writing rengeek magpie mind

October 2014




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Sep. 11th, 2014

ascii frog by Jean Seok

(no subject)

"Covenant"! A brand-new SF story by me! at Slate! for free!  

Aug. 5th, 2014

criminal minds bad shirt brigade

gave up. passed out.

I will be in London with that boy I like at Nine Worlds Geekfest this coming weekend. Here is my program schedule.

Friday, August 8
8:30 pm

Only A Moment (Room 38).  Paul Cornell says: "This is a well known game involving speaking for a minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition, renamed because the BBC got in touch. (No, seriously!)  I’ll be running it, and Elizabeth Bear, Kieron Gillen, Liz Myles and Laurie Penny will be my guests."

Saturday, August 9

Dragons vs Werewolves vs Vampires vs Warlocks: The Ultimate Deathmatch Smackdown
County C&D, 11:45am - 1pm

Four monsters enter, one monster leaves. Vampires, dragons, werewolves or warlocks? It all gets decided here. Debate: Anne Perry (Moderator), Elizabeth Bear (Dragons), Gail Carriger (Werewolves), Joanne Harris (Vampires), Scott Lynch (Warlocks)


Elizabeth Bear & Scott Lynch
Comm West, 1pm - 2pm

These people are signing at the Forbidden Planet table, in Commonwealth West.


Tell me a story: podficcing - Podficcers and podcasters share techniques and technology
County B, 6:45pm - 8pm
Tracks: Fanfic

Can podficcers learn anything from podcasters, and vice versa? The panel discuss techniques, technology and performance aspects of their respective fields, and hope to discover new insights into the process from one another.

Sunday, August 10

Writing Historical Fiction and Fanfic: is RPF okay when the person is dead?
County B, 11:45am - 1pm
Tracks: Fanfic

How do we write about historical characters? Is historical fiction a form of Real Person Fiction if it features people who appear in the historical record? A panel of authors and fans discuss techniques of writing historical fiction and how writing about the dead differs from writing about the living.


Epic Fantasy: the panel of prophecy!
County C&D, 3:15pm - 4:30pm

And lo, it was prophecised that the heroes of the epic fantasy genre would ascend to the Nine Worlds, where they would battle the Evil One with the Sword of Banter and Wand of Quick Wit +2. Panel: Den Patrick, Scott Lynch, Rebecca Levene, Elizabeth Bear, Gaie Sebold

Jul. 22nd, 2014

writing one-eyed jack

but she brings you only sorrow

We made a book! It looks like One-Eyed Jack is available a little early from Amazon (and possibly from your local independent bookstore--check there first, they love to order things for you!) both as Kindle and trade paperback. (Barnes and Noble should be in the game soon, I am assured.)

Oh, look! It's on Barnes and Noble!


Now, off to sign at Fantask in Copenhagen with that boy I like in an hour and a half! Eeeeeeee!

Jul. 9th, 2014

mythbusters kari eye

through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered--

First of all, kudos to Icelandair, which managed to weld a new engine on the plane or something while we were sitting on the tarmac, and there was only a 90 minute delay... and who had meal vouchers and new boarding passes waiting for us, without being fussed at about it, when we landed on the very large and scenic rock 90 minutes later than anticipated.

Wait, I might be getting ahead of myself.

Scott and I are enroute to Helsinki for Finncon. Mechanical difficulties delayed our flight out (Scott claims he saw Mary Robinette Kowal on the wing of the plane with a gremlin puppet) and so we missed our connection. Fortunately for both of us, we has fancy tickets for a change, and they are paying for themselves now, as we're in the fancy people lounge. Scott is napping (I got a little kip on the plane), and I am gorging myself on potted shrimp and cappuccino from a machine with buttons that is teaching me the icelandic words for Hot Water and Chocolate while we wait out a five-and-a-half-hour gap between our old flight and our new... which takes us to Copenhagen, not Helsinki, but Copenhagen can get us to Helsinki. So we'll just be nine hours late, and since we built an extra day into our travel schedule it's all good. Except, you know, missing our dinner date and nap time in Helsinki.

Anyway, Iceland is beautiful--what I've glimpsed from airplane windows and through the glass walls of walkways. Somewhere out there in the fog is a volcano, and there was sea ice on the way in.

Here's a photo of what I've seen of the mountain.

I'd post a photo of my scrounged fancy people lounge midnight breakfast (Okay, it's more like a 3 am breakfast, as Iceland is on GMT without daylight savings--because, I assume, they get enough daylight this time of year for most purposes. It's just about to turn 9 here...)

So as a consolation prize, here's my new favorite schnapps, courtesy of the nice flight attendant who wanted to help me get a nap. 

This is basically alcoholic birch beer syrup and comes with your very own twig.

My wand is 3" long, black birch, spirits of alcohol core.

Oh, look at that. I stalled long enough that the pics of my breakfast loaded to dropbox. ENVY MY SCROUNGE!


Jul. 7th, 2014

criminal minds elle lucky

in concert with that blood-washed band

The final episode of Shadow Unit is live, and I am having a complicated emotional response.

I also have a draft program for LonCon III. And I sold a short story to Asimov's and another one to a Sekrit Projekt.

(There will also be at least one signing at the Gollancz table, and I am hoping for a Kaffeklatsch or Literary Beer or reading, but those have not been assigned yet.)

A Reader's Life During Peak Short Fiction

Friday 12:00 - 13:30

There are now more speculative short stories published than any one person can hope to read -- or even find. So how do fans of the short-form navigate this landscape? With so much ground to cover, how does an individual reader find stories they like -- are we more author-driven in our reading habits? Conversely, how and why do particular stories "break out" and become more widely known? To what extent is the greater volume of material enabling -- and recognising -- a greater diversity of authors and topics? And what is the place of short fiction in today's field -- testing ground for ideas, the heart of the discussion, or something else?

Jetse de Vries (M), Abigail Nussbaum, Jonathan Strahan, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Elizabeth Bear

Zombies Run! New Ways of Understanding Games

Friday 13:30 - 15:00

Not all of us think of ourselves as gamers, yet it's quite likely that we've got a number of games or apps on our tablets and phones, or sneaking a quick game of solitaire between breaks. Purchases of games on apps are a huge part of gaming culture, yet many players don't like to be seen as 'gamers'. Perhaps this is because of the sterotypes that surround the image of the gamer, but app purchases also allow alternative groups of players and play style. This panel looks at app gaming, including the interactive running game, Zombies, Run! Writers and developers will discuss not only why Zombies, Run! has become such a success, but what this means in terms of the identity of the gamer.

Ciaran Roberts (M), Naomi Alderman, Elizabeth Bear, Andrea Phillips

Duelling by Starlight: The Joyful Poetry of Space Opera

Saturday 19:00 - 20:00

Space operas are stories of freedom: from the quotidian, or the logic of history, or the constraints of physics itself ... and, often, freedom of the imagination, freedom of the pen. It's sometimes said that the futures of space opera are fantastical, but when are they poetic? Consider the wit of Iain Banks' Culture, the baroque of Justina Robson's Natural History, or the ceaseless invention of Yoon Ha Lee's mythic tales: how do these writers, and others, use language and narrative structure to liberate and excite us? And in our liberation, what do these writers let us see more clearly?

Robert Reed, Jaine Fenn, Rosie Oliver, Adam Roberts, Elizabeth Bear, Hannu Rajaniemi

The Spies We (Still) Love

Sunday 10:00 - 11:00

From James Bond, UNCLE, and the (British!) Avengers to SHIELD and Person of Interest, the world of spies and conspiracy has long been a fixture of Western SF on screen. Yet there has always been ambivalence about such agents' real-world counterparts, and these days most of us have reservations about the extent of US/UK surveilance and big data manipulation. Bearing in mind this context, how have espionage stories evolved over the last forty years? Which shows and films have endured? And which modern examples are most artistically or politically successful, and why?

Nicholas Whyte (M), Elizabeth Bear, Colin Harvey, Gillian Redfearn, Stefanie Zurek

Tiptree Auction

Sunday 4:30-6:00


Jun. 24th, 2014

writing gorey earbrass unspeakable horro

sometimes you've got to put your shoulder to the door

4th Street Fantasy is over for another year, and a good time was had by everybody who talked to me about it, at least. Dates for next year have been announced: June 26th-28th, with the usual pre-con party Thursday night and post-con sushi expedition Monday afternoon. This is a week later than usual, because of when we could get the hotel facilities we needed, so we will be a week before CONvergence rather than two weeks before.

I've also gotten the CEM of Karen Memory turned around and back to Tor, so all the hard parts of that are done. My only remaining duty is the proofs, and the advance reader copies should be out before long.

And as for me, I am stressed out and overwhelmed and completely freaking out about the amount of travel and conventions and writing left in 2014. So, because I have something going on every single weekend between now and the end of August, and because I need to the reassurance of a nice list I can cross stuff off of, I am reposting my honeydew list.

travel and appearances 2014:

July 3-7, 2014: ConVergence: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Scandinavian Micro-Tour!
July 11-13, 2014: Finncon: Jyväskylä, Finland (Guest of Honor with special guest Scott Lynch)
Then between July 16th and 22nd, Scott and I will be visiting

  • SF Bokhandeln Stockholm (July 16th)

  • SF Bokhandeln Gothenberg (July 18th)

  • SF Bokhandeln Malmo (July 19th)

  • Fantask Copenhagen (July 22nd)

August 8-10, 2014: Nine Worlds, London, England
August 14-17, 2014: Worldcon: London, England
October 31-November 2, 2014: ICON: Iowa City, Iowa (Guest of Honor with Scott)
November 14-16, 2014: Windycon: Lombard, Illinois (Guest of Honor with Squeecast)


Tiptree reading and judging

"You've Never Seen Everything": 30 June 2014
"Terroir": 1 August 2014

Storium World: 25 August 2014
An Apprentice to Elves: Autumn 2014
"Gallowglas":  31 December 2014


Eternal Sky #4
Ancestral Night
Eternal Sky #5
Untitled Space Opera
Eternal Sky #6

No fixed deadline:

Bard troll story

(unless its name is actually Salt Water)
Unsuitable Metal
Patience and Fortitude

Untitled Gangland Urban Fantasy That Keeps Bugging Me
"A Time to Reap"
"Posthumous Jonson"
"On Safari in R'lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera"

And the first lines meme, because it makes me feel a little more in control of what's in my in box:

"You've Never Seen Everything"
No one is making me say this.

"A Time to Reap"
 Krissy paused in the wings stage left, in air thick with the smell of dust, imagining the

An Apprentice to Elves
Tin laced her fingers together across her gravid belly and frowned along her nose at the feeble human child.

Patience and Fortitude
Nothing made Matthew hate himself more than waiting for the elevator.

Pewter scraped across the black wave-caps of the Atlantic on the morning Carl Hughes learned how his lover had died.

"On Safari in R'lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera"
"We wouldn’t be having this conversation if you'd flunked Algebra."

Johnny Backus was a daywalker. Johnny Backus was a vampire. Johnny Backus was a friend of mine.

When Cecily was three years old, she announced that she was "stared of the scares," meaning the basement stairs. It stuck. Especially since Cecily wasn't scared--or stared--of almost anything else.

"Posthumous Jonson"
I loved you not.

There are no unremarkable worlds.

As the innate perversity of the universe would have it, Officer Jericho was up to her elbows in the guts of a roasted pumpkin as big as her chest when her pager shrilled.

The universe will always need plumbers.

Good gravy, I am out of spoons.

Jun. 12th, 2014

writing whiskey wicked faerie

and wondering if somewhere you're crying too

Look what the cat dragged in!

Er, so to speak.

Magic City: Recent Spells, edited by Paula Guran!

“Paranormal Romance,” Christopher Barzak
“The Slaughtered Lamb,” Elizabeth Bear
“The Land of Heart’s Desire,” Holly Black
“Seeing Eye,” Patricia Briggs
“De la Tierra,” Emma Bull
“Curses,” Jim Butcher
“Dog Boys,” Charles de Lint
“Snake Charmer,” Amanda Downum
“Street Wizard,” Simon R. Green
“-30-,” Caitlín R. Kiernan
“Stone Man,” Nancy Kress
“Pearlywhite” Mark Laidlaw & John Shirley
“In the Stacks,” Scott Lynch
“Spellcaster 2.0,” Jonathan Maberry
“Kabu Kabu,” Nnedi Okorafor
“Stray Magic,” Diana Peterfreund
“The Woman Who Walked with Dogs,” Mary Rosenblum
“Wallamelon,” Nisi Shawl
“Grand Central Park,” Delia Sherman
“Words,” Angela Slatter
“Alchemy,” Lucy Sussex
“A Voice Like a Hole,” Catherynne M. Valente
“The Arcane Art of Misdirection,” Carrie Vaughn
“Thief of Precious Things,” A.C. Wise

More: http://www.prime-books.com/2014/01/27/magic-city-recent-spells-edited-by-paula-guran/#sthash.MPHfCTVQ.dpuf 

And now, back to my copy-edited manuscript, my DVD extra, my novel, my novella, my short story, and my RPG thingy. I think I'm overcommitted.

Jun. 11th, 2014

can't sleep books will eat me

she opened a book and a box of tools

I wrote a long-winded explanation of some things you can do with three-act structure and some other narrative tricks for the Viable Paradise site, and you can read it here. I'll have a new lecture this year. *g*

There's still FOUR MORE DAYS to apply to Viable Paradise for 2014!

Jun. 1st, 2014

sf sapphire and steel winning

away, i must away, across the wide missouri

Jay Lake has left the building.

Everything is a little less bright, playful, wicked, and angry about injustice than it was yesterday. Well, I might be a touch more angry.

Jay's wit lit up a conversation without cruelty or cattiness. He was one of the most emotionally honest and compassionate people I have ever known. He gave absolutely zero fucks about appearances. He helped anybody who came within arm's reach.

He was ridiculously brave in the face of heartbreak, and to all appearances he was a phenomenal dad. He gave away so much energy I have no idea where he found the reserves to write as he did: constantly, sharp-mindedly, often brilliantly.

We formalized a lot of our thinking about how narrative works in conversations with each other, to the point that I can no longer pick out which of the things we theorized about are mine and which are his. He held my hand when my dog died while we were teaching a writing workshop together.

Sad as I am for my own loss, and that of science fiction and fantasy readers and convention-goers everywhere, my heart goes out to his family and loved ones even more.

And dammit, Jay. Who's going to tie balloons to my ponytail now?

(photo, John Scalzi, WisCon 30, 2006.)

May. 28th, 2014

criminal minds bad shirt brigade

took a bite out the sun

"Abjure the Realm"--what was probably the very first published story (there was a complete mess of a trunk novella written in 1994. We don't talk about it.) set in the world that eventually developed into the Eternal Sky--is being reprinted in the forthcoming anthology Men In Impractical Armor... I mean, Warriors and Wizardry... along with a really impressive slate of others. Forthcoming November 11th!

(via Table of Contents: THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF WARRIORS AND WIZARDRY Edited by Sean Wallace - SF Signal)

Here’s the table of contents…

“Small Magic” by Jay Lake
“King Rainjoy’s Tears” by Chris Willrich
“A Rich Full Week” by K.J. Parker
“The Woman in Scarlet” by Tanith Lee
“Flotsam” by Bradley P. Beaulieu
“A Warrior’s Death” by Aliette de Bodard
“A Siege of Cranes” by Benjamin Rosenbaum
“Fox Bones. Many Uses.” by Alex Dally MacFarlane
“Where Virtue Lives” by Saladin Ahmed
“The Effigy Engine: A Tale of the Red Hats” by Scott Lynch
“Strife Lingers in Memory” by Carrie Vaughn
“A Sweet Calling” by Tony Pi
“The Necromancer” by N.K. Jemisin
“Golden Daughter, Stone Wife” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
“Effigy Nights” by Yoon Ha Lee
“Wearaway and Flambeau” by Matthew Hughes
“At the Edge of Dying” by Mary Robinette Kowal
“Vici” by Naomi Novik
“Abjure the Realm” by Elizabeth Bear
“The Word of Azrael” by Matthew David Surridge
“Lady of the Ghost Willow” by Richard Parks
“The Singing Spear” by James Enge
“So Deep That the Bottom Could Not Be Seen” by Genevieve Valentine
“Warrior Dreams” by Cinda Williams Chima
“The Magician and the Maid and Other Stories” by Christie Yant

May. 27th, 2014

criminal minds elle lucky

you go back, jack, do it again--

Final, full cover comps for One-Eyed Jack.


May. 25th, 2014

wire in the blood, writing shadow unit todd remorseful

in a garden full of angels you won't ever be alone

The second to last episode of Shadow Unit is up now. It's called "Asylum," and it's be C. L. Polk and me.

It's taken 7 years, 10 writers, 3 editors, 1 illustrator, 1 photographer, 2 geeks, 1 book designer, 1 accountant, and 1 web ghoul.

And countless fans.

And we're actually about to bring this motherfucker home. 

Tonight, on Shadow Unit.

Everything changes.

I mean, even more so than usual.

May. 24th, 2014

criminal minds fate

kept a shine on the bar with the sleeves of our coats

I was feeling profoundly depressed about the UCSB shootings and equally depressed about the number of men who just don't get why women are horribly upset and scared by this. Then I found the #YesallWomen hashtag on twitter and it helped.

Because, well, yes. Not all men are predators. But every woman you know has had experience with men who are. Every woman. Me. Your mother. That lady in the upstairs apartment with the dog with the annoying clicky nails ALL NIGHT ALL DAMN NIGHT PUT BOOTS ON THAT THING.

All of us.

I'm not even talking about rape or threats of violence here, though of course that's part of it. It's not just being taught from an early age that we're prey animals, and we always have to be ready to fight or flee. It's that creepy fifty-something guy who tried to pick me up on a city bus when I was fourteen. The fellow writer who stared down my shirt after his third glass of wine. The mail carrier who pulled over to ask me out on a date, and when I told him I was married, argued with me. (Notice, I told him "I'm married," not "That's flattering, but no thank you." Because belonging to another man is safer than saying no.) There was the airport shuttle driver who bugged me for my phone number all the way from Hartford to New York, until another passenger entered the van.

That wasn't scary at all. Nuh uh.

I'm not saying that it's always inappropriate to pay a compliment. I was never offended by the guy who stopped me in the supermarket to tell me I had pretty hair and carried myself well, and it brightened his day--because he so patently did not want anything from me. He was complimenting, not coming on.

We can tell the difference.

If we're conventionally attractive, we're abused when we refuse to cater to men--when we don't want to be bothered when we're reading on the train or give them our phone number if they stop us on the street. If we're dyky or fat or old, we're abused for being ugly lesbo bitches, which is to say, not fuckable. Because being fuckable is the only excuse a woman has to exist, to these dudes.

It makes me fucking tired. It makes a lot of women tired.

And what you're hearing right now is a lot of tired women asking for a little fucking respect. If you haven't behaved that way, well then. It's not directed at you, is it?

If you have behaved that way?

Maybe this could be a learning experience, then.

May. 21st, 2014

sf farscape d'argo's your daddy

now we're gonna be face to face

I ran twelve miles today. Because virtue is not actually it's own reward, I have invented a cocktail.

2 ounces bourbon
.75 ounce creme de menthe
three drops Bitter End Thai bitters

Serve over ice, garnished with mint, kaffir lime leaves, and a slice of fresh ginger.

Here's a bonus picture of my dog hugging his stuffed Lambchop.

May. 20th, 2014

spies mfu facepalm napoleon

sorry absinthe you're much too slow

I've been reading the ongoing, nuanced, thoughtful, intensely personal discussion of the use of dialect in stories in science fiction and fantasy with a lot of interest. It's a good discussion, and the inimitable Sofia Samatar (Hugo and Campbell nominee: read her stuff) has a good link roundup and reaction post here.

I also found LaShawn Wanak's post, here, particularly moving.

LaShawn is a former student of mine who has since become a friend, so what she has to say speaks very personally to me. For one thing, I'm certainly guilty of counseling my students to avoid "eye dialect" under most circumstances. By eye dialect, what we generally mean is writing that attempts to phoneticize dialect, and which is often used for comedic effect or to represent a particular character as an ill-spoken hick or foreigner. (Think the inevitable bumpkins in Shakespeare.)

Too often, "eye dialect" is used to mock a marginalized group, and that's (a) not funny and (b) distracting to the reader and (c) just plain rude.

But the current discussion has exposed to me a particular kyriarchal shortcoming in my own thinking on the issue, because what I've often done when asked, "Okay, how do we represent dialect?" is counsel being faithful to the rhythms of the speech, but using more or less standard spelling, or standard variations of spelling. (such as "gonna," "ain't," "chillun," "feets") and also avoiding bumpkinizing characters by use of eye dialect.

And I always make a point of stressing to my students that "There are no rules in fiction writing, only techniques that do or don't work in any given circumstance." And of pointing out cases where dialect is used well and strongly--Nalo Hopkinson has a fabulous ear for dialect, for example, and so does Nisi Shawl. You can settle in and hear the voice speaking in your ear.

I think where I've failed my students is that I've failed to stress that if you're using your own dialect, or one you've extensively researched and/or lived with, then the advice to avoid eye dialect absolutely does not apply. That yes, eye dialect will alienate some readers who aren't willing to do the work to get through it, and that those are the choices that every writer makes every single time they decide between transparency (ease of reading) and complexity/nuance/depth/shades and layers*. But that sometimes it's worth losing a few readers to say something truer and less whitewashed, less commodified. 

The writer, having developed through practice and experience sufficient tools and skill to control their point of aim--gets to choose that point of aim and hopefully even hit it.

And as Amal El-Mohtar points out in her essay here, sometimes the writer's true voice, truly represented, offers a much stronger and richer experience to readers willing to do the work.

So I think I owe LaShawn and my other students an apology on that front. 



*Both are literary values, you see--and while they are not diametrically opposed, they are in tension with one another. 

Note 1: Speaking as somebody who has studied perhaps a little more linguistics, anthropology, and English literature than is healthy for the human mind: standard or "proper" English is a social construct intended as a measure of class control and segregation. It doesn't exist as a real, unconstructed thing. The linguist's viewpoint is that "correct" language is any language as spoken by a fluent native speaker. The end.

Note 2: This discussion is also interesting for me from a personal point of view, because I am the grandaughter of immigrants, and being well-spoken was of Very High Value in the house I grew up in. My grandfather learned English when he was 12, and spoke it with precision and power, because being well-spoken was recognized as the way to get ahead among the immigrant communities in New York City in the nineteen-teens and nineteen-twenties. My native speech was therefore crisp enough that I was often mistaken as an immigrant by other immigrants. And when I moved to Nevada, suddenly that same diction (and my traces of a Yankee accent, which basically only show up on one word out of a hundred--water, quarter, roof, root. library--and in certain dialectical choices) marked me out for fairly severe mockery and a certain amount of reflexive prejudice. My participle endings have suffered as a result, which I sort of mourn.

Note 3: I've also damn well used dialect in my own work, extensively, where I felt i could represent it well. Often with the help of a native informant. Often, I have myself chosen to downplay it, either by using standardized spelling (what I refer to as the nature-identical Elizabethan flavoring in Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth, for example) or by being somewhat sparing in what I chose to accentuate as with Razorface in the Jenny Casey books and Don in Whiskey and Water.

Some of this sparingness is because I know I don't have a particularly good ear for accents and dialect, and I'd rather go easy than get it wrong. That also makes me work extra hard at it when I use it, and yell for help a lot.

But I have used it when it felt necessary, in "The Cold Blacksmith" and in Karen Memory and probably in a hundred other places that currently don't spring to mind.

May. 11th, 2014

jarts: internet lawn defense league

now i'm looking in the mirror all the time wondering what she don't see in me

Apparently it's time again for the annual "Kids these days don't read Heinlein" argument, which--to be honest--I don't even understand why it's an argument. Kids these days don't read Heinlein, and you know what? That's their privilege. Heinlein doesn't speak in any meaningful way to their concerns. (As a heavy teenaged Heinlein reader my own self, I, personally, am a little sadder that kids these days don't read Zelazny, Le Guin, Delany, and Bradbury, because I think they'd have more to offer that's relevant, including less tiresome pontificating--as well as a larger serving of actual writing chops--but I also suspect that the people now sadly bewailing the long slide of Heinlein out of the canon of indispensable authors got a ration in their own youths about being insufficiently invested in E.E. "Doc" Smith. Though I also suspect the generation gap was less, for reasons I will explore below.)

Back in the dim mists of history, about ten years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the internet and Livejournal was where the cool kids hung out, I used to get into arguments with certain people who opined that there were no young SFF writers. I would present them with a list of SF writers under 35 (myself included) only to be told that they meant writers under thirty, or maybe twenty-five, and that those writers didn't count because they weren't "Hard SF Writers" (whatever the hell that means), and because they weren't being published in Asimov's and Strange Horizons (still one of the bastions of young writerdom in the SF world) didn't count.

And when I pointed out in return that Asimov's was a hard market to crack (it seems more welcoming to new writers these days), and that literary and craft standards are higher now than they were in 1940 and correspondingly it takes longer to develop a professional skillset--and that maybe the problem was that my correspondents weren't reading the markets that were publishing the young writers, I would generally find myself greeted with the wail, "Where are the Bob Silverbergs?" (Or, from slightly younger handwringers over the Incipient Death of SFF, "Where are the Neil Gaimans?!")

Way to shift a goalpoast, honey.

Because we get more than two or three prodigy geniuses in a generation. And because we can identify them from the scrum of young writers when everybody is not-quite-thirtyish and shooting rockets of possibility everywhere.

Well, I'm older now, and I'm feeling pretty safe in saying that (among many others) Scott Lynch, Seanan McGuire, and Catherynne Valente (All still only in their mid-thirties, ten years later--hell, I think Seanan wasn't even a thing yet when I was still bothering to get in these fights) have some staying power. Also, today is Sam Sykes' 30th birthday, and Max Gladstone just turned thirty last month. Happy birthday, Sam and Max.

It finally dawned on me that the people I was arguing with could not be convinced, and their opinions didn't matter anyway. The best of them, I think, were arguing out of nostalgia. They wanted stories by young writers that would make them feel the way the young Silverberg's stories made them feel when they were twenty. And that's not going to happen, frankly, because they aren't twenty anymore, and because my then-peers (and the writers who are now the generation* after me, to whom I feel an obligation as older colleague now, and how the hell did that happen?) aren't writing out of the concerns that were current and pressing in 1956.

The worst of them weren't willing to accept this new generation of writers because the lists of names I kept handing them were full of female, queer, and person of color names. Because that is what my generation of SFF writers looks like, in large part.

This was around the same time that I got into a certain amount of trouble by pointing out that many of my age-group peers don't read newer work by our older colleagues, and the older colleagues often don't read us at all. Which wasn't meant as a value judgment, but it seemed like one to many people, and no less a light that Bob Silverberg took me to task for it. (There he is again.  And as a certain recent publication of mine may seem to indicate, I have been, am, and remain a fan.)

But my point then stands: there is no due diligence to be a fan. And trying to force fans to consume stuff that doesn't speak to them is, well, pointless and alienating and will only drive them away.

I do feel like the standard is a little more exacting for professionals in the field--writers and critics owe it to ourselves to have a foundation in the history of the genre. But I will be the first to say that that is our own responsibility, and our choice, and how we handle our own professional development is our own lookout. I'm going to tend to give more weight to the opinions of a critic who demonstrates herself to be knowledgeable and well-read--but that also means being well-read among current writers, and I'm afraid we probably have as many critics in the field who judge everything against the standard of Poul Anderson as we do critics who haven't read very much published before 1990.

(1990 was twenty-four years ago, by the way, for people my age and older. Just a little bullet of perspective there. When I was a freshman in high school, the equivalent year would have been 1961.)

So I fully encourage people who want to develop a sense of the history of the genre to go back and read, say, Fritz Leiber. Hell, I regularly read Fritz Leiber, and I'm hugely fond of his work. Not in the least, because Fafhrd is a great big fluffy feminist. (Mouser is friendzoned forever though; man, what a douchecanoe.) But even with Leiber, who wrote strong female characters with agendas and agency, I have to keep myself firmly in rein sometimes and remember that he was writing for a predominately white heterosexual male audience that was un-accepting of seeing anybody else placed in the role of protagonist. The white dude always has to save the day, no matter how cool everybody else is. And he usually has to get laid along the way.

And you know, if you don't want to read that, who the hell am I to tell you otherwise?

Which leads me to a point about privilege, before I end this rambling dissertation and go for a nice long run before it gets too hot outside. I too-often see (almost always white, almost always male) commentors and bloggers saying that they don't have a problem reading books in which the protagonists are aliens, or elves, or women, or black people--so why is these so much fuss about the need for diversity and representation in literature? Isn't it about getting out of your own skin and seeing somebody else's point of view?

Other people have tackled this far more in depth than I have time or patience for, but I'm going to take a swing.

It's easy to say that when one has never found one's self in a position of being disenfranchised and erased. When one has that safety of an entire world that considers you the default to return to. When what one is is assumed to be normal and comfortable.

All I can think is that somebody who says he's not worried about representation has never found himself placed constantly in an object position, which is, quite frankly, unpersoning. He's never been told over and over again that he exists only as an accessory to somebody else's story.

Stories are important. Stories are the mechanism that our pattern-making brains use as an engine to understand the world. And our stories need to show all people that they have an important place in that world, and that they are the heroes of their own narratives, not the color in somebody else's.

And I think writers with privilege in any given situation--be it gender, gender presentation, sexuality, race, class, ableness, what-have-you--have the responsibility to make space in our work for readers who do not have those privileges. And I also think that we have the even more important responsibility to make space for the actual voices of other writers who come from different backgrounds, and that the onus upon us to read widely is even more important when talking about writers of our own generation who come from less-widely-represented backgrounds than it is when talking about writers from the depths of the 1930s.

Everybody deserves stories.

And to anyone who is tempted to argue with me on that point: Hey. Isn't it about getting out of your own skin and seeing somebody else's point of view?

*writer generations are a funny thing. They go by publication date rather than chronological age. Which makes me the same writer-age, roughly, as Scott Lynch and as Peter Watts, even though there's about a sixteen-year spread on our physical ages.

(Comments are screened, because I'm going for a run and I have better things to do.)

May. 9th, 2014

writing plot octopus

the kids of tomorrow don't need today

A cool thing came in the mail today, which is to say, my Random House royalty statements. Royalty statements are kind of fascinating, not just because it's how I get paid, but because I can do things like watch the market share of ebooks burgeon over time. Or that mysterious thing where book two of a series sells fewer copies than either book one or three. (How does that even work?)

This was a particular good batch of royalty statements, though, because it came with the news that, nearly nine years to the day after it was published, Scardown has sold through its advance. (Hammered sold through much much more quickly, but it was my first novel and it had a lower advance--and frankly, better early sales.)


These books did super-well for first novels. They won me a Campbell (not a Hugo) award, and they also collectively as a trilogy (since they were all published in the same year) won the Locus award for best first novel. Hammered is in its fifth printing, the last time I checked.

For those of you who have joined me in the years since they were published, the Jenny Casey series concerns the adventures of Canadian Master Warrant Officer (Ret.) Genevieve Marie Casey, a foulmouthed fiftyish disabled vet who is seriously out of fucks to give, in a post-climate change future in which I anticipated smartphones but made the mistake of using mid-line 2002 predictions of what we could expect in terms of global warming effects.

Jenny still has my favorite voice of any character I've ever written. There are spies, badass older women, teenage girls who think they know how to save the world, morally ambiguous antagonists, space travel, perfect storms, an A.I. who thinks he's Richard Feynman, a loving homage to Jonesy the Cat, and my warning shot across the bow to anybody who thinks any of my characters might ever have plot immunity.

Still, talk about a slow burn, right? January 2015 will be Hammered's 10th anniversary, and all three books were published in the same year--2005. They'd be in fifth grade, if they were people. How does that even happen?

The thing that made me laugh out loud and text my friends, though, was that I have learned that Worldwired is $58.11 (fifty-eight dollars and eleven cents) from earning out its advance.

That's approximately a hundred (100) copies at mass market paperback rates.

And so I would like, in a completely self-serving fashion, to remark that the entire series makes a great gift*!

*for any of your cyberpunk, near-future thriller, or military-SF-loving friends.
criminal minds diana reid crazy

brace yourself for elimination

So, first things first. I'll be at Annie's Book Stop in Worcester tomorrow (10 May 2014) signing Steles of the Sky and other things, reading stuff, answering questions, and hanging out. I'd love to see some of you there!

But that's not what I came to talk to you about today.

I came to you today to talk about characters.

And something I've been figuring out for the past couple of weeks, which is the thing that makes good characters--at least for me--and why I find a lot of characterizations to be flat and two-dimensional.

Shadow Unit is part of what taught me this, actually, and working with a fistful of other writers who all have slightly different concepts of who these people are. This creates characters with complexity and depth, who have different aspects when squinted at from different angles.

A lot of characters I encounter, well--they're too damned consistent. If they're competent, they're good at everything. If they're goofy, they're never serious, even when it would make sense. They only have one defining trait or hook, and because of that they always exhibit that single trait.

Real people don't work that way. We're messy. But we're messy with patterns; we're messy but we have tracks we fall into. Things that we reliably like or dislike. Buttons that can be pushed.

But we're still surprising, and we have a lot more than 64 facets.
criminal minds garcia plan b

now dance fucker dance man he never had a chance

So, it's true. The penultimate episode of Shadow Unit, "Asylum," (by Chelsea Polk and also me) is in final edits, and we're hard at work on the final episode of the best horror/S.F./cop TV show that never was: "Something's Gotta Eat T. rexes."


Emma, Will, Leah, Amanda, Chelsea, Sarah, Holly, Stephen, Lauren, Kyle, and I have been working on this show in varying capacities since (in most cases) 2007. And here we are, at the finish line, seven years later. With five "seasons" of a virtual T.V. show under our belt, and (based on ebook sales) thousands of satisfied or at least pissed-off fans.

Well, we have a special treat for the series finale. Not only is this going to be what I believe the Hollywood types call "explosive," (heh. Heh. Heh heh heh.) but we have a Special Guest Writer joining Emma and I to pen it.

It's somebody I've wanted to work with for a long time, and I am kind of beside myself with squeee about how awesome thing is going to be.

But I'm not going to tell you yet who it is. Because I'm an asshole, and I'm going to give everybody the weekend to think it over.

Here's your hint: "Full House."

*snickers up sleeve*

Yeah. This is going to be fun.

May. 5th, 2014

bad girls  mae west

open season on the open seas

I come bearing reprint news! The hits keep coming!

Check out this awesome pile of books!

(Not pictured: Magic City: Recent Spells, edited by Paula Guran. Also, Notice how subtly I slip a plug for the Dozois/Martin edited Rogues in there, seeing as how my boyfriend has a story in it. Or possibly I'm just gloating over having scored an ARC.

Armageddon Rag is in the pile because I happen to be reading it currently.)

If you have a shortage of stuff to read, I can offer two (2) reprint stories in anthologies, a translation, and an essay to go with two (2) new stories in anthologies (as previously discussed) also coming out very shortly.

First off, a Swedish translation of "The Ghost Makers" is forthcoming in the online zine Einhorningen. I'm looking forward to that! Also, my essay "Dear Science Fiction, I'm Glad We Had This Talk," is being reprinted in the anthology Far Orbit, edited by Bascomb James. 

And! But! Also!

Here are a couple more ToCs to pique your interest.

Table of Contents (authors in alphabetical order):

“Paranormal Romance,” Christopher Barzak
“The Slaughtered Lamb,” Elizabeth Bear
“The Land of Heart’s Desire,” Holly Black
“Seeing Eye,” Patricia Briggs
“De la Tierra,” Emma Bull
“Curses,” Jim Butcher
“Dog Boys,” Charles de Lint
“Snake Charmer,” Amanda Downum
“Street Wizard,” Simon R. Green
“-30-,” Caitlín R. Kiernan
“Stone Man,”
Nancy Kress “Pearlywhite”
Mark Laidlaw & John Shirley
“In the Stacks,” Scott Lynch
“Spellcaster 2.0,” Jonathan Maberry
“Kabu Kabu,” Nnedi Okorafor
“Stray Magic,” Diana Peterfreund
“The Woman Who Walked with Dogs,” Mary Rosenblum”
“Wallamelon,” Nisi Shawl “Grand Central Park,” Delia Sherman
“Words,” Angela Slatter
“Alchemy,” Lucy Sussex
“A Voice Like a Hole,” Catherynne M. Valente
“The Arcane Art of Misdirection,” Carrie Vaughn
“Thief of Precious Things,” A.C. Wise

Table of Contents:

"Only the End of the World Again" by Neil Gaiman
"The Bleeding Shadow" by Joe R. Lansdale
"Love is Forbidden, We Croak & Howl" by Caitlín R. Kiernan
"Bulldozer" by Laird Barron
"A Quarter to Three" by Kim Newman
"Inelastic Collisions" by Elizabeth Bear
"That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable" by Nick Mamatas
"Red Goat Black Goat" by Nadia Bulkin
"Jar of Salts" and "Haruspicy" by Gemma Files
"Black is the Pit From Pole to Pole" by Howard Waldrop and Steven Utley
"I've Come to Speak with You Again" by Karl Edward Wagner
"The Sect of the Idiot" by Thomas Ligotti
"The Dappled Things" by William Browning Spencer
"The Same Deep Waters as You" by Brian Hodge
"Remnants" by Fred Chappell
"Waiting at the Cross Roads" by Steve Rasnic Tem
"Children of the Fang" by John Langan
ace the wonder dog

my dog is a muppet rock star.

Ace got his clip today. He's as happy to be naked as any three-year-old.

Here's what came off of him:

Apr. 29th, 2014

can't sleep books will eat me

just a pinch between your cheek and gum

I'm at Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing, being interviewicated! They're also giving away a complete set of the Eternal Sky books.

I'll be at Mo*Con in Indianapolis this weekend! And signing at both Pandemonium in Cambridge, MA and Annie's Book Stop in Worcester, MA the week after.

So without further ado, here's my current honeydew list.

travel and appearances 2014:

January 10th at 6 pm: MIT SFS: Cambridge, Massachusetts (with Scott)
February 13-15, 2014: Boskone: Boston, Massachusetts

March 14-16, 2014: Tucson Festival of Books: Tucson, Arizona
March 22-24, 2014: Vericon: Harvard Univerity, Cambridge Massachusetts

April 17-20, 2014: Minicon: Minneapolis, Minnesota
April 25-27th, 2014: RavenCon: North Chesterfield, Virginia (Guest of Honor)
May 1-5, 2014: Mo*Con: Indianapolis, Indiana (Guest of Honor with Scott)\
May 8, 2014: Signing,  Pandemonium Books, Cambridge, Massachusetts 7-9 pm
May 10, 2014: Signing, Annie's Book Stop, Worcester, Massachusetts 3-5 PM
June 5-9, 2014: Phoenix Comicon: Phoenix, Arizona (Guest of Honor with Squeecast)

June 20-23, 2014: 4th Street Fantasy: Minneapolis, Minnesota
July 3-7, 2014: ConVergence: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Scandinavian Micro-Tour!
July 11-13, 2014: Finncon: Jyväskylä, Finland (Guest of Honor with special guest Scott Lynch)
Then between July 16th and 22nd, Scott and I will be visiting

  • SF Bokhandeln Stockholm (July 16th)

  • SF Bokhandeln Gothenberg (July 18th)

  • SF Bokhandeln Malmo (July 19th)

  • Fantastik Copenhagen (July 21st)

August 8-10, 2014: Nine Worlds, London, England
August 14-17, 2014: Worldcon: London, England
October 9-10, 2014: NYC ComiCon, New York, New York (Thursday and Friday only!)
October 31-November 2, 2014: ICON: Iowa City, Iowa (Guest of Honor with Scott)
November 14-16, 2014: Windycon: Lombard, Illinois (Guest of Honor with Squeecast)

Honeydew list!


Karen Memory: 31 January 2014 (tick tock)
OWW review: 15 February 2014
Cyborg story: 28 February 2014
Sekrit project: February 2014
Book proposal: Eternal Sky 4-6
Sekrit Projekt #2
Revise Karen Memory: 1 April 2014
OWW review: 15 March 2014
"This Chance Planet": 31 March 2014
OWW review: 15 April 2014
Flash fiction: 15 April 2014
"Asylym": 1 May 2014
"Something's Gotta Eat T. rexes": 1 June 2014
Karen Memory copy edits: 3 July 2014
Chimera poem: 1 June 2014

Apocalypse story: 30 June 2014
Storium World: 15 July 2014
"A Time to Reap": 1 August 2014
An Apprentice to Elves: Autumn 2014
Other apocalypse story:  31 December 2014
"Flush": 2014?
"Steel": 2014

Award reading and judging
Other award reading and judging


Eternal Sky #4
Ancestral Night
Eternal Sky #5
Untitled Space Opera
Eternal Sky #6

No fixed deadline:

Bard troll story

(unless its name is actually Salt Water)
Unsuitable Metal
Untitled Gangland Urban Fantasy That Keeps Bugging Me
"Untitled Space Opera Thingy" aka "Periastron"
"Posthumous Jonson"
"On Safari in R'lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera"
"Patience and Fortitude"


Apr. 25th, 2014

wicked fairy bowie

but if memories were all i sang i'd rather drive a truck.

Tyop du jour:  "Alfgyfa had often wanted to put a wicket over one of them to judge height, as you might with a hunting god."

Apr. 23rd, 2014

rengeek player king

if you gotta play at garden parties i wish you a lotta luck.

I bring you publications and stuff!

THE BOOK OF SILVERBERG! Edited by Gardner Dozois and William Schaffer. Out next week. and full of stories and essays inspired by the work of Robert Silverberg. Including one by me!

Table of Contents

Greg Bear—A Tribute
Barry Malzberg—An Appreciation
Kage Baker—In Old Pidruid
Kristine Kathryn Rusch—Voyeuristic Tendencies
Mike Resnick—Bad News from the Vatican
Caitlin R.Kiernan—The Jetsam of Disremembered Mechanics
Connie Willis—Silverberg, Satan, and Me…
Elizabeth Bear—The Hand is Quicker
Nancy Kress—Eaters
James Patrick Kelly—The Chimp of the Popes
Tobias S. Buckell—Ambassador to the Dinosaurs

Publishers Weekly liked it a lot, and gave it a review which included the following: "Standouts include Mike Resnick’s “Bad News from the Vatican,” which follows up on the idea of a robot pope, and Elizabeth Bear’s “The Hand Is Quicker” which explores the nature of addiction and perception in a society obsessed with virtual reality." 

Lois Tilton at Locus reviewed it positively and says of my story, "...cynical move worthy of the master at his most depressing." (I have just been compared to Robert Silverberg and not found wanting. This is a career highlight.)

And Library Journal says, “Standouts include Connie Willis’s adorably weird ‘Silverberg, Satan, and Me or Where I Got the Idea for My Silverberg Story for this Anthology’ and Elizabeth Bear’s bleak future of false facades ‘The Hand is Quicker.’ …These stories will resonate most with readers familiar with Silverberg’s work, often being playful riffs on his famous stories or novels, but the tales can be enjoyed on their own merits as well.” [full review not available online]

Well done us, I'd say. It's available April 30th.

Also out soon--May 13th!--is DEAD MAN'S HAND, an anthology of Weird West tales edited by John Joseph Adams.

Table of Contents:

Introduction—John Joseph Adams
The Red-Headed Dead—Joe R. Lansdale
The Old Slow Man and His Gold Gun From Space—Ben H. Winters
Hellfire on the High Frontier—David Farland
The Hell-Bound Stagecoach—Mike Resnick
Stingers and Strangers—Seanan McGuire
Bookkeeper, Narrator, Gunslinger—Charles Yu
Holy Jingle—Alan Dean Foster
The Man With No Heart—Beth Revis
Wrecking Party—Alastair Reynolds
Hell from the East—Hugh Howey
Second Hand—Rajan Khanna
Alvin and the Apple Tree—Orson Scott Card
Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle—Elizabeth Bear
Strong Medicine—Tad Williams
Red Dreams—Jonathan Maberry
Bamboozled—Kelley Armstrong
Sundown—Tobias S. Buckell
La Madre Del Oro—Jeffrey Ford
What I Assume You Shall Assume—Ken Liu
The Devil’s Jack—Laura Anne Gilman
The Golden Age—Walter Jon Williams
Neversleeps—Fred Van Lente
Dead Man’s Hand—Christie Yant

This includes my story "Madame Damnable's Sewing Circle," the seed that eventually grew into Karen Memory (out from Tor next year). So if you'd like a little foretaste of that--and tastes of the Weird West from all these other wonderful writers--here's a great opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

Publishers' Weekly is equally complimentary of this one, and calls my contribution "impeccably crafted." They've also got me gagging to read the Lansdale, Liu, and Williams contributions.


Apr. 21st, 2014

comics invisibles lord fanny

and it's such a bloody drag to have to rebuild civilization all over again

What writers get up to when we're supposed to be encouraging each other to work...

stillsostrange: Can I still say "sullen red light" or is that overused?
fadethecat: It doesn’t strike me as cliche.
fadethecat: Though it might depend on context.
matociquala: It might be overused.
matociquala: Why is the light always sullen?
stillsostrange: Alternative?
matociquala: Why never morose?
stillsostrange: Heh
stillsostrange: Because it's grumpy.
fadethecat: Grouchy?
fadethecat: It could be a grumpy red light.
fadethecat: That would not seem cliche at all.
fadethecat: Misanthropic red light.
matociquala: A hangry red light
fadethecat: I would fear the hangry red light.
matociquala: We all would.
stillsostrange: heeee
matociquala: Crabby red light. Put-upon orange light
stillsostrange: ARGH
fadethecat: Contumacious purple light.
stillsostrange: Oh. The light could be purple.
stillsostrange: But then it can't be bruised.
matociquala: welted?
stillsostrange: Inflamed?
matociquala: a purple and red light suffering from cellulitis and blood poisoning.
stillsostrange: No wonder it's sullen.

Apr. 16th, 2014

always winter

now i'm calling all citizens from all over the world, this is captain america calling

It's snowing.

I guess this is going to be a thing now.

Heya, Jadis.

In other news, why hasn't the Internet made me a Captain America: The Winter Soldier fan vid to this yet?


Apr. 15th, 2014

writing patience

you must take the a train to go to sugar hill

I just invented a cocktail name, and it was so good I had to invent a cocktail to go with it.

It's a Manhattan variant--specifically, a variant of the Manhattanhenge, also known as a Black Manhattan, in which Amaro is substituted for vermouth. This uses bourbon in place of the traditional rye, because that boy I like prefers bourbon.

I like bourbon too, as it happens.

It's my reward for a stupidly productive two days.

I call this, "Persephone Takes the A Train," and it's in honor of the Storium kickstarter and my Jazz Age/Harlem Renaissance jazzpunk stretch goal.

2 parts bourbon (decent bourbon, please)
1 part Amaro
1 part grenadine (make and use real grenadine, which is just pomegranate juice cooked with an equal weight of sugar to make a syrup. If you use that corn syrup and red dye #5 shit, Persephone is going to look you in the eye and go right back to her mama.)
2 dashes orange bitters (Bitter Truth makes a lovely orange cardamom one that works well)
half a clementine or mandarin orange

Put the bourbon, Amaro, grenadine, and bitters in a lowball glass. Swirl to mix. Squeeze half a clementine into the glass and then drop the crushed fruit in so the peel oils infuse the drink.

Add a little ice.

Enjoy in a leisurely fashion while reading Langston Hughes and listening to Ella Fitzgerald.

I'll start.

phil ochs troubador

we don't need luck. we've got guns.

The awesome news just keeps on coming.

1) I just sold my Moscow metro dog story, "This Chance Planet," to Ellen Datlow at Tor.com. No word yet on when you can read it, but soon, my lovelies. Soooon.

2) Zombies, Run! Season three kicks off tomorrow, April 16th. I wrote a story for it! So did Janni Lee Simner! So did some other folks you might know. Ahem.

3) Here I am at Mary Robinette Kowal's blog talking about My Favorite Bit of Steles of the Sky.

4) I'm a stretch goal for the Storium kickstarter. This is an awesome online interactive storytelling/roleplaying engine with a variety of settings. I'm providing jazzpunk.

5) timprov's War for the Oaks reader project book kickstarter. Awesome photos of awesome people reading an awesome book in an awesome city.

Apr. 12th, 2014

bear by san

if i fuck it up, that's cool. that's art.

This is shameless shilling post where I urge you, Citizen In Good Standing Of The Internets, to go vote for the Locus Award and the Gemmell Award.

Possibly even for my work.

Or for somebody else's work that you think is awesome.

The Gemmell Award closes at midnight GMT, 13 April 2014, and you can vote here.

The Locus Award closes on tax day (USA) and you can vote here. I'm a write-in candidate on this one.

The future is in your hands.

Go vote.
spies mfu bolsheviks _ naominovik

you think i want to be understood

Hey look, here I am being interviewed by Geek's Guide to the Galaxy--about worldbuilding, the Eternal Sky, and, er, being wrong.

Now to get some words, and do another interview.

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