Friday, June 26, 2015

When Am I Done? (Update 6.26.15)

This weekend I'm attending a little regional SF/F convention (LibertyCon). As a part of my activities for the weekend, I'm doing a reading on Friday afternoon.

I've only done a couple of readings before, but, despite the nerves about actually reading my stuff out loud in front of strangers, I tend to enjoy them. I like sharing my work with folks (even if I feel like I'm about to swallow my tongue the entire time). However, picking something to read is always a challenge.

Do I select something short so folks can hear it beginning to end? Something already published? Something forthcoming? Part of one of the (as yet) unpublished novels? There are pros and cons with every choice, but this time I settled on reading the first section of a novelette I am putting out as an eBook reprint in another couple of weeks.

Legacy was originally published last fall in Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls, edited by Jennifer Brozek. It's a great little steampunk story about a (fictional) queen of England, the fictionally portrayed but absolutely real life Marie Laveau, and my totally fictional and non-queen protagonist, Willa Arch, who is just trying to survive to see another day. And there are skin-changers (shapeshifters), voodoo zombies, and a large helping of asskicking.

Due to the length constraints of the original publication there were a few narrative beats I had taken out. Since I'm republishing this myself in digital format and no one is likely to say "I would really have liked to read this story but 7k words instead of 5k is just too much" I figured I could add back in some of the partial scenes I had left out.

So far those little revisions are going well, but I find myself walking a fine line between writing the story as I had originally seen it (before I realized it wouldn't all fit under 6k words) and just writing the whole thing from scratch at twice the length. Because it would be easy to do that. Add in more subplots, more back story, put a little more distance between the key plot points. These are all things I tend to do when I revise. It's great when the thing I'm writing is a novel. Not so great when I'm trying to keep it within novelette range.

But I'm also looking at the original story and part of me is a little sad that I was willing to let it go without the additional scenes. The story is stronger now. Why did I think it was so good before?

And here's the thing. The first version is good. It's short and tight and tense. It lacks a little of the finesse the newer version is achieving, but it is still a good story. I'm proud of it and pleased that it was published. Does that mean I can't make it a little better? Of course not. It's been two years since I wrote the first version of Legacy and I've developed a lot as a writer since then. My craft, I like to think, is finer than it was then. It is only natural that I would see areas that could be improved.

Will I continue to publish longer, more polished, more detailed versions after this? Hell, no. Because I know what my original vision was. I also know that at the time, for various reasons, I was not able to achieve all of it. Now I am. And once I'm satisfied with the new version, that will be it.

Writers always lament never being done with a novel or short story. "There's always something left to change." And yes, as a new writer, it often feels that way. As I've grown more confident in my literary abilities, I find myself less dissatisfied with things I wrote six months ago. Less likely to look at something I've had published and think "Damn, I wish I'd changed that."

Don't get me wrong - you can always improve on craft. I will probably never grow out of finding sentences I think are clunky or poor word choices. But I have reached a point where I feel I can trust myself to say "Yes. This is done." And that is a good place to be, because it keeps me moving forward - finding new stories and writing those as best I can.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Silence is Support

Back in May, Irene Gallo said something on her Facebook page regarding the Sad/Rabid Puppies. It was, perhaps, not the most thoughtful thing she could have said, but it shouldn't have been a big deal. However, Theodore Beale saw it, screencapped it, sat on it for almost a month, and then released it with a statement about how it was just another example of the libel and slander coming from Tor. Because everyone knows by now that Brad Torgersen and Larry Correia are not racist, sexist, homophobic right-wingers. Because they keep saying so. (More on this in a moment.)

It's an argument that's been going on for a while now. Folks call out the things the Sad/Rabid Puppies say as having sexist/racist/homophobic overtones (not necessarily all three at once) and then there's a big outcry from the Pups themselves as they insist, with lots of vehemence and fingerpointing, that they never said those ugly things. (Again, more on this in a moment.)

It's an argument a lot of folks are getting tired of having, no matter how strongly we feel that we should make it known that the Puppies in all their flavors, do not represent the heart of the SF/F fandom. At least, we hope not.

And then something really terrible happened.

Last week a young man walked into a church in Charleston, sat down with a group of folks having a Biblestudy, then stood up afterwards and murdered nine of them. He said it was because black men had been raping white women. He said it was because he was taking back his country. He said he hoped to fire the opening volley in a race war.

After the fact, all the signs that this malignant worldview had been simmering for a long time. There are photos of him wearing apartheid era flags on his jacket, of the Confederate States of America license plate on the front of his car, of him burning the American flag. And then, his friends talked about how he used to make racist jokes a lot, but they never took them seriously. That maybe they should have.

It is a terrible thing that has happened. This young man with a head full of poison, has murdered nine people. Maybe he would have murdered them no matter what. But one thing has become clear - he thought he was not the only one. He thought he had the support of his friends and neighbors and family. Why? Because none of them ever thought to call him on his shit. They just chuckled at his jokes, maybe uncomfortably, and nodded a little and he took that to mean they agreed with him.

So now we come back to Brad Torgersen, Larry Correia, and Theodore Beale - the loosely allied figureheads of the Sad and Rabid Puppies respectively.

Personally, I think that Torgersen and Correia are primarily ideological bigots. They have made it clear they are adamantly opposed to particular ideas and political movements that they lump together under the label "Liberal". They are not kind nor do they mince words about how they view folks who identify with or support those ideologies. Their apparent racism/sexism/homophobia, I believe grows out of that ideological bigotry. They object to the ideas and they believe that certain groups (People of Color, women, LGBTQ) are pushing those ideas so they attack those groups. Not so much for the color of their skin or their gender or orientation, but because of their ideas.

It's still ugly and narrow-minded, but I'm not certain they actually believe PoC are actually lesser humans or that women are best suited for procreation and almost nothing else.

Theodore Beale on the other hand does believe those things. [Let me just note that I do not like disseminating Beale's philosophy. But there is always an argument made that his words have been "taken out of context" or somehow "misunderstood". I feel there is an unpleasant value in seeing that these are the things this man actually proclaims to believe, and repeats to his friends, family, and followers.]

And this is the man that Larry Correia decided to push onto the Hugo ballot last year (2014) in order to piss off the liberals at WorldCon. This is the man the Brad Torgersen continued to work with this year, synching up slate-voting ballots to exclude all but a few non-Puppy nominations for the entire Hugo ballot. This is the man they have chosen to fight beside in a (ridiculous) culture war.

But, Torgersen and Correia maintain that they themselves are not racist, sexist, or homophobic. They just, don't say anything about Beale's ongoing rants. Maybe they laugh at his jokes or hit like on the comment window. They can argue all they want that they are not be bigots themselves, but their actions say otherwise.

Correia reached out to Beale last year. This year he reached out to GamerGate (with admittedly uncertain results when it comes to the ballot stuffing) - a group known for its sexist attitudes towards women and a radical and violent fringe. And Torgersen got in deeper with Beale by coordinating their slates under the Sad and Rabid Puppies flags.

This isn't just silent support. This isn't just silence that is interpreted as support. This is a deliberate alliance with those who do not hide their racist, sexist, homophobic agendas.

But I will not be silent. And I will not support the ideologies that led a young man to murder nine men and women in a church in Charleston. I will not shrug and say "That Vox Day. He's an asshat but what can you do? It's just one man ranting on the internet." I do not want the others like Dylan Roof looking at the world of SF/F and thinking "See? They agree with me."

Because I don't.
Because we don't.
Because silence only leads to regression.

Forthcoming! (Update 6.22.15)

This weekend I will be at LibertyCon. If you will be too, you can check my schedule here.

I also have two new novelettes coming out in July. In an effort to make my stories easier to find and obtain I am publishing reprints of my backlist and releasing a few brand spanking new things this year.

First up is Legacy. A steampunk tale set in Savannah and Lake Ponchartrain, this was originally published in Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls (Graveside Tales, Oct. 2014). It's a lovely, dark action adventure story with a dark underbelly. And shapeshifters.

Coming July 14, 2015! 

Next up is Dust. This is a completely original (i.e. never before published) urban fantasy with a heavy noir twist. 

Coming July 28, 2015!

In writing news, I finished an OGN (Original Graphic Novel) script a few weeks ago. The Southern Gothic is still chugging darkly along. The end of the summer tends to be a little slow in publishing land so I'm focusing on finishing up a few in-progress projects in prep for the fall. 

More to come soon!