April 13, 2016
First thing: here’s the link to “Origin Story,” which is about the unexpected things that can happen when you live in city populated with superheroes and villains.
It’s season finale season in TV land, and a bunch of shows are pulling out the stops, giving us mayhem and cliffhangers and surprise deaths. So…much…death… Spoilers below, primarily for Arrow and Supergirl.
I think killing characters off is a necessary thing, because death is a real thing, and fiction is a good place to explore and process the emotions that come with death. It’s also just good visceral fun to realize that your favorite characters may not be safe. I learned that with T.J. in the first Kitty book — after that, and for thirteen more books, I kept readers off balance because they knew I wasn’t afraid to go there.
But there’s a point where it becomes either A) gratuitous — done for shock value rather than emotional impact (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones); or B) so predictable the emotional impact is deadened.
That’s what happened on Arrow last week. Laurel’s been a stable, reliable part of the team for almost a season and a half now. Not much character development to speak of, but she’s still been cool and awesome to have around. Then, all of the sudden in the space of one episode, she’s having heartfelt discussions with everybody, pouring her heart out to Ollie, facing a couple of big life decisions. And then she says something like “I’ll be Black Canary just one more time!” Oh, honey. No no no. I spent half the episode just a little pissed off that the episode broadcast her fate so broadly. One might almost call it satire?
Supergirl hasn’t actually killed a hero yet, but when one of them utters the line, “I’ll tell you everything when I get back,” just before leaving on the dangerous mission, you know something terrible is going to happen.
For me anyway, this saps most of the emotional impact from the event. So frustrating.
As a contrast, I think one of the most impactful deaths on recent television was Barry’s mother in the first season finale of The Flash. The situation was already twisty — I mean, we know she’s dead, she’s been dead for the entire season. But that episode made us believe that Barry would save her. We started hoping — in spite of the problems it would cause — that yes, Barry could undo that moment in time and save the life that has driven so much of the backstory of the show. And then he doesn’t. And it isn’t that he fails — he chooses not to. The potential consequences of changing the past are too huge. The moment was a surprise. It also made sense. So powerful.
Another one is that one I keep going back to: Pilot, in Captain Power. At a time when nobody died in TV shows ever, Pilot died. She was left behind at the base which was about to be overrun by bad guys. She gathers together as much tech and info as she can, the computer backup, etc. She sets the base to self destruct, prepares to leave — and the self destruct malfunctions because of the enemy attack. She has to stay behind and detonate it manually. And she does, to keep the team’s secrets from falling into enemy hands, because that could potentially destroy humanity. Her death was a complete surprise. But also intensely logical, and the emotional fallout for the rest of the team was deep, deep story meat.
That’s how you do it. And for pity’s sake, you avoid any dialog that broadcasts what you’re about to do: I’ll tell you everything when I get back. I’ll just do this one more time. I’m retiring next week. We’re getting married. Etc.
April 8, 2016
I had a bunch of things I was going to blog about, and wouldn’t you know it, I can’t remember them now. . . Well, I’ll come up with something!
Next month, May 6-8, I’m the author guest of honor at the Creative Ink Festival in Vancouver. It promises to be an excellent time full of writing and art and fun!
The April issue of Lightspeed Magazine is available to purchase and has a new story by me: “Origin Story.” Yes, it’s a superhero story — actually it’s a supervillain story. And yes, it takes place in Commerce City. It’s the backstory of a character in the third Golden Age book. The story goes live next week, but if you want to read it early, here’s your chance.
So, how about that Rogue One trailer? I’ve only seen it twice because, I confess, it reduced me to messy tears the first time, and the second wasn’t much better. Why am I having such an emotional to reaction to it? Well, I think it’s because it feels exactly like the year-long Star Wars RPG campaign I was part of back in college. We were a band of secret agents and rogues running missions for the Alliance, and it was fun and serious and gritty and everything Star Wars should be, and way back in 1993 thought we would never get in movie form ever again. And here we are with what looks like pretty much exactly the movie that would have happened if they’d pulled it straight out of my twenty-year old brain.
It’s a little overwhelming, when pop culture caters to one’s id so directly. Whew.
March 23, 2016
Well, right this very moment in my area of Colorado we’re getting pounded by a classic spring blizzard, five or so inches of snow and counting. This being springtime, it’ll likely be clear and smooth sailing tomorrow when I need to head out to the airport to travel to WonderCon. Fingers crossed!
Here’s my schedule at the convention:
Friday 12:00 pm, Room 151: “Getting to the Point.” Panel discussion on weapons and tactics in fiction!
Friday 1:15 pm, Booth #3000: Autograph session with the panelists.
Sunday 12:00 pm, Room 515A: Spotlight on Carrie Vaughn. Q&A and me generally rambling on about many of the same things I ramble on about here on the blog. Let’s see if we can fill up the room with happy people, yeah?
Sunday 1:15 pm, Booth #3000: Autograph session.
And that’s what I’m doing at the convention! Come and say hi if you’re going to be there!
March 16, 2016
I have a brand-spanking new story for you to read.
“That Game We Played During the War” is now live on Tor.com. Go forth and read! I hope you like it.
This story will always be special to me and here’s why: So, I’ve been in various critique groups and writing workshops for over twenty years. I joined a local in-person one in 1995, stayed with them a couple of years, went to Odyssey which was 6 weeks of in-depth critiquing, did some online workshops for a few years, had a really slam-bang telephone/conference call critique group from about 2001 to 2007, and since then, every year or so I go to a one-off professional workshop where, again, in-depth critiquing.
Every so often a story comes through the group where no one has any suggestions for improvement. All the comments are some variation of “This is fine, send it out right now.” Maybe one or two dissensions, but the story is universally praised as being fine just the way it is, and trying to change anything would ruin it. This kind of a critique is rare and deeply sought after. Mainly because we all wish all our stories would be deemed perfect as is, but that’s rarely the case.
One of my goals has been to someday write a story that gets that kind of critique at a workshop. Get the perfect, “This is great the way it is” comments.
“That Game We Played During the War” is the story that finally did it when I took it to Rio Hondo last year. Good job, little story!
(This isn’t to say I didn’t make any changes. There were a couple points of confusion and a couple places where I massaged things to make it cleaner and smoother. But mostly, I tried not to mess up what everyone had responded to so enthusiastically. And that — not messing up what’s good about a story — is as important to learn as how to fix the problems.)
February 26, 2016
Holy crap. February is almost over. How the hell did that happen? And don’t we say that every year, at that moment we can’t pretend the new year is new anymore?
I’ve been going to yoga class regularly for a year now. I’d tried to get into a yoga habit a couple of previous times, but those stretches didn’t last more than a few months. But I think I finally found a studio and a schedule that work for me. One year and counting. It’s pretty cool. For the last few weeks the classes have been super crowded — and I suddenly realized, hey, it’s the beginning of the year. All those New Year’s Resolutions are still in effect. I imagine the class sizes will shrink a bit throughout the rest of the year, and get back to what I got used to during the previous few months.
Convention season starts up next month. A reminder to mark your calendars:
I’m a Special Guest at WonderCon in L.A., March 25-27.
I’m a Guest of Honor at the Creative Ink Festival in Vancouver May 6-8.
I’m planning on dropping by Denver Comic Con, Saturday only, June 18.
And then Worldcon, August 17-21.
I’m excited because A) These all look like a really great time, and B) I think I finally figured out how to not overschedule myself and burn myself out. Fingers crossed.
February 24, 2016
The news went out on Publishers Lunch yesterday, and John re-posted the announcement on his blog, and here it is again:
New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn’s BANNERLESS, a novel in which an investigator must discover the truth behind a mysterious death in a world where small communities struggle to maintain a ravaged civilization decades after environmental and economic collapse, to John Joseph Adams Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), in a two-book deal, for publication in Spring 2017, by Seth Fishman at The Gernert Company. (North American)
So, when I talk about what I’m working on now, that’s what I’m working on. If it sounds familiar, it’s because yes, it’s set in the same world as my short stories “Amaryllis,” “Astrophilia,” and “Bannerless” — Enid is the main character.
A big thanks to John and Seth for helping to make this happen. I’m very excited. It’s kind of a totally new direction, and my gut’s telling me it’s exactly the right thing to do right now.
A little background on this.
Almost two years ago, I finished writing Kitty Saves the World, and I had a plan for what I wanted to happen next. Spoiler: Nothing about that plan worked out. Cue Miles Vorkosigan on the sidelines shaking his head at me, muttering, “Well of course not, what did you expect?”
I went through 2015 without a novel contract in hand — first time in a decade. This was weird, and this was also why, at all my events and talking online and stuff, I was kind of evasive and unspecific about what I was working on. I was working on a lot, trying to figure out what was going to stick, and stuff was happening behind the scenes that I don’t feel comfortable talking about.
Toward the end of the year, I got a new agent: Seth Fishman, as mentioned above. I’ve had a great time working with Seth. Something I learned: changing agents is a normal part of being a pro writer. When I started talking to my writer friends about it, it turns out just about everyone changes agents at some point. Good to know.
The short version of all this is: After a year of flailing, I’m feeling much better about life, the universe, and everything. I have a novel deadline again, and this makes me happy.
Other things to know: I won’t have a novel out in 2016. That’s weird, too. This makes me really super happy that Patrick and I worked out the details to publish AMARYLLIS AND OTHER STORIES so that I do actually have a print book coming out this year. (Check out the link to see the cover!)
STUDY ABROAD, my novel about a third generation Martian colonist whose mother is sending her and her twin brother to Earth for boarding school and who isn’t at all happy about it, is currently scheduled for January 2017 from Tor Books. That’s been bumped back from May this year. More news when I have it.
And that’s what’s happening. Whew! Lessons learned: always be working on something new, do the things you gotta do to keep your career healthy, and don’t be scared. Well, at least, don’t stay scared.
I also learned that I have a great support network, with lots of people rooting for me. That includes my readers, BTW. Thank you. That knowledge has been incredibly helpful. I tell people I’m always working on something new. I don’t always know what exactly is going to make it out of the gate first, but something will. Stay tuned.
February 10, 2016
Quick announcement post today: I’m doing a Reddit AMA — Ask Me Anything! Post goes up around noon eastern time and I start answering questions around 3. Maybe earlier. I’ll hop back on here and add the link when it goes live.
And here it is! The link is live! Go forth and question!
Also, Tor.com just posted the artwork for a short story of mine that’ll be published in March: “That Game We Played During the War.” Isn’t it pretty? (Link goes to Facebook.) The story’s about how to play chess against a telepath.