All posts by Tobias Buckell

25 Oct

I had no idea: Sweden’s deadly subs

This is a fairly fascinating tale of military leapfrogging:

Sweden Has A Sub That’s So Deadly The US Navy Hired It To Play Bad Guy: “We have been glued all week to the sub saga off the coast of Sweden, where six days in Swedish forces have only now called off their search for an elusive sub hiding in the waters off Stockholm. Yet what nobody has mentioned is just how deadly and capable Sweden’s own subs are, and there are few better weapons for catching a sub than another sub.”

(Via Jalopnik.)

I would totally have worked that into Arctic Rising if I’d known.

Something to come back to in the third novel, possibly.

24 Oct

Why I’m investigating contact and sales management software to help my writing (tools are found in many places)

I was talking over the struggles I was having with tracking projects through various stages (novels, relaunches, foreign editions, self publishing, potential new Kickstarters) with a friend who runs a sales business, as well as bemoaning my horrible mess of notes about contacts (reviewers, publicists, people who have asked me to do remember to send them something when it becomes available years ago).

“You need a CRM tool,” he said.

“A what?”

He quickly introduced me to some overly complex tools for lead generation and contact management that sales people use, which I’d never really looked at for a creative business.

But the concept of keeping track of people and what you’d last discussed with them, as well as status of projects, is something I’ve been using Evernote to track (crudely). I’d been keeping a giant text database with hand notes.

“Good grief, no,” he said, looking over my system. “You need something that’ll scrape your emails and calendar and integrate it all as well.”

So now I’m reading about Daylite and thinking I know what I’ll be spending my weekend doing:

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The creative side is doing creative stuff.

But on the business side, while I’ve gotten a lot accomplished with GTD and email, I’ve been lacking another layer of organization to handle the large web of obligations, communications, and project management.

Because when I’m not freaking out about trying to visualize everything I have to do, I’m able to get a lot more creative stuff done.

I’m always amazed at the way in which many writers bear their disorganization as a badge of honor, and often, sadly, then watch it cost them money and creative time as things fall apart. I’m always amazed at naturally organized people.

Browsing through the website’s stories, I see a lot of musicians and graphics creatives using this sort of software. Why not writers?

23 Oct

A Bear: an original illustration by Calli

I don’t want to be every other parent that thinks they have the most artistic children in the world and foists that upon everyone. But ever since Cal showed me the cover of a ‘book’ that she made in class about bears (including the oh-so-precocious spelling of ‘hibrnat’ for hibernate) I’ve been mulling over just how good she’s gotten at drawing things in a short time.

I mean, it was just a few months ago that everything she drew was stick figures. Like, very, very basic stuff.

Now I have a bear with a quirky expression on its face, and I just want to frame this damn thing.

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16 Oct

I survived Tropical Storm Fay, but was flown back home to avoid Gonzalo

So while out in Bermuda, I flew in Emily and the kids for a surprise weekend hangout halfway through being Writer in Residence. I was excited, kids first plane trip, using passports, and seeing an island.

They were jazzed to arrive:

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We went up to see Fort St. Catherine:

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We swam at a nearby beach, and then had lunch above it:

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Later went to the Dockyards to watch the sun set. We couldn’t get to the beach, there was a wedding happening. But someone checked, then escorted us up onto the walls so we could watch the sun set, which was very nice of them. I love ocean sunsets:

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The next day we took the kids to a Shelley Beach, a kid-friendly, shallow beach with a playground attached. The wind was picking up a little, but not too much.

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Afterwards, we had a wonderful lunch with one of the writers taking my workshop and her family. I got back to teach the workshop, driving in on my scooter. People had been talking all day about a mild Tropical Depression that had become upgraded to a storm, but no one was worrying. People were still enjoying some sailing in the brisk wind as the sun dimmed.

But as I wrapped up class, people were getting phone calls. Emily called me, the owner of the apartment we were in had been by to ask us to close the storm shutters. I drove back on the scooter, and the pre-storm gusts were buffeting me around. I should have gotten a taxi. I could see the headlines “Hurricane Fever author knocked off bike by Tropical Storm!”

I got back and helped Emily lock all the storm shutters.

As the storm continued to kick up, I began to wonder if I was over reacting, but it felt like maybe I should be filling up containers with water and that I should have done hurricane prep. But no one else had been very worried, so I hadn’t. I eventually filled up a 30 gallon trashcan. Just to feel better. Because that’s what you do. I also made sure to charge up all the devices I could, and a backup battery for my iPhone, as well as the laptop (to use as a battery for the phone).

The next morning was a bit frantic, because it was Sunday, and the family was supposed to fly back. We didn’t sleep well, the winds were gusting (one taxi driver said he recorded gusts of over 100mph, I believe it) and water and leaves got pushed through the door as winds changed direction.

The cell network was down the next morning, as was power, and water, and at first we couldn’t even get a taxi to our location because of reasons like this:

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I finally swapped out my SIM card and got the other network going, though promptly had to deal with AT&T INTL roaming issues. Once that was settled, I got through to Delta, where I was lectured that if I wasn’t at the airport right away, we would forfeit our tickets.

Sounded like bullshit to me, and the taxi company finally confirmed, telling me that the airport was damaged and shut down. Delta was full of it. After the flight was finally cancelled I got them on the next flight out, on a Tuesday.

We suddenly had two more days on the island. We spent the Sunday after Fay marveling with other people we ran into at how worse it was than expected. Once the trees were cut up, I got down to the grocery store for water and dry goods (they were running off generators, thank goodness).

Bermuda houses are built solid. Multiple foot thick walls, and stone roofs. Being an island out in the Atlantic, they’re ready.

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With no power or water, I decided the next morning that we’d head for the one place that would have everything we needed and relax: the bigger, tourist beach. Horseshoe.

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Calli and I went rock climbing, getting up to a point above the beach:

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We spent a good chunk of the day there. There was some spotty wifi, that let me get some email down, and also send some texts to people. We had hamburgers and cold drinks. And we got to use the beach showers, which was great, as we didn’t have that back at the apartment.

I managed, with my laptop and backups, to eke two full days of phone use.

Later that night, the landlord got the generator up and running. Only one outlet worked with it, so:

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On Tuesday, Emily and the kids were able to fly back out. The airport had power and wifi, so I spent a couple hours there recharging and catching up quickly. Via phone, the organizers who got me to come out and do this Writer in Residence thing, decided to fly me out as well. A new hurricane had been forming: Gonzalo. It was a category 3. Since the Tropical Storm had left me with no running water, and intermittent power, they figured it would be worse after a hurricane.

The workshop I’d been running, full of amazing talent, had to be compressed into that last day (I will talk more about the workshop somewhere else, as it’s not technically over). I spent over 5 hours straight meeting with each student one on one, and I’ll be conducting a Milford model style workshop with them after the hurricane, when things are picked back up.

As I left Hamilton, I saw that they’d started boarding up in town.

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My thoughts are with everyone in Bermuda right now. They’re in the bullseye, and it’s a big storm. And Fay put a lot of debris out in the open that Gonzalo will be flinging around.

Stay safe guys.

02 Oct

Check it out: Hurricane Fever Audiobook available now from Audible.com

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Hurricane Fever is now an audiobook. Audible has worked very hard on it and Arctic Rising, the narrators are amazing.

The narrator came via referral from Robin Miles, who has done Nalo Hopkinson and Karen Lord’s books. I think he sounds amazing and am so grateful Robin was able to help us like that.

Even more amazing is this tidbit: Robin Miles and Prentice have been working very closely with me and Audible to record the Xenowealth novels. The attention to detail, the samples I’ve heard, and the books that will be coming out, are amazing. I think Xenowealth fans will be very pleased. And I hope to rope in a whole new generation of listeners (combined with the relaunch of the Xenowealth, which is coming soon!).

I can’t stress how delighted I am to have this team around me for the audiobooks, as the accents and sounds of the books are very important to me.

27 Sep

Beginning my writer residency in Bermuda today

In a blog post a while back I broke the news that I would be the Writer in Residence in Bermuda:

“Last month Dr. Kim Dismont Robinson from the Bermuda Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs reached out to me to ask if I would come and be a part of the Writer-in-Residence Programme in Bermuda this October. I would be responsible for helping direct some three weeks of workshops for interested writers, with a focus on genre.

It’s always a huge honor when the islands reach back out to me. And for anyone to reach out to ask me to teach or guide up and coming writers.”

(Via I’ve been invited to be writer-in-residence by Bermuda this October | Tobias Buckell.)

You can see the nifty brochure they made.

Since I’ve been living with the news since earlier this year, it’s been something way off on the horizon. Until it wasn’t. And yesterday I was doing laundry and packing and trying to get ready to go down and stay at a hotel and then catch a very early flight.

Bermuda is considered by some a part of the Caribbean. Culturally and historically it has a lot of ties.

But as you can see from this GPS shot on my iPhone, I’m actually out in the middle of the Atlantic and very far north of the Caribbean island chain.

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Landed a few hours ago:

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My contact has settled me into an apartment, I’ve got onto wifi, let everyone know I got here safe, and found that they left me curried chicken and peas-n-rice in the fridge.

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I’m looking forward to meeting the writers I’ll be working with over the next few weeks (I got to read all their application pieces, so it’ll be great to put faces with names), and looking forward to exploring the island. Since the roads are small and the island not so long (20-25 miles, I think), I’ll be loaned a scooter to go exploring the island with. I’m looking forward to getting some time on the beach, as well as visiting some of the historical sites on the island.

17 Sep

Rocket Talk, Episode 27: now with 100% more Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell

Karen Lord and I teamed up to chat with Justin Landon of Staffer’s Book Review for his Rocket Talk Podcast up at Tor.com:

“In this episode of Rocket Talk, Justin brings on Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell to discuss their most recent works, what they mean when they talk about Caribbean Science Fiction, and the challenge of reading western literature from a different point of view. Justin also manages to squeeze in some talk about how the two see series fiction.”

(Via Rocket Talk, Episode 27: Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell | Tor.com.)

16 Sep

The Los Angeles Review of Books reviews Hurricane Fever

This review digs down deep into All the Things I’m trying to do in my fiction. Honestly, all this is why I write the things I do. I’m grateful to all reviews of my fiction, but this is one of those rare ones where I feel like the reviewer was the person I wrote the book for, as they responded to all the various things I was trying to achieve:

Science fiction’s predictive powers are debatable, but Delany’s observation on the connection between the ‘economic heft’ of the presence of substantial numbers of black writers and our encounters with racial bigotry now appears spookily prescient.  N.K. Jemisin, for example, an African American woman who in 2011 won Japan’s Sense of Gender Award and whose work has been nominated for several other major awards, has been designated by one hate-filled economic competitor as ‘illiterate’ and ‘half-savage.’

Given this background, Buckell’s consistent efforts at creating marketable novels with crossover potential can be seen as revolutionary acts, attempts to stand the genre’s financial hierarchy on its head.  Technical competence and knowledge of one’s intended audience become tools for resisting erasure.

Buckell’s earlier Xenowealth series (Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, Sly Mongoose, and Apocalypse Ocean) included quite a few tributes to science fiction’s pulpy forebears and other related genres, notably post-Romero zombie narratives, steampunk, and juvenile dive fiction.  Harnessing the power of popular appeal in Arctic Rising and Hurricane Fever is mostly a matter of Buckell filling his storylines with typical spy/thriller tropes.  Using wealthy criminal masterminds, high-speed chases (on land and sea), and daring escapes, he has written books which can unquestionably be consumed as familiar, frictionless pleasures—but that’s not the only way to read them…

(Via The Shock of the New Normal | The Los Angeles Review of Books.)

If you’re curious as to why I write, or what I’m trying to do with my books, this review is about as damn close to a manifesto as I could imagine.

This response is pretty much why I write. I’m grateful.

15 Sep

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy interview with me, Ramez Naam, and Paolo Bacigalupi

Ramez Naam, Paolo Bacigalupi, and me all bat climate change back and forth on Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast:

“‘When I started writing [Arctic Rising], I called it science fiction, because I thought the idea of completely eliminating the polar ice cap was science fictional, that’s pretty wild. A lot of the people who criticize climate change are like, ‘Oh, they’re way too pessimistic.’ And I’m like, ‘These guys are way too optimistic.’ IPCC was calling for possibly ice-free summers being like the wildest thing when I started writing. And so I started out with the science fictional scenario being ‘no polar ice cap.’ And by the time the book was in copy edits, IPCC was saying that they were willing to call a completely ice-free winter as well at some point in the human future, as their worst-case scenario. And it had gone from being completely science fictional—and scientists had it off the table—to being in their projections within the time I wrote that novel, and that’s just a year and a half.’”

(Via Leading a Double Life Turned This Woman Into a Best-Selling Author | WIRED.)