Catching Up, Plus An Excerpt From Hearts of Tabat

Photo of a clock shaped like a Neko Cat, altered with the Percolator app.

This Sunday’s online class is Literary Techniques in Genre Fiction. Come and pick up some new tools to use in your fiction!

Hello folks! January has been crazy, and I have been bad about blogging. One thing I’m going to be doing going forward is scattering in some food posts, because I’m cooking a lot this year as well as working with the SFWA Cookbook Project.

BEASTS OF TABAT is coming out on March 27, 2015, at Emerald City ComicCon, which is very exciting, but also blindingly fast. If you want to get news about the book and other projects, please sign up for my mailing list:

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Meanwhile, I’m working away on two book projects, one a YA novel, the other Book 2 of the Tabat Quartet, HEARTS OF TABAT. It picks up halfway through BEASTS OF TABAT and involves three of the secondary characters. Book 3, EXILES OF TABAT, will take up the characters from BEASTS OF TABAT again at the point where BEASTS leaves off. Book 4, GODS OF TABAT, is plotted but I’m still figuring out the viewpoint stuff.
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The Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated Awards Process

Image of a baby two-toed sloth, taken at the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica.

This is a baby two-toed sloth. I figured it would be more appealing than an award logo.

Hugo nominations have opened and with that, an array of canvassing and promotion techniques have begun to be deployed, which will no doubt continue until the actual awards are awarded and everyone can briefly calm down before a new season begins.

The thing I’m not fond of, which has arisen in recent years, is the idea that one should vote according to one’s politics, and plunk down a vote for the “right” books without bothering to read them. Some people like to justify this by pointing to something that is undeniably true — the award is often less often the expression of the opinion of SF fans overall than that of a small subset of those fans and sometimes — perhaps even often — popularity, access to high-traffic websites, or other factors not related to quality of writing affects those results. In these cases, that’s usually used as a justification for throwing the votes in what’s perceived in the opposite direction.

And my reply is this: FFS, people, read stuff and vote for the stories you like, the stories which YOU find well-crafted and appealing. Go download the excellent Campbell sampler that Marc Blake has been putting together each year and take the time to read through it. Look at the ‘year’s best’ lists. Ask people what they liked that you might. Look at the five kerjillion “here’s what I have eligible this year” posts, particularly if you have a favorite author and want to make sure you don’t miss anything by them.

But read it and apply your standards to it and then vote for what you thought was the best story/novella/whatever. Anyone telling you to vote any other way, anyone offering their work and saying “you should vote for this because we belong to the same category” rather than “I hope you’ll vote for it if you like it” has an agenda that is not at all about quality of writing.
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Recent Stuff: Book! More Book! I Like 2015 So Far!

Cat Rambo and Connie Willis

Here I am with one of my personal heroes, Connie Willis. In Chez Rambo, we have a frequent saying: What would Connie do?

I’ve announced it on social media, But I haven’t blogged about it yet, so I wanted to pass along some terrific news.

As some of you know, I have a novel that is the first volume of a fantasy quartet that I’ve been shopping around for a while. It’s a great pleasure to be able to announce that BEASTS OF TABAT will appear this year from Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s stellar Wordfire Press. Now that I have some confidence that the books will appear, I’m finding that words on the second book, HEARTS OF TABAT, are flowing much much MUCH more easily, and that’s been my primary focus this week.

But! I have additional great news, which is that Hydra House will be publishing a second two-sided collection from me, this time full of fantasy stories. NEITHER HERE NOR THERE will also be appearing in 2015, which makes this a great year so far and we’re only halfway through month one.

Because I am insane and always taking on too many things, here’s a new one I’m involved with, a Seattle area event calendar/blog for speculative fiction, Supernatural Seattle. If you’re interested in helping out with that project, drop me a line.

I’ve also updated my About page with the appearances that I know of so far in 2015. I think I will be in Oklahoma in early May, but am still nailing that appearance down. In any case, it looks like it will be a fun year, and one thing that I’m particularly looking forward to are the Nebula Awards, which take place in early June in Chicago.

Reminder: this weekend I’ve got an online class coming up, Editing 101, that focuses on revision and rewriting. Sign up and learn how to make your sentences sing. If you can’t make it but want to make sure you get news of upcoming classes, sign up for my mailing list.

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WIP: Ms. Liberty Splits Up the Superb Squadron

Cover of ebook Ms. Liiberty Gets a Haircut

The WIP is a prequel to “Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut.”

The meeting room had been storage area originally. Like everything else in the laboratory converted into headquarters, it was cramped, incredibly cramped, and more soon because of the outsized table someone had jammed into the middle. Chairs were crammed in around, an assortment of styles and shapes, as though everyone had elected to bring their own seating arrangement. In a corner was a small triangular table, holding a battered coffee pot and a perpetually empty plate.

They were the first to arrive, and Ms. Liberty took the opportunity to select, not the sturdiest chair (a hefty wooden bench) in the room, which the Unicorn would probably need, but the second sturdiest. Her augmented flesh was denser than that of most of the other team members, and she thought that breaking a chair would be a bad way to start off her first week with the team. The chair she picked was made of metal and was unyielding underneath her ans she sat down. She tried to relax into it, tried to assume the pose that would convey her attitude when others entered the room: not too eager but certainly on the alert.

Meanwhile, X wandered the corners of the room, extruded a long thin tentacle, which thoroughly explored the inner workings of the coffeepot, fingered the edges of the map of the world thumbtacked to the wall next to the nonfunctioning video screen. Over Antarctica, someone had scrawled in barely legible green pen, “Kilroy was here.” Air blew in through the vents, the only real source of sound in the room other than their breathing and the sounds of their movement.

The clock on the wall, which hung a little askew as though buffeted somehow in the past, clicked, and the hand clicked over to a minute before the hour. The door swung open and Dr. Raffy emerged, arms full of navy-blue folders stamped with the Squadron’s logo. He nodded at both of them and began to put a folder at each seat. X turned into a porcupine and waddled over to take the seat next to Ms. Liberty, a plain pine kitchen chair, its seat well-worn with use.

The Gladhander was the next to appear. “Ladies, gentleman…” He smirked as he slid into his chair, a leather Aeron that gave silently underneath him. The door opened again to show the Silver Juggler and Ballboy, both looking ill at ease and unhappy.

At the hour, Dr. Raffy began to speak, despite the lack of the Unicorn.
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Recent News

Huzzah! It’s my great pleasure to announce that WordFire Press will be publishing my novel, Beasts of Tabat. I’m tickled as can be, plus have a couple of other pieces of good news up my sleeve. So far 2015 isn’t too shabby!

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Random Lists of January

Image that says 1) Tweet 2) ??? 3) Profit

Still working on 2015’s business plan

Things I have made so far this year:
Some words
A lot of ebooks
A loaf of bread
Quite a bit of yogurt
Danish pastry dough
Flaxseed crackers
Ricotta cheese
Cashew cheese
Several pots of coffee (seven to be be precise)

What I have written:
One blog post
One freelance piece
Several pieces of flash
Part of what looks like it might be a superhero novel

What I have read:
Lots of Internet articles
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (reread)
The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
The Kingdoms of the Gods by N.K. Jemisin

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Newly Published on Amazon

Cover for "English Muffin, Devotion on the Side", a story by speculative fiction writer Cat Rambo.

“English Muffin, Devotion on the Side” is one of my personal favorites.

Part of this year’s resolutions is getting everything up on line. So far I’ve reformatted everything that I’d put up because it didn’t look as nice as it should and today added some more stories.

The new stories, which I’m working on putting up on Smashwords as well, are:

  • Amid the Words of War – (Twicefar Station) An exiled alien mourns for the race that will no longer accept it.
  • Can You Hear the Moon? – (The World Beside Us) A teenage girl in smalltown faces one of the most difficult challenges she’ll ever endure: upcoming adulthood. As she stands on the brink between innocence and experience, will magic be able to help her cope with what lies ahead?
  • English Muffin, Devotion on the Side – (Closer Than You Think) George leaves copies of himself to his friends and family when he dies. The problem is — what happens when you’re only a copy?
  • Flicka – (Closer Than You Think) Inhabitants of a small Idaho town have trouble adjusting to their new neighbors, a family of genetically modified humans who have chosen to become more equine than human.
  • I Come From the Dark Universe – (Twicefar Station) Life on tumultuous TwiceFar station is much the lonely existence same day to day for Bo. But when he comes upon a mysterious woman who claims to come from an alternate universe, he must face his strange attraction to her.
  • Love, Resurrected – (Tales of Tabat) General Aife Croffadottir is acknowledged one of the finest military minds of her time — which is why the sorcerer Balthus commands her to her service even after her death. How will she come to terms with her new existence?
  • Of Selkies, Disco Balls, and Anna Plane – Small-town Indiana in the 80s is an uncomfortable place for Arturo, who has a secret life at the local gay bar. When he introduces his best friend, Anna, to the place, he finds both of them swept up in a story of magical obsession and servitude.
  • So Glad We Had This Time Together – (The World Beside Us) Television executives come up with a reality series starring supernatural creatures — only to find it enjoying unnatural popularity.
  • TimeSnip – (TwiceFar Station) Plucked from the 19th century, Victoria finds employment negotiating with civilizations for the same technology that’s responsible for her existence. What happens when she’s dispatched to a civilization whose ways she finds oppressive in this story of the far future? Contains adult themes.
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Chan Culture and Good-Faith Arguments

photo of Cat Rambo

Getting ready for the New Year.

I wrote a piece, #PurpleSF, about feminism and SF for Clarkesworld. It was in part stirred up by the convulsions of the Gamergate controversy, which has continued to provide plenty of food for thought (and probably will continue to do so).

One of the many interesting (and sometimes positive) things that’s come out of that controversy has been a lot of examinations of Internet culture and many of its subsets. Before last year, I had only the vaguest idea what “chan culture” would be, so I found this piece really fascinating, particularly because questions about anonymity are (imo) going to continue to rear their heads whenever they bump into notions of transparency in coming years.

The full piece, How imageboard culture shaped Gamergate, appeared on BoingBoing. Its author has produced a lot of interesting pieces about Gamergate, usually composed as Storify pieces, such as these: Gamergate, Sexism, and Tribalism; Why I Oppose #Gamergate

The article is talking specifically about image boards, and here’s a chunk from it that describes the culture:

These anonymous imageboards have their own idiosyncratic culture, despite the lack of permanent identity. Posters call themselves anons, or occasionally channers. While anonymity is a core part of this identity, merely being anonymous does not make you an anon. Rather, it’s about identifying as a larger whole. Capital-A Anonymous, such as the Project Chanology protestors and the hacking/activist groups like @youranonnews, are anons, but most anons don’t think of themselves as part of Anonymous.

Without identity, every anon is whoever they want to be at the moment. It’s freeing! Anons exalt these imageboards as the only place people can truly be themselves, without being burdened by their identity or consequences. This includes genuinely awful or hateful opinions. Anons have a broad, often absolutist view of free speech, sometimes extending that so far as to include threats of violence or extreme pornography. Anons are extremely protective of their culture and this very broad view of free speech, because of both great faith in their ability to self-police argument and an unconscious, internal reliance on irony.

The atmosphere is that of a paradoxically jovial angry mob. Almost everyone sees their own point of view as the consensus, assuming that most people most people agree with them. Any possibly contentious statement is presumed to be ironic, told as a joke or to rile up people who disagree. Since everyone assumes that anyone who disagrees is arguing in bad faith and doesn’t mean what they’re saying, anyone who disagrees is a fair target for apparently hateful mockery. This basic assumption of bad faith applies even when arguments are long-lasting and well-known: for example, the console war arguments in /v/, 4chan’s video games sub-board. However, this mockery is defanged by anonymity and irony.

Everyone’s anonymous, so a poster can just join the winning side of an argument, cheerfully mocking their own older posts. One poster can even play both sides from the start. Every anon can choose whatever opinion they want to have on a post-by-post basis, so everything flows smoothly even as people hatefully attack each other for having the wrong opinion. Anons believe in this free marketplace of ideas: good ones survive the firestorm, while bad ones burn to ash as everyone dogpiles on mocking them.

Wayne and I were talking about this conception of discussion/argument today and I can at least partially understand how it’s shaped some of the conversation within Gamergate (the overall situation, not the group) and created many of the problems. (Anders Sandburg has an interesting piece about such culture clashes.) I think it’s important to look at the background people are coming from and the Internet etiquette norms that they’ve absorbed.

At the same time, bad faith arguments are something I don’t practice and I find trolls kinda appalling, because the idea of getting enjoyment from making other people angry, upset, or otherwise unhappy seems something only a retrograde would relish. I blogged about arguing on the Internet a while back and said I’d follow up and talk about bad faith argument, but I never have, because I find its habitual practitioners antithetical to the way I try to think.

Don’t get me wrong. I like debate, and life with Wayne is a lively series of conversations in which one or the other will often take the role of devil’s advocate just to see how sound or defensible an idea is. But that seems different to me than taking on the Internet identity of someone who believes something just to see if you can get other people riled up enough to waste time on composing eight page replies to your argument rather than something, I dunno, actually productive or enjoyable.

But, as Wayne can testify, I am painfully earnest about a number of things, including the idea that the human race should be advancing and that part of that advance is being fairer about our treatment of the people and world around us. The idea that love is both greater than and preferable to hate. That cruelty only creates more cruelty. That civility and an assumption of good faith should be the baseline, rather than the exception. And that we are fallible creatures who are nonetheless capable of learning from both experience as well as questioning ourselves.

Part of my plea in the Clarkesworld column is that we stop arguing in bad faith and lazy categories. It’s a Quixotic fight, but I’ll continue to carry its banner. And part of that banner is to argue in good faith, to ask questions and interrogate the world around me to see what blinders it’s imposing on me. That’s a vital part of making good art. And good conversation.

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My Theories About Series and Self-Publishing

Cover of Events at Fort Plentitude

An exiled soldier tries to wait out a winter in a fort beleaguered by fox-spirits and winter demons.

Happy New Year, one and all! I thought I’d start the New Year talking about what I’m working on at the moment, putting individual stories up on Amazon and Smashwords. Between publications and backlog, I’ve got about 200 to play with, so it’s a pretty big task, given that I’d like to have almost all of them up by the end of the month. But if I consider that some are flash, which I’ll put up individually on QuarterReads and release in a compendium, it becomes less daunting.

I’m getting faster at the process as I go, and I’m also refining it, which unfortunately means I need to go back over some of the earlier releases, just to make them all look the same as far as prettiness and completeness goes.

Would it be better to space releasing the stories out over the course of a year? Probably. But I’d like to get this all set up and done so I can move onto other things. I have enough stories that will be added over the course of the year as I write them or their rights become available that there will be plenty of additions as is.
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2014 in Review

January: The Year Begins in the San Juans

Photo of a sunset over water.

We’ve been going up to the San Juans the past few years for New Years, though this year we’re skipping that. Here’s the early evening view from the front porch out over the water.

2014 was a great year and I want to thank the wonderful friends and family that helped make it so.

I started the year out in the San Juan Islands with Wayne, Mom, and Mark. We watched Sherlock (Mom hadn’t learned about Benedict Cumberbatch yet), read, and did a lot of walking and bird watching, as well as throwing a ball for the dog living on the front porch of the rental place. There was a great fireplace, and plenty of room to sit around and talk or play games. Lunch at the Love Dog Cafe was a worthy meal, although I still miss Bilbo’s.

That was the same month my story, “All the Pretty Little Mermaids,” which appeared in the March issue of Asimov’s SF, made it onto the shelf, so I was able to spot it in the wild. At the same time, “Summer Night in Durham” came out in the anthology Stamps, Vamps, and Tramps, edited by Shannon Robinson.

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