The Extrahuman Union

Posts Tagged ‘science fiction

So much new stuff to check out:

Tastes Like Chicken. Sort Of

Do you like Chicken McNuggets? No? Well, check out my 30pov piece Chicken McLife anyway, as I examine my life through McNuggets:

I had a routine. I’d walk into town, a couple of miles from the college, and swing by the comic book store. I’d buy whatever was new. It might have been Battle Angel Alita, The Maxx, Strangers in Paradise or just the latest Batman, but I always picked up two or three issues. Then I’d hike over to the McDonald’s on Colman St., on the edge of the city, and sit for a while reading comic books and eating McNuggets.

For a while, all the chaos in my head stilled, and the world was nothing but a plastic seat, Batman, and some greasy food.

Politics!

I went to a Tea Party rally for no good reason, except to take pictures and write a report. Yes, the signs were amusing. Yes, they had foam pitchforks. The report is here: Tax Day Rally Fizzles.

It has to be a frustrating time for the Tea Party. In Washington, House Republicans are compromising with the hated Obama on the budget and may yet allow the debt limit to be raised. Here in Connecticut, Democrats likely have the votes to pass big tax increases as part of an effort to close the budget gap. The big wins of last year are already fading from memory, and no one seems all that excited about 2012. Unlike 2009 and 2010, there is no one single bill to rally against, no one unifying task.

Two other articles: The Myth of the Easy Answer, which has a lot of my political philosophy in it, and Budget Deal Winners and Losers, which has, um, those.

Etc.

I did a guest post at Reading With Tequila, about superheroes! It wasn’t part of the recent blog tour, so I’m linking to it from here.

In a lot of ways, superhero stories are about those who are different or special in one way or another. Here are people who either have inborn or contracted special abilities or powers, or who are in some other way extraordinary.

And that’s it for now! There’s some big big news to talk about soon, too!

This past month was the month of the BROKEN blog tour, which was the first time I’d done (or, um, heard of–I am a publishing world n00b) anything like that. You can see the list of blogs I toured here. It was a decent amount of work to prepare for, as the blog tour wasn’t just reviews but short interviews, memories, lists and other provided-by-me content.

I did wonder whether it would be worthwhile before starting, but now that it’s done I’m glad I did it. I got to post on or be reviewed by a lot of cool book blogs, and hopefully get some new readers interested in the book. One extra awesome thing that popped up a lot during the tour’s reviews was that the reviewers weren’t necessarily fans of science fiction, but they still found the book accessible and interesting. I have some thoughts about science fiction and accessibility, but that might be another post for another time.

I have no idea how a blog tour translates to sales, but as a way to connect with readers and bloggers it seemed to work well. So, a huge thanks to Jessica at the Teen Book Scene for coordinating it!

I’m going to try and gather all the reviews and post them on the reviews page at some point today or tomorrow.

One of the things that caught both my publisher and I off-guard was that BROKEN started getting reviewed as a YA novel. I hadn’t written the book specifically for young adults, and I know we wondered (and are still wondering) just what it is about the book that makes some people class it as YA fiction. Part of the the reason might be the age of one of the protagonists: Michael Forward is 14. There is also a definite theme of growing up; Michael has to find a way to do the right thing despite facing his worst fears, and he doesn’t always succeed. Plus, BROKEN is relatively short, it clocks in at about 60,000 words (most non-YA SF/Fantasy seems to be longer, averaging around 100K, at least from what I’ve heard).

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s exactly the kind of story I would have loved when I was 14.

But does that make it YA? What does make something YA? I’m still not sure. I’ve found a couple of definitions here and there, but I haven’t found any of them satisfying. I think there are plenty of books which are easily identifiable as YA fiction, but there are plenty more that fall into this sort of gray area BROKEN is in. Is YA in some cases more about marketing than content (see: Urban Fantasy vs. Paranormal Romance for another very, very fine distinction that may just come down to which cover goes on the book)? Does the author’s intended audience matter? I have no objection to BROKEN being classed this way, for the record, but I do have to admit it wasn’t my thought when I was writing it.

I’m still mulling all this over. What do you think, folks who have read the book? Could it/should it be classed as YA? Does the label we give a book matter, except as a tool to reach new audiences?

It might not surprise you that there’s a lot of background stuff for the BROKEN universe that never made it into the book. I don’t subscribe to the idea that just because I’ve created a huge world with tons of background information you’ll be interested in hearing about every inch of it. But there are lots of extras, and from time to time I’ll probably post a few of them here.

One of the things I created is a handy reference chart for Extrahumans and their powers. Here it is, in memo form–the most evil, sinister form of all (click “fullscreen” to see everything more easily).

Don’t forget: you can buy BROKEN in electronic format for a mere $10 at the following locations:

A couple of years ago I collected all of the short stories that I’d written over the course of my adult life, from college graduation on, into a slim self-published volume called Shelley and Mira in the Land of the Shining Sun. I named the collection after the only one of the stories to have actually been “published” somewhere (a British webzine that has since ceased to exist). You can find that volume as a $3 electronic download or a more expensive paperback over at Lulu.

Each story is full of memories for me, of where, when and who I was when I wrote it. One of the stories, “Commando”, is about a lonely high school girl who is more or less stalked by another girl who wants to be her friend. I wrote that story when I was a high school English teacher, and in it I put a lot of what I thought about high school kids at the time.

I liked to have my top-level freshmen analyze short stories when I gave them exams, and one year I was feeling lazy and adventurous (this may have been the year I was fired) so I put “Commando” on their exam next to dull questions about Romeo and Juliet and Great Expectations. Of course, I needed to come up with some way of convincing them that I hadn’t just written a story for them to go over, that it was in fact a real story, so I cooked up a fishy background story for why this wasn’t in grainy photocopied-from-a-book type. A friend of mine was a writer, I said, and this was a story she made. I came up with a pen name for “her,” too: Susan Marigold. Marigolds are my favorite flowers (especially the orange ones), and my first name wasn’t Susan then so obviously, no one would ever suspect it was me.

(It’s funny, sometimes. That old AOL CD from a few posts back was sent to another “fake” name at my current address: Susan Aventara. My future haunts my past.)

The students took the exam and hated every minute of it. My exams were designed to be punishing, with lots of writing and very little multiple choice. They were a bitch to correct. When the students got to the story they had their questions, like What the f*** is this? I trotted out the backstory. One student saw through me immediately. Is this, he wondered slyly, something you wrote?

Ha ha, I said, thinking quickly. If I were to write a short story, would I show it to you? They accepted this readily. It was clear that we weren’t fond of one another.

They read the story and analyzed it, grudgingly. Pathetically, I’d asked them to tell me whether they thought it was a good story, and why. They were brutal. They thought it was dumb, they didn’t like the character, why were the other kids so mean, etc.? I couldn’t tell them that I’d based every mean kid on an amalgamation of all the horrible things I’d seen them all do. I went home, feeling bad.

But I edited that story, and included it in the book years later.

I’m not surprised my students saw through me. I was transparent in so many ways, even as I tried to hold myself tightly in. I was controlled and curt, mainly as a survival mechanism. I don’t think it’s exactly a coincidence that the protagonist was a quiet, damaged girl named Jane. When I taught, I did everything I could to put up a strong, confident face to my students, but every once in a while they could peer right through the walls to see her sitting there, staring back out at them.

I decided to ditch my old LiveJournal account because, man, I love WordPress way too much not to want to come over here instead.

There’s a lot more that I can do with a WP.com blog than with an LJ. I want to create kind of an all-purpose place for me to exist on the web where I can keep folks informed about everything I’m doing, from political writing at CT News Junkie to more memoir-ish nonfiction at 30pov.com, and, of course, longer fiction works like BROKEN.

So welcome! Take a moment to say hi.

–Susan Jane Bigelow


Susan Jane Bigelow’s Extrahuman Union

Hey! Welcome to the Extrahuman Union, home of Susan Jane Bigelow. Prepare to be stripped of all meaningful identity. While you're processing, check out more about me on the about page!

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BROKEN

Extrahuman Union #1

SKY RANGER

Extrahuman Union #2

THE SPARK

Extrahumans #3

THE DEMON GIRL’S SONG

YA LGBT epic fantasy!

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