A young editor once asked me what was the biggest secret to editing a fiction magazine. My answer was “confidence.” I have to be confident that the stories I choose will fit together, that people will read them and enjoy them, and most importantly, that each month I’ll receive enough publishable material to fill the pages of the magazine.

This is a surprisingly intimidating thing to do.

So, this book—why's it got to be about a murder?

Yeah, I know, mysteries aren't everything, and sometimes the murder even in those is purely ancillary (Sayers' Gaudy Night has a murder, but the murder is in no way what the book is about), but story is pretty closely "Who do we have to kill to fix this problem and restore the natural order?" (Yes, there's variation; sometimes order doesn't get restored, sometimes it isn't what the viewpoint thinks it is, sometimes it's going on over there and we get people coping with the side effects, but the core of story, the presumptive bounds of narrative, are narrow.)

Even in romance, which presumptively has very little to do with murder, you've got a lot of tropes of conquest and surrender and whole ramifying sub-genres (paranormal romance) where the popularity might have something to do with the introduction of overt murder.

It's almost as though the only legitimate story is about conquest.

Now, I'm pretty sure this is an anglosphere genres thing, but in English it's pervasive. Man versus nature, man versus man, man versus self is much more about the versus than the participants. Why are—from various viewpoints and removes and angles of the light—the only real stories about conquest? There's a fight, which someone must win?

At this point someone might be inclined to point out that the first book I published was a military fantasy with an uncertain but not insignificant body count. And it was; I wanted to write the contrapositive of a Black Company novel.

Glen Cook—an underrated prose stylist—has a series about the Black Company, a group of mercenaries who are terrible people with no homes to return to and operating in a world where they wind up serving various dark lords running authoritarian polities. (The dark lords are mighty sorcerers.) So what happens if you try to write about a bunch of basically decent part-timers serving an egalitarian nation where sorcerers are forbidden political power?

In my case, you get The March North; I also got the Commonweal. (And the idea of co-operative magical focuses, and Halt, wandered in from out of the dark.)

Once I had the Commonweal, well, sorcerers are forbidden political power. How do you arrange that while sticking to egalitarian principles and some materialist concept of abstract justice? What do you do when luck provides you with someone who will, permitted to grow into their power, become mighty indeed? How much do you trust your institutions and your mechanisms of government? How well can you avoid conquest out of fear?

That's A Succession of Bad Days; not so much sorcery school as an adult-learner educational cooperative for the unexpectedly talented, and a book frequently accused of being completely plotless. I think that's purely because there's no murder, and the lack of murder means there's a number of readers for whom it can't be a story. (It's a comfort book for other readers. Tastes vary.)

Safely You Deliver is what happens when I try to write a love story in the style of Pamela Dean; there's some incidental murder in that one, but it really is mostly about Zora (who is in that adult-learner educational cooperative) and a unicorn, who is from the Bad Old Days outside the Commonweal and finds the whole place strange indeed.

And then there's the just-released Under One Banner where you get someone from a traditional background in the Commonweal starting to wonder if the Commonweal has persisted because the neighboring autocracies are generally incompetent at murder and that perhaps this matters. Perhaps the Commonweal should be planning for competent opposition.

So, no, not entirely free from murder, but I hope free from the motivations of conquest. The point is the increase of knowledge and the breadth of prosperity, not getting anyone or anything to submit. And maybe, I hope, nudging toward a wider idea of story than some form of conquest.

The bit about why self-publishing means you can write what you want, and how sometimes those books find enough friends to seem worth writing but not to be worth the effort from a commercial publisher, and how this is generally a good thing for those as read fiction for enjoyment, and certainly a good thing for those of us who want to write decidedly non-commercial fiction, maybe that's the next post.


I’m thinking of writing something set in the mid-21st century and asked Charlie if he had any good resources for futurism on a ~30 year time scale. And lo and behold, a guest post appeared.

Now, I’m not much of a futurist, or really any kind of futurist in the formal sense. But I like to think I can see where things might be going, so here’s a brief rundown of what I’m anticipating we’ll see by mid-century.

Hi, there! I am trying out Charlie's testbed for the first time. Here's some text. In a moment, I hope to include a link. So, here is a link So far, so good. Next up, an image, like this one.Elisha Mancer front cover.jpg and now, to see how it looks. Wish me luck!

In order to test my ability to post, this is a short scene which got cut out of book three and is unlikely to be put back in.

image Something I noticed recently while wearing my (completely invisible but highly attractive) writing teacher chapeau is that the welter of SF subgenres and categories of fiction generally are terra incognita to a fair number of newer writers.

I’m okay with this. We begin as readers and viewers, after all. Many people coming into my UCLA courses are curious about speculative fiction. They aren't necessarily book-collecting, con-going, award-nominating fans. They've watched a fair chunk of genre TV and film offerings; they're up on the MCU, they can tell a spaceship from a unicorn and they even usually know which is the fantasy construct. They might have read a certain amount of fiction within their one or two favorite genres, or at least have read Harry Potter and his ilk to their kids.

A. M. Dellamonica

Hi, everyone! My name is Alyx and I'll be posting the occasional note here over the next few weeks, because Charlie was kind enough to hand me the mic. I thought I'd start with a long, musing whimsical thing about mincing subgenres and the nature of ecofantasy, because my upcoming book A Daughter of No Nation lies within that particular subgenre--when it's not passing for portal fantasy or a pirate story or crime fiction with magic.

Sadly, the opening of that essay is wayyyy too stuffy, at present, and needs to be beaten with a sack of oranges. Don't worry, I'll fix it before you see it. Anyway, I should introduce myself first, right?

So--official details: I'm in Toronto, I have gobs of stories out along with the four ecofantasy novels, the first two of which, Indigo Springs and Blue Magic, are chock fulla magically mutated animals, magical objects and queer folk. Seriously. I mention this last because a) I have the exceptional good fortune to be incredibly gay married to author Kelly Robson; b) my most recent book, Child of a Hidden Sea, was to my utter delight and astonishment nominated for a Lambda Award this year. The above-mentioned A Daughter of No Nation is its sequel. There will be a third; its current title is The Nature of a Pirate.

I do all the social media things, of course: Twitter, Instagram, Book of Face, Pinterest, all under the name alyxdellamonica.

Unofficially, here are five random medium-known facts about me:
  1. The last four albums I bought were by Charlie Brand, Lord Huron, Corb Lund, and The Kills. The one before that was the Across the Universe soundtrack.
  2. In person, I have a severe case of potty mouth and tend to use the Effbomb, as it's charmingly euphemized by the parents of preschoolers, in place of a comma.
  3. I will alwaysAlwaysALWAYS click on the kitten video. Even if I was the one who uploaded it.
  4. I will never click on the current news story, unless it is about climate change or other green stuff. I am not following the U.S. election. That war? No clue. Worrying too much about the state of the world, you see, makes it impossible for me to write. (I did try following the recent Canadian election and that was bearable, on a par with eating cold polenta because it let you get through a particularly trying day without having to cook, but I don't think it's an experiment I'll repeat anytime soon.)
  5. Perhaps as evidenced by the polenta comment, I have occasionally been accused of committing surrealism.
  6. I am, nevertheless, a kick-ass story doctor and teacher.
  7. I am easily distracted. If you hate the idea of an ecofantasy essay, wave something shiny under my nose, preferably in the form of a question.
  8. It's possible that counting to five may not be my strong suit.
Put another way, I'm happy to be here and look forward to talking to you all!




OK trying to see how this works so I don't screw up.

O for a muse of fire that would...

Fuck it, forget the muse. Let's have the fire. Lots of it. Spewing from the pulsating nozzle of my plasma pistol.

O for a muse of fire that would... Fuck it, forget the muse. Let's have the fire. Lots of it. Spewing from the pulsating nozzle of my plasma pistol.

Now watch me try to test this one to...

I wanted to post a picture of my cat and call it 'I am your new overlord' but couldn't find a picture of the cat, which is a disturbing thought. This is the only picture I could quickly find:

schrodinger's equation Small Web view.jpg


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