View From the Hotel Window, 8/30/14: Decatur, GA

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/08/30/view-from-the-hotel-window-83014-decatur-ga/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=25210

The window overlooks an inner courtyard. The people you see in it are probably authors, here for the Decatur Book Festival. It’s very festive! My event is at 4:15 in the Decatur Recreational Center Gym. Come by. It’ll be tons of fun.

Tomorrow: Home for Labor Day. Family! Laundry! Sleep! Hooray!


View From the Hotel Window, 8/29/14: Chapel Hill

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/08/29/view-from-the-hotel-window-82914-chapel-hill/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=25204

Chapel Hill is just a short jaunt from Raleigh, so I didn’t have to get in an airplane, I just got into a car and was driven. Hooray! Not that I don’t love air travel, mind you. But a nice little trip in a car is good, too.

Afternoon: Catching up with friends. This evening. Me at Flyleaf Books, at 7pm. If you’re in Chapel Hill, won’t you please come by? And bring everyone you know? It’ll be fun. This is the fourth stop on the tour. I’ve got it all down now. You will be entertained.

Tomorrow: Decatur, and the Decatur Book Festival. My event will be 4:15 at the Decatur Recreation Center Gym. Should be fun!


Lock In Through the Lens of Disability

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/08/29/lock-in-through-the-lens-of-disability/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=25207

Over at Huffington Post, writer David M. Perry takes a look at Lock In, with special emphasis on how disability matters are handled in the book — because, after all, the protagonist is someone who is “locked in” and uses technology to interact with the world. “To my knowledge, this is the first science fiction novel based largely around the complexities of providing reasonable accommodations for disability,” Perry writes.

I’m not sure I would make such a claim myself (the SF field is vast and someone probably has essayed this particular topic before), but I will say it was an aspect of the book that I, as someone who does not suffer from any disability greater than nearsightedness, was well aware was territory that would allow me to show how little I actually knew about it. I expect that there are subtleties that I’ve missed and things I’ve gotten wrong — and I expect I’ll hear about those and see the criticisms about them online.

Which, actually, will be fine, and for which I am ready to take copious notes for when (or if) I ever do a sequel to Lock In. This is a field which I am happy to know more about, from people who have to live in it. In the meantime, Perry’s article seems like a good first response to the novel from that direction. Check it out.


View From the Hotel Window, 8/28/14: Raleigh

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/08/28/view-from-a-hotel-window-82814-raleigh/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=25202

Overlooking a mall. There are worse views.

Event tonight at 7:30 at Quail Ridge Books, here in Raleigh; if you’re in the Raleigh area I hope to see you there. If you can’t make it, tomorrow I am in Chapel Hill, just down the road, at Flyleaf Books. Come to either. Or both!


The Big Idea: Kameron Hurley

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/08/28/the-big-idea-kameron-hurley-2/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=25200

Fresh off winning dual Hugos at this year’s Worldcon, Kameron Hurley is releasing The Mirror Empire, which is quickly garnering some of the best reviews for a fantasy novel this year, in part thanks to its startling and vibrantly original worldbuilding. But as Hurley explains, some of the most intriguing worldbuilding she’s doing here involves who she imagines at the books antagonists — and why it matters that she’s approaching them as she does.

KAMERON HURLEY:

Orcs. Mutants. Zombies. Demons. Monsters. Aliens. Undead. Robots.

Faceless evil.

Other.

The Other is always monstrous. Inhuman.

That makes it easier to kill.

Epic fantasy is often understood as a genre that pits good vs. evil, light vs. dark. Tolkien’s work became the modern template for this, inspiring numerous imitators that pitted the good merry few against the faceless hordes. Grayer-toned fantasy became more popular in the late 90’s with authors like Robin Hobb and George R.R. Martin removing the faceless horde (aside from those white walkers, perhaps…) and giving us a fantasy where all the good and evil of the world was contained in people, not faceless creatures. We saw all the light and dark, the grim and hopeful, in our own faces.

My academic background is in the history of resistance movements, in particular in Southern Africa. I know all about the horrific things we’ll do to one another – things we couldn’t even imagine some faceless evil doing.  But it was when I expanded the reach of my work into the study of genocide and mass violence – what makes ordinary people kill? – that I realized what my first epic fantasy series was going to be about, at its heart.

Because though we may seek to Other groups of humans to make it easier for us to kill them, the reality is that those who kill, and those being killed, are just the same.

We are all the same.

Oh, certainly, let’s not get too heavy, here. The Mirror Empire has blood mages and flesh eating plants and energy swords that sprout out of people’s wrists, satellite magic and semi-sentient trees, and all that cool, fun stuff we visit fantasy to experience. But the core of it, the big idea behind it, happened a few months after I returned from completing my academic work in South Africa.

Back then, I was thinking big – I was plotting my series arc without actually knowing who the Big Bad was. I knew I had a group of pacifist people fleeing from a force that wanted to destroy them, but I had no idea why this Faceless Horde wanted them dead.

While working out one morning, I had a vision of one of the protagonists traveling across the world, fleeing from these invaders who were wiping out his people, and he goes to a neutral country to sit down and work out a truce. He opens the door to the meeting room…

I remember the room. A stone room. A table. A bank of windows spilling white light, a cityscape with blue tiled roofs. He opens the door, and who does he see?

He sees his dead sister sitting at the table. He sees her rise. Smile. Hold out her hand. Perfectly healthy. Perfectly alive.

I realized who the Bad Guys were, in that moment.

My pacifist people were fighting themselves.

The questions this image provoked were many: how was she alive?  How had her own brother not known she was leading this army? And, most importantly: why was she killing her own people?

I could have made up something lazy, of course – she hadn’t really died, it was all a trick, a dream. But a far more interesting possibility presented itself in that moment: two worlds. Reflections of each other. Mirror images. One world is dying. The other sits on top of it, just a slide through the veil between them. But to escape a dying world means murdering all of those who share their faces on the other side.

Killing your doppelgänger. Murdering a world, to save yourself.

The catalyst for this event, I decided, would lie in the heavens. It would be a recurring catastrophe triggered every 2,000 years by the arrival of an erratic satellite in the sky which bestows strange powers on the inhabitants. This heavenly body, unlike the others orbiting the world more regularly, gave specific individuals a very limited power: the ability to open doors between worlds.

Who those newly powerful people turn out to be, who they side with, and who controls them, make up much of the narrative push of the book.

But at its heart, The Mirror Empire is about the Big Idea. It’s just this:

What would you do if you had to kill yourself to live? How much would you destroy to save your own skin? Who would you be, if you gave up your own morality, your sense of self, to survive? Would it be worth it? What would you sacrifice, what would you save, in the face of utter annihilation?

These are questions every single character must answer, in the end.

They’re questions many are faced with every day.

It’s not a good vs. evil question. A light vs. dark question. It’s a human question.

A vital one.

—-

The Mirror Empire: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

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


View From the Hotel Window, 8/27/14: Austin, TX

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/08/27/view-from-the-hotel-window-82714-austin-tx/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=25198

I am particularly pleased to have a view that overlooks newspaper offices, being a former newspaper person myself. Also, the Austin American-Statesman has been promoting the heck out of my appearance here, so it is now my new favorite newspaper.

Tonight’s event: 7pm at BookPeople. Tomorrow: Raleigh, North Carolina! Quail Ridge Books! 7pm! In both cases, if you are in the area, please come and bring every person you’ve ever met. Because, you know. It’ll be lovely to see you.


Today’s Thought Expressed on Twitter

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/08/27/todays-thought-expressed-on-twitter/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=25195

Yeah. Moving on. I’m not saying you have to. Please, follow your bliss. But I’m already looking toward next year. Which should be very interesting because there are so many good sf/f books out this year.


View From the Hotel Window, 8/26/14: Houston

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/08/26/view-from-the-hotel-window-82614-houston/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=25191

Hello, Houston! I made it into town more or less on time, had lunch at Goode Company BBQ, and am now relaxing in my suite with a view of the tennis/basketball court. Life is good. If you are in or near Houston, remember that I am having an event at Brazos Bookstore tonight at 7pm. Come be part of the first stop of the Lock In tour! Bring youself! Bring your friends! Bring every single person you’ve ever met in your life.


Lock In: It’s Out!

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/08/26/lock-in-its-out/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=25186

9780765375865

Today’s the day: Lock In is out! And because it is, now, in one handy post, here is everything you could possibly need to know about this book.

The novel is getting some of the best reviews of my career to date, include starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist. Io9 calls it one of my best novels yet; others have also been nicely positive.

You can read the first five chapters at Tor.com. You can also read the related novella “Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome” at Tor.com.

I encourage you to buy your copy at your local bookstore. You can also buy the book at these online stores: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBooks|Indiebound|Google Play|Kobo|Powell’s. The electronic version of the book (in North America) comes without DRM.

The audiobook, published by Audible.com, comes in two versions: One read by Amber Benson, and one by Wil Wheaton. Both versions come with the full text of the novel and also include an audio version of “Unlocked,” read by a full cast. Click here to be taken to Audible’s Lock In page, which includes purchase links for both versions.

See Wil and Amber talk about the book in an interview here.

The book also comes with its own theme song, by William Beckett.

I am on tour supporting the book. Here are the tour dates, and a tour FAQ. Please come see me on tour!

I am super proud of this book, and I am so very happy it is finally out there in the world. I really hope you all like it as much as I do. I think you will.

 


The Tour Baggage This Time

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/08/25/the-tour-baggage-this-time/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=25184

The Lock In tour lasts for four weeks, but the good news is that Tor arranged the tour so that I come home about once a week for a day or two. Aside from being an awesome thing that will let me save my sanity by allowing me to see my family, and thus not turn into a gibbering, insensate lump two weeks into the tour, it also means that I can pack quite a bit lighter, secure in the knowledge that I will be able to do laundry within a reasonable span of days.

So above, please find my baggage for the first leg of the tour, which takes me to Houston, Austin, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Decatur, GA. The brown bag consists of clothes for six days (minus tomorrow’s clothes, which I have ready to deploy the instant I wake up), while the computer bag holds a computer (duuuuuhhhh), a tablet, cords, extra battery for tablet and phone, and pens. They’re both very small (the clothes bag is 17×9, and the computer bag is probably 16×4), which means that I will never have to check them or leave them at the side of the plane. This is key when you’re touring; never never never let them separate you from your luggage when you tour because if you do, you will be three cities onward when they finally locate it.

The flip side of this is that I am so tightly packed I have no room for anything else, which is why I warned people in my tour FAQ that if they give me a gift on tour (which does happen, and which is always very sweet), they may see me hand it over to a bookstore staffer or my media escort, who will mail it home for me. I will literally have to leave it in a hotel room otherwise, and nobody wants that. So please don’t be offended if you see me do that.

In any event: Thank you, Tor, for arranging my tour so I can travel light. I actually very much appreciate it.