FULL BLEED: YEAR OF EXILE
Yeah. It's been a minute. It's been a minute for a lot of things.
Hot Friday afternoon today, heat sliding rapidly from comfortably warm when you step outside to goddamn hot within a minute or two. Tomorrow will be a lot worse, but I won't be here. Instead, I'll be at Bay Con in Santa Clara. I'll be on a handful of panels where I'm sure my unorthodox opinions on writing and world-building and publishing and genre will be a thorn in the side of others. I'll refuse to be a cheerleader for genre and otherwise bite the hand that feeds. We'll see how that goes. But honestly, SF needs a nip from time to time to remind all involved that the stories are not about setting or worldbuilding or interlocking technologies or believability or even goddamn scientific accuracy. There's the line.
In other news, we're on the cusp of the re-release of The Queen of No Tomorrows, that being this coming Wednesday (though a little bird told me that due to a slip-up, you could order the paperback or hardcover editions right now and they'd ship immediately. Whoops.) I'll probably write more about that whole journey in another entry. Though folks who've been following along know some of what went down. For all the upset and irritation and anguis the process has caused (what? being published isn't a magic want to make all those bad feelings go away? Yeah, sorry) I'm really proud of the book and even the cover and design and whole package. Part of that was my refusing to bend to what the publisher wanted to do (and, honestly, even if I had, I didn't have final say over the packaging or design of the cover -- welcome to publishing unless you're self-publishing). Part of that was just being bull-headed, which I'm very very good at.
And that's a useful trait in this world. I won't say this business because I can't afford to deal with this as a business. It's far, far too depressing to do so. And it's not just SF or fantasy or horror or any one genre/field. It's the whole thing. Publishing is a thing you're expected to bleed into and over and thank those running the business for the opportunity to not make anything resembling a living. I know some folks do. Most don't. I've had to walk away from that part of it. Again, sanity. Honestly, I'm still not sure I've made my peace with that particular Rubicon and the burning bridge flindering into fleeting and incandescent embers that die in the hiss and seethe of the surface disturbed by the rain of coals and beautiful opportunities now cindered. I've often said everyone has their own path in writing as in life and this one is mine. You can fight that or you can accept it and embrace that. Honestly I'm in a position where I don't need to make money off this, so that means freedom, right? Yeah, absolute freedom is more than a little daunting.
'Cause I've tried pursuing publication. Funny thing is that I only got stuff published when I wasn't actively trying to. This isn't a flex. This is the absurdity of life. I'd published some stories with Blizzard Entertainment (that itself was an absurd chain of coincidences) and saw and open call for Cthulhu-related stories with an indie outfit. I wrote my submission as something of a mean joke, wherein (spoilers) the elder gods are cut up and reduced to bite-size snacks for a ravenous populace, alien flesh flensed from titanic bones and stuffed into styrofoam cups. I was positive I'd be told that not only was my story rejected but that it was in bad taste.
It wasn't. That story, "Chunked" (a title I loathe to this day but couldn't figure out another one for it) appeared in Tomorrow's Cthulhu from Broken Eye Books in 2014? Maybe 2015? It appeared alongside several much much better stories (embarrassingly so) but was at least out there. Not much came of it. Then I asked the publisher if it was okay for me to take that story/setting and spin my own work out of it. They said "Sure, but why don't you pitch me something?"
Okay, I did. That was Queen of No Tomorrows. Which came and went. As most books do. Really, there's an awful lot of books published every year. Even in just horror. Even in just cosmic horror. Even in just Lovecraftian Cosmic Horror (not that I necessarily write in any of those subsections, but that's an argument for another time.) There's just a lot of books out there. Nobody can keep up with it all. That's Howling Pit territory (and I wrote a whole book on that subject in 2015 and again revised last year, so if you want that rant you know where to look for it.)
Wrote two more books in the series, now under the umbrella title Hazeland. The sequel to Queen of No Tomorrows was originally due in 2020. Then 2021. Then 2022. You get the picture. Now the publisher and I have parted ways. I know I said I wasn't going to recount all this, but there's some new folks who will probably read this stuff for the first time here and oh well. This separation was necessary, for the both of us, but it was pretty jarring as a process.
After that, I tried to write short fiction to place in anthologies. This, as it turns out, was a grievous mistake. I've only ever placed one other story in an anthology coming in cold. Those odds are bad enough now that I realize this part of the world of genre writing is not for me. Hey, if you have an anthology that you think my work will be a good fit for, go ahead and contact me. I won't do it cold any more. If this is seen as elitist or snooty or not willing to pay my dues, well you're welcome to think that. I've been writing longer than a lot of the folks in the business have been alive, so I feel like I'm entitled to my beliefs on the matter, even if they keep me exiled to the garage on the ratty towel out by the water heater.
Honestly, though, going over the transom for anthologies which pay non-SFWA rates? Nope. I'm done. Even if they pay those rates, I guarantee that what I'm going for and what most folks seem to be interested in doing in the genre is not compatible. I'm at peace with this. At least I tell myself that.
All that said, a depressing process to go through. And it's not like I can even blame the outlets. They're horribly outnumbered by folks who want the prestige of being writers. Those outlets can grant that prestige, but wow, it costs, y'know? And it doesn't pay all that well. Even for the publishers. Thin gruel all 'round.
I'll even lean on external issues for some of this. That's honest at least. Lots of personal stuff. Lots of life in transition and nobody goddamn tells you how to handle the first part of it, much less the constant onslaught, no strike that. It's too dramatic. The regular grind of everyday life and the shuddering transitions that it dumps on you with little or no warning. You let that stuff add up and add up and add up and eventually your back gives out. Mine certainly did. I'm pretty sure that the only writing I've done in the last year is revisions on The Queen of No Tomorrows and the novella that accompanies it, Dreams are Made of Us. Made a pass at All Waters are Graves, but looked at those recently and saw that I really didn't dig on those and need to do them again. Sure, I'd done a lot of work on the cover and some on publicity (hoo boy, that's a whole nother series of nested rants) and design of the book. I'd even done some plotting for books after, to make things seem coherent even when they really weren't.
But that's not really writing. It's all writing-adjacent stuff, but it's not the writing. It's not the sitting down at the keyboard and shutting off my goddamn ego for a couple hours and letting the universe and the ineffable pass from whatever nameless and causeless place it comes and out through fingers to keys to electrons to the electric shadows of the screen so that someone else can read it. It never comes out like I want, but I usually like what happens. I enjoy the surprise and being thwarted by my own story when I think it's going to expess itself one way and that simply neve happens but something else wondeful comes up in its place. Yeah, that whole egoless trip. That's sometimes hard to run up and embrace. There's a lot of reasons for that. We all know what they are. Pride's a motherfucker. It stings.
So yeah, I've been away for awhile. I'd like to think I'm ready to be back. We'll know soon enough.
If you read this and you're at Bay Con, your best bet at finding me is at the Small Publisher, Big Universe table. I'll be there at some point all three days.
Now let's lean into that heat of summer which feels invincible like a king ascendant, but like all kings lies about its regency being forever.
Until next time.