Lost Signals, or how I wrote out of my comfort zone

Lost Signals

So here’s the story: Some time ago, Chuck Gannon, a fine writer and a very nice guy, asked me if I’d like to try to contribute a story to an anthology he was putting together that would take place in his Caine Riordan universe.

I had only read one of the novels in the series a year or two earlier, and had made the rather serious mistake of starting with Book 2 (Trial by Fire), which meant I really had very little idea of what was going on.  At first, while I liked the space opera vibe, I was a little confused by the action and why the characters were doing what they were doing, so I finally put it aside. But I really respect Chuck as a writer, and was very pleased by being asked to the party, so I said, “I’d like to give it a try. Let me start the series from the beginning, and try to come up with a story, and we’ll take it from there.”

That’s what I did. I read the first book in the series, enjoyed it, and found I was now able to appreciate the second, and the third. At that point, I came up with an idea for a character and a story that Chuck (thankfully) liked. The result: The story (“Blaming Caine”) is part of this really nifty anthology called Lost Signals of the Terran Empire, alongside some really talented writers. It’s now in the midst of copy editing and production; stay tuned for publication dates, etc.

One final note: Even if I hadn’t made it into the anthology (and I’m happy I did!), I found this an excellent opportunity to stretch my wings a bit. Writing in somebody else’s universe made me step out of my comfort zone in a way that I found rather difficult — and extremely worthwhile. So my thanks to Chuck for that as well.

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Some quick notes

Hi, folks —

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Illustration: Edward Lear

Sorry that it took me so long to cap the end of my last blog post — I’m sure you were all on pins and needles waiting to find out what happened. (Well, probably not, but still…)

Anyway, the Resist Fascism Kickstarter did make its goal, with enough over to buy another story, which I’m very pleased about. According to Bart & Kay, they are now working to get the anthology out before the mid-terms, which will be great.

The publication of my mosaic novel/collection The History of Soul 2065 is proceeding. I’ve seen first drafts of the cover illustration, which is being done by the very talented Paula Arwen. Stay tuned for more on that.

I’ve got two of my older stories now available to read at the anthology site Curious Fictions, and plan to put up more over the next few weeks, in case you’re looking for something to read.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be at the Capclave SF con in Rockville, MD in a couple of weeks, September 17-30th. I’ll post my schedule in a few days; meanwhile, I look forward to seeing my friends in the Washington D.C. area.

That’s all for now!

Kickstarter Kraziness

17e01f1d0bd5c9e20699d6e2524e2954_originalI honestly don’t know how they do it. Folks who do Kickstarters, I mean.

I’ve contributed to a few Kickstarters, and I’ve had friends and colleagues who have run them. I was very happy when they succeeded, and disappointed for them when they didn’t.

But this is one of the first times that I have a horse in what is turning out to be a close race, and now I honestly don’t know how people do this without going absolutely insane.

Okay, here’s the story: Two months ago, at the Readercon SF convention, I was invited by Crossed Genres’ Bart Leib to contribute to an anthology called Resist Fascism: A Call To Action. Crossed Genres is a small publishing concern run by Bart and co-founder Kay Holt that used to put out a magazine, and has published a few anthologies, including at least a couple I’ve had stories in.

The idea, Bart told me, was that this would be a fast-and-furious publication of several speculative fiction stories that could be released just before the mid-term elections. I said sure, what a great idea! I’d love to try.

I went home and, over the next couple of weeks, worked on the story when I could get away from my pay-the-rent freelance work. After several discarded tries, I actually got a story in by deadline. Which was, to my delight, accepted.

However, as I write this, the Kickstarter for this anthology, which I’m very much hoping will be a reality, is four days from deadline and about $2,000 away from its $6,000 goal. The result? I’m running out of fingernails to chew.

How the heck do they do it? Bart and Kay are both exceptionally nice, talented folks, and apparently can set up the Kickstarter, arrange for the contributor rewards, organize the anthology, and then spend hours on social media publicizing it, and watch the clock tick down to deadline, without completely losing it. I certainly would. Am. Might.

Phew! Okay, enough of that. I should take a breath, and go back to my writing — after I check what’s going on with the Kickstarter, of course….

 

“Sabbath Wine” на русском

I had completely forgotten about this — which gives you some idea of my state of mind these days — but a few months ago the Russian science fiction/fantasy magazine Darker asked for permission to translate my story “Sabbath Wine” into Russian and run it in their publication. After a couple of questions, I said, “Sure!” And here it is.

While I did take a year of Russian in college, I have completely lost any facility in that language I ever had, so the only thing I have to read the translation is Google Translate, which is problematic, to say the least. However, it looks like they did a careful and good job, from what I can tell — although I find it interesting that the translators thought it was necessary to immediately identify the ethnicity of each of the two children within the first two sentences, which is not how the original is written.

I was impressed that they added several notes at the bottom referring to historical U.S. events that a Russian reader wouldn’t necessarily pick up — although the strike I refer to in the story is not the Homestead Strike of 1892 (the one the translators identified it as). But it was a really good guess.

Anyway, if you’re a Russian speaker, or just want to take a look, here’s the link:

I’ve got my Readercon schedule!

A few weeks ago, for few short days, I thought I might have to miss Readercon this year. I’m pleased to report that, as it turned out, Jim and I will be driving up Friday morning in time to catch the Friday evening panels, and will be staying through the rest of the con. (All my friends who will be having panels and/or readings Thursday or Friday — sorry!)

Besides attending as many panels and readings as I can possibly fit in, I will be moderating two really great-sounding panels, taking part in two group readings, and doing a half-hour reading on Sunday morning.

Here’s my schedule. See you there!

FRIDAY

7 p.m.
Salon C
The Works of E. Nesbit
Greer Gilman,  Barbara Krasnoff (M), John Langan, Henry Wessells, The joey Zone
E. Nesbit (1858–1924) was a giant of children’s literature. She was the first modern writer of literature for children, writing or collaborating on over 60 books, and was the most influential author on the genre in the 20th century. The Story of the Treasure Seekers, Five Children and It, The Enchanted Castle, The House of Arden, and her many other fantastical works for children are still read and loved today. Nesbit also wrote romance novels, a fantasy (Dormant), and an underrated and overlooked set of horror stories. She was a writer of great range and inventiveness, and a witty and intelligent stylist. Please join us in celebrating her life and work.

9 p.m.
Blue Hills
Radical Elders
Elizabeth Hand, James Patrick Kelly, Rosemary Kirstein, Barbara Krasnoff (M), Sabrina Vourvoulias
On the page, as in GOH Nisi Shawl’s Everfair, and in real life, as in the careers of authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, elders are speaking their minds and upsetting the status quo. How can age intersect with radicalism and pioneering thought? How is the cognitive estrangement of aging relevant to speculative fiction and fannish communities, and what’s the best way of acknowledging that relevance?

SATURDAY

11:00 a.m.
Salon A
Group Reading: Tabula Rasa
Randee Dawn, Sally Wiener Grotta, Barbara Krasnoff, Terence Taylor
Tabula Rasa is a Brooklyn-based writers group

2 p.m.
Salon A
Group Reading: Kaleidocast
Mike Allen, Marcy Arlin, Rob Cameron, S.A. Chakraborty, Phenderson Djèlí Clark, Danielle Friedman, Carlos Hernandez, Barbara Krasnoff, Brad Parks, Jessica Plumbley, Ted Rabinowitz, David Mercurio Rivera, Eric Rosenfield, Sam Schreiber, Michael Wells, Zak Zyz
Authors featured on season two of the Kaleidocast podcast read from
their latest work

SUNDAY

10 a.m.
Salon B
Reading: Barbara Krasnoff
(I hope to read one of the unpublished short stories that will appear next year in my mosaic novel/collection The History of Soul 2065.)

Published: “Hard Times, Cotton Mill Girl”

ASM_71-Cover-e1528066901443After a long publication drought, I’m pleased to announced that my short story, entitled “Hard Times, Cotton Mill Girl,” is appearing in the latest issue of Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, a long-running publication available here in PDF, ePub or Mobi versions.

The story has its beginnings in a day trip I took with some friends to Boott Cotton Mills Museum in Lowell, Mass., a few Readercons ago. It was a fascinating visit; this is an old cotton mill that you could walk through along with a small museum that illustrated the lives of those who worked in it. (And the history of Lowell is, in fact, fascinating — it was an attempt by well-meaning people to create a relatively safe environment for young women doing factory work. If the subject interests you, I encourage you to check it out.)

One reason I was so interested in visiting the mill is this: I was brought up with a consciousness of labor history. And one of the books that I remember looking at over and over again when I was a child had a photo of a little girl in a factory looking wistfully out of a window; it was accompanied by a poem by Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn that I learned by heart:

The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.

The memory of that photo and poem, along with the tour we took at the museum, sparked the story.

Lincoln_Cotton_Mills,_Evansville,_Ind._Girls_at_weaving_machines,_warpers._Evansville,_Ind._-_NARA_-_523100Finally, when I started writing, I looked for a picture of a girl who could be my protagonist. I found this one. It was taken by Lewis Hines in 1908 at the Lincoln Cotton Mills in Evansville, Ind., and is entitled Girls at Weaving Machine.

I don’t know the name of the girl in the photo, or if there is any way of finding out who she really was or what happened to her. Everything else in the story is, of course, imaginary. But this is the girl I saw in my mind when I wrote about Emilia.

Fixing the faucet and other thoughts

I have three faucet controls above my bathtub. One is for hot, one is for cold, and one is to turn the shower on and off. The fixtures are made of metal holders in which faux-marble handles are inserted. Like everything else in the house, it was designed to look good while being extremely cheap.

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Several years ago, the faux-marble handle in the center control, which turns the shower on and off, fell — slipped out of its fixture and landed on the floor of the tub. I tried to tape it back and glue it back, but was defeated by the smoothness of the handle and the dampness of the bathroom.

So for years now, I’ve stored the handle on the side of the bathtub. Every morning, when I wanted to shower, I’d slip it into its fixture, turn it, put it back on the side of the tub, and then do the same when I was done. It became part of my morning ritual.

Then, about two weeks ago, the hot water faux-metal handle slipped out of its fixture.

That was something that was harder to get used to. Not only did I have to place and replace the handle that would turn the shower on and off, but also the one that would adjust the hot water. It was both inconvenient and irritating.

Motivated by my inability to change the hot water when needed (and nervous about getting burned), I actually, finally, came up with a solution — using this fabulous stuff that I had once seen an article about called Sugru Mouldable Glue. (I’ve included the link just in case somebody out there could also use it.)  It comes in little packets. You open the packet, take off as much of the clay-like substance as you like, mold it, stick it to whatever you want, give it 24 hours, and it semi-hardens to a rubbery substance. I put the faux-marble handles into the fixtures, stuck the Sugru on either side of the fixture as barriers, and waited.

And it worked! The handles are now staying where they belong, inside the fixtures.

But that’s not what this essay is about.

What it’s about is the fact that I’m still reaching for the central faux-marble handle after every shower — even though I’m reasonably awake and intellectually aware that I used the handle to start the shower. I finish washing, and go to the side of the tub, reach around, and for a split second I wonder what happened to the damned handle — and then think: Oh, yeah — it’s fixed. All I have to do is actually put my hand on it and turn it.

So now I’m wondering: Will I ever forgive the center handle for being fixed after not being fixed for such a long time?

The problem is that it feels so good — so righteous — to blame the fixture for my having to get up, shower, make coffee, and prepare for work in the morning. I’d rather lie in bed until 11 a.m. or so and read, but instead I have to get moving.

I don’t really want to be in a bad mood because I have to work, or because I’m behind on various personal tasks. That means I’m a lazy person, right? But when I had to go fishing for the separate handle every morning, I could pull myself up and say, “Obviously, it’s the handle’s fault that I’m feeling like this” — a very satisfactory strategy.

Not realistic, you say? Well, perhaps not. But sometimes, when we’re angry at a bad situation in our lives or in our world (and lord knows there are enough of those situations these days), it helps to focus that anger on something easy and within reach. Something you can blame. Like a broken shower handle.

But now it’s fixed. Of course, I can, for now, be angry because I find myself searching for it unnecessarily each morning. After that? I guess I’ll have to find something else.