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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.

This has been a pretty excellent year for me! When I list the stuff of mine that’s been published, it doesn’t look like a lot. But I did a lot this year!

First and foremost, of course, Ancillary Mercy came out. It finishes the trilogy, though I’m not done with that universe, which is a nice large one and suitable for nearly anything I feel like doing in.

Ancillary Mercy has gotten a lot of nice reviews, and much to my delighted amazement it hit the New York Times Best Seller List. It is, of course, available at fine booksellers everywhere. But none of that is news to regular readers of this blog.

Also published this year, the novelette “Another Word for World” in the anthology Future Visions. You should be able to download the antho for free at that link. The story is also going to be reprinted in a few Years Best anthologies, including Neil Clarke’s new entry into the YB field and the volume edited by Gardner Dozois. There… might be another one but I haven’t seen that ToC announced yet, so.

Also published in 2015 (but not for the first time) Uncanny Magazine reprinted my fantasy story “The Nalendar”, which originally appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in 2008.

And Forever Magazine reprinted “The Endangered Camp,” which first appeared in Clockwork Phoenix 2 in 2008.

Other things that happened this year: Ancillary Sword won the BSFA! That was super exciting, actually. I figured most voters, no matter how much they liked Sword, would figure I got more than enough recognition last year. And to be entirely honest, that’s a completely valid position to hold. I was super chuffed at the nomination. And that wasn’t all–Sword was nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo as well! And the Hugo nom–well, that was in circumstances that made it clear that a flattering number of readers had a very high opinion of it. So I got to enjoy the Nebs and the Hugos in a very low-stress way–I was pretty sure my book wasn’t going to win–and to happily applaud the results of both.

I went on an actual tour! Thankfully Orbit sent me along with Greg Bear, whose book Killing Titan came out the same day as Mercy. I cannot tell you how glad I am of that. Greg and Astrid were great fun to travel with, and on top of that I got to tour with someone who’d done it before and knew how it all went. I got to meet lots of readers, some of whom gave me lovely gifts in addition to just being their wonderful selves. It was exhausting but wonderful.

I was an actual invited GoH at ICON! I meant to write a post just about ICON and what a great time I had. They took fabulous care of me, everything went wonderfully and I had a great weekend. I met quite a few people I had wanted to meet in person for a while, met even more people who I hadn’t known I wanted to meet but absolutely did, and it was just a lovely convention all around.

I haven’t been keeping the blog post with the list of translations of Ancillary Justice up to date, and I really need to. Quite a few were published in the last year, including Japanese, which came out just a few weeks ago and I gather has already gone for a second printing.

And there’s fanfic! I don’t read the fanfic, but I have to admit that I check the number every now and then. It’s up to fifty-four! And there’s fan art.

So, all in all a really exciting and wonderful year! Much of it due to my readers, who are fabulous. Honestly I can’t thank you all enough.

I will leave you with this holiday-appropriate Origami Tauroctony that my daughter made quite a few years ago:


Happy Dies Natalis Solis Invicti!

Here, have some tweets from me.

This didn’t used to be an issue for me, as I say in the first of those tweets. I spent most of my first year or two on Twitter talking to my friends, or maybe making some new ones–mostly friends of friends, right? I had maybe a couple hundred followers, who I mostly also followed. And even at that level it was difficult to keep up.

Then Ancillary Justice came out. I now have nearly eight thousand followers. It would be beyond pointless for me to follow all or even most of those–I couldn’t possibly pay attention to even a significant fraction of that, and I’d likely entirely miss anything from my actual friends–which is mostly what I follow Twitter for to begin with.

Now, I do look at my mentions, and not infrequently reply to those in some way. I do enjoy doing that. But every now and then, someone will turn up in my mentions in some way that’s very clearly designed to get my attention in a particular way–the tweeter wants me to notice their book, or asks explicitly that I follow them back (and they’re not someone I already know). I’m going to be honest, this irritates me. No offense, right? They’re obviously using Twitter as a promotional tool, where I’m using it to hang with people. This is mostly fine with me, in the abstract, I’ve got no problem with publicity or promotion. In the concrete and specific, I’d suggest that approaching promotion on Twitter as largely a question of amassing a lot of followers who you can then tweet to about your book is, perhaps, not as effective as you imagine it might be. I’ll also suggest that, if you want to engage the interest of someone with a lot of twitter followers, whose retweets or conversations with you might bring you the visibility you’re after, you might want to do your research about who that person is and why they have those followers, and not try to engage them with generic questions, let alone passive-aggressive tweets meant to guilt or provoke that person into replying or following back. But, you know, it’s your call, your life, your Twitter feed. And I’m totally okay with using the block and mute buttons whenever it seems convenient. (That would be the way the “react badly” mentioned in the tweets above usually manifests itself.)

I do follow people back who I know in real life (though not always, sometimes I have a reason for not following back or I’ve missed the follow). And I do often respond to mentions, even if only to heart something that amuses me. But I don’t always respond, and I don’t consider myself to have any particular obligation to respond, to be entirely honest, and nothing will take the shine off someone’s @ing me like their acting as though they are entitled to my attention.

And–this ought to go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway–I block the tweeters of abusive or offensive tweets, without saying anything more about it. To be entirely honest, I’ll block the senders of such tweets even if they haven’t sent them to me, and I’ve just happened across them in a conversation. The begging for follow-backs I describe above doesn’t fall into this category, of course, but I still ignore or mute it.

Seriously, I tweet to hang with my friends, and I enjoy answering questions or hearting or retweeting comments from my readers when I have a chance to. I love sharing things my readers have made, like fan art, or silly jokes. Occasionally I’ll tweet announcements about my stories or books. That’s how I use it, and you’re free to use Twitter however you like. Just don’t expect that I’ll play along.

I am signing on to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Convention Accessibility Pledge. I’m doing it in this blog post because I think it’s important as many people as possible are aware of this issue.

I’m not going to pull out of convention appearances that I’ve already committed to. (And as it happens, ConFusion and Vericon have both assured me they’re taking accessibility issues seriously, so kudos to them.) But going forward, I will only attend cons that meet the (let’s be honest, pretty minimal) criteria outlined in MRK’s post:

  • The convention has an accessibility statement posted on the website and in the written programs offering specifics about the convention’s disability access.

  • The convention has at least one trained accessibility staff member with easy to find contact information. (There are numerous local and national organizations that will help with training.)

  • The convention is willing and able to make accommodations for its members as it tries to be as accessible as possible. (We recommend that the convention uses the Accessibility Checklist for SFWA Spaces as a beginning guideline. Other resources include Fans for Accessible Cons, A Guide for Accessible Conferences, and the ADA rules for places of public accommodation, which apply to US conventions.)
  • This shouldn’t be an issue, in the US. Hotels and convention centers are already required by law to provide accommodations like ramps and lifts. It doesn’t take that much extra effort to assume you’ll have folks with mobility issues attending your con, and to say so to the hotel when you’re talking about how things will be set up.

    I’ve heard complaints that this is just too expensive–well, you’re already shelling out for the facility itself. That is, in fact, a kind of accommodation. Why not just have your con out in a park? That would be uncomfortable and inconvenient for a lot of congoers, right? Especially in bad weather. But imagine if a convention insisted that paying for an indoor facility was just too expensive and would drive up the cost of membership? Imagine the indignation.

    But having a con inside a dry, heated and/or cooled building with sufficient space for people to move around and stairs between floors is in fact an accommodation. We just don’t think of it as one, since we’re used to seeing that particular attention to our needs and comfort as normal and understandable and worth going to some effort to ensure. And yes, stairs are an accommodation. What, you can’t climb up that rope ladder to the next floor?

    Claims that arranging in advance to have some ramps or lifts on standby is just too much trouble or expense are, frankly, claims that the needs and comfort of members who need them just don’t matter to you.

    And let’s consider the question of the $800 charge for a ramp at World Fantasy. That was a quote for a last-minute request for a ramp–likely if WFC had told the facility in advance that they’d need one, it would have been much less, or possibly even not an extra charge at all. But let’s consider hiring one ramp for WFC, at $800, and how much that would affect the cost of membership. Now, WFC has a membership cap, right? It’s 850, according to this. So if requesting a single ramp in advance of the con costs $800, to be added to the cost of memberships, that comes out to less than one dollar a person. Let’s say they only get half that (I’m given to understand they routinely sell out and have a waiting list, but perhaps that’s not the case). Two dollars a person. And I’m not even counting supporting memberships.

    Now of course, since this charge was coming after memberships had already been paid it was dauntingly large. Which doesn’t make me more sympathetic–it would have been easy enough to say, up front, during the planning stage, “And of course we’ll need some kind of access to the dais or stages in case there are wheelchair users or folks with other mobility issues. How do we make that work?”

    I do understand feeling defensive when you’re caught out in a mistake. Okay, feel defensive. Complain to your spouse and/or close friends in private, have some ice cream or a hot bath and some tea. And then go to whoever it is you’re working with at the facility for the next event and let them know that you’ll need to accommodate members with mobility issues, and what are the options and how will you make that work? Have SFWA’s Accessibility Checklist in hand.

    The fabulous Lee Martindale had a hand in that checklist. Lee has been fierce in her advocacy for accessibility at cons–and elsewhere. Walking around a con with her is an eye-opener, I’ll tell you. There are so many things you don’t notice if you’re not currently in need of mobility assistance. I was pretty appalled, though not terribly surprised, honestly.

    And Lee makes a good point:

    But for her part, Martindale says she won’t be signing the pledge, because she’s learned in 40 years as a human rights activist that “change is not brought about by using only one approach.” And in addition to public protests and boycotts, another valuable approach is “those directly affected by the exclusion communicating with those perpetuating it, explaining and demonstrating why the exclusion is a problem and what to do about it.”
    “If I’m not there, as a scheduled guest, a rolling reminder of why accessibility is important and capable of explaining what I need to do the job I was brought in to do, it all becomes purely academic and easily dismissed,” says Martindale. “It’s hard to dismiss someone sitting right in front of you.”

    Not everyone is as fierce as Lee–she’s a pretty impressive lady–but for those who are willing and able to get right in there, that needs to happen, too.