Author: shadowfals

Medium Works

Medium Works

Quick update!

I signed up last month with Medium, which an online publishing platform that looks like a hybrid of Twitter and WordPress, but with fewer customization options. My intention is to publish stories that were buried elsewhere with the occasional personal essay that would feel inappropriate here. You can read all of my stories and many others for free without registering. To follow writers, applaud stories, or unlock members-only stories, you can sign up for a monthly membership.

Stories on Medium can be published by themselves or within a group’s publication. So far, three of my stories are grouped with publications–with P.S.: I Love You and Lit Up. Submitting to them worked out well. I’ve already been listed as one of the top writers within the LGBTQ tag.

You can find these two stories linked on my Dark Fiction and Hivepunk pages. Future short stories will link on this site, too.

When the Rainbow Wins: Annual Awards

When the Rainbow Wins: Annual Awards

Annual awards are one of the incentives in the publication world for writers to experiment with stories and to ensure that work is well edited.

Since I’ve started deliberately writing queer-centric fiction, I’ve been keeping on an eye out for awards focusing on stories featuring queer characters. While these stories could and do win big name awards, such as a Hugo (for science fiction and fantasy) or a RITA (for romance), it’s reassuring to see lists with more consistent representation of the LGBTQ+ community.

Here are the ongoing awards I’ve seen mentioned in the past year. Note: I’m not bothering to keep track of those that don’t look reputable.

Gaylactic Spectrum Awards

Run by its own foundation, the eighteen-year-old Gaylactic Spectrum Awards are given to works of science fiction, fantasy and horror “that explore LGBT topics in a positive way”. A list of winners are available on the awards website or Gaylactic Spectrum’s Wikipedia page).

The Lammys

One of the best-recognized names in LGBTQ publishing hosts the Lambda Literary Awards, bringing together 600 attendees of an awards show in the USA to celebrate excellence in the previous year. The categories are mostly broken up into LGBT, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender topics, then into subcategories such as Fiction and Nonfiction. See the complete list of Lammy winners for all the options.

Stonewall Book Award

The American Library Association sponsors several Stonewall Book Awards for English language works:

  • Barbara Gittings Literature Award,
  • Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award, and
  • Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award.

See all the past Stonewall Book Award winners in one chart.

Speculative Gender: Tiptree Awards

The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award is an annual literary prize for “encouraging the explanation and expansion of gender” in science fiction and fantasy. Its “sister” for Japanese-language works is the Sense of Gender Award. You can see the winners in the Tiptree Award Pages and in Japanese-language links on the Sense of Gender website.

Rebooting for 2018

Rebooting for 2018

Hey. Guess what?

We survived 2017! For me, the year was not the worst of my life but certainly one of the more traumatic. Whatever. It’s over. Much of the personal and social drama will drag on into this new year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t recover from the past.

The horrific, emotionally draining, and, for me, physically challenging Year of 2017 is dead. Welcome, little 2018.

With a wide variety of distractions last year, I struggled more than planned to complete the resolutions posted a year ago. My resolutions for last year were to:

  • publish a Science Fiction Romance novel about cyborgs and retros in June,
  • finish an anthology set in the same world, and
  • post once a week on this new blog about writing, publishing, queer issues, science, technology, and literary history.

None of that happened. And that’s okay with me. No one was holding their breath for my latest work. (If so, no one is still around to complain!) I will continue to work on the novel, write more short stories, and post on this blog when the mood hits.

What did happen in 2017 is that I wrote flash fiction, added chapters to my novel, developed ideas for my anthology, and blogged some.
At a friend’s recommendation, I tried out Ko-Fi then took down my Ko-Fi button after PayPal (the payment handler) repeatedly refused to process donations. I joined Patreon as a creator, maintaining which is always a learning experience.
Feel free to comment about your impressions of my Patreon page or anything on this blog.
Thanks for reading!
Cyberpunk’s Asian Influences

Cyberpunk’s Asian Influences

Blade Runner 2049‘s official US release is this Friday, October 6. As not all of us can see the movie in its opening weekend, I’m offering a distraction from the wait.

Director Denis Villeneuve said the Blade Runner sequel “definitely has its roots in the first movie.” Nerdist agrees:

Blade Runner 2049 seems to take the look of the original and expand upon it.

What was the look?

Street for BLADE RUNNER
Film set for BLADE RUNNER (1982)

The future version of Los Angeles in the original Blade Runner movie was a big part of its aesthetic. Rumor is that the mix of Chinese and Western design elements was inspired by Hong Kong’s former Kowloon Walled City.

From Wong Kin Yuen’s “On the Edge of Spaces” essay:

It is now widely acknowledged that Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982/ 1992) initiated a whole tradition of cult movies later grouped under the label “cyberpunk.” Blade Runner‘s style draws its images from urban spaces all over the world, including such Asian cities as Tokyo and Hong Kong.

While the label is relatively old these days, new works continue to develop from the most iconic examples of cyberpunk. That got me thinking about how common Asian influences are in the English-speaking areas of the genre.

Here are several other works I’ve noticed mixing Western and Asian cultures in their near future worlds.

Novels by William Gibson

NEUROMANCER hardcoverMany of the American-Canadian author’s novels from the 1980s to today blend Western and Asian cultures, with Japanese elements the most common in the background.

For example, Gibson‘s well-known Neuromancer opens in an expatriates bar in an real-life Japanese prefecture, and it quickly drops a reference to Kirin (the Japanese beer), compares fictional Japanese and Chinese technology, then introduces New Yen as “the old paper currency that circulated endlessly through the closed circuit of the world’s black markets”.

The Kowloon Walled City that influenced LA’s appearance in Blade Runner? It also appears as a virtual reality environment in Gibson’s Bridge trilogy.

Johnny Mnemonic

The Canadian-American movie is based on William Gibson’s short story of the same name. What sticks out to me the most is that the bad guys are Yakuza against a title character played by Keanu Reeves of mixed ethnicity (Chinese and Hawaiian on his father’s side).

SNOW CRASH hardcoverSnow Crash (novel)

This novel by American author Neal Stephenson is what I first think of whenever the genre is mentioned.

Hiro Protagonist (whose role is exactly you’d assume from a name like that) is a Japanese-American hacker who fights with katanas in both Real Life and virtual reality. His family’s war history, representing the clash of Japan and The Allied Nations, plays a part in the main storyline, as well.

Much of the story takes place in Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong–within former Los Angeles, because apparently, LA survives earthquakes but not government buyouts in this genre.

The Matrix seriesTHE MATRIX theaterical poster © 1999 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Though Neuromancer features The Matrix, the movies followed another hacker in a different system–but not the same hacker Keanu Reeves played in 1995.

The Wachowskis famously stated their directing intentions for the first movie of The Matrix series by showing the producer Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell animated movie (see below) and saying,

We wanna do that for real.

Predictably, The Wachowskis’ movies blended cultures and genre tropes to make their gritty mindbenders.

SERENITY movie posterSerenity

“Can’t stop the signal,” said the hacker with an android lover to a rebel fighter.

The culture of this cyberpunk-esque movie sequel to the Space Western show, Firefly, is based on the believable premise that China dominated space development in our future. When the characters have cause to swear, they do it in Chinese. The psychic warrior fights with kung fu. Meanwhile, the urban backgrounds and costume incorporate pan-Asian elements.

Popular works originating from Japan

Western creators have obviously been inspired by something other than real human cultures these past forty years. The most popular cyberpunk works from Japan are nearly impossible to summarize here, so you get a simple list for illustration.

What else?

While I’ve seen mention of French science fiction that might belong here as mentions, I’m not familiar enough with any of them to include with any confidence. What am I missing? Go ahead and comment below.


Not Done Reading About These Influences?

Choose your white rabbit:

When Did Japan Stop Being the Future? (2009) on io9
Why is the future LA full of chinese in Blade Runner? (2011) on SciFi & Fantasy Stack Exchange
Why are so many ‘cyberpunk cities’ Asian? (2012) on reddit
Also, Cyberpunk Reddit members answered, Why is cyberpunk so heavily influenced by Japanese culture? (2015)
Art of Kowloon Walled City on Hong Kong Free Press

The Battle for the ‘Net Continues

The Battle for the ‘Net Continues

Yep, here’s another post about the FCC push against net neutrality. I’ve written about other topics and will post them in the following weeks. Promise. It’s just that, as a writer who needs access to a wide range of websites for research and a US citizen who as witness the deepening class system in my country, this is important enough to me to repeat.


More than two months ago, I blogged about the Day of Action for Net Neutrality (see my “Message to Americans: The Future of the Net“) and how that battle for fair access to the Internet is part of what makes our current world feel like a part of dystopian science fiction (in “Cyberpunk Net Neutrality“).

A request I made to Americans in both posts was to officially comment on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Docket 17-108 to help protect net neutrality.

 

On August 1, several long-standing organizations filed a motion requesting an eight-week extension of the FCC’s deadline for replies. These organizations included the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), international Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), Consumers Union, National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) “on behalf of its low-income clients”, World Wide Web Foundation, and Writers Guide of America West (Movants).

The FCC considered the motion for ten days later before extending the deadline for comments until August 30. (You can read the FCC’s response on their website or see Engadget‘s summary.)

On the day of the extended deadline, over 500 small businesses signed an open letter to the FCC and US Congress, urging them to preserve Title II net neutrality protections.

Without making any publicized response I can find, the FCC continues to accept comments on the issue. Perhaps until September 30, 2017? That’s unclear.

Much of this issue is clouded by government misdirection. However, despite Chairman Ajit Pai’s reluctance to consider legitimate feedback, the comments to the FCC matter. They are a public record that are and will continue to be read. Your voice matters.

To reply to Docket 17-108 while the option remains, visit the proceeding’s page and click on “+ Express” for a brief comment or “+ New Filing” to upload supporting documents.

Another option is to tell your representatives in the US Congress to fight for net neutrality. An free, easy tool for cellphone users to contact the appropriate members of Congress is Resistbot.


Additional Reading:

The FCC’s Myths vs. Facts Sheet, Annotated by TechCrunch

Part of the timeline: “House Net Neutrality Meeting Cancelled” by Engadget on August 31, 2017

Fight for the Future (for news updates)

Cyberpunk Net Neutrality

Cyberpunk Net Neutrality

I’ve learned in the last week I’m not only one thinking we’re living in a cyberpunk dystopia.

Fans of cyberpunk have been discussing if attacks on net neutrality are a sign of this. Apparently, the possibility has taken one of the biggest online groups by surprise. The most recent push by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to favor the old cable companies over preservation of Internet freedom is causing “a bit of an existential crisis” for r/cyberpunk on reddit.

We’re not all flying around in our personal cars under neon lights, but politically, we are living within a cyberpunk world. Private IT and government agencies are catching up to threats instead of troubleshooting well in advance.

One of the risks is that people can die from malware. Everyone who’s paying attention is worried about governments giving apathetic corporations power over who lives and dies.

Like Ciemnika wrote,

Our world is becoming increasingly digital, and I doubt that’s a trend that’s going to reverse any time soon without a calamity. It’s well past time for us to wrest control of our destiny before its entirely bought and sold out from under us. It’s not too late.

The message concluding on this post is great, so I’m pasting it here.

Winning the fight to preserve net neutrality is very possible, but people have to get involved. You can’t assume someone else will do it. You have to roll up your sleeves and do the work. We can push back against the tide of overreaching government and corporate influence, and this is a great place to start. I’m not saying we can swing the pendulum from the seeds of Blade Runner to a utopia in a week, but the opportunity for humanity’s future to be the best part of its history is still very real.

American readers, all you need is a moment to give Chairman Pai your opinion directly on the FCC filing site (see how), or use the Battle for the Net form for your representatives in Congress to also receive your comment. Don’t wait for heroes straight out of fiction to save our world for you.

The FCC is accepting comments through today, July 17. (Sept. 22, 2017: See my update, The Battle for the ‘Net Continues.)


If the net neutrality in the US will impact you, please go comment. Right now. Thanks.

 

Message for Americans: The Future of the Net

Message for Americans: The Future of the Net

This is an issue you need to know about today.

Maybe you like spending money on whatever corporations tell you to. You wouldn’t mind paying to access all of the Internet at high speeds.

But I’m going to assume you don’t believe that people deserve more freedom online based on where they live within the United States or how wealthy they are. In my mind, a child in a poor, rural home deserves to visit the same websites as a child with access to more municipal or household resources.

However…

Right now, new FCC [Federal Communications Commission] Chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai has a plan to destroy net neutrality and give big cable companies immense control over what we see and do online. If they get their way, the FCC will give companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T control over what we can see and do on the Internet, with the power to slow down or block websites and charge apps and sites extra fees to reach an audience.

If we lose net neutrality, we could soon face an Internet where some of your favorite websites are forced into a slow lane online, while deep-pocketed companies who can afford expensive new “prioritization” fees have special fast lane access to Internet users – tilting the playing field in their favor.

Today, Internet users are coming together to stop them. Websites and online communities are sounding the alarm about the FCC’s attack on net neutrality. We all have until July 17 to tell the FCC and Congress how we feel about this issue.

Learn more and join the action here: https://www.battleforthenet.com/july12.

When Your Favorite Character Is Gone

When Your Favorite Character Is Gone

It happens.

You’re reading along, maybe taking breaks to daydream about side-stories and what the author might show you next, when BAM! Your favorite character is dead. Or they leave for an unknown amount of time. Maybe they’re put into a sleep that will last the remainder of the story. Their mind is wiped. In the worst cases, the author no longer publishes the character’s story.

However it happens, the character you know is gone.

In the best stories, this shouldn’t be a complete surprise; however, it’s hard to accept clues that you’re going to lose a character you love. You don’t want to grieve, and you know you will.

This happens too often to me.

It’s because I fall in love with the shady characters.

See, I like the cynics. The outcasts. The bad guys trying their hardest to do good. My favorites are the sassy anti-heroes, the thoughtful antagonists, and the main characters who’s role defies comparison with the standard concepts of heroism.

These characters are more relatable. (I didn’t grow up around the most helpful, kind, loving people, and my luck isn’t the best.) For the broader audience, they’re usually more unique than the obvious good guys. Ultimately, though, I want to see these characters do good and become more likeable.

But when they aren’t the primary character moving the plot, writers won’t risk upsetting their critics by keeping them along longer than needed to punish them or to prove the hero’s strength.

That’s fair. People read to see rewards and punishment to fit their world view. That’s, probably, the number one reason fiction is popular.

It’s just hard on some of us, okay?

Of course, heroes die, too. Side characters with little development are cast aside. Whatever the character’s role, accepting their discontinuation in the story can be hard. It doesn’t feel much different than losing a person.

In the end, grief is grief.

As fans, the best we can do is give ourselves time to recover (see “How to Get Over the Death of a Fictional Character” for great tips).

Of course, as the author, the best you can do is celebrate. No one grieves for bad characterization and a boring plot.


Inspiration for this post: a plot twist in The Young Protectors, which I’ve blogged about before in “Protecting the Heart”. It’s not yet clear if my favorite character is even really gone.

Turn Me On: Musical Mood

Today’s prompt for the monthly Twitter game #AuthorConfession asked about my main character’s favorite song. Honestly, Lexington Amis doesn’t have one, because it would fall into a retro-modern trend that doesn’t yet exist.

He could relate to any version of “Hello, Darkness” given the opportunity to hear it. But, then, who doesn’t?

Since no one can predict music in our near future, here’s what I’ve used to develop characters in my current project.

I mentioned in “Music for Writing” that one song useful for characterization is “Everytime We Touch” .

The novel actually two main characters. Not everything is romance between them.

For when the theme is more cyberpunk:

Bonus: Here’s a song I played on repeat for a short story about one character’s backstory.

Another Bonus: The song for Aaron and Lexi’s first meeting is “Watch Out” by Glovibes & Gary Caos.


Do you like any of these? What are your favorite songs?

Thursday Thoughts: Thank You for Covering Me!

Thursday Thoughts: Thank You for Covering Me!

I’m not the most modest person in the world. This is not a post about having to cover up with clothing. Just getting that out there.

This post is about another type of exposure.

For the first time, I played a Twitter hashtag game called #GuessWrite. It’s a monthly game that incorporates other hashtag games for writers. Each game’s prompt through one week shows a clue to the month’s theme. The challenge is to correctly guess the theme.

The winners receive a bunch of prizes, some of which I’m figuring out.

One offer is for a critique and another for attention on Instagram. (I know almost nothing about Instagram! Here’s to a new learning experience.) Cori Lynn Arnold gave me a e-version of the crime thriller Thin Luck. Author Lexi Miles will spotlight me on her website with an interview, so please watch for it. [Update: Read the interview now.]

Getting all of this attention is fun. Thank you, #GuessWrite hosts!

Speaking as if a new connection can weave one tighter to the creative community…

I was poking around my writing critique site and noticed that Tina Chan was giving away pre-made book covers. Here’s one that I nabbed for a short story associated with Changing Sides.

"Recenter" short story cover

Tina was amazing about tweaks–fast and easygoing. You can see this and more free pre-made covers at thebooklander.com. Thanks, Tina!