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The Hub in hardcopy!

Since I’m a little less broke these days, I finally did something I’ve wanted to do for years, namely to buy a few author copies of the trade paperback editions of Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy and Crimes of the Hub. Of course, I’ve had copies of the e-book editions since they came out, but since the TPBs are print-on-demand, I had to buy them, albeit at an author discount. Here’s what they look like:

Unfortunately, it seems that Hub Space was just a bit too short to qualify for spine text, as seen in the side view of my now-complete original fiction brag shelf:

So I have the satisfaction of finally having hardcopies of all my original books, but I don’t get to see all their titles lined up. Oh, well.

Anyway, since I now have the hardcopies to refer to, I’ve updated my annotations for the books with page numbers for the print edition:

Hub Space Annotations

Crimes of the Hub Annotations

By the way, when I say “complete,” I only mean up to the present. I still hope to do more Hub stories in the future, though I haven’t had time to focus on them lately. I already have an idea for a climax for the series, but I’m not sure how many more stories I want to do before I get there.

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.)

CRIMES OF THE HUB is now in print!

January 23, 2020 5 comments

Once again, it took a few months longer than I expected, but I’m pleased to announce that the second collected volume of the Hub series, Crimes of the Hub, is now out in print-on-demand trade paperback as well as e-books. So far, the TPB is only available through Amazon:

Crimes of the Hub (paperback)

Crimes of the Hub cover

The hapless heroes of Hub Space return with new jobs, new allies, and new adventures at the heart of the galaxy, in a novel expanded and revised from stories originally appearing in Analog.

Just when cynical space pilot Nashira Wing has finally started to enjoy helping David LaMacchia with his clueless quest to crack the secrets of the Hub Network, he’s hijacked by a crew of kittenish thieves and trapped in the treasure vault of a far older civilization. What he finds there gives Nashira a shot at the score of a lifetime—but changes David’s life in ways that threaten their friendship. To keep the devious masters of the Hub from getting their tentacles on Nashira’s prize, she and David must mend frayed relationships and navigate new ones, all while facing adventures in larceny, sex, bureaucracy, hyperspatial geometry, and radical body modification. Can they come through it all with their hearts, their identities, and their dignity intact?

At the moment it’s got a separate entry from the e-book edition, and it isn’t yet on my Amazon author page, but I’ve requested that it be added, and once it has, I’ll try to remember how to request that they merge the listings.

And yes, it just struck me yesterday that I have two consecutive original book releases this year titled Crimes of the Hub and Arachne’s Crime. That’s pure coincidence and I didn’t even notice it before, I guess because they’re in two different universes and subgenres. Looking over my past bibliography, though, a lot of my original SF seems to involve crime, crimefighting, detective work, criminal justice, and the like. Maybe that’s not surprising — given that I don’t have any inclination to write war stories or military fiction, that would tend to leave crime and crimefighting as one of the primary ways of generating adventure, danger, and conflict. It’s interesting that it worked out that both of the consecutive Crime-titled books focus mainly on human “outlaw” characters at odds with alien legal and social systems — though the circumstances are otherwise very different.

And I just now realized another coincidence. Both books’ lead character pairs have similar names — Hub has Nashira Wing and David LaMacchia, Arachne has Stephen Jacobs-Wong and Cecilia LoCarno. And both David and Cecilia are blond, which is unusual for Italians, except in the north, e.g. around Venice where Cecilia comes from (and David’s only half-Italian — just as Stephen is only half Chinese-American). Of course, the original story featuring the Arachne characters was written a dozen years before the first Hub story, and I’ve done a bunch of stuff in between them, so it really is coincidental that they’re ending up getting published so close together. (Also, both pairs include a kind, gentle male lead and a tough, prickly female lead, but that’s a pattern I tend to use deliberately as a contrast to conventional gender norms, so it’s not a coincidence.)

Anyway, it’s still probably a few months before Arachne’s Crime comes out, so do me a favor and buy Crimes of the Hub right away, so there’s more time between them and the similarities don’t stick out as much. Okay? Good.

Site updates and news

Footprints in the StarsOkay, first off, I’ve been informed that the official publication date for Footprints in the Stars has been moved up from October to today. The collection made its debut at Shore Leave last week, but for technical reasons it was necessary to delay its official publication date in order to achieve something that has now ceased to be an issue, so there’s no longer any reason not to release it right away. So I’ve updated the home page to reflect that. It looks like it might take a bit of time for the online vendors to catch up and update their sites, though.

In the meantime, the book’s editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail wants its contributing authors to let reviewers, librarians, and bookstore owners know that Footprints in the Stars (#FootprintsInTheStars) is available for review on #NetGalley from now through July 31 (she told me to use those “hashtag” thingies, though I don’t really know if that makes any difference on WordPress). The link is:

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/168979

I’ve also now put up spoiler annotations for Crimes of the Hub and “The Melody Lingers” (beware spoilers at the links). The Crimes annotations replace my annotation pages for the three individual stories (which are mostly the same with a few minor changes), but it contains links to the original pages for archival purposes (and those pages are still at their original URLs).

I previously reported that the Green Blaze story “Conventional Powers” will be in the September/October 2019 issue of Analog, and I’ve found that it goes on sale August 20. With the official publication date of Footprints moved up, that’s two Troubleshooter stories in two months (even though they’re set nearly 25 years apart)! Since “Powers” is so close now, I’ve added non-spoiler discussion to my Original Short Fiction and (newly renamed) Only Superhuman/Troubleshooters pages. It seems a bit redundant to put discussion of Troubleshooter stories in both places, but since they’re new short fiction, it seems to make sense to put them on the short fiction page, at least until they aren’t new anymore. Of course, there will be spoiler annotations for both Troubleshooter stories going up at some point after their releases.

I’ve also made a couple of tweaks to the look of the site. I figured out I could add an animated slide show of my book covers to the top of the home page, making it a bit more visually striking. It’s kind of hypnotic, and a random slide show of all my covers is a good way to call attention to the full range of my work, including projects that might go overlooked. But it has a couple of problems — it obscures the dropdown menus on the home page, and it doesn’t show up well on my mobile phone. I’d appreciate reader feedback on whether you like the slideshow or not. If it isn’t well-received, I’ll switch to something else like a thumbnail grid.

I also used thumbnail grids to make my main Star Trek Fiction page a bit more compact, with the covers in each series displayed side by side instead of top to bottom. I think it looks a lot better.

There will be more updates to follow!

CRIMES OF THE HUB is out!

Well, it took several months longer than I’d hoped, and I’m a couple of weeks late reporting it, but Crimes of the Hub has finally gone on sale. The sequel to Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy collects the stories “Hubpoint of No Return,” “…And He Built a Crooked Hub,” and “Hubstitute Creatures,” revised, expanded, and blended into a single short novel.

Crimes of the Hub cover

The stock photo site we used for the Hub Space cover has gone out of business in the interim, so we had to “recast” Nashira and David for this cover using images sourced from Shutterstock. But I think the new Nashira model is an improvement, a closer fit to the Lucy Liu-ish appearance I’ve always imagined for the character. It would’ve made more sense for Julio to be the shirtless one (or for all three to be shirtless), but we had to work with the shots that were available.

Here’s the promotional blurb (which will be the back cover blurb once there’s a print edition):

The hapless heroes of Hub Space return with new jobs, new allies, and new adventures at the heart of the galaxy, in a novel expanded and revised from stories originally appearing in Analog.

Just when cynical space pilot Nashira Wing has finally started to enjoy helping David LaMacchia with his clueless quest to crack the secrets of the Hub Network, he’s hijacked by a crew of kittenish thieves and trapped in the treasure vault of a far older civilization. What he finds there gives Nashira a shot at the score of a lifetime—but changes David’s life in ways that threaten their friendship. To keep the devious masters of the Hub from getting their tentacles on Nashira’s prize, she and David must mend frayed relationships and navigate new ones, all while facing adventures in larceny, sex, bureaucracy, hyperspatial geometry, and radical body modification. Can they come through it all with their hearts, their identities, and their dignity intact?

It’s available as an e-book from:

And here’s the book’s Goodreads page if you want to keep track of it there. If you read the book (or any of my other books), please post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads — it helps raise a book’s profile if it gets enough reviews.

I’ll be reworking the individual story annotations for the new format and added material. I’m still figuring out what approach to take there.

In other original fiction news, I’ve been informed that the new Green Blaze story “Conventional Powers” will be in the September/October 2019 issue of Analog. Won’t be long now! So far, this year has seen the release of Star Trek Adventures: The Gravity of the Crime, ST:TOS: The Captain’s Oath, “The Melody Lingers,” Crimes of the Hub, and “The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of,” and still to come we have three more STA campaigns, “Conventional Powers,” and Arachne’s Crime. That’s ten distinct publications in one year, breaking my previous record in 2010!

Announcing CRIMES OF THE HUB, my second Hub book!

It’s time for my first new project announcement for 2019, for certain values of “new.” Fans who’ve followed my posts and notes about last year’s trilogy of Hub stories in Analog are aware that I wrote the three novelettes with an overall story arc, with an eye toward subsequently collecting them in a second e-book/print volume to follow up Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy. It took a couple of years to find a publisher for the first collection and get it put together, but since that relationship with Crossroad Press was already established, I’m able to get the second collection out much sooner after publication.

Crimes of the Hub will collect “Hubpoint of No Return,” “…And He Built a Crooked Hub,” and “Hubstitute Creatures” into one volume. As with the Hub Space collection, Crimes of the Hub adds new material within and between the stories to flesh things out and tie the stories together a bit more, and to offer something new for those who’ve read the original stories in Analog. In Hub Space, I inserted in-universe articles as interludes so that the stories would stand apart more, but this time, since the stories were written as a single arc, I decided to add bridging scenes to make them flow straight into one another, essentially merging them into a fix-up novel. And it is long enough (about 45,000 words, more than a third longer than Hub Space) to qualify as a novel, albeit a short one. Although the original stories are longer than the first three as well, so the percentage of new material is about the same for both books, roughly 13%. It comes out to a whole new chapter bridging the first two stories but only one scene bridging the latter pair (since there’s less of a time jump there), as well as some added or expanded passages within the stories. I also trimmed or rephrased some bits of redundant exposition and moved a few lines around here and there to make it work better as a continuous narrative. But it still tells the same stories with the same dialogue and events, just with more detail and interstitial material added, and with some overlooked typos corrected.

My decision to turn this into more of a short novel than a pure collection is why I decided to call it just Crimes of the Hub instead of Hub Space 2: Crimes of the Hub as I originally planned. Or Crimes of the Hub: More Tales from the Greater Galaxy. Or something like that. I admit I seriously considered calling it Hub Space 2: Galactic Boogaloo.

Since small-press publishing moves fast, it probably won’t be very long before CotH goes on sale. I’ll post ordering info and the cover art as soon as they become available. It will initially be an e-book exclusive, but a print-on-demand edition should be available in time. It takes the publisher a little more time to get the print editions done, but this time the two editions should come out much closer together than the 3-year gap for Hub Space (since print editions weren’t yet available when the book first came out and I was slow to discover they were an option).

So anyway, this will bring my count of original books to four: Only Superhuman, Among the Wild Cybers, and the two Hub volumes. That’s twice what it was nine months ago. I hope it won’t be long before I have even more to announce.

As for the Hub universe, I haven’t yet made any firm plans for a third set of stories, since I’ve been focusing on other stuff. But the better Crimes of the Hub sells, the more motivated I’ll be to work on a continuation, nudge-nudge.

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