Tag: writing

Cassiopeia Prime, Eden with a Price

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is set on the exoplanet Cassiopeia-Prime. The Mem’s Public Pedia has the following facts to present about it:

Star System – Cadmus

Natural Satellites – Cepheus, Phoenix

Major Settlements –

  • Red City (pop. 18M, Main continental plate)
  • Big Island Interstellar Exchange (pop. 50K, Atlantis undersea plate)
  • Phoenix Station (pop. 3M, Phoenix satellite, orbital)
  • United Farming Territories 1 – 7 (pop. 250K, Main continental plate)

GNP – Corporate exchange (30%); Tourism (25%); Cassiopiean red rye (15%); fish (15%); whiskey (5%); gems and minerals (%5); misc. arts, crafts, and other industries (%5)

History and Culture – Discovered in 2243 and colonized in 2316, Cassiopeia Prime is considered both the most ideal and the most frustrating orbital in all of inhabited space. An “Eden World,” Cass-Prime has Earth-norm conditions with a temperate, stable, level 3 ecosystem and a superior equilibrium which causes even the weather to be predictable. However, only three percent of Cass-Prime’s crust is above sea level and only seven percent of that mass can be developed without risk to the planet’s ecosystem. Although Cass-Prime has always been a part of the New Organization of Federal Banking Worlds, its unique role as a crossroads for commerce, as well as its mix of urban centers and agricultural industries, has given it a greater cultural-political autonomy than most NOFBW bodies, as well as a liberal sensibility and a reputation as a center for the arts.

Red City – Early settlement planning zoned the Main continent’s north-west peninsula for the bulk of human habitation, with a carrying capacity of no greater than 18.6M. Architected in a combined style of Neo-Feng-Shui and Eco-Industrial, and run more-so by its own City Council system than by its assigned NOFBW Controllers, Red City is considered the most livable of all large urban centers.

Red City consists of nine districts, in order of founding: Landing, Shirring Point, Pier, Husson, Hill, Central, West of Central, East of Central, Diamond. NOTE: Due to modern strategies for containing crime, tourists are strongly advised to avoid the Shirring Point area in its entirety.

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

Nemeses, Frenemies, and Kinda Creepy Social Workers: the Antagonists of Daily Life

When I have frustrations I can’t resolve, and don’t know what to do with, I put them into story. In story they can be fixed, or at least examined in a cathartic way. I suspect that’s true of many story-tellers.

The antagonists in Hoshi and the Red City Circuit are less epic evils and more the irritants of daily life, which somehow feel more epic when they are happening to us. Martin Ho, Hoshi’s ex-co-worker “nemesis,” is a composite of a number of co-workers I’ve had. I feel a little bad about that, because some of Martin’s antagonistic traits come from otherwise awesome people I really liked–but my guess is that if I were to appear in their books I, too, might be a bit of an antagonist. I do try to make it up to them by the end.

As far as Luzzie Vai, the best I can guess is that my love and need for antiheroes needed somewhere to go, and since Hoshi, despite her grit, is not an antihero, Luzzie sprang up as her equal and her opposite. I’ve had plenty of frenemies, people I don’t want to like because I don’t trust them, or they are simply awful, but I still have to deal with them. So I find something I can respect about them in order to accomplish what needs to be done–and make sure I’ve got a plan for when that knife lands in the small of my back.

Luzzie and Martin, like Hoshi, are Operators, and they represent choices about disability identity that don’t sit well with me. Luzzie encourages people to hide their disability, to avoid disclosure, which often comes at great cost in health and wellbeing. The drug he pedals is my fictional metaphor for “passing.” Martin is an elitist, the one who feels his difference makes him superior, and he should be given gifts for simply existing. His sense of entitlement is something few us can afford, and can harm our fight for civil rights.

Mai Chandra though–Mai is a direct consequence of my awful experiences with the vocational rehabilitation system in the US, including with an abusive rehabilitation counselor. Fiction can call out reality in ways that reality won’t allow, particularly from disempowered voices. I wish Mai didn’t exist. But she does; some antagonists of daily life can become life-threatening to those of us in vulnerable positions.

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

Power, Allies, and Friendship in Hoshi and the Red City Circuit

Protagonists are defined as much by their interactions with other characters as they are by their own actions. Work-shopping the rough “draft zero” of Hoshi and the Red City Circuit through my writing group, a first-chapter comment went: “That Hoshi chooses to work for a police department that once owned her makes her relationship with Inspector Sorreno really complicated.”

Yes, it does. They are friends, and there is mutual respect. But Sorreno is ever in a position of power as both Police Inspector and normal, and the chasm of lived experience has Hoshi ever-cautious of the distance between them–distance which Sorreno, due to her privilege, is oblivious to. Interacting with allies is often like this in the real world–equals in some ways, but in other ways there will always be a chasm more visible to one side than the other.

About a third of the way through draft zero, my writing group had a new comment: “We’ve seen Hoshi interact with people who have more power than her, and with people who have less power than her, but we haven’t seen her interact much with anyone who is a peer, a friend on even footing. What’s that like? What’s would that reveal about her?”

Kelvin always appeared in the second chapter. Thinking about the peer comment though, I ended up including him throughout the story. Kelvin isn’t an Operator, but he’s not entirely a normal either. He’s like my neurodivergent-but-not-autistic friends, or my friends who would be considered an “autistic cousin” as they are closer to my end of the spectrum. He’s an amalgam of a bunch of people I like, and was named after the only person at my baby sitter who was ever a friend to me. His engineering whimsy delights me. He has been marginalized for his occupation, and for his borderline Operator-ness, and for where he chooses to place his loyalties. The chasm of lived experience doesn’t divide them, although they are maligned (and revered) for different reasons; Kelvin is a fiercely wise choice of a friend.

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

Reading at Another Read Through 9/20/2018: Neurodivergent Queer Heroes

Join me at Another Read Through for a reading from my science fiction mystery novel Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, as well as conversation about my neurodivergent, disabled, and queer heroes; cool tech; systems science; and cantankerous detectives. I’ll have books available to sign and buy.

Date: 9/20/2018
Time: 7:00 PM
Place: Another Read Through, 3932 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR

Here are links to the venue’s FaceBook event and event calendar.

Stop by and support a lovely local bookstore!

Accessible Detectives and Recasting the Noir Investigator as a Tiny Espresso-swigging Woman

I created Hoshi Archer because I was in trouble. I wanted to write the two-part epic of the end of Operator enslavement, narrated by an unreliable, drugged-up, mega-star anti-hero, but after ten years of wanting I still couldn’t write narration anyone understood, let alone liked. So, in an equal an opposite reaction of frustration, I thought, Fuckit I’m going to create a reliable first-person narrator who is easy to love.

Hoshi Archer began as an exercise in what makes an accessible character with a reason to tell their story. Detectives are great because they notice things–accurately–and they have a reason to deliver exposition. It’s easy to sympathize with nice people who have been through mean circumstances, yet retain their niceness. Sympathetic characters love something. The reader shares their aims. And they have humor–or at least a voice that is delightful or beautiful to read. The glitch being that as an Operator Hoshi isn’t wired like most readers; she’s neurodivergent and that makes her less straight-forwardly like them. But at least I wasn’t also dealing with heavy anti-hero stuff on top of that. Maybe I could learn something.

Hoshi is a re-imagining of the hard-boiled detective as a small woman who downs espresso instead of whisky, and has little social privilege. How would Sam Spade have been different if he’d had to worry about being the victim of a hate crime? How would Mike Hammer have been different if he had a stigmatized disability? How would Philip Marlow have been different if he relied on assistive technology to survive?

After growing up with little power over her life, shifting social policy “allows” Hoshi to be a detective instead of a programmer. She is in love with her city, despite its cruelty toward Operators. She can manipulate information systems with her mind, and lives in constant fear of losing everything. She shares my hatred of furniture. She’s the first character I ever had readers love as much as I did. Because doing so is in her nature (whether she’ll admit to it or not), Hoshi got me out of trouble.

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

Heroes Like Me: Neurodivergent Protagonists in Hoshi and the Red City Circuit

Growing up, the closest thing to a hero like me was Charles Wallace in Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time. Outsider characters sometimes came close–psychics and rebels, like Katie in Willo Davis Robert’s book The Girl with the Silver Eyes, which I re-read into pulp. Of course there were many heroes I loved–like Ged in Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea–but none of them were like me. They were like the majority of readers, and I am…not.

I cannot overstate the psycho-social impact of having no heroes who share your race/gender/ethnicity/religion/sexuality/abilities. Sometimes, maybe, if you’re lucky you’ll get a villain, a “magical cripple,” or some poor, unfortunate stakes character whose purpose is to pity or turn a plot point. But never a hero. The underlying message is: people like you are never heroes. And then, the usual cascade of oppressions: you have less value, less agency, less virtue, less power, less less less. You will never be the hero in your own story or anyone else’s, but here’s a penny for your cup, now don’t you go scaring us you hear?

So, um, fuck that? I want stories with heroes like me. Preferably written by people like me. And since there really aren’t m/any, I will make them.

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is set in a world where neurodivergent characters experience both immense power in their ability to control the interstellar network of quantum computers, and immense disempowerment through centuries of institutionalized oppression. Although the neural kink experienced by my characters is fictional, it is based on the way some of us experience autism. There are a number of complex reasons why I wrote this book, but one of the heaviest drivers was the need for neurodiverse characters in fiction to be taken from the margins into the center. Not as villains, not as charity or magical-cripple plot-points-of-convenience, or as faddish literary devices (I’m looking at you oh Curious Incident and all the harm you bring), but as protagonists.

In Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, the story’s hero, her best nemesis, and her worst frenemy are neurodivergent. They are heroes like me.

And maybe like you too?

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, from Powell’s City of Books, or ask at your local bookstore.

My Novel is Released!


I released a book today!!!

I am HOLDING a copy of a novel I wrote and some fabulous people (thank you Autonomous Press and Argawarga Press!) liked enough to edit and put into print. I am more proud of this than anything I’ve ever done.

I hope you enjoy it

Paperback and ebook available from autpress.com; free ebook with paperback purchase! Also available in paperback and Kindle from amazon.com, or ask at your local bookstore.

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit: Serial Murder & Cyberpunk with an Alien Psychic Twist

In a far future, on the cusp of a major civil rights movement, a private investigator whose disabilities aid her in her investigations must stop a serial killer while political forces manipulate her for control of her beloved city.

It’s said, “write what you know,” but I say, “write what you love.” Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is a love song to my favorite stories, from early devourings of Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew, to later walks down William Gibson’s Sprawl and Blade Runner’s gritty, neon streets.

It is a full-hearted call-out to the silenced and the weird, to the people like me who never see themselves the hero of the book because they are disabled, or queer, or otherwise pushed to the margins and told to stay. It is a love song to those of us who say, “no, I won’t stay; I have something beautiful to chase beyond your walls!”

It is an ode to cities where I’ve wandered: from the towers of New York to the parks of one Portland and the seaports of another.

As far as the alien psychic twist…Anne McCaffery imprinted me early with her alien psychic dragon companions. But mix that with darker companions, echoes of Madeline L’Engle’s ecthrohi, Ged’s shadow in A Wizard of Earthsea, and the utter alienness of Lovecraftian horrors. My beloved cities, too, have spirits, each a unique, flavored personality. What if we could talk to our cities? What might my city, constant companion who enfolds me, say? Would she be light or dark, or, likely, both?

Lastly, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit is a love song to a world I hope we are still trying to build, one which is unafraid to explore power and privilege, and dis/ability and social norms, as both Hoshi and the city–as we–struggle to come to terms with a more justly integrated society.

Paperback and ebook order through autpress.com; free ebook with paperback order! Also available on amazon.com.

Hoshi and the Red City Circuit – Pre-order Available NOW! Instant free ebook!

Hooray! My science fiction mystery novel, Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, is available for paperback preorder through autpress.com! Ebook available now for immediate download; free ebook with paperback preorder.

Due to their unique neurology, only the enslaved Operator caste can program the quantum computers that run 26th century Red City. When three of the caste are ritually murdered, it’s up to private investigator Hoshi Archer—herself a recently liberated Operator—to help the police solve the case. Things get complicated when one of the victims turns out to be Hoshi’s ex-girlfriend, power-hungry bureaucrats and old rivals stir up new problems, and an immortal, amoral alien may even be involved. To unwind the plot to take over the city, Hoshi must decipher a deadly computer program and learn to communicate with the alien, before it’s too late for the next victim—and the city.

No time to read the first page? Try the animated version! (WARNING – some images flash by quickly)

Short Story in Spoon Knife 3 Anthology

I am jump-up-and-down-flappingly giddy to announce that I’ll have a SF short story, “Heat Producing Entities,” in this year’s Spoon Knife Anthology! The anthology is likely to come out in May.

If you haven’t picked up copies of the previous anthologies, they are large, diverse, and wonderful–written by-and-for those of us who are neurodivergent, queer, non-gender-norming, disabled, mad, and often excluded from literature. I reviewed last year’s here. I am so excited for anthology #3, and so thrilled to be a part of it this year!

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Portland, Oregon