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Posts Tagged ‘Arachne’s Crime’

ARACHNE’S CRIME is out for preorder!

Last night, eSpec Books held a virtual launch party for its new slate of books hosted by the Virtual Balticon online convention (oh, the times we live in), and in conjunction with that, they’ve put up a page on their online store where the upcoming books can be ordered, and where one can enter a raffle for prizes:

https://especbooks.square.site/

So you can now order Arachne’s Crime in either trade paperback or e-book format, right here:

https://especbooks.square.site/product/arachne-s-crime-by-christopher-l-bennett/77

Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for the cover to be finalized. But the Kickstarter backers who won Tuckerizations have had their names snuck into the book in a few places, and I think the cover is the last thing we need to get done before the book is released.

The virtual launch party was conducted over that Zoom thingy everyone seems to be relying on as a substitute for direct contact these days, and I didn’t let folks know about it before because I wasn’t sure until yesterday whether I’d be able to participate (due both to my hesitancy with new technology, the age of my webcam, and my looming deadline on a new writing proposal). But it turned out that Zoom was easy to install and works fine with my webcam, so I was able to join the event, which included most of the participating authors doing readings from our upcoming works. I did a reading of the prologue to Arachne’s Crime, to complement the earlier reading of the first part of Chapter 1 that I did on the eSpec Books Author Reading Series last month. I don’t know if the video of the launch party is available anywhere. I don’t even know if we had much of an audience, since there was little advance publicity except what Danielle McPhail and we authors could manage over Facebook. Still, it was nice to get to socialize with other folks, including my friend Keith R.A. DeCandido, who tends to be as big a ham in his dramatic readings as I do, though he does better character voices. Plus, now I have Zoom, which might be useful for other things going forward.

How well do I Bechdel, updated

It’s been nearly four years since my “How well do I Bechdel?” post, where I assessed the gender inclusiveness of my fiction by applying the famous Bechdel test (an imperfect but useful assessment for an aggregate body of work, as discussed in the original thread). I was surprised at how poorly my original fiction came out, since so much of it is female-centric, but the problem was that it was mostly short fiction that often centered on one male and one female lead. Anyway, I’ve had a significant number of new stories and novels published (or due for publication) since then, so I figured it was worth updating the list.

To recap, a work of fiction passes the Bechdel test if it meets three criteria:

  1. It includes at least two named female characters…
  2. who have a conversation with each other…
  3. about something other than a man.

There’s also the related Mako Mori test for works with only one female lead; such a work can pass if:

  1. It includes at least one female character…
  2. who has her own narrative arc…
  3. that isn’t about supporting a male character’s arc.

Of course, as I mentioned last time, passing the test doesn’t guarantee a work isn’t sexist, or vice-versa, since it’s more about the aggregate than an individual work. A great example I came across a while back is the Roger Corman horror movie Forbidden World (1982). The movie passes Bechdel handily thanks to a scene where the two female leads have a lengthy conversation with each other about how to communicate with the monster attacking their lab… however, the entire conversation is conducted while they’re fully frontally nude together in a futuristic shower. Indeed, they’re treated throughout as sex objects and victims. So Bechdel alone is not a definitive assessment. But then, part of the point is that it’s an absurdly low bar to clear, so there’s no excuse for so many stories in popular culture to fail it.

So let’s see how my total body of work stacks up now. My first post covered my published or pending works up through Star Trek: The Face of the Unknown from January 2017. Most of my published works since then have been original, so we’ll start with those. In publication order, and including sold works awaiting publication:

“Twilight’s Captives”: Passes Bechdel. The female lead Madeleine Kamakau discusses the rescue of hostage children with the mother of one of the hostages, as well as with a female alien leader and an alien of a third “brooder” sex using a female pronoun. An asexual, non-gendered alien also has conversations with several female characters.

“Abductive Reasoning”: Fails Bechdel, but passes Mako. A two-hander between an alien female and a human male, but the alien’s pursuit of her own goal (which involves reconciling with her sister) drives the story.

“Hubpoint of No Return”: Ambiguous pass. Nashira Wing and the female alien Tsshar have a conversation that is partly about rescuing the male lead David, but evolves into one driven primarily by Nashira’s own agenda. Passes Mako twice over, as both Nashira and Tsshar have their own independent agendas shaping events.

“Aspiring to be Angels”: Passes. Emerald Blair and a female scientist have several discussions about the driving concepts and themes of the story, with the male lead only occasionally discussed.

“…And He Built a Crooked Hub”: Limited pass. Nashira converses with several female characters about various matters, although her overall goal is to locate and help David. (Also contains a metatextual joke about this very subject.) Not a Mako pass; three female characters (Nashira, Yldai, and Tsshar) have narrative arcs (i.e. storylines that develop and resolve rather than just unchanging motives/goals), but all are about David in some way.

“Hubstitute Creatures”: Limited pass. Nashira argues with a female colleague about her work (though her relationship with a male character is brought up) and discusses a medical matter with a female alien doctor. Mako pass, since Nashira’s personal agenda and narrative arc drive the story.

Crimes of the Hub: The new bridging material added for the collection includes one scene that passes, where Nashira speaks with two female colleagues (one human, one not) about their respective careers.

“The Melody Lingers”: Fails Bechdel and Mako. There are two primary named female characters (arguably three, but one isn’t truly present), but they have almost no direct interaction except through the male viewpoint character, and neither has an independent arc (one is subservient to him and the other is reacting against him). But this is arguably more a feature than a bug, since the intent is to critique and challenge the viewpoint character’s self-serving treatment of women.

“The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of”: Barely passes Bechdel. There are several named female characters discussing the artifact around which the story revolves, but they’re mostly discussing it with the male lead, and there’s only one paragraph in which one woman addresses another. Probably passes Mako, as Captain Veronica Moyo has a clearly defined agenda that, while it ultimately puts her at odds with the male lead, is not specifically about him, and her actions in pursuit of her goals are a primary catalyst of the story’s events.

“Conventional Powers”: Full pass. Emerald Blair discusses multiple subjects (largely her own actions, aspirations, and beliefs) with at least five other women, four of them named (or at least code-named).

“The Cat Who Chased Her Tail Through Time” (Patreon): Full pass. My debut Patreon story is a self-indulgent piece I wrote long ago about my cats, so it has no “onscreen” human characters except myself; but all but one of the cats in the story are female and they interact and discuss a great deal; also, the story is catalyzed by the actions of two female humans based on my two best friends from college.

“The Moving Finger Writes” (Patreon): Borderline pass at most. There are several named female characters, two human and two alien, but the two female aliens only briefly converse to establish their kinship, and all other conversations are with or about males. Probably a Mako fail; several female characters do have their own independent agendas, but their narrative purpose is to support and advance the male lead’s arc.

“They Also Serve” (Patreon): Fail. Emerald Blair is the only female character, and she’s merely the audience for Arkady’s narrative about meeting his husband.

Arachne’s Crime (upcoming): Full pass. There are multiple central female human characters, a female-identifying AI (Arachne), and a genderfluid alien species for which 3/4 of the most prominent characters are female for most or all of the narrative. They have numerous conversations and debates about a wide variety of topics. (Includes the events of “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” discussed in my previous Bechdel post, with most of the conversations mentioned there present here as well.)

Arachne’s Exile (upcoming): Full pass. There may be a higher ratio of female-male interactions to female-female ones here, but there’s still a number of the latter, and one of the two female leads becomes a more active driver of the narrative and shares several scenes with a female alien ally discussing various topics (spoilers!).

“Comfort Zones” (Kickstarter bonus): Pass. Has two main female characters who discuss their respective future plans and debate exploration policies.

“Vein Glory” (Kickstarter bonus): Only 2/3 Bechdel pass, Mako fail. Two named female characters who speak to each other, but only about matters pertaining to the male lead.

So… as of my previous post, my original fiction had 6 Bechdel passes out of 10, many of them borderline. Now I make it 18 out of 27, so I’m up from 60% to 67% (and only three unambiguous Mako fails) — a moderate improvement, though it could be better. However, I’ve succeeded in substantially improving LGBTQ representation in my original fiction, since about half of the above works feature overtly LGBTQ characters, 7 feature same-sex romance or attraction (8 if you count an ambiguous same-sex kiss), and three feature characters (mostly nonhuman) of non-binary sexuality. And 100% of my novel-length original works (Only Superhuman, Arachne’s Crime/Exile, and Crimes of the Hub as a fixup novel) succeed at both Bechdel and LGBTQ representation. It’s easier to achieve with novel-length works where there are more characters and interactions.

And now my comparatively few Star Trek works:

DTI: Shield of the Gods: Passes, briefly. Two female Aegis agents discuss their business.

ENT: Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference: Passes, though not extensively. Caroline Paris and Kivei Tizahr get acquainted; Devna and Maras discuss various matters (including but not limited to a male character); Tizahr discusses transporter ethics with Regina Tallarico (and two male crewmates); etc.

TOS: The Captain’s Oath: Moderate pass. It’s mainly from Captain Kirk’s perspective and relies on TOS characters, so it’s strongly male-centric, but there are a few Bechdel-passing scenes between female characters original to the novel, mainly Starfleet/Federation personnel discussing their work or crisis situations, though there is also a close female/female friendship depicted between Kamisha Diaz and a Caitian classmate. Mako pass, since several female characters have independent agendas and arcs.

TOS: The Higher Frontier: Moderate pass. As before, most of the passing scenes are between book-original characters, including Reiko Onami returning from Ex Machina, but Miranda Jones has a conversation with Chief DiFalco from ST:TMP, and there’s a scene or two of Uhura reasoning with a (more or less) female community leader of a group of aliens (though a male community leader is also involved). A strong Mako pass, as several female characters’ agendas drive much of the narrative.

Before, 20 out of 23 Trek works passed the full Bechdel test, though all passed at least one part. Now I make it 24/27, bumping up the percentage slightly from 87% to 89%. On the LGBTQ inclusion front, there are prominent/returning bisexual characters in the DTI novella and the ENT novel, although The Captain’s Oath only manages a few incidental references. The Higher Frontier establishes one returning Ex Machina character as lesbian and another as bisexual, but only in passing.

In the case of my Star Trek Adventures RPG campaigns, it’s impossible to assess whether they pass, since of course I have no idea who the Player Characters would be in a given gaming group. But as far as Non-Player Character interactions go, Call Back Yesterday, The Whole of the Law, and Stolen Liberty have only one named female NPC each; The Gravity of the Crime has several prominent female NPCs who interact with each other; and Hard Rock Catastrophe has three named female NPCs, two of whom share a scene but do not necessarily address each other directly (depending on how the Gamemaster plays the scene). So only Gravity is a guaranteed pass; the rest depend on who the PCs are and how and whether they choose to interact with the NPCs.

So overall, a limited improvement, but I think it stacks up pretty well. Since Bechdel is more of an aggregate assessment, it may be unreasonable to aim for 100% success; an overall success rate of 2/3 or more across an entire body of works is reasonably good. After all, the goal is diversity; there’s nothing wrong with stories centering on male leads or a single male-female pair, just so long as they’re part of a wider mix instead of crowding out more female-centric stories.

(Just a reminder that you can find more information and purchase links for these publications elsewhere on the site, by following the menu options up top. And if you read them, please post reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and the like; the more reviews a publication gets on Amazon, the more its visibility improves in searches.)

Kickstarter: SUCCESS!! That’s a wrap!

We did it! The eSpec Kickstarter has ended, and I can report virtually complete success! We met our final $6000 stretch goal earlier this morning, unlocking the hardcover omnibuses, and our final tally was $6,181! Over the past month, we have achieved twelve stretch goals in addition to our initial goal of funding Arachne’s Crime and To Hell and Regroup. This campaign has been a runaway success thanks to the 151 of you who backed it, and I’m very grateful to all of you for making the Arachne duology a reality.

Just to sum up, this Kickstarter has funded at least five books for publication — Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile by me, To Hell and Regroup by David Sherman and Keith R.A. DeCandido, the lost novella Get Her Back! by Sherman, and a new story collection by Jeff Young. If you include the omnibus hardcovers of the Arachne duology and The 18th Race trilogy, that makes seven books! And Kickstarter backers will get six bonus stories — “Comfort Zones” and “Vein Glory” by me (the former an Arachne prequel, the latter standalone, both brand new), “House Hunting” and “Alien Invasion of Earth!” by Keith, “Slow and Steady” by John L. French, and “Child of the Wood” by Young, plus the flash fiction collection In a Flash by Christopher Burke. We also unlocked three bonuses for backers — a free audiobook of the story collection The Die is Cast by Danielle Ackley-McPhail & Mike McPhail and free e-books of Robert E. Waters’s Devil Dancers and Keith’s collection Without a License. The only goal we didn’t achieve was the 175-backer bonus of Keith’s novel Guilt in Innocence.

Additionally, three of our backers have earned signed copies of Only Superhuman, including two rare Advance Reader Copies, and two have earned the right to be Tuckerized (have background characters named after them) in Arachne’s Crime!

This has been my third eSpec Kickstarter, and it’s been so much more successful than the first two. The first two both achieved their primary goals but only half of their stretch goals, and the first one made it to $2383 with 87 backers, while the second one ended with $3077 and 109 backers. This time we earned more than twice as much and met every stretch goal, including the last huge pie-in-the-sky one that I thought was unattainable until yesterday. Maybe it made a difference that the primary books were all novels this time rather than a novel/collection mix. Or maybe it’s just that so many more people are stuck at home with time on their hands for reading. Whatever the reason, this Kickstarter has succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. Thank you all.

Oh, and a note from our editor:

And for those who wanted to add on or increase for the hardcover but you didn’t see the notice in time, it is not too late. You can increase by sending the difference through PayPal to especbooks@aol.com. Just message me what you are increasing for and what email payment is coming from.

Thank you again, because we can’t say it enough!

 

Kickstarter: Last day — last chance to fund the hardcovers!

We’re now in the final hours of the Kickstarter, and we’ve gained more than $1000 since my post just yesterday! That means that our final, boldest goal, the limited-edition omnibus hardcovers of my Arachne duology and David Sherman’s The 18th Race trilogy, might actually be attainable, since we have 21 hours left and less than $1200 to go. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible, but now it seems it could actually happen, with your support.

Our publisher at eSpec, Danielle McPhail, has asked us to share her final appeal on the Kickstarter page:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/e-specbooks/two-for-one-science-fiction-novels/posts/2833194

An excerpt:

We want hardcovers in the worst way for several reasons:

  • This is David Sherman’s last novel. He will be doing short fiction, but there will never be another novel.
  • Most small presses don’t have the capital for hardcovers. They are expensive to make using POD processes, that makes them special to us. We want special, for you and for us.
  • And finally, the more we bring in, the more we are going to be able to pay our authors, even given the added expense of producing hardcovers. (That’s why the goal is so high.)

This is not unattainable. We have 22 hours left and we have a plan. See, if we do hit that last goal, we are realistic enough to realize it’s going to be in the final countdown. That means precious little time for interested parties to upgrade. That doesn’t work for us. Like I said, we want special for you, just as much as for us.

Here is what we are going to do. If we hit the $6000 hardcover stretch goal, all backers pledging at a the One-And-Done  Print pledge level (Issue In Doubt, In All Directions, and To Hell and Regroup, for David Sherman; and Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile for Christopher L. Bennett) will automatically be upgraded to the limited edition, signed and number omnibus collections. You will, of course, have the option to decline the upgrade.

There’s more info at the link on how you can adjust your pledge, and how you can get an extra bonus by helping to spread the word about our campaign.

I hope we can make this happen, folks. Those of you who have Only Superhuman in hardcover will now have a chance to put a hardcover of Arachne’s Crime/Arachne’s Exile on the shelf right next to it. But it’s a race against time now. These are your last hours to help us win it, and get a ton of goodies for yourselves into the bargain.

Kickstarter: One more goal met, and two days to go!

We’ve now got less than 51 hours left in the eSpec Books Kickstarter, and as of last night, we unlocked one more goal, the reprint of the lost DemonTech novella Get Her Back! by David Sherman. That novella has been added to the Add-Ons section of the Kickstarter, so anyone who wants it can add $5 to their pledge to receive the e-book edition or $15 for the paperback edition.

And just a reminder: Anyone who pledged before Arachne’s Exile was funded and added to the rewards and add-ons should look over the revised options and adjust your pledge to include AE if you want to.

This is my third Kickstarter campaign, and in the previous two, we got a surge in pledges right at the end. I’m hoping that will be the case here too. I’ve already met all my goals (the Arachne duology, “Vein Glory,” “Comfort Zones”), but there’s still one more book that backers can get out of this campaign, a new story collection by Jeff Young, which will be published if we make it to $4000, just another $190 away now. And there’s the 18th Race emblem patch that will be added as a bonus at $4400, and finally the real long shot, the limited-edition omnibus hardcovers of David’s trilogy and my duology, if we make it all the way to $6000.

This campaign has already been significantly more successful than either of my previous two, and it’s not over yet. Let’s try for a big finish!

Kickstarter: “Comfort Zones” is unlocked, with 6 days to go!

Okay, this is the home stretch. We’ve just barely squeaked past the $3600 threshold to unlock my Arachne’s Crime prequel story “Comfort Zones,” which Kickstarter backers will receive as a bonus along with the Arachne duology, the standalone story “Vein Glory,” and all the other goodies. “Comfort Zones” is a glimpse at how the novel’s main characters met and got set on the course toward the events of the novel, and features guest appearances or cameos by a few characters from other tales in the Arachne/Troubleshooter Universe. But only Kickstarter backers will get to read the story, at least for now. You’ve still got six days to donate!

And there are four more goals to try for, including a new edition of a lost David Sherman novel, a new short story collection by Jeff Young, a custom patch of the emblem for David Sherman’s 18th Race series, and if we get all the way to $6000, limited edition hardcover omnibus editions (i.e. all in one volume) of both the 18th Race trilogy and the Arachne duology! I hope by some miracle we can get there, since I’d love the irony if this duology that I originally wrote as a single long book ended up becoming a single long book again!

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.)