Subarctic Adventures

This month, Laura and I spent a week up in Denali National Park, Alaska. The park is a huge (6 million acre!) preserve of subarctic wilderness that truly felt "wild". During our three-day backpacking component, we encountered no trails, no artificial structures or objects of any kind (not even signs or formal campsites), no cellphone signal, and no other humans for three straight days... despite hiking miles of rugged valleys and misty ridge lines, as well as making over a dozen stream crossings (with no bridges). It was amazing, and the trip also happened to spawn a ton of ideas for Rassam's Eye (more below). Find the untouched places, and stay wild my friends.
- Nalin

Writing Update: Rassam's Eye

Thanks to everyone who replied to the last newsletter to let me know which of the idea pile findings from yesteryear were their favorites for revival! The overwhelming favorites (my opinion included) were Rassam's Eye (the identity story embedded in a large-scale space war taking place around a backwater planet) and Vihara (religious elements explored in the context of the discovery humanity's first faster-than-light drive). I also got a couple votes for the fantasy novel concept, Iron and Glass.

It turns out that the piece that's gained the most traction during my writing mornings lately happens to be Rassam's Eye. Looking at the first two chapters with a fresh eye (now three years after their original composition) has helped me see where it could be refined and what could be discarded. I basically rewrote those chapters... and then have added 8500 more words since. Further, I came back from Denali so inspired by the geography and wildlife (the habitable areas of the planet Iskaria in this book are what we would call subarctic on Earth), and that has given me a thousand ideas of where to go.

I responded to a few of you with follow-up questions as to what really piqued your interest about each story idea... and I think I know how to merge some of the elements from Vihara that folks enjoyed in with Rassam's Eye, since in places they were moving in similar directions. If momentum keeps up, I hope to be asking around for beta readers in the fall sometime! We'll see.

Story Submission: Anpo (The Dawn)

The second major writing update is that I brushed up and submitted a science fiction short story (previously called "The Storyteller", though now renamed to "Anpo (The Dawn)". The story was originally trying to explore the idea of whether humanity could ever unite around anything besides an external threat.

I submitted it to an anthology call, and it was rejected with the following response (excerpt): "This story frustrated me because it had very strong worldbuilding and descriptive passages that were absolutely killed by expository dialog and a flat ending. The editorial design (intercuts of the handwavy science experiment and the maturation of the MC) made it difficult for me to engage with the MC's arc."

It's great to get actual comments. As most writers will tell you (yes, even the published ones), the overwhelming majority of your responses come in the form of a form rejection, containing the bare minimum boilerplate text and no actionable feedback. I mean, I get it, all editors are very busy people. But this editor responded with an almost page-by-page critique, and I'm grateful. It's the best kind of rejection -- one that helps you get better. I'll make some revisions and try again somewhere else!

Fiction Consumed This Month

  • The Devourers, Indra Das (South Asian dark fantasy about werewolves and shapechangers, against the backdrop of Indian history)
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin (literary fiction, one of America's greatest writers that I had somehow never gotten around to reading, raw and beautiful (and unfortunately for parts of it, still timely) depiction of part of the Black experience)
  • The Gossamer Plain, Thomas M. Reid (fantasy based in the Dungeons and Dragons multiverse, kinda meh as a story to be honest, but skimmed as research / ideas for a campaign I am planning)
  • Started watching Shadow and Bone on Netflix... dark fantasy with an 1800's Russia aesthetic, mildly steampunky, YA feel, interesting world
  • Obsessively chasing down every rumor related to the new Dragon Age game...
What have you been reading? Any recommendations for me?

Hey thanks!

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