Author Archives: Marina Berlin

New article! Magic, history and queer romance

KJCharles-booksHello friends! I’ve found that I usually write up to 4 non-fiction articles a year these days, that’s a number that seems to balance well with my fiction writing, but in 2018 I got to write 5! I pitched this article right before basically being away from my computer for a month, heard back from the (wonderful) editor while I was traveling in China, had to postpone writing it because of, among other things, a death in the family, and eventually ended up writing it in the middle of (successfully!) doing NaNoWriMo for the first time. So, it’s been eventful around these parts!

Anyway, I’ve wanted to write about KJ Charles’ work for a long time for an SFF publication, because I’m tired of there being a brick wall between “SFF” and most “Romance”, especially when it comes to queer romance (which is also not exactly embraced by the mainstream Romance industry).

So, if you already know and love KJ Charles’ books I hope you enjoy my take on them, and if you’ve never heard of her before, I hope this serves as a good introduction!

In my experience, people who’ve read at least two of Charles’ books (she’s published about twenty of them) have a tendency to then read extensive swaths of her backlist. Her novels provide something rare in the literary market even today, in 2018: well-researched historical, fantastical fiction that features love stories between queer people.

Genres are flawed, porous constructs, and many stories live in between the established categories or straddle several of them, which doesn’t make a bookseller’s job very easy. The reason we recommend a book by saying “it’s X genre” is that it’s a shortcut to saying: “it’s the sort of thing you like.”

Read History, Queer Romance, and Fantasy Combine in the Work of KJ Charles on Tor.com.

New poem! “Survival in Six Easy Steps”

asdfsdfsI have a new poem out in Strange Horizons! It’s called “Survival in Six Easy Steps” and it’s very different from most of the poems I’ve written before. For one thing: it doesn’t have a love story.

I wrote it at the start of 2018, when all the political things that are currently going on in the world were just starting to happen, and I thought about how many of my friends felt like they needed a vacation, an escape, just to be able to deal with it all, and I thought of how often stress is literally a killer for marginalized people who speak up and dedicate their lives to activism, especially in the wake of a traumatic event. And so, I wrote this poem, about survival and the wilderness and not being able to escape the real world and how we keep living anyway.

You need to go into the wilderness, but there’s no one to take you.
There are women living under your bed,
in the refrigerator,
on every tree branch
on your way to work.

Their eyes are all different—
angry, hopeful, surprised, afraid—
but their hands are all the same. Cold,
bloodless, pulling your lids
up when you’re falling
asleep. Watching you brush
your teeth in the mirror, hiding
your good underwear in the back
of the drawer, forcing you to reach
down. Some days you roll your eyes
at them. Petty, like children.

Read the full poem at Strange Horizons: Survival in Six Easy Steps.

Tiptree Award jury (please recommend me things!)

31235042_603090526698898_6842628392886468608_oToday I have some really exciting news to share.

I’ve been invited to be part of the jury for the Tiptree Literary Award for 2018!

I’ve been a huge fan of the award (and all the other Tiptree projects) since I first became aware of it years ago, so I’m very very excited to be part of it this year.

But enough of my excitement, let’s get to the important part. The jury needs works to consider! And that’s where you come in. The Tiptree Award is open to your recommendations for works that qualify and were published in 2017.

You can recommend us things by filling out this form

(and if you scroll down you can see all the works that have already been nominated by other people)

Please give me awesome spec fic to read that expands our understanding of gender! 🙂

 

Awards Eligibility Post (aka SF/F works in 2017)

I’ve never done one of these before, but I’ve always wanted to and I guess I’m finally getting it done. I’m still not sure how a lot of SF/F awards work (in terms of categories and schedules, there’s just a lot of them out there for a newcomer to figure out!) but here’s an awkward “a thing I wrote you might want to nominate/vote for if you’re into that sort of thing” first time post anyway.

 

NOVELLA

In 2017 I wrote a novella, Three Keys in the Desert (39,000 words).

In a sentence: it’s science fiction about kids and staff at a military boarding school on a remote planet.

I’m also eligible for the Campbell Award this year.

 

NON-FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

New poem: “Only the Trees”

ARSENIKAJPGI’m very excited to announce that I have a new poem in the latest issue of Arsenika!

(I’ll always remember the publication history of this poem, because I nearly missed the acceptance notice for it /o\ It had gone to my junk folder and I saw it a week late, and might never have responded to it if I hadn’t accidentally checked the status on Arsenika’s website itself. KIDS, ALWAYS CHECK YOUR SPAM FOLDER.)

“Only the Trees” is kind of difficult to sum up, but I will say it’s one of my most explicitly romantic poems.

 

A storm blew down
the tree your bones
nourished, through the
roots. They cleaned
you from the dirt and
tore you away from
where I left you, lying
peaceful, reborn an
older creature, my
heart with you, a
piece of tissue and
blood, keeping you
warm.

Read the rest of “Only the Trees” >>

 

New article: Five Ways To Build A More Believable Futuristic Military

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Hello friends!

My first article of 2018 is already out, and it’s only January! (Well, it’s February, but it was still January when it was originally posted.)

This time I got to talk about military science fiction for Book Smugglers, a venue I love a LOT and a topic I can basically talk about forever.

The five points in this one are mostly about the way fictional militaries represent gender, sexuality, attraction, and the politics and sociology around it all.

Five Ways To Build A More Believable Futuristic Military >>

Things I did in 2017

Person silhouette standing in 2017 on the hill at sunsetIt’s almost the new year, and everything is… well, not snowy at all where I am, but certainly a bit rainy? And I always want to make end-of-year posts and never manage to write them up, so, here’s to breaking that tradition.

In July of 2015 I sat myself down for a chat and decided that I for sure, definitely, wanted to try and write original stories for publication, and transition from being a media critic exclusively to being an author of SF/F as well.

In that sense, 2017 has been my second full year of Taking Writing Seriously. Of course, like for most writers, this came in between other things, like a full time job, grad school, and disability, but despite the time constraints I’m pleased with how 2017 turned out. I did a lot less writing than I’d hoped to, but I did a lot of writing-related new-to-me things, which was a different kind of exciting and necessary.

I wrote articles for huge markets I never imagined I’d be able to successfully pitch to. I did lectures at SFF cons for the first time. I attended an SFF con abroad for the first time (and did 3 events there!). I published a work I’d been sitting on for a decade, the longest SFF thing I’ve written, and more than 5 people bought it! That’s still mindblowing to me.

Stories I wrote

The main thing here is of course, Three Keys in the Desert. I novella I told myself I’d publish “really soon” for about 10 years, and finally got it done in 2017. I waffled a lot over whether to self-publish or go the traditional route, despite the still minuscule market for novellas from first-time authors, but ultimately self-publishing taught me (and continues to teach me) so much. About communicating with audiences, about the business side of publishing, about my own strengths and weaknesses (like most writers, I am terrible at promoting my own work!)

But I got to post this story I love on my website, and get responses from people, and do several giveaways, and through all of it I basically did everything myself, and it was hard but it was also really exhilarating. Thank you, again, to everyone who took part in this journey.

Articles I Wrote

I wrote two reviews for Strange Horizons: one of the TV show The OA and one of the fantasy novella The Drowning Eyes.

(I also had a lot of feelings when my former editor at Strange Horizons, Abigail Nussbaum, who is basically responsible for me having a career as a media critic in the first place, won a Hugo award this year.)

I also wrote two articles for VICE, both of which got a lot more attention on the internet than I’m used to.

The first was about the TV show Black Sails: ‘Black Sails’ Depicts the Untold Story of Queer Pirates. The article was shared on twitter by the creators of the show, quoted by some of the lead actors, translated to Portuguese and had its own thread on Reddit.

I couldn’t imagine such a huge response when I wrote it, so it was all pretty amazing to experience. I still love the show, though I have a lot of thoughts that never made it into the article (I did have a word limit).

The second VICE article about a movie: Wonder Woman’s Best Superpower Is Destroying Sexist Tropes. (I have to confess the editors at VICE came up with the titles, not me.) That article also got a bigger response than I was anticipating (friends kept linking me to discussions and mentions of it at various places online), which was again a lot of fun. The best responses were from people who told me I’d pointed things out about the movie that they’d never considered, but that suddenly made things fall into place for them.

Events I Did

In 2017 I went from going to SFF cons as a fan, to going as an author and media critic, and doing panels and lectures. I went from having done zero of these things in my life to doing 6 of them in the span of 8 months. (One of the lessons for 2018: this was a little too much too fast, and I need a break.)

In April I submitted a lecture called Women Write About War where I talked about debut novels from authors Naomi Novik, Karin Lowachee and Kameron Hurley and analyzed the different ways war narratives work in SFF. I did the lecture twice, in two different languages, once in London and once in Tel Aviv, and the experience was pretty great each time.(My favorite part is always the audience questions/interaction at the end, and I got to meet a lot of wonderful people.)

During the summer I designed a new lecture, called A Pirate and a Gentleman (and a Lady) about “Treasure Island”, “Black Sails” and the fact and fiction of pirate stories, in historical fiction as well as in SFF. I did the lecture twice, though both times were in the same language, about a month apart. The first time was at an SFF con, in the biggest room I’ve ever had to carry on my own – a movie theater with over 100 seats. The second time was in a small living room, where a few dozen people were occupying couches, chairs and the floor.

In London I also got to do two panels. (The last time I was on a panel was as an undergrad student, in Japan, at a press conference. Don’t ask.) One was on International Fandom, and I got to talk about Russian fans, fandom and canons, and the other was about screenwriting and SFF, and I got to talk about pitfalls and tricks for successful adaptations. (And also, to listen to some of my idols talk about their own craft as writers and screenwriters, which was pretty amazing.)

Wow, just writing it all out makes me feel a little tired again! No wonder I spent most of this year feeling like I was doing Too Much (and somehow not getting any writing done). I kind of went zero to sixty with public speaking at cons this year, which ended up being kind of a weird experience. On the one hand I enjoyed every single second, and part of me wanted to keep doing it forever, on the other hand, my inner introvert wanted to crawl into a cave once it was all over and not emerge for two years.

What’s next for 2018?

What am I planning for next year?

– Work on more short stories. I already have several drafts that are in various stages of done and need a few more passes. Start the first draft of the fantasy novel I’ve been working on for years.

– Write about books, TV shows and movies (look out for an article by me at Book Smugglers around January!)

– Experiment with doing events that aren’t lectures/talks, such as workshops, collaborative activities, other formats I’ve never tried before.

Mostly: keep applying for things, submitting things, trying out new things, and be OK with rejection and failure and disappointment. It’s the hardest part of any creative business, and it’s the one skill that it took me the longest to develop.

Happy holidays, everyone, and happy new upcoming year!