Ancillary Justice! (Ancillary Justice!) Read it! (Read it!)

Ann Leckie won the Best Novel Nebula Award for Ancillary Justice last night. I’m very excited about this, for a number of reasons.

This is the first time that I’ve read a Nebula Award winner before it won the award. (I spent a lot of time during high school reading science fiction and fantasy as if I’m going to catch up with the entirety of the published genre and finally be able to read the new ones as they come out with a full understanding of everything that has come before. I was not, in fact, able to read ALL OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY THAT HAS BEEN PUBLISHED, EVER, but the tendency to pick up an older book before I pick up a new one has stuck with me.) That is a very cool feeling.

Second, Ancillary Justice is amazing. You should go read it, post-haste. It’s a debut (!) novel, it’s solid science fiction of a kind that I thought had fallen out of favor (it is possible that I am just looking in the wrong places), and it’s amazing.

Thirdly, the Nebula Awards themselves: of all the nominees this year, only 10 of them were men. And all of the winners in the major categories — best novel, best novella, best novelette, best short story — were women. Which is amazing, wonderful, and many (many) other superlatives.

None of the winners know me from anyone, but congratulations to all of them nonetheless.

Why I Nuked my 70k Word Draft Zero, And Started Over

I didn’t read this tweet, and immediately shove my current draft in the dumpster. I did the dumpster-shoving two days ago. But it reinforces and partially validates the aforementioned trashcan action. And I’m all for validation in this case, becuase making the decision to ditch 70,000 wasn’t an easy one.

This is my first honest attempt at a novel, and the first project that I’ve worked on since Achron shipped, and the truth is that my writing muscles have atrophied. There was a year between Achron and the first inkling that I wanted to write this book, and another year of screwing around before I thought I got serious. (And another year after I actually got serious to get to this point.)

The really horrifying thing about this is the only writing I did during this “break” was for the dayjob. All of it was software documentation. Let me tell you, those muscles have firmed up nicely. I can whip out 1500 words on any subject in about an hour, and it will all make sense. It will be logical, and I’ll have hit my word count for the day. But it will also be blander than a bucket of beige paste. Scenes filled with cardboard cutouts, shifting from one awkward pose to the next. No life to be found. No spark. No momentum. A whole lot of backstory, though. (This is not a coincidence.)

I had this epiphany two days ago, while I was reading Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker. (It’s a marvelous book, and I couldn’t help but see what it was doing in the opening chapters in stark contrast to the cold, leftover Cinncinatti chili that is my opening chapters.) So I selected the whole mess in Scrivener, and moved it to the Slush folder. I started over with a blank page, and wrote a funeral.

The result didn’t look like documentation. It had characters, movement, and dialog. It was sad. Tonight, I’m going to write another thousand words.

I have a deadline for myself: August 31st. If I’m not done with the story by then, I’ll be close: I’ll have 100,000 words in the can. Then: a month off, writing short stories.

Then: edits, and draft two.

Tom Baker’s Scarf

Early this past September, my wife wanted to make a run to her friend’s yarn shop to pick up some new materials for a project she was working on.  She asked if I wanted to come along.  So I did. “Just to warn you,” she said, “Rabecca’s going to try and sell you a Tom […]

A New Year

I generally don’t go for New Year’s resolutions.  They feel like putting off a thing that I should be doing now.  It’s one of the reasons that I’ve given up on NaNoWriMo as a useful tool; if I promise myself I’ll write a novel in November, I’m more likely to not write anything until November.  All the excitement drains out of it in the meantime, and when the time comes all that’s left is the bones.  I might gnaw on them for a bit, but in the end the Thing doesn’t get done.

In the last year, I’ve written 100k words of a novel, and promised to do things that will make my life better. I think they’re good things, and I’m going to keep doing them this year. And while I still view resolutions as a bit of a trap, the act of reminding myself, loudly, exactly what it is I’m up to is helpful.

So, in 2014:

  • I’m going to finish this damn novel. And finish another.
  • I’m going to read more, and more widely.
  • I’m going to spend as much of my time with my friends and family as I possibly can. Those people are awesome.
  • I’m going to blog a bit more often.
  • I’m going to spend my money supporting the above goals, and not on shit I don’t need.

Because life is a performance art, and I need to art harder.

Back to the Music Box

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I went back to the Music Box Theater last Friday.  I did not expect that I would be doing it so quickly after having met Neil Gaiman there at the beginning of June.  But it was in order to see a double bill of my favorite(st) movies: Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz.

The tickets were free, and the event included a Q&A session with Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost.  It was an extremely good time.  It’s been ages since I’d seen Shaun with an audience that loved the movie, and it was like watching it new.  The Q&A session was loads of fun.  The three were very kind, and answered lots of questions from the audience before saying goodbye, and introducing Hot Fuzz.  Hot Fuzz is pretty much my favorite movie, full stop.  Again, watching it with an enthusiastic crowd was wonderful, and the sound in the theater was great — I heard things in the background that I’ve never heard before.

The only downside to the trip was that, despite leaving the theater earlier than the Gaiman event, we got home right around the same time.

Still, entirely worth it.

This Sentence Has Five Words.

From Tobias Buckell’s blog, a reminder for those of us who try too damn hard, and occasionally overlook the simple stuff:

‘This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.’

- Gary Provost

And here I am, sitting at my desk, posting this instead of going downstairs to write on my lunch break.  *furtive eyes*  *dashes downstairs, notebook in hand*

Meeting Neil

Two weeks ago, I met Neil Gaiman.

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