Red Riding-Hood’s Child up at Podcastle

My fantasy erotica story, “Red Riding-Hood’s Child”, is up today at Podcastle; download here if you’re interested. A warning, though — this story’s rated X, for good reason. If you like retold fairy tales, decontructed gender roles, sexual allegory, and (very) hairy men, download away.

Read by Rajan Khanna of my writing group Altered Fluid! Such a lovely voice that man has.

Well, whaddaya know. HM in Year’s Best!

24 hours after my lament that I hadn’t been doing so hot on the short story front yesterday, I got a heads-up from alankria about using the “Search Inside” feature on Amazon to see whether my name popped up in the forthcoming (tomorrow) The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2008. Alankria’s did — congrats! And mine did too, for “The You Train”. That just made my month.

Also props to Rajan Khanna of my current writing group, Altered Fluid, who also got an HM, and Veronica Schanoes of my old writing group Black Beans, who got pub’d outright (not an HM, an actual YB) in this year’s volume.

So much coolness, all around.

Props from SFRevu!

2008 has not been a good year for me on the short-fiction front. I haven’t written much, though that’s largely due to being in novel-mode for all but one month of this year (the month between me finishing 100K and hearing about the book deal). I slacked on submissions for a good three months or so after the book deal; my head was just kinda spinny for awhile there. =) The short stories I’ve been sending out haven’t sold yet; I keep getting “almost, but not quite” or “I liked it a lot, but” or “I held this awhile, but finally decided not to buy it” emails from editors. Frustrating, but that’s how it goes in this business. You either get used to it or you give up, and — well, obviously I’m still here. =)

But as a result, I haven’t sold a single story this year, and have had only a few published from among last year’s sales. That’s pretty sucky by my standards, so I’m going to have to buckle down and get back to work on that front.

Fortunately, I found a source of motivation: a good review! Here’s what had to say about my latest-pub’d story, “Playing Nice With God’s Bowling Ball,” out in the August issue of Baen’s Universe:

“Playing Nice with God’s Bowling Ball” by N.K. Jemison starts with Detective Grace Anneton interviewing a little boy named Jeffy Hanson. Jeffy is upset because his friend Timmy Johnson has disappeared through a black hole, one that Jeffy had made. Grace, of course, doesn’t believe him but starts investigating the disappearance of Timmy. Jemison makes a fine debut here and gives the story a good ending. …I’ll look forward to more stories from Jemison and Crowell in the future.

(Alas, Baen’s misspelled my byline name, and this review perpetuates it. I’ve emailed Baen’s about it, but no biggie.)

So yay! They liked me! Now I need to write more shorts.

By the way — remember that Baen’s is a pay-to-read site, so you’ll need to subscribe or send them $6 to read the story, if you’re curious. They’re a great magazine, publishing lots of good up-and-comers, so please support them! Even without paying, though, you can read the first half of the story, which includes some hilarious and lovely illustrations by Russ Hicks. Check it out!

Ten Epic Fantasy Themes We Don’t See Enough

I have a phenomenal agent. Here’s how phenomenal she is: as if she wasn’t busy enough, she’s running Epic Fantasy Week (actually 2 weeks) on her blog! And she asked me to provide a post, which I did, here. Go check it out! And be sure to backtrack to catch posts by Lynn Flewelling, Carol Berg, and more!

Happy birthday to me! Hour of the Wolf. Appendix!

I have to admit, the past year has been a good one. I’m loving NYC, I’ve got great friends and my family’s well, the book deal was a lifelong dream come true, and now here I am living another dream: I’m a full-time writer! There are, of course, the usual snafus that come with these kinds of major lifestyle changes. Had one yesterday that I’m too embarassed to relate in public, but I’m past the freakout stage now. It helps to remember that these things are minor in the grand scheme of life.

There are a few more things I want for myself in the future, and I’m going to work hard to try and get them. But for the most part, I hope year 36 turns out as good as year 35 did.

Anyway, back to srs bzns. I’m not doing anything exciting or partyesque for my birthday tonight because tomorrow morning at 5 a.m., my writing group Altered Fluid will be on WBAI’s Hour of the Wolf. Being on the air at 5 a.m. means getting there at 4 a.m., which means leaving the house at 3 a.m., which means going to bed early tonight. (In fact, I think I’ll take a nap this afternoon, too.) We’re critiquing fellow group member Alaya Dawn Johnson’s short story, so if you’d like to hear how a kickass SF writing group functions, tune in! (Or if you don’t want to get up that early, download it later.) Better yet, if you like the show, call in; WBAI is a public radio station, and it’s pledge season. The host, Jim Freund, has hosted us before, and we’d love to repay the favor by earning his show some money.

And in 100K news, I’m working on a couple of possible appendices for the end of the book, since that may be the best way to clarify some of the worldbuilding. Thus far I’ve finished a kind of profile of the four most magical characters and their abilities/limitations; am thinking about adding an “historical” account of a pivotal event in the world’s history, and a glossary. Actually, I’m definitely going to add the glossary; it’ll be helpful for starting a wiki later, which I think I might need in order to keep track of all the historical tidbits, language oddities, events, etc., that will exist through the three books.

Just call me N. K. (K.?) Tolkien. Kidding!! (Seriously, though, no song lyrics. I draw the line at those.)

Happy Monday!

First thing this morning I opened my inbox to find this, courtesy of my friend K. (Worksafe, but sanity-safe? I’m not so sure.) She sent it to me because I’ve been reminiscing on the game Final Fantasy 7, which really was phenomenally well-made. It had some flaws, of course — Lego-people character design, and speaking of character design, Barrett, anyone? (groan) — but it was more beautiful, more emotionally gripping, and more memorable than many fantasy novels I’ve read. What is it doing right that so many novels get wrong? It can’t be just graphics. (Though I’ll admit Nobuo Uematsu’s musical score did add a lot. Amazing stuff. The man’s a genius.) Methinks I’ll have to blog about this later.

Also, got this from K too, for those who don’t regularly read Sinfest. Srs political discourse, pay attention! (Not as worksafe — one bad word.)

Finished the re-revision of 100K over the weekend and sent it off to editor today. I spent most of last week working on it. Yah! Now back to BrightGod. The break helped me figure out a few things re the plot, so I’m raring to go. =) 30,000 words and counting!

Kay Kenyon: The Seeds of Time

I think I’m falling in love. Wow.

I’ve been looking for A Braided World, which supposedly further-explores that interesting “dark matter plague” concept Kenyon covered in Maximum Ice, but my library doesn’t have it and I can’t find it in any local bookstores (it’s a bit old), so I’m going to have to try and order it from Amazon. But in the meantime I found The Seeds of Time, which I initially wasn’t interested in. Time travel, yawn. But then I started reading, and realized she was using time travel as a substitute for FTL travel — they can’t travel FTL, but they can travel backwards in time to a planet that at some point in the distant past was in the spot currently inhabited by Earth. OK, reticence about time travel cancelled. =)

Then I was uneasy about the very obvious, potentially heavy-handed environmentalist message of the book, set in a world that’s “graying” as the ecosphere collapses due to pollution and UV. It’s a message I agree with, but I don’t feel like getting beaten about the head with it for 400 pages. But again Kenyon surprised me. Though there’s some mention of the stock “street gangs taking over society” cliches (why does it never occur to people that when society collapses, gangs will probably collapse too? They’re just an alternative social organization model, equally dependent on a certain amount of material stability. But I digress — ), she keeps the focus of the story tightly on her protagonist, Clio, and Clio’s friends. Clio is the daughter of a lesbian couple in a society overrun by “the Sickness” — sort of AIDS on crack. This has caused rampant anti-gay hysteria as well as the enactment of some draconian laws; gay people are now preemptively “quarried”, or put into quarantine, never to be seen or heard from again. Shades of interment camps. Clio’s parents were quarried, and she could be quarried too for the simple crime of being related to gay people. Or she could be quarried for the much greater crime of using drugs (another group targeted by the laws), because she’s also one of the few human beings gifted with the ability to Dive through time. She’s close to burnout — something that eventually happens to all Dive pilots — so she uses the drugs to stay frosty. Her ability shields her somewhat, because time-diving may be the only way to save the graying earth; the ships that do the time-trips hope to find alien vegetation that’s capable of surviving in Earth’s nearly-inimical environment. So Dive pilots are desperately needed.

But to layer on the characterization, Clio is involved with Hillis, a gay man in hiding; she helps him by pretending to be his lover, but she actually wants to be his lover, because her rough life has left her emotionally damaged and she tends to hook up with men who are incapable of loving her back. Hillis is involved with Zee, a character who practically embodies race, class, gender, etc. privilege; much of the horror of this society is revealed through his rude awakenings as he discovers that America is no longer he mom-and-apple-pie dream he thought it was. (He was in grad school, is how he missed it up to now. I remember grad school. I understand.)

And all this is set against a hard-SF backdrop of exploring alien planets, Blade-Runner-esque urban dystopic worldbuilding, science-vs.-faith debates, and more. My head spins.

Y’know, if I can just find more hard SF like Kenyon’s, I may have to rethink my distaste for this subgenre. I’m now determined to work my way through her SF, then tackle her science-fantasy series that’s out currently. Can’t wait to see what she does with it.

Is it too late for SF?

So yesterday I went to Crunch Gym to take part in my first Cardio Sculpting class. The instructor was a handsome young man whose name was either Steven or Sven. I suspect Steven since he was black and most black mothers don’t go in for Swedish names, but it sounded like Sven. Sven did cruel and unusual things to that class, and I’m not entirely convinced that he likes humanity. I don’t much like humanity after that class, because I’m in a remarkable amount of pain today. Ow.

In line with my newfound distaste for humanity, I had an incredibly bitter thought this morning (as I creaked and groaned my way out of bed). Speculative fiction and the GOP: separated at birth?
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Weekly catch-up

Belated writing report! I’m up to 14,000 words on BrightGod, the tentatively-named sequel to 100K. (For the confused, “BrightGod” is Bright God’s Bane, and “100K” is The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Pay attention. I might spring a quiz.) Have also finally resumed regular submissions to short story markets. Got a rejection already from Apex Digest on my “aliens want our women” story, “Commission Report on the Establishment of Extrasolar Trade: Evaluation”. But I am undeterred! I made a special effort to write more science fiction this year past, and by gum I’m going to sell some of it. Eventually.

Reviewing! Spent this week’s train-commutes reading Kay Kenyon’s Maximum Ice, which I never heard of and only happened upon because the Brooklyn Public Library was doing a book giveaway as a promotion. I’ve never read Kenyon’s work before, but I really liked this tale, which was hard SF that had by far some of the best characterization I’ve ever read. The story was about a generation ship which comes back to Earth after 10,000 years to find it covered in “Ice”, a crystalline substance that has almost devoured the entire planet. The ship’s crew then has to navigate its own politics and those of the remaining Earth people in order to solve the mystery of Ice and figure out whether it can be — or should be — destroyed. Cool plot points (er, and spoilers): a) Ice turns out to be a massive crystalline computer, initially designed for its incredible information-storage properties because during the interim 10K years, Earth got hit by a cloud of dark matter which nearly killed all life on earth by stripping it of information (computers, of course, but also DNA). b) The generation ship is populated by the Rom/Gypsies/People of the Road, who fled Earth because there was a global epidemic and the gypsies got blamed for it (because they were immune), with the predictable result being concentration camps and genocide. c) The central conflict in the story comes down to two women — “Ship Mother”, a gypsy woman who serves as the living repository of memory for the generation ship, and “Mother Superior”, the leader of the Sisters of Clarity — an order of atheist nuns who rule the new Ice-covered earth. Mother vs Mother is a theme of the whole story.

It’s breathtaking stuff, and marks only the second hard-SF novel I’ve truly enjoyed in a very long time. (The other was Brenda Cooper’s The Silver Ship and the Sea, which has a sequel out that I need to get my hands on.) I can’t believe I never read Kenyon’s work before. Must check out more of it now.

Pimping! Fellow Altered Fluid member Alaya Dawn Johnson’s short story “Down the Well” came up at Strange Horizons well over a week ago, and shamefully I have only just now read it. But I love it — she’s so damn good at characterization and lyrical language, even in the midst of a grim tale about corrupt governments and playing God. Go read!

ETA: And a work colleague showed me this, which may quite possibly be the world’s most impractical Swiss Army knife. (It’s real, before you ask.) Just thought I would share.

I’m moving up in the world!

Just got a Google Alert that cybersquatters have registered and a few other variations! That’s so cool. =)