Another March

March 1, 2021

It’s March. Not quite sure how that happened. There’s this pervasive sense, here in the U.S., that March 2020 never really ended. A hyperawareness that it’s exactly this time last year when everything started unraveling. Even with positive signs like vaccines being available and actually being able to contemplate unpeeling out of this, it still feels like we’re at sea and it’s still tough finding sure footing.

(Confession: Despite the continuing difficulties of it all, I feel genuine glee that even serious news outlets refer to “the Before Times.” The lasting impact of science fiction, y’all.)

I don’t have much insight beyond stating facts. It’s hard to tell what’s me hitting the pandemic wall, and what’s my usual February winter wall. Both together can’t be good, right? I’m just here waiting for spring, waiting for my turn in the vaccine queue, waiting to see what my beta reader says about the experimental novel chapters I just sent him, waiting…

Meanwhile, I saw a golden eagle on my bird walk this morning and that was nice.

 

state of the desk update

February 24, 2021

I’ve sold five short stories since last fall. This is a good run that makes me happy. Like, no matter what else happens I still have a foot in the game, and that’s just one of the reasons why I’ll always love short stories. Three of them are for anthology/magazine assignments — including one for Wild Cards. Two were ones I just wrote and submitted.

One of them is already published, in issue #39 of Uncanny Magazine, which is available to Kickstarter backers right now and will be available to everyone else next week, I believe. This may be the fastest turnaround from writing the story to seeing it in print that I’ve ever had — I think I wrote it in November/December. For just a bit of trivia there.

The story is called “The Book of the Kraken” and it’s about a girl and her squid.

OF COURSE I’ll let you know when all the other stories go live.

Now, back to work.

…and now the snow

February 18, 2021

Remember last week when I was complaining that there was no snow?

We got about 6 inches overnight. I spent this morning shoveling. Good exercise! There’s this thing that happens around here — it gets too cold to snow. When the temperature spends days below zero? It doesn’t snow. But a couple days ago it started warming up, getting all the way to the 30’s (Fahrenheit) — I love it, 30 actually feels balmy after most of a week at zero. And it’s like the air thaws out and all the moisture in it just falls out. Fluffy, beautiful, snow…

That said: Texas friends, my heart is with you. Please be careful.

 

brrrrrrr

February 12, 2021

And now the temperature is going to be at single digits or zero for the next three days.

I woudn’t mind it as much if we had a big beautiful snow to go with it.

But it’s gray out.

Just gray.

Blah.

 

TV catch up

February 9, 2021

I was interviewed by the “Drinking With Authors” podcast! Links to the two segments can be found here and here.

I don’t even know what TV I’m watching anymore. It’s all a blur. It’s February, and I’m hitting my “can’t get warm” winter wall, on top of the pandemic wall that I’ve been bouncing off of over and over again since November. You know, I can’t actually remember November. I’ve read articles that talk about Pandemic Wall like it’s something you hit and get over or hit and stop at. I just keeping hitting it like a ping pong ball. It sucks.

I’m writing a lot, but I’m worried that everything I’m writing is going to turn out awful, like what happened with the novella I wrote over the summer.

Actually, truthfully, there’s been some awfully good TV to watch and it’s been making me happy. My deep dive into The Clone Wars ate my brain for awhile, but it’s probably time to talk about other things.

There are SPOILERS below:

The Expanse season 5. We all know I’m tremendously biased in favor of The Expanse, but I truly believe this continues to be one of the best space SF TV shows of all time. It just has so many moving parts, so many well-drawn characters, and a story that encompasses science, politics, relationships, all of it. This season was particularly stressful and rewarding for folks who’ve read the books…right down to the last five minutes of the finale. If you haven’t read the books…you have no idea what’s about to land on you.

The Mandalorian. I loved it even better than season 1, and it’s weird, because season 2 leans even harder on the fan service, which I’m always suspicious of, but it also used it to go epic? Katee Sackoff is amazing, and it’s Rosario Dawson’s portrayal of Ahsoka that finally got me to watch The Clone Wars. As for the big reveal… fan service, y’all. I confess I wasn’t completely blown over by that reveal, mostly because I was looking for all the ways this could have just straight-up turned into a live-action Rebels sequel. Ahsoka and Luke aren’t the only Jedi running around, you know. Maybe later…

WandaVision. I love this. Love it. I know we still have a couple of episodes left and it could still botch the landing. But what it’s doing so far is amazing and different and wonderful and terribly, terribly sad. And no, the first couple of episodes aren’t slow, they’re absolutely necessary to build the creeping, awful tension. They’re a commentary on American mythologies of domestic happiness, embodied in sitcoms, and how Wanda’s version of it reveal the cracks in her own psyche. The opening of episode 4, portraying the true magnitude of undoing the Snap (“They’ve all come back, we don’t have the capacity!”) — I mean, there I was, sitting down with my pizza thinking I was going to get another sweet sitcom pastiche and thirty seconds later I had to hit pause so I could put myself back together and dry the tears from my food. This is a story about grief. It’s got everything I love about the MCU and it’s breaking my heart like nothing in the MCU ever has.

Onward…

working working…

February 4, 2021

Got nothing this week. Not sure if that’s a function of actually being busy or just feeling like it. I did visit my parents and grandma for pizza on the patio, and got to go riding. So yes, let’s call it actual busy.

Reminder that virtual Boskone is next week. I’m scheduled for several panels and events there. And so is the Great Backyard Bird Count. We’ll see how many juncos I can rack up.

 

First off, the important bit: it’s my birthday. Woohoo!

I will now summarize the entirety of The Clone Wars in one sentence:

“A strange game; the only winning move is not to play.”

I explain:

The tragedy of the prequel films is Anakin’s fall to the dark side, which has this Greek tragedy air to it because it’s pre-ordained by the original trilogy.

The tragedy of The Clone Wars is that it turns out Anakin’s fall wasn’t inevitable because Ahsoka Tano showed him a way out – you just walk away – and he didn’t take it. I think he thought about it. But he didn’t do it. The whole show then becomes about a set of characters who are so entrenched in moribund organizations that they sacrifice their own sense of self, and their principles, trying to stay loyal to them. But the show also present the alternative:  just walk away.

I know there’s a fan canon out there:  if Ahsoka had been able to get that last message to Anakin, had been able to talk to him, he wouldn’t have turned. I’m not at all comfortable with putting that responsibility on Ahsoka. It wasn’t her job to keep him from turning. He was already questioning the Council when she showed him a way out. That he didn’t follow her example is on him. In the end, he wanted the power that came with being on the Council, with having Palpatine’s confidence. He couldn’t let that go the way Ahsoka could.

The Clone Wars is horror. This is a story about people caught in a conflict they can’t escape, subject to shadowy forces they can’t defeat. In the case of the clones, this lurking evil has been physically implanted in their bodies without their knowledge. When one of them discovers the truth and tries to raise the alarm, he’s destroyed. Nobody has agency. All actions are futile. It’s a nightmare.

If the whole thing is horror, then Ahsoka is the Final Girl. The one who lives. Now, I know technically she’s not really the last one standing. Lots of people survive, from Rex to Bo-Katan to Obi-Wan and yes, Anakin. But I’d argue Ahsoka comes out of the war with the clearest vision of who she is and what they suffered. She’s the one who claims agency and thus steps out of the existential nightmare.

(She’s actually not the only one:  the first episode that made me sit up and take notice, that really piqued my interest, is 2.10: “The Deserter,” when Rex meets a clone trooper who deserted and made a life for himself as a farmer. It’s the beginning of Rex’s storyline, and another bit of supporting evidence for my thesis:  the only winning move is not to play.)

Several episodes of Rebels now become an epilogue to The Clone Wars. It’s in Rebels where Ahsoka learns what really happened to Anakin (and vice versa). Ahsoka and Rex’s reunion is that much more poignant, after everything they went through.

So yes, there’s a great story in The Clone Wars. But it’s buried, and you have to pick it out from lots of noise. Did we really need entire episodes dedicated to banking interest rates? Ah well.

I’m still working up my list of favorite episodes.

 

Wonder Woman 1984

January 26, 2021

Welp, I guess I can’t put this one off any longer.

There’ve been wildly divergent reactions to this one. Where do I fall?

I thought it was awful. I really hate that I thought it was awful. But it’s like at every decision branch, the filmmakers made the stupidest choice. I don’t actually want to talk about it. It was badly paced, the action scenes went on too long and looked like cartoons, and nothing made sense. A World War I pilot would not be able to get into a modern jet and fly it. Don’t tell me “you just have to shut your brain off,” because that’s not what’s going on here. This is thinking your audience is stupid and isn’t going to notice stupid. What a waste.

(Here’s the Pitch Meeting video, which is hilarious and lays out everything. )

 

QUESTLAND – June 2021

January 22, 2021

I don’t think I posted this yet:

My next novel, QUESTLAND, will be out in June 2021. This summer! Soon! Here’s the full announcement on Tor.com.

I always try to come up with a one-sentence description of my novels, because when I’m talking to people at signings and cons and book festivals and the like, one sentence is usually all I have to hold their attention. Here’s the one for this:

This is about a high-tech LARP that goes horribly, horribly wrong…

 

I took the day off yesterday to watch the Inauguration. President Biden and Vice-President Harris. It feels great.

The 2021 events calendar is off to the races, with a new round of virtual events. Here are the first couple:

I’ll be taking part in virtual Boskone next month, February 12-14.

March 19-21 is the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, also online this year.

After that, things get a little nebulous. I’ve got several late summer/early autumn events on my radar that are crossing their fingers to be in-person, but that will depend on vaccine rollout. I’m hoping things will start turning around now that there’s an administration whose motto isn’t “what plan?” and that doesn’t have a policy of belligerent neglect.

I’ve signed up with my health care provider, but given how low priority I am (Work at home? No health risks? Under 70? Yeah…) it’s going to be awhile before my turn comes up. But trust me, when it does, I am so there.

Stay safe out there, folks.