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Finally, my post-Shore Leave post (on Shore Leave)

Sorry it took me so long to write this — it’s been an exhausting week. As I mentioned, I had to leave a day early and drive a fair distance out of my way to pick up some belongings for a relative who recently moved to the DC area. So I spent 6 hours driving on Wednesday. I stayed with my relative’s friends, who were nice and welcoming, but I never get any sleep on my first night in an unfamiliar place (I recently read an article about this — it has to do with the brain’s instinctive alertness to danger, so it’s not just me), so not only was the big drive to DC on Thursday really long — more than 12 hours, as it turned out, including the frequent rest breaks I needed — but I was making it on no sleep and plenty of coffee. The folks I stayed with were kind enough to let me have a travel mug full of coffee to take with me on my drive, in addition to the first cup I had that morning, so that was pretty much all that kept me functional through that really long trip. Oddly, though, even with my car packed with a significant amount of extra weight, I got the best gas mileage I’ve ever had on that part of the journey, even topping 32 MPG. (I learned the habit from my father of always writing down mileage and gallons when I fill the tank to calculate MPG.) I wonder what made it so efficient. Could the extra weight have actually improved mileage somehow by giving me a bit more traction or something? That seems counterintuitive.

(Oh, and when I accidentally stretched out my laptop’s power cord too far Wednesday night and it came unplugged, I discovered the battery is dead. Something I’ll need to take care of when I can afford to.)

The drive out wasn’t entirely smooth, though. I committed to making it in one day because I didn’t want to pay for a motel and because the forecast called for heavy rain in the DC/Baltimore area on Friday — but as it turned out, Friday was quite clear, whereas I hit a fierce, intense thunderstorm at one point on Thursday. The weather radar at the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s travel plazas didn’t show its position clearly — I’m not sure it was a live feed, since it didn’t match what was on my phone’s radar app. But then, that app didn’t seem to show where the storm actually was either. (I wish there were a way to combine it with Google Maps, get both route and weather info at the same time.) Still, as scary as it was, it was mercifully brief, and was the one period of significant rainfall I experienced on the trip.

I made it to Cousin Barb’s home near DC a little before nightfall on Thursday, though I had to wait in the car for a while until she made it home. I hoped I’d be exhausted enough to get some real sleep despite being in a relatively unfamiliar place, but it was very humid, so I got almost none, though I do remember a couple of brief dreams, so there was at least a bit of REM sleep in there. Anyway, on Friday morning, I relied on my new travel mug full of coffee to keep me going as I drove my relative’s belongings to their new place, though I spilled a fair amount of coffee on an empty bookcase and my own tote bag because I overestimated how well the mug’s lid was secured. Nothing important was damaged, though.

After spending the rest of the morning with the family, I finally headed off to the Shore Leave hotel, which was another hour’s drive. I was so worn out by this point that I don’t really remember much detail, but I did the usual thing — shower, change clothes, rest up for a while, then finally venture out into the hotel and look for friends to talk to. As usual, fellow Star Trek novelist and Only Superhuman editor Greg Cox was one of the first people I ran into, and we and some others sat in the hotel Starbucks and chatted for a while about various things. I’m pretty sure Bob Greenberger (former DC Comics editor and Trek novelist) was there too, and Trek novelist Dayton Ward showed up for a time, but I’m not sure who else was there or what we talked about.

Eventually, at 7 PM, I had my first panel, which let me show off Among the Wild Cybers for the first time. Though the panel was nominally about anthologies, i.e. collections of stories by multiple authors, single-author collections like mine were included in the discussion too, so I got to talk about such things as how we chose the story order.

The big debut of the collection was supposed to be that night at Meet the Pros, but I got bad news from the book vendor: the distributor had failed to deliver the books in time for the convention. They were slated to reach his store on Monday, which was after Shore Leave ended. This was very frustrating. I’d brought a half-dozen copies with me (albeit slightly imperfect ones, from the first print run that left out the Only Superhuman preview at the back), but I’d given two to family members and I needed to keep one for my later panels, so I only had three copies to offer him to sell on consignment. As it happened, nobody bought any at Meet the Pros anyway, though all three copies sold on Saturday. Still, Meet the Pros was busier this year than it’s been in a while — perhaps because William Shatner was a guest at the con this year so there was larger attendance — and I did a good job selling the backlist Star Trek novels I brought with me.

But my favorite memory from Meet the Pros was getting to meet Michael Okuda, the longtime illustrator and technical consultant for the Trek franchise from Star Trek IV through Enterprise, as well as the co-author of the Star Trek Chronology and Encyclopedia, a member of the team that created Star Trek Remastered, and a graphic designer for NASA. He’s kind of a Trek legend (along with his wife/collaborator Denise, also in attendance), and he’s been of great help over e-mail with a number of my books, but this was his first Shore Leave. I was pleasantly surprised when he came up to me at my Meet the Pros table in order to meet me in person at last. Turns out he’s a really friendly guy. I went to one of his and Denise’s talks later on Sunday, and they’re both really nice people, who later on insisted on taking a picture with me.

In the less fun category, one of my pens started leaking in the pocket of one of my best shirts and left a stain that just got bigger the more I tried to wipe at it. I had to spend most of Friday night hiding the stain under my jacket. The next day I changed back into the shirt I’d worn previously (I didn’t have many other options, since I packed light to make room for my relative’s stuff), only to find it had a smaller ink stain in the same place. Anybody know how to get ink stains out of cotton/polyester?

I actually got a fair night’s sleep after MtP, though not a full night’s sleep, because MtP runs to midnight and I woke up sometime after 5 AM. I remembered a trick I finally figured out last year — since the hotel mattresses are a bit too firm for me, sleeping on top of the comforter makes it soft enough to be comfortable. Although using the other half of the comforter as a blanket made me too hot, which may be why I woke up early. Anyway, when I checked my e-mail on my phone that morning, I got a nice bit of good news, which I’ll share in a later post.

I had a pretty early panel on science fact in fiction, and… I can hardly remember anything we talked about. I’m starting to think I should’ve been more diligent about keeping this blog during the convention, as much as an aid for my own sleep-deprived memory as for anyone else. I remember it being a pretty good panel, moderated by Kelli Fitzpatrick, a new writer friend I met at last year’s Shore Leave and who’s already become an integral member of the gang. After the panel, I tagged along with Kelli and sat in the audience on a panel on cultural and gender representation in fiction, moderated by author/editor Mary Fan, and with my former Trek editor Marco Palmieri on the panel as well. It was pretty interesting, and when the question was raised about the difference between cultural representation and appropriation, I had a thought that I didn’t have the opportunity to express during the Q&A but mentioned to Mary afterward: That maybe the difference is akin to the difference between symbiosis and parasitism, in that it’s about whether the entity that takes something from another also gives something back to it in turn.

At noon, I had a panel on the Star Trek Adventures game, with my editor Jim Johnson and moderator Stephen Kozeniewski. I finally got to see some of the game books in hardcopy form and see the final formatted version of some of the adventures, although Jim tells me that my first couple of adventures probably won’t be published until August or so. Since I have little prior experience with gaming, it was an informative panel for me, even though I can’t clearly remember all of it. But I remember talking about the challenge of adapting my writing style to stories where I don’t know who the main characters will be, and figuring out how to create situations that are at once generic and adaptable to any characters yet designed to encourage character development and growth — for instance, a situation that forces the characters to address a moral dilemma, or to try to convince a character of something by drawing on their personal experience and values, or the like.

It turned out that I had a third Saturday panel that I failed to mention in my schedule post, because I’d forgotten applying for it and my name didn’t seem attached to it on the copy of the schedule I got. It was a panel about Sherlock Holmes and his various adaptations, and fortunately the moderator Roberta Rogow reminded me of it the night before. I was probably the one panelist least qualified to be there, since most of the others (including Keith R.A. DeCandido and Mary Fan) had written various Holmes pastiches, whereas my only bit of Holmes-related writing is that Locus Online post I did a few years ago, plus my blog reviews of the Rathbone films and whatnot last year. But I managed to hold my own, I think.

Let’s see, after that I went down to the book vendors and spent some time catching up with David Mack, who was doing his hour in the Author Chimney, the narrow space between brick columns which is where authors spend an hour at a time signing books for passersby. Dave has grown a goatee and dyed his hair bright blue, apparently in homage to or solidarity with his old boss on Deep Space Nine, Ira Steven Behr. He also had some good insights about Star Trek: Discovery through his connections to the show’s staff, and his words encouraged me about the future of the show after its recent staff upheavals. I did my own hour in the Chimney after Dave left and sold a few more of the books I brought with me. They’d already sold out of the three copies of Among the Wild Cybers I’d provided, which was good, though it’s a shame they didn’t have more copies available.

But the highlight for us authors on Shore Leave Saturdays is the annual group visit to Andy Nelson’s BBQ for dinner and conversation. Since I was so broke, I mostly just ate food I brought from home or from the folks I stayed with en route, but Andy Nelson’s is a tradition, and fortunately I’d made enough on book sales to feel comfortable paying for it.  We managed to get the indoor dining room to ourselves for only the second time since I started going along, which was good, since it was way too hot and humid outside. My usual pulled turkey sandwich was drier than usual, but a bit of BBQ sauce helped with that, and I was given extra stewed tomatoes on the side since my first helping got partly spilled. I had some nice conversation with Keith DeCandido, his wife Wrenn, Kelli Fitzpatrick, and others, and afterward Keith and Wrenn treated me to an Italian ice at a place Wrenn spotted along the way and apparently knew from the past. I got a banana-flavor one and was pleasantly surprised to find it had real banana puree and chunks in it.

It was kind of late when we got back and I was still sleepy, so after enough time to digest my big dinner and dessert, I turned in early. This time, I got more than a full night’s sleep, managing to sleep in well past 7 AM. I mostly just puttered around in my room until it was time to check out, which I did before the Okudas’ presentation at 11. After that, just the once, I splurged on a burger and orange juice at the hotel Starbuck’s — which, interestingly, cost exactly 1 cent more than my entire dinner at Andy Nelson’s the night before. So I was well-nourished for my personal Q&A panel at 1 PM. It was surprisingly well-attended for a Sunday afternoon, and though I didn’t have any specific presentation prepared, there were plenty of questions and we kept up a good conversation about Among the Wild Cybers and my other writing. Afterward, I managed to sell most of the remaining books I had with me, even including two hardcover copies of Only Superhuman.

The remainder of the con was just hanging out in the autograph section talking to other writers. I finally made a bit more progress in the discussion of a project that I’ve been talking about with someone for several Shore Leaves now but that’s been slow to get going. I now at least know the specifics of what I should aim for, and now it’s just a question of actually bringing it about, though at this point I’m not holding my breath for it to progress rapidly. I also let a certain editor know I’d be interested in pitching to their next anthology, a project I think it would be cool to be part of. So we’ll see how that goes. Oh, and this is also when I posed for that photo with Mike & Denise Okuda. (I didn’t manage to meet any of the actor guests this year.) Before I left, I made sure to find Kelli, since she was one of the lucky few who managed to buy a copy of Among the Wild Cybers and had let me know she wanted me to sign it. I’m glad I got to sign at least one copy of the book, especially for a friend.

After that was the usual deal, spending Sunday night at Barb’s again. I considered sticking around for another day or so, but I was getting eager to get home. I gathered that a bunch of the other writers had been invited to visit the Goddard Space Flight Center with the Okudas, and I would’ve liked to be part of that, but apparently they were all booked up already and couldn’t accommodate another guest, so I had to miss out. So on Monday morning I just set out on the long drive home. Having survived the even longer drive I made on Thursday, and remembering how smoothly this return trip on the fastest possible route had gone last year, I felt pretty confident I could make the trip in one day, though I still made sure to have a full travel mug of coffee before I left. Anyway, it was an uneventful trip and I got home safely and I’m still recovering 3 days later. That was a heck of a long trip.

Still, it turned out to be a good trip. I got some significant stuff accomplished both in terms of career and family, and for once I made significantly more money than I spent, partly because I economized all I could and partly because it was a busy con and my book sales were quite good (despite the lack of Wild Cybers). Plus I got a cool new coffee mug!

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Things are starting to look up

I can’t believe it’s only been three and a half weeks since I put out my desperate plea for donations and was worried whether I’d be able to pay my rent for the month. My fortunes have finally begun to improve since then. The generous donations I received from you, my readers, helped a lot, but in addition, just today I finally got approvals for a couple more Star Trek Adventures role-playing game campaigns I wrote a little while back. And since Modiphius pays very promptly, I should see the money in the bank within a matter of days, which means I should be able to pay my remaining bills for the month on time, and be in a fairly good position for next month.

I’ve even decided to keep my bicycle after all. Now that my situation’s a bit less desperate, I figure the limited amount of money I could get for it wouldn’t be worth the sacrifice. (I’m lucky, then, that nobody was willing to meet my offered price.) I could still stand to make more money if I can, but I feel I have other options now, ones that wouldn’t require giving up so much. And now that I’ve come close to losing my bike, I’m not taking it so much for granted, and I’m starting to feel I should try to get more use out of it again. I could definitely use the exercise.

Meanwhile, I’ve now mailed off all the autographed books that some of you ordered from me the other week. Sorry it took so long, but you should all get your books soon-ish. Of course, I’m always willing to sell more.

Also, there’s still the ongoing Kickstarter campaign for Among the Wild Cybers, now with just 5 days to go and just $77 short of unlocking its third stretch goal. At this point, it looks like the advance I’ll be getting from it will be fairly modest, but who knows? The other day, the pledge tally jumped by over $200 literally overnight, though it’s only gained another dollar in the 2 days since. So it’s impossible to say where it’ll end up at this point. I’m hoping that a lot of people save their pledges for the last day or two of a campaign. But there’s not a lot of time left, folks, plus there are several pledge bonuses that are available only in limited quantities, including hardcover and audiobook copies of Only Superhuman. So if anyone’s been holding off for whatever reason, I recommend acting fast.

As for my situation beyond June… well, as I mentioned the other day, I’ve gotten some promising news on that front, but it’s nothing I can talk about yet. Things might still be financially tight for me a little while longer, depending on how long it takes for things to play out. But I’m now more confident that I’ll be able to make it through, barring emergencies. Although I also have to work pretty fast on a few projects over the next several weeks, and I should probably get back to work on the most urgent one. Still, that’s a better feeling than the borderline panic of just a few short weeks ago. It’s been a very eventful time since then, and it’s only the beginning. And I’m really grateful to my fans for your help in getting me through the roughest patch.

There be WILD CYBERS here!

No, I’m not under attack by rogue robots — rather, my author copies of Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman have just arrived.

Among the Wild Cybers in box

Among the Wild Cybers in stack

They’re thinner than I expected for a nearly 80,000-word book, but I guess that’s because of the trade-paperback format. But here they are, and it’s not much longer before the rest of you can get them too (Kickstarter backers first).

Here’s my brag shelf of all my original fiction to date, such as it is:

CLB brag shelf

Minus Hub Space, which I haven’t yet obtained a print copy of. But hey, the shelf is finally starting to grow a bit, and there’s a good chance that it’ll be growing more before long. For now, though, Only Superhuman and Among the Wild Cybers contain my complete published works to date in my primary original universe (plus “No Dominion”). So it’s nice to see them side by side. (I put ATWC first both for height reasons — I don’t want it between two shorter mass-market paperbacks — and because I generally shelve anthologies/collections before novels, a habit I picked up when I worked at the university library.)

And we’re now ridiculously close to unlocking “Abductive Reasoning” for Kickstarter backers — one to three more pledges should do it:

Only 11 days left!

Thank you so much!

I want to give my deepest thanks to all the readers who made donations after my plea on Tuesday. Thanks to your exceptional generosity, I’m now confident that I’ll be able to pay my rent for another month, and most of my other bills as well. I’m not entirely out of the woods yet — and it turns out that my “good reason to believe” my writing situation would soon be improving is a bit less of a sure thing than I thought, or at least a bit more distant. Still, your donations have given me time, and enough relative peace of mind, to do my own part and continue looking for work. I’m deeply grateful, and I intend to give you all a shout-out in the acknowledgments of my next book, unless you let me know you’d rather stay anonymous. There may even be some characters named after you in some future book. It’s the least I owe you guys for being there for me when I needed you.

In the meantime, my book sale remains ongoing; consult the previous post for the list of books and the payment info.

To the person in Japan who ordered the copy of Only Superhuman: I still need to receive the international postage cost before I can send the book. I e-mailed you with the amount on Thursday, so please get back to me soon.

Meanwhile, folks, please share the word about the Among the Wild Cybers Kickstarter with anyone you can think of who might be interested. The more pledges we get, the more goodies our backers get, and the more it helps me pay my bills for next month, if not this one. The Kickstarter will remain open until May 30.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/e-specbooks/epic-science-fiction-adventures?ref=card

 

 

Good news and bad news

The good news is, the Kickstarter for Among the Wild Cybers (and Bud Sparhawk’s Shattered Dreams) has already surpassed its minimum funding goal in less than a week. Now comes the pursuit of the stretch goals, which will unlock a number of exciting benefits for the patrons who donate — and will also help me and Bud get monetary advances for our books, so that would be great.

Meanwhile, I have good reason to believe that my work situation is finally going to start improving significantly within the next few months, though I can’t say anything more about that yet.

 

The bad news is that, though I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, I don’t have quite enough fuel to make it there. I’m flat broke, folks, more so than I realized I was until I checked my bank balances this morning. All the good things on the horizon are still too far away to help me with my immediate financial crisis. At the moment, I don’t have enough to pay the next month’s rent and other critical bills. I’m doing what I can to remedy that. I’m looking for jobs, I’m submitting stories, I’m even trying to sell my bicycle that I hardly ever ride anymore. But I can’t be sure I’ll make enough money in time, so I need to ask for any donations my readers are willing to give. I know this has become a familiar refrain from me lately, but it’s never been more urgent. It’s incredibly frustrating that my career slowdown has gone on this long, that so many things I’d expected to pay off by now have been delayed this long. Now they’re finally on the verge of paying off, but just a month or so too late. It’s ironic and scary to see myself so close to the finish line but not know how I’m going to make it the last few steps. I really hope you, my readers, can dig deep and help me out one more time. It doesn’t have to be much. My activity stats show I tend to get around 200 hits on this site per day. If every one of you donated just $4-5 each, it could be enough.

If nothing else, I still have a number of autographed books available for purchase. Here’s the current list of books I have available, their quantities (updated 7/12/18), and the price per copy (in US dollars):

Mass-market paperbacks: $8

  • Star Trek: TOS — The Face of the Unknown (5 2 copies)
  • ST: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel (4 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic (5 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code (5 4 copies)
  • ST: ENT — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference (9 7 copies)
  • ST: Department of Temporal Investigations — Forgotten History (5 1 copy)
  • ST: Ex Machina (1 copy)
  • ST: TNG: The Buried Age (1 copy)
  • ST:TNG: Greater Than the Sum (1 copy)
  • ST: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea (1 copy)

Hardcovers: $20 (20% off!)

  • Only Superhuman (21 copies)

Trade paperbacks: $16

  • Star Trek: Mirror Universe — Shards and Shadows (6 copies)
  • ST: Myriad Universes — Infinity’s Prism (2 copies)
  • ST: Mere Anarchy (2 copies)
  • ST: The Next Generation — The Sky’s the Limit (2 copies)

Trade paperbacks: $14

  • ST: Deep Space Nine — Prophecy and Change (1 copy)
  • ST: Voyager — Distant Shores (2 1 copy)

I’ll try to keep this list updated with regard to availability, but if you have doubts (particularly with the single copies), query first. For buyers in the US, add $2.50 postage per book for MMPBs, or $4.00 postage for trades/hardcovers.  For buyers outside the US, pay the book price and I’ll bill you for postage separately once I determine the amount.

If you have a PayPal account of your own, please pay through that instead of a credit card.  PayPal charges a fee for credit card use, so if you do use a credit card, I have to ask for an additional $0.25 per mass-market paperback or an additional $0.50 per trade paperback or hardcover.

Please share this post and spread the word, both for the Kickstarter and for my book sale and call for donations.

More WILD CYBERS progress: Preorder listings and Goodreads

Folks who’ve looked at my site’s front page will have already seen that preorder links are starting to appear for Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman. Here they are again:

They’re showing publication dates of either June 29 or August 1, but neither date is entirely settled yet. Either way, the Kickstarter backers will get first crack at the book.

The Amazon page for the paperback includes an image of the back cover text, which I noticed had a couple of typos. (The line “humanity must adjust their understanding” should’ve been “its understanding,” and the summary of “Aspiring to Be Angels” contained the phrase “an insane superinelligence.”) Fortunately, the book hasn’t gone to the printers yet, so it was easy to fix both errors, and the corrected back cover is now up on Amazon.

One thing my editor Danielle asked me to do, in order to help promote the book, was to join Amazon’s and Goodreads’s author programs so that I could contribute to and curate my respective author pages. I did that for my Amazon page several months ago, which let me link it to this blog as well as managing my list of books on the site. But since my Goodreads author page already linked to my blog, it didn’t seem as urgent to sign onto it. Still, I decided this past week to get that done at last, and so I’m now a Goodreads author:

Christopher L. Bennett author page at Goodreads

Aside from doing a little maintenance on my list of books there (which included a couple of listings for renamed or cancelled Star Trek titles plus a pop-religion book of some sort by a namesake author), joining up also lets me participate in Goodreads’s “Ask the Author” program, where you can submit questions to me and I try to answer them. It didn’t take long at all for one of my regular readers to find me there and ask me a question, and my answer is posted here.

I’m glad I took the time to answer that question, because it helped me with a short story I’ve been trying to write. The question was what advice I’d give my younger self about writing, and I mentioned the best advice I’ve ever gotten, which was from Deep Space Nine producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe on the one occasion that I pitched to the show back in the ’90s: Always approach a story from the perspective of character. Who is affected most by it? What is personally at stake for them? When I thought about it, I realized I was stuck on my current story because I was going about it backward — starting with the high concept and just hoping the characters would emerge as I wrote. But nothing was really coming, and the story wasn’t going the way I wanted. So last night, I decided I needed to apply Wolfe’s lesson and figure out how to give the viewpoint character a personal stake in the plot and the core conflict. Once I figured that out, a new approach for the story emerged quickly, and I’m already making progress on the revised version, though it meant tossing out most of what I’d already written. It also let me solve an outstanding problem with the premise of the story, something that I thought was key to the central idea but required going someplace darker than I was comfortable with, or than I felt was appropriate for this story. The new idea gave me a better, more character-driven way of arriving at the same point of crisis that catalyzes the rest of the story.

The thing is, it’s one of two short stories I’ve come up with for an anthology that’s only open through the end of the month, and not only am I not sure I’ll finish in time, but I’m not sure it’s turning out to be right for that anthology. I’m not too sure of the other one either, and it’s a good deal shorter (and thus would earn less) than this one should turn out to be, but I may decide to try my luck with that one anyway and save this one for another market. We’ll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, I really should be trying harder to look for a job, but it’s hard for me to balance that and writing at the same time, especially with the distraction of my recent hip pain (though I think that’s finally just about gone, knock on wood). Which is problematical, since certain writing projects are still taking longer to pay off than I’d hoped, and I haven’t had much luck selling new stories lately, so my money situation right now is tighter than ever. I know I’ve got a Kickstarter coming up soon for the book, but the problem is one of staying afloat until then. So any more immediate donations would be greatly appreciated — though job offers (e.g. for a copyeditor or transcriptionist) would be even more appreciated.

In the meantime, feel free to submit questions at my Goodreads page, and I’ll try to answer them when and if I can.

Some followup on WILD CYBERS

(Robot and Cover Design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics)Now that the cover art and design are complete, Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman is moving into the final stages. The file has been sent to the printer so advance copies can be printed and sent out to reviewers (and if any professional reviewers reading this are interested, let me know). The exact release date is still being settled — the process seems rather more flexible for small publishers — so for now I can just say it’ll be out in the summer. There will be a Kickstarter campaign to fund the book starting pretty soon, and Kickstarter backers will be the first to receive the book before its general release.

Since I reblogged the cover announcement from eSpec’s WordPress site (first time I’ve ever tried that), I didn’t get to share my thoughts about the cover before. Mike McPhail put it together from a stock illustration for the background and butterfly and a 3D robot model of his own, I gather, with some input from me on the direction we wanted to go in. It’s not a literal depiction of anything in the stories, more a symbolic expression of some of the concepts and themes, but I like that it tells a story of its own, with a robot that could easily seem forbidding and looking somewhat timeworn standing in such a beautiful setting and reaching out in appreciation, like it’s discovering new possibilities. It fits with the general themes I go for in my work — optimistic science fiction that isn’t devoid of struggle and hardship.

My preliminary cover thoughts had been running more in the direction of a montage conveying elements from several stories, maybe something with a more professional rendering of my designs for the aliens in the stories, and ideally highlighting the various heroic women featured in most of the stories — particularly Emerald Blair, who has a brand-new story inside. But that’s a lot to cram into one cover. Better to have a single, striking image that catches your attention enough that you take a closer look, and I think this cover does that.

Only Superhuman MMPB coverIt just now struck me that the Wild Cybers cover is kind of a complement to the Only Superhuman cover. There, you had a vibrant, living feminine figure within a hard, mechanistic environment, her arm extended in an act of aggression, while here, you have a hard, mechanistic masculine-ish figure within a vibrant, living environment, its arm extended in an act of gentleness. They even invert the order of the title and byline. It’s a nice coincidental contrast, since these two books between them encompass the entirety of my published fiction in their universe to date. (Also, both figures have their midriffs set apart in one way or another, and both have pretty well-defined abs…)

Oh, speaking of Only Superhuman, I discovered that some of the interview and essay links on my page for the novel had expired, so I fixed them. Two of them are still online at different addresses, while the third is preserved on the Internet Archive.