Lots to catch up on

November was a busy month for me, and so I’ve fallen behind here. I should tell you why it was so busy! I have been writing and writing, mostly on projects I can’t tell you about till I hear back from people…that’s mostly it. I can tell you this much: I wrote a time travel story with no time travel in it, a first contact story with no contact in it, and a supervillain story with at least one too many villains in it. Also I have been working my way towards total knee replacement, which I now have a date for: not till February, but there’s a lot to do in preparation (I have to get tough!).

So what do I have to catch up on? Two publications, a guest blog, and a future publication (that I can talk about).

The guest blog is here at my friend Heather Rose Jones’ livejournal. She’s the author of, among other things, a series of fantasy novels set in Alpennia, a fictional European-like country in the eraly modern era (that is, not medieval). They’re really good, featuring smart, independent, largely lesbian, women who make sense in their own contexts, and solid, interesting world-building. And coincidentally, my blog is about world-building: why, for example, I have spent weeks physically researching a real-life Central European city for stories that are set in a secondary world that is most definitely not Central Europe.

All I’m going to say about that right now is that world has already produced several “plumblossom” stories (the ones I put up for free at Fictionpress or in The Slash Pile anthologies, or wherever–they are all interconnected and some day will be woven into a single book about rivalries among sentient trees and the people who serve them, as well as magicians both good and evil, semi-self-aware teargas canisters and other objects, terrible history, threatening conditions, and tentatively bright futures): most of a huge fantasy novel involving both a pig spirit and artillery nests, that needs serious sustained attention as soon as I clear the decks with these other projects: and the outline of a novel set in the medieval-equivalent time of that world, involving land fraud, magic, alchemy, and personal loyalty. In other words, I have been playing in it quite vigorously. You can read some of the stories here. The ones in that world are “A Day of Porn” (which is not porn), “The Greenest Boy in Town,” “Stromnik,” and “Striking.” Another story, “Picnic Day Night,” is available at The Slash Pile’s second Halloween anthology “Psychopomp” here.

Are you still with me? Because here’s something you can buy! Less Than Three Press Print(who else?) has published Tan-ni Fan’s anthology, Missed Connections, and it is available right now from the publisher and here and at most online distributors (that’s really true, too! I somehow ended up searching for Outside and I saw it in online bookstores literally all over the world!). It’s a great big anthology full of big juicy stories about second chances. My story, “Rab+Rob 4ever,” is not science fiction like a lot of my work, but it is fiction about scientists(well, science students, anyway)! Rob has a terrible memory for things that happened in his childhood, so it’s no wonder that when he meets Jack in his last year in college, he doesn’t realize that it’s the same person as Rab, the boy who trailed around after him in their preschool years. Jack (Rab) doesn’t seem any too happy to make Rob’s acquaintance again…

AASalvagesmDo you remember me talking about my beloved lesbian mechanics, Elisabeth and Melissa, and their adventures on Route Zero, the road that connects alternate universes? It’s pre-order time for their story at Less than Three. As of today, there’s a sale going on at Less than Three Press, and there’s only five days left till publcation day! Sorry for all the exclamation points, but I’m still new enough at this to be impressed with myself. Elisabeth and Melissa are the kind of mechanics you really want in your community. They have their own tow truck, and Melissa can find your part if it’s available anywhere in the state, and if it isn’t, Elisabeth can fabricate it from a similar part. Even if the car in question comes from nowhere in this world…Elisabeth has a past, though, and while the Grand Jury wants to talk to her, she wants to find out why this odd car’s radio is playing tunes from a future she used to dream about in her past. Contains a non-violent carjacking.

Well, that’s it for today! Watch this space for a giveaway of the A&A ebook!

Advertisements

Tomorrow’s the day!

You have one more day to sign up for the drawing for a free copy of my book Outside! Just go to the post where I announced it, right here, and leave a comment with a way to contact you. I’ll be on the road tomorrow so I’ll probably do it late in the day.

Other upcoming dates: the anthology Missed Connections, edited by the redoubtable Tanni-Fan, which has my story “Rab+Rob 4 Evar,” is coming out November 11, and is available for pre-order now. And my multiple-universes science fiction novella, A and A Salvage, is also available for pre-order and is coming out December 9.

These three stories are really quite different one from another. Outside is about a science lab administrator on a deep space station who takes great effort to ensure that his friends have a good time and learns that he needs to make even a greater effort: “Rab+Rob” is about an environmental sciences student who discovers his memory is even worse than he thought it was: and A and A Salvage is about a pair of lesbian mechanics who figure out that the origin of a mysterious car also gives them dangerous knowledge about the fate of old friends (I have more to say about the world of Outside and also more to say about the adventures of Elisabeth and Melissa from A and A Salvage, but those stories are not written yet).

Also, more details about this later, but I have sold another piece, a story about a fellow whose parents emigrated because they were told their child would marry a tree…

“The main character is an—”

“The main character is an—”

I was looking at a goodreads bookshelf and noticed that one of mine was on the shelf. I also noticed it was on a few other selves, including one labeled “Main-character-is-an-asshole.” My first response was to argue with it (just in my head, because if there’s one thing I know about being an author, it’s don’t argue with the readers), because first of all, I try to never write assholes, and secondly, I was pretty sure the main character of this particular piece was a sweetheart. A complete and total sweetheart. I could not imagine how anybody would characterize him as an asshole.

Fortunately for me, I was thinking about this in the bathtub, which always puts me in a pleasant meditative mood. Especially with our “exceptional drought” going on! These days, I only do spongebaths most of the time, really only doing a proper (but reduced) bath a bit more often than every seven days. So when the time rolls around for a real bath, I am very relaxed and thoughtful! So I laid back in the hot hot water mulling over what makes a character an asshole or a sweetheart…

And then I realized I had an even more interesting question in front of me, because the fellow I was calling the main character is probably not the same person that the reader was calling the main character when they shelved my book. And that was intriguing. Because although the story does shift points of view, I was pretty certain that the person whose opinion the reader was most likely to identify with was the total sweetheart’s and not his somewhat grumpier, less eager love interest.

So how had the reader come up with a different assignment from me? And what constitutes a main character anyway?

Romance readers and writers like to speak of the main character (often abbreviated MC) and the love interest (often abbreviated LI). They speak confidently of these two story roles even, in my experience, when the points of view carry equal weight in the narrative, take up equal space on the page, have equal billing in the blurb. Is there a rule about how these roles are allocated? Probably, but I did not find it in my navel. I came up with rather flimsy notions like “the main character is the one whose story we are most invested in” and “the main character is the one whose construction of the world they live and romance in is the most real and interesting to the reader.” I almost said the main character is the one who grows in the story, or maybe the main character is the one who overcomes the most interesting obstacles in the story, but what about the story where a person is being courted by a lovable and reforming rogue? I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen a story like that where the love interest is very clearly the rogue and the main character is very clearly the straight-arrow that the rogue reforms for. But how was it clear to me?

And if it was so clear to me there—well, if it was so clear to me in my own story that the love interest was the more difficult person in that case, but it was apparently equally clear to at least one reader that that character was the main one—what does that tell me about the characteristics of these two story roles?

I’ve got no answer for you. However! I can remind you that you still have till October 24th to comment on this thread over here to enter into a drawing for a free copy of my book Outside!

Just Plain Wrong

There’s a complaint I keep noticing about some stories written by women about men who have romantic affairs with other men. It’s nearly, but not, symmetrical with the complaint women sometimes have about stories men write about lesbians. It’s this: the accusation that the characters are not men, that they are women in men’s disguise (or “chicks with dicks”). The nearly symmetrical but not really complaint is that men write lesbians who are not real women—they are fantasies. So, (some) men complain that (some of) the unrealistic characters they are reading about are the wrong gender, and (some) women complain that (some of ) the unrealistic characters they are reading about are not real. That’s a subtle difference, but I think it is significant, especially as I think that the thing they are reacting to in the writing is, in fact the same thing.

edit: I missed a crucial paragraph of this when I posted, so here goes:

“Chicks with dicks” is a hideous phrase, insulting to just about everyone: women, men, gay men, men whose mannerisms are more “feminine” than average. I’m not sure that “feminine” men should be called that, because the aspects of their behavior and character that mark them this way are not, generally, behaviors and personality characteristics that actually predominate in women either. I’m not sure that the label is completely wrong, though, as it sometimes seems to go with men who see themselves as rejecting aspects of masculinity they see as offensive. But I am interested in what drives the complaint behind it.

First of all when a man complains about “chicks with dicks,” I don’t think he’s reacting to characters who have physically or socially feminine markers. I think the aspects of a male character that throw men out of identifying with them, and which they identify as female, are not usually really feminine, but just wrong, and the men are grasping for what is wrong about the characters. Gender comes to mind because gender is the salient issue at hand in these stories written by women and purporting to be located in exclusively male sexuality. It’s not that the men are wearing the wrong clothes or using the wrong kind of hairbrush or deodorant. If they had those details or something like them, you’d think it was deliberate eccentricities on the part of the character. It’s more likely to be something about the character’s emotional presence, their expressions of self, the intangibles that you can stay up all night arguing about. But what these male characters are doing on the page that is wrong wouldn’t be right if you tried to make a female character do them, either.

But why do (some) male readers perceive this as feminized characters? I think, partly because they know that women wrote the stories, so the explanation “she doesn’t really know men because she’s a woman” is easy to come by. Of course it isn’t correct. But it’s an easy answer, so it almost has to be wrong.

You’re almost the first to know

My novella, A and A Salvage, is up for pre-order already!

AASalvagesmWhat do you want to know about it? It’s an alternate-worlds science fiction story about lesbian mechanics who have a quaint little repair shop in the coastal mountains and their lives are disrupted by a car that is not from this world . . . involves secrets and lies, of course, and a carjacking, and some crazy driving in the canyons, and 60’s nostalgia and someone else’s civil war . . .

How do you describe a book?

It’s vexacious to try to summarize a book, whether you’re putting together a query, or writing a blurb, or trying to get someone to review it. It makes me want to throw my hands in the air and just go back and write some more stories and forget the finished ones.

This afternoon I submitted requests to a couple of online review sites that take them, though, and in the process I coined a nice fat name for the genre I declare I have created: The science fiction workplace buddy romance. I’m maybe a bit too smug about this. I immediately tweeted this, and then told my friends in chat, and now I’m telling everybody. I may email my son later so he can share in the deliciousness of that genere label.

As I’ve already told everyone who will listen and quite a few people who probably would rather not, I am not ashamed of piling up four adjectival nouns in one descriptive phrase. It’s positively Anglo-Saxon poetry. Anyway, now I want to go through my “stories to write” file and see how many of them could be called that.

Reminder: you can still sign up for a free copy of Outside right here.

And now that I’ve done some obligatory promotion of that book, I have edits to work on in another science fiction buddy workplace romance-this one is about lesbian mechanics who discover how to get to a whole new world through carjacking-and a manuscript I need to write, about something completely different. I’m sure I will tell you all about them when the time comes.

Here’s my lamp, coming out from under the bushel

I have some stories already published and a couple coming out soon.

First, here’s one you can easily find and read: a short story called “Wink,” in which a bit of a misunderstanding arises between people who can choose their gender at will, and sometimes don’t choose one at all.

PrintSecond, on November 11, Less Than Three will publish an anthology edited by the marvellous Tan-ni Fan. It’s called Missed Connections and it contains my (not science fiction or fantasy) story “Rab+Rob 4evar” about a young environmental stiudies graduate with a terrible memory.

Somewhat later (I don’t have a date yet), Less Than Three will also be publishing A and A Salvage, in which a pAASalvagesmair of lesbian mechanics discover a whole new world at war with itself, reachable from the backroads of the coastal mountains.

In the past these stories of mine were published, but good luck finding them in print(links are to the Internet Science Fiction Database):

“Thorri the Poet’s Saga,” with S.N. Dyer in which Njal of the sagas works out a solution to a murder mystery.

John Brown’s Body (an alternate history) in which I see what might have happened if things had gone differently at Harpers Ferry.

The Boulder in which an archaeologist witnesses the resolution to a family legend on an Icelandic farm.