Auditioning for Starship Sofa

So I got this tweet…

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and I thought, hey, that’s way cool.

I’m not a big podcast person, and so, like an idiot, I wasn’t aware of the stature of the folks whose stories are in this thing, so I thought, hey, I’m in this thing, this will be nice.

I get now that I have been invited to submit, submissions are by invite only, so, I did.

There’s stuff here by golden age masters I read in my teens and the hottest up-and-comers like Ken Liu, so, anyway. it’s cool to be considered, regardless of what happens.

I sent the requested story, and a few more as well, so, we’ll see what happens.

Very exciting though.

Posted in Making a Writing Life, My Publications

We interrupt this blog to bring you this important announcement…

Actually, it’s not that important.

But here it is anyway. I’m writing to tell you that, every time you read something you really like, that really moves you, that you think is really cool, you should feel free to google the author and see if there’s a place to mention this to her.

You can also search on twitter; some authors don’t make it easy to email them, but, they allow twitter comments to be made to them publicly. Twitter comments are short of course. What you might be able to say to someone you bumped into.

Either way, what I’m saying is, feel free to say, ‘hey, I liked X. (insert name of thing for X, the story or novel or show or comic or whatever.)

It makes a difference, in the life of the writer, to hear that.

I guess it’s no secret here that I have had battles with depression, with writer’s block. Tons of people do. The comments I’ve gotten on my work to date, the positive ones, anyway, heh, have made a difference to me.

If you are like me at all, and you try to make things, there will be times when you’re pretty sure that nothing you say or do is worth the doing.

As I’ve gone along, I have collected now, a small series of badges, of sales, of notices, and when the ego collapses, as it does for me now and then, leaving me becalmed in a sea of futility, I find every single scrap of acknowledgment comforting.

I had a friend who was an art director I worked for, who talked about managing designers, and looking at what they’d done, and even if it wasn’t usable, wasn’t anything he wanted to show a client, the fact of it, the proof that work was done, was there, in what he called ‘evidence of industry.’

So I’m pushing t through  my latest collapse, putting words down still, looking forward to feeling better about it again.

Hopefully.

Evidence of industry.

Posted in Uncategorized

My Asimov’s novella “Of All Possible Worlds will be included in Allan Kaster’s Best of the Year antho

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Just an example of this antho series, not the one I will be in. So you know I’m not making it up.

I was delighted to get a note from Mr. Kaster asking me if I’d like to be included in his anthology of Best of the year Short SF novels. The anthology is ebook and audiobook, which is exciting, as I’ve never had anything of mine done as an audiobook before.

The list of authors included in these anthologies sparks this trip down memory lane for me; there are my Clarion instructors from the 90s, Nancy Kress and Michael Swanwick; there are the folks from the Cambridge Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop, Steven Popkes and Alex Jablokov, who exposed me to high-powered workshops before I went to Clarion, at Readercon, back in the day.

There are a bunch of people I’ve read in Asimov’s over the years, Robert Reed and Elizabeth Bear, Steven Baxter, Greg Egan, Allen Steele…

Mr. Kaster has been putting out anthos since 2000 or so, so there’s over a hundred names of authors I could mention, but these leapt out at me, people I’d looked up to, workshopped with, studied under.

It’s a good feeling; the story was short-listed for the Dozois year’s best but didn’t make the cut in the end, so it’s nice for it to appear here; one of the only complaints about Kaster’s anthos is that sometimes there’s too much overlap with the Dozois or other collections, so, in this case, I’m glad to be of service.

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Heh.

The story will also be translated into Czech and published there in XB1, which is way cool.

Today, indeed, is a good day for me.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Geoengineering and Contraceptives, Plan B on a World Like Ours

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Now five years old, this book is still a good introduction to the ideas at play in the geo-engineering debate. It’s a terrifying read. The subhead could be changed, now, however, to read Science’s Best Hope AND worst nightmare.

A traditional liberal-progressive handwringing over the horrors of geo-engineering appeared in the NYT yesterday. As a hand-wringing progressive liberal, the piece irritated me, as it cleaves through the center of my political ideology vis a vis climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The piece is dead-on. If anything it understates its thesis. Geoengineering is horrifying. But of course, as most MSM pieces, it also understates the degree to which we are already completely screwed by the carbon already trapped in our atmosphere–and the carbon represented in the already mapped fossil fuel reserves which  make up the bottom line of the stock prices of many of the worlds largest companies.

Like the most profitable company in the world, who we give billions in tax breaks to look for more of the product which makes them rich—a product that will kill us all, if we don’t start using much less of it, immediately. Or better yet, five years ago.

Think about how fucked up that last sentence is.

If we burn more than a quarter of the reserves already mapped, we will destroy civilization.

And we subsidize the most profitable company on Earth with our tax system so they can find more. 

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Now think about arctic methane catastrophe, and read this article if you don’t know what that is.

In this thing liberals, who are often good at handing out bandaids and incrementally improving situations with shitty compromise workarounds, see the perfect as the enemy of the good. Perhaps emboldened by the belief that another progressive era is somehow just around the corner, that the zeitgeist hasn’t over the last thirty years slid five time zones to the right.

Liberals who scoff at the idea that knowing about contraceptives might lead to more sex are adamant that knowing about geo-eningeering will make abatement impossible.

Here’s the thing; for CO2 abatement to reach the levels we need it to in the next few years, we basically need be living in a just world. Because cold people burn things to stay warm. Starving people dig money out of the ground, if you have maps of where that money is buried. Greedy people do, too. And we’ve made the maps already.

I’m all for a just world order; but the time to construct that order will not be while said world falls apart, which it is going to do in the next decade or two. It’s too late to pretend we are a mature species. We are crammers. We are the species that plays video games nonstop until a day or two from finals. We are the species that makes new years resolutions and abandons them a week later.

We are a species without grownups. Our elites lack the capability of long-term thought or thinking.

The people who own this planet, who have concentrated wealth in a tiny fraction of the world’s populace, back political movements which undermine the basic infrastructures of the societies they harvest for their wealth. Our elites no longer support the building of roads and bridges, railroads or transit systems, dams or power grids. Our elites think they can re-invent public education on the cheap by union busting and increased use of the gizmos they make and sell.

Our elites are deranged.

In MA, our fuckwad GOP governor, who as a manager of the big dig added billions to the MBTAs debt in cost overruns, just blamed the current failure of the MBTA not on resource depletion, lack of investment, but on bad management. Because, you know, acknowledging that the system was underfunded would mean tax hikes.

I’m not HAPPY about plan B, anymore than a parent is happy about a sexually active 15 year old child, but geo-engineeriung and birth control are wonderful things in worlds that turn out to be sub-optimal.

Like ours.

Posted in Climate Change

Interview with Myself

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Me wearing contact lenses signing copies of Asimov’s at the Brooklyn Book Fair, Sept 2014. My friend Steven Solomon is behind me. This photo proves I am in fact, human, made of meat, and not some disembodied renegade AI which spawned itself in the Amazon cloud, emerging out of a critical mass of monster porn.

A writer friend of mine, Kayeigh Shoen, invited me to participate in this blog-tour. So here it is.

1) What are you working on?

I’m currently working on SF short stories and novellas. Some of the stories are decades old fragments, stuff I thought I’d write when my skills were up to the task and / or I started selling. Well, I am selling now, so premises that have been lurking in the wings forever are now turning into words on the page.

I have  three novels started, but I’m waiting for some weird sign from The Cosmic All to tell me which to continue. Any day now. I hope.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I tend to write about people with, um, issues, with whom I can empathize. As a person with issues. Genre fiction is often built around kinda bland heros, decent everymen / everywomen… Side characters can be kooky and villians, of course, can always be textured and multidimensional, but protagonists… my protagonists feel to me a bit off the beaten path.

I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. We’ll see!

3) Why do you write what you do?

I write genre fiction because I enjoy it, and I feel like I’m allowed to write it. Genre elements, for me, push stories away from solipism, navel gazing, self-important pseudo-memoir, towards the mythic, the universal. I struggle to be purely entertaining, but of course, art and deep personal meaning creeps in around the edges.

There’s a reason fairy tales and myths survive for millennia.

There is no literary fiction from the Bronze age. All that’s left in the end is myth, fairy tales, religious texts, which themselves are a kind of fantasy. Please nobody kill me for that last sentence, OK? I devote myself to this stuff. I’m not trivializing it.

Why would anyone write anything else? Seriously, though, SF, which I mostly write, can be ephemeral and often ages badly… I am drawn into it for the usual reasons; geeky-techno lust, a brain that ceaselessly extrapolates trends into the future, that conjures worlds into being uncontrollably.

4) How does your writing process work?

My process is a work in progress.

In the past it has involved getting depressed and quitting for decades, so, I’m working on not doing that anymore. Double-plus Un-good.

Stories work themselves out on the page. There is salvation in simply sitting down and making words every day and seeing what happens without a ton of agonizing. I’m trying to think of something more cliched or less useful I can add to that, but I’m drawing a blank.

I aspire to be a plotter, and while I often am working towards some end which has been foreseen, the good parts, the fun stuff, emerges from the seat of my pants, if you’ll pardon the disgusting metaphor, which maybe you shouldn’t.

My process now involves being honest with myself about what I enjoy most in the writing of others, and what I can find inside myself which to some degree resonates with what I like to read.

This seems painfully obvious, self-evident, but for decades I found that as a person I liked to make people laugh, while as a writer I seemed intent on making them cry. It came to me that this was because some part of me disliked being alone, which one is while writing, I was also nervous about my work being rejected, and I was translating that discomfort into my text.

I call this the ‘poisonous subtext feedback loop,’

I write now in the company of my imaginary friends, who are more real to me now than ever, the made-up people on the page, with more joy and freedom than before, with some sense that what I am writing willl be read, and I want to give those readers the best experience it is in me to give.

We don’t become writers to give ourselves a shitty job. I look for the joy in the process, I look for the light, which anyone reading me will snort at, I’m sure, as there’s plenty of dark in what I do too.

And to a degree, the work is becoming its own reward. Thank God.

Practical suggestions: I leave the house to write, so I don’t do housework as procrastination. My family isn’t happy about this but I get more work done.

Cafe-writing also prevents prolonged day-time napping. (Freelance clients also prevent naps, but as I’m trying to move way from design towards writing: cafes, walking, workshops, and coffee, have been hugely important.)

I write with other people, trying to set up deadlines and expectations of word counts, hoping that my own productivity can be inspirational to others.

This can help short circuit depression and ego-fatigue.

Posted in Making a Writing Life

Sales and Galleys and Readings and Anthologies…

I’m trying to move this blog away from astonished-at-my-own-small-success postings, self-deprecating humor, to something with more universal appeal. I have a small blog readership. I’d reach more people with a bullhorn in Harvard Square.

One recurring theme which I think is uplifting is the idea of the second act, the second chance. It’s pretty bloody reassuring for those of us in our fifties and I imagine, if one was in one’s twenties, it would also be reassuring. You can shit the bed for decades! And still end up somewhere!

What’s more, the nitty gritty reality of the writing life has never been more on display. Simply follow and friend your favorite authors and you’ll be exposed to the process in a way that, even a decade ago, was unheard of.

Follow and friend the people you publish with in the magazines, your editors; google your reviews…

…Ok, lost a half hour there. Sorry. I’m back. Even ambivalent reviews of my work give me chills. People are reading me!

Authors tweet, blow by blow, their struggles with manuscripts; word counts, revisions, the dark, bleak moments of hopelessness which seem to be a part the process, and the heady joys of completion and success–and publication, and, on occasion, acclaim.

And so, I’ll say now, casually, that I’ve sold my second story to F&SF, a story titled Things Worth Knowing, and that I have galleys in hand; if they’re from the same editor who worked on my first F&SF story I know there will be a bunch of really smart changes in the PDF.

It’s  a delight, to have someone work on your text, make it better, as it goes out the door. Every now and then you’ll disagree, you’re making some point the the editor didn’t get, but nine times out of ten, you smack your forehead and say “great googly moogly, how did that get by me?”

I’ll also mention, oh so casually, the possibility of being included in a very cool anthology, which I’ll know about for sure in a month or so.

Mostly, I’m here to tell you, I’m out in the world pounding on my aging Macbook Air with the flickery screen, lugging my backpack full of books, drinking coffee in Cambridge Massachusetts, surrounded by people younger and hipper and more beautiful than I am, to be sure, but I’m here. I’m writing. People are reading what I write.

Life is good.

Take a stab at whatever it is you really want to do. Humiliate yourself at an open microphone, get your stories and poems rejected, write a goddamn screenplay, fiddle with a useless agent for a decade, paint a picture, write a song, make bad art, make good art, and play nicely with others while you do. Keep your heart open, keep your head in the game.

You never know where you might end up, in twenty years or so.

Posted in Making a Writing Life, My Publications

Reading Out Loud

One of the several hundred books I've read to my kids over the last eight years. I include it as an illustration because I have fond memories of this trilogy; great characters and good plotting.

One of the several hundred books I’ve read to my kids over the last eight years. I include it as an illustration because I have fond memories of this trilogy; great characters and good plotting.

About eight years ago, I started reading out loud to my two boys. My wife started the job, using board books, picture books from the library. At some point we stopped being selective, we’d just grab a fifty pound stack off the shelf every week and read them all. I didn’t do all that many of those, for some reason, I was doing freelance stuff a lot and opted out. I’m not sure why.

I came into my own when we started reading chapter books, middle grade stuff, and young adult. I read on school nights only. Its part of the on-going negotiations required to make them go the fuck to bed. And if it sounds as if our parenting style packs the punch of UN security council resolution, well, you’re right, and shut up about that.

Because my boys are teenagers now, 14 and 16 and I’m still reading to them. Which is amazing and wonderful.

At some point, a few years back, I realized that this was the best time of the day for me. The reading. I’d turn out the lights and use a head mounted flash light; or I’d buy the books for the iPad or Kindle Paperwhite. My words would fill the darkness. And I’d be transported to another time and place.

Like anything else, if you do something for hundreds and hundreds of hours over a span of years, you get better at it. It becomes comfortable, and then second nature.

Hint: writing should be like this, too.

You do simple voices for the characters; then you add accents; it helps a listener, who has temporarily zoned out remember who is speaking. Keep the protagonists voice very close to your own, though, or you’ll be very very sorry.  You may end up with a generic male / female voice, an old person voice and a little kid voice; maybe that’s all you need.

When you read something out loud, you’re forced to notice it. You see and shape each word, engaging multiple brain regions and sensory motor cortex machinery. Reading aloud is more than reading to yourself.  It’s also of course, much slower. That’s the trade off.

If you’re me, as you read some part of you is reading ahead, and seeing dialog tags, so you know which voice to use (and you every now and then get it wrong; I always say, ‘whups, wrong voice’ and reread the passage in the right voice when that happens.)

You sense prose mistakes viscerally. like hitting a pothole while driving. A conversation that is interrupted by some huge block of description or interior monolog, which you return to — only now you don’t remember what people are talking about? Yup. You spot those.  Some prose tinkering engine in your brain will automatically rewrite sentences lightly as you read, snipping out names that could be pronouns, swapping in names when you feel the pronoun has become ambiguous, etc etc. You can’t stop yourself.

When the kids were younger, I’d hit a word I thought they didn’t know, I’d ask them what it meant; if they didn’t know it, I’d tell them what it meant; then I’d read the sentence again. Do this a few thousand times over a few years and I’m guessing you’re helping your kids with reading comprehension.

The text becomes a shared experience you can talk about. Not something that you’d think would be all that special, but if your family has devolved into a group of people watching their own personal screens, if sitting together on a couch and watching a movie or TV show all together has become increasingly rare as your kids get older, then the shared book is very cool indeed.

Mostly it’s a chance to be there, with them, when they read stuff that will get inside them and change them.

When Sirius black dies in the forth Harry Potter, my kids both burst into tears. They’d never known death, not even a pet, at that point, and those people were so real, my kids hope that Harry could have a family was so strong, that that experience was mind blowing. It was sad and I felt for them, you felt bad, for making them cry, and I felt jealous, for the immediacy, for the experience they were having, so raw and real.

You can vicariously re-enter the texts of your youth, the books that made you, and you drag your kids along with you.

I know that it won’t go on for much longer. But it has been a great thing. I recommend it for all humans, but for writers particularly.

Read out loud. It’s awesome. I’m guessing it makes you a better writer, too.

Posted in Making a Writing Life, Self Indulgent Mémoire

Oh, the Places We Go

The book given me by a workshop mate as I went off to my Clarion and twenty years in the wilderness.

The book given me by a workshop mate as I went off to my Clarion and twenty years in the wilderness.

So, one of the things about being a writer is that you do it by yourself, mostly. You do it anywhere, everywhere. You create your own structure. Most writers have day jobs or do freelance work and have families and all these things eat up  time.

Your kids lives rush by in an eye blink. Your day job teeters precariously in the jaws of the global economy. There are about a million reasons not to write fiction.

Your chances of ever making a living are infinitesimal.

Channeling the mental energies of writing into anything else will yield tangible results. Ph.Ds, real estate, happy children, a cleaner house, stacks of neatly folded laundry, tasty meals, european vacations, better local elected officials.

Why in the name of God would anyone want to know what Jay has in the box?

(Google: Let’s Make a Deal.)

It’s going to take you a few years, lets say five, but it could be ten, to see if you can even do this thing. That’s five years of mostly solitary confinement.

And so, as with any rite of passage, any exile from the mainstream, any gulag, any ghetto, any polar expedition into the arctic, the people with you, the ones you walk with, become hugely important; because mostly, you choose them, and mostly, they have chosen you.

You’re not working on an assembly line, or as part of a team in a corporation; if a relationship isn’t working, you can walk away from it. A workshop, a beta-reader, a fellow writer whose work you follow, who follows yours, nobody cares, it’s all up to you and down to me, as a former business partner of mine used to love to say.

I’ve been workshopping off and on for twenty years, doing social media heavily for as long as it has been around. I have people but, ah, this is thing, the people come and go.

Writers seldom stay put. Oddly, I do. I’m embedded in Cambridge, in my family, and nothing is likely to pry me out of here any time soon.

But my people come and go.

As writers we size each other up, and try to help each other. You look for signs, that your input is helping someone, or changing them; are they getting any better? Do they keep doing the same thing over and over again? Do they really get what you’re trying to do? Is their feedback useful?

So I have reconnected, to some degree, with the people I’ve written with over the years, around my raft of 10 professional sales over the last year. They’ve been wonderful, supportive, happy for me, and jealous and pissed off to a degree that is reasonable. (I’m a white het cis upper middle class middle aged male soaking up valuable publication slots. Even I piss myself off sometimes. I am diversity kryptonite.)

So I went looking, online, for a smart, compassionate man who gave me a copy of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” as I went off to Clarion in 1994, to tell him the places I went; the decades of darkness and my short sweet time in the sun.

I looked for evidence of his publication, hopeful. This guy was smart, focused, driven. He’d been a corporate lawyer.  He’d gotten himself and his family situated, and cut his hours back drastically to give himself time to write.

I remember thinking, in the 90s, wow, that was the right order to this in. Get a real gig, get comfortable, and then, scale back your lifestyle and clear the decks and put the time in, from a position of strength; knowing that you could choose to be richer, choose to have a bigger house or a nicer car, but instead, choosing to write. Know, first of all, that you aren’t a loser–then, write.

He looked me in the eye, and told me, he simply had to do this. He had to write. He couldn’t live with himself otherwise. He impressed me. I was sure he’d do it, he’d make it.

So I looked and looked and looked. Maybe he was writing under a pseudonym?

Finally, I looked for him on Linked In, knowing that finding him there would not be a good thing.

I found him. A bank president. A man in a suit. I barely recognized him, he’d put on weight and gotten grayer, but he looked happy, in the photo, happy and maybe a tiny bit sad. But you can’t really tell from a photo how someone is feeling.

Linked in profiles are scrubbed clean of anything resembling humanity. Linked In is your resume personality. This is the version of you that when asked, what is  your greatest weakness, answers, “sometimes I work so hard I forget to eat and sleep.” Linked in is a world of professional lies.

Oh, the Places we Go.

I hope he writes under a pseudonym.

If he doesn’t, I hope he never sees my name on a magazine.

I wish him nothing but the best.

Posted in Making a Writing Life

Stranger from the Depths

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The wraparound dust jacket for the hard to find, unabridged edition of Stranger from the Depths. These go for about 300 bucks on ebay now. If anyone has access to the unabridged edition in some way, please let me know. I want to read it. I don’t want to spend 300 dollars.

Writers of middle-grade and young adult fiction get there first.

Who introduces the young reader to dystopia? To artificial intelligence? To generation ships and apocalypse and cloning and galactic empire?

It isn’t Orwell or Huxley or Shelly (or even Heinlein or Asimov, anymore). It’s some middle grade / YA writer from the most recent decade, maybe someone great, like Neil Gaimen, or maybe a hack who somehow got popular. They wrote the book in the school library that the kid picks up on a whim; because of a cover or a blurb, or maybe, simply because it was there.

In the late sixties, and to this day, Scholastic Publishing produces a flyer handed out in public schools; cover thumbnails, descriptions, and prices; an order form with little checkboxes, the books delivered to you in homeroom. As a kid I also had free books through the RIF, Reading is Fundamental program, a non profit still active forty years later; it’s mission is to get books into the hands of kids under eight; two thirds of low income americans own no books whatsoever, according to the RIF website.

Wow. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that.

So we got free books in Charles Andrews Elementary School, being in a mixed income, majority minority community. I don’t remember if I paid for my copy of Stranger from the Depths by Gerry Turner or not.

The cover price is 50 cents.

My copy has an unsigned RIF sticker in it… is it my original copy, or one I picked up twenty years ago, with far too many used books in one of the Cambridge’s many vanished used book stores? I had this book, the abridged edition, in third grade, which was 1970 or 1971. My current copy is a first printing, in 1970.

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The abridged Scholastic Edition, paperback, 50 cents, cerca 1970.

The book is about a few young men and one young woman and a kindly professor who revive a 60 million year old Lizard Man named Saa, who inhabited a crystalline city which sank beneath the Earth during what we now call the CT event, the iridium rich boundary layer which represents the end of the Cretaceous, the age of the dinosaurs; kids these days know the comet and subsequent nuclear winter is what did those wonderful animals in…

Back in the 60s, though, nobody knew. Turner guessed some sort of seismic event which made the atmosphere toxic, this inescapable thing. Stranger’s Lizard people manage to barely survive, though, in ways familiar to SF readers, then and now.

Here’s a list of stuff from Stranger that is now badly used furniture, which felt newer in 1969, and which worked for the third and forth grade me perfectly.

  • Parallel evolution which produces a humanoid intelligent species which resemble us strongly enough that we can wear their clothing, and vice versa. Saa is a seven foot tall man with frog eyes, scales, webbed fingers and toes and needle sharp teeth. (He is also a vegetarian, which makes the teeth a, well, a mistake.)
  • Learning an alien language in a quickly glossed over bloc of narrative summary which spans a few weeks or months.
  • Ancient civilizations for which there are no fossil records; species without any fossil record or any evolutionary antecedents in the fossil record.
  • A teaching/learning machine which directly implants knowledge into brains with tiny wires. (Human and Lizard people brains are so similar that the machine can be used on people without a single test or modification. It’s a Babel Fish machine.)
  • Food pills. Food synthesizer machines which assemble meals from grids of buttons you press for different types of flavors and textures.
  • An entire technological civilization which is confined to a single city of a few thousand individuals. (I guess Turner was trying to help explain the lack of fossil record, but he simply creates this more difficult problem of a technological civilization far too small to be technological.)
  • A humanoid species without any identifiable culture to speak of. The city is full of barely described apartment and municipal buildings…. with no roofs, because they live under a dome with a giant sun thing handing from the apex like a chandelier. We see no art and hear no music. We never learn anything about Saas family structure… the alien minds we see all behave in ways easily understood by humans.
  • The sterile city of the future as imagined by many a SF writer at the time; Asimov foresaw windowless houses perfectly illuminated artificially by flat colored panels, programmable auto-kitchens, cleaning robots, etc. Saa’s city of Haad has all these things.
  • A mole machine which can bore through solid rock and travel through the earth’s metallic core, protected from heat and pressure by, well, forcefields and stuff. It is moved by… forcefields. It also has antigravity. Which is never really used anywhere else in the city.
  • Energy from the earth’s core; not simply heat driving  turbines to make electricity, but some sort of degenerate matter created by heat and pressure which can be used as fuel in reactors.  Turner may have been thinking about stellar degenerate matter here; at any rate, it gives the lizard people something to do with their mole, which is to go deep into the earth and hunt for this stuff.
  • The Evil Retrograde culture. Surviving members of a terrorist lizard people breakaway culture live in a another city, but their tech is deteriorating, and they can’t fix the old machines. This culture also has teaching machines and memory disks, so it’s uncertain why they can’t fix things. They have been eking out an existence since the cretaceous, presumably waiting for the surface to become livable. Even though they have the mole, nobody ever uses it to check on surface conditions, because… um.

Ok, I didn’t mean to do a plot summary here, I just wanted to list these tropes, but I got sucked into it, and as I did, all these gaping plot holes opened up…

After a wonderfully detailed opening featuring scuba diving and a tidal wave striking a shore which sets up the discovery of Saa’s Crypt, the descriptions grow more and more vague, as to what it’s like, to be walking around a mile or two beneath the earths crust in a ‘fire suit’ which protects you, but somehow, there are…I guess caverns and underground lava seas…you can’t really see much of anything, the story moves along at a good clip… more and more tech is introduced, working flawlessly after 60 million years, which allow stuff to happen. There are long winded explanations of the tech.

…oh, you wonder, what the hell was in the unabridged edition!

…Jesus, the reason  I wrote this was to tell you that this book was wonderful to me, in second grade, and I wanted to say it still holds up, but like a Jerry Lewis movie, its one of those things that can’t really make the leap, from youth to mature appreciation.

But I believed in Saa, the lizard man, last of his super intelligent, rational reasonable and kind race. I believed in the undying underground diamond city of Haad, preserved perfectly for 60 million years by a mysterious gas. I believed in the mole, which could travel through rock in one of two modalities; one which leaves tunnels behind, perfectly round smooth tunnels, or in an invisible mode, where the melted rock just hardens again leaving no trace of its passage. I used to think about the mole a lot, as I recall.

Boy could I believe in stuff, when I was in second grade.

What is this story, though, really about?

It’s about adventure; finding a hidden world beneath your feet, about voices out of ancient time talking to you, it’s about encountering the alien other and befriending it, finding out that the other is just like you. It’s about fearlessness, as the amiable professor drags along his young charges, into the underground city, and into the mole, to travel deeper and deeper into the earth.

This is Turner’s only SF book.

As I contemplate what to do with the rest of my writing life, this book confronts me, haunts me, weirdly.

Middle Grade and YA authors get there first.

Could I lean how to be one of them?

Posted in Making a Writing Life, Reinventing Science Fiction

I’m on the cover of the September Interzone…

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Cover for the September 2014 Interzone, which will feature my short story “A Minute and a Half.” This is a print publication in Great Britain. Eventually the rights will revert and I’ll anthologize it but I’ll be delighted to see it in print.

I’m not the cover story, understand, but I’m on the cover, in that may name is on the cover, and my short story is inside… and the cover is cool looking. Love the graphic design here.

Happy about this.

Posted in My Publications
that-universe-cover

That Universe We Both Dreamed Of

Jay O'Connell's First Asimov's Short Story (0.99 cent short story)
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