Sunder Yourself!

by wjw on March 17, 2019

IMG_5116I’ve spent most of the last week with colleagues at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, which involved basking by the pool in the balmy Florida weather, enjoying the hospitality of the hotel bar, and a number of excursions to local restaurants.

I believe some mention was now and again made of science fiction, but my memory on that point is hazy.

I have returned with no less than thirteen mosquito bites on the triceps area of my left arm.  I don’t know if it was a swarm hitting me all at once, or one overambitious mosquito with a ravenous appetite.  In any case, it’s clear that mosquitos in that vicinity have stealth technology.

If I come down with dengue fever, I’ll be sure to let you know.

But lo! I have returned to find a great big package of books awaiting me, including the very handsome new trade paperback of The Sundering, which means it will arrive in stores any instant now.  This is, once again, the Author’s Definitive Edition, and with no  modesty whatever I recommend it highly.



Every Story is a War

by wjw on March 11, 2019

So I did some writing on the new novel the other night, and I thought it was okay, but when I went back the next night I realized I’d written crap.  Not uninspired, not unfocused, just plain bad writing.  It sucked.

I found this so demoralizing that I didn’t write much the second night, but I did fix up the bad writing and made it less bad.  I won’t say it was great or anything.

(I should point out, for the purposes of this anecdote, that I write late at night.)

The next night I hammered away, but didn’t get very far.  By now I was recognizing the symptoms.

My subconscious tells me when things aren’t working, and the way it tells me is by making it very, very hard for me to actually put words on pages.  So I took a look at what I was doing, and tried to figure out what was wrong.

The first thing to note was that this wasn’t my protagonist’s scene, it belonged to someone else.  I’d known that all along, but I thought that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  By now, Book VII of the Praxis series, my heroes have all acquired friends and loyal subordinates and in-laws and rivals and so on, and every so often I like to let the reader know that all these characters have lives of their own, and that while my heroes are out having adventures, their friends are living their lives and occasionally doing something of interest.

So this scene belonged not to a protagonist, but to a sidekick, and it was designed to show that the sidekick was competent and interesting and, in his way, necessary to the story.  Just like all the other sidekicks, of which there are dozens by now.

But for some reason the scene wasn’t working.  I thought about cutting it completely, but I finally decided that I’d stuck it in a chapter that already had too much happening in it, and that this extra subplot added a burden that the narrative didn’t want to carry.

So right now the sidekick’s been stuck in Coventry until I can figure out what to do with him.  I think I know now where his substory would more easily inserted into the narrative, but I won’t know for sure till I get there.  And in the meantime the book is more about its protagonists than it was previously.

To be a good writer, you must learn to “kill your darlings,” a phrase that I heard via Kate Wilhelm but that turns out to have been uttered first by someone named Arthur Quiller-Couch.

I haven’t killed my darling, but I’ve stuck him in a closet till he’s needed, so maybe that amounts to the same thing.

And, more importantly, the words are flowing now.


Collected Again!

by wjw on March 8, 2019

making-history-classic-alternate-history-storiesMy story “Foreign Devils” may be found in the new collection Making History, edited by Rick Wilber.  This is a collection of classic alternate history stories, by Karen Joy Fowler, Gregory Benford, Sheila Finch, Rich Larson, Lisa Goldstein, Kathleen Goonan, Harry Turtledove, Eileen Gunn and Michael Swanwick, Maureen McHugh, Nisi Shawl, Alan Smale, Michaela Roessner, Louise Marley, Ben Loory, Nicholas DiChario, and Michael Bishop.

And more!  Apparently.  I don’t actually know what stories are in here, or have a complete list of the authors, but it’s clear there’s a massive amount of star power here.

UPDATE!  The editor has kindly provided me with the table of contents.

Table of Contents

1) Introduction by Rick Wilber

2) “Game Night at the Fox and Goose,” by Karen Joy Fowler

3) “The Lincoln Train,” by Maureen McHugh

4) “Zeppelin City,” by Michael Swanwick and Eileen Gunn

5) “Manassas, Again,” by Gregory Benford

6) “Kamehameha’s Bones,” by Kathleen Goonan

7) “P Dolce,” by Louise Marley

8) “ A Clash of Eagles,” by Alan Smale

9) “The House That George Built,” by Harry Turtledove

10) “Where Garagiola Waits,” by Rick Wilber

11) “Vulcanization,” by Nisi Shawl

12) “James K. Polk,” by Ben Loory

13) “Foreign Devils,” by Walter Jon Williams

14) “Every So Often” by Rich Larson

15) “It’s a Wonderful Life,” by Michaela Roessner

16) “The Winterberry,” by Nicholas DiChario

17) “Miriam,” by Michael Bishop

18) “If There be Cause,” by Sheila Finch

19) “Paradise is a Walled Garden,” by Lisa Goldstein

Making History, from New Word City, is currently available as an ebook, though there will be a paper edition out shortly.

I’m pleased to see “Foreign Devils” again, because it was last printed maybe twenty years ago.  It features a Chinese perspective on the War of the Worlds, and is told from the point of view of the Empress Dowager.  Western history painted Cixi as a murderous, sexually depraved monster, but it turns out that most of the evidence for that was forged by Sir Edmund Backhouse, who was pretty depraved himself and who made a living inventing scandal, forging documents, and defrauding corporations and the British government.  In actuality Cixi was a poorly educated, well-meaning woman who seems to have done her best.

In any case, I recommend to you the collection.  Happy reading!


‘Tis the Season

by wjw on March 6, 2019

the-accidental-war120It’s award season, so it’s become customary for authors to announce which of their works are eligible for Hugos and whatever.  (When I started, anyone who tried this would have been ridiculed until they’d be embarrassed to show themselves sober at the Hugo Loser’s Party, but now it’s just a part of business.)

Be that as it may, I have but a short announcement, since the only new piece from me in 2018 was The Accidental War.  Which is eligible for the novel Hugo, though it won’t win, because I’m not nearly popular enough, and the fact that it’s the sixth book in a series will work against it.

However, publication of the book leaves me an outside chance at the Best Series award, since all the really popular series were nominated last year, and aren’t eligible again till 2020.  So if you want to nominate the Praxis series, or Dread Empire’s Fall, or whatever it’s called these days, feel free to nominate!  I would be mighty honored if you did, and my trip to the Irish Worldcon would be less in vain!

Nominations for the Hugos end on March 15th, so hop like a bunny to the Hugo Award page and read the instructions!  You’re eligible if you’re a supporting or attending member of this year’s Dublin Worldcon, or last year’s Worldcon in San Jose.  (You may have to write to them to ask for a key, or something.  I did.)

Anyway, good luck with all that!  And good luck to me, while I’m at it!

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All Beaded Up and No Place to Go

by wjw on March 5, 2019


Happy Mardi Gras,Y’all!

I put on my beads and went to town today, but I couldn’t find a second line anywhere, so I had a cup of mediocre gumbo at a supposed Louisiana restaurant and went home.

At least this video has over two and a half hours of music appropriate to the season.



Fruit and Veg

March 3, 2019

It’s a busy weekend, so please enjoy this video of people brightening up their local supermarket. This will also demonstrate that it is possible to sing Italian with an Australian accent, which is cool in its own strange way.

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February 28, 2019

I’ve always felt there was a place for megalomania in art.  (Go big or go home, right?)  And recently one of the most megalomaniacal works in history premiered in Paris. Eleven years in the making, financed by a pro-Putin oligarch, over a dozen feature films plus 700 hours of ancillary material, and shot in an […]

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Throwing Flame

February 26, 2019

Today I had a flamewar.  The good kind, the kind fought with actual flamethrowers. Well, flamethrower, singular.  I was the only person who had a flamethrower, which is another reason why it was the good kind of flamewar. Every winter we have to go out and burn out last year’s crop of weeds, which has […]

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February 22, 2019

So the other night we held a scotch tasting with our friend Sue Lampson.  (Fortunately her nondrinker husband Alan was available to drive her home.) The bottles I contributed are shown above, ranging from sweet/sherry/vanilla on the left to smoky and peaty on the right. Sue brought her own box of goodies, and so we […]

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When I Wrote It

February 21, 2019

Some days I’m glancing at my Amazon sales numbers and can’t avoid reading the reviews. There was one review of This Is Not a Game and the whole Dagmar series that said they were excellent books, but warned the reader that they weren’t in any way science fiction. To which I can only respond: They were science […]

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