Okay, so last night I got the extremely exciting news that Generation V had earned out. I prompted posted it all over the place and rolled around in my good fortune and the congratulations of peers, friends, and fans like a kitten in a sunbeam.
And before we move any further down that subject — THIS IS STILL INCREDIBLE NEWS, AND EVERYONE MUST DANCE!
Right, that’s taken care of.
Wait, no, still more dancing required.
All right, I’m all set for at least five minutes now. So, when I made that post last night, basically there were two camps of people — those who knew what I was talking about, and those who had no idea what I mean and couldn’t really understand why everyone else was going batshit insane with joy.
If you were in the secondary camp, there’s nothing to be ashamed of — “earning out” is an industry term. Here’s how it works:
I sold the original manuscript of Generation V (then-titled “Virtue’s Path,” previously titled “Blood Son”, original working title “Cooking With Garlic”) to Roc in May of 2012. Part of that original sales agreement was that I would receive an advance — this was an agreed-upon chunk of money that was essentially an up-front payment of the money that everyone hoped that the book would earn. Now, this is one of the advantages of going with a traditional publishing company over doing it self-published — firstly, that Roc took on all the costs and risks of producing the book, which meant that I wasn’t assuming those costs and risks (as a self-publisher has to — if you self-publish, you’re financially in the hole at the point that you have your pile of books ready to sell — and you have no guarantee that you’ll ever sell a single one), and secondly, that Roc paid me money even before the first sale was ever made, meaning that I had an assurance at the point that I was putting all the final work into Generation V (and the other books in the series) that I would actually earn real money out of the project. Believe me, that’s pretty great stuff for a writer.
My advance for Generation V was $7,500. This was split into three equal chunks of $2500 — I received my first check upon the signing of the contract, the second check when the primary editing was done on Generation V and my editor agreed that we had a book that was of the quality that Roc was willing to put on bookshelves (Generation V was the only manuscript that was completed when I signed my original three-book contract — Iron Night and Tainted Blood consisted of two-page book proposals that outlined major plot points — and the editing process added about 20,000 words and several significant plot adjustments (all improvements, I feel) from the manuscript I originally sold), and the third check when Generation V was published in May 2013. All told, it took me a full year to receive all of my advance money for Generation V — minus the 15% that went to my agent (and, since I wouldn’t have had that contract at all without my agent, and the 15% of my earnings was the only money that my agent ever received at all, I have no regrets whatsoever about that portion).
(note: Iron Night and Tainted Blood also had advances on the same schedule, and of the same amount. This meant that my initial payment of money when I signed the contract was actually $7500, because it was the first 1/3 payment for all three books. And, believe me, that $7500 made a rather significant difference in my bottom-line that year. Dark Ascension had its own contract that was negotiated later, and I took a pay cut on my advance in order to be able to write it.)
The advance is, essentially, a bet that the publisher makes that your book will earn money. If Generation V had never sold a single copy, then the publisher wouldn’t have been able to tell me to give back the money — that $7500 was entirely mine.
Now, that $7500 doesn’t have to be given back, but it also isn’t a gift, either. It is an advance on hoped-for earnings. A mass-market paperback copy of Generation V sold in the USA earns me 64 cents (on e-books my cut is higher, because the profit is also higher for the publisher, which is why Roc was horrified at how sluggish my e-sales were initially (though, like the poet who was once turned into a newt can be paraphrased into saying, “It got better.”)). Once Generation V went on sale, every book sale went toward that $7500 – essentially paying down that initial advance.
“Earning out” is what every author is eagerly awaiting as soon as that book goes on sale — because until that day happens, the publisher has essentially lost money on the book. Also, until the book earns out, the author cannot receive royalties, because the royalties are still occupied with paying off the advance. I’ve never seen any solid numbers on the subject, but the statistic I’ve heard most often is that only about 20% of books actually ever earn out — which is, when you think about it, kind of horrifying. We all hear about the huge blockbuster sellers that leave publishers swimming in piles of cash, but those are the exceptions. Most of the books that come out in any given year will never earn back their advance.
Generation V has now beaten the odds — and, in another exciting development, is now passively earning me money. Every time someone buys the first adventure of Fortitude Scott and Suzume Hollis at a bookstore, or on e-book, I actually earn money! (to the assholes who pirate — yes, what you do actually hurts authors. I don’t have statistics on the extent to which illegal downloads hurt this series, but for every copy that was stolen, that made it slower for the book to earn out, it made the publisher see lower sales numbers and lose faith in the series, and it contributed to the early death of the series and to less money for me, which hurt my ability to write more books. and, before anyone who illegally downloads tries to say this, NO, YOUR ILLEGAL DIGITAL DOWNLOADS OF MY BOOK ARE NOT THE SAME AS CHECKING IT OUT OF THE LIBRARY, OR EVEN BUYING A COPY FROM A SECOND-HAND BOOKSTORE, YOU DICKS.)
Yay! So Roc will be cutting me a check for $115.78, which is pretty exciting when you consider that the last time I received money for Generation V was back in 2013! Kick-ass start to 2016, if I say so myself!
One thing to bear in mind, because it’s easy to lose sight of it when you look at that last paragraph — if I hadn’t received an advance, I wouldn’t have made more money on this book. I would still have earned $7615.78 on the series — except earning that first $7500 would have taken me two years, rather than being entirely in my pocket on the day that Generation V hit the bookstores. And that $7500 paid my mortgage, my electric bill, and other bills, which made it substantially easier for me to write. Without that advance, it would’ve taken me longer to write Iron Night, Tainted Blood, and even Dark Ascension, because I would’ve been having to hustle other work elsewhere and spend less time writing.
I’ve seen the numbers on my series — Generation V had absolutely terrible e-sales when it first came out. Like, single-digit terrible. In the beginning, people picked it up in bookstores. They bought it because it was on the shelf in front of them and they could pick it up, flip through it, read that first chapter or skim around, and something in that tactile experience led them to take a chance on a book that so many people initially assumed was YA, or Paranormal Romance, or just “Oh for fuck’s sake I am not going to sit through another goddamn vampire book where all that happens is everyone swoons at the sight of a sparkling undead prick.” That’s where this series started — fighting uphill. And it was the backing of my publisher that kept it on bookshelves for people to see, or sent copies to bloggers who read it on the strength of Roc’s backing, or who my editor was. They didn’t read it because of me, and, I’m sad to say, they generally didn’t read it because of the cover or the book description. Frankly, talk to the people who have become the greatest supporters, champions, and all-around fucking HEROES of this series getting as far as it did, and 90% of them will say that it was word-of-mouth that got them to, very reluctantly, pick up Generation V and give my slacker vampire a shot.
I have zero regrets about choosing traditional publishing. I am not in any way disparaging self-publishing — there are plenty of instances when self-publishing makes more sense to an individual writer than pursuing traditional, but this was not one of those times.
Finally, a few people have asked me whether this means that Roc will be publishing the fifth Fortitude Scott book. While I certainly remain hopeful that interest in the series continues to grow, and that more people find their way to picking up Generation V, at this time the position of publisher has not altered. I am currently working on another writing project, but please don’t despair — I have all the layout and plans for Books 5 & 6, and if the publisher sees an increased demand for these books at some point down the road, they might give the last two a chance. I’m continuing to consider my options for this series, and if I get an opportunity that would put Books 5 & 6 on bookshelves, I would definitely take it.
If you’re interested in more information about advances and earning out, from someone who has done it quite a bit more successfully than I have, check out Kameron Hurley’s essay “The Cold Publishing Equations: Books Sold + Marketability + Love.”
And, with all that discussed….. and everyone feeling fully informed…..
GENERATION V HAS JUST EARNED OUT! EVERYONE DANCE!
Generation V has just earned out!
THIS IS THE MOMENT WHEN WE ALL DANCE!
Basically, I read where my interest led me. Some I got from trips to the bookstore just because they looked neat. Some I enjoyed, some sucked. That’s the fun of a bookstore trip. I got The Creation of Anne Boleyn, Princesses Behaving Badly, The Empathy Exams, Maplecroft, and Uprooted like this.
Some books I read because everyone on Twitter was talking about them – such as The Martian, The Traitor Baru Cormorant, or The Grace of Kings. Some books I read because people I knew had written them – like Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, The Lives of Tao, Last First Snow, and Against A Brightening Sky. I read a few books because I’d been waiting impatiently for them to come out and devoured them as soon as they hit print, like Visions of Silver. A few others were recommended by people whose taste I trusted, like when Max Gladstone announced to the world at large that everyone needed to read Seraphina.
There were also some books that I saw on a library shelf, and read because, hell, why the fuck not? A library is free and wonderful and we all need to support our libraries. That’s how I read Village of Secrets and Elizabeth Warren’s A Fighting Chance. I also read a few books because I hadn’t read them in school, and I like to try to keep pushing my reading on the classics – that’s why I read The Awakening, A Passage To India, The Age of Innocence, and White Fang.
I read some books because I bought them at cons or at airports. Never underestimate these as sources of reading material. That’s how I got Karen Memory, Concussion, The Tropic of Serpents, and The Art of Asking. I also read a few books because I met their authors at cons – that was Owl and the Japanese Circus and Half-Resurrection Blues.
I read other books because I’d gotten them and they’d sat on my To-Read shelf (yes, it’s no longer a pile – it’s a small bookshelf in my dining room – YES I FEEL SHAME) for upwards of several years. Some of them were worth the wait – some weren’t. This included Tyrannosaurus Sue, The Lucifer Effect, Salvation City, and Blood Matters.
I read a big pile of books because I was doing research for a book that I’m currently writing. I’m not going to divulge the super-secret details of my current book project, but these books included Snow Country, Women of the Pleasure Quarters, Geisha: A Life, Hiroshima Nagasaki, Black Rain, Autobiography of a Geisha, Samurai!, Grass For My Pillow, and Geisha. Fear not, gentle readers – someday this mysterious and seemingly unconnected list of books will make sense.
I read some other books that had been out for a while, and which I really thought that I should read. Just like reading classics of literary fiction to keep expanding my comfort with that field, I read some fantasy and sci-fi simply because they were generally acknowledged to be important books in the genre. Again, some were awesome. Some left me scratching my head a little. Just like the classic books. Some of these were The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Mirror Empire, The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Magicians, The Curse of Chalion, The Broken Crown, Daughter of the Empire, and Daggerspell.
And then there were the books that I heard about somehow (on NPR, on someone’s blog, in conversation, seeing in passing, and so on) and immediately felt that I had to read IMMEDIATELY. These included The Birth of The Pill, All Joy and No Fun, Digging For Richard III, As You Wish, Mating In Captivity, and Voices In The Ocean.
And then there was everything else.
Here’s the full list.
1. Masks by E. C. Blake
2. The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo
3. The Best American Short Stories 2014 edited by Jennifer Egan
4. Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories From History Without The Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
5. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
6. The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller
7. Control Point by Myke Cole
8. The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men by Janie Bryant
9. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
10. The Birth of The Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig
11. The Martian by Andy Weir
12. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
13. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
14. Blood Red by Mercedes Lackey
15. White Fang by Jack London
16. Call of the Wild by Jack London
17. Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop
18. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
19. Beggars Ride by Nancy Kress
20. The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan
21. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
22. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
23. The Binding Chair by Kathryn Harrison
24. It Started With A Scandal by Julie Anne Long
25. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
26. Undercity by Catherine Asaro
27. The Broken Crown by Michelle West
28. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
29. Up In The Air by Walter Kirn
30. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
31. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip G. Zimbardo
32. The Shattered Court by M. J. Scott
33. Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older
34. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
35. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
36. The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes
37. The Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan
38. Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki
39. Women of the Pleasure Quarters: The Secret History of the Geisha by Lesley Downer
40. The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
41. Samurai! by Saburo Sakai & Martin Caidin & Fred Saito
42. Hiroshima Nagasaki: The Real Story of the Atomic Bombings and Their Aftermath by Paul Ham
43. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
44. Nightless City: Geisha and Courtesan Life in Old Tokyo by J. E. de Becker
45. The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama
46. Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner
47. Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse
48. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
49. Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda
50. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold
51. Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews
52. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
53. Grass for My Pillow by Saiichi Maruya
54. A Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
55. Geisha: A Unique World of Tradition, Elegance, and Art by John Gallagher
56. The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery
57. Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
58. The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold
59. Empress by Shan Sa
60. Last First Snow by Max Gladstone
61. The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold
62. Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh
63. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
64. A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren
65. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
66. Village of Secrets: Defying The Nazis In Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead
67. Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts
68. Mating In Captivity: Reconciling The Erotic & the Domestic by Esther Perel
69. Blood Matters: A Journey Along the Genetic Frontier by Masha Gessen
70. Probability Moon by Nancy Kress
71. Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez
72. The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
73. Against A Brightening Sky by Jaime Lee Moyer
74. The Anglo Files by Sarah Lyall
75. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
76. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
77. Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt
78. Googled: The End of the World as We Know It by Ken Auletta
79. The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton
80. Archangel’s Legion by Nalini Singh
81. The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank by David Plotz
82. The Magician King by Lev Grossman
83. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
84. The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
85. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not To Have Kids edited by Meghan Daum
86. The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge
87. Voices In The Ocean by Susan Casey
88. Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish
89. Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
90. A Passage To India by E. M. Forster
91. Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr
92. Empire of Dust by Jacey Bedford
93. Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
94. Tyrannosaurus Sue: The Extraordinary Saga of the Largest, Most Fought Over T-Rex Ever Found by Steve Fiffer
95. Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas
96. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
97. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach
98. Digging For Richard III by Mike Pitts
99. War and XPs by Rich Burlew
Whoa, end of the year. That came FAST.
2015 ends in about 12 hours, so I’m going to call my year in reading officially finished. I don’t think I’m going to be finishing anything else, particularly since I’ve just cracked open Django Wexler’s The Price of Valor. This year I read 99 books — definitely a solid year in reading. If you’re curious, you can check out my previous literary high-points in First Quarter, Second Quarter, and Third Quarter. And I might do a full reading round-up later in the week, depending on whether I think anyone might be interested or not.
Anyway, of the books that I read between October and December, six left a major impact on me. Here they are, in the order that I read them:
1. The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton
Nan and Jinny St George have both wealth and beauty in generous supply. In the New York society of the 1870s, however, only those with old money can achieve the status of the elite, and it is here that the sisters seem doomed to failure.
Nan’s new governess, Laura Testvalley, herself an outsider, takes pity on their plight and launches them instead on the unsuspecting British aristocracy. Lords, dukes, marquesses and MPs, it seems, not only appreciate beauty, but also the money that New York’s nouveaux riches can supply.
A love story of love and marriage among the old and new moneyed classes, The Buccaneers is a delicately perceptive portrayal of a world on the brink of change.
For a long time, the only thing I’d read by Edith Wharton was Ethan Frome, which I read in high school. That…. did not leave me with the desire to read more Wharton. But over the last year, I taught a college short story class, and the anthology had several Wharton stories – the delicious comedy of manners ones. This was a different side to Wharton – though, in fairness, I’m pretty sure that a lot of that style of writing might also have gone over my head as a sixteen-year-old. However, I’m really not interested in re-reading Ethan Frome to find out – that book was motherfucking depressing. I can say, however, that I absolutely adored The Buccaneers, and would highly recommend it to others. Others being, obviously, everyone who reads this blog. So consider yourself recommended!
2. The Magician King by Lev Grossman
The Magicians was praised as a triumph by readers and critics of both mainstream and fantasy literature. Now Grossman takes us back to Fillory, where the Brakebills graduates have fled the sorrows of the mundane world, only to face terrifying new challenges.
Quentin and his friends are now the kings and queens of Fillory, but the days and nights of royal luxury are starting to pall. After a morning hunt takes a sinister turn, Quentin and his old friend Julia charter a magical sailing ship and set out on an errand to the wild outer reaches of their kingdom. Their pleasure cruise becomes an adventure when the two are unceremoniously dumped back into the last place Quentin ever wants to see: his parent’s house in Chesterton, Massachusetts. And only the black, twisted magic that Julia learned on the streets can save them.
The Magician King is a grand voyage into the dark, glittering heart of magic, an epic quest for the Harry Potter generation. It also introduces a powerful new voice, that of Julia, whose angry genius is thrilling. Once again Grossman proves that he is the cutting edge of literary fantasy.
I think it’s honestly hard to beat Grossman for prose quality. For me, he’s right up there with Gaiman and Morgenstern (Erin, not the made-up Princess Bride author) for sheer beauty of language. I love his sentences, his wryness, his delicious embrace and commentary on the absurd, the cliché, and the beautiful. It’s entirely possible that I could read just about anything by Grossman and be very well pleased. The Magician King had the same issue as the first book – namely, there’s a point where as a reader I think to myself, “This is all quite lovely, and I’m having a nice time, but is there going to be a plot at any point?” – and, full credit to Grossman, the plot does emerge soon after. But the writing itself is so fantastic that I still enthusiastically gave it five stars when it came time to rank it. I also really enjoy the way that Grossman cuts the fairy-tale sweetness and safety with some extremely nasty and scarring elements – kudos, and I’m looking forward to picking up the third.
3. The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin.
As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.
In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.
I have a great respect for Kameron Hurley as an essayist (plus, I follow her on Twitter – so, yeah, there’s that), but I hadn’t read any of her epic fantasy, though I think I would have had to be dead to have missed the buzz. This was my first – and all I’d heard was “gender-bending” – listen, who in their right mind views THAT as the takeaway here? I see multiple intricate societies with very different social and power structures, carnivorous fucking plants, PEOPLE RIDING BEARS, and the incredible mind-fuck of the mirror universe except without distinguishing beards. The fact that one society has three genders, another has five, and another one just seems to have two (but also what appeared to be a giant praying mantis as an Empress – at least I think that’s what it was) is so far down the list of interesting things that it wouldn’t even make my final cut. Anyway, I liked this a lot – but while I sort-of enjoyed it for the first half, the second half is when shit got real. Very interesting, very mind-fucking, an interesting mix of grim and hopeful, definitely not like anything I’d ever read before.
4. Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.
But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.
This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.
Dear lord, was this Lovecraftian. In fact, I think Cherie Priest just out-Lovecrafted Lovecraft. I know we just (finally) retired the Lovecraft statue, but maybe we could’ve found a compromise and created a bust of Cherie to hand out as an award.
I’m not really one for contagious madness as a story device (in fact, it skeeves me out good and proper), but this was incredibly done. Priest uses a lot of different characters to tell the story, and is incredibly good at depicting the slide into madness. Plus, a lot of good creepiness fact, and the historical fiction element. She’s got a lot of balls in the air here, but never drops a single one. Utterly impressive.
5. Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Jeanne Marie Laskas first met the young forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2009, while reporting a story for GQ that would go on to inspire the movie Concussion. Omalu told her about a day in September 2002, when, in a dingy morgue in downtown Pittsburgh, he picked up a scalpel and made a discovery that would rattle America in ways he’d never intended. Omalu was new to America, chasing the dream, a deeply spiritual man escaping the wounds of civil war in Nigeria. The body on the slab in front of him belonged to a fifty-year-old named Mike Webster, aka “Iron Mike,” a Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the greatest ever to play the game. After retiring in 1990, Webster had suffered a dizzyingly steep decline. Toward the end of his life, he was living out of his van, tasering himself to relieve his chronic pain, and fixing his rotting teeth with Super Glue. How did this happen?, Omalu asked himself. How did a young man like Mike Webster end up like this? The search for answers would change Omalu’s life forever and put him in the crosshairs of one of the most powerful corporations in America: the National Football League. What Omalu discovered in Webster’s brain—proof that Iron Mike’s mental deterioration was no accident but a disease caused by blows to the head that could affect everyone playing the game—was the one truth the NFL wanted to ignore.
I picked this up at an airport kiosk and read it during my flight. Now, I picked it up for one simple reason – Jeanne Marie Laskas was one of my professors during grad school. See, my graduate MFA program had this whole idea about making sure that its graduates were at least somewhat well-rounded as artists – there were three tracks that you could study – fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. We all had to take one course in a track other than our primary field of study – which meant that whenever you took one of the big overview courses (of which there were three, one for each) about 2/3rds of the people in that course were some very grumpy people who were having to study outside of their field of interest.
It was character building.
Now, since I am not even close to being a poet, and in fact have not studied poetry academically since high school (which, incidentally, did not stop me from acting like I knew what I was doing when I had to TEACH poetry in a basic college literature course two semesters ago – but, very importantly, that was about paying my mortgage, so I made it work. With, it must be said, some assistance from NPR.), so I took the non-fiction overview with Laskas. It was, I must say, fantastic. I gained a whole new appreciation for memoir, a deep and virulent hatred for the misleading narrative transgressions of Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, and overall had a lovely semester. I also always have an interest in Laskas’s work, as she is a really excellent writer. Concussion was born out of a GQ article that Laskas wrote on the same subject, and honestly the material is slightly thinner than you’d like to see for a full-length book project, but it’s a fast and extremely illuminating work.
6. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world’s most successful music Kickstarter.
Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn’t alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.
Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. THE ART OF ASKING will inspire readers to rethink their own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love.
I enjoyed this book quite a lot – it functions well as a memoir, but also as an overall statement of belief and purpose in shared communities and in voluntary acts of support and gift-giving. It’s a lovely book to read around the holidays (I read this on Christmas), since so much of it is Palmer showing the massive extent to which she is willing to trust complete strangers, and also the large extent to which that trust is honored. And, for those interested in these sorts of things, the book also offers some extremely interesting and on-point insight into how Palmer was able to use Kickstarter to fund her album, in the most successful Kickstarter at the time (obviously, she has now been blown out of the water by the Oatmeal cat card-game). Hint: the answer isn’t something that would appear on any Market Yourself And Your Book In Ten Easy Steps! blog-post or self-published pamphlet.
Did you read any of these this year? If so, what do you think? Did you read others that were awesome? If so, throw them in the comments section! And most importantly — have a fantastic 2016!
BIG appearance this week! I’m going to be attending NYCC from Thursday to Saturday, and here’s my schedule:
Thursday, Oct. 8
Panel: Our World Gone Weird, 11am – 12pm
What’s lurking down that alleyway? A thug? A shuggoth? A ghost? A demon? Merfolk? Vampires? Authors Austin Grossman (Crooked), Paul Tremblay (A Head Full of Ghosts), Michael Buckley (Undertow), M.L. Brennan (Dark Ascension), Kristi Charish (Owl and the City of Angels), and Peter Clines (The Fold) discuss how to overlay the otherworldly onto our world.
Autographing: Our World Gone Weird Signing, 12:15 – 1:15pm
Friday, Oct. 9
Panel: Geek Geek Revolution, 4:15pm – 5:15pm
GEEK GEEK REVOLUTION is a no-holds-barred geek culture game show featuring science fiction/fantasy Authors competing for the chance to be TOP GEEK. Featuring: John Flanagan (The Rangers Apprentice series), Christopher Golden (Tin Men), Max Brallier (The Last Kids on Earth), M.L. Brennan (The Generation V series) and Judd Winick (HILO). Moderated by Heath Corson (Nerdist).
How the hell is it October already? That’s kind of disturbing. Anyway, happy third quarter, everyone! In the first half of this year, I read 48 books (26 in January – March, 22 in April – June). Over the last three months I added 25 more books to that total (I’m sorry, I just love the analytics buttons on Goodreads — be glad that I’m not subjecting you to my ongoing page counts for the year), of which 7 were so good as to blow my mind and be included in this quarter’s update!
The order is not in terms of the magnitude of my affection for each book, but just the order that I read them.
1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Naomi Novik, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
2. The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery
The story of two women whose lives intersect in late-nineteenth-century Japan, The Teahouse Fire is also a portrait of one of the most fascinating places and times in all of history—Japan as it opens its doors to the West. It was a period when wearing a different color kimono could make a political statement, when women stopped blackening their teeth to profess an allegiance to Western ideas, and when Japan’s most mysterious rite—the tea ceremony—became not just a sacramental meal, but a ritual battlefield.
We see it all through the eyes of Aurelia, an American orphan adopted by the Shin family, proprietors of a tea ceremony school, after their daughter, Yukako, finds her hiding on their grounds. Aurelia becomes Yukako’s closest companion, and they, the Shin family, and all of Japan face a time of great challenges and uncertainty. Told in an enchanting and unforgettable voice, The Teahouse Fire is a lively, provocative, and lushly detailed historical novel of epic scope and compulsive readability.
3. Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
Follow Lois McMaster Bujold, one of the most honored authors in the field of fantasy and science fiction, to a land threatened by treacherous war and beset by demons — as a royal dowager, released from the curse of madness and manipulated by an untrustworthy god, is plunged into a desperate struggle to preserve the endangered souls of a realm.
4. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
For the past three years, Jon Ronson has traveled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us, people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly or made a mistake at work. Once the transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know, they’re being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job.
A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice, but what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people’s faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.
Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws and the very scary part we all play in it.
5. Blood Matters: A Journey Along the Genetic Frontier by Masha Gessen
In 2004 genetic testing revealed that Masha Gessen had a mutation that predisposed her to ovarian and breast cancer. The discovery initiated Gessen into a club of sorts: the small (but exponentially expanding) group of people in possession of a new and different way of knowing themselves through what is inscribed in the strands of their DNA. As she wrestled with a wrenching personal decision—what to do with such knowledge—Gessen explored the landscape of this brave new world, speaking with others like her and with experts including medical researchers, historians, and religious thinkers.
Blood Matters is a much-needed field guide to this unfamiliar and unsettling territory. It explores the way genetic information is shaping the decisions we make, not only about our physical and emotional health but about whom we marry, the children we bear, even the personality traits we long to have. And it helps us come to terms with the radical transformation that genetic information is engineering in our most basic sense of who we are and what we might become.
6. The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
THE TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT is an epic geopolitical fantasy about one woman’s mission to tear down an empire by learning how to rule it.
Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon.
The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They’ll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.
In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery – and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.
But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.
7. Against A Brightening Sky by Jaime Lee Moyer
A ghost princess and a woman with nothing but a name to her fortune might change the course of history.
By 1919 the Great War has ended, peace talks are under way in Paris, and the world has been forever changed. Delia Martin, apprentice practitioner of magical arts, and her husband, Police Captain Gabriel Ryan, face the greatest challenge of their lives when fragments from the war descend on San Francisco.
As Delia prepares to meet friends at a St. Patrick’s Day parade, the strange ghost of a European princess appears in her mirror. Her pleasant outing becomes a nightmare as the ghost reappears moments after a riot starts, warning her as a rooftop gunman begins shooting into the crowd. Delia rushes to get her friends to safety, and Gabe struggles to stop the killing—and to save himself.
Delia and Gabe realize all the chaos and bloodshed had one purpose—to flush Alina from hiding, a young woman with no memory of anything but her name.
As Delia works to discover how the princess ghost’s secrets connect to this mysterious young woman, and Gabe tracks a ruthless killer around his city, they find all the answers hinge on two questions: Who is Alina…and why can’t she remember?
Against a Brightening Sky is the thrilling conclusion to Moyer’s glittering historical fantasy series.
At the end of August, I announced on my Facebook, Twitter, and here, that I was going to celebrate the one-month birthday of Dark Ascension by answering questions about the series. Any questions, I’d have answers for. Some really fun questions came in, so here are my answers on a number of subjects that have been close to people’s hearts — questions about the intricacies of vampire reproduction, whether Fort made a massively bad decision at the end of Dark Ascension, and also the really big question, which a lot of people have been asking, which is about the future of the series itself.
Before you go any further, keep in mind that there are HUGE SPOILERS for the events of Dark Ascension. If you haven’t finished the latest book, then you might want to go do that before you read all of these.
We’re all clear on that, right? Spoilers ahead? Okay, to the questions!
From Facebook, Soozy Peez asked:
Why does Chivalry insist on killing his wives as opposed to draining other victims?
I wanted the way that Prudence and Chivalry approach their feeding to reflect both their value systems and their weaknesses. For Prudence, feeding is entirely divorced from any kind of morality and sensibility – she selects a victim based on convenience to her, makes no effort to supplement her feeding with stocked blood (because, inconvenient and gross taste), and simply feeds from that individual until they are exhausted and need to be disposed of. Her body count is huge, but it doesn’t bother her, and she views this as the most practical approach possible.
Chivalry, however, is very different from his sister. Unlike his sister, for whom feeding is simply a bodily requirement, Chivalry has wrapped feeding up with emotionalism and romanticism. Feeding requires an element of intimacy, and Chivalry’s most formative years were during the 1860s – he’s a romantic guy, and I mean that in the Romantic sense. Chivalry’s wives become his focus for both a chunk of his nurturing impulses (it’s no accident that all of his wives who have been mentioned in the series have had some kind of passionate career or hobby – Chivalry thrives on being the supporting husband, and probably several of his past wives would get teary-eyed upon listening to “Wind Beneath My Wings”), the entirety of his sexual and romantic impulses, and, in addition, his blood requirements. The extent to which Chivalry idealizes and beatifies each individual wife results in him desiring for her to physically sustain him – he idealizes and loves her, and in return she is literally consumed by him until her death. Does Chivalry consciously realize this – no. He loves each wife with all the consuming (and, honestly, unhealthy) passion of the classic vampire lover. If confronted on how deeply problematic this love and its expression is, Chivalry would respond by referencing the truth and depth of his feelings – which is, much though he would like it to be, is a rationalization rather than a legitimate counter-point.
Fort has the morality his sister lacks, which has been stated overtly in the series many times so far, but also a willingness to critically self-analyze that is anathema to Chivalry (and which would’ve been brought out more in books 5 & 6). There’s also a strength to Fort that Chivalry lacks – Fort’s been in more than a few unhealthy relationships, but he was always the victim (his willingness to accept that – well, that’s one of Fort’s other issues) – if Fort was in a relationship and realized that it was toxic or damaging for the other person, he would walk away, regardless of his love for that person, or the pain that it would personally cause him. Chivalry would never do that – and has proven that in each of his marriages – and would probably package that answer in not just romantic ideals, but also in the defense that each woman knowingly chose her fate.
I’ve had a lot of fun with Chivalry during this series. He is the sibling of the three who is the most representative of vampire presentation in the media for the last thirty years – reader response to Chivalry from the first book was basically that he was universally beloved, and Prudence was hated. That was consistent with what my intentions had been for the book – and then for the series, one of my goals was to start shifting audience perception of these characters around until they had almost swapped places, but without ever compromising the essential integrity of who these two characters were.
On the website, Sigmacheck asked:
I can’t help but feeling that Prudence might be right in a horrible way and that Fort is being blinded by his emotions. Is Prudence correct that a territory can’t be run like Fort wants to do it? After all, Fort has no idea about the alternatives to his family’s way.
You’re not wrong. Fort is who we naturally empathize with because, firstly, he’s our hero, and secondly, he’s not a murdering psychopath. But just because we like him doesn’t mean that he’s right – particularly in this instance. One of the things that I really wanted to explore in this series was that the nice person with the best of intentions isn’t always the one with the answers. In Dark Ascension, both Prudence and Fort are unable to find compromise positions – they can’t give up even a little of what they feel is important, and so both are unable to get Chivalry’s swing vote. It’s a failing on both of their parts.
The events at the end of Dark Ascension were what I’d been moving toward since the beginning of this series. When the series was first picked up, it was called the American Vampire series (later it was changed to the Generation V series – causing, I’ll be honest, absolutely no end of confusion for series fans and panel moderators everywhere – why we didn’t just go with urban fantasy tradition in the beginning and call it the Fortitude Scott series, I just don’t know, but I’ll admit that part of that is just hindsight talking), and one thing that I really wanted to do was play on a part of American history that perhaps gets a little less play – the Articles of Confederation. Basically, having just wrested themselves from the control of England, the colonists were completely gunshy about having anyone in a position of authority to tell them what to do. The thirteen original colonies had a tremendous amount of personal autonomy, and what bound them all together was basically a mutual “Hey, bro, I’ve got your back (but not with the support of armies, centralized taxation, or regulation of interstate commerce).” It was a really nice and idealistic idea, failed kind of spectacularly, and was replaced with the Constitution and the institution of a federal government in 1789.
One of the first lines (if not THE first) of book five was going to be: “Democracy sucks.”
Had Madeline wanted, could she have used Fort’s host parents to have another child (after Fort, I mean)? Are the host parents naturally “one use only”?
Technically, yes. Functionally, no. Hosts have had about 99% of their blood supply replaced with vampire blood, which they cannot naturally replenish or even entirely maintain. For a vampire to maintain their two hosts is a massive and physically expensive undertaking – and maintaining a host through a successful pregnancy is even more draining. One of the reasons why killing both host parents immediately upon the successful birth of a baby vampire became common practice was basic self-interest – most vampire parents were simply exhausted and tapped out. Also, remember that Madeline’s parental responsibilities didn’t stop at the birth – she was Fort’s only safe blood source until his transition.
In terms of whether Henry and Grace could’ve physically conceived a second vampire baby after Fort’s birth, the answer is yes. Could Madeline have maintained that pregnancy, with its massive requirements of blood and energy, while also maintaining Fort through his vampire infancy? No, she simply would’ve been unable, and the vampire fetus would’ve died in utero. By the time she would’ve had the physical resources to attempt another vampire baby, about a century would’ve passed – and Henry and Grace would be dead of old age (even had Madeline been able to maintain them that long, which is also a question mark). Many vampires are able (and willing) to create no more than a single child during their entire lifespan. Two is considered unusual, and three is almost unheard of.
And, on Goodreads, November05 asked the big question:
Would you happen to know when the fifth book of the series will be released? I’m addicted.
This is a question that I’ve gotten a lot. Up until now, every time a Generation V book debuted, I already had a scheduled release date for the next book ready to be announced. Iron Night and Tainted Blood even came out in the same year!
When I originally sold this series to Roc, I had a completed draft of Generation V, and I signed a contract for a trilogy. By signing me for a trilogy, Roc was showing a commitment to my concept and giving me a chance to build up an audience – after all, this was my debut, and they had no way of knowing if I could sell a single book. If I think of urban fantasy as a genre, one of the things that really differentiates it from other types of fantasy is its feature of very long-running series. Think of the Mercy Thompson series, the Dresden Files, the Cal Leandros series, etc. Roc was hoping that my series could be one of those as well (and, let’s be honest, I was as well). The trilogy was intended as a test – neither Roc or I ever had any intention of Fort Scott’s story being tied up neatly by the end of the third book, and I designed my plotlines and my plans accordingly. (I actually plotted out six books)
What became apparent very quickly was that this series just wasn’t catching fire like Roc had hoped. There were lots of reasons for this – urban fantasy is a crowded marketplace with a lot of fantastic voices, vampires are so overplayed and sexualized that I think that 90% of potential fans went screaming in the other direction as soon as they even heard the word “vampire”, a lot of people picked up the first book expecting a paranormal romance and were pretty disappointed, a male lead who isn’t an alpha male who punches things a lot is a lot harder sell than I ever would’ve expected, the marketing and covers were a little disjointed, I’m not exactly a natural marketer, and probably a hundred other reasons. If Roc had had to make a decision about continuing the series or not in the months after Generation V came out, I can tell you with confidence that it wouldn’t have happened at all.
So there was a very sluggish sales start to the series. Generation V as a novel had a mixed reception – there were a lot of readers who were pleasantly surprised (and it got some incredible support from bloggers and reviewers who went on to be tireless cheerleaders of my quirky little series) and a bunch of others who were completely confused at what they’d just read. Thinking back, there were two main reactions: “This wasn’t the romance I was expecting, Fort is a doormat, and I hate this series,” and “I had to hear from five different friends that I needed to read this, and I expected this to be a disaster, but I loved it.” Believe me, that wasn’t quite the reception that Roc was hoping for.
Initial sales for Iron Night were a lot stronger than Generation V’s had been, but still not enough – I was told around that time that it wasn’t likely that there would be a fourth book. I was writing Tainted Blood at that time, so I made some adjustments accordingly – in my original plan, Madeline died at the conclusion of the third book, and the fourth book would be the immediate fallout from that event, but I just didn’t like the idea of potentially ending the series with an event that would never have its necessary payoff. I moved elements around until I had a book that I thought readers could be okay with if this was the end of the series. I had intended for Fort and Suze’s relationship to change in the third book, and that was something that readers had been very focused on in their feedback to me, so I hoped that it would be enough of a payoff.
What ended up happening was unexpected – the people watching the sales numbers began to feel optimistic about the series. Iron Night didn’t have a wave of initial sales, but the sales for Generation V perked up when the second book came out, and, for the first time, there began to be a lot of e-book sales in the series. There were apparently some discussions at the publisher, and what they ultimately felt was that there was a chance that the third book (which was at that point rumbling toward publication, as I’d already handed off the completed manuscript) could be the breakthrough moment that they’d been hoping for. And if that happened, they wanted the fourth book to be ready to go. So I was offered a contract to write a fourth book for the series – but only the fourth book, because Roc was very well aware that it might NOT result in the series hooking into the big sales that had been passing it by, and they didn’t want to be committed to a lot more books in a mid to low selling series.
I thought a lot about writing the fourth book. For one thing, it came with a pay cut – for reasons that I think are pretty reasonable from their end of things, Roc was not offering me as much money to write Dark Ascension as they had paid me to write each of the first three books. An industry professional who I respect very much advised me not to accept the contact and to put my efforts toward a new series instead. Ultimately, I did take the contract. Part of it was optimism – that bit of hoping against hope (and all previous evidence) that the series would actually start doing well. Mostly, though, I knew that the fourth book was when I was finally going to get to pull the trigger on a lot of key events that I’d been building toward – Madeline’s death, Fort’s transition, the first feeding on human blood, Fort’s first major loss, and the coup. I wanted to write it, and I really wanted all of the people who’d hung in there, read the series, talked about the series, and showed so much support to be able to see what happens (at least a little of it).
That’s why I signed the contract and wrote the book, so that’s why Dark Ascension exists at all. And I’m really proud of it, and pleased with it, even though it’s pretty clear at this point that there were a lot of readers who were really not okay with the sharp left that I took the series on. (for the record – yes, that was intentional. The first three books always had a murder mystery as the primary element with other plotlines brewing in the background, the second three were going to flip that ratio around and be much more about politics and factions, with a particular inciting incident going on in the background – in this case, the succubi. For one thing, I was getting tired of how formulaic it was getting, for another, that wasn’t who Fort was anymore – the problems had gotten bigger, and removing Madeline from the equation needed to destabilize everything – no more end scene where Mommy sorted everyone into their corners and tied up loose threads)
In terms of sales – Tainted Blood was the best that the series ever did. The best preorders, initial book sales, and initial e-book sales. You guys, the fans, you did everything you could, and I’m so incredibly grateful.
And then came the flatline. Because, unfortunately, this series never tapped in to the major urban fantasy market. Again, there are a hundred possible reasons for that. But when Dark Ascension came out, it had a good first week (again, you guys were so great with pre-orders and with buying in the first week), but it was an almost identical week as Tainted Blood. The series just hasn’t expanded, and Roc just isn’t going to continue a series with this level of readership. When I talk with authors who have been in the business ten or twenty years longer than I have, they say that things used to be different. Series were given longer to build audiences. There were series that were continued even when they didn’t have huge numbers. More publicity was given to the smaller authors and series. Would the Generation V series have been continued under those conditions? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.
This has been a very long way of answering what was a very simple question. I think part of that is because I hate to say “no” to that question. I had a lot of confidence in what I had planned for the fifth and sixth books, and I was excited about where things were going. There’s also a real feeling of disappointment to all of this – there’s a large part of me that feels like I failed. Now, I keep reminding myself that I didn’t – after all, I published four books with a major publisher! The books actually did sell copies! But it’s hard to shake that feeling, and it’s been a bit of a sad month for me.
Here’s the bottom line – I don’t have contracts for the remaining two books in the series. I have all of my notes and plans written down, but the books aren’t written, and without a contract in hand I am not going to write them. It would take me about six months to write each of the books, and that’s six months that I’m probably a lot better off devoting to a new series that had a chance of getting published. I’m actually working on a new series right now, which I’m very optimistic about.
Dark Ascension is, at the present time, probably going to be the final book for Fort Scott. It’s not where I had wanted to end the series, but if I had to end it early, it’s probably the best possible stopping point. It is, without a doubt, pretty sad. But I’m going to do the best thing I can, which is to move forward. After all, if I write something later that is a hit, and the Generation V series suddenly gets more attention, I can pick my old notes back up and write the last two books. This isn’t like Firefly – in a book, Nathan Fillion will always fit into his tight pants. Fort will always be waiting right where I left him – standing at the edge of a brave new world of idealism and individual voices that is, I assure you, about to go disastrously wrong.
Eight days until the 1-month anniversary of DARK ASCENSION! Whoa, that went fast!
To celebrate, I’m going to do a question-answering post! Do you have questions about the series, or questions about Dark Ascension in particular? Wonder why I did that particular thing there, or why that other thing happened, or what I have against bichon frises? ASK! Post questions here, on my Facebook, or toss them to me on Twitter (as spoilery as you want! the book has been out a month — GO CRAZY), and I’ll answer them in a week!
My brother sent me an email today! In it, he poses a thoughtful philosophical question, one that I believe many of the greatest minds of our generation have struggled with:
Good advice on Star Trek Enterprise… that’s turning out to be pretty entertaining background stuff during my model painting. I’m somewhere in season 2 right now.
I’m also watching Star Trek Voyager. UGHHH. These episodes are tough to make it through (exception for species 4572 episode was awesome). I realized pretty early on that I don’t find any of the characters compelling (possible exception for Janeway herself), and several of the characters (Paris, Neelix, Kess) are actually really annoying. But I figured, hey no problem, at least the ship battles will be cool with one technologically superior starship against hordes of Kazon and whatnot.
Except, no, the ship battles are NOT awesome, because Janeway always lets herself get shot at for 10 minutes and does nothing except get thrown around the bridge while shouting “Evasive maneuvers!” and “Damage reports!” And then when she finally remembers they have phasers on that ship, poor whiny Tom Paris informs her that all the phasers are burnt out and engines are offline, and they’re about to be boarded by aliens who can’t go faster than warp 4 and don’t even have transporters or shield technology! AAAGH!
So here’s the thing. I’m in the middle of season 4, probably near where I stopped watching when I left for college. Does this thing get any better?
Gentle readers, thoughts?
Today is a very big day! First, it’s been one week since Dark Ascension hit the bookstands — but more importantly, today I’m doing an AMA at Reddit where you can ask me any question you want, PLUS the winners of my huge giveaway on Reddit will be announced tonight at 9pm! Mere HOURS remain in that contest, but remember that you can still enter! Prizes on that range from a complete signed set of the four Generation V books to signed copies of Dark Ascension — and those will be shipped ANYWHERE!
To select the winners of the giveaway, I’ve chosen….. my friends! (no nepotism here, nosiree…) Basic information is below, and I’ll be updating this page after 9pm tonight to announce the giveaway winners!
Okay, here are the giveaway basics: There are going to be three sets of winners — The Big Kahuna wins a signed set of the complete series; The Four Lesser Kahunas each get a signed copy of Dark Ascension; and (on the urging of Judge Lish McBride), there will also be a few runner-up prizes for Kahunas-In-Training who will each win a signed copy of Iron Night.
Lish McBride was raised by wolves in the Pacific Northwest. It rains a lot there, but she likes it anyway. She spent three years away while she got her MFA in fiction from the University of New Orleans, and she liked that too, although the hurricane did leave much of her stuff underwater. She enjoys reading, having geek-laden conversations about movies, comics, and zombies with her friends, and of course trying to wear pajamas as much as humanly possible. Currently, Lish lives happily in Seattle where the weather never actually tries to kill you, with her family, two cats, and one very put-upon Chihuahua. She is slowly building her garden gnome army.
You may contact her on here (she tries to check it on a semi-regular basis) or at LishMcBride@gmail.com.
Lish’s Winner Selection:
I’m picking sekhmet4 because Saga is rad. That’s right, rad. It’s a beautifully done, vivid, gory, amazing story about two people from warring planets that essentially fall in love over a romance novel. And because Lying Cat.
My most recent SF/F laugh out loud moments are all from the comic series Saga. From the very first pages of the first issue where Alana is giving birth to her daughter, I laughed fairly regularly. The dialogue especially between the two main characters combined with the magic of Fiona Staples’s art was thoroughly entertaining. -sekhmet4
The two people talking up Scott Lynch should get some sort of honorable mention–I almost picked them because they both convinced me to actually read Scott Lynch. I’ve heard good things, but no one told me those books had some funny in them.
I share all my fantasy books with my younger cousins so that we can bond over good literature. I recently gave one of them The Lies of Locke Lamora while I was reading Red Seas Under Red Skies. Both books at points had us simultaneously laughing hysterically.
I’d love to snag copies of your books so that I could share them with the next generation. :) – jachreja
The four of our favorite characters from Lies Of Locke Lamora. I remember I was drinking watermelon juice when I read the below lines
“… It’s perfect! Locke would appreciate it.”
“Bug,” Calo said, “Locke is our brother and our love for him knows no bounds. But the four most fatal words in the Therin language are ‘Locke would appreciate it.'”
“Rivalled only by ‘Locke taught me a new trick,'” added Galo.
“The only person who gets away with Locke Lamora games …”
“… is Locke …”
“… because we think the gods are saving him up for a really big death. Something with knives and hot irons …”
“… and fifty thousand cheering spectators.”
just spit out red watermelon juice all over the book. Stained and now the book looks like a spectator in a gruesome vampire showdown. – arzvi
Max Gladstone is a two-time finalist for the John W Campbell Best New Writer Award, and a one-time finalist for the XYZZY Award. In July 2015 Tor Books will publish his next novel, LAST FIRST SNOW, a tale of zoning politics, human sacrifice, and parenthood. LAST FIRST SNOW is the fourth Craft Sequence novel, preceded by THREE PARTS DEAD, TWO SERPENTS RISE, and FULL FATHOM FIVE.
Max studied Chan poetry and late Ming dynasty fantasy at Yale; he lived and taught for two years in rural Anhui province, and has traveled throughout Asia and Europe. He speaks Chinese, can embarrass himself reading Latin, and is a martial artist, fencer, and fiddler. He’s also worked as a researcher for the Berkman Center for Internet and Policy Law, a tour guide for the Swiss Embassy, a go-between for a suspicious Chinese auto magazine, a translator for visiting Chinese schoolteachers, a Chinese philosophy TA, a tech industry analyst, and an editor. He has wrecked a bicycle in Angkor Wat, sung at Carnegie Hall, and been thrown from a horse in Mongolia.
Max’s Winner Selection:
Quote: “There. There,” said the marquis de Carabas, awkwardly, patting her shoulder. And he added, for good measure, “There.” He did not comfort well.
Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere
It wasn’t a very funny moment in the book but I laughed because that’s literally what I do when someone cries in front of me. –7el-3ane
Stephen Blackmoore is a pulp writer of little to no renown who once thought lighting things on fire was one of the best things a kid could do with his time. Until he discovered that eyebrows don’t grow back very quickly.
His first novel, a dark urban fantasy titled CITY OF THE LOST is out through DAW Books and is available at all the fashionable bookstores. Hopefully some of the seedier ones, too. He would, after all, like to buy a copy.
His short stories and poetry have appeared in magazines like Plots With Guns, Needle, Spinetingler, and Thrilling Detective, as well as the anthologies UNCAGE ME and DEADLY TREATS.
Despite evidence to the contrary, he does not have rabies.
Stephen’s Winner Selection:
Nah, fuck ’em.
I’m going with pitaenigma. Because 8-Bit Theater was awesome and because they clearly went through the whole thing to get the 4 White Mages joke. That’s commitment.
I’m gonna cheat and use a webcomic. Eight Bit Theater. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and read it. If you have, I would like to mention the greatest brick joke in webcomic history. In the beginning of the comic strip, Black mage is running away from a giant. He consults a gaming magazine on the way and rejects one solution because it requires four White Mages to work. At the end, the Big Bad of the series reveals himself and is about to destroy the anti heroes and the world when he explodes. When the dust settles, what do we see? Four White mages. From set up to punchline it was nine years and about two thousand pages worth of comics.
Also I would like to mention another great joke but this one I won’t spoil. The identity of Sarda, the demented all powerful mage who has been toying with the party from the moment they met him.
Edit – In case you don’t accept webcomics (in which case shame on you) I have another one. In Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora we get the fantastic line ‘There’s a few things I’m going to ask him. Philosophical questions, like ‘How does it feel to be dangled out a window by a rope tied to your balls motherfucker?” You can’t deny the powerful imagery in the words of Scott Lynch. – pitaenigma
Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not planning Shadow Campaigns, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts.
Django’s Winner Selection:
I hope this counts as technically it’s a graphic novel, but hey”
“There is no talking Back Here/ There is no unspoken Agreement to leave you with a scrap of dignity/ There is, in fact, no guarantee you’ll be able to walk out of here/ LISTEN TO THE CHAIR LEG OF TRUTH! IT DOES NOT LIE/ What does it say?/ It’s saying “Shut up Fred”!/ Can you hear it?”
Transmetropolitan #50 – Warren Ellis and art by Darick Robertson
I fell out of my chair laughing at this page. I love the idea that there is nothing more honest than a chair leg to the face. There is no ambiguity there. – 22cthulu
Though kudos to Imperial_Affectation for playing to the judges!
I was actually going to say Marcus d’Ivoire’s endless struggle to maintain era-appropriate views on gender roles in the face of ever-increasing evidence of how utterly inappropriate those views are in Wexler’s world, but then you went and named him as one of the corrupt judges. While I’m all for attempting to exploit the corruption inherent in your corrupt judicial panel, that might be a little much. >.>
Instead, I think I’m going to go with James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes. Corey is actually two authors (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) and in the first entry of their series they each write one of the two POV characters. Miller and Holden are diametrically opposed on just about everything. Miller wants to control the spread of information; Holden wants to broadcast it for all humanity to hear. Miller is perfectly happy using violence to solve problems; Holden feels compelled to be diplomatic. Miller’s chapters get progressively more depressing and obsessive; Holden’s chapters get progressively more manic. Miller pushes those closest to him away; Holden has a sort of innate magnetism that attracts all sorts of people (and not always for the best, as one of the later novels highlights).
The characters themselves don’t make terribly many jokes (though Miller makes an awful pun at one point and revels in it, since apparently he subscribes to /r/dadjokes), but the book itself is riddled with situational humor. Sometimes the two characters will have chapters that overlap a bit and you’ll see two completely different perspectives on the same exact events. Sometimes the non-POV character will say something to the POV character and all the POV character’s biases come into play and make the non-POV character sound like an idiot. And since the second half of the novel has lots of horror elements, the moments of humor tend to stand out a lot more than they would otherwise.
Plus there’s one point where Holden says something to the effect of, “this is literally the first time I’ve gotten off a ship without it blowing up.” It made me chuckle at the time. And then things got worse, which made it funnier. – Imperial_Affectation
T. Frohock has turned a love of dark fantasy and horror into tales of deliciously creepy fiction.She is the author of Miserere: An Autumn Tale, a dark fantasy, and has written several short stories. Her newest series, Los Nefilim, is coming from Harper Voyager Impulse and debuts in June 2015 with the novella, In Midnight’s Silence.
T. lives in North Carolina where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying.
T’s Winner Selection (This is the BIG KAHUNA Prize!):
Nostalgia wins. I vote for mirrordog, simply because that Douglas Adams line is not only funny, but it’s also true. That, and his books made me laugh and laugh (Adams, not mirrordog). Right out loud. And we know how grim I am.
“The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – mirrordog
I’m also picking sekhmet4 for my runner up, because Saga is perfect. It’s book about a book that changes two people and not only causes them to fall in love with one another, but also gives them the mettle to try and change the world(s) around them. Because that what good stories do. And it’s funny and entertaining … like ML, so it has ALL THE THINGS.
I’m going to go with Stardust. The Star has fallen from the heavens in a blaze of light and sound, and then:
And there was a voice, a high clear, female voice, which said “Ow”, and then, very quietly, it said “Fuck”, and then it said “Ow”, once more.
Reddit’s formatting doesn’t quite do it, but the “fuck” is printed in a very small font. It’s just such a human way to react that I had to laugh. – MikeOfThePalace
I’m currently listening to the books in Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. There are so many sassy, humorous moments but the most recent one is the very title of a chapter: In Which The Meringues Are Annihilated. I just remember doing a double take when I heard it and couldn’t wait to hear what happens. All I’m going to say is– they did indeed get annihilated. – alter-EGG-o
BEHIND THE JUDGING CURTAIN EXCLUSIVE:
This is the email I sent after Lish and T sent in their winner info… and Max, Stephen, and Django had not.
Dudes? Did you notice how the ladies both made their selections in a timely and complete fashion?
And here’s the email Stephen sent back:
You’re saying you want the guys to be faster? Look, we’re not 17 anymore.