I’ve been quiet in this space lately, which is probably a surprise to nobody at all. The pandemic and lockdown have affected my writing practice as they’ve affected… well, everyone and everything…
I hope as you read this you’re safe and healthy and finding ways to fill the hours and take care of yourself and others. Be gentle with yourselves, and on those around you.
I have been incredibly fortunate. I had a lot of works in progress to revise, pieces that were mostly done, when things went to shit. This week, for example, I turned in the final edits on my novel Dealbreaker. The book is the a sequel to my September 2019 novel Gamechanger, and it takes place about 20 years later, following the adventures of a now-grown Frankie Barnes and her various adopted siblings and spouses as the population of Earth pushes out into the solar system.
Another of the things I finished was a novelette called “The Immolation of Kev MaGee” and I’m so amazingly pleased to announce that I have now sold this piece to Clarkesworld Magazine! This also takes place in what I sometimes refer to as the Nice Things Universe, but it’s set during a thoroughly terrible period known as the Clawback.
Readers familiar with Gamechanger may remember that in this particular near future, our present day, pandemic and all, is part of a period called the Setback. This era is a downward spiral, where many of the world’s human-build systems collapse. Capitalism fails, deadly pathogens emerge, and our network of nation-states begins to crumble under the crush of climate change. Then an even more terrible transition, the Clawback, occurs as the bulk of the world’s population decides it has enough and begins the hard work of reorganizing, basically, Everything.
By the time Gamechanger begins, capitalism has been seriously upheaved, international cooperation has been set into place to allow massive climate remediation, everyone has a universal standard of living, and the police have been all but written out of existence—though at a massive cost to privacy. Things seem to be improving, and the characters in that book have a lot of reason to be optimistic. Humanity goes from Clawback to Bounceback.
The novelette for Clarkesworld, on the other hand, is one of a trio set during the trashiest of trashfire days of the Clawback, a period where the U.S. is plunged into multiple localized civil wars and corporate oligarchs are attempting ever-more-bizarre ways to preserve their fortunes and privileges. “The Immolation of Kev MaGee” is the first of these novelettes to find a home and I’m incredibly happy about it. Clarkesworld has been on my bucket list for some time!
(I would never choose to live through a real world Setback or Clawback, if I had a choice! But I am trying with these stories to imagine optimistic but credible possibilities for the human race to shoot the rapids of looming disaster in this century, so we can all sail through to a better future. I believe we have to imagine good outcomes to achieve them.
Manwhile, this pandemic is teaching us all many many lessons we weren’t looking for, both about our potential to work together as a global population to stop a threat—and the horrors on offer when we fail. Cooperation is something we need to level at, desperately. It’s riveting and saddening and scary and inspiring to see us attempt it.
As a science-fiction writer my stock in trade is imagining world-changing events exactly like the ones unfolding around us now. It is a very strange kind of privilege to be hunkered down in my home, watching Setbacky events unfolding in realtime, observing it and trying to write about parallel events and better outcomes.