I've been scarce around here because I'm head-down in the third book of the Memoirs, but I do feel compelled to brag a little bit more. :-)
The big thing is the Sword and Laser podcast
(also posted here
), which gives a brief but glowing review of A Natural History of Dragons
. Why is this a big thing? Well, apart from the fact that they'll be interviewing me soon, check out the URL on that first link. They're partnered with BoingBoing, which means that for a little while yesterday, their review was posted on the front page of BoingBoing.
I don't know what that did to my sales, but I bet it was pretty good. ^_^
And then you've got Mary Robinette Kowal saying exceedingly nice things over on Book Smugglers
, and Liz Bourke singled it out as one of her favorite books of the year
, and so did Juliet Kincaid
, and y'all, this is so totally the best thing I could have when we're nine days from the solstice and I'm in the Middle of the Book and everything is conspiring to make me have no energy and just want to sleeeeeeeeep. (Well, that and caffeine. Of which I have some in the fridge.)
Now if you'll pardon me, I have to go chop a character's hand off.
(No, I'm not telling you whose.)This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/604179.html. Comment here or there.
A few years ago, my boss instructed me to write a two-page film treatment of one of our novels, All You Need Is Kill
, to help our LA office VIZ Productions maybe sell it to the movies. Well, a few million bucks and five screenwriters (including a $3m payday for Dante Harper for the initial spec script, which was actually fairly close to the book) and innumerable drafts and then Tom Cruise's input and some reshoots and the introduction of new characters and a name change, we have this:
It's not terrible. Pretty neat, actually. Less boom-boom than I was worried about. I joked on the dayjob blog that rather than "based on All You Need Is Kill
", we might say that the film is "thematically adjacent to All You Need Is Kill
." Yes, it's whitewashed, but given the sales of the books and the orders coming in for the mass-market tie-in edition, the film remains a great commercial for the novel!
In other news, I have a new essay up on BullSpec, about my new novel Love Is the Law
(which is under eight bucks, and fits in Christmas stockings, btw), in which I explain why it's actually like The Alchemist
Announcing Chicago's Orphan's Christmas (Turducken Salon)
December 27th, 7:00 pm
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
RSVPs REQUIRED: email@example.com
Yes, we are serving Turducken and other holiday treats. (BYOB)
A night for those of us without homes to go back to, or would just rather not. In that lonely lag where everyone else has scattered for holiday cheer. Readings, socializing, and very good food.
We promise zero Christmas music and no screenings of It's a Wonderful Life. (Although I do watch that every year, and cry like a crazy person from about minute ten to the end.) Just three talented writers and all the food you can possibly put in your body.
MATTILDA BERNSTEIN SYCAMORE is the author of The End of San Francisco, one of my favorite books of the year. Her writings on desire and community, of choosing a life on the margins, break my heart every time.
ZAK MUCHA is one of my favorite Chicago writers. He has a beautiful essay forthcoming in the next Spolia, and Heavyweight Champion of Nothing is one of those books that defy categorization and expectations.
CHARLES BLACKSTONE wrote a novel called Vintage Attraction and is the managing editor of a literary magazine called, um, Bookslut? I don't know, I've never heard of it.
* We are holding this salon in my living room, hence the being coy about the address. (I have a shitty ex-boyfriend with stalker-like tendencies, if you must know.) You'll receive the address when you RSVP.
For years and years I’ve been telling folks about the amazing, out of print, Riddle of Steel. I finally saw that apparently folks released Blade of the Iron Throne, which takes 90% of the RoS engine, and adapts it to pulp sword and sorcery.
Passions, which are the renamed version of Riddle of Steel’s Spiritual Attributes, are the driver of the game. Your character has goals, relationships, ideals they believe in, and when they are acting to further or protect those things:
a) the GM gives them another point in that Passion
b) they get to roll extra dice equal to that Passion
This is only the first part – the second part is that you then spend down those Passions to permanently give improvements to your character. So the best way to power game is to roleplay, and roleplaying IS the method to power gaming in this system.
Riddle of Steel had initially allowed players to add multiple Spiritual Attributes to any action which encompassed all of them – but in Blade, you are limited to one. I’m guessing they weren’t as big of a fans of the uber-ing out of characters, which is about the only change I’m not a fan of.
The tactical combat system is fun, has depth without requiring deep mastery to use, and is fast – it also doesn’t use a map or minis either.
There’s basically 3 ideas which run the system:
Combatants have a dice pool which represents their skill at using a particular weapon or fighting style- these dice will be used over the course of two exchanges before the pool is refilled. The core of gameplay is trying to figure out how much to commit and which maneuvers will be the best use of the dice you have… and getting your opponent to commit their dice poorly.
If a weapon has reach advantage (the longer weapon if you’re on the outside, the shorter weapon if you’re up close), each range difference is a die penalty to the disadvantaged side to attack. Smart positioning puts you in a situation where you can take bigger risks in offensive maneuvers because the enemy won’t have the dice to hit back.
Unlike a lot of games, “initiative” here doesn’t mean taking turns in a given order, if you have initiative, you are the attacker, and you can keep doing attacks as long as you keep the initiative. If the defender manages to defend with more than a tie (that is, getting at least 1 success more than you), they take the initiative. This can be a big deal, because if you can take the initiative after the enemy has over committed, they’re basically left open for a serious counter strike.
Wounds tend to hit hard and fast, and few characters take more than a couple before being incapacitated enough to not be effective in a fight.
Setting and Imagery
So the game is built on pulp sword and sorcery… which means problematic parts too. Mostly there’s the offhand comments about wenching or that men are mighty and women are voluptuous.
Most of the default setting civilizations are described as people of color by their physical descriptions – but even though you get stuff like stand-in-Egyptians as an “Enlightened” culture, you also get stuff like “dusky skinned” or the asians as literally described as “yellow skinned”…
So, you’re not going to be reaching or having to revise to have heroic POC in this game, you’re just going to sometimes wince at the language in the setting chapters at places. I feel like I have to give the representation 3/5 for doing much BETTER than I expected, and sadly, still much better than a lot of rpg settings out there despite the issues.
Filed under: recommended
My LitReactor writing class, Start to Finish
, begins January 9th. This is an online, asynchronous workshop-style class with "lectures." Four weeks, easy to squeeze in! Good if you're working on something specific. Do sign up.
My contributor copy of Caledonia Dreamin'
came in today. See?
It's a nice-looking volume. My story is "Drive the Warlike Angles Into the Sea!!!" and I hope people read it. It was a labor-of-love type story, in that I was eager to be in this book for, among other reasons, the chance to write some Yes
propaganda (the book itself is neither for nor against). I also only got £20 for it. But these days, I feel that a lot of anthologies are fairly cynical, with themes designed either for Kickstart friendliness (e.g., Twenty Authors With Blogs!), or being created via mix'n'match—Steampunk Zombies! I liked that this one is focused closely on language and place, and was wide open as far as storytelling goes. Check it out.
Colin Wilson died last week—we wondered if it wasn't a hoax when only the Times
(of London) had an obit. It took all weekend for the other papers to get their file obits together. The UK press is playing one last round of "Bash Colin" as well, as in this sort of concern trolling into the afterlife.
Haven't seen any US newspaper obits for Wilson yet at all. The New York Times wrote about him...
back in 2005. Don't wear yourselves out, Gray Ladies!
What We're Reading
I consider myself a faithful monogamist when it comes to my reading habits: one book, one time. However, I found myself taking a more adulterous turn, when a package of three books arrived at my door, each begging me to read it first. The radical solution? A Mess of Greens became my morning subway book, Chasing the White Dog became my evening commute book, and The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts became my bedtime book. What can I say, other than we humans crave variety.
Chasing the White Dog and A Mess of Greens explore the gendered sphere of southern staples; places where “woman” means a kitchen and “men” means back shed distilleries.
Both are hidden worlds, where secrets are traded, truths are told, and social norms and expectations get boiled down into rich, distilled liquor or runoff potlikker. Both books are eager to ask the question of whose food and why? As a southerner, I’m quite defensive towards the easy notions about our food being yoked into the realm of cheap Paula Deen spin offs and one-dimensional views of unhealthy trigger trinities of “fatty, salty, and fried.” Our food and spirits, as well as our attitudes toward such enjoyments, is so much more about class, scarcity, and how the legacies of slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, pushed women together in kitchens and men into bootlegging operations.
Meanwhile, The Weiser Field Guild to Ghosts offers a lighter approach to the many spirits of history out there, less a dive into history and more a layman’s approach to the unknown. Ghosts too have suffered the pangs of being cast into one-dimensional boxes, suffering the affects of a culture that has little to no concern for the vast difference between ancestral ghosts versus a psychopomp. But like the previous two books, Buckland offers a link to the past if we are just willing to take it. “If death is the end of everything, if time stops dead in its tracks for the deceased, there would be no such thing as ghosts. But it is the very appearance of a ghost that signals that death is not the end; that some form of energy connected to the deceased continue.” If we can’t understand our pasts, how will we ever come fully into the present? More so, can we ever place our faith in the unknown?
All these books are chasing ghosts in one way or another: Watman is chasing the ghosts of white lightning, eager to revive the imbibing spirits of the South, Engelhardt is seeking the ghosts that haunt the cultural implications, memory, and misplaced nostalgia of southern cuisine, and of course, Buckland is the man that implores us to really look for and believe in the ghosts that walk around us. Each book is a small dedication towards walking backwards into a past, touching on the need for survival whether through blind faith in the unknown, tender biscuits made by hands hanging tightly to social norms, or keeping alive a great-uncles recipe for moonshine.
In our December issue, Coco Papy interviewed Trisha Low and reviewed Samantha Geimer's The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski.
While I get that everyone has the right to RP with whomever they want, and don't have to with whomever they don't want to...I am really kind of irked by this.
So on tumblr, there's 'multiverse' versions of canon characters. It happens, especially when there are animated, comic, movie and game versions of said characters.
I just kinda get tired of seeing all (and I mean ALL cept for maybe one or two versions who I know don't RP on tumblr) of this specific character only playing with other forms of their char. They've become a 'family' and it's this huge thing, and that's great you're all enjoying things...
but snubbing other canons, or promising to do threads then dropping them/ignoring anything said character says to you so you can go have your fun times with 'family'? Doesn't make me want to stick around and keep trying.
Please, i'd rather a friend be honest and go 'I just don't wan to RP with that char' or 'I just don't feel it. Sorry' than 'No no I want to RP with you! I do!' and then fifty replies to other versions, while my thread sits, abandoned.
Yes, I'm prob butthurt. I'd just rather not be jerked around, when the 'proof' is right there, public for all to see, you know? It's not hard to go "look I'm just not feeling that thread' or 'I just feel like fluff right now'. I can take that! It's ok! I'll still be your friend! I'm not even trying to get a ship here! I just like to interact with the char, but it's ok if they don't want to...just be HONEST about it.
*sigh* This is probably why I should just go back to writing fanfic.
Your first mistake was attempting to force smut. Your second was harassing the mun, a friend of mine, because she refused to smut with your character during the first interaction, even though she plays a succubus (which, last I checked, is not the same thing as a mindless sex doll, so, yes, she does have the right to choose who she fucks. Deal with it.). Your third? I'm just going to leave this here.
Now, this is no excuse for the anon hate you've been getting, but you're not off the hook. Playing the victim in all this doesn't let you off the hook, either. Own up to your bullshit and fix it, or kindly stop roleplaying.
A few years ago I met an online acquaintance for a face-to-face lunch. He was a writer and wanted the inside scoop on playing essays with The Smart Set
. A genre fiction person, he was not very familiar with querying non-fiction magazines. (Hint: it's usually the managing editor or section editor.) So I gave him a few tips and a name. Then a few weeks later we met again and the guy told me, "I wrote to the editor and asked if they took reprints. He didn't write back." I didn't say anything but I did have a thought, and a prediction:
place anything with The Smart Set
And indeed I was correct. I don't know if leading with the question of reprints was really the reason, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was. TSS pays real money for real essays; why would they want second-hand material? Even in the field of service journalism, where evergreen material is constantly recycled and occasionally reconceptualized, material isn't often simply reprinted. (Reblogged, for free, by the lowlifes at Huffington Post
, sure.) You have to rewrite, localize, whatever.
And in fiction, reprints are generally worth less than original material.
Now, it is true that we are living in what I called a golden moment
for reprint anthologies. It's fairly easy to sell a reprint these days, even for the non-famous, but the markets themselves are generally reprint markets.
What I've been noticing lately is that when I make a note about wanting to see submissions or pitches for various projects I'm working on: The Big Click
, or my day job anthology Phantasm Japan
, people have been asking right away, "Do you take reprints?" Bigger names have simply been sending me
Is this a bit of advice people are getting now? "Always ask if the editor wants to see reprints before offering anything new?" Because if so, it is terrible advice. As far as I am concerned, asking this question is like tripping the editor, dropping trou, squatting over him, and easing out a big snaking turd onto his face, while shouting, "This is what I think of you! THIS IS WHAT I THINK OF YOU!! YOU LIVE TO EAT MY SHIT!"
And needless to say, those authors just talked themselves out of consideration for those projects. If I wanted reprints, I'd ask for reprints. Hell, if I wanted reprints, I wouldn't need to make even semi-public calls. I'd read in the field I wanted to buy from, and contact the authors privately to solicit the reprints. My checkbook is large enough and my projects prestigious enough that I want new material, and I want excellent new material. It's even fairly easy for me to get—when I open things up, it's partially because I'm a little dissatisfied with the material I am seeing, and partially due to the same romanticism that made Haunted Legends
the first Ellen Datlow project with open submissions, and that made Clarkesworld
a magazine with no form rejection letter.
Now some editors may disagree with me about being asked about reprints before being offered new material. Almost surely some editor will pop up and say that they like any sort of question, professionally asked. And I'd like to say: consider the source. I note that the more mental energy editors put into some notion of fairness to writers, the less concerned they are about readers. That is, they don't have very many readers. POD anthologists with 1c a word budgets, CreateSpace publishers with convention dealer's room-only print distribution, micropresses with a 1000-book list with each title selling fifty copies...they may love being asked fancy business questions like "Do you take reprints?" Then they get to give fancy business answers like "Only if it's very good!"
And some of the poor semiliterate dears will even say, "But reprints have a place in publications!" or "What about that reprint you ran once!?" as if I said anything about reprints being unnecessary or forbidden. If you are confused, go back to the top of this entry and read it again until you hit this sentence. Repeat as necessary.
I, on the other hand, am working in a buyer's market. I don't like that kind of thing, and when I was starting out it was made very clear that absent specifics one should submit or query new material, not reprinted material. It should go without saying that of course when you have an opportunity open up before you, you grab at it with both hands! And that means having something ready to go, or making time and space in your life and schedule to produce something new. "Would you give me two weeks?" is a perfectly fine, professional initial question. "Do you take reprints?" is just a way to lose an opportunity so far as I am concerned.