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My alternate history novella A Day in Deep Freeze is now available in paperback and ebook forms!
1963: Emran Greene is a successful corporate accountant, a hopeful soon-to-be-father, and an unremarkable husband–except for the lingering effects of an experimental wartime truth serum, his ex-boyfriend, the impossibility of his conceiving a child, and all of the other secrets he keeps from his wife and his employer. One of these, the secret of the lonely grave he visits regularly in Riverport’s Castleview Cemetery, holds a tragedy that just won’t stay gone…
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From the blog of my friend & fellow SF writer Kellan Sparver.
Limited to published authors. Presented as a public service, in no particular order.
- Arthur C. Clarke (added 2013-11-6; how did I forget?)
- Samuel R. Delany
- Hal Duncan
- Thomas M. Disch
- Rahul Kanakia
- David Gerrold
- Geoff Ryman
- Steve Berman
- Clive Barker (added 2012-12-12)
- Richard Bowes (added 2012-12-12)
- Gregory Maguire (added 2012-12-26)
- Kyle Aisteach (added 2013-12-26)
- David Gerrold (added 2013-12-27)
Not pictured: Alberto Yáñez, Aleksandr Voinov (bisexual)
seven nine ten eleven thirteen. Who am I forgetting? (The SFWA member directory lists 1747 members.)
I write fiction that is a metaphor for things that are difficult to say in plain, non-fiction prose. I write feminist science fiction set in a single-sexed military that has colonized the Milky Way galaxy. I’m doing the old and revered fictional trope of taking a minority’s experience (women’s) and giving them to members of a majority (men) – to take away that ‘I can’t entirely identify with someone who’s Other’ that sometimes happens in readers’ subconsciouses. I hope this may make my perceptions of women’s experiences clearer to readers who might not pick up the straight-up version of the same thing (an all-female science fiction story – a genre I don’t always finish, myself: ask me someday for my review of Herland or Door into Ocean.)
As a result, readers sometimes ask me why the otherwise tolerant and egalitarian society in my military science fiction has banned women from serving in space. The in-world reason is not complex or nuanced: it is the irrational reaction to the tragic loss of an all-female transport ship a generation before due to an unexplained hull rupture. I’ve sometimes responded to sudden misfortunes by getting upset about smaller, more controllable things: what if an entire planet (and the policies of its representative government) did the same thing on a larger scale?
The male narrators within my military SF stories are very aware that their home planet’s decision is irrational and hypocritical: but they will lose their careers if they advocate for a political point of view while in uniform. (Read my story “Life on Earth” in Expanded Horizons (Jan. 2015) for an example of this.) They are very aware that the human body, with very minor individual variation, can survive only a narrow range of pressures and temperatures – they endured every survivable extreme during basic training (beside women, I might add, who still serve a limited military role within the solar system). Nearly every one of them wants the ban on women to end: they frequently encounter life and death challenges where the training, intelligence, knowledge, strength and problem-solving of women could have made a vital difference, and they say so (if only within their own thoughts while telling the story). These are also stories about how even an unwanted, artificial segregation from part of humanity changes their culture and thinking, as little as they wish either to be changed.
I also write fiction where the pieces of the puzzle are scattered across several stories. A generation later, my narrators do not remember exactly why a transport ship was entirely crewed by pregnant soldiers. In the novels and short stories from the same time there is the mundane explanation that these are the wives of men and women with field assignments on their way to join their spouses at their colonial posts. The maximum galactic travel time is six months, the first three month is the most fragile trimester in a pregnancy: better to serve it on earth (or in a transport ship with a full neonatal hospital). Their later children will be born onworld in clinics with limited medical staff, but their oldest child will have the best start. The truth is, the frontier is an immensely dangerous place to have children – and the transport ship is an attempt to ensure at least some reproductive success.
The exact cause of the all-female transport’s loss is never found: despite investigation, it remains and enigma and a source of conspiracy theories … and homeworld responds by banning women from serving in space. It makes no sense: there’s no ‘why’ but the over-compensation of the human brain in trying to find patterns and avoid danger. A generation later a lot of the details have been forgotten; my narrators have to live with the ban (and almost none of them support it).
At the end of this network of interrelated stories written across the history of this single-sexed military there is a novel: a novel about how and why the ban on women’s service in space is reversed.
I do not share my narrator’s views. I am not writing these stories to advocate for the characters’ individual politics. (I don’t like political advocacy novels from any part of the political spectrum.) I’m asking wider questions about what it means to be human, what the consequences are of asking only part of humanity to be more involved in childbearing (if technology might permit neither or both men and women to have children – by artificial wombs or artificially created full hermaphroditism), and what it means when humanity does not fully use all of the strengths and skills of its whole population (caused by sociological or historical accidents, not a deliberate decision that some portion of the population is not worthy of full consideration.)
So: the men in my stories stand in the place of women. (You can even try it with the non-military SF novella A Day in Deep Freeze.) Read them in that light and see if it makes them less cryptic.
My new short story “Nightskyman Hope” (prequel to 2015’s “Life on Earth” and Things We Are Not‘s “The World in his Throat”) is out in Expanded Horizons. Since it is part of a linked set of stories, some fans have been asking me where to catch up on the other stories.
Here is a list of the stories in internal chronological order, with links:
3) “The World in His Throat” in Things We Are Not: An M-Brane SF Magazine Queer Science Fiction Anthology (2009)
4) “Inducement” in Black Denim Lit (forthcoming 2016)
10) “The Other Two Men” (Performance dates TBA Summer 2016, see: http://playersring.org/box-office/)
And an unrelated alternate history novella set in New England about the unintended side effects of a WWII-era drug developed to create affinity between an interrogator and interrogatee:
A Day in Deep Freeze Aqueduct Press (Conversation Pieces series) (April 2015)
To back up — I’m writing the last 13 stories of 74 story feminist military science fiction series. Following Ray Bradbury’s advice I am writing, revising, and sending out one story a week. The thing about planning a big project like this is that there is no guarantee what order the stories will be published in (or if they will be published at all). The stories are linked rather than direct sequels of one another and I wrote them to be read out of order.
So far two have been published: “No Woman, No Plaything” and “Planet 38”. However, all of the stories I write are meant to be read within a network of other works – the main character in one story may be a secondary character in another. Today I can point to my first example: my short story “Searching” in Black Denim Lit. The two previous stories’ narrator is the missing soldier, “Planet 38”s ‘my husband’ is the man sitting across the table …. and none of the stories where “Searching”s narrator appears as a secondary character have yet seen print. (I meant for readers to recognize one or another of story’s main characters but as I said: there are no guarantees. Instead of a pleasant surprise, a side-story, “Searching” is a 4th introduction to this universe.)
I re-wrote the story to stand on its own: there’s enough in print now to see the missing solder is found (by someone, eventually) and that she doesn’t resign the moment she reaches base. That’s part of the story … part of the story that unfolds over 74 pieces.
Fortunately the 50th story will also appear in Black Denim Lit early next year and that may start to give a sense of what the 74 story project looks like.
Any one of these stories can be read on its own but here are the pieces in chronological order:
- “The World in His Throat” in Things We Are Not: An M-Brane SF Magazine Queer Science Fiction Anthology (2009) (Same universe, none of the same characters. An example of how things are supposed to work – more or less — on colony worlds.)
- “Searching” in Black Denim Lit (December 2014) (A prequel to the 74 stories: three cops look for an abducted soldier in a vast galaxy.)
- “No Woman, No Plaything” in Kaleidotrope (October 2012) (The missing soldier, now a cop herself, discovers colonial inspection tours are not all warm handshakes and a pleasant lunch.)
- “Planet 38” in Four Star Stories (Summer 2013) (The missing soldier never thought her ordeal meant she would have to become a mother – and the challenges of parenting while still visiting her perpetrators’ worlds differ from everything she had anticipated.)
- “Planet 50″ (forthcoming Black Denim Lit Follow @BlackDenimLit on Twitter for when) (Escort the found abductee to her perpetrators’ worlds. Ensure she doesn’t slug or shoot anyone else. Face the truth that years on a common post mean you can’t keep acting like a grunt escorting a prisoner.)
One of the most important influences on my writing was a pottery class I took in college.
That’s right, pottery.
My pottery professor taught us the major types of pottery construction and how to make clay, mix glazes, run a wood-fired kiln (designed and built by advanced students), and keep the studio clean and organized. He also taught us how to be working artists.
He explained that there are two basic approaches to doing art: process and planning. I’ve met, seen documentaries, and read about these two types doing every other kind of art (painting, printmaking, puppetry, music, acting, dance, mime, sculpture, writing, etc.) Process people let art evolve organically from within without consciously planning or censoring the work as it forms. “The clay knows what it wants to do.” “Let’s get started and see how this turns out.” “I’ve got the character, I’ll find the answer in rehearsal.” Are process-style statements.
Planning people work from a consciously thought out structure, plan or outline. They tend to get irritated when the art develops currents of its own that go outside of that plan: they create art in order to perfect the vision in that plan or outline using a set of orderly techniques. (And every type of art has guidebooks that will tell you what to do at each stage or how to fix a particular type of problem.) They talk about the technical possibilities of the medium (clay, paint, metal etc.) and when and how they did or did not match their original idea for the piece.
Both methods (and every variation on them) are valuable and successful ways of doing art, my pottery professor taught. A growing artist should try different ways of doing art and practice their art with the rigor and discipline of a classical musician or professional dancer.
I’m a process artist. I start with a blank page and write when a character starts talking. This horrified some of my visual artist house mates: “But you have no control!” I don’t want control, not at the drafting stage (that’s what revisions are for). I don’t want to interrupt, intervene, modify or censor: I want to bring the narrator forward and get as much information out of him or her as possible (the overt story they are telling as well as the background sensory details and half-conscious thoughts). I like the results: they can be multi-layered and vital (and they can flop, so can any artist on a bad day). So I practice: write one story a week, revise it as best I can within five or six days, and send it out. (I do go back to stories later but my initial goal is to send them to the first magazine that very week.) I’ve finished 98 stories this way: 4 of them have been published. (Most magazines only take 1 or 2% of the stories sent to them.)
I’ve just finished the last story in the First Series (a set of stories covering 19 days on a colony world, one story to each day of the alien week.) I’ve written the first story of the Second Series (a second character’s very different perspective on that series of 19 days.) When I try to write the next story, next week, I may get nothing at all, I may get other stories from completely different narrators but I can open a blank screen, put my hands on the keyboard, and ask the Second Series narrator, “So what happened the next day? What’s the story in that particular Tuesday? How did you get from everything falling apart to everything coming together in only 19 days? What did the 2nd little piece of that look like?”
I sketched a cover for a comic book version one of the as-yet ubnpublished stories in the 74 Stories Project. (My Ray Bradbury-inspired project to write and submit a story a week. I’m writing a linear series of 74 stories that can be read alone or in sequence to tell a larger story,see these two examples.) I’ve had a series of key moment from these stories come to mind as comic book covers but the stories themselves probably would not make good graphic novels: they often hinge on a realization or a change in perspective rather than strong visual elements or a highly dramatic plot.
I’ve always gotten work as multimedia: music, short films, art along with the written part of the story. I’ve chosen to focus on the written part because it takes me far longer to write out a melody and cord structure or draw up a story board. (And because writing doesn’t require any more staff, equipment or expense than me, a pen, my time and some paper.) I try to preserve the rest, if only as a note or a sketch, but I don’t get enough music to fill an album or enough films to make a whole thing with. (And all of the parts depend on each other – but the writing stands on its own better than the films or music.)
The rejection slips for my short stories often say ‘this seems like part of something larger’. Yes, why yes it is. I hope someday I can give a sense of what that is.
For a few years I’ve been following Ray Bradbury’s advice to write and send out a short story each week. I’ve finished 6 generation ship stories this way, a 19-story-long First Series of short stories, and (as of today) the 58th short story of the 74 stories project.
My newest short story is 2,508 words long, it will be revised and continuity checked twice before this Friday and sent off to its first magazine editor. I’ll repeat the process with another new short story next week.