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Posts Tagged ‘The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing’

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.

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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!

Another ANALOG story coming — “Twilight’s Captives”

This is threatening to become a regular thing — I’ve sold my seventh story to Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Called “Twilight’s Captives,” it’s a novelette about an interspecies diplomatic crisis in which a tense hostage situation, created and complicated by a fundamental clash of human and alien values, threatens to spark an interstellar war.

Like my previous Analog story, “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad,” this tale is in my main original-SF universe; but it’s centuries further in the future and delves into humanity’s FTL interstellar era, a period that to date has only been peripherally glimpsed in my Buzzy Mag story “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” (and foreshadowed in my long-out-of-print “The Weight of Silence”). This is also only my second published story in that universe to feature sapient aliens, the first being my professional debut, “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” way back in 1998. I’ve developed a number of alien races for my default universe over the years, putting a lot of thought into their evolution and culture and history, but somehow I’ve almost never managed to sell any stories that featured them (in part because I was saving the main ones for novels — a strategy I’ve been reassessing lately). But “Twilight’s Captives” introduces aliens of three distinct types, belonging to two major astropolitical unions. I’m glad I’m finally getting the chance to flesh out this underutilized aspect of my future history.

Like “Cislunar” and “Butterfly’s,” this is actually an older, unsold story that I recently took another stab at, emboldened by my success with those two. But this one required surprisingly little reworking to make the grade — just a little streamlining here and there and a stronger opening paragraph. Which goes to show how important a good beginning is.

The publication date hasn’t been set yet, but I’ll let you know when it is.

I hate computers, and I think it’s mutual

October 16, 2015 7 comments

I posted last month about my computer problems. Since then, I’ve been living with the laptop’s shortcomings as best I could, but this week, I finally decided to take it in to the shop where I’d bought it four years ago, since I had the impression I could maybe get free maintenance there. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone back there, since they haven’t given me a lot of reason to trust in their knowledge or resources in the past. But I was desperate enough to give it a try, and the guy convinced me that I might still be having problems from the malware that infected the laptop a couple of years ago and that I went to another place to clean up. He said the only solution was to wipe the whole thing and reinstall Windows from scratch. I had recently bought a large enough thumb drive to back up my documents and application data, just in case, so I agreed to let him do that, even though it would cost 89 dollars. I asked them not to install Avast as the antivirus, because I had a suspicion it was causing a lot of my problems.

When I got it back, it turned out that they’d upgraded my Windows XP to Vista without asking, since the laptop could run either and nobody supports XP anymore. According to my cousin on Facebook, Vista’s a lousy version of Windows, but I’m kinda stuck with it now. They also didn’t have any antivirus available other than Avast, which they assured me was safe in the stripped-down free version they install, so I reluctantly agreed to let them install that and see what happened. It actually does seem to lack the particular avastSvc.exe application that was demanding so many resources from my CPU before. Still, they waited until just before closing time to tell me their credit-card machine was broken and I’d have to pay cash. If they’d told me when they started to install the antivirus, I could’ve gone to the ATM and back before they closed. Instead, I had to come back the next morning to pay.

And I needed to, because the computer worrisomely rebooted itself spontaneously a few hours after I got it back. I hoped the guy could diagnose the problem, but all he could tell me was that he’d done a hardware check and found no problems. I also later discovered that the scroll bar on the side of my laptop’s touchpad no longer works, although the one on my main keyboard that I plug into the laptop when working at home is still working. At least it hasn’t spontaneously rebooted again.

But last night, Firefox froze my computer again, just like it was doing before. The 89-dollar reinstallation did not fix the main problem I needed it to fix. Even though it’s a completely new installation of Windows and Firefox and everything, the same problem is happening. And apparently their warranty only covers hardware, not software or labor, so I don’t think getting my money back is an option. Which sucks, since my latest novel advance check is overdue and money’s a bit tight for me at the moment. Which is why I’m not just buying a new laptop — though I’m starting to seriously think about it anyway.

Although the freeze didn’t seem to happen until I upgraded to the latest edition of Flash. I’ve heard that Flash is a bad program and should be removed, but I’m not sure how to do that, and several sites were giving me error messages about disabling the outdated Flash that came with the install, so I figured it would work as a stopgap, at least. Now I’m wondering if it caused the freeze, given the timing. But it could be coincidence. Anyway, I need to figure out how to uninstall Flash. I gather that Firefox is supposed to natively support HTML5 to play videos and that I don’t need Flash anyway. But some pages seem to say that there are sites that still use Flash by default and you have to do something or other to force them to use HTML5 and it’s all just so confusing!

Indeed, the whole reason I took it to the shop was because all this computer stuff is confusing to me and I hoped they would have the knowledge to fix my software problems for me. Instead, they just fell back on a few basic, broad-strokes moves, and I’m now slightly worse off than I was before. I don’t think I’d gain anything by going back there to ask for more help. I gave up on that place a long time ago and it was only in desperation that I tried going back there again, and it turned out poorly.

Granted, there was also the problem with the Thunderbird mail client erasing my outgoing mails, which may or may not have been fixed (I haven’t gotten around to testing it) — but I’ve decided I need to get a different client anyway, or just rely on webmail. Thunderbird has never gotten along with Gmail, and I can’t even remember the trick I used to get it to accept my Gmail account the first time. I’ve frequently been getting “invalid certificate” error boxes when Thunderbird tries to access my Gmail account (which I hardly use anyway, except as my logon for Google sites and cloud memory) and it’s very frustrating, because they keep cropping up despite every attempt to get the program to “permanently store this exception.” Plus Thunderbird seems to be demanding a lot of CPU usage. I’ve tried looking into alternative mail client programs, ones I can get for free, but I haven’t quite settled on a good one. (I wish Eudora were still around. That was my preferred client for a long time.)

So in short, my computer problems have not been fixed. I still don’t trust Firefox, and Netflix and Hulu videos play even worse on Chrome than they did before the reinstall. Ideally I need a new laptop, but in the meantime I’d appreciate any advice my readers could offer.

As if the computer woes weren’t bad enough, I’ve been dealing with other frustrations lately too. I finally found out that the watch manufacturer hadn’t repaired my watch band yet because they couldn’t find a replacement. I knew that type of band was no longer being sold separately, but I saw that new watches with that band were still being sold, so I expected the manufacturer would be able to supply a band or maybe just substitute a new watch. But they’d gotten nowhere, so I just asked them to send my watch back as it was. I got it back a week later, with the band even more broken than before (in transit, I guess). And I shopped online for a replacement band. The ones the company still offers for that model are the same kind of resin band that I disliked on my old watch (which I’ve been wearing as a stopgap for the past month or so) because they’re so fragile and prone to breakage — which makes no sense, because it’s supposed to be a super-durable, shock-resistant watch. The one I had before was a nylon band, but with resin attachments to the watch body, and it was the resin part that split. So I went shopping for nylon bands of the right size from different manufacturers, and I’ve ordered one that looks pretty good, though it won’t merge as smoothly with the “lugs” of the watch (the sticky-out metal bits that the band attaches to). I’m still waiting for that to arrive.

Also, I’ve been trying to rework an old, unsold original story for the umpteenth time. I’d given up on it years ago, but since I was able to salvage and sell a couple of other old unsold stories in the past couple of years (“The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” and the upcoming “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad”), I figured maybe I could save this one too. But so far, it’s still frustrating me. I was trying to tighten it up, both to make it flow better and to make it short enough for markets with a 10,000-word cutoff, but my attempts to combine scenes somehow ended up adding length, so I didn’t trim as much as I’d hoped. I tried cutting out the first scene and starting deeper in the story, but the new first scene has too much telling and not enough showing, and it needs a lot of work to function as an opening. Last night, I decided to abandon it and move on to another project. But maybe that was just my depression about the computer talking, because this morning, I thought of some fixes that might work. Still, it’s an iffy proposition, and I’m not in a great mood to tackle it right now.

Well, tonight is a reception for the author guests of Books by the Banks, and the public event is tomorrow. Hopefully getting to meet some of my fellow authors and readers will cheer me up.

“The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” now available on Buzzy Mag! (Updated)

I’m happy to report that my new novelette “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” has now gone live on Buzzy Mag‘s site, a day ahead of schedule. Here’s the link:

http://buzzymag.com/caress-butterflys-wing-christopher-l-bennett/

And here’s their description:

A tale of love and transhumanism in a remote and dangerous star system. There has been a division in humanity due to a horrendous accident, followed by an even more divisive war. The chasm between those two halves seem unbridgeable. Suddenly due to unforeseen circumstance, the chance to reconnect becomes a real possibility.

And they’ve been kind enough to post ordering links to Only Superhuman and The Buried Age at the bottom of the story. I appreciate that, since sales of OS have pretty much stalled; in fact, the mass-market paperback is out of print, although there is a print-on-demand trade paperback edition available as well as the e-book edition. Buzzy’s link is to the TPB ordering page, which hopefully would raise its profile a little. Which would be good, since it looks like TPB and e-book sales are the only prospects I have for earning future royalties on the book.

My home page has been updated (belatedly) with background info on the story, and I’ll try to get annotations done before too long. UPDATE: The annotations are now online. I don’t like to link directly to spoiler notes, so click the background info link, and you’ll find the annotations link there.

Please spread the word about the story on the social media outlets of your choice!

New Sherlock Holmes essay on Locus Roundtable; Publication date revealed for “Butterfly’s Wing”

Announcements about two things what I wrote:

First, the editor of Locus Roundtable, the blog of the Locus Online webzine, invited me to write a column for him on whatever subject I wanted, and I submitted an essay comparing the two current Sherlock Holmes television series, “The Problem with Sherlock in a Post-Elementary World.” Its publication is a bit delayed so it’s not as timely as it was when I first conceived it, but at least it’s finally out there. Since I neglected to mention it in the essay itself, I want to thank fellow local author and Holmes expert Dan Andriacco for offering some useful information about Holmes’s screen history which I mentioned in the article.

Second, the folks at Buzzy Mag have informed me of the publication date for my novelette “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing,” which I announced back in April. The story is scheduled to go out on November 14, 2014. It’s already been through the first stage of editing, and I feel that editor Laura Anne Gilman’s story notes have helped me improve the tale considerably.

I’ve sold a novelette! “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing”

I’m pleased to announce the sale of an original novelette, “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing,” to the online magazine Buzzy Mag. It’s a transhumanist love story set in a young, distant star system where human castaways have transformed themselves to survive among the asteroids. It may sound a bit similar to the setting of Only Superhuman — and in fact it’s set in the same overall universe — but the transhumanism here goes much farther than anything in Emerald Blair’s world.

I’m particularly pleased because this is a story I originally wrote a long time ago, around the time of my earliest sales to Analog, but was never quite able to get into a sellable condition. I got a slew of rejection letters from editors telling me it was a beautiful, poignant tale but didn’t quiiiite work for them, and I couldn’t figure out how to get it over that last barrier. Eventually I realized that, on top of that, I’d made some scientific mistakes in my portrayal of the setting, so I shelved it until I could figure out how to resolve both problems. And that’s where things stood for quite a while. But last year, I tried revising it to submit to a themed anthology that I felt it might work for, and I noticed a couple of plot problems I hadn’t spotted before and reworked the story to fix them. It didn’t quite fit the anthology, as it turned out, but apparently the revisions did the trick, since Buzzy Mag bought it. I’m really glad that the story will finally see the light of day after all these years.

This will be my fifth published work in my “default” universe, after “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” “The Weight of Silence,” and Only Superhuman. It doesn’t really have any direct connections to any of the others, though — it’s too far removed in space and time for that. But it’s one more small step to fleshing out that universe and maybe, eventually, building it into a more unified whole. It’s also my first published default-universe tale since 2000 to be set outside the Sol System.

The publication date for “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” hasn’t been determined yet, but I’ll announce it once it’s set.