Silly Interview with Jenna Katerin Moran, who knows what Russian servers to hack

 

Here’s me! The outfit is Miranda Harrell’s version of the clothing style for the villains (?) of my RPG, Nobilis: A Game of Sovereign Powers

Here’s my website! https://afarandasunlessland.wordpress.com/
Rachel Swirsky: You have a PhD in computer science. What made you fall in love with the subject?

Jenna Katerin Moran: We’re one of those rare Tinder success stories! You would not believe how many clunkers I had to date through to get there, though.

(Example: trossulography. Trossulography tried to have like five PhD students just in one city alone without telling any of us about one another … and it probably would have worked fine, too, except we all had to submit to the same journals.)

RS: How does your academic training in computer science affect how you write role playing games?

JKM: There are some really good discussions out there of marketing techniques, cultural trends, and American gamer purchasing habits if you know which Russian servers to hack.

RS: I’m sure you get this question all the time, but I feel like it’s pretty relevant for an audience of people who aren’t all tabletop gamers. How and why did you end up falling into writing table top RPGs?

JKM: So it was like the year 1997? Ish? I don’t know. A little before Y2K, when I would have had to get out of the field of computer science (for, like, obvious reasons) anyway. And I was looking for something good to write because, y’know, it’s not like one can stop the writing, right? I mean, one tries, right, one goes and, like, tries to pursue other careers, or, curls up in one’s closet and wails in despair, or, moves to China and tries to become a foreign pop idol—like, Jenna Starlight Sparkles; whatever—but then one has barely turned around again before discovering that one has just been writing. I mean, y’know? (It is only when one has sighed and given in and accepted that one must be a writer that there is a possibility, er, uh, probability, … near-certainty? Uh, that the words will stop.) But, anyway, so, I was looking for something good to write, and naturally I settled on pornography; only, being a … regrettably … uh, prudish? person, I had to use fairly roundabout and esoteric euphemisms for everything. Long story short, it accidentally came out as an urban fantasy roleplaying game about people with conceptual powers in a world under existential threat from the inhabitants of the beyond. (If you know what I mean, and I think you do.) Only, in fact, despite that parenthetical that I have just shared with you, hardly anybody knew what I meant, or, at least, I think they didn’t? and once it got popular, I was way, way too embarrassed to ever tell anyone. I had thought that, like, 2000-era fanfic would have sensitized people to it? You know, to, uh, roundabout euphemisms? Like, what with, you know, all that, “his melancholy duck quacked down into the shimmering epilimnion of her pond” kind of thing that was, like, the style of the time? but apparently “each player designs a player character (PC for short), one of the protagonists in the story” was just one bridge too far. So now, suddenly, instead of taking my pornography into the bedroom, people were, y’know, propping it up on the coffee table and showing it to their parents and inviting groups of friends and strangers to their houses to talk about it together and I thought suddenly, wait. What if I just did this as a business and wrote for RPGs instead?

RS: Your cat, Kennedy, prefers that you pay attention to her at all times. What do you think is her current inner monologue as you do this interview? (Illustrating with photographs is highly encouraged!)

JKM: I suspect she is wondering if she is sleeping correctly. She is wondering if, perhaps, there is some proper way of sleeping that she was meant to be practicing, but which no one has ever explicitly explained to her, only making allusions to it, talking about “catnaps,” and sleeping awkwardly in her vicinity instead, and leaving her with no recourse but to guess.

Perhaps that is why (she thinks) she is sometimes left alone, to wither and wail in her hopeless misery, while her emotional comfort hominid cavorts beyond the gates with the other cat. Perhaps her failing at proper sleeping is the reason, there—

But if that is why, it is so unfair!

It is not her fault that nobody has taught her how to sleep correctly. It is not her fault that nobody has explained how to get past the top shelf of the bookshelf to the notional higher height that she knows must, logically, exist— for it would not make sense for a mathematical series to carry itself to the top of the bookshelf and then stop— or what the exact rules as to when she may use the two litterboxes that are reserved entirely for her use, that she has access to 24/7, are. It is not her fault that the correct propitiation to the household gods to allow her to go upstairs sans incident has not been made; if the upstairs cat would just tell her what the format of that ritual is supposed to be …

But, enough dwelling on the other cat. Let us return to the puzzle of the litterboxes; as noxious a thing as they may be, still, to her they are more sweet.

It is obvious, she believes, that there must be rules as to their use, because they cannot be used by a single cat, alone. A single cat, alone, entering the litterbox, enters a kind of quantum state— nobody has ever given her a proper explanation of quantum physics, so physicists must forgive her if she gets this wrong— enters a kind of “quantum state” where one may exist, in the outside world, or one may not. Arguably, when one enters into the box, as a fully defined and differentiated entity, one ceases therewith to be. The only anodyne to this noisome quandary is witness: to be witnessed, to have independent affirmation of one’s existence, to have an external force creating continuity from one’s entrance into the box … to one’s exit. But much of the time, this warrant cannot be obtained; no witness can be pressed into service; and the litterboxes, therefore, must lie fallow: the proper rules for this are, as yet, unknown.

Outside the window, in the vaster, greater world, where monsters roam— she knows this; one presses its face against the window, sometimes, at night— there may be entities that know the rules to all such things. Outside the window, one day, if the hominids would only leave the window open at all times as she has asked them to, she may smell and hear as one such beast walks past:

A nebulous, smoke-stack figure in the distance, made of words and bleeding doctrine.

When she sees it, smells it, hears it; when the wind carries to her the shadows of its words— again, if the window has been properly left open

Then she may, finally, begin to know.

RS: What projects are you currently working on? 

JKM: My major project right now is Glitch: A Story of the Not, which is an RPG about surprisingly relatable evil gods who don’t actually know what they’re doing with their lives but are pretty sure that it shouldn’t actually be bringing an end to everything like they had previously thought. I guess the central thesis of the game is something like, “So, there’s an intrinsic universal characteristic of suffering— what do you do?” Only, unlike some RPGs, you can’t then roll for initiative against the intrinsic universal characteristic of suffering, because Glitch uses a cost-based system instead of dice.

Queued up behind that is A Book of Golden Hours, which represents a quixotic effort to break character arcs down into eight basic stories, split that again based on whether the character is getting cooperation, active interference, or neither from the world, and turn the result into twenty-four character classes with powers abstract and high-level enough that each can actually handle the roughly 4% of fictional characters that they wind up representing. It’s not just an RPG supplement, it’s also a unique work of orphic cubist literary criticism!

Then there’s Adventures on the Far Roofs, which is about fighting god-monsters with heroic talking rats at your side up on the rooftops out where the roofs start to blend together until you can’t be sure there are actually any houses underneath. That one’s been written for a long time, but it uses content from A Book of Golden Hours so it can’t come first.

For my patreon consumers I’ve been building a campaign—a set of pre-made characters and stories—for my game, the Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine RPG. I’ve also lately been sharing a mildly updated version of an old cyberpunk setting of mine. Those’ll both be wanting to go into print sometime after they’re done.

Finally, I have a novel—the Night-Bird’s Feather—that’s gone temporarily back into editing at the moment after some new reader feedback. It’s a book of stories about cross-time dream magic and the mental origins of valuation. I’m really excited about it!

Oh, and tonight I was thinking of making soup?

OK, that’s all.

Learn the Rules Before You Break Them. Or Don’t.

I’m teaching my class on how to break the rules on Saturday, May 25th. Rules can put fiction in a box; let’s talk about ways to explode out of it.

There’s an old adage: Learn the rules before you break them.

I grew up with that rule. I learned it for the first time in an art class when I was probably still in single age digits. My art teacher painted abstracts, but her classes were aimed at giving children a strong grounding in composition and sketching. Why? Because we needed to know the rules before we went searching for our own styles of breaking them.

I like this rule. It’s a good rule. It’s generally useful.

And you should feel free to break it.

The thing is: if you insist that everyone know the rules before breaking them, you end up smothering a lot of innovation. Not all innovation! Many people are quite capable of learning rules and then doing completely strange and new things afterward.

But remember people like the outsider artists. The ones who, knowing nothing about what’s going on in the broader conversation of their art, pursue (usually) obsessive projects with their own ideas and aesthetics they’ve grown from the ground up.

Their stuff is weird and often unsettling and I think we would be poorer without it.

I also see plenty of students and young or new writers breaking rules without seeming to realize that’s what they’re doing, or what the rule is they’re breaking, or why it’s there. Usually, that fails. Think about evolution — most significant mutations aren’t beneficial, and may even be fatal. But every once in a while, one is amazing.

I’m not sure if Lily Yu knew all the rules when she wrote “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” but it’s an absolutely amazing story that breaks a ridiculous number of rules. It’s beautiful, and it’s stirring, and it’s unique. It’s one of the best stories in the past decade. It established Lily as a passionate, brilliant writer all in a single swoop. Do you know how unusual that is? (You probably do!) It’s not uncommon for people to become lightning strikes with a single novel–but for a single short story to provide that much light and electricity? Totally shocking. A wonderful black swan.

While I was still trying to learn the rules as fast and as well as I could, there was often a freedom to my writing which is much more restricted now. Now, when I’m writing, and I’m trying to figure out to do, I can list the traditional options, I can elucidate the rules governing the situation, and why they work, and the usual ways of breaking them–and the consequences thereof. I pick the one that makes most sense for me. All very tidy.

Before, I had to grab at something uncertain. Maybe it was the right tool for the job–the one I’d use now–or maybe it wasn’t. Sometimes when you write with the wrong tools, you find that you’ve made something beautifully unexpected, something you couldn’t even have predicted in yourself. Things you don’t intend can evolve into wildness, into tangles, into novelty.

If you watch reality shows, think about the unconventional materials challenges. Clothing designs made out of candy, or seatbelts, are often the best outfits of the season. The hairdressers, assigned to use hedge clippers, figure out ways to work around it.

There’s always someone complaining that it’s unreasonable to be expected to make a dress out of candy. At home, they know the rules. If they want to make a dress, they’re going to use the right material. It’s flowing so it will be jersey, or it needs the nap of velvet, or the shine of silk.

Sometimes when the rules aren’t yet deep down in your body, when you don’t know that you should search the fabric store for the shiniest silk — sometimes, you grab the cellophane instead.

And most of the time it’s going to be awkward and unattractive.

And sometimes, you’re going to make a cellophane dress that will dazzle the runway.

Writers who know all the rules might still choose to make a cellophane dress. If they’re very good at this sort of thing, it might still have the sense of unexpected freedom as the dress made by the person who ended up with cellophane because they didn’t understand fabric yet. But ultimately, the art of someone fumbling to explore, and the art of someone aiming at their goals with precision, don’t usually look the same.

I want dresses made of cellophane. I want Lily Yu to take my breath away with possibilities I hadn’t imagined. I also want to read the older Lily, too, the one who writes now with a sharper breadth of knowledge–because she’s amazing. But I wouldn’t trade away her earlier stories.

So, it’s useful to know the rules before you break them. It’s a good guideline. But sometimes, by breaking the rule you didn’t even know was there, by wandering the path less traveled by, you can find something astonishing.

(Here, again, is the link to my class: www.kittywumpus.net/blog/breaking-the-rules-with-rachel-swirsky/)

Zippy

Zippy is a character I drew for a role-playing game I was sketching out called Cats and Dogs Living Together.

When she’s full grown, Zippy will fit in a teacup. At three months old, she’s even smaller. She’s noisy, playful, and brimming with energy. Sometimes she gets so excited wriggling in circles that she forgets to use her legs and falls down. (Sometimes she forgets to control her bladder, too.) She’s whip-smart, and learns new things quickly–including tricks, a surprising number of human words, and bad habits.

(originally posted on my Patreon)

Silly Interview with Deborah Walker and her Expandable Red Goo

Here’s another updated silly interview!

RS: Your website invites me to find you at the British Museum, but that’s a lot of miles from where I am currently sitting, so instead I will ask you about the British Museum. What are your favorite exhibits there? And, if it’s different, what have you discovered there that was most unexpected?

DW: The Ram in a Thicket from the Great Death pit at Ur is my enduring favourite. He’s adorable. I try to visit him every time I go to the museum. It’s like having a five and a half thousand year old pet made of gold and lapis lazuli.

My other favourites change from visit to visit. Ah, the lure of the different and shiny. I particularly liked the Scanning Sobek temporary exhibit displaying a massive, mummified crocodile from ancient Egypt, which was once worshipped as a god.

Then we have the blockbuster exhibitions, where museums loan out their treasures. I visited the Celts exhibition three times, mainly to keep looking at the wonderful silver Gundestrup Cauldron from Denmark. I was fascinated by the figures decorating the cauldron. Especially a small man riding a fish. What’s his story? The intriguing thing is, no one knows. The stories have faded away, and we’re left with only the physical object. Lost stories out of time.


I’ve been visiting the British Museum for donkey’s years, but it would take a lifetime to appreciate it all. It holds 8 million items (not all displayed, of course). The other day, I went down some steps and found statues and temple facades from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. That’s one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Wow. I never knew they had them.

The museum has so many objects, so many stories. And of course, the fact that the museum owns so many wonderful objects from overseas is a story in itself, and a controversial one.

Do visit the British Museum if you get a chance. Nowadays, museums are very good at putting their collections online. But for my money, there’s nothing like seeing an object, talking to a curator, even handling the objects at the special Hands On Desks. There are museums everywhere: massive, wealthy national museums, local museums run by volunteers, specialist museums focusing on a particular topic (like the London Museums of Health and Medicine). So many stories, there for the reimagining.

RS: You have a number of stories in Nature’s Futures, which runs very short fiction about hard science fiction. Where do you get your inspiration for these, and how do you go about taking something as large as a scientific question and putting it into flash form?

DW: Inspiration comes from museum objects (I wrote a story about adding crocodile DNA to a woman), or stories I’ve read, or watched on the TV, or a prompt for an anthology call. Sometimes, I’ll search out inspiration, trawling through Wikipedia looking for a science topic.)

Science questions are large. But not as large a questions about human nature. I’m interested in using science as a mirror to reflect the human condition. So, on the surface I might be talking about gene modding the brain and the unexpected results, but I’ll also be talking about the emotional dynamics of a divorce, and touching on the concept of free-will (‘Glass Future‘). Science fiction allows me to examine human nature in a way that appeals to me as a writer more than a literary story on the same topic. Genre is more of a convenience than an absolute, though. There’s a big crossover. Stories I’ve sold to Nature’s Futures have often resold to literary magazine.

So how do I squeeze all that into flash? Well, I actually don’t consider flash to be restrictive in length. I think haiku is restrictive. Here’s a SF/horror one of mine:

red goo in the bathtub
cleaning bots dissolve anything
divorce was never an option.

I would argue that this is very, very, small story. There’s the mystery at the start: Red goo? What’s all that about? A touch of development: Why cleaning bots? Is this a domestic situation? Does that link to bathtub? Then the resolution of the story, the ‘aha’ moment, the ‘I get it ‘ moment. Many of my flash stories follow that structure: mystery, development, (and hopefully) aha.

That haiku was only 14 words, having 1000 words is luxury.

RS: In addition to your Nature’s Futures stories, your bibliography lists a lot of other flash fiction, and also poetry and microfiction. Why do you think you’re drawn to those rapid forms? Do you know when you get an idea what general size category it’s going to fit into?

DW: One of my writing super powers is that I can decide what size the story is going to be before I start to write. So, I can think, I want to write some flash today, or a poem or a bit of micro fiction. Then I can write within the constraints of size. Some say that a story needs to be the size it needs to be, but I think that a story can be told at different lengths. I could expand ‘red goo’ into flash quite easily, by creating characters, developing their backstories, exploring the science of goo.

I don’t know what the appeal of writing short is for me. It does come naturally to me. I likes reading them and writing them.

RS: What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?

DW: Well, here’s the thing. I’ve been writing for ten years and nobody has ever given me any advice. I’ve never been in a tutor/student relationship. I very rarely get crits or beta reads on my stories. I just writes them as hard as I can, and then joyfully fling them out on submission.

I’ve read plenty of advice in craft books and on the interweb, but nobody’s ever said “Hey, Debs, perhaps you should do this thing or that.”

Tell a lie, in the past, people have occasionally said that I should write a novel. So, when an opportunity arose to write a tie-in novel for the Dark Expanse online role playing game, I did. That was good advice.

I wouldn’t mind someone giving me some more advice. Rachel, perhaps you could give me some.

RS: Um, don’t take any wooden nickels? 

What new projects do you have coming out? Anything else you’d like to add?

DW: I’ve talked a lot about writing short. But currently, I’m writing long. I’m writing a novella called ‘The Museum of Unnatural History’ set in the UK where a secret people with their own genetic signature and cultural identity, have recently been uncovered. Its current incarnation is traditionally plotted but written in literary prose, which I’m rather enjoying. I’m going to have to think of a new title, because there actually is a Museum of Unnatural History in real life. I have two new short stories out, one in Nature Contagion in Tranquil Shades of Grey‘ and ‘Blue Blood Bleeders’ in the Young Explorers Adventure Guide 5 anthology a collection of SF for young readers.

Patreon Content for April!

Patreon content went up this week! There’s a poem for all patrons: “To the Person Leaving,” which I wrote for my grandmother’s funeral. For $2 patrons, there’s a chapter from an unfinished novel “Haloes of Limelight.” And for $5 and up patrons, there’s a reprint of my story with Trace Yulie, “Seven Months Out and Two to Go.”

As always, thank you to all my patrons! You help make my writing possible and keep my head in one piece!

The Words Are Always There — Poetic Tools for Prose Writers

Poetry is focused on words.

So is prose! But the way we talk about words in poetry is different from the way we talk about them in prose.

Merging the perspectives of poetry and prose has benefitted me enormously as a writer. That’s why I want to share what I’ve learned in my new class on Poetic Tools for Prose Writers.

Different genres have different priorities. Sometimes that’s inherent because of the form (poetry has so few words that it’s easier to concentrate on each one!), and sometimes that’s because of a historical tradition about how the form is written. For instance, science fiction workshops tend to be really good at talking about how readers will receive pieces commercially, and my experience in literary workshops is that they tend not to address that. (It made me a popular critiquer in literary workshops because I was trained to address the stories from that point of view.)

On the other hand, when it comes to close, line level reading of your sentences, a lot of genre workshops skim over that. I have gotten absolutely amazing prose-level advice from genre writers! Sometimes in class. But the class workshops (as opposed to private notes) rarely delve into specific sentences in the same way that some of my classes in my MFA program could.

That’s actually a rule in a lot of genre workshops: save the specific language critiques for one-on-one notes or discussion. It makes a lot of sense; you can’t actually go through a whole story on a sentence-by-sentence basis in the length of a workshop. Focusing on this can make it hard to address the other, holistic qualities of the story.

And sometimes — in workshop — that’s okay. I wish I’d understood this better going into my MFA program. Sometimes, the workshop really isn’t about your story. It’s about using your story as a teaching tool. One of my teachers at Mills said it’s like putting out a story as a sacrifice for everyone to pick at. The story may or may not benefit from the process, but now you know more about how people think about fiction. That can be really useful, especially because one thing you can learn is how successful, talented professionals — often your teachers — approach their processes. The lion’s share of what I learned from my MFA program that I still think about stems from that kind of learning.

It’s a good thing that different genres and workshops have different priorities. It creates an exciting potential diversity. People read in different ways; people write in different ways; people workshop in different ways.

My argument is: you can learn things from all of them.

I’ve taken classes in memoir, poetry, playwriting; I’ve written comics and adapted graphic novels; I’ve done all sorts of things. They let me concentrate on and tease out things that I don’t usually concentrate on or think about in detail. There’s always something to learn and take back to the main work of my fiction.

Through poetry, I’ve learned a lot about how to efficiently create intense imagery and emotional development. I’ve learned about rhythm, sound, and how the construction of sentences shapes the flow of the reader’s attention. Connotation, concrete detail, ambiguity, concision, making beautiful metaphors and similes–these are all tools that impact prose.

Workshops don’t always give poetic tools the attention they deserve. They’re often too busy giving attention to other important things (which may also not get the attention they deserve–writing is complicated!).

Words are important. We talk about “transparent prose” sometimes, but fiction is made of words and sentences; they never disappear. To get real transparent prose, minimalistic and effective and unnoticeable, takes a lot of labor.

My words have benefited enormously from learning poetic skills. That’s why I’m excited to start teaching this class on Poetic Tools for Prose Writers. There’s a fascinating intersection between prose and poetry for us to share and explore.

Cloud Haired Woman

“Cloud-haired Woman”

This reminds me of the art my parents had from the sixties, feminist  with interesting proportions and bodies. I called it cloud-haired woman  after a character in Marianne, the Magus and the Manticore, my favorite  of Sheri Tepper’s books which made a strong impression on me as a child.  (I haven’t read it since.)

(originally posted on my patreon: www.patreon.com/posts/26478339)

Silly Interview with Anaea Lay (who wants to read your hate mail)

Anaea LayAnaea Lay

1) You were in Women Destroy Science Fiction–a project I greatly admire. What appeals to you about the project? What was your story like?

The Destroy series has been so phenomenally successful and huge that it’s hard to remember that it started as an announcement that basically went, “You know what?  Screw this.  We’re going to do a thing. Details forthcoming, let us know if you’re in.”  I’m both irritable and prone to scheming wild projects, so an announcement like that is a perfect recipe to pique my interest.  I sent them my info: i actually volunteered to read their hate mail for them since I get a bit of a kick out of getting hate mail.  I have a weekly quota of cackling I have to meet and reading hate mail makes it really easy for me to hit it.

They did not take me up on that offer, but did ask me to write a personal essay for a series they were putting up on their Kickstarter page.  There’s less cackling involved in that sort of support, but I was game.  It’s pretty short and you can still read it online if you want.  It’s mostly about how I found SF at just the right moment for it to assure me that I wasn’t as alone or strange as I thought I was.

What I like most about the Destroy project as it’s grown and developed is how conversations around it have grown and developed.  A lot of voices that were always there, but usually at the edges or hard to go find have been amplified and brought closer to the main stream of the conversation.  That’s the kind of effect that stretches beyond a single anthology or project.  Twenty or thirty years from now, I’ll get to be the pedant droning on in convention hallways about how this and that other thing taken for granted ties back to this project and here see all the ways I can tie them together.  People will humor me and act like I’m being terribly interesting, and when they finally escape, I’ll cackle.  (I’ll probably still have a quota to meet.)

You have an unpublished novel. You quote what John O’Neill had to say about it: “…an unpublished novel set in a gorgeously baroque far future where a woman who is not what she seems visits a sleepy space port… and quickly runs afoul of a subtle trap for careless spies.” Can you tell us more? How did you come up with the idea, and did it surprise you where it went?

That novel was a bit of an experiment.  I had a big, sprawling space opera universe that I’d been building in the back of my head for years while working on other things.  It was time to start actually working on things there, but while I knew a lot about it, things in the back of my head tend to be squishy and hard to work with.  So I decided to do a safety novel first, something that would let me touch on the major set pieces  without any risk of pinning myself in later or breaking something I’d need.

Which meant I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I sat  down.  I knew I wanted a pair of sisters as the protagonists, and I wanted the younger sister to do some protecting of the older sister, then just kept throwing things out there to see what happened.

I’m in the process of re-working on of the plotlines from that novel into a game for Choice of Games.  It’s serving as a learning workhorse for me again because I’m using it to experiment with all the things I learned while doing my first game with them.  Clearly pirates, spies, and snarky computers are the learning tools every modern writer needs in their workshop.

You used to podcast poetry–how do you go about figuring how to give a poem voice?

I hosted the Strange Horizons poetry podcast, but I did as little reading of the poetry as possible; that’s our venue for getting in a variety of voices and it seems to me that if people are particularly invested in my voice, they can get plenty of it in the fiction podcast.

That said, I would step in when we were short on readers or there was a poem that particularly caught my eye.  (Editor’s privilege is a marvelous thing!)  Reading poetry is both easier and harder than reading prose; poems are frequently crafted with a very deliberate ear toward how they sound, which means you’re not likely to find the text dull to interpret vocally.  At the same time, you then have to do justice to the choices made in how the poem was put together, and justify it being you doing the reading rather than any given reader’s interior head voice.  So I look for the tools the poet gave me, then look for the ways I’m best suited to using those tools and build my performance around that.  I’m a complete sucker for consonant clusters and sibilants.

What was wonderful about running the Strange Horizons podcast?

Running the Strange Horizons podcast is fantastic.  I’ve given the poetry podcast over to Ciro Faienza, who was one of our staff readers for the poetry podcast and the single most common provocation of fanmail the podcast has gotten.  That podcast takes a lot of work, and I’d gotten to the point where I was very aware of a lot of ways it could be better, but realistically wasn’t ever going to have the time to implement any of those improvements.  Ciro immediately made some great changes and I’m really looking forward to what he does as he gets into his groove.

The politic, and mostly true, answer to what’s fantastic about doing the fiction podcast is getting to read the stories early and then pull them apart and put them back together in order to give a good reading.  The slightly more true answer, which has been growing over the course of the podcast, is the responses I get to the podcasts from the writers and the audience.  I pretty much only consume short fiction in audio form these days, which leaves me very grateful to all the places that are making it available.  Every time somebody reminds me that I’m one of those people is really great, especially when they’re reminding me because they liked what I did.

But also, I really like getting to pull the stories apart and put them back together.

So, on your website, you claim that the rumors I am a figment of your imagination are compelling. What are those rumors and why are you compelled by them?

I actually exist as a multi-bodied individual quietly working to bring the world under the rule of a mischievous alien intelligence through widespread distribution of coffee and sunlight.  We’ve already conquered most of California and are making great headway in Washington.  Every sip of coffee you take, and every day with bright, clear skies, our agenda advances that much further.

Once, upon being informed of this (it’s no fun to subvert an entire civilization if they don’t know it’s happening – you have to advertise) the person I was warning expressed skepticism about the veracity of my claims.  Apparently, according to them, the very concept of a multi-bodied individual is imaginative speculation and the idea of being one even more so.

There’s not a lot I can do in the face of such claims.  There are people who don’t believe in the moon landing.  There’s not a lot I can do about people who insist on remaining skeptical about coffee and sunshine powered conspiracies.  But I do find such relentless denial of obvious reality to provide a fascinating insight into human psychology, especially when the stakes are this high.

The projects question: got anything you’d like to mention to readers?

The biggest thing I’m in the middle of right now is the Dream Foundry, which is a very cool new organization that’s connecting different types of creative professionals all across science fiction, fantasy, and the rest of the speculative world.  We’re running useful articles on our website and starting up some very fun programming on our forums.  We’ve got really big plans for the future (Contests! Workshops! Assimilation of the entire industry into our standards for compensation and professional conduct!) but we’re already doing some very neat things, which is great for an organization that’s less than a year old.
In the short fiction realm, I just had “For the Last Time, It’s not a Raygun,” come out from Diabolical Plots.  It’s a tiny bit a love letter from me to Seattle, though I’d understand if it looks more like hate mail to some people.
Much larger, my first game with Choice of Games, “Gilded Rails,” came out late last year.  It’s a huge (340k) interactive novel where you’re trying to secure permanent control of a railroad in 1874, during the very early days of the labor movement and age of Robber Barons.  You get to choose between fixing markets or helping out small scale farmers, you’ve got a possibly-demonic pet cat, and a supreme court ruling over inheritance law for a big tent revivalist operation accidentally turned society into a more egalitarian alternate history where just about the entire cast might, depending on what you choose, be female.  Also, I snuck in hot takes about the contemporary theater and poetry scenes, which is exactly the sort of timely, incisive commentary everybody needs in their business sim.  I spent roughly forever, and also an eternity, working on this, so I’m really thrilled to have it out in the world.  It could be said that I’m cackling over it.