Of Loons & Words & Sweetweird
A retreat, writing my way out of the weeds, and a Top Shelf Rec!
Good morning! As you know from my airport sans phone newsletter, I went away to the Outer Banks with the dynamo Mur Lafferty (whose STATION ETERNITY you should preorder), where for a few days we wrote on different floors and gathered at night to watch The Afterparty and drink and shout about mystery structure.
You can watch us on Mur’s twitch channel, high on writing a lot of words the first full day here, for an episode of Ditch Diggers — I can’t figure out how to embed it!
A few days in, we were joined by our friend Andrea Phillips, who is a genius, and then by double geniuses and wildlife wranglers Ursula Vernon (aka T Kingfisher) and Kevin Sonney. It was the first time I met Ursula (or Kevin) in person, and we ended up on an adventure saving a grounded loon immediately. On brand for all involved, honestly.
If you missed the adventure, you can follow along via this thread:
Which concludes in this glorious release video:
I started the week far behind because we’ve been busy — THE LEXINGTON WRITER’S ROOM IS REOPEN AS OF JUNE 1!!! (public grand reopening still to be scheduled) — and ended with about 13,000 words written and back on track. I had to give a keynote over the weekend, which hopefully went okay, and that meant I also had to write a keynote (about the importance of community to writers) last week, so this week it’s back to heist book. The deadline fast approaches, but I think I figured out the last big twist. And going away very much got me back on track. Sometimes you just need to be able to turn the rest of the world off.
Sweetweird = hell yes
Nothing gets tongues wagging and lashing faster in SFF than coining a new term or using the word manifesto, but I think Charlie Jane is onto something with her sweetweird manifesto (and is generally one of the smartest people on craft and SFF, period) and I’m finding this one extremely useful.
I’ve talked before about how with all the fantasy rom-coms I’m doing, my goal is to yes, have conflict and dramatic things happen, and to have literal hellscapes at times, and to still absolutely allow the reader to feel safe (even warm and loved) about the core characters and within the confines of the book, even in the dark moments. Are NOT YOUR AVERAGE HOT GUY and THE DATE FROM HELL cozy apocalypses/apocalyptic cozy rom-com? Yes. Are they sweetweird? I actually feel that’s the best description I could give. Sweetweird rom-coms. I felt like I wanted and needed this as a writer and a reader in the midst of ::gestures:: all the apocalypses currently on offer.
Hopepunk is also in this school, obviously, but my books don’t feel punk enough for that. And, by the way, no one is saying that these works are the only things that should exist (hello, I’m writing a darker magic thriller atm), but identifying them as something that is happening right now across a bunch of different media is a worthwhile thing to do. For one, it helps people who want them find them, and for two, it also helps challenge the ever-present lie that works must present everything as Serious capital S or Dark capital D in order to matter to people or offer people something valuable. (Although these also aren’t stories that have to be completely devoid of darkness.)
Joy, escape, visibility, love with high weirdness going on? These are all worthwhile elements and aims of story, damn it, she said pluckily.
Top Shelf Rec & Event!
One of the ways I’m lucky is that I get to read (or hear as he reads it to me) everything Christopher Rowe writes first. Neener. I’m always amazed by his brain (what a good brain!) and his stories, and his new novella out from Tor Dot Com Publishing RIGHT NOW, THESE PRISONING HILLS, is no exception. Christopher often talks about how he writes — not always, but often — about the future in places like where we are, Kentucky and Tennessee, because the future will happen everywhere not just large cities. (A riff on William Gibson’s apt observation that the future has already happened, it’s just not evenly distributed.)
But his work is also always weird and hopeful (is it hopepunk? maybe?) and his new post-apocalyptic weird story is well worth your time. Plus, look at that cover!
Get it wherever books are sold now. Or come out tomorrow night, Tuesday June 7, for what is sure to be a SMASHING event at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington. His brother, Fred, will be joining again to play mandolin for one of the original songs Christopher wrote in the book (it’s great) and he’ll be in conversation with the amazing Ashley Blooms, who you might remember from my Top Shelf Rec of her book WHERE I CAN’T FOLLOW earlier this year. (Our writing group, the Moonscribers? Kind of KILLING IT, y’all.) Anyway, hope to see some of you there tomorrow!
More soon, because I’m going to be Mayor of Hell next week. MWAHAHA! (No, really, I’ll explain.)