Tag Archives: tex thompson

SPEED AND DIRECTION: A GUIDE TO WHERE TO FIND US (JUL – SEP, 2016)

Summer is coming, and with it the opportunity to stalk encounter many of us as we pop up here and there. The following list can help you keep track of where to do just that. :

JULY 2016

LAWRENCE M. SCHOEN:
* Jul 21st – 23rd – will be participating in the 23rd annual conference of the Klingon Language Institute (the qep’a’ cha’maH wejDIch) in Chicago, IL.
* Jul 29th – 31st – is a GoH and appearing on programming at Confluence in Pittsburgh, PA.

E. C. AMBROSE:
* Jul 8th – 10th – appearing on programming at Readercon in Quincy, MA.

FRAN WILDE:
* Jul 8th – 10th – appearing on programming at Readercon in Quincy, MA.

TEX THOMPSON:
* Jul 29th – 31st – will be attending ArmadilloCon in Austin, TX.

MICHAEL R. UNDERWOOD:
* Jun 30-Jul 3rd – Appearing on programming and running the Angry Robot booth at CONvergence in Bloomington, MN.

TINA CONNOLLY:
* July 1st – 4th – appearing on programming at WesterCon in Portland, OR.

J. KATHLEEN CHENEY:
* Jun 29th – 31st – appearing on programming at ArmadilloCon 38 in Austin, TX.

AUGUST 2016

TEX THOMPSON:
* Aug 12th – 14th – will present at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, OR.
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at WorldCon in Kansas City, MO.

MICHAEL R. UNDERWOOD:
Aug 4th-7th – Appearing on programming and running the Angry Robot booth at GenCon in Indianapolis, IN.
* Aug 17th-21st – Running the Angry Robot booth at MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City, MO.

FRAN WILDE:
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at Mid-American 2 (aka the 74th WorldCon) in Kansas City, MO.

LAWRENCE M. SCHOEN:
* Aug 4th – 7th – appearing on programming at Gen Con Writers’ Symposium in Indianapolis, IN.
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at Mid-American 2 (aka the 74th WorldCon) in Kansas City, MO.

TINA CONNOLLY:
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at WorldCon in Kansas City, MO. (Including launch party for debut collection On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories)

J. KATHLEEN CHENEY:
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at Mid-American 2 (aka the 74th WorldCon) in Kansas City, MO.

BETH CATO:
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at WorldCon in Kansas City, MO. (Including the launch of her new novel, Breath of Earth, to be officially released August 23rd)

STEVE BEIN
* Aug 4th – 7th – appearing on programming at Gen Con Writers’ Symposium in Indianapolis, IN.

SEPTEMBER 2016

TEX THOMPSON:
* Sep 2nd – 3rd – will be giving the keynote address at the Roanoke Writers Conference in Roanoke, TX.
* Sep  14th – 18th – will attend BoucherCon in New Orleans, LA.
* Sep  23rd – 25th – will appear on programming at FenCon in Irving, TX.

MICHAEL R. UNDERWOOD:
* Sep 17th-24th – Attending the Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

FRAN WILDE:
* Sep 2nd – 5th – appearing on programming at Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA.

LAWRENCE M. SCHOEN:
* Sep 23rd – 25th – appearing on programming at the Baltimore Book Festival in Baltimore Inner Harbor, MD.

J. KATHLEEN CHENEY:
* Sep 2nd – 3rd – will be attending the Roanoke Writers Conference in Roanoke, TX.
* Sep  23rd – 25th – appearing on programming at FenCon in Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX.

Perilous Pauline: Romancing the Stone Age

Perilous PaulineWelcome back, fiction-friends, to another episode of The Armchair Adventures of Perilous Pauline! Hard-pressed heroes have written in, and Novelocity’s veteran ‘protagony aunt’ Pauline is here to dispense her own brand of silver-age wisdom. Add your own advice in the comments below!

-Ed.

Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen - Daniel BensenDear Pauline,

Okay. Here’s the thing. I’m a soldier from the mid-twenty-first century. Yes, I know that means I’m out of a job. No, I don’t want to talk about it. What’s important is that my current job, body-guarding scientists on trips back in time, has taken a turn for the fucked up.

I’m not going to explain the part about how time travel works. Let’s just say we arrived back in the time of the dinosaurs and we met the natives. They weren’t friendly. Now I’ve been neutralized and kidnapped by a loin-clothing-wearing rage-fueled beefcake named Trals.

Now, Trals dragged me back to his tribe and I’m pretty sure that that ritual he performed was a marriage. But it’s not for the reason you think. He’s not interested in sex. He just wants to use me and my weapons to kill his enemies. I can’t understand his language, but there’s a definite “the rivers will run red with their blood” vibe, you know?

So here’s the problem. Waging war in some crazy bronze-age dinosaur timeline is not what I signed up for. I need to secure those scientists and the time machine and get the hell out of here. But here’s the bigger problem: I don’t want to. All I want to do is to get with Trals. And by “with” I mean “into the loin-cloth of.” Yes, I know there are a thousand reasons not to fall in lust with this guy. But I guess what I’m asking for is a reason why I should? Because I already have.

Signed,

About to do Something Stupid in the Mesozoic

Wait, wait. Let’s review. You’ve been sent back in time, taken prisoner and forcibly married to a homicidal Neanderthal, and your biggest problem is that he’s gay?

Or maybe straight. (Throw me a bone here – Stupid doesn’t have a gender, but presumably you do.)

Well, far be it from me to act the prude – you know I’ve never been averse to a little primitive behavior – but how much do you actually know about this guy? Like, what’s going on behind that alluringly sloped brow of his? Is he a career warlord? Does he want a family? Where does he see himself in five million years?

Look, I’m not saying a Flintstones/Jetsons relationship can’t work. But before you sweet-talk Captain Caveman into a night of prehistoric passion, you need to figure out who he’s going to be in the morning. Get to know him. Learn his language. Find out what you have in common. And who knows? Crushing his enemies with raptor-mounted laser cannons could make for a great couples’ activity!

 

Alex Livingston - Glitch RainDear Pauline,

It’s not too late to write, is it? I’m on a self-driving rickshaw in a neighborhood built from shipping containers and the BoozeNGo drone hasn’t buzzed by with another bottle yet so I’ve got a minute. You see, I owe a LOT of kiz to this guy I used to know who just happens to have made a name for himself as an international crimelord, and all I’ve got going for me is my hacking skills and my irresistible charm.  Rich folks pay me to keep their seedier activities from showing up on the social feeds, which means I need to fit in at the best parties in the city. Which means looking damn good. Which means money. Which I’m supposed to be sending to the guy I owe so he doesn’t kill me. I could really use some advice here. Or some more top-shelf liquor. Prolly both.

Badass But Broke

All right. Listen, kid. I don’t have to know what social feedings and hack-skills and booze-drones you’re on about to know an excuse when I hear one. You screwed up. You spent somebody else’s money, and now you’re on the hook, right?

Well, I’ll tell you something: parties aren’t a real job unless you’re serving hors d’oeuvres or jumping out of a cake. So if you don’t want to end up in a pair of concrete future-boots, go take a cold shower and a hot cup of coffee, pull on a clean shirt, and get yourself a job. And I mean an honest trade for an honest wage – no more of this fiddling with cyber-widgets, you hear?

And good lord – auto-rickshaw your way to an AA meeting, will you? Life’s too short to spend it swilling Courvoisier in a shipping container, even if you are God’s gift to happy hour.

 

Pilgrim of the Storm - Russ LintonThank you for seeing me, Mistress Pauline. I hope to not take too much of your time so I will get straight to the reason for my visit.

My Master, Cloud Born Izhar, has chosen this Deep Night Festival to begin our pilgrimage, a ritual of which I am sure you are probably deep in preparations for. It marks my chance to walk in the footsteps of the Savior of Humanity, ascend to the rank of Cloud Born, and complete my training under my most illustrious mentor.
I only pray I am equal to the task.

I have many concerns regarding this but I would inquire to you about one of a more personal nature. My peers have seemed distant since the announcement I would be accompanying them. Truthfully, there have always been barriers with the other acolytes which I cannot clearly understand.

Like family, I assist them in their chores, help them to memorize the twelve thousand, one hundred and sixty-two mantras. And like a family, we work together toward a common goal. No fields to tend, no trade to perfect, but a Temple to grace and venerate and a Mighty Dragon of Storm and Fire to appease. And though I pursue these tasks tirelessly, I sense my efforts are not often respected.

I am starting to think it may be because I am different. As you can see, I am an Ek’kiru, or bugman.

But I have kept my wings mostly to myself. My hands, the extras, have found their way into the lower sleeves Master Izhar sewed for me, but this has only been for efficiency’s sake. I realize my eyes, quite large in comparison, and my antennae, can be a distraction for my peers (and myself), so I do my best to keep these tucked beneath my hood.
Despite this, my fellow acolytes’ indifference taunts me.

I am being silly, I know. We are all brothers under the Undying Storm as the Attarah’s wisdom says. However, I would like to hear your advice. Commoner’s tales, the riddles of trolls, and all the murkiness of thought outside the Temple notwithstanding, I hear you are most wise and as my Master reminds me (over and over) Wisdom shall chose the house in which it dwells. May it grace yours until the Timeless Age has begun.

 

My goodness. That is a whole lot of words to say “I’m a lonely bug-monk without any friends.” Are you sure they’re not just cold-shouldering you because you never stop talking?

Well, listen. Relationships are hard, and coworkers can be damned annoying. Here’s a funny thing about people, though: we don’t respect someone who isn’t genuine – no matter how many mantras they’ve memorized. Yes, it’s hard to be the diversity hire. But if you want to be taken seriously, you can’t go around sweeping yourself under the rug. Own your bugness, man! Put those extra arms to some use. Be the giant click-beetle everyone at work can agree on!

And while we’re at it, let’s see what we can do to work on your banter. I know you have a Temple to grace and a Mighty Dragon to appease, but visiting a Party of Cocktails would do you a world of good.

 

Do you have a SFF book out in the world? Does your hero need a little help? Have them write to Perilous Pauline, c/o tex at thetexfiles.com!

Perilous Pauline: Escape From Shawshank Five

Perilous PaulineWelcome back, fiction-friends, to another episode of The Armchair Adventures of Perilous Pauline! Hard-pressed heroes have written in, and Novelocity’s veteran ‘protagony aunt’ Pauline is here to dispense her own brand of silver-age wisdom. This week, we have time-travelling GIs, prison-planet refugees, and one stressed-out portal-hopping preteen. Add your own advice in the comments below!

-Ed.

The Invisible City - Brian K LoweDear Pauline,

There I was, just another officer minding my own business in the trenches, and suddenly I’m not in 1915 any more–I’m about a million years in the future! This place is crazy; they’ve recreated the dinosaurs, the mutants are out of hand, and a bunch of guys from outer space are running the place now. I hear there might be a time machine out there to help me get back, and I did sort of volunteer for the war back home, but honestly, they could really use me here, too. I mean, my old mates are all dead now anyway, right? What difference does it make now who won the Great War? And see, I’ve met this girl… What am I supposed to do–go back and fight for my country, or stay here and fight for humanity (and the girl)?

Out of Time and Out of Time

 

You see? You see, Willard? I told you this would happen. Total anarchy, I said. Cats and dogs living in sin together. Democrats in the White House. Well, I hope you’re laughing in hell, you rotten old pinko: the god-damned Bolsheviks have gotten clean out of hand, and now the future’s nothing but dinosaurs and mutants and chlamydia. Forty-nine years we had, Willard! Forty-nine years – and now the great-great-great grandchildren are going to be shacking up with little green men. This never would have happened under Harding’s watch.

Where were we? Oh, right. Stay where you are, OT/OT, and go get the girl. It sounds like we’ll need a few good men to repopulate the human race, and lord knows we’re not going to find any around here.

 

Petra - Matthew S RotundoDear Pauline,

Look, this was supposed to be just a fact-finding mission.  It’s not like I wanted to go to a brutal prison planet.  Sure, it can be pretty here on Petra, but seriously—it’s a prison planet.  Now some of the inmates have staged an uprising, claiming they have knowledge of a shattering secret.  And Rolf Ankledge, Petra’s ruthless warden, will stop at nothing to keep it from reaching Ported Space.  So through no fault of my own, I’m trapped in a hostage situation.  And if that’s not bad enough, the prisoners want me to help them escape.  If I involve myself, I risk losing everything I have. If I do nothing, I betray the last shreds of my ideals.  And all I really want is to get home to my family.  Is that too much to ask?

So what am I supposed to do now?

Imperiled on Petra

P.S. Communications are restricted, so I’m not even sure if this message will reach you, but I have to try.  If anyone can help me, surely you can.  Oh, wait, I think I hear someone com—

 

You know, IOP, that sounds like a sticky situation. Let me tell you a little secret about ideals: they sound pretty on paper, but they don’t pay the rent. You know who doesn’t need to worry about paying rent? Dead people. Catch my drift?

Now repeat after me: “not my space-circus, not my prison-monkeys.” As of right now, your job is to lie, connive, and fornicate your way out of there by any means necessary – ideals be damned. After you get home, you can embellish the good parts, cover up the sordid ones, and sell the whole story for a sweet book deal and Oscar-bait movie. (And let me tell you, IOP: option money buys a whole lot of therapy.)

Now get out there and get at it! I’ll look forward to receiving my autographed copy of “Escape From Shawshank Five.”

 

The Sword of Six Worlds - Matt MikalatosDear Perilous Pauline,

My name is Validus Smith (problem number one, thanks mom and dad!) and my substitute teacher is trying to murder me. Turns out a nearby world thinks I’m the only one who can save them from a creeping darkness called the Blight, and my sub works for said creepy darkness. Apparently this whole world thinks a middle schooler saving the world is normal. Any advice for how I might the able to save the world, get home, and finish my science homework before it’s due on Friday? 

Signed,

The Portal World Ate My Homework

 

You know, Validus, I’m not sure you understand this whole anonymous sign-off conceit. Usually it works better if you don’t also use your real name. But let’s go ahead and run with it – if nothing else, the publicity means your sub will have to work that much harder to make it look like an accident.

So here’s the thing about portal worlds: time is notoriously widgety on the other side of the wardrobe. If you’re feeling the crunch, I would work on that whole saving-the-world thing first. It could be that you have a grand adventure, discover your own hidden strengths, save the day, and pop back into your bedroom two seconds after you left it – in which case you’re not even late for dinner. Or it could be that you come back to find that a hundred years has passed and everyone you know and love is dead, in which case you’re definitely off the hook for building that potato clock. It’s a win either way!

Oh, try not to judge your sub too harshly. Moonlighting for evil looks awfully attractive when you’re taking home $10 an hour.

 

Do you have a SFF book out in the world? Does your hero need a little help? Have them write to Perilous Pauline, c/o tex at thetexfiles.com!

Perilous PaulineWelcome back, fiction-friends! You’re just in time: hard-pressed heroes have written in, and veteran ‘protagony aunt’ Perilous Pauline is here to dispense her own brand of silver-age wisdom. Add your own advice in the comments below!

-Ed.
 

Rachel A. Marks - Darkness BrutalDear Pauline,

I guess I’ll just come right out and say it; I’m a homeless kid who can see demons. It sucks. Like, huge suck. It’s also super vital, since the demons are after my little sister. I have to focus on keeping her safe from these creatures that only I can see. The thing is . . . I met this girl—yeah I know, I sound like a lame-ass—but there’s just something about her. This crazy way my whole being reacts to her, to her soul. She’s not my type, not at all. She’s so clean, and good. And she actually seems to be normal, despite a possible demon problem of her own. Maybe I should help her. Because what are these weird gifts any good for if I can’t use them to help others, right? Plus, I could use a little normal in my life. Of course, in my life I’d likely turn her “normal” into horror—I’m probably a jerk to even contemplate all this.

So, yeah, this is my problem. It’s fucking ridiculous to think about girls when I’ve got demons chasing me, but I’m seventeen and what can I say? Hormones.

Lost in Los Angeles

Okay, LiLA – let me get this straight. You’re living rough, the walls are bleeding, and the only thing harder to come by than a good night’s sleep is a shower. But despite all that, there’s a nice girl interested in you, and the feeling is mutual. And that’s a problem?

Well, I suppose I can understand it. It can feel selfish to fantasize about hand-holding and hair-smelling when you’re trying to keep your kid sister from disappearing into the television. But here’s the thing, champ, and you might want to sit down for this. This girl of yours? Is a rational human being who can decide for herself how deep down your hellspawned rabbit-hole she wants to go – and she’s also an extra pair of eyes and hands and a brain that’s probably working better than yours. It’s good that you’re concerned about helping her, but let’s take a big self-interested step back and think about what she can do for you – because frankly, you sound like you need all the help you can get.

R.L. King - Stone and a Hard PlaceDear Pauline,

On the surface, things are going fairly well for me: I’ve got a good job, people tell me I’m decently attractive and charming (albeit a bit too sarcastic for my own good), and American women go mad for my British accent (honestly, I think it’s a superpower). Convincing them to go out with me isn’t the difficult part. Invariably, we have a lovely time—she’s happy, I’m happy. But then it starts: the extradimensional horrors popping out at inconvenient times. The evil mages seeking revenge who simply can’t wait until I’m alone. The Things Man Was Not Meant to Know who turn up and cause trouble when I’m trying to make a good impression. Next thing I know, she’s giving me those sideways looks and refusing to return my calls. What can I do to convince potential love interests to look past the oddness and see the real me?

A Bit More Love, A Bit Less Craft

Here’s a thought exercise for you, BML/BLC: why do offices always have those rules against employees dating each other? Well, I’ll tell you: because the employees will do it every chance they get. Right now, I guarantee you that somewhere on the outskirts of Pensacola, a desperately boring pair of insurance underwriters are going at it like lust-addled rabbits in the mailroom. A romance born of beauty, charm, and the Queen’s English? Hardly. All they needed was a shared love of actuarial tables and two cups of bad coffee.

So rather than wooing these delicate daisies of yours and then trying to break the supernatural news gently, why not look for someone who’s already working in your department, so to speak? You sound like quite the catch, but I’m sure you’re not the only one keeping the world from collapsing into chaos and horror. Next time you’re on the clock, take the time to introduce yourself to a fellow exorcist, or maybe a nice young levelheaded survivor – right after you save her from the abyssal fiend, of course. You know what I always say: there’s no better aphrodisiac than a pair of train-tracks and a dashingly punctual gentleman!


R.D. Ferguson - Mistress of VisionDear Pauline,

 
Hi, I’m a twelve-years-old girl. My younger brother and I were escaping from off-world aliens when we got separated; he was doing stupid stuff as usual or we would have gotten away clean. Then a volcano erupted and bonded an alien shape-shifter’s personality to mine. It’s tough enough for me to understand myself without having thirty-thousand years of alien memories thumb-tacked to the back of my brain. I can’t go to my folks because they will be mad that I misplaced my brother. I can’t talk to my old friends because I don’t think they will like the new me. I’m really confused, or as the Vanhem Pi say, “Croset-eh-jurain.” Oops, when did I learn to speak Vanhem Pi? Who are the Vanhem Pi? What should I do?
 
Signed,
Living at Cross-Purposes

What should you do? I’ll tell you what you should do – you march back to that volcano right this minute and get your brother back! And what were you doing playing with aliens anyway? No, don’t tell me – this is more of that Mr. Spock parenting, I’m sure. Well, you listen to me: nice young ladies don’t speak in tongues, and they don’t let their little brother get eaten by Venusian tentacloids, either. Now you have a good head on your shoulders, so I expect you to use it (and whatever’s living in it) to go do the right thing. And when you get home, tell your parents that you need an old priest, a young priest, and some responsible supervision. There’s a good girl!

 

Do you have a SFF book out in the world? Does your hero need a little help? Have them write to Perilous Pauline, c/o tex at thetexfiles.com!

Perilous Pauline: Plot Twists and Fairy Trysts

Perilous PaulineWelcome back, fiction-friends! You’re just in time: hard-pressed heroes have written in, and veteran ‘protagony aunt’ Perilous Pauline is here to dispense her own brand of silver-age wisdom. Add your own advice in the comments below!

-Ed.

 

 
A Kind of MagicDear Pauline,

My sister isn’t afraid of anything other than feelings, but I think she may need a prod or two to get her to make a move on a guy I’m pretty sure is into her. I know she’s into him, but she seems to think it would be weird because she’s kind of the reason his wife got abducted by the fairies and ended up stuck in the fairy world. Do you have any advice for helping these two get their act together? Also, is there any hope for a human who wants to stay in this world and a fairy guy who can’t live for long outside his world? I’m asking for a friend.

Signed,

Impatient Sister

Fairies? Is that what the kids are calling them nowadays? Or are you telling me you’re actually contemplating a tryst with Tinkerbell? You know, back in the day, we didn’t go around dropping our knickers for every mer-pixie and were-wight in Christendom. What’s wrong with good old-fashioned human men, I’d like to know?

Wait – don’t answer that. Let’s move on.

1. Is the wife evil? Or maybe dying of fairy-cancer? Because that would make this a whole lot easier. Regardless, make sure the magic ink is dry on the enchanted divorce papers before your sister makes a move: nobody likes a homewrecker, even if they live in a toadstool.

2. Are we sure Twinkletoes is actually allergic to the real world, and not just to the prospect of a committed relationship? He might be trying to let you down gently. Hot tip: if he catches you looking at real estate listings and suddenly has to rush back to the Magic Kingdom, you’ve got a problem with your interest rate that no amount of fairydust is going to solve.

In any case, good luck, IS. If that Littlest Mermaid can make it work, so can you.

 

Vicious CircleHey Pauline,

Asking for advice or help isn’t really my style. I mean, if an assassin can’t solve her own problems, she’s not really much of a badass, now is she? That said, when emotions come into play, I’m kind of a disaster, so I’m turning to you. I’ve got this client. She’s hired me to eliminate her abusive and politically powerful brother. No problem there. Except, whenever I’m around her, I have a hard time concentrating on the job. She’s got this red-gold hair, a smile that lights up a whole room, and . . . well, not only have I never had a thing for other women before (not that I’m opposed to it, mind you), but she’s also the first person I’ve ever encountered who makes me question who and what I am. I’m an assassin. I’m good at it. I’ve never known anything else. But lately, I’ve wondered what my life would have been like if I’d chosen another course, and if it’s too late to change my direction now and take a different path . . . with her. Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

Deadly but Disheartened

Ah, that’s a tough one, DD. If you were a man, this would be a cake-walk. Unfortunately, the mortality rate for mono-sexual romances is atrocious, even in this so-called progressive age.

Still, old Pauline’s walked her share of cakes, and I tell you what: if you and your lady-friend want to get to happily-ever-after, there are three secrets to success:

1. Do not consummate the relationship before you plug the Big Bad. This is the kiss of death.

2. Do not fantasize about picket fences and babies, at least not together. Better yet, don’t plan anything with her at all – no “see you at seven”, no “wait here and I’ll be right back”, no nothing. If she thinks you’re an uncommitted cad, congratulations: she’s still alive.

3. If one of you has some unresolved trauma holding you back, that would be great – and I’m guessing that’ll be you, since nice well-adjusted young ladies don’t tend to make a career out of icing people.

Basically, you know that saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, if you want to get fixed – romantically, emotionally, vocationally – get out there and make yourself a whole sultry scratch-and-dent sale. You can do it!

 

Ranger of MayatDear Pauline,

I’m having a really rough go of it and could use a kick in the kilt. A small indiscretion left me exiled to the northern frontier. All my friends and allies are on the southern front, having a great time without me. I pray to the gods daily, but the b******* are either not listening or just not responding. And now I’m not even sure my horse likes me any more. I’m hearing gunshots on the wind and sensing darkness closing in. How can this weary soldier of order and justice catch a break?

Signed,
A Ranger in Danger

Well, ARiD – how do I put this delicately? The bad news is, everyone you know and love is dead. The good news is, so’s your time as a gormless rube who buys his horse flowers. C’est la vie.

Still, it sounds like you’ve got some R&R before you embark on your career in sole survivorship. So if you’re looking to make your time in exile constructive, it wouldn’t hurt to rehearse the moment when you return to find your hometown burned to the ground and then swear revenge. Preparation, ARiD – that’s the difference between a soul-searing moment of pathos and a cheese-smeared hamtastrophe.

 

Do you have a SFF book out in the world? Does your hero need a little help? Have them write to Perilous Pauline, c/o tex at thetexfiles.com!

Introducing Perilous Pauline!

Let’s be real, people: being a hero is hard work. And sometimes heroes need a little help – a little advice from someone who can relate. Not us, of course (we’re writers, the source of all misery!) But we’re absolutely delighted to introduce Novelocity’s resident advice columnist, a distinguished silver-age heroine who’s been there, done that, and wouldn’t be caught dead in a T-shirt. Let’s have a big round of virtual applause for our very own protagony aunt: Perilous Pauline!

Perilous Pauline

Boldly protagging since you-better-not-ask-when.

Dusk, by David DoubDear Pauline,

I am much more mature and sophisticated than these silly little girls you see on TV and movies, pining away for aloof and uncharismatic vampires. I’ve been swimming in the deep end of the supernatural world for so long, I am painfully too familiar with what true darkness looks like. That’s why I am so frustrated with working with my current Vampire Lord – because I know he is nothing like the others. True, he does things many would find quite unsavory, but it’s out of the necessity of compassion that he makes those hard choices. He keeps using that same compassion against me, saying I would be better off back in the light with my own mortal kind. He states rather too eloquently that I am free from the shackles cruel fate had bound me with, yet he will refuse me the most important decision of my life?

Or more simply put, how do I get my Vampire Lord go to out with me?

Bitter Thanks,
Desperate for Darkness

Vampires! Bah! You kids today, with your bloodsucking underwear models – back in my day, vampires were the grotesque product of Victorian sexual repression, and that was that! Really, DD, what are you thinking? Is he going to take you out for a nice dinner, wow you in the sack? He eats under a bridge, probably dresses like a widowed backup-dancer, and hasn’t been able to get it up since Cleopatra was in pigtails. Slap some sense into yourself, DD – and if you really can’t shake the death-fetish, go find yourself a nice consumptive young man, dump some glitter on him, and get hitched before he knocks off. I’m sure you’ve got your little black dress already picked out.

Tarbox Station, by Rhonda EudalyDear Pauline,

Sometimes a girl just wants to have some fun, you know? But as a diplomat on a long-term mission with an alien delegation , it’s really hard to find a nice young man of my own species to have a drink with! I mean, really, when your job is bouncing from one exploding space station to another trying to keep alien diplomats alive, you just don’t have time for online dating! What’s a girl to do? Get a plague just to spend a few days in an infirmary? Cause an international incident? Please help me!

Signed,

Lovelorn in Deep Space
Oh, I know your type, LiDS. The up-and-comer. The career girl. I could solve your problem in one sentence: you find yourself a nice pair of train tracks and get yourself tied to them toot-de-sweet, and I guarantee the man of your dreams will show up right before the 4:19 to Peoria. But that’s not good enough, is it? “Oh, Pauline – I’m not that kind of girl! I’m a big, strong, empowered woman who doesn’t need a man to save me!” Well, if you don’t need him, is it any wonder he isn’t beating down your airlock to buy you a drink? Expand your event horizons and practice a little strategic helplessness, LiDS. Let your hair down – spruce yourself up a little – let somebody else keep YOU alive for a change!

And if all else fails, you can always buy yourself a space-cat.

Undead Rising, by M.E. KinkadeDear Pauline:

Life is never easy, but it seems un-life isn’t really any better. In addition to my ongoing identity crisis (who am I, really? I’m you? You’re me? I’m screwed…), I’m pretty sure my coworkers are turning into zombies. Like, for serious. And maybe everyone else in New York—the barista just tried to bite me, which seems out of character even on a rough day around here. Everything just went from normal to insane in about an hour and I don’t know what to do. I need guidance at practically every chapter in my life. I need someone to choose my destiny for me. Where should I turn?

Undead Rising in New York

That’s a tricky one, URiNY (did you really think that acronym through?) The way I see it, there are two possibilities: if you’re a lady, just sit tight and the hero should show up any minute now with guns blazing. If you’re a man (or a woman in one of those newfangled TV serials), you’re either going to die in the time it takes me to reply, or else you’re in for a whole heap of unlikely heroism, which will forge your wishy-washy milquetoastery into a resolve and/or abdominals of steel. So if you’re still alive to read this, congratulations! Now hitch up your britches, roll the dice, and go save that day!

Do you have a SFF book out in the world? Does your hero need a little help? Have them write to Perilous Pauline, c/o tex at thetexfiles.com!

Vectors: Disliked Required Reading from School

We love books., in general. There will, however, be exceptions. That’s especially true of assigned reading from school. We delve into our pasts to remember the books that made us growl, fuss, and contemplate violent acts against Ernest Hemingway.

What required reading in school did you absolutely despise?

 

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney
To be honest, practically everything. I spent most of my high school career trying to get out of reading authors like Conrad and Hemingway and Faulkner. I suppose that my second runner up was Moby Dick, which will, no doubt, meet with gasps from some people. It simply didn’t make sense to me. This was followed by Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, which I found annoying because I found the narration manipulative. (I especially disliked that we didn’t learn the guy’s name.) My crown for Worst Torture of High School Students, however, goes to Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony”, which is eighty pages of a horse dying slowly and a kid feeling miserable about it. RedPony

Essentially, I discovered early that I didn’t like what most English Majors consider ‘deep’ or ‘important’ works of fiction. They tended to be depressing, which is simply Not My Thing.

And thank heavens for my college English prof who taught Literature: Fiction who taught Tolkien and L’Amour and let me do my reports on The Mabinogion. and Gillian Bradshaw.

Fran2014Fran Wilde
My math book.

People in my family are notoriously good at math and engineering. Unlike them, I knew myself to be terrible at it. I focused on art and English. Took the algebra class with the goofy word problems, not calculus. A high school teacher (a kind soul, Mr. Maas) went so far as to pull me aside to talk DaVinci and show me how an artist could also be a mathematician. He was convinced — possibly because he’d taught my sister (now a world-class naval architect and marine engineer [whoops, sorry, proud sister moment]) by then — that all he needed to do was overcome my resistance and I would happily devour numbers like a good member of my clan.

Amusingly, the minute I learned I could automate an animation in Flash using algorithms, or build something really cool in php, I was All Over the Math. And I was good at it, too, most of the time. It took programming and lots of it to help me overcome my fear. Now I love it quite a lot.

Dear Mr. Maas, thank you for trying. Sorry I was late to class.

Steve BeinSteve Bein
I went to the same high school as Ernest Hemingway, and so naturally our teachers beat us half to death with Hemingway. I bore a grudge against that man for years.

Today, The Old Man and the Sea is one of my favorite books. When I teach a class on writing some day, it will be required reading. I could talk for ten minutes about the first sentence alone. He accomplishes so much with it. old man and the sea

But in high school, I wanted to replace the bronze bust we’d pass as we walked through the front door. Instead of a bust of ruggedly handsome middle-aged Hemingway, I wanted end-of-life Hemingway, which is to say Hemingway with his mouth open, the back of his head hollowed out, and a bunch of melted bronze splattered on the wall behind it.

Sorry, a little too much? That’s how much I hated Hemingway.

hemingway bust

Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen
Once again, Steve Bein seems to be reading my mind. My first thought was to talk write bout Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, one of many novels forced upon the 12-year old me in Mrs. Byers 7th Grade Honors English class. To this day, all I can recall from the book is the eponymous protagonist’s fondness for Joe DeMaggio and his incessant whining about how he “wished the boy was here.”

AnimalFarmBut the more I thought about it, the more another book from that same class intruded on my awareness, blocking out all rational thought. I refer of course to George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Now, what makes this particularly ironic is that the book I have sitting on my editor’s desk at Tor right now originally had the elevator pitch of “Dune meets Animal Farm as it’s a far future adventure set in a galaxy full of anthropomorphic animals. But irony aside, I just didn’t get what Orwell was selling. I followed the power struggle. I loved that bit about “all animals are equal, and some are more equal than others,” and it probably contributed in some small way to pushing me down the road toward a fascination with language and linguistics. But — and I cannot stress this strongly enough — every fricking bit of allegory went completely over my head. Communism? Seriously?

I should add that it’s not just the book itself that put it to the #1 spot on this list, but the book report that followed in Mrs. Byers’s class. And not my book report, that was fine (so far as it went). It was the horror and confusion that followed when another kid got up to do his report on the same book, and the elaborate explanations of pigs as communists that flowed form his lips, using vocabulary that he’d never demonstrated before and wouldn’t again for years. Yeah, and I don’t doubt that his parents helped him build that working volcano for science class later in the year.

CharlesEGannonCharles E. Gannon
The required reading that I found most aversive were all “theory” tracts, and so, while they were often picayune in their objects and habits of analysis, they were also written from that fever-pitch of earnestness that typifies many of the “must read” critical works that populate masters and doctoral program lists. Specific titles and authors elude me now—for which I am thankful.

Many of these treatises were hypertrophied (not to say bloated and fatuous) explications of “critical apparatuses” so extraordinary lofty and finely nuanced that the authors had to invent whole new vocabularies to express them. And by inventing that vocabulary, the author conveniently created a special kind of unassailable authority. I’ll call out two disciplines to illustrate: social psychology and literary theory.

For every practical and empirical in social psychology, there seems to be another whose imagination and sense of utility are both moribund. So they hide their paucity of worthy content in a deep and trackless thicket of terms, taxonomies, and distinctions so fine and so unnecessary that it makes the classic debate about how many angels may dance on the head of a pin sound like white-coated lab science.

In the domain of literary criticism, something similar started increasing as the theoretical vigor of post-modernism and deconstruction began sliding down into decrepitude. Nervous doctoral candidates and untenured assistant professors began mining the far reaches (not to say howlingly obscure corners) of their fields in search of something optimally recondite/byzantine. Lacanian and Foucauldian theory in fusional critical apparatuses, for instance. The agonizingly esoteric arguments resembled those between computer code jockeys over the respective merits of different programming languages and architectures, resulting in debates that were of interest to–maybe–63 people on the face of the planet.

No wonder I forgot the names and titles of the specific assignments—or maybe I suppressed them to get past the resentment of having to act as if all these emperors of theory were, in fact, wearing new clothes.

Dr. Charles E. Gannon’s current Nebula-nominated novel, Fire with Fire, was a best-seller and is also a finalist for the Compton Crook Award for best first novel. It is the first volume of an interstellar epic that continues in the forthcoming sequel, Trial by Fire (August 2014). Gannon is coauthor with Steve White of Extremis, the latest entry in the Starfire series created by David Weber, and 1635: The Papal Stakes, a Wall Street Journal Best-Seller in Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire universe. He has numerous shorter publications in shared world series, anthologies, and Analog. As part of his ongoing work with various defense and intelligence organizations (Pentagon, Air Force, NATO, others), Gannon was invited to present sections of Fire with Fireat the NRO, as well as highlights from his non-fiction book Rumors of War and Infernal Machines(winner of the 2006 ALA Choice award, Best Book of 2006). A multiple Fulbright scholar, Gannon is also Distinguished Professor of American Literature at St. Bonaventure University.

JamesLCambiasJames L. Cambias
I had the advantage of going to one of New Orleans’s better schools, Isidore Newman School, and now that I can see what my own kids are reading in school I realize how good the reading list at Newman was. But there was one exception.

In my freshman year of high school, back in 1981, the theme of the English class was “coming of age.” We read Lord of the Flies and Romeo and Juliet and Henry IV, Part II. All excellent stories of young people finding their place and role in the world. I learned a lot in that class; that was my first real exposure to Shakespeare’s works.

But for some reason, among all those classics, we were also handed a little paperback collection of short stories about “youth in rebellion” or something like that. I forget the title, but it had groovy early-Seventies cover art and featured stories like “The Bike” by Alan Sillitoe and John Updike’s “A&P,” and I’m pretty sure there were some excerpts from S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders in it as well.Outsiders

I’m not entirely sure why someone thought that stories of young people struggling with authority figures would resonate with a bunch of affluent, brainy kids in a private prep school in New Orleans. My classmates were authority figures in training — one of them became a city councilwoman, a couple of others now run some of the city’s big businesses. A lot of them became lawyers. Not a hotbed of angry youth. Our brushes with rebellion mostly consisted of trying to sneak into the college bars around Tulane despite being underage.

Now, the stories in that little paperback were fine. Whoever put the collection together obviously picked excellent selections. It was the purpose of the anthology, and the reason for assigning it which I despised. Apparently some editor decided that “today’s youth” circa 1978 couldn’t relate to fiction which wasn’t about contemporary teenagers. And my teachers, though they put Shakespeare and Golding on the lesson plan, apparently bought into that notion.

It irritated me, and it irritates me still, because I couldn’t avoid the impression that my teachers were trying to apply their Baby Boomer-era template of “youth rebellion” to my own Generation X cohort. We weren’t rebels; when my friends watched The Graduate our universal reaction was “take the plastics job, you idiot!” In their painstaking effort to reach out to “today’s youth” the teachers only demonstrated how little they understood our actual concerns.

The result was a paradox. If my teachers were trying to encourage myself and my fellow students to be rebels, as they liked to imagine themselves to have been, then we defied them by refusing to do so.

James L. Cambias writes SF and designs games. Originally from New Orleans, he lives in western Massachusetts. His stories have appeared in F&SF, Shimmer, Nature, and several original anthologies. A Darkling Sea, his first novel, came out in January 2014. Mr. Cambias has written for GURPS, Hero Games, and other roleplaying systems, and is a partner in Zygote Games. He is a member of the notorious Cambridge SF Workshop. Read his blog at www.jamescambias.com.

BethCato-steampunk-headshotBeth Cato
High school freshmen reading material is very depressing. My class read through Romeo and Juliet, Antigone, and the William Golding book Lord of the Flies. In case you haven’t read that novel of doom and gloom, it’s about English school boys on a desert isle who lose all their civilized senses and descend into their primitive, baser selves. Rather like going to high school, just without the profanity and innuendo. One of the boys–the most sane of the lot–is dubbed Piggy. He’s fat, and has glasses, and is treated like dirt… and I related to him strongly. I felt like the female equivalent of Piggy at my school.lordoftheflies

I won’t say what happens to Piggy.

I enjoyed my social studies class–I had a great teacher, Mr. McCaw–and loved reading. But wow, did I hate that book. Lord of the Flies mirrored what I saw around me, and it was neither pretty or hopeful. It’s the first book I remember reading where I thought, “Wow. I hate all of these characters. Rocks need to fall and kill all of them… except Piggy.” Then I kept reading.

Sigh.

Tex ThompsonTex Thompson
I had my share of less-than-favorite authors in school. Any unit on the Romantic poets was always especially tough to stomach, though eventually I learned to get through it with mental MST3K. (“Dad, I had a feeling today!” “Well, don’t, son.”)fear-and-trembling

But it wasn’t until I was in college that I met a Liberal Art that I absolutely could not master. I’m not ashamed to say that Aristotle punched me in the breadbasket, Descartes kicked out the back of my knees, and Nietzsche smashed a chair over my back. I was used to sobbing in frustration over differential equations and stoichiometry, but it was AMAZING to me how completely my powers of “reading words on a page and having an MLA-format Deep Thought about them” failed me in philosophy. Kierkegaard, you are my Kryptonite.

I would like to end with some Eye of the Tiger stuff here, but the short story is that I buckled like a belt, took Mexican Politics instead, and can converse at length about the damaging effects of “toallagate” on the Fox administration. Let’s call that a win.

Vectors: What does your workspace look like?

This week, we asked folks what their writing workspace looks like. The responses are as varied as you might imagine. What does your workspace look like?

tina_connolly-300x450Tina Conolly: So I just this second turned in a book to my editor (Silverblind) and I always like to celebrate with a good house-cleaning. Which is a way of saying that, until that happens, my desk is unpardonably messy right now with things one is not supposed to put on the internet, like tax documents and bank statements and things. So here’s a picture from when we moved in almost two years ago.

The house is a fixer, a beautiful old 40’s house on a hill. Good bones. Very nearly one owner (long story.) Long ago they made an addition over the garage–a wood-panelled room with built-in bookcases. It was used as the conservatory–it had a piano and an organ in it when we toured the house. Now, of course, it’s a library–and one corner is my study.

2012-03-06-60-boxes-of-books

We worked on the house for three months before we moved in, just getting some basics out of the way. During that time we slowly packed up the old house and brought things over. Here’s 67 bankers’ boxes worth of books–stacked two deep on the top shelves, and three deep on the bottom ones. Now, of course, the 14 other bookcases have come over, so the books can be in single file.

My desk is opposite this, on a corner window high over the street. This is Portland, so my view is full of trees–our fig tree, for one, and tons of giant evergreens. I’ve had my desk as long as I can remember. It was my dad’s when he was little. For awhile desktop monitors were so huge, you know, that I had to use a different desk with a keyboard drawer. But now I’m back to this one, and the keyboard just sits on top. But the best feature as far as I’m concerned is that it has two boards that pull out to make more writing surface, one on each side. I suppose you’re supposed to use them for signing official documents. When I was little I closed them up and hid papers in there. Now I mostly use them for elbow rests and to-do lists. But I love them.



BethCato-steampunk-headshotBeth Cato: When I read this topic, my first thought was, “Oh no. Now I have to clean.” See, I’m in the middle of work on a new book. I’m doing basic clean-up stuff around the house, but my desk is a low priority right now. It tends to get really cluttered when I’m in a big project.

After a few days, I realized that the desk wasn’t going to get cleaned, so I may as well upload an honest, revealing picture of my desk. So here it is, complete with captions to explain some things.

Beth-desk-caption

I’m also including a picture of what I see if I turn around. My cat Porom has slept in this Amazon box to the point of its total structural failure. The print on the label has even worn off. Plus, books! Lots of books. I have four Billy bookcases from Ikea loaded with books and then my to-read shelf overflows into seven stacks on the floor. I  might have a book collecting compulsion. Beth-cat1-caption



Tex ThompsonTex Thompson: Well, my setup is primarily a product of my ongoing challenges with time and weight management.  I use a standing desk (Elfa shelving, what what!) with a piece of showerboard behind it as my calendar.  For me, the calendar is less about what I’m going to do than what I actually DID.  I color-code with dry-erase markers (green for day-job stuff, red for writing stuff, blue for responsible earth-human chore-y stuff, etc.) so I can see about where my time is going.  There’s another whiteboard in the kitchen where I keep my to-do list, so I stay accountable for the specifics.

Oh, and that’s Senior Secretary Peaches up in the crow’s nest there.  She sucks at dictation and filing, but makes a great sounding board during brainstorming time.  I guess she’s more of an “ideas” cat.
texdesk



Steve BeinSteve Bein: This is a faithful Lego representation of my desk, and also of my penchant for aloha shirts.  It doesn’t look much like my office — I would never paint my walls the color of Simpson skin — but that doesn’t matter, since I don’t always write in my office. The only important feature of my writing space is silence.

Nietzsche was dead right when he said, “Noise murders thought.”  When I have silence, nothing else about the physical space matters.  I can get so lost in the work that I forget to eat.

But introduce any human noise and I can hardly complete a sentence.  I’m envious of people who can sit in a coffee shop and get something done.  I’ve never been that guy.

Steve, when work is going well.

Steve, when work is going well.

Steve, when the writing is not going well.

Steve, when the writing is not going well.

 

 

 

 

 

 






J. Kathleen CheneyJ.Kathleen Cheney : I have a lovely office on the second floor of my house, but my dogs keep me running up and down the stairs, so for the last few years, I’ve worked most days at the island in my kitchen.  I have a bland view of the fridge and the stove which isn’t very inspiring.  I had hoped to find a shared workspace in my town, but haven’t turned one up.  And despite being willing to try the public library, I feel guilty working there.

So on certain days, I sneak off to my Office Away from Office, The Old School Bagel Cafe.  For the price of a bagel and a coffee, I can stay there as long as I want and work in relative quiet.  (I don’t actually have to purchase the bagel, but I usually do, and I always round up to 5 dollars for the tip.)

Old School Bagel Cafe

The Bagel Cafe gives me a place to work with unending coffee prepared by someone other than me.  My dogs can’t disturb me there, meaning I have unbroken work time.  And I can’t get distracted by all the housework that I know needs to be done like I do at home.  All for a measly 5 dollars a visit.  That’s less than I’d pay at a shared workspace, and is only charged on days that I go there.  So it’s definitely worth it.



Lawrence SchoenLawrence Schoen: I have a perfectly wonderful office in my house where I can work. It has a big glass L-shaped desk with lots of office supplies. There’s a wall of bookshelves behind me. There’s a chair opposite the desk where a visitor can sit and distract me. There’s a comfy sofa where I can take a nap or lay back with my laptop and work while reclining. The office has high-speed internet and a good printer and often as not my dog will come and sit on the floor alongside me while I work.

Alas, more often than not, I don’t write in my office.
Part of the reason is because I like the experience of leaving the house to write. That’s probably the truth, but it’s not the “explanation” that I normally give. Instead, I blame my wife’s dog, Sugar, a very sweet, long-haired chihuahua. In contrast, my dog is a mutt, and he’ll be turning five this summer. Sugar is very old, mostly deaf, has bladder issues, and apparently sees ghosts. The ghost thing is the best explanation I can come up with for why she will just stand there barking at nothing and no one. Gej (my dog, the good dog) just stares at her with the canine equivalent of WTF? And she keeps it up. Bark. Bark bark. Bark bark bark barkity bark bark bark. Bark. On and on without tiring, pausing for not reason only to start up again a few minutes later. Ghosts. So I toss the laptop into a bag and I head out for somewhere quieter to work.
Usually, that’s a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken. Hey, don’t judge me.
KFC-Colonel
They know me there. They take care of me. They don’t blink when I refill my drink thirty times, or when after I eat my meal I sit at that same table for another three hours and write. Most of my forthcoming novel Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard was written in that KFC. And yes, they will get a mention in the acknowledgments. That might even be good for a free bucket of chicken.
Hmm… maybe Sugar is barking at the ghost of Colonel Sanders… That would explain everything!


Fran2014Fran Wilde: Part of my writing space, annotated. The rest is a couch-bed-coffeeshop quantum space, plus several walls filled with notecards.

myDesk14annotated

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MK Hutchins

M.K. Hutchins:

When I was fifteen or so, I asked my parents for a desk for Christmas. I wanted one with a built-in filing cabinet to store writing in. At the time, I was writing on my mom’s old electric typewriter from college, something I’d ransacked from a dusty storage box.

And that’s still the desk I have today. It’s in the main room of our apartment, along with two other computers, all wired together for family Minecraft parties. It’s not a particularly quiet place to work, but I’m oddly acclimatized to that. On the rare occasions I’m entirely alone, the silence makes it impossible to concentrate.HutchinsDesk

The monkey sitting on top of my Tolkien section? From 7th-grade home economics class. The bookcase? Yeah, we built that. I love it. And the flowers? Those are the remnants of all the flowers my husband’s ever gotten me. They’ve made it through more moves than I care to count.

It’s not particularly organized (this is the cleaned-up version), but I’m surrounded by books. That makes it a happy place.

Vectors: Favorite Aliens

This week the novelociraptors go scifi and explore the question, “What is your favorite alien race?”

Beth Cato

I first saw this question and thought, “Hey, this is easy.” Then I realized. “Uh, no it’s not.” There are so many aliens out there to choose from, and the stand-outs for me are in movies more so than books. I was raised on Star Wars–the words “Da Wars” were literally the second and third words I spoke as a baby–and always loved Admiral Ackbar and the Hammerhead in the Cantina and the Jawas.

FlightoftheNavigatorBut to pick a favorite, I’m going to go with something somewhat more obscure. There’s this ’80s movie Flight of the Navigator. I won’t spoil the whole thing if you’ve never seen it, but it has time travel, family drama, and a sentient spaceship. The ship is very formal at first but in the course of the movie it becomes humanized by exposure to an Earth kid. They end up with this very endearing relationship that’s largely based on respect. It’s deep stuff. The movie has actually aged pretty well, too.

As far as aliens go, I could also be all nostalgic for The Last Starfighter, though that hasn’t aged well at all. But I still love it. “I’ve always wanted to fight a desperate battle against incredible odds…”

Fran Wilde

I’m inclined to think of Mrs Whatsit and her friends from A Wrinkle in TimeA_Fire_Upon_the_Deep.bookcover as aliens or angels or a bit of both sometimes. They are wonderful.

Most of my favorite aliens are found in Vernor Vinge’s worlds: the Tines, the Skoderiders, and the Spiders, from A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. I don’t want to spoil someone’s own first encounters, so I’m only going to speak in generalities. In part, what entrances me is that each group is so beautifully conveyed on the page. I’m caught up in their communities, their means of connection and their politics, which are so very different from ours. With that, each group’s methods of communicating with the humans who are aliens on their worlds is fascinating. I love that there are as many “good” and “evil” “aliens” in Vinge as there are “good” and “evil” “humans”.

Michael R. Underwood

Favorite alien race? Do I have to choose just one? How can I pick the trifurcated Minbari over the grandiose conniving Centauri? Do I pick the symbiotic oankali of Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood over the endlessly creepy Xenomorphs of the Alien franchise?

There’s an endless supply of answers, so I’m going to focus on a weird species from one of my favorite Science Fiction stories of the last decade: the Mass Effect Trilogy.

Mass Effect has plenty of interesting races. The Krogan are an interesting tragic twist on the uplifted race of warriors, providing both Urdnot Wrex and Grunt, some of the most memorable characters of the series. The Asari were at times a bit too male sexual fantasy-ish for my taste, though I liked the SFinal work the series did with them being mono-gendered and enthusiastically exogamous in their partnering.

But the race I really want to talk about, due to their delightful weirdness, is the Elcor. Slow, methodical, and mighty, the Elcor evolved on a high-gravity planet, and communicate largely through scent, microexpressions, and subvocalized infrasound. This means that when they started communicating with other races, races that lacked their physiology were left taking Elcor speech as entirely flat, without affect.

Elcor ImageIn response, all of the Elcor you meet throughout the series have adopted a speech pattern that I found very interesting as a player and as an SF fan. They preface every line of dialogue with an emotive statement to provide context, in lieu of tone.

Example:
When an obstinate human threatens an Elcor bouncer, the Elcor says “With barely constrained menace: Try it.”

The kind of rich worldbuilding and thoughtful design that lead to the Elcor’s speech patterns help make them one of my favorite races in SF.

Steve Bein

So many choices! And so many favorites over the years!

At age four I’d have said wookiees. Nothing could have made me happier than having Chewbacca over for dinner. (Come to think of it, that might still be true.)

At age eleven I’d have said the Decepticons. They deserved to win.

At age thirteen I’d have said the aliens from Aliens. But only for a year. The next summer I would change my mind to the predator from Predator. Today it’s hard to decide. They’re both totally badass.

At twenty I’d have said the Vorlons from Babylon 5. That show is tied with Firefly for Least Appreciated Really Awesome Show, and the Vorlons were at the heart of what made it cool. You almost never get to see them. You only see the encounter suits they contain themselves in, because if you were to look at them directly, you’d think you were beholding a god. Oh, and their spaceships aren’t even spaceships; they’re living creatures, symbiotes to the Vorlons themselves. Wicked cool.
Chewbacca: property of Twentieth Century Fox/Lucasfilm
And today? I look back at this list and I see all my favorites are from TV and cinema, not from books. That’s a little disappointing. Then I start thinking about my favorite sci-fi books and I realize there are hardly any aliens in them. There are alien minds—Wintermute in Neuromancer, the Guild Navigators in Dune—but not many real live according-to-Hoyle extraterrestrials.

Hm.

Honestly, I didn’t know that about myself before I sat down to write this. Now I wonder what to make of it. Maybe it’s the philosopher in me: I seem to be more interested in unfamiliar thinking than unfamiliar anatomy.

Maybe. I’d still invite Chewbacca over for dinner.

Tina Connolly

Image from AmazonI don’t have much to add, but I wanted to throw in a vote for the little guys on the Mushroom Planet. I loved those books! I should try reading them to my currently space-obsessed preschooler after we finish Dr. Dolittle in the Moon. See how they hold up. … OMG, I just opened the first page of The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet and the hero is reading Dr. Dolittle in the Moon. Great minds think alike, I guess!

Tex Thompson

Well, I’m one of those who was raised on a steady diet of Star Trek. I loved it. I did time for it (if you count detention in the 4th grade for reading during class time as incarceration, I mean). And one of the things you could count on in any Trek iteration was that there would always be an alien or two on the crew. There’s Mr. Spock, and his Vulcan issues. There’s Mr. Worf, and his Klingon issues. How charming!

Then came Deep Space Nine, and it blew. my. mind. I LOVED the Ferengi – at first just for the sake of having actual humor to break up all the war-scarred grit and gravity. What funny, ugly, greedy little people they were!Ferengi: image property of Star Trek and Paramount

But looking back on it, DS9 did something really remarkable with the Ferengi. I can’t think of any other Trek race that began as comic relief (and earlier, clownish villains-of-the-week) and then developed into a fully-realized, three-dimensional culture. And I think a huge part of that was having not one token Ferengi, but a whole family of fully-realized, three-dimensional Ferengi characters, whose struggles are affected by but not limited to the expectations of their society. There’s Quark, trying to reconcile his conscience with his ledger. There’s Rom, striving to be a good single father and something more than a bar-flunky. There’s Nog, shocking his family and risking everything to join Starfleet, and Moogie, with her scandalous, horrific desire to wear clothing, and Zek, whose shrewd leadership is increasingly hampered by his own advancing age.

In short, there is a terrific example of how we can leave behind the “These are the _____ and they’re basically all _____” model for crafting alien cultures – and still hold on to a good sense of humor.

E.C. Ambrose

LostSteerswomanMine would have to be the radially symmetric 4-limbed creatures in Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman’s Road series. Yeah, I know, I’ve talked about these books before, but the aliens are definitely one reason to read. They play a huge role in my favorite book of the series so far, The Lost Steersman, in which our heroine follows a friend’s map to the end of the known world and interacts with these creatures that had been entering and terrorizing small villages.

She performs an intriguing dissection, then works on entering their society, finding out that they have three different modes of communication, all of them quite striking. Don’t want to spoil it (because I want lots more people to read them!!) I think the creatures are simply called “demons,” from the perspective of the humans. These aliens are *really* alien and fascinating.

M.K. Hutchins

Favorite stories with aliens include Ender’s Game, “Buy Jupiter” by Asimov, and, more recently, “Neighbors” by Rob Butler. But I love those for reasons other than the aliens in them.
DS(9 logo from Wikipedia
I grew up on Star Trek — literally, my earliest memory is Klingons swinging bat’leths at each other. And Klingons are awesome. But my favorite are those big-eared Ferengi. Star Trek first used them as a stereotyped shorthand for hypocrites, liars, and swindlers, but in DS9, they got to speak for themselves as protagonists and heroes.

And they made unique, fascinating heroes. Quark showed his dedication to business contracts by hiring someone to assassinate himself because he’d erroneously sold his own vacuum desiccated remains. Nog and his bartering skills navigated the Great Material Continuum to get the USS Defiant the graviton stabilizer it needed — while helping a bunch of other people get stuff they wanted in the process. Who else in Star Fleet thinks like that? And let’s not forget an all-Ferengi team facing down the militant Jem’Hadar. Yeah. That’s good stuff. Instead of a caricature of greed, DS9 gave us a bunch of individuals navigating their Ferengi culture in different ways. Sweet.

Maybe I also loved them because for the first time, Star Trek had children present whose relationships with each other mattered. Watching Jake and Nog grow up together, while I was growing up myself, was pretty cool.

J. Kathleen Cheney
Sime-Gen
I’ve had to give this quite a bit of thought. It seems to me that my favorite aliens are…humans. Well, at least sort of human.

I loved the Sime-Gen Universe created by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, where one subspecies of human was dependent on the other. While both sides of that coin are human, they’ve diverged along the path somewhere from the humanity we know. (The Sime have tentacles on their forearms to suck out the Gens’ life energy.) The Liaden Universe of Steve Miller and Sharon Lee is another of my favorites. The Liaden are another subspecies of human who had long ago left Earth (maybe) behind to settle a planet called Liad, and didn’t look back.

Serpent’s Reach is, without doubt, my favorite novel by C. J Cherryh, and in it, there are three tiers of ‘human’…the aristocratic Kontrin, the normal Betas, and the cloned Azi who are essentially slaves. Although technically the Azi are human, they are programmed to serve. And while the backbone of the story is a political hotbed, the most interesting part to me was watching one of the Azi break his conditioning and step out into the greater world, realizing as he did so that he’d cut himself off himself from everything he’d ever known. (And the majat? Gotta love giant ants.)

Vectors: Left Wanting More, Part 2

Has there ever been a time when you wanted more from an author or a series, but for some reason, that next book never materialized?  Here’s what some of our authors (and a couple of guests) have to say about the topic:

(See Part 1 here.)

Sally “Qwill” Janin

Our second guest this week, Sally ‘Qwill’ Janin is the founder and EIC of The Qwillery, a speculative fiction blog. She is a recovering attorney having practiced IP and telecommunications law for too long. She’s been reading genre fiction since her older brother hooked her on The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and H.P. Lovecraft when she was a pre-teen.

Shattered-Glass-Cover-webWhen I saw the topic “”Which authors would you have liked to see more from?”” my thoughts immediately turned to Elaine Bergstrom. Ms. Bergstrom wrote one of my favorite series of all time – the Austra Vampire series. The first novel, Shattered Glass, was published by Jove in 1989 and was followed by Blood Alone (1990), Blood Rites (1991), Daughter of the Night (1992), Nocturne (2003) and then after an 8 year wait Beyond Sundown ( 2011). So it seems that my wish was granted and yet it is not enough. The series is a genre-bending mix of Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy and Romance. Each of the novels is rich with historical detail and wonderful writing. I learned quite a bit about stained glass windows and how they are made from the series. I was enchanted by the stories and the memorable characters. There is a twist or two on the vampire mythos that is utterly fantastic and I still find fascinating. So I’m really hoping that Ms. Bergstrom will write more and more about the Austras. It’s one of the few series that I reread.

I’d also like to see more from Chris F. Holm. His fabulous 3 book The Collector series (Dead Harvest, The Wrong Goodbye and The Big Reap) concluded this past year. It’s noir Urban Fantasy. This was a great series that showed off Chris’ talents from the first novel. I hope at some point Chris will return to the world he created in this series, but I’d be thrilled to read any novels he writes.

 

M. K. Hutchins

17. the bee-man of ornOh, how I’d love to have more short stories from Frank R. Stockton. He’s most well-known for “The Lady or the Tiger?” but my favorite — favorite of his, maybe favorite short story ever — is “The Bee Man of Orn.” It’s perfect and hilarious in a dry, quiet sort of way.

Whether they’re originals like Stockton’s or too old for any individual author to claim, I’ve always devoured fairy tales and myths. Stepping into the world of fictional authors, Scheherazade is a literary hero of mine. And I’m kind of glad she’s fictional — it seems to leave the door open for others to build on the tradition started by Arabian Nights in the way a single, real author doesn’t. When I was young, the only book I had in this vein was Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher — a fantastic YA/MG retelling of the story of Scheherazade herself. Recently, I’ve been very happy to find Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed and The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones as well. I’m eagerly awaiting the next books in those series.

 

Tex Thompson

roseoftheprophetI was likewise a child of ’80s fantasy – Shannara, Dragonlance, et al. But boy, reading the Rose of the Prophet trilogy was like sticking my adolescent brain-fork in a multicultural light socket – it fried my circuits that completely. I had NO IDEA that there could be fantasy books set outside Euromedieval Neverwhere. I had NO IDEA that good guys could have profound, plot-altering moral/cultural/religious differences without Falling to the Dark Side. I had NO IDEA that it was possible for well-meaning, intelligent people to completely misunderstand each other – for there to be important problems that had nothing to do with dark lords or massing armies, even in a story that’s still very much concerned with the aforesaid lords and armies.

In fact, I loved those books so much that I’ve actually been afraid to go back and re-read them as an adult. Once you learn about things like cultural appropriation, exoticism, and the whole slew of stereotypes that dog so many Western representations of non-Western peoples and cultures, it’s scary to look back at your old favorites and realize how many of them are capital-P Problematic. (Which doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them, natch, but certainly does sand off some of that joyful fannish luster.)

Still, I’ve always wished that Weis and Hickman would revisit that world, or perhaps open it up to other authors. Failing that, I may just have to haul out my old paperbacks and revisit it myself.

 

Steve Bein

imagesI’m going with the philosopher-king of science fiction, Philip K. Dick.

It’s an unfair choice. You’d think 44 novels would be enough to leave your readers satisfied. But I for one would love to read Dick’s meditations on Edward Snowden.

Or Citizens United. Or reality television. Or Mission Accomplished. Or 9/11. Or Y2K. You get the idea. We lost PDK far too soon.

He’s at his best when he’s at his most philosophical. Who else is asking the question, “How do I know I’m me?” The Buddha handles that one really well. Not many others do, and no one handles it so playfully as PDK. What if he had lived long enough to see the immortalized, plasticized brain? Is a plastic copy of me still me?

This is a writer who he thrived on paradox, and he lived under the threat of the ultimate paradox: mutually assured destruction. So what do you do when your national defense strategy hinges on a national self-destruct strategy?

If you’re Philip K. Dick, you write “Foster, You’re Dead.” And while you’re at it, you take on the absurdity of hyperconsumerism and planned obsolence too.

What if he’d lived to see the next step? What would he have to say if it was the president, not a sardonic sci-fi writer, who explicitly tied national defense to shopping? What stories would he tell if he saw the threat of nuclear war replaced with the threat of international terrorism?

He feared the FBI was keeping tabs on him, a paranoia that was fueled by liberal use of amphetamines but was actually based in fact. What would he make of the recent NSA surveillance scandal? How about the voluntary surrender of personal privacy via Facebook and Twitter?

If he were alive today, he’d be 85. Arthur C. Clarke to 90, Ray Bradbury to 91, Frederik Pohl to 93. Those guys were publishing until the very end. I wish PDK had enjoyed the same longevity.

 

J. Kathleen Cheney

There are a lot of genre worlds where I would have loved to see more: perhaps another book in C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine series, a sequel to Samantha Henderson’s Heaven’s Bones, more in Martha Well’s world of Ile-Rien, or anything by M. K. Wren (I’ve read both her mystery and her fantasy.) But there are two instances of missing books which particularly bothered me.

lamourIn the late 80s, I became very angry with Louis L’Amour for dying before writing a sequel to The Last of the Breed. It seemed quite clear from the ending that there was going to be another book, although there’s been some dispute about that. If that book is ever published, I definitely want to read it!

In 2001, I was eagerly awaiting the fifth book in Margaret Miles’ “Bracebridge” mysteries, a series of historical mysteries set in 1760s rural Massachusetts. I loved the first four books (in fact I’m re-reading them right now!) and in the back of the book it clearly said she was working on the next book in the series. I waited…and waited…and waited. Then one day her website disappeared and, to this day, I do not know what happened to her and her wonderful books…

So what are the books you never got to read? Sound off in the comments below!