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Posts Tagged ‘Aspiring to Be Angels’

The Troubleshooters return — in TWO new stories!

I have some excellent news, which I hinted at back in December but took longer than expected to fall into place. I’m finally able to announce that I have sold not just one, but two new works of short fiction featuring the Troubleshooters of Only Superhuman and fleshing out new facets of their world.

Footprints in the StarsThe first is my previously announced short story in eSpec Books’ upcoming anthology Footprints in the Stars, the next (second, I think) installment in their Beyond the Cradle anthology series. The theme of this particular anthology is “Stories of the discovery of evidence of ancient aliens and how humanity reacts to those discoveries.” At first blush, that may not sound like the sort of book where you’d expect to find a superhero story, but as it happens, I already had a Troubleshooter idea that fit the premise perfectly. It’s called “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of,” and it’s the first Troubleshooter story that doesn’t star Emerald Blair/Green Blaze. Indeed, it’s a prequel set a couple of years before her birth and even before the founding of the Troubleshooter Corps, an early adventure of the Corps’s founder Yukio Villareal in his heroic prime. “What’s that,” you say? “Evidence of aliens was discovered decades before Only Superhuman? How does that work?” But don’t worry — this is an idea I originally came up with before OS was published, so it’s consistent. Indeed, I did mention in passing in OS that life in other star systems was already known to exist, and the historical appendix in Among the Wild Cybers confirms that as well.

Only Superhuman cover art by Raymond SwanlandThe second new story is a novelette titled “Conventional Powers,” which will be my 12th work of fiction to appear in Analog Science Fiction and Fact but my first Troubleshooter story therein (and the fifth Analog story to be set in that overall universe). This one is a Green Blaze story, and I’m happy to say it’s not a prequel. It took me 7 years, but I finally get to move Emry’s adventures forward beyond Only Superhuman, albeit in a standalone story that should be accessible to new readers, though readers familiar with the novel will see continuity between them. It’s a fairly light, offbeat story that examines the question: What would a superhero convention be like in a world with actual professional superheroes? Writing “Conventional Powers” was a fun opportunity to flesh out new facets of the Asteroid Belt’s transhuman culture and the broader workings of the Troubleshooter Corps.

Added to Only Superhuman and “Aspiring to Be Angels,” these stories will double the size of my Troubleshooter bibliography (in number though not in word count), and I can now say that every completed Troubleshooter story I’ve written and marketed has been successfully sold — though that will only be true until I complete the next one or two. But it gives me the encouragement to go ahead with those.

It’s too early to know when either of these stories will be published, or which one will come out first. I will, of course, announce that information once I have it.

Looking back on 2018

December 30, 2018 2 comments

Last year at this time, when I made a post looking back on the year just ending, it was merely to talk about how I hadn’t announced any new writing projects that year, even though I had several things lined up that I was able to announce soon thereafter. In a number of ways, 2018 was a good year for me career-wise. Right at the start of the year, I got to announce my Among the Wild Cybers story collection (including the brand-new “Aspiring to be Angels,” the first Emerald Blair story since Only Superhuman), which came out in August and quickly became one of eSpec Books’ top sellers for 2018. Later, I was able to announce that I was writing for the Star Trek Adventures role-playing game, and my first campaign for them was published last month, though I still have four more coming. (Indeed, the fifth was one I initially missed out on due to a lost e-mail, but then got to write after all when a filled slot reopened.) I sold a new trilogy of Hub stories, which all came out in Analog this year. Pocket’s Star Trek license was finally renewed, and I was hired to write Star Trek: The Original Series — The Captain’s Oath for spring 2019. I sold my first-ever fantasy story, “The Melody Lingers” (which should be published in Galaxy’s Edge sometime in 2019), and I got invited to contribute my first-ever story to a non-Star Trek anthology, eSpec’s Footprints in the Stars; said story has been written and submitted and I hope to say more soon. I even got in a bit of copyediting work, which hardly pays anything but should hopefully open the door for more such work in the future.

Despite all that, though, it’s been an extremely stressful year for me. Due to multiple writing projects being delayed by a great deal all at once in 2017 into 2018, I ended up in a deep financial hole and would’ve been in real trouble if not for some very generous donations from my fans, as well as a few family members. I had little luck finding other work, and it left me very anxious and depressed. When The Captain’s Oath finally came through, my depression made it hard for me to focus on my work, which exacerbated the tight deadline pressure I was under. So writing that book was a struggle. Even once I met my deadline and got paid, it proved difficult to shake off my anxiety, especially since I had to contend with jury duty late last month (which turned out to be far more harmless than I feared, but it was that fear that made it rough to get through), and then try to get past my writer’s block on a new story in time to submit it to an open-call anthology whose deadline was the end of the year. (Wow, just reminding myself of all that is giving me a headache.) I’ve been nervous about my money situation for 2019 and whether I’d be able to line up new work in time. I’ve also been dealing with intermittent hip pain (probably the early stages of arthritis) and a resurgence of my heartburn/indigestion issues, which are both an effect and a contributing cause of my stress.

But suddenly, this past week, a number of things have gone my way. I broke through my writer’s block and finished the new story, which has now been submitted. I’m kind of excited about it; the theme for the anthology led me to dredge up some story notes for a project I came up with many years ago and never got around to writing, and now I realize I’ve basically got a rough outline for what, with a little tweaking, could be a novel trilogy in a whole new fictional universe. Also, I’ve nearly finished the copyedits for The Captain’s Oath, which went pretty smoothly (though I still want to do one more editing pass through the manuscript before I turn it in). With all that stuff cleared off my list, I’m finally free to focus on developing one or two writing projects I’ve been meaning to get around to all year, so I’m looking forward to that. Best of all, though, I finally sold a novelette I’ve been waiting for an answer on for most of the year and had all but given up on. Getting that sale was the happiest moment of the year for me, a breakthrough in a few ways, and I should be able to say more about it in a few weeks, probably.

So I found myself spending a lot of the day yesterday just feeling content. Not overjoyed or euphoric (though there was a bit of that after I got the acceptance on that story a few days ago) — just a feeling of relaxation and inner quiet, a sense of ease and peace that I haven’t felt in a long time. It was refreshing just to sit still in the quiet of my bedroom and feel comfortable inside my own head.

A lot of that came from thinking about what’s coming up for me in 2019. Things are already looking promising there. Aside from The Captain’s Oath, I’ve got “The Melody Lingers,” my Footprints in the Stars story, the new thing I just sold, and one other thing (to be announced) already slated for next year, so I’ve already tied my personal record for the number of original (non-tie-in) works published in a single calendar year (four in 2010 and again in 2018). I’ve got several other submissions already pending, so if I sell even one more of them, it’s a new record. And I’ve still got time to write and sell more stuff that could be published by year’s end. So 2019 might well turn out to be my most prolific year for original fiction ever — indeed, with The Captain’s Oath and more Star Trek Adventures campaigns pending, it should be my most prolific year, period. I’m still not sure how financially secure I’ll be next year — most of the stuff currently slated to come out next year is stuff I’ve already been paid for, and I’m not yet sure what I might get next year in the way of royalties and new sales/contracts — but all that stuff coming out under my name in 2019 should be good for my long-term career prospects. Hopefully this year will be better for me income-wise than the last two, and hopefully it will lay the foundations for more career success later on.

(And just a reminder — you guys can help in that regard by posting reviews of my books and stories on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., and by liking my Facebook author page.)

A couple more minor site updates

Two site fixes today. One: A poster alerted me that my Uncertain Logic Annotations page was displaying the table too wide in Chrome and cutting off part of the text, which I think was due to that page having a second table inside one of the table cells. I tried some formatting changes to fix it, and something I tried caused the table formatting to disappear altogether, so I just went with that and converted it to the non-table format I use for most of my short-fiction annotations.

Two: I updated my Bibliography with my past couple of Hub stories and Among the Wild Cybers. It was about a year out of date, but now it’s current again. I wasn’t sure how to enter both AtWC and “Aspiring to Be Angels,” the new story appearing only in AtWC, so I just went with the redundancy.

Meanwhile, updating my own bibliography reminded me to check my Internet Speculative Fiction Database page, and as I hoped, they’ve finally added my three online original stories now that they’ve finally appeared in print in AtWC. Although they list AtWC as their only catalogued publication with just a note that they were previously published elsewhere. It also lists Hub Space now, but lists it by its trade paperback publication date of 2018 rather than its original e-book release date of 2015. Odd that an online resource would fail to count online publications. Although the bibliography isn’t entirely complete, since it doesn’t include the Russian translations of my first two Hub stories in ESLI Magazine. Still, it’s finally complete as far as my English-language professional fiction goes, so that’s good.

Shore Leave 40 — my schedule

The Shore Leave 40 schedule is now up at the main site:

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

Here are my panels, with descriptions quoted from the convention booklet:

FRIDAY 7/6:

Anthologies – Share The Love — 7 PM, Salon E
What attracts readers to short story collections? Do you prefer themed collections, single author collections, or a Whitman’s Sampler of stories? What draws authors to write for anthologies?
Greg Cox (M), Phil Giunta, Jenifer Rosenberg, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Christopher L. Bennett, Joshua Palmatier, Richard C. White
Meet the Pros — Hunt/Valley Corridor, 10 PM – midnight
The usual mass signing event for all the authors, where Among the Wild Cybers will make its formal debut. I also plan to have copies of older books to sell and sign, including Only Superhuman and some Star Trek back titles.
SATURDAY 7/7:
Science Fact — 9 AM, Derby Room
What really cool recent technologies and scientific breakthroughs or discoveries will shape our near future reality, as well as the way we tell genre stories?
Kelli Fitzpatrick (M), Phil Giunta, Christopher L. Bennett, Glenn Hauman, Mary Louise Davie
Star Trek Adventures RPG — 12 PM, Salon E
Starfleet needs a new crew! Come hear about how you can boldly explore strange new worlds at the game table with friends.
Stephen Kozeniewski (M), Jim Johnson, Christopher L. Bennett
SUNDAY 7/8:
Christopher L. Bennett Q&A — 1 PM, Derby Room
In connection with the Shore Leave premiere of Among the Wild Cybers, the author talks about his 20-year career writing original and tie-in fiction.
So pretty much just Salon E and Derby for me, both relatively small meeting rooms. I wasn’t expecting a huge crowd for my solo panel anyway, not on a Sunday afternoon. But it’s a chance to talk about AtWC and its stories, including the new Only Superhuman prequel story “Aspiring to Be Angels.” Aside from the panels, I’ll probably do a stint or two at the book vendors’ table.

AMONG THE WILD CYBERS: Putting it together

I’ve just e-mailed the corrected galleys for Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman back to the publisher, which should be the last step for me in putting the interior of the book together, though I still need to work on coming up with a first draft for the cover blurb. Anyway, it was nice to see the whole thing put together as a book, and to get a sense of what the experience of reading through it will be. I’m pretty satisfied with how it worked out.

I thought it might be worth explaining how we arrived on the story order for the collection. My first thought was to go with chronological order, because that’s my natural inclination. That order would’ve looked like this:

  • “No Dominion” (2059)
  • “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad” (2092)
  • “Aspiring to Be Angels” (2106)
  • “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” (2176)
  • “The Weight of Silence” (2202)
  • “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” (2250)
  • “Twilight’s Captives”  (2315)
  • “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” (c. 2480)

I thought it made for a decent story order, with a fairly strong starting story and a really strong closing story, and a good mix of lengths and focuses in between. I figured that if I inserted transitional passages explaining the intervening history to tie the stories together, it would give it a better flow. “No Dominion” wasn’t in continuity with the others, but as the odd one out, it seemed to make sense to put it either first or last, so including it in the chronological ordering seemed to work, however awkwardly.

But there was a glaring problem right off: That order opened with two murder mysteries, which would’ve given a wrong idea about what to expect from the rest of the stories. I was sufficiently attached to chronological order that I was willing to live with that, but my editor, Danielle McPhail, felt it was important to keep the two mysteries separate, to improve the flow. She agreed with me that “Butterfly’s Wing” was the strongest story and should go last, but she felt the next-strongest one was “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” and that it should go first (hence the name of the collection). Beyond that, she left it up to me to pick the story order, requiring only that the two mysteries be separate. I took it as a general guideline to avoid putting similar stories together.

I felt that the brand-new Emerald Blair story, “Aspiring to Be Angels,” should come second, so the audience wouldn’t have to wait too long for it. I put “Twilight’s Captives” and “No Dominion” next because I wanted to front-load the collection with stories featuring strong, impressive female leads, particularly ones I hope to revisit in future works. I put “Captives” first because that let me alternate between stories with an interstellar/alien focus and a Sol System/investigation focus.

I couldn’t follow “No Dominion” with either “Cislunar Railroad” (both mysteries) or “The Weight of Silence” (both first-person narratives), so the fifth story had to be “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide.” And I didn’t want to put “Weight” next to “Butterfly’s Wing,” because those are both two-handers about a man and a woman dealing with a crisis in space. So “Weight” had to come after “Vehicular,” making those the only two consecutive stories still in chronological order. And that left only “Cislunar” for the penultimate slot. That broke the alternating pattern between interstellar settings and Sol System settings, but I guess it’s good that the pattern isn’t too rigid.

The upshot is a collection in which no two consecutive stories are set in the same century: 2250, 2106, 2315, 2059, 2176, 2202, 2092, c. 2480. That’s a pretty good mixture. In reading through the collection for the galley edits, I found that the jumping around in the timeline didn’t bother me. After all, the stories have fairly little direct connection to one another, so a linear progression from one to the next isn’t hugely important. It does feel a little odd to see “Wild Cybers” referencing the events of “Vehicular Genocide” when that one doesn’t come along until later in the collection, but in its own way, that kind of works. Referencing something near the start of a book and only explaining it later is a fairly common storytelling device, and this particular reference isn’t crucial to the story, just a bit of backstory that can wait to be fleshed out. There’s a similar instance of that connecting two other stories, though it’s looser.

Of course, there is a historical appendix at the end to put the stories in chronological context, so readers can use that as a guide if they want to read (or re-read) the stories chronologically. The appendix is put together from the transitional passages I wrote when I expected the collection to be in chronological sequence, although I was able to restructure and expand it once I put it all together into one essay, so it actually works better that way. It does, however, assume that the reader has already read the stories.

All in all, I’m really glad that this is nearly a book. I only announced it to the world two days ago, but I’ve been working on this collection on and off for nearly a year now. I can’t wait until all of these stories are finally available to my readers in one comprehensive package.

Announcing AMONG THE WILD CYBERS — and the return of the Green Blaze!

At last, I’m able to make my first new project announcement in over a year. Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman, a story collection reprinting nearly all of my previously uncollected short fiction, will soon be published by eSpec Books. And I have even better news: the collection will also feature a new, never-before-published novelette starring Emerald Blair, the Green Blaze, in her first print appearance since Only Superhuman!

Among the Wild Cybers will be available in both print and e-book form, and will be crowdfunded by a Kickstarter campaign that eSpec will soon be launching, probably later this month. The collection, edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, will include all my short fiction from my default/Only Superhuman universe, plus the bonus story “No Dominion” (“bonus” meaning it was the only one left over and I didn’t want to leave it uncollected). The title comes from the first story appearing in the collection, “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” but as it happens, the majority of the stories do feature cybers (AIs) in some capacity, though only three focus on them heavily.

Emerald Blair, "Green Blaze"

Copyright Christopher L. Bennett

The new Green Blaze story, “Aspiring to Be Angels,” is an 8000-word novelette depicting a key moment in Emerald Blair’s Troubleshooter apprenticeship. I know, I know – prequels. Not as exciting as a sequel would be. But Emry’s superhero training was a part of her backstory that I didn’t manage to include in OS’s flashback chapters; I tried to include it, but I ended up skipping over it for the sake of the novel’s flow. “Aspiring” allows me to fill that gap, and to explore the process by which Emerald Blair became the Green Blaze. Doing a prequel also allows me to bring back Emerald’s mentor Arkady Nazarbayev and delve further into his hero-sidekick relationship with Emry.

In some ways, though, “Aspiring to Be Angels” is more a horror story than a superhero story. It’s not gory or anything, but it’s more dark, bizarre, and creepy than my usual work. It’s something of an homage to the anime Serial Experiments Lain. But don’t worry, it’s also an integral part of Emerald Blair’s journey, true to her character and her world. And I’m hoping it’s just the beginning of her continued adventures, in one form or another.

Another story in the collection, “The Weight of Silence,” might as well be new for most readers, since the online magazine where it appeared, Alternative Coordinates, ceased to exist less than a year after the story’s publication. AC did have a printable PDF edition, as I recall, so there may be a few print copies of “The Weight of Silence” out there somewhere, but I doubt there are very many. So it’s been effectively a “lost” story for nearly seven years, and I’m glad it will finally be available again.

This will also be the print debut for two of my stories that have previously appeared only online, “No Dominion” and “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing.” Both stories are still available online as of this writing (see links on my Homepage and Original Fiction pages), but between them, “Aspiring to Be Angels,” and “The Weight of Silence,” half of the stories in Among the Wild Cybers are appearing in print for the first or nearly the first time. Which means, hopefully, that “Dominion,” “Caress,” and “Weight” will finally get added to my Internet Speculative Fiction Database author page. Apparently their editors don’t pay much attention to online publications, although they do list my Star Trek e-novellas.

I’d originally expected that the stories in Among the Wild Cybers would appear in chronological order, but Danielle and I decided instead to arrange them for the best reading experience, so no two adjacent stories would be too much alike. Here’s the tentative order, with original publication dates:

  • “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Dec 2000)
  • “Aspiring to Be Angels”                     (new)
  • “Twilight’s Captives”                         (Analog, Jan/Feb 2017)
  • “No Dominion”                                   (DayBreak Magazine, June 2010)
  • “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide”     (Analog, Nov 1998)
  • “The Weight of Silence”                     (Alternative Coordinates, Spring 2010)
  • “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad”    (Analog, June 2016)
  • “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing”   (Buzzy Mag, Nov 2014)

There will, however, be an appendix providing a chronological ordering of the stories and an overview of the future history they occupy – including a few new bits of history and worldbuilding that haven’t appeared in print before. In writing that material, I even thought of a way to tweak a part of that history so that a couple of stories have a stronger connection than they did originally.

Between them, Only Superhuman and Among the Wild Cybers will contain the entire published OS continuity to date. If you also buy Hub Space, you’ll have all my published original fiction so far except for “Abductive Reasoning,” which came out too recently to be included in ATWC (which didn’t have room for it anyway). But that’s all right – having a story still uncollected gives me an incentive to keep writing more so I can build a second collection. Hopefully this time it won’t take 20 years to do it.

I’ll provide the link to the Kickstarter page once it’s available. Keep an eye out for updates on publication date, cover art, etc. I’m so glad I can finally post news about this book!