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Posts Tagged ‘Arachne’s Exile’

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.)

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?

 

Lockdown sale from eSpec Books, and Kickstarter progress

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

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

 

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

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

We’re more than halfway there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARACHNE’S CRIME Kickstarter is open!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here are the relevant pledge rewards:

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

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

Post-Shore Leave wrap-up

Well, I’m home at last, recovering from my drive home yesterday. Shore Leave this year was a mixed bag for me; the con was mostly fine, but due to various circumstances, mostly my own situation, I wasn’t able to enjoy it as fully as usual.

On Saturday evening, I had hung out with my fellow authors for our annual BBQ dinner; this year, because several of us had late panels, the ever-generous Keith R.A. DeCandido and his wife Wrenn ordered a take-out catering package for us to have at a reserved suite at the hotel, instead of driving out there en masse as usual. I kind of missed the chance to get out of the hotel and experience the ambience of the BBQ place, but we were able to have a larger group of authors, and I was able to make a second pulled-turkey BBQ sandwich to keep in my hotel room fridge for lunch the next day (which is good, since it cost more per person than I usually spend at the restaurant). I also got to have a nice conversation with the charming and multitalented Mary Fan, an author, acrobat, composer, and who knows what else.

Although I got so caught up in the conversation that I failed to realize I’d bit the inside of my lip rather hard and repeatedly while eating my sandwich. I had to bow out early, and the next morning it looked badly bruised, so out of an excess of caution, I sought out the hotel’s medical staffer just to make sure it wasn’t infected or something (it was fine). Later on, I was on two consecutive panels in the same room, so I was able to stay in my seat for both. The first was a panel on toxic masculinity and alternatives to it in fiction, with panelists including the aforementioned Mary Fan (who thought Emerald Blair looked “badass” on the Only Superhuman cover, which is a great compliment from someone who’s pretty badass herself), and the second was one on trickster figures in fiction, which I only had a tenuous reason to be on (Emerald Blair can perhaps be considered a bit of a trickster, as can Rynyan and Tsshar in the Hub series).

Ultimately I didn’t really do much beyond panels this year, since the vagaries of bad timing meant that I had a novel deadline on Monday and I had to spend most of the time holed up in my hotel room revising the draft manuscript, which had come out a bit too short and needed fleshing out. Also, for some reason, the con’s book vendor didn’t have any copies of Star Trek: TOS — The Captain’s Oath for sale, and I didn’t bring any of my own since I assumed the vendor would have them. So I wasn’t able to sell many books this year, although what with all my economizing on the trip (eating homemade meals, avoiding some but not all toll roads, driving all the way to and from my cousins’ in DC rather than staying at motels), I was able to come out nearly $47 ahead on this trip. It would’ve been over $50, but I had to buy a new power cord for my phone en route.

Oh, my phone. Ugh. In addition to the power cord problem, the GPS kept crashing on me. And I’m so reliant on GPS that I don’t know the way from the Shore Leave hotel to my cousins’ place without it. Well, I have paper Google maps printouts I could’ve used, but the GPS directed me away from the printed route due to crashes on some highway, so I tried to wing it, made the wrong turn (onto I-83 instead of I-495), and ended up hopelessly lost in the middle of Baltimore. Once I got the GPS working briefly, enough to make my way back to a familiar highway, I tried to rely on my printed map from there, but made the wrong turn again at a confusing exit and got lost a second time! Eventually, after a couple of more false starts with the GPS, I finally ended up on a local road I remembered from coming in on Thursday, just a few miles from my cousins’ house, so I no longer needed the GPS — and that’s when the GPS started working reliably!!!! GRRRRRRRRR!!! I was utterly frazzled by the time I got to Barb & Mark’s, and not great company when we went over to their friend’s for dinner as usual. (Mark suggested that the problem was that I’d enabled offline maps and it was eating up my phone’s memory. I changed the settings as he recommended, and my GPS still crashed at one point on the way home on Tuesday, but it kept working steadily as long as I shut off the phone screen and put it on standby during the long stretches between notifications. Honestly, I barely needed it once I got onto I-68W, and certainly not once I got to I-70.)

Anyway, I spent pretty much all day Monday alone at Barb & Mark’s house (aside from their dog and cats), which was perfect, since I needed both a day to recover from that horrible drive on Sunday and a quiet day to concentrate fully on finishing up the manuscript before the deadline. I managed to turn it in on time and close enough to the target word count, and significantly improved by fleshing out some supporting characters who needed it. (Sometimes it’s good to add a whole subplot in a day, weaving it into the existing storyline, since it gives it cohesiveness and keeps you in the right mindset to write it.) So I’m finally done with that (until I get editorial notes), and hopefully soon I’ll be able to tell you what it was.

Thanks to my cousins buying turkey and cheese for me, I was able to make a couple of sandwiches for the drive home on Tuesday, and to take the remaining turkey and cheese home with me as well, along with an extra ice pack in my insulated grocery bag. The drive home was by the fastest possible route, which Google Maps said would take a bit over 8 hours, but it took me something over 11 hours, which seems excessive even given all the rest areas I stopped at. But then, I was caught in rush hour traffic in both DC and Columbus and at least one similar slowdown in between, so that added somewhat to the travel time.

(Though it could’ve been worse. Since Barb disagreed with the phone GPS about the best route out of town, I went with the version on my map printout and almost made a wrong turn again when it told me to go right at the fork to stay on I-495W when the road signs said that was the left fork. At first I went left, but then I had doubts, and since the road behind me was empty, I stopped, backed up, and parked myself on the marked-off triangle of pavement between the two roads, staring at the signs, before finally deciding I’d probably been correct to go left all along, so I went left again. Fortunately, it turned out to be the right call, and the trip was mostly pretty straightforward from there. I’ve scratched out the “right” on that step on the printout and written in “left” so I won’t make that mistake again.)

So now I’m home, but I still don’t feel quite settled in. The fatigue hasn’t left me, and I have to get groceries and catch up on a lot of TV. I also have an overdue video at the library due to bad timing; I wasn’t able to watch it before going because of my manuscript, and I wasn’t able to renew it because it was reserved. So I’ll have to watch it and get it back today, just one day late.

Once I’m a bit more recovered, I’ll get on with reviewing my editor’s notes on Arachne’s Crime, which have been waiting on my computer since last week. After that, I have an original project I’ve been working on that I need to get back to. And then… we’ll see. I still have some car repairs that I wasn’t able to get done before the trip. For one thing, it seemed that the wiper fluid sprayer was fixed, but it stopped working again late in the drive home.

In the meantime, I picked up some new copies of Among the Wild Cybers at Shore Leave, replenishing my stock, so I now have five copies available as part of my autographed book sale. If you buy them, I can say I made more of a profit from my trip! And don’t forget, I have a bunch of copies of The Captain’s Oath for sale too, so you can help me make up for not being able to sell any at Shore Leave.

Shore Leave news — Announcing ARACHNE’S CRIME and ARACHNE’S EXILE!

It’s Saturday night at Shore Leave, and I’m only getting around to posting now since I’ve been busy trying to revise a manuscript by its Monday deadline (lousy timing, I know, but it can’t be helped). I can’t yet say what it’s for, but I do have other big news below.

Anyway, I had a better drive in than expected; there were thunderstorms along my path all day Thursday, but by luck, I managed to stay just behind the tail end of the storms the whole trip, with just a brief period of drizzle in Eastern Ohio and clear skies the rest of the way. I stayed at my cousins’ overnight, worked on the manuscript Friday morning, got into the hotel Friday afternoon, then stayed in my room working until the What’s New in Trek Fiction panel where I couldn’t really talk about anything except the new Star Trek Adventures games I’ve got coming up in the next month or two, theoretically. Meet the Pros was fairly quiet, but I got to talk to writer friends and that was good. Today, I was on a “Batman Turns 80” panel for no particular reason (though it was a nice talk, led by Greg Cox, who — unlike me — has actually written Batman fiction), then I was on two consecutive Star Trek Adventures panels (one about the game, one about how to write/pitch for it, which I wasn’t scheduled for but crashed anyway). Then at 6 came the eSpec Books panel run by the company’s owner/editor Danielle McPhail, and though we literally had an equal number of audience members as panelists (5 each), it was here that I got to make my big announcement.

And here it is: eSpec Books has acquired my duology Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile. I’ve talked about this project intermittently on my blog over the past few years, though not under those titles. Readers of my original work may recognize Arachne as the name of the colony starship from my first published story, “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” from the November 1998 Analog, reprinted in Among the Wild Cybers. To quote the story description from my AtWC page:

The colony ramship Arachne accidentally destroys a space habitat of the nomadic Chirrn while its crew is suspended in hibernation.  Even if the colonists can persuade the Chirrn that the disaster was an accident, will they still be held culpable for negligent mass murder?  And can they get a fair trial despite the Chirrn’s mistrust of planet-dwellers?

I always wanted to continue the story of the Arachne crew in the wake of that novelette’s outcome, so I eventually settled on the idea of doing a novel that would incorporate the original story but expand on it and continue the tale beyond it. It turned out that some of the science in the original story (concerning the feasibility of interstellar ramjets) was implausible, so I eventually decided I needed to break with my usual “Keep everything consistent” policy and do a whole new version that would replace the original story in my universe’s continuity. Once I made that choice, it freed me up to make other changes and really add depth to the story and characters. (Most of the original story’s events and dialogue are still in there, though. Consider it an inaccurate account of the same event, superseded by a much fuller and more accurate version.)

The expanded and corrected retelling of AVG is just the first half of Arachne’s Crime, though. The rest of the novel continues the tale beyond the verdict, as the crew of Arachne adjusts to their new status within the Chirrn’s civilization — which includes a number of Chirrn who did not agree with the verdict and have their own ideas about obtaining justice. Both halves let me flesh out the Chirrn’s culture, biology, and psychology much more richly than in the original story, as well as intensifying the human drama far more than in the original tale.

The events of Arachne’s Crime then build to a climax that leads into the second novel, Arachne’s Exile, which opens up the narrative to a more cosmic, epic scope, bringing in more new species and exotic environments, and really fleshing out the big-picture galactic culture and history of my primary SF universe more than anything I’ve had published to date.

The reason I have a duology all ready to go, by the way, is that it was a single really long novel for years, but I was never able to sell it at that length. Eventually I started to think about submitting it to small publishers with word-count limits per volume, which would require cutting it in two, something I resisted for a while because I saw it as one story. But eventually I realized it had been trying to be two stories all along, that there were elements resolved in the first half and others not introduced properly until the second. Cramming them together probably kept the book from feeling properly focused. Splitting the tale into two distinct phases turned out to work much better, tightening the focus of each volume. Also, since the natural breaking point was less than halfway through, I needed to expand the first book to make it a suitable length, which let me flesh out a lot of Chirrn worldbuilding I’d glossed over in my rush to part 2, as well as adding a new climax to make part 1 more of a complete book on its own. I also added new material to the start of Exile to reintroduce the characters and story threads. I’ve always felt that a story told in two or more volumes should be made of distinct parts that work somewhat independently, rather than just being one long story arbitrarily divided by length (which was why I resisted splitting Arachne until I realized it worked better as two connected stories).

The current plan is to run the Kickstarter campaign for Arachne’s Crime in the early fall, with the book hopefully coming out fairly soon thereafter. Arachne’s Exile is expected to follow sometime in 2020.

Just think… this time a year ago, I had only two original books in print, Only Superhuman and Hub Space. Now I have a third (Among the Wild Cybers) with the fourth (Crimes of the Hub) due out very, very soon. By this time next year, I’ll have six original books in print. (Which are either 3 novels and 3 collections or 4 novels and 2 collections, depending on how you count Crimes of the Hub, which is three stories collected and blended into a short fix-up novel.) Hopefully I’ll have copies of all six to show off and sell at next year’s Shore Leave!