Nicole Kornher-Stace has some esoteric random influences for her novel Latchkey, which include a classic philosophical work, a popular video game… and a disease. Well, sort of for the last one. Here she is to sort it all out.
When I was eight years old, I had a teacher with advanced chronic Lyme disease. We knew this because she couldn’t keep our names straight — even by the end of the year — and she kept apologizing for it. She was, I don’t know, early forties at most, and yet her memory was eroding in a way that we, as kids, assumed was the eventual destiny of really really old people, not somebody just a few years the senior of my mom. I remember thinking: this is the most terrifying thing. Having your memory eaten by something you can’t even see. It immediately bumped whatever topped my 8-year-old fear-list down to number two. Tornadoes, maybe.
But I live in upstate New York, where you get Lyme disease like most people get colds. (I just read that a solid 50-something percent of tested ticks from 2017 around here were infected, so THAT’S FUN.) The first time I got Lyme was in my early twenties. I didn’t have the bullseye rash, so in my eternal optimism — the kind that only rears its head when you’re trying to get out of doing something deep down you know you need to — I convinced myself it was a particularly long-lasting nightmare flu, so I didn’t go to the doctor until at some point I emerged from my month-long fever haze and went you know, this probably isn’t normal. Nobody seems to be able to tell me if I still have it or if the antibiotics killed it in time. (Go to the doctor with unexplainable month-long fevers, people! Don’t be me!)
The first thing I thought when I was diagnosed is: oh shit, I’m going to turn out like Ms. ——. Unable to keep twenty names attached to faces anymore even after looking at them six hours a day, five days a week, for ten months. Surely I was too young to forget everything. Then again, so was she. Then again, so is everyone. I don’t care how old you are. That shit is scary.
So for a few years I’d tentatively probe the situation, the way you poke a painful tooth with your tongue. Is my memory crashing and burning or am I just tired? Or is it just because I’m pregnant? Or because I’m chasing a toddler around all day? Or am I too overworked? And so forth.
It entered the mixed bag of random unintentional influences that made up the world and characters of my 2015 YA debut Archivist Wasp and its 2018 sequel, Latchkey. And I do mean random. The most succinctly I can make this point is probably to say: the framework of the protagonist’s world landed in my head of a piece one day while I was reading The Golden Bough and playing Fallout 3 concurrently.
I say the protagonist’s world specifically because in these books there are three worlds in total. One is the Golden Bough-meets-Fallout-3 world in which Wasp, ghosthunter priestess, lives. In Archivist Wasp, she ends up going on a buddy quest into the underworld with a ghost she was supposed to capture and exploit, but instead cuts a deal with; the second world is the one this ghost comes from, a near-future society collapsing into high-tech all-out civil war. The underworld is the third setting in the books, and this underworld — along with the ghosts in it — is literally constructed of memory. Think personalized pocket afterlives sort-of like What Dreams May Come, except more crowdsourced, more interconnected, and you can travel between them easily, if you can find the doors. The memories that shape you as a person acquire physical form in the underworld. An area that’s richly realized, full of detail, is that way because it is built and rebuilt and reinforced out of the memories of many dead together. There are entire buildings, entire cities, based on these communal memories.
But ghosts, too, are made of memory. Here, think of residual self-image as in The Matrix. Except that the longer you stay dead, the longer you wander the underworld, the hazier and more fallible your memories of your life — and yourself — become. Eventually you lose your sense of self, your image of yourself, and you revert to a faceless silvery cutout, like a paper doll the approximate size of you. There are ways of regaining those lost details of your life, but it’s difficult, and almost impossible to do alone. The ghost that Wasp cuts her deal with has forgotten vast swathes of his life and has spent centuries making half-assed guesses at all those lost details, rebuilding the constellation of his past around a few bright remembered stars.
Without spoiling anything, memory plays an even bigger role in the sequel, Latchkey. And, hilariously, it took me until after I drafted the sequel to pinpoint where these books’ fixation on memory, and loss of memory, came from. I still mentally interrogate myself sometimes, giving my own memory little pokes to make sure it’s still running. I don’t really know how I’d know if it wasn’t. My memory seems to be as selective as my kid’s, which retains where you were and what you were doing when you said such-and-such thing, verbatim, but blanks entirely on what he did earlier that school day. For now, mine still has a stranglehold on: story notes, grudges, song lyrics I last heard when I was twelve, way more high school Spanish than I give it credit for, quotes from cartoons that I can insert into conversations at opportune moments of maximum obnoxiousness, etc. and completely drops the ball on: names, dates, what I went into a room for five seconds after entering it, etc. I say this to people and they shrug and go meh, sounds normal to me.
So maybe eight-year-old me was freaking out over nothing. Maybe all our memories are just weird jumbled messes, the mental equivalent of desk clutter or a crowdsourced underworld. For now, mine can hold its shit together long enough to write the exact books I want to be writing, and they’re getting out there and finding their readers, and honestly, that’s all I’d ever want to ask of it.
Or, as I noted elsewhere: “Tonight’s Sunset as a Hotel Room Painting.”
I think I could get at $25 for this!
Here’s what it look like zoomed out a bit:
We do have pretty skies here, I have to say.
Today, Hugo and Nebula Award winner James Patrick Kelly is here to tell you why you need more short stories in your reading diet. And coincidentally, The Promise of Space and Other Stories, his latest collection of short stories, just happens to be out!
JAMES PATRICK KELLY:
I rise in defense of the humble short story. My Big Idea is that you should be reading more of them. My Other Idea is that my new short story collection, The Promise of Space and Other Stories, might be a place to start. So here’s my case for upping your short fiction intake:
First: this is the Golden Age of short stories. There are more markets and more writers writing at top form than ever before. Yes, ever before. Of course, I know all about that Other Golden Age, which the Science Fiction Encyclopedia puts at roughly 1937 to around 1950. I grew up with a headful of Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Sturgeon, Williamson and Pohl. Hell, I even met some of them! I’m not saying that these writers were not some of the greatest of All-Stars. But I’d argue that we can easily match that lineup with a much more diverse roster of writers publishing today. Not only that, but our bench is way, way deeper. In addition to the skill of the current crop of writers, consider the accessibility of their fiction. Lots and lots of it is free. And it comes to you in multiple formats: print, print online and in the last few years, audio. Every month there are upwards of a hundred new stories published, wonderful stories that you may be missing.
Second: Stories are not short novels. Rather they are a different art form altogether. Look, have you ever skipped over a lyrical passage of landscapery in a novel because you wanted to get back to the plot? Doesn’t happen in a story. Or how about that supporting character in an otherwise enjoyable novel who annoys you but whom the novelist can’t get enough of? No time for that in a story, because the clock runs too fast. Things have to happen ASAP in Storyland. In my revenge story “Soulcatcher,” in which a desperate clone hatches a plot to rescue her kidnapped clone sister, everything goes terribly wrong in about a half an hour of story time. And here’s the thing: the more stories you read, the better a story reader you become ….
Third: … because a short story puts you to work as a worldbuilder. Because there isn’t time to spend (waste) describing the barren landscape of the desert world, or explaining the wizard’s necromantic rule book, the best short story writers leave hints and point at clues which encourage the reader to make up parts of the story for themselves. Of course, a story has to succeed at its most superficial level and the na
Which is that I got the first pass page proofs this morning and read the book through, front to back, for the first time since sending it in a month ago.
Folks, this book is really good.
Like, better than I remember it being when I sent it in. Which is not too surprising since when I sent it in it was 7am and I had been writing all night and my brain was the consistency of tapioca pudding. But even so.
It really moves. And it flows really well. And your favorite characters from The Collapsing Empire are back doing some pretty cool stuff.
Can’t wait for you all to read it.
Uh, in October. Sorry. But it’ll be worth the wait.
As an author, I struggle with titles, and I don’t normally settle on one until a story is completely written, usually borrowing from bits of description or dialogue I’ve written within the text. Not so with The Grandmother Paradox. This title was the inspiration and starting point for this second time travel novella in the Place in Time series as I delved deeper within the world I’d created in The Continuum.
A “grandfather paradox” is an event in time travel where altering elements of the past causes inconsistencies in the present. Returning from the past, a traveler may discover that things aren’t as they left them; something they’ve done has caused a ripple of change. The paradox gets its title from the most frequently cited example: A time traveler visits the past, kills their grandfather before their parent was conceived, and thus prevents their own birth.
Some of my favorite time travel stories play with this trope. Think of the original Back to the Future, where Marty must help his parents get together to fix the timeline before he and his siblings fade out of existence. Or the Doctor Who “Father’s Day” episode in the Ninth Doctor’s era, where Rose rescues her father from a car accident, causing all sorts of damage to the timestream.
In The Continuum, professional time traveler Elise Morley travels forward in time and has to face a situation where history seems doomed to repeat itself, but I knew that with the second book in this series, I wanted to send a character into the past and force them to confront another time travel conundrum: whether it’s possible to change the past and – if it is possible – whether they should. Thus, the title of The Grandmother Paradox felt like the perfect fit, and I built the story around that premise, though with the slight alteration that it’s not the protagonist’s ancestor who’s in danger, but the ancestor of someone important to him.
So when Dr. Wells, the head of the Place in Time Travel Agency (PITTA) suspects that someone’s trying to use the concept of the grandfather paradox to eliminate the family line of our first book’s heroine in order to prevent her existence (and thus prevent the events of the previous book from taking place), he’s unable to turn to her for help. Instead, he recruits the very man whose life she saved and who thus has just as much to lose if she ceases to exist.
Former secret agent Chandler, the protagonist of this novella, travels back to the year 1893, where Juliette Argent, Elise’s great-great-grandmother is working as the assistant to a traveling magician. But she’s not an easy person to protect. With her bold and fearless attitude and her fascination with time travel (of all things!), Chandler finds it more and more difficult to keep her safe and keep his purpose there secret.
In The Grandmother Paradox, I was able to explore a fascinating time in history, more deeply examine some of my favorite characters from the first book, and even dabble in a bit of romance. But most of all, like the first book in the series, I enjoyed being able to play around with the twists and turns of time travel, the logic puzzlers and paradoxes that make this subgenre so much fun.
Hello everyone! Today I’m going to tell you about this awesome comic that a reader of this blog told me about (when I posted about Death as a character). It is a comic about the personification of death, otherwise known as Dee, befriending a teenage girl named Emily! They become besties and she teaches Death all about society, people, and life in general.
This comic is adorable and funny a lot of the time, and is mostly pretty light-hearted, a real slice-of-life sort of thing. Though there are times where it’s serious, and morals about the order of the universe come into play. There are also scenes that are very serious involving actual death, not just Death as a fun, awesome character.
I think my favorite thing is when Death and Emily talk about philosophy. They bring up a lot of good points and debate well, and it’s really interesting to hear what Death’s opinions on things are.
The Bright Side is ongoing, and has 580 some pages so far, so it’ll definitely take you a hot minute to read, but it’s been great so far! You can read it here (I linked to the first page of the comic, just hit the flower that says “next” on it to go to the next page).
I hope you enjoy this webcomic, I know I have been. And thank you to Michael for recommending this to me! Have a great day!
In other words, Smudge update! This little guy has been living it up here in the Scalzi compound and is being an adorable pain in the neck! He is the most playful kitten we’ve ever had, Sugar and Spice as kittens don’t even compare to how crazy this dude is. He loves chewing on cords, which is kind of an issue, especially since we have a lot of different chargers in this house. And he loves attacking literally any part of your body, not just toes, as most kittens do. He will straight up attack your hair or your thigh, totally unprovoked. He’s a real wild child.
But, as you can see, when he’s sleeping, he’s a little cuddly angel who does no wrong. He is also a major explorer! If you leave a door open, he will not hesitate to venture forth into the unknown. Smudge is also very unafraid of the other cats, even though they still largely dislike him. They hiss and bat at him, and yet he still charges at full speed towards them. He doesn’t take hints very well.
Well, anyways, enjoy this adorable picture of Smudge, and have a great day!
Friday the 13th is a lucky day here at the Scalzi Compound, because I get to show off all these new books and ARCs to you. What here would you consider yourself lucky to read? Tell us all in the comments!
My first personal awareness of Hayao Miyazaki didn’t occur until I was well into adulthood, but for Raz Greenberg, his journey with the great animator started much earlier, and led him to write a book on the filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki: Exploring the Early Work of Japan’s Greatest Animator.
The roots of the big idea behind my book, Hayao Miyazaki Exploring the Early Work of Japan’s Greatest Animator, go back to a childhood experience I share with many other members of my generation – that is, kids who grew up in Israel of the 1980s. We only had one television channel back then, the national broadcast channel, and it had a very strict, pedagogic agenda about what kids are supposed to be watching. One show that fell into this category, which the channel broadcasted many, many times during that decade (almost every other summer vacation), was known in Hebrew as Halev (“Heart”). It was an animated adaptation of a short story included in Edmondo de Amicis’ classic 1886 children’s novel of the same name, and it followed a courageous boy named Marco on his journey from Italy to Argentina to find his mother, after letters from her stopped coming.
The original novel, with its deep patriotic themes, was already considered a classic in Israel; many young Israeli parents who read it in their childhood were overjoyed to discover it again and watch the show with their children, following Marco’s weekly adventures all the way to the happy end. But there was one element in the show that left both its young Israeli viewers and their parents puzzled: why would a show about an Italian boy travelling to Argentina have Japanese end credits?
Yes, that was my generation’s first major exposure to anime. We’ve had a couple of science fiction shows to watch as well (Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets), but for the most part, we were raised on a healthy diet of Japanese-produced adaptations of classic children’s literature, with Halev being the one show that all the ‘80s children remember.
Flash forward to the end of the ‘90s: my interest in comics led me to the discovery of the world of anime and manga, which in turn led me to major in Asian studies during my BA. It wasn’t long before I became acquainted with the works of Hayao Miyazaki, first through his incredible manga epic Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and later through his films. This was a few years after Princess Mononoke made a lot of noise in the Japanese box office, and a few years before Spirited Away made Miyazaki a household name all over the world, a time when little of Miyazaki’s work was actually available in translation, but even the very few items I could get my hands on made me fall completely in love with what I saw. The more I got into Miyazaki’s work, the more I realized that something in his design style feels very familiar. A few searches through the internet revealed that indeed, Miyazaki was one of the animators who worked on Halev.
My initial reaction was “cool!” and that was pretty much it. But when I started working on my MA thesis about childhood in Miyazaki’s films, by which time most of his cinematic filmography became available for the non-Japanese audience, I realized that this filmography actually tells only part of the story. Miyazaki directed his first feature-length film in 1979; during the 16 years that preceded this movie, he worked as an animator in other people’s films and television shows, and also as a director in various televisions projects. There was an entire Miyazaki filmography here to be discovered beyond his familiar cinematic work. At some point, I realized that I want to write a book about it.
I started collecting materials – relevant films, television episodes, comics, books, articles and interviews. As often happens, other stuff got in the way: I was struggling with my PhD thesis (my academic focus now being animation theory in general, rather than Japanese animation), work, other stuff… but when I finally set down, and started writing, I began to understand that it was no coincidence that the animator who worked on a Halev is also responsible for classics like My Neighbor Totoro, other than the very obvious elements of the former that echo in the latter.
Like all great storytellers, Miyazaki’s works are about people – and whether these people come from Japan, Italy or anywhere else, he always takes his audience in an unforgettable journey as they watch his protagonists grow emotionally. Exploring Miyazaki’s early works and seeing how they inspired (as explained in the book’s concluding chapters) his later acclaimed works gave me a fascinating perspective on how Miyazaki himself grew as an artist. I hope readers will find it equally fascinating.
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