The Cultures 182: Yoga Pants, What Makes Things Cool, Nation-States

You guys, this one was a GREAT episode. In it I explain the connection between startup culture, perception of status, and our current epidemic of athleisure fashion; Adrian Hon discusses what actually perfectly effable things make something cool or not; and Naomi Alderman muses that perhaps we should abolish the nation-state altogether as a thing that exists.

As always, you can follow us on Twitter!  Listen to the episodes on Libsyn! You can even subscribe on iTunes! And once you do, please let us know what you think. Happy Monday!

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Where to Find Me at Confusion 2017

I'm going to be at Confusion 2017 again this year, in Novi, Michigan from Jan. 19-22. And I'm gonna be on programming, too, so woooo!

I don't have a lot else set up yet beyond this, but I'd really love to put a couple of meetups for drinks or coffees on my calendar. So if you're going to be there and you might want to hang out, drop me a line?

And without further ado, here's my schedule so far:

All Your Data Are Belong To Us

Saturday, 4:00 PM. Room: Petoskey
What is "the internet of things?" How smart do we really want our devices to be? What will society look like when whole systems of objects talk to each other to shape our lives? And who controls the data our things collect?

Group Autograph Session (5 PM)

Saturday, 5:00 PM. Room: St. Clair
Come meet your favorite authors, artists and musicians and have them sign things! (Please limit your signing requests to 3 items per person.)

Reading: Max Gladstone, Mur Lafferty, Andrea Phillips

Saturday, 8:00 PM. Room: Saugatuck
Authors read from current or forthcoming works

Pantsers Rule! (Or So They Tell Me)

Sunday, 10:00 AM. Room: Interlochen
No plan! No safety net! Writing by the seat of your pants is the best, most effective writing strategy. Well... at least for some writers. What are the strengths and weaknesses, and what might be some alternatives, other than outlining?

Writing is Fundamental

Sunday, 11:00 AM. Room: Isle Royale
Some of the fundamentals of prose storytelling have evolved over time, and some vary wildly between genres. What has changed since the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres came to be as we know them, and how have genres like mystery, romance, and YA diverged?

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The Cultures 181: $12 Coffee, Things That Make Us Happy, Resolutions

Another Monday, another episode of The Cultures! And I've been remiss in posting about them, but trust that they're out there every week whether I'm posting about it or not.

This is a very special New Year episode meant to be somewhat more uplifting than we've been lately because of the... you know... the politics. In this episode we talk about the Stabucks plan to make super-premium coffee because mere premium coffee like they offer now is a little too accessible; we talk about things that bring us happiness right now; and we share some resolutions for the New Year, though this year of all years resolutions are something of a moving target.

As always you can get this week's episode on LibSyn or on iTunes. Tune in and let us know what you think!

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So Long, 2016

It's that time of year, friends. As this neverending year winds down and the nights become long and cold, I like to turn inward to take stock of where I've been and where I'm going.

This is not an awards eligibility post; more a summary of all the things I've done this year, so I can remind myself that it was more than Witcher 3 and K-drama. Technically this is my second year of eligibility for the Campbell Award. But I firmly believe that ship has sailed for me, and I urge you to look elsewhere. I'll have more to say on that when awards season begins in earnest.

New Stuff

So here's what I did in the Year of the Trashfire, 2016. First: releases! I didn't write all of this this year, but this is the year in which these things were launched into the world.


These are all novelette-length, but they're each episodes of longer serials published by Serial Box, which I co-author with two incredible teams of other writers.

Bookburners Season 2 


Shock and Awe

ReMade Season 1



Memories of Arcadia

Season passes and individual Serial Box episodes are also available in audio and ebook format on their website and in the iOS app.


This Lucy Smokeheart tie-in is a choose-your-own-adventure style romp published and distributed by Choice of Games.

The Daring Mermaid Expedition (Google Play, iOS, Kindle, Steam)

Middle Grades

The long-awaited interactive book for ages 8-12 where the reader is a part of the story, saving a magical circus from doom.

Circus of Mirrors


This year saw the start of my Metagames column at Strange Horizons, and stellar human Chuck Wendig kindly gave me his keys to talk about some things, too.


Fitness Games

Video Games are the Best Art

Playing at Good and Evil

Discord in the Symphony

Pokémon Go and Staying Power

Conflict and Consensus

Terrible Minds

Throw Everything at the Wall

The High Goddamn Responsibility of Fiction

Podcasts and Speaking


The Cultures (co-hosted 52 weekly episodes, on LibSyn and iTunes)

Guest Appearances

StoryForward Podcast: Ethics and Immersion

StoryForward Panel: Storytelling for Social Good (video)

PurseStrings Radio

I was also on programming at Confusion, Readercon, and Worldcon in Kansas City. I met Tim Powers, co-paneled with David Brin, and established myself as a person with many, many, MANY opinions about self-driving cars.


I'm very proud of the work I did for a little activation for Handmaid's Tale at NYCC, and another thing that is... still pending.

Personal Stuff

This year has been a trashfire for national political reasons, and I lost easily weeks of my life to paralysis as I watched it burn. But my personal life has also been, ah, somewhat complex.

The year began and is now ending with drawn-out child health concerns—the kind that end up requiring multiple rounds of scans and IVs and ER visits. It turns out that dealing with a potentially serious health issue your child is having is even more stressful than having such a problem yourself. Who knew?

I had a young adult novel go on sub, and when it didn't get picked up, we decided to sit on the manuscript for now. Sad, but them's the breaks. It's a persistence game. Worse, though: the long-term project I'd been working on ran out of funding and shut down without shipping anything, which has been disappointing on many levels. In the aftermath, I went after a job I was really excited about and landed it but ultimately declined, with regrets, because it wouldn't have paid enough to live on.

It wasn't all bad. My older child entered high school. We went on a cruise to the Bahamas and it was utterly glorious! We did some massive improvements to our house, refinanced our mortgage, and wound up much better off for it. I spent some time with some amazing people in person and in private chat.

I also wrote some short fiction. And I wrote a little bit of two different novels, but didn't finish any. I've been feeling really terrible that I didn't manage to write a novel of my own this year. That's my baseline goal in every year: write a book. But looking over this post in draft, everything I've done and everything that's happened to me, I'm starting to remember why that didn't happen. It really hasn't been all Witcher 3 and K-drama, has it?

What's in 2017?

I like to end these things on a positive note. And positive always means: the future! So what do I have cooking for 2017? First off, there are new seasons of Bookburners and ReMade to look forward to. I'm also writing a little more short fiction and I'm confident some of it will be published next year, even if it means sending it up my own self. 

I've done a little games writing that you'll get to see in 2017, too. I have a nonfiction proposal out; I'm thinking about Kickstarting a new season of Lucy Smokeheart. Oh, and maybe I'll write a novel for real this time. Or the other novel. Or both novels!

And I'm volunteering for the NYCLU. Because, while this isn't a political post, politics have indelibly shaped this year. And if I want future years to look even better, I'm going to have to work for it. Same as it ever was, right?

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Looking around at my friends and my communities, I see a lot of grief right now, and a lot of fear. Some of us are pragmatically planning for the worst and putting things in order. But some of us are catastrophizing—borrowing trouble we don't need from a future that is, may I remind you, still unknown and unknowable.

There may be trouble, true. A lot of bad things could happen. But don't assume that they will. Despair is the enemy right now. 

I mean this literally. One of the tools of GamerGate, of the Sad Puppies, and of the white supremacist alt-right is fear and despair. Their goal is to make targets feel isolated and alone, to hurt them until they no longer have the will to fight (or even the will to live.)

Hope for the future is more than just a feel-good placebo. Hope is an act of resistance. Hope is your weapon. And if you're finding it heavy to lift right now, let me remind you of these facts:

  • Over 60 million Americans cast a vote for Hillary Clinton in this election cycle—never forget, she won the popular vote. Don't listen to pundits calling this a major victory that rebukes everything Democrats have ever stood for. It was a squeaker, only lost by the electoral college. There is no mandate.
  • The Voting Rights Act went missing this year and it hit us hard. That means untold numbers of votes weren't cast at all—largely for Clinton. We are not the minority. We are not the minority.
  • All of those millions aren't just shedding a tear and moving on, either. Hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting in the streets in an inspiring expression of their First Amendment right to assembly.
  • There's more. As of this writing, 4.4 million people have signed a petition asking the Electoral College to intervene and make a different choice. Even if it comes to nothing, again, that's a lot of people, and a lot of determination.
  • Donations are pouring into Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and other groups planning to make a stand. We're literally putting our money where our mouths are.
  • The phone lines for US senators and representatives are getting so busy that some callers can't get through, and are even finding full voice mail boxes.
  • And it's already working. Today alone, our action inspired Congress members to strongly condemn the choice of white supremacist Steve Bannon for a job in the White House. Politicians are vowing to fight tooth and nail to protect their contituents.
  • If you're worried about fascism rolling over America while we look the other way? This isn't what that looks like. What we're seeing is action, not disbelieving resignation. And there's no reason to believe it's going to stop—not unless we let the alt-right tell us how to feel and what to believe.
  • Oh, and about that. If you don't think many of the upsetting extremist opinions you're reading are coming from comment factories in Russia? Whoooo boy do I have news for you.

Remember this, my friends. There is still goodness and kindness in the world. Hug your family, your friends, your pets. Smile at a stranger as you pass. Give a few dollars to a homeless person. Remember that love and kindness is what you're fighting to keep, and it's not gone. 

We're going to keep it that way.

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