Archive for the ‘Science fiction and fantasy’ Category

Last week I spent way too much time filling out the Locus 20th Century Poll. I had to make two lists: my top ten favorite science fiction novels from the 20th century, and my top ten favorite fantasy novels. (There were short fiction categories too, but I’m less well read in those categories. And the 21st Century poll, since it only covered twelve years, was not as time-consuming.) Locus provided a handy reference list of many eligible novels that I poured over.

What I found fascinating was the difference for me in creating the science fiction list versus the fantasy list. For the science fiction list, I had no trouble coming up with ten titles. In fact, my main problem was I kept coming up with ever more titles, and then I had to choose which ones to actually include in my final list, and in what order. And all the titles I was coming up with are books that I’ve adored, that have had a huge impact on me, that I could obligingly gush on about for some time.

And then I started working on my fantasy list. I eventually added Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of al-Rassan and Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, both of which I am deeply enthusiastic about and neither of which was on Locus’s reference list. However, the other novels I listed, while entertaining novels and influential in the field, did not inspire the same gush-worthy feelings. I’ve always thought of myself as an equal lover of both science fiction and fantasy, so this surprised me. Which led me to consider the general pervasiveness of fantasy in my experience of story.

I fell in love with science fiction as an adolescent. I still remember exactly where I was when I finished reading Ender’s Game for the first time, and how I felt about it. I was twelve. And from then on, I swallowed science fiction novels from the library’s adult section upstairs in great gulps.

But fantasy has been with me from the very beginning. I didn’t call it fantasy back then. In my experience, it was a natural and inevitable part of the landscape of storytelling. It was my air. Even the picture books my mom read to me before I could read to myself involved talking animals and portal quests and magical items. And those titles in children’s literature that I now know are part of the fantasy genre? I can gush about them just as long and just as fervently as I can about Dune or The Handmaid’s Tale.

I grew up on fairy tales, so very many fairy tales. I loved them with a passion. My other two favorites? King Arthur stories and Robin Hood stories. I devoured so many of the children’s fantasy classics: Peter Pan; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and all the other Oz books at the library; The Narnia Chronicles; the Roald Dahl books (I particularly adored The Witches); The Phantom Tolbooth; Mary Poppins; The Sword in the Stone; Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb (I loved The Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream); Freaky Friday; The Dark is Rising series; the Black Cauldron series by Lloyd Alexander; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Mrs. Piggle-wiggle’s Magic, The Princess and the Goblin; E. Nesbit’s novels; Diana Wynne Jones’s novels; The Ordinary Princess; The Hobbit. And eventually I was lucky enough to graduate to Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley.

This was one of my two favorite books (along with Ender's Game) for almost a decade. Then I added many more.

This was one of my two favorite books (along with Ender’s Game) for almost a decade. Then I added many more to my favorites list.

So now whenever I am asked about my favorite fantasy novels, or my fantasy influences, or apparently when I try to make lists of fantasy novels, those books and stories from my childhood are what I remember. I remember them from a time before I knew fantasy was a separate thing (which means, of course, that it doesn’t have to be). And a lot of my gush-worthy fantasy feelings are focused there. (Several of my favorite new fantasy novels have also been YA or MG.)

This doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate adult fantasy novels, or even love them. But I do think I approach them with eyes and mind very much informed by children’s literature, those titles that were such a deep and early part of my love of reading and of story.

How about you? Did you read a lot of fantasy or science fiction as a child? How difficult would it be for you to make those two top ten lists?

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When I was at the World Fantasy Convention this weekend, the subject of my blog came up (the way it does). I was talking about how I normally don’t do the standard convention reports here because I think they can be kind of boring for a wider audience. (Especially if you don’t drop lots of high status primate names, which weirds me out a smidge and also makes me live in fear of forgetting to mention All the Names, even though that is an impossible task.) I said that what I sometimes do instead is write about something I learned at the convention.

So now I have created expectations.

I had a convention strategy this year, which sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is. In years past, I have mainly tried to hit the big literary conventions (WorldCon and World Fantasy, along with SCBWI). But this year I decided I had the time and resources to do more, and I hit a few smaller regional conventions too; in addition to my local FogCon, I attended ConFusion in Detroit, the Rainforest Retreat in Washington, and Readercon in Boston. For those keeping track, that means in the past ten months I’ve attended seven writing events in addition to my two mini-retreats in Seattle.

My thought was that by attending some events outside of my local sphere, I’d get to meet writers who don’t necessarily travel out to the big conventions. This definitely proved to be the case. But another benefit was getting to spend quality time with people at the smaller events, and then being able to reconnect at the big conventions (where I might otherwise have never even met them).

Look! Fire escape! (I don’t know what this photo has to do with this post, either, but work with me here.)

To say that I’m happy with my year of writerly events is an understatement. But I’ve also been thinking about a conversation I had with Nick Mamatas (at Readercon) about conventions. “Why do you go to conventions?” he asked me. It was his opinion that, career-wise, I might as well stay home.

Now we can talk about promotion and networking and showing your face enough times that even the people you haven’t met or have only exchanged a few words with in passing feel like they know you. But Nick might very well be right. And it is certainly true that one can have a career as a writer without attending very many (if any) of these events, especially in the early stages. We can also talk about filling the well of inspiration, but there are more economical ways of doing that too.

No, when it comes right down to it, I attend conventions because I enjoy them. I love seeing my writer friends and making new ones. I like meeting new people. I like talking about books and writing and the publishing industry to my heart’s content. I like geeking out. I enjoy the hustle and bustle, the late nights and the groggy mornings, the packed hotel party rooms and the serendipitous meetings. I value being a part of this kooky, geeky, sometimes really screwed-up, passionate, generous community.

So that’s what I’ve learned, that for me it’s not about dollars and cents and how much exposure I got in exchange for my airfare. There’s nothing wrong with thinking of it that way–indeed, calculating return on investment is an important part of running a business–but for me, attending conventions is more than simply business.

For me, attending conventions means I get to travel while spending time with some of my favorite people. Not a bad deal at all.

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I’m back from Chicago and Worldcon and what proved to be quite a whirlwind experience. I’m also sick. Alas, using hand sanitizer and taking Vitamin C and eating fruit wasn’t enough to keep this particular miserable virus at bay. And I’m sick enough that my brain is somewhat foggy. So I’m going to table the topic I had planned to write about (which deserves my fully functional brain) and give you some snippets instead.

– I met a lot of people at Worldcon and spent most of my time socializing. And one thing that I find continually fascinating is how everybody has their own story. Some people wear their stories on their sleeves. Other people keep their interactions entirely surface to the point that it’s easy to forget they have  stories at all. And some people gradually reveal their stories to you, one layer at a time. But they’re always there: the goals and dreams, the insecurities, the setbacks and old wounds, the history, the personality quirks, and the bedrock of character.

– Many people seem to have a lot of social anxiety around convention going. There was a lot of talk about various kinds of social nervousness, as well as more than one person talking about trying to let go of worrying about what they might be missing. (“Just enjoy the con you’re at” was the chief advice being bandied about.)

I don’t have any particular insight to share about this because, as it turns out, these are not my particular problems. I tend to get nervous before a con, and sometimes I have a short period of nerves upon first arrival (although even this seems to be lessening more and more), but once I dive in, I’m pretty much fine. And I hardly ever worry about what I might be missing because what’s the point? Besides, I’m usually having a fine time doing whatever it is I’m already doing. This makes me think that perhaps some people have very different goals for their cons than I do.

That’s not to say I don’t have any problems at a con. I worry about when and what I’ll eat (because sometimes food just doesn’t happen, and sometimes I end up subsisting on French fries). I worry about my body holding up through so much standing and walking and lack of sleep. I feel sad that I don’t have as much time as I would like with many of these fabulous people I’m surrounded by. Sometimes I’m too tired to have the conversations I want to have. And sometimes I’ve had enough superficial chit chat and really want a more substantial conversation than what I’m getting. But so far, at least, I’ve found that these are workable problems.

My feet over Chicago.

– I really like Chicago. I love the varied architecture of the buildings downtown, and I love the beauty of the lake. The Art Institute was a real treat, and the pizza was intense.

– My sprained foot got hurt on an overcrowded elevator one evening, which resulted in a fair amount of pain (and possibly some tears, but don’t tell anyone). I was really struck by the generosity of spirit from the people around me. Let me tell you, I was taken care of. Before I knew it (and I certainly didn’t have the presence of mind to make any of this happen myself), I was sitting down with my foot elevated, I had ice in a ziplock bag, I had taken Ibuprofen, I had tissues to dry my eyes, and I was being diverted by kind people talking to me while not expecting me to provide a coherent response. Later, a few friends went to dinner with me in the hotel to save me extra walking, and other friends were visibly concerned, sympathetic, and willing to help. My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who contributed in turning what could have been a catastrophic event into a demonstration of kindness and thoughtfulness.

– Now I want to sleep for a week. Possibly two.

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My favorite movie is Star Wars. Star Wars: A New Hope, to be precise. I chose this favorite movie at some point during high school, and it stuck.

Now, some people will argue that The Empire Strikes Back is a superior movie, and I don’t disagree with this. However, high school me had a copy of Star Wars on VHS (without commercials, even, which was a big score) that I could watch over and over again. High school me did not have a copy of The Empire Strikes Back. (And when I eventually got one, it DID have commercials.) So Star Wars has the nostalgia win there. Also, The Empire Strikes Back has that cliffhanger ending, which means you don’t get a complete viewing experience unless you then watch Return of the Jedi, and Return of the Jedi is definitely NOT my favorite movie. Whereas Star Wars has a complete story arc contained in its two hours.

Star Wars has a lot of things going for it. Light sabers. Comic relief droids. Space ships. The neat blue lines that signal a jump to lightspeed. A kick ass princess with a sharp tongue (although alas, she is the only female character, which I consider to be one of the movie’s worst flaws). A walking carpet. An iconic bad guy who can be identified by sound, not just sight. High stakes. Guts, glory, and scoundrels.

The iconic villain also has a very recognizable silhouette.

But the reason Star Wars is my favorite movie? The emotions it evokes in me and the way I feel after I watch it. When Luke succeeds against all odds, blowing up the Deathstar and saving the entire Rebel Alliance, it reminds me of what is possible. It pumps me up and makes me feel ready to tackle my own life, my own goals, and my own problems. This feeling was valuable back when I was eleven and has continued to be inspiring ever since.

I love that Luke is just some guy, and nobody really thinks he has what it takes to make such a difference. (Well, no one except Obi Wan, anyway.) But through hard work (we don’t get to see it, but it’s implied that he’s spent large amounts of time on flying and target practice before the movie starts), courage, and belief in himself, he is able to rise above other people’s expectations of him and do his true best.

We all receive negative messages about our capabilities at some point. There are always the naysayers who think (and sometimes tell us) that we don’t have what it takes to accomplish our goals. Sometimes the loudest naysayer of all is inside our own heads. What I love about Star Wars is that it reminds me to ignore these naysayers. It reminds me that I won’t know my capabilities unless I fully commit. It encourages me to dream and strive and achieve my own personal best.

What about you? What movie inspires you? What movie makes you feel like you can take on the world?

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Dear Library,

I can’t remember the first time I stepped through your doors. In fact, my first time probably involved being carried, too young to walk. I didn’t realize then that I was visiting one of my lifetime homes.

What I do remember is visiting you without fail every other Saturday afternoon. Library Saturday, one of the high points of the week. I remember exploring the high stacks of the children’s section, what we might call Middle Grade today. My mom would linger by the new releases section, trying to pick out titles she thought I’d like, while I flung myself into the great sea of books.

Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy and Tacy books, Donald J. Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown books, Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books. I checked out the first two Lord of the Rings books but not the third, and then nearly died waiting for the next Saturday to get the third…but it was too late, the magic was lost, and I never finished. The Mary Poppins books, getting T.B. White and T.H. White mixed up, and then I discovered E. Nesbit and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books and Zilpha Keatley Snyder (oh, Below the Root).

I unearthed Beauty by Robin McKinley from your shelves, and it became my first long-lasting favorite book. I found the Pierces, Tamora Pierce and Meredith Ann Pierce, and devoured them. And when I needed a sure thing, I’d wander over to the other side of the room and choose a fat collection of fairy tales: one of the colored Fairy books, perhaps, or a collection of Grimm.

And then I graduated to Upstairs where the adult fiction lived, an endless stream of Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton and Victoria Holt.

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Some of my happiest hours were spent browsing underneath your roof. I started my own little library at home, but it didn’t matter too much that I couldn’t afford all the books I wanted because I could always visit you and find something new to read that would transport me to a magical place. That would teach me what the world could be, what my place might be in it, and how to live.

And your guardians! The wise folk who spend their days roaming your halls and helping make your knowledge more accessible. They smiled at me when I checked out the maximum twelve books every time. I couldn’t help thinking that by spending so much time there, they were absorbing the essence of the place, a situation I deeply envied. Because who wouldn’t want to spend their time surrounded by books?

Oh, Library, I love you so. You are always there waiting for me, willing to give me the brain food I crave. You, with your multiple locations and quiet reading areas and musty smell and old books that have worn edges and yellowed pages and have been touched by who knows how many pairs of hands. You, who offer knowledge and adventure and magic and possibilities to anyone who enters. You, who played such a large role in who I am today and who I will become tomorrow.

I love you, Library. You will always hold a special place in my heart.

Your admirer, and perhaps even (do I presume too much?) your daughter,

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In the wake of the sexual harassment at Readercon that is being discussed all over the internet, (and there is a petition you can sign if you wish to object to the Board’s handling of the case), I’ve been thinking a lot about sexual harassment. I’ve written about it a bit before, and I want to call up one of the comments that old post received, from Cyndi:

“As another post said, life isn’t fair. Get over it. Live your life, your way, and stop looking for ways to claim you’ve been oppressed/denied/overlooked. We all have been, in one way or another.”

What, you may ask, did I say in the post to elicit such a response? Was I whining or crying or talking about how unfair life is? Um, no. I wrote a calm and reasoned essay talking about what it meant to me to be a feminist, and bringing up, among other points, the existence of sexual harassment that women experience in their professional lives. Which, apparently, we are all supposed to just get over.

In fact, we’re not even allowed to talk about sexual harassment without being dismissed or being told that we’re looking for “special” treatment. Because apparently having one’s sexual and physical boundaries be repeatedly violated is par for the course, and we should lie down and take it without a murmur.

And then we wonder why feminists are sometimes angry.

Genevieve Valentine was incredibly brave, both in reporting the harassing incidents to the Readercon board and in publicizing what was happening. Both of these actions are ones that many women will choose not to do, for many reasons. Because we don’t want to be any trouble or cause a fuss. Because it is embarrassing. Because we might not be taken seriously or be believed. Because it might have future repercussions to our careers or to our very safety. Because we don’t want more confrontation with the person who has harassed us. Because we don’t want it to have happened.

But it IS happening. And it is not expecting special treatment or playing the victim card to bring it up, to talk about it, to ask that one’s basic expectations of safety while attending a convention be met. Not only was Genevieve Valentine harassed, but the same man who harassed her had previously harassed another woman to the point where she no longer felt comfortable volunteering. There was the infamous series of incidents at World Fantasy in 2011. I myself had an uncomfortable incident occur at Worldcon in Reno last year, which–guess what?–I did not report. And that is not the first such incident I’ve personally experienced in the field, either.

I firmly believe that this is not a problem for only the people who are harassed, but rather a problem that faces our entire community. And on a larger scale, a problem that faces our society. Because when we look the other way, when we say that this behavior isn’t so bad, then we are perpetuating the problem. When someone says, “Oh, but this has never happened to me,” that person is saying that because they haven’t experienced something personally, that means–what? That it’s never happened? That it’s not really a problem? That they don’t want to be bothered with dealing with something they aren’t forced to deal with?

Unfortunately, some of us don’t have a choice as to whether we’re going to deal with harassment.

Another quote from that old post of mine, this one from Jessica:

“Life isn’t fair, period. Only we can decide how to navigate through it & when we say we believe in equality perhaps we should consider what that word really means because it takes countless selfless acts & the removal of one’s own selfish needs to see what’s truly needed for a greater good.”

It sounds like she is saying that sexism in the workplace is needed for the greater good, and objecting to sexism and harassment is therefore selfish. And I’m sorry, I generally try to be respectful, but that is one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard. It is not selfish to not want to be treated badly. It is not selfish to want to feel physically safe while working, whether at an office or at a convention. It is not selfish to want to feel physically safe period. It is not necessary for women to be selfless and allow men to paw them and make sexual jokes at the woman’s expense. Please. Next thing I’ll be hearing is that it’s selfish for a woman to not want to be raped…especially if she is wearing a low-cut top and a short skirt. Oh, wait. People say that kind of stupid thing, too.

Talking about the problem is the first step. I don’t know what the next steps look like. But I know that saying “get over it” isn’t one of them.

I’d love to hear from you: your experiences (at the workplace or not, as a writer or not, from any gender because I’m very aware that it’s not just women who get harassed), your thoughts about sexual harassment and the Readercon debacle in particular, etc. I am going to be wielding a particularly hefty mallet in the comments section for this post, because I want this to be a safe place for discussion of a difficult issue.

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More publishing news! It’s been a busy summer. This time my contemporary fantasy story “The Dreamtime” appears online at Buzzy Magazine.

“The Dreamtime” is one of my older stories. I wrote it in the spring of 2010, and it was the story I submitted to Taos Toolbox for the first week critiques. Yes, I got fifteen critiques on this story during that first week at Taos, and almost everyone agreed on one thing: a crucial scene was missing. Yes, missing.

If anyone was looking for a testimonial on the effectiveness of Taos Toolbox as a workshop, I think I can honestly say I would never have sold this story without the revisions I did as a result of attending. I actually ended up adding two major scenes and one very short interlude, as well as deleting (well, combining with another, really) a scene. And the story is much better for all these changes.

Photo by Paul Bica

This story is also an illustration of the important role of persistence in being a writer. I finished the above revisions later that same summer, and as you see, the story is appearing two years later. It was purchased almost a year and a half after I started sending it out to markets. In fact, I was almost ready to give up and put it away for good, but I hated to do that since I still felt I could stand by it as a story. And then along came the new market Buzzy Magazine, paying pro rates and having an editorial focus that made me think “The Dreamtime” might be a good fit. I guess the editors agreed!

As for the story seed, I started out by thinking of the dreamtime as a metaphor for those moments when you begin thinking about someone in your past who you would really rather not think about. And yet there they are, waving at you from your own thoughts. But what if these people could do something similar of their own volition? A psychic phone call, if you will? From this idea was born the character of Mariah, still hung up on a crazy ex-love with the power to roam her dreams. In this way, this story is a twisted kind of love story that shows the emotional aftermath of a relationship gone wrong.

Some of my Taos classmates had trouble believing that a woman would find a man like O’Malley to be attractive since he is arrogant, dismissive, bullying, expects her to do what he wants. I have to respectfully disagree. Of course relationships like this exist in the real world. And even though these relationships are dysfunctional, that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult for the parties involved to disentangle themselves. Love doesn’t disappear so easily. The question in my mind isn’t whether such relationships exist but rather whether the individuals involved (in this case, Mariah) can develop the personal strength to move on.

I hope you enjoy!

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My flash science fiction story Man on the Moon Day is now available on Daily Science Fiction’s website. Hooray! (Make sure you press the “Display Entire Story” button so you don’t miss out on the end.)

For those of you who don’t know what flash fiction is, it is super short fiction. The word limits vary, but in my own mind, I usually define flash fiction as stories of 1000 words or less. Other people say flash fiction is even shorter than that.

I wrote Man on the Moon Day for a contest of the Codex Writers’ Group called Weekend Warrior. The idea is that every weekend for five weeks, the participants are provided with a few prompts to choose from, and must write a story of 750 words or less. Then everyone reads everyone else’s stories and rates them all from 1 to 10 and provides brief comments (a sentence or two).

For me, this contest was a great education in flash fiction, a form of fiction I hadn’t been very familiar with before. I participated in three of the weeks (one weekend I was in Detroit for ConFusion, and the last weekend I was just tired and very steeped in Novel). My first two stories…well, they weren’t very good. And then I wrote Man on the Moon Day, edited it based on contest feedback (it’s now 850 words long instead of 750), and sent it into Daily Science Fiction. Thirty-five days later I received the e-mail saying they wanted to buy it.

This story challenged me in two particular ways (well, besides the challenge of learning to write at a much shorter length, which was hard enough!). First, I was playing with a protagonist who…well, she’s fairly bitter, and many readers did not find her particularly likeable. I actually enjoy writing about protagonists who aren’t likeable but with whom I still have some sympathetic connection, and I figured, if I couldn’t play with that in such a short form, when could I get away with it? The structure of the story doesn’t help this either, as it is just one moment in time in what I consider to be the denouement of the entire story. Showing more of the story would, most likely, have helped to build more sympathy for the main character. So it was definitely a risk to take and doesn’t work for all readers. Indeed, many of the readers on Codex adamantly didn’t like this story.

The second challenge was one of theme and how this story plays into the “great space explorer” trope of science fiction. Because the story should be about the spouse who travels off into the great beyond and founds a colony on the moon…shouldn’t it? Well, I didn’t think so. In this case, I thought it was more interesting to explore what (or in this case, who) the explorer leaves behind and ask the question, at what cost? I’m not trying to make value judgments here about the cost as much as present the question to the reader so they can answer it for themselves. At the same time, the story may cause some readers to question traditional gender roles and how gender privilege sometimes asserts itself into relationships. It certainly caused me to think about that, even though I didn’t originally intend to write a story about that issue.

So this is a story that very much challenged me, as both a writer and a human being, and I hope it will challenge some of you as well.

Meanwhile, if you are wondering why a Wednesday post, it is because I will be on a plane for most of Thursday. I’ll be at Readercon outside of Boston this weekend, my first time at this particular con. I have a group Codex reading on Friday at 12pm in Room NH, at which I’ll be reading this story (it is, after all, a Codex success story). The rest of the time, I’ll be gorging on exciting panels and interesting conversation. If you are going to be there as well, I’d love to say hello!

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“So how’s the revising going, Amy?” you might well ask.

Do not be alarmed if your question is greeted with me pulling contorted faces and making strange, growling noises. But never fear; my joy in being asked about what I spend most of my waking hours thinking about will outweigh my need to do an interpretative dance to express my varied ambivalence, sheer joy, and “what was I thinking?” reactions to my current revision process.

To catch you up: At the end of April, I went to Seattle. (Did I already tell you this? I can’t remember.) Bolstered by the excellent company of my comrades-in-arms for many adventures and meals in Seattle, I resisted the urge to play tourist 100% of my time and instead read through the rough draft of my novel The Academy of Forgetting. I took copious notes, rewrote sections, and tried to make sure it was more or less coherent. Then I sent it to my most trusted novel first reader for an opinion.

The magic of revision…oh, who am I kidding? I am totally using this as an excuse to use Trey Ratcliff’s awesome Walt Disney World photo on my blog.

A week later, Daniel sent me his critique, which ran almost 4,500 words long. This was obviously not going to be a small revision pass.

So for the last month, I’ve been thinking. I haven’t wanted to dive headlong into revisions because these changes are complex enough that there is a fair amount to be figured out ahead of time. Plus a few weeks were mostly lost to injury (but oh boy, did I have a lot of time to think) and then I went on vacation, and you know. Life. But I am about ready to start writing new words and begin the simultaneously delicate and destructive task of fixing this book. The prospect fills me with both excitement and dread.

Let me give you an example of one of the changes I’ve been thinking about. There’s a plot twist at the end of the book. It is, in my opinion, a fun plot twist, and one that I looked forward to revealing the entire time I was writing the first draft. Daniel suggested that the twist doesn’t work as it currently stands. It’s not foreshadowed amply enough, for one, but he also suggested the book might be stronger if I completely cut the twist.

So now I have to decide: keep the twist or cut the twist? At first I thought I’d cut it. But then I realized that if I cut it, I’d also be cutting a key bit of information about the narrator and the narrative, which would, in my opinion, take away a large bit of the narrative depth. So then I thought, well, what if I keep it and make these foreshadowing changes, etc.? And I thought about that possibility for a while, but something felt slightly off. And then I had an exciting idea for how I can cut the twist but retain the key insight into the narrative, and I was bouncing up and down in my chair. But then I realized this idea brings up a whole new problem in terms of the plot and how I can make it work…. And on it goes.

I love the revision process because it’s challenging and interesting and convoluted and requires thinking about many things at the same time. But while I think it’s one of the most exciting things ever, it looks like me sitting in a chair and staring into space, with perhaps the occasional spurt of typing or scribbling sentences in my notebook. The writing life is often glamorous in a completely invisible way.

So that’s what I’m doing: getting ready to start a new draft, trying to resist biting my fingernails at the thought that I might demolish something that I actually needed intact, or that I might keep something that turns out to be just an old eyesore. Either of these would be fine in an isolated case, of course, but they can add up so quickly into a manuscript that simply does not work. And I’d like to make this manuscript work, if I can.

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Exciting news! For those of you who don’t follow me via social media, you may not know that my science fiction story “Daddy’s Girl” appears in this month’s issue of Redstone Science Fiction.

This publication is especially bounce-worthy for a number of reasons. First off, this sale was the one that qualified me to join SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) as a full member. Secondly, while this isn’t the first science fiction story I sold, it is the first one to be published where everyone can read it. And it has shown me that I can write stories set in an awesome space setting and sell them, which is a particularly happy thing to know.

I discovered this story’s seed while I was working on a bigger world building project. I was considering writing a YA novel with a space setting, so I sat down to figure out how my milieu would work. At a certain point I pulled my husband in to get answers to all my burning scientific questions (the immense perk of being a writer with a physics PhD and lifelong space enthusiast at my disposal).

We were talking about water, and the difficulties of procuring water in space. And he said something like, “Oh, you could just mine comets for their ice and haul it back in.”

Comets are beautiful.

Mind you, this was a completely tangential issue to anything having to do with the novel I was considering. But my imagination was instantly captured by the idea of an ice ship and the spacers who lived in it, constantly chasing after comets to bring back that oh-so-valuable resource, ice. (I have since learned, from Bill Bryson’s At Home, that there used to be an important market for ice in the past as well, pre-modern refrigerator and especially for shipping/transport issues, but I wasn’t thinking about this at the time.)

So I decided to write a short story to explore my ice ship idea further. At which point I found my character Lolly’s voice, began to understand her story, and was completely hooked.

For those of you interested in process, I wrote this story fairly quickly, did a quick revision and sanity check with my husband, and sent it off to my friend (and frequent commenter) E.F. Kelley to take a look. He identified an important scene that was missing (thanks again, Eric!), I added the scene while revising again, and then sent it off to market. I did one final revision pass before sending the story to Redstone in order to fall within their 4,000-word maximum length limit. (It had previously hovered just a few hundred words above that number, and I’m very happy to have tightened it further.)

Interestingly to me, the whole process was fairly painless, as has been the case with most (all?) of the stories I’ve sold, although certainly not the case for all the stories I have written. I imagine there is a lesson in this fact.

I hope you enjoy!

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