11 Apr

I Now Have a Pair of 6 Year Olds

Six months old in the green editing chair in my office:

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Six years old in the green editing chair, about to be taken out to the curb on the morning of their 6th birthday.

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Man those five and a half years went by quickly.

If I were super hip, I’d keep the green chair and keep taking pictures of them in it every year until they were thirty, and post it, and it’d go viral.

But the chair needs to go to the curb. We got it free somehow, and it’s served its purpose as my office editing chair well, but I have a way more comfortable one now.

Also, their birthday cakes, for the win:

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The young lady who did the cakes got all excited about making sure Thalia’s had some graphics b/c there was no already-existing vampire stuff for kid’s cakes like there were for Hello Kitty, so she spent extra time doing this. Everyone was curious to hear about the story of the vampire birthday cake for the young girl at the grocery store.

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18 Mar

I’m honored to announce I’ll be in Trinidad to be a part of the Bocas Lit Fest

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For a long time I’ve been aware of the amazing Bocas Lit Fest, a gathering of amazing authors and speakers that celebrate books, writers and writing from the Caribbean.

This year I’ve been invited to be one of them.

I’ll be in the company of amazing people. You can see them all here.

Nalo Hopkinson, Karen Lord, and Rhonda S. Garcia will all be attending for a special focus on speculative fiction at Bocas Lit Fest.

There’s a speculative fiction masterclass that we will be hosting (with a meet the authors session), a panel hosted by the four of us, and readings.

I’m looking forward to coming home with many new books and setting foot on Trinidad for the first time. I grew up in Grenada, so there’s a strong triangle of media and people who were Trini, or Bajan. We couldn’t afford to get to Trinidad when I was younger, so now I get a chance to go there.

I’m very lucky.

05 Mar

My Hugo eligible work (if you’re curious)

Oh, self promotion time. If you’re curious about my eligible works:

Novels:

Hurricane Fever – Tor (July, 2014)
– – UK & Commonwealth: Del Rey UK (July, 2014)

Novelette:
–Sundown – Dead Man’s Hand (May, 2014)

Short Stories:

–A Cold Heart – Upgraded (July, 2014)
–Help Fund Taphognosis Industries – Help Fund My Robot Army (July, 2014)
–Ambassador to the Dinosaurs – The Book of Silverberg (April, 2014)
–System Reset – The End is Nigh (March, 2014)

The novelette Sundown is a secret history of the story of Willie Kennard, one of the most amazing stories of black wild-west history for me.

For short stories, System Reset can be read here on io9.

05 Mar

Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin’s new anthology Old Venus now out and contains a story I wrote: Pale Blue Memories

I have a new short story out in an anthology edited by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin:

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From pulp adventures such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Carson of Venus to classic short stories such as Ray Bradbury’s “The Long Rain” to visionary novels such as C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra, the planet Venus has loomed almost as large in the imaginations of science fiction writers as Earth’s next-nearest neighbor, Mars. But while the Red Planet conjured up in Golden Age science fiction stories was a place of vast deserts and ruined cities, bright blue Venus was its polar opposite: a steamy, swampy jungle world with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation. Alas, just as the last century’s space probes exploded our dreams of Mars, so, too, did they shatter our romantic visions of Venus, revealing, instead of a lush paradise, a hellish world inimical to all life.

But don’t despair! This new anthology of sixteen original stories by some of science fiction’s best writers—edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin and award-winning editor Gardner Dozois—turns back the clock to that more innocent time, before the hard-won knowledge of science vanquished the infinite possibilities of the imagination.

Join our cast of award-winning contributors—including Elizabeth Bear, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Gwyneth Jones, Mike Resnick, Eleanor Arnason, Allen M. Steele, and more—as we travel back in time to a planet that never was but should have been: a young, rain-drenched world of fabulous monsters and seductive mysteries.

And a list of the stories:

INTRODUCTION, by Gardner Dozois
FROGHEADS, by Allen M. Steele
THE DROWNED CELESTRIAL, by Lavie Tidhar
PLANET OF FEAR, by Paul McAuley
GREEVES AND THE EVENING STAR, by Matthew Hughes
A PLANET CALLED DESIRE, by Gwyneth Jones
LIVING HELL, by Joe Haldeman
BONES OF AIR, BONES OF STONE, by Stephen Leigh
RUINS, by Eleanor Arnason
THE TUMBLEDOWNS OF CLEOPATRA ABYSS, by David Brin
BY FROGSLED AND LIZARDBACK TO OUTCAST VENUSIAN LEPERS, by Garth Nix
THE SUNSET OF TIME, by Michael Cassutt
PALE BLUE MEMORIES, by Tobias S. Buckell
THE HEART’S FILTHY LESSON, by Elizabeth Bear
THE WIZARD OF THE TREES, by Joe R. Lansdale
THE GODSTONE OF VENUS, by Mike Resnick
BOTANICA VENERIS: THIRTEEN PAPERCUTS BY IDA COUNTESS RATHANGAN, by Ian McDonald

04 Mar

Operation Arcana now out and contains a story I wrote with Dave Klecha: Rules of Enchantment

A new short story by me and David Klecha is out right now. And if you’ve read other stories by the two of us, you know to expect some seriously high octane.

Check out the anthology details:

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In the realms of fantasy, the battlefield is where heroism comes alive, magic is unleashed, and legends are made and unmade. From the War of the Ring, Tolkien’s epic battle of good versus evil, to The Battle of the Blackwater, George R.R. Martin’s grim portrait of the horror and futility of war, these fantastical conflicts reflect our highest hopes and darkest fears, bringing us mesmerizing visions of silver spears shining in the sun and vast hordes of savage beasts who threaten to destroy all that we hold dear.

Now acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams is sounding the battle cry and sixteen of today’s top authors are reporting for duty, spinning never-before-published, spellbinding tales of military fantasy, including a Black Company story from Glen Cook, a Paksenarrion story from Elizabeth Moon, and a Shadow Ops story by Myke Cole. Within these pages you’ll also find World War I trenches cloaked in poison gas and sorcery, modern day elite special forces battling hosts of the damned, and steampunk soldiers fighting for their lives in a world torn apart by powers that defy imagination.

Featuring both grizzled veterans and fresh young recruits alike, including Tanya Huff, Simon R. Green, Carrie Vaughn, Jonathan Maberry, and Seanan McGuire, Operation Arcana is a must for any military buff or fantasy fan. You’ll never look at war the same way again.

And here is the Table of Contents:

INTRODUCTION—John Joseph Adams
RULES OF ENCHANTMENT—David Klecha & Tobias S. Buckell
THE DAMNED ONE HUNDRED—Jonathan Maberry
BLOOD, ASH, BRAIDS—Genevieve Valentine
MERCENARY’S HONOR—Elizabeth Moon
THE GUNS OF THE WASTES—Django Wexler
THE GRAPHOLOGY OF HEMORRHAGE—Yoon Ha Lee
AMERICAN GOLEM—Weston Ochse
WEAPONS IN THE EARTH—Myke Cole
HEAVY SULFUR—Ari Marmell
STEEL SHIPS—Tanya Huff
SEALSKIN—Carrie Vaughn
PATHFINDER—T.C. McCarthy
BONE EATERS—Glen Cook
BOMBER’S MOON—Simon R. Green
IN SKELETON LEAVES—Seanan McGuire
THE WAY HOME—Linda Nagata

You can read ‘The Rules of Enchantment’ for free at Baen, the story is here.

Some opening lines?

Sure:

You’d think arrows are pretty silent compared to gunfire, but there’s no mistaking that bristly whistle as it whips through the air just past your head before it thwacks into someone’s Kevlar. Everyone eats dirt, and you’re checking your ammo with your back against a tree trunk wondering how the wood elves flanked you when you realize how stupid a question that is: this is their territory.

You’re new to the squad, so you’re still nervous. Every crack in the brush and shaken leaf has you jumpy. We’ve all been teasing you. Rookie this and rookie that.

I’m about fifteen feet away. I can see that your face is pale and shaken, but you have your rifle cradled and ready, looking for orders. The rest of the squad is spread out. Diaz is pulling an arrow out from his body armor and looking a bit chagrined. Orley is slowly crawling through dirt; he’s got a bead on the shooter. “Sergeant: got eyes on the woodie,” he reports.

“Hold,” I order.

This is the rendezvous point. But we’re dressed in robes that make us look like peasant travelers. I can feel Orley objecting already to the suspicion in my head, but even though our minds are all linked up into one single group mind via the Spell of Tactician’s Weave, only one of us is still in charge.

Me.

“Ditch the robes,” I order.

“Sergeant Cale . . .” Orley really doesn’t want to do this. He wants to engage.
Diaz forms up a memory. A story he was told about a couple of African-American special forces who stumbled in out of the night with bows and arrows. Scouts setting out to blend into the local land. They ended up getting shot by jumpy sentries on the way back in who thought they were orcs.

Diaz is half-black. The realization that some people see black skin, bows, and right away think orc and go straight to trigger-pulling leaves a bad taste in all our mouths.

Teachable moment about making assumptions aside—and believe me, Diaz has laid plenty of those thanks to the intimacy of the Tactician’s Weave—Orley gets Diaz’s point and eases up. Now everyone’s on board with my line of thought: that the elves are looking at us and seeing the Enemy, not US Marines.

We all shrug off the cloaks, displaying our standard Marine Corps digi-cammies and gear. My staff sergeant insignia is quite visible, making me the high-ranking target. I narrow my eyes at the shadows.

A bird whistle from the tree canopy pierces the air. They’d had us marked from the get go.

Shit.

If it wasn’t for body armor, Diaz would have been a bloody piñata. And you, rookie, would have gotten a nasty surprise from up above.

Yeah, look above your head, rookie. That grinning visage looking down the bark of the tree is a wood elf. Remember what they taught you about high ground? That includes firs. You need to be better about your situational awareness; clear up and down, not just the two dimensional plane.

Operation Arcana has a whole page with more free reads and interviews at John Joseph Adams’ website.

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.