Harriet took the cigarette, which she felt she had deserved, and sat with her hands about her knees, mentally turning the incidents of the last hour into a scene in a book (as is the novelist’s unpleasant habit)… — Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night
Something that I have noticed about writers, both myself and my friends who write, is that we are endless collectors of little facts, incidents, and trivia. Even if we have no idea how we could ever fit something into a book or a story, we are unable to stop observing and collecting. I cannot tell you how many small scraps of paper are stuffed into my desk drawers or tucked into folders that have an interesting name that I heard, or a tidbit, or a fragment of an experience. Because the thing is, you’ll never know when something could become useful, or you might find a home for a particular shred of information. I was visiting with a friend from my masters program who had recently had a cyst removed from the back of her neck, and she was joking about how the whole process had been so gross that even in the name of writing, she hadn’t really wanted to take a look at the gunk that had come out of the hole. Which we both laughed about, because here’s the thing – writers are like cats. We can’t help investigating something, reading random magazine articles, or listening to a bizarre story that someone is telling. I had a friend who was in a terrible car accident that flipped his car and ended up lacerating his spleen, and when he was telling me about the whole experience later, I couldn’t help but start hoarding the details in my brain for possible later use.
Because it isn’t just the collection for its own sake, it’s the hope that someday this will be useful. That observing the gunk that comes out of an incision (yes, I did that when I had minor foot surgery), or listening to a friend’s frightening survival story, or even just sitting on the beach on a sunny day and thinking about what it feels like – that this will help in your writing. And the truth is that it actually does. Sometimes it helps with the big plot stuff, but a lot of the time it comes out in the secondary elements. At one point in Iron Night (to be published January 7, 2014, but available for pre-order now) I introduced Suzume’s home. The layout of her house is based on the duplex apartment that a friend of mine rented in Somerville, MA. Fort has a new crappy job in Iron Night, working as a waiter in a fancy restaurant and tormented by a foodie chef – that entire idea came to be because I was reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. And there’s actually a section where I mention how the fancy restaurant handles food allergies because I was also reading Sandra Beasley’s Don’t Kill The Birthday Girl: Tales From An Allergic Life. Houses, businesses, cars, weather, random elements – it all bleeds through from things I’ve seen or read. I was on a great panel at WorldCon this year about how to write horror, and at one point a casual comment ended up revealing that all of the writers on the panel were fans of books about Himalayan climbers (myself quite definitely included) – not because we were adrenaline junkies or wanted to ever do it ourselves, but because the topic itself was absolutely fascinating to us – the danger, the discomfort, the possibility of having to leave friends behind to certain death – that was the stuff we were hooked on.
From what I’ve seen, it seems to be practically universal to writers. So if you’re around me and you start telling a great story, or something funny happens, or we visit a certain restaurant – someday that might end up in something I’m writing. Maybe the whole thing, barely changed from life, or just the tiniest fragment will be glued into a larger scene. But it will definitely be there.
That was a very busy weekend! I was lucky enough to meet a number of writers who I admire, several very lovely and kind fans of Generation V, and quite a few interesting and kind-hearted people who listened to my spiel and professed themselves very interested in checking out Generation V.
Now, as fast as I was handing out my cards and info, people were handing great cards and info back to me. Check out my collection!
Pretty nice, right? I know I have two of Taylor Anderson’s cards, but that’s because I ran into him twice – once at a party, and once at breakfast. What a great guy, with an absolutely fascinating skillset!
Definitely take a close look at the flier at the bottom – when I was doing my autographing session (which, actually, went very well – a combination of everyone’s love of free books, plus being seated next to the amazing Cat Rambo) I was lucky enough to get a chance to talk to Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah, and they told me about their newest project – it’s a Kickstarter for a story-driven RPG that’s set in their Sime~Gen universe! Gamers, particularly the gamer ladies, this one is definitely one to take note of. You can check it out in more detail at
I’ll talk about the con (so much fun!) and San Antonio (seriously, San Antonio, what the hell is going on with that river? it looked like Chtulhu’s bathwater!) in a bit more detail later, but for now, I’m going to tell you about something important.
A quest that happened when I suggested to my hard sci-fi loving brother that he check out the list of WorldCon attendees to see if there was anyone that he really liked, because I’d be happy to get a book signed for him. Well, it turned out that there were quite a few of my brother’s SF heroes at the con, and we entered into some fairly intense negotiations about exactly how many books I was willing to shlep down for him. (I drew the line at bringing David Brin’s entire Uplift series. Yes, I am heartless)
So my brother managed to narrow it down to his top five picks, which he then mailed to me from San Francisco. Here’s what that stack looked like:
I packed them into my bag, and took them down. Something to keep in mind – first, I made my brother prioritize them, just in case I had only a chance to get one signed and not another. Then he took it a little further and wrote up a post-it note for each one so that I could read it to the author to explain just why this book was beloved.
Okay, so I set myself up to go – firstly, I didn’t get down to WorldCon until Friday afternoon, which means that the first thing that happened was that I completely missed Joe Haldeman and David Brin’s signings. Nuts. Now, they both had programming later in the con, but the problem there was that I’d scheduled myself pretty tightly for most of the con and I actually didn’t get to go to many panels. (‘cuz I was there to, you know, *work*) And then I couldn’t find Greg Bear anywhere on the programming, and was told that he’d had to cancel at the last minute. Whoops. But that still left Gregory Benford, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Alistair Reynolds. And Alistair Reynolds was actually on my panel, so that seemed very doable!
So, the quest began. (impressive music) I flew down to San Antonio, got to the hotel room, and packed my shoulder bag for the day. Off I went to pick up my badge – and guess who was in front of me at the programming table? DAVID BRIN! And I was all, “FUCK, I left the book back in the room!” (which is probably something that David Brin is not un-used to hearing when people meet him) But he was absolutely lovely, and had a stack of fliers for his new book on him, so he personalized one of those for my brother. And then even let me take a photo with him. Awesome!
And then I realized about forty minutes later that I’d actually had the book in my bag at the time, and I screeched obscenities at myself for about five minutes. Good times! (seriously, the moral of this might be – I kind of suck at this thing) And I really tried, but I never saw David Brin again.
Which, in all honesty, isn’t surprising. I mean, somewhere a deity was just shaking Its head, all, “Seriously, ML? I arrange it so that the very first person you bump into at WorldCon is David Brin, who is your brother’s personal SF hero because of the Uplift series, AND that he’s in a good mood, and you completely fumble the moment? Forget any favors in the future.”
But after that I went the solid route – autographing lines. And I learned a few things – firstly, that autographing lines are actually a good way to meet some pretty neat and nice people. Secondly – there are people who are kind of in the business of getting autographs. There were people with *carts* of books! And lists! (at one point I was at the SFWA table, and after I introduced myself to a very nice woman, she pulled out her list to see if I was on it – it turns out that I was, but only sort of. She’d actually put *Marie* Brennan on her list, because she thought we were the same. This actually turned out to be kind of a theme, so I’ve made an adjustment to my FAQ sheet.)
I also learned that it’s usually kind of important to get to the autographing line a little early. That way you can save some time. But on Friday I was able to get two of my brother’s books signed!
Then on Saturday I went to my panel on writing horror. It was very fun, very sharply moderated, and there were some pretty cool questions from the audience. One interesting thing that came out was that all five of the authors sitting on this panel were completely obsessed with non-fiction accounts of Himalayan mountain climbers – particularly when someone loses fingers or a nose to frostbite and then keeps climbing. Make of that what you will, but to those of you who like getting writing advice? Apparently you should be reading Into Thin Air and watching some documentaries.
Anyway, it was lots of fun, and then at the end Alistair Reynolds was very lovely and signed my brother’s book!
That was basically the end to the quest. However, my brother did have one specific desire to make his nerd life complete, and that was a photo of Benson, Brin, and Bear all together. And I completely delivered.
August has been flying by, which means that in just over a week, I will be flying to San Antonio with my long-suffering spouse and will be attending my first WorldCon! *Very* exciting, let me assure you! For anyone attending who is interested, here are my confirmed activities for the weekend! (confirmed but unmentioned include eating, sleeping, and pooping. Because, really – everyone poops)
Right now there’s a lot of blank space on Friday – I have one connection to get to San Antonio, so right now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that I arrive in time to get my badge and hit my one scheduled commitment for the day. Oh, and if I make my connection, I wanted a chance to get to walk around and actually see the booths.
Saturday has some really fun stuff scheduled, including my one panel! Please attend my panel, and if you want to pitch me some softball questions about horror, give in to the urge! I also have two autographing sessions, one of which I am delighted to say will be with several very fine writers. But thanks to the good folks at Penguin, I am the proud owner of a full box of copies of Generation V – which I will be handing out for free at those sessions! First come, first served! (also, seriously, I don’t want to have to check this box for the flight home — *please* come take a book from me!)
On Sunday I will be staffing the SFWA table for a little bit, but I’m sure by then I’ll have heard about at least fifty things I’ll want to do before I catch my flight home. Here’s the breakdown:
1:36pm — Flight arrives
8pm – 11pm — Private
10am – 10:45am – Interview with Patrick Hester for The SF Signal Podcast
1pm – 1:45pm – Autographing at the SFWA table (C-13 in the Dealer’s Room) I will have free copies of Generation V with me! Nothing would make me happier than to sign one of them for you!
2pm – 3pm – Panel, How To Scare Your Reader (Moderator- Vylar Kaftan, John Hornor Jacobs, Amanda Downum, Alastair Reynolds)
4pm – 5pm – Autographing Session (with David Hartwell, Kathleen Goonan, and Cat Rambo) I will have free copies of Generation V with me! If you want a copy, please just come over and I will gladly sign one for you!
7:00 PM – (I have no idea) — Drinks With Authors (this will be held at Ernie’s, which Justin from Staffer’s Book Review *swears* is only a block away from the con hotel) There are going to be a lot of awesome writers here, so definitely put this one down on your list!
11am – 1pm — Staffing SFWA Table (C-13 in the Dealer’s Room – come say hi!)
5:14pm – Flight departs
In other news, here’s what some reviewers are saying about Generation V!
Dawn Nikithser at Bookshelf Bombshells says:
Yeah, I am sick of vampires too. But being sick of vampires is kind of like being sick of cupcakes—when someone comes up with a delicious new flavor, you gotta eat it. You’ll devour this one whole.
Matt Gilliard at 52 Reviews says:
Taken as a whole, Generation V is a fresh take on an old saw that benefits from Brennan’s excellent world building and the authenticity of its cast. Fans of urban fantasy who are weary of the same old, same old shouldn’t miss this engaging mix of action, humor, and coming of age tale. I’ll definitely be around for round two.
Oh, and if you’ll be at WorldCon, drop a note in the comments! What are you planning to do at WorldCon? Any good suggestions for things I should add to my itinerary?