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Upcoming Appearances

I have finally gotten around to updating the Upcoming Appearances page on my website, and boy howdy do I have a lot of them!

With the release of Arabella and the Battle of Venus coming on July 18, I will be doing readings in Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco that week. Come and hear a new song, get new swag, hear a new reading, and see the same old writer in the same old costume!

Immediately after that I will be off to Europe for the Writing Excuses cruise and Worldcon. In November there’s World Fantasy, Wordstock, SFWA readings in Seattle and Portland, and OryCon, and in December there’s Writers with Drinks in San Francisco. It’s going to be a busy year. And that isn’t counting square dances, travel to visit family and friends, and non-public events!

I hope to see you at one or more of the following events. Click the links for more details.

Forty years in Fandom

It was forty years ago today — June 17, 1977 — that I attended my first science fiction convention, X-Con ’77 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was Milwaukee’s first science fiction convention, put on by the Milwaukee Area Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans (MA2OSF3), and I found out about it only because my father, who was in charge of the computer lab at the university, saw someone running off flyers for the convention on one of the printers there and brought one home for me. I was a sophomore in high school.

Img 7096At the convention I got autographs from guests of honor Gordon R. Dickson and Robert Lynn Aspirin (he was the Fan GoH, not yet a pro writer, and famous mostly for founding the Dorsal Irregulars; my badge bears the note “not a Dorsal Irregular” because I was wearing a black turtleneck) and spent most of the time playing the new-to-me game of D&D. A couple of weeks later, I got a letter from the organizers inviting me to attend a MA2OSF3 meeting. I attended, I had a good time, and I started hanging out with them. I went to a couple more conventions that year, in Chicago and Champaign-Urbana, and several more the next, including Wiscon 2. When X-Con ’78 rolled around the following June I was on the committee, as co-head of Gaming.

Since then I’ve attended four or five cons a year. I have saved every convention badge, though I haven’t counted them lately — it probably totals something in the vicinity of 150 cons. I have been active in science fiction clubs: MA2OSF3 in Milwaukee, StLSFS in St. Louis, and PorSFiS in Portland. I have been a conrunner, fanzine editor, costumer, artist, gamer, and even dealer. I’m still involved in con running, maintaining the website and mailing lists for Oregon Science Fiction Conventions Inc., but most of my fan-related time now comes from attending conventions as a pro.

Thanks to Fandom I have traveled the world, made hundreds of fabulous friends and lovers, and met my spouse. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve eaten far too many meals in hotel coffee shops. Fandom has been the spine upon which much of my life has been hung, and it is a marvel to me that I now find myself somewhere near the top of a field of which I have been a reader and fan for my entire life.

Many of the people reading this have been part of this journey, and continue to be part of it. I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for me, and I hope I’ve been there for you as well.

Next stop, Helsinki!

Arabella wins Norton Award

I am pleased and amazed to report that Arabella of Mars, my first novel, has won the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, presented by SFWA as part of the annual Nebula Awards. (Complete list of Nebula winners and nominees.) Previous winners of this award include J. K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Cat Valente, and Nalo Hopkinson. The award was presented by last year’s winner Fran Wilde. 

To say that I’m overwhelmed would be an understatement. I barely emerged from my room yesterday and I’m still stunned. Congratulations have been pouring in via every available channel; I have not been able to reply to most of them but please know that I am very appreciative. 

Here’s the text of my acceptance speech:

I’d like to thank everyone who read, nominated, and voted for Arabella for this award, whose name honors one of our finest writers, and acknowledge all the other, very worthy, nominees. Special thanks to Moshe Feder, who acquired it; Christopher Morgan, who edited it; Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who provided invaluable support; Paul Lucas, my agent; copyeditor extraordinaire Deanna Hoak; Mary Robinette Kowal, my invaluable guide to all things Regency and navigating the dangerous shoals of publication; Janna Silverstein, my greatest adviser and cheerleader, and most of all my late wife Kate Yule, who never stopped believing in me. Pittsburgh was her home town and she would have been so proud and happy to share this moment. I wish she could be here. I still love you, snookie.

After I sat down Seanan McGuire let me cry on her shoulder for about five minutes. 

Arabella of Mars is currently available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook; the mass market paperback will be released on May 30. Sequel Arabella and the Battle of Venus will be released on July 18. 

How tall is a horse?

Seriously, think about it. How tall is a horse? The answer — specifically, the units of measure you use — says a lot about you, and about your culture, and my goal here today is to get you thinking about how units of measure can be used as a tool for worldbuilding and character development in fiction.

I bet a lot of you would state your answer in terms of feet and inches. Just from knowing that about you, I can tell that you’re either a present-day American, or a member of certain European and European-derived cultures from the middle ages to the local introduction of the metric system. But during the earlier part of that period you might have thought in feet and barleycorns rather than inches, or in fractional feet — five and a half feet rather than five-foot-six. At other times and places the larger unit would be the yard rather than the foot.

Also, you might have to specify whose feet and inches you are using, as they varied from city to city or which monarch you followed. Napoleon’s height, for example, was five-foot-two in French feet and inches, which is part of the reason the English thought he was short. But that was actually five-foot-seven in English units… taller than the average Frenchman of the time. Whether in dialog or in a character’s internal voice, a character’s consideration and specification of exactly which units to use can do a lot to define a character’s background and priorities as well as the time and place.

If you state your answer in meters and centimeters, I can tell that you’re either a member of certain cultures following the French Revolution, or an American to whom precision and international standards matter more than following the crowd. This offers a clue to your personality, profession, and priorities as well as the time and place in which you exist — it’s a character as well as a worldbuilding item. To completely understand what this choice means you’ll need more contextual information, but even knowing that the choice has been made gives the reader important hints about the character.

Many people will state their answer in hands, or hands and inches, and know that it is measured to the withers, or top of the shoulders. This tells me that you are either an equestrian in a modern English-speaking country, or perhaps a resident of the middle ages or ancient Egypt. Again, knowing the context is necessary to understand exactly what this choice says about you. If your answer is “hands or inches, depending on whether it is a full-sized horse or a pony” that tells me still more about you.

Many other units of measure have been used at different times and places, or may be used in future or fictional cultures. An answer stated in cubits, spans, paces, or fathoms suggests that you are a member of certain earlier human cultures. Answers in dhanu, chi, or cabda specify India, China, and the Arabic world. However, if you use units unfamiliar to the reader, you may have to include other clues; if the character thinks of a person as being six chi tall, the reader will not immediately know whether that’s particularly tall, particularly short, or of average size (and, furthermore, average human height changes over the course of history).

Getting even further afield, answers stated in simile or metaphor tell us still more about the character and their culture. “Tall as a church-steeple” or “thin as a credit card” or “wide as the Grand Canal of Mars” provide immediate insight into who the character is, what’s important to them, and what their economic status is as well as where and when the story takes place.

Entirely made-up units can also be used, and these can tell us even more. “Imperial thornogs” implies an empire, and furthermore an empire in which an earlier, non-Imperial thornog existed. If the thornog is divided into ten squant, that suggests a decimal and hence more scientific culture, but if it’s divided into six or twelve squant that suggests a more agrarian one. If it’s divided into seven or eleven squant, that implies a non-human, or at least decidedly non-Western, culture. But, again, you’ll have to provide additional information to let the reader know whether a horse that’s five thornog and two squant high, measured at the antennae, is a particularly fine specimen or a runt. When carefully handled, describing an object in fictional units can inform the reader about the object, the observer, and the setting in just a few words.

Every time a character sees anything, they will seek to comprehend it in terms that make sense to them. Conveying those terms to the reader helps the reader understand the character and their culture, and can be an important tool for both worldbuilding and character… and even plot. Football, after all, is a game of inches.

Come see me at SF in SF – San Francisco, May 7

 SF in SF PRESENTS
Sunday, May 7, 2017
American Bookbinders Museum
San Francisco, California

ELLEN KLAGES / DAVID D. LEVINE / ROBYN BENNIS
moderated by Terry Bisson

    

Doors and bar open at 5:30PM
** It’s Debut Novel Drink Night!**
Help us raise funds for the American Bookbinders Museum by sampling a cocktail concocted just for this event!

Event begins at 6:30PM
$10 at the door benefits the American Bookbinders Museum
no one turned away for lack of funds / cash or Square

All proceeds benefit the American Bookbinders Museum

Each author will read a selection of their work, followed by Q&A with the audience moderated by author Terry Bisson.  Books for sale courtesy of Borderlands Books – please feel free to bring your own books from home.

The American Bookbinders Museum’s entrance is located at 366 Clementina Alley, off 5th Street, between Howard and Folsom. Street parking is free; garages are located at 5th & Mission, and 3rd & Folsom. The closest BART station is Powell Street – just turn down 5th Street, cross Mission and Howard, and turn left onto Clementina. NOTE: there is NO access to Clementina from 4th Street due to construction.

My Norwescon schedule

Norwescon 40 is next weekend, April 13-16, and I will be there! Here’s where you can find me:

Friday:

10:30-11:00am in Cascade 2: Reading: David D. Levine

2:00-3:00pm in Cascade 11: Raising the Stakes with Mark Teppo (M), PJ Manney, Kat Richardson, and David D. Levine

Saturday:

12:00-1:00pm in Cascade 10: Hand me the Superwrench ConnectorThingy with Spencer Ellsworth (M), Raven Oak, David D. Levine, and Elliott Kay

2:00-3:00pm in Grand 2: Autograph Session 1 with
Ethan Siegel, Ian McDonald, Catska Ench, Cory Ench, Nancy Kress, Marc Gascoigne, Mike Underwood, Carol Berg, Alex Irvine, Annie Bellet, Caroline M. Yoachim, Curtis C. Chen, Dean Wells, Greg Bear, Jack Skillingstead, James C. Glass, Jeff Sturgeon, John Cramer, Kat Richardson, Lee Moyer, Nathan Crowder, Nisi Shawl, Peter Orullian, Randy Henderson, Rhiannon Held, Scott James Magner, Sonia Orin Lyris, Todd Lockwood, Tori Centanni, Wendy N. Wagner, PJ Manney, Julie McGalliard, Crystal Connor, David D. Levine, and Hayley Stone

4:00-6:00pm: Writers’ Workshop (closed session)

Powell’s tonight, ECCC Friday

Klages PassingStrange 2Ellen Klages and I will discuss her new book Passing Strange at Powell’s Cedar Hills in Beaverton, Oregon tonight (Monday 2/27) at 7pm!

Also, at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle this weekend, I will be appearing on panel “Kicking Ass in a Corset: An Homage to Fearless Ladies in Fantasy!” with Kristen Britain, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Marie Brennan! Friday 3/3 at 5:15pm in WSCC 603 with autographing to follow.

Hope to see you there!

Year of Yes

IMG 6217Today is my fifty-sixth birthday.

As most of you know, I had a really sucky 2016. In addition to the problems all of us had with that hell-hole of a year, I had my beloved wife Kate’s illness and death and some other (not unrelated) personal crises that made me very glad to see it go. So at the beginning of this year I decided that 2017 would be my “Year of Yes.”

Yes to fun and excitement. Yes to opportunity and adventure. Yes to new experiences. Yes to love and sex.

It’s going well so far. Here’s an example: a Facebook post about where to find a new belt led in remarkably short order to a decision to visit Siena, Italy after the Worldcon for the Palio di Siena. I’ve been doing a lot of other travel on a rather spur-of-the-moment basis, and, closer to home, spending time with friends old and new and seeing a lot of theatre.

Now, I’m not going all Jim Carrey here. I’m still exercising judgement, and I’m still saying “no” some things, including avocados, olives, and cilantro (sorry, avocado fans). But before I say “no,” I do try to take a moment to consider whether this is still something I don’t want to do. Sometimes I do change my mind — for example, I had guacamole on my arepas the other day, and they were delicious. (Still hate raw avocado, though.)

“Yes” is not without its costs. For one thing, saying “yes” to some things inevitably means “no” to others. My trip to Siena means that I will be on the other side of the world for the August 21 solar eclipse — which will likely be the only solar eclipse within driving distance of my home in my lifetime. “Yes” has also put me in situations that push my boundaries, and in some cases have really frightened me. But all human activities have risks, and I’m determined to face them with mindfulness and learn from the experience.

I hope that you will join me in my Year of Yes. Let’s not let the bastards wear us down.

Arabella nominated for Norton, Oregon Book Award, Locus Award

Very, very pleased to report that Arabella of Mars, my first novel, has received the following substantial honors:

Thank you very much to everyone who nominated, recommended, or talked up my book, and please do vote for it if you can!

Arabella cover