My novel + album is coming out April 29! Celebrate with me on April 27

mysticist launch party flyer_full-res_update1

I’ll be publishing my debut novel + album, The Mysticist, on April 29 via my publishing company FreemadeSF, and I plan on celebrating with a night of book readings and live music on April 27, 2014 at Brick & Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco, CA.

There will be delicious food by Fiddlehead Supper Club and book readings with live score by Dominica PhetteplaceNick MamatasVylar KaftanTim PrattMike E. G.Mark Pantoja, and more! 

RSVP on Facebook to stay up to date as more details are announced.

FreemadeSF is at last ready to launch into outer space

FreemadeSF launch flyer_600pxAt long last, my publishing company, FreemadeSF, is launching into outer space and beyond.

We’ll be celebrating our launch and our inaugural publication, Other Possibilities by my good pal and Freemade co-founder Mark Pantoja, on March 11 at the Brick & Mortar Music Hall here in San Francisco. The event is going to be awesome, as it will feature book readings with live musical scores by local sci fi authors Nick Mamatas, Tim Pratt, Mark Pantoja, and Cliff Winnig.

But before the readings, we will be having a delicious dinner by Fiddlehead Supper Club (tickets available HERE). The dinner starts at 7:00pm, followed by the book readings at 9:00pm (tickets will be available at the door, or you can pre-purchase a readings-only ticket HERE). RSVP on Facebook HERE.

Come out and help us celebrate, please.

FreemadeSF is alive!

I’m stoked to finally announce the launch of FreemadeSF, the publishing company I’m starting with my good buddy Mark Pantoja. Our first release will be Mark’s book of short stories, Other Possibilities, coming out early next year (most likely February). Check out FreemadeSF.com for updates.

We put together an audio book version of “Buck,” one of the stories from Other Possibilities, and commissioned a series of original illustrations by my pal Bryan Reyna. It will be available as a podcast and as a YouTube video, which will include the illustrations. (If you want audio only, go here).

Cloud Atlas concept art

I just read Cloud Atlas recently and was totally blown away. Easily the best book I’ve read in years. These are a couple pieces of concept art from the forthcoming movie based on the book. The second piece of art here is labeled “Seoul, 2144” so we know which of the stories in the novel it is for, but the first one is a bit of a mystery (though the cooler of the two images).

The only ships in the book are either back in the 19th century or in the post-Industrial collapse scenario set way in the future, so the city skyline you see isn’t really appropriate for either. Maybe this is just a mash-up, more of a promotional image than an actual concept for a set? 

All the same, here’s hoping the movie is even half as good as the book….

Via io9.com:

Behold the future, from the movie adaptation of David Mitchell’s acclaimed novelCloud Atlas. The massive movie — stuffed with a huge A-List cast including Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, and Halle Berry — jumps across time, with each actor playing different characters in different time periods. It’s a massive undertaking that leaps all the way into the future, 2144 Seoul to be precise. And here is the first ever concept art for the future world of Cloud Atlas.

Implied spaces

I saw this video today and thought it was pretty interesting:

The article on NPR that introduced me to the video says, “Brains, you may not realize, make arbitrary assumptions to keep our world intact. Sugihara knows exactly where those assumptions pop into place.”

This reminded me of Implied Spaces, a really terribly written novel by a fellow named Walter Jon Wiliams that has stayed with me nonetheless. I was fascinated by an idea presented in the novel: The titular “implied spaces,” which are portions of manmade planets where ecosystems or types of terrain give way to one another — or, more accurately, the liminal zone in between these different spaces. There is no code to tell the planet what to put in between spaces, just what goes in the spaces themselves, hence you get the “implied” spaces.

Williams doesn’t really explore these implied spaces in much depth, he just describes them as mostly empty, barren or jarring features of the planets and uses them as a metaphor for the corresponding liminal zones in the technologically-tweaked brains of a post-singularity humanity who can come back from death by simply uploading their latest mind-dump to a new body. There are thus many liminal zones in people’s memories, and even in their very existence — the time between their latest backup and a particular body’s death, the time between death and rebirth, the time between rebirth and the next backup of their brain, etc. But the book mainly deals with how a sinister force exploits those gaps in people’s super advanced techno-minds to brainwash a bunch of people, and the intergalactic warfare that (I’m sure you can imagine) is provoked by these nefarious actions.

I say this knowing exactly how nerdy it will sound: I’m real into the idea of liminal spaces, ever since I first learned about them in a book of literary theory. I like that Williams’ novel was about someone exploiting liminal or “implied” spaces in a future people’s brains, just like in this video Sugihara exploits the liminal zone — the no-man’s land between perception and reality — in our modern brains.

“Genre” fiction my ass

I think sci-fi is one of the most important literary forms around. It’s often pejoratively termed “genre” fiction, and thus lumped in with the likes of bodice-ripping romance novels (read: very low on the artistic merit scale). But to me, in this day and age, any work of art that helps us envision the future of mankind and the role of technology in that future is a service to humanity.

As proof that sci-fi is intellectually and scientifically valuable, witness: Nine Words You Might Think Came from Science but Which Are Really from Science Fiction

. From the Oxford University Press blog, no less. Some dude even wrote a book all about it, Brave New Words. You can check that out at the above link as well.

Looking on unemployment’s bright side

Sci fi has always been my chief fascination/obsession. It must’ve all started with Star Wars, but The Transformers and Voltron definitely did their part when I was still but a wee lad, as did Spaceballs and Flash Gordon. By the time I was reading chapter books it was, naturally, Frank Herbert and Arthur C. Clarke. Those two carried me through college (with a little help from David Lynch and Stanley Kubrik, of course). Orwell was a titan in my universe as well (I prefer Terry Gilliam’s take on 1984 to Michael Radford’s, but was enraptured by both).

I started off as a computer science major at UT-Austin but eventually decided that studying English was a better way to qualify myself for a career writing for video games, which was how I had decided to sustain myself while scribing my own SF masterpieces. I worked on my first manuscript in Austin for a couple years after college while writing business information for a website by day. I moved out to the Bay Area about five years ago, where I finished my first novel.

I also got my Masters degree in English from San Jose State University, where I had the privilege of being the teaching assistant for an undergraduate course on sci-fi literature. I taught a whole new generation of sci-fi geeks both Orwell and Clarke! (Herbert didn’t make the cut, though the professor had thought long and hard about that decision, he assured me.)

My novel has yet to see the light of day – it’s really just the first of a four-part series, naturally – but I did manage to finally land a job writing for video games. For the past year and a half I’ve been working at Perpetual Entertainment, and among other duties I had the honor of writing various feature articles and press announcements for Star Trek Online, an MMO being developed by Perpetual that is set entirely in the Trek universe. I really was pretty much in heaven, until another game the company was developing got axed and they laid off half the workforce, me included.

I have plenty of free time now that I’m unemployed, which is pretty cool because I’ve been wanting to finally finish Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn series for a while now, and I’ve been re-watching all of the Firefly DVDs ever since I heard the latest rumors that a Serenity sequel might actually get made. Now I can do both.

Yeah, so you may as well find out now: I take Science Fiction WAY too seriously

After hearing about Larry Niven’s Ringworld from several other sci-fi-heads, and reading about it on the backs of many sci-fi books I’ve read and enjoyed, I figured it was about time I read it. But, like the time I finally read Stranger in a Strange Land, I was disappointed to find a lot of sexism mixed in with some really fascinating concepts and at least mostly decent writing. Heinlein may have had an excuse (albeit a lame one) because Stranger in a Strange Land came out in 1961, before the feminist movement forced sexists to obey certain measures of common decency. But what’s up with Niven, who published Ringworld in 1970? Did he incubate in some kind of feminism-free zone?

At one point, when the cast of heroes in Ringworld all set off on a dangerous mission, Niven writes of the female lead: “Teela stood behind [the men], safe for the moment in the ring of fighting, looking worried, like a good heroine” (319). I mean, he’s not even being sly about his sexism. Why, you might ask, was Teela taken on the mission in the first place? Because she’s a good fighter? Or a skilled pilot? Or maybe even a knowledgeable scientist? Nope. Turns out she was bred to be lucky. Apparently, along with lots of men to do the real work, you need lots of luck in outer space, moreso than extra fighters or scientists.

Now, it’s possible I missed something and Niven was in some way parodying or otherwise playing off of readers’ expectations. But I don’t think it’s likely. The only other female character is a prostitute.

The interesting thing, though, and the thing that gives me pause, is the way he describes Prill’s profession.

“‘Boredom can be dangerous when a ship takes years to cross between worlds,'” she explains. “‘The ways to amuse must be many and all different. To be a ship’s whore needs knowledge of medicine of mind and body, plus love of many men, plus a rare ability to converse. We must know something of the working of the ship, so that we will not cause accidents. We must be healthy. By rule of guild we must learn to play a musical instrument'” (328).

For some reason, this description reminds me of the character Inara from Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Inara’s a prostitute, but portrayed more or less in a favorable light–prositution in the future is apparently a noble profession.

But notice Prill doesn’t say that prostitutes have to love many men and women–only men are provided with their services. In fact, there are no male prostitutes. The only reason women are even brought along is to pleasure the men, who need the distraction from doing all the important work so they don’t go crazy. Now, to be fair, Firefly never mentions male prostitutes either. But still, there’s a dignity to Inara that Prill is lacking. Inara at least gets her own ship.

Plus, Niven is guilty of writing the most horribly unsexy description of sex EVER: “Louis rolled onto his back, and Teela impaled herself as she straddled his hips. They looked at each other for a long, brilliant, unbearable moment before they began to move” (165, emphasis mine). Yeesh.

I mean, yeah, I’m taking this far too seriously. But damn. When it comes to female leads impaling themselves like good little heroines should, someone’s gotta say something.

Edition of Ringworld cited:
Niven, Larry. Ringworld. Del Rey/Ballantine, 1970.