Drones of a Fal’Cie v 0 is Done!

Drones of a Fal'Cie cover copyThough I haven’t posted here much, I have been busy writing. Mostly in revisions. But today I finished something new!

True to pattern, I got this idea while playing a video game – Final Fantasy XIII. I really liked the take on magic as a curse because it was forced on the party by an identity that wants to destroy their home. So I wanted to put my own take on that. I do think that it’s fun how I have a role for all 6 party characters in my story.

It does need a lot of work. I’m not happy with the ending – the characters didn’t have to work that hard for it, so it doesn’t feel satisfying. There’s a lot that needs to be fleshed out too. Not to mention all the names that need to be changed to make it mine. But I am excited to work on it.

Statistics:

  • Started May 22, 2018
  • Finished July 11, 2018
  • 3,296 words
  • 5 scenes

Hugo 2019 Reading – June

School’s out, summer’s here, and I’m trying to get the motivation to keep up on everything. Some days are better than others. I listened to some good fiction last month, though.

(5 stars) “Ana’s Asteroid” by M. K. Hutchins
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

I read a draft of this story in novel form. I’m so glad that Hutchins was able to find a way to tell this story, even if it didn’t work as a novel. The hard sci-fi was interesting. I do wonder about how fragile the air tube was, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the story. I do really like how it had to be a kid save the day, and how the parents had to deal with that and let Ana risk herself.


The History of the Mermaid Socialist Revolution” by Rebecca DeVendra
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

The title of this story had me thinking that it would end with the mermaids breaking out of captivity. Instead, it ends on a darker note, commentary about how those in horrible conditions can be powerless to change their circumstances.


Cold Blue Sky” by J.E. Bates
a short story published by Apex Magazine

As a Computer Scientist, I really enjoyed this hard-scifi look at androids and hacking. It is much more realistic and detailed than portrayed in movies. Quite a fun heist story. I do have to laugh at the “but we looked at every byte” line, because as Kiro showed, malware can hide with just a little obfuscation.


The Weaver and the Snake” by Blaine Vitallo
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I didn’t care much for this story. I never connected to Reilitas. She felt too aloof. The city eating snake was interesting, but we never saw it directly, which saddened me. The themes are more literary, which doesn’t interest me as much.


(5 stars) “Sidekicks Wanted” by Laura Johnson
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

I love stories about superheroes and sidekicks, so this story was right up my alley. It was amusing, and a delightful mashup of the fantastic and mundane. Frank was a solid character, with his desires leading him to seek an unconventional position.

Hugo 2019 Reading – May

May felt like I was still struggling to keep my head above water, though not as much as at the end of April. I’m glad that June feels a bit more relaxed. Just in time for kids to get out of school and upend my schedule again. 🙂 Here’s what I got through this week.

(5 stars) “Strange Waters” by Samantha Mills
a short story published by Strange Horizons

I loved this time travel story. A fisherwoman gets lost in time and just wants to get home to her family. The backdrop is that she washes up in the same town, and that town keeps a record of history that all the time travelers have shared, so it knows its future as well as its past. I loved Mika’s determination. I teared up at the ending.


(5 stars) “The Things That We Will Never Say” by Vanessa Fogg 
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

I liked this story because except for the seeing into the future bit, it could take place today, with mother and child living in different states instead of different planets. It made the awkwardness between the two feel real. Very poignant for such a small piece.


Tank!” by John Wiswell
a short story published by Diabolical Plots

I don’t go to many conventions, nor have I watched Cowboy Bebop or Adventure Time, so I didn’t have the connections to this piece that others had. I definitely related to the awkwardness though. Such a cute depiction.


The Testimony of Dragon’s Teeth” by Sarah Monette
a short story published by Uncanny

One interesting thing about reading short stories is stumbling in the middle of an established series of stories, hear people rave about them, and still feel like I haven’t missed anything because the story is self-contained. I’ve never read a Booth story before. I doubt I’d seek out more, as the somber, dark vibe isn’t to my taste. I did like the mix of the mundane archivist needing to sort out the mystery of who was doing witchcraft.


(5 stars) “The Flight of Morpho Girl” by Caroline Specter and Bradley Denton
a novella published by Tor.com

Similarly, I have only read one short story in the Wild Cards series before. Now this one, I would love to explore more stories from. I love super hero stories. And this one was poignant. A girl tries to figure out who she is, and how to keep her friendship after her metamorphosis had her switch to a different school. And she has to figure out how to relate to her Mom after a mission left her shaken. Good voice. Good conflict. Sweet resolution.

Hugo 2019 Reading – April

April was filled with travel, and then catching up on everything when I came back. I read for book club and from my 3 years deep to be read pile, so not as much what was published this year. But I found some really good stories.

Earn Your Breath” by Jaime O. Mayer
a short story published by Cast of Wonders

I liked the struggle in this story, against invaders, and against the societal expectations for genders imposed by Mother Breathless. I wanted to give this story five stars, but felt like the world building left out a crucial part – how do infertile women earn their breath mark? Are they shunned as well? It is true that if the society had taken infertile women into account, then Liith wouldn’t have had to struggle as much, as she would have had some kind of example to follow. Then again – intention for having children may have been enough to earn a breath mark, and Liith would still be left with her struggle. Yeah, good plot, good tension, admirable character, but that missing piece just ruins things for me.


(5 stars) “The Paper Dragon” by Stephen S. Power
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

An emotional story set in WWII that involves the Japanese sending an origami dragon to America to attack. Now, I’m under the impression that Japanese dragons are more peaceful than European dragons, so I’m not sure if this fits with actual Japanese culture. But the message about apologizing and seeking peace really hit home.


The Persistence of Blood” by Juliette Wade
a novella published by Clarkesworld

This story is set in another world with an invented culture, but beyond wysps that just float around, there wasn’t anything that set apart from Earth. Like “Earn Your Breath”, this story also dealt with a woman who no longer wanted to bear children in a society where it is expected. Unlike “Earn Your Breath”, this story included infertile women and how societal expectations affected them as well, so I appreciate that aspect. The ending was a bit disappointing, as no great changes were made, though the incremental was hopeful. I did like Selemei, her devotion to her children, and her determination to make things better for herself and other women.


You Do Nothing But Freefall” by Cassandra Khaw and A. Maus
a short story published by Lightspeed

This story was surprising. I hadn’t expected the fox to become human when it leaves with the maneki-neko. It was a bit hard to follow in audio, as I didn’t have a scene break cue to tell me that time had passed. It’s cute, exploring the confusion, and joy that is humanity.


Into the Gray” by Margaret Killjoy
a short story published by Tor.com

I’ve been enjoying the pictures for Mermay on twitter, so when I went looking on Tor.com for another story to read for this month, this one caught my eye. The prose flows beautifully. There were a couple of revelations at the end that made me question the beginning – how did Laria know the man she murdered was bad if she didn’t know anything about him, and how did he react when she became naked? But these can be glossed over because Laria could be a bit of an unreliable narrator in this instance. I also want to study the structure, as the first conflict seems resolved a third of the way through the story, but then leads into the bigger conflict at the end.

Refusing the Call v 3 is Done!

Refusing the Call Banner copy

I took “Refusing the Call” v 2 to the futurescapes workshop to be critiqued by a group led by Mary Robinette Kowal. Now, I had identified some areas of concern, but I felt pretty good about it overall.

Mary revealed that the problems were much deeper than that. The biggest one was I hadn’t been following the MICE quotient. Now, I thought I understood the MICE quotient. After all, I’m a programmer and eat nested code for breakfast. But I still had an event opening, and a character ending, and everything was fizzling.

As I rested, and pondered on the critique, I realized that the fixes would make things much better, and indeed, when I took v 3 back to them for review, everyone agreed that the story had leveled up. (Yay!) There are still some confusions I need to address, and dialogue to strengthen, but I’m feeling pretty good about it.

Stats:

  • 749 words
  • 1 scene
  • 2 characters
  • Started April 17, 5:00 am
  • Finished April 17, 9:00 pm

Hugo 2019 Reading – January – March

I feel bad that I haven’t interspersed these Hugo Reading reviews with other updates on my writing. It’s been hard, mentally, to write. I’ve set aside “Masculine Rescue” for now. I’m not going to make the deadline for the anthology I wanted to submit to, and I wasn’t excited for it. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later. I did do another draft of “Refusing the Call” and “Tattered Flower” but didn’t blog about either, as they were more of a minor rewrite than a major. Right now, I’m turning my attention to the entries to the Mormon Lit Blitz. I’ve got very rough drafts for two entries done. Now to polish them up before the deadline.

Enough about my writing. Let’s look at what other people have written. I liked everything I read the last few months for 2019 Hugos, though not enough to give 5 stars to.

Dances with Snoglafanians” by Aimee Ogden
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This was a fun skewering of the Avatar story. It really pokes fun at how a human could master the natives’ ways in a matter of days, and how it really wouldn’t protect them when the colonists came. But the natives had a much better way of protecting themselves. Excellent twist.


Dust to Dust” by Mary Robinette Kowal
a short story published by Fireside Magazine

This story was short but very heartfelt. It had a good look at what happens to those left behind when industry meets magic, as well as ethics of performing a spell for good on someone that doesn’t want it done. Really, it’s amazing how that all fit in less than 2,000 words.


White Sand Vol 2 by Brandon Sanderson and Rik Hoskin
a graphic story published by Dynamite

Lots of intrigue in this volume. I am a bit disappointed that we don’t get the full explanation of how the magic works and how it feels like we do in Sanderson’s novels. I’m also going to want to read the entire series as a whole. This part doesn’t stand well on its own. At least I don’t feel like I can predict what will happen. The plot is certainly twisting.


RWBY by Shirow Miwa
a graphic story published by Viz Media

I am a fan of the RWBY anime, so I wanted to see what new adventures were in the manga. This volume has some new stories that take place during seasons 1 or 2, and retells each of the trailers used to promote the show at the beginning. I liked the added details to Weiss’s story, giving her motivation for fighting the giant knight. They also added a new type of grimm – the possession type – which could create some interesting fights in the future.


A Priest of Vast and Distant Places” by Cassandra Khaw
a short story published by Apex Magazine

This story was an interesting thought about what home and love are, told through a conversation between a person and plane. The religious angle was an intriguing take. It’s told in second POV, but it flowed smoothly, and I was able to suspend disbelief for the few facts that didn’t match my experience.


Gennesaret” by Phoenix Alexander
a short story published by Beneath Ceaseless Skies

This story is a haunting allegory for marginalized people. Attempts among themselves to be “normal.” Silenced when met with the dominant group, leaving the person in pain to be overridden and ignored. And using the dead as martyrs for their cause. Heart-wrenching.

Hugo 2018 Reading – February

And we’re in the final days before nominations close. My health hasn’t been the greatest though, so I haven’t been pushing it as much with reading or writing. Hence why this post is late. I’ve been getting through some good stories though.

(5 stars) “The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant” by Rachael K. Jones
a short story published by Lightspeed

This story was hilarious, as cyborg try to figure out how to cook food for humans in order to escape detection. Yet it also is a cautionary tale about taking the pursuit of fame too far. The theme, and its slow encroaching horror, was well executed.


(5 stars) “Waiting Out the End of the World in Patty’s Place Cafe” by Naomi Kritzer
a short story published by Clarkesworld

This story broke my heart. One would think that when the apocalypse comes, that you would want to be with people that matter most – your family. But this story is about Lorien coming to realize that she may not be welcome at home after all. That reconciliation may not be possible, and it’s not her fault. I really admire Kritzer’s ability to tell these human stories in the face of disasters.


“A Glowing Heart” by Anton Rose
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

This story has only a faint fantastical element – that of a rare and amazing bird that the narrator needs to kill in order to sell the parts for medicine for his mother. It was decent, just nothing that stood out as new.


“The Long Dizzy Down” by Ziporah Hildebrandt
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

Bill’s voice was hard to understand, so it was hard to get into this story. The premise was interesting – ships going rogue and kidnapping children in order to help it get into colonies so it could clone itself.


(5 stars) “The Woodcutters’ Deity” by Walter Dinjos
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I enjoyed the Nigerian voice of this story. It starts off with a great sense of humor, and then follows a fairy-tale style story about brothers cast out of the city. I couldn’t predict where it would go, though I had a few guesses. Nduka’s overcoming was powerful, even though it was quiet, showing he truly desired the greater good, instead of just the ability to wreak vengeance.


“The Dragon Killer’s Daughter” by Todd McCaffrey
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

This story was cute, about a girl, and her father, and the dragon that used to live in the valley. The ending was predictable, yet satisfying that the dragon killer atoned for his murder.


“Useless Magic” by Andrew Peery
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I wasn’t pulled into this story. There was plenty of magic, and some of the effects of it were interesting. I just didn’t care for the main character. Yes, he’s in a pitiful situation, but he was so bitter, I didn’t want to be reading about him.


A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power” by Rose Lemberg
a novella published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies

This story had a lot of mythology that I didn’t really care about. I never quite understood the magic of the deepnames, and what kind of power they were supposed to give. I never grew attached to the main character, perhaps because the other points were driving me away, so I didn’t care when there was trouble with her guard, or assassins. The prose was beautiful, and flowed, nice to listen to, but that is not why I listen to stories. So yeah, this story wasn’t for me

Trigger warning: BDSM


“Adramelech” by Sean Hazlett
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I loved that this story refuted the “I had no choice” excuse with “You could have chosen death.” Seems like authors rely on the “I had no choice” a bit too much. Nice bit of foreshadowing too. I don’t normally care much for horror, which is why this doesn’t get five stars from me, but this was decent.


(5 stars) “The Fox, the Wolf, and the Dove” by Ville Meriläinen
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I loved this invented fairy tale. I loved that the spell was chanted in Finnish (according to Bing Translator) instead of Latin. (Fitting, since the author is from Finland) The banter between the three sisters is awesome. The ending was heartbreaking and sweet. Lots of action. Very much enjoyed.

Hugo 2018 Reading – January

I try to read the Writers of the Future anthology each year, since I am entering the contest every quarter. But I tend to wait to buy it until it goes on sale for only $.99 for the kindle version. Digging into that has made me feel really productive for my Hugo reading, but I read a decent number of stories (or at least more than I have been) even without that!

“Moonlight One” by Stephen Lawson
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 33

The concept is interesting – there’s been a murder on the moon, when there are only two people living there. But I did not like the execution. Most of the story is told from the point of view of a friend on earth, who couldn’t do any investigating on his own (he had to rely on the survivor on the moon to do it) and had no stakes in the game. And I didn’t find the answer of the conspiracy theory very believable either.


(5 stars) “The Armor Embrace” by Doug C. Souza
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I loved the emotional pull to this story. A father-turned-mech-warrior goes to visit his daughter on her way home from school, and slowly comes to realize what has happened to himself. The emotions as the father tries to tell his daughter that everything’s ok when it really isn’t, it’s just beautiful.


“Envoy in the Ice” by Dustin Steinacker
a novelette published in Writers of the Future vol 33

This was an different alien encounter story, where the alien just sits and observes and receives gifts from diplomat. I wasn’t excited by it, though. I didn’t care what the mystery behind the envoy was, since I didn’t believe really that people or the world was at stake. And the viewpoint character didn’t care either until the diplomats weren’t returned. The characters were so powerless to do anything, so the plot was going to happen no matter what they did.


“Airswimming” by Aisha Phoenix
a short story published by Strange Horizons

The fantasy in this story is small, and doesn’t appear until a third of the way through the story. It was a very nice description of grief, and how accepting it is different for everybody. Definitely succeeded with its theme.


(5 stars ) “Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells
A novelette published by Tor.com

I loved this story. I loved how Nata’s blindness isn’t described explicitly. You get clues from the fact that there’s no visual description, from the implant giving her visual cues, such as where a drink is on the table, or that someone wants to shake hands. They even talk about curing, and how Nata doesn’t want a cure. I also loved how she’d altered her ship so that she could fly it. Then the smuggling plot that goes awry when the cargo decides it wants to go somewhere else. Very well done.

Trigger warning: f-word several times.


“Tears for Shülna” by Andrew L. Roberts
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

A selkie story where the selkie says good bye to the dying man that she loved. The description was decent, but I never connected with the characters. Though it was at a time of grief, nobody showed much emotion. Yes, there were tears, and talk about how selkies held all their feelings inside, but it just didn’t feel real to me.


“The Drake Equation” by C. L. Kagmi
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

Another alien contact story – following a common trope that aliens haven’t contacted us because humans are too violent. The method of contact was interesting. I didn’t like the hallucinatory way it happened though. Perhaps if the destruction of the ship was described first, and then introduced the beach, I might have had a better time accepting it, because then I’d be primed to think of it as an analog of heaven.


(5 star) “The Thirty-Seven Faces of Tokh-Bathon” by Effie Seiberg
a short story published by PodCastle

Chananthay is such a cute character. Always daydreaming as she works to clean the temple. And then I liked the evolution of the faces from the Knight and Knave fable, and discussion of truth as subjective. Very sweet plot of friends helping each other.


“Analog Signals” by Shawn Proctor
a short story published by Daily Science Fiction

This story had an interesting concept about listening in on alternate universes. I was confused at the end though. I didn’t know if the “this reality” where things might work out was the one he was listening to, or the one he was living.


“Longing for Stars Once Lost” by A. Merc Rustad
a short story published by Lightspeed

This story with all its flashbacks out of order was hard for me to follow in audio. Even looking over it now, I’m not sure I can piece together what happened. I think my biggest problem for not caring enough to piece it together is I wasn’t sure how Kitshan was planning to achieve his desire – finding his ship again. Also, I missed the theme of the story – wanting to do good with your final act, even if it means your destruction.


“Acquisition” by Jake Marley
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

I did not like Barlow. I doubt he was supposed to be likable – he is practically kidnapping ghosts and selling them off. And then I didn’t understand the end, how he suddenly realized that Alyssa could help Karen. It was supposed to be Barlow’s redemption, I guess, but it didn’t work for me.


“Obsidian Spire” by Molly Elizabeth Atkins
a short story published in Writers of the Future vol 33

As a sword and sorcery story, I really wanted to enjoy this story. However, there were points when Varga’s character fell flat. She wanted a guide, thinks “use your assets” yet doesn’t think that Fiske, when he shows up, can even serve as a guide (though he does, and very well). I also hadn’t seen her desire to be a hero, make a name for herself, so when the narrator mentioned it, it felt tacked on.

Refusing the Call v 1 is Done!

Refusing the Call Banner copy
This is a story that snuck up on me. After writing the Prophecy Subversion story, I was thinking about other characters in that world, and one character really started to demand her own story. You see, she has schizophrenia. And if there ever was a reason to refuse the call to be a hero, a disability like that would be a good one. Yet in stories, we rarely see a hero refuse the call because they feel inadequate.

I like how the story is shaping up. I plan on having it critiqued at the Futurescapes workshop in April, but first I’m going to fill out a few details that I rushed through in drafting, and send it to beta readers.

Statistics:

  • 827 words
  • 1 scene
  • 2 characters
  • Started January 18
  • Finished January 19

Hugo 2018 Reading – December

Several people have been sharing their favorite stories of the year on twitter, and I’ve actually been following the links and reading them. So I have several stories to share this month. Yay!

The Worshipful Society of Glovers” by Mary Robinette Kowal
a novelette published by Uncanny

This story has really beautiful description, and an interesting magic system – where brownies and humans work together to make gloves that give magical effects. All Vaughn wants is some gloves to help his sister with her seizures, and his character change in pursuit of those gloves is heart wrenching.


(5 stars) “Your Mama’s Adventures in Parenting” by Mary Robinette Kowal
a short story published by Shimmer

I want more stories like this one – that extols the work that mothers do. That’s really why I put this one at five stars, rather than because of craft. It is still fun, alternating between the fantastic and the mundane, and there’s puns and references to Star Wars and Peter Pan. I especially liked the twist on time travel on the end.


Henosis” by N. K. Jemisin
a short story published by Uncanny

A 2,000 word story, told in 6 chapters, all out of order. If I had been reading it, I might have been tempted to skip and read it in order. It’s an interesting look at fans and awards and how perspectives can get really messed up. So it’s a good thing I was forced to listen to it in audio, because the out of order arrangement adds to the message.


Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand” by Fran Wilde
a short story published by Uncanny

I’m not a huge fan of horror, and this story definitely had a horror streak to it. This also was in second person, and it really fits, as the whole story is basically a narration to you. Really creepy details, given by a narrator that you come to realize hates you.


(5 stars) Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
a novel published by Tor

This behemoth of a novel had me reading far more than was healthy for me. I’m still trying to recover the sleep I lost to it. I love the magic system, the complications, the characters. Shallan’s character was the one that was the hardest for me to understand, but she still felt real. I’m really looking forward to learning more about Renarin’s abilities. We don’t get into them too much in this book, because it was one of the climactic twists, but we better learn in future books in the series. I also liked the philosophical considerations about slavery, and ethics of defending your homeland when you were the invaders initially. Thoroughly enjoyed.


Exhaling Memories” by M. K. Hutchins
a short story published by Aliterate

This was an interesting look at the downside of eternal life. In this world, your mind has a finite storage for memories, so people take them out of their mind to store for later. The ramifications on how that changes you as a person was really interesting.


It Happened To Me: My Doppleganger Stole My Credit Card Info, and then My Life” by Nino Cipri
a short story published by Fireside

A cute story about your invisible friend turning out to be real, and is in fact your doppleganger, and the two wanting to switch places. The longing for friendship felt real. Characters well done.