mrissa: (question)
A friend is looking for a short story that fits the following parameters: "It's about an autistic girl who is with her mother at a convention, I think, and gets whisked away to Faerie by some kind of imp who implies everything will suit her, and in the end the girl comes back to her mother."

Any thoughts on what story that is/where it might be found? Other discussion of fictional handlings of autism reasonably welcome in the comments, especially if you can flag the "ugh no stop it does not work like that" examples.
mrissa: (question)

So I just finished reading a Peter Dickinson novel that had psychics in it. And it reminded me once again: where did all the science fiction novels with psychics go? I’m not sure I miss them. There are still some places you can find things like telekinetics–mostly superpower-tinged stories like Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith’s Stranger. But Karen Lord’s straight-up interplanetary novel with characters with telepathy felt like the sort of thing I would have read at age 14 and just don’t see any more.

Where did they go? Because ESP/telepathy/mental powers show up very early in SF, and they show up very regularly until somewhere around the time I was in high school. When they just…don’t really any more. Was it that people finally felt comfortable that these things had been debunked, and people who want to write about them write fantasy? Was it that there was a cohort of people writing those stories in the ’80s (Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May, Andre Norton) who then either stopped writing, died, or moved on to other things, leaving “psychic power novels” as feeling like “their” thing rather than a broader genre thing? Was it the overwhelmingly female nature of that group, giving the concept “girl cooties?” (Catherine Asaro was writing about telepaths well into my college days, and she has demonstrated her bravery in the face of girl cooties on a number of fronts, so maybe.) Did it just start to feel old-fashioned, or did it really get played out? Was it the rise of willingness to do superhero/comic book themes in prose that pushed these topics into that category? (Seems like it happened in the opposite order, though.) Do you have an explanation I haven’t thought of?

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (question)

My dear friend Michael Merriam asked me to take part in a Writing Process Blog Tour. He answered these questions about process last week, and next week some more of my friends will answer them.

1) What am I working on?

When I told Michael about a week, week and a half, ago that I’d answer these questions, I thought, boy, that’ll be an interesting one, I can’t wait to read the answer and find out! At the moment, I’m worldbuilding and plot-building like crazy on several novel projects, waiting to see which one shakes out to be the next novel I write. Probably the strongest contender at the moment is Wielding the Stars, which has a giant jeweled magical orrery and riots and rebellion and fire and flood and…actually not flood I think. Hmm. We may have to go back to the flood later. (This is not to be confused with going back to the Flood later.) It also has load-bearing mythic bears, which are sort of getting to be a thing for me. But I could do any of a number of other things. That number might be five. Unless it’s not. Really, it’s quite a lot of possible projects, and the thing is, the one that jumps out and grabs me might not even exist yet. Novels are like that.

The thing I’m actually working on in any focused way is a short story called “Drifting Like Leaves, Falling Like Acorns,” which has some vets with PTSD who have been given little genetically engineered soothing psychoactive companion frogs. It also has quite a lot of rain and jurisdictional disputes. It is science fiction unless it is fantasy. This is a problem because my filing system for unsold stories calls for them to be put in folders labeled “SF” or “Fantasy,” so I do, but the postnuclear fantasy series I just guess. I could be wrong. I’m just the author, you don’t have to listen to me.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Mine has a giant jeweled magical orrery. And genetically engineered psychoactive soothing companion frogs. Like that. Stuff.

Also I have more grandparents in my work than most people. I have more old people in general.

When asked to talk about theme or political concerns, I tend to curl up in a ball and emit disgruntled noises, so let’s focus on the frogs, shall we?

3) Why do I write what I do?

Because if I sing it instead, my voice gets tired, and I get squeamish about things under my fingernails, so sculpture is right out.

Because I have trained my brain to poke at things, and then I feed it all kinds of input, and this is what comes out. I was kidding above with the singing, except not entirely kidding, because what happens when I have bits of story that I don’t get to write down is that I sort of hum them under my breath, I sort of live with them and hum them, and they nag at me, and so I write them down. There is a thing about habit-formation and that is that once you have formed the habit, that is the habit you get.

Also this is the stuff I like. I don’t get to write all the stuff I like, because I like quite a lot of stuff, as you will notice if you read my book posts. But honestly I like this kind of stuff quite a bit. It makes me happy. I think it is good for me to think around corners about things, and I think it is good for other people too, but I don’t write medicine, I write things I like.

4) How does your writing process work?

As far as other people are concerned, the interesting part of this answer seems to be “non-sequentially.” I get bits and pieces of scene and start writing down the bits I know. I accrete more and more bits I know until there is enough to make a whole story of whatever length. I work from the “incredible disappearing outline” theory, deleting the bits of notes as I write the actual scenes that correspond to them. This is the same for long and short and very very short.

Oh, and there’s the bit in the middle of long things where I get lost and have to spread it all out and think about it a great deal and realize I forgot to plan something crucial when I was doing all the planning, so then I have to figure that out. It would be nice if this was not actually part of the process every time, but sometimes a bit of realism is called for in describing one’s process.

Tune in next week to hear from the following interesting people on their own blogs:

Alec Austin is a game designer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s worked as a nuclear reactor operator and media researcher, and has published a D&D adventure and articles in addition to over a dozen pieces of short fiction. His most recent publication, written with Marissa Lingen, is “The Young Necromancer’s Guide to Re-Capitation” in On Spec, by which you can discern that his work is uplifting and full of good cheer. He’s currently working on a science fiction novel. He can be found at

Mary Alexandra Agner writes of dead women, telescopes, and secrets. Her latest book of poetry is The Scientific Method; her stories appear in Oomph and the Journal of Unlikely Cryptography. She makes her home halfway up Spring Hill. She can be found online at

Merrie Haskell says of herself: “I write for all ages. My first book, THE PRINCESS CURSE, was a Junior Library Guild Selection in 2011, and was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature in 2013. My second MG novel, HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS, won the Schneider Family Book Award (Middle Grades) in 2014. THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS, also a Junior Library Guild Selection, comes out in June 2014. My short fiction for adults has appeared in NATURE, ASIMOV’S and so forth.” She can be found at

mrissa: (new gma pic)

Okay, another dialect question. Haven’t done one in awhile. Does your home dialect contain the phrase “a goin’ concern,” usually applied to small children? And if not, would you still have some sense of what “that child is a goin’ concern” might mean if someone else used it, or would you be completely in the dark?

(Sometimes when I’m talking to my grandmother things come out of my mouth that I never, ever say to my friends, and then I stop and realize that I have no idea if I don’t say them because it’s an old-fashioned phrase we just don’t really use or if I don’t say them because my friends would find me incomprehensible. And this is what the internet is for! Someone might have told you it was for porn. Someone nicer might have told you it was for kitten pictures. They were wrong, or rather, they were right but in the broader sense. It is for assuaging random curiosity. And I do have a most ‘satiable curtiosity.)

Also: if you are a person who says “a goin’ concern,” at what age does a person stop being a goin’ concern? Because I am now a little worried.

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mrissa: (question)

I have a friend who has developed an academic interest in what she terms neo-Victorian kids’ lit (/MG) and YA. I have asked, and she does not draw a firm line between that and steampunk. Recommendations, anti-recommendations, interesting works to discuss: go.

I’ll start: Chris Moriarty’s The Inquisitor’s Apprentice fills my heart with joy, and I only wish she would write another, or I only wish they would publish another, or something. (That is, however, Victorian era but US setting. Not sure if it matters. Friend can show up and say so if it does.)

mrissa: (question)
[Poll #1953348]

(I have just this week completely worn out not one but two favorite garments--to the point where there is no point to donating them to any charity, as they would do no one more good than they have already done me--so I am thinking about these things at the moment.)

Joan Aiken

Feb. 21st, 2013 06:41 am
mrissa: (question)
I know some of you read Joan Aiken. If I was to read something of hers that was not a Wolves book, not about a pet raven, and not a Jane Austen homage/continuation, what would I start with? (To be clear, I have liked the Wolves books and had no particular objection to Arabella or her raven. But then I'm left with this sort of largeish mass of things, and I don't know how highly variable she gets.)
mrissa: (hippo!)
I just read the comments section of a blog post in which a couple of people were so relentlessly negative about themselves that it made me want to curl into a ball and whimper on their behalf. So! I have declared it Relentless Positivity Day in Mrissaland. Three questions:

1. Tell me one thing you like about yourself, as a trait.

2. Tell me one thing you've done recently that you're proud of or glad you did.

3. Tell me one thing you appreciate that someone close to you did recently.

These things don't have to be big, and if you've already answered on another form of social media, don't feel obliged. In fact, don't feel obliged at all. I just would like a little bit of mental shift in the direction of good stuff.
mrissa: (Default)
[ profile] sksperry tagged me in his Next Big Thing post...just as I was putting aside a major project in hopes that I would be better able to work on it later. But all is not lost, because thanks to a prompt from [ profile] pameladean my brain started working in the correct world for what was my planned next-next novel project, so I'm working on that now, and it's actually going really well. So yay go that. I'm going to answer questions about that instead of moping through them about the thing I just put aside. Much better.

What is the working title for your book?

Eleven Words for Home

Where did the idea for the book come from?

[ profile] elisem made a necklace that was clearly for me. Clearly clearly. It was one of the [ profile] elisem necklaces that was just mine mine miiiiine. It's got eleven little jasper cubes suspended from a fairly large-grain silver chain. The cubes are black and white and a little bit green in spots. I have had this necklace for years trying to wrap my head around its book. Years. I think about the book every time I wear the necklace. For most of that time "thinking" and "flailing" came out much the same--I had a couple of snippets, scenelets, but it didn't fall together until fairly recently.

What genre does your book fall under?

Science fiction. Medium-term future science fiction. Science fiction with the whole Solar System settled and reasonably travelable.

What is the synopsis or blurb for this book?

A young woman's determination to reunite her family takes her from the Canadian Shield to the Asteroid Belt, from a university on Ganymede to a secret bio-terrorist lair, before she can finally return to her home in the Oort Cloud.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I don't do that. I really don't do that. Hollywood does a lot of limiting of choice there, and including British and Canadian productions doesn't really help enough. (And I don't know Bollywood or Chinese movies well enough for that to help me personally.) Look at what they did with Season 2 of The Wire and people who actually looked Polish--that's incredibly rare, and most of my characters have that kind of ethnic identity in one direction or another. On the other hand, look at what they did to Smilla's Sense of Snow--it was incredibly important to the book that Smilla Jasperson was Greenlandic, and Julia so not. I mean seriously what. I'm writing a book, so I don't have to redo my book because I can't find an actress who looks Vietnamese, and I don't have to say, "Um, how about a Chinese actress! Close enough! How about a white lady with dark hair, ha ha, that'll be great, no problems there!" She can just be ethnically Vietnamese. (Well. At this point ethnically Oorter. But descended from Vietnamese people.)

Now that I've had my rant, the one exception is that the protagonist's twin uncles could be played by Jim True-Frost without me rolling my eyes entirely out of their sockets. The Oort Cloud does a lot to get genetic diversity, so mixed-race families are the complete norm out there. There are more ethnically unified settlements further in-system. Anyway.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am looking for an agent for previous work. It all depends on how that goes. I am also raising an eyebrow at the excluded middle in this question: there might not be as many editors/publishers who take direct submissions as there used to be, but they do in fact exist.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Well, we'll see, won't we? I decided not to answer these questions regarding my last finished work because you have all heard me blather about The True Tale of Carter Hall for awhile now. But if that's any indication, the first draft gives no clue about the eventual completion time.

I do think that I should not have to count the years of wearing the necklace and going, "hmmm," though.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I have been liking individual works of science fiction while being vaguely unsatisfied with the state of the genre for, oh, years now. Longer than I've had the necklace. I finally identified one thing I was missing when I read M. J. Locke's Up Against It, which I liked, but for some reason it was not what I had been looking for. And then I realized: what I am not finding, that I want, is intimate-voice SF. It looks to me like the default mode for a work of SF that is not immediate-future tends to be third person with at least three POV characters. When I asked my friends for first-person or intimate single third-person POV SF novels published lately, the results were dismal: people kept volunteering books that follow exactly the multi-third thing I was seeing everywhere. And I love some of those books. I just don't like the limitation on what SF can be.

There are a million other pieces inspiring this one--W.H. Auden, perfumers, bunches and bunches of music (early Sibelius, Antje Duvekot, Steve Earle's "This City," REM's "Find the River" because I am in fact that age), Martian peridots, family stuff. But once I realized I wanted something intimately single perspective and still large and SFnal, the rest started to come together.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I am notoriously bad at doing that. It's got the scope of something like 2312 or Blue Remembered Earth, but not at all the tone of either. There are tons of earlier things that are Solar System-y, but not nearly so...economics-focused, mostly? Or intimate-voice, mostly. Although if you're thinking of some, I don't mind recs.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, I'll be muttering about that from time to time as I write it, I expect.
mrissa: (question)
So here we are at my favorite restaurant. Yes! It's the Restaurant of Lost Menu Items. All the things from restaurants that have disappeared, or menu items that have fallen off the menus of restaurants that are still around, and try though you might you just can't get them the way they used to do them. No benefactor could get you there by plane or train or bring you back one in a cooler or a special heat-pack or anything, because they just don't have it there any more.

So what are you ordering? What do you miss?

Me, I'm going to have an Italian Veggie Sandwich from the Chestnut Tree Cafe. Sounds simple, right? But the bread was just right. The mix of veggies was just right. The dressing was just right. And I last had one in 1999, and I cannot for the life of me tell you what any of it was separately, so now that I'm much more experienced at making breads and dressings from scratch, I have no idea where to even start making the thing for myself.

How about you?
mrissa: (question)
[ profile] aliseadae is doing the five questions meme again. Ask or be asked in comments.

1) What book character would you like to be friends with in real life? Friendship is hard, because it relies on particularities of personality. I have been missing Patrick from the Secret Country books, even though right now he'd be one of my friends of whom I would think, "Oof, not now, Patrick," and put off answering an e-mail unless it had something time-sensitive in it.

2) What is your favorite mathematical concept? The relationship of e, i, pi, 1, and 0 is nice.

3) What is your favorite fairy tale? At the moment I am turning over The Twelve Dancing Princesses in my head for a thing, but I don't know that the underside of it will look the same.

4) Tell me about a good memory from college. Sometimes on Saturday mornings I would get up and go to the library, up on the second floor, and I would get whatever I wanted and look out on campus, and there would be nobody in the library and nobody walking around that early and it would be so quiet. There were lots of good people in my life in college, but on the down side, there were lots of good people in my life in college. And having an entire floor of library and view out over campus and the edge of the Minnesota River Valley to myself was really, really lovely.

5) If you could go anywhere in space or on earth and observe something with no harm to yourself, where would you go? (e.g. the horsehead nebula, the center of a volcano) Right now I am weirdly water-focused. So I am thinking the Marianas Trench, with a good light source and some good recording devices. Alternately under the ice crust of Europa if Europa actually has ice crust and water.
mrissa: (getting by)
I am having one of those weeks where I am very carefully enumerating the good things and calling them my precious, because if I don't hold onto them, they slip away kind of quickly with the rest of this week's stuff. And I know lots of you are having one of those weeks, too, so I thought I would tell you one of my good things, and maybe you will tell me one of yours.

I was at the grocery store yesterday, having drawn the "most capable of getting groceries" straw by process of somewhat sad and pathetic elimination, and we had reached the part where M---, one of the baggers I know, was bagging my groceries.

M---: Do you mind if I make the bags kind of heavy? They'll hold a lot, but some people don't want them heavy.
me: Go ahead. I'm strong even when I'm feeling gimpy.
M---: I always thought that about you.
me: Why, thank you, M---!

Seriously, I was touched. This is a thing people almost always underestimate about me, even though I am [ profile] sksperry's favorite Valkyrie. I think because I am femme and a nerd? I don't know. But it has been one thing after another, and then my bagger always thought I was strong? Okay. Okay. Yes. I can keep that. Anyway, so M--- kept bagging my groceries in my sturdy cloth bags that I love, and he was not sure he was going to get them into two tubs of bags to go out to the pickup lane.

M---: I don't know, I don't know. Can I do this? I don't know.
me: I believe in you, M---.
M---, looking up from his bagging in surprise and utter sincerity: Thank you!

Maybe M--- was having one of those weeks, too. Maybe he wasn't. He has some challenges in life, and hey, don't we all. But one of his regular customers believes in him, and he always thought she was strong. So hey, that was a ten minutes at the check-stand well spent on both sides.

How about you? What small thing went right for you this week?
mrissa: (question)
Okay, so: what specific, concrete thing do you want more of?

That is to say, not time, not money, not fame, not attention, not love.

But something that you could kick, or almost. Something that someone else could maybe read your comment and say, "Actually, I know who's making that," and point you at it.

So, you might want more cinnamon rolls that aren't totally smothered in sugary frosting. Or you might want more science fiction novels in which there could not conceivably be anybody with a gun on the cover. Or you might want more dark blue cotton shirts for long-torsoed men. More toys for young-grade-school age kids who are interested in science, packaging gender-neutral. What one thing do you want more of on a Friday afternoon, off the top of your head? Go.
mrissa: (question)
A friend of mine was talking about a work-in-progress yesterday and asked what I/we look for in love interests in urban fantasy, and I'm afraid conversation turned and I didn't really answer. So I'm putting it here because I feel contrite and hope that someone else will answer too and help her out.

I don't think my answer is different for urban fantasy than for anything else. If there's a clear main character who has one or more love interests in a book, first and foremost I want them to be people with their own agendas and problems and interests. And second I want it to be clear why at some point they might have wanted to hang out together. They don't have to still be good to hang out together, because all sorts of things shift and change in people's lives, and all sorts of people who once loved each other or even still love each other are not really good at spending time in the same room any more. But I like to be able to see how at some point they were.

I feel like if something is going to not work for me in the "love interest" department of a book, it's quite often having characters who supposedly have "chemistry" in a physical/sexual sense but don't actually like each other. I can almost never pick that up off the page. I mean, I expect there are lots of people who could hypothetically have reasonable sex if they wanted to but don't like each other enough to find out. This does not interest me, and having a character I'm otherwise supposed to want to spend an entire book worth of time with going, "Yes, we have nothing in common and I feel like punching him every time he opens his mouth, but he is Such A Hottie," makes me far less sympathetic towards that character. The world is full of quite reasonably attractive people who don't make one feel like punching them; go find one. (I will very very occasionally make an exception for this if the characters have a long history that does not consist entirely of wanting to punch each other. Complicated relationships are okay. Antagonism and sex: no thanks, not for me.)

Beyond that, there's a mishmash of things I'm a sucker for in any character and the sorts of things I look for when my friends start dating someone new. It depends on the book whether my answer is "good with a soldering iron" or "good with an axe," but "good to random old people" is probably on the list. May be less likely to show up in a novel than axes or soldering irons, though....
mrissa: (tiredy)
Today I was feeling utterly physically miserable again*, and it was bleeding over into the rest of my outlook, as it will tend to do. I characterized it in e-mail to a friend as the "YOU RUIN EVERYTHING, PUKERELLA!" mindset. And in the midst of this, a friend took the time to tell me that she appreciated a thing I had put effort into.

It was not, like, the hugest deal ever. She did not make me a giant wall-sized cardboard card with glitter to say thank you, and my effort was not Augean Stables-level either. But I did a thing that took effort when I don't have a lot to spare, and she took the time to not only appreciate it when she didn't have a lot of effort to spare either but to use her words to say so, and you know what? That ended up mattering quite a lot in the fight to keep the physical stuff from dragging down everything else.

So if you can, tell me about something in your life with good timing lately. We like the good timing. Yay good timing.

*Seriously one of the worst weeks I've had for awhile, in physical terms. There is a queue of stuff I am totally capable of doing that is taking forEVAR because of the amount of time body-wrangling. Whee. We'll get there. But it takes awhile.
mrissa: (question)
Here is the really annoying thing about reading a bunch of spy novels lately: they are the only genre I have read very many of that are all written by one category of person, by which I mean men. Everything else I have read lots of, if I start feeling like, hey, this is all women or all Americans or like that, then I go and get something that isn't.

And I've already read all the Ally Carter things.

So help! Somebody tell me some good spy novels written by women!

Please note that this is a perfectly reasonable time to say, "Hey, I notice that too, I sympathize," but not really a reasonable time to say, "This one by a guy has a good woman character in it," or, "This one by a guy has noticed women exist other than as backdrops," or, "This one is by a dude and just plain good." I do not dispute that men can write good spy novels. I am glad to read them. I just also want to read good spy novels by women, and I don't see why I shouldn't get to have both. I realize this may mean that I have to write them, but, well, I hope it doesn't, is what. Or at least I hope that's not the only thing it means.
mrissa: (question)
Which US Presidential middle name do you like least? Remember, you're voting on the name, not the guy.

[Poll #1824845]

Yeah, I'll have a run-off, probably. Unless there's a clear consensus. I'm looking at you, Gamaliel.
mrissa: (question)
Let us say that you have spoken to a friend about a kind of project that you are interested in undertaking. You are going to write, let us say, a mystery novel set in late 19th century Gdansk among the butchers and the meat-packing trade.*

Let us say that your friend comes upon a mystery novel with that very setting, or perhaps not a mystery novel, perhaps just an historical novel of the butchers of late-19th century Gdansk. Perhaps it's set in Gdynia instead.

Let us say that you investigate this novel and find that it is bad. Possibly it is screamingly bad. Possibly it is just not very good, the sort of mediocre thing one could easily read if one was snowed into an airport and one's electronics were all dead and the bookstore was full of James Patterson. ("It was so sad.")

If you are the friend, when do you find it useful to hear this? How broad a net do you want to cast? Of course one should signal carefully so that, "I saw this crappy thing and thought of your work, which I'm sure is terrible!" is not the take-home message. But when is it useful to know what other stuff is out there either opening the gates or tainting the wells, and when would you just as soon ignore the more obnoxious bits and go forward with whatever you're doing?

*I should not try to come up with random things nobody is doing so nobody thinks I am talking about them, because my brain went, "Ooh, somebody should write me that."


Feb. 11th, 2012 10:39 pm
mrissa: (thinking)
I was going to start out with something random and vague, but honestly I will tell you what it is: I am back on the med with the nasty side effects, and it is making me morose. (Indirectly, I believe. I don't think moroseness is itself a side effect. I just don't enjoy the other stuff.)

And one of the things I'm feeling is some disconnect. I've done the "tell me something good" posts, and those are good in their place. But tonight I'm screening responses, and I'm asking: tell me something that's important to you right now. Easy or difficult, positive or negative: tell me something important.

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