Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: Cat's Whirld by Rodolfo Martínez

Cat's Whirld is the new translation of La sonrisa del gato, a 1995 Spanish cyberpunk novel written by Rodolfo Martínez and translated into English by Steve Redwood. It’s an ambitious, fast-paced story about self-aware AIs, warring empires, and the ragtag band of hackers and cyberthieves caught between them, and it’s definitely worth a read for fans of cyberpunk and space opera.


The book is set in a spinning space station called the Whirld, a kind of wild west positioned between two highly regulated empires, Confederacy and Mandate. It’s a hotbed for the kinds of technological advances that both empires require (yet are too cautious and rule-bound to develop themselves). As such, the labs of the Whirld are filled with projects that are as dangerous as they are visionary, and the station’s busy corridors and seedy lounges are filled with operatives trying to buy, sell, or steal them.

Cat’s Whirld tells a big story on a refreshingly small scale. Even though the grand designs of rogue AIs and powerful empires are responsible for many of the inciting events of the book, the action follows a close-knit group of data thieves who call the space station home. This tight focus adds a layer of warmth and humanity to the circuits and corridors that dominate cyberpunk, though it does feel as if more concepts and conflicts are introduced than thoroughly explored.

But these characters are the true focus of the story, and it’s their relationships—rather than their ideologies—that drive them.

The frame story is an interrogation, which nicely teases the intrigues and developments of the central plot. Good frame stories are an art, and I found myself surprised by the full revelation of circumstances at the end. The interrogation narrative also nicely focused the events of the central plot, even if it leads to a bit of overly expository dialogue.

Cat’s Whirld clips along at a nice, quick pace, and it’s over almost before you know it. The chases through the hazardous space station, the games of cat and mouse between the thieves and the authorities, and the high-stakes gambling between resourceful humans and hyperintelligent AIs keep the story speeding forward. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It was the best of times...

Who am I kidding, it was still a really good time.

For those of you who don't know, this year's Worldcon (or World Science Fiction Convention if you like to sip your tea with your pinky up) was beset with its share of catastrophes and controversies. It was almost overshadowed by the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy debacle, and it was literally overshadowed by smoke from the Washington wildfires. Many visiting authors and creators found themselves unable to get on programming, and those that did found aspects of said programming woefully problematic.

But many of us attended nevertheless, and we got the very thing that draws us to conventions in the first place: the company of fellow fans and creators.

As someone who's only been attending conventions for three years now, I can easily say that this was one of the most fun for me. In my experience, each con is better than the last because I have the pleasure of visiting with more and more old friends and making even more new ones. I don't go for the programming or even the travel--I go for the community, and this year was a great example of community coming together.

It's also a call to action for me to be more proactive about supporting the work that makes the SFF genre great. This year was a testament to the fact that every vote and and every voice matters, and if we want the conversations around our genre to be constructive, we all need to pitch in.

Most importantly, it's a reminder that the community is filled with thoughtful and delightful people, many of whom I got to see this weekend. So, to Tex Thompson, Eric Fischl, Jennie Goloboy, Annalee Flower Horne, Sunil Patel, Megan O'Keefe, Joey Hewitt, Lee Harris, Mike Underwood, Beth Cato, Andrea Stewart, Jeremiah Honer, Randy Henderson, Folly Blaine, Wesley Chu (and Paula!), Fran Wilde, Scott Andrews, Dan Wells, Cat Rambo, Jason Hough, Patrick Tomlinson, James Sutter, Kate Elliot, Jay Swanson, Luke Mathews, Melissa Olson, Tim Ward, Tina Gower, Matt Rotundo, Courtney Schafer, Kate Dollarhyde, Ramez Naam (and Molly!), Darusha Wehm, Rachael Acks, Arley Sorg (and Danny!), Marina Lostetter, RM Ambrose, Dominick D'Aunno, Tim Sussman, Amy Sisson, Paul Abell, Martha Wells, Lawrence Schoen (and Val!), Alyc Helms, Adam Rakunas, Andrew Barton, Josh Vogt, Cassie Clarke, D.L. Young, S.B. Divya, Austin DeMarco, Terra LeMay, Effie Seiberg, Coral Moore, Amanda Forrest, and so many others that I'm forgetting right now--cheers to you all!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Worldcon!

I'm noticing a Kimmy Schmidt-esque tendency to title all of my blog posts with exclamation points, but hey, I'm excited! Let's go with it.

I'm especially excited to be at Sasquan this weekend, where I'm making new friends and reconnecting with old friends. Controversies aside, it's still a great place to visit with a lot of wonderful people.

If you want to catch up, here's where you can find me this weekend:

Thursday
 - Kaffeeklatsch, 5-6 pm
 - r/Fantasy's Drinks with Authors, 7-11 pm @ Black Label Brewing

Friday
 - pop-up r/Fantasy AMA, 11:30-12:00 pm, here
 - signing, 2-5 pm, @ the Angry Robot booth

Saturday
 - reading with Annalee Flower Horne, 1:30-2:00 pm, @ Room 301

Sunday
 - autographing, 11-12 pm, @ convention signing table

Thursday, August 6, 2015

THE BURIED LIFE is today's Kindle Daily Deal!

If you've been waiting for the right time to pick up THE BURIED LIFE, wait no longer. It's available for $1.99 on Kindle today!


And if you've already finished THE BURIED LIFE, there's this other book, oh what's it called...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Come chat on r/Fantasy!

It's Thursday already! So what are you doing here? Head over to my AMA on Reddit. I'll be back at 8pm CDT to hang out.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Just for grins: CONvergence flash fiction

A good time was had by all at CONvergence this weekend.

I'm just gonna leave this right here.

This was my second year going, and I don't expect it will be my last. And while I fully expected to enjoy catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, and participating in some fantastic programming, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed a Saturday evening panel called "Ready, Set, Flash!"

In this, Tor.com editor Lee Harris challenged C. Robert Cargill, Paul Cornell, Kelly McCullough, Melissa Olson, and myself to write stories in five-minute sprints while he entertained the audience and taunted us as we hunched over our sweaty, sweaty keyboards.

Kelly posted his contributions here, so I thought I'd share mine, too. All were written with the energy born of terror.

First theme: "Reanimation"
It came in the mail. A little package, something the neighbors hopefully wouldn’t have noticed. As if to spite me, the mailman had laid it proudly on top of my doormat.
I remembered searching for it, my hands sweating onto the keyboard as I clack-clack-clacked my queries into the search engine. I must have opened and closed the purchase page a dozen times, feeling someone watching over my shoulder. 
I popped the pill into my mouth and swallowed. I heard her in the next room. “Is it working yet?” 
And then I felt it. Something stirring. Reanimation.

I was kinda surprised that no one else went there...

Second theme: "Steampunk Romance"
It started as a rumbling. Something distant but growing nearer. The ground was shaking.  
A whistle split the air, high and hot. Puffs of air like heavy breaths scattered across the horizon.  
The movement became a deep moan of metal, gears nibbling across each other with tiny, sturdy teeth. Pistons roared, thrusting back and forth across axles and cogwork. 
The train rolled over the tracks and passed by.
Trains. Yeah. Those are steampunk, right?

Third theme: "The Little People"

The little people had never much cared for the term. “Little” connoted things like “diminuitive” and “lesser,” and as they all knew, they were none of those things.  
They was just as much to them as there was to anyone else, it was just concentrated. 
The lobbyists told them they were wasting their time. There was no controversy, nothing to change, so why spend the money anyway? 
But the lobbyists were lawyers, and so when they saw money on the table, they took it. They had that much in common with their clients. 
CNN viewers scratched their heads at the coverage and the sight of all of these green-clad men and women marching across the floor of the senate, stepping up on podiums so that their voices could be heard.  
At least it was something the Democrats and Republicans could agree on.  
And with that a slew of signatures, they founded the Green Party.

Lawyer jokes are always classy.

Fourth theme: "Uncle Sam's Day Off" + mandatory use of the word "cocaine"

Well, you know where this is headed.
Uncle Sam scratched an armpit and rolled out of bed and made his way to the bathroom. 
He looked at his bloodshot eyes, underlined with bags. Red and blue, indeed. 
But there was something… 
He leaned closer and dusted his beard. Was that… cocaine? Well, there’s the white. 
He pulled a rumpled tee shirt over his gut and stumbled into the living room. 
Iran was passed out on the couch. Britain was frying up some eggs. That guy knew how to hold his liquor. 
He looked at the clock and remembered it was his day off. Thank goodness. 
His phone was buzzing. It was China. Looked like China wanted a party.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CONvergence, here we come!

This weekend, I'll be attending CONvergence in lovely Minneapolis. I went last year and had some of the most fun I've had at any convention, so I'm looking forward to going again.

If your 4th of July plans include CONvergence, here's where you can find me:
  • Thursday, 7-9 pm: "Gaming with Authors" at Source Comics and Games. Mike Underwood, Jamie Wyman, Tex Thompson, Craig Cormick, Anne Lyle, and I will be playing games and signing books. Come roll with us.

  • Friday, 2-3 pm: "Dealing with Difficult People in Publishing." Every profession has its share of difficult people. What personalities and behaviors are the most challenging to work with in publishing and how do you handle it? What can we do to avoid becoming those difficult people as writers, artists, editors? With Elizabeth Bear, Wesley Chu, Lee Harris, and Michael Damian Thomas.

  • Saturday, 2-3 pm: "Creating a Dystopian Society in Your Writing" in DoubleTree Atrium 7. How do you create a dystopian society that is believable and forwards your character development and plot? How do you add a twist to your society that makes it original without losing realism in the world of your story? With Christoforo Pasquarette, Naomi Kritzer, Wesley Chu, and Eric Staggs.
  • Saturday, 3:30-4:30 pm: "Art of the Plot Twist" in DoubleTree Atrium 7. How do you set up a plot twist? What is soylent green? Who is Keyser Soze? And what's in the box?!?!? Feat. Patrick Marsh, Jack Reher, Lana Rosario, and Wesley Chu.
  • Saturday, 5:00-6:00 pm: "Ready, Set, Flash!" in DoubleTree Atrium 4. In which nefarious trickster kind-hearted editor Lee Harris challenges five writers WHO WERE PROMISED BEER to instead write flash fiction in front of an audience. Without beer. We who are about to write salute you. My brothers (and sister) in arms: Paul Cornell, Kelly McCullough, Melissa Olson, and C. Robert Cargill.

  • Sunday, 9:30-10:30 am: "Becoming a Game Designer" in DoubleTree Atrium 7. A room full of professional game designers will talk to you about being a game designer. Yes, I know it's early Sunday morning. But this is a job, you know--it's not all fun and games. Okay, maybe it's both. My fellow morning people: Shanti Pothapragada, Bill Bodden, Ian Price, and Jerry Belich.
  • Sunday, 12:30-1:30 pm: Reading with Craig Cormick and Anne Lyle in 2201. Craig Cormick, author of The Shadow Master and The Floating City and Anne Lyle, author of The Alchemist of Souls and The Prince of Lies, will read from their latest books. I'll give the first-ever public reading from Cities and Thrones.