Mad Max: Fury Road – Part 1

We went to see Mad Max: Fury Road last weekend. I admit, when I first heard that there’d be another movie in the Mad Max franchise, I nodded and went about my day. I was more excited for, oh, say, Avengers: Age of Ultron. And then the reviews for both started coming in, and while my enthusiasm for Age of Ultron plummeted (Tony Stark making a rape joke! Black Widow reduced to the viability of her womb! Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner calling Black Widow a slut and offer sorry-ass apologies before Renner went back and doubled down!), my interest in Fury Road skyrocketed. What’s this? Badass women characters who are competent and capable and save their goddamned selves? Nobody getting raped or sexually assaulted on-camera? (Take note, Game of Thrones, ahem.) Goober-gaters and MRAs getting all sadface over all of the above? Sign me the hell up!

Reader, I loved it. It’s a fast paced action movie, with lots of cool cars-turned-war machines, tense chase scenes, and characters being badass. I’m trying to remember the last time I left a movie feeling as pumped as I did leaving this one. It might have been The Matrix.

There are so many things I want to unpack. I keep having to pause in typing these sentences to add an AND THEN to my list of stuff I dug.

Let’s start with what put this movie on my radar:

Imperator Furiosa, the Wives, and the movie’s feminist backbone.

I’m not sure I’d 100% call this an intentionally feminist film. As in, I haven’t read any interviews with George Miller where he states that he set out to make a feminist film. (If someone’s seen one, I’d be happy to correct!) But he did intend to make Furiosa equal to Max, and that’s not a small thing.

Also, because he’s awesome, Tom Hardy is on record not only saying he’s cool with women taking the lead, but that they should.

Anita Sarkeesian, whose work I admire and support, said it’s not a feminist film at all. I disagree on that point, which is okay! I think we’re coming at it from different places, and that’s the beauty of art: people take away different things from it. For me, the movie treated women like people. It gave them agency. It let them make their own choices and do things on their own terms. The women in the film were empowered, and we never once saw them tear each other down. Disagree? Sure. But belittle each other, nope. Lots of people have already commented on the scene where Max passes the gun to Furiosa, because she’s the better shot. It’s a scene that would have played out differently in other scriptwriters’ hands. So overtly, smash-the-patriarchy feminist? Maybe not. But putting women in charge of their bodies and their choices and showing them as a range of different people rather than an interchangeable monolith? Hell. Yes.

One thing that struck me after leaving the theatre was this: never once during the movie did I hear the word “bitch.”

It seems like such a small thing, but I’m so damned used to that and other gendered words being thrown at women to tear them down (Looking at you, Joss Whedon.) A friend of mine pointed out that there’s not a lot of swearing in the Mad Max movies in general. Thing is, cussing comes to me as easy as breathing, but I don’t miss it if it’s not there – I watch enough network TV that I guess I’m used to swear-free shows.

And yet.

When The Avengers slips in the phrase “mewling quim” during a scene where we’re told Black Widow is in control, I found myself bracing for the inevitable. It didn’t come, and that was damned nice.

Next up, the way the camera does and doesn’t focus on the women’s bodies. I braced myself when Max walks up to the Wives hosing the dust off after the storm. Gauzy clothing + water = what the fuck is this, Wasteland Girls Gone Wild? But it wasn’t that at all. Max wasn’t looking at them; he was looking at the water. The only body part the shot truly lingers on is The Splendid Angharad’s very pregnant belly. It’s not a leering gaze, either: it’s establishing both character and stakes. Here is a woman whose body has been used to make more Warlords, and who, if she stays in the Citadel, will eventually end up in that room with the Mothers. She is taking a huge, brave risk, going with Furiosa. They’re being chased across the desert by War Boys who are none too careful about spraying bullets and smashing cars (even with Immortan Joe’s decree not to harm the Wives.) They’re trusting Furiosa to bring them to the Green Place, which may or may not have anyone there who can help her when the baby comes. Those five seconds of film say a hell of a lot, without making her into an object. Into a Thing.

Likewise, when Splendid is dying/dead and the doctor? medic? is getting the baby out (I assumed it was an emergency C-section, but thinking back on the scene, I think Splendid was already dead) the focus is on the doctor, not Splendid’s corpse. We’re not seeing a woman get carved up on camera. In a movie that has quite a few gruesome images, they didn’t go for the obvious one, and again, it was appreciated.

One more! The Vuvalini in the cage (I think it was The Valkyrie) as the group approached. Naked woman. In a cage. The camera follows entire descent to the ground. Guess what it doesn’t do? If you guessed “zoom in on her breasts,” you win a prize!

And, look, I know these aren’t big revolutionary things. You’d think, in two thousand goddamned fifteen, they’d be unremarkable. But they’re not.

Okay. Furiosa herself.

Furiooooosa.

Furiosaaaaaaaa.

She’s a survivor. We know that she and her mother were stolen from the Vuvalini, but not the purpose they were stolen for. Presumably to be wives, maybe as slaves, but as things either way. She climbed up through whatever ranks Immortan Joe has, to drive a war rig. Warboys call her “boss,” and right up until the moment they get attacked, the men on her rig never second-guess her. She’s a woman with a disability, but it isn’t (as it would be in another writer/director’s hands) The One Thing That Defines Her. We see her fight with and without her prosthetic, and she’s equally competent. This is a woman who plotted out how to get those women on her rig and away from The Citadel, knowing the risks she was taking, and did it. I don’t think she pulled it off 100% on her own—more on that in a moment—but the majority of this operation hinged on her. She also listens to the people with her. When Furiosa’s instinct is to kill Nux, the Wives intervene and stop her.

Compassion. It’s a thing she’s allowed to have—that all the characters are allowed to have—and it’s not presented as a weakness. It’s not a thing that comes back around to bite them on the ass.

I feel like I’m defining this movie in terms of what it doesn’t do, but there’s a reason for it. I’ve been watching genre movies for as long as I can remember. Maybe I need to clarify that, in general, they’ve been American-made genre films. The vast, vast majority of them have certain universal beats. Sometimes following those makes for great storytelling. Sometimes it’s the writer/director/whoever doing the tried-and-true things that ratchet up the tension or the emotion. It’s an interesting feeling when they do something different.

It’s kind of like this: a few years ago, I went on a trip to Disney World with my friends. I am Not a Fan of rollercoasters. Usually they’re a big ol’ NOPE for me. Splash Mountain is about as daring as I get, so that is pretty much my whole experience with them. And yet, my friends somehow convinced me to go on the Everest ride. It wasn’t bad! But when we hit the big drop at the end, because I’m used to Splash Mountain’s right-hand turn at the bottom of that drop, my whole body was braced to go right.

Everest’s turn goes left.

Brain and body both were like whaaaaaat?

I got that same feeling all through Mad Max: Fury Road, and it was exhilirating.

And The Wives!

You guys, that moment where Immortan Joe’s about to take the shot at Furiosa and Splendid swings out to block him. Yesssss.

I loved how fully realized these women were, how brave and strong, and… If something needed doing, they did it. “Someone needs to watch in the back.”/”I’ll go.” Count the bullets, unhitch the whatever, climb along the undercarriage with the ground speeding past beneath. DONE. Again, so many other scripts would cram these women into the corner, terrified. There’d be moments of I can’t, I’m scared, help me, and those were, with one notable exception, absent.

The moment of weakness comes early on, when Cheedo the Fragile tries to set out for the oncoming caravans, saying Joe will take her back, will take all of them back. (I’ve only seen it once, and things were happening so fast it was hard to catch names at that early point, so if it wasn’t Cheedo, someone holler.) And that moment is completely understandable. It doesn’t turn her into a simpering wreck for the rest of the movie. She’s afraid, she sees things coming to a bad end, and at that point, for her, going back to life as a thing is a better alternative than death out in the wastelands. She’s a victim of abuse trying to return to her abuser, and that is a thing that happens every day here in the real world. But it’s her friends, her sisters, her community, that pull her back and keep her with them. That moment is also setup for the battle on the way back to the Citadel, where she climbs out onto the rig and begs Rictus to take her back. It’s a ruse, and she knows exactly how to play it because only a day or two before, she was saying it for real. Brilliantly done.

The Vuvalini! Badass biker women of the apocalypse who did their own stunts! Who have built up a community away from people like Immortan Joe, and even though it’s grown smaller by the year, even though their green place dried up and the water went sour, they’ve continued on. Who offer these young women hope despite odds that appear impossible. They risk—and in some cases, give—their lives to get everyone back to The Citadel and set not only the wives, but everyone who lives there, free. Because there are so many women in the cast, their deaths were heart-wrenching, but not cannon fodder. The Keeper of the Seeds was your gut-wrench, which y’know, I’m not going to complain about too loudly. I wish they’d all made it to the end, but hi, its’ a genre film, you’re going to have a body count on the heroes’ side, too. Stakes. Losses. Actions having consequences. That’s on the storytelling side of things, which, well…

Okay, uh. This is over 2,000 words and I still have a million and ten things to say about the storytelling itself. Looks like we’re breaking this into two posts!

A couple of final thoughts. Smart people have pointed out that the movie could have done loads better with POC representation. Zoe Kravitz, Courtney Eaton, and Megan Gale were amazing, but the apocalypse is still pretty pasty. And Hill and I were discussing post-watch that there’s not a lot of diversity of body types, either. I can see, story-wise, why they couldn’t rescue the Mothers: those womens’ absences would have been missed almost immediately. Still, they were the ones who released the water at the end of the movie, and that’s given me a new headcanon. Remember above, when I said I don’t think Furiosa could have planned it all alone? Clearly she had the help of the women she took with her, and Miss Giddy, who stayed behind.

But I think the Mothers must have been in on it, too.

I believe they must have helped plan the Wives’ escape. Listened for whatever information they could glean from their guards’ conversations, because those women were probably near-on invisible outside of what they were providing. Who’s going to watch their tongues around them? On escape day, they kept their goddamned cool, acting like nothing was going on, when they knew there were five girls in Furiosa’s war rig getting the hell out of town. Because this is a movie about women helping each other, damn it, and you can’t tell me those ladies weren’t among the first to convince the girls WE ARE NOT THINGS. Maybe that was Splendid’s line, but somebody planted that seed. Somebody told those girls they didn’t have to resign themselves to that life, and why not have that person be a Mother, dreaming of a better world, a better life, for her children?

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The 2015 Hugo Post

TL;DR: Ugh.

Used to be, I looked forward to the Hugo nominee announcements. It was fun, watching books and authors I dug make it to the shortlist. It was keen to discover new books I hadn’t been aware of and put them on my reading list. Come WorldCon, sometimes the works I liked the best won, sometimes they didn’t. This year, I watched the nominations with a sense of dread, which is exactly what the people who organized a slate-voting campaign wanted.

And I resent that.

Which, I realize, is also what many of them wanted, so good job, I guess?

Much has been written, and by far smarter and thinkier people than I, about what went down and how to proceed from here. I’ll give you some links to click on, if you need to do some research first. You might notice that the majority (possibly all) of the links point toward the type of writers and SF/F industry people and fans that the slate’s creators want to stick it to. I’m not going to link to the slate wranglers, because quite honestly, I find their “Golly-gee-gosh, we only want to encourage more participation!” to be disingenuous. Not when prominent members of their campaign have blogged and commented gleefully about tweaking the noses of “SJWs.” Not when they courted an internet hate group’s participation*. So, if you want the slate organizers’ take, I leave that for you to google. Bring your salt shaker and your comfort beverage of choice, especially if you wade into the comments.

Linkery:

Making Light 1 – posted before the announcements, when rumblings about the slates’ success began.
Making Light 2 – continuing the previous. Abi’s intro pretty much nails how I feel about voting. If you follow no other link, follow this one and read her words. Comments #539 and after are post-announcements.
Making Light 3 –  post-announcements, including links to the fuckery of inviting in GG.

Elizabeth Bear 1 (on fandom) and 2 (on slate voting, and what she plans to do)

Jim C. Hines, “10 Hugo Thoughts”

Charlie Jane Anders at io9, “The Hugo Awards Were Always Political, But Now They’re Only Political”

John Scalzi, “A Note About the Hugo Nominations This Year”

So, go forth and read. It’s a lot, I know, but it’s all good and important. If you’re not familiar with Making Light, it’s one of the few places on the internet where it’s safe – and important! – to read the comments.

Right. My take.

Most of what I said last year, when the slate was smaller, still stands. I apologize for repeating myself, but the sentiments haven’t changed all that much.

I still think slates are shitty. They don’t only take away nominations from their “opposing” side, they take nominations away from eligible works on their “own” side. The organizers had at least one “recommend works you enjoyed” post. From the 40-something responses in the post, they chose five for the slate. Which means 35 (ish) works got dropped off from the start. The slate is as unfair to those writers as it is to the writers they were intentionally trying to freeze out.

I still think recommend-stuff-you-liked posts and eligibility reminders are good things. Scalzi’s yearly “talk about Hugo eligible works you enjoyed” posts are great – they get hundreds of replies, from enthusiastic readers. There’s a huge difference between those and “vote for these five,” though the slate organizers would have people believe they’re exactly the same (see: disingenuous.)

Word-of-mouth is part of fandom. I love a thing so I want all my friends to read it and love it, too. A writer whose work I dig says “Hey, this other book over here was pretty good,” so I want to take a look. I initially picked up A Game of Thrones because it was highly recommended on a Wheel of Time fansite (WoTMania, I believe.)

When our yearly nerd family reunion descends on a Seattle bookstore, it’s a pretty safe bet that the next hour will be filled with us running back and forth in the stacks, dumping books into one anothers’ arms and saying You have to read this. It’s not subversive; it’s not sinister. It’s people who love stories sharing their enthusiasm. Recommendation threads are that same experience writ large and expanded out to people I might never meet.

On Make your own slate, if you don’t like it: Fuuuuuuck that. Like I said, I think slates are shitty, and that goes for any slate. I am heartened to see that even though fans are upset and frustrated, it’s not a situation that’s getting floated. Or, when someone says “The only way to fight it is to have our own slate,” other people push back. There’s a relevant quote here about tussling with swine.

On Get people to vote, if you don’t like it: Leaving aside the part where this isn’t an guaranteed way to prevent bloc votes from sweeping a category, couple of points.
1. If nothing else, more fans are learning about how the Hugos work, and I’m seeing people all over the internet stating they didn’t know they could nominate, but now they know for the future. I’ve seen people picking up supporting Sasquan memberships because they didn’t know that doing so allowed them to vote for the winners. More participation from enthusiastic readers is at least one silver lining we can take from all this. However.
2. Not everyone can afford a Worldcon membership. You need $40 to be able to vote for the Hugos. What might be a dinner out for me is someone else’s grocery bill. I don’t know what a good solution to this would look like – the price of supporting memberships helps Worldcon run. I don’t know if lowering that amount would bring in enough new members to recoup the costs. This is an area in which I’m not well informed. A couple of years ago, someone tried introducing a “No Cheap Voting” rule into the WSFS rules. You can see some discussion of it (and solid arguments against it) on Seanan McGuire’s blog***

What I do know is that my ability to afford a membership is an example of privilege.

On Why don’t you change the rules, if you don’t like it: This is another one that has a few points to it.
1. In general, in years without fuckery, the current nominating and voting rules have worked. They can be gamed, and that sucks, but it’s a risk that’s always been there. Some proposals seem to be in the works to try to lessen the ability of a slate to knock non-slated works out of contention. My concern there is, if there’s a way to exploit the system, determined people will find it. Some men just want to watch the world burn, and all that.
2. Change takes time. Even if someone comes up with a good proposal, it’s not going to go into effect right away. It takes, I believe, a minimum of two years for changes to the WSFS Constitution to kick in. Which would mean (my math and logic might be shaky here; it’s late and my googling skillz are fading) any changes now wouldn’t become official until the 2017 Worldcon. So the first nominating period with new rules would be for the 2018 Hugos.
3. It is perhaps naive and rose-colored of me to simply want people to be fair. Life’s not fair, cupcake, I can hear some people saying, and I know that. I know it, but I don’t have to like it. The slate voters followed the letter of the law, but not its spirit. Have I mentioned it sucks?

What it means for me this year: Oof. This is the tough(ish) question. Last year, I read  every nominee. I evaluated the works “on their merits” and voted accordingly, as the people who organized the campaign insisted we should do. The majority of the slated works were, I discovered, not to my tastes. In my opinion, none were Hugo-worthy, but I’d done my due diligence, given them a fair shake, etc.

I do not feel that same obligation this year.

I’ve bookmarked Kevin Standlee’s post on voting No Award. (Mr. Standlee, by the by, has been level-headed and graceful in just about every place I’ve seen these last couple of weeks, as he was last year. I’m sure he puts up with a lot of frustration around the awards. He is a class act, and if I ever meet him in person, I hope he’ll let me buy him the beverage of his choice.) People I respect have mentioned placing No Award above any person or publication on the slate. It’s the direction I’m leaning toward as well, but I’m also aware some people didn’t realize they were on the slate until it was too late to do anything about it. There might be a few works I will check out with that consideration, because as opposed as I am to slates, I do feel for the people who got unwittingly spattered by association. At least one person or work that was on the slate was also on my nomination list. Clearly, I thought that person or work deserved a Hugo in the first place. I’m glad I have some time between now and when votes are due to think it over.

What it means for me next year: I’ll be reading and keeping track of more short stories/novellas/novellettes. I have subscriptions to some excellent short fiction venues, and have woefully fallen behind. It’s time to catch up. I’ve kept a spreadsheet of what I’ve read/watched/enjoyed over the last year, and have continued it this year. It’s helpful to me to look back in December and see what I read in February and consider what I want to put on my nominating ballot. I’ll probably clean that up a bit and share it here, or create a 2015 works shelf on Goodreads. Sharing works we enjoyed and boosting signals is vital to genre, fandom, and (of course) bookselling. I intend to do more of it. Point in fact: Chuck Wendig is hosting a thread for stuff you dug in 2014. Go participate!

 

*Thus far, it’s unclear how many nominating ballots came from members of said internet hate group**. To me, it doesn’t really matter: at least one slate organizer thought they’d make fine companions, and invited them in. Another made a post welcoming them to the party. Sure, it’s within the rules – anyone with a valid membership can vote – but it’s slimy as all hell and these guys are smart enough to know that. Again, I’m not buying the “golly-gee-gosh, we just thought they might like science fiction, too!”

**Yes, I’m very carefully not naming said hate group or slate organizers. It doesn’t preclude anyone from either group seeing this and showing up here, but one less chance to show up on someone’s Google Alert.

***If I’m reading the 2014 WSFS minutes correctly, the amendment was passed at LonCon and is up for ratification at Sasquan.

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Places I Have Been

Another round of, well, me, on the internet this week!

Kristin at My Bookish Ways hosted an interview with yours truly. I got to recommend other books to read and keep on your radar, too!

A Book Obsession gives Grave Matters three butterflies! /adds to pile of neat ratings icons

Gikany and Una at That’s What I’m Talking About gives it an A: “One of the things we love about this series is that it is strongly character driven.  Ms. Roy’s down-to-earth characters ground the novel, giving it a firm foundation.  We found ourselves completely engrossed in the novel as we watched Elly and Cavale struggle not only to figure out who is controlling the dead but also to better understand themselves.”

Chuck Wendig is an awesome signal-booster for writers, and let me yatter on about Five Things I Learned Writing Grave Matters.

Can I tell you how keen it is when someone admits to laughing at a joke you stuck in the book? How neat it is to get feedback on that line you were afraid was maybe only funny to you? Steph at Bea’s Book Nook mentions a scene that made me giggle as I wrote it, so I’m fist-pumping a bit over here.

The periscope goes back down for a bit. I have some faerie pirates and a dead woman to attend to.

 

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This Week Has Not Sucked

At one point yesterday, I looked out my window at work and saw that not only was it snowing – again – it was snowing up. Not that the flakes were magically leaving the ground and being transported to the heavens in a kind of weird frozen water Rapture, unfortunately. The way the buildings in Boston muck about with wind direction makes it happen. My feeling on the matter was much like that of Agrajag from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyOh no, not again. We didn’t get much, just a dusting really, but dear god spring can get here any time now, kthx.

However! Good things happened this week, too!

This is where I throw confetti with abandon. Grave Matters released on Tuesday, continuing the adventures of my crew of supernatural (and one perfectly mundane) smartasses. We’re mid blog tour, so here’s a collection of links upon which to feast your eyes. Also, a year later, it still makes me giggle that “blog tour” rhymes with “Trogdor.”

Also oh hey, free books!

Some of the blogs hosting reviews are also participating in a giveaway for copies of Grave Matters. Good luck to anyone who enters!

I Smell Sheep – They gave me 4 sheep! “Holey Moley Fangman!”
Candace’s Book Blog – Review (4 hot air balloons \o/) and giveaway – “Fun and entertaining. It has dark bits but the humor thrown in lightens it up and keeps it moving as a good clip. Definitely recommend!”
On Starships and Dragonwings – Giveaway – I loved this observation about the cover: “Also can we just take a moment to really appreciate these covers that are gorgeous and portray the heroines non-sexually and ready to kick some butt??? *slow claps*” Don Sipley does the covers for the Night Owls books, cats ‘n’ kittens. He’s done an absolutely amazing job. (Fair warning if you peek through his gallery – some of the images might be NSFW.)
Manga Maniac Cafe – Review and giveaway – “If you’re looking for a new urban fantasy series to take for a spin, the Night Owls books are great.  They have great characters, fun plot twists, and lots of tense moments.”

But wait, there’s more!

At the Barnes & Noble New Book Roundup this week, Joel Cunningham writes, “This fast, fun urban fantasy continues the Night Owls series, about a very particular bookstore that helps to keep evil creatures at bay (sounds like my kind of store).”

Trinitytwo at The Qwillery dug it! “Grave Matters is at its best for me when our heroes are kicking supernatural ass and taking names, but I’m also happy with the way they support one another in the face of the unspeakable and always have each other’s backs.” (I remembered how much she’d liked Night Owls, so when she tweeted a picture of the Grave Matters ARC, I started biting my nails. So much relief!)

Fangs For the Fantasy gives it 3 1/2 Fangs! “This multiple protagonist element works because they all have compelling storylines and characterisations – and actual character growth” (I’ve spent the last few minutes trying to pick a favorite quote from the review – seriously, go read the whole thing.)

Badass Book Reviews gives Grave Matters 3 1/2 Skulls – “Grave Matters touched on fear from seeing an unexpected spirit, despair at the loss of a loved one, and even hope of somehow getting to talk to them one last time.”

Also, in case you missed my squeeing on the twitters, during Boskone’s Saturday night “Silly Pose Contest,” Bruce Coville helped re-enact the cover of Night Owls. He makes a kick-ass Elly. Career achievement UNLOCKED:
Cover Poses

(Image credit: Brenda Noiseux, via the Boskone blog. Also, if anyone recognizes the person posing as Val, please let me know!)

AND

In more book news, check out this gorgeous ARC mailing of The Fire Children that went out!

IMAG0481

There’s a map and an intro letter, and OMG IT’S A COLLECTOR’S ITEM NOW:

IMAG0482

I don’t think I’ve ever owned a #1 of a limited run of anything before. I might have a low-ish number on one of my Sandman statues. I’m geeking out.

I don’t know who all of the other 29 people are (so far I’ve heard from three other recipients!), but eeeek it’s a real thing in the world and people are reading it. There will be another run of ARCs later on, I believe, so if you’re looking to give it a read, keep your peepers peeled!

More to come…

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GRAVE MATTERS Release Day!

It’s here, it’s here!

Grave Matters

 

The Night Owls crew – full of vampires, hunters, succubi, and smartass booksellers – gets back into action today. From the back cover blurb:

Night Owls bookstore always keeps a light on and evil creatures out. But, as Lauren M. Roy’s thrilling sequel continues, even its supernatural staff isn’t prepared for the dead to come back to life…

Elly grew up training to kill things that go bump in the night, so she’s still getting used to working alongside them. While she’s learned to trust the eclectic group of vampires, Renfields, and succubi at Night Owls bookstore, her new job guarding Boston’s most powerful vampire has her on edge—especially when she realizes something strange is going on with her employer, something even deadlier than usual…

Cavale isn’t thrilled that his sister works for vampires, but he’s determined to repair their relationship, and that means trusting her choices—until Elly’s job lands all of the Night Owls in deep trouble with a vengeful necromancer. And even their collective paranormal skills might not be enough to keep them from becoming part of the necromancer’s undead army…

It’s available in dead-tree format, or you can have nanobots inscribe it directly onto your brainmeats, if that’s your thing. That’s how e-readers work, right? Nanobots? It’s 20-goddamned-15, there’d better be nanobots.
Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

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Boskone 2015, Winter Is Never Leaving Edition

Despite yet another impending blizzard, I will be at Boskone this weekend. If you’re braving the snow, come say hello!

It’s Complicated: Kids and the Culture They Consume

Friday 19:00 – 19:50, Harbor III (Westin)

As the lives of young adults in our ever-changing modern society become more complicated and diverse, so do their personal interests and experiences. Panelists discuss how the growing complexity of our world affects the content of young adult literature, comics, games, and film. How do the philosophical issues that impact today’s society affect how teens see themselves within the fiction they consume? What are some practical ideas for better connecting today’s children and teens with yesterday’s or tomorrow’s literature?

Veronica Koven-Matasy (M), A.C.E. Bauer, Bruce Coville, Lauren Roy, Stacey Friedberg

Gaming Review 2014-2015

Friday 20:00 – 20:50, Burroughs (Westin)

What are the hot new board/card/RPG games for 2015? What’s trending? What new expansions to previously released games are out now? Let’s discuss all things related to new games.

Michael Sharrow (M), Heather Albano , Lauren Roy, Brianna Spacekat Wu

Autographing: AJ Paquette, Lauren Roy, Jo Walton, Jane Yolen

Saturday 10:00 – 10:50, Galleria-Autographing (Westin)

Finding Diverse Fiction

Saturday 12:00 – 12:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

There is a clear desire for increased diversity within SF/F fiction and fandom. There are also a lot of emerging writers who are bringing diversity to the genre, but many of them are still flying below the publicity radar. Authors and publishers come together to share their “must read” lists and tips on where to find some of the new up-and-coming authors.

Charles Stross (M), Susan Jane Bigelow, Don Pizarro, Jarvis Sheffield, Lauren Roy

Authorship, RPGs, and the Legacy of D&D

Saturday 17:00 – 17:50, Marina 3 (Westin)

Dungeons & Dragons, the first commercially available role-playing game, was published 40 years ago. D&D ushered in a new era of cooperative storytelling that has inspired Game Masters, players, and authors to dream big and create their own fictional universes. Panelists explore the many facets of RPGs — from developing challenging and believable frameworks for cooperative story construction to taking the story beyond the game.

Chris Jackson (M), James Cambias, Mur Lafferty, Lauren Roy, Bill Todd

Writers on Writing: Worldbuilding from the Ground Up

Sunday 12:00 – 12:50, Harbor III (Westin)

Some spectacular stories take place in worlds very different from our own: from life on (or in) a gas giant to a civilization that lives on a world-tree as big as the Himalayas. But there are perils associated with venturing far beyond human experience. An inconsistent or poorly described worldscape can furnish a confusing story, or challenge a reader’s ability to suspend disbelief. Hear from writers who have created fully realized worlds that their readers can almost see, touch, and smell.

E. C. Ambrose (M), Myke Cole, Peadar Ó Guilín, Lauren Roy, Rosemary Kirstein

Reading: Lauren Roy

Sunday 14:00 – 14:25, Independence (Westin)

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My Arisia 2015 Schedule

Hey there, cats ‘n’ kittens, if you’re going to be at Arisia this weekend, here’s my schedule:

Sunday, 5:30PM, Bulfinch
Reading
with Felicitas Ivey, Hildy Silverman and… me!

Sunday, 10:00PM, Marina 4
A Game of Thrones: 2015 Edition
Panelists: Terry Franklin, George Claxton, Mark. W. Richards, Jessa Phillips, Lauren M. Roy

As Game of Thrones continues, it manages to diverge from the book in significant ways, while still fitting into George R.R. Martin’s vision. The story has now caught up to the books for some characters, and changes to the story are becoming more rampant. We’ll talk about the state of the show after the fourth season, with potential book and TV spoilers as we predict the fifth season.

Monday, 10:00AM, Marina 1
Running Great Games
Panelists: William “Ian” Blanton, William C. Walker III, Peter Maranci, Morgan Crooks, Lauren M. Roy

Any gaming group can kick open doors and collect treasure. How do you and your friends collectively tell an engaging and memorable story that you’ll talk about for years to come? Our panel of experienced GMs will share stories, tips, and tricks.

Friday night and Saturday I will be poking around attending panels and seeing what there is to see. If you see me around, say hello!

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Writing is a Job, For Which You Should Get Paid

Sitting in my drafts folder over at the olde blogge, I have a post entitled “I Just Want You Lot to Get Paid.” I never finished writing it, and the incident that sparked it is several years out of date, but the sentiment still stands. Last week, events in the writing world that had me thinking about it all over again – the short version is, YA writer Stacey Jay put up a Kickstarter for the sequel to Princess of Thorns. She mentioned that part of the goal amount would pay her bills for the four months she’d be writing the book, and if the project didn’t fund, she wouldn’t be going forward with it. The internet fell on her head in a terrible, frightening way and she pulled the Kickstarter. Her posts about it are here and here.

It’s raised questions about how – or whether – a writer should get paid for work that hasn’t been written. There’s also quite a bit of ur doin it wrong in regards to Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general, which I disagree with.

First of all, on writers getting paid and setting the price they’ll accept for their work:

Writers are freelancers. We have to determine what constitutes a fair wage for us, what is worth our time and focus.

That manifests in many different ways.

If you’re going the trade publishing route, it means looking at all facets of an offer: the advance, royalty rates, which rights they’re buying, what kind of marketing support your publisher is offering. For example, would you prefer to take a higher advance from Publisher A with the understanding you’ll need to do most of the promotion yourself, or a lower one from Publisher B where the company will promote the heck out of you? That might depend on how good you are at self-promotion, or how much time you have available to dedicate to it. What’s right for one author might not be right for another, and that’s okay!

If you’re self-pubbing, it means setting a price that pays you for the work you’ve done at a rate you’re comfortable with. I have not yet dipped my toes into this area, but I know if I do, I’ll be poring over pricing and promotion and a million other things I probably don’t even know to consider, because if I’m going to put my work out there on my own, I want to get paid for it. Some writers do great at $.99, others at $2.99 or $4.99 or more! Balancing what is a good price for the author vs. what the reader is willing to pay for it is a form of alchemy all on its own.

If you’re submitting short stories, it might mean choosing only to submit to pro-rate markets, or going with a semi-pro sale to a place that has built up an excellent reputation. I would, in general, discourage writers from “for-the-love” markets – places where hosting your story (“exposure”) is supposed to be a reward all on its own. If anyone knows the original person whose response to that was, “Yeah, you can die of exposure,” please let me know, because I’ve been repeating it for years.

If you’re creating a Kickstarter or a Patreon, it means setting a minimum price at which you’ll produce the work. I always assume that the price of actually writing things is baked into those projects. And well it should be! You’re paying editors and cover designers and, I dunno, sticker makers for whatever they produce to make your book look good. You should also be paying yourself for it.

I’m not quite sure where the logic is in the idea that writers and other creative people are allowed to just break even, and that’s it. As though we’re allowed to recoup only the cost of materials, but not the hours spent using those materials. It’s a mindset that says your printer ink is more valuable than the words. Or your paint is more valuable than the art created with it. That’s… that just not true. Your work has value. Your time has value. I want you to be compensated for it.

This is where I blather a bit about crowdfunding in general and Kickstarter in particular.

Some people suggested Ms. Jay should have used one of the other crowdfunding platforms for this project – Go Fund Me or IndieGoGo or the like. That seems to be primarily because she said she’d use the funds to pay her bills, and the sentiment was, she shouldn’t treat Kickstarter as an advance – that Kickstarter is ONLY for work that’s already been finished and just needs some flashy stuff added, or to cover cost of production.

To which I say, fie.

Go look at the Kickstarter for Diaspora, which got funded way the hell over its goal because it would, when finished, be an alternative to Facebook. They stated RIGHT UP FRONT that they’d use the money to spend the summer writing the code that would become the social media platform. Here:

We are four talented young programmers from NYU’s Courant Institute trying to raise money so we can spend the summer building Diaspora; an open source personal web server that will put individuals in control of their data.

And

We have a plan, a bunch of ideas and the programming chops to build Diaspora. What we need is the time it takes to iron out a powerful, secure, and elegant piece of software. Daniel, Ilya, Raphael, and Maxwell are all ready to trade our internships and summer jobs for three months totally focused on building Diaspora. We want to write code all the time, everyday.

I do not recall people getting angry that these guys were spending their ten thousand dollars on rent and utilities and food. That they were leaving their internships and jobs to make the thing the Kickstarter was funding, and that therefore did not yet exist.  That wouldn’t exist for several months. That might – because this is a risk you take backing any Kickstarter – might never come to fruition.

There’s a whole other post’s worth of what it implies when a woman asking for money gets shouted down, but men creating things don’t. It’s not just the Diaspora dudes. Plenty of writerly men have successfully crowdfunded not-yet-written books and did so without a tenth of the static Stacey Jay got. I’m not going to take myself off-topic here (and oh, could I spend a few thousand words on this), but I do want you to think about that. It’s significant, and I’ll be coming back to it in the future.

When you back any Kickstarter, there’s the danger that you might never receive whatever it is you paid for. I have backed projects that were delivered much later than the “Estimated Delivery Date” for the tier I chose. Sometimes life happened. Sometimes people needed to go back to the drawing board to make an even better product. One of the projects, which had a very prominent SF author’s name attached to it, raised half a million dollars and after quite a long period with no updates, said “Hey, sorry, it’s not going to happen.”

So do you sometimes lose out? Sure. But again, that’s part of the risk of any crowdfunding venture. In Ms. Jay’s case, she’s an established author. She’s met deadlines before. She has a fanbase who wanted to read more of the story, and considering she’s done this professionally, would likely have delivered on time. This wasn’t a high-risk Kickstarter.

Lastly, can we talk about advances a little? Let’s do that. Some of the pushback on that Kickstarter was that, advances – as done by trade publishers – come after you’ve submitted the work to an editor. As in, the advance is for something that’s already in first draft form, paying you for work you’ve already done.

Well. Sometimes? But not always.

Yes, if you have a single book deal, the money you get paid is most likely for work you wrote on spec. On spec means you bled the whole book out, polished it up as many times as needed, then sent it out into the world to be considered by editors.

But what about multi-book deals? Night Owls was written when Ace bought it, but Grave Matters sure as hell wasn’t. Part of my advance was for that second book. Once upon a time, advances were there to help keep the author in food and whiskey while they wrote their next work. Multi-book deals are a lot like that. When you read that so-and-so got heaps-o’million dollars for a five book deal, it’s a safe bet that only the first book is finished, and they’ll live off of that advance while they write the rest. There is nothing wrong with this. It is now on the author to produce those next works on time, but the publisher is taking the same gamble as the Kickstarter backers in this scenario that the words will get written and turned in in a timely manner.

Now consider that some writers can sell books on proposal. That’s when you or your agent go to editors and say “here’s the idea I have. Give me money and I’ll write it.” You see it with non-fiction books for sure, because part of the money is intended for the author to get out in the field and research their subject, then sit down and write it. It happens with fiction, too, though, especially if the author has a proven track record. In both cases, money is going toward the author so they can pay their bills while they’re in the process of creating their work.

So, if we’re going to consider Kickstarter funds as advances, the argument that “that’s not how trade publishing does it!” falls pretty flat.

Writing is a business. The blessing and the curse of it is, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else. The industry itself is in a state of flux, and has been for what, at least a decade now? People are figuring out new and different avenues to get their work out there – both into bookstores and directly into the mailboxes or inboxes of readers making grabby hands for new content.

If you find a way to do that and keep the lights on, too, I support you.

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Hark! An Eligibility Post!

It’s pretty weird for me to be typing that at all, but it’s true. 2014 was the year of my first awards-eligible publications. Last year, I told other writers hell yes I want you to remind me what you’re eligible forWhich means I have to take my own damned advice, huh?

I will admit, this is way outside of my comfort zone. Impostor Syndrome is super-loud right now, with a heaping, steaming scoop of your stuff’s not good enough on the side. But y’know, this is part of my job, now, as Mary Robinettte Kowal points out in a post of her own. She is a damned smart person, whose short story “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” was at the tippy-top of my Hugo ballot last year. I’m inclined to take her advice.

Thus.

In 2014, I published the following:

“Ex Astris,” Fireside Magazine, January 2014 (short story)
Night OwlsAce Books, February 25, 2014 (novel)

Since both of those were professional sales, and were published last year, I suppose that also makes me eligible for awards for new writers. Do I think I deserve an award?
/snerks
/points at second paragraph, second sentence

That’s not me being humble. That’s me saying I read an atomic truckload of fiction, and I have a list of amazing stuff I’ve read over the past year. At some point I’ll write a roundup of my favorites.

But for now, there you go. My very first eligibility post. It’s one of those odd intangible milestones for me, so, huzzah!

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Hello, 2015!

It’s time for this blog’s very first State of the Things, which is fitting for a new year. I didn’t write this up on January 1st, as resolutions and I don’t go the distance. For reference (and to refresh my own memory) here’s what I was hoping to accomplish in 2014.

Brief recap, GO.

  • My first professional short story sale, “Ex Astris,” appeared in Fireside.
  • Night Owls was published. A thing I wrote! Out there in meatspace!
  • On the RPG side, Green Ronin released Dragon Age Roleplaying: Set 3. I am now playing through Dragn Age: Inquisition and goggling at Orlais, because reasons. Do we get to see Tevinter, too? NO WAIT, DON’T ANSWER THAT. SPOILERS.
  • Pelgrane Press’ Mythos Expeditions contains an adventure I wrote, “A Load of Blarney.”
  • I was a Kickstarter stretch goal! Or, rather, a world I created for Storium was. So excited for people to play in Camden’s Hollow.
  • The Fire Children sold to Ravenstone Press. /gleeeee
  • So much travelling. All the travelling. Forever. Including WorldCon in London, which was amazing.
  • I was on staff at Viable Paradise XVIII*.  Which, by the way, applications for VPXIX are open… now!

And now, onward to 2015.

Books and Writing

Grave Matters, the sequel to Night Owls, hits shelves on February 24th. Preorder links, if you’re so inclined: Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

The Fire Children, my first YA fantasy, comes out this summer, on June 30th. More preorder links: Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Amazon

I have several irons in several fires. Currently poking at:

  • Adrift – swashbuckling fantasy aboard the Creeping Jenny (aka the Please Don’t Sink)
  • Dead Letters – the third book in the Night Owls series. I’d tell you what it’s about but SPOILERS
  • “Dominion” – a story about Lilith
  • “Blood in the Thread” – I have this thing for birds and wings and stories about them.
  • RPG freelancing. More when I’m allowed to say.

Travel and Appearances

I’m attending both Arisia and Boskone, and will be doing readings at both. The schedules are being finalized, so I’ll post ’em when I’ve got ’em.

Deeper into the year, I’ll be at WorldCon in August. I’m still eyeing GenCon, but there’s stuff (good stuff!) happening at the day job I’ll have to consider when planning out more travel.

Etc.

Looking back at last year’s post, I accomplished a hell of a lot. I still need to be better about the things that get pushed aside for writing: the garden didn’t happen. I was terrible about practicing my guitar. Greg probably cooked more of our meals than I did (he doesn’t mind. He likes to cook. But damn it.) I didn’t get back into running. But, with all those things, like I said in my post-NaNo, uh, post, failing to hit those goals doesn’t mean I have to put them aside and never try again.

*This is where my greatest lament that I fell apart on the “practice my guitar” front kicks in, but my pretty little not-a-Martin was in good hands during the week. This fall I will play something and accompany myself, damn it.

So, that’s the shape of the year. How’s yours looking?

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