The Pursuit Of…

Last night I read a novella by Courtney Milan, “The Pursuit of…” I was honestly a little nervous about how she’d do with it, because it’s about a black man and a white man, alternating first person points of view, in Revolutionary war times in America, the black man is a former slave, and oh, it’s a romance. There are so many ways that story could go terribly wrong. And I’m not Black, or a man, so it’s entirely possible I’ve missed things, but as far as I can tell, she did a good job.

I’m relieved, and also, feel a little bit like I should be braver about this kind of thing, writing the other. Do my research, get readers to check my drafts, but don’t hold back from telling stories just because I’m scared it’ll be hard to do it right.

There’s still the question of taking up limited ‘slots,’ but in Milan’s case, though I don’t know her at all, just by the way she’s handled social justice issues in her books, I’m pretty sure she’s the sort to strongly support Black writers. And there is certainly a thing where an already wildly popular author can tread onto previously taboo ground and thereby wedge the door open for skittish publishers and distributors — “See, it’s okay, the readers really do like this stuff.” I mixed my metaphors there, but you get what I mean.

Finally, I’ll note that there’s a moment when the pair finally get together, and the chapter ended, and I thought she was doing a fade-to-black, and I was about to be disappointed in her, because she does some nicely explicit het sex scenes in all her other books (and if I had realized that romance writers were writing so much sex in my 20s, I could have just called myself a romance writer back then and not an erotica writer, and possibly saved myself a lot of trouble, but anyway…)…

…but then I turned the page, and we picked right back up with the kiss, and then continued with just as much explicit m/m sex as she’d ever done m/f sex. Good job, Courtney!

AND, the last line of the book made me cry.

Committing Fiction

Okay, I stayed up a little later than I’d planned, but somehow I finally settled down to revising a Jump Space story at midnight. Done now, sent it off to Jed Hartman for review. Feels good to commit fiction. 🙂 With luck, we’ll be including it in the Jump Space book he’s bringing out later this year from Constellation Press.

1:15 a.m. I feel like I’ve earned myself a slice of buttered toast, and then I’m crashing into bed…

*****

Now the girl – she must be fourteen now? or the Razuli equivalent, an early adolescent – was arguing again, this time with a security officer three times her size.

He loomed over her. “Miss, we can’t release you without an adult who can take custody. You’ll have to go to security.” Jenny felt a flicker of concern. It was probably fine. Nothing was going to happen to the girl in security. But the guard reached out and grabbed Katika’s arm when she tried to walk away, and the girl let out a yelp of startlement – or was that pain? And before Jenny knew what she was doing, she had turned fully towards them, taken a few quick steps, and interspersed herself between the two, so that the guard released Katika’s arm, surprised.

“Katika! I’m so sorry I was so slow.” She carefully got plenty of ‘s’s into that sentence, to reassure the guard that she was no closeted Razuli. Jenny gave him her best harmless middle-aged woman smile. Most days she hated being middle-aged; it made her feel invisible. Even in her form-fitting uniform, men mostly didn’t look at her anymore. But if Jenny could use middle-age to her advantage here, she would. “Her mother called and asked me to bring the girl home, since we’re leaving the port at the same time.”

— “Hush”

*****

Pre-Orders Open for Whether Change

Delighted to note that pre-orders are now open for _Whether Change: The Revolution Will Be Weird_, including my story, “Wake,” about Black Lives Matter and the pandemic and magical creatures and marriage and raising mixed race kids and living in Oak Park and….

https://www.brokeneyebooks.com/store/c45/Whether_Change.html

Mapping the Galaxy

I spent a while on mapping the galaxy in my “Jump Space” stories just now, and realized something I hadn’t thought about before — because there’s not faster-than-light travel in my universe yet, planets are connected only by wormholes, which don’t generally seem to have any connection to physical proximity.

Which means that if any species ever does develop FTL, that suddenly changes the map of the galaxy. Your worst enemy (through the wormholes) might suddenly be right next door in physical space.

And if FTL ever gets faster than wormhole travel, then everything really changes. Fun.

I’m supposed to take an hour to clean with the kids now, but after that, I think I’m going to try drawing a map. 🙂 Now, what color should the human-settled worlds be?

[image by Jack Kotz, of the University of All Worlds, on Kriti, one of Earth’s granddaughter planets (two jump points away)]

I Made a Game!

WHAT IS IT?

Jump Space: Event Planners! is a 3-6 player sci-fi RPG (role-playing game) set several decades in the future, in a universe connected by wormholes and populated with aliens, genetically modified humans, artificial intelligences, and more. The story follows a group of entertainers based on a small spaceship, a group that’s also something of a found family. There are several roles for players to choose from (as well as room to create new roles), such as master chef, horticulturist, musician, and engineer / pilot, all of which might be useful as you attempt to keep your little business afloat in a complicated universe (with war threatening in the background).

Based on my Jump Space universe, from _The Stars Change_ and accompanying short stories (https://maryannemohanraj.com/science-fiction-fantasy/).

HOW DO YOU PLAY?

• RPGs are collaborative storytelling, in this case, using a few pages of background material and structural suggestions to help get the conversation started. They work well in person, or over Zoom!

• This game will typically run 2-3 hours, though you can break that up into two to three 45-minute ‘episodes’ if you’d like (plus about 15 minutes at the beginning for reading the game and creating your characters)

• No previous RPG experience is needed to play, although if one person in the group has played an RPG before (or watched a video of one), it’ll probably help. One person may serve as game master, though experienced players may be able to manage without one entirely. No dice required!

• This game can be adapted for play with children, and in fact, you are encouraged to have child characters as part of your spaceship’s crew, as they can make running a business a bit more challenging (and fun!).

• You can also take the game in a more adult direction, and explore the possibilities of romance among crewmates…

HOW DO I GET IT?

There are many stories to tell, much to do, and much to create in Jump Space: Event Planners!

If any of the above interests you, head to my Patreon (www.patreon.com/mohanraj). Subscribe at the $3 / month tier (or higher) to get a digital copy of the game; every two months, I’m planning to drop a new adventure in this universe, set on another planet. (Eventually, we may run a Kickstarter to fund a print edition of the game, but for 2021, it’s digital only.)

There is much still to explore; the galaxy is vast!

The Question Is Timing

Spent a little while just now looking at possible conventions for this year. If we have widespread immunization, even (dare I think it) sufficient numbers for herd immunity, or at least R dropping to below 1, AND I’m immunized, I think I’ll be comfortable going to cons again. The question is timing, really.

I’m sad about ICFA and WisCon, my two regular cons, March and May, but will not be attending in person (ICFA is virtual only this year, not sure what WisCon is doing.

• mid-July is RWA — that seems very uncertain to me
• mid-October is Big Bad Con (Bay Area, indie and tabletop gaming) — maybe?

• early November is World Fantasy (Montreal) — hopefully yes, right? I’d really love to go to this

What are y’all’s thoughts on conventions this coming year?

The Duchess War

Today I read a Courtney Milan romance, The Duchess War, and it was clever, funny, heartwarming, and generally delightful. (I want such delight in my own writing.) Sharing in case you should you need such a thing. And this week being what it is, I’ve gone right on to the next book in the series (although they are standalone, so you don’t need to read more than one).

Frodo and Toby

I somehow missed that Frodo and Toby Ziegler (the actors that played them) were both in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Service (adaptation of a delightful Douglas Adams SF novel).

There are two seasons on Hulu; it apparently got cancelled at that point, not picked up for a third hoped for season, despite a letter writing campaign, etc. I don’t know whether they managed to close season 2 on a reasonably resolved note; fingers crossed it’s not mid-cliffhanger…

I’m partway through the first episode, enjoying it, though it is rather gory at points. I do love listening to Toby talk. 🙂

Turning Words Into Flowers

Garden Log 1/9/20. I *MAY* have signed a contract for a story and then turned right around and spent the projected funds on seeds and dahlias. No regrets.

This year I’m trying out Swan Island Dahlias, on a local gardener’s recommendation (their ‘gardener’s choice collection, pictured below, $48.95, plus $9.95 shipping), in addition to my traditional indulgences at White Flower Farm. (Cafe au Lait dahlia I would not be without!)

Serendib House: Turning Words into Flowers, a Specialty

🙂

Whether Change: The Revolution Will Be Weird

Delighted to announce a story sale of “Wake” to Scott Gable’s anthology _Whether Change: The Revolution Will Be Weird_.

This was a deeply personal story — I pretty much wrapped up all my anxieties about the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, protesting in crowds, raising mixed race children, being brown and entering conversations that should center Black voices, etc., and threw it into one story. Plus some dream-walking… I’m not saying Kevin and I are two of the main characters in this, but um, maybe we are. It might also be basically set in Oak Park.

I appreciate Scott taking a chance on publishing it; I’d worried that it was a little too politically uncomfortable to find a home. Guess not!

I’m not sure what’s the best way to hear about when it’s available for pre-order; maybe Scott can chime in on that. Here’s a little teaser from the opening to my story:

*****

Amudhini reached out to touch her husband’s hand, feeling guilty about disturbing his sleep, but needing the reassurance. Outside their window, the sun was climbing in the sky, and all seemed well, but Amu’s sleep had been troubled. A roiling mass of incoherent dreams, dark figures striding across a shadowed landscape, torches blazing. Stephen made a small, grumbly noise, but then his fingers curled around hers, squeezing.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Bad dreams.”

He tugged, and she shifted closer, into the shelter of his arms. She pressed her face against his smooth chest, inhaled the reassuring scent of him. “Me too,” he said. “All those torches…”

Amudhini took a quick, startled breath. It had been a long, long time since they’d walked in each others’ dreams. It happened so rarely once the children had arrived. She’d assumed the gift had mostly been smothered by the daily weight of meal planning, homework supervising, doctor’s appointments and clothes sorting. Their minds were so full, between the children and their own work, there wasn’t much room left for…well, whatever the dream-walking had been. They’d never really found a good word for it.

*****

Kickstarter (funded) link: https://www.kickstarter.com/…/whether-change-the…