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The stories in the old pulp magazines may feel dated, due to old science and done-to-death clichés, and some espouse outdated beliefs that are no longer socially acceptable.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.

Manuscript Auction Follow-Up

A few months back, I auctioned off my print manuscript of The Republic of Thieves to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, specifically the families of those killed in the Yarnell Hill fire disaster. Thanks to the amazing generosity of some very interested readers, the manuscript sold on eBay for $1,388.00.

Although nobody has ever demanded that I cough up proof of what I did with the money, I figure it can’t hurt to provide it, so here’s my letter from the NFFF. My former address is on the letter, but I’m no longer living at that location.

The NFFF is a charity near to my heart. 2014 will be my ninth year as a volunteer firefighter, and I plan to have at least one more such auction to benefit the NFFF and related causes.

Update: Galley Proof Auction

The galley proof of The Republic of Thieves is safe in its new home! Its owners may choose to reveal themselves if and when they please. I have realized that posting an image of one of my personal checks is probably a really bad idea; I assume the NFFF will send some sort of letter when my donation arrives, and I’ll post that instead. Many thanks to all the bidders!

The Con is On… Again… in Burlington, Massachusetts.

So, I’m back, fresh from CONVergence, which was fun and invigorating despite the fact that I was in excruciating lower-back pain when I arrived and literally couldn’t stand up each morning without thirty minutes of half-starts and moaning. I got successively better each day, thanks in no small part to the kind attention of the awesome convention staff, who ordered me to eat my stoicism and get myself onto a massage table several times. I’m sorry if I bumped into anyone reading this while I was at the height of my pain (Thursday and Friday) and was weird or impatient as a result.

Speaking of CONVergence, I am absolutely delighted to be returning in 2014 as a guest of honor; I hope to be a great deal bouncier and to do more programming and events than are healthy or sane. CONVergence is the first con I ever attended and has remained special to me across the years.

In a nearer timeframe, I will be attending READERCON this weekend, July 12-14, and my programming schedule is as follows:

FRIDAY, JULY 12

2:00 PM
Kaffeeklatsch

This is a two-for-one deal, as I will be Kaffeklatsching with my partner, the illustrious Elizabeth Bear!

SATURDAY, JULY 13

11:00 AM
A New Mythology of the Civil War

Dennis Danvers, Mikki Kendall (leader), Scott Lynch, Romie Stott, Howard Waldrop

In a 2012 piece for the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote that the Lost Cause mythology of the American Civil War has settled so deeply in U.S. culture and historical understanding that it penetrates even our science fiction. (He was speaking of John Carter of Mars but might have been referring to many other works of SF.) “What we now need,” he wrote, “is new stories, and new narratives, that not only refuse to revel in historical escapism, but also resist the lure of blaxploitation. People like James McPherson and Benjamin Quarles have gifted us with a new history. What we need now, is a new mythology.” Who, if anyone, is undertaking the building of these new myths? And what are they reckoning with along the way?

6:00 PM
Readercon Blog Club: “The Uses and Value of Realism in Speculative Fiction”

Elizabeth Bear (leader), John Crowley, Rose Lemberg, Scott Lynch

In response to the Readercon 23 panel “Why Is Realistic Fiction Useful?”, Chris Gerwel wrote a blog post exploring the aesthetic uses of realism in spec fic and other literature. He says, “To be effective, fiction must communicate or reveal something true…. That truth is not necessarily factual (such-and-such happened), but is rather more nebulous and insightful (such-and-such could have happened).” Gerwel goes on to argue that “realistic” descriptions of fantastic things can be a way to help the audience to deal with these concepts, giving them better access to the underlying metaphors of a dragon or a spaceship. He closes by saying, “I believe that quotidian speculative fiction has its place in the genre. And that is precisely because it speaks to different truths than most speculative fiction: it speaks to the little heroisms of daily life, and to the practical challenges that arise from our human and social natures” an idea that echoes discussions of early science fiction stories written by women, and offers an alternative to the conflation of “realistic” and “gritty.” We’ll discuss the place of the quotidian in speculative fiction and other aspects of Gerwel’s complex and intriguing essay, which resides here.

8:00 PM
The Xanatos Gambit

Jim Freund (moderator), Yoon Ha Lee, Scott Lynch, James D. Macdonald

The tangled webs of schemers both good and bad have always had a presence in imaginative fiction. There are the wily king-killers, the intrigue-fomenting spinsters and widows, the bard who hides the knife beside the harp, the indispensable keeper of secrets, and more. What are the challenges in writing an especially clever character? How has the role of the schemer evolved, and what versions do we no longer see?

SUNDAY, JULY 14

12:00 PM
Pining for the Fnords: The New Nostalgia

Elizabeth Bear, John Benson, Andrea Hairston, Elizabeth Hand (moderator), Robert Killheffer, Scott Lynch

Well-received novels like John Scalzi’s Redshirts, Jo Walton’s Among Others, and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One pointedly allude to the SF of decades past. In a controversial review in the Los Angeles Review of Science Fiction, Paul Kincaid suggested that contemporary SF is suffering from a feeling of exhaustion; “the genre is now afraid to engage with what once made it novel, instead turning back to what was there before” or reverting “to older, more familiar futures.” Others view this type of SF as celebrating its heritage. What’s driving this backward-looking urge, and to what extent is it positive or problematic?

I will not be doing an individual signing but I am always happy to scribble on anything brought to me at just about any other time.

My Convergence Schedule, July 4-7

Convergence is imminent, and here’s my formal schedule:

FRIDAY, JULY 5

  • Things I Wish I’d Known Before I started Writing
    11 AM, Atrium 4

    A panel of experienced writers will share the secrets of the profession they wish they knew when they first started writing. Come learn tricks of the trade that your publisher will never tell you! Panelists: Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Elizabeth Bear, James Moran, C. Robert Cargill, Scott Lynch

  • Reading (with Elizabeth Bear)
    7 PM, Sofitel Lyon

    I will be reading from THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES. Sharing this time will be my amazing significant other, Hugo- and Locus Award-winning SF/F author Elizabeth Bear.

  • Ian Fleming
    11 PM, Plaza 2

    Discuss the James Bond books and their original author, not the movies. Panelists: Paul Cornell, Chris Stenzel, Scott Lynch, Cynthia Booth

    SATURDAY, JULY 6

  • Beyond SF 101
    2 PM, Atrium 2

    There’s a lot of advice out there for the beginning writer, this panel is for those of you who have moved beyond that point. Panelists: John Klima, Scott Lynch, Peter Hautman, Michael Merriam

    NOTE: There’s only four of us on that last panel, and it’s all dudes. Surely we can find at least ONE woman, out of the area’s large pool of qualified speakers and the con’s huge attendance, willing to join us. Pretty please? Send me an e-mail (scott at scottlynch.us).

    UPDATE: Monica Valentinelli has agreed to join us! Huzzah!

    EXTRA NOTE: I am not having a formal signing time this year. if anyone wants anything signed, I’ll be delighted to do so at any of my other appearances. Cheers!

  • Lamacklemore

    I’m so sorry. I couldn’t resist. All the fan-arty stuff going on on Tumblr. It just popped into my head a night or two ago. All apologies to Shen Ying-jieh, Anna Jung, Benjamin Carre, and Macklemore. Also, I’m in the middle of the galley proofs right now and I’m goofier than a kitten on nitrous oxide. Send help. Send caffeine.

     

    Mighty Mouse is a cartoon. Superman’s a real guy.

    CAUTION: This review does not merely contain spoilers. It is constructed from solid Spoilerium. 

    *****

    So, Man of Steel. Saw it on Friday with my favorite actual Kryptonian, Elizabeth Bear, who wrote up her thoughts here. We’re of a very like mind concerning the film; the parts we enjoyed were spectacular and the parts that underwhelmed us were sad and didn’t need to be.

    YOU WILL GIVE THE PEOPLE AN IDEAL TO STRIVE TOWARDS (The Not-Bad Parts)

    1. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first half or so of the prologue on Krypton. It was lively, visually inventive, and fun. It went on for too long, but there’s not much in this movie that doesn’t, and eventually all the logic leaked out of the premise, but that too will be a common refrain in this review.

    2. The music! Hans Zimmer certainly does pound those drums, soundtrack after soundtrack, like he’s trying to summon something dark and terrible from the depths of sunken R’lyeh, and yet I have a weakness for his stuff. Some of what he’s arranged for Man of Steel sounds almost like him trying to essay a Mass Effect soundtrack. It’s stirring music to write to, and I bought a copy of the soundtrack shortly after I got home from the movie.

    3. The Kryptonian criminals! Michael Shannon doesn’t have much to do except play a bug-eyed screamer, yet he does it with real nuance and screen presence. This Zod is faintly tragic, quite distinct from Terence Stamp’s megalomaniacal smoothie, and generally fun to watch in action, a real antagonist’s antagonist. I quite enjoyed Antje Traue as Faora-Ul,  Superman’s primary physical opponent for much of the film, who also works a series of cliches but works them so well. Last but not least, compliments to the designers of the Kryptonian battle armor in all of its baroquely bad-ass aesthetic joy. Take a goddamn hint, book cover artists… neck to toe coverage! Almost as though Faora were, you know, some kind of competent warrior, valued by her comrades, who expected and needed the same kind of functional armor they did. Huh!

    It’s also an interesting if not exactly subtle casting choice to have the genetically-engineered, caste-bound Kryptonian renegades (and would-be genocides) played by white actors, and have the chief authority of their human opposition be a black man (Harry Lennix, incidentally, the guy who stole the show as Aaron the Moor in Julie Taymor’s Titus of fond memory).

    4. The “dream” conversation between Zod and Kal-El. Another scene with all the thematic subtlety of a sledgehammer, but dammit, if you’re going to be obvious and chew the scenery, then let’s see some teeth marks. This bit did not disappoint me.

    5. Amy Adams as Lois Lane! This turned out to be a pretty inspired choice, I think. A sensible and fairly realistic portrayal of a woman in her late 30s (though come on… Lois Lane is a veteran field journalist, not someone who’d totter around on heels the height of the Space Needle when a crisis is unfolding around her). Adams’ intrinsic adorableness and vulnerability are a fantastic counterpoint to her character’s insatiable curiosity, determination, and courage. I also think it’s easy to overlook her superb work projecting humanity while surrounded by actors whose body language is that of total, unconscious dominance and arrogance. You can chalk some of their effectiveness up to her skill at providing a visual and emotional foil for them.

    5a. Lois’ escape from the Kryptonian spaceship, aided by Jor-El’s computer personality. Great stuff. They didn’t even damselize her until the very end, which is what passes for restraint in this sort of thing.

    6. Russell Crowe was quite good as Jor-El; less portentous and cheesy than Marlon Brando in the role. Wise, dignified, and restrained. Fairly quiet for a Crowe character, actually. Henry Cavill didn’t get to work a very great emotive range as Kal/Clark/Superman, but he was physically superb for the role and adequately dynamic. Still a little too broody and disconnected for my taste, but nowhere near as emo as the Brandon Routh version from 2006’s Superman Shambles Aimlessly.

    7. The general shape of the plot. Frankly, I was delighted to see a Superman reboot that didn’t involve Supes beating up movie muggers or facing down minigun-armed bank robbers or the same old useless boring shit that doesn’t actually scare anyone or make any interesting points about our world. I was pleased to see the science-fictional bent of the trailers and despite all the ways they screwed it up in the final product, I’m still impressed that they tried to run with this angle (Superman is an unnerving alien, and he is forced to protect us against even more unnerving aliens, in a story that is as much about First Contact as it is about comic books).

    THEY WILL STUMBLE, THEY WILL FALL (The Not-Good Parts)

    1. It’s really amazing how little re-writing it would have taken to clean up the nonsensical Krypton backstory and make it internally consistent. So, the Kryptonians have colonized the stars over the course of 100,000+ years but can’t escape planetary doom as their “natural resources are exhausted.” What? How? What resources are we talking about here, that they couldn’t fetch at will from millions of star systems? They have an extremely robust and portable technology (note the scoutship that spends 20,000 years on ice without a hitch) and spaceships just sitting around like unwanted Christmas ornaments, but they can’t use this stuff to evacuate population or gather more resources? Furthermore, if they can’t muster the energy to move their own silly asses out of the way of the oncoming Planetary BBQ and Magma-Fest, why are they bothering to pack criminals up and ship them off to the Phantom Zone? This seems akin to capturing pickpockets on the Titanic and exiling them in their own lifeboat while the ship is already sinking.

    Although there is a (slight) narrative thread about how the Kryptonians have bred themselves into  unhealthy rigidity, this is never taken far enough to suggest that they, as a culture, are so bereft of vitality that they would placidly welcome the end. Since they seem to know it’s coming but neither fight against it nor philosophically embrace it, all the inherent tragedy of the death of Krypton leaks away into anticlimax. How can the audience be expected to care about these stuffy buttwads if they don’t care about themselves?

    2. Speaking of inconsistency, Kryptonian biology is dribbled around the court of the movie like a basketball. Kryptonians fresh from space, sealed away from Earth’s “nourishing atmosphere” are shown to be effortless physical equals of Superman, who’s been basking in our yellow-sun radiation and nourishing atmosphere for three decades. Exposure to a natural Kryptonian atmosphere drops Supes in his tracks and robs him of his powers, yet this guy can fly in the vacuum of space without trouble. I don’t expect this stuff to have anything more than a long-distance relationship with the Laws of Thermodynamics, I just expect it to have some internal rules, which can then be applied to generate tension or up the stakes… sigh. Tension, stakes. Pearls, swine. I sometimes wonder why I bother expressing surprise at the narrative incompetence of mega-blockbusters. When “eh, who gives a shit” will rake in a billion dollars globally, why worry about aiming for even “reasonably competent?”

    3. This film is two hours and twenty minutes long, and nine hours of that is fight scenes. They are, in the main, full of visual energy and some of the best crumbling/exploding/kerblammoing things I have ever seen, but loaves and fishes do they drag the fuck on forever. The first time a Kryptonian flies through three brick walls is exciting; the eighty-sixth time is dreary overkill. The fight scenes look good, but there’s so little ultimate creativity to them… Superman, having established to the audience’s satisfaction that punching his opponents into buildings won’t even slow them down, punches them into more buildings. And then more buildings. And then some more buildings, when he’s not getting punched into buildings himself.

    4. The powers of Kryptonians are most interesting to see when they can be placed within an earthly frame of reference. Superman getting tinkled on by 30mm cannon fire, Faora-Ul shrugging off a Hellfire missile, someone being set on fire… these hazards are at least a wee bit diverting because we can mentally measure the effect of them against our own mortal bodies. Watching Superman fight something like a CGI robotic tentacle or a blue beam of mysterious gravitic force is so much less interesting, because we know in the end Superman will be exactly as strong as he needs to be to defeat the tentacle or the blue beam. The “struggle” will last precisely as long as the director and the army of computer animators want it to last, and again, no tension means that the audience’s sense of involvement takes a nap.

    5. The binary stupidity of the choices Pa Kent presents to young Clark is flatly insulting. Hey, idiots, the third option you’re not discussing along with “Save people from horrible deaths” and “just quietly let them die” is “maybe try not to let yourself be SEEN using your powers, numbskull!” Like, uh, maybe after pushing the bus out of the river you could have avoided sitting there gawping at the witnesses, Clark. And maybe instead of letting the redheaded kid see you doing your submarine act, you could have just grabbed him and heaved him ashore before positioning yourself to look like you’d fallen out of the bus. I’m not saying Clark should have known better at that age; he’d done no hero-ing to that point, and some shock on his part would be forgivable. My objection is to Pa Kent’s feeble, inhumane Monday-morning quarterbacking of the situation, simply because the people responsible for the story are trying to set up a completely artificial dichotomy to rule Clark’s character arc.

    Don’t even get me really started about the tornado death scene… good god, the presumption and witlessness of the writing. Clark, you didn’t let Pa Kent die to show that you trusted him, you let him die because YOU FAILED AT SUPER-SPEED. That tornado would be a threat somewhere south of kitten breath to Clark, and we’re expected to believe that he couldn’t simply approach it at a plausible human speed and run back in a few seconds? We’re expected to believe that Superman wouldn’t make the decision to save his dad from this childishly uncomplicated situation? Wrong answer, dillweeds. Wrong answer.

    6. Because, because, because… Superman is not about his powers. Superman’s powers are the opposite of interesting. He’s a tiny god. In his modern and canonical incarnation, he’s effectively invincible except when plot devices temporarily rob him of invincibility, and of course we know he’s going to become invincible again in a short while, so even that has limited dramatic shelf life. He’s stronger than fire, stronger than missiles, stronger than brick walls, stronger than giant tentacles and blue energy beams, stronger than other Kryptonians. Superman’s powers boil down to a gigantic, omnipresent I WIN button. Therefore, the only really interesting thing about Superman is the decisions he makes, or is forced to make. Superman isn’t Superman because he’s bulletproof; he’s Superman because he’d try to take a bullet for someone else even if he didn’t have any powers. Even if he knew he didn’t have them. Superman genuinely cares, and Man of Steel errs most painfully by half-assing this.

    This film’s action sequences are pervaded by a strange inhumanity. U.S. military personnel blithely unload airstrike after airstrike into the center of an populated American town, without so much as a peep of protest, without so much as a raised eyebrow for the welfare of the hundreds of people hiding there, and while I am no cheerleader for much of the shit we’ve pulled on a global scale, neither can I swallow the idea that blasting craters in an American town would be just another day at the office for these folks. Remember, this is the first engagement we’re shown between human and Kryptonian forces, and no all-pervading sense of urgency has been provided to explain why it’s essential to alpha-strike the place so immediately. I have to wonder what sort of creator could be so detached, so jaded, as to treat the unleashing of explosive death in an American small town as being essentially meaningless and self-justifying? I don’t think it should be meaningless anywhere, be it Afghanistan or Arkansas, and I call it just plain lazy writing/directing.

    Superman himself compounds this by inexplicably failing to try and move the fight elsewhere, to lure or trick or taunt or carry (or plead, because you’re damn right Superman would plead if that’s what it took to save lives) the Kryptonian renegades out of a populated zone, when open areas are available just a few hundred yards away in multiple directions. Again, wrong answer. An indifferent Superman is no Superman at all. The movie treats as sub-footnotes all the people Superman would be most desperate to protect, even in the heat and confusion of battle. It’s nice that he catches a guy who falls out of a helicopter, but that would never be enough… not for Superman.

    7. There was a bit in the 2005 Doctor Who episode “The Parting of the Ways” (bear with me here) where it became plain for all eternity that Russell T. Davies had a weak grasp of the concept of narrative escalation. The Dalek battle fleet bombarded the planet Earth so devastatingly that the outlines of the continents visibly changed while the people in orbit watched. That’s just not bloody survivable by anyone anywhere, a situation in which the continents run like glass and the coastlines shift hundreds of miles in a few seconds! So it made the Doctor’s subsequent “conundrum” about whether or not to use his jiggery-pokery suicide device to wipe out the Daleks “along with every living thing on Earth” look rather silly. Uh, Nine, not to put it too harshly, but what life on Earth? The ship just sailed, man. Daleks took care of it for you. Who’s left for the audience to care about besides you?

    Anyhow.

    That’s what I flashed back to during the final sixteen hours of Man of Steel, when block after block after block of downtown Metropolis is pulverized into dust by General Zod’s Gravitic Plot Contrivance and skyscraper after skyscraper tumbles and… then more flattening and more tumbling, and more flattening and more tumbling, and the disaster porn goes on so long and becomes so awful and widespread and inconceivable (this isn’t 9/11-scale carnage, surely it’s into Hiroshima or Nagasaki territory) that my ability to give a toss finally snapped like inexpertly-pulled taffy. Oh, Superman flies halfway around the world just in time to save Lois from falling out of a plane, of course, but fat lot of good that does everyone else who died aboard it and the tens of thousands of Metropolitans obviously pancaked in the wreckage of their buildings. We’re supposed to not feel numbed by this? We’re supposed to do something other than giggle when one of the Daily Planet staffers cries out, “He saved us!” while stumbling into an ash-gray wasteland where half a city used to be? Who had any chance to inform you that the whole world was at stake, ma’am? What’s there for you to see except the vast corpse-filled hole in front of you?

    Too much smashing. Not enough saving. Too little attention paid to the actual people living in this world for me to spark my Give-a-Shitter back to life.

    8. The Academy Award for Giving Laurence Fishburne Nothing to Work With goes to… this movie!

    9. Seriously, what kind of complete mental defective uses a grenade launcher to launch fragmentation grenades inside the cargo bay of a C-17 against a target eight feet away? And how did they live to do it over and over again? And while we’re at it, what sort of monkeynuts with half a melted popsicle for a brain would send ground troops to pit small arms against targets that had just laughed off rockets and 30mm cannon fire?

    10. The version of the film we saw was missing an important scene! I’m not sure if it was an editing mishap or a defective copy of the film, but a rough transcript of the deleted part runs like this:

    ZOD: Okay, let’s fire up the World Engine and turn Earth into Krypton II: Once More With Feeling. 

    FAORA-UL: Uh, wait a minute, sir. So, we’ve got this planet with an empowering yellow sun, and although we’ll be sick and uncomfortable for an initial few hours, once we get the hang of breathing the atmosphere, we’ll all basically turn into gods, right? More like gods than we are now, even.

    ZOD: Right!

    FAORA-UL: Okay. Why don’t we just leave the atmosphere intact and kill all the humans at our leisure once we’ve turned into gods? And then keep the magic super-air, like, forever?

    JAX-UR: Yeah, boss, I think she’s on to something here. We’re not saying we can’t knock some buildings down and repaint the place. But I’d sure like to try a hit of that sweet magic super-air.

    ZOD: Oh, I really just want to fire up the World Engine! Even SAYING it is fun! Say it with me! WORLD ENGINE! WORLD ENGINE SEXY! WORLD ENGINE NUMBER ONE!

    FAORA-UL: Look, I know we’ve been calling you ‘General’ for years now, but I feel compelled to ask… what exactly were you a general OF, back on Krypton? The Surgeon General, maybe?

    ZOD: WORLD ENGINE!

    FAORA-UL: The Postmaster General?

    ZOD: MY PLAN IS FLAWLESS AND VERY PICTURESQUE.

    FAORA-UL: Except that Kal-El is, uh, literally the one single dude on the whole planet that poses any threat to us, and here we are just sort of backing off from him while we talk about landing our sole, solitary World Engine somewhere he can fly to and punch it.

    JAX-UR: He does punch things. You’ll recall you’ve been one of those things.

    ZOD: I will now make my supreme pouty face until you launch the World Engine!

    FAORA-UL: Seriously, were you the fucking General Counsel at a Kryptonian law firm or what?

     

     

     

    An Excerpt from “The Effigy Engine”

    In the five-year span from 2008 to 2012, inclusive, I managed to stumble through severe depression and anxiety attacks to turn in just two actual professional paying gigs, both short stories. It was a generally miserable time I’ve gone on about elsewhere, and that’s all the literary good that came out of it finished. Two short stories.

    In the first four months of 2013, I’ve handed in four professional paying gigs, and I’m not done yet.

    The first new thing coming to market is my short story “The Effigy Engine,” which will be in the anthology FEARSOME JOURNEYS, edited by the awesome Jonathan Strahan. His own blog post about the book can be read here. It includes a table of contents; this will be the first time I’m appearing jointly in print with my beloved partner, Elizabeth Bear, and with   my friend Saladin Ahmed. Not to mention an amazing lineup including Ellen Kushner, Ellen Klages, Daniel Abraham, KJ Parker, Kate Elliot, and more.

    “The Effigy Engine” is the first in what I hope will be a long series of tales of the Red Hats, a very small band of specialist mercenaries in a black powder/sorcery world chock full of imperial ambitions. The Red Hats, a tight-knit pack of lunatics, misfits, and idealists, somehow always manage to find themselves in the service of the smaller, weaker party in any given disagreement. I suppose they’re in no small way inspired by Glen Cook’s Black Company, though they are decidedly not a structural or thematic copy, nor any sort of artistic response to Cook’s work. I like the Black Company just fine as the Black Company.

    For my literary presumption, I was rather startled to learn that Cook himself would be appearing in FEARSOME JOURNEYS, with a Black Company story, no less. Thus the brash young upstart soon finds himself taken to school.

    I hope you like “The Effigy Engine” anyway. Here’s an excerpt:

    *****

    As I peered into the mess, the forward portion of the legionary column exploded in white smoke. Sparks and chips flew from nearby rocks, and I felt a burning pressure between my eyes, a sharp tug on the strands of my own magic. The practical range of sorcery is about that of musketry, and a fresh reminder of the fact hung dead in the air a yard from my face. I plucked the ball down and slipped it into my pocket.

    Somewhere safe and cultured? Well, there was nowhere safer for Rumstandel than three feet to my left. I was doing for him what the troublemaker on the ground was doing for the legionaries. Close protection, subtle and otherwise, my military and theoretical specialty.

    Wizards working offensively in battle have a bad tendency to get caught up in their glory-hounding and part their already tenuous ties to prudence. Distracted and excited, they pile flourish on flourish, spell on spell until some stray musket ball happens along and elects to take up residence.

    Our little company’s answer is to work in teams, one sorcerer working harm and the second diligently protecting them both. Rumstandel didn’t have the temperament to be that second sorcerer, but I’ve been at it so long now everyone calls me Watchdog. Even my mother.

    I heard a rattling sound just behind us, and turned in time to see Tariel hop down into our rocky niche, musket held before her like an acrobat’s pole. Red-gray dust was caked in sweaty spirals along her bare ebony arms, and the dozens of wooden powder flasks dangling from her bandolier knocked together like a musical instrument.

    “Mind if I crouch in your shadow, Watchdog? They’re keeping up those volleys in good order.” She knelt between me and Rumstandel, laid her musket carefully in the crook of her left arm, and whispered, “Touch.” The piece went off with the customary flash and bang, which my speech-sorcery dampened to a more tolerable pop.

    Hers was a salamandrine musket. Where the flintlock or wheel mechanism might ordinarily be was instead a miniature metal sculpture of a manor house, jutting from the weapon’s side as though perched atop a cliff. I could see the tiny fire elemental that lived in there peering out one of the windows. It was always curious to see how a job was going. Tariel could force a spark from it by pulling the trigger, but she claimed polite requests led to smoother firing.

    “Damn. I seem to be getting no value for money today, gents.” She began the laborious process of recharging and loading.

    “We’re working on it,” I said. Another line of white smoke erupted below, followed by another cacophony of ricochets and rock chips. An Elaran soldier screamed. “Aren’t we working on it, Rumstandel? And by ‘we’ I do in fact mean—“

    “Yes, yes, bullet-catcher, do let an artist stretch his own canvas.” Rumstandel clenched his fists and something like a hot breeze blew past me, thick with power. This would be a vulgar display.

    *****

    FEARSOME JOURNEYS launches in multiple formats on May 28, 2013.

    Fearsome Journeys cover image

    Updates From Scruffy Author Country

    Yep, that’s who’s scruffy-lookin’.

    I am at Minicon 48 this weekend, along with my girlfriend, the lovely and talented Elizabeth Bear. We’re reading on Sunday, Bear at 12:00 PM and Lynch at 1:00 PM, in Veranda 1/2.

    The Republic of Thieves continues to speed on its way toward its destiny; my editors on both sides of the Atlantic are pretty pleased, and with just a few adjustments, the book will be going to copyedit. I do not have any news at this time about a timetable for audio versions or releases in other countries, but as soon as I get any scraps of concrete info over the next few months I’ll shout ’em.

    There is more news coming soon, but for now I can at least say that the official launch-day signing event (and party) for The Republic of Thieves will be held at Pandemonium Books in Boston, from 7-9 PM on Tuesday, October 8th. Bear and I will both be there!