Stuff I Made

Stuff I Did in 2017

I usually look forward to writing these posts: a nice bow, bright and neat, wrapping up my accomplishments into a tiny package that I can pull out later as evidence that I do in fact do things sometimes, and that everything is not always horrible. They are not something I procrastinate on; rather, they’re the thing I write when I’m procrastinating on something less pleasant but more important.

But this year, in the quiet spaces between one tab and the next, between rounds of Gardenscapes, at stoplights and in checkout lines, a thought keeps popping into my head: I am not OK. It’s not that there’s anything in particular wrong with me, exactly. In every objective measure my life is pretty great, and in just about every subjective one, too. I’m not unhappy.

But there is an incredible emotional weight to discovering that the bedrock foundations of the world have shifted. The things I thought I could rely upon cannot be relied upon anymore. Like all of us, I carry that burden with me, everywhere I go. So: huzzah, I published a story! (But the world is still on fire.) Hot diggity, I got to visit Zurich! (But the world is still on fire.) Sah-weeeeet, I got to play Horizon Zero Dawn! (But... the world is still on fire.)

It’s not that I’m not OK, as such. It’s that the aggregate of all of the things going on are not OK.  I can’t hold the foundations of the world in place, but still I strain against the weight of them, trying to keep back the uncertain horrors that would emerge from their absence.

But I am nothing if not an optimist. No, truly! And so I am going to determinedly look back on the year and see how bright the bright side is, exactly.

What I Shipped in 2017

Novelettes

The Revolution, Brought to You By Nike (Fireside)

 Hard Bargain, Bookburners Season 3 (Serial Box)

Into the Woods, Bookburners Season 3 (Serial Box)

Patch Job, ReMade Season 2 (Serial Box)

Chosen One, ReMade Season 2 (Serial Box, out December 29) 

Short Stories

Three Laws (Fireside) 

 TeleTravel™ Release Notes (Patreon)

 Informational Survey for Benefit of Profit (Patreon)

Games

Waking Titan (No Man’s Sky ARG with Alice & Smith)

Kiss of the Revenant (The Secret World ARG with Alice & Smith) 

Spy Virtual Race (Macmillan Cancer Support and Six to Start) 

Zombies, Run! Season 6 Radio Mode (Six to Start and Naomi Alderman) 

 Zombies, Run! The Board Game, Guest Mission (Six to Start and Naomi Alderman)

Podcasting

The Cultures (with Naomi Alderman and Adrian Hon) 

 

There’s also one more ReMade episode I’ve written that won’t be out until late January. I will also have written two more episodes of Bookburners by the New Year, but since they won’t be published for some time, those go on next year’s ledger.

Aside from all that, I’ve written a number of essays and articles that I frankly haven’t kept track of; two more sets of scripts for other audio dramas; an all-new short story, written and sold but not yet announced; I’ve almost given up on selling another short, which I love desperately but cannot seem to place in a market; and I very noticeably have not written a novel, which fact I felt a lot worse about before I realized I’d written well over 80,000 words in various other forms as well as designing and writing for an old-school, work-hours-heavy alternate reality game this year. Plus, you know, parenting school-age children with heavy extracurricular schedules.

Wow. I guess this is why I do this end-of-year recap, huh? No wonder I’m feeling so burned out lately.

Of all of these pieces, I suspect The Revolution, Brought to You By Nike is the most significant and impactful thing I’ve done this year, and will not doubt be one of the highlights of my entire career. It is extremely political, and simultaneously the most personal thing I have ever written. And it was published in February, which has led to a curious hangover the rest of the year, a certainty that my most important work is behind me, and that none of the rest of it counts as much. I realize this is ridiculous, but there it is.

So that’s work. What about everything else, though?

Punditing, Travel, and Activism

After a lengthy hiatus, I started taking speaking engagements about transmedia storytelling again this year. And I found I quite enjoyed it, after my break! I even had conversations with a couple of universities about teaching at various games programs over the last year, but ultimately discovered that they couldn’t pay me enough to justify the opportunity cost — I would love to teach, but not as an adjunct. The math just didn’t work.

On the other hand, I took a year mostly away from science fiction conventions, which turned out to be for the best given how hard I was working, especially over the conference-heavy summer months. So I went to Confusion in January, and then spoke only at C2 in Montreal in May and CILECT in Zurich in October. (I also traveled to London for business in late June, and my family took a glorious trip to Disney World in August.)

I also tried to volunteer with the NYCLU, but I don’t think my skills and availability suit their needs, alas. If I’m going to serve the world, then perhaps my best path is imagining my way to a better future. (I’m working on that.) Meanwhile, there’s always more calling my congresspeople to do. And voting. Always voting. (I registered as a Democrat for the first time this year, after staying as an Independent since I was 18. It felt like it was about time.)

One thing is abundantly clear, in any event. The overall volume of work I’ve put out this year is unsustainably high, and I’m going to need to think some hard thoughts about how to more efficiently direct my efforts going forward. Especially because...

Health and Wellness

This was not a super great health year for me. I took a tumble down the stairs at Confusion early in 2017. Inauguration weekend, in fact. Two sprained ankles and a bruise turned into an antibiotic-resistant infection, and it seems the antibiotic that finally killed it may have also killed my Achilles’ tendons, which did not become apparent until I sharply increased my swimming length dramatically in June. (Magnesium supplements are apparently a miracle cure for me where five weeks of physical therapy was not.)

On top of that, I burned both ends of the candle very hard over the summer and through October to hit a cascading series of deadlines and other commitments, the net result of which was losing several weeks to a series of respiratory infections ultimately followed by several more weeks of asthma in which I could not so much as walk across the room at a normal pace without causing a sharp spike in my heart rate.

I have learned a lesson from that, and the lesson is that sleep is important, and I am no longer 24, and I need to be more cautious with my body if I want it, and ergo me, to stick around for the long haul.

What’s On Deck in 2018? 

Wow, I’m not sure. This is the first time in a long time I’ve stared at a new year without a long list of things I want to accomplish. I’m just... really tired, friends. Really, really tired.  Trying to hold up the foundations of the world takes a lot out of you, I guess. Plus, uh, all the work.

I want to write a novel for real in 2018, and I’ve made some thousands of words of progress in that direction. I want to do another season of Lucy Smokeheart, very, very much, and I think a lot of you want me to do that, too. I’m going to Confusion again in January, and then after that... ???

Aside from all that, I genuinely don’t know what I want or where I should go. Do I want to try to break into VR? Or put together a team to make some indie games? Do I want to start building a full-on transmedia franchise? Break into film? Should I just focus on prose writing? Build a direct-to-Kindle erotica empire? Should I quietly shut down all of my digital presences and take up a more serene life as a yoga instructor instead? Ha ha ha just kidding. Probably.

Well, I guess we’ll all find out together. Hit me, 2018. I’ll be ready for you.


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The Cultures 181: $12 Coffee, Things That Make Us Happy, Resolutions

Another Monday, another episode of The Cultures! And I've been remiss in posting about them, but trust that they're out there every week whether I'm posting about it or not.

This is a very special New Year episode meant to be somewhat more uplifting than we've been lately because of the... you know... the politics. In this episode we talk about the Stabucks plan to make super-premium coffee because mere premium coffee like they offer now is a little too accessible; we talk about things that bring us happiness right now; and we share some resolutions for the New Year, though this year of all years resolutions are something of a moving target.

As always you can get this week's episode on LibSyn or on iTunes. Tune in and let us know what you think!


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So Long, 2016

It's that time of year, friends. As this neverending year winds down and the nights become long and cold, I like to turn inward to take stock of where I've been and where I'm going.

This is not an awards eligibility post; more a summary of all the things I've done this year, so I can remind myself that it was more than Witcher 3 and K-drama. Technically this is my second year of eligibility for the Campbell Award. But I firmly believe that ship has sailed for me, and I urge you to look elsewhere. I'll have more to say on that when awards season begins in earnest.

New Stuff

So here's what I did in the Year of the Trashfire, 2016. First: releases! I didn't write all of this this year, but this is the year in which these things were launched into the world.

Novelettes

These are all novelette-length, but they're each episodes of longer serials published by Serial Box, which I co-author with two incredible teams of other writers.

Bookburners Season 2 

Webs

Shock and Awe

ReMade Season 1

Hungry

Whiteout

Memories of Arcadia

Season passes and individual Serial Box episodes are also available in audio and ebook format on their website and in the iOS app.

Games

This Lucy Smokeheart tie-in is a choose-your-own-adventure style romp published and distributed by Choice of Games.

The Daring Mermaid Expedition (Google Play, iOS, Kindle, Steam)

Middle Grades

The long-awaited interactive book for ages 8-12 where the reader is a part of the story, saving a magical circus from doom.

Circus of Mirrors

Nonfiction

This year saw the start of my Metagames column at Strange Horizons, and stellar human Chuck Wendig kindly gave me his keys to talk about some things, too.

Metagames

Fitness Games

Video Games are the Best Art

Playing at Good and Evil

Discord in the Symphony

Pokémon Go and Staying Power

Conflict and Consensus

Terrible Minds

Throw Everything at the Wall

The High Goddamn Responsibility of Fiction

Podcasts and Speaking

Hosting

The Cultures (co-hosted 52 weekly episodes, on LibSyn and iTunes)

Guest Appearances

StoryForward Podcast: Ethics and Immersion

StoryForward Panel: Storytelling for Social Good (video)

PurseStrings Radio

I was also on programming at Confusion, Readercon, and Worldcon in Kansas City. I met Tim Powers, co-paneled with David Brin, and established myself as a person with many, many, MANY opinions about self-driving cars.

Marketing

I'm very proud of the work I did for a little activation for Handmaid's Tale at NYCC, and another thing that is... still pending.

Personal Stuff

This year has been a trashfire for national political reasons, and I lost easily weeks of my life to paralysis as I watched it burn. But my personal life has also been, ah, somewhat complex.

The year began and is now ending with drawn-out child health concerns—the kind that end up requiring multiple rounds of scans and IVs and ER visits. It turns out that dealing with a potentially serious health issue your child is having is even more stressful than having such a problem yourself. Who knew?

I had a young adult novel go on sub, and when it didn't get picked up, we decided to sit on the manuscript for now. Sad, but them's the breaks. It's a persistence game. Worse, though: the long-term project I'd been working on ran out of funding and shut down without shipping anything, which has been disappointing on many levels. In the aftermath, I went after a job I was really excited about and landed it but ultimately declined, with regrets, because it wouldn't have paid enough to live on.

It wasn't all bad. My older child entered high school. We went on a cruise to the Bahamas and it was utterly glorious! We did some massive improvements to our house, refinanced our mortgage, and wound up much better off for it. I spent some time with some amazing people in person and in private chat.

I also wrote some short fiction. And I wrote a little bit of two different novels, but didn't finish any. I've been feeling really terrible that I didn't manage to write a novel of my own this year. That's my baseline goal in every year: write a book. But looking over this post in draft, everything I've done and everything that's happened to me, I'm starting to remember why that didn't happen. It really hasn't been all Witcher 3 and K-drama, has it?

What's in 2017?

I like to end these things on a positive note. And positive always means: the future! So what do I have cooking for 2017? First off, there are new seasons of Bookburners and ReMade to look forward to. I'm also writing a little more short fiction and I'm confident some of it will be published next year, even if it means sending it up my own self. 

I've done a little games writing that you'll get to see in 2017, too. I have a nonfiction proposal out; I'm thinking about Kickstarting a new season of Lucy Smokeheart. Oh, and maybe I'll write a novel for real this time. Or the other novel. Or both novels!

And I'm volunteering for the NYCLU. Because, while this isn't a political post, politics have indelibly shaped this year. And if I want future years to look even better, I'm going to have to work for it. Same as it ever was, right?


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Circus of Mirrors is Here!

It's been a long journey, but I am absolutely delighted to say that Circus of Mirrors, the interactive children's book I've created with Stitch Media, is now available for sale. I couldn't be happier about it!

Circus of Mirrors is basically a parent-run alternate reality game for kids. That means the story isn't just something the child reads; they get to be a part of it! Each adventure kit includes eight separately bound chapters, and in between each chapter the child is given an activity that puts them at the center of the story. Mazes, riddles, crafts, letters and phone calls all play a part. Oh, and the illustrations? Why yes, that is Mike Holmes of Adventure Time fame!

I'm going to have more to say about Circus in the coming weeks—I especially want to tell you how incredible it was to see my own daughter go through this experience. In my shoes, it's easy to forget how magical it is when the story world first reaches out and touches you. But it really, truly is... magic.

Oh, and I'm still incredibly proud of the Bearded Man. I giggle like a fool thinking about him, even now!

You'll be hearing a lot more about Circus of Mirrors in the weeks to come. But for now I thought I'd send up a flare and let you know this is a real thing that you can buy right now with your own money! And the holidays are coming up real fast. If you know what I mean.

And what I mean is, buy Circus of Mirrors for the chapter book readers in your life for the winter holiday of your choice. I pinky swear you won't regret it!


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Pokémon Go and the Strange Horizons Fundraiser

My latest Metagames column is up at Strange Horizons! It's about Pokémon Go, and how that game was pretty well designed from the start to be extremely quittable.

And yet I maintain that the game is basically over already—Pokémon Go has already lost 79% of its paying players compared to its July 15 peak, and those numbers are going to keep going down. And down. And down. Winter is coming.

It's all in the design; Pokémon Go has no staying power. It's a game that practically begs you to quit.

Strange Horizons is a nonprofit entity, and they're doing their annual fundraiser right now. They're hoping to get at least $15,000 to run their magazine for a whole year. But $20,000 or even $25,000 would be better—not just for them, but for the overall health of the short story ecosystem, and for readers, too. The editors don't make money out of this; every cent goes to operations and paying writers. They've already raised $9,000... but there's a long way to go in just six days.

It's a good time to chip in, folks. Strange Horizons does great work, above and beyond just my column. They do original short fiction, reviews, and columns, poetry, special issues. They're actively trying to address the inequities revealed by the Fireside #BlackSpecFic Report. And if you're in the USA, your donation is tax-deductible.

Go on, chip into their Patreon. Just $4 a month is a complete subscription to each weekly issue. Or if you're cautious about a long-term commitment, you can make a one-time donation through Network for Good or through Paypal. All the deets are at their site.

This year has been bad enough. Let's try to keep all the good things going that we can, OK?


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