Meet Me at Nine Worlds!

nineworldsgeekfest-630x420I’m going to be in London in a few weeks! \o/

As part of that trip, I’m going to be at London Geekfest, a convention also known as Nine Worlds.

I’ll be doing a talk as well as appearing on a few panels:

 

On August 4th, Friday, at 5pm, I’ll be doing a talk called: Women Write About War.

I’ll be talking about the mainstream tropes of depicting war in science fiction and fantasy, how they’re being subverted in interesting ways in some books I love, and what that tells us about war as a narrative.

This lecture is especially recommended to fans of Karin Lowachee, Naomi Novik and Kameron Hurley! I’ll be talking about their books more in depth.

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On August 5th, Saturday, at 10am I’ll be on a panel called: Non-anglophone fanworks, fans and canon

I’ll be on there with some very interesting people, and we’ll talk about fandoms and fanworks in languages that are not English.

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On August 5th, Saturday, at 3:15pm I’ll be on a panel called: Screenwriting & scripting the fantastical

This panel will be about adapting SF/F to the screen, and I’ll be there to talk about things from the perspective of a media critic who’s also a film school graduate. Also participating at this panel: author Mike Carey, who wrote “The Girl With All the Gifts”, among other things. I’m extra excited to meet him, not gonna lie 😀

On Names and Where They Come From

Hello friends, and welcome to the post that will probably interest you if (1) you’ve read my scifi novella Three Keys in the Desert, or (2) you like reading meta about how writers come up with names for their characters.

If you’re part of group #1, I should tell you this post won’t expand the universe of the novella itself. What it will do is give you more background into who I am as an author and where my creative choices come from. (I’m not always into learning about the behind-the-scenes of the stories I like, so I just thought I’d disclose that up front.)

On the meaning of names

So, because Three Keys in the Desert was the first long work I wrote as an adult (the first draft of it, in 2007, was about 24,000 words) it was not only uncomfortably autobiographical but was also an amalgamation of all the things I loved and had always wanted to put into stories. Especially where names were concerned.

For this reason, a lot of the names I used in the novella meant something to me and had a whole backstory behind them. I made sure the names were always a reflection of the character’s identity, but often they also had personal significance to me, like my own secret little in-joke.

So, now I’m going to share some of those personal meanings, in no particular order.

1. Sol

As a kid I grew up watching the show “Chiquititas”, an Argentinian telenovela for kids. The storyline concerned an orphanage for girls in Argentina where everyone wore uniforms and sang songs every episode. If you’ve read the novella you can already see how the setting of that show is reminiscent of its setting 🙂

Sol was a character on “Chiquititas”, but in the first seasons (which are the ones I remember the most) she wasn’t actually part of the orphanage. She was the youngest girl on the show, maybe 10 years old, and lived in an apartment with a few of the supporting characters. I remember learning as a kid that “sol” was Spanish for “sun”.

Little Sol was truly a ray of sunshine. She smiled the most, she was the youngest and most adorable, and her life wasn’t as tragic as the lives of the orphan girls (at least at first). I knew very early on, when plotting Three Keys in the Desert, that my Sol would be none of those things.

Or rather, that she would be like an echo, or a memory, of that little girl.

 

2. Ebie

Growing up I loved a lot of what I call “old school HBO” shows. Most of them were historical fiction (for example, the amazing “Rome”), they had a huge budget, and they were doing things with historical narratives that I’d never really seen before.

I think the last show of this kind I watched before writing the novella was “Deadwood”. It was about a small 19th century settlement in the U.S. that transforms into a town, and the costs and benefits of civilization.

One of the characters on Deadwood was named E.B. Farnum. He owned a lodging house and over time became the town’s mayor. I doubt he was most people’s favorite character – he was cowardly, greedy, selfish, abusive to his employees, opportunistic. He had no backbone and no principles and not even good looks, or youth, or humor or wit to “redeem” him to the viewers.

Nevertheless, he was on “Deadwood” for as long as it ran, and he got a lot of attention and character development. If “Deadwood” was a show about human nature, then E.B. Farnum was a mirror of the worst parts of us ordinary folk. Arrogant, petty, a coward and often a fool. Nothing about him was attractive or interesting except his inherent humanity.

I remember thinking that of all the characters on “Deadwood” – the stalwart hero, the foul-mouthed brothel owner, the silly journalist, the compassionate doctor – E.B. Farnum was almost impossible to imagine being played by a woman.

I couldn’t find a single example of when a woman was allowed to play this sort of role, and remain on the side of “good”, and have significant character development over the course of multiple seasons. What would a woman playing the most cowardly, most wretched, most petty and mean and arrogant human who was still somehow perfectly average even look like? I couldn’t imagine a TV audience rooting for a woman who was all of these things, the way I was meant to be rooting for E.B. Farnum.

So, Ebie is named after him.

Of course, there’s almost nothing in common between Ebie and E.B. In fact Ebie is probably Farnum’s polar opposite. But when I created Ebie I thought of all her faults, and I thought to myself how far this flawed character was from the profound, “unattractive” flaws of E.B. Farnum, and I named her as a reminder to myself. As an aspiration.

Write more women who are flawed and “unsympathetic” and inherently, deeply, movingly human. Write about the ugliest parts of yourself. Women should be allowed to have their own stories, even when they’re only in it for themselves. Even when they’re not there to take care of anyone. Even when nothing about them is admirable.

 

3. Vrei

Vrei’s name, like a lot of the kids’ names (including “Ebie”) is meant to sound like it was meant to be a real name but didn’t quite get there. I wanted to create a sense for the reader that the kids in Three Keys in the Desert had fundamentally different names than the adults. I wanted them to be less obviously gendered, less obviously derived from a recognizable language.

Vrei was named after the French word “vrai”, which means “truth”. There’s an extra note of appropriateness, I guess, since Vrei spends most of the story looking for the truth about a certain incident.

As far as I’m aware, “vrai” isn’t a given name among French speakers anywhere. So, I wanted Vrei to create a sense of “huh, your name is kind of like a real word, except it isn’t”. It fit with how the system saw the kids in the story – they were almost like real people, but not quite.

 

4. Claudia

If Vrei and Ebie were meant to sound like names that were not-quite-names, I chose Claudia because it was a name that sounded ordinary and “normal” in so many languages. Spanish, Greek, French, Italian, English. I don’t have to change a single letter, and Claudia and is still Claudia. (If you’re wondering, I usually pronounce her name the Spanish way in my head.)

As an immigrant myself, I wanted the “permanence” of Claudia’s name to be an indication of her privilege. If the kids in Three Keys in the Desert have identities that are sort of blurry, as far as the system is concerned, Claudia is someone everyone sees very clearly.

It was also important for me to give her (and the other adults) a name with several syllables, contrary to the names of the children. There’s something very “indulgent” in a name that long. In a way, the kids had to have short names because they were moved so frequently. The shorter the name, the easier it is for new people to pronounce and remember. Which is a dynamic that’s never applied to people like Claudia.

 

5. Bo

The reason I chose this name is probably the simplest one yet. In the early outlines of the novella, Bo’s character was referred to simply as “boy”. He was Sol’s boy, the boy Kim befriends, the boy no one takes seriously. And so eventually I just settled on calling him “Bo”, for short.

The point of his character, in many ways, was that the things that happen to him are completely random. Nothing – from Sol choosing him, to the later events of the novella – is really due to his initiative or actions. In my head, he played a role that girls often play in these sorts of narratives, where they just react to things older and more powerful people do around them and to them. So, he was just “boy”.

 

So, these were some of my personal reasons for naming the characters as I did. I mean, you can tell this story took over a decade to finish because I have paragraphs of things to say about the names alone, haha. Anyway, if by some chance you haven’t read Three Keys in the Desert yet, the ebook is on sale for $0.99 until tomorrow, so now’s probably your best chance to get it for cheap.

If you’d like to get an email next time I publish something (probably in uh… a pretty long time), you can subscribe to my New Release Mailing List.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day.

 

 

Three Keys in the Desert – on sale!

So, a few days ago I finished posting Three Keys in the Desert, my little military SF novella featuring a cast of mostly women. As I’ve said before – I wrote this story over a decade ago, and wasn’t sure it would really find an audience or be interesting enough to be read by anyone.

I’ve been really overwhelmed by the reactions to it, quite honestly. Thank you so much to everyone who bought the book, who read along with the posts, who retweeted or shared my daily updates, who left a review and who tweeted and emailed me to say how much they enjoyed the story.

All of that means more to me than you can ever know. ❤

So, what now, you might ask?

Well, for the next week, the novella will be on sale! Which means if you haven’t gotten it yet, now’s your chance to get the ebook for $0.99! 

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | iTunes | Kobo

After July 7th the price will rise to the princely sum of $2.99.

What if I already bought the book?

Well, first of all, you’re my personal hero. But also, in the coming weeks I’m hoping to do some behind-the-scenes and bonus material type posts, so I hope you’re done reading the full story in time for that!

Anyway, thank you, again, to everyone who’s been part of this adventure so far.

Three Keys in the Desert: the map!

Hello friends!

So, we’re past the middle of June, and past the middle of Thee Keys in the Desert! Yesterday part 20 went live, which means there are only 7 parts left, meaning 7 days and we’re done.

So, I thought today might be a good time to take a break and post some bonus material. A few people have asked me about how the world of the novella is arranged, what districts are next to what, how the space works, etc. To answer all (or at least some) of those questions, I’m happy to share with you this map!

(All credit for making it pretty, instead of an ugly, crooked drawing on a piece of printer paper, goes to the amazing Dana.)

 

map600

>> click for full size map <<

Here you can see where all the districts are, and their size relative to each other, and where the food happens, and where the Fluff Palace is.

If you have any questions about it I’m always happy to answer!

I hope you’ve been enjoying Three Keys in the Desert, and I promise we’re going back to our regular posting schedule tomorrow.

 

Three Keys in the Desert

Three Keys in the Desert is a science fiction novella about a bunch of girls (and a few boys) at a futuristic military boarding school.

The official summary is:

On a remote planet, a military boarding school is about to get a new headmistress. Her charges will include Ebie, a girl desperately trying to keep a secret, Kim, a boy desperately trying to keep his friends from dying, and Vrei, a girl who just wants to make it to the end of the day. Will any of them get what they want? With only a week until Transfer Day, the biggest and most important event of the year, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Over the course of June 2017 I posted the entire story on my website! You can read it using the index below, or buy the whole thing as en ebook.

Buy the ebook:

iTunes | KoboAmazon | Barnes & Noble

Bonus materials:

Map of where the story takes place

 Read the story online:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

 

For updates about future stories sign up for the New Release Mailing List.

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Three Keys in the Desert: summary + excerpt!

Guys, I can’t believe June 1st is only a few days away. Which means  I’m about to start posting Three Keys in the Desert, which still seems unreal somehow. Even though there’s a cover (which you can see right next to this text)! And an ebook file! And like, a public record that this will actually happen!

Anyway, if you’ve read my previous posts you already know the story behind how this novella was written, so it’s probably time you knew what it was actually about. I’ve spent a lot of the last decade tinkering with a potential summary for this thing, since like a lot of authors no single-paragraph description seemed adequate.

But I finally settled on one! So, without further ado:

On a remote planet, a military boarding school is about to get a new headmistress. Her charges will include Ebie, a girl desperately trying to keep a secret, Kim, a boy desperately trying to keep his friends from dying, and Vrei, a girl who just wants to make it to the end of the day. Will any of them get what they want? With only a week until Transfer Day, the biggest and most important event of the year, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

😀 😀 😀

If that sounds interesting, here’s a short excerpt from said headmistress’ point of view:

“The girl in front of Claudia took a deep breath, as if trying to come up with more reasons to argue. She clearly hadn’t anticipated Claudia’s resistance. She’d thought the morning bulletins would turn Claudia into a cowering idiot.

“If there’s anything–” Ebie began, but the door interrupted her, opening with a chime and revealing the head doctor’s face.

Claudia was already tired of the woman’s perpetual cheerfulness. She wasn’t looking forward to prison, or wherever they sent her next, but at least she could be certain that after this posting there would be fewer annoying underlings to deal with.

Susanna looked from Ebie to Claudia. “I’m sorry, should we postpone?”

“No,” Claudia said, and then looked at Ebie. “Your ten minutes are up. Get out.”

The girl grabbed the edge of Claudia’s desk. “Colonel, please, let me just–”

“Get out,” Claudia said again, in the tone it had taken her a decade to perfect, the one she used to discipline her officers.

The girl got up, surrounded by a halo of violence. Claudia watched her carefully, almost hoping she’d do something, give Claudia an excuse to burst.

But no further response came. The doors slid shut and Susanna sat down. Claudia pretended to look at the numbers on the sheets Susanna pulled up and nodded along.

This day would be without end.”

What’s got Claudia in such a foul mood? Will Ebie actually punch someone? Should someone protect Susanna the head doctor from all this negativity? Tune in on June 1st to find out! 🙂

Tell me more!

Gladly! If you want to be notified when the novella finally goes live, the best way to do that is to sign up for my New Release Mailing Listd For more updates on cool stuff I’ll post before and after June 1st (yes, I have at least one more thing planned for May!) you can follow me on twitter or facebook.

In any case, thank you for reading this far, and oh my god this is really happening isn’t it?
Don’t answer that.

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