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Archive for April, 2020

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – CHRISTOPHER L. BENNETT

Here’s a new interview with me to tie in with the upcoming release of ARACHNE’S CRIME and ARACHNE’S EXILE.

eSpec Books

eSpec Books interviews best-selling science fiction author Christopher L. Bennett, author of Arachne’s Crime (currently funding onKickstarter), Only Superhuman, Among the Wild Cybers, and a wide array of media tie-in novels.

eS: Hi, Christopher. Thank you for joining us today. Arachne’s Crime has some pretty detailed tech. How much of the tech is extrapolation and how much is technobabble? Please tell us something about the science of your universe.

CB: I’ve always striven to make the science in the Arachne/Troubleshooter Universe (as I’ve finally settled on calling it) as authentic as I can. I allow for a little poetic license with things like faster-than-light travel, but I ground them in real theory with a minimum of fudging. The novelette that Arachne’s Crime is expanded from — “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” my first professional sale back in 1998 — was a concept that came out of the…

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I love you, $3000! ARACHNE’S EXILE is a go!

Well, this is astonishing. For the past few days, the eSpec Books Kickstarter for Arachne’s Crime, Arachne’s Exile, and other fiction was in the inevitable mid-campaign lull, only inching slowly upward. We’d crested the $2700 stretch goal to unlock Keith DeCandido’s “Alien Invasion of Earth!” and had gained our 100th backer to unlock bonus copies of Keith’s Without a License collection, but I’d resigned myself to a slow climb toward Arachne’s Exile over the week or two ahead.

Yet within the last few hours, thanks to one incredibly generous backer and a couple of others, we’ve suddenly jumped ahead nearly $450 in a couple of hours, easily pushing us over the top! Arachne’s Exile is funded! The whole duology is now guaranteed to be published, probably close together. Plus Exile has been added to some of the pledge-tier and add-on bonuses as a new option (and if you took one of the previous options, you can adjust your pledge now).

Not only that, but the more funding we get, the more money that I, Keith, and David Sherman will earn directly from this campaign, since the funds that don’t go into book production and distribution will come directly to us, in addition to (rather than as an advance on) our future royalties on book sales. Which is really helpful to all of us in these tough times. I’m very grateful to our Kickstarter backers for making this happen, and I hope you all enjoy the books and the bonus stories you’ve unlocked (and of course the books will be available for everyone to buy).

But wait, there’s more! We’re now just $78 from the next bonus, a DRM-free copy of the flash fiction collection In a Flash by Christopher Burke. And we’re $378 away from unlocking “Comfort Zones,” my Arachne’s Crime prequel story and the last of my four all-new pieces of fiction being offered in this campaign.

Beyond that are four further goals that seem more attainable than they did a few hours ago. The first one is a new bonus just recently added:

$3800 – We will republish in an updated edition the currently out of print lost DemonTech novel, Get Her Back!, by David Sherman.

$4000 – We will produce a new science fiction short story collection by Jeff Young. The ebook will be added to all pledge rewards of $15 or more and the ebook and print versions will be added to the pledge rewards and add-on section.

$4400 – We will produce a custom patch based on the icon representing David Sherman’s 18th Race series and it will be added to the 18TH RACE physical pledge reward and add-on section.

$6000 – We will produce limited edition hardcover omnibus volumes of the 18TH RACE and the ARACHNE series and these options will be added to the pledge rewards and add-on section.

So it’s not over yet! With two weeks to go, how far can we get?

(And yes, I have been waiting days to make that “I love you, $3000” joke in the post title.)

Coming to Patreon in May: A new Troubleshooter vignette!

While my first two fiction posts on Patreon were old, unsold stories dredged up from the depths of my files (one posted virtually unchanged, the other heavily revised), the story I’m working on for next month is essentially all-new. Though it didn’t start out that way. My initial idea was to post the deleted opening scene from the first draft of Only Superhuman, an introduction to Emerald Blair/Green Blaze and Arkady Nazarbayev/Medvyéd that I deleted in the revised, shorter draft because it was too much “walking to the plot,” an infodump that delayed getting into the action. I wanted to update it so that it could work as a canonical account, but I discovered I’d reworked the situation so much in the final draft that practically nothing from the original scene was usable.

But I still wanted to do a vignette set during Emry and Arkady’s stealth approach to Chakra City, one that would let me flesh out more about Arkady’s life and his family, only mentioned fleetingly in the novel. Then I realized that the scene lent itself to analogies with current events, which took the planned story in a very different and much more meaningful direction.

So what started out as an attempt to save work by tweaking a deleted scene turned into the creation of an entirely new short story. Luckily, I know these characters and their world so well that Troubleshooter stories come fairly easily.  I’m polishing the story now, as time permits between other projects, but it should be up early in May for Patreon backers at the $10-up level.

Shore Leave on hold

Unsurprising but sad news — the organizers of the Shore Leave convention have prudently decided to postpone Shore Leave 42 until July 9-11, 2021.

They’re not calling it a cancellation, just a postponement, since the guests are still committed and tickets already purchased can be saved for next year unless the buyers prefer a refund. But effectively it’s still the same — no Shore Leave this year.

This is sad for me, since I haven’t missed a Shore Leave since I started attending in, I think, 2005. That’s 15 consecutive years, and this breaks my streak. Although in a way, it doesn’t — I’m not actually missing the convention because it’s not being held. It’s just taking twice as long between consecutive ones.

As it happens, I never committed to come this year, because I was waiting until my finances improved, and then when COVID-19 happened I waited, just in case this happened. But hopefully by next year, things will be safer and I’ll be back along with the other guests. Although I believe we’ll need to establish a thorough nationwide testing and containment protocol first, a way to identify and isolate infected people so everyone else can resume normal lives — something that still seems quite far away under the current status quo.

For now, though, we’ll just have to stay in touch online through blogs, Facebook, and other outlets. I should have Arachne’s Crime and hopefully Arachne’s Exile coming out soon, plus there’s my Patreon page and this very blog. Some people have organized virtual conventions of sorts online, so maybe we’ll see something like that happening.

For now, though, everyone stay safe. Think about it! We get to help save the world by staying home, reading, and watching TV! What could be a more worthy mission for sci-fi nerds? 😀

Storytime, kids! Watch me read from ARACHNE’S CRIME!

As part of eSpec Books’s ongoing campaign to raise Kickstarter funds for my Arachne’s Crime/Arachne’s Exile duology and To Hell and Regroup by David Sherman & Keith R.A. DeCandido, and as part of the eSpec Books Author Reading Series of videos of authors reading their work, here is me hamming it up as I read an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Arachne’s Crime:

It’s a first take (well, a second take, but the first one I got all the way through), so there are a couple of flubs, but I think it turned out pretty well, aside from my needing a better hairstyle. I’ve done the occasional reading at conventions, but this is my first chance to perform for a larger audience, which I’m ambivalent about. I’m shy, but I inherited the ham gene from my father, who loved getting the chance to act and do funny voices. It was also a bit tricky to set up, since I don’t have a hard copy of the novel, and my printer’s not working right, so I had to read from the proofread PDF galleys, with the window flattened enough not to block the picture in the webcam window (which is not resizable). I tried the windows side-by-side first, but constantly looking to the side of the camera didn’t look good.

It also proved absurdly hard to deliver the file to my editor Danielle, since my webcam software is old (as you can tell from the aspect ratio) and used a file format too huge to be transferrable online. Once I figured out that was the problem, I found a free video-conversion service online, but even the converted file was a few megabytes too big for my e-mail service. I eventually figured out I could upload it to Google Drive and share it, which is the first time I’ve ever done that, since being a science fiction writer doesn’t mean I understand all this new-fangled technology (since in my stories I can just fake it).

So I’d potentially be willing to do more of these in the future, but first I’d need to figure out a better way of recording and uploading the videos. Maybe I could try using the camera built into my laptop instead of the one on top of my desk monitor (though I don’t remember how to activate it), or maybe I could use my phone camera if I could figure out a way to mount it on its side.

I hope you enjoy the video, and I hope it intrigues you enough that, if you haven’t already, you consider donating to our Kickstarter and help put Arachne’s Exile over the top (just $258 to go as of this writing). If we get both books funded on this campaign, they can come out much closer together.

Another goal unlocked! Closing in on ARACHNE’S EXILE!

We’ve just now surpassed $2700 in our eSpec Kickstarter campaign, unlocking Keith DeCandido’s story “Alien Invasion of Earth!”

http://kck.st/3a7mRlv

Just to recap, here’s what we’ve funded so far:

  • Arachne’s Crime by me
  • To Hell and Regroup by David Sherman & Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • “Vein Glory” by me
  • “House Hunting” and “Alien Invasion of Earth!” by Keith
  • “Slow and Steady” by John L. French
  • “Child of the Wood” by Jeff Young

Now we’re just $258 away from the big one — full funding for Arachne’s Exile, the second half of my Arachne duology. We’re also only two backers short of 100, and if we hit 100, all those backers will get DRM-free copies of Keith’s original fiction collection Without a License.

Here are all the remaining stretch goals for the last 16 days of the campaign:

$3000 – We will produce ARACHNE’S EXILE, the second book in Christopher L. Bennett’s duology and it will be added to the pledge rewards and add-on section.

$3300 – All backers at the $5 or higher level will receive a DRM-free copy of our new flash fiction collection, In a Flash – Christopher Burke.

$3600 –  Christopher L. Bennett will write a brand new short story “Comfort Zones”, a prequel to ARACHNE’S CRIME.

$4000 – We will produce a new science fiction short story collection by Jeff Young. The ebook will be added to all pledge rewards of $15 or more and the ebook and print versions will be added to the pledge rewards and add-on section.

$4400 – We will produce a custom patch based on the icon representing David Sherman’s 18th Race series and it will be added to the 18TH RACE physical pledge reward and add-on section.

$6000 – We will produce limited edition hardcover omnibus volumes of the 18TH RACE and the ARACHNE series and these options will be added to the pledge rewards and add-on section.

We’re so close now. Will we be able to get Arachne’s Exile funded by the end of the month? Or even over the weekend?

 

I have braved the realm of groceries

I’ve been trying to make it as long as possible without going to the grocery store, and fortunately I stockpiled a fair amount of stuff before the lockdown began and on my previous trip just over 3 weeks ago. It’s not just because of COVID-19 concerns, but also money — I’m still waiting on my stimulus check and on a new writing contract, and my bank accounts are quite threadbare at the moment. I thought I still had a few more days before I’d have to go, but this morning I discovered that the downside of trying to ration my milk usage and make a gallon last as long as possible is that, well, milk doesn’t last indefinitely. I had to dump out maybe two cereal bowls’ worth of spoiled milk this morning, and though I could maybe have managed one more day (I had two frozen waffles left), I decided I might as well go ahead and make the trip today.

It took some psyching out, though. I reminded myself that I was probably at more risk of exposure on my trips last month before the lockdown. By now, weeks of social distancing have probably reduced the presence of the virus, the grocery staff has presumably gotten lots of practice at maintaining sanitary conditions, and I’d be wearing a mask and rubber gloves. And the city health department’s map shows only a handful of cases in my part of the city, so I’m probably in a relatively low-risk area anyway. I probably take a bigger risk whenever I drive to Shore Leave or to visit family. Still, I was very nervous the whole time, since novel risks always seem scarier than the risks we’ve learned to take for granted.

Speaking of which, I was surprised by how many of the grocery staffers weren’t wearing masks. The cashiers were — mine was so bundled up I could only see her eyes — but the shelvers generally weren’t, and neither they nor many of the patrons were worrying much about keeping six feet apart. I took some roundabout routes to avoid people who didn’t seem as concerned with avoidance as I was. And this was despite the parking lot being relatively empty. You’d think with so few people, it’d be easier to avoid them.

Of course, the problem with only going to the store every three weeks or so is that you have to get a lot when you’re there — which, combined with not being able to use my cloth bags anymore, meant I had to pack quite a few plastic bags in the trunk, and needed three trips to get them all in. Plus there are still shortages (oh, good grief, I just realized I forgot to restock on refried beans — I knew I’d forget something), and I’ve had to settle for some substitutions here and there. For one thing, they didn’t have any single rolls of paper towels, only 6-packs — which I guess is good for the long run, since it means I won’t need more for quite a while. But it meant spending more right now, when I can barely afford it. (I’ll just leave my Patreon and Kickstarter links here…)

The hard part was getting unpacked, since I put the bags on the kitchen floor rather than the countertops, so I had to do a lot of crouching and standing up — which is not a good idea when one is dehydrated after a grocery trip bundled up in a coat and mask. I got dizzy and had to take a break for apple juice, and then after washing my hands, showering, and changing clothes, I went ahead and had lunch to restore my energy (leftovers, so I didn’t have to handle any grocery packages right away).

So now I’m going to spend the next 12 days worrying every time I cough or feel low on energy, even though both are fairly commonplace for me.

For what it’s worth, I got a call last night from my aunt in the DC area, and she tells me that she and my uncles (her husband and brother) are all safely isolated and well in their retirement home, which has a few positive cases but according to her is the best-run one in the region, so that’s reassuring. I admit I’d been a little afraid to contact my elderly relatives in case there was bad news, so I’m glad she called me and let me know they’re doing okay. And the rest of my family members seem to be weathering things too.

These are strange times. I’m talking about a trip to the grocery store as a momentous adventure. I’d love to go back to it being mundane and unremarkable, and leave the adventures to the characters in my fiction.

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Lockdown sale from eSpec Books, and Kickstarter progress

To give folks more stuff to read while stuck at home, eSpec Books is putting all its backlist e-books on sale for only $0.99 apiece. This includes my story collection Among the Wild Cybers and the anthology Footprints in the Stars, as well as a bunch of books by numerous other authors, including my fellow Star Trek veteran and current Kickstarter partner Keith R.A. DeCandido.

Meanwhile, since my last Kickstarter post 3 days ago, we’ve raised nearly $600 more and unlocked both bonus stories “Slow and Steady” and “Child in the Wood.” Another $365 will unlock Keith’s “Alien Invasion of Earth!” — and we’re only $665 away from making Arachne’s Exile a reality and completing the duology! Just a reminder, the Arachne books were originally one really long novel, until I realized it worked better as two. While the story naturally breaks down into two distinct stages, they’re still two halves of a greater whole, with the second book expanding the narrative to a much grander scope. If we get Exile funded in this campaign, we can hopefully get both books out reasonably close together.

 

The bonuses have been rearranged somewhat since my previous reports, so the threshold for unlocking what could be my fourth piece of original fiction in this Kickstarter, the Arachne’s Crime prequel story “Comfort Zones,” is down to $3600, only $1265 away now, with 24 days left in the campaign. That’s eminently reachable, right? Other bonuses include short fiction collections by Christopher Burke and Jeff Young, and there’s room for even more goodies to be added if we get beyond $4000. There’s also one more chance for a donor of $120 or more to get a background character named after them in Arachne’s Crime; one lucky backer has already earned this!

Home repairs when stuck at home

Over the past few days, my kitchen silverware drawer has twice come loose from its track when I pulled it open. I managed to reseat the wheel thingy in the track, but after the second time, I realized that it was a problem that would repeat if I didn’t figure out what was wrong with it. I tried examining the side wheels that it rolls over, at least by touch (the drawers are over a cabinet so I could get to them through it), but I couldn’t figure out what the issue was through that alone. But given the current circumstances, calling in the maintenance guy didn’t seem like a good idea unless it were a real emergency, so I figured I’d better solve it myself somehow.

Finally it occurred to me — I have a second drawer right next to it! I don’t use that drawer nearly as often, so I didn’t think of it at first. I realized it would show me what the drawer mechanism was supposed to look like so I could diagnose the problem. It took me a few moments, but finally I realized that the lower drawer edges, the ones that roll over the side wheels, had eroded almost completely away! Many years of constantly opening and closing the drawer, with the weight of my silverware pushing down on it, had worn the edges out pretty much completely. Which finally explains why I kept having to blow sawdust off the lid of the peanut butter jar. I figured the sawdust was just from the general age and wear of the cabinet, but it was specifically created by my heavy use of the heavy drawer.

Anyway, this clearly wasn’t a problem I could fix; I’d need to replace the drawer altogether. But again it struck me — I have two drawers! I just had to remove their contents and swap them left to right. I don’t use the other drawer nearly as often, and its contents are far less heavy, so the erosion would be less of a problem there. I also put some tape over the worn parts to stop any further sawdust from falling, since that drawer is now over my spaghetti pot. Come to think of it, I should probably put tape on the other drawer as well, now that it’s going to be subject to the same abrasion that eroded the first one, but I’m too tired right now.

I’m just glad this was a problem I was able to solve by myself using the resources on hand. This would be a bad time for anything more serious to go wrong.

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ARACHNE’S CRIME funded — ARACHNE’S EXILE still to go!

We’re more than halfway there!

So far the readers have been really generous to me, David Sherman, and Keith R.A. DeCandido as we try to get my Arachne’s Crime/Arachne’s Exile and their To Hell and Regroup funded. After the Kickstarter, er, kicked off on Saturday morning, it took less than 9 hours to pass our initial $1000 goal to fund David & Keith’s military-SF trilogy conclusion and the first volume of my duology about the consequences of a first contact gone tragically wrong. After that, it took a bit more than a day to unlock our first two stretch goals, a pair of bonus short stories by Keith (“House Hunting”) and myself (“Vein Glory”).

Last night, while viewing the Kickstarter page, I literally saw the $1600 “Vein Glory” stretch goal achieved as I watched, with a single $40 pledge pushing it over the top — though I waited until this morning to report it, because sometimes pledges get retracted (though not necessarily that one), and I didn’t want to jump the gun. Not to worry, though — as of this morning, we’re comfortably above it at $1744, putting us only $256 short of unlocking John L. French’s short story “Slow and Steady” and $556 short of unlocking Jeff Young’s short story “Child of the Wood”…

…and $1256 away from funding Arachne’s Exile at $3000. That may seem like a lot, but it took us less than two days to earn more than that, and we’ve still got 4 weeks to go. In my limited experience, Kickstarters tend to slow down some after the first couple of goals are met, eventually picking up again in the last couple of days. But so far, this one seems to be keeping up the pace pretty well. And there are a bunch more rewards still to come. Here are just the next few stretch goals beyond Arachne’s Exile:

$3300 All backers at the $5 and higher level will receive a DRM-free copy of Keith R.A. DeCandido’s short story “Alien Invasion of Earth!”.

$3600  We will produce a new science fiction short story collection by Jeff Young. The ebook will be added to all pledge rewards of $15 or more and the ebook and print versions will be added to the pledge rewards and add-on section.

$3800 All backers at the $5 or higher level will receive a DRM-free copy of our new flash fiction collection, In a Flash – Christopher Burke.

$4000 Christopher L. Bennett will write a brand new short story “Comfort Zones”, a prequel to ARACHNE’S CRIME.

So that’s at least five books and multiple short stories that backers can get out of this, including no fewer than four new works by me. Plus, if we get 32 more backers, those first 100 backers will all get copies of Keith’s original short fiction collection Without a License. So much fiction!

ARACHNE’S CRIME Kickstarter is open!

I’m happy to announce that, at last, the eSpec Books Kickstarter campaign for my new original novel Arachne’s Crime is underway!

The book is being bundled with To Hell and Regroup, the conclusion to military SF author David Sherman’s The 18th Race trilogy. According to the Kickstarter site:

For years, fans have been clamoring for David Sherman’s TO HELL AND REGROUP, the epic conclusion to his original series The 18TH Race. This book has been long delayed due to health concerns and issues with the past publisher of the series. After long last, and thanks to the help of author Keith R.A. DeCandido, we bring you the final installment of this hard-core military science fiction novel where humanity fights for its very existence.

In addition, we also present a brand-new series by veteran Star-Trek author Christopher L. Bennett. ARACHNE’S CRIME–the first book in a planned duology set in in a universe of the author’s original creation–sets out to explore deep space and ends up in a harrowing encounter with new races, in a twisted tale of blame and redemption where responsibility and motives are not as clear as they may seem.

I announced Arachne’s Crime and its sequel Arachne’s Exile at Shore Leave last year, and I’d hoped to have at least the first book out already, but various delays have befallen it. Rather than let things be delayed any further by the current crisis, we’ve decided to go ahead in spite of it. We know that money is tight for a lot of people right now, but we also know that people need books to read to help them occupy their minds and keep their spirits up through all of this. So we hope you can help us achieve our goals. If a lot of people donate just a little bit each, it’ll add up.

The initial goal is $1000 to fund the publication of both Arachne’s Crime and To Hell and Regroup. There are a lot of bonuses available to backers if we meet subsequent goals, but here are the ones I’ve contributed:

  • $1600  All backers at the $5 or higher level will receive a DRM-free copy of Christopher L. Bennett’s short story, “Vein Glory”.
  • $3000We will produce ARACHNE’S EXILE, the second book in Christopher L. Bennett’s duology and it will be added to the pledge rewards and add-on section.
  • $4000 Christopher L. Bennett will write a brand new short story “Comfort Zones”, a prequel to ARACHNE’S CRIME.

And here are the relevant pledge rewards:

  • Backers who pledge $15 or more can get a two-for-one deal, receiving a DRM-free digital copy of my story collection Among the Wild Cybers (containing the original story that Arachne’s Crime is expanded from) along with one of Arachne’s Crime.
  • Backers who pledge $40 or more can get the same two-for-one deal as trade paperbacks.
  • At $60 or more, you can get a signed advance reader copy of Only Superhuman along with print copies of To Hell and Regroup and Arachne’s Crime.
  • At $70 or more, you can get the same but with a signed hardcover of Only Superhuman.
  • And if anyone pledges $120 or more, you can get a Tuckerization bonus — your name will be used for a background character in Arachne’s Crime, plus you’ll get both print and digital copies of the book and a thank-you in the back of the book.

So that’s a lot of cool stuff. I really hope we can raise enough that you get to see both Arachne’s Exile and “Comfort Zones,” which I think is a nice supplement to the main story, filling in background for the lead characters and their mission.  As for “Vein Glory,” that’s an unpublished SF/fantasy short unconnected to the Arachne/Troubleshooter universe. It was going to be added as a later Kickstarter bonus for Among the Wild Cybers, but we didn’t reach a high enough pledge goal for it to kick in, so to speak. This time for sure! (I hope.)

New story on Patreon: “The Moving Finger Writes”

My second Patreon-original story, “The Moving Finger Writes,” is now up for subscribers at the Original Fiction tier and above. This is a companion piece to last month’s “The Cat Who Chased Her Tail Through Time,” since it was my second attempt to do a story under that title, and it again features characters based on my family cats, but this time in a less self-indulgent way, as felinoid aliens in a hard-SF context. While “Cat Who Chased” is a nostalgic exercise that I published almost exactly as I wrote it decades ago, this one was closer to being a viable story, so I’ve revised it extensively for this release, incorporating some more current ideas about time travel and its ramifications, and renaming it to avoid confusion with the previous story.

Originally written in late 1996, this story is actually a merger and expansion of two 1991 vignettes built around the featured time-travel concept, inspired by a June 1989 Discover Magazine article about Kip Thorne and Mike Morris’s theoretical model for how a traversable wormhole could allow time travel. I’d virtually forgotten this story existed until I accidentally opened it while looking for the earlier “Cat” story, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it held up. I’d also forgotten that this story featured the first version of the character that would eventually evolve into Tsshar Murieff in my Hub series, though the two incarnations are extremely different.

After writing the Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations novels and e-novellas, trying to make sense of the fanciful rules of time travel in that universe, I’d been thinking it might be interesting to attempt a story based in the more scientifically plausible premise of an immutable timeline. I’ve made a couple of stabs at it in recent years, but neither story quite worked out. Imagine my surprise to rediscover that I’d already written just such a story, and that it needed only a bit more work to see the light of day.

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