As I write this in mid-November 2020, there’s quite a stir over the new version of Apple’s Mac OS, the operating system that runs on its laptops. For more than a year, Apple has engaged in a covert, global surveillance of its users through its operating system, which automatically sent information about which apps you were running to Apple, and which gave Apple a remote veto over whether that program ...Read MoreRead more
I grew up on a steady diet of feel-good fantasy novels: noble tales about good folks who could be counted on to do the right thing, and bad guys that could be counted on to do the worst thing. I knew who would prevail, and who would fall.
As a kid I found this predictability boring and formulaic after the first three or four novels. It would be decades before ...Read MoreRead more
In “Full Employment“, my July 2020 column, I wrote, “I am an AI skeptic. I am baffled by anyone who isn’t. I don’t see any path from continuous improvements to the (admittedly impressive) ‘machine learning’ field that leads to a general AI any more than I can see a path from continuous improvements in horse-breeding that leads to an internal combustion engine.”
Today, I’d like to expand on that. Let’s ...Read MoreRead more
I spent all summer building a pond in the backyard with my spouse. It was the perfect project to take my mind away from the world outside of the fence, a world I increasingly only experience virtually.
I could try and avoid the news, but the news is the world around me. The news is neighbors who have big parties. The news is the asshole at the grocery store who ...Read MoreRead more
I write as if from the memory of a dream. Bits and pieces of who I am and what I’ve experienced or longed for, forming parts of a whole. Fantasy made this easier. As a child of a country conquered three times over before it had the chance to know what it was, I told myself the things I couldn’t find, I could fill in.
Most fantasy writers don’t create ...Read MoreRead more
There is a line from a famous Puerto Rican song “La Borinqueña” that I’ve carried with me all my life: “Awake from your sleep, for it’s time to fight.” What I love most about these words is how they came about. Puerto Rican poet Lola Rodriguez de Tío was born on the island during Spain’s occupation in 1843. She came from a privileged background and was educated, which was a ...Read MoreRead more
You’ve probably heard of “open source software.” If you pay attention to the politics of this stuff, you might have heard of “free software” and even know a little about the ethical debate underpinning the war of words between these two labels. I’ve been involved since the last century, but even I never really understood what’s going on in the background until recently.
I was looking up the history of ...Read MoreRead more
Over the past few months, as I’ve struggled to write the fourth and final book in my epic fantasy series, Earthsinger Chronicles, I’ve thought a lot about endings. Recently, popular culture has seen the end of several long-running series: Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two of those series ended in ways that were wildly disappointing to many fans and should serve as cautionary ...Read MoreRead more
When I was sixteen, I skipped my appointment to get sworn in as a U.S. citizen because I was taking an Advanced Placement exam.
The instant the test was over, the Principal spoke over the intercom and called me down to his office, where I was mortified to see my mom waiting for me and mystified to find her in a rage. How could I miss that appointment? What was ...Read MoreRead more
I got fall-down drunk a week or so ago; literally falling on the stairs and knocking down a piece of art, and the next day, I had a panic attack so severe I had to take a break from work and have a lie down.
Clearly, I have been processing a lot of emotions – or not processing, which is why my body decided to express how I felt after ...Read MoreRead more
When I got serious about writing in my teens, my literary opinions involved a lot of eyerolling.
Black and white false dichotomies attracted me, as they do many thirteen-year-olds eager to become Serious Artists™. One creed I held to be especially dear was that fake writers treat stories like games of pretend, and real writers remain conscious of their task—making art—at all times.
Adulthood shrunk my head a few sizes. ...Read MoreRead more
Genres and sub-genres are always tricky things to pin down, and never more so than with works that live at the boundary between two categories. Ashes of the Sun has been called, among other things, “science fantasy”—it’s not the only way to describe it, but it definitely fits. (Aside—as with all genre discussions, your terms and definitions may vary! There are many different lenses with which to examine these categories. ...Read MoreRead more
Writers are in a retelling frenzy, borrowing from what already exists to pay homage or lend perspective, to modernize or fracture or fanfic. I believe it’s an act of love to take a story that’s in danger of disappearing and make it new, provided you have something to add to the mix. But what happens when the inspiration for your current novel is and has only ever been a movie? ...Read MoreRead more
Black women have always contributed significantly to the horror genre, though our roles have been massively downplayed and overlooked by the larger genre fiction community. As a result, Black women have had to carve out a space and make a way out of no way. Our relationship to trauma, our storytelling culture, our willingness to show that everyday life has the potential to be a horror in and of itself ...Read MoreRead more
I am an AI skeptic. I am baffled by anyone who isn’t.
I don’t see any path from continuous improvements to the (admittedly impressive) ”machine learning” field that leads to a general AI any more than I can see a path from continuous improvements in horse-breeding that leads to an internal combustion engine.
Not only am I an AI skeptic, I’m an automation-employment-crisis skeptic. That is, I believe that even ...Read MoreRead more
Note: This piece was written before the murder of George Floyd.
Hello. I’m back. After nineteen years—but who is counting and those years went by really fast—I’m returning to Locus to reach out to the science fiction community from New York City during a crisis. When I was traumatized during 9/11 because I was looking out of my apartment window at the Empire State Building expecting it to be ...Read MoreRead more
Worldbuilding is like a jigsaw puzzle. You start with the edges, the essential outline and framework, and then work in, spiraling and spiraling until you find the last, perfect piece. Without the edge, the outline, you have no direction to go in. You start grasping around, putting together little groups of pieces here or there, hoping to find something that connects, but it all feels rather futile. And makes it ...Read MoreRead more
It’s perfectly fine if you’re doing okay right now.
The odds are against it, but it’s absolutely all right to answer ‘‘How are you?’’ with ‘‘I’m… okay?’’ Because at some point, each of us will complete the five or seven stages of grief that accompany slow-moving crises and pandemics and disasters like the one currently sweeping the globe, and we will carry on.
Humans are resilient creatures, to both our ...Read MoreRead more
Last year, I read the same passage from my book, Creatures of Want and Ruin, for four different events: the Fantastic Fiction Reading Series at KGB Bar in New York City, at NecronomiCon Providence, at Noir at the Bar in Denver, and finally at Writers with Drinks in San Francisco. Given the reception to the readings, I can say with confidence that my performance improved every time—but it wasn’t ...Read MoreRead more
In 1991, I read two documents from Bruce Sterling that changed the course of my professional and literary career. The first was “The Turkey City Lexicon”, which Sterling co-wrote with Lewis Shiner, an online classic that was finally published between covers in the 1991 Pulphouse edition of The SFWA Handbook, which I received in the mail with my newly minted SFWA membership kit.
The second was a print classic ...Read MoreRead more
On a September morning in 2001, I watched from my fire escape in Brooklyn as the second World Trade Center tower fell. In the hours and days and weeks that followed, as the ash and debris rained down from the sky, as the stench of death permeated my neighborhood, as the countless hand-written missing person fliers went up, as soldiers with machine guns began to appear in train stations, I ...Read MoreRead more
I woke up this morning to find several thousand unexpected dollars in my bank account, which isn’t a problem writers usually have. My literary agency gives me a heads’ up when they make a deposit, but didn’t with this one, so it’s entirely possible this was a mistaken deposit. I’m sitting here dying to allocate the money to various bills, but waiting for a confirmation that the money is mine. ...Read MoreRead more
When we speak of forging, it is usually one of two types: the first is when we create something new out of disparate materials— the type of forging usually associated with blacksmiths—but the second type is one we often associate with thieves, charlatans, and mountebanks; the kind where we create something that is fake with the intention of duping or deceiving others into believing that what we have created is ...Read MoreRead more
Putting the science in science fiction involves a lot of moving parts and navigating them can be challenging at any point in your writing career. Both science and science fiction are ever-expanding fields, and staying on top of one, let alone both, requires diligence and persistence. Furthermore, getting the level of detail just right so as to not be so technical you alienate your readers, while avoiding being needlessly inaccurate, ...Read MoreRead more
Yoshiki Tanaka’s Sieun Award-winning Legend of the Galactic Heroes (LotGH) series is simultaneously a work of science fiction (specifically space opera) and an in-depth historiography. Multiple texts exist within its two-thousand-plus pages, with a single unnamed narrator drawing on (fictional) memoirs, autobiographies, and other histories in order to craft their own interpretation of the galactic conflicts of the thirty-sixth century. Originally published in Japan between 1982 and 1987, LotGH was ...Read MoreRead more
In general, speculative fiction in translation (SFT) accounts for a very small fraction of the fiction published in English each year. This past year was no exception: 50 books (novels, collections, and anthologies) and 80 short (standalone) works of SFT made their way to Anglophone readers. While this may not sound like much, it does signify a slow but steady increase in non-Anglophone speculative fiction since the turn of the ...Read MoreRead more
Before we get started, let’s define what we mean by “the end of the world.”
Extinguishing all life on earth would be difficult. Every day, 800 million viruses and tens of millions of bacteria rain down from the troposphere onto every square meter of the planet’s surface. Extremophile microorganisms flourish at unimaginable pressures in the depths of the Marianas Trench. Russian cosmonauts claim to have found plankton surviving the vacuum ...Read MoreRead more
A lever without a fulcrum is just a stick. That is, even the longest, sturdiest lever in the world will not shift even the tiniest object unless you have a fulcrum to balance it on.
Copyright law is billed as a lever creators can use to budge the corporations that bring our work to market. The companies may be large, and they may be powerful, but creators can resist that ...Read MoreRead more
The year 2019 saw the growth of interest in African fiction pay off in terms of publications of novels.
The biggest news of the year may be that Tade Thompson’s Rosewater won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. This year also saw the publication of the second and third books in the Wormwood series, The Rosewater Insurrection and The Rosewater Redemption. Thompson also published a new novella about Molly Southbourne, ...Read MoreRead more
Over the past few years, I’ve been talking here about a couple of recurring ideas on the shape of the SF and fantasy world. For instance, the notion that these fields are increasingly a pluralism and that there’s no default way that one should expect an SF/F novel to be written; that interplay between “genre” and “mainstream” writers of the fantastic is increasing, fruitfully; and that “science fiction” and “fantasy” ...Read MoreRead more
I often take this opportunity to discuss great podcasts of the past year. I’ll be honest, I didn’t get the chance to pick up too many new SF-related podcasts in 2019, but continue to enjoy new episodes of the familiar ones. Welcome to Night Vale is proceeding delightfully, with wars in time, space, and alternate realities, including a frightening conflict involving Night Vale citizen brains placed in future ...Read MoreRead more
In April 2005 I was well settled into my career as a romance novelist, writing everything from paranormal romances to adult and young adult contemporary fiction for New American Library (now Penguin Random House). My life was simple: I wrote books, lots of books. And then one day I heard about a new massively multiplayer online role playing game called World of Warcraft (WOW), and my life changed. Not only ...Read MoreRead more