Jack Lusted

Science-fiction writer

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Category: sf

Who Am I Writing For?

A silly question perhaps when the answer is myself, but it’s one I’ve been thinking about recently as I work on The Word.

When I first got on the path of seriously writing – that eventually led to Oranje and what I’m working on now – I spent a lot of time online researching serious sci-fi. I visited sites like Atomic Rockets, Rocketpunk Manifesto and read a lot of critiques of literary sci-fi that were going on at the time. Jonathan McCalmont’s Cowardice, Laziness and Irony: How Science Fiction Lost the Future being by far the best example of that.

They’re all excellent website, but I think I approached them wrong, especially the first two. I went to them convinced I had to write serious and realistic sci-fi because…well, I’m not sure why. But I’d convinced myself I needed to and that shaped a lot of the world building I did for Oranje. I realise the end product wasn’t the most accurate, but those sites definitely influenced how I approached it a lot.

And I really don’t know how I got into the position of believing there was one correct way to write sci-fi, or at least the one right way for me to do. Perhaps it was a desire, a need maybe, to be taken seriously, and really that’s the wrong approach.

The only person I’m really writing my books for is myself, and I should write them in a way that makes me happy and that I enjoy.

Those websites I linked are all fantastic resources, Jonathan McCalmont’s essay in particular is incredibly thought provoking, and great tools to use in world buildings. But I should’ve used them to shape a setting that came from what I like in sci-fi.

What is that? What constantly draws me to this genre?

The simple answer I think is that the genre contains so many interesting stories about people which are set in universes and worlds that allow the story to tell us about what it means to be human. Whether that be what it is to love, to hope, or to suffer lose and grief.

Those are the kind of stories I want to write, in a setting that allows me to tell those stories as best as I can.

That is what the United novels are meant to be. Even if The Word is going to cover a lot of the same story I had planned for the September series, it will do it differently and in a way that better reflects who I am as a writer.

Who am I writing for? Myself, and that’s all that any writer can really do.

What Are Colours?

K Tempest Bradford on twitter linked to an post of hers from a few years ago, Mental Noodling About Color, Ancient Peoples, and Alien Races, which got me thinking.

The fact the spectrum of colours we use to describe the world came about fairly recently (really recently when talking about the whole span of the human species) and before then people talked about colour in very different ways. The author Kameron Hurley linked to this page on Ancient Greek Color Vision that says how for the Greeks the words they used to describe colour were more than just about the tone as it were. It was about the qualities they associated with that colour, the texture of it, shadow and many other elements.

Obviously this isn’t something we think about much as we take it for granted that we have this vast vocabulary of words to paint the world around us in. But what if we didn’t? Or, perhaps more interestingly from the perspective of a budding sci-fi writer, what if that changed in the future?

It’s got me thinking about how I talk about the details of the settings in my books. Colours not only describe the world around us but also use them to define it. In stories set a thousand years in the future, where the galaxy as been colonised and interstellar travel is common, wouldn’t our concept of what colours mean have changed?

With space itself being so freaking big, and so black for the most part, I wonder if the old dichotomy of light = good and dark = bad would remain. I’d hope not given the current worrying implications it has towards skin colour but then our society as a whole still needs to deal with the racism that exists today which is something people far more qualified than me have talked about with far greater authority.

It strikes me as a possibility that with a greater part of the population being exposed to space, and with all the changes that spreading across the galaxy would bring, that a new language around colours and how the world is described might evolve, existing words used in new ways to define the world around us.

Definitely something I’m going to think about more and try and develop, but I thought it was interesting enough to share.

Announcing The Word – the first United novel – and the end of Oranje

So I posted here a while ago about a change of plans with my writing. Not the first I’ve had since I finished Oranje, but this should be the last. After it released I began work on the 2nd book in the series – Choices – but stopped when I’d not got very far through the first draft. I felt I needed to work on a different project to improve how I write characters and the flow of my writing.

That project, like the September series Oranje was part of, was going to be a series. This time of three novels rather than four. I outlined and wrote part of a first draft of the opener to that series before deciding I was on the wrong path again.

The issue for me has never been coming up with ideas. Christ I’ve got pages of ideas for stories I want to write. I think that will always be true.

The problem’s been keeping my focus, on finishing whole stories.

Sure I finished Oranje, but it was only the first part in a series. And I know I could always expand my ideas into series after series after series but that’s no use if I don’t truly finish any of them.

What I need is a setting within which I tell a series of standalone stories that are all great on their own, the common setting serving as a link between them all so each can enrich the other by revealing aspects of the back story or universe not covered in the other books.

So without further ado I’m pleased to announce…

The Word, the first United novel:

Three will decide the fate of millions.

War is coming to the region of September, war it cannot predict or prepare itself for without help. But the impending invasion has not gone unnoticed. The Curators, protectors of the Net, have seen the coming storm. They know that millions have died already.

All of September must be warned and an alliance built to fight the enemy that threatens them all.

Three people will be sent out to do this perilous mission. The future of September is theirs to decide.

(the above description is very much rough and work in progress right now but you get the idea).

The United will serve as the setting for a whole bunch of standalone novels that will cover the rise of the United – a nation seeking to unite all of humanity – one thousand years in the future.

But what about Oranje?

Ah yes. As some of you may have noticed the description for The Word above shares quite a few similarities to the story of Oranje.

That’s because it is Oranje really, well it will cover the entire story I meant for the September series in a single book all told from the perspective of Isi and The Three. But don’t expect to see large chunks of Oranje copy and pasted into it, it’s a rewrite from scratch so it’s all new and you’ll see a lot of differences in characters and story.

So what for people who already own Oranje? I’m delisting the book as we speak from the various sites it is currently available on and won’t be available for purchase.

If you bought Oranje you can email me at jacklusted[at]outlook.com and I will send you a free copy of The Word in whatever format you want when it releases. I don’t want anyone to feel ripped off.

The end result of all this should be better books – complete books! – and a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

It’s a big step to take but the right one for me and my writing.

I also intend to be more open with progress on The Word so expect work in progress chapters to appear both here and perhaps on sites like Wattpad once I get to work on the second draft.

I hope you will enjoy this journey with me and thanks for reading.

The SFF community and elitism, screw the concept of ‘true fans’

So there’s been a discussion going on about this article from a publisher at Baen Books. Several people have already written up excellent responses to the slightly nonsensical arguments (Scalzi, Book Smugglers, Foz Meadows) but I thought I’d write up my thoughts as someone who’s history with SFF is very much outside of the core community.

Mainly I’m angry at the idea that there is only one true history of science fiction, and that you need to have been part of it or have read certain people to be a ‘true fan’.

Fuck that noise.

I fell in love with science fiction thanks to television. I’m very lucky that when I was a teenager there were awesome SFF shows on TV almost every day. BBC2 had Roswell, Farscape, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on in the week over the years. Then on Sunday afternoon I’d watch Channel 4 for Stargate, Andromeda and Enterprise.

I then moved onto films, namely Star Wars, and videogames. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic will always hold a special place in my heart. I also read books, early ones were the Foundation series, Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Harry Potter, Discworld.

Since then I’ve read/watched some of the Culture novels, Larry Niven, attempted Revelation Space, Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly etc.

But apparently, none of that makes me a ‘true fan’, as I’ve never read any Heinlein.

Yeah, fuck that.

The SFF community (okay, I’m really generalising here, but there are definitely parts of it which do) often seems to complain that it’s not more respected in the mainstream, and then creates bullshit rules to try and keep people out of the fandom.

The logic, it makes no sense.

Obviously if you read the articles linked at the top there are people who are fighting this view point for good reason. Saying there is a singular history of the genre is a way of dividing people into us and them. Surprisingly the people in the them column often involve those in groups that have often been overlooked or treated badly by the SFF community. Women, POC etc.

Given the nature of science fiction and fantasy, of creating settings and stories for people to engross themselves in, the arbitrary nature of dividing up who is a proper and who isn’t seems to go against that. Surely, in the 21st fucking century, we can have an open an inclusive SFF community as well represented by Nine Worlds and other cons.

It doesn’t matter what or why people like SFF, they should all be welcomed as fans, whether they’re people who can speak Quenya, or others who like the latest Star Trek movies. Trying to build barriers to block people out strikes me as blatant elitism and ‘one true path’ bullshit.

SFF is for everyone, no one gets to decide who is or isn’t a fan.

And isn’t that awesome.

So fuck those who try to build barriers.

Fuck those who try to make people feel bad for not enjoying what they do in the ‘right way’.

Fuck those who use some weird singular history of the genre to continue to try and exclude those who’ve always been underrepresented by it and in it.

You like Heinlein, you’re a fan! You like Star Wars, you’re a fan! Everyone should be welcome.

Let’s keep on working to tear those barriers down.

Oh SFF Community, the SFWA Bulletin Petition

So, to refresh memories, last year there was a big hoo-hah about some pretty sexist issues of the Bulletin, the official mag of the SFWA. I blogged about that here.

Since then, to their credit, the SFWA have made several changes to how the Bulletin works, including improving the editorial oversight process for the mag to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again.

Great right? The SFWA has learnt from the episode has moved forward! That would be my position, but others, it seems disagree.

A petition has started to try and prevent this new editorial process, invoking the First Amendment and other straw men. However, the one that’s going around isn’t the first version that was sent to many writers. Natalie Luhrs over at Radish Reviews has a brilliant post that covers the whole thing.

I think my thoughts can be summed up as follow:

  • That’s a damn long petition to basically say you want to keep on saying sexist crap in the official magazine for an organisation
  • The authors who signed the petition should be ashamed, this is not censorship, this is editorial control, something oh I don’t know EVERY SINGLE NEWSPAPER DOES.
  • I really hope the petition doesn’t come to anything, the changes to the Bulletin are a good thing.

I need to point out that first: the person who started the petition isn’t a SFWA member, but many of signatories are, and second: I’m not a member of the SFWA, just a fascinated outsider.

Sexist attitudes like those shown last year that caused this whole thing, shouldn’t be part of the SFF community in 20-fucking-14. It’s just not acceptable anymore. Steps to make it clear that those views aren’t welcome anymore is good. It’s not censorship, it’s saying your views aren’t welcome here anymore.

For a community that talks so much about the future, it seems to spend a lot of time trying to stay in the past. Efforts to move it forward is good, not attempts to keep it that way.

Sexism, Racism and the SFWA

There has been a bit, well actually a massive fuck ton of controversy around the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) recently. I’ve talked before about how I’m sort of an outsider to the online science-fiction community, hanging around the outskirts and reading some articles but not really involved in it. So I thought I’d share my thoughts on recent events from this perspective.
The events in are summarised in a wonderful post by SL Huang but the gist of them is as follows (largely taken from the link above):

  • An issue of the SFWA bulletin magazine, their official magazine, released with this cover and referring to ‘lady editors’ and their appearance. This caused a bit of a response from people who thought this wasn’t cool
  • The next issue features a column espousing Barbie as a role model as she ‘maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should’. Yeah.
  • In response to complaints about these columns, the people behind the ‘lady editors’ columns spend six pages in the next issue criticizing their complainers as ‘liberal fascists’ and accused people of censorship and being anonymous cowards. This is despite a rather long list of articles with names to them calling them out.
  • Understandably there is a bit of a rage fit in response of people who are very angry. The sexism in the bulletin issues was bad enough but the response pushed many off the edge.
  • The SFWA announced a task force to deal with all this but the online discussion about all this continues.
  • Then racism enters the discussion. Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, writes a response to this great speech by N.K. Jemsin in which he calls her an “ignorant half-savage” and “self-defense laws have been put in place to let whites defend their lives and their property from people, like her, who are half-savages engaged in attacking them.” Link goes to other sites that quote his as I’m not going to link to his.
  • There is another big, and understandable, rage fit on the internet and people call for his removal.

So yeah. Quite a lot of stuff has been going on. I think my summary about the whole issue of sexism, racism and the SFWA can be summed up in the following way:
What the ever loving fuck is going on SFWA, sort it out. It’s the 21st century for fucks sake.

Sexism, misogyny, homophobia and racism have no place in the science fiction community. I’m amazed that for a genre that looks to the future as a whole a large chunk of the community still seems to be stuck in the 70’s. It tells you a lot when John Scalzi, President of the SFWA until recently has come up with his own policy on sexual harassment at conventions as the cons themselves aren’t doing enough.

Seriously, what the fuck.

I mean I applaud his efforts to do something about the issues but why do they exist in the first place? I know that sexism, racism and homophobia are real problems that still need to be dealt with, but the science fiction community, and the SFWA could have done something about that a long time ago.

I realise that this is bigger than just the SFWA, but for the professional organisation for writers in the genre to let such sexist articles go in their official magazine says a lot. Never mind the issue of Vox Day and his membership.

The SFWA is open to anyone who meets its membership requirements which you can find here. As a rule it does not seem to expel members and I have to ask why not? I mean it’s not like Vox Day’s recent racist spiel is his first. That is what he does and it extends to sexist and homophobic rants as well such as saying it would be better for woman to be raped than for them to work. I really wish I was making that up.

The fact he is a member of the SFWA, and got 10% of the vote in the recent election for the President of the organisation, absolutely colours my view of the SFWA as does the sexist columns it has put in its magazine. The fact he has not been kicked out years ago is ridiculous, if he is not kicked out now who knows what kind of message the SFWA is giving out. That it thinks these comments are acceptable for someone who is a part of it?
These issues should be dealt with by the community as a whole, to make it clear anyone who holds these views are not welcome. The SFWA, if it took a stand and kicked out members who post racist and sexist rants could stand as an example of the kind of behaviour and standards that everyone would expect.

So sort it the fuck out SFWA. As someone looking from the outside I’m amazed that these issues have happened. Get rid of Vox Day and anyone else who makes hateful racist, sexist or homophobic comments, and make sure they don’t appear in your official magazines either.

Maybe then you might look like an organisation that is interested in being part of the 21st century.

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