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So my Oscar-Wilde-on-Mars story, "The Astrakhan, the Hombug and the Red Red Coal", will - rather fittingly, I think - be appearing in Wilde Stories 2016, aka the year's best gay specfic antho.

That makes the third year's-best antho that this story has been picked for. Which is by way of being a record for me, and I am chuffed.
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While I wait for the brussels sprouts to catch up with the chicken cobbler (which is ready) and the roasties (ditto) and the toasted almonds (ditto ditto), I just thought I might as well mention that I have this day posted epub and mobi versions of the Crater-School-so-far (that is, eight chapters and a novelette) for my Patreon subscribers, to be handier for their devices; if this interests you at all, the Patreon page is here, so do take a look.

Oh, and also, I have finally remembered to publish my miracle-healing-and-urban-crime novel PARADISE on Amazon, so you'll find that available here, for a mere $4.99.
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It's my book, the book of my heart; and now it can be the book of your e-shelves also.

My novel Paradise - which treats with miracle healing and religious revival and local crime and council corruption and intentional community in unnamed-city-somewhere-perilously-adjacent-to-Newcastle in the 1990s - is reissued this day in mobi and epub formats, via the wonderful Book View Cafe. A mere $4.99 lays this precious burden in the device of your delight, nicely ready for holiday reading, he suggested optimistically.

(And furthermore, it has a cover by Hugo-Award-winning Elizabeth Leggett, so.)


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It's strange how I keep forgetting to do this, given that I love it so much: but here I am remembering at last. So:

My 1994 novel Paradise (let's call it a contemporary thriller about faith and power, what happens when they coalesce and what happens when they collide) will be reissued by Book View Cafe next month in e-formats. The cover is by Hugo-Award-winning artist Elizabeth Leggett (who is also doing artwork and occasional illustrations for my Crater School Patreon project, yay!), and it looks like this:

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So someone on social media said they wanted a sight of the Crater School badge, so they could embroider one. So I had a word with Hugo-Award-winning artist Elizabeth Leggett...

Behold, people: the Crater School badge.

school badge
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Gardner says I can boast as much as I want to, so let me just say that my story "The Astrakhan, the Homburg and the Red Red Coal" (aka "Oscar Wilde on Mars!") from Lightspeed's Queers Destroy SF issue will appear also in The Year's Best SF, vol 33, edited by Gardner Dozois.

Which makes me two for two, in respect of the Mars Imperial stories. Which will not stop me writing more, and tossing 'em out there to take their chances. Sibling rivalry, guys: it's all about setting a high bar.

That was yesterday's news, which actually reached me at Tachyon's 20th anniversary party in the city, while I was gazing in awe at Effie's rhino cake.

Then I had to sit for an hour on a freezing railway station (Millbrae, why no waiting room? Seriously? You don't even have to heat it, just let us get out of the wind...), and today I don't feel so good. These two facts may be entirely unrelated; post hoc propter hoc is totally a fallacy, and you don't get colds by getting cold. Regardless of what Elinor Brent-Dyer thought. (It is an abiding fact of Chalet School life that the remotest unmuffled exposure to cold weather will instantly put you in bed and under Matron's care for a week. I find this oddly charming.)

However. I haven't even opened up my word processor today, except to print out the contract for Gardner (and I haven't even taken that to the mailbox down the road, I feel that crappy), but nevertheless. I have actually been secretly at work all the morning, as I lay on the sofa reading Raffles.

For I am all Mars all the time these days, as you know by now - and I have said before that there is a Raffles story in the mix. If Mars were a province of the British Empire, of course Raffles would have gone there, with Bunny haplessly in tow. One more reinvention of themselves and each other, one more chance to start a new life, one more set of new leaves overturned as irresistible temptation meets undeniable need. The whole thing is just inevitable. (The only thing I'm hung up on is what two names they'd use this time. Because it would be nice if those sounded inevitable also.)

Also, I have ordered two more Chalet School books, and that as you know counts as work also. Properly, as I'm sick, it should be Chalet School books that I'm reading; but I'm on hiatus in my extant reread until I've bridged the current gap in my collection, and I find I can only do that little by little, a couple of books a month. Ordering half a dozen at once is apparently beyond me, even though I know that I am going to order them all eventually.
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I just posted Chapter Five of my ongoing English-schoolgirls-on-Mars adventure, Three Twins at the Crater School. Nearly a quarter of the way there! (Maybe.) If you want to support this amazingly worthwhile project - and read the story as it comes - the Patreon page is here. Nearly halfway to the next stretch-goal, which is, y'know. Another book.
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Twenty-one dollars, people. That's how close we are, how far shy of the pledges we need to tip the Crater School project over into its first stretch goal. Extra stories, every quarter-day! I really want to be doing this: I want to find out how Sister Anthony first came to be matron at the school, and what head girl Rowany does on her holidays, and...

Twenty-one dollars. T'isn't that much, in the scheme of things. Seven of you, at three bucks a month. Four-and-a-fraction, at five. Two and a shaving, at the ten-buck level.

Sponsor a pupil through the academic year. You know you'll feel better about yourself.
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For my own reference, mostly: I thought I'd just list the Mars stuff that I'm working on. And just for fun, the Mars stuff that I'm not working on, because finished.

So, from most-troublesome to least:

Mars Beneath, aka Kipling on Mars - the novel, half completed and dreadfully broken, so stuck I have no idea how to fetch it home. It kind of turns out not to be about Kipling after all, which is some of the trouble, but I do still like having Kipling there, if only so that the narrator can discover for himself that it's really not Kipling's tale after all, despite all expectation. I kind of like that, actually, to set the reader up as the characters too are set up to think it's all about RLK, only to find that it really isn't. Mars is no country for old men. But narration is a problem too; I may have to rewrite it from multiple points of view. [I never do this massive rethinking mid-novel, never ever: which is one reason why this one has run so hard aground.]

Broken Symmetries, aka Lord Peter Wimsey on Mars - the novel I started in a rush of inspiration, sent chapter one to my agents in a spirit of enquiry, received wildly positive feedback and promptly abandoned to work on Kipling instead. No, sometimes I don't understand myself either.

Human Engines - the YA novel also begun and set aside, though there too I love the premise. There is a whole sub-genre of fiction that deals with the long-lost heir returning, in which of course it transpires that they either are or they aren't (my favourites in this field being Josephine Tey's Brat Farrar and Mary Stewart's The Ivy Tree, not necessarily respectively). This is my own entry to that field, with the third alternative.

"Champ de Mars" - a short story, that treats not with how the Irish of Mars saved their people during the potato famine (though they did) but rather with an unexpected sequel, decades down the line: a treatise on the nature of secrets. And a great frustration to me, because it needs fixing and I don't know how. I'm not even sure what's wrong with it.

"Fair Stood The Wind For Frost" - actually there's nothing wrong with this, it's just a setting (of course they would have frost fairs on Mars, every other Christmas, when the great canals themselves freeze over) in search of a story. That'll come. I'm only impatient with this one, because frost fair!

"Name and Nature" - A E Housman on Mars. Nothing happening with this one yet. I know what he's there for - whom else would you summon but the greatest classics scholar of his time, when you're trying to interpret the incomprehensible? - and I know he'll have a jolly time with his splendid young men, but none of that is a story.

"On the Accretion of Mattering" - urgh, argh. This must have been a story idea once. Now it's just a title and an opening paragraph, and I have no idea. Maybe it'll come back to me? I should have taken notes...

"The Man Who Lost The War" - again, I have no memory of this at all. Which is rather more than frustrating, because this is five pages of solid fiction. At a guess, from context, it's the backstory of the protagonist in Broken Symmetries - but this should not be a matter for guesswork, surely. Surely I ought to remember a thousand words of fiction? At least the writing of it, if not the destination? The British have always done well in defeat; the British on Mars would do no less. - damn it, I want to write this story...

”...They call me the Wabi-Sahib, d’ye see? For I am most ingloriously imperfect.” - not a title at all, as you can tell, for this story doesn't have one yet: it's just an opening, three lines of dialogue. But at least I know what it is, who it is and roughly where it's going - for this is Raffles and Bunny on Mars, because of course they would have gone there after Spion Kop. And of course, once there, they would run into egregious characters like this. The only real question is, can I write a story Hornung-style and have people know what I'm doing and who I'm talking about, if I never mention "Raffles" or "Bunny"? Because they'd have to be strict in their pseudonymity, even with each other in the privacy of their bedroom. (And yes, we are eternally grateful to Graham Greene for outing them in The Return of A J Raffles, and thus making the slash canonical.) Actually I suppose there is one other question: does anyone read Raffles any more? He was rather well televised with Anthony Valentine being eponymous, but, y'know. Even that was nigh on forty years ago.

"36 Views of Cassini" - not a story yet, just a framework that can hold a story, but that's okay. It's still new.

"Of Mussulmans and Muscovites and Mars" - this is even newer, being the piece I started this morning and have been picking at all day. "Wherever Britain leads, the Raj is sure to follow. It was too freshly coined to call a saying, perhaps too obvious to count as insight, a mere truism. Nevertheless: every truism starts out as mere truth. Wherever the sun has dragged his weary load of light, the British have followed; and as the sun the light, wherever the British cut a path, they haul the Empire behind them as a boat hauls the water of its wake. And where they say the Empire, they mostly mean the Raj." Etc - 300 words of preamble, so far. Now I only need a story (is this beginning to sound familiar?).

"The Girl Who Mapped Mars" - T E Lawrence on Mars. Except that it's much more about Claire Cazenove - Any map is an act of autobiography. It speaks to the cartographer’s ideas of fixity and possession, of what is mutable and what remains. Every mark of ink on paper delineates a journey more profound than mere instruments can measure. - and I have written, ooh, 20K words of this. And every time I'm not working on it I think it's broken, I don't know what it's about, I don't think it makes any kind of sense at all - and then I open it up and work on it some more. So really all I need to do is finish this. Also, it has a sandcat. Camels too, but mostly a sandcat.

"The Burial of Sir John Mawe at Cassini" - done and dusted. Published in Subterranean, picked by Gardner Dozois for the Year's Best SF.

"The Astrakhan, the Homburg and the Red Red Coal" - also done, also dusted. Selected by Seanan McGuire for her guest-edited edition of Lightspeed Magazine, and still accruing rather charming notice.

The Crater School on Mars - or a Martian edition of the Chalet School, for those of you to whom that might mean something. English girls' boarding-school stories, on Mars. Trotting along nicely, with a Patreon project to support it; do indulge yourself. Indulge me. This is fun, after all that stern literary solemnity. And there will, I promise, be a sandcat. Sandcats are great.
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Karen and I are in LA, supposedly on holiday, so I have spent all day proofreading (my own work, for once: I am cleaning up the scanned-and-OCR'd text of Paradise, for a BVC edition coming at the end of this year; which reminds me, I can show you the cover and everything, but that should be in a separate post, because:)

My lovely Patreon project is currently poised on $161 per month. If it reaches $200, then we flip over into the first stretch goal, which means more stories and more fun; so if you've been thinking about it at all - girls' boarding-school stories! on Mars! - now would be a really good time to sign up.

And there's still a random door-prize waiting for someone who commits to supporting this, between now and that $200 point. It's secret, so I can't tell you what, but you will like it. And your support can start from as little as $3, which is less than a decent cup of coffee. C'mon, you'd buy a guy a coffee, wouldn't you? Once a month, if it came with free fiction? Read more about it, and then sign up, right here...
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Because obviously my own platform is not enough for me (sometimes I remind myself of Mac the cat, who needs to claim possession of both the scratching-post/plinths, for fear that Barry might occupy the other one), today I am being hosted by m'friend Catie, otherwise known as the rather brilliant C E Murphy, over on her own blog "The Essential Kit", where to nobody's surprise at all I am talking about the Crater School project, because I can't really talk about anything else right now.

Except for pausing to mention that m'friend Steph, otherwise known as the rather brilliant Stephanie Burgis, has just revealed the cover for her forthcoming historical fantasy, which is lush and operatic and I am looking forward to this rather more than I can say.

And in other news, I am thinking of instituting a new metric, to be known as Earworm of the Day. It need not necessarily be musical: as witness, last night I dreamed of a country pub somewhere in the south of England being converted to a posh eaterie, as are half the pubs of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. And so of course I woke up with "Adlestrop" running through my head, over and over. But it's okay, I have an immaculate defence against earworms these days; I merely evict them with a quick chorus of

Red, red, white and blue
These are my colours and my fealty too

- which is of course the unofficial anthem of the British on Mars, and entirely earwormworthy, because that's work.

(Also, it is to trigger a rather beautifully neat plot-point in Three Twins at the Crater School, which will reference another work of fiction from the same reality, and I thought of this yesterday and am quite ridiculously pleased with myself.)

(Also also, most of you won't know this, but Elinor Brent-Dyer was clearly deeply imbued with a love of music, which covered not only classical but also folk songs and particularly carols from all across Europe. Which I have always found rather lovely, and am now enjoying a whole other way, as it is clearly my obligation to write traditional folk songs and carols for the people of Mars. I have a new folder for them and everything.)
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Well, this is exciting. My Patreon in support of the Crater School project - the Chalet School on Mars, if you haven't been paying attention: English girls' boarding-school stories, on that old Mars that English schoolgirls of the time dreamed about, with canals and atmosphere and Martians and everything - has pinged through two door prizes in the last twenty-four hours, and we're already halfway to the first stretch goal.

Inducements are fun. So here's another: somewhere between where we stand now (at $100 a month) and that stretch goal of $200, one new patron will earn a door prize. Can't say which; it might be any of you. Selection will happen entirely at random, at an indeterminate time in this unpredictable process. It may have something to do with cats, and boxes. I may hold auditions for the role of Schrodinger's Sandcat. (Did I mention sandcats? Mars has sandcats, that's established. You can be tolerably certain of a sandkitten showing up at the Crater School, in the not too distant future.)

Door prizes so far have been the right to name a teacher at the school, and her subject. Since you ask. The next prize might be entirely otherwise. Who can say? Only those who play...


Sep. 17th, 2015 05:08 pm
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"You're not really writing YA, of course. I suppose it's middle grade."

Me, I always stumble over these divisions, because I didn't grow up with 'em - we used to read children's books, until we were let into the adult library at twelve (or until we started filching our elder brother's adult library books five years earlier), after which we read both children's and adult books, as indeed I still do.

But then I double-stumbled over this one, because I have not thought of the Crater School books in terms of writing for children at all. My only notion of an established market is the grown-ups I know who still love the Chalet School books. If kids these days read 'em at all, I struggle to imagine it.

So I was thinking about that; and then I thought no, what I'm actually doing? I'm writing the books Josephine M Bettany (first pupil of the Chalet School, and a proud authoress in her own right), Joey Bettany her own self would have written, if only she'd written science fiction. She'd have loved these.

And in related news, you yourself could be the very person to tip the Patreon project over the $50 mark. Might be a door prize there. Might want to hurry...
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Properly, I suppose that subject line should read "Patreonise me", but hey.

People: my Patreon project is live, right here. Bring the Chalet School to Mars - you know you want to!

Seriously, folks. Click here to read the first two chapters of Three Twins at the Crater School for free, and then make up your minds to support this. Or not, of course - but wait, how could you not? A girls' boarding school, in a castle, on a crater lake on Mars! With twins! And new girls with secrets! And oh, so much more to come, if you only drop a handful of dollars in the pot...
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A week ago, someone somewhere on the internets was asking about Scrivener, how people felt, how they used it, was it worth the learning-curve, etc; and I was poised on the verge of my regular response, which basically comes down to "I love that it exists, I love everything about it - and I would never use it, because its mindset is so entirely antithetical to the way I work."

Only I never actually made the comment, because All About Me and not actually helpful in context; but then I thought I might actually expand on that for a regular blog post, because thoughts about process are always interesting (for the thinker, at least, as well as hopefully some in the audience); and I have been thinking so much about Mars, and honestly this is such a tentacular project it really would be so helpful if I were the kind of writer who could usefully employ Scrivener, because really. Notes and short stories and novels shooting off in all directions, and background matter and a whole damn planet - nay, three planets and their moons - and a history at odds with our own and a calendar and...

Look. Let me show you the calendar.

The point is, the British Empire on Mars will follow its traditional Gregorian calendar, because Church of England, saints' days, everything traditional is built into that 365-day cycle. The Martian day is out of sync with the Terran day, but that doesn't matter so much; there's no simultaneous communication between planets, so no real sense of dislocation. The Martian year, though, is almost-but-not-quite twice as long as an Earth year; which means, as you will clearly see, that there are two Christmases most years.

Which led, of course, to Bishop Umber's infamous rhyme:

Christmas comes but twice a year
Once with ice and once with fire
God's blessing offers double grace
Once with fire and once with ice

There are, inevitably, alternative wordings and alternative readings; just as there are, inevitably, years - once in every child's life, if childhood is reckoned from birth to puberty - when First Christmas falls in the spring thaw and Second Christmas before the first frost.

And, yes, I can prove that. I did the math. I'm guessing that most writers these days would draw up a spreadsheet, but I still like to do sums with pen and paper (tho' I hate taking written notes, go figure), so behold, my traditional back-of-an-envelope:


Thus do we see how Christmases fall during the first 4K days of a child's life: Earth on the left, Mars on the right. Ignoring leap-years, because oy.

And I thought that was all I needed, because proof-of-concept was surely enough; but now suddenly I have this whole Crater School thing buzzing in my head, and I am actually going to need a proper Martian calendar, because I need to see how three terms - Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity, aye: and did you know all three are derived from the centre, from the feast-day of St Hilary? - will fit into an Anglican calendar in Martian seasons, and maybe I'll make that spreadsheet after all.

And yes, suddenly I am wondering whether it's actually time to change my process: whether one aspect of the Crater School project might not be learning to assemble and work with my material in a wholly different and less haphazard way, like f'rexample oh hullo Scrivener. I don't know, but I am seriously starting to wonder. Maybe I'll actually sit down and work my way through the tutorial in my, y'know, copious free time, just to see how it might feel. Maybe.
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I just scanned my passport and sent that, plus a story - "Live at Maly's", for those of you playing along - to a nice lady in Mexico City.

And why would I do this, you ask? Because those nice people who are translating another story of mine - "Going the Jerusalem Mile", for those of you playing along - into Mexican and publishing it therefrom have decided that they want me there in person for the launch, at the Zocalo International Book Fair, from the 8th to the 13th October. Apparently a million people are expected to turn out to see me. I'm quite excited.


Jul. 2nd, 2015 10:28 am
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Just sayin', people, but from now through to July 6th, all my books are 50% off at the Book View Cafe bookstore, just to celebrate my winning the Lambda with Bitter Waters. Which is of course not a BVC book, but hey. Go me.

The code is Chaz-50, but actually the discount is just being applied automatically to everybody sans need of it. Buy early, buy often. Tell your friends.
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I couldn't actually fly to New York for the Lambda ceremony, on the off-chance that I'd win*. (Actually, I was tolerably certain that Max Gladstone would win; he's the guy getting the buzz on my social media, and I did a gig with him in SF and his book is outstandingly good. Also, it was his tweet that alerted me that I had won instead, which is kinda cool.) Which being true, the Lammy admin is oddly restrictive: I couldn't ask someone else to accept the award for me, and I couldn't send in an acceptance note to be read in my absence.

Which-all being true, here is the speech I would've given if I'd been there, kept down to the one minute they ask for:

The real reasons I'm getting this award tonight are Steve Berman, my publisher at Lethe Press, who waited literally years for me to get around to sorting out the stories for this collection; and m'wife Karen, who finally sorted out the stories for this collection when it became abundantly clear that I was never ever going to get around to it; and our genius cover artist Elizabeth Leggett, who produced a piece more evocative than it is lovely, more lovely than it is powerful, more powerful than I had any right to hope. Properly, they each get a quarter of this; shamefully, I am keeping the whole thing for myself. (Well, except that I do live with one of the above, so she gets to keep the whole thing too.)

*bows, waltzes off to rapturous applause*

And in case you've forgotten, here is that cover:

new cover 2

and here's what the Lambda reviewer said about the book inside.

*I have long, long experience of coming second, never being quite good enough. Ian Rankin and I used to have an agreement, back when I was a crime writer, whereby whenever we were on a shortlist together, he'd win. We stuck to that for years.


Mar. 27th, 2015 08:27 am
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So now it can be told, hurrah: my novelette "The Astrakhan, the Homburg and the Red Red Coal" has been bought by Seanan McGuire for QUEERS DESTROY SCIENCE FICTION, the queer-created special issue of Lightspeed. I am beyond happy about this.

This is the Oscar-Wilde-on-Mars story I may have spoken of before, one of those lightning-bolt notions - if Mars were a province of the British Empire, of course Oscar would have gone there, after Reading Gaol, before Paris could destroy him utterly - that happily found a way to work itself into a proper narrative. It's about names and meanings and identity, and a gay subculture in a colonial outpost, and the interface of authority with what's alien.

This is the second of the Mars Imperial stories (the first, "The Burial of Sir John Mawe at Cassini", first appeared in Subterranean Online, and will be reprinted in Gardner Dozois' YEAR'S BEST SF). There will be more. And then, of course, there's the novel. Kipling on Mars. Just do us all a favour, and don't ask about that?
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San Francisco Public Library will host a reading by Lambda Award finalists, on April 21st (in the Latino/Hispanic Rooms A & B, since you ask). I'm guessing this will be something of a scrum, as it's scheduled to run from 5.30 to 8.00, and we only get four minutes each to read; but nevertheless! Be there! Hear me! (Obviously I will be reading from my nominated short story collection, Bitter Waters.)


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