In Loco Parentis and Doing Solo Work

Last week, my story In Loco Parentis went up on Escape Pod. OH MY GOD, you guys. It's happening! For real!

I wrote this piece originally as a sub for Women Destroy Science Fiction (though obviously they declined it) so it's about a teen girl and a crush and mothers and daughters and relationships. And AI that lives in your head. But it's also about how we use new technologies to do the same human things we've always done... maybe more efficiently, but always for the same ends. Read it! And I hope you like it!

It's been fairly well-received so far, or at least nobody has said anything mean to me about it? This is a tremendous relief. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I think I was expecting something terrible to happen.

See, this counts as my first-ever professional science fiction publication, which is simultaneously hilarious and overwhelming. I've been writing science fiction and fantasy professionally for several years, of course, but always in the context of a team, or work-for-hire, or else one-off goofy experimental projects. Lucy Smokeheart is a lot of fun, but it's not putting my heart on the line. I'm not trying to say anything. But this is the year I'm showing the world what's inside of my heart, as opposed to what comes out of my brain when I'm given a particular writing problem to solve.

So the other night I took to Twitters to talk a bit about what it's like to write for games vs. books (and solo short stories!) and why the latter feels much more frightening to me. Annnnnnd here's the Storify. You know, in case you missed it.

Transmedia Rolodex 2015

Friends, colleagues, artists all: I'm in a great position right now. I have more work than I can shake a stick at, and it looks like things are going to stay that way well into the foreseeable future. But it's not that way for everyone, and I'd like to do a little something about that.

I present to you the Transmedia Rolodex 2015.

If you're someone who's worked in the transmedia space -- an experience designer, a web developer or coder, a writer, an artist, video producer, anything -- leave your name in the comments here, along with a portfolio link and a suggestion on the best way to contact you for work.

I'll use this rolodex myself when trying to think of someone to refer work to, and indeed should I find myself needing someone to fill a particular skill gap in my team. And it's my hope that other people will also use this as a reference for finding people familiar with the particular needs and peculiarities of working in our liminal art. 

So please, leave your info here -- and if you get hired as a result, hey, drop me a line? I'd love to hear about it!


Goodbye, 2014

This sure has been a corker of a year, huh? Up and down, up and down. 

I feel like I shipped practically nothing this year -- the only things I can point to and say "I did this" are National Geographic's Expedition Granted plus a handful of short stories and Lucy episodes. Not enough. Nowhere near enough, and that's not just the neurosis that insists nothing is ever enough.

But this has been the year my daughter almost had glaucoma (but then didn't) and we almost didn't have health insurance (but then we did.) The year I had my gall bladder removed. The year I had skin cancer. (Again.) The year I had freaking pneumonia, and in fact I am not quite recovered as I write this. And so this has been the year of blown deadlines and despair. The year of extenuating circumstances.

But this is also the year The Walk game came out. It's the year I started to sell original fiction to publishers, including what will be my debut novel. The year I got to eat gluten again, and the year I got to go to London's Worldcon and even attend the Hugos party. It bears noting that this has been a year in which I got to see many layers of kindness from my friends and colleagues, who have been universally compassionate about the neverending litany of extenuating circumstances with which I have wrestled.

New seeds have been planted, too. 2014 is the year I started thinking about and inching toward some larger-scale indie transmedia works, the fruits of which are not yet ripe. Perhaps most important of all, this is the year Lothian Airsoft came into my life, again, the fruits of which are, again, not yet ripe. 

And next year is looking really amazing

So. 2014. It's been a wild ride, and somehow I've lived through all of it, not much worse for wear -- arguably better than ever. There's been a lot of bad but so much good mixed in that I can't quite resent you.

Welcome, 2015. You're walking into some very high expectations. But you're up to the job. I believe in you.

Outrage Fatigue

There's a lot of terrible stuff going on right now -- police brutality unpunished. That torture report. GamerGate trickles on like a sewage leak, somebody poisoned a furries convention, and oh yeah other parts of the world are dealing with the manifold joys of ebola and ISIS.

Hate is everywhere. And anger is everywhere. It's impossible to escape the idea that the world is terrible and getting worse, even if it's not entirely true.

I've been having trouble with this, because I'm so tired of fighting. So tired of being angry. I want to focus on good, just to remind myself that good things still exist in the world. We landed on a comet, and we're going to Mars! It's finally raining in California. And... there's more, right? There has to be more, if only I could find it. I want to look away for a while.

But not everyone can look away. And so my conflict, born of my privileged position in life: it's a tremendous failure to be silent in the face of the suffering of others. But it's all too much, it's too overwhelming, and sometimes you have to save yourself because you can't help anyone else if you've been crushed by existential despair.

I don't know how to thread this needle. Spotlighting kindnesses, maybe, and perpetrating them. Fluffy kittens and delicious cookies and video games? But that's just looking away, isn't it? And so the worm bites its own tail and we start over again from the beginning. 

I suspect I'm not alone in this feeling. How are you holding up?

Debut Year

Next year is shaping up to be a big, big deal for my career. In the coming months, my release schedule includes Revisionmy debut novel; three short stories, two in pro-rate magazines and one in a charity anthology; an interactive children's book; The Complete Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart, in one finished volume; and Mermaid Hunter, a Choice of Games game set in the Lucy Smokeheart world. And that's just the first half of the year. Who knows what else will come to pass?

And so I have The Terror.

This is not my first rodeo, of course. I've been a pro writer since I joined the team of Perplex City back in 2005. I'm intimately familiar with the pernicious logic of: this thing I'm about to launch sucks, everyone who sees it will hate it and by extension will hate me personally, and I will never work again. 

But this time, The Terror is different -- the flavor is different, the texture has changed. This is my debut year. This is my work, the stuff that means something to me. This is me.

Calling this a debut year might at first seem eyebrow-raising. But I'm accustomed to working under very different circumstances -- stitching together the pieces of story needed to hold a marketing campaign together, or to show how the future echoes the past. Taking a musician's songs and ideas and spinning them into functioning rules. Distilling the sensory descriptions of someone else's fantasy world into something that can be touched and tasted. But none of that is mine.

These are no "little goofy side experiments," like Lucy Smokeheart or My Super First Day, executed and promoted haphazardly so they cannot hurt me if they go badly.

This time, there is no team effort nor collaboration. There is no shell of "experimentation" to hide behind. I've woven the cloth of these stories warp and weft; every stitch of their embroidery is mine. Which means if these things go badly, that's also completely and thoroughly and inexorably mine.

So. The Terror.  

The Terror arises from that unknowable chasm between ambition and reality. It's easy to fill that chasm with absolutist thinking. Either I will be a raging success -- the next big thing, with all the awards and acclaim and money the imagination can conjure -- or I will be an abject failure, no future opportunities will ever present themselves, the song will have ended forever.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Few writers make an enormous splash in their debut year; the ones that do aren't always destined to have a long and flourishing career afterward. But it's easy to tell yourself the story that as goes this year, so goes the rest of your career. And it's hard to logic away The Terror.

So. Next year will be a big year for me. It will be my debut year. There's a certain amount of pressure for it to be a big year. But then again... it may not be a big year. All I can do now is wait, and worry.