27 Feb

Thank you, Mr. Nimoy. Your portrayal of a mixed race person had a big impact on me.

It’s not often that I am struck by the passing of a celebrity. I don’t often feel I need to weigh in. I certainly don’t feel like I had any special connection to that person. Certainly when celebrities that are in the common consciousness who are my age pass, I feel the shiver of mortality, but that’s usually it.

But the news today that Leonard Nimoy had passed had an impact.

I wasn’t a devoted trekker, or trekkie, or what have you. But Spock was one of the first times I saw a living example of a pro-science, pro-rational point of view in a character on a screen who wasn’t the evil scientist.

It was the first time in my life I’d seen a protagonist, a hero, be like that. Spock had a huge impact on my nascent scientific world view, giving me permission to explore a scientific worldview. It took a long time for me to go all in on that, but he was the first that made if feel it was safe.

I’m probably not alone in geek-dom there.

But where Spock really hit me in the feels was when I encountered more about him in occasional re-runs and some of the books.

Spock was half human and half Vulcan. Humans took one look at him and ‘saw’ Vulcan, and coded as such. And Vulcans ‘knew’ he wasn’t really Vulcan because of his invisible human-ness.

Spock was bi-racial. But he didn’t look like a half-human half Vulcan. He coded as Vulcan.

For someone who looked white, but was bi-racial, that had a huge impact on me. Spock was the closest thing I had ever seen in my life, even to this day, to a role model. As a kid, it blew my mind. There was Spock and that was it as far as ‘light not white’ me.

Spock struggling with trying to be accepted by Vulcans and humans, both sides of which kind of pushed him away a bit. That hit me in all the feels. Spock finding his own path, being just awesome as himself. Crewing with a bunch of people who all looked different than him and being down with it. Putting up with being teased for being too rational with calm and equanimity.

Yeah it was all fiction. Cardboard props and bullshit.

But telling a story about a possible path helps.

When I was a kid I was smart enough to be clever. And as John Scalzi famously noted, the failure mode of clever is ‘asshole.’ I fell into some of that. Wanting to be the Dr. House mode of smart, dismissive of stupidity and willing to push through solutions because of your own smarts. And I apologize to all those I hurt while trying to be clever.

As I got older, I realized I wanted to be more like Spock. Smart, but hard-working smart and with genuine warmth. Yes, he’s cold rational. But he’s not rational in the ‘toss you out the airlock’ way. He’s rational in the ‘dies to save the crew even though they’re not as smart as him’ way. He used his intelligence as a tool to try and create a universe that they could all be in. He made friends out of a diverse crew on the bridge. He was even close friends with the womanizing asshole of a captain that ran the ship and who had to often bail out of trouble, because even Kirk had good qualities and challenged Spock to broaden his experiences and grow as thinking creature, to see other modes and solutions, adding to his abilities.

He chose not to reject either side of his identity, but embrace them and synthesize something new out of them (yeah, I know not all the media were perfect about handling this aspect, but seeing it exist at all, when people like myself were/still are invisible, was water in the desert for me).

So, thank you Leonard Nimoy for playing Spock. And for bringing that person to life. Thank you for a great life lived, and continuing to engaged with all the people that loved this thing.

I will do my best to live long and prosper, and to try and always be a friend. There are worse things to try and live up to.

Addendum: I was pointed out this amazing article where Mr. Nimoy writes a letter to a dispirited bi-racial woman in the 1960s who was struggling, and found common ground with Spock.

Now I have double the feels knowing that he was aware of this and wrote letters like this.

05 Feb

How All Her Children Fought came to be a film: sometimes it pays to take a chance

Sometimes it pays to just take a chance.

About two and a half years ago an odd email dropped into my inbox out of nowhere. It seemed to be a quickly written email from someone in Ireland. The writer, Liam, said he was asking if I had any stories that I thought might be worth filming. In particular, he was trying to find something under fifteen minutes long that he, and a crew of others from his village in Ireland, could enter into a film competition. And they needed it, like, yesterday.

I decided to follow up, and asked more questions, instead of just moving on. And I was glad I did. Despite the hastiness of the initial email, Liam went on to explain further that he and his crew had entered several weekend film competitions and won them. They were looking for a script they could film over a weekend for a ‘make a film in a weekend’ competition coming up, but they couldn’t use their current script.

I thought All Her Children Fought could be filmed, so I sent the story along, and Liam loved it. I spent a week turning it into a script that I sent to Liam.

And then things went quiet for a long while. Past the time I thought they were going to try to film for that weekend.

They got back into touch. They hadn’t been able to get things ready to use my script in time, they’d gone with another. But they were still super excited about my script and wanted to film it. Only, they said they wanted to level up from their regional wins and do something even better. They wanted to hire a director and audition actors and get really serious.

A friend of mine joked that this was when the request for me to invest money would come, but pretty soon Liam and the Snugboro team were sending me clips of directors they were looking at, along with actors they were thinking of using. I suddenly realized this was going to really happen.

The director had done some adverts, and been to film school. Pretty soon they got their hands on my script and we had some back and forth edits. The director had some tweaks, all of which punched things up (the cat and the end shot, which really boosted the whole thing, came from that pass and weren’t in my original, but I loved them).

Knowing that I was working with a team that didn’t have a Hollywood budget, I’d tried to take things that would require special effects and get them off screen. I suggested using fans to blow leaves across the field for the ship taking off at the end. But someone on the team knew a computer graphics guy, and soon I was getting mpegs of test imagery for the ship to see what I thought, as they were going to include that as the penultimate shot. It was going to look totally SF-nal! That blew me away.

When I got the DVD in the mail it wouldn’t work on my player, but I was able to get my Xbox 360 to show the movie. I was nervous. No doubt. But the quality of the filming and acting were far beyond anything I hoped for.

And then, seeing words I wrote played out in front of me, it really gut punched me. Here was something I’d dreamed, and they’d done such an amazing job of nailing what I was trying to do. And even taken it up a level. Of course, having been so involved in seeing the actors chosen, the drafts of the script, my own mind’s eye for what happened in it, and the fact that I was so close to the project, meant I had no idea if what I was seeing had the same effect on anyone else.

So I, very nervously, did a screening in Bluffton at the local movie theater early one Saturday. Fifty or so people in town and from the college came out to see it, and it seemed to have an effect. I also screened it for people at Blue Heaven, the writing workshop, right after it came out, to see what my peers thought.

So now, I get to share it with everyone, as Liam has allowed me to upload it to YouTube and pass it around. I loved the chance to write a script. I loved the opportunity to see something of mine transferred to a whole new medium.

And here’s the film again:

Details about the film:

Based on the short story by Tobias Buckell (http://www.TobiasBuckell.com). Script by Tobias S. Buckell, Cathal Feeney, and Patrick Ryan.

Produced by Liam Grant (Snugboro Films: http://snugborofilms.com) and directed by Patrick Ryan, who has a number of award winning short films to his credit. The film was shortlisted for showing at the Belfast Film Festival in April 2013 and the Tokyo Short Shorts Festival May/June 2013.

When every pound to orbit counts, who will fight for our future in deep space?

05 Feb

All Her Children Fought: A 15 minute short film, based on my short story, can now be viewed on youtube

About two years ago I may have posted some stills about a short, fifteen minute film made out of one of my short stories. I’m delighted that the producer of the film sent me news that I could upload it to YouTube and share it however I wished. So I’ve done just that, and am posting it on my website here as well to share with all.

Details about the film:

Based on the short story by Tobias Buckell (http://www.TobiasBuckell.com). Script by Tobias S. Buckell, Cathal Feeney, and Patrick Ryan.

Produced by Liam Grant (Snugboro Films: http://snugborofilms.com) and directed by Patrick Ryan, who has a number of award winning short films to his credit. The film was shortlisted for showing at the Belfast Film Festival in April 2013 and the Tokyo Short Shorts Festival May/June 2013.

When every pound to orbit counts, who will fight for our future in deep space?

I’ll be following up in a little bit with a post about how this all came about.

04 Feb

I’m digging on this computer generated video of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy

I really dig this generated video of what SpaceX is hoping the Falcon Heavy launch later this year will look like:

If SpaceX’s latest offering is as advertised, the Falcon Heavy should be capable of generating some 3.969 million lbs (17,615 kilonewtons) worth of thrust at liftoff. Shortly after the 27 Merlin 1D engines power the booster and its precious cargo off of the pad, the three booster cores will throttle back, not long after the two outer booster cores will detach, falling back to Earth (or, potentially, fly back) leaving the central core to throttle back up to full power.

(Via SpaceX: Falcon Heavy poised to fly this year – SpaceFlight Insider.)

And the next big launch is in 4 days, apparently. Hoping attempt number two to fly the booster back and land it on the drone ship works.

03 Feb

Travel report: St. Mary’s College and Chattacon!

I did a poor job reminding everyone on the blog and online that I was about to do some public speaking and signing in the Bay Area. Please keep in mind, I’d been dealing with sick kids on vacation, then was sick for a couple weeks, and recovering, then catching up on a month of lost work. Then I hopped on a plane to head West!

Fortunately, thanks to the magic of Seat Guru, I scored awesome seats on the way out:

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I was invited to St. Mary’s College California, at the invitation of professors Dana R. Herrera of the Department of Anthropology and András Margitay-Becht of the Economics Department.

It was weird to walk around campus and see posters up with my own goofy face.

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We had a great turn out for the lecture, and a spirited Q&A session (including a gentleman who asserted that the Caribbean was the most racist place he’d ever visited because everyone there noticed the color of your skin. It was hard to unpack the assertion that seeing skin color is not the same as being racist and talk about colonial attitudes that *do* leave vestiges of power to lighter skin at the same time while also rejecting the assertion that the Caribbean is more or less racist when that’s such a simplistic framing of the question as well, but I tried to push back in the small amount of time I had [the gentleman’s experience was also 30+ years old]. One could do an entire semester on that, really).

I also got to sneak out to the fancy fancy mall near the hotel I was staying at and visit a Tesla dealership for the first time.

Oh yeah. I’d say this would be my next car, but I’d have to sell way more books than I am these days to snag one of these. I did, however, touch it:

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In addition to the big lecture, I chatted with the class on SF and sociology that Dana and András have been teaching, and also chatted about the business of writing at another session. Dana and András were a lot of fun to chat with as well, as they’re both very familiar with all my work.

After that, it was back on a plane for Chattanooga. A year ago I was to be Guest of Honor at Chattacon, but I slipped on ice and hurt myself badly enough to end up unable to travel. The organizers were amazing enough to invite me down again for Chattacon 40, along with many other Guests of Honor.

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The event was held in the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo, an old rail terminal turned into a large hotel complex. About a thousand fans packed into this place and took it over.

I got to chat with Julie Czerneda, Kathleen Ann Goonan and Adam-Troy Castro. I also did a reading very early on morning. Not many people showed up, but that wasn’t a surprise because Chattacon is known for their con suite, which has beer on tap (delivered, I saw, because I got there a day early, by a giant beer truck).

This is the con suite, it used to be an ice rink and is now a place for traveling bands to perform in:

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I was well-treated by Chattacon and enjoyed getting to explore the city a little thanks to Cherie Priest, who took me on a brief tour. Here’s a view of the entire metro area from up on Lookout Mountain:

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While in transit, I revised an entire novella and worked on freelance work, so it was rather a hectic one. I’m a bit zonked, more than I realized, so I’m mostly catching up on paperwork that was waiting for me when I returned home and emails I ignored while bouncing around.

03 Feb

A note about RETR-O-RAMA appearance in Florida: Apparently I will not be attending

Last July I confirmed I’d be attending a Jacksonville, FL event called Retr-O-Rama, and a few Florida readers have contacted to ask about it. I was contacted July 16th by someone representing the event (I still have all the archived emails) and confirmed that I would attend back then. I requested details to hammer down the flight time in August, as I’d planned to go down early (and spend my own money on a hotel) to spend a number of days writing in the sun as it always doubles or triples my word count. Since August I’ve had no reply. January 7th I reached out again to the email that had confirmed my attendance and got nothing.

Since January 7th I’ve not been told the event has been rescinded or anything like that.

Seeing that other names have been added to the site and that I’m getting the silent treatment, and seeing that I was supposed to travel down on the 13th (I’d asked for earlier), and that there are mere days left and I haven’t seen any ticket information, I can safely assume that I am being dodged/ignored/forgotten or some combination thereof.

So, sadly, and alas, I will not be down in Florida to sign books.

I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience if you were hoping or planning to come out to see me. I swear it was not my fault. I’ll be taking down the appearance listing, but I just wanted to pass on a notice.

I do have another speaking appearance that is being offered that will be at a Florida university, details to be announced later, which will be sometime next year.

Until then!

22 Jan

Crystal Rain relaunched in trade paperback this week. Read the first 1/3 free right here

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Crystal Rain launches this week in a brand new trade paperback format.

If you’re interested in diverse SF, if you’re interested in seeing what a taste of the Caribbean is like when it’s married with adventure SF, if you’re interested in reading the book that launched the Xenowealth series, then here you go.

A lot of people have taken a closer look at the book with the new cover. A lot of people have told me ‘oh, I didn’t realize it was SF.’

It is.

But don’t take my word for it. Read the first entire third of the book and see for yourself.

That’s my advertisement right there. Please link the sampler. Please link the post. If you’re interested in a broader SF, if you’re interested in something outside the usual, then take a bite. A third of a whole book is enough for you to decide if it is your thing.

All without having to drop a single dime.

Try it.

No, seriously, try it.

Legends say that the forefathers of Nanagada fled a far-off star to their new home. They say that the sky once hummed with metal flying machines and palatial floating cities. But then the Azteca came. Created and driven by cruel, inhuman gods they swarmed out of the sky in search of sacrificial blood, and worse. To defeat them and their gods the forefathers burned the sky. The cities and machines fell to the ground, useless.

In the centuries since, Azteca have kept to their side of the mountains in an uneasy truce. But now it has been broken. Driven forward by their gods once again, only one man can stop their bloodthirsty march: John deBrun. His family scattered, John holds the key to an ancient secret deep in memories lost just before he was dragged unconscious from the sea years ago…

…if he can stay alive long enough to uncover them, he might be able to stop the destruction of Nanagada.

And here a few reviews, if you’re still not convinced:

“Buckell’s promising debut. …a twist that adds a sci-fi edge to this tale’s mythological underpinnings.” Philadelphia Inquirer

“Buckell does a nice job of setting the stage and the pages turn quickly. I’m still on board for Volume Two. The possibilities for the series are tantalizing.” Contra Costa Times

“…[A] promising debut. It’s a twist that adds a sci-fi edge to this tale’s mythological underpinnings.” Kansas City Star

“Buckell does a fairly smooth job unwrapping the plot.” Tampa Bay Tribune

“Readers who like sieges, strategies and swashbuckling heroes will thoroughly enjoy this fast-moving tale.” Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A fast-moving and thoroughly enjoyable tale that kept me reading almost non-stop.” Midwest Book Review

“In this stellar debut, Buckell has created an amazing world. The plot is well-constructed and the writing is simply superb, particularly the dialogue, which is amazingly beautiful.” Romantic Times

“Enjoyable…for a first-timer Buckell handles his interlocking narratives well and his characters retain their humanity.” Publishers Weekly

“Buckell’s debut captures the flavor of Afro-Caribbean culture in the lilting dialog of his characters and in their customs. An original tale with distinctive characters and a fresh approach to worldbuilding, this sf quest belongs in most libraries.” Library Journal (Starred Review)

“Buckell’s first novel conjures a vividly imagined world, spiced with intrigue and adventure that unfolds at a breakneck pace.” Booklist

“An auspicious debut. Buckell’s done what a first novelist needs to do: to make us want to know about his world, and more about his imagination. His announced next novel, Ragamuffin, is certainly worth looking forward to.” Locus

“A good old SF adventure story. His Creole background lends a colorful touch to his characters and dialogue, and his clever reworking of familiar tropes makes this a standout first novel.” Locus (Short review)

“Crystal Rain is a totally engrossing, can’t-put-it-down reading experience. The setting is superb, the characters are fascinating and DeBrun, the enigmatic Pepper and the conflicted Oaxyctl are one of the great fictional triumvirates. This is lush SF adventure in the C.L. Moore vein. Hopefully more installments are on the way.” Starlog

“Even non-sci-fi readers will be bowled over by…Tobias Buckell’s Crystal Rain… Violent, poetic and compulsively readable.” Maclean’s (Canada)

“A pepperpot of a delectable, enjoyable story…Buckell is a deft, assured storyteller who will, hopefully, continue to publish novel-length fiction with the same eye for intricate setting and rounded characterization he’s exhibited here in his debut novel.” SFF World

“Infused with new life and excitement. Buckell’s plotting is sturdy and swift with nary a longuer. For a thrilling adventure set on a unique world, this book couldn’t be bettered.” SciFi.com (Paul Di Filippo)

“A fast-paced pulp-style adventure … a very satisfying first novel with a different and refreshing setting.” Emerald City

“There’s a great old-school pulp-adventure essence to Crystal Rain … what Buckell does right, I’m happy to say he does breathtakingly right. Most effective is the evocation of place. His setting feels alive. There is real texture to Nanagada, its people, villages, back alleys and crowded markets. You can almost feel the humidity. Buckell’s use of the sea as a critical setting is brilliantly handled, too…I can definitely say that there’s nothing else on the racks right at this moment quite like it, and that Tobias Buckell is a name to add to you ‘watch this writer’ list.” SFReviews.net

“[Buckell’s] first novel, CRYSTAL RAIN, is the sort of thing that will have readers watching for more. [He] has displayed a gift for imagination much greater than one book can hold. Sequels would surely please many readers, but if he imagines as thoroughly in new and unconnected novels, they too will please.” Analog

“The hard part [of writing a novel] is a combination of fast pace with some glossy writing and intriguing characters. And I’ve noticed that this is a skill that science fiction writers are picking up. Case in point: the debut novel from Tobias S. Buckell, Crystal Rain.”

“I was actually quite surprised at how fast-paced the book was. I was glad to see, however, that as I was burning through the story, Buckell got each moment and each twist and turn exactly right.”

“Buckell writes that stuff with panache, and there’s some remarkably strong science fiction in there too… [He] has way more atmosphere and colour in his story than an equivalent sf book… It takes a great deal of care to create something so balanced.”

“This gave me quite a joyful feeling as some new twist came into play and the world wrenched into a strange direction.” The Cultural Gutter

“Once the world sank in and permeated my mind, I couldn’t put the book down. Like all good books, it only got better as it progressed, all the way to the end.” GreenMan Review

“Buckell has done an excellent job with his first Sci-Fi novel. This story is complex, fresh, and interesting–and wide open to a sequel.” Children’s Literature

“An impressive debut…with unique creatures, characters, and advanced technology; Crystal Rain blends plenty of action, suspense, culture, and science fiction. Buckell has created an interesting world that I’m looking forward to reading more about in his sequel Ragamuffin.” SciFi Chick

“A galloping read that throws the reader into an alien world that they won’t want to leave. I may have just found my new favorite sci-fi author.” Graeme’s Fantasy Review

“This is an exciting and imaginative debut from author Tobias S. Buckell. The story features characters that are carefully nuanced and thus, wholly believable. The ending, though logical, is truly heartbreaking.” Bookstove

“What Tobias Buckell has done here is pretty impressive. He’s taken a culture that wouldn’t usually be put in the same sentence as science fiction and created something that is both unique and familiar.” – Walker of Worlds

05 Jan

For Locus subscribers, I have a summary of the Bermuda workshop in the latest issue

I penned a few words about the awesome folks I got to meet in Bermuda for the latest issue of Locus.

Bermuda

(Correction: Grace Jones = Grace Welch), I apologize for any confusion).

I’m hoping that with the ongoing workshop, and the stories, that soon editors in the field will start seeing submissions from them.

Or I’ll be giving them a long-distance side eye.

Because they were talented.

19 Dec

Confusion schedule

I’ll be a panelist at Confusion this January 16-18th. In addition to the panels and mass autograph session, I’m excited to be interviewing the GoH, Karen Lord, for anyone attending.

This’ll be great. I hope to see you all show up!

The schedule:

Friday 5pm: Gadgets and Apps for Writing
Scrivener, Evernote, writing books on phones and tablets!

Saturday 4pm: Mass Autograph Session

Sunday 10am: Post-Colonial SF
Can our world’s own colonization history help us write the stories of future colonizations? What were the pitfalls? And how can we avoid them? Or are we just doomed to repeat history…

Sunday 11am: Karen Lord interview
Best-selling author Tobias Buckell interviews our Author Guest of Honor Karen Lord

Sunday 12pm: Extreme Weather in Science Fiction
First the ice caps begin melting, and then we get Sharknado. How have real-world weather events influenced science fiction? Can we use science fictional ideas to solve our real-world environmental crises?