Like most authors, I have more experience writing beginnings than I do endings, but perhaps not in the way one would expect. Some of this is an artifact of the linear way we have evolved to see time. It’s how many of us were taught to approach narrative. For many years I began every story with a scene, an inciting incident, a mood, a situation, and wrote until I figured ...Read MoreRead more
It’s a little dangerous, after selling a story to a professional science fiction or fantasy publication, to start calculating the odds of pulling in an award nomination. The draw is inexorable though – the Nebula Awards, the Hugos, World Fantasy, Locus. It’s the stuff of legends. Through the years, now-familiar SF/F names have stood to accept these awards, held them up to the light and heard that applause. It’s accomplishment, ...Read MoreRead more
Last summer, the pandemic was in its first wave and the nation was in chaos. A lack of federal leadership left each state to figure out how to interpret the science, and many states punted public health decisions to counties or cities or even smaller units, like universities.
Leaders, left to their own, often winged it, letting wishful thinking trump prudence in the drive to find ways to “reopen safely.” ...Read MoreRead more
In ancient Rome, they marked the new year in March, a time which has always made far more sense to me than a dark, frigid day in January. March is when we get the first breath of spring, when winter’s grasp begins to ease, and we realize that we have survived another miserly winter season.
After a very dark COVID-19 winter surge, I have emerged bleary-eyed into a new year ...Read MoreRead more
If you learned your economics from Heinlein novels or the University of Chicago, you probably think that “free market” describes an economic system that is free from government interference – where all consensual transactions between two or more parties are permissible.
But if you went to the source, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, you’ll have found a very different definition of a free market: Smith’s concern wasn’t freedom from ...Read MoreRead more
This January marked the tenth anniversary of my first published novel, God’s War, back in the halcyon days of 2011.
It was a long road to publication.
I finished the book in early 2007, shopped it in late 2007, had it picked up, then cancelled in early 2009 after the crash of 2008. Another publisher eventually bought it for the second time, then that publisher was sold, and the ...Read MoreRead more
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
I’ve found that the insidious problem for me in scrolling through social media is that it feels like action. Ironically, it also creates – in me – a profound feeling of being out of control over events in the wider world, while generating a huge amount of anxiety and worry. But while surfacing atrocity after atrocity, treason after treason, may feel like action, we often find that our righteous need ...Read MoreRead more
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in a movie theater or reading on your couch, and out of a character’s mouth comes the most laughably awful science you have ever heard. At first, you might try to hang onto your suspension of disbelief. But it’s just groan-inducingly wrong. Why couldn’t the writer spend five minutes on the internet to get it right? Maybe you vow to never see anything by ...Read MoreRead more
In XKCD comic 1357, “Free Speech”, Randall Munroe offers a characteristically concise and snappy summary of one of the canonical arguments about free expression: “The right to free speech means the government can’t arrest you for what you say. It doesn’t mean anyone else has to listen to your bullshit, or host you while you share it…. If you’re yelled at… or get banned from an internet community your free ...Read MoreRead more
I grew up thinking it wasn’t cool to care too much about things.
Caring about something too hard made you vulnerable. Weak. Care too much for a person, and they can hurt you emotionally. Care too much about a cause, and it will let you down. Care too much about a piece of media or an institution, and it opens you up to ridicule. The world was full of opportunities ...Read MoreRead more
[All opinions expressed by commentators, guest bloggers, reviewers, and interviewees are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of Locus magazine or its staff.]
At the Hugo Awards ceremony at this summer’s Dublin Worldcon, Jeannette Ng was presented with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Ng gave an outstanding and brave acceptance speech in which she called Campbell – the award’s namesake and one of ...Read MoreRead more
One of the ironies of the writing craft is that the more novels many of us write, the more difficult it is to write a novel. This appears to be a contradiction, but I hear it again and again from other professional writers, and I encounter it in my own work. It’s as if, once you know how to write a book, it gets easier to see the flaws in ...Read MoreRead more
When states had established religions and all-powerful churches, the clergy could impose many indignities on their parishoners merely by asserting that it was “God’s will.” Our modern secular religion is the worship of markets as self-correcting, self-perfecting systems that merely demand that we all act in our own self-interest to produce an outcome that makes us all better off. Whenever corporations thrive by making us all worse off, we’re told ...Read MoreRead more
It’s taken some time for me to come to terms with the fact that I have developed fairly severe anxiety. When I say this out loud, of course, those in conversation with me often reply, “It’s 2019. Who doesn’t have anxiety?”
Anxiety is showing up sooner in children, too. My mom often points out that in her day, everyone was fearful of nuclear war, and the threat of climate change ...Read MoreRead more
Several times over the 13 years that I’ve been writing this column, I’ve railed against the toxic myth that science fiction is a predictive literature, a way to know the future. Science fiction writers are not fortune tellers, and that’s obvious because no one is a (real) fortune teller, because the future is unknowable, and because the future changes based on what we do.
With that said, there are two ...Read MoreRead more
We live in a hustle culture. Trying to manage a living with a singular regular job is increasingly difficult. To freelancers and other working class folks, this isn’t news. As the middle class shrinks, the working class grows, and so does the working class hustle.
There’s an expectation that we all have side hustles. How are we monetizing our hobbies, our passions? Do you pick up odd jobs? Have you ...Read MoreRead more
Take off your glasses for a sec (you’re a Locus reader, so I’m guessing that you, like me, are currently wearing prescription eyewear) and have a look at the manufacturer’s name on the temples. Specifically, check to see if they were made by Armani, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, DKNY, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Persol, Polo Ralph Lauren, Ray-Ban, Tiffany, Valentino, Vogue, or Versace. If so, ...Read MoreRead more
I recently finished the first draft of a long-overdue fantasy novel called The Broken Heavens, last in a trilogy. Instead of celebrating, however, I found myself filled with post-post weariness. Endings are bittersweet, and this one was especially so. While I began writing this series in earnest about ten years ago, the kernel of its idea – a world where the invaders were alternate versions of the protagonists – ...Read MoreRead more
In 1660, John Locke published his Two Treatises of Government, where he set out to resolve the seeming conflict between individual property rights (which he valorized) and the Bible (ditto), which set out the principle that God had created the Earth and its bounty for all of humanity. How could a Christian claim to own something personally when God had intended for everyone to share in His creation?
Locke’s ...Read MoreRead more
I write messy, incoherent first drafts. It sucks. But most of the time I’m okay with it. It’s my process, and it’s why revision exists.
Drafts aren’t what readers see. After getting that first blush of the book on paper, I spend each subsequent iteration fleshing out worldbuilding details and refining dialogue and fixing structure. Few people want to read about a bunch of characters expositing about the plot over ...Read MoreRead more