Feb 23 2020



No, not a new snack food — it’s the 2019 Nebula Award finalists, the list of which was recently released.

I’m sure you follow all sorts of SF/F websites or social media accounts, so you’ve certainly seen this list already, right?

Well. Just in case you missed it, here it is:


Marque of Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)
A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine (Tor)
Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher)
Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley)


“Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, Ted Chiang (Exhalation)
The Haunting of Tram Car 015, P. Dj’l Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Saga)
Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water, Vylar Kaftan (Tor.com Publishing)
The Deep, Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Saga)
Catfish Lullaby, A.C. Wise (Broken Eye)


“A Strange Uncertain Light”, G.V. Anderson (F&SF 7-8/19)
“For He Can Creep”, Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com 7/10/19)
“His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light”, Mimi Mondal (Tor.com 1/23/19)
“The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye”, Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny 7-8/19)
Carpe Glitter, Cat Rambo (Meerkat)
“The Archronology of Love”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed 4/19)

Short Story

“Give the Family My Love”, A.T. Greenblatt (Clarkesworld 2/19)
“The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power”, Karen Osborne (Uncanny 3-4/19)
“And Now His Lordship Is Laughing”, Shiv Ramdas (Strange Horizons 9/9/19)
“Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island”, Nibedita Sen (Nightmare 5/19)
“A Catalog of Storms”, Fran Wilde (Uncanny 1-2/19)
“How the Trick Is Done”, A.C. Wise (Uncanny 7-8/19)

The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, Carlos Hernandez (Disney Hyperion)
Catfishing on CatNet, Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen)
Dragon Pearl, Yoon Ha Lee (Disney Hyperion)
Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions, Henry Lien (Holt)
Cog, Greg van Eekhout (Harper)
Riverland, Fran Wilde (Amulet)

Game Writing

Outer Wilds, Kelsey Beachum (Mobius Digital)
The Outer Worlds, Leonard Boyarsky, Megan Starks, Kate Dollarhyde, Chris L’Etoile (Obsidian Entertainment)
The Magician’s Workshop, Kate Heartfield (Choice of Games)
Disco Elysium, Robert Kurvitz (ZA/UM)
Fate Accessibility Toolkit, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (Evil Hat Productions)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

Avengers: Endgame, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Marvel Studios)
Captain Marvel, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Marvel Studios)
Good Omens: “Hard Times”, Neil Gaiman (Amazon Studios/BBC Studios)
The Mandalorian: “The Child”, Jon Favreau (Disney+)
Russian Doll: “The Way Out”,Allison Silverman and Leslye Headland (Netflix)
Watchmen: “A God Walks into Abar”, Jeff Jensen & Damon Lindelof (HBO)


I have, alas, read very view of the fiction entries.  One reason: when I’m trying intensively to write something of my own, it’s very difficult for me to immerse myself in someone else’s imagined world… And I’ve been trying pretty damn hard for most of this year.

On and off, that is.  So I have managed to read at least a couple of the items on the list.  Specifically:


This Is How You Lose the Time War by [El-Mohtar, Amal, Gladstone, Max]

This is How You Lose the Time War, by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar, which I dearly loved (as I mentioned previously), and


Exhalation: Stories by [Chiang, Ted]

“Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”,  from Ted Chiang’s collection, Exhalation. Chiang is a favorite of mine, and I generally root for him in any list.  But this time he’s right up against Gladstone and El-Mohtar in the novella category —  so I’m torn.

Of course, as a card-carrying SFWA member, I get to vote for the award, and there’s plenty of opportunity for me to catch up on (at least)  the shorter fiction before the deadline. Quite possibly one of the other finalists for novella will impress me even more!

But, looking through this list, I do notice an interesting trend: an outsized proportion of the nominees were published in either Tor.com or Uncanny magazine.

Tor.com is a website. You can read their fiction for free.

Uncanny has no physical existence, and is an ebook magazine subscription — but you can also read it for free on their website (if partly delayed so that subscribers see it all first).

That is such a very interesting phenomenon.

I gotta say: the first thing I did on realizing this was to hop over and subscribe to Uncanny.  Obviously, it’s where the cool kids are hanging out these days.

Speaking of cool kids hanging out:

The winsome Geary Gravel.

I had a lovely evening in Northampton MA, sharing dinner with fellow author Geary Gravel, at our favorite Indian restaurant.  Geary is himself neck-deep in projects, both enjoyable and frustrating…  I’ll say no more about which ones are which! Anyway, time spent with Geary is always delightful — in the way that talking with another writer who knows exactly what you’re going through and can offer a) insight, b) commiseration and/or c) righteous indignation can only be.  We writers spend an awful lot of time hunched over desks, gazing at glowing screens and punching keyboards.  Actual conversation with another human being, and eating food well-prepared by persons other than oneself can certainly put things in perspective.

Also — this, guy in particular?  Especially great to hang out with.  Just sayin’.

Final note: Have you been watching The Expanse?  You should be watching The Expanse.  Also reading the books.


Jan 9 2017

Back from Florida. To Snow.


And plenty of it.  Looks like about six to eight inches.

So I was home from the office all yesterday, keeping warm, shoveling the back porch, feeding birds.

Restaurant remains open despite inclement weather.

Restaurant remains open despite inclement weather.

Also, digging out my car and Sabine’s, and  moving them around periodically while the plow-guy clears off the parking lot section by section.

This while trying to extend my writing retreat.   Which explains my radio silence.   The next meeting of the Fabulous Genrettes is coming up Real Soon Now, and I’m in the hot-seat.  So, I’ve got about a week in which to gather this ragged tale into something which, while not graceful, does move.  And which, while riddled with holes, does indicate a plot.  And which, if not actually coherent, is at least discussable.   And I have to get it to the Genrettes in time for them to actually read it before the meeting.

Thus, in a bit of a crunch.  But a good one.

I’m at the office now, but I should head home soon.   Weather.com has a warning banner, telling me that it’s going down to 6 degrees Fahrenheit tonight (that’s -14.44 Celsius for the rest of humanity).  I’ve got the house heat set higher than is usual for overnight, so that those tricky corners where the pipes are close to the outside walls will get enough warmth to keep them from freezing solid.  Which has been a problem in the past.

Meanwhile, my sister is in Florida, basking in the — well, at the moment it’s 54 degrees there (12.22 Celsius), but it’s the middle of the night.  Tuesday it’s going to go up to 72 where she is.  Oh, and with a rip-tide warning.  Should she feel like swimming.  If so, she should watch out for that rip-tide.  Probably a better idea to use the pool.

Other bits of news:

Here’s a picture of Earth from Mars.

From Mars.

Earth. And the Moon. From Mars.


Courtesy of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

And here’s a link to an article in the New Yorker about Ted Chiang, a writer whose work I love desperately.

Yes, I did see Arrival, based on my favorite Ted Chiang story.  And so should you.  Yes, I want to say things about it!  But I’m in a crunch at the moment…  So, later?

Meanwhile, I’d better get home.  It’s crazy cold.


Jul 24 2010



You pick up a book, open the cover, start reading.

You keep going (with interruptions for sleep, work, bio-necessities, and social interactions) until you reach the end. At which point you shut the book, and put it down.

Your experience of the book is front-to-back, beginning to end. Start at the beginning, and go on until the story is over. And it’s perfectly natural to think that that’s how the book was written.

But members of the Fabulous Genrettes, and other people who have read my works-in-progress, know that I don’t write like that at all. I need to know where the story is going, I need a sense of its direction. I’ll write the scenes that I know, and those scenes might belong anywhere along the story’s continuum.

Once I have the known scenes, I fill in the scenes that I don’t know. The best scene to know is the last; the second best is the story’s climactic moment; next best to know is the opening.

After that, it’s all feedback loops. The scenes that I know help define the scenes I don’t yet know; and once I have those, I might fine-tune the previously written scenes, or go on to entirely new ones…

What prompted this musing is an interview with my very favorite writer, Ted Chiang, on BoingBoing:

Typically the first part of the story that I write is the very ending, either the last paragraph of the story or a paragraph near the end. Once I have the destination in mind then I can build the rest of the story around that or build the rest of the story in such a way as to lead up to that. Usually the second thing I write is the opening of the story and then I write the rest of the story in almost random order. I just keep writing scenes until I’ve connected the beginning and the end. I write the key scenes or what I think of as the landmark scenes first, and then I just fill in backwards and forwards.

I don’t think I ever knew that about Chiang…

Ha. Makes me smile.

Now, I do know that there are plenty of writers who start writing at the beginning and keep going until they reach the end. Some of them do quite well. A few do excellent work.

And some of them, sorry, just don’t.

I won’t name names.

But these are the writers who might have a great character, or a wonderful setting, and then just hit the ground running, writing one damn thing after another until they run out of events. Or until some attractively dramatic obvious end-point is reached, like: we win the war; the hero gets married; someone important dies; the planet blows up; etc.

I find them — how shall I put it?  Identifiable.   And unsatisfying to read.

And then there are other writers who seem to write that way, who might even claim to write by that method — until you question them closely.   Often, they’re just not counting the thinking that went on before they put the first word down on the page.   Some of these people actually “write” a story in their heads almost completely before touching the keyboard at all — at which point, they start at the beginning and write it all down, straight to the end.

But if you can get them to describe the process of creating, designing, coming up with that story before writing it down? Of pacing it, finding the scenes, learning about the characters, identifying the dramatic thrust?  It rarely comes out as: “I started on page one and just kept going”.

All this in answer to the often-asked question:

Q: How close is Book 5 to being done?

A: I just don’t know.

Q:Well, what’s the word-count so far?

A: I have tons of words, reams of words! And some of them will go away. Better ones will take their place. Or I will find I don’t need them after all.

Q: But how far along are you? Are you at the beginning of the story, or in the middle? Or near the end?

A: Yes. Yes, I am.

And here’s a different way to ask the question:

On May 25th, Mairead asked:

… [D]o you yet have a sense of the time remaining til you send off the next book for publication? Even an idea of the remaining latency’s granularity would be better than nothing. Weeks? Months? Years? Decades? An approximate coefficient with the granularity would be grand!

Answer: Not weeks! Probably not months — unless I were to win the lottery and quit my DayJob. (Then, yeah, it would be months.) Not decades! And probably not years plural….

It feels like a year — but it felt like a year last year.

Actually, it felt like a year two years ago, until I suddenly realized that I was working on the wrong book,and that I had to flip the order that I had planned, and move Book 6 into Book 5’s position. And that the new Book 5 was largely unknown territory.

But the upside here is that Book 6 (The City in the Crags) already has a lot of the work done on it. On account of me originally thinking it was Book 5, and spending all that time on it.

So, once Book 5 is done, I can be fairly certain of turning around Book 6 quickly. Possibly very quickly. In fact, I sometimes think I’m writing the two simultaneously, and have occasionally stated so in public.

Because, bringing us back to the theme of this post, of my nonsequential writing method.

Which, I must point out, also operates across the entire series.

I do know the last scene in this book; and I do know the last scene of the entire series.

I know the last sentence of the series.

Prequel? You want a prequel?

I know the last sentence of the prequel.