For each book I write, there’s a separate tag in my Favourites file. (I’m old-fashioned, and don’t carry a mobile Favourites with me. Doing so reminds me of my time in academia, when every scrap of information had to be saved. It also gives me hives.) Here are a few from the Company Town tag:
Company Town, you’ll recall, is the story of an escort’s escort named Hwa who starts working for vertically-integrated energy concern when they buy the city she lives in, which happens to be a series of autonomous towers floating around an oil rig in the North Atlantic. Protecting the heir to the firm means going back to finish high school, fighting off some post-Singular asshole who thinks it’s the Terminator, and catching a serial killer. You know. The usual senior year bullshit.
I’m late posting this, but I’m honoured to be a guest of the 2014 Toronto SpecFic Colloqium. The theme this year is “Unnatural Histories,” and I’ll be getting a lot more personal than I usually do. More to come.
Yes! For For a whopping $1.79, according to my Amazon. (American browsers might see $1.99.) If you have not read vN already (and I know there are a lot of you), this would be the perfect time to pick it up and give it a try. Or if you have a grandmother who you particularly loathe, sending her a copy might be a subtle way to start that special “get the fuck out of my life, you hateful old bitch,” conversation. Or you could send it to your ex-boyfriend with a note that reads, “This is why I never read all that Asimov you lent me.” Or you could send it to your friends who say they don’t read SF by women writers, along with a baby blanket and a pacifier so they can at least suck on something instead of just sucking in general. What I’m saying is, a book always makes a good “Thank you” or “I love you” gift. But sometimes, a book can also sometimes make a good “Fuck you,” gift. And that’s the kind of book vN is.
Photo: Adam Christopher
Last year, I was nominated for a Campbell Award, for my debut novel vN. Then I declined the nomination, because I realized I wasn’t truly eligible for the award that year. Why? Because I’d already made a sale to Nature magazine. SFWA treats Nature as a Campbell-qualifying market, which means my “Campbell clock” (which I imagine looking like the glowing crystal in Logan’s Run) has been running since 2009.
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I have a real love for Christmas specials. Or, to be more accurate, Christmas episodes. If you gave me the choice between an unknown Christmas movie and a Christmas episode of The West Wing, I’d choose the latter every single time. I watch “A Very Supernatural Christmas” every year around this time. I like what a specific seasonal, cultural, emotional context can do for characters. Putting them through a regular event that your audience has a visceral understanding of is a good way to cast them in a different light. So, in this spirit, I wrote “A Very vN xMas”.
For those of you playing along, this could very well be the first (non-prologue) chapter to Rev: The Third Machine Dynasty. It immediately follows the end of iD, which costs only £1 in ebook form today, along with vN. So consider it a sort of sneak preview of coming attractions. Those attractions include spider tanks and fried chicken and a whole novel about the robot apocalypse told from the perspective of ubiquitous surveillance. Watch for jokes or references to:
- “Merry Christmas! War is Over!”
- Star Wars
- A Christmas Carol
- Lupin III
- Tokyo Godfathers
- Many, many Christmas songs
Here’s a taste:
Javier was uneasy in this place. That much was obvious. Portia saw them when they were sleeping. She knew when they were awake. She knew if they’d been bad or good. At night Javier lay awake, staring at Amy before getting up to check on the children. Amy had designed living walls and water features into their bedroom, so the whole place was thick and warm and green with organic life, but it still wasn’t the teeming silence of the forests Javier’s clade was built for. Portia understood. Portia sometimes missed the desert. It was so conveniently anathema to human life. Like Mars.
At night, Javier stared down on the city with something like quiet horror. At first Portia suspected it had to do with the bomb dropping there. He still had some sympathy for humanity, she thought. Some remnant of sentiment running through him like old viral RNA. Something that made him feel pity and not scorn. But no. It was the city. It was the height of the towers and the lack of trees. The lack of green. The farm towers couldn’t make up for that lack, no matter how hard they tried. This was the price of his freedom. The problem with becoming a real live boy. The thing the Tin Man had exchanged for a heart.
It wasn’t until he was in the living room, staring down at the lights around the harbour, that Esperanza would silently creep into her brothers and slip herself onto the futon beside him. Each morning she left at dawn. Sometimes her brother noticed her. Sometimes he didn’t. When he did, he curled an arm around her, and she smiled. She still smiled, even when he didn’t. Even now, this minute, she was staring at her brother from under the long lashes her father had given her. And Xavier, like everyone else in the whole goddamn family, was completely oblivious.
Portia would have to do something about that. Wake them up. Get them into fighting form. It would be her gift to them, in the spirit of Christmas.
This Black Friday marks the advent of SFContario 4, where I will be a panelist (among many others). Here is my schedule, for anyone who may be interested.
Saturday, 11:00am, Ballroom BC: “No, I’m Hero Support.” Good sidekicks aren’t just ciphers. They have back-stories that may be as rich as the main character’s. A good sidekick does more than point, ask questions, and scream. Our panelists discuss what goes into creating a good companion or sidekick. (I’ll probably spend this time talking about Javier.)
Saturday, 1:00pm, Courtyard: “Social Commentary and SF.” The SF genre has long delivered a conduit for discussing controversial contemporary issues and has often offered insightful social commentary on potential future issues. The presentation of disconcerting issues can be made more acceptable when they are explored in a future setting. Does current science fiction continue to explore social and political issues? Should it? (Someone will probably ask me about pedophilia and robots.)
Saturday, 3:00pm, Courtyard: “Multiculturalism in SF.” Multiculturalism in SF: We live in a real world of cultural contact and immigration, yet a reflection of the immigrant experience seems to be rare in our imaginary worlds. Is the success of stories such as Ken Liu’s “Paper Menagerie” evidence that we want a more nuanced portrayal of being between two cultures than we can get from angsty half-elves and intergalactic vagabonds? (Yes. Yes it is. Christ, I hope so.)
Sunday, 10:00am, Gardenview: Reading I’ll probably read from Company Town, because I’m really excited about it. After that, Dave reads in the same room. Let us nurse your hangovers with much cursing and squick.
A while ago, I paid for a personal genomic saliva kit from 23andMe, a California firm that screens saliva samples for a variety of known genetic trouble spots. Recently, the FDA ordered 23andMe to stop marketing the testing kits, saying that the claims made by the marketing are not backed by science, making possible a dangerous scenario wherein false positives or negatives encourage expensive and unnecessary surgeries, treatments, or tests. Basically: 23andMe’s test might tell you that you carry the BRCA1 or 2 mutation, and you might get a preventative double mastectomy like Angelina Jolie.
This has received a lot of press, in part because 23andMe is backed by Google, run by Sergey Brin’s estranged wife (whose marriage blew up in a public and painful way), and has operated for over five years without receiving another FDA cease-and-desist order. It’s a perfect storm of healthcare news, tech industry gossip, and excuses to talk about Angelina Jolie (see above). But it’s also compelling because it’s about the future of healthcare, and the growing trend toward personalizing that healthcare with the quantified self in mind. 23andMe’s service is popular for the same reason the FitBit is popular: it purports to take an objective, completely personal measurement and then offers encouragement and advice based on that measurement. No more reading studies about sample populations. No more wondering if those sample populations include enough women or ethnic minorities, who are statistically under-represented in clinical trials. Just knowledge about the self, the one person on this planet who you might actually have some control over.
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Recently, Angry Robot announced something I’ve known about for quite a while now: I’m writing a book called Company Town, set apart from the Machine Dynasty series. It’s about an escorts’ escort named Hwa, who takes a job bodyguarding the young heir to a family-run corporate energy empire, just as that empire colonizes Hwa’s hometown: a floating city of Slocum towers built around an oil rig 500 km northeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Taking the job means quitting her gig with the United Sex Workers of Canada (Local 314), going back to high school (after dropping out three years ago), and trying to figure out if the death threats sent to her client are really coming from another timeline.
And then the murders start.
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This was Carol Riggs’ third-place contribution to Angry Robot Books’ competition to re-imagine their covers, and as it turns out, Carol also took first place, for illustrating one of Anne Lyle’s novels with an Etch-A-Sketch. An Etch-A-Sketch, people. Your own artistic talents are officially meaningless, in the face of that achievement. (Also, don’t piss off Carol. She clearly has the patience and attention to detail required to orchestrate a slow, painful act of retaliation.)
I should add that I’m really flattered that someone even considered my book for re-crafting, and over the past couple of days I’ve gone back to look at it over and over again. It’s a careful, loving interpretation of the book in visual form, and I’m tickled by it. Thanks, Carol.