20 Mar

Game of Thrones as an allegory for climate change

I’ve been mulling this over in relation to a short story idea. I was recently approached to write a climate change short story for an anthology coming out early next year. While doing short story idea generation session I scribbled down the question “how does one create an allegory, a fairy tale, for climate change, that grapples with the lack of human political structure’s ability to deal with a slow-moving, future threat that is of little interest to the day-by-day drama of the polity?”

While I did come up with a story idea (it’s on the short list of first stories to be written for my Patreon readers), one of the things that jumped right out was how well Game of Thrones works as an allegory for climate change.

To wit:

There’s a distant, vast threat which could overwhelm the polity. The white walkers, basically ice-zombies, are currently contained by the fact that it’s summer in the long season of the world of Game of Thrones. The walkers and the magic threat they represent are basically a new threat for the kingdoms south of the wall.

But now that the entire environment is changing. It’s not just that winter is coming again (a natural cycle, so don’t yell at me about the metaphor going long here, I know I’m stretching it 🙂 it’s that the white walkers are coming because it’s a super long and new event in these character’s lives.

Realistically everyone needs to band together and make sure the wall is in good shape. Which was done in the past (much like we all banded together to stop ozone depletion using a form of market cap and trade, but which now conservatives claim can’t be used as a tool because it’s liberal, despite its excellent result on ozone and acid rain).

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Also, there are people trying to warn everyone that something freaky horrible is happening out there. 99 out of every 100 scientists is sounding the alarm, but folk are all like:

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This poor scientist is trying to warn everyone, but you know what they say about the bearer of bad news.

Anyway, there’s an army of bad shit coming slowly and inexorably for us, all like:

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Global warming’s coming for you.

And while that is building up, everyone in the polity is killing each other and fighting to realign their borders like:

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While refugees are not welcome, but heading to safer areas:

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You know nothing, Jon Snow.

How will it all end?

Probably not well for everyone concerned unless we all figure out how to join together and fight the larger common threat. But what makes Game of Thrones so applicable and why the metaphor really works is because humans refusing to band together against a larger threat is a very human trait. This story is all too recognizable, whether it’s white walkers or something else.

Hopefully we can set our issues aside some time to fight.

But sometimes I’m not so sure…

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Winter (isn’t) coming.

17 Mar

Quick Book Review: The Dance of the Possible

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I think this may be one of my favorite books about creativity yet.

One of the things that’s useful about the publishing landscape today is the ability to make books that are the size they need to be. I’m willing to bet in another time, there would have been pressure to bulk this book up, provide more anecdotes, to make it look beefy and solid on a bookshelf.

But this is an arrow of a no-bullshit, humorous book about how to nurture creativity without a lot of the woo-woo that turns me away from other books. Including the beginning that notices that by reading the book, you’re delaying on going and doing something, in search of the perfect tool.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of Scott Berkun’s essays over the past years via his blog, and Ramez Naam mentioned how much he liked this book to me, so I snagged a copy right away.

This is a heavy practical guide to creativity by someone who makes a living teaching and talking about how to be more creative, and I made a lot of dog ears in the book for lines that are things I know I know, but often need reminded of. I may put a few of his choicer quotes around my office of reminders of how to get shit done.

I highly recommend it.

16 Mar

The Patreon passes the initial $500 mark, I will now be writing a short story a month for Patrons!

Holy Cow, the Patreon passed $500 and now I get to write a short story that will be delivered every month to Patron’s inboxes. That first story arrives on April 1st.

Let us pause for a moment and celebrate:

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Shit, guys, we did it.

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That also means we are now 2/3s of the way to the 2nd goal, the one where everyone gets a free copy of my next short story collection 6 months before anyone else can in PDF, Mobi and ePub.

Systemreset

15 Mar

Plot twist: it turns out basements can be a bit chilly

One small act of miscalculation with a basement office: I did all the work to set it up during 40-50 degree temperatures.

A new wave of chilliness has swept across this area of the country. I noticed that as it fell below 30 outside, my basement fell down from 68 degrees Fahrenheit, where I could easily boost my new basement office space to 70 degrees and be comfortable typing and working, to 63 degrees where I’m just unable to get comfortable. The larger heater I have by the desk gets the temp up to 66.

Upping the humidity a little and making sure I have my shoes on means I’m comfortable, but my fingers just can’t handle anything below 70. They just lock up.

I tried moving the heater around to aim at the keyboard more, but it didn’t work. So I snagged these gloves online:

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Just basic fingerless gloves. I got red to make it harder to lose them in the office.

Next winter I’ll get a more powerful heater, but I’m not going to spend a big chunk on a solution there when winter is closer to over than starting and the gloves will do just fine.

13 Mar

Everything old is new again

As I’m taking this new jump into building out a Patreon I’m reminded of how similar this all feels. So I went back through my blog to 2006, the last time I affected a massive change.

Back then I’d been working hard for many years toward the goal of becoming a writer. I had started writing stories and submitting them regularly in 8th grade, so 1992 or thereabouts, which is why I have my first Writers of the Future rejection. I really turned the gas up on that in 1996, when I was a senior in high school (which is when I got my first personal rejection from Stan Schmidt, back then the editor of Analog) and a freshman in college. I attended Clarion 3 years later as a junior in college in 1999. Started getting my first pro sales in 2000. When the first novel was about to come out in 2006 it was the end of a 10 year cycle of blasting away pretty hard at the writing. Many hundreds of rejections, short stories written, and so forth.

Back on February 3rd, 2006, I learned that my day job was going to be ended (and I was to train my replacement), after 10 years of being heavily involved in campus life (as a student and then staff member). Looking back on my blog at that time, I realize that I then thought about what to do for a month, and then firmly decided the play was to become a freelancer even though I had no idea how. I had lined up about 50% of the income I needed when I jumped.

It wasn’t an easy schedule, but it was mine. I worked really hard 2006-2007, and I didn’t let up to something resembling a regular 40 hour workweek until 2008 when the freelancing money improved and I started working on Halo: The Cole Protocol. Since then, I have boosted or lowered the amount of freelancing based on how well the writing is going, but used the freelancing to create a reliable base as writing income is super variable.

When I found out the biggest chunk of my freelancing income had folded up I was facing a similar dilemma, though I didn’t make the connection until a few days ago. I started out by looking for the same kind of freelance work all over again (much like I started out trying to replace the day job with another), but then come early March I made a similar decision as I did almost 11 years ago:

JUMP!

Trust that you can build wings on the way down.

Which is why I then created the Patreon. Jump and trust that, as I fell through savings and kept writing, that I could cobble it all together and get the wings.

I’ve tried this before, actually. In late 2011 when I did the Kickstarter for the Xenowealth novel The Apocalypse Ocean. I used that money to write the novel, seriously lower the freelancing down to a minimum, and spend a year trying to build the runway in 2012, as Kickstarter had given me an 7 month runway. I accepted some contracts that I had estimated would give me another 12 months, but the money and contracts took so long to firm up that they came 2 months after I ran out of savings, a business line of credit I use to smooth over lump periods, and I had to blink and go back to freelancing.

But out of that 7 month runaway I got two books and a number of short stories. It was a success, even if I had to reengage bigger freelance gigs and slow down on fiction.

So this time, I’m in the same spot, but feeling like I did back in 2006. Nervous, but excited. Knowing that I could fail (I tasted that in 2012) but I spent the years after 2012 maniacally paying down debt to prepare for a moment like this. Knowing that I could get back into more blogging, more interacting with folks again after a long while away as I lost more and more time.

It’s hard not to look at is ‘the one shot’ but I know that it’s a process. I was just struck at how uncanny it was that it matched the timeline of the first time I tried to change my life and career in 2006.

11 Mar

Who did the floor slide better, Tom Cruise or Jung-a Kim in that BBC family interview?

Who has the better slide?

Giphy
or?

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The whole BBC clip of these kids wandering into an interview is gold.

I feel awful for the mom, particularly that moment where she’s crouching and trying to close the door at the very end. But that slide is pure awesome sauce. Cruise is just going in one direction. Jung-a Kim actually changes direction which, as someone who is a fan of wooden floor sock sliding, is really difficult to do. Respect.

But up until that point I was laughing so hard. Kid walks into the office like ‘up in the club!’

I hope the family is chill and Professor Kelly gets invited back on the air.

11 Mar

Check out the Cover for Halo: Envoy, Latest Halo Book Launching in April

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The new cover came out not many days ago on a panel at Emerald City Comic Con for my next novel. It’s a Halo novel that I’ve been working on for over a year, and I hope any one who enjoys the video game will check it out. I’m digging the new look of the artwork.

Halo: Envoy gives us the return of Gray Team, the team of Spartans I fleshed out more fully in Halo: The Cole Protocol. It also explores the world of Carrow, which I first showcased in the long short story Oasis in Halo: Fractures.

It’s been a great deal of fun to return to the Halo universe for these two projects and I hope everyone enjoys the craziness that ensued. The book will be out April 25th, which is now almost a month away.

Here is the summary:

It has been six years since the end of the Covenant War…and yet on the planet Carrow, a world on the edge of the Joint Occupation Zone, a decisive new battle suddenly erupts. Human colonists and the alien Sangheili have already been living a tension-filled co-existence in this place, with Unified Earth Government envoy Melody Azikiwe attempting to broker a lasting peace between their two species. But as civil war now engulfs the Sangheili settlers, Melody must act on an additional covert assignment courtesy of the Office of Naval Intelligence: find a way to free the SPARTAN-IIs known as Gray Team, held in stasis since the end of the war by a cunning Elite fleetmaster consumed with vengeance. And none can anticipate the ongoing violence leading to the discovery of an even greater, unstoppable threat—one hidden for eons below the surface of the planet….

10 Mar

What’s a College Education For?

There’s a debate swirling around twitter about whether a writer should get an English degree.

I’m biased, I have an English degree.

But I found the conversation slightly offtrack because it contains within it a base assumption layer that I run up against. That’s the idea that a college degree’s purpose is solely to make you a better worker.

It’s an assumption that laces through the American social landscape. Work makes you a better human being. Moral and better human beings should therefore be richer. If you are poor, that means you probably aren’t a good human being, because the rhetoric in the USA is that if you work hard and are good you’ll make money.

Check out this ad by Fiverr:

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Are you a doer? Are your bones sticking out of your typing fingers yet? Boing Boing has some thoughts.

Come on, work harder. Eat less. Not making enough is a personality failure.

You can see this pop up in Prosperity Theology as well, where it’s believed that if you truly believe in God you’ll get rewarded. Again, conflating moral goodness with success.

So again and again, I see lists of how much people earn based on their degree. Then you have gluts, where people follow careers into something like legal professions merely because it’s ‘a great degree for earning’ and then suddenly they’re unable to work because there are too many fucking lawyers.

As an undergrad, if you’re not in a specific trade school with a program that has job placement (I guess you could argue law schools are set up that way) education was classically set up to create more well-rounded individuals.

Look, I got an English degree because it allowed me to do some things that set the stage for me becoming a writer.

1) It gave me time to write fiction as a lot of it was structured around year-end tests and papers, so I filled time in between those moments with writing a shit tone of short stories.

2) It let me write some short stories for grades, letting me combine the two.

3) Critical theory allowed me to anticipate how different readers would read different texts. I’m not shocked like some writers when someone has a variant classical feminist critique of a novel I like or even wrote.

But, I wish I could have taken more history classes and business classes on managing micro-finance, things I had to self-educate on. I would have enjoyed a marketing class (well, not enjoyed it, but it would have been valuable to take and understand) and I wish I would have taken a graphic design course, but I couldn’t have known the impact of self-publishing on the field and eBooks in 1996.

I took courses to become more educated and well rounded, to open up my world.

The path to becoming a writer is convoluted and I have yet to hear a writer give the same path as an answer to ‘what is the way to become a writer?’

Now, in the US, college is vastly inflated as an expense and the debt students take on is crippling, but I’m thinking globally about he purpose of education.

I saw this STEM and jobs focus developing when I first moved to the States. It tends to get very strident when there are conservative administrations, as the neoliberal, libertarian judgement on education for mere self improvement is judged as immoral. Your worth is only the worth you can provide as a worker, and all things must flow into that, in many avenues of a corporate-oriented, corporate advertised world.

Go get the degree that’ll engage you. No matter what job you get, outside of CEO or financier, will leave you fucked for debt.

You might as well have fun with those four years if you’re in the US. Because you’ll spend the rest of your life paying it.

Life is short. Get the degree you want.

The path to what career you’re in, or writing in general, will be wonky enough getting it doesn’t guarantee anything, and getting something else doesn’t hurt.

09 Mar

Cover reveal and what the table of contents for my short story collection ‘System Reset’ will be

So I’m working on putting together my next short story collection, which I have titled System Reset.

In the past I’ve done successful Kickstarters for these. But this time I’m doing something different. System Reset will be available as a mobi, ePub and PDF to Patreon subscribers (at any level, from $1 all the way up) six months before anyone else can buy it.

What is Patreon? It’s a new of supporting a writer where you subscribe to them for varying amounts and you get fresh content in your inbox like brand new short stories, snippets of as of yet unpublished work that will come out much later, and other cool stuff.j

Here is the cover:

Systemreset

And here is the table of contents, featuring 9 stories and over 60,000 words of fiction:

Pale Blue Memories
On The Eve of the Fall of Habesh
Jungle Walkers (w/ David Klecha)
A Tinker of Warhoon
The Found Girl (w/ David Klecha)
A Pressure of Shadows
Ambassador to the Dinosaurs
Sundown
System Reset