Congrats to the Nebula Winners!

Congrats to Ann, Nalo, Vylar, Aliette, and Rachel for winning all the Nebulas! And congrats to all the nominees as well. I had a great time at the banquet and the con — the entire weekend was a blast as I got to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. The con planners did an amazing job.

Wit in Critique

I’ve said before that I’m blessed with wonderful beta readers. I would not be anywhere near the writer I am without their help.

Lately, since I’ve been inflicting my novel on a bunch of beta readers, I’ve been thinking about the art of giving critiques, which is something I want to get better at.

Beta readers are good at different things. Lisa, who tends to be my first reader, is good at giving a gestalt judgment that usually accords very well with the work’s ultimate reception. Other readers are good at telling me to pay attention to things I tend to ignore: POV issues (I don’t believe in the modern specfic mantra of “one scene, one POV,” but sometimes my POV-switches are not well thought out and prevent me from achieving effects I intended), plot holes (I’m the world’s worst plotter), awkward first-draft sentences that sound fine to me because I’ve read them a dozen times. Still other readers are good at writing down their reactions and insightfully analyzing them so that I can see why the story I thought I had written wasn’t what I had actually written. I can’t thank them enough.

A couple of beta readers, in particular, are good at doing something that I’ve always been too afraid to try. They are funny in their critiques.

The wit is sometimes self-deprecating (“I nodded off for a bit there — could be I was hungry”), sometimes more sharply aimed at my ineptitude (“Where are the messenger pigeons? Did they all rebel, too?”), and sometimes not even directly related to the story (“Fun fact: most snake-related deaths …”).

I’ve laughed out loud at some of these comments (after getting over my embarrassment at the errors in my draft that generated them), and it feels a lot like chatting in person. I look forward to reading the critiques, not only because they’ll make my book better, but because they’re entertaining.

There’s something about wit that disarms the natural defensiveness a writer has towards criticism. I can see what they meant and laugh at myself, and then fix the problems. For me, wit is better than “diplomatic phrasing”; it affirms the camaraderie between the writer and the reader—we’re in this together, building a new world.

Obviously, this requires a level of trust between the critiquer and the author, and I’m sure writing such a critique is harder than doing it “straight.” The beta readers who have done this for me are all fine writers themselves, and in their critiques I see a respect for our shared art; they try, in their critiques, to practice the classical goal of prodesse et delectare, even though they’re writing for an audience of but one.

The Great Edit

I’ve been working away on edits for the novel based on the editorial letter. It feels a bit like I just did another NaNoWriMo for December — the edits were grueling, but I think the result is a novel that is at least 30% better than before.

Plus, I now have a wiki that goes into some depth regarding the geography, culture, language, mythology, characters, and other similar details about the world. This ought to come in handy for book 2, even if creating it was a rather daunting undertaking. (Lesson learned: should have done this from the start instead of just writing some loose “notes.” This is one of the many things different in the process of writing a novel compared to a short story.)

We’ll see if readers agree with my assessment … in another year. The lead times for publishing are incredible, aren’t they?

The Novel(s)

So, I have big news. I sold three novels and a collection of short stories to Simon & Schuster’s new, yet-to-be-named genre imprint.

You can read the full press release here at io9.

As the press release says, the first book in the series, The Chrysanthemum and the Dandelion,

… follows Kuni Garu, a charming bandit, and Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke. At first, the two seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, they quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures. The scope of the series is epic, involving gods, massive armies, diverse cultures, multiple plotlines, numerous characters, politics, war, courtly intrigue, and love.

Continue reading

World Scholar’s Cup

The World Scholar’s Cup, a world-wide academic team-based competition for teens that celebrates learning (think Academic Decathlon), invited me to their Tournament of Champions at Yale today.

I was there to talk to the students about “The Paper Menagerie” — they had read it as one of the resources to be used in their debates and essays. It was really cool meeting the students: bright, eager, and very insightful with their questions and criticisms. I felt like I learned quite a bit about myself and about the story after hearing from them. These young people were having a great time while also honing their academic skills — it was impressive as hell to see and hear them at work.

Daniel Berdichevsky, the founder of WSC, is a pretty amazing individual (go read his bio), and I think his vision for what WSC can do for students around the world is very inspiring. Jeremy, Zac, Grace, and other WSC coordinators (I didn’t write all the names down in time) were all really kind, generous, and brilliant, and everyone exuded positive energy.

It’s heartening to see this kind of positive work being done in the world.

I had about half an hour at one point free, and I popped in at the Peabody Museum of Natural History because this is where the world’s only “Brontosaurus” is located. (Read the plaque for why I used quotes.)

Brontosaurus

Brontosaurus explanation

Award Nomination Season

It’s time to nominate for awards for fiction published in the past year. I’ve started to post my thoughts on stories I liked here, along with a short list of stories by me that are eligible for nominations. I’ll be adding to this list over time as I’m just getting underway to read seriously for award nominations.

WSFA Small Press Award

I’m amazed and honored to say that my story, “Good Hunting,” published by Strange Horizons, has won WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction! This was one of my favorite stories I wrote last year, and I’m really glad to see readers responding to it.

According to the Washington Science Fiction Association web site:

The award honors the efforts of small press publishers in providing a critical venue for short fiction in the area of speculative fiction. The award showcases the best original short fiction published by small presses in the previous year. An unusual feature of the selection process is that all voting is done with the identity of the author hidden so that the final choice is based solely on the quality of the story.

The award was announced at Capclave tonight. Since I wasn’t able to attend this year, my friend Jamie Rubin very graciously agreed to accept for me. Here’s the speech I wrote for him:

Receiving this award for “Good Hunting” is an incredible honor for me. Thank you, thank you so much.

“Good Hunting” is a story about transformation. Sometimes, it’s necessary to change oneself to survive in a new environment; sometimes, it’s necessary to reconstruct traditions to adapt to new circumstances; occasionally, it’s worthwhile to give everything you have to remake the world.

I first began writing because I didn’t like the stories I was reading and wanted to tell different ones. As writers, we inherit certain narratives and tropes and genres, and if we feel unsatisfied with them, it is our responsibility to transform them into something better.

“Good Hunting” was born because I didn’t like a certain kind of narrative. And there’s nothing that makes me more joyous to hear that my changes pleased you.

Thank you!

Hugo

So I just found out that I won a Hugo for “Mono no aware.”

First of all, congrats to all the winners and nominees. I’m so proud to be in your ranks.

And thank you, everyone who voted for me. I’m speechless. It’s a tremendous honor, and I’m really, really grateful.

A special thanks to my friend Alex Shvartsman, who accepted for me. I hope you had fun at the parties, Alex!