The Big Idea: Adam Christopher

Jul. 27th, 2017 12:33 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Congratulations! Your book was a success! Now do that trick a second time! In discussing Killing is My Business, author Adam Christopher talks about doing the thing that you did so well all over again — but different this time.

ADAM CHRISTOPHER:

You know how it goes, the difficult second album: a band spends years meticulously crafting a collection of songs, polishing them through endless live sets until they shine, and these songs form their incandescent debut album.

Then they need to produce the follow-up and essentially come up with an entirely new repertoire on demand. That second album can be a difficult one indeed.

Now, I didn’t spend years crafting the Ray Electromatic Mysteries – Made to Kill, the first full-length novel after the Tor.com novelette Brisk Money, came out in 2015 and was something like my seventh published novel – but somehow the series has a certain kind of weight, just like that debut album of your favourite band. I think it’s because that original big idea was very big indeed – I was writing Raymond Chandler’s lost science fiction epics, a series about a robot assassin working in Chandler’s near-future Hollywood of 1965. That idea sprang from Chandler’s own letter to his agent in 1953, in which he complained about sci-fi, saying “people pay brisk money for this crap?” Clearly, this was a front, the famed hardboiled author conducting a fishing expedition, seeing if his agent would bite.

Sixty years later, I wrote a story named for Chandler’s letter – Brisk Money. The idea was everything – a whole world was open to me, enough not just for a novelette but for a trilogy of hardboiled novels and another in-between novella, Standard Hollywood Depravity – the title, again, taken from Chandler’s letters.

So far, so good. Made to Kill was a blast to write.

And then came book two.

I wouldn’t call it a sophomore slump. Far from it. The three novels were pitched together, right from the start, so I knew what I was doing and where the books were going. But there was one thing in back of my mind while I was working on what became the second novel, Killing Is My Business.

What would Raymond Chandler do?

That mantra, in essence, became the big idea of the book.

The concept of the Ray Electromatic Mysteries is simple: the robot revolution came and went in the 1950s, and Ray is the last robot left in the world, designed to be a private eye working in Hollywood. The only snag to this is that his supercomputer boss, Ada, was programmed to make a profit – and she quickly figured out you could make more money by killing people than finding them. A little tinkering with Ray’s CPU and Ada turns him into an accomplished hit-robot.

Simple enough, and, importantly, an open-ended concept. You could write a hundred stories about a hitman.

Which was actually the problem – because while I could easily write endless hardboiled, noir-ish stories set in Chandler’s seedy LA underbelly, a world full of wiseguys and dames and crooked cops and the mob, that’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before a thousand times. Hell, that’s basically Chandler’s oeuvre and people have been calling him a genius or a hack for the last seventy-plus years.

No, what I had to do was to write science fiction. There was no point in Ray being a robot if that wasn’t vital to the story. Ray had to be the central player in the trilogy – he’s unique, literally, and that has to drive the story arc that stretches across all three books.

So: what would Raymond Chandler do?

More specifically, what would Raymond Chandler do… with a robot?

In Killing Is My Business, Ray’s unique character is used to rather unsubtle effect when he uses his virtually indestructible chassis to protect a mob boss from a drive-by shooting, literally placing himself between the crime lord and his would-be executioners. This is something that only Ray could do. It’s a key scene, the first piece of the story that I had thought of.

And it was also a scene that I knew had to happen – if Ray is a robot then being a robot is the story. With that thought foremost in mind, I could write book two and I could make sure the series as a whole is more than just a set of pastiche crime novels, it was something original.  

Now, if he only Ray Electromatic knew what I torment I had in store for him in book three…

—-

Killing is My Business: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


Wow

Jul. 27th, 2017 08:08 am
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
In the grand tradition of fucked up "polls" on the internet, I present: The GOP. This is some biased garbage right here. I was positively giddy when I took it, btw - they're gonna define their narrative, but I can put my own little monkeywrench in the works. Bet those doofuses didn't even bother to set cookies so I couldn't take it twice.

(308) Avengers: Age of Ultron

Jul. 26th, 2017 10:14 pm
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[personal profile] ebsolutely posting in [community profile] fandom_icons
(308) The Avengers: Age of Ultron
→ Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Clint Barton, Wanda Maximoff, Thor, Maria Hill

Previews;


OVER HERE at [community profile] megascopes

Returning after long absence

Jul. 26th, 2017 11:42 am
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[personal profile] 1_mad_squirrel posting in [community profile] 2017revival
Any Pride and Prejudice or Lost in Austen active communities?

(no subject)

Jul. 26th, 2017 02:04 pm
darthneko: pink bunny with yellow happy face emoticon ([personal] hee!)
[personal profile] darthneko
As the date for closing on the house rapidly approaches (still on track, monday!) the realtor and the loan officer and I are all starting to use increasingly short, emoji and exclamation point filled emails back and forth.

"Hi! Please sign and return this page as soon as possible!! [happy emoji]"
"Page attached!! [excited emoji]"
"Got it, thank you!!!"
"Yay!!!!"

I think we're all a little delirious at this point. We might be down to nothing but emojis and strings of !!!!!!!!! by monday.
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Leaving aside everything else that is wrong and immoral about this proposed ban, at the moment there are something like 11,000 trans people currently serving openly in the US services and reserves. They are there legally, and it is currently their right to serve openly. Trump’s ban, at first glance, appears to take away their right to serve their country, and takes away their jobs, their incomes, their benefits for themselves and their families — for no other reason than something which yesterday was not illegal nor an impediment to serving their country with passion and distinction.

Make no mistake: Trump is affirmatively and explicitly taking away a right from American citizens, a right they already had and enjoyed. This is a big right: The right to serve in one’s military openly, without fear of punishment for who you are.

If Trump will take away one right from Americans, he’s not going to have a problem taking away other rights as well. Why would he? Trump is the living embodiment of “If you give a mouse a cookie” — if he gets away with one thing, he’ll go ahead and try to get away with something else. He’s already trying, of course.

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I support the right of transgender people to serve openly in the military, a thing they already have done, any more than it will come as a surprise that I support the rights of transgender people generally. But as important as it is for me to explicitly say I support transgender rights, I think it’s also worth asking people who oppose these rights, or other rights enjoyed by people not exactly like them, whether they are comfortable taking away fundamental rights these American citizens already have — and if so, what leads them to believe that their own rights, rights they already enjoy, are not also placed in jeopardy by that precedent.

If the answer boils down to “well, that will never happen to me,” as it inevitably will, it’s worth examining why they think they will forever be immune. The answer will be instructive for everyone.

And also, they’re wrong. If you can take away an existing right of an American simply because of who they are, then you can take away a right of any American simply because of who they are — or what they are, or where their ancestors came from, or what they believe, and so on.

I said on Twitter this morning, “Today, as has almost every day in this administration, offers each us of a chance to understand the dimensions our own moral character.” And so it does. And so it will, every day, I expect, until it is done.


[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Coke announced today that it’s rebranding Coke Zero to “Coke Zero Sugar”:

Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is the new and improved Coke Zero. We’ve made the great taste of Coke Zero even better by optimizing the unique blend of flavors that gave Coke Zero its real Coca-Cola taste. Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is our best-tasting zero-sugar Coca-Cola yet, and it will be available across America in August.

Basically, it’s the same new formula it’s been introducing in foreign markets as “Coke No Sugar” but Coke is keeping the “Zero” branding here because it’s been successful and they don’t want to confuse us poor Americans any more than we already are in these trying times. Or something.

As I noted previously (see the second link, there), I am perfectly fine with Coke attempting this revamp — by all reviews I’ve seen the “Zero Sugar” version tastes more like standard Coke than Coke Zero, and since “actually tasting like regular Coke” is why I drink Coke Zero in the first place (Diet Coke shares its flavor profile with the late, unlamented New Coke), I’ll willing to give this new version a shot. If it turns out I hate it, well. I guess then that August 2017 will be a fine time for me to drastically cut down my soda drinking. I suspect I’ll probably continue calling the new stuff “Coke Zero” rather than “Coke Zero Sugar,” because it’s two fewer syllables and I’m all about efficiency.

So in effect, I think that this is less like Coke Zero dying than it is Coke Zero regenerating, timelord-like, into its next iteration. And I suspect I will remain its constant companion.


Wednesday Reading

Jul. 26th, 2017 09:27 am
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
I did a fair amount of reading over the weekend, and early this week.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott was too nerve-wracking and painful for me to read right now; I finished it, but the sequels will definitely have to wait. The race and class issues were very well-depicted, I thought, and the suspense was excellent. I am just too stressed about the world to handle this sort of thing in fiction right now.

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch was, alas, much shorter than I had hoped. Abigail was so great! I want all the Abigail stories!!!

I was happily surprised that Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb, 43rd in the series, was much better than several of the previous volumes. There were a lot of twists and barriers to solving the mystery, capturing the perpetrators, and bringing them to justice, and remarkably little checking in with the huge recurring cast, which can become tedious. I read this partly because mysteries are comforting (justice wins!) and partly for purposes of analysis. I need to write down notes on its structure and character types and things like that.

(no subject)

Jul. 26th, 2017 08:35 am
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[personal profile] the_rck
Something Scott ate yesterday has given him an allergic reaction. He and I had lentil soup for dinner last night. I used chicken broth, water, and lemon juice which should all have been fine, so I suspect that the culprit is the sauce packet I added-- That looked safe when I read the ingredients, but either 'flavoring' or 'spice' must include something that's a problem as all of the known ingredients were things Scott eats normally. The thing was explicitly to go with chicken and mostly contained chicken derived stuff.

Maybe he ate something while he was out at his doctor appointments yesterday? We only talked for about two minutes this morning between me and Cordelia getting up and him going to bed. He said he didn't know what was causing the problem, and I didn't want to keep him just to ask more questions.

Cordelia decided to stay home today in order to see her grandparents and uncle who will be arriving around 11:30 to take us to lunch. The main complication of this is that I now don't have anywhere to put the junk that I need to move out of the living room so that people can sit down. Scott's asleep in our room, and Cordelia's asleep in her room. That pretty much leaves the basement.

Scott won't join us for lunch. We decided that it made more sense for him to keep sleeping. We have our biweekly game session tonight, and he's supposed to GM. I kind of think it might be better for us to play board games, but I guess it will depend on he's doing at 7 tonight. We'll also need to stop a bit early because he needs to leave shortly after 10 in order to get to work by 10:45.

I got a lot of chores done yesterday-- Five loads of laundry; filling, running, and emptying the dishwasher; making dinner; cooking two packages of breakfast sausages; breaking down some boxes for recycling; getting the recycling and trash to the curb for pick up; changing the sheets on our bed; rearranging and dusting my bedroom bookshelves; and moving two shopping bags of books from our bedroom down to the basement plus shelving about a third of them.

Oh, and I sprayed a set of clothing for Cordelia to wear at camp. We bought some prometherin (sp?) which is a spray on tick repellent that's specifically for clothing. She's only wearing a t-shirt and long shorts plus underwear and footie socks, so it only helps a very little bit, but a little bit is better than nothing. We're not spraying her underwear or socks (footie socks don't come up past the top of the shoe). The spray bottle doesn't work very well. The only way to get anything out is to hold it sideways, and the stuff is very bad to breathe, so the spraying has to be done outside and then the clothes left hanging outside to dry for a few hours (how long depends on the humidity).

Needless to say, I was ready to sleep pretty early. I didn't end up doing so, but I should have, could have. Part of not going to bed early was that I had trouble making myself stand up to deal with getting ready to sleep.

Scott sleeping during the day really disrupts my routine because I can't really listen to music or watch anything due to noise. I dug up some earbuds, but they turned out not to work well because one gave no sound at all. We'd had them for years without ever opening the package, so either they were defective when we bought them or they deteriorated in storage. I can watch things with the sound off if there's captioning, but I like to be able to hear the dialogue, too.

I also have to be sure that I have all of the things I need out of the bedroom before Scott goes to bed. If I go in there for something, it will wake him. Tomorrow, when the cleaning lady comes, will be interesting.

I'm thinking that I might move the bags of stuff we want to get rid of to the garage. If that stuff gets stolen, well, at that point, we wouldn't have to haul it anywhere to donate it. But I kind of think that someone looking for quick cash isn't going to dig through garbage bags full of old clothing, not when there are things like the snowblower and Cordelia's bike. I'll shut the door, but Scott tends to forget, and he's the one who mostly opens the door (lawn mowing, grilling, etc.).

Fic announcement

Jul. 26th, 2017 08:34 am
the_rck: (Default)
[personal profile] the_rck
I have posted updates to At the Edge of Centuries (chapter 6 is new), an Amber AU story in my House of Sulfur and Mercury series, and to Auguries of Innocence (chapter 7 is new), a Harry Potter AU.

Both links go to the first chapter of the story in question. Neither story is anywhere near complete.

And I've gotten a comment on Auguries of Innocence that labels is as (good) crackfic. Are long, plotty darkfic AUs generally considered crackfic? I've always found the term a bit slippery in that I know when I read something that I would call crackfic but couldn't define the term apart from pointing at examples. I usually expect short and humorous, though.

The Big Idea: Vivian Shaw

Jul. 26th, 2017 11:18 am
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Monsters are monsters, but do they always have to be so… monstrous? Vivian Shaw considers the fundamental nature of these terrible creatures in Strange Practice, and how she came to look at them from another angle entirely.

VIVIAN SHAW:

What’s my big idea?

The facile answer is, of course, sensible monsters. An idea which doesn’t seem to have found a great deal of traction thus far in any genre, classic or contemporary, and so offers a wide-open opportunity to play with readers’ expectations — but the real underlying answer goes back a lot further than that. It has to do with the contrast between ordinary and extraordinary, and what that means in terms of storytelling.

I’ve been writing novellas and novels of varying quality since I was about ten or eleven, but I did National Novel Writing Month for the first time in 2004, right after spending a lot of time on urbex websites, and the big idea behind that first NaNo was how many characters from classic vampire lit can I get into one story while exploring the weird and wonderful subterranean world of London? The answer turned out to be between five and eight. That first draft featured not only Lord Ruthven and Sir Francis Varney, but also Dracula and Carmilla (only spelling herself Mircalla, because vampires and spelling are such a thing). On the human side I had Greta, descended from Van Helsing, and August Cranswell, descended from the family that put paid to the vampire of Croglin Grange.

I decided to put vampires in the NaNo novel because I’ve always been fond of them — even as a kid I loved reading the classics, even if I had to stop every now and then to look up the words. The way in which the Western vampire mythos evolved from age to age, gathering often-contradictory detail with each well-known story added to its canon, fascinated me. But in all the stories, all the retellings, I couldn’t get away from the fact that most of the vampires did really stupid things. Their behavior was practically designed to attract the attention of the pitchfork-and-flaming-torch brigade, and just for once I wanted to read about vampires who just got on with it — vampires who were monsters, yes, but also people. Vampires who didn’t have to have geographically unplaceable accents and go swanning around in evening dress all the time for no reason. Vampires who didn’t need to be hypersexualized edgelords in leather trousers, or spend all their time moping about their cursed eternal fate, woe. Vampires who’d rather write nasty letters to the Times than tear throats out (unless the latter was really necessary), and who used their powers to watch over the city and stop other monsters ruining everything. Vampires who were sensible.

And because I wanted to read it, I had to write it first.

That book was called The Underglow, and it sat around on various hard drives for a decade while I borrowed characters from it and played with them, letting them evolve into much more nuanced and interesting individuals. In 2014 I dusted the book off again, looked at it properly, and determined it would need to be stripped to the skeleton and rewritten almost from scratch.

And this time the big idea wasn’t about cramming in as many recognizable characters as I could shoehorn into a plot, nor was it limited to vampires alone. This time it was about the individuals themselves — a more diverse cast, given more opportunity to shine — and what it actually meant to them to be what they were, extraordinary creatures in an ordinary world. I didn’t just have sensible vampires. I had sensible were-creatures, and mummies, and ghouls, banshees, bogeymen, a whole spectrum of monsters to play with, a richer world to explore.

It was this second iteration of the book that would end up becoming a series starring Greta as the central character, set in this peculiarly overlapping supernatural-adjacent world. With my editor’s help, I continued to refine the text into something that explored that particular aspect of storytelling: both the contrast between the ancient monsters and the modern day, and the fascinating difficulties encountered by people who necessarily spent their time in the liminal space of that boundary between natural and supernatural. What their experience would be, as creatures who had to coexist either covertly or overtly with ordinary humans, keeping their natures as quiet as possible — and what it might be like as a human to witness that experience, and to take on the responsibility of offering care across species boundaries. What kind of person would you have to be, to do a job like that?

Without really intending to, all those years ago in the throes of NaNo, I’d done myself an extraordinary favor in inventing the character of Greta Helsing. In the previous version, Greta was much less important a character; in this one, I could take much more advantage of her highly specialized role to portray those monsters as her patients, people she cared for, whatever sort of creature they might be, and what that meant to her. As a human physician to the supernatural, she necessarily encounters an enormous variety of complaints, and so I get to write about so many fascinating problems seen both from the human and the clinical standpoint. It gives me endless pleasure to apply scientific protocol to the realms of the unreal — there’s the contrast thing again, ordinary and extraordinary balancing each other — and I love writing about listserv arguments over the relative merits of different embalming fluids in zombie tissue stabilization, or the practice of creating perfect bone replacements for mummies via 3-D printing from a laser scan.

So it’s contrast, and it’s the experience of that contrast, of being a stranger in a strange land, that really drives the book (and, in fact, the series). The concept of found family echoes throughout, as well — it’s a natural consequence of the transposition of individual and environment, and one of my favorites.

But if, in the end, all you take away from Strange Practice is sensible monsters…I’m gonna be well-pleased with the work of my hands.

—-

Strange Practice: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.


Told Eva about the magazine.

Jul. 26th, 2017 02:16 am
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
"You should've gotten a subscription to Cricket."

"We already get a subscription to Cricket."

"So? N doesn't."

"N practically lives here. She doesn't need her own subscription."

"Don't you want her to read more!?"

(Okay, she didn't say that last line, but she thought it VERY LOUDLY.)
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
I happened to be standing next to a pair of adolescents. First the girl remarked that she couldn't believe she'd lived on the Island 16 years and never taken the Ferry (I couldn't believe it either!) and then her friend, clearly trying to impress her with his experience, found himself in a loop, repeating "It can take them a long time to get off" at least three times. (It CAN take them a long time to get off the boat! There's always somebody who thinks the announcement to disembark wasn't actually directed at them). But I don't think she noticed, so that's all right :)

I hope they had fun! The boat is really the most affordable date in town, and certainly fun if you don't take it every day.

***************


10 Relics From the Horse-Powered City Hiding in Plain Sight

The Man Who Blew The Door Off The Microbial World

The Rivers of the U.S., Collected Into a Nifty Subway Map

Spiral arms allow school children to weigh black holes

The entrepreneur who asked Stephen King for a blurb and got a book instead

Scientists Reverse Brain Damage in Drowned U.S Toddler Eden Carlson

Heinz Develops ‘Chicago Dog Sauce’ for the City That Won’t Put Ketchup on Its Hot Dogs (LOL)

The Clay Models Used to Analyze Entrails in the Ancient World

10 Ridiculous Feats of Literature (The story about Hemingway's short story is silly. I guess we're supposed to think the baby died, but c'mon, it's a baby. They outgrow clothes all the time, especially shoes. If the parents had been saving that pair for a special occasion, that occasion never came, is all. And "baby outgrew clothes" isn't a story, it's a piece of advice - don't save the dress up clothes for dressy occasions!)

Not in This Day and Age? On “Feisty, Cheeky, and Rebellious” Women in History

Utah home-birth rate is double the US average, report says

Why Hospitals Started Displaying Newborn Babies Through Windows

Curiosity is underemphasized in the classroom, but research shows that it is one of the strongest markers of academic success.

Child living with HIV maintains remission without drugs since 2008

Magic Can Be Normal

Where Are All the Black Boys in Middle Grade Fiction? A 2017 Assessment and Comparison

Is It A Good Idea To Pay Villagers Not To Chop Down Trees?

Can Tennis Offer a Means of Social Mobility in India?

Why Canada Is Able to Do Things Better

12 Ways Airports Are Secretly Manipulating You ("Last year, the TSA announced it would give $15,000 to the person who comes up with the best idea for speeding up security." I have an idea - quit with the pointless security theater, and let us keep our shoes on! I'll be collecting my $15k now, please. Kindly send it in the form of $2 bills, thanks.)

The Un-Pretty History Of Georgia's Iconic Peach

What's the Matter With Little Free Food Pantries?

Beijing’s Balkan backdoor

South Park raised a generation of trolls

The Commodification of Orthodox Judaism

Which Anonymous Sources Are Worth Paying Attention To?

Rape Choreography Makes Films Safer, But Still Takes a Toll on Cast and Crew

The Good Guy with a Gun Theory, Debunked

The new astrology

Senate advances on healthcare, with dramatic return by McCain (Fuck you, McCain, you and the rest of them.)

Why an Effort to Thwart Some Boycotts of Israel Fails the Free-Speech Test

The Pentagon’s handling of munitions and their waste has poisoned millions of acres, and left Americans to guess at the threat to their health.

Greetings

Jul. 26th, 2017 01:18 am
zhelana: (Default)
[personal profile] zhelana posting in [community profile] 2017revival
Name: Zhelana
Age: 35
Location: Atlanta
Gender: Female
Languages: English and a little Spanish

Describe yourself in five sentences or less: I'm a writer and a photographer living in a small house with a husband, two dogs and two cats. I collect things like tshirts and stuffed animals. I like audiobooks while I drive, which I do a lot because I'm in the SCA. I have a youtube channel unboxing lootcrates. I have schizoaffective disorder, but the mood symptoms are largely dealt with with meds and it's mostly just psychotic symptoms now.

Top 5 Fandoms:
seaQuest DSV, Firefly, MCU, HP, Star Trek


I mostly post about: Day to day life which currently includes a partial hospitalization program, writing, volunteering at an aquarium and zoo, as well as volunteering reading to a 3rd grade boy at his school. I'm learning to play golf, and learning to play the recorder. You may eventually get youtubes of me playing the recorder. But first I need to learn how to read music. lol. I go swimming fairly often. I'm in the SCA. Occasionally I get off my but and go to Synagogue. I'm a photographer. I also talk about what I'm reading, which at the moment and for the foreseeable future, includes reading the entire Bible one chapter a night and summing it up in a few sentences of "WTF?" once a week on my Wednesday reading meme. I also post music every Monday, and writing every Tuesday, and unboxing videos every Saturday. I'm also in the middle of a 365 day meme, which will not actually take me 365 days because I keep skipping questions for being too stupid to bother with.

I rarely post about: politics (although every once in awhile it comes up), my husband's dysfunctional family,

My last three posts were about: Weekly reading meme, my partial hospitalization program, taking the dog to the vet, and writing, considering starting a 101 in 1001 list.

How often do you post?: Daily

How about commenting?: I read every day, multiple times a day, but I'm not always the best about commenting. I'll comment if I have something to add, but I won't comment just to comment on every single entry (and tend to get annoyed with people who do that),

Prompt for 2017-07-26

Jul. 26th, 2017 12:35 pm
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[personal profile] sacredporn posting in [community profile] dailyprompt
Today's prompt is "heat wave".

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