Cultural attitudes toward women and POCs when writing historical fantasy

My sweet spot as a writer seems to be in historical fantasy; it’s the foundation of the Daedalus trilogy, for one, and it’s something I’m working with on another project (as yet undisclosed). I like history for a lot of reasons — in large part because history is often stranger and more interesting than a lot of things I could make up.

Yet in this course of human events, there’s a whole heap of ugly to be found, and it’s often right there with the really good, interesting stuff.

I touched on a bit of ugly briefly in The Daedalus Incident, when a young 18th century Thomas Weatherby had to contend with women persons-of-color in positions of authority and military command. The sight of Shaila Jain and Maria Diaz being in charge and wielding weapons and generally being really darn competent was something he couldn’t immediately believe. Since their 22nd century tech well outmatched his muskets, he went along with them — and only later came to realize they were just as good as any white man he’d served with.

Again, it’s a simple lesson and a brief part of Weatherby’s arc, and Shaila and Diaz faced his anachronistic viewpoint with their very typical no-nonsense approach. Had Weatherby persisted in his views longer than he did, I’m quite certain Shaila would’ve made sure he didn’t make it to The Enceladus Crisis. 

Now I’m looking at writing something much more immersive, and in a time/place in which racism, sexism and a whole heap of other -isms are an ingrained part of life and society. There are women and POCs there — by necessity an integral part of the story and by no means mere tokens — and those characters will be facing the biases of the predominant culture.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a challenge.  Continue reading

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NFL GeekPicks: Conference Championships

Last week, shortly after I published my divisional picks, fellow author and football fan Wesley Chu let it be known he disagreed with my prognostication:

Now, last weekend’s picks were pretty conservative — higher-seeded home teams across the board — but I didn’t really see the upsets happening (and I was quite wrong about Denver over Indy). So when Wes suggested a Twitter bet on ‘Boys-Pack, I took him up on it, with the winner Tweeting nice things about the loser. The result:

That last one, man. That was awesome. That’s why Wes is a successful writer, because of creativity like that. (I have no comment about band camp.)

To be fair, I would’ve been the one singing his praises if Dez Bryant’s catch-that-wasn’t ended up being a catch, but saying good things about Wes is pretty easy because he’s good people. Wes has two books coming out this year: The Rebirths of Tao, which wraps up his excellent Tao trilogy, and Time Salvager, which promises to be just as awesome. Go pre-order those now — no really, now – then come back for my championship picks below.

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Events, appearances and conventions: Find me in 2015!

TVG-cover

I love this cover so much, I’m just going to put it on any post remotely related to the book.

A few days ago, a commenter asked whether I’d be going on tour to support The Venusian GambitBless his heart…we don’t have funding for that sort of thing!

But that said, I do have plans.

There will be several opportunities to catch up with me after The Venusian Gambit comes out May 5. I’m planning to go to a handful of conventions this year, and I’ll crop up in a few other places besides. Some are, at the moment, tentative and thus aren’t listed here. In fact, let’s remember that this is January — everything is tentative.

Here are my preliminary plans for events and appearances and such:

It’s also highly likely I’ll do a reading at Borderlands Books in San Francisco in either July or August, depending on when my day-job travel takes me there. Likewise, since my corporate mothership is in Los Angeles, there’s a strong chance I’ll be heading out there at some point; if I do, I’ll try to set up something in SoCal, too.

Finally, I’d really like to do something local to New York around launch time, but right now I don’t have anything definitive. So, you know, if you own a bookstore or something in the city, let me know.

#SFWApro

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NFL GeekPicks: Divisional Round

I’ve seen it touted in two separate places that this weekend represents the very best weekend of NFL football on offer this season — and honestly, it’s hard to disagree.

It wasn’t easy watching the Cardinals limp off the field in Carolina after that devastating loss, and we knew full well that the Colts would handle the Bengals. To my surprise, the Steelers weren’t really in it against the Ravens, either. In fact, the only awesome game was Detroit-Dallas, and even that was rife with officiating hijinks.

So yes, maybe this is it — the granddaddy of all weekends. Tried and tested teams battling it out for the right to face off for one more game, with the winner of that one going to the Super Bowl. It’s all very epic, like a giant space opera. Let’s hope it’s not Spaceballs.

On with the picks!  Continue reading

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Revealed! The cover of The Venusian Gambit

And it’s insanely gorgeous. Here’s what The Venusian Gambit will look like on shelves:

TVG-cover

I really, really love this art. A little different from the last couple, no? No ship, for one. But a whole lot of other stuff. And yes, it’s a touch spoilery, but nothing you likely hadn’t suspected from reading the last few pages of The Enceladus Crisis. Or the actual title of this book, what with the whole Venus reference.

If you’re interested in how we ended up with this — as well as more details on what you’re seeing here — hop on over to SF Signal, which did the exclusive cover reveal earlier today. As part of that post, I talked with artist Lauren Saint Onge about her process. I also showed off some of the preliminary sketches so you can see how this cover came to be. (I did the same thing with Enceladus‘ cover last year right here on this blog.)

By the way, there will also be a blurb from another author on the cover, just like the first two books. We couldn’t get it onto the image in time for ARCs, but it’s a great quote and I’m incredibly excited, thankful and humbled by it. More to come on that soon.

Let’s give it up for Lauren, who once again hit it out of the park. If you have any say in art awards for covers, please consider her work, because man…this is awesome.

The Venusian Gambit is out May 5. You can pre-order it in trade paperback from Mysterious GalaxyBooks-A-Million, Barnes & NobleAmazon or Amazon UK and Chapters in Canada — or from your local independent bookseller, which I heartily endorse. E-book and audiobook pre-orders will be available closer to release.

#SFWApro

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For your consideration: Other people’s stuff

I’ve seen the first of this year’s “for your consideration” blog posts, wherein an author lists his works and says, basically, “hey, if you liked it, think about it for a Hugo/Nebula/Locus/whatever.” Now, I have no problem with this; I did it last year. In fact, I should note that The Enceladus Crisis came out in 2014 and received some nice reviews.

But here, already having tooted my own horn in a very unsubtle way, I want to highlight a handful of works I’ve read over the past year that I really liked and that you should at least consider reading, if not nominating for a shiny trophy. I should point out that I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to, and that the bulk of my reading is non-fiction. (Putting the historical in historical fantasy takes work!) But I did read some cool SF/F stuff, such as:

Shield and Crocus by MIchael R. Underwood: A book so awesome I was happy to blurb it. I like to think of it as four-color fantasy — a cross between urban fantasy and superheroes, set in a city nestled in the bones of a dead titan. There’s also hints of Torg in here, for those who came up through ’90s RPGs. Really gripping, tense and exciting, with some soulful moments, too. An excellent novel.

Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome by John Scalzi: No, I haven’t gotten around to reading Lock In, John’s latest novel, but it’s only a matter of time, because this novella was pretty damn cool. As a former journalist and long-time history buff, I really enjoyed the format used here to describe a near-future plague — and how those locked into their own bodies by this terrible illness are freed by linking up with robotic replacement bodies. Really solid worldbuilding told in a very believable way.

“Fear Itself” (One Story) by Katie Coyle: This piece was just plain crazy and fun. Basically, a girl on a high school field trip to a museum with her friends ends up getting a new boyfriend — in the form of a wax figurine of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yes, it’s as funny as it sounds, until it becomes fantastically creepy and surreal. Lots of great insight into the teenage mindset, too, which I hope helps me as my kid gets older. Fantastic concept, excellent writing-craft. Not available for free, at least from what I could see, but worth the $2.50 to grab it.

“As Good As New” (Tor.com) by Charlie Jane Anders: If you like good short fiction, Tor.com is a good place to find it (along with a decent helping of geek news, too). In this story, a failed playwright is the apparent sole survivor of a global apocalypse, and copes by watching The Facts of Life over and over again in her panic room until she decides to brave the outside world. There she finds a bottle, home to a genie who was once a theater critic. Really, I’m probably not doing it justice. It’s a really great read. Check it out.

Bonus Daughter Recommendation: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler: OK, this one I didn’t read, but my 10-year-old daughter did. Correction: she ravenously consumed it. In fact, she gave it to her BFF for said BFF’s birthday. So that’s a pretty strong endorsement. In summary, a talking cat sneaks a girl into a forbidden library, whereupon she gets trapped in a book and has to battle the creature imprisoned in the book along with her. Perfect for the middle-grade kid in your life, or if you’re a middle-grader at heart.

That’s my short recommended list for 2014. My to-be-read list is longer, and I’m hoping to get to it at some point. But I have a ton of nonfiction reading to do for my next project, so…we’ll see. If you like, feel free to drop your own recommendations in the comments.

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NFL GeekPicks: Wild Card Weekend

Finally…no more filler games.

You know the type. They’re like episodes of Doctor Who or Star Trek that don’t really advance the overall series plotlines or character arcs, and yet don’t pull their weight as individual episodes. This season, most of the games featuring the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars were fillers. I feel bad for those teams, of course — nobody likes to lose — but competitive football games are simply far more entertaining.

And now we have full weekends of competitive games. Good stuff. But before I get into this weekend’s playoff picks, and in the interests of prognostication accountability, let’s see how my preseason and midseason playoff predictions held up:  Continue reading

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