My latest short story, “Youngblood,” has been officially released! I describe it as LOST meets Jurassic Park—it’s about a girl and her velociraptor companion who live in a colony that was abandoned on a dinosaur-infested island. Things go awry when the corporation that left them behind returns, guns blazing.
I initially wrote it for Uncanny Magazine’s dinosaur issue, and it made it to the final round of cuts—but when it didn’t stick there, I decided to self-publish it. (Spoilers: selling an action-heavy dinosaur-themed short story to serious SFF short fiction markets is difficult.)
My WIP novel finally has a name: The Thousand Shattered Gods.
I don’t want to say too much at this point about the plot, etc., but I will say that it’s set in the same universe as “The Red-rimmed Eyes of Tou Ma,” my novelette that was originally released in Unfettered II, and shares a principal protagonist: Farid Sulayk. My plan has always been to have a series of novels with intersecting short fiction, and this is the start of that.
You may have seen my Twitter conversation last week about epic fantasy. It began with me searching for book recommendations, but an off-hand comment about how, in my heart-of-hearts, what I *really* want to be writing is big, adventurous ’90s-style epic fantasy, but that I was under the impression that it was a hard sell. Thanks to encouraging feedback from Brit E. B. Hvide and Hannah Bowman, two people with loads of experience in the publishing industry, however, I returned to my outline for a novel I started working on a couple of years ago. It didn’t have a name, and I’d stalled on writing it after about 20k words because something just wasn’t quite right.
The JRPGs of the mid-’90s have influenced me more than any other media outside of fantasy fiction. I grew up OBSESSED with Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI; poured hundreds of hours into Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, Xenogears, Grandia, and Suikoden; have replayed games from that era over-and-over again in the 20 years since. It’s no exaggeration to say that Octopath Traveller, a new JRPG from Square Enix and Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch that hearkens back to the halcyon days of Squaresoft, was made for me.
I’ve spent a fair bit of time with it now, and I’m pleased to say that not only does Octopath Traveller do justice to the classics of its genre, it manages to take the feeling of those games and create something that feels both nostalgic and modern at the same time.
The first thing you’ll notice about Octopath Traveler is its unique blend of 3D-environments and 16-bit style spritework/pixel art. I left a playthrough of Final Fantasy VI unfinished to pick up Octopath Traveler, and the similarities are obviously striking—but, the more I play, the more I’m reminded of the 32-bit RPGs that melded 2D sprites with 3D environments, like Grandia or Xenogears. However, rather than trying for a 1:1 emulation of the old style, as many throwback JRPGs do, Octopath Traveller combines the 16/32-bit aesthetic with modern sensibilities. As someone who grew up on 16/32-bit JRPGs, it’s a heady combination that manages to look the way I remember those games looking, which is a high compliment.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve sold “The Dinosaur Graveyard” to Merc Rustad for their online and physical anthology, ROBOT DINOSAURS!
When I first heard of the anthology a few months ago, as the first stories were hitting the web, I was so enthralled by the theme that I couldn’t help but write a story—despite there being only a glimmer of opportunity for it. I’ve long-admired Merc’s short stories, so I’m beyond thrilled to be able to work alongside them on this new project. One of my main goals as a writer is to produce fun, buoyant, and imaginative SFF, and a project like this—featuring robotic dinosaurs, an anachronistic match made in heaven—was a wonderful playground.
“The Dinosaur Graveyard” is a long flash story (short short story?) about a robotics engineer spending a long night repairing her daughter’s favourite toy.
It’s slated for publication on August 24th, and will be available for free on the ROBOT DINOSAURS! website. I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
If you want to join me as part of the ROBOT DINOSAURS! family, Merc just announced that they’re looking for three more stories, and will be accepting submissions from August 1-15. Get writing!
For updates on the anthology, including weekly stories, check ’em out on Twitter: @robodinofiction.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve made a dedicated a lot of my gaming time (such as it is these days…) to revisiting older RPGs. I grew up playing everything from Squaresoft’s finest on SNES to BioWare’s amazing output on the PC. It’s been a joy to revisit favourites, such as those listed below, and discover some classics that slipped past me at the time of release.
Since I’ve been thinking so much about these older games, and recognizing (or rediscovering) what makes them work so effectively, especially compared to a lot of modern games, which I’m finding myself less attracted to, I thought it would be fun to explore my Top 10 Favourite RPGs (and 10 Honourable Mentions.
(The list is unordered, except for the first game, which is undisputedly my favourite game of all time.)
I played Grandia to completion back when it was first released, and have always considered it one of the high-water marks of PSX-era JRPGs. However, in a lot of ways, it hasn’t aged well, particularly while playing it on original hardware (or PSP, where I first attempted to replay it) due to slowdown, so I’ve never made it more than a few hours into a replay. This time, I’m playing it via Retroarch, using GPU overclock for a consistent 30fps, and it’s like a new experience.
I’m currently two hours deep and exploring the game’s first dungeon: the Sult Ruins.
I *love* the sense of optimism and adventure. One of my favourite games of all time is Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, which shares these attributes, but Grandia takes it to another level. There’s no overarching horror encroaching on the world at the get-go. In fact, it’s a time of peace. Justin wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an adventurer—to explore the world, discover knew things, dig up knowledge. In this day and age where we have grizzled Geralt from The Witcher, Lara Croft dousing people with gasoline and lighting them on fire, and beautiful but excessively violent games like Ghosts of Tsushima, it’s so refreshing to return to a time when game settings were fun and joyous.
Now that the digital ink is dry on the contract, I’m very pleased to say that I’ve sold the reprint rights to my short story, “The Penelope Qingdom,” to Cast of Wonders. It’s a love letter to growing up, ’80s Saturday morning cartoons, Dungeons & Dragons, and falling in love for the first time.
As a huge fan of the Escape Artists podcasts, I’m absolutely thrilled to see “The Penelope Qingdom” find a new home at Cast of Wonders. It was initially published in parallel with the 2016 US election, so got a bit lost in the blast (and subsequent social media fallout that we’ve been experiencing for the past two years), so I’m looking at this as a second chance at life. Cast of Wonders’ target YA audience is *perfect* for this story, and I hope readers (and listeners) enjoy it.
You can read “The Penelope Qingdom” right now on Curious Fictions. It was originally published in Mothership Zeta.
First thought: I saw a Star Wars film on opening weekend and the theatre was only 30% full. That’s… odd.
Second thought: Holy smokes. I liked it. A LOT.
Admittedly, I went into the viewing with middling expectations (despite being a HUGE fan of The Last Jedi). This was due to a lot of factors, but mainly I didn’t like the idea of recasting one of the iconic characters from the original series. Han Solo is Harrison Ford. Harrison Ford is Han Solo.
So, imagine my surprise when, thirty minutes into the film, I was enjoying the hell out of it. Everything I love about Star Wars is there and works brilliantly. The film’s production hell is well documented, and the fact that Howard was able to make not only a watchable film, but a goodfilm is remarkable.
Earlier this year, I was blown away by Sam J. Miller’s debut YA novel, The Art of Starving. It was a beautiful, raw, warm, funny, and heartbreaking experience. I was already familiar with Miller’s short fiction, but that did little to prepare me for the emotional rollercoaster of protagonist Matt’s journey of self-discovery, super powers, and overcoming the perilous challenges of teenagedom.
Finishing The Art of Starving was like adding rocket fuel to my anticipation for Blackfish City, Miller’s debut adult novel. As soon as it released, I bought an audiobook copy, and, boy howdy, Miller’s outdone himself. Blackfish City is a tour-de-force of incredible, prescient worldbuilding, lush prose, and characters that are achingly real.
The eponymous city, called Qaanaaq, is a floating refugee city ruled by crime syndicates and landlords. It was constructed in the Arctic Circle, post climate change-fueled worldwide flooding, and, like any city populated by people fleeing dead or dying cultures and societies, is rich and diverse, but also suffers from many challenges. Blackfish City follows four people—Kaev, Soq, Fill, and Ankat—and their intertwined conflicts. Life in Qaanaaq is disrupted by the arrival of the Orcamancer, a woman riding an Orca, accompanied by a polar bear, and it soon becomes apparent that the lives and fates of Kaev, Soq, Fill, and Ankat are entwined with the mysterious visitor’s arrival. It’s a story about privilege and self-identification, hope, colliding cultures, and oppression. Like all of Miller’s work, it has a lot to say about the state of the world, and the dangers we face moving forward if things don’t change.
It kills me to write this post, but I bounced *hard* off of Tchaikovsky’s lauded SF novel, Children of Time. I picked it up during an Audible sale several weeks ago, and coming off of Brandon Sanderson’s excellent (but looooooooooong) Oathbringer, it seemed like the perfect palate cleanser. Relatively short, totally different, and I’d never actually read anything of Tchaikovsky’s before.
However, this is one of those times when I can honestly look you in the eye and say, “It’s not you, it’s me.” There’s nothing egregious about Children of Time—in fact, I was immediately taken in by the generation ship aspect of the story (because I’m a sucker for social conflict generation ship stories), and Tchaikovsky’s writing and storytelling were clear and effective. There were other eight-legged reasons.
Children of Time is split across two converging plot lines. The first is a traditional generation ship/survivor story. A group of humans crash lands on an alien planet and has to learn to survive. The other half is about spiders. Imagine Spiderman. Now, imagine if Spiderman, instead of being a human who gains spider-like powers, was a spider who gained human-like sentience and intelligence through rapid, viral evolution. Sounds cool, right? Alongside the survivors are a group of intelligent, social spiders. A lot of people *loved* this aspect of the book, but I hit it like a brick wall and bounced off super hard.
So, if that concept sounds interesting (and I’m told it’s executed very well), jump right on in. Just wasn’t my cuppa.