If things look weird and disorganized today here on Whatever it’s because I’m looking at new WordPress themes to see if there are any I like. If I find one I like, I may keep it, otherwise things will be back to normal soon enough. Either way, don’t worry, everything’s cool.
Starting next Tuesday, June 9, Tor is releasing electronically the four novellas that comprise The End of All Things, once a week through June. The first of these is “The Life of The Mind,” and to get you excited about what’s to come, Tor.com has an excerpt from the story up on the site. Go on, you know you want to peek!
You may also, you know, pre-order “The Life of the Mind” as well as the other three novellas, at your favorite ebook retailer. Prefer to wait for the entire book, which comes out August 11? You may pre-order that too, online or at your favorite local bookseller. Want that book signed? Subterranean Press is taking pre-orders and if you order through them the book will be scribbled upon by me. And yes, there will be an audiobook version as well. We’re all about options, here.
Expect me to be talking more about the novellas (and the novel!) all this month. I’m super excited to share it all with you.
Writers sometimes take the long way around to find “home” — the world and characters where they find the most stories to tell. Martha Wells has found her home with the world she’s created in Stories of the Raksura, Volume Two. Here’s how she found it.
In many ways, the Raksura books are the books I’ve always wanted to write, it just took me writing a bunch of other books to figure it out.
I always wanted to be a writer, from the time I was a weird, lonely little kid in elementary school haunting the public library and writing and illustrating (in crayon) my Godzilla fanfiction. I’ve always been drawn to fantasy that was outside the marketing box, maybe because my first experience with the genre was weird horror comic books and the pulp paperbacks the library had stuffed into the back corner. I never liked imaginary worlds that had boundaries. I never wanted the characters to know what was on the other side of the mountains or the sea; I wanted to think there was a whole planet out there to explore. (Preferably a planet with multiple moons, maybe rings, and some unlikely microclimates.)
I liked Tolkien, but I loved Andre Norton better, her fantasy and her space opera and the way she combined them, psychic powers that were almost like magic and magic that was almost like technology. I loved the way she would start out with the characters in a strange world and then take them somewhere else even stranger. I wanted to write stories that captured that feeling.
With the Raksura books, I think I finally got there. I’ve tried to create a world that feels limitless, that has room for any amount of stories, where anything could happen. And where I could write about anything, say, matriarchal bisexual shapeshifting flying lizard people, to my heart’s content. It’s a world with a huge variety of strange species, and there’s lots of adventure, exploration, ancient ruins, cultural conflict, assigning blame, fighting, running for their lives, flying for their lives, and trying not to get eaten.
Besides the adventure aspects, the books are also about finding a family, even if it’s a huge, sometimes dysfunctional family, and fighting to keep it together against all odds. (Because the weird lonely little kid I used to be really loved those kinds of stories.) They’re about trying to find a place to call home, learning to trust, and learning to cope with your past, and what happens after you find the thing you’ve always been looking for. It just happens that all this takes place with characters who are, you know, matriarchal bisexual shapeshifting flying lizard people.
Stories of the Raksura vol. II: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below contains one long novella and one longer novella/short novel. Both expand the world of the Raksura further, and also show it in more detail. The Dead City takes place before the first four Raksura books (The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, The Siren Depths, Stories of the Raksura vol I: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud) and The Dark Earth Below is set afterward.
Hopefully, readers will find this world almost as much fun to read about as I do to write about it, and I’ll be able to keep expanding it in the future.
Behold my latest “award”: A feather duster, provided to me by Wendy Delmater at ConCarolinas, when we were on a panel about awards in science fiction. This is “The Award For Most Awards, 2015,” jokingly given but in fact gratefully received, as the awards do get dusty and dusting them is kind of a pain in the ass. This is one award that has a practical component, which is not a usual thing. It’ll likely stay on or near the shelf with the rest of the awards.
This “award” was just one of the delightful things about ConCarolinas that I got to experience this last weekend as Krissy and I attended. The convention treated us very well, both the folks running the convention and those attending. And both of my panels went swimmingly indeed. The first was a Q&A moderated by John Hartness, which ended up as a combination of John and I cracking each other up, and talking seriously about the business of writing, framed, unsurprisingly, by the deal I just made with Tor. I thought it was pretty much the right combination of fun and informative.
The second panel, I’m not gonna lie, I was worried about: It was “What Good Are Awards Anyway?” and was, quite obviously, about awards in science fiction and fantasy. Clearly, at one point or another it was going to touch on the Hugo situation this year, and that could have gotten annoying, fast. I’m happy to say that in fact the panel turned out to be a truly excellent and wide-ranging discussion, thanks to everyone on the panel (Hartness, moderator Missy Massey, Wendy Delatmer, Edmund Schubert and Gray Rinehart) all deciding that we didn’t want to just dwell on the Hugos, and did want to talk about the larger topic. We did of course discuss the Hugos, but by the time we got to them, in the last few minutes of the panel, enough discussion and context had been laid down that it was just part of the natural flow of the conversation. It ended up being one of the best panels I’ve been on recently, and that was down to my co-panelists, who to a person were professional and personable. I’d share a panel with them any time.
While at the convention, Krissy and I also managed to sneak away in the evenings with friends to experience Charlotte, which is a fine town if you are with the right company who knows where to go, which we were. So convention in the day, Charlotte at night, and all around, simply a wonderful time. We’ll be back. And in the meantime: Thanks, ConCarolinas. It was a blast.
Now I’m back at home, which is nice after a week of being on the road for events at BEA and at the convention, and after a week of watching the world react to the book deal. While I’ve hit most of the points about the deal that I wanted to make in previous entries here and here, I do have a couple of final(ish) observations to make about it, mostly relating to personal things.
The first is — brace yourself for a total lack of sympathy here — announcing a deal this size is actually really stressful. Not because people have been generally snarky or cranky about it; in fact nearly everyone has been lovely. But even good, positive attention can be taxing over a long enough period of time, and the deal happened just before I headed to BEA — the biggest bookseller event of the year — and then to a convention.
It was a whirlwind. People often don’t believe me when I tell them that I’m an introvert, but I am, and this last week because of travel and everything else, I didn’t get a whole lot of downtime to recoup from being around a ton of people. So even in the middle of what was objectively really one of the best weeks of my career, I was stressed out. Happy! Excited! Thrilled! And stressed. Again, I totally get it if people are less than sympathetic to my plight — I’m less than sympathetic, and it happened to me — but there it is. If in the last week you met me and I had a “deer in the headlights” kind of look about me, now you know why.
The second is that the week has reminded me that the vast majority of people really are happy when good things happen to you. I can’t tell you how wonderful folks have been to me in this last week, online and off. It’s also been great to be (relatively) open about the experience of the deal to people — to answer questions about how it happened, what the details are and how it will work moving forward. People generally seem to be less interested in the money porn aspect of it than they are about the mechanics of how this deal will play out over a decade and a baker’s dozen of books.
This pleases me. The deal has a fair amount of money attached to it, but speaking personally, the thing about the deal that is important to me is that the deal requires work. I’m not getting millions to be a showy celebrity loss leader book for my publisher (and if I were, boy, did they make a mistake). This deal is about a career — reflecting both the work it took to get to this particular point, and the work both I and my publisher are planning to do to keep it all going and (hopefully) build from here. The dollar figure draws attention, but it seems that by and large the workaday aspects of the deal are what people eventually come away with. I can’t complain about that. It is a workaday deal. A very nice one, to be sure. But I am going to have to bust my ass for the next decade to earn it. I’m glad people see it.
The third thing is that the commentary has revealed to me both how little so many people understand about how publishing works — which is understandable, because it’s specialized knowledge you don’t need to know unless you’re in publishing — and how some people certainly don’t let their own personal ignorance about how publishing works stop them from trying to convince other people that this deal is somehow not a good one — which is, objectively, kind of stupid and makes them look stupid for suggesting it. Of the second sort, rather than me detailing the stupidity of it, allow me to link to this blog post by Jim Hines, who has already done the requisite work.
I will say that at least some of this nonsense clearly stems from a personal animus various people have against me, either personally (i.e., maybe I was once mean to them online and now they hates the Scalzis forever, precious), or because they identify with some person or group which has hating me as a membership requirement. Their narrative has as a given that I am forever failing or on the verge of doing so, and that when it comes to the business of publishing that I am, at the very least, a naif, whereas they are stuffed with certain knowledge of How Things Work.
As I’ve noted before, there’s nothing to be done about these folks — haters gonna hate, etc — but I’ll admit that I do receive a certain snarkalicious joy out of watching these folks be so wildly wrong about pretty much every single thing they assert about me and my career. A favorite recent moment for me was reading some of these fellows expound, in great detail, how the Bookscan numbers for Lock In proved that particular book was in fact a great failure, that both I and my editor were in a panic about this, how Tor was planning to drop me and how my career was almost certainly doomed — at the same time as I was actively negotiating a seven-figure deal with the aforementioned editor and publisher that would keep me in house through 2026 at least, and would include sequels to Lock In. I couldn’t wait for the news of the deal to come out to see how stupidly wrong they would be about that, too. Suffice to say, they have not disappointed. It must be a blessing to be so ignorant about how ignorant you are.
But, again, these folks are a tiny minority. Most people have been wonderful. To you, the wonderful majority, I say: Thank you, thank you, and thank you again. And now that the news and commentary of the deal is beginning to settle down, what is left to do is the actual hard part: Write the books. I’m looking forward to that more than I can tell you.
Just been having a terrific day here at ConCarolinas and in Charlotte, away from the Internets, is all. Yes, that’s right, I have a life outside this blog! Uh, sometimes.
Seriously, though, ConCarolinas has been an absolutely terrific convention, and they treated me wonderfully. I can’t begin to tell you what a lovely time I’ve had here. Thanks to them for having me and for everyone at the convention for making me and Krissy (who came with me) feel so very welcome.
I’ll be traveling tomorrow to go home so updates here will be in the afternoon if at all. See you then (maybe).
So, in the last week I’ve had quite a few people congratulating me on my book deal (thanks!) and then attaching samples of writing work or art work or resumes for various editorial skills, etc, in the hope I might have some use for them, or just because.
I appreciate the thought. However:
1. Note I typically don’t open unsolicited attached files because of the potential for viruses and other electronic misadventure;
2. All my ancillary publishing tasks are handled by my publishers, so the answer as to whether I might have use of your talents is “no.” My publishers might, but you’d have to check with them and go through their particular submission process for various tasks they might have.
3. I don’t forward materials to my publishers because each of them has their own intake process of applications/submissions and I would rather encourage people to use the processes established by the publishers than to try to shortcut the process by going through me. The processes are there for a reason;
4. Should I decide to do self-pub in the future (and who knows! I might!) and need to hire artists, copyeditors and so forth, I will do solicitations at that time. Sending materials to me before then simply means the emails will be archived and likely not read again.
Once again, I do appreciate the thought and materials sent. But if you are job-seeking, I’m really not the right person to send the materials to. Thanks.
As we head into the weekend, there’s no better way to start the festivities than a nice ol’ stack of new books and ARCs that have arrived at the Scalzi Compound. There must be something in this stack that intrigues you — if there is, tell me about it in the comments!
Hey, Chicagoland geeks and nerds and others: Next weekend SFWA is having its fabulous Nebula Weekend in your hometown, and the event is going to be packed with awesome people: Grand masters of science fiction, Nebula Award nominees, science fiction and fantasy writers of renown, and even a few special guests, including Nick Offerman, who will be hosting the Nebula Award ceremony itself. That plus panels on writing and the business thereof (including several legal workshops) and a massive signing session with some of your favorite SF/F writers. It’s going to be a heck of a fun time, and you should totally go.
If you’re interested, here’s where to find all the latest information. You won’t regret going! It’s going to be a great event.
Premise, conflict, resolution, denouement — it’s all here, man!
I think this counts as one of the books for my deal. I’ll have to check.
One issue urban fantasy stories often deal with is: If magic is real in the modern world, how exactly have we not noticed this? Now, there many excuses (pardon me…rationales) as to why magic gets away with murder in today’s society. It could be anything from plain old human refusal to believe “the impossible” to supernatural beings protecting their own from discovery to realities where magic is entirely public knowledge, whatever the consequences of such.
In Enter the Janitor, the Big Idea was that magic is actually hiding in plain sight. It’s evolved alongside humanity and taken on quite a different role than it used to hold. Rather than a religious function or mystic mumbo-jumbo, magic could be connected to our history of sanitation and hygiene. Think about how many little health rituals we practice every day; at the same time, keeping things clean is often done on auto-pilot, meaning we may miss very obvious clues that something supernatural might be in the works. How many commercials and ads treat cleaning tools and chemicals as literally magical implements? Animated soap bubbles…talking sponges…even the genie-like Mr. Clean.
Magic also could have become more of a corporate affair, staffed with janitors, plumbers, maids, and more who dedicate their lives to the craft, much like ancient wizards and mages and witches would’ve. Rather than saving the world from eldritch towers, they began to do so in plain sight, one clean window and one mopped floor at a time. They swapped out wands and staffs for squeegees and mops and spray bottles.
And they’re everywhere. They work throughout practically all city buildings, including government and educational institutes. We hire them to clean our homes. Sanitation workers are so ubiquitous, but how often do we really pay attention to them?
In early drafts, I tried to write the story with a much more serious tone, but it ended up lacking a vital energy. When I first started playing around with the idea of a supernatural sanitation company, I couldn’t stop laughing to myself at how absurd it seemed—and yet the characters were taking everything oh-so-seriously.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized I needed to revel in exploring this ridiculous version of reality. And that’s when both the characters and the world they inhabited came fully to life in my mind. Janitor closets could be mystic portals. Garbage dumps could be repositories of power. Sewers could be…well…still sewers, but with stranger creatures slithering through them.
Ben, the titular janitor, has reached the point in his career where retirement seems to be swiftly approaching, but it’s not exactly the sort of work he can retire from. And so he’s on what feels like one last job, even if it does require using his magical powers to clean toilets at the local mall. After all, he takes pride in his work and knows even one stall left un-scrubbed could mean an innocent life getting flushed.
In the end, I had so much fun writing this story because no matter where I looked, it was already embedded in modern life in bizarre ways. And so the Cleaners were born.
Or maybe they’ve been here all along.