The German language version of Superposition will be released in June of this year, an exciting event for me, as it will be my first book released in that language. And check out this über-cool cover! In German, the book will be titled “Quantum”, I guess because “Überlagerung” doesn’t have the right ring to it. If you know anyone who speaks German (and more importantly, reads science fiction books in German), let them know!
That’s right, author Lawrence M. Schoen and Tor Books have just released the marvelous new novel Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard. It’s about uplifted elephants–elephants that have language and culture like humans–and it’s like nothing you’ve ever read. It might sound like a children’s novel (Horton? Dumbo?), but these elephants are deadly serious. There are other animals as well: cheetahs and sloths and bears and yaks. They can talk to the dead–some of them, anyway–through a fascinating technology that raises interesting questions about memory, legacy, and free will. I’ve invited Lawrence to join my blog today and tell us how he came to write about such an intriguing topic.
So, Lawrence… how did you come to write about anthropomorphic animals?
I’m tempted to tell you it all began a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, but the truth is it was back in the late 80’s when I had just started teaching at New College in Sarasota, Florida. At 27, I was the “boy professor” with the ink still wet on my doctorate, and for my first teaching gig I was actually living in the campus dorms right alongside the students. It was an odd time in my life, as I was closer in age to most of the students than the other members of the faculty (indeed, some of my students were older than me!).
One of the courses I taught was Psycholinguistics, and one of the students had a roommate, Watts Martin, who was very much into anthropmorphic fiction. Most of the interest in this sub field focused on the artwork, but Watts was pushing the writing. He edited and published Mythagoras, a zine dedicated to anthropomorphic fiction.
Anyway, back then there was a popular comic in the field by Steven A. Gallacci called Erma Felna, EDF. Erma was an anthropomorphic cat serving in the Extraplanetary Defense Force, kind of like the Federation from Star Trek, and fighting against the Independent Lepine Republic (ILP), a different kind of federation made up mostly of anthropomorphic rabbits. The comic was so popular that it generated a roleplaying game spinoff. One day, Watts approached me about being part of a group of gamers to give it a go, explaining that I could roll up a character and it could be almost any “race” I wanted. In that instant, something just clicked in my head, and the worldbuilding that would become Barsk exploded. I remember the exchange went something like this:
Me: I want to play an elephant.
Watts: Umm… that’s not an option. We can probably fake it though…
Me: Right, an elephant. From a planet where there are nothing but islands. And the islands are full of rain forests. And it rains. Every. Day.
Me: And the elephant grandmothers on that planet, they have an expression. They say, “So, do you think it will rain today?” And they laugh and laugh and laugh!
Watts of course remembers the exchange differently. The part that lingers in his mind goes more like this:
Lawrence: We believe the only proper way to kill the rabbits from the ILR who’ve invaded our homeland is to pick them up by the ears with our trunks and smash them against a tree.
Me: Umm… the rabbits are armed with military rifles.
Lawrence (without missing a beat): There’s not many of us left now.
Two things about this are worth mentioning. First, we never did play the game (and to this day, I can’t recall why). Second, in that moment I vowed to start writing a novel about those elephants. This is more than a bit insane because, while I’d written some short stories at that point, I hadn’t managed to sell a one, and here I was pledging to write an entire novel!
Watts didn’t blink. In the months that followed, he published the first two chapters of what would eventually become the first draft of Barsk in the pages Mythagoras. Not long after that, I left Sarasota to teach at a college in Lake Forest, Illinois and Watts and I fell out of touch until just a few years ago when he showed up in my autograph line at the Nebula Awards Weekend in San Jose, California. He continues to write and promote anthropomorphic fiction, and in fact has been nominated several times for the Ursa Major award and won the Coyotl award.
But that’s how my writing Barsk all began, a chance conversation more than twenty years ago with the roommate of one of my students who just happened to be on his own path to being a writer of furry tales. It’s one of those stories that’s so unlikely it has to be true, because as fiction it’s unbelievable.
Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, has been nominated for the Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula awards, is a world authority on the Klingon language, operates the small press Paper Golem, and is a practicing hypnotherapist specializing in authors’ issues.
His previous science fiction includes many light and humorous adventures of a space-faring stage hypnotist and his alien animal companion. His most recent book, Barsk, takes a very different tone, exploring issues of prophecy, intolerance, friendship, conspiracy, and loyalty, and redefines the continua between life and death. He lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his wife and their dog.
My friend Megan O’Keefe has a book coming out! Not just any book, but her first book, called Steal the Sky, and it’s due to launch on January 5. I have it on good authority that it’s an exciting caper of a novel, a conman’s attempted heist of an airship, that sounds a lot like The Lies of Locke Lamora (which I loved). Here is Megan herself to tell us about a small part of this book, namely… a hat.
When I set out to write Steal the Sky, I knew I wanted Detan to have a friend, a sidekick. Someone he could rely upon in a pinch, who could function as a level head when Detan’s scheming inevitably spirals out of control. Tibal, aka Tibs, is the sidekick I set out to write. He’s hiding a deep vein of anger, but he’s ultimately smooth and calm, the steady hand guiding Detan as he pinballs across the Scorched Continent.
Upon receiving feedback from my beta readers, however, I discovered I’d inadvertently inserted a third sidekick: The Hat.
There’s nothing particularly special about this hat. It’s big and it’s grey, and it has a roguish dip to its wide brim. Eventually it earns itself a character-building singe, and that sweat stain around the band is never coming out. It doesn’t speak, or hover, or do anything that Michael Bay would feel compelled to add a lens flare to. But one of my beta readers had written, in all caps right at the top of her comments: LOVE THE HAT! MORE HAT!
Well. You can’t ask for feedback any clearer than that.
While the hat might not be anything special to look at, it functions as a symbol of Detan and Tibs’s friendship. As it changes heads throughout the book, it becomes a physical manifestation of the back-and-forth nature of their relationship. On one occasion, its simple presence nearly brings Detan to tears. In Detan and Tibs’s messy, transient world, the hat is something solid they can both hold on to.
Needless to say, when I saw the first drafts of the cover for Steal the Sky, I was delighted to see that the hat had been included in all its floppy grey glory.
Megan lives in the Bay Area of California and makes soap for a living. (It’s only a little like Fight Club.) She has worked in arts management and graphic design, and spends her free time tinkering with anything she can get her hands on. Steal the Sky is her first novel.
It’s a science fiction book bundle! My Philip K. Dick award-winning first novel, Terminal Mind, is available for the next three weeks as part of a bundle of 9 science fiction e-books by various authors.
How much does it cost? Good question: you can decide. Here’s how it works: You enter an amount you think the 9 e-books are worth to you. If it’s at least $3, then you get 5 of the 9 books (including Terminal Mind). If it’s at least $12, then you get all 9 books. Simple as that! You can even decide what percentage of what you pay goes to the authors. Check it out!
Any parent who has read hundreds of books to their children has thought, at one time or another, about what it would be like to write one themselves. My friend Nancy Fulda is here today to tell us how she came to do just that! Her new book (published under the pseudonym Sherrida Pope) is AN OWL GOES TRICK-OR-TREATING. Here’s Nancy:
Today my story “All The Rage This Year” becomes available to read on Moozvine. It’s one of my favorites, the award-winning short story that really kicked off my writing career. The world of this story–biological mods in a cratered Philadelphia–was the seed idea for my debut novel, the Philip K. Dick Award winning Terminal Mind. “All The Rage This Year” was read and judged by top New York agent Eleanor Wood (who later became my literary agent) and Orson Scott Card (author of Ender’s Game, etc.) and picked for an award anthology that was my first big break into the world of professional publishing. I’m still tremendously proud of it, and I think the world and the characters in this social satire stand among the best things I’ve ever written.
But…what’s Moozvine? Funny you should ask.
It’s a new crowdfunding concept in publishing fiction being taken for a spin over. Here’s how it works: Stories get released to the public after a certain total amount of money is paid. If it’s already released, anyone can read it for free, or for a donation amount that they choose. If it’s not yet released, you can pledge any amount you wish, but you pay nothing until the goal is met. When the goal is met, the author is paid, and the story is made available to the world.
It’s a pretty interesting model. The site just launched, and there are a growing number of stories available there from some great authors like Nancy Kress, Ken Liu, John Chu, Tom Doyle, Nancy Fulda, and Lawrence Schoen.
In my case, the story is free! It’s already made available to the public. You can just pop over there and read it for nothing, or you can leave me a tip if you like the story enough that you’d like to pay me something for it. (But really, you can just go ahead and read it for free…) Enjoy!
If you want to read more about how Supersymmetry came to be written, check out this “Story Behind the Story” at Upcoming4.me!
And if you want to read about how awesome Superposition is, don’t take my word for it–check out what Philadelphia’s premier geek magazine has to say.