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Do you want more information about my visit to Stockholm this month? Check out this link.

If you scroll down, you’ll see this:

Vinn en middagsdejt med Ann Leckie!
SF-Bokhandeln bjuder på en middag med Ann Leckie och representant från SF-Bokhandeln efter hennes signering hos oss. Vill du passa på att prata rymden, sf och allt annat med en av sf-världens intressantaste hjärnor?
Mejla [davidb at] och bifoga ett exempel på en fråga du vill ställa till Ann!

Which the “translate this” button renders as

Win a dinner date with Ann Leckie!
Sf Bookstore to buy me a dinner with Ann Leckie and representative from sf bookstore after her signing with us. Do you want to take the opportunity to talk space, sf and everything else with one of the sf-the world’s most interesting brains?
E-mail [davidb at] and attach an example of a question you would like to ask Ann!

I know, probably everyone who would be able to enter the contest could read the Swedish, but.

Anyway, check it out!

I just got an email from a person–who shall remain nameless–curious about why I might have blocked them on Twitter. I had a spare moment while tea was brewing and decided to reply. Having done so, I thought it might be worth linking to my blog post about Twitter and also posting my reply (without any identifying information).

I don’t block people for not liking my book. In fact, I’m friends with several people (on Twitter and in real life) who don’t like my book.
I block people who annoy me or who strike me as potential annoyances, not just people who tweet at me. I make no apology for this–I’m on Twitter to hang with my friends, not be annoyed. And with the exception of my friends and family, no one is entitled to any more of my attention than I wish to give them, on Twitter or anywhere else, and in the past few years the number of people demanding my attention has increased tremendously. My experience of Twitter is much more pleasant for me since I began blocking very freely.
I don’t recognize your name, so I have no idea what you might have tweeted that would have led to my blocking you. It might easily have been a random tweet in a conversation that I happened to see while I was in a bad mood. I honestly don’t know–though your putting “award winning” in quotes in your email, as though the awards weren’t legitimate or real, suggests some possibilities to me.
You are, of course, perfectly entitled to whatever opinion you might have about my book and its many awards. You are also perfectly entitled to express those opinions. I have no obligation to pay attention to them.
May your next read be more congenial to you.
Ann Leckie

TLDR–I block people on Twitter who annoy me. If I’ve blocked you and you’re curious as to why, this is why. It might have been a trivial thing, it might have been something big, who knows? It isn’t necessarily any sort of judgement about you as a person, just me curating my twitter stream for my own use and convenience.

Heads up! I’ll be in Oslo on February 19 and 20, and Stockholm on February 21.

The Oslo stop is at Outland Comic Book Store, February 20, 2016 at 2pm, like it says on the blog sidebar. I’m probably also going to be at the public library talking about AI on the 19th, but I don’t have details about that yet. Then the next day, the 21st of February, I go to Sweden! Or specifically, Science Fiction Bokhandeln in Stockholm at 3pm.

Check out the links for more complete information. I plan to try to bring pins with me, by the way. I’m looking forward to this, it should be great fun!

So, a lot of people have already weighed in on the brief twitterburst the other day, when Neil Gaiman, in a well-intended tweet encouraging folks to apply to Clarion, made an unfortunate choice of words. The things I’d have said first off have mostly been said. (Disclaimer–I went to Clarion West in 2005 and found it to be a transformative experience. It is, however, not for everyone, not necessarily good for everyone who applies or attends, and not a possible choice for everyone who might want it or benefit from it.)

In the followup to that, though, I’ve seen a few comments about how the original tweet was obviously hyperbole and people were overreacting and mobbing Gaiman and it was just another example of pointless twitter outrage.

So. For starters, Gaiman? Can safely ignore most of what went down on Twitter in the past few days. He stands in a position of amazing privilege on that score (and on several others, but those aren’t at issue right now).

But many of the people speaking out the other day cannot safely ignore Gaiman. His status is such that even casual statements of his carry weight. And writing (at least, writing fiction, at least, among the writers I know, which at this point is a considerable number) is fraught with all sorts of anxieties. I don’t know many writers who aren’t neurotic about their writing in some way, and the rest are probably just hiding it well.

You develop different ways to cope with those anxieties–you have to. You have to have some kind of psychological defense against rejection, and eventually, if you’re lucky, bad reviews. You have to find some way to persevere in the face of constant apparent failure, because it can take years, sometimes decades, from first sitting down to write seriously until your first sale. You have to find some way to continue on in the face of writers who sell in their first couple of years out, who hit big with their first novel, while you’re still typing away with, you think (possibly incorrectly–keyword: neurotic) little to show for it, and what do they have that you don’t?

One of the handiest ways to do this is to assign whatever rejections/bad reviews you can to the Inconsequential bin. “That’s one reviewer, what do they know?” or “That’s just one story hitting one editor at the wrong time.”

There are people (or particular submission situations) that are difficult if not impossible to assign to that bin, though. Your personal heroes. People of very high status in the field. Prestigious publications or workshops. Much, much harder to say those rejections or negative comments mean nothing, when they’re so widely vested with such significance. Any given writer’s cry of protest at one of those doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t take rejection or bad reviews generally, or don’t have the fortitude to deal with life as a writer. It means that this particular situation is beyond the edge of where they can currently pretend it doesn’t matter.

I’m at a place now where I can consign nearly anything to the Insignificant bin. One star reviews at goodreads or amazon? If I happen to see them, they generally make me laugh. On the rare occasion that a negative comment does truly get under my skin, I can dry my tears with the cloth I use to dust my awards, and console myself with a stop for ice cream on the way to the bank to deposit my royalty checks. I can afford to be amused at most things I see, and pay no attention to any of it unless I want to. It would take a disparaging remark from one of my personal heroes to cause any noticeable pain.

Three or four years ago this would not have been the case. Three or four years ago a couple of close-timed rejections could leave me contemplating giving up. And I had it easier than many–my whole family, from when I was small, had encouraged me to write and constantly validated the idea that I could be a writer. I had a degree from a fairly prestigious university and no debt from that degree (because my parents were employees at that university). I grew up speaking a prestige dialect of American English. I had (still have!) a super-supportive husband with a decently-paying job. My children were (and Mithras willing will continue to be) both healthy. I myself have so far been able-bodied, and not in need of much (if any) help or accommodation. And with all that, it was hard.

Imagine if I’d had even more piled on. A family, maybe, who didn’t understand or care about or actively opposed my wanting to write. Bigger financial difficulties. Health problems, or family members who needed my constant attendance and care. What if I lived outside the US?

What if, on top of all of it, a writer I looked up to, with very high status in the field, quite casually said that I NEEDED something to be a writer that I knew I could never have?


Now, Gaiman has no obligation to worry about the emotional states of every new or struggling writer. He can quite easily ignore a day’s cloudburst on twitter. But a lot of struggling or aspiring writers? Can’t ignore him as easily. And by speaking, they send a message to other, silent folks on the sidelines–don’t let this stop you, do your best to put this tweet in your Insignificant bin, keep writing.

This is, by the way, part of the reason I absolutely despise the “discourage aspiring writers, because if they’re really writers they’ll write anyway” thing. Who the fuck is anyone to decide who is or isn’t meant to be a writer, who does or doesn’t want it badly enough? Fuck that. It’s hard enough in the best of circumstances, nobody needs that extra noise. Help where you can, and let people decide for themselves. But that’s a whole other rant, and I have things to do today.

I found The Poetics of Science Fiction on and downloaded it and am mostly enjoying it and learning things from it.

Stopping to note, though, the section on Pulpstyle, which is actually pretty cool and illuminating in a few ways (specifically comments about the use and effects of particular pulpy techniques). But then–

More noticeable than these stock lexical variations are adverbial qualifications to reporting-clause verbs. This addition of adverbials helped the pulp writer to earn an extra few half-cents. Characters rarely just say or sigh or mutter something; they do it „meditatively‟, „savagely‟, „bitterly‟, „softly‟, „curtly‟, „briskly‟, „carefully‟, „doubtfully‟, „uncomfortably‟, „profoundly‟, „heavily‟, „dispassionately‟, „beatifically‟, „urgently‟, „tiredly‟, „unhappily‟, „drily‟, „unsympathetically‟, and so on. Even more profitably, pulp writers often expanded adverbial qualification into an entire extended phrase, so characters do things „hurriedly and efficiently‟, „slowly and thoughtfully‟, „extending his arms in a similar gesture‟, „in Rod Blake‟s voice‟, „between a cough and a sneeze‟, „sighting the ion-gun at the nine flapping, rapidly vanishing things scuttling across the red dusty planet‟, and so on.

Now, this stylistic feature is inarguably part of the described style. He goes on to quote a few sentences:

Blake stared. He stared with steady blank gaze at that perfectly impossible Japanese maple. He gawked dumbly.


Rod Blake sat down and laughed. He laughed, and laughed again.


“Let’s move.”

They moved. They moved hastily back across the sand dunes to the ship.

The author here explains this as a product of the writers wanting to make more money–they were, after all, being paid by the word, and therefore had no incentive to be efficient, and on the contrary plenty of incentive to pad things out.

Here’s the thing. Publications that pay by the word don’t generally just want huge-ass manuscripts. They have upper limits–either explicitly stated in their guidelines, or unstated but definitely influencing what they’re likely to buy and publish. When you’re writing for such a publication, there’s no percentage in needlessly padding out your story for a couple extra cents. In my experience, you’re far more likely to be ruthlessly economizing, slashing whatever you can to fit your story in the amount of space you have.

And speaking just from my own experience, these examples don’t sound like deliberate padding to me. They sound like hurried writing. In fact, they all remind me very much of the more egregious examples on display in the work of Lionel Fanthorpe, who rather notoriously wrote whole novels over a period of days, hundreds in the space of a few years, mostly by, from what I can tell, free-associating into a tape recorder and passing that off to someone else to type out.

And I gather the writers for these pulps weren’t making their money on the extra cent or two in every ms–they were making it by sending out as many stories as they could to as many magazines as would buy their work. They had to write quickly and efficiently–no long and careful polishing for the successful pulp writer!

And editors aren’t–weren’t–stupid. They had a certain amount of money to spend, a certain number of pages to fill, and readers to satisfy. The whole “it was so long because he was paid by the word” thing is just foolish–the editor would reject it or if you were lucky cut it down or demand you cut it down to within acceptable limits. And the result needed to be something the magazine’s readership would probably enjoy, or at least enjoy enough to be willing to buy the next issue, otherwise the magazine would lose readers and hence advertising dollars.

No, those repetitions and extra words are more likely due to super-fast writing, by people who weren’t (yet, or ever destined to be) very good writers, who were typing on paper that cost them money to begin with and a fair amount of effort to make corrections on, and who had a pressing need to finish the story and get a new blank page onto the platen ASAP.

Seriously, I’m enjoying this book, but I do wish the “it’s padded out because they were paid by the word” thing would be seen for the foolishness it is.

Like it says in the sidebar on my website (look to the right if you’re reading this on, I’ll be at ConFusion! And I have a schedule:

Friday 7:00:00 PM Opening Ceremonies
Welcome to Back to the ConFusion! Meet our GoHs and special guests!
Anna Carey, Jessica Zerwas, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ann Leckie, Cameron McClure, Gordon Smith, Kelley Armstrong
Friday 8:00:00 PM Dessert Reception
A meet and greet with our GoHs. Mix, mingle, and enjoy some sweet treats.
Kentaro Toyama, Anna Carey, Jessica Zerwas, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ann Leckie, Cameron McClure, Gordon Smith, Kelley Armstrong
Saturday 10:00:00 AM Science Fiction vs. Fantasy: Who Prospers?
Ted Chiang once postulated that the difference between science fiction and fantasy is who has access to the impossibility. Does a knowable universe whose laws anyone can learn, and everyone has to work within, offer a more egalitarian vision than a world of destiny and fate? Or is it difficult to imagine even a science fictional world in which the future is evenly distributed?
Douglas Hulick, Bradley P. Beaulieu (M), Andrew Zimmerman, Ann Leckie, Kentaro Toyama
Saturday 3:00:00 PM Interview: Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie, Subterranean Special Guest and recent New York Times bestseller, interviewed by her first editor–John Scalzi
John Scalzi (M), Ann Leckie
Saturday 4:00:00 PM Autograph Session 1
Saturday 6:00:00 PM It’s the Economy Stupid
National economies are complicated. Far more complicated than Dark Lords and Evil Queens. Nevertheless, books like James SA Corey’s The Expanse series and Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor manage to use economic pressures to create compelling motivations and narrative tension. What are the essential parts for a story built around economics? What’s appealing about these kinds of stories and do the resonate more today than they did a decade ago?
Carl Engle-Laird, Max Gladstone, Kameron Hurley (M), Ann Leckie, Brent Weeks
Sunday 12:00:00 PM Repudiating the Replicator
Driven, perhaps, by Star Trek’s replicator and the utilitarian mush of NASA space travel, food in a science fictional setting has been criminally overlooked and underdeveloped. Why has this become the dominant narrative? How should food be used to world build a science fiction story? What stories have used food effectively?
Lawrence Schoen, Elizabeth Shack (M), Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ann Leckie, Adam Rakunas
Sunday 3:00:00 PM Closing Ceremonies
Time to bid another ConFusion good-bye. Join us to wrap up an amazing weekend.
Anna Carey, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Jessica Zerwas, Ann Leckie, Kelley Armstrong

Actually I’m not a hundred percent sure about the Closing Ceremonies, given the timing of my flight home. We’ll see.

At any rate, I look forward to seeing folks there! I plan to have pins and badge ribbons, so stop by and say hi!

I am cleaning and organizing my tea cupboard because SHUT UP I DON’T HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE YOU HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE that’s why. Also, it had gotten to be quite a disorganized mess and I wasn’t sure what I still had. (Yes, the cats are up next, just gotta remember where I stowed the dust buster.)

Anyway. I came across a sad reminder of They were an online tea seller, and they had an East Frisian Broken Blend that was my go-to super nice and chewy for putting milk in tea, and they had a lovely, very grapefruity earl grey.

And they had something called Thé Blanc de Cassis. The ingredients label says “Organic white tea, flavoring, cranberries, mallow flowers.” It was the best. Very subtle–slightly flowery, slightly fruity. So one day, when my supply was low, I went to the website to order more.

And discovered that Teavana had bought them. And shut them down. And, of course, not picked up any of the stuff they’d sold. I did look into Teavana’s offerings, and the folks at the nearest one did try to help me, but with very few exceptions Teavana’s flavored teas are all so freaking sweet and fruity that I wonder sometimes if anyone who buys their stuff actually likes, you know, tea. Maybe they’d be happier with some juice or flavored bottled water? I don’t know, whatever makes them happy I guess, and perhaps the answer lies in the way, when they ring up your Teavana purchase, instead of saying, “That will be [outrageous sum],” they say, “Your investment in your health and wellness comes to…” Um, no. Please, just don’t.

Of course, I might be more tolerant of such foolishness if they would sell me some more Thé Blanc de Cassis. I just came across the last little bit of it, that’s been in a cannister since I discovered I couldn’t get more. Maybe three or four cups worth. It’s been ages since Specialteas closed, and every time I would look at it I would think “but I can’t get more so if I drink it it’ll be gone for good.” I suspect it’s completely flavorless by now, and not drinking it isn’t changing the fact that I can’t get more. So I guess I’ll have a cup now and drink the rest up soonish and free that space on the shelf. And nurse my continuing resentment against Teavana.

Any folks who blend and sell tea, though–if you’ve got a white tea/cranberries/mallow flower blend that’s not super sweet and fruity, or might offer one in the future, well, I might just be your target customer.

*And yes, if Adagio offered mallow flowers as a possible custom blend ingredient I’d have done that and bought the hell out of it.

So, the other day I tweeted that I was in possession of some Instant Yak Butter Tea.

So, yak butter tea. It’s a Tibetan thing. I’ve actually attempted to make something approximating it before, only with cow’s milk, since that was all I could get my hands on. I did have a cake of pu ehr, though, so I didn’t use Lipton (though to be honest if I hadn’t had the pu ehr I wouldn’t have gone with Lipton, I’d have grabbed whatever loose leaf black tea I had on the shelf that I thought would hold up to a long steeping). It was…well, it was not appetizing. Part of that was the salt. Part of it was, I think, the thought that I was drinking butter.

But. When I discovered that I could buy actual Instant Yak Butter Tea, I knew I’d have to get some and try it. I mean, I don’t have the same tea-research needs that I used to, before I finished the Ancillary Trilogy, but I’m generally attracted to foods and drinks I’ve never tried before. And it was entirely likely that my attempt at butter tea was not a good (or even acceptable) example of it.


2015-12-23 14.17.40

The tea is a powder that comes in little packets. Kind of like serbat wangi. (You’ve never had serbat wangi? It’s good! Very sweet, too sweet for me to drink it often, but it’s good. Kind of spicy.) Or like the “chrysanthemum beverage” I found on the shelf near the serbat wangi (but that, I did not like).

There are English instructions on the package, which basically say to dissolve a packet in a cup of hot water. The Yunnan Sourcing page also suggests adding it to a cup of pu ehr tea.

2015-12-23 14.18.39

So, how did it taste? Well. Hmm. It’s…it’s not goaty exactly, because goat milk is a pretty distinctive flavor, but it’s sort of similar. Kind of. Sort of cheesish? Kind of? Which, I like cheese, but I’m still undecided how I feel about cheese in my tea. Or salt. It’s…I don’t know. I really don’t.

Who knows, it may turn out like Marmite did for me. One of my college roommates brought some Marmite back from a trip she took to the UK, way back in, gosh, this would have to have been the very late eighties? And she told me that the first time she encountered Marmite, she picked up the jar, looked at what was in it, smelled it, decided it had gone off, whatever it was, and threw it away. So she would understand if I didn’t like it. She put some on toast and gave it to me. And I was like, “Yeah, wow, I see why you threw this in the trash.”

About a week later I was walking to work and was suddenly struck with a desire to have toast and Marmite. Seriously. It’s delicious. In fact, I think I need to get myself a jar of Marmite soon.

So, maybe next week I’ll be walking along and suddenly just need to have a cup of yak butter tea. But, hmm. Yeah. I don’t know.

Oh oh oh, you guys, I forgot one of the coolest things! In my defense, there were a lot of incredibly cool things this year!

Anyway. So, last year I know that a couple of college professors/instructors assigned Ancillary Justice as part of a course. That was a definite achievement unlocked thing, right?

But this year, Professor Richard Fry at SIUE taught Introduction to Philosophy, which–here, I’ll give you the course description:

By reading speculative fiction, we come to see more clearly both how our lives are and how they should be. Philosophy, as a discipline, pursues closely related questions and lines of thought. In this course, we will use a novel to jump-start our thinking about our selves and the wider world around us. It will serve as a starting point for conversations about language, minds, gender, emotion, politics, civilization, surveillance and individuality, among other issues. We will read our novel in tandem with scholarly philosophical work both historical and contemporary. You will be assessed primarily through written papers. No antecedent familiarity with speculative fiction is required or expected.

Three guesses what that novel was. The first two guesses may or may not count.

Right? Right???

So, while I don’t live in Edwardsville, it’s really not that long of a drive from St. Louis. So in early December I visited the class. Or, the classes, since there were two sections. They were a great bunch of students, and had great questions for me, some of them ones I’d answered before, and some that were entirely new to me. But I was really impressed with the way they were engaged with the class, and with the book. I had a great time! I’m really glad I was able to do that.

Also, I mean. Seriously. Right?

Now, I didn’t ever at any time have the ambition to have my book taught in philosophy class. In fact, one student asked me that–did I start out with a message or a list of philosophical ideas? And no, I did not. I started out wanting to tell a cool story, the kind of book that would make me go “Oooh this is exactly the sort of thing I like” if I found it at the bookstore. But, you know. I can’t say I mind the book being used for class, and I absolutely do not mind that the result was these students were definitely interested and thinking about philosophy. How did I forget that in my year summary post yesterday? Because that is just so utterly awesome.