The Extrahuman Union

Archive for the ‘General stuff’ Category

I have updated my bibliography, including all novels (including the forthcoming third book in the Grayline Sisters series, due out this year) and all short stories. I’ve provided links to short stories if they’re available online.

Here’s the full list.

Yeah, I feel weird about making one of these. WHATEVER.

Here’s what’s eligible for things this year:


Short stories:

Essay/Fan work:

And that’s it! Not a bad batch of things for this year.


Okay, I’ll start off by saying I don’t watch “Game of Thrones.”

I tried to read the books, but ran out of resolve somewhere in the first one, and never came back.

And for most things, I’d just leave it there. I don’t watch, I don’t read, that’s my choice. Fine.

But GoT is one of those things that’s really hard to ignore, if you’re a fan of fantasy. It’s pretty much the biggest thing going right now. Loads of people watch the show and talk about it. I largely tune those conversations out, much as I tune out conversations about basketball or Eurovision. Not my fandom. Most of my experience with the show is making fun of people melting down on Twitter about the Red Wedding.

(This is actually how I determine Twitter meltdowns now: how many Red Weddings is it? So far only the finale of Breaking Bad has even come close.)

So that’s my interaction with GoT, and I’m usually happy to leave it there. But every once in a while something will pop up that gives me the twitch. Like, for instance, this from George R. R. Martin:

But Martin told the New York Times that although his books are epic fantasy, they are based on history (the series is loosely inspired by the Wars of the Roses). And “rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day”.

“To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves.


I’m not going to spend a lot of time deconstructing this. Others are doing a better job of that elsewhere. The only thing I’ll say is that obviously using “history” as an excuse for perpetrating sexual violence on women is pretty crap; the Middle Ages were no more full of wanton rape and sexual assault as our own day. And in a series where summer mysteriously lingers for decades and there are literal dragons, “history” only applies to women having horrible sexual things happen to them? I see, I see.

Someone asked me today what possible stake I could have in pointing this out, though. After all, I don’t watch. I don’t care. All the Lannisters and Starks (HOW DO I KNOW SO MUCH ABOUT THESE PEOPLE????) can fall into a very large pit and I’ll be fine. So why criticize?

After all, isn’t this a conversation that fans should be having? Where’s my place in it?

I don’t know. I’m not just trying to defend my own right to complain about things, though I do like doing that. For sure! But I think what GoT is doing is doubling down on some very toxic trends I see a lot of in fantasy, like the trope of “history” being used as a cover for graphic and gratuitous sexual violence against women and women mostly existing to provoke the men of the story into feeling or doing something, and that’s the sort of thing I think needs to be pushed back against whenever possible.

When a piece of pop culture gets so big that I can just rattle off “Winter is Coming” riffs without even thinking about it, without having watched a single episode or gotten to the end of a single tome book, and I can point to a fairly vast compendium of online reviews, criticism, and conversation that I’ve been reading and following for years, and I can’t walk into the SFF half-aisle in Barnes & Noble without seeing George R. R. Martin’s name everywhere, then maybe I have a tiny little toehold of a stake in this. Maybe as a member of SFF fandom in general I have a somewhat bigger stake, especially because I want to see us get away such a strong focus on sprawling faux-medieval melodramas where white men whack each other with swords.

So maybe the suggestion that not fully engaging with a piece of culture means there’s no right to criticize it isn’t entirely accurate. And maybe there’s some value in criticisms coming from many places, including from those who for all kinds of good reasons don’t want to watch/read.

So, there is an article out there today saying that politics don’t belong in science fiction.

It’s by a guy (Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit) who is known mostly for writing mildly irritating things about politics. I know, I had no idea Instapundit was still around! That really brings me back, talking about him. Ah. Memories.

Anyway, I’m a political writer as well as a science fiction writer, so I took one look at this title and just rolled my eyes. Then I read the rest.

Here’s how it starts:

There was a time when science fiction was a place to explore new ideas, free of the conventional wisdom of staid, “mundane” society, a place where speculation replaced group think, and where writers as different as libertarian-leaning Robert Heinlein, and left-leaning Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke would share readers, magazines, and conventions.

Yes, in those days you could read books with cardboard characters by white guys from America AND Great Britain. How were there not literal wars in the aisles during conventions in 1968? The past was amazing.

But of course what Reynolds is actually irritated about is the sad treatment of Vox Day and Larry Correia, whose fans decided to troll the rest of us by nominating them, by intolerant liberals who, let’s face it, seriously can’t take a joke. “Purging the heretics” is how Reynolds refers to it. He also says that liberals have “colonized” science fiction. Yes! I know.

I just have to sigh, because here are these poor benighted souls getting attention from a national libertarian columnist in a national newspaper which has millions of readers all across the globe. I’m reminded of the endless parade of politicians and conservative celebrities who have been making the pilgrimage to Bundy Ranch. Conservatives are very good at using their power to present a united front against this vast army of liberals, some of whom may have blogs or Twitter accounts.

As for the headline itself and the premise behind the column: it’s laughable. Science fiction, not political? Have you actually read any science fiction, Mr. Reynolds?

Science fiction is inherently political. It always has been. Science fiction is, in many of its forms, about either the future we want to see, or the future we dread seeing.

The things we say about the future, about technology, about how humans grow and work and interact, all of that reflects on the world we live in today. Almost all science fiction books that I’ve read have had something to say about now, even if it’s something very quiet.

I write political books and stories. Sometimes the politics are more obvious, sometimes more subtle, but they are there. I can’t take the politics out of my stories; they’d be a lot lesser if I did that.

This struggle between various opposing camps in SFF fandom can’t be boiled down to the tired trope of “We are too politically divided these days, and it’s because of [insert name of political opponent here]!” This is about change, and about what happens when big sections of fandom who have been ignored for decades demand to be seen and heard.

It’s also about the future: we are trying to define the future we want to see. Sure, it’s political.

How can it not be?

Hugo nominations are out, and there’s some good stuff, some awesome stuff, and some excruciatingly awful crap.

But before we get there, the good: holy shit there are some amazing folks being nominated. The Book Smugglers got nominated for Best Fanzine, as did A Dribble of Ink. Skiffy and Fanty was nominated for Best Fancast. The list for Best Fan Writer has Liz Bourke, Kameron Hurley, and Foz Meadows on it. ANCILLARY JUSTICE is up for Best Novel. And Benjanun Sriduangkaew got nominated for the Campbell!


The awesome: QUEERS DIG TIME LORDS got nominated for Best Related Work. Something I’m actually in! This is very exciting.


And then there’s the bad stuff.


Okay, look. Everyone complains about the Hugos. It’s a fan rite-of-passage, it’s something that happens every year because certain things get on and other things don’t. Everyone has opinions. In those cases the right thing to do is usually to shrug, admit the Hugos are flawed, celebrate the winners, and work to see that things get better next year.

This isn’t that.

This is about what I and a lot of other people felt when we saw a novelette by Vox Day and a novel by Larry Correia make it on to the ballot, after a campaign to get voters to do just that. This is the about the sense that we are being maliciously provoked by a bloc of ultraconservative fans who hate that the genre isn’t all about them anymore.

This is about the horrible realization that they are using the Hugos to troll us, and enjoying themselves immensely while doing it.

And it’s also about the fact that I didn’t want to say anything about it at first.

Okay. I was bullied a lot as a kid. I know what it looks like, and what it feels like. I know what’s it’s like when someone writes something hurtful on a poster you spent all weekend making, or takes a picture of you just so they can laugh at it later. I know how it feels when someone takes something you love and uses it against you. And that is sort of how this feels.

I didn’t want any part of it. Not at first. My instinct is always to hide, hope they don’t see me, hope they go away.

But then I read what Natalie Luhrs had to say about standing up.

I used to be afraid to speak. Instead, I read. That is how I participated in the community. I still read.

But I am no longer afraid to speak.

She said that despite having tons of miserable trolls come into her space and try to shut her up.

And it’s funny, because I do speak, on lots of issues, every week in my political column. But even there I can feel myself trying to stay on this side of it, trying to stay “safe.” I’ve discovered, though, that even when I do that there will be trolls who want to shut me up.

If I stay safe or stay silent then the other voices get to keep the entire field. And that’s not right.

So. What’s going on here is malicious. Nobody should use the Hugos to make not just a political point, but to actually try to upset other parts of fandom. And there is nothing that’s going to make me believe that’s not what this is.

I don’t particularly care to read their works and judge them on the merits. I also don’t care to engage with these trolls.

But I do care to speak. I may not be much of a deal in the SFF world, but I have my tiny little voice and I shall use it.

Yesterday I got into a conversation on Twitter about whether killing off characters is always cheap or an easy way out in some way, and I’ve been turning that question over in my mind ever since.

I actually agreed when the topic came up, mainly because of where my own head’s been at lately when it comes to character death. For three of the last books I’ve written (none of which are published yet), there has been a moment where I killed off a fairly major character, and for a while I thought this was a great idea.

But then, after I’d written the really satisfying scenes where the character is there and then just… gone, and everybody deals with the fallout, I thought better of it. I started to wonder why these characters needed to die. What purpose in the larger story did that fulfill?

I had to admit that I didn’t know.

Eventually I came to realize that I’d done it for a couple of different reasons. In Book A, I did it to remove one leg of a love tripod. In Book B, I did it to make another character suffer, and out of some sense of justice for what the dead character had done. In Book C, I think it was purely for shock value, because the character had been a major part of three previous books.

And in each case, I think killing off these characters was taking the easy way out.

In Book A I thought, wouldn’t it be more interesting if the person survived, and they had to find another “solution” to the protagonist’s feelings for two other people? In Book B I thought, wouldn’t it be better if this character lived and the other characters had to figure out what to do with her? And in Book C I thought, wouldn’t it be better if the character wasn’t killed and remained in the story to be a pain in everyone’s butt?

In all three cases, the answer was yes. Book A was the most satisfying, because the “solution” to the love tripod was pretty novel, and fit well with the ethos of the book. Book B? It turned out not to matter. And Book C… well, I’m still fixing that one up, but I think it’ll be an improvement.

But I will say that my position on this is a little more nuanced than I’d originally thought. Sometimes character deaths are very meaningful, and belong in the story. In Book B another fairly major character does die, because that’s what the story basically screams for. The moment of her death is extremely high-stakes and is a turning point for the protagonist in a lot of ways. The entire book seems to be building up to it, and it works.

There is also an incredibly important death at the end of my first book, BROKEN. I won’t spoil it. But it’s the sort of death that some people, including my wife, are annoyed at me about years later. Was that death worth it? Was it necessary?

I go back and forth. Yesterday, I said I might do it differently. Today, I don’t think I would. It’s good that I can’t edit it anymore! My own self-doubt as a writer sometimes leads me to make unfortunate decisions.

That death did serve the story in very important ways–in fact, that death was the story in a fairly obvious way–and the entire universe of that book and the following books would be vastly different if that character had lived.

So I think you can do character death well. I’m planning a major one for the end of the series I’m working on now, and I’m doing everything to make sure it counts, it’s meaningful, and it serves the story and the character well. I think you can have death that doesn’t feel cheap or wasteful, and you can have death that isn’t just there to tug at heartstrings.

But it’s also definitely possible to have character deaths that are the opposite. As writers, I think it’s smart to not just toss characters away, but to really think about why we’re doing it. When we do that, our stories get better, and when characters do die, their deaths have a bigger impact and are more meaningful to readers.

Behold: what happens when I drink too much coffee and have access to the web:

Read the rest of this entry »

THE SPARK is out today, at last! Here’s the Amazon link!

This book has been a long time coming, and I’m going to have more thoughts about just how long later in the week. For today, though, it’s time to celebrate!

I feel like I ought to have a ritual for today, some kind of combination of words and actions to ensure that things go right. It’s probably my theater background.

See, theater folk are superstitious.

And I mean, really superstitious. In high school, we were reading “Macbeth” in English class, and I happened to mention the name of the play in the theater’s green room.

“Out!” ordered one of the techies. “Out, now!”

“You can’t be serious,” I protested. But of course, he was. There was some disagreement on what, exactly, I had to do while I was outside, but I wasn’t allowed back in the theater building again until I’d done it.

It was, to be fair, kind of a spooky theater. When the curtain was closed, the stage could get very dark. For one show I delighted in lying down and staying perfectly still in the darkness, and then, when someone hesitantly tried to cross the stage, saying “Don’t step on me!” It scared the hell out of them. I got an award for it at the cast party.

That theater building was also haunted. There was a rumor of a kid who had killed himself in the creepy concrete basement under the stage. There was a door to nowhere in there, and that was where the ghost was supposed to live.

I once did a production of “Kiss Me, Kate” for my town’s summer theater program, and all I remember is that there were a lot of complicated dance moves that I, a notoriously uncoordinated teenager, had to learn. One of them was this weird sequence for “Another Opening, Another Show” where everyone on stage did a fancy sequence with their feet and hands. It was drilled into me so often that I still remember, twenty years later, how to do most of it.

Anyway, before every show at my high school’s theater I would lie down on the stage and clear my mind. Then I would do the “Another Opening” song and dance in some quiet part of backstage. Then, last of all, I’d go downstairs and ask the ghost if it was okay if we did a show, and would he please come and watch.

Everything settled, the show could then go on.

That’s kind of how I feel as another book release draws near. I should have a ritual. Something to make sure it all goes according to plan. Maybe I can find a part of the house to do the “Another Opening” dance in, if I can remember all the steps.

Or maybe I can just refresh Amazon’s sales page obsessively, and call that tradition enough!

I don’t like being one of those bloggers whose every post begins with “I meant to update more” but here we are!

I’ve been busy with all kinds of things. In mid-March I was in a terrible writing slump. I had finished the edits on my last manuscript and was at loose ends, without a new project. The projects I had to do all seemed uninviting. So I complained to my wife that I had run out of creative energy. She suggested I take a little time off, and that I’d be fine soon enough.

I wasn’t convinced. I was sure that my well had run dry, that I only had a few books in me after all, and that I’d never manage to finish anything ever again!

I’m sure you can imagine what happened next.

The following day I started writing a scene about a character named Siphane (pronounced SIFF-a-nee) and her cool life on her cool ship. A few days later I realized I’d started something new. And now, two short months later, the first draft of MEMORY’S FIRE is done. My wife has informed me that she told me so. She’s right.

The draft clocked in at 74,500 words, which is right in the middle of what I usually manage on the first time through. I tend to sketch during the rough draft and fill in the details later, and that’ll happen this time as well. I’m guessing it’ll end up at around 90,000 words when all is said and done.

This is the fastest I’ve ever finished a manuscript with the notable exception of BROKEN, which was a) a lot shorter and b) done for NaNoWriMo. I’m very pleased, and I’m looking forward to editing it into something good!

In Other News

  • You saw the cover for THE SPARK, right? Isn’t it cool????
  • There’s some plans in the works for a Western Massachusetts launch party for THE SPARK. More on that later! It’ll probably happen in the early Fall.
  • Still nothing official I can announce about THE DAUGHTER STAR yet, but hopefully soon.
  • I do have some news about various short stories, but I can’t tell you any of it yet! ALSO SOON.
  • My current projects are working on editing MEMORY’S FIRE, short story writing, and working on the second Marta Grayline (DAUGHTER STAR) book. I also have some cool ideas for another fantasy book, but they’re still rattling around my head. I’m taking a break from the Extrahumans series for a little while to concentrate on other things.

And that’s it!

Ever since BROKEN was published, I’ve noticed that I’ve become… productive.

Really. My previous output was two drafts of books written in about four years. Counting the draft if THE SPARK I finished last night, I’ve started and finished two drafts in about six months (though, to be fair, the first few pages of THE SPARK were written two years ago, I just had no idea what to do with them).

Something about being published has made me want to write more things. People are reading what I’m writing, so I’ll write them more things to read!

I’m sure part of this is that I’m not spending hours each day writing for and managing a political website; that ate a tremendous amount of my time and energy. But really, I got such a boost of energy when BROKEN came out that I haven’t stopped writing since. The result is two drafts that I think I can shape and edit into halfway decent books.

When my old writing teacher said to keep writing, she really wasn’t kidding.

In any event, it looks like it’ll be a long time before you’re all rid of me. I don’t have a first draft to work on for the first time in a while, so now I can do nothing but edit and plot out what I want to write next.

How do YOU get inspired to write?

Susan Jane Bigelow’s Extrahuman Union

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Extrahuman Union #1


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Extrahumans #3


YA LGBT epic fantasy!

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