Worldcon: Kansas City, Missouri– August 17-21, 2016

This (extended) weekend I’ll be at Midamericon II, the 74th Worldcon. Here’s my formal schedule:

• Your Character Ate What?
Thursday 17:00 – 18:00, 2504B (Kansas City Convention Center)
A Hollywood-Squares style game that will challenge your memory, your appetite, and your constitution at the same time.

• It’s Not Torture if it’s the Good Guys
Friday 10:00 – 11:00, 2208 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Zootopia at first glance appear to have little in common but both use the premise “I won’t kill you, but my friend will.” Just a few scenes apart in season 2 of Daredevil the lead is shown torturing someone “heroically” followed by a mob boss torturing someone “evilly.” In this session we discuss the hows and whys this dichotomy can have developed and whether it is time to start challenging the notion of good torture on screen.

• Kaffeeklatsch: Phil Foglio, Les Johnson, Bradford Lyau, Scott Lynch
Friday 12:00 – 13:00, 2211 (KKs) (Kansas City Convention Center)

• A Cast of Thousands and A Unity of Plots
Friday 14:00 – 15:00, 2207 (Kansas City Convention Center)
How do you write a novel that features many, many characters with parallel/divergent plot lines that must be woven together seamlessly? How do you avoid plotting yourself into a corner? What tools, tips, techniques, and research approaches are useful? How do you leverage the knowledge of experts? How do you plan for and execute multiple plot lines?

• Appreciating the Pulps
Friday 15:00 – 16:00, 3501H (Kansas City Convention Center)
The stories in the old pulp magazines may feel dated, due to old science and done-to-death clichés, and some espouse outdated beliefs that are no longer socially acceptable. As a genre, these stories capture something unique, especially from a historical standpoint, that makes them valuable. In fact, many of them are still enjoyable. Why do the pulps still hold sway over the imagination? Which ones stood the test of time?

• We Don’t Need Another Hero
Saturday 12:00 – 13:00, 2210 (Kansas City Convention Center)
…or do we? In the 1985 feature film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Tina Turner sang her iconic balad “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” More and more we are seeing bands of protagonists pulling together to fulfil the role of “The Hero.” Has the Scooby Gang-Effect changed the way we think about story? What dangers do we face without a hero to hold us together? What benefits do we reap from the shared responsiblity?

• Autographing: Alexander James Adams, John Joseph Adams, Robin Wayne Bailey, Jennifer Brozek, William Hayashi, Scott Lynch, Keith Yatsuhashi
Saturday 14:00 – 15:00, Autographing Space (Kansas City Convention Center)

• Reading: Scott Lynch
Sunday 10:00 – 10:30, 2203 (Readings) (Kansas City Convention Center)

• Magazine Group Reading: Uncanny Magazine
Sunday 12:00 – 13:00, 2504B (Kansas City Convention Center)
Our Magazine Group Reading series continues with a special group reading that features authors from Uncanny Magazine– Scott Lynch, Max Gladstone, Alyssa Wong, Elizabeth Bear, and Lynne M. Thomas

Help Wanted: Author’s Accomplice

The general response to The Republic of Thieves, from the very first mid-March announcement that we had a solid publication date, has been fantastic and heartwarming. It has also brought some serious complications into my life… but these, as they say, are the sort of problems one wants to have.

In the last nine months, the amount of e-mail hitting my inbox had quadrupled. The number of books I receive, sign, and repackage for my readers has tripled. My travel schedule has grown more complicated. The number of invitations, queries, charity requests, etc. I receive in any medium has gone up substantially. I refer to this process, overall, as “the Great Acceleration.” On a daily basis, I could now easily spend eight hours just sorting and answering e-mail, and while office administration is an important part of my career, I’ve got to claw back as much time as possible for the part that really matters… writing the damn books and stories.

I have embraced a relatively accessible lifestyle as an author; the vast majority of my readers are amazing people and I don’t want to stop communicating with them via e-mail, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. I also don’t want to stop signing books through the mail or personally appearing at stores, conventions, and workshops. In order to preserve all of these treasured things while guarding my writing hours most efficiently, and to prevent important obligations from falling through the cracks, I need help.

I am seeking applications from anyone interested in becoming my part-time personal assistant (PA).

Please read all of the following very carefully! The first notion I’m going to have of your suitability for the position, after all, is how well you absorb this:

• This position requires physical work in the city of New Richmond, in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Check the city out on Google Maps if you’re not familiar with it; it’s east of Stillwater and northeast of Hudson. Travel time to or from the eastern Twin Cities is about an hour, sometimes less.

• Transportation is required. Even if by happy chance you won’t need to commute, you will still have regular duties requiring visits to the post office as well as occasional visits to copy centers, office supply stores, and so forth. You will also frequently have packages in your care.

• You must have a valid driver’s license.

• You must be able to pack, unpack, and lift packages of moderate weight (up to 30 pounds, let’s say).

• You will need a home computer, cel phone, internet access, etc. to handle some duties remotely.

• You will require basic familiarity and general competence with Microsoft Word, one or more plain text editors, basic spreadsheets, e-mail and Skype.

• This position will initially involve 10-15 hours per week. Hours will be extremely flexible and negotiable. You will never be expected to work on holidays, important birthdays, etc. As time goes by, more hours may become available. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

• Initial compensation will start at $15 per hour with a merit evaluation and potential raise every six months after hiring.

• The ideal applicant will have solid communication skills and the ability to engage in professional social interface. To put it bluntly, I am a clinical depressive with anxiety issues and your job might occasionally involve picking up the communications slack when I am having personal difficulties. I will need you to be able to make phone calls and send e-mails without hesitation even when I am unable to do so myself. You will, at times, be my public face and my point of public contact. Your job will involve compensating for my potential dysfunction, so it’s not going to work if we’re both in the same boat.

• Preference will be given to applicants with knowledge of science fiction, fantasy, gaming, and related fields. You will be interacting with other authors, with publishers, with fans and readers, and with the organizers of fan-run conventions; I’m not keen to have my professional life in the hands of someone for whom this is all just the equivalent of shuffling widgets. Real enthusiasm is a plus.

• INITIAL DUTIES will include
– Collecting mail from a PO Box, as well as returning it, 1-2 times per week.
– Unpacking and re-packaging books sent to me for personalization
– Organizing/cataloging books and documents in my library and archives
– Performing small miscellaneous errands in New Richmond
– Carrying out research at my request (both online and physical)
– Serving as initial e-mail contact for charity, interview, and appearance requests
– Assisting with travel arrangements, liaison with publishing contacts
– General oversight of my calendar and professional communications
• EVENTUAL DUTIES may include
– Personal assistance at conventions and other appearances
– Fulfillment of book and merchandise orders from a web store

You will not be handling my personal finances, taxes, etc.

If you are interested in applying for this position, please send me (scott@scottlynch.us) an e-mail with a general introduction to yourself and your relevant skills and work experience. If you have a prepared resume, feel free to shoot it along as well, but the absence of one will not be a mark against you.

I hope to commence interviewing in February, with an ideal hiring date of sometime in March.

The Right Way to Buy My Books is Your Way

I have received a number of Tweets and e-mails asking a very flattering question, namely: What version(s) of my books should someone buy if they wanted to maximize my royalty on that sale?

I appreciate this. I really, really appreciate this. It’s a kind and generous impulse and I want you to know it means a lot to me.

But.

Please don’t ever buy one of my books in a format you think will send me a maximal percentage of money. Please buy the format that is most desirable or convenient to you. Buy the format that will enable you to have the most enjoyable reading experience. After all, if I encourage you to buy an inconvenient or uncomfortable format for my own sake, I’m basically telling you to endure unnecessary bullshit for the sake of a few extra pennies or dimes in my pocket. I can’t stand that… no sane writer wants to achieve financial success by scraping it painfully out of their readers, one person at a time.

As I see it, I make my money in the aggregate. It’s why we’ve been doing these “get an e-book of The Lies of Locke Lamora for 99 cents/pence” promotions recently. I earned a respectable advance for a first-time novel on Lies, and it earned out before it was even published. Lies has been delivering regular royalties for seven years now. It’s sold about 300,000 copies in the US and UK/Commonwealth, and I don’t have up-to-date figures for the rest of the world. So… it’s done its job! It’s made its money! Everything since and henceforth is gravy… now the game, as I see it, is about trying to attract new readers and make them comfortable, not gouging them for every last possible penny.

So.

Buy my work in the format that works best for you. The format that will be least distracting. Buy it with yourself in mind, not me. I assure you I’ll be okay. The easier and more comfortable your reading experience is, the more okay I’ll be!

However.

If you are truly interested in seeing the Gentleman Bastard sequence kick in all the doors it can, and in rewarding my editors for their long-suffering patience and hard work, and in tickling the folks holding the purse strings at the various publishing HQs so they’ll cry “More! More Bastards! More Bastards for everybody!”… well, there is a thing you can do, if it’s all the same to you.

Buy a physical copy of The Republic of Thieves. Buy it soon.

There are these lists, you see. Amazon bestseller… NYT bestseller… Locus bestseller… Sunday Times… and so forth. Some of them are silly and archaic and incomplete and maddening, but some of them are worth the trouble to claw one’s way onto. And the more books are sold, and the sooner, and (sadly, for now) the more physical copies are moved… the greater the chance I have of finally nudging my way into the bottom rungs of some of those lists. And that will mean good things, if you want to see more books, and if you want to see them given decent marketing budgets, and pleasant quantities of Advance Reader Copies.

So if you have a mind to do something generous for me and my brain-droppings, don’t aim for getting me a few extra cents. Aim to bump these books up in the numbers game. Like I said, it’s silly. It’s an incomplete portrait of the bookselling market. It’s not something I would pursue for its own sake. But it can’t hurt the future of Locke and Jean one tiny bit. It can only help.

The Republic of Thieves is now available on store shelves (and in e-format) in the United States and the UK/Commonwealth. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who’ve waited for this day, and to all who’ve pre-ordered or already purchased it. May the book deliver something you’re hoping for.

THE GREAT BIG APPEARANCE LIST FOR THE REST OF 2013

With the looming release of The Republic of Thieves, my schedule is set to go nuts. Although I’ve said several times that I’m not doing a formal book tour, enough things have changed in very recent days that I think we can call what’s coming a sort of accidental/inevitable mini-tour. Here’s where I’ll be:

Context 26
Worthington, Ohio
September 27-29

Elizabeth Bear and I will be teaching a two-hour workshop called “Worldbuilding 201,” where we’ll do our very best to rock the hell out of a subject that is often misunderstood. There’s still time to sign up…

THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES RELEASE DAY LAUNCH PARTY
Pandemonium Books
Boston, Massachusetts
October 8
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

It seems I’ve written another book. Boston is where I’ll be the day it hits shelves in the US, so Boston is where the party is. Reading, signing, cookies!

New York Comic Con
Javits Center, Manhattan
October 11

I will, so far as I know, be doing a panel, a general signing, and then a signing at my publishers’ booth. More information forthcoming as soon as they give it to me. I will ONLY be appearing on Friday the 11th.

Joseph-Beth Booksellers
Lexington, Kentucky
October 24
7:00 PM

Reading, signing, blathering!

Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore
Minneapolis, Minnesota
October 26
1:00 PM

My first-ever signing at a landmark next door to my home town… I’ve been visiting Uncle Hugo’s since 1990 or so as a reader, and now I’ll be blocking an aisle as a writer and a fire hazard! Huzzah!

World Fantasy Convention
October 31 – November 3
Brighton, UK

I will be at the convention, available at the mass signing (I’m assuming they’re having one), and arranging some sort of get-together off-site in Brighton.

London Area
November 4 – ?
London, UK

I’ll be doing something, hopefully several somethings, in or around London after WFC, but they haven’t told me what yet. More news as soon as I have it.

Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore
San Diego, California
November ?

University Bookstore
Seattle, Washington
November ?

Bakka Phoenix Bookstore
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
November or December ?

I have solid plans to visit these three places, in some order, preferably as soon as possible after WFC, but the timing depends upon the end date of my London area engagements, and until I have that these cannot be officially scheduled. But know that they are coming and as soon as the arrangements are set in stone I’ll have an update.

Daisho Con
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
November 22-24

I am a guest at Daisho Con, not to mention possibly the oldest person in attendance. I will be asking to do more programming than before! Daisho Con is big, colorful, friendly, cheap, and skews young, but if you want to hear an old man yammer about books, I am your old man!

Now, let’s go over two of the questions I most frequently get on Twitter and in e-mail:

Why don’t you come to {insert location HERE}?????

Chances are I would absolutely love to visit {insert location here}, but a couple things need to happen first! I don’t just pick the places I visit at random, and a great many of them involve travel arrangements made and paid for by my publishers (or shared with the sponsors of the event). So, to get me to {insert location here}, someone has to invite me, and contact my publicist (at Random House in the US or Gollancz in the UK) to discuss who pays for what. I’m not much of a diva as far as things go, but I do need to get to {insert location here} somehow, and I do generally need a place to sleep and clean myself up. Events that I can easily drive myself to (say, within a few hours of the Twin Cities) are a slightly different matter but the timing still has to be convenient for me and a hotel room may still need to be arranged.

If you want to make or facilitate a serious offer to have me visit somewhere to read/sign/speak, please feel free to e-mail me at any time. I can direct you to my publicists following that initial contact, if necessary.

Can I buy a book directly from you if I find you at a convention?

This seems to have become a more frequent question recently and the answer, in most cases, is absolutely going to be no. It’s not that I don’t want to be able to conjure books to sell you, it’s that a) I try to avoid undercutting the booksellers at any given convention, and b) I prefer to travel out of one suitcase. I spend an awful lot of time these days on planes and I don’t have room to carefully pack a pile of books in my luggage, much less carry them around on foot at a convention. Now, I’ll sign damn near anything at damn near any time, but in the vast majority of cases you’ll have to provide the book yourself.

On very rare occasions I might make arrangements to have a vendor already attending a given convention sell books that I’ve personally procured, but this is unlikely to happen anywhere I can’t drive to.

Being good can be a shortcut. There is no shortcut to being good.

The give-and-take with the audience at any bookstore or convention appearance I make usually comes around sooner or later to the topic of publication. How to get published, how to stay published, what it’s like working with publishers; all that inside baseball. It’s probably a dreary subject to the folks that just love the stories or the genre, yet it’s like Kryptonite-laced catnip to those who want to write professionally. I know the feeling intimately. I was hungry to be published from about the age of five, and none of my less realistic career fancies (Air Force F-15 pilot long-haul trucker cartoonist!) ever truly displaced that yearning.

Most of the publication-hungry folks I’ve ever met have struck me as honest, receptive, and realistic, but there’s always a tiny minority I can spot by the nature of the questions they ask and the statements they fixate on. They’re not interested in hearing about hard work, study, or self-improvement. Their eyes glaze over when I talk about concepts like effort or practice. They want nothing to do with developing actual skills, and in a few cases they don’t even want a damn thing to do with me or my work. They just want me to tell them how to duck under that imaginary velvet rope.

It doesn’t fucking exist, this shortcut. This magic steam-catapult to perceived stardom. This underground railroad for misunderstood slacker geniuses. It’s just not there! Yet these people keep on renewing their memberships in the cargo cult and imagining that all they have to do is catch a published author in a particularly off-guard or generous moment, and they’ll receive The Secret. I don’t know exactly what they envision. Some kind of handshake? A special phone scrambler? A certain Masonic arrangement of manuscript pages that slush readers can detect with their activated third eyes?

Cripes. Once I spot them in an audience, I’m pretty sure I can see them actively translating my words to their sub-reality. “I’m not saying networking isn’t useful,” I might say, “but you’ve got to have something worthwhile to sell before you start selling!” In their heads, this transmutes to “ZOMG! THERE REALLY IS A SECRET CLUB!” And don’t even get me started on what happens when I talk about work or discipline; I can see my advice turning into the noise the adults make in a Peanuts cartoon: “MWA MWA MWA MWA MWA, MWA MWA.”

Look, read this next bit very carefully: Famous useless idiots get book contracts all the time. Let us assume that we are not famous useless idiots, you and I. Therefore their situation is not germane to ours. Terrible, terrible writers also get book contracts all the time; this is because there’s no accounting for taste and because there is no accounting for taste and because, if you dig, there is no fucking accounting for taste. I can’t teach you how to get hit by a meteorite; I can only tell you about the “actively try to not be a terrible writer” approach, because it’s how me and most of my peers end up on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. This situation, which is my situation and, not to put too fine a point on it, YOUR situation if you’re unpublished and want to kill that ‘un-,’ is defined by the following equation:

Hard work + self-awareness + perseverance = MAYBE

“Maybe?” you say. “What the hell do you mean, maybe?”

What I mean is welcome to the universe, kid. No guarantees about anything, and the clock is already ticking. Try the potato salad. But that MAYBE is a golden result compared to the way the equation turns out if you subtract hard work, self-awareness, or perseverance. When you do that, MAYBE becomes NEVER. In fact, it becomes NEVER in bold followed by THIS MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS. !!!!!!!!!!!! 

So I suppose it’s only natural that a tiny but aggravating minority of wannabe writers out there prefer to keep putting their chips on:

Fucking around + resentment + begging for mercy = SHORTCUT!

And they keep coming to my readings and convention panels! It’s just too damn bad that shortcut doesn’t exist.

(“But Scott,” you might be saying, “you’re talking about traditional publishing! How is this applicable to the bold new world of self-publishing and e-publishing?” Well, the answer is that not a damn thing changes. I don’t look down on self-publishing. I admire it! And if you’re the sort of non-trad-publisher who works diligently for years to hone your craft, understand your markets, broaden your literary comprehension, and generally avoid being an asshole, then you have as solid a shot as anyone at that bright golden MAYBE. But if you’re the sort of person who wants to self-publish the first and only ten pages you’ve ever written because HA THAT WILL SHOW EVERYONE AND THEN YOU’LL BE A MILLIONAIRE, you’re still looking for the imaginary shortcut and you’re totally going nowhere at the speed of uselessness squared.)

How long does the process of hard work + self-awareness + perseverance take? I don’t know; how long is a string? There is no RIGHT path. There is no IDEAL way. There is no PROPER length of time. There is only your right path, your ideal way, your proper length of time.

I sold my first novel in 2004, to an editor I’d never met, halfway across the world, on the strength of about sixty pages and an outline. That doesn’t happen very often. I don’t have an office wall papered with rejection slips (which many superb, successful, award-winning authors do), because I have never received one for my fiction.* I’m not trying to be egotistical, I’m just stating bare facts: There was no secret handshake. There was no clandestine society ritual. An editor saw something worth cultivating, worth publishing, worth taking a chance on. He took that chance. The rest is my Wikipedia entry.

Wasn’t this a shortcut? Not even having a finished novel? In a way, sure. My editor, may he be blessed and protected from paper-cuts forever, thought the unfinished fragment was so good it was worth securing before someone else could notice it.

However, the part you didn’t see before that “shortcut” was the long span of years I spent writing miserable, pretentious, silly, derivative nonsense before I became capable of writing those sixty crucial pages. I went through a Lovecraft phase. I went through a Poe phase (Gah! My Poe phase. Welcome to Farcetown, population ME). I went through a confused Clive Barker-y phase. I wrote a looming shitstack of Vampire: The Masquerade fanfic and character fic that made later Anne Rice look respectable. I wrote and desktop published a series of roleplaying games. I wrote marketing crap, memos, and business letters. I did freelance editing and PDF self-publishing. I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of stuff that had to be presented with a modicum of competence and clarity. In those days, a modicum was about all I could manage. An older friend once took me to a Disney animated film, and as it started he whispered “Dude, you really need to pay attention to this. I’ve already seen it, and I brought you because you need to learn how basic story structure works.”

I was also reading. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books across the years. In the months right before The Lies of Locke Lamora sold, I was knocking back two novels a week, dissecting them, hungry to learn everything I could.

And that’s the secret behind my “shortcut.” I decided to pursue serious writing around the age of 15 and I sold my first novel at 26. Eleven years filled with piles of books and thousands upon thousands of pages, most of which were tripe and bullshit. Eleven years filled with a ludicrous amount of youthful time-wasting… but just enough hard work, self-awareness, and perseverance. Just enough by a narrow margin.

Being good is a great way to get noticed. But you can’t simply dance past the work it takes to get good. Would you expect to be invited to play first base for the Red Sox without the need to go through that tedious training, scouting, and development process? Of course not. So why the hell would you ever expect that I (or anyone else in my position) could just sort of hide you in a coat and smuggle you into a publishing career?

Still, some people do. If you read all of that and saw actual words, you’re probably not one of ’em. If you read that and all you saw was MWA MWA MWA MWA MWA, please be advised that I’m fucking bringing garlic, holy water, and a shovel to my next convention appearance near you. Truly I am. Because mere words don’t seem to dissuade you and I’m more than willing to try burial at a crossroads.

Now, people don’t just go shortcut-stalking in person. These days, I’m a Free Special Secret Bonus Guest Lecturer and Stevedore at the Viable Paradise writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard. VP is an emotionally intense, mentally and creatively demanding experience administered by a bevy of zero-bullshit fully-credentialled pro writers and editors. VP is not a Writing 101 sort of affair, and the staff and instructors spend weeks in unpaid and largely unheralded examination of manuscripts submitted by prospective students, winnowing applicants down to a maximum annual class size of 24.

I can’t tell you anything specific about this process, but I will tell you that the scrutiny is intense and the discussion is quite involved. What the instructors are looking for is evidence of the three qualities I cited above: hard work, self-awareness, and perseverance. That’s it. That’s the secret. That’s all it takes to make you the “right sort” for this kind of literary boot camp. A willingness to learn and grow and toil on your own behalf. Viable Paradise is not about fluffy generalities. It’s about learning how to command and harness your creative skills to produce an original, working story on a very tight schedule.

The applications that are marked for rejection most quickly are the ones that are clearly fishing for that mythical shortcut. What boggles my mind is that people imagine they can actually get away with this shit… that they can send text plagiarized straight from published works (hint: professional SF/F editors have read a lot of books), or keep offering up something that was rejected in a previous year, without alteration or improvement, in the hopes that the instructors will suddenly drop their standards or experience total group amnesia.

If Step 1 is “write something,” Step 2 is “write something new while you shop it around,” not “sit on your ass for the next twenty years and keep petulantly holding out the Only Thing You Ever Wrote.”

If you want to be a writer who occasionally sells to professional markets, that’s one thing. But if you want to be a professional writer, you must understand that this is not a one-time gig you’re applying for. You will be expected to do this hard, lonely, brain-bending thing, and then do it again. And again. And again. Imagine yourself as a bright little kid who comes home with a graded paper, which your parents pin up on the refrigerator for everyone to admire. Then they roll out a clean new refrigerator and stand there waiting for you to decorate that one, too. Your life is now an endless line of refrigerators, kid. If you’re lucky, it rolls on all the way past the horizon and into the graveyard.

You can’t fake the ability to meet that challenge. You can only train yourself up to it. So don’t talk to me or anyone in my shoes about shortcuts, because the concept of the shortcut is like the Easter Bunny– something cuddly and reassuring and totally fictional.

*****

*I did receive a firm but gentle e-mail rejection from Steve Jackson many, many years ago, in response to a proposal to write the introduction to a certain GURPS book. A proposal I only belatedly realized could be used as an object lesson in how to NEVER EVER structure a proposal. Still, I was chuffed. Rejected by Steve Jackson himself! I wish I’d printed a copy of that e-mail.