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bear by san

March 2017



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froud tapestry

Look, more questions! (The place to ask yours is here.)

42.) Do you think the growth of D&D and other games has been a good or bad thing for fantasy/speculative literature?

I think D&D and other FRPGs owe their existence to Tolkein. I'm not prepared to make a value judgment on whether they've been good or bad--they certainly haven't hurt the fantasy authors making a living there. But I suspect the gateway more often swings from books to RPGs than the other way around. (I've been a D&D player since 6th grade. And a fantasy reader and writer for somewhat longer. Let's face it: I bought it because there was a dragon on the box.)

Shockingly, tabletop FRPGs are even more of a niche market than fantasy novels.

43.) How sure (or unsure) were you of 'All the Windwracked Stars' before you set it aside and worked on the other 16 stories you sold before coming back to it? ...I guess I'm just interested in knowing what you saw in your first completed novel, what it took for you to put it down, and what made you come back?

I'm never very sure of anything, honestly. I still have a huge case of imposter syndrome, though it's starting to wear off a little.

What I saw in it? Hmm. I dunno. A story I desperately hoped was worth telling, I think. I came back to it because I still liked the story and the world and the characters, and I felt like it was worth trying again. Putting things down is easy: there's always something new and shiny I could be working on. *g* But again, I am a writer who likes finishing things.

44.) I just read A Companion to Wolves for the second time. It's one of my favorite of both your and Sarah's. It's been described as subverting "the telepathic animal companion subgenre" and I was hoping you could explain that a bit. I do see a subversion of tropes in most of your other books, but I may have read this one with too much glee to catch it.

Boy. I'd be hard-pressed to find something about the book that I wouldn't consider a subversion of some common fantasy trope. We've put a straight male character in a traditionally feminizing role (the Arranged Marriage). We've taken the typical wish-fulfillment ego-gratification yes-man companion animal and made her the dominant partner in the relationship. Also, there's no perfect communication and understanding between man and animal: instead, it's all struggle and approximations and failures, as you might expect between two different species. There's no instant sacred bond: the bonds have to be built and maintained with effort. 

We've also taken a bunch of high-fantasy tropes and rewritten them with beard lice and mud and backbreaking domestic labor. We've taken the trope of companion-animal-mediated-best!sex!evar! and turned it kind of horrific and nasty and very, very unpleasant and humiliating for the protagonist. There's the usual trope of "Once you join the elite society of those with companion animals, you will be vindicated in your adolescent angst and life will be much better and so will the food," and frankly our protagonist's life is an awful lot nicer <i>before</i> he joins the wulfcarls. He doesn't find true love or contentment: instead, his personal relationships suffer greatly because of the demands of his job, and he winds up making huge compromises he's not really happy about.

...you know. Like that. There's more, about the trolls and svartalfar (and I mean, if the svartalfar aren't a bit unlike yer usual fantasy elf, I've been reading books imported from another universe), but for a mostly nonspoilery overview, it'll do.

45.) Have you read any of Bujold's Sharing Knife books? What did you think of them?

Have not. Bujold is an excellent writer, but the focus of her work doesn't hit my narrative kinks very well. And a primary romantic element is pretty much a guarantee a book won't work for me. (I don't really enjoy either romance or horror plots. I'm much more a fan of thriller and detective plots.)

46.) Do you think that being too introverted/hermit-y hurts one's writing? I.e., is there a certain amount of time one should spend among real people to be able to write characters that seem like real people?

"Should"? I hate that word so much. *g* I think you should do whatever works for you. My writing partner is pretty much an anchorite, and she seems to do pretty well. *g* (Hi, Sarah!) I actually got amazing amounts of writing done when I was living in Vegas and almost never saw anybody. But I'm an introvert, and I get stressed out if I have to spend too much time around folks. It's draining for me.

I figure you should do whatever works for you. And if it's not working, do somebody else. I know writers who have to have a social environment to work--they go to libraries or coffee shops. Me, I like to wall myself up with a cask of Amontillado and a laptop.

47.) How did Cat come to live with you?

The PC is a volunteer. She showed up on my doorstep about fourteen years ago, six months old, terrified, and suffering from the beginning stages of distemper. She'd obviously been abused (she used to duck whenever you reached or moved toward her, and she still hates being picked up). My then-cohabitant adopted her, and when he moved out, she stayed behind. Since then, she's moved across country with me, and generally been the single constant in my life.

48.) What's the most interesting bit of trivia or odd knowledge you've learned this week?

Cholera bacillus in liquid culture will form a scum on top of the culture medium that can be observed writhing with the naked eye.

Yeah, gross, huh?

49.) I have a question: I know alot of authors will go out and do book signings, make appearances, do publicity stunts etc. to make contact with the legions known as "fans" and to promote their books to promote sales for proftit so everyone's happy. Have you ever made any appearances at book shops for signings or other shiny things? (I'm not counting conventions here.)

I cheerfully do signings when I'm in the neighborhood of a specialty book store. (Mysterious Galaxy, Pandemonium, Uncle Hugo's, Bakka, etc.) But I've never been an important enough writer for a publisher to send me out on a book tour, and I am unconvinced there's any point in financing little mini book tours on my own: it seems like a great deal of expense and stress and it seems to me, from observation, that return for midlist authors on such efforts is pretty marginal.

My legions of fans usually amount to the, oh, fifteen or twenty people (Sometimes fewer. *g*) who turn up for any given signing. Many of whom are usually personal or internet friends who took pity on me.

50.) This is prompted in large part by your SU work but also by conversations we've had on a number of occasions about television. But I have wondered, would you contemplate ever writing for that medium?

I guess subsidiary questions to that would be 1) any currently airing or previously aired show you wish you could have written for and 2) if you could design a television show that would perfectly suit your narrative kinks, what would it be?

It is easily possible that somebody could wave money under my nose, and I would cheerfully go write for TV if that happened. However, I admit, I don't have the energy or patience for dealing with trying to break into a new market from the ground floor, or for dealing with networks and producers, or for pursuing the market. (etc etc etc.) Also, I don't want to live in California.

And it's absolutely possible that the bottom will fall completely out of the novel market in my lifetime, and I'll have to go find another way to make a living telling stories (television, video games, whatever). In which case, you know, I'll suck it up and do what I need to do. But writing for TV is not a driving passion for me the way writing novels is.

A TV show that suits my narrative kinks perfectly? Shadow Unit, of course. *g* Except if Hollywood did it, I bet even money that they'd whitewash and straightify the cast something fierce.

That said, I'd totally love to have written for The Man from UNCLE, Farscape, or Criminal Minds. I would love the chance to play with those characters and situations.

51.) Why do bad things happen to gay characters? Specifically, why is it a lot more for sexually related bad things to happen to gay characters (well, gay males) than straight male characters?

Well, it depends. I mean, I think the character of mine to whom the most sexually-related trauma occurs is a straight male, Funny thing is, because of some of that trauma, a lot of readers refuse to identify him as a straight male. Which I'm not sure has bearing on your question, but I'm also not sure it doesn't.

That's a really good and complicated question, too, and it's hard to answer in the nuanced fashion that it deserves in a forum like this.

I think that there's a trope whereby gay characters get killed off tragically a lot to reinforce the Tragedy Of Their Gayness And Evoke Pathos. (It's related to Brothers Never Make It Out Of The Horror Movie syndrome: because the gay guy or the black guy isn't usually the protagonist, you can kill 'em off to make the protagonist suffer. I suspect that's a form of unconscious rather than conscious racism, in that the writer is probably trying for diversity and instead winds up reinforcing the trope. Alas!) I think there's a lot of people who have been programmed by exposure to all these stories where the gay guy dies with Pathos Of Being Gay that they never stop to think about it.

The story goes that way. And they never stop to deconstruct it.

(Also, there is the simple fact that most perpetrators of domestic sexual violence are male. Which, you know, means that the victims are either going to be women or men who are in relationships with men.)


All right, now I really, really need to read A Companion to Wolves. :-)
I highly recommend it.
WRT medical/science stuff, a thought just occurred to me - if any Shadow Unit needs a RL forensic pathologist to bounce ideas off/ask questions of/whatever, I know someone.

Let me know.
Thank you! We might, you never know...
Apropos of nothing, I've finally started watching Criminal Minds (bought the first season on DVD recently, and watched the first four episodes last night). So you've hooked me!

I do wish, though, that Mandy Patinkin would stop walking out on shows. sighs
It's the Mandy way. *g* They wound up using it to good effect, though.

I sort of envy you: you still have Episode 6 to go. (Episode 6 is when everything changes. *g*)
It's the Mandy way. *g*

glum I know - it doesn't make me less grumpy when he does it, though - especially when I adore his characters (not to mention I love him as an actor and would like to get to see him more often). I want to shake him and say "Could you stop that, please? Stop giving life to these wonderful characters, and then leaving!"

I have a total crush on Spencer Reid. Geek or not, he's damn sexy.

Episode 6 will be tonight...in about two hours...and now trying to get through two more hours of work is going to be even harder as anticipation sets in!
"I have a total crush on Spencer Reid."

you too? :)

"Geek or not, he's damn sexy."

You say that as if the geek takes away from the sexy.
I read that and was all "ep 6, which was ep 6?"

And so I had to go look it up. :)

LDSK! awesome ep. one of the ones I'll put on just to watch that ep.

and *meep* Andrew Wilder ep. :..(
Don't know why, but this is my favorite bunch of your Q&As.

Now, back to the blechy mess that is NY civil procedure.

42.) Do you think the growth of D&D and other games has been a good or bad thing for fantasy/speculative literature?

I'm tempted to think there can bad influences from RPGs - when some fantasy novels read like they were written by rolling dice.

I exclude in-game-universe novels here.
Which is strange, since most game publishers don't accept fiction that looks like that.

A large portion of the game designers now want to also write short stories and novels. We get our practice writing short snippets of stories in our game assignments. Not great for learning plotting, but at least we can work on dialogue and description.

I actuallly like the story snippets that appear in the gaming books (e.g. Vampire TM & Shadowrun - albeit, in my case, 2nd Ed versions), and it is something I have taken to doing when I am writing scenarios for games I run (or at least, would, if I ever had the time). I like it as a way of introducing the style/feel of the game 'verse. I've sometimes wanted to read more of those stories, but I rarely buy/read in-game-universe novels. I've also written stories to fill in the gaps where one of my PCs has taken an extended break from an ongoing campaign. My former GM loved those, because I always left her hooks to screw with my character later :)

As for things that sound like they were written with dice, I was mostly thinking of a certain popular series, rather than any game-publisher stuff (hint - begins with S, ends with A) - I gave up reading them fairly quickly because each encounter seemed to have the sound of rolling dice in the background.
Let's face it: I bought it because there was a dragon on the box.

LOL! I was a junior in college when it came out. I bought it because the guy who ran one of the first games in town was an exceptionally cute, exceptionally nice 2nd year med student, and that was the best way of flirting with him I could think of. (I also came within 6 weeks of marrying him and then didn't, but that's a whole different and much less fun story.)
FRPGs are niche but Electronic FRPGs are huge. World of Warcraft has over 10 million subscribers, Oblivion sold more than 3 million copies.
I would call them the spiritual sucessors to the FRPGs, at least in theme, although never in experience. Nothing beats a pencil and paper RPG for working the imagination.
Well, yeah, but I don't know anything about those. I suspect that's more the computer gamer culture than the written SFF fan culture.
And they have dragons on the boxes! :)
In response to 49..30 people showing up for a NYT bestseller at my bookstore was a good showing.

But we'd get 15 or so people who showed up and bought the book no matter *who* it was.
The portrayal of the svartalf was perhaps my favorite incidental aspect of ACtW. Tin reminded me so much of Too-Ticky from the Moomintroll books, but she was just amazingly awesome in her own right, too.
This might be spoilery for A Companion to Wolves

Isolfr confused me for the longest time, because I couldn't understand how someone who enjoys sex with men (which he seems to, most of the time) would avoid it in the future. Then his "straightness" was pointed out, and he made more sense.

What I find so delightfully amazing about that character is that he seems to be an excellent example of someone without a modern sexual identity regime. That is, we call him straight, because he prefers women to men, but without the exclusivity in behavior that the modern term implies. He has a much more pragmatic approach to sex than is typical for modern ideals. He seems thoroughly pre-modern, which makes buckets of sense considering his setting.

I guess I think that calling him straight strikes me as anachronistic, because it assumes a set of identity values which his society doesn't seem to have. This subtlety in same-sex interactions is just one more reason why I utterly adore the book.
re: 50)

There are a few of us out here who are fans because you're a damn fine writer!

(Finally read Seven over the last weekend. Mmmmmmm. Need more Bear.)
Cholera bacillus in liquid culture will form a scum on top of the culture medium that can be observed writhing with the naked eye.

I saw this the first time you posted it, and did not manage to reply at the time, but I wanted to say: Why do you tell me these things? Because now I want to see that! And I should not be allowed near a dish of cholera!

Oh, and there's a bookstore or two in Seattle that might be interested in having a reading and/or signing for you while you're in town, if you're interested. I'd be happy to get you their contact info.
Sure. Thank you. *g*

(I'm like your own pocket discovery channel.)
Okay, how many of us now want to go write a horror story with a gay black main character? Raise your hands!


re: #43

Thank you for your reply. To be honest, I was just on my way back over here to apologize for that TMI hemorrhage when I saw your response. I appreciate you talking the time.


Re: #43

taking... the word is taking...

*shuts up*