Game Over!

Er. That may not be what I meant.

      I turned in the complete draft of the game yesterday! There will still be edits, and I still need to balance a couple of stats better, and my code is stilted, but it's complete, and you can play it all the way to the end. You can even get a happy ending.

It still amazes me how much coding is a linguistic skill rather than a mathematical one. It's grammar, not algebra! Or at least that's the only way I can conceptualize it. And the easiest way to fix a weird bug that I don't understand is to handle it the way I would handle failing to find a phrase in French or German: fall back on a simpler way to paraphrase the situation. The *gosub that the debugger kept telling me was appearing before it was called? (I swear to God it wasn't.) Eliminate the *gosub and put the text in both sections. Awkward and inelegant, but it runs. It’s like stringing together three or four kindergarten vocabulary words because you don’t know the “real” word: it’s obvious you’re a foreigner, and it’s not exactly pretty, but people understand what you mean.

In case you missed it, the game is A Player’s Heart, a f/f romance game from Choice of Games, set in the all-female Opera of the city of Tristendesande. Politics and art collide as you attempt to put on a show, avoid offending the Regent, and keep the city’s theaters open, while finding love. I’m a big fan of Choice of Games — the first games I played got me through a difficult Thanksgiving holiday, and I’ve been playing them ever since. They’re extremely well-written, with sophisticated plots and complicated decisions — the apotheosis of the “choose your own adventure” genre. It’s been fun working on it, and learning some new skills, and I can’t wait until it’s ready to share!


Summer Plans

I’m nearly done with A Player’s Heart, the f/f romance game I’ve been writing for Choice of Games - and that’s a good thing, because I’m starting to ramp up my summer schedule.

First off, I’ll be at Balticon May 24-27. I’m not on a lot of panels, but I will be doing a reading and an autographing, and Doug Warden has asked me to be part of his workshop on using the Tarot for fiction. I’m very much looking forward to that one, and hope to see some of you there.

I’m also hoping to attend OutWrite again this year in DC on August 3, but that depends on whether some other plans come to fruition. I can’t say much right now, but if I miss OutWrite, it will be for a truly fabulous reason…

I’ll also be using the summer to finish a long-standing passion project, Water Horse, my take on medieval high fantasy. It’s the story of the queer king of a beleaguered kingdom who has one last chance to escape his prophesied fate and save his kingdom. I’m cautiously pleased with the ms. so far. And then it’s on to the next book in the Firstborn, Lastborn series!



A couple of lovely links to share today, first to the Locus review of Finders and then to my editor’s excellent fancast for Finders.

The fancast is particularly fun because (a) I do it myself and (b) I’m an intensely visual person anyway. In my old office, half of one wall was covered, floor to ceiling, with pictures I’d collected for various projects; the ones I was using for active projects lived on the wall behind my computer. In my current office, the wall space is taken up by bookshelves, so those pictures have migrated to a scrapbook, and I periodically pull it out and flip through it, usually when I’m bored or stuck. And of course I’ve also discovered Pinterest, which is both a wonderful place to collect material and a terrible time sink. A simple-seeming search — try “minotaur” — can lead down some amazingly interesting rabbit holes! There are some people I follow on Twitter (@Oniropolis, @HooklandGuide, @britishmuseum, and a whole slew of Hadrian’s Wall-related accounts — @VindolandTrust, @SegedunumFort, @EHHadriansWall, @NTHadriansWall, @HadriansWall, @HWpath — just to name a few) because they post such stunning pictures. I tend to use images as mnemonics, placeholders for the complex train of thought and emotion that each one evoked in me, and it feels like a win when a reader reflects that back at me. Which is why the fancast makes me so happy. I’ve successfully conveyed the physicality of the characters — these are entirely the right types of actors to play the parts!


Finders Release Day!

Finders is out today from Candlemark and Gleam! It’s been a while in the making, and I’m very excited to see it available at last. It’s an unusual project for me in a couple of ways. First, it began as a (long) novelette, which appeared in Athena Andreadis’s “The Other Half of the Sky.” I write very little short fiction — my natural/comfortable length seems to be about 100,000 words, and most of my finished short stories were a race to complete the short version before I was overwhelmed by the novel-length version I could see looming. Generally, though, once I finish the short story, I don’t actually go on to write the novel, but Finders nagged at me. I liked these characters, I wanted to explore the rest of their story, and the 12,000-word novelette felt too short for what I actually wanted to say. (I’ve said before that writing this felt like wrestling a large octopus into a small tin can: much thrashing, too many tentacles, and ink everywhere.) I began poking at the idea, and when Athena announced that she had acquired Candlemark and Gleam and was looking for submissions, I couldn’t wait to pitch her. I had loved working with her on the novelette, and knew she would do the novel full justice, so I was delighted when she encouraged me to send it on.

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Finders Giveaway!

A quick heads up —Candlemark and Gleam are giving away copies of my forthcoming novel, Finders. Sign up here!

I am really excited about Finders. As many of you know, it began as a 10,000+ word short story for Athena Andreadis’s anthology The Other Half of the Sky, and ended up taking in part of a shorter story, “Firstborn, Lastborn,” from To Shape the Dark, as well. It’s the story of Cassilde Sam, a barely solvent salvage operator, who is scraping by  hunting for relics in the ruins left by the mysterious Ancestors — particularly the color-coded Element that power most of humanity’s current technology, including the ability to navigate through hyperspace. She is also steadily fading under the onslaught of Lightman’s, an incurable, inevitably fatal disease. She needs one find big enough to leave a legacy for her partner and fellow salvor, Dai Winter.

When their lover and former colleague Summerlad Ashe reappears, offering them a chance to salvage part of an orbiting palace that he claims contains potentially immense riches, Cassilde is desperate enough to take the gamble, even though had Ashe left them both to fight on the opposite side of the interplanetary war the only ended seven years ago. The find is everything Ashe promised. But when pirates attack the claim, Cassilde receives the rarest of the Ancestors’ Gifts: a change to her biochemistry that confers near-instant healing and seems to promise immortality.

But the change also drags her into an underworld where Gifts are traded in blood, and powerful Gifts bring equally powerful enemies. Hunted for her Gift, and determined to find Gifts for her lovers, Cassilde discovers that an old enemy is searching for the greatest of all the Ancestral artifacts: a power that the Ancestors created and were barely able to contain after it almost destroyed them, plunging humanity into the first Long Dark. Haunted by dream-visions of this power whispering its own version of what happened, Cassilde must find it first, before her enemy frees it to destroy her own civilization.

The giveaway runs from November 9 to release day, December 10. Sign up at Candlemark and Gleam or email them at eloi@candlemarkandgleam.com and use the subject line “Finders Giveaway”


Summer Schedule

This is a busy summer for me: not only do I have projects in hand and deadlines approaching, but I’ve had books out, and I’m traveling for a couple of appearances. I’ll start with those first.

July 11 at 7PM I’ll be at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge, MA for a signing/short reading celebrating the release of Point of Sighs. Pandemonium is an amazing place, if you haven’t been, and I’d love to see you there. (I haven’t been back in the area in a while, and my biggest concern is not buying All The Books…) Sadly, I won’t be at Readercon the following weekend, as my nephew is getting married.

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I'm not sure if Mighty Good Road is the oldest book in this summer's LGBT+ Storybundle, but it's close: it was published in 1990, the last book I published with Baen. (Don't get me wrong, Baen didn't drop me because of queer content — or anything else, for that matter. I'd had a good run with Baen, but they weren't willing to match Tor's offer on Dreamships, and Betsy Mitchell, who had been my editor, had moved on - the usual publishing round.) Some things have held up pretty well — I think "interstellar trains" remains cool regardless — and other bits of the technology haven't, but one thing, I think, remains unusual. It's a novel with a queer protagonist in which queerness is in no way the focus of the story.

Gwynne Heikki is a lesbian, in a long-term, stable, happy relationship with her business partner, Marshallin Santerese. She's also half-owner (with her lover) of a salvage company, and as far as the story goes, that matters far more than her sexuality. That's not to say that her sexuality is erased; far from it! Everyone knows that she's half of a female couple, but their reactions to that depend on their feelings about her and Santerese as individuals, not on their feelings about queer people. Heikki is respected, and at times disrespected, for the complex person that she is.

And that, I think, is something that's still uncommon even in SF/F: a queer protagonist for whom queerness is part of a whole, another version of normal — where queerness is highly present, and a queer person is the point of view character, but queerness is not a contested social issue. Of course, SF/F is one of the best media for trying to imagine that, offering writers the freedom of every imaginable future and universe, but it's not been as common a choice as I had always expected.

When I wrote Mighty Good Road, this seemed like a radical act of imagination: what would the world look like if there were no social conflict over being any flavor of queer? What would a queer woman look like if she had never been oppressed, either as a woman or a lesbian? There is, of course, always a place in literature to confront oppression, to show its effects and mourn out losses, but it is also valuable, I think, to imagine oppression’s absence, its utter defeat. I still believe we need to consider the question: what might the world look like — what might we look like — when we win?


June LGBT+ Storybundle

It's that time of year again! It's Pride Month, and once again the folks at Storybundle have let me put together an eclectic selection of LGBT+ science fiction in celebration. There's a little bit of everything, from steampunk to space opera, superheroes to aliens, near future to far future to worlds that never quite were, not to mention depictions of sexuality that range from discreet to smoking, but they all share a strong queer voice, and none of them contain queer characters who end miserably simply because they're queer. (Not to say that there's not a place for that kind of tragedy, but a celebratory bundle isn't it.)

It's the usual Storybundle deal: pay whatever you'd like over the minimum, and get the bundle books; pay over the bonus amount, and you'll get 7 more novels. And, like last year, you'll have the option of donating to our charity of choice, Rainbow Railroad. They specialize in helping queer folk escape government or government-sanctioned persecution, and have been very involved in helping gay men get out of Chechnya. It's a group that can make good and immediate use of any funds we can raise.

2018 Update

It’s still January, so I’ll try for a quick new year’s update before that becomes completely ridiculous. First, Point of Sighs is now through production and is scheduled for release in May! I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out, and can’t wait to share it with everyone. I’ll be at Balticon 51 over Memorial Day weekend, and the plan is to hold a launch party there, so if you’re going to be attending, please look for it! We’ll have tea and little cakes, in proper Astreianter style.

In Stargate news, I’ve finished Pride of the Genii, and it’s currently in the queue at MGM. No word yet on a publication date, but I’m hoping for the fall.

Finders has been through a first round of edits, and I’m still cautiously pleased with it. There’s always a point at which you fumble through one more change and panic, sure that you’ve made everything worse and nobody will ever want to read anything of yours ever again, and I’ve hit that but I’ve learned that the best thing to do at that point is to give it to the editor and let them deal with it. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it’s much better than I thought it was—and, indeed, my latest reread made me feel a lot better. It’s the first book in what I hope will be a trilogy, and is intended for publication at the end of the year.

Both my Patreons are going strong. If you’re a Points fan, you can get two 500+ word sketches a month at my Astreiant Patreon — it’s a bit of everything, snippets from work in progress, character sketches, the occasional exploration of secondary characters, and I’m certainly having fun exploring the world in more depth. And The Rule of Five, the space opera co-written with Don Sakers, continues apace! We’re coming up on Major Revelations and the conclusion of the first major plot arc, and having enormous fun in the process.



I’m tremendously excited to announce that I’ve sold a novel, Finders, to Athena Andreadis at Candlemark & Gleam. It’s expanded from the short story of the same name, which first appeared in Andreadis’s The Other Half of the Sky (and subsequently in Year’s Best Science Fiction X) and from a second story, “Firstborn, Lastborn,” which appeared in Andreadis’s To Shape the Dark (and in Year’s Best Science Fiction 34), and it’s been a joy to get back to far future, high science SF.Collapse )

Coming from Candlemark & Gleam at the end of 2018/beginning of 2019.

(I am in the process of moving my blogging to a dedicated website, melissa-scott.com. I'll continue cross-posting here for at least another 6 months, but it seems as though there's very little traffic in the communities any more. Please do check me out at the new location!)