About all those best-laid plans…

In December, when I was making my writing plans for this year, I vowed to write five 5,000 word stories. You see, I’d just finished a very long novella (Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach — coming in March!) and I was itching to write shorter. I had all five planned out. So, it’s September. How have I done with that goal?

Let’s see what I’ve been up to:

  • Wrote and sold a 15,000 word novelette (We Who Live in the Heart, published at Clarkesworld — my tenth story sold!)
  • Wrote a 7,000 word story (currently on submission)
  • Currently revising a 9,000 word story (hope it will end up much shorter)

That’s not too bad. The word count is decent. But then, that’s not all I’ve been doing this year:

  • Wrote two columns for Clarkesworld (The Dream of Writing Full Time and Being James Tiptree, Jr.)
  • Revised Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach twice (no small task)
  • Planned a sequel: Time, Trouble, and the Lucky Peach (will be so much fun!)
  • Planned a book I’m dying to write (even more fun!)
  • Planned three more short stories in the series of five I’m currently obsessed with

When I look at this list, I feel pretty darn productive. Also super excited about writing these things.

And in case that looks just too virtuous, I also started and gave up on a story that just wasn’t giving me joy. And that’s okay! Not all ideas work out and not all are worth the time it takes to make them click.

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach ready for preorder!

No cover yet, but my time travel novella Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach is ready for preorder! The release date is March 13, 2018 in both trade paperback and ebook. Pre-orders matter, so if you’re inclined, please do!

Here are the links:

Check out these amazing blurbs! How  could anyone resist?

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach is a tour-de-force, with nuanced characters in a masterfully conceived world of stunning, mind-bending eco-tech. Absolutely brilliant storytelling. I didn’t want it to end.” ―Annalee Newitz, co-founder of io9 and author of Autonomous

“The far future, the distant past. Time travel, bioengineering, office politics ― and ecological consulting. How could I not love this?” ―Peter Watts, author of Echopraxia

“A necessary meditation on the nature of change and the sacrifice required to manifest it, Robson’s novella pulls no punches, spares no rods, and leaves no idea unexamined.” ―Madeline Ashby, author of Company Town

And here’s the cover copy:

Experience this far-reaching, mind-bending science fiction adventure that uses time travel to merge climate fiction with historical fantasy. From Kelly Robson, Aurora Award winner, Campbell, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon finalist, and author of Waters of Versailles

Discover a shifting history of adventure as humanity clashes over whether to repair their ruined planet or luxuriate in a less tainted past.

In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from worldwide ecological disasters. Minh is part of the generation that first moved back up to the surface of the Earth from the underground hells, to reclaim humanity’s ancestral habitat. She’s spent her entire life restoring river ecosystems, but lately the kind of long-term restoration projects Minh works on have been stalled due to the invention of time travel. When she gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to survey the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover the secrets of the shadowy think tank that controls time travel technology.

The cover artist is Jon Foster. I’ve seen a cover sketch and I’m ecstatic — absolutely blown away. It’s going to be beautiful!

 

Lucky Peach coming Spring 2018

On March 13, 2018, Tor.com’s novella program will publish my time travel story Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach. It’s a big novella, just 300 words shy of 40,000 words, which is about half the size of your average novel.

So why not make it a novel?
That’s what everyone said when I told them the first draft was 50,000 words! But it’s not quite that simple. To make it a novel, the story would have to be a lot bigger. This is a tight novella-sized concept.

But it’s going to be an actual book?
Yes! An actual physical book with gorgeous cover art (which should be revealed sometime in the fall). Which means I get to include a dedication, acknowledgements, and all that real book stuff.

What’s it about?
A fluvial geomorphologist, a gay veterinarian, and a research assistant walk into a bar…

No, wait. Here’s the elevator pitch:

In 2267, Earth has just begun to recover from a mass extinction event, but the invention of time travel by secretive think tank TERN has blocked the flow of funding for long-term ecological restoration projects. Minh, an elderly fluvial geomorphologist, has spent her entire life working to restore ecosystems, and she’s enraged at having her life’s work disrupted by the illusion of quick-fix solutions to the world’s problems. When Minh gets the opportunity take a team to 2000 BC to conduct a past-state assessment of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, she jumps at the chance to uncover TERN’s secrets.

Why did you decide to write about this?
I’ve worked in professional services firms for most of my life, and I’ve learned that takes an incredible amount of effort to get humans to work together.

In this novella, the world economy is designed around the idea that the only thing of value is a person’s time. The basic economic unit is the billable hour. Natural resources have no value because everything, including food, can be fabricated at the atomic level. Labor is done by robots. If you don’t like the standard of life where you’re living, everyone has the basic human right to take their projected billable hours elsewhere – basically vote with their feet.

I call this the Transparent Economy, where all transactions are measured and tracked. This is the same economic system I use in my Clarkesworld novelette “We Who Live in the Heart,” which is set on a distant planet 600 years in the future. I’m currently working on another story set in Toronto in the near future, which deals with the origin of this system.

This is a utopia, right?
Definitely not. The Transparent Economy has some definite drawbacks. One is a lack of privacy. Another is the simple fact that the world has humans in it. Even if we had a utopia, we’d find ways to make drama.

But nobody has to work, right?
Hah! Computers, robots, and databases will never be able to do everything. Plus, many people like to work. I think a major contributing factor to happiness is knowing your time is well spent and valued by others.

How does the time travel fit into all this?
Time travel is a big complication. It was invented about ten years before the story begins.

Are there paradoxes?
No! I don’t care for time travel paradoxes. I think there’s tons of drama to be had from the simple fact of time travel being possible.

So how does your time travel work?
Every writer designs their time travel physics to suit the kinds of stories they like to tell. Mine is specifically set up to be essentially useless – it can’t be used to change anything. You can go to the past, do whatever you like, and come home, but you can’t stay there. And once you’ve returned home, you can’t revisit the same past timeline you visited before. Each trip is to a fresh timeline. There’s no way to build on anything you do in the past.

I wanted to explore how time travel with no consequences can be a big problem and people can still get themselves in HUGE trouble with it even when, on a basic level, it’s only good for tourism.

And historical research.
Oh yes, lots of historical research! And ecological research too. And a lot of other things — but it’s especially good for getting yourself into trouble.

2016 in Retrospect

Cover by Sam Wolfe
Lesbian Gothic Horror novelette out January 4, 2017 at Tor.com. Cover by Sam Wolfe

2016 was a terrific year for me, filled with travel, excitement, and personal and professional triumph. 2016 has another face, of course, and it’s not pretty. However, I won’t rail against its injustices here. I’m just going to focus on the personal stuff.

Let’s count in fives: In 2016 I had stories in five year’s bests and was a finalist for five awards. Five by five. To keep up the pattern, my plan for 2017 is to write five 5000-word stories. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s run it down:

Five Year’s Bests

Three of my stories were reprinted in year’s best anthologies edited by Jonathan Strahan, Gardner Dozois, Paula Guran, Neil Clarke, and Alan Kaster. The copies make a nice tall tower on my dresser. I’m extremely proud so many editors thought well of my work and can only hope to have such a successful year again.

Five Award Nominations

I was nominated for the Nebula Award, the Aurora Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Sunburst Award, and the World Fantasy Award. I want to give a few details about these awards because nobody ever says much about what it’s like to be an award finalist. Superstition, perhaps? I can understand that, but people want to know how I found out, what I felt, what happened. So here are my impressions.

Nebula Award

  • How I found out: SFWA Director of Operations Kate Baker, who is a total doll, phoned me to ask if I would accept the nomination. This was delicious because I got to squeal at her and get virtual hugs over the phone. So if you think you might get a nomination, pick up all phone calls from mysterious numbers in February.
  • What the award ceremony was like: Total glam-fest multi-day celebration. The SFWA Nebula Conference is a glorious event and SFWA makes you feel like a star.
  • Finalist swag: Nebula nominee pin and certificate, also ribbon for conference badge.
  • How I felt when the results hit: About 15 seconds of disappointment for myself, and slightly longer disappointment that my friends didn’t win either. But I was live-tweeting the results so I was more concerned that I spelled winner Nnedi Okorafor’s name right. She’s an amazing writer and if you haven’t read her Nebula-winning BINTI, you should.

Aurora Award

  • How I found out: Alyx and I were on vacation in London when we got the emails from the award committee. Very excited that we were both nominated!
  • What the award ceremony was like: We didn’t get to go, but it was in Calgary my brother went in our place and had a great time.
  • Finalist swag: As with the Nebula, nominees get lovely pins.
  • How I felt when the results hit: Alyx and I found out we both won via Twitter, in quick succession, and then shortly after, via text and photos from my brother. We were really sad we couldn’t have attended in person especially since so many friends were at the ceremony.
  • Our twin trophies are proudly displayed in our living room. So pretty!

Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award

  • How I found out: Kij Johnson sent a lovely email with congratulations, checking to see if I would accept the nomination, which of course I did.
  • How I felt when the results hit: I ran into friend and fellow finalist E.J. Fischer before the event. When I congratulated him, he said, “Oh, didn’t you know? Kelly Link won.” Apparently this info was printed on the event posters. That was a bit of a let down, especially since Alyx and I had been traveling all day to get to the event.
  • Kelly Link winning is hardly unexpected because she is a goddess. However, it turned out during the ceremony that E.J. was runner-up, so that was a surprise and very nice because he’s wonderful and so is his work. I love it when my friends are rewarded for their genius!

Sunburst Award

  • How I found out: The committee posted the long list on their site, and then the short list a few months later.
  • How I felt when the results hit: About 20 seconds of disappointment. I was hoping for this one, especially since it brings actual award money. Maybe another year, if I’m lucky.

World Fantasy Award

  • How I found out: I looked at Twitter and had a zillion notifications. Unexpected and a fun way to find out!
  • What the award ceremony was like: Unfortunately I couldn’t go to WFC. We’d planned to go but had to change our plans to make a trip to visit family instead.
  • How I felt when the results hit: About 2 minutes of disappointment. I was rooting for Usman Malik and really thought he would win.

I can say with a great deal of confidence that being an award finalist is pretty darn nice. Part of the excitement and fun is juggling the social media with congratulations flowing in from all directions. It’s a true adrenaline hit!

What could have been…

Apparently without puppy business, I might have had been Campbell finalist, too. That would have been nice but I can live without it.

What have you done for me lately?

It looks like I’ve been slacking because 2016 publications are thin on the ground. I’ve been hard at it, though. Here’s what I did in 2016:

  • Extensive revisions to my lesbian gothic horror novelette “A Human Stain,” which appears at Tor.com on January 4, 2017.  Ellen Datlow put me through five rewrites for this one! Not complaining. The story needed it. (See, though, the continuing pattern of fives?)
  • Ellen Kushner asked me to write a Tremontaine tie-in story and I was thrilled to do it. “The Eye of the Swan” appeared on Tor.com in October 2016.
  • The editors of Nasty – Fetish Erotica for a Good Cause, invited me to contribute a short-short. I chose public nudity for my fetish. The story is called called “The Desperate Flesh.” 
  • I wrote two essays for the Another Word column at Clarkesworld. “On Being a Late Bloomer” appeared in September 2016 and “Dystopias are Not Enough” will appear in January 2017.
  • I wrote a column about the Netflix series Stranger Things for the Omni Magazine reboot. Writing for Omni was a childhood dream come true, let me tell you.
  • And finally, I finished the long novella (39,700 words) that I’ve been working on since summer 2015. It’s a time travel story tentatively titled “Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach.” I’m hoping it’ll find a home soon.

And in 2017?

After spending more than a year writing my time travel novella, I’m desperate to work on shorter pieces. My plan for 2017 is to write five 5000-word stories. I’ve got them all planned out.

2015, the year all my dreams came true

enkiinanna

I’m at Boskone for the weekend. I’m not on the programming, but just here to hang out and have fun. I’ll see some delicious friends and mentors.

Though I haven’t updated this blog in a while, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been running hard to finish a time travel novella. It’s going long. Will probably end up around 40K words. Yikes.

Some people can write a story in a weekend but I certainly can’t. This particular story has been a lengthy process even though I’ve had the concept beginning-middle-end from the start. I never write a story without knowing where it’s going, but it’s the bits in between that are difficult. I want it to feel authentic, so I’m being very careful. If I go too fast, I’ll only create problems that will be difficult to fix in revision. I can only hope that in the end it’ll be worth the effort. Whether it’ll be marketable or not, I leave that up to the gods. In this case, the ancient Sumerian gods Enki and Inanna.

Last year was such an amazing year — in 2015 all my dreams came true. My first publication at Clarkesworld in February, closely followed by an anthology, then Asimov’s, then Tor.com, then another anthology. My work has enjoyed an enthusiastic reception, with three stories appearing on the Locus Recommended Reading list and five stories chosen for year’s best anthologies. I’m eager to get more stories out into the world, but that simply can’t be rushed.

I do have one story out to market right now and I’m hoping to hear a yea or nay soon from the editor who has it in hand. I don’t know if it’s exactly the right story to follow up this amazing year for a few reasons — not the least because I’d rather follow up 2015 with a story that knocks people’s hats off. Not sure this little horror story has that quality. I wrote myself into some difficult corners with it (probably because I tried to rush the first draft) and have been working with the editor on revisions. It’s been a good learning process. Now I know that for me, forcing a draft to completion just causes intractable story problems.

So back to the novella for me! Onward, forward, and ahead! All that matters are the words!

TOC for Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction, 33rd Annual Collection

Gardner Dozois' Year's Best SF 33
Art by Jim Burns

A few days ago on his Facebook page, Gardner Dozois posted the Table of Contents for his upcoming Year’s Best Science Fiction, Thirty-third Annual Collection. The anthology will be available next July, and is already available for pre-order on Amazon.

The TOC includes a story of mine. I’d be thrilled about this under any circumstances, but it turns out the story he chose is my very first published story, The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill, which appeared in Clarkesworld this past February. Hitting Gardner’s Year’s Best with a first published story feels — well, there are no words. Peter Watts reminded me a few days ago, however, that it’s all downhill from here. I could only laugh and agree with him. Peter is the happiest cynic I know.

Here are the stories appearing in the anthology. The list is in no particular order. I’m definitely the most junior writer in the bunch, though by no means the youngest. And look: Aliette de Bodard has two stories here. Nice!

  • “The Falls: A Luna Story,” by Ian McDonald
  • “Three Cups of Grief, By Starlight,” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Ruins,” by Eleanor Arnason
  • “Gypsy,” by Carter Scholz
  • “Emergence,” by Gwyneth Jones
  • “Calved,” by Sam J. Miller
  • “Meshed,” by Rich Larson
  • “Bannerless,” by Carrie Vaughn
  • “The Astrakhan, the Homberg, and the Red Red Coat,” by Chaz Brenchley
  • “Another Word for World,” by Ann Leckie
  • “City of Ash,” by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • “The Muses of Shuyedan-18,” by Indrapramit Das
  • “The Audience,” by Sean McMullen
  • “Consolation,” by John Kessel
  • “Botanica Veneris,” by Ian McDonald
  • “Rates of Change,” by James S.A. Corey
  • “The Children of Gal,” by Allen M. Steele
  • “Today I Am Paul,” by Martin L. Shoemaker
  • “Trapping the Pleistecene,” by James Sarafin
  • “Machine Learning,” by Nancy Kress
  • “Silence Like Diamonds,” by John Barnes
  • “Inhuman Garbage,” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • “Planet of Fear,” by Paul McAuley
  • “It Takes More Than Muscles to Frown,” by Ned Beauman
  • “The Daughters of John Demetrius,” by Joe Pitkin
  • “Hello, Hello,” by Seanan McGuire
  • “Capitalism in the 22nd Century,” by Geoff Ryman
  • “Ice,” by Rich Larson
  • “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill,” by Kelly Robson
  • “In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon,” by Michael F. Flynn
  • “The First Gate of Logic,” by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • “Billy Tumult,” by Nick Harkaway
  • “No Placeholder for You, My Love,” by Nick Wolven
  • “The Game of Smash and Recovery,” by Kelly Link
  • “A Stopped Clock,” by Madeline Ashby
  • “Citadel of Weeping Pearls,” by Aliette de Bodard

Readercon, Asimov’s, and review roundup!

Me and my first Asimov's!
Me and my first Asimov’s!

It’s been an eventful month! My novella Waters of Versailles came out at Tor.com and as an ebook on June 10th. The August Asimov’s with my story Two-Year Man hit in ebook format on July 1, with the hard copy magazine released to newsstands just yesterday. And tomorrow Alyx and I leave for Readercon!

Readercon!

When Alyx and I moved to Toronto two years ago, one of the changes that most excited us was the easy access to the big East Coast SF conventions. This will be the first time we’ve taken advantage of our new location. I hear so many good things about Readercon, and can’t wait to discover it for myself.

After the con, we’re taking a couple of vacation days in Boston. There’s nothing we like better than exploring a new city. Many photos will be taken.

Asimov’s!

Yesterday I got my hands on an actual physical copy of the August 2015 issue of Asimov’s with my story Two-Year Man. I’ve read Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine religiously since I was 16 years old. The magazine is utterly responsible for the current state of my adult brain, and I can’t quite believe a story I wrote is actually in it.

Also — excitingly — James Patrick Kelly (whom I’ve been reading and enjoying for years) interviewed me and several other first-time Asimov’s authors in this issue. The article is also posted online.

Review Roundup!

Waters of Versailles has received several nods from reviewers. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

A.C. Wise has kindly included me in the July 2015 edition of her terrific Women to Read: Where to Start  column at SF Signal. It’s such a compliment to be included!

Tansy Rayner Roberts says lovely things in episode 122 of the Galactic Suburbia podcast (appears around 1:51 in the podcast). She says:

“Very funny, witty, dark, kind of sexy story…
Wonderful, beautifully written, very funny, some great smutty scenes as well, and lovely social detail…
Gorgeous complicated novella, so nice to read. Highly recommended.”

In the podcast, Tansy also mentions that she fell in love with the art Kathleen Jennings created for the novella, and hadn’t actually realized it was cover art. When Kathleen made the piece available at Redbubble, Tansy bought several items and then was surprised to come across the art at Tor.com. She probably wouldn’t have read the story otherwise, so I’m double grateful for the wonderful cover Kathleen created.

Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews, says it’s:

“…definitely a story worth spending some time with figuring out and having some fun with. Did I mention there is a monkey? And toilets? I really cannot undersell the toilets. Go read it!”

Nerds of a Feather included the story in their June Monthly Round – A Taster’s Guide to Speculative Short Fiction. They say it’s:

“… well worth the time to see it all the way through to its satisfying conclusion. Like champagne, the story rewards sticking around for the long haul…”