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Posts Tagged ‘Arachne’s Exile’

New interview at Bad Girls, Good Guys blog

A blog named Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action, the Writing Blog of Sean Taylor, is running a series of interviews with eSpec Books authors, and mine was posted today:

https://seanhtaylor.blogspot.com/2021/08/especs-books-focus-2-christopher-l.html

I talk about Star Trek: Living Memory and the Arachne duology, and also drop some hints about “the new project I can’t talk about,” which was actually Tangent Knights, since the interview was conducted before that project got announced. So it’s not as thorough an interview as I would’ve liked it to be, but it’s got some good stuff in it. So feel free to take a look!

Watch my Shore Leave 41.6 panels!

Well, the second (and hopefully last) virtual Shore Leave weekend is over, and all the panels are viewable on Shore Leave’s YouTube channel. Here are the three I was part of:

Star Trek Adventures RPG Update

eSpec Books Presents

(Man, the screencap caught me at a bad moment there…)

What’s New in Star Trek Literature

I’m harder to see in the first panel because I hadn’t yet figured out how to frontlight myself decently at my desk. For the Sunday panels, I used the emergency flashlight in my portable car battery jumpstarter pack, resting on one of the shelves of my computer-desk hutch, with a sheet of tracing paper in front of it as a diffuser to soften the light and protect my eyes.

It was nice to see and hear from my writer friends and colleagues again, to talk about my own work and to hear what’s going on with my publishers’ upcoming projects. Hopefully some of what we talked about will lead to new projects for me in the future.

My schedule for (virtual) Shore Leave 41.6 (Updated)

UPDATE: The Trek Literature panel has been moved from 10 AM Sunday to 3 PM Sunday (Eastern Time), for the convenience of our panelists who live further west. I’ve edited accordingly.

I should’ve begun hyping this sooner, but the second virtual Shore Leave convention is being held online this weekend, July 10-11. (Hey, it’s not like you need to make travel plans.) The schedule has just gone online, and it looks like they’re organizing the Zoom panels into “rooms” corresponding to the usual panel rooms at the convention hotel, though I’m not quite sure how that will work. You can find the schedule here:

https://www.shore-leave.com/schedule/

I’m only going to be on three panels, to talk about my various works. They include (all times Eastern):

Saturday July 10, 7 PM

Star Trek Adventures RPG Update: Salon D

Jim Johnson, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Dayton Ward, Derek Tyler Attico, Scott Pearson, Christopher L. Bennett

[ Register ]

Modiphius Entertainment’s Star Trek Adventures RPG heads into its fifth year. Check in for the latest news on current and upcoming releases and Q&A with the STA project manager and several STA writers.

Sunday July 11, 11 AM

eSpec Books Presents: Tack

Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jenifer P. Rosenberg, Aaron Rosenberg, Hildy Silverman, Mary Fan, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Robert Greenberger, Russ Colchamiro, Christopher L. Bennett

[ Register ]

eSpec Books shows off a wealth of new titles, including the brand-new Systema Paradoxa novella series featuring a whole host of cryptid creatures rarely seen before.

Sunday July 11, 3 PM

What’s new in Star Trek Literature: Salon D

Scott Pearson, Dayton Ward, John Jackson Miller, David Mack, Kirsten Beyer, Christopher L. Bennett

[ Register ]

Authors of current and upcoming Star Trek titles discuss their work.

As for the wider convention experience, you can learn more about the options here:

See you there! (Figuratively.)

An eSpec book discount for my Twitter debut

I’ve finally decided to take my first tentative steps onto Twitter. I’ve resisted signing up in the past, both because I’ve never seen the appeal of such a bite-size way of communicating and because of the alarming stories I’ve heard about authors and celebrities being harassed off the platform. But I’ve realized I’m just not getting enough attention for my blog, my books, and my Patreon page from Facebook alone. And I’ve been reassured that the harassment incidents are the exception rather than the rule. I don’t understand much yet about how Twitter works, but I’m hoping it’ll be a new avenue to get the word out more widely. My Twitter handle is @CLBennettAuthor.

I don’t know how much I’ll use the platform going forward. I imagine I’ll use it mainly just for publicizing my blog and Patreon posts, but we’ll see. Anyway, as part of this new publicity push, eSpec Books has given me a special discount code for my social media followers. When you buy Among the Wild Cybers, Arachne’s Crime, Arachne’s Exile, The Arachne Omnibus, or Footprints in the Stars at https://especbooks.square.site, you can get 15% off by entering the coupon code BENNETT15. There’s also a 20% discount code offered exclusively to my Patreon subscribers. Hopefully that’ll encourage a few more people to sign up for my Patreon, which has membership plans as low as $1 a month.

For more info on the offered books, see my Original Fiction page.

A good week, but I can’t talk about it

Some good things have been happening with writing projects these past few days, although I can’t go into specifics. I got a comfortably large check from the publisher of the big project that I hope will be announced soon, and there’s still one more installment to follow in another 2-3 months, so I should now be financially set through early next year at least. I’m happy with how promptly this publisher pays.

Meanwhile, a feeler I put out a while back to a different publisher unexpectedly bore fruit this week, when their editor reached out to ask about my interest in some upcoming projects they’re developing. As it happens, they have one thing in the works that’s a good fit for me, and they’ve asked me to work up a couple of pitch ideas for them. It means I’ll have to split my focus from my current project over the next few weeks, which should slow me down a bit, but I have enough of a cushion before my deadline that I should be able to pull it off. If they accept one of my pitches, that will be the next thing I tackle once the current project is done, and should keep me busy for the rest of the year. If not, I may get another chance with them in the future. It could be a pretty interesting project, and quite a change of pace from my current one. About the only thing they have in common is that I can’t say what they are.

Well, except that they aren’t Star Trek. I’ve been thinking for a long time that I needed to diversify my publishing connections beyond Trek and Gallery (formerly Pocket) Books, so I wouldn’t be in such a fix at the times the Trek work slows down for whatever reason. I’m glad that I’m finally managing to do that, with my Arachne duology from eSpec, my current secret project, and this new opportunity that’s just come along.

I guess the one good thing writing-wise that I can talk about in specific terms is that Star Trek: The Original Series — Living Memory has now been out for ten days and is getting mostly very good reviews so far, from what I’ve seen. Oh, and Analog‘s book reviewer, the late Don Sakers, covered Arachne’s Exile in his final review column and called it “a fun, exciting read.” So that’s bittersweet. (Here’s the link, but it’s a “current issue” link, so it should only work until the next issue comes out.)

One other good thing is that the Brood X cicadas seem to be gone already, a week or two ahead of predictions. So I should be able to resume normal outdoor activities at last, which means I can start taking more walks and get back into shape.

All in all, then, a fairly good week. Let’s hope it lasts…

ARACHNE’S EXILE on NetGalley

February 3, 2021 1 comment

A quick heads-up for reviewers, librarians, and book vendors: Arachne’s Exile is available for review on NetGalley through the month of February 2021.

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/215070

Arachne's Exile cover

I appreciate any efforts to get the word out about this novel and Arachne’s Crime. Professional reviews are welcome, as are reader reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.

Arachne’s Crimes… of the Hub? Only on Patreon!

This month’s Fiction post on Patreon is a little unusual. It’s an excerpt from an early draft of the novel that became Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile, from a time when I was piling on too many characters and species that led me too deep into the weeds, requiring me to regroup and streamline the latter half of the story. One of those characters was the prototype for Tsshar, the adorably larcenous Mrwadj captain from Crimes of the Hub. She was meant to be comic relief, so after I cut her out of Arachne, she slotted neatly into the comedic Hub universe with minimal changes required. Now you can see my original version of the character, and get a few extra glimpses of Arachne worldbuilding that I ended up not having room for in the duology. Maybe not the best of both the Arachne-Troubleshooter and Hub universes, but a unique convergence of the two.

Fiction: Deleted scene: Arachne Meets the Hub?

Accompanying it on the Behind the Scenes tier is a second excerpt from my “Life in the Galaxy” worldbuilding notes, focusing on ancient galactic history and the evolution of the galactic institutions and social structures that exist by the time of Arachne’s Exile.

Worldbuilding notes: Life in the Galaxy (Part 2)

As always, the Fiction tier is available to Patreon subscribers at $10/month, and Behind the Scenes is $12/month.

Crimes of the Hub cover
It only just occurred to me that both these works ended up with “Crime” in the title.

Arachne annotations update

I’ve now got all my author copies of Arachne’s Crime, Arachne’s Exile, and The Arachne Omnibus containing both of them plus the print debut of “Comfort Zones” and reprints of “The Weight of Silence” and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.” Since it was the print debut of “Comfort Zones,” I realized I should add the story’s annotations (previously posted on my Patreon) to my Arachne Saga page here, with page numbers for the omnibus version. While I was at it, I added parenthetical page numbers for the omnibus to my annotations for Crime and Exile. All the annotations can be accessed from the main page here:

https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/the-arachne-saga/

Starting anew

Well, here we are at the start of 2021, which will hopefully be the year we climb out of the hole we collectively sank into in 2020. So far the climb is definitely happening for me. I have money in the bank again, and I have more on the way. I turned in that new novel manuscript on schedule, after doing a few revision passes and incorporating some very useful notes from my consultant, and I was notified this morning that the payment is being processed and should be in my bank by next week, which is nicely prompt. And I’m making excellent progress at outlining what comes next. (Still waiting for it to be formally announced so I can say more.) I’m really feeling upbeat this past week or so, happier than I’ve felt in probably the past few years. That’s both from the financial relief I’m getting from this project and the creative satisfaction and fun of writing it.

Oh, and I got a call today from my eSpec Books editor Danielle McPhail, telling me that my author copies of Arachne’s Exile and The Arachne Omnibus are on the way, including a copy of the hardcover edition of the omnibus. That should be cool to have, a nice companion piece for the Only Superhuman hardcover on my shelf. I find it ironic that this duology that I initially wrote as a single book and then decided would work better as two books has ended up being available as a single volume after all. Anyway, Amazon has been showing the omnibus as one of the most popular books on my author page, though its sales rank listings don’t seem to agree. I wonder if popularity is calculated based on views rather than sales. (Also, for some reason Amazon isn’t showing my books on my author page at the moment.)

I got the aforementioned call while I was in the middle of trying once again to jump-start my car to go pick up groceries (which is why I was a little curt on the phone, Danielle, sorry). Yes, even though I drove around for half an hour 12 days ago to charge up the battery, it was drained once again. (The post title has a double meaning, see? See?) I didn’t think it had been that long; I’d been planning to go to the grocery store sooner this time now that I had a bit more money. But between my reluctance to drive in chilly weather (which makes my car sluggish for the first few minutes it’s running) and my preoccupation with finishing the manuscript, I let a whole two weeks go by between grocery trips and the battery ran dry again. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if it’s really just the car’s lack of use, or if there’s some glitch in the electrical system draining the battery.

The portable jump-starter power pack was acting weirdly again too; the power lights wouldn’t go on. Yet nonetheless, it successfully started the car. I don’t know what happened there, but I’m glad it worked after all. Still, I’m getting tired of having to jump the car every time I drive it. Maybe I need to take a longer drive soon, to charge the battery more fully. Or maybe I need a better battery. (What I really need is a better car, but my finances haven’t improved that much.)

One good, minor bit of car news, though, is that for once I remembered to write down my end-of-year mileage for tax purposes. Usually I forget until March and have to reconstruct my travels in the interim to estimate how much to subtract from my current mileage. This time I finally have an exact figure.

Anyway, for a moment it looked like I wasn’t getting the usual text from the grocery store asking me to approve their product substitutions, and I hoped I’d finally get everything I ordered, including the vegetarian Italian sausages I really love and haven’t been able to find since the pandemic started. But it turned out the text just came a bit late, and they did substitute a couple of items, including those. So I do have veggie Italian sausages, but a different brand, and just basic Italian instead of the really good sun-dried tomato and basil flavor. Hopefully they’ll be a reasonable substitute — or at least better than the veggie kielbasa I got as a substitute last time I tried buying those sausages (which was, wow, all the way back in May).

Oh, and I also made a second try at buying a frozen pizza, a Mediterranean veggie variety. Last time I tried ordering it, they put a spinach and mushroom pizza in with my order even though the receipt showed it was the Mediterranean one, and I don’t like mushrooms (though these were tolerable). This time, I finally got the right pizza, so that’s something. But ironically, they made the exact same mistake with my veggie burgers, substituting the wrong flavor even though the receipt shows the right one! (The online page also says that the cheese singles I ordered were out of stock and substituted with… the exact same cheese singles. Huh??)

I’ll close with a reminder — if you read either of the Arachne novels or the duology, please post reviews or at least ratings on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever. The more reviews the books get, the more awareness there will be for them.

The whole ARACHNE saga now on sale!

January 1, 2021 1 comment

Well, at first I expected Arachne’s Exile to come out at least several months after Arachne’s Crime, and then I thought they’d be out simultaneously. As it worked out, they were released exactly a month apart. Not only did Arachne’s Exile go on sale today, but so did The Arachne Omnibus, a deluxe hardcover volume (also available in trade paperback and e-book) containing both novels, plus the Kickstarter/Patreon prequel story “Comfort Zones” (in print for the first time) and the connected follow-up stories “The Weight of Silence” and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.” It even includes my alien height chart, which you can also see on my Aliens of the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe page.

Here are the ordering links I have so far:

Arachne’s Crime

Available from:

Arachne’s Exile

Available from:

The Arachne Omnibus

Available from:

I’ve also gone live with the Arachne’s Exile annotations: https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/the-arachne-saga/arachnes-exile-annotations/

While I was at it, I also added some cover art notes to the Arachne’s Crime annotations, since I forgot to do that before.

So there we are. The entire Arachne saga is now available for purchase, either in two paperback volumes or in one hefty single volume available in hardcover (though Exile and the omnibus are not back from the printers yet). After all these years, more than 22 years since the original story came out and more than 11 years since I first started expanding it to novel length, the entire thing is finally out.

Although the saga of Arachne‘s crew may not be over yet…

Arachne notes are now up!

I just did that major website update I promised yesterday. Here’s the main Arachne page:

The Arachne Saga

There, you’ll find ordering links, discussion, links to old blog posts about the writing process, as well as links to the annotations and worldbuilding notes for the novel. These include a new gallery page:

Aliens of the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe

This page contains concept sketches and notes for all the alien species that appear in Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile, as well as the two species featured in my ATU story “Twilight’s Captives.” I figured I should have a central ATU-aliens page that I could expand on in the future. I initially planned to hold off on revealing the Exile species until the book came out (though I already previewed them for my Patreon subscribers several months ago), but I figured it might be out in a few weeks anyway, and revealing the aliens’ appearance doesn’t really give away any major plot spoilers. If anything, hopefully it will spark curiosity about these species and their roles in the novel.

As a teaser, here’s the height comparison chart I whipped up from my pencil sketches and a free downloadable height-chart template I found online, doing some quick-and-dirty coloring or tinting on the black-and-white sketches:

Arachne Saga alien height chart
Height chart for species from ARACHNE’S CRIME (top) and ARACHNE’S EXILE (bottom). Green Blaze (1.67 m) included for scale.

As you can see, it’s a diverse galaxy out there, and humans are fairly small in the grand scheme of things, in more ways than one. Also, aliens usually face left for some reason.

I also did an update to my main Original Fiction index page, streamlining its layout so that it’s mainly just links to the more detailed book and series pages, and organizing it into distinct sections for the ATU, the Hub Universe, and miscellaneous short fiction. I’ve been meaning to do that for quite some time, but I needed to wait until I had at least one Arachne novel cover.

Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe chronology

Inspired by a similar thread my friend Keith R.A. DeCandido did recently, I figured that with Arachne’s Crime now on sale and Arachne’s Exile about to be released, this would be a good time to make a list of all the stories in what I’m now calling the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe (since pretty much every story in it connects at least peripherally to either the Troubleshooter series or the Arachne duology) in their narrative chronological order. So here we go, using the era designations from the Historical Overview in Among the Wild Cybers:

Strider Era

November 2083: “The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of” (Footprints in the Stars): Origin of the Troubleshooter Corps

March 2085 – October 2091: Only Superhuman Ch. 3, scenes 1-5: Early childhood of Emerald Blair

February 2092: “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad” (Among the Wild Cybers): Key incident in cyber rights

August 2098: Only Superhuman Ch. 3, final scene: Formative tragedy of Emerald Blair

April 2100 – January 2106: Only Superhuman Ch. 6, 10 & 14: Maturation of Emerald Blair

November 2106: “Aspiring to Be Angels” (AtWC): Emerald becomes the Green Blaze

May 2107: “They Also Serve” (Patreon exclusive): Vignette adjacent to Only Superhuman Ch. 1

May – December 2107: Only Superhuman main body: Green Blaze faces the Vanguard crisis

June 2108: “Conventional Powers” (Analog): Green Blaze at Ceres Mod-Con

c. 2112-15: Arachne’s Crime Ch. 1, scene 1 flashbacks: Childhood of Stephen Jacobs-Wong

Early Interstellar Era

2142: “Comfort Zones” (Kickstarter/Patreon exclusive): First meeting of Stephen Jacobs-Wong and Cecilia LoCarno

mid-2140s: Arachne’s Crime subsequent Ch. 1 & 5 flashbacks: Development of Arachne expedition

April – May 2176: Arachne’s Crime Part 1 [replacing “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” (AtWC)]: Arachne destroys Chirrn habitat Lesshchi en route to colonize Cybele; crew put on trial by Chirrn

September – November 2176: Arachne’s Crime Part 2: Arachne crew deals with aftermath of trial

November 2176: Arachne’s Exile: Arachne crew introduced to larger galactic society

2202: “The Weight of Silence” (AtWC): Early FTL research in Sol system

November 2250: “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” (AtWC): Cybele colonists face long-term consequences of Arachne‘s disappearance

Warp Era

2315: “Twilight’s Captives” (AtWC): Madeleine Kamakau negotiates conflict between Planetary Commonwealth and Nocturne League

c. 2480: “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” (AtWC): Love story between two long-lost human refugees in a remote star system

For information on the books and stories, see my Original Fiction page.

“Comfort Zones” now on Patreon!

This month’s Fiction post on my Patreon page is now up. With the release of Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile coming up quite soon, I’ve decided to release the prequel short story “Comfort Zones,” originally an exclusive for the duology’s Kickstarter backers, on the $10 Fiction tier. The backers got the story months ago, and there are only a couple of overlaps between them and my Patreon donors, so I figured it was okay to go ahead and do that. As usual, annotations for the story will go up tomorrow on the $12 Behind the Scenes tier.

I hope the release of this story will encourage more people to sign up for my Patreon, at least for a month or two. Though the new writing gig I’ve been hinting at should substantially improve my financial situation in 2021, my ability to bridge the gap until then is iffier than I’d expected. I should have enough to scrape by barring emergencies or delays, but the margin is narrow. I’m tired of asking for handouts, but by this point my Patreon features seven original or reprinted short stories, an Arachne’s Crime novel excerpt, dozens of vintage SFTV reviews, a couple of book reviews, exclusive annotations and behind-the-scenes writing notes, some original artwork, and even some cat pictures from my younger days. So there’s plenty you can get in return. Even if you just sign up for one month, you can read everything currently on the site at whatever tier you sign up for. And these next 2-3 months are when I’m going to need Patreon income the most.

ARACHNE’S CRIME/EXILE update (and more art!)

Okay, folks… You may have noticed that I now have preorder links for both Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile up on my homepage. Both books have now been edited and typeset, and all that’s left is the cover art, which eSpec Books’ Mike McPhail is about to take up. Oh, and hopefully collecting a few promotional blurbs.

So I talked it over with my editor, and we decided that, instead of releasing the two books separately as originally anticipated, we’re going to release the whole duology at once! I figure, hey, we’ve all been waiting long enough, so why create an artificial wait for the second book if there’s no need to?

There’s a definite irony here, though, since I originally wrote this story as a single really long novel. It was when I decided to shop it to small publishers that I decided to split it in two to fit their word count limits, and I realized it worked better that way, as two distinct, more focused stories connecting into a larger sequence. So I rewrote with that in mind, making sure AC had a reasonable degree of closure and completeness while AE opened with sufficient recapping and reintroduction to refresh readers’ memories after a gap of, I presumed, several months. Now it turns out the whole story is coming out all at once after all.

Still, it’s good that it has that flexibility. Readers can buy both books at once if they like (and I hope they do), or they can start with AC and then get around to AE later if they prefer. It really does have a better structure as two consecutive installments, but I guess that’s true regardless of how much or little time separates them in the reader’s experience.

As for when they come out, that depends on how long the covers take. But it should hopefully be fairly soon. Of course, you can preorder right now with the above links.

Meanwhile, given all this, I’ve gone ahead and posted an advance look at four Arachne’s Exile alien designs on my Patreon site, following up the sketches I posted of Arachne’s Crime aliens back in June (when I thought the book might be out in July or so). Both sets of sketches are available to anyone at the $1 subscription level, though they’ll all be included with my novel annotations here on Written Worlds when the time comes. For now, though, they’ll hopefully tide us over until the covers come out.

Oh, and I should have another big announcement about a different project very soon.

Updates on various things

August 28, 2020 1 comment

While I wait for the cover art to Arachne’s Crime to be finished so the book can be released, I’ve been working on some Arachne art of my own. Back in June, I posted sketches of the three alien species from Arachne’s Crime on Patreon, an advance look for patrons at the $1 subscription level before I eventually post them here on Written Worlds where everyone can see them. Well, I’ve been working on drawings of the four new alien species that debut in Arachne’s Exile, which I’ll do the same with at some point, once I have a better idea of the release schedule.

I’ve done some doodles and design sketches for these four species in the past to get enough of a sense of their anatomy to describe them in the novel, but some were more developed than others. There was one I already had lightly drawn that I just needed to refine and go over with darker pencil lines, which was pretty straightforward. Another was a rethinking of a species I designed and drew decades ago, with the same head and upper body but a redesigned lower body, so that went quite quickly. For the other two, I had thumbnail sketches of the body shapes (and I scanned them so I could enlarge them and trace them straight from the screen to make it easier), but I still had to figure out a lot of the details, like the shape of the limbs and extremities and in one case the entire head design, since I was unhappy with the rough head shape I’d sketched in. The first one of those took a few days, since it had an unusual surface texture that I had to figure out how to draw. The other went pretty quickly once I settled on a head design, though. I guess I’m going faster as I get back into practice at this.

Today I even did some copying and pasting in a drawing program to put together a comparative height chart for all seven species plus a human, using a blank height-chart template I found free online. So now those are all ready to go on Patreon at some point, and eventually on this blog as well.

Progress on other projects is slower going, though. I’m still awaiting the contract for that big new project I mentioned getting a “yes” on two weeks ago, and now that I’ve gotten all the side projects out of the way, there’s another work in progress I really need to rededicate myself to. So there’s nothing else professionally I can say much about yet.

Last week I reported my success in doing my own repair to the fill valve in my toilet tank. But it turned out not to be complete success. I woke up a day or two later to find the tank continuously trying and failing to refill, apparently because the stopper — or the flapper, as I now know it’s called — wasn’t properly closed, so whatever came into the tank was promptly drained into the bowl through the flush valve (as I now know it’s called). Fortunately, fiddling with the flapper a bit seemed to fix it. I figured some gunk got dislodged in my repairs and got stuck under the stopper the night before so it wouldn’t reseal. I hoped that was all it was.

However, over the next few days, I heard the refilling sound briefly every few hours, suggesting that water was still slowly leaking out through the flush valve, triggering a refill when the float sank low enough. (Apparently these are called “ghost flushes.”) I remembered how, when I’d kept the water mostly turned off while waiting for the replacement part to be shipped, the water in the tank drained after a few hours. I realized that the slow leak in the fill valve may have been compensating for a slow leak in the flush valve the whole time! Would I have to buy a replacement flapper too? I once again went to YouTube in search of repair videos (which is how I suddenly know so much terminology) and started looking into replacement options.

When I investigated, though, I found I’d been pretty much right the first time: some flecks of stuff on the flapper were preventing a perfect seal. Maybe some kind of mineral encrustation inside the tank because of the hard water in my area — perhaps I was right about stuff getting dislodged during repairs. I wiped off the flapper and the valve edges, and it seemed to solve the problem for a day or so, but since then I’ve had another instance where the flapper didn’t close, and the ghost flushes have returned, and there still seems to be some loose debris in the tank despite my efforts to wipe it up.

I should probably replace the flapper at some point (the info I found online says you should if it’s more than 5 years old), but it’s not urgent. At least it’s an intermittent, manageable issue rather than the constant leak I had before. So I can live with it as it is.

Especially since I have work I need to stop distracting myself from…

My phone anxiety roller coaster

I woke up Tuesday to find that my telephone landline was completely dead. Once, this would’ve been alarming, but these days, it’s of little concern, since I have my cell phone, and the lack of landline service mainly just meant a blissful lack of robocallers. Still, I’m paying for the service, and the building’s front-door intercom is hooked up to my landline number, and some people like family and doctors’ offices have that as my contact number, so I let the phone company know online and they scheduled a technician visit for today. I was worried at the prospect of letting someone into my apartment during the pandemic, and wondered if it was really worth the trouble.

But then my internet connection started to drop out intermittently, getting worse into the afternoon, then better again, then worse again. I updated the phone company about the new problem and resigned myself to the service call. I figured if I and the technician both wore masks and I kept the windows wide open and the ventilation fans on, the risk would be manageable, though I was still very nervous about it.

The next morning, the phone line seemed to work again, dial tone and everything, and my internet connection was solid. Maybe phone elves had come along in the night and fixed the problem. I was elated at dodging a bullet and finally able to relax. So I was about to contact the phone company and cancel the service call, but I figured I should make extra-sure and tried calling my landline from my cell. I only got a busy signal. Somehow, I could call out, but not in. And a couple of times, the phone briefly rang when someone tried to call, but then it cut off. So I resigned myself once more to the need to let someone into my apartment today. Even with the internet connection stable, I couldn’t be certain it would last.

So today, when the tech called to let me know he was approaching, I let him know about all the precautions I’d set up for our mutual safety — only to be told that he didn’t need to get into my apartment, just to the room in the building where the phone equipment was! Whew! All I had to do was go into the hall and prop the building’s front door open before he got there, and then sit around reading for a bit (since my internet went down too while he worked) until he finished, and then he called me from the hallway to confirm it was fixed. (I was actually trying to call my landline from my cell, and was confused when the caller ID was from a “CINBELL TECH” number and the tech’s voice came over the line. Had he somehow shunted my phone line through his phone? I eventually figured out it was just that he called my landline at the same time I was trying to call it, and his call got through first. Duh.)

So now my phone and internet work again, and I’m very relieved I didn’t have to break quarantine, as it were. Although I still wonder why I could call out but not in. If I’d been able to interact more directly with the tech, I would’ve asked him what the problem was. Now I may never know. Does anyone reading this know enough about phone systems to have an idea?

 

Anyway, my anxiety lately hasn’t just been about that, because I’m a bit swamped with work right now, getting sent revisions on stuff (including Arachne’s Exile and a new Star Trek Adventures campaign) at a time when I really need to be getting caught up on another big project I can’t talk about yet. I’m trying to reassure myself that I can make up my delays later when I get into the right groove, so I don’t get too anxious about my lack of progress and make it even harder on myself.

However, part of why my phone/internet problems Tuesday were so worrisome was because that same day, I also got a piece of really great news that I’ve been hoping to hear, about a new project that I’ll hopefully be able to say more about quite soon. So it was frustrating to get this great news and not be able to enjoy it because of my connection problems and COVID fears. Luckily, that’s all out of the way now. Stay tuned for more!

Update on ARACHNE’S EXILE, Patreon, and other projects

We’re still waiting for the Arachne’s Crime cover art to be completed and the book to be released, but in the meantime, I recently got the copyedits for the second half of the duology, Arachne’s Exile. I had to wrap up an assignment for Star Trek Adventures first, but I got that done last week and then applied myself to the copyedits. My editor Danielle correctly pointed out that the opening scene I’d written to recap the first book was unengaging, so I found a way to work the necessary exposition into the subsequent scenes more gradually and organically, and I got a nice new moment of character interaction out of it by turning an internal monologue into a dialogue scene. (To make sure I covered all the relevant exposition, I copied the cut recap scene into another file, bolded the text, and then unbolded each part I worked in elsewhere or decided was unnecessary, so I could be sure I didn’t miss anything.)

Along the way, I also realized that I could improve the pacing of the first few chapters enormously by moving forward a couple of scenes, so the intercutting between the two main groups of characters flows better. The new arrangement lets me re-establish more of the main characters and their emotional arcs and conflicts before getting into the heavy plot and science exposition, and it lets me postpone a crucial revelation so that it comes at the end of a chapter rather than one scene before the end.

After turning in the copyedits yesterday, I took a look at a recently rejected short story to see if I wanted to revise it one more time before resubmitting it elsewhere. I decided it was okay as it was, which is good, because I have another, major project that I really need to get on with, though it’s not something I can talk about yet. It’ll be keeping me busy for the next few months, though.

Also, I had occasion today to reread a story I wrote a while back and decided to abandon because it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I had what I envisioned as a comedy idea, but the story I wrote didn’t turn out to be all that comedic. I just glanced at it to see if there were character names I wanted to cannibalize, but in reading it again, I realized it might be okay the way it is. Too bad I don’t have time right now to revise it for submission, but I’ll keep it in mind for later.

Meanwhile, I’m told that I’m close to getting an answer about another project I was invited to pitch a few months ago, and the prospects look pretty good. I’m trying not to get overconfident, but if I get it, it will be a great help to me financially and should be pretty fun to write — though it’s likely to make me even busier over the months ahead.

 

On Patreon this month, my fiction post will be a reprint of the Troubleshooter story “Conventional Powers,” originally published in the Sept/Oct 2019 Analog. It’s the first time my Patreon story has been a reprint rather than new/unpublished content, but hopefully it’ll be new for some of my patrons, at least, and I thought it was a good idea to have the story archived for people who didn’t manage to read it in Analog. It goes live on Saturday, August 8, a date I chose because it’s the anniversary of the day I conceived the character of Emerald Blair and the earliest form of the Troubleshooter premise (I remember it because it was 8/8/88). The following day, my Behind-the-Scenes Patreon post will be a glimpse at my Sol System geography notes for the Emerald Blair/Troubleshooter series, including some locations from as-yet-unpublished works. I’m also working on a couple of new pieces of Troubleshooter character artwork to accompany this month’s releases at the $1 level, debuting as a Patreon exclusive, though I’ll eventually repost them here.

Starting next Tuesday, my Patreon reviews return to DC Comics TV shows with a look at the short-lived 1992 Human Target series from the producers of the 1990 The Flash. That’ll be my shortest rewatch/review series yet, covering the unaired pilot and the seven aired episodes in four posts, after which I’ll begin my longest one yet, covering all four seasons of the 1988-92 syndicated Superboy series. That should take the better part of a year to get through, so I’ll probably intersperse some other reviews along the way for variety.

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.

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