The Extrahuman Union

Archive for the ‘Siphane and Lurbira’ Category

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.


Yes. I am awful. I do not blog much.

But in a previous life I blogged A LOT, so I think that counts for something?

Okay. Here’s what’s going on:


I did a reading of “Ramona’s Demons” with the awesome Topside Press crew at the Kelly Writer’s House at Penn in Philadelphia last week. It was incredible! I had a blast with everyone, and was so amazed by the outpouring of love for THE COLLECTION and for my story. Philly, you are the best.

I keep thinking we’ll do some sort of reading/appearance thing for my other books at some point. I’ll keep you posted.


Hey! Do you like “Doctor Who” more than pretty much anything? Me, too! Which is why I’m super excited to have an essay appearing in “Queers Dig Time Lords,” which will be coming out from Mad Norwegian Press this June. Did I mention John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) will be doing the intro? Yeah!

Books in Production

The cover for THE DAUGHTER STAR is done and ready for a reveal next month. It is AMAZING, and I’m thrilled about it. The book itself is due out in May, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Works in Progress

THE BELLS OF VALEN: I finished up the rough draft of the fourth Extrahumans book yesterday, and now I’m completely exhausted. Revisions loom, but I’m not touching the book until at least May. I need to let it settle, plus there’s way more to do.

THE SEEKER STAR: I’m about halfway through revisions for this book, which is the second in the Grayline Sisters trilogy. It is slow going. This book has been interrupted by so, so many other things.

SIPHANE AND THE WHALE: This rough draft of a grumpy robot and her weirdo human pal figuring out life, love and unusual food products during a terrifying interstellar war is collecting dust, waiting for me to have time to revise it. Maybe by April?

THE DEMON GIRL’S SONG: Look what’s back in rotation! I’m trying to fix this poor, unloved book about a young woman being possessed by a demon emperor up some. There were so many issues with it, and I’d love for it to see the light of day at some point… but I only have time to work on it when I’m not busy with other things. I also have no idea how to fix a lot of it. Argh!

THE FALLEN STAR: Grayline Sisters #3. I have a few pages written and have outlined some of the rest.

THE LAST EXTRAHUMAN: Outlined. Haven’t started. Really want to start. Wanted to start months ago. Holding self back.

FURY’S STAND: Byzantine gender fantasy, with goddesses. 18k or so written. It’s stalled out while I work on other things.


There’s a bunch of reviews of BROKEN out there which I need to post. I will get to it. Promise.

And that’s it!

Seanan McGuire makes these lists every month of what she’s working on, and every time she does my eyes grow big. Every once in a while I like to do the same thing, just to get an idea of where I’m at with all my projects. It’s been almost a year since I did this last. To be fair: it’s been quite a year.

I’m not including anything that’s not in process in one form or another. I’m not including a couple of things because they haven’t been announced yet, or I’m still trying to find a home for them. But here’s the rest:

The Daughter Star – Announced this week (more on that Monday)! I’m working on the first round of revisions now. First in a planned trilogy about the Grayline sisters. This thing has eaten my life at the moment.

The Seeker Star – Second book in the Grayline sisters trilogy, it’s at over 50,000 words. Stalled while I finish revisions on Daughter Star.

Gifts of the Sky – Extrahumans #4, starring Jill, Penny, Torres and some big flying doofus. A little over 20,000 words but stalled out while I work on other stuff.

Siphane and the Whale – The book formerly known as Memory’s Fire, about the adventures of introvert Siphane and her bitchy robot pal Lurbira Call. New SF universe, far future, giant war, space whales, lots of fun. First draft done, no energy to revise right now.

Fury’s Stand – Disgraced fortysomething princess gets sent into exile, only to bump up against plots to ruin everything. Set in a world modeled after the 12th century Byzantine Empire. 16,000 words. Slow going, stalled while I sort out everything else.

The Adventures of Stacy and Jazz – Short stories about a suburban woman and her demon-hunting pal. Shopping them around in various places. I have three stories done and the first bit of a fourth written.

CT News Junkie column – Every week. Politics and Connecticut. What could be better?

And that’s it! It’s a surprisingly robust list.

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!

Susan Jane Bigelow’s Extrahuman Union

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