.

If I were working with a professional publishing house, this would be their job.  I might get an occasional query along the way but, basically, until I’m sent final proofs to review, I’m out of the picture, free to go on with my life or with other projects.

However, when self-publishing, this is the beginning of what – for me, given my skills and my temperament – is perhaps the biggest time for “blood, sweat, toil and tears.”

The final phrase above is a perfect example.  I’m quoting Louis, so I’m preserving his punctuation.  However, as an advocate of serial commas, the lack of a comma after “toil” makes me nuts.  Nonetheless, serial commas or no serial commas will be the least of the decisions facing me.

I have some small experience with self-publishing.  My first effort was bringing out reprints of Changer and Changer’s Daughter (aka Legends Walking), because the fans kept asking me for them and because it was becoming increasingly apparent that no one else was going to do it for me.  My second effort was this past year, with the creation of Wanderings on Writing (a non-fiction book on writing) and Curiosities (my new short story collection).

In none of these cases did I do the conversion of manuscript into e-book and POD myself.  I don’t have the skills nor the equipment and felt, quite wisely, that it was worth paying out some of my own money to buy someone else’s skills.  In neither case was I over-charged.  However, once again (as with hiring an editor and copyeditor), this was an expense that I would not incur when working with a professional publisher.  In fact, they would be paying me for the privilege of spending their own money to bring out my book.

I know there are inexpensive and even free programs for doing conversions.  Fine.  If you want to take that course, by all means, do so and my blessings on you.  However, I’m answering Louis’ question about what I would do and hiring a formatter would be the next step.

So, I hire a formatter.  The formatter does her wizardry.  I have a book ready to upload, right?

“Right” only if you’re doing a sloppy, amateur job.  I’m not going to name names, but one of the most outspoken early advocates of self-publishing as a way for professionals to either bring out their backlist or to get more new work to their readers without the delays caused by those tyrannical publishers did just this.  Said person (I’m avoiding even pronouns, so guess all you want) put out books full of errors in spacing, stray punctuation, and even hold-over redlines from editing programs.  A friend of mine who had been happily buying this person’s work gave up in disgust.

So the first step after the formatter has done her wizardry is proofing…  Yes.  Again.  And this won’t be the last time.

Here’s where self-publishing becomes either interesting or maddening, depending on your temperament.  There are many little details that the production department of a professional publishing house handles for the author.  These include choice of font; choice of dingbats; initial caps for chapters or sections; whether to use initial caps at all or only for chapter starts or for every new section; whether to ornament the chapter headings; how to ornament the chapter headings…  I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but you get the idea.

This is called “book design” and it involves both artistic ability and an awareness of the traditions of publishing.  A skilled book design team has done so many books that they have this by heart.  I don’t.  The first time I did a book, the formatter said something like, “Hey, I see you have asterisk breaks in the text.  I looked at the original novel and they used dingbats there.  Do you want dingbats?  If so, pick some out.  Here’s a website.”

Said website had literally thousands upon thousands of dingbats.  I felt dingbats were important, but I curled up into a ball from sensory overload and began to wail.  The formatter took pity on me and sent a shorter list.  (I was charged for her time in assembling this, as well I should have been, since I was using her skills.)

Wait…  You don’t know what a dingbat is?  No.  It’s not an insult.  Dingbat is a perfectly legitimate formatting term; it refers to those little squiggles or doohickeys or dots or whatevers that indicate a break in time or change of point of view within a chapter.   Because, especially in a novel, I will often have multiple points of view in a chapter, a dingbat is crucial to provide a subliminal clue to the reader that the point of view has shifted from, say, Firekeeper to Derian.

Dingbats are as important to a novel as any other punctuation mark.  In e-books, they’re becoming even more important because various reading devices permit changes of font, size, and spacing.  Therefore, something “hard” to indicate breaks is essential if the authors wishes to maintain the flow of the text.  In the days of “print only” books, a blank space could be enough to indicate a pause, but if the reader can eliminate spaces, then something else needs to do the job.  For Changer and Changer’s Daughter, we ended up selecting two different dingbats: one to indicate change of point of view or a long break in time; the other to go where a blank space would once have served.

My second formatting experience was somewhat different.  Wanderings on Writing did not include dingbats, because I wanted to preserve the block paragraph pacing of the original blogs on which the essays were based.  However, Curiosities was more traditional in form.  When I received the first “go round” of proofs, the formatter had taken on the role of book designer (which is what her company promises) and had offered some suggestions as to initial caps and the like.

The problem was, once I started proofing the book for “form” rather than for content, I really didn’t like those initial caps.  I felt they were too large, too “strong,” and that, rather than ornamenting the text, they overshadowed and distracted from it.  The book designer – her name is Emily – was exceedingly patient with me.  We reviewed various options, chose the shading, then designed complimentary chapter headings, flourishes, and dingbats.

We did this more than once.  I’d have a meeting with Emily.  She’d go back to her office and make changes.  And then I’d proof the whole thing again.  I think I proofed Curiosities at least three times after it went into production.  That doesn’t count all the times I proofed it before, or that Jim proofed it, or that my friend Paul proofed it.

The fact is, every time you make a change in the formatting of a book, you really should proof it again for how the book “looks,” not for content.  You’re looking for stray words, widows and orphans (look it up), overlapping text, weird blank spaces, and a bunch of other purely “gut” things that make the difference between a professional-looking job and a “I slammed it through the meat grinder.”

(“Meat grinder” is also a technical term…  I’m not being obnoxious.)

Somewhere along the way, you also need to consider cover art and cover design.  Again, I have absolutely no artistic sense or talent, so this is something I need to hire someone to do for me.  For Changer and Changer’s Daughter, I used photo art, which was pretty common at the time.  For Wanderings on Writing, my friend, Tori Hansen painted a quirky water color that fit the mood I wanted to project.  For Curiosities, Rowan Derrick provided a very elaborate photo manipulation that, again, was tailored to the concept of a story collection.

If I were to produce a new novel in a series, my first impulse would be to at least query the original series artist.  However, I suspect major professional artist’s work might be a lot more than I could afford (unless the Kickstarter included a whopping sum just for cover art).  Therefore, I’d need to find other options.  With the bar for even self-published book covers constantly raising higher, I’d need to set aside both money and time to work with the artist.

Even after the art was chosen, there would be the cover design which, once again, is a job that takes skills I lack.  Emily worked with me on cover design for both Wanderings on Writing and Curiosities, but I was there, too, spending my time and effort.

In fact, in all the stages of production, I served as assistant…  Which takes time, energy, thought, and (because for many of these jobs I needed to learn an entirely new vocabulary) stress.

But once it’s over, I’d have a complete book.  I’d get it loaded on as both e-book (differently formatted for several markets) and POD (because some people, including me, still prefer paper books).

Time to relax and celebrate?  Oh, no…  The work is just beginning.  There’s the question of advertising.  Of getting involved with blog tours and other ways to let people know the book exists.   That means trying to solicit reviews, not just from readers, but from the professional venues that tend to sneer at self-published work.

Oh…  And if one did do a Kickstarter campaign, this is the time when you need to make good on your promises and send packages and e-mails and all of that stuff to the kind subscribers.  It’s very exciting when you have hundreds of subscribers, less so when doing hundreds of packages.

I’m a writer.  I’m really good at writing.  I’m very attentive to self-editing.  Anything beyond that falls into the category of blood, sweat, toil, and tears…

So, Louis, it would be very hard for me to put a dollar amount on what it would cost for me to do this. All I know is that, no matter what people will try to tell you, producing a book is neither fast or easy, not, at least, if you’re me and you insist on doing the best job you can.

I’d be willing but, especially when taking on writing a new book in an existing series, I’d need reassurance that there really was an audience for it before giving up a solid chunk of my life to producing it.

Any questions?  Comments?