ann_leckie: (AJ)

Or, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

I’m looking at what is likely the homestretch on the WiP, or at least the first complete draft of it. So of course I’m thinking about blog posts right now instead of writing.

It is notoriously difficult to define “science fiction” but a common attempt to do so–to wall off stuff that isn’t “really” science fiction from the proper stuff–is to assert that a real science fiction story wouldn’t survive the removal of the science fictiony bits, where, I don’t know, I guess “fake” science fiction is just Westerns with spaceships instead of horses or somesuch.

I never thought much about this except to think that well, sure, that would probably be a succinct way to define the most science fictiony of science fiction.

But the more I’ve thought about it, recently, the less satisfied I’ve been with this. I’m not sure there are any stories that fit this requirement.

Here’s the thing. Almost any story, you could remove some or other bit of it, replace it with some more present-world (or past world) analogue, and it would still be recognizably the same story on some level.

Let’s take Star Trek. Okay, some of you may consider ST to be “fake” science fiction. I’ll lay my cards on the table and tell you I laugh when I see someone call ST “hard science fiction. I consider it to be space opera. But let’s consider it a moment, shall we? At first glance all the aliens and the transporter and that utopian Federation of Planets stuff, and you’d think you couldn’t remove it, but let’s set it back a couple centuries, build the Enterprise out of wood, make Kirk into Horatio Hornblower and change the Klingons to French, the Romulans to Spanish. (I know, I know, the Klingons are actually stand-ins for the Russians, and the Vulcans/Romulans for the Chinese but that’s not helping the cause of “can’t remove the skiffy elements” is it.) You could take Star Trek and remove it’s snfal elements and still end up with basically the same stories.

That was an easy one, right? A gimme? Sure, maybe. But consider–there’s always–always–a level of abstraction available at which a story with whatever elements removed qualifies as “the same.” And the reverse is true–there’s always a level of specificity at which the removal of very small things means a large change. I mean, you could go very close-up on Star Trek and say that without dilithium crystals and tribbles, very specifically, it wouldn’t be the same. And it wouldn’t!

So it’s just about how much change it can take before too much violence is done to the original, right? Well, no. Any change is going to do violence to the original. Traduttore tradittore, after all. And the question of how much violence to the original is too much isn’t hard and fast.

I’m sure someone is going to comment insisting that Star Trek is one thing, but story Foo would actually really be irreparably changed by the removal of element Bar, and thus am I refuted. But seriously, there are almost no sfnal elements that couldn’t be framed some other way, no blackhole that can’t become an inescapable whirlpool, no alien that can’t become the denizen of some far away island, and while we’re at it whole planets get treated basically like smallish islands of one sort or another in quite a lot of sf anyway so that’s an easy enough transition to make. The question of whether that non-sfnal framing constitutes an obviously different story, or one recognizably the same if superficially different, is not one that can be answered easily, not in any really objective way.

And I can’t help noticing how often this particular criterion is used to delegitimize stories as “real” science fiction that by any other measure would more than qualify. It’s not just that the critic doesn’t really like this work, no, sadly the story is just not “really” science fiction, because if you take away the robots and the spaceships and the cloning and the black holes and the aliens and the interstellar civilizations and the fact that it’s set way in the future, well, it’s still a story about people wanting something and struggling to get it. Not really science fiction, see?

And well, sure, you take all that away and no, it’s not science fiction. But you had to take it away to begin with, didn’t you.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

I don’t actually have much time for reading non-work related fiction these days. But I got into the whole writing thing because I loved to read, and so I do try to make time to read at least every now and then!

In the past several months, I’ve read:

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

When I first started reading An Accident of Stars I was a bit frustrated–I hadn’t realized just how tired I’d gotten of your garden variety portal fantasy. Or maybe it was that I’d read quite a lot of portal fantasies at a particular time in my life, when I was perhaps a less demanding reader. I suppose they’ve been out of fashion for a while, and I never really noticed that, but on beginning this book I found myself sighing a bit. “Really? Not-terribly-popular white teenager visits other world, turns out to be The Chosen One who will Heal the Land or whatever (extra points if it’s allegorical for problems they face in the “real” world), saves universe, returns home having Learned a Valuable Lesson and maybe even Grown Up a Little.” But I kept reading, because I figured Foz was planning to go somewhere interesting with it.

As it happens, there are two protagonists in this book. (Or maybe there are four. I’d entertain that argument.) One is the aforementioned teenager, but the other is a middle-aged woman who’s lived her life between two worlds. To a certain extent she serves as a guide and teacher for the younger protagonist, but she’s a major character in her own right and shares the narrative with Saffron. There are also plenty of other women in the story–young and old, mothers (or not) and daughters, so that there’s no question of either Smurfettes or Singular Girls, and no suggestion that becoming older, or a mother, or disabled for that matter, removes you from eligibility for having adventures of sufficient import or interest. Saffron is not The Chosen One, either, and the cultures and languages she encounters aren’t just cardboard versions of Medieval Europe with their serial numbers halfheartedly scuffed up. Quite the contrary.

So this was basically all the things I’d enjoyed about portal fantasies as a younger reader, with the dubious gifts the suck fairy might have bestowed either questioned or removed. I ended up enjoying An Accident of Stars quite a lot.

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

This is actually the third book in a…series? Sequence? Sequence I guess. I gather the numbers in the titles tell you which comes first, second, etc in “in story” order, but not in actual publication order. I would complain about this, but I’m the author of a trilogy all titled Ancillary [X] and readers often get confused about which book comes where in the trilogy, so, glass houses. Anyway, I actually recommend you start out with Three Parts Dead, the first in the sequence.

As so often in fantasies, gods are real in the world of these books. I feel like sometimes writers don’t stop to really think about what that means, if gods are real, let alone if gods of many different cultures and religious traditions are real. Max has thought about it, and has built a world where actually a lot of the gods have died, but their power is still a real force in the world, though it’s wielded by banks and lawyers and basically is the world’s economy–money as magic. These books are smart and fun, and they wear their reliance on the real world as source material on their sleeve, which sometimes annoys me but here I enjoy, I suspect because it’s done very deliberately and not out of thoughtlessness. As a bonus, these books offer a lot of engaging women characters, particularly Full Fathom Five, which once I closed it I realized was basically all the major characters and quite a few non-major but important ones.

Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed reading these so far, and at some point (hopefully in the not too distant future) I have every intention of picking up Four Roads Cross.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

Y’all may remember, the other day I mentioned playing a customized Cards Against Humanity in Lieutenant Awn Elming Memorial Park. The person who brought it was kind enough to let me take the deck home, and now if you find yourself wanting to play CASS, either online or in person, well, click this link and you’ll find several ways to do that. Scroll down for links to various ways to play online, or download a pdf of the cards you can print on regular paper and cut out, or even (if you’re feeling extravagant) pay someone to make them into nice cards and mail them to you.

When I expressed my ignorance as to how the “play online” part worked, I got this back from badgerterritory:

it’s very easy to play it online!! i don’t know if this is the only way, but the way we do it is to go to http://pretendyoure.xyz/zy/ and then you pick a server. you set up a username, and then it’ll take you to a place where you can set up the game. once you have the game set up, it’s very easy to invite people, and the cardcast site has a command you can use to add the deck! once you put in the command, the deck is loaded and you can start the game.

It looks like there’s also an app you can add to Chrome or to your phone, too. I haven’t tried any of it and don’t know how the various methods work, but it looks like fun, and not just for this particular customized deck.

Meantime, have some screenshots of a game from a couple weeks ago:

CASS1

CASS2

CASS3

CASS4

CASS5

CASS6

Incidentally, some of the response cards are in-jokes. #not for AL is the tag Tumblr users put on posts about the books they would prefer I not read (I’ve got that tag blacklisted), and “Cousiiiin” is a reference to this lovely bit of fan art. No doubt there are others I don’t recognize because I’m not in on the joke myself. At any rate, it was great fun to play.

Also incidentally, at first there were just a couple of us playing so we pulled one card off the “response” pile every turn and threw it in with the couple of others. We decided that was Station’s card. We kept it up even after the number of folks playing grew, because of course Station was playing, but also because actually, Station was winning.

There is also a special rule for this deck, if you wish to play it this way: If you draw more than two “Anaander Mianaai” cards (there are quite a few in the deck, as is only appropriate) you may discard and redraw all but one card. You are now stuck with that card the entire game. This situation never came up, so I don’t know how that plays, but there you go, in case you want it.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

As I said yesterday, MAC2 had a thing where you could sponsor a “mini park” and a park bench. The dealers room and the exhibit hall and whatnot were all in a huge open space in the convention center, and there had to be some way to close off the dealers room at night, so they put up the Swanwick River and…a volcano? Yes, a volcano, to cordon that area off. There were benches and little “parks” alongside the river.

I figured it might be fun to sponsor a park. And it turned out, I was absolutely right, it was tremendous fun! Here are some pictures!

AwnElmingPark

Memorial

Bench

2016-08-17 17.33.50

Nice and simple, right?

That’s how it started out, anyway. I’d had a vague idea that pens and post-its might come in handy in case people wanted to make or leave notes–to me, to other visitors, to themselves, whatever. And the post-its kind of took on a life of their own:

postIt

AnaanderPostIt

AnanderPostIt2

PostIt3

Even the No Fishing sign got into the act!

NoFishingPost

I put out some buttons, including these:


(picture by Foz Meadows)

I also played some Cards Against Significant Species:


(picture by darling-child-tisarwat, I think, or at least on their phone)

I’m told that at some point I’ll have a link to the file that will let folks print out their own hardcopy of the CASS deck, by the way, and when I do I’ll definitely blog it.

Oh, and the awesome cosplaying darling-child-tisarwat as Breq!

So the park was basically a smashing success! I got to take the bench home, and it’s in pieces in my car trunk right now, though I also have the plaque which I might well hang on my office wall (next to the File 770 “Ancillary Bench” plaque, which was kindly given to me on Sunday!).

Thank you to everyone who stopped by–it would not have been even a small fraction of the fun that it was without you all.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

At first I was just going to put this on Tumblr, where I post the most frivolous of my ramblings, but then I thought, no, why not blog. But, fair warning, this is pretty frivolous.

So, I am at the stage of con recovery where I’m hoping the scritchy feeling in my throat is the dry air in the house plus a weekend talking nonstop, and not oncoming Con Crud: Martian Death Flu Edition. And the stage where I’m unpacking things and doing laundry. Which reminds me.

So, the dress I wore to the Hugos (and also the Nebulas) was from Holy Clothing. Y’all know about Holy Clothing, right? Super comfortable clothes. Anyway. Every time I get something from them it’s fit well and been easy to wear, so I didn’t bother trying on the dress I bought for the Nebs, I just put it on that afternoon. And discovered that its lovely big square neckline meant that it was going to slide off my shoulders, or sink six or seven inches forward. I had not come prepared for this, and did some partially helpful stuff with my nominee pin, but it was still a problem.

A few days after I got home I was walking through the drugstore and saw a thing called “Fashion Tape.” This is a thing that exists! It’s for exactly the kind of thing I needed it for, and also for blouses that gap between the buttons and whatnot. (Gods forbid clothing designers actually make clothes that just stay on your body, that might lead us to have realistic expectations for ourselves and we can’t have that, right? Nope, better to have a whole industry and associated fashion hacks that address this kind of thing and let those who aren’t in on the secrets feel inadequate.)

Anyway. I’m here to tell you that the fashion tape did exactly what it was supposed to do–it’s clear, two-sided tape, as you would expect, and it held my dress in place all evening. It was also pretty comfortable, so much so that when I went back to the room to change for the Losers Party, I could not get my dress off easily and panicked for a moment before I remembered that my dress was ACTUALLY TAPED TO MY BODY.

So. If you find yourself needing it, Fashion Tape is a thing that exists.

The 19 year old wanted to know if it was the same thing as another fashion thing I’d run into years ago–I was going to wear a dress to a fancy thing, but the dress was…not made for wearing a bra with. And I pretty much always need a bra. I had asked a co-worker for advice and she said to me, “Oh, that’s easy, just go to the department store and get some titty tape. No, really, that’s what it is.”

So I went to the department store and looked but could not find it. A salesperson saw my confused wandering and asked me if I needed anything, and I was forced to explain that I was looking for something that my co-worker called “titty tape” but I was pretty certain it wasn’t called that.

Turns out, it’s just called, blandly, “stick-ons.” And they don’t quite do the job a bra would do, but it’s better than nothing. So, if you find yourself in need of such a thing, that’s what it’s called.

Anyway, I explained to the 19 year old that, no, “fashion tape” was not “titty tape” but they do kind of exist in similar spaces.

And if you find yourself in need of them and didn’t know they existed, well, now you do.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

As the title says, I’m safe home again from my epic voyage to Kansas City, and my plans for today involve a lot of tea and mindless Netflix. But I thought I’d check in and say a few words about how my WorldCon went.

Well, first off, HOW ABOUT THOSE HUGOS! I’ll be straight with y’all, I have been rooting for The Fifth Season to win because it is a fabulous book. Several times I considered posting here to say so. In the end I decided it wasn’t a good idea, but in individual conversations I did say it. I mean, look, I’m really proud of Ancillary Mercy. And by the way, I am honored and seriously touched by the folks who’ve told me they put it first on their ballots and who hoped for it to win the Hugo. I have the best readers. I really do. And I would have been genuinely happy for any of the finalists had they walked away with the rocket rather than me, or Nora.

But The Fifth Season. Y’all, since I started voting for the Hugos I’ve found that very often there’s a particular book in the novel category. I mean, you read them, you read one and it’s like “yeah, this is good, I see why it’s there.” And you read the next. “Yeah, this is really really good.” Sometimes not to my taste, right? But good. Another one. “This is good too! It’s going to be difficult to rank these.” And then you hit that one. “Oh. Right. This is the winner.” This year, in my personal opinion, The Fifth Season was that book. I actually shouted “Yes!” when the result was announced. Because. I mean.

And it was a lovely night pretty much all around. I got to meet an astronaut! There were actually TWO REAL ASTRONAUTS there and I can’t even. Some lovely acceptance speeches, particularly Nora’s. And someone suggested to me afterward that Neil Gaiman maybe could have been more direct, instead of soft-pedaling his opinion. (Just kidding, I found his brief speech entirely delightful.) I got to meet Zoe Quinn, who is fabulous! I went to GRRM’s afterparty!

I’m telling my WorldCon backwards! Well, only kind of. My last con thing was a panel on Sunday afternoon with Geoffrey Landis. There were supposed to be more panelists, but in the end it was just the two of us, dealing with the question “Can hard science fiction be too hard?” which is honestly a nonsense question that misses the point, but it was a great start to just riff on, and we had a great time talking and there were wonderful contributions from the audience, and it went swimmingly.

Lieutenant Awn Elming Memorial Park was a success! I arrived on Wednesday afternoon with the 19 year old, and we decorated it up and arranged things and whatnot, and set out buttons and pins and ribbons for folks to take, and I tried to spend some time there every day so folks knew where they could find me. This was particularly important since I didn’t have a scheduled signing. That’s not a criticism of the con, I’m pretty sure scheduling all that sort of thing is pretty hair-raising and I wouldn’t do it for a million dollars, and there were lots of folks who wanted and deserved signing slots and very likely fewer spaces in the schedule than would accommodate all of us. But it did make things awkward for folks who wanted books signed but who didn’t want to accost me in the hallway. Anyway, the park was a place I could be available and talk to folks and sign things.

It was also a place where folks could play a hand or two of Cards Against Significant Species. Seriously, one of my awesome readers brought an actual customized deck and it sat there in the park and people played it (including me) and enjoyed the heck out of it. There was also a cosplayer! They were Lieutenant Tisarwat on Thursday (complete with purple contact lenses!), Anaander Mianaai on Friday, and Breq (with mourning stripe!) on Saturday. JUST SUPER AWESOME. I had also put out some pens and post-its with the vague, barely formed idea that maybe people might want to leave a note (for me, for someone else, for themselves, whatever) and that turned into post-its appearing on the park sign and the park’s NO FISHING sign, with truly delightful (and occasionally warring) messages. The string of different Anaander Mianaais who declared the park annexed, for instance, made me laugh. I have pictures of all of it, but have not uploaded them from my phone. Some of them have already been posted to Tumblr.

I would really like to thank MidAmericon for the whole park thing. It was a great idea, and it worked out particularly well for me. Partly because I was driving and could pack my car full of silly stuff to put out, but also it was just nice to have that place to sit down and chat.

I did the writers workshop on Friday, by the way, and I so enjoyed that. Rachel Swirsky and I did the same session and the…students, I guess? The students were great and I really enjoyed meeting them and talking to them about fiction–theirs, and in general. I have no doubt we’ll be hearing more from them in the future.

I also did my first ever kaffeklatch! Well, first as the person people were there to see, not as a fan. That was a lot of fun, and I so enjoyed meeting everyone and having a chance to just chat and answer questions.

So, basically, my con was awesome. Everything went really well, everything turned out either as I had hoped or well beyond what I could have reasonably wished for, and everything I was involved in was well-run and the folks I worked with or who I had cause to ask for information or assistance were super helpful. The couple of negative occurrences I heard about appear to have been dealt with quickly and appropriately. I had a great time. If I didn’t get to see you, I am sorry I missed you! If I did–I’m so glad we got a chance to hang out!

I could probably continue to enthuse, but the fact is, I’m exhausted. I’ve been basically “on” since Wednesday evening, and while I love love love meeting people and hanging out with new and old friends, it does take energy. (Yes, like many writers, I am a serious introvert.) And I did three panels yesterday on about four hours of sleep and then promptly jumped in my car and drove all the way across the state. So, after the four or five days of fun and partying, it is time for me to spend a day or so drinking tea and watching Midsomer Murders, because that’s about as much concentration as I’m going to manage for a bit.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

I stand by this series of tweets. But I may need to clarify something. Someone objected that it might be irresponsible to advise young writers to pretend the rules don’t apply to them, that some projects are just foolish to undertake and it’s better to say so.

Now. I can see where this person is coming from and I sorta kinda agree but not really.

Here’s the thing: yes, there are some projects that are fundamentally unsalable. If you are determined, for artistic reasons, to write a 500K word novel all in Sumerian, well, you know, the audience for that book is going to be very, very small and I’d bet most editors would pass it up no matter how brilliant it was. That’s kind of common sense, right?

A slightly less extreme example–most SF or Fantasy novels come in at around 100K words. Give or take ten or twenty. You’re probably going to have an easier time selling a manuscript that’s 100,000 words long as opposed to one that’s 300K.

But here’s the thing–that’s not really an ironclad rule. I know personally of at least one person who sold their first fantasy novel a couple years ago–it was in the neighborhood of 300K, and the subsequent volumes have also been that length, so far as I can tell. (Hi, Django! And y’all who aren’t Django, the books are great fun.)

See, that sort of thing is covered by my admission in the tweets that, yes, commercial considerations are a thing and you might want to keep them in mind. Or not, you know, because A)you, the writer, get to make the final call just what considerations you want to take into account and B)every one of them is a case-by-case thing. I can’t tell you “never ever write a first SFF novel that’s 200K-plus words, you’ll never sell it.” Because that isn’t necessarily true.

What I can tell you is that most first novels are going to be in that 100K range, and so maybe when you’re working you want to keep that in mind. But you have to balance that against your project. What are you trying to do? What will best serve the goal you have in mind for that particular work? It might well be that the answer is “ruthlessly cut down to 100K” or “ditch it and write something else in a different but related subgenre.” I don’t know, I can’t tell you that. Only you can tell you that. But “most first genre novels are 100K” is not a rule obligating you to stick to that length if you want to be published. It’s a piece of information about what’s mostly being published right now. There are, and will be, exceptions.

No, you can’t guarantee that your work will be one of those exceptions. But, some real talk: there is nothing you can do to guarantee that your ms that has all the characteristics of what’s being published right now–the right length, popular subgenre, whatever–none of that is any guarantee that ms will sell.

If you have a quirky project, and you, personally, feel compelled to see that project through in some way, shape, or form, then do that. Consider advice, certainly. If you can take the advice without harming your project, and it seems good to you, by all means do. I am absolutely not encouraging any writer to refuse to listen to any critique or advice at all in the name of their pure, unadulterated artistic vision.

Nor, by the way, do I consider writers who weigh commercial factors very heavily in their calculations to be sellouts. On the contrary, that is a valid choice to make. I can’t tell anyone reading this blog how or whether to weigh such concerns, because that’s a question of what a given project calls for, and what the writer feels is going to work for that project.

But if you’re going to tell writers never to write anything much longer than 100K, or that they should give up all hope of writing something in a mined-out (or currently popular, soon to be mined-out) genre, well. No. Be aware, if you’re setting out on your 500K vampire-elf novel, that you’re going to have to really impress an editor with it. You might want to consider another project for now. Maybe. Do you? I can’t tell you that, only you can. Think about it. I’d probably say it was maybe foolhardy. But you know, it’s your call, and I can’t tell you that your 80K Angel/Mermaid Romance is going to do any better. Will you get as much fun out of the Angel/Mermaid book? You might want to start there and work on the Vampire Elf next. Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes your most ambitious project needs a skill level you don’t quite have yet. Sometimes you need to work up your confidence before you attempt it. It’s your call. Whatever choice you make will be good, it will be okay. There’s no rush, writing takes time, submitting takes time, just write. It’ll be all right. I’m just saying, don’t permanently scrap your cool project because someone said “but you can’t sell that kind of thing.”

And if folks in your writers group or message board or whatever are telling you things like “you have to have a POV character that’s like the reader so they can sympathize with them” or “don’t write in first person” or “editors won’t buy stories with queer main characters” well, frankly, no. “No infodumps.” Really? Take a look at the critically acclaimed books of the past couple years. I can think of at least two, just off the top of my head, that from all I can tell sell pretty well and have been nominated for or won major awards that are pretty infodump heavy. There are likely more, because actually some readers really enjoy the heck out of a good infodump, especially when it’s embedded in a story that hits their buttons in other ways as well.

My advice–don’t get your advice about what editors will or won’t buy from writers group members, many of whom may or may not have sold much themselves but are passing on second-hand, received wisdom that came from Mithras knows where. Take it from actual editors, and from observing what’s actually on the shelves at the bookstore. Always remembering that what’s on the shelves is just what’s being published right now, not a complete set of what will or won’t ever be published in the future. In fact, today’s hot subgenre is already on its way out, for writer purposes. There’s no predicting what tomorrow’s will be.

Weigh writing advice carefully. Anything presented as a rule is not a rule. At best it’s general advice presented as a rule. At best. Half the time it’s bad advice to begin with. But always consider advice. Consider it seriously, and if you find it won’t work for the project at hand, put it aside.

This is difficult to do, by the way. You need to have a weird sort of ambiguous attitude, at least in my experience. You have to be really pig-headed but also willing to bend when it’s called for. And only you can decide when it’s called for.

Weigh advice, think, and if, after thinking about it, you really feel passionate about the Vampire Elf, then go to it. Commit entirely to it. Don’t bar any holds, don’t just go overboard, dive enthusiastically over that rail. Worry about selling it later. Who knows, you might hit the right editor at the right time and spark a whole Vampire revival. (Actually I hope not, I’m pretty much over vampires (and zombies for that matter) but you don’t need to take my taste into account.)

Or not. Maybe the Mermaid is a better call. I know it’s frustrating, part of the reason these “rules” get passed around is because we would so much love to have at least some certainty, at least some indication that there’s a way to get where we’re trying to go, some black and white steps we need to take. But there’s no way anyone can give you that. The only sure thing I can tell you is, if you don’t write you won’t ever sell your writing. If you don’t finish what you work on, and submit it, you will never sell your writing. Everything else is a matter of “it depends what you’re trying to do.” So whatever project you decide to work on, it might as well be something you really do want to write.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

So, as I posted just the other day, I will be at WorldCon, and I will be on some panels!

Here’s slightly more information: MidAmericon, apparently having a nice large, open space in the Exhibit Hall, is, I gather, planning to have some sort of “river” with “parks” alongside, and park benches. This is meant to be a place where folks can sit and chat, or gather, or whatever, kind of like the awesome Fan Village at LonCon. People or groups could sponsor parks, or benches, or combinations thereof.

I couldn’t resist sponsoring the Lieutenant Awn Memorial Park. I don’t know exactly where it will be located beyond “somewhere in the exhibit hall alongside a fake river with the other parks.” I plan to spend at least some time there, so if you’re trying to track me down that’s likely a good place to start.

Depending on logistics, I will also try to leave some buttons and ribbons and maybe even pins for folks to take, in case they don’t cross paths with me. But I hope I see you!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

Hey, y’all! I’m in the middle of getting ready for WorldCon, and also making progress on the WiP. Which means I haven’t really had the brainspace for blogging. Yeah, I know, I’m not exactly regular on that score anyway.

But. I saw this yesterday. I tweeted it and I tumbled it and now I am going to blog it because it is AWESOME:

It’s a book trailer! It’s by bironic, you know, the person who did the awesome Starships video! This trailer is assembled from a bunch of different sources, none of which was any sort of adaptation of any of the Ancillary books, and yet. And yet!

Look at that. Look how awesome that is!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

Yes, I plan to be at WorldCon! This is where I’m scheduled to be:

Thursday Aug 18, 2016


2:00 PM Kaffeeklatsch: Ann Leckie, Jack McDevitt, Jerry Pournelle, Michelle (Sagara) West
Kansas City Convention Center – 2211 (KKs)

4:00 PM SF as Protest Literature
Kansas City Convention Center – 2502A

Science fiction has a history of political and sociological undertones. The genre is the starting point for dystopian fiction, among other forms of politically engaged fiction. How has SF become the literature of protest? What are examples of historical SF protest books and who is currently writing SF literature that protests (religion, gender inequality, gender identity, technology, politics, capitalism, etc.)?


Friday Aug 19, 2016


4:00 PM Describe a World
Kansas City Convention Center – 2502B

Our panel describe a world, building it from scratch, and Rob Carlos will illustrate it as they speak! What flights of fantasy will emerge? Come along and find out!


Saturday Aug 20, 2016

1:00 PM Reading: Ann Leckie
Kansas City Convention Center – 2203 (Readings)


Sunday Aug 21, 2016

11:00 AM Scenes That Changed Your Life
Kansas City Convention Center – 3501B

Science Fiction is fun, but it also inspires and can be a force for personal reflection, inspiration and change. The panelists explore what has impacted upon them and whether it is, or should be the job of creators to deliberately inspire. Do inspirational moments come by accident, or are they entirely personal?

1:00 PM The State of Feminist Fantasy
Kansas City Convention Center – 2205

On The Coode Street Podcast (#256), Suzy McKee Charnas and Pamela Sargent noted that while feminist fantasy exists, there isn’t an agreed upon canon, as there is for SF, nor is there an equivalent community of feminist writers and readers. Panellists discuss this statement, whether there is a difference viewing feminism through a fantasy lens, and whether there are fantasy feminist equivalents to Russ, Tiptree, and Butler. What are some good examples of feminist fantasy?

3:00 PM Can Hard Science Fiction be too Hard?
Kansas City Convention Center – 3501D

Allen Steele defines Hard SF as “the form of imaginative literature that uses either established or carefully extrapolated science as its backbone.” This may not be a perfect or final definition but it works on a basic level. With this in mind, is it possible that there can be too much science in Hard SF? Can the science make the work unreadable or unnecessarily complex or just plain ridiculous?

And of course I’ll be at the Hugo Awards, and around generally. More about that “around generally” later. If you see me, say hi! I plan to have ribbons, buttons, and pins for giving out until I don’t have any more, and I’m looking forward to seeing you!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

So it’s coming up on 48 hours since I had electricity at home. I’ve been in sporadic contact with the outside world via my phone (kept charged with my collection of external batteries, all of which are pretty much drained at this point. They would have lasted longer but the 19 yr old discovered Pokemon Go and with the power out all over the place we might as well go out and walk, right?), but today I’ve gone to the library and am availing myself of an outlet and the free wifi so I can catch up with emails that really need more of a reply than is convenient to type on a tiny touchscreen. If you need to get hold of me, I will be difficult to find until the power goes on again.

Which may be a few days yet. The other day a brief storm blew through, mostly no big deal but there were very high winds on the leading edge, and lots of trees and power lines went down all over the place. The electric folks are scrambling to get everyone reconnected, but there are a lot of places unconnected.

I didn’t need the AC anyway! (If I say that often enough I might believe it.) Possibly worse than being without AC or even fans in July is the fact that I had just bought a bunch of food and put it in the basement freezer. I’ve put as much as I can on ice in coolers, and we’re cooking things like raw chicken, or ground meat and icing those cooked, because those are the riskiest to store raw when your refrigeration is unreliable. On the down side, this was stuff meant to last for a few weeks; three hours before the storm rolled through I’d gone to Time For Dinner, a place where you make a bunch of pre-planned main dishes, package them up and take them home and put them in your freezer. Then whenever you just don’t feel like doing anything for dinner but you want something good, you pull one out and throw it in the oven or on the grill or whatever. It was my first visit there. And there’s other stuff in the fridge and freezer that’s definitely a loss. On the up side, dang the TfD stuff tastes good. A+ will visit again. And the basement freezer needed defrosting anyway.

Still, it’s seriously annoying. It’s throwing off my work routine and making me difficult to contact. Sorry about that–there isn’t much to do except try to get to the library when I can.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

When I was a child, I had several Dream Jobs. I wanted to be an astronaut, of course, and I also considered careers in paleontology and archaeology. But high, very high on my list was “any job where people will pay me to read, or failing that, give me lots of free books.”

Reader, it turns out that I now have such a job. And in some ways it is exactly as awesome as I had dreamed. More awesome! And yet. Now that I get books sent to me for free on a regular basis (nothing like Scalzi gets, but still, it’s a couple a week in my email or in my PO box), I do not have time to read them all.

I do try to read them! Because, I mean. It’s just, it takes me a while, because I have so much other job-related reading to do.

Anyway. I get books. And I read them, if slowly. And sometimes I enjoy them quite a bit! Like for instance.

Borderline, by Mishell Baker. This is I think what the kids call urban fantasy. Which mostly isn’t my sort of thing–I’ve got nothing against it, but it usually doesn’t do a lot for me. I’m pretty sure I’m not its target audience. But I enjoyed Borderline quite a lot. And this is the part where I should say why I enjoyed it, but I am remarkably bad at doing that. I can talk about things that caught my eye–the protagonist has Borderline Personality Disorder, which is treated pretty matter-of-factly, without romanticizing or demonizing the character or her illness. The other characters were nicely drawn as well, I thought, and I enjoyed the Hollywood setting (though to be honest, Hollywood might as well be Faery itself as far as I’m concerned). If you enjoy urban fantasy, you should check this out. If you aren’t a UF reader, well, maybe check it out anyway, because it’s a lot of fun.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. If you’ve read any of Yoon’s short fiction, you know he’s fabulous. I confess myself partial to “The Winged City,” which I bought for GigaNotoSaurus several years ago. Now he’s got a novel coming out, and it’s (unsurprisingly) excellent. It’s out June 14, but I got an ARC and boy am I glad I did. Here’s a blurb I found at the Amazon listing:

“I love Yoon’s work! Ninefox Gambit is solidly and satisfyingly full of battles and political intrigue, in a beautifully built far-future that manages to be human and alien at the same time. It should be a treat for readers already familiar with Yoon’s excellent short fiction, and an extra treat for readers finding Yoon’s work for the first time.”

Every word of that is true. I know because I wrote that blurb myself.  Honestly, you should read this as soon as you can. And you should check out Yoon’s short fiction as well.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

This is a guest post by Rachel Swirsky:

Thanks to my friend, Ann, for letting me use her blog. I’m Rachel Swirsky, and some years ago, I wrote a short story called, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.” It rather upset some folks who have been raising great ruckus about it since. As a response, I’ve started a Making Lemons into Jokes campaign—a fundraiser through my patreon to benefit some of the people they’ve been nastiest toward, LGBTQIAA folks who are already at the bottom of a heap made of bullshit.

Since I’m here on Ann’s blog, I’ll point out that if we reach our $600 stretch goal, she and I, along with writers John Chu, Adam-Troy Castro, Ken Liu, Juliette Wade, and Alyssa Wong, will write a story together about dinosaurs. I really want this to happen, so I hope we reach the goal. We’ve got about a week left to go!

If you want the whole story behind the fundraiser, you can read it here– https://www.patreon.com/posts/posteriors-for-5477113. But here’s what I have to say today:

There’s advice I’ve heard all my life. You’ve probably heard it, too.

In elementary school, it was “ignore the bullies.” It never seemed to work.

These days, it’s “ignore the trolls.” (And let’s not mince words – trolls are just another kind of bully.) And it doesn’t work now, either.

Why? Because bullies don’t need you.

Bullies might enjoy it when you get angry, or cry, or whatever else they want you to do. They’re the kind of people who like that. It’s foreign to my personality, and I can’t understand it, but there it is. But they don’t need it. What they need is the laughing and baying of their own hounds. They’re showing off for each other, pissing on the trees to show just how terribly big they are.

This leads to the fundamental dichotomy of bullies.

First, that they are actually capable of doing damage. A dog crapping on the carpet still leaves crap on the carpet. And if they’re all crowding into your living room to crap on you, then that’s a lot of crap. Being covered in crap won’t break your bones, but it’s not nothing. Otherwise, a lot more people would spend their free time rolling around in crap. And sometimes they do bite—someone shows up with a gun at a gym or a hair salon, or brags on a message board about a murder that shows up later in the news, or makes a “performance art” video threatening to kill a woman and driving her out of her home.

But second, they’re ridiculous. I mean, really. The kind of people who think “I can crap on things and that makes me really important!!” are not serious people. They are somewhere on the scale from scabies to anthrax. You don’t really want to scratch all the time, and you certainly don’t want to take high-powered antibiotics, but it’s not like crabs who crawl through pubic hair are something you regard as impressive.

Sometimes we try to toggle those back and forth. Can lard the living room with crap versus hilarious clowns. But they’re both.

So, you do the same thing you do when the two-year-old pulls off her diaper and pees on the floor. You clean it up, and you laugh.

In elementary school, sometimes I’d turn around and face the bullies, and laugh at what they were saying. “You realize that’s not even a coherent insult, right?”

Bullies can hurt people. That’s what “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” is about, and perhaps why it makes bullies howl. But you know what else it’s done? It’s inspired hundreds of people to come to me and tell me about their experiences being bullied as kids or being hated as adults, being pummeled or harassed, and how they’ve moved past it. How “Dinosaur” has been cathartic for them, has helped them realize they aren’t alone.

Bullies aren’t the only ones who can travel in groups. We have our bonding and our strength. And at its best, it can be fun, and silly. It can destroy hatred with humor and positive energy. It can emphasize kindness and compassion. I believe in the power of humor, and I believe in the power of people clasping hands to help other people.

Don’t get me wrong. Humor won’t stop the bullies either. We’re always going to have to spend our time walking carefully around some amount of crap on the carpet. But humor reveals that the emperor is not only naked, but not even an emperor—as often as not, he’s some poor, pathetic exiled criminal, dreaming of ruling the world with an army of poltergeists and toddlers.

Don’t let them make us forget: they are morally weak, and they are outnumbered. And they’re hilarious.

Comments are closed on this entry.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

So, Barnes and Noble is having a sale! Three adult paperbacks for thirty bucks.

Now, it’s likely all of y’all reading this have already read the Ancillary trilogy. But, see, have you read N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season? Because if you haven’t, there is a hole in your life that you probably didn’t know was there.

Nebula-winner Uprooted is part of the same deal. So is Emma Newman’s Planetfall. Have you not read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell yet? Because that one is freaking awesome. The Expanse books are on there, and oooooh look, The City & The City. Seriously, that one is amazing.

Here are the books in the deal sorted by title–there are lots–and you can also grab the little dropdown thingy up there and sort it by author.

And no, really, you should all read The Fifth Season if you haven’t already.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

I’m in the middle of getting ready to go to Chicago this weekend for the Nebulas, but I just got word that prints of Lauren Saint Onge’s wonderful cover art for the Subterranean special editions of the Ancilary books are available for purchase.

Screenshot 2016-05-10 18.03.11

Just personally, I love these. I already have the Ancillary Justice cover hanging on my wall, it is now only a matter of time before it is joined by Sword and Mercy. If you want one or more of these on your wall, well, here they are!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

So, uh, this is a thing that happened. I mean, not just Ancillary Mercy being a finalist, which is super awesome (and thank you to the readers who voted for it!), but also, look at the novelette category.

Yeah, my story “Another Word for World” is a finalist for the Locus Awards this year. Like novel, the other works in the category are pretty amazing stuff, so I’m counting them just being on that finalist list as wins on my personal scoreboard. But “Another Word for World” has the distinction of being the very first time any short fiction of mine has been shortlisted for any sort of award. I mean, I’ve seen individuals say, here and there, “Oh, I’m going to recc/nominate “[Shortfic]” by Ann Leckie this year, I really loved it” (and enjoyed the heck out of seeing that, and tucked those away to remind me to keep going during long spells of rejection), but this is the first time a story of mine has actually made the cut.

So, I’m kind of giddy about that!

“Another Word for World” appeared in Future Visions, by the way, which is full of great stories by amazing authors. You can download the whole thing for free and read them all, not just mine!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

The other day, while I was reading a (published) work of fiction, I came across a passage that seemed to me was a result of the author being determined to write the piece in 3rd person limited, but wanting very badly to do something that would have benefitted very much from the piece being in omniscient POV. Instead, the author had kluged together an awkward workaround.

I would have been a bit less dismayed to see such a thing if it had not been for the context of the way new writers are nearly always taught about POV. I’ve not infrequently seen advice to avoid omni altogether, either because it’s difficult and therefore only for experts, or because readers aren’t used to it, or because editors won’t or don’t buy works using that POV. Specific advice for handling POV is nearly always advice for handling 3rd person limited, though it’s often articulated only as advice for handling POV, period. Writers who use that advice as their default template for handling POV will find themselves faced with difficulties if they attempt omni–hence, perhaps, the common wisdom that omni is hard to do, though once you realize that your POV technique isn’t POV technique but 3rd person limited technique, it becomes much easier. And then, of course, writers trained up on the features of 3rd person limited as “good POV” will read through that framework as well, which makes pieces written in omni look like they’re just full of incompetent POV slips and if it works anyway, well that’s because the writer “knew how to break the rules.”

***

Excuse me, I had to take a few calming breaths after typing the “know how to break the rules” thing. Look, if you can break it and the story still works–if lots and lots of writers break it and those stories still work–it is not a rule. There are not actually any rules. Okay? Okay.

I’ve dealt with the “omniscient is too difficult to attempt” bullshit previously.

Now, let’s talk about common POV advice. The one, basic precept a newbie writer learns is that while you’re in the POV of a particular character, the text should only reflect what that character might know or actually think. This is good as far as it goes–it’s not the whole ballgame, but it’ll keep you from making the most obvious missteps. Asking yourself, as you write each sentence, “Would Star Ranger Samantha actually know or think this?” will keep you from slipping out of her POV. So far, so good.

Then there’s advice to avoid headhopping. This is also excellent advice–for 3rd person limited. Switching in and out of characters’ heads without warning is disorienting and confusing in that context. If you want to have more than one POV character in a 3rd person limited piece, you need to signal each POV switch so that your reader doesn’t have to stop and puzzle out whose thoughts they’re reading, not even for an instant. A scene break is conventional, but there are other ways to do it. (And a scene break by itself isn’t enough–you want to open that next paragraph with a sentence–or maybe even just a few words–that will re-orient the reader to the new POV.)

But what if you want the POV of more than one person in a single scene? There are ways to do this without a scene break in limited 3rd, though you want to be careful with them, they require very close control of your POV, and a very careful consideration of how you’re moving the reader from character to character. I’m not going to say don’t try it–on the contrary, do try it! You’ll come out of it with better control of POV and the flow of information to the reader. But you know what can give your reader the thoughts of multiple characters in a single scene without so much as breaking a sweat?

That’s right. Omniscient.

On twitter, Alex Clark-McGlenn suggested (if I understood correctly) that one of the problems with omni was an inherent lack of tension:

Since in omni the narrator knows all, why isn’t the narrative giving you this or that or the other piece of information? The reader, perhaps, rather than feeling enthralled feels manipulated. Or the omniscient voice, since it would know who the murderer was (to take an unsubtle example) must naturally mention that at some point, and there’s the end of suspense.

So, I disagree that tension is a product of concealing information from the reader. You get tension a couple of different ways, and one of them does involve controlling the rate of information the reader gets, but that’s not exactly the same thing as “concealing” that information. Just knowing what’s going to happen isn’t always going to kill tension. Now, if you’re handling your omniscient POV badly, yeah, it’s going to kick the reader out of the story enough that they wonder why the heck the narrator is hiding this or that. And if you’re trained up as a writer to think that limited 3rd is the one true POV, you’re maybe not going to handle omni very well.

There’s a tendency to think of omni as though it’s basically 3rd limited except you can headhop all you want and throw in whatever info you want, and of course that’s difficult because it violates everything one has learned about doing POV well–heck, when you try doing that, the results aren’t good at all, and so how the heck does it work, when it works???

But it’s really very simple. Omniscient always has a narrator. That narrator, by the way, is not always literally omniscient in the sense that they know everything there is to know in the universe. They are omniscient for the purposes of the story.

Sometimes that narrator is named–sometimes they declare themselves the narrator from the start, and tell you who they are. Sometimes the narrator is essentially a version of the actual author of the story. Sometimes they stand so far in the background you hardly know there’s a narrator at all, but they’re there.

But the story is always being told from the POV of that narrator, who just happens to know a whole lot about the circumstances of the story, for whatever reason. They’re telling you the story, commenting on it, judging it, maybe even making snarky remarks about it. But the story is being filtered through the perceptions of that narrator.

Once you know that, omni becomes more or less a snap. Well, barring the actual details of execution, which will probably take some practice, but it’s no longer as puzzling as it might have been. Decide who’s telling the story–you don’t have to tell the reader up front, you just have to know, yourself; you don’t have to have a name or history for them, you just need to have a feel for who they are and how they’d tell this story–and then have them tell it. No matter how many characters’ thoughts you report, you’re never violating that narrator’s POV. You’re not headhopping, you’re still in your narrator’s head.

Let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with 3rd person limited POV. But it’s not the only way to go.

Now, is it true that editors won’t buy it, or that readers won’t read it? I suspect there’s not as much published in omni, but is that because editors won’t buy it, or because writers don’t write in it, or when they do they handle it badly because they’re thinking of it as multi-limited 3rd with unrestrained headhopping?

And as for readers–you learn to read particular sorts of things by reading those sorts of things. If no one is writing omni, readers won’t be used to it. If you want readers to appreciate works in omniscient, well, you have to give them well-written examples of it to read. Editors are readers. It’s possible some younger editors may well have limited experience reading work in omniscient. I’m guessing about that, I don’t know for certain.

You can throw up your hands and say that the only thing to do is to write thing things editors are used to and likely to buy. You know, if you want. You do you, I’m not here to tell you how to manage your career. But I don’t think that’s the best course to take, I think if you give editors and other readers a really well-done example of something they’re not used to, they’ll be interested and intrigued. I don’t think we’re helpless in the face of What The Reader Expects.

This leads me to wonder how we got into a situation where, at least in SFF, limited 3rd is the One True POV. And I saw this tweet:

And I’ve been chewing on it. Here’s the thing: limited 3rd seems to just…come out of the air. There appears to be nothing between the story and the reader, just the raw facts of the character’s thoughts and impressions, just reality somehow arriving onto the page. Except it’s not–that reality is framed, carefully pruned and curated by the writer. It pretends to be an objective camera-view of the story. Except, even a camera isn’t actually objective. Things are edited, or left out of the frame, very carefully, to produce the film. It’s not raw truth, it’s carefully shaped.

There are advantages to doing this–limited 3rd can give you a particularly strong immediacy, can put you deep into a character’s experience, and that’s awesome. That’s possible to do with omni, of course, but it’s one of the things limited 3rd does best.

Omni, on the other hand, draws at least a little attention to the fact that you’re getting not raw truth, but someone’s interpretation of events. You’re getting the same with limited 3rd, of course, it’s just that the fact that the author is doing just that–presenting you not with utterly objective fact but with their take on the story–is concealed.

I think that in some parts of SF there is a particular value placed on the idea of Objective Truth. There’s no such thing, actually. I mean, yes, there are things that are true about the world–two plus two equals four, and the sun is about eight light-minutes from the earth, and objects in motion stay in motion unless some other force acts on them, and things like that, those are all facts. But stories? Stories, even stories arranged entirely out of facts, well, those arrangements aren’t somehow naturally occurring truths, but interpretations, thoughts about the world that come from a particular point of view–that is, the author’s. Some other author might have (almost certainly would have) arranged those facts differently, with very different results.

Limited 3rd conceals this–it conceals the fact that the story has not come from out of nowhere, some objectively factual place, but from the point of view of the author, with all its inherent assumptions and biases.

And if, as a writer, it’s the only POV you know how to use, and any others are deprecated, it conceals this fact from you, the writer, as well.

I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with limited 3rd. Heck, the thing I’m working on now is in limited 3rd. Just, it’s not the only way to go. And it’s worth learning how to use others. It’s worth your time to spend some thought on how those others actually work, and to read things written in them and try to see how they’re put together.

This is getting long, and I have other thoughts, but I should stop here. But, in summary: no POV is inherently good or bad, they all have advantages and disadvantages. Don’t feel stuck with limited 3rd if you want to do something another POV would do better. All are worth learning, all are worth practicing. They’re all tools worth having in your box. Why limit yourself?

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

Hal-Con

Apr. 21st, 2016 09:59 am
ann_leckie: (AJ)

I just spent an awesome week in Japan, and an awesome weekend at Hal-Con, where I was a guest of honor! It was pretty excellent. It’s a fairly small convention, well-run, and they took great care of me. Which was extra-important considering I speak about two words of Japanese; I can, if pressed, say “Hello” and “Thank you.”

The convention put together a book of several pieces of my short fiction, translated into Japanese:

The Endangered Camp

With a fabulous dinosaur on the cover, and lovely illustrations inside, all by my fellow GoH Nozomu Tamaki.

It was an honor and a pleasure to meet everyone. The convention staff did a great job–I know even for a small con there’s a lot of work involved, and most of it will be invisible if you do it right.

The convention was the perfect finish to a week of doing touristy things–I wanted to see at least a little of Japan while I was there. I highly recommend the Edo Tokyo Museum, if you like museums, which I do. And I stayed at an onsen in Gora and took hot spring baths and ate wonderful food (and leveled up my previously more-or-less adequate chopstick skillz). By the time I got to the con, I could eat without (mostly) embarrassing myself, and my sleep schedule was on the verge of adjusting to the fourteen-hour time difference (just in time to fly back home and do it again!), though not quite there.

I don’t tend to take a lot of pictures, unless I’m explicitly doing research on something and think I need pics for future reference, but I did take one or two of the view out my hotel window in Numazu:

2016-04-18 05.23.19

And one of some lovely fish-shaped cakes a reader gave me as a gift:

2016-04-18 08.27.06

Okay, those aren’t really cakes. The two in the middle are pancakes with bean paste inside, and the top and bottom ones are a kind of wafer-cookie sandwich, also filled with bean paste. Still. Close enough.

I will close out with some frozen coelacanths, from the aquarium in Numazu, which was one of the venues for the GoH dinner on Saturday night:

Screenshot 2016-04-21 09.46.14

If your mind works like mine does, you will want to know that the tour guide at the aquarium informed us that coelacanth doesn’t taste like much of anything, and is very oily and gristly (ISTR the exact description was “like chewing on a toothbrush”). That wasn’t firsthand information, but the guide could tell us from her own experience that giant isopod, when cooked, tastes like chicken.

Thanks again to the folks at Hal-Con, for inviting me and for all their hard work to make the weekend such a success!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

Quite frequently someone at a reading will ask me if I’ll ever explain about that icon Breq is carrying. And the answer is, I already have.


Residents of Noage Itray could look up and see the ballcourt hanging ten miles overhead, four meters wide and fifty long from goal line to goal line. Stands stretched along each side, row upon row of seats slanting up and back. For the station’s entire thirty-five-mile cylindrical length, buildings and gardens clung to its curving interior walls, bright with reflected sunlight. Noage Itray was the largest and wealthiest of the four stations in its Precinct—the second oldest of the four Precincts.
 
Under the ballcourt stands, proof of that antiquity, stood ranks of life-sized statues serving, crouching, springing to meet the ball. Elaborately painted wristguards, jewels on necks and arms, shimmered faintly in half shadow, each statue the result of the septennial elections decided on Noage Itray’s Blue Lily ballcourt.
 
They were called the Hundred, though Her-Breath-Contains-The-Universe had counted three hundred and seventy-two of them. On game days flowers decked each statue. The air would be heavy with their scent and the muttered prayers of worshipers as they streamed past, into the stands. Today the space echoed coldly, the stale remains of incense barely perceptible, the Hundred staring into empty, silent space.

I know I’ve linked it here before, but since I keep getting the question, I figure folks who have followed more recently might not have seen it.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

ann_leckie: (AJ)

So, by a certain point it became obvious that when I would set to work on a fantasy piece, I would end up centering it around a particular animal. Maybe two animals. This was handy, because at the time I was writing these a trip to the zoo was generally greeted with enthusiasm by most of the other people in the house, though they would sometimes get impatient with my desire to stare for a while at a particular animal they found less interesting than others.

For “Beloved of the Sun,” which I sold to Beneath Ceaseless Skies in 2010, I had decided (for reasons that I’m not a hundred percent clear on anymore) that I wanted to write a scary, dangerous butterfly. As often happened, Ant actually ended up with more screen time, and by the time I was done writing I knew way more about sturgeons in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers than I strictly ever needed to. (I’ve forgotten a good deal of it now, honestly.)

But the couple of trips to the Insectarium at the zoo were a complete success from my kids’ standpoint! So that was a win.

I knelt on a woven mat. The room was dark, the walls barely visible. A low fire burned on the packed-earth floor. Human heads circled the fire, eyes shadowed, dark mouths open as though they were about to speak or scream. The fire flared up momentarily, and I saw they were round clay pots, the faces molded and painted on. Across the fire from me sat a man in leggings and linen shirt, his face strong-boned and sharp, long black hair pulled back. Behind him sat a large, dark bird on a perch.
 
“She sees,” said a voice like wind through an empty jar. “She hears. She may or may not understand what she hears. But her mind seems to receive speech as words, not merely sounds.”
 
“But she doesn’t speak,” said the man. “Is there damage?”

Nearly all my fantasy stories have shorthand titles that I used while writing them or while discussing the stories with my writer friends, especially the people who saw the stories at various stages before the final draft. “The Nalendar” is “the skink.” “Marsh Gods” is “the Crane.” “The Unknown God” is usually “the horse” but sometimes “the Frog.” Despite Ant’s taking the stage more often, this one was “Butterfly.”

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

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