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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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