Category Archives: My Stories

Panel Postmortem: Is Optimism Just Nostalgia in Disguise?

This post is the first in what I intend to be several recaps of some of the most thought-provoking moments during this weekend’s Arisia science fiction and fantasy convention.

First of all, I have to thank Andrea Hairston. As a panelist and audience member, moderators have consistently been the most significant factor affecting the experience of con panel. Andrea was our fearless leader during this panel and I think we all owe her thanks for her energetic and positive management of the conversation.

Panel Description: Is Optimism Just Nostalgia in Disguise? – Marina 2, Literature, Sun 11:30 AM: We are hearing, after a long sojourn in dystopia and postapocalypse, that optimistic SF is making a comeback. Is it really the case or is the optimism of yesterday just another type of nostalgia? When climate change, postantibiotic medicine, and resource depletion are major factors in our lives (topics that are not always as well addressed in optimistic SF), is there a way to temper our optimism and inspire those who might be able to face these problems? Panelists: Andrea Hairston (mod), N.A. Ratnayake, Matthew Kressel, T.X. Watson, M.J. Cunniff

I was happy that the conversation could begin with every panelist answering the titular question in the negative: no, optimism is not just nostalgia in disguise. We had different perspectives as to why and how to move forward, but it was great to have that connecting thread. I won’t (and really can’t) give a transcript or summary of the conversation as it happened, but here are some of my key conclusions that I took away.

[SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t yet seen Star Wars: Rogue One, skip the section “Positive Stories in Negative Spaces.”]

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SciFi Policy Interviews Me on the Issues in Red Soil Through Our Fingers

SciFi Policy has posted an in-depth interview of me about the social, political, and economic issues in Red Soil Through Our Fingers. SFP is a group that seeks to review, discuss, and advocate for science fiction that helps us explore issues of political, social, and economic importance. Check out this interview for discussion of Red Soil‘s plot and characters, human spaceflight, space settlement, corporate space, Mars, and my favorite policy-relevant fiction!

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Design of The Hellas-Dao Mars Colony

The story of Red Soil Through Our Fingers takes place against the backdrop of Hellas-Dao, a Mars colony owned and operated by the Rekos-Breland Xenomaterials Corporation (RBX). Though the setting is obviously fictional, I wanted to make sure that I incorporated much of what we already know about Mars and what future Mars colonies might look like. Though I have a background in aerospace engineering, neither Mars nor Mars colonization architectures were my area of expertise. The process of researching defining the setting for the novel was a lot of fun.

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Red Soil: Interview with the Cover Artist

Red Soil Through Our Fingers will be my first published novel-length work. But I’m not the only one with a “first” coming up in January… it will also be the first time graphic artist Stephanie Hoover will have her art on the cover of a published novel!

Stephanie and I grew up together on the same street in suburban Idaho. We lost touch over the years, but reconnected last year through social media over the intersection of our creative passions. Cover art is a special genre; it brings together the crafts of writing and graphic/visual art into a unified symbol of a story. Stephanie was kind enough to answer a few interview questions about her approach to the cover for Red Soil Through Our Fingers, as well as her work in general.

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My Writing Process

Image credit: freeimagrs.com/spydermurp

Image credit: freeimagrs.com/spydermurp

I recently filled out an author interview at Smashwords, and one of the questions had to do with my approach to the writing process. I’m posting the answer to that question here on the blog, since there was some interest in the question after my commentary on the release of Draft Beta. I answer this and nine other questions in the full interview, so check it out!

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Red Soil – Draft Beta Released

My debut novel, Red Soil Through Our Fingers, is one step closer to publication! Thanks to the excellent feedback I got in response to Draft Alpha, I was able to implement a number of much-needed revisions. Draft Beta went out last night with several structural changes, a more streamlined set of character arcs, and over 6,000 words of “deepening”… character backstory, fleshed out relationships, more windows into emotional reactions of POV characters, and higher stakes for scene-level character motivations.

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Map of the Hellas-Dao Colony – With Novel Excerpts!

Map of the Hellas-Dao colony from my upcoming novel, Red Soil Through Our Fingers.

Map of the Hellas-Dao colony from my upcoming novel, Red Soil Through Our Fingers.

During the world-building process for Red Soil Through Our Fingers, I spent a lot of time on Google Mars exploring the surface of the red planet for possible settings. I settled (no pun intended) on a region just northeast of the Hellas Planitia, a large depression in the southern hemisphere. Hellas is the lowest altitude point on Mars’ surface, and hence the highest ambient pressure and temperature. It is one of the areas with the highest probability of liquid or near-liquid water on the planet.

Below are some excepts from the novel, currently approaching Draft Alpha (first complete revision).

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Of Molecules and Mars Colonies

My novel-in-progress, Red Soil Through Our Fingers, takes place in a farming settlement that is part of a Mars colony. As I wrote Draft Zero, there was a lot of handwavium going on with respect to various technical details — the focus on just finishing the story. Now that I’ve progressed about a quarter of the way into Draft Alpha, I’m needing to clean up some inconsistencies and gaps. Today I figured out a piece of the story world that is good for me to know as I construct the novel, but probably won’t make it explicitly into the next of the work: how various molecules necessary for both human life and agriculture are going to be circulated on this Mars colony.

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New Cover Art / “Remembering Turinam” on Smashwords

Cover art copyright 2014 by Stephanie Hoover.

Cover art copyright 2014 by Stephanie Hoover.

I’m excited to be collaborating with graphic artist (and childhood friend) Stephenie Hoover on cover art for some of my work. A few months ago I sent out an email query to several friends that I knew were into graphic art, asking if anyone could be interested in working with a writer to develop cover art and other hybrid creative projects. Stephanie responded, and a few weeks later she had the first pass of a cover for my short story Remembering Turinam ready. I really like how she made Grandfather’s farm real in the near-ground, with the imagery of the Turinam valley, the Khem river, and the Dorhal mountain range forming a grand backdrop in in the distance. I’ll be honest — it’s not actually how I imagined the scene as the writer. And I think that’s a great thing.

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Language Is…

Language is a technology, a doorway, a weapon, and an agent of change and hope. As it shifts both form and function, the metaphors that describe it change too.

Language is a technology that has shaped our brains. Ted Chiang’s novelette The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling (a Hugo nominee last year) particularly struck me as revolving around the same complex issues — how important language and particularly writing has been to the human psyche. Language changes the way we think — it is a tool that can be both used and misused to great effect.

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