Floating Point, Book Four of Devi Jones’ Locker, available now! Find out more.

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M. Darusha Wehm
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll find something you like here.

If you want to read something short, check out the free stories available here or the links under “Publications” on the right go to other places my stories have been published. Some of those are free to read online.

If you prefer longer works, I have free samples of all my novels available on the site. Beautiful Red was my first book, and is a standalone cyberpunk story. Self Made, Act of Will and The Beauty of Our Weapons are a series (in that order) about future detective Andersson DexterChildren of Arkadia is a standalone political space station epic.

My newest series, Devi Jones’ Locker, is mainstream fiction — a light beach read that brings the beach to you. The first book in this series is Packet Trade.

Even more tech from my novels coming true

Even more tech from my novels coming true

Sort of.

In my Dex novels, the virtual world Marionette City lets you do just about anything you can do in the physical world: have a job, have sex, have a meal. I always thought of the latter as being the height of virtual cool.

I’m not the only one, obviously, as this article in Wired profiles a few different teams taking on the problem of simulating food. I kind of love this idea:

experimenting with tongue-based interfaces that can simulate sweet, salty, and savory flavors by sending an electrical current into taste buds.

Mmm… tasty electricity.

* Image from Project Nourished

Interview with Alex Shvartsman, Author of Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories

Interview with Alex Shvartsman, Author of Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories

I recently had a chat with author Alex Shvartsman, whose book, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories, just came out.

Alex is a prolific short story writer, who is also the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects annual anthology series of humorous SF/F. He knows a thing or two about games, as well.

Me: This is a collection of short stories. Is there any theme or similarity between them?

Alex: My body of work isn’t yet at the point where I can produce a themed collection. Instead, I included what I consider to be my best tales. The title story of the collection won an award and also came in second in the 2013 IGMS Reader Poll. A number of others made Tangent Online Recommended Reading Lists, or were reprinted, translated, and podcasted in various venues. So I’m going for overall quality rather than a singular theme, other than the fact that all the stories are science fiction or fantasy.

Me: Can you describe your writing for someone who is unfamiliar with it?

Alex: I’m proud to be known for writing humorous SF/F, because it’s such a difficult thing to pull off. However, not all stories in this collection are humorous. Some are rather dark (though I wouldn’t describe any as outright horror.) Overall, I try to write fun, plot-driven stories rather than character studies or works that are overly literary. Although I’m certainly not implying a parallel in quality, I strive to write the sort of fiction produced by Mike Resnick, Bob Silverberg, Jim Butcher or Simon R. Green.

Me: Would you want to live in the world of any of your stories (or definitely not want to)? Which one and why?

Alex: Oh, what a fun question! I think I’d enjoy living in the world of Conrad Brent. There are two stories about him in the book, and they take place in our regular world, in the borough of Brooklyn where I live, except magic and supernatural creatures are real, but only one in every 30,000 people can perceive them. There are wizards, and druids, and an enormous troll living under the Verrazano Bridge.

Me: Hmm… I don’t know about that troll. How do you think reading this collection will make people feel? Any ideas it might make readers consider?

Alex: If I do my job right, the reader will experience a rollercoaster ride. There is a mix of humor, adventure, darkness and introspection, and I hope that every reader can find a few favorites. Overall, I’m an optimist and I think my idea stories (especially flash pieces like “Notes on the Game in Progress, Played Almost to a Draw”) really show that. One of my own favorites is the story that concludes the collection: “Fate and Other Variables”. It’s about a hacker and a kabbalist teaming up to break into the Book of Fate and change their futures, and in addition to being a fun story has all sorts of intellectually stimulating ideas about free will.

Me: Finally, should we give this book to our grandmas?

If your grandma is anything like the one in the title story, she’d secretly enjoy the book! (Though she would never admit it, or let it show. She’s a tough old thing.) I strongly urge each of you to buy a copy and read it, that way you’ll be able to form your own opinions as to what the grandmas might think!

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Alex

Alex Shvartsman is a writer, translator and game designer from Brooklyn, NY. Over 70 of his short stories have appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Nature, Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and many other magazines and anthologies. He won the 2014 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction. He is the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects annual anthology series of humorous SF/F. His collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories released on February 1, 2015. His website is www.alexshvartsman.com

Children of Arkadia

Kaus wants nothing more than to be loved while its human counterpart, Raj Patel, believes fervently in freedom. Arkadia, one of four space stations circling Jupiter, was to be a refuge for all who fought the corrupt systems of old Earth, a haven where both humans and Artificial Intelligences could be happy and free. But the old prejudices and desires are still at play and, no matter how well-meaning its citizens, the children of Arkadia have tough compromises to make.

When the future of humanity is at stake, which will prove more powerful: freedom or happiness? What sacrifices will Kaus, Raj, and the rest of Arkadia’s residents have to make to survive?

Read a sample Learn more
Children of Arkadia Cover Reveal!

Children of Arkadia Cover Reveal!

Thanks to my publisher, Bundoran Press, I’m thrilled to be able to show off the cover for my upcoming novel, Children of Arkadia, done by Prix Aurora Award nominee Dan O’Driscoll.

Children of Arkadia is the story of the creation of a new society in space, as told from several viewpoints. One of those perspective belongs to Kaus, an artificial general intelligence, shown here on the cover embodied in an agricultural drone.

Look for Children of Arkadia to launch in March/April 2015. Find out more at Bundoran Press, or subscribe to my mailing list for updates.

How the Culture of Hyperbole is Ruining Everything

How the Culture of Hyperbole is Ruining Everything

The language of culture today is defined by hyperbole: everything is awesome — unless it’s not, then it needs to die in a fire.

It’s a style thing, and it will probably pass, but even though it’s obvious and amusing, the implication that the only options for criticism are unbridled enthusiasm or profound hatred makes for a toxic environment.

Reviews, even bad reviews, are desperately important for creators. They are how we know if we’re accomplishing our task. Milquetoast reviews of “Liked it,” or “It’s okay” don’t really say anything. I’ve often argued that bad reviews are among the most important for a creator, since they help to determine if we’ve found our audience or not. No book, painting, play, video game, poem, dance or song will be to everyone’s taste, not should it me.

Art is individual, taste is subjective. Good reviews help me know I’ve found a receptive audience, but bad reviews help me refine what that means. Bad reviews show me where I’ve hit people’s buttons, where I differentiate my work from someone else’s. And they also show me where I went wrong — where I alienated an audience I wanted to reach. They are a key component of my work.

But the language of hyperbole that pervades popular criticism is as meaningless as vague words like “fine” and “okay.” When everything is awesome, nothing is great. And when everything else should be nuked from orbit, other issues arise.

Criticism is necessary for art to thrive, positive and negative. But creators are human beings and most of us are very close to our work. When we hear people talk about our work in deeply personal, passionately hateful ways, it hurts. And when we are hurt, sometimes we lash out.

I don’t condone authors who stalk their critics, but I can understand how someone might be so hurt that they become obsessed in this way. I don’t condone calling for critics to have their careers sabotaged, but people who feel their own careers have been attacked might turn to revenge. None of this excuses these actions, but a toxic environment makes these bad decisions

Worst still, when most negative criticism is counted in hateful terms, even reasoned and intelligent criticism becomes tainted with spite. When you’re accustomed to hearing worst. episode. ever. it’s easy to hear has some issues with representation with a vindictive subtext. But true criticism isn’t vindictive, which is something that many people (*cough*GamerGate*cough*) don’t understand. There’s a difference between haters and critics, and critics are necessary to the creative process.

It’s time to end the reliance on hyperbole in our reviews and critiques. It has its place, sure, but in moderation. Because intelligent, nuanced discussion really is like a cat with a gun riding a unicorn. Best thing ever.

cat-unicorn

Notes:

  1. I’m not linking to the specific issues I mentioned because I don’t want to give traffic to people who engage in these activities.
  2. Yes, the title of this post is ironic.
  3. I’d argue that The Lego Movie and the song “Everything is Awesome” are, in part, critiques of the culture of hyperbole. “Everything is awesome, like a Nobel prize or a piece of string.” Indeed.
More tech from my novels coming true

More tech from my novels coming true

Well, potentially, anyway.

The implanted chips that everyone uses in Beautiful Red and the Dex books might be coming down the pike, and for pretty much the same purposes.

From unlocking your front door to silently communicating with people nearby, this implantable chip concept from New Deal Design is pretty much what I envisaged in my books. This was one of the concepts I thought was pretty likely, and like some others, I’m a bit surprised it’s taken this long.

I have to admit, I cannot wait for functional wearable technology that will truly monitor my health and take care of basic stuff like ID and payments. I mourn the loss of privacy and anonymity that existed in my youth, but I believe that ship has sailed, so I might as well make use of constant monitoring for my own purposes.

via Co.Design

image via NewDealDesign

News from Plan B, my mystery & crime magazine

News from Plan B, my mystery & crime magazine

In addition to writing SF, I’m the editor of Plan B Magazine, a professional short fiction magazine that publishes mystery, crime and suspense stories. We’ve had a great couple of years so far, bringing readers stories from award-winning authors, one of our originals being on the short list for last year’s Derringer Awards, and starting a podcast of some of the stories we run.

I’m now crowdfunding to support doubling our pay rates for Year Three, as well as some great stretch goals (paperbacks! pro-rates!).

Contributors can get perks like pre-ordering the Year Three anthology, critiques on your short stories, and a beautiful paperback of all the Plan B stories so far. It’s massive: there are 52 stories and it weighs nearly a kilogram.

If you like mystery or crime, or know someone who does, please consider checking out the campaign. Every little bit helps and I’d love to keep bringing these stories to readers.

2014 Worldcon Roundup

2014 Worldcon Roundup

As one might expect, I had a fantastic time at Loncon 3. It’s difficult to distill the excitement of meeting so many great people, of being involved in such great discussions and just generally being in an environment suffused by the whole gamut of science fiction and fantasy spirit. It was a heady few days.

So, here are some highlights, knowing that this is but a tiny sliver of the experience.

I was lucky to participate in two panels, both of which were great discussions. The first was a lively round of talk about the value of technical exposition in science fiction. Myself, Jack William Bell, Cory Doctorow, Heidi Lyshol and Kim Stanley Robinson mostly vehemently agreed with each other. We all thought that the proscription on “info-dumps” (boy howdy, does Stan ever hate that term!) was silly and that learning things from stories is one of the parts of SF that we loved. We also agreed that they can be done poorly, but so can any aspect of story-telling. That said, it was a heated debate, even though we were mostly all on the same page. Good fun!

The second was a discussion of post- and trans-human stories told from non-dominant perspectives (queer, non-Western, etc). This was a great discussion that covered the constraints of embodiment, technology as a factor of wealth and class, the nature of consciousness and selfhood. It felt like Ibrahim Abbas, Russell Blackford, Lettie Prell, Hannu Rajaniemi and I could have talked about this subject all night.

I attended a bunch of panels on subjects ranging from the globalization of satellite launches, the gendering (or not) of artificial intelligences in science fiction, and a critical discussion of the Cornetto Trilogy of films. There was much more to see that I could possibly have ever gotten to, and many panels I’d hoped to attend were full before I could get there. Even so, there was a ton to see and I don’t feel like I missed out at all.

I also got to meet what felt like a thousand people, have great chats with folks from varied areas of SFF, had several professional meetings and attend the Hugo Awards. It was a very full few days.

Clockwork Cookie Blog Tour: Buttery Beer Bread

Clockwork Cookie Blog Tour: Buttery Beer Bread

My pal Beth Cato has a new book coming out soon, and to help get the word out she’s visiting various blogs around the place to talk about it. And, she’s also sharing her awesome recipes to boot. As a bread and beer maker myself, I couldn’t resist the allure of beer bread. But first, the steampunk!

Hi! I’m Beth Cato. I’m here to share in the joy of buttery baked goods and to introduce you to my book.

My debut novel, THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, comes out September 16th from Harper Voyager. It’s a steampunk novel with airships, espionage, and a world tree that seriously plays favorites. Here’s the back cover summary:

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

You can also read the full first chapter over at Tor.com. It can be found or preordered at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most any independent bookstore.

Now, on to the beer bread!

I’m an author, but I’m also somewhat infamous for my baking. Every Wednesday over at my site, I post a new recipe in my Bready or Not series.

This beer bread is one of my personal favorites. It’s great to bake during a deadline crunch because the mini loaves make it easy to use one for a meal and then I can wrap up and freeze the others for later.

Enjoy!

Buttery Beer BreadButtery Beer Bread5_sm modified from Veronica’s Buttery Beer Bread at Jenna’s Everything Blog

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 
1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • 
1 tsp salt
  • 
12 oz beer
  • 
1/2 – 1 stick unsalted butter, melted (make it as buttery as you want)
  • kosher or pretzel salt

Instructions
1) Preheat the oven to 375-degrees. Prepare your big loaf pan or mini loaf pans by buttering lightly on the bottom (the sides will be well-buttered later on).

2) Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Stir in the beer. It may be sticky and need to be incorporated by greased hands.

3) Drop the dough into your pan(s) and even out the top as much as possible. Melt the stick of butter and pour it all over the dough.

4) Using four mini loaf pans, it will bake for 30-35 minutes. The original recipe stated that a full-size bread pan needs to bake for an hour. Let it cool in the pan for about five minutes, and then because of all the butter, the bread should pop right out.

OM NOM NOM!
BethCato-steampunk-headshot300x450Beth Cato’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.

My Loncon 3 Schedule

My Loncon 3 Schedule

I’ll be attending this year’s Worldcon in London, Loncon 3. If you happen to see me, say hi!

All my scheduled events are on the Friday, which has the advantage of making the rest of my convention fairly laid back. In addition to the panels, I plan to pop into the SFWA reception and I’ll be attending the Hugo Award ceremony.

Panel: The Pleasures of a Good, Long Info-Dump

Friday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

Arguably, the literature of ideas is not SF but the one emerging from the recent deluge of speculative nonfictional works. If we want to read about interesting ideas on the future of war, we don’t turn to SF with its rather pathetic, microwaved dystopic visions. We’re better off with books like John Mueller’s Capitalism, Democracy and Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery or Max van Crevald’s Art of War. These are extended info dumps, in which the traditional problems of SF – weak characterization, plot centricity etc – have been eliminated. They don’t describe probable, moral or desirable futures, but remain densely speculative in a way most modern SF simply isn’t. Is it time to get rid of fiction from science fiction and focus on what its geeky readers have always enjoyed, the ideas part — the Info dump?

Panelists: Jack William Bell (Moderator), Cory Doctorow, Kim Stanley Robinson, M. Darusha Wehm

Panel: A Singularity for the Rest of Us

Friday 20:00 – 21:00, Capital Suite 8 (ExCeL)

Is posthumanism really as straight, white and Western as it often seems? How can science fiction talk about post-body identities without diminishing or dismissing embodied identity and experience? This panel will discuss the stories out there that complicate the uploaded experience.

Panelists: Russell Blackford (Moderator), Ibrahim Abbas, Lettie Prell, Hannu Rajaniemi, M. Darusha Wehm

By Popular* Demand: My Writing Process

By Popular* Demand: My Writing Process

(*For some value of “popular.”)

I’ve been tagged by Erica L. Satifka in a blog-go-round to talk about my writing process.

Erica, if you don’t know, is a newly arrived denizen of the lovely environs of Portland OR and a writer whose work I always watch out for. I read her story “The Afternoon Revolution” in Strange Bedfellows a couple of weeks ago and it’s still haunting me. Thanks for the tap-in, Erica.

1) What are you working on?

The past few months I’ve been working on edits to Children of Arkadia, scheduled for release by Bundoran Press in March 2015. My editor, Hayden Trenholm, had some excellent suggestions to improve the book, which turned into rather extensive changes. I’m really happy with the result, though, and now we’re at the point where there are just a few minor things to finish.

I’m also in the later drafting phase of a novel-in-stories about a generation starship. My partner and first reader has referred to it as what you’d get if Albert Camus wrote space opera. I don’t know about that, but it’s a much more “literary” style than my previous books, and is full of capital-I ideas. And, of course, [spoiler] you never see them leave and you never see them arrive, so there’s all that awesome existential doubt over the whole thing. It’s good fun.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I want to write idea stories that say something about the human condition or our current world, without being too didactic or obvious, stories that recognize that no person or situation is entirely good or entirely evil. However, I also try to mostly write plausible futures grounded in real technology and science without spending chapters explaining it all.

I quite like books where deep explanations are done well, but while I want my worlds to be plausible (and I do have the dubious honour of having had several technologies I posited “come true” since my first book), the ideas and story come first. If readers want to research the concepts I inroduce further, that’s awesome. Experts in the field will do a better job of explaining them than I could.

While none of those aspects is unique to my writing, I think the way I combine them is a big part of what makes for a “Darusha story.”

3) Why do you write what you do?

The easy answer is that I write the stories I want to read. I also tend to write worlds I’d like to live in, even if I often focus on their bad neighbourhoods. I write to examine the world in which I do live though a different lens, to extrapolate where we might go for good or for ill. I also like to write characters and relationships that I see in real life but I find underrepresented in fiction, which is another way of saying that I write the stories I want to read.

4) How does your writing process work?

Uh. Slowly?

For longer work I’m a discovery writer (aka pantser), so I often start with a concept, some characters and a vague idea of what’s going to happen plot-wise. Then it just unfolds for me like a flower in bloom, only more exciting. Okay, fine, when it’s going well, it just unfolds for me. Usually I write a couple of hundred words, get frustrated, do something else for a while, then repeat until the flow comes or the story’s done. Like I said, slowly.

Several of my short stories were initially drafted in my head while not sleeping. I’ve even gone so far as to memorize the exact wording of the opening paragraphs before I get around to actually writing them down. It’s still a kind of discovery, though, as the initial imagining of the story follows the same flow. The work here, though, is finding the language for the plot, which isn’t always evident.

Once I get a first (or zeroth) draft done, I tend to leave it alone for a while — a day or two for short pieces, sometimes months or even years for novels. Then I reread, marking up places that need work. I usually do a few editing/rewriting passes before my first readers get it. There’s always at least one pass after to incorporate comments and suggestions, and I’ve done several for some pieces. There isn’t a typical timeframe here — some stories have been turned around in a couple of weeks from initial idea to out-the-door, but Children of Arkadia was five years in the making before I sold it to Bundoran (and we’re still working on it now!).

Did I mention slowly?


Up next, a fellow Wellingtonian who has been going gangbusters lately on the heels of a double award win for the anthology Baby Teeth, for whom he’s a co-editor. Dan Rabarts, you’re it!

danDan says:

I am a writer of fantasy novels and speculative fiction, sometime narrator of podcasts (including stories for the Hugo award-winning StarShipSofa), occasional sailor of sailing things, and father of two wee miracles in a little house on a hill, under the southern sun.

You can find me on Twitter from time to time, and on Facebook now and then. I’d hang out there more often but really, I’ve got writing to do.

 

Header image credit: “Workflow” by Harsha K R via Flickr