Writing process

Hugo nominations are open

The CoNZealand email that popped into my mailbox last week mentioned that Hugo nominations were open.

I can only nominate stories I have read and liked. Here are some novels I am thinking of nominating.

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons. This is one of those books I picked up, read a bit, flicked to the end, read the end, went back to read the middle, moved on to read a bit more that I hadn’t read, and so on. I didn’t read it in sequential order, but despite that, enjoyed it.

Kihrin is an orphan who grew up on storybook tales of long-lost princes and grand quests, but when he is claimed against his will as the long-lost son of a treasonous prince, Kihrin finds that being a long-lost prince isn’t what the storybooks promised.

Finder by Suzanne Palmer. We were interviewed recently by Paul Semel and he asked us to recommend some space opera that we’d read recently and liked. This was one of them.

Fergus Ferguson goes to out into the far reaches of human-inhabited space to repossess a spaceship and gets caught up in a civil war.

Another story we recommended in the interview was Michael Mammay’s Spaceside, book two in his stories about Carl Butler.

Former colonel Carl Butler is now a civilian and he’s asked by his company to investigate a breach in a competitor’s computer network.

I also read and enjoyed Jackson Ford’s The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind. It’s set in modern-day LA. I suppose you’d call it an urban fantasy. Or would that be science fiction set in today’s world?

Tegan Frost can move things with her mind. So far as she knows, she’s the only person who can, so when a body turns up murdered using powers like hers, she’s the logical suspect. She has 22 hours to clear her name.

Looking through Goodreads’ list of 2020 Hugo-eligible novels, I see that T. Kingfisher’s Minor Mage is nominated. This is a story about a 12 year-old boy, and I know Ursula Vernon, who writes as T. Kingfisher, said editors considered it too black for a children’s novel, but technically it is a middle grade story. To me, anyway. If it is eligible, in any category, I will nominate it. This is definitely a book worth reading.

Oliver is twelve, and a very minor mage (he knows three spells), but while his mother is away the villagers ‘encourage’ him to take a journey to bring back the rain.

Writing process

The Untamed

It’s hot

It’s super-muggy here. We’ve just had a massive hailstorm (hail as big as golf balls) but the temperature didn’t drop so now it’s so muggy, and even the big hailstones are gone. The hail was so loud the first few landing on the roof sounded like gunshots. As more arrived it that changed to continuous popping, more like New Year’s eve fireworks.

If we’d had any peaches left on our tree they would have been ruined. Sadly, it never gets that far nowadays. The possums and/or cockatoos finished those off a while ago. Little beasts wait until things are ripe and juicy, then strip the tree overnight.

Publication day

Stars Beyond is published on Tuesday. We hope you enjoy it.

The Untamed

Before Christmas I started watching I binge-watched the fantasy c-drama The Untamed.

“You have to watch this show,” I told Sherylyn. “You have to.”

When we recommend books (and tv shows) to each other, there are degrees of recommendation. Mostly it’s, “This book is okay. I think you’ll like it.”

“You have to watch,” translates to “I love, love, love this show, and you will too.”

It’s a zombie story about greed, ambition, and revenge. It’s heart, though, is a story about brothers. About family and friends, and supporting each other, even if the person you are supporting doesn’t know that you are.

It’s all about the characters and they are awesome.

It’s based on a fantasy called Mo Dao Zu Shi (The Grand Master of Demonic Cultivation) written by Mo Xiang Ton Xiu.

I appreciated the story both as a reader (or viewer, in this case)—loved the characters—and as a writer. It’s well plotted and it slowly gives out information (conniving and emotionally manipulating, but in a good way) via flashbacks that totally changes how the viewer interprets an earlier scene. It’s so clever, and you don’t feel manipulated. Not like stories where a point-of-view character knows something but holds it back from the reader. In this case you usually find out more via a flashback, often from a different point-of-view character. There were a couple of times where I totally changed my view of a particular scene (and hence opinion of someone) as a result.

The first couple of episodes were confusing. So much so that I’m going to quote directly from something @TriviaLove tweeted on 17 January 2020.

Yes, the first few episodes are confusing, but like any good story, you get sucked in. You have to watch and wait for it to make sense. By episode five you are hooked.

They show that same scene again in episode 33, only with a lot more detail. By then you know what went before. As @TriviaLove says:

Later, I went back and watched those first few episodes. (Let’s be honest, I rewatched the whole thing, no mean feat given it’s 50 episodes.) They made a lot more sense, and I picked up so many things on the rewatch.

Come for the exotic fantasy, stay for the characters.

p.s. Sherylyn watched it, too, and she’s now rewatching.

Writing process

Money as a stereotype

Today I paid cash for a notebook to write in. It’s the first time in six months I have paid cash for anything.  Tap and go is a boon for me. I no longer have to worry about finding an ATM, or always having to check if I’ve been to a bank before I go out with friends for coffee. 

I think there will always be a place for cash, but I think we are heading toward a mainly cashless society.  I think it’s inevitable. For most people not having to carry cash makes things easier. Over the last week, for example, I purchased online one item in US dollars, and one in Euro online, not to mention spent lots of money in local stores in Australian dollars. All on the same card, without having to do anything except either hand the card over, or provide the card number.

That’s a lot simpler than it would have been a generation ago, where for local purchases I would have required cash, while overseas purchase would require a cheque or money order in the currency I purchased the item.

At the same time, it’s becoming more difficult to get cash when you need it. Even ATMs are less common than they used to be.

Here in the modern world we think we’re the first to come up with a cashless/credit society, but we’re not.  The Mesopotamians and Harappans (Indus civilisation), for example, used clay tablets as a form of credit.  One might say there’s nothing new under the sun.

Many science fiction writers use a credit system for money in their stories. We did, in both the Linesman and Stars Uncharted series.  We called them credits. Original, huh?

It wasn’t until we were working out the monetary system for the story we are currently writing—a fantasy—that that I realised just how much of a stereotype credits are.  I mean, we’ll go to the trouble of creating money for a fantasy world—sure we’ll often use gold and silver, but not just ‘gold’ and ‘silver’—but all we use in science fiction is ‘credits’.

“A thousand platinum bars,” Viggo said.

A thousand!  He moistened his lips with his tongue. “A thousand platinum?” …

“Bars,” Viggo said, as if he wouldn’t know the difference between bars and pieces.

S. K. Dunstall

Credits, for us, are a lazy way of writing.  In the fantasy above I know exactly how many pieces a loaf of bread costs (two), but I have no idea how much the equivalent costs in credit. Surely, there are some basic things you should know about your society, like how much it costs to buy food to live on.  And I do have an idea of this, sort of, but it doesn’t translate to the page. You, the reader, don’t even know if credits can be fractions of a whole (for example, 2.2 credits) or only integer (22 credits).  Or maybe they’re like Vietnamese dong. Last time I looked there were around 23,000 dong for one US dollar.

So, next time we create a science fiction world (outside of the Linesman or Stars Uncharted universes), we’ll know exactly what our money system is, and how it works. And we’ll try not to use credits.

Writing process

I have internet

I didn’t plan such a long blog silence, but I mucked up on the internet connections here and New Zealand, and refused to pay shipboard prices for more internet. Not only that, I forgot to download many of the books I planned to read onto my iPad.


I have internet back now, and it feels good. We’ll be back to our regular Sunday blogs soon.