My Chicago Worldcon Schedule

I’ll be on three panels, as well as attending the Hugo Awards ceremony. This will be my first Worldcon. My panels are:

Friday, August 31

VIOLENCE IN FANTASY

10:30 AM, Wright: Silver West

The use and misuse of violence in SF and fantasy. How much is too much?

Saturday, September 1

WHY FANTASY DOMINATES SCIENCE FICTION

10:30 AM, Grand Suite 3: Gold East

How and why did fantasy emerge as the dominant commercial and literary force in the genre? Where did science fiction lose its way, in terms of attracting and keeping its share of the fans? What can written SF learn from motion pictures and television, and vice versa? What can SF learn from the more successful fantasy works?

DISASTER RESPONSE IN SF

7:30 PM, Gold Coast: Bronze West

Apocalyptic natural disasters, hungry zombies, devastating plagues. These are all mainstays of SF&F stories. The federal government has real National Incident Management System (NIMS) for dealing with them. How would NIMS react to some science fictional scenarios? What would the response look like?

 

My Embarrassing Juvenilia, Part One of Several

I’m back home in Wisconsin, and more or less well, and upright and functional again after getting savagely whiplashed by that damned virus I brought with me… chills! Shaking fits! Lassitude! Sweating fits! Major stomach upset! Everything but a chestburster. Not quite the  begging-for-death spectacle that H1N1 was a few years back (imagine a weekend in which approximately 20 pounds of sweat jet from every pore in your body, like you’re some sort of water porcupine). Nor the pneumonia that made my 2006 UK book tour such a joy for everyone. Nor the binary clusterfuck that resulted when I returned from my 2010 UK visit with a nasty flu, and neglected to refill my antidepressant prescription for… a truly stupid length of time. But this thing made a solid fourth-place showing in the Pathogen Olympics.

From the Department of More Gooder News: I did manage to see both Emma and Steve at lunch last week before I was confined to sick bay, and I dispersed to them their shares of your generosity that had poured in by that point (I expect to see them again after Worldcon). Emma was on her feet again post-surgery, with a fetching bandana covering her Sweeney Todd-esque surgery souvenir.

Steve had his own surgery two days ago; by all reports it too went well, and he’s back at home, tweeting and chafing under his post-op instructions, which appear to be “don’t have any fucking fun for two weeks or you will explode.”

Now, thanks to several ludicrously generous donations of late, we are PAST the $4,000 mark, and thus past the point where I owe you the crown jewel of your faux-Kickstarter “prizes.” Oh, you poor creatures. I am still hard at work on the bigger QotIS e-book, having set myself a bit backwards while attempting to work on it while I was still sick and feverish. I have, however, had a long dance with a scanner.

Context! When I was a teenager, I suffered from the delusion that I was going to grow up to be a comic book self-publisher. In those long-ago pre-ebook days, self-publishing went through a sort of mini-golden age wherein all kinds of hip, quirky, niche-hunting stuff that had no chance in hell at any major publisher managed to flourish, or at least bob gamely a few times before sinking. It seemed like genuinely important battles over creators’ rights were being fought before my eyes, month by month, in letter columns and at summits and conventions in exotic places like Everywhere Else But Where I Lived. I wanted to be Dave Sim when I grew up… in those amazing times before he went catastrophically bugfuck nuts, he was my honest-to-god hero.

My collection included Cerebus, True Swamp, Wandering Star, Stray Bullets, Bone, Rare Bit Fiends, Starchild, Strange Attractors, Hepcats, Poison Elves, A Distant Soil, and similar charming weirdness. Said collection, by the way, was stolen in 2000 (whether the thief was expecting pristine Wizard magazine price list investment fodder, or just happened to have randomly exquisite taste in comics, I’ll never know).

Anyhow, there I was, dreaming of a future writing and drawing until my spine snapped in half. Fortunately for myself, and for everyone spared an opportunity to read the stuff I planned, I lacked the discipline to take my illustration past a certain plateau. The following sketches in a 10 x 15 pad still survive; I adjusted the scans a bit in Photoshop to make the pencil work as clear as possible. Thumbnails link to larger versions.

Orbison the Alien thumbnail

 

 

 

1. Cover sketch for Orbison the Alien, 1994-1995

Orbison was intended to be my first foray into self-publishing, a four-issue limited series about an alien broadcast monitor who crashed his personal saucer on Earth and was forced to scrounge up temp work, attempting to communicate using the limited patois of pop culture references he’d gathered from scanning our TV channels. If it sounds like a one-joke concept, that’s ’cause it was. I planned to write, draw, and publish this during my senior year of high school, and by providence I discovered roleplaying games instead. Which was amazing luck… even if I had managed to create the pages, any attempt by me to run a business at that point would have been raw atomic failure.

 

 

 

2. Concept sketch for The Mutt, early 1995

The Mutt was the project I intended to follow Orbison with, a seven-issue science fiction series based on the dumbest premise ever… well, surely a dumbest premise ever. But it did feature a moderately cool alien species obviously based on Velociratpr/Deinonychus. I called ’em the Chensakau (and later adjusted that to the more poetic Chensathra). The influence of David Brin’s Uplift universe on this project was extreme.

 

 

 

3. Chensakau cybernetic combat skeleton concept, 1995

The Chensakau were intended to be a cybernetics-happy species, for a very Cyberpunk 2020 value of ‘cybernetics.’ Their elite royal commando formation, the Giirdaan Regiment, were augmented to ludicrous extremes. You can see from this conceptual sketch of a cybernetic skeleton replacement that I had no real grasp of concepts like “surgically feasible” and “guaranteed death on the operating table.” I mean, damn. Poor space reptiles. “Now comes the part of the operation where we hold your brain very, very gently while we replace your entire skull all at once. This is why you earn your hazard pay, lizard marine!”

I must give my dumbass teenage self a tiny bit of credit, and admit that there are perhaps less cool things in the universe than the notion of hundreds of cybernetic velociraptors pouring across a landscape with laser guns in hand and grenade launchers sticking out of their spines.

 

 

 

4. Chensakau architectural concept, 1995

The original caption, which didn’t fit into the scan, read: “The Imperial Tower, 15,000 feet high. Home of the Empress on the Chensakau Homeworld.” I was aiming for a bio/mechanical hybrid aesthetic, buildings that looked almost grown, studded with technological features and surfaces. This is a concept I’ll revisit at some point, in a story that makes sense.

 

 

 

5. Extraterrestrial dinner conversation, 1995

I’m not sure if the diner on the left was meant to be a Chensakau, or just a variation on a theme. Another major influence on me all those years ago was Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials, an extraordinary work created by a genuine artist when he was just a couple years older than the Scott that produced these sketches.

 

 

 

6. Embarrassing Cyberspace Trilogy Fan Art, 1995

A third major artistic lodestone in my teenage years was cyberpunk, particularly the earlier work of William Gibson and the goofily lovable CP 2020 roleplaying game. This, I think, must have started out as a sketch of one of my characters; by adding MAAS-NEOTEK to his t-shirt I suppose I transmogrified it to Gibson fanart. And doesn’t the woman in the background look thrilled to be there?

More to come…

 

Hope the monkey has his dancing shoes ready…

Some time today, by Crom, that stupid misplaced search box is going down. I’ve received some good suggestions from commenters and I’m going to apply them until either it or me has been vanquished.

Also, can anyone out there tell me why the hell my RSS feed doesn’t seem to be working?

In today’s good news: The response to my previous post has been overwhelming. We are creeping dangerously close to the point where I’m going to have to think up some substance for “Cold Windings of the Murthalump.” Gulp.

My girlfriend, the multi-talented Elizabeth Bear, has agreed to be the one to follow me around with camera in hand and shoot the tour of my fire station. That item, we’ll get to in September, when she’s staying with me following Worldcon.

 

I will be your dancing monkey, hat on the table.

So this is the post where I set out the hat and ask for some help.

Queen of the Iron Sands has always been free to read and supported by free-will donations, and over the years some very sweet people have been kind to me after enjoying it (or at least claiming to enjoy it, heh). I once mentioned on my LJ that my therapist’s office had screwed up one of my bills and over-charged me. All I’d really meant to do was bitch, yet a sudden torrent of donations appeared. It was flattering and heartwarming, but I’ve been careful since then to watch what I say when I talk about the donation buttons.

Well, today I’m talking about them in earnest. I’ve got some people I’d like to help.

Emma Bull, living treasure, author of some books you might have heard of including War for the Oaks, Falcon, Bone Dance, Finder, and Territory, is having a thyroidectomy on August 8th. A 4 cm nodule on her thyroid will be investigated, and either it or the entire thyroid will be removed. Emma provides full details here.

Steve Brust, acerbic man-demon, also a living treasure, is also the author of some books you might have heard of. The 13-soon-to-be-14 Vlad Taltos novels, starting with Jhereg. The Khaavren Romances. A crap-ton of standalone works and stuff with co-authors including Emma Bull and Megan Lindholm.

Steve has congestive heart trouble, and is having surgery on August 22nd to implant an automatic defibrilator in his chest. He says not much at all about it at his blog here.

Steve and Emma between them have made sweeping contributions to the field of fantastic literature. I read them both for years before, through the good graces of my girlfriend, I finally met them and had the chance to follow them around like a little groupie, offering to sharpen their pencils and open doors for them. It’s been rewarding! One time, Emma remembered my name. And about a week later, a day went by where Steve didn’t kick me. I squee’d!

But seriously… watching friends prepare for major medical issues is no fun. Especially when you have to watch from a distance. As I’m writing this, I’m still in Massachusetts. I hate the feeling of impotence and disconnection, of being able to do nothing. It’s goddamn possible cancer and heart failure… what the hell advice can I give, or tricks can I offer?

So here’s the new deal. I’m taking all future donations to Queen of the Iron Sands and I’m going to split them three ways. The first third I’ll keep to help finance the refurbishment of my site, the hosting bills, the commissioning of new art, the addition of useful features to make it a hub for all things Gentleman Bastard and beyond.

The other two-thirds, I’m going to donate directly to people who could use the boost. These people will change over time. But for starters, I’d like to beg for some help on behalf of Steve and Emma.

Neither of them knew about this in advance. Neither of them is blogging out of a cardboard box (nor living on palatial estates to which word-count ought to entitle them). Both of them sing vigorously for their supper (sometimes literally!) and have for decades, and if what the doctors are saying, both of them have good chances for positive outcomes following their surgeries. But the surgeries are going to suck god knows how many days or weeks out of their working lives. The after-effects are going to slow down and disrupt their other plans. That’s just the way major medical issues are.

Neither Steve nor Emma maintains a huge ‘net presence, so the news of their surgeries han’t exactly blanketed the web. But you really ought to give a damn, if you give a damn about good writing. And if you ever felt like being nice to me over Queen of the Iron Sands, be nice to me now, and help me send these two a financial nudge to smooth their recoveries. No complicated process. I’ll send them checks, and eventually I’ll ask them to publicly confirm that I’ve done so.

Hell, I’ll even sing a little for my supper, too.Think of it as a mini-Kickstarter. Hit some goals, and I’ll offer up some treats:

$500  Hit five hundred, and I’ll immediately eBook the full existing length of QotIS in every format I can reasonably manage. I mean to do this regardless, but I can be encouraged to do it faster.

$1000 Hit one grand, and I’ll pull out my pile of graph-paper maps from the early days of planning The Lies of Locke Lamora. There’s a lot of weird stuff in there… early versions of Camorr, rejected and modified versions of Locke’s world, sketches of buildings and costumes, notes to myself. I will scan them all and post them for free at my site. After that they’re going to the NIU special collection archives, so this’ll be your only chance to see them unless you want to visit NIU in person.

$1500 Hit fifteen hundred, and I’ll take you on a tour of my fire station. After a fashion! I’ll have a friend with a camera accompany me, and we’ll shoot a lengthy video. I’ll show you our trucks, our facilities, and my own gear rack, and explain what everything does in mind-numbing detail. I’ll even dress up in my gear for you and wave an axe. Up on Youtube said video will go.

$2000 Several weeks ago, I jokingly tweeted about writing a short story called “Locke and Jean vs. the Loch Ness Monster in Space.” Hit two grand and, by god, I’ll actually write it. The crazy thing is, I have an idea. It would not be a parody. And it would take me at least a month (TRoT first!). But it could be done.

$3000 In Chapter 2 of Queen of the Iron Sands, Violet mentions some of the short story titles in her own brief bibilography. One of them, as recorded in her letter from John W. Campbell, is “Cold Windings of the Murthalump.” Hit three grand and I’ll actually write this… in Violet’s authorial voice, as though it had been written by her around 1948-49, for publication in Astounding Science Fiction. The particularly fun thing about this is I currently have no idea what the hell the title refers to. None. As with “Locke and Jean vs. the Locke Ness Monster in Space,” this could take a little time.

UPDATE- August 7th – FUNDING LEVEL MURTHALUMP. WE HAVE ACHIEVED MURTHALUMP. Aw, god, you guys. I honestly doubted that I’d have to do this. 😛 I guess it’s heatwarming as hell that I was proven wrong so quickly. I’m getting notes from all over the world… people telling me how much Steve and Emma’s work has meant to them (wow, do I feel like I’m basking in somebody else’s sunbeam). I guess we need stretch goals…

$4000 My embarrassing juvenilia. I spent most of my teenage years under the delusion that I was going to be a comic book self-publisher and science-fiction illustrator. My drawing skill hit a plateau and I didn’t have the discipline to drag myself off it, so I swapped to plan B, writing. I do still have two sketchbooks of my SF/F conceptions, dopey ideas, character studies, aliens, mock covers, and so forth. So if this keeps up, I’ll hit the scanner again and upload a bunch of these for everyone’s delectation, dissection, and muted giggling.

If we manage to approach the $4500 level, I think (barring trouble with either surgery, knock on wood) I’ll wind the fundraising drive down. That would be an excellent balance between providing Emma and Steve with useful support and not draining everyone’s charitable batteries too much.

Donation buttons are sprinkled liberally all over the QotIS pages, but for easy reference, go here and glance left.

P.S. If you’re a fan of Emma or Steve, why not leave good wishes for Emma at her place and/or a note for Steve at his?

 

I Have Made eBooks!

QUEEN OF THE IRON SANDS rolls on, with the beginning of Chapter 8: Across Savage Mars now available! I’ll post the next two installments this week.

Also, for the first time ever, I have made eBooks! Using the exacting instructions provided by the excellent Guido Henkel in his formatting tutorials, I’ve put the first two chapters of QUEEN OF THE IRON SANDS into EPUB and MOBI formats. They’re available (completely for free) here. Just click on the links next to “Versions” and download ’em straight away.

Please, please feel free to send me any notes on foul-ups, bad form, misformatting, etc. Any feedback is very valuable, as I’m using these to practice (the QotIS test eBook is the result of 18 progressively improving iterations of the core file) for future releases of more work in e-formats.

Failure Isn’t Forever, and the Man Who Wasn’t There.

One of the things in the air following the recent Readercon creeper mess is women writing about their own sexual harassment experiences at conventions, so often with codas of: “I should have been stronger! I should have been tougher! I should have made myself clearer! I should have set firmer boundaries!” And while that’s only natural it’s also unfair, self-castigating, and precisely aligned with the sort of victim-blaming behavior that needs to be forcefully stamped out wherever it pops up.

At the risk of coming off like that shudder-inducing tool Boy in Outer Space, it’s not your fault for having no idea what the hell you’re doing the first time you unexpectedly encounter an incredibly stressful situation, as when someone invades your personal space, takes advantage of you, or outright harasses you. It’s a keen encounter– your adrenalin is gushing, your pulse pounding in your head, and no doubt part of you is trying hard to disbelieve that something so unpleasant can really be happening. You may even be actively second-guessing yourself. It usually takes experience to evolve smoother, quicker, more forceful reactions. There is nothing wrong with you for not having been born with them.

ARCHIE GATES: “The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of, and you get the courage AFTER you do it, not before you do it. ”

CONRAD VIG: “That’s a dumbass way to work. It should be the other way around.”

ARCHIE GATES: “I know. That’s the way it works.”

-From Three Kings, (1999)

—–

The first time I entered a burning structure as a member of a firefighting hose team, I was barely in control of myself. I shook like mad. I hardly did anything decisive or useful. Six years have since passed. I’ve walked through fire, climbed up to it, crawled down stairs into it. I’ve had ceilings and melted fiberglass come down on my head. Burning houses, burning garages, burning car engines, I’ve had my face in them all. I’ve learned to breathe more slowly, think more carefully, cut out panicky speculation and useless side-thoughts. It’s never easy. I’m always scared shitless. But I’ve evolved the ability to select and maintain useful action over less constructive behavior like, say, curling myself into a little ball and yelling, “Computer! Freeze Program!” over and over again until someone else drags me back into fresh air.

The ability to choose useful action under stress is a learnable skill. Practice makes courage. It also makes decisions move so quickly and smoothly as to be indistinguishable from courage. Either one will do. The point is, while you can certainly try to prepare yourself in advance with useful training and resources, you can only directly acquire smoothness at dealing with harassment in the most unpleasant way possible– by dealing with it.

So it’s no moral failure to not come out swinging and screaming the first time you realize you’re being made uncomfortable by someone else’s creepy behavior. Deliah Dawson writes about this at length in “dear dudes: don’t tell me how to lace my corset,” which is worth a read.

Now.

Even with that said, the whole “could have done more” shtick is a classic component of victim-blaming, a key element in rape/harassment culture used to turn all agency, all responsibility, all possible blame back upon the victim. The seemingly sensible, seemingly helpful question, “Oh, but could she* have done more?”

The thing about this question is that the goalposts tend to move, and move, and move, further and further away from assigning any fraction of responsibility to the actual creep. More is always open-ended, always followed by ellipses. “Oh, you got raped? Well, couldn’t you have run? Couldn’t you have run faster? Couldn’t you have run faster and climbed a fence? Couldn’t you have run like an Olympic sprinter, climbed a fence, and leapt onto a passing bus?”

The subtext of “couldn’t she have done more?” is always “oh, she obviously didn’t want to avoid that rape/harassment quite enough.” Whatever the questioner would deem “sufficient” can always just lie one step beyond what was actually done. Thus it becomes, gradually or all at once, none of the perpetrator’s responsibility and entirely the victim’s.

This is a mode of thinking intended to erase one human actor from the equation, leaving only one possible conclusion: Somehow the victim did this to herself.

The perpetrator becomes, by magic, the Man Who Wasn’t There, and we pretend that sexual harassment/violence is some natural phenomenon, like pollen or bad weather, that women just happen to walk into. We pretend that it doesn’t stem from human actions or choices, except the actions or choices of the victim.

Imagine that a man heaves a bucket of cold water all over a woman. Soaked, shocked, the woman appeals to passers-by for help, pointing to the man, who stands there laughing and enjoying her consternation. “Who the hell does he think he is?” asks the woman, but the passers-by completely ignore the man with the bucket. Instead they ask the woman why she wasn’t carrying an umbrella, since she ought to have known it might rain.

A small yet still depressing number of people right now are patting themselves on the back for asking “Why didn’t Genevieve Valentine just carry an umbrella and a raincoat with her at all times?” The question they ought to be trying is, “What the hell did Rene Walling think he was up to, following her around with that bucket of cold water?”

—–

*Women aren’t the only victims of sexual harassment/assault, yet male-on-female incidence of the phenomenon so far outstrips all others, and is so obviously what the case presently under discussion is about, that I’ll consign any attempt to divert the discussion on this point to moderation purgatory.

 

 

 

Vocabuvores and Ginger Scalds

A few months ago, José Luiz F. Cardoso conjured D&D3 / Pathfinder compatible stats for the vocabuvores from “In the Stacks” at his blog, Tower of the Lonely GM. My lovely better half noticed this, but I have been remiss in mentioning it since then. I’m utterly flattered. And a bit jealous, actually, since Cardoso managed to add a clever twist to the vocabuvore metabolism that I wish I’d thought of myself.

Food Through the Pages, a frankly amazing blog dedicated to recreating unlikely cuisine described in literature, has just posted their exploration of the Ginger Scald, the mouth-zinging cocktail described in The Lies of Locke Lamora. The level of effort they put into this stuff is astounding, and humbling. I am perturbed to discover that the process I described for creating this drink might be actively dangerous to anyone attempting it at home, so please heed all their warnings!

 

Lynch Industries

Time is, time was, time is past… after ten years (zang!) at Livejournal, I’m moving my primary online journal here: Lynch Industries.

This is a necessary but melancholy thing. Necessary, because this is part of the online career equivalent of growing up. I have an expectant audience, a ‘brand’ (gods help me), and an established site I really ought to be using as the primary outlet for my announcements and natterings. Melancholy, because LJ for a very long time was an ideal fusion of a huge user base and extreme ease-of-use. Networked, nuanced conversations between dozens or hundreds of personalities you could recognize at a glance… ah, well. Livejournal has lost some steam and cachet in recent years, and the worry about total service outages from DDoS attacks doesn’t help.

I’m not leaving Livejournal. All of my posts here will be pretty much cross-posted there. I’ll still check my friends list frequently. But this will be my electronic babble flagship.

Lynch Industries. It was almost The Dork Lord, On His Dork Throne again. But time is, time was, time is past… and it’s a strange thing, realizing as an adult that I really ought to be designing and tending an online space with the next ten, twenty, thirty years in mind. When you’re a kid you can leap boldly online as SkullFuckMonkey38 or ReTARDIS or EyeDidYourMomTrebek; sooner or later you find yourself about to earn a PhD or starting a business or whatever, and the wisdom of something a little more contextually malleable as your online face sinks in.

It’s not like it doesn’t say “damn dirty threat-to-civilization long-haired head-banging fantasy and science fiction writer” right at the top of the page. At least there’s that.

This blog’s visual dress could be a little makeshift until I learn to grapple with CSS. Sadly, I know entirely fuck all about it, as you can see by the strange hovering search box that bisects my lovely little header illustration up top. I’m also unclear on how to add/adjust items within the gray menu box immediately below it.

Launching this blog is meant to be the kickstart to a refurbishment of my whole site. After a couple of badly depression and anxiety-mauled years, I’m more functional than I have been for some time. The anxiety, in particular, is still a drag on work, but I draw optimism from the fact that things in my head are nowhere near as bad as they were at their worst… and while they certainly plunge from time to time, they still don’t scrape that bottom I remember so vividly.

I ought to cover some questions that have piled up or recurred in recent weeks:

Q: What the hell is going on with The Republic of Thieves?

A: My current necessary edit to TRoT has been shot all to hell by that lovely anxiety I’ve mentioned. I haven’t talked much about it because I hate talking about it. I can be usefully open about my depression in a way I can’t about my anxiety attacks. Sorry. Suffice to say: They are the reason we can’t have nice things. I have a very good feeling at the moment, however, because I know something you do not. When I can say more, I will not be shy.

Q: What’s with the official TRoT release date switching all the time?

A: Because my publishers can’t yet reliably (my fault, not theirs) give retailers a true date, and retailers nonetheless want to keep the book as a forthcoming item in their catalogs, many weird things happen. Nobody is deliberately fucking with you. Least of all me or my publishers. It’s not personal. I have said, several times, not to take any date as valid until you see me posting it online myself. I have just said it again.

Q: Will you follow me on Twitter so I can send you a direct message?

A: No. If you want to send me a message, my personal e-mail address is no secret: scott@scottlynch.us. Why force yourself to send me something in 140 characters or less when you can just send whatever you like?

Q: Is there any news on the film adaptation of The Lies of Locke Lamora?

A: The Warner Bros. development option lapsed several years ago. Barring an amazing conjunction of large-scale miracles, there will be no further development of that project. Be sure to check the dates and the sources cited when you come across “OMG there’s gonna be a movie!” claims. If and when NEW information becomes available, I will not be shy about it. At all.

Q: Can you give us good news about anything?

A: Yes. Thanks to the pleading, wheedling, bribery, and death threats of the indomitable Lynne Thomas, Super-Archivist, there is now an honest-to-god Scott Lynch Papers at the Northern Illinois University SFWA Archive. The big announcement is here. I have kicked off the collection with full print manuscripts of TLoLL and RSURS. More of my manuscripts, notes, maps, and correspondence will eventually go to NIU, where they’ll be carefully preserved alongside the papers of 50+ other science fiction and fantasy writers.