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Mid Pandemic Musing

You can read too much news. I confess I’m a news addict but I don’t watch it on the square screen thank god. If you have a progressive outlook on the world and what we can become as humans then the world right now is depressing, sometimes overwhelming. It seems there is a fight over ideas, about what the basic rights of humans are and you get the picture. Throw Covid 19 in and that’s some foul smelling liquid right there.

We lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week and as happens when someone famous dies and you get to read a bit about their life. RBG’s life was amazing. There was someone who had the brains, the will and seized every opportunity. I am awed at what she achieved, starting out in a male dominated world.

Along a similar theme, I’m ready The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal and I’m being blown away by how many contemporary notes it is hitting. It reminds me of Hidden Figures a lot, except Hidden Figures was set in the real world. The Calculating Stars is an alternate past in the same era. It picks up a lot of the themes from Hidden Figures, although the protagonist is white Jewish but she mingles in the world of black America in the rocket flying world and women ‘computers’. It goes deep into the established misogyny of the period, as well as the tech, the social mores and fashion and also discusses anxiety and how it is viewed by others. It also discusses climate on this planet. I haven’t finished it yet. I’m listening to it on Audible and the author reads the story herself and I find it enchanting. No wonder it won awards!

Both of these…the passing of RBG and The Calculating Stars remind me of the remaining misogyny alive today and the fight for women to be considered human, to be equal to have a say about our bodies and our reproductive rights is still ongoing. We can’t be complacent and let laws change and go back to the way they were.

There are positives arising from being socially isolated. Not many I agree, but one that gave me pause was the stop with the travel, the spending, the doing. I don’t have a high income but all of a sudden I had some money. First I spent it to help keep companies going. Books, toys etc. But it also made me realise how focused on consuming we are. That’s the basis of our economy. Spend, spend, buy, buy, produce, produce. The pandemic gave that a big shock. I knew this before, of course, but I couldn’t think of an alternative way as it seemed to me that we were so caught up in this capitalist/consumerist merry go around that we couldn’t get off. And now we were shoved off. I think we should hesitate before getting back on. In some ways we won’t have a choice. If like me you travel overseas on discounted fares…well I’m not sure there will be cheap trips for many years. I even wonder if I’ll be able to travel again. My son is flying out with his daughter back to overseas employment. His flights were $5000 each for economy seats. That’s a flight that might have been say $1200 return previously. I’ll try to be optimistic but I’m also being a realist.

Another aspect of being forced to stay home was the focus on the home and on family. Not only was there iso baking but iso gardening. But beware of watching too many Do It Yourself Videos. To some extent a focus on what was important. In Canberra, and in this house, we had a death, a passing of a loved one, bushfire smoke that made me think the apocalypse was here and we were forced to stay inside, then a ravaging hailstorm that wreaked havoc, actual fire threat and then Covid-19. This has happened elsewhere too. Parts of the USA are experiencing the fires, on top of the Covid-19. It is a trial.

It is hard to focus on the future, on dreams. For me though I’m focussing as much as I can on things I can control. My weight, my health, my family and so on. I had a bit of glitch last week as my GP didn’t want to refer me to the specialist about my knees but she did refer me for an xray. Today she referred me to the specialist as my xray showed issues that weren’t there before. I am happy with that but for a few days I thought she had taken control away from me and I reacted to that. I pay for private health cover these days so I have control over when things happen. So I’ll move forward on that at my own pace.

Creative wise I’ve stalled (again). I’m reading and stuff but I was disrupted last week (mostly due to the knee issues) and I haven’t put my feet on the ground yet. I’ve been socialising too, almost to pre pandemic levels. It’s weird. I’m going to visit a friend this afternoon for a cuppa and then in the morning I have pool exercise with another friend. Next week I am visiting Bourke with my son and a couple of my grandkids before he leaves.

What a year it has been. Nearly the end of September. Wow.

The happy spot

After two posts of angst, I can now say I found a happy spot. Yesterday, I started on a new project-a middle grade book and I just felt all warm and happy inside. I was creating something new and it felt good. I wrote near 4000 words. I had written some notes on this idea when in England last year so I could just start writing it.

I did do some work on the Phd, appendices but not serious work. However, it did advertise to me that I really missed writing fiction. I still have revisions and stuff on other projects but I think I can do more than one thing at a time. Revisions on fiction, taking up edits on the exegesis and write something new.

I’m not actively hunting for more agents so that’s one less thing off my mind. I have many outstanding queries that will work themselves out over the next few months.

I started to tie up the loom today. It’s my first time on the floor loom and my back hurt but it’s a start. I’m still having trouble getting the winding of the thread just right so it is easy to thread through the heddles in the right order. But a start.

Today I’ve been going over what I wrote yesterday on:

Grandma Neebs : Through the pantry door.

It’s probably a ‘no no’ to go over the previous draft, instead of keeping on writing but I want to get the point of view right. I’m trying to get close in point of view, and the tone right. I think it’s helping. Also, I tend to rush through the plot because I have a voice in my head saying ‘don’t bore people’ but really I need to make the magic of the siblings work and let Grandma Neebs shine. I’m up to 5000 words now. Big smile!

That’s it for me. I’m in a happy place, focussed and working.

I was chatting to my son this morning. He’s working remotely at the moment and has been since February. He works in the games industry and was up until midnight working and then played games until 1.30am. My comment was-you’re lucky you are passionate about your work.

And then I thought, why aren’t I feeling passionate at the moment? When I’m passionate about something, I can’t stop doing it.

I’m feeling flat and conflicted and I need to think about where my passion is.

I’ve been querying agents and that’s a passion killer for sure. The hope entailed in querying agents is not a passion killer. It can excite and motivate. However, it does take time and focus. Being a possible ADHD person, I get a little hyper focused. Lol. Maybe my passion is all hyper focus and I’m deluded.

I’ve put a damper on querying new agents at this time. The ones I have queried will wind up by December and then if it’s all a bit zero, I’ll think of my next steps for the Phd novel in the new year. I’m going to write down a strategy. It’s not a good time to try to sell something different! This was said to me by someone in the know and I think this is the spark to my downward spiral. I appreciate the bluntness and then I have to deal with the fallout. Even though I tell myself. It’s just this one book. You have others drafted and good ideas for new ones. Don’t sweat it.

But I do sweat it.

I don’t know how people can write and then try to sell their work. I mean it takes so much time, energy and focus that I can barely do anything else. That’s why agents are good (if you can get one) because they sell your books, in theory. But this is only part of my issue.

I’m in PhD land and I will get back to the next draft of the exegesis next week and that will last until December. I think I will find my passion there again once I warm up because I’m closer to the end!

I have a weaving project that I have yet to attack with gusto, a garden project that we will start working on again on the weekend and a few novels in need of revision and lots of ideas bubbling away. Distracting maybe? Actually having manuscripts to revise are a mixed bag of guilt and a kind of treasure. Guilty because you haven’t looked at them in years. Fear because you know how much work you need to get them to a publishable level and a bit of smug because you have WIP that you can whip out and sell or publish if you want. But the weight of guilt and workload do put a dampener on writing a new project. NaNoWriMo is coming up and I’m like I could start a new project! And my dizzy brain trucks out these unfinished ones and points. See those? Finish these you lazy cow!

Yesterday, I did work on a revision for a couple of stints (I’m nearly a third of the way through this SF Romance), and did a bit on the weaving project (dressing the loom is the physically difficult part) and bought things for the garden project (that I’m hoping other people will do the work), but I’m still feeling flat but not quite a lizard drinking flat.

You think I would be happy I achieved something right? No! Because it’s not good enough! I’m never good enough. I can always do better or more. Don’t you love that internal voice, the purveyor of doom, the blame-o-meter?

Is it just Covid-19, the state of the world (being into post-apocalyptic fiction the current world news is fuelling my imagination in a bad way) or just a personal down?

I told myself yesterday that at least I wasn’t on the couch watching the screen all day but really that’s not much of a pat on the back.

I love being passionate, being in the moment and zinging along with what I’m doing. It’s like a drug! A high.

But really writing is all about hard work. I love first drafts, revisions are okay if the ideas are still coming and third drafts are hard work but so important and part of the crafting. I think this is a stage where I always start getting new ideas and being frustrated. I start devising ways to work on multiple projects and I know this doesn’t work. To work on the second draft of the exegesis I had to do only that. No writing anything else. I had to let it fill up my mind so all I was doing was thinking about that. And because I haven’t finished the damn Phd yet, I can’t really start a new project. Hah! That’s definitely a problem for me.

Maybe I need one of those ‘what am I grateful? for moments. I’m in good health (except the knees!), my family are in good health, Canberra where I live has no active Covid-19 cases, we can go out (within reason and socially distance) and our incomes are pretty secure. We’ve just put a deposit on an EV car that should be here in 6 months. I should be disco dancing in the shower! I’m grateful for all of that but no dancing today.

I’m a confessed passion junkie! Or as my friend Alisa said to me last year-you know you’ve got ADHD right? And the light went on, but that passion junkie aspect is so much a part of me and I miss being deep into something. Even if it was just like five minutes ago when I stopped.

The thing is I’m looking for passion somewhere external but it’s in me. Circumstances conspire to dampen my passion and I need to realise it will be there when I want it, that I haven’t lost it–it’s on a short break. And it’s normal to be floaty between projects or periods of frenetic activity. It’s a natural balancing act that lets my passion ferment so I have some for the next thing, the next shiny thing, that I focus on.

I need to stop searching for my passion because it’s in me. There are plenty of things I am passionate about and that’s probably my issue. Too many things. Too many exciting things and only one lifetime.

It’s the time of the pandemic. I’m not the only one to be swiped sideways with fear, with forced solitude and a mind that switches from baking to apocalyptic thoughts with each breath.

I try (am trying, will continue to try and tried) to be positive, to switch this situation into an opportunity. I managed to focus and work hard for weeks on my second draft of my PHD exegesis. Yay me! And then I decided to go on a short break for August an possibly into September. And that’s the snag. Freedom!

So from previous posts you can see I haven’t wasted my time completely (although that remains to be seen) as I’ve been querying agents in a time of turmoil, economic disruption and so on…Just so we are clear about the odds of success. This is not my issue. It’s being able to switch between tasks. Can I query an agent, work an hour on a WIP, do a bit of family history research and weave for an hour in a day? No!

I get into a groove so it’s only querying agents for hours…or going down a family history research wormhole. I bake bread but that’s about it. Why can’t I be focussed on other things too? I’m going to say here that I should do a schedule because I’m pretty good at sticking to them when I’m committed. But there’s the hitch. Commitment!

But maybe I’m being to hard on myself because I’ve got ideas. Ideas for new projects and they are good ones. One I’ve drafted an outline for, another is an idea I’ve had for years and suddenly got more ideas for so it’s actually starting to be a plot.

Why don’t I write the damn things? Give myself permission?

And that’s my issue. I’ve got excuses.

I’ve other projects in various states of progress. A first draft that needs a revision from scratch, a revision that I nearly finished last year that I started again, another novel that needs to be restructured into a duology, another project waiting to be revised. All these are novel length.

I used the excuse before that I must focus on the PhD until it’s done but you know I waste a lot of time not doing things. I’m not tutoring this semester and I’m probably not likely to get any more in future so the excuse that I’m brain dead or exhausted isn’t there. I’m home most of the time. What is my damn problem?

I feel I can’t go forward until I get this backlog addressed. But that’s probably not the right attitude. If I am thinking of selling then I should write the book that I think is the most commercial, the one most likely to succeed.

I was just chatting to my son about this and he was right in pointing out that it is the finishing that’s important. I like drafting novels but the hard part is the revision, the thinking, the reworking. And the more your write, the better you become.

I think this calls for a bit of soul searching. A bit of tapping into my passion and enthusiasm. I think I’m looking for hope as we all are. Maybe instead of a schedule I should set a number of time based goals. One hour of this, one hour of that and see how that goes. Yeah. I’m going to do that and see how it goes.

To continue on from the last post about querying agents. I have for the first time in my life queried fifty agents (and counting). While things are yet to play out from the queries, the first swathe of the rejections or passes and the silences have happened. Silence is where the agent says if I want anything more I’ll let you know and forget about it after two weeks etc.

I have a strategy (somewhere in my brain) and some dot points to motivate me through this potentially soul-destroying process. The big question is what if I query 100 agents and not one asks for a partial? What does this mean? I think I’ll come to that when it comes but in this climate and with this book that might happen.

So the dot points for motivation to myself.

Someone will be interested in your book (agent, publisher etc)

One agent said submit something else so do that (I have others stuff)

It’s a tough time (all round)

I can submit again in six months (as I’m not in a big hurry this might be a thing)

After all the agents have passed, I can submit to publishers that accept unsolicited submissions.

Look out from some competitions to enter the book in (but check all the copyright stuff before you do)

Bear up! Keep working!

You can always think about revising the beginning.

Meanwhile I keep working and readings and focusing on the phd.

That leads me to what I’ve been reading (I’m also listening to books as well).

J D Robb ‘In Death’ series.

I love this series so much. J D Robb (Nora Roberts) always lives up to expectations. A flawless read to my mind.

I have just started Apprentice in Death and that’s like book number 43 I think. Brotherhood in Death, the previous book dealt with some pretty strong issues and attacked I think the college boy rape culture privilege. The murders were horrific and the descriptions made me squirm.

Why does Eve Dallas appeal to me as a character? We she’s strong, smart and dedicated for starts. I remember when I started the series back in 2000, how amazed and admiring I was of Robb to be discussing child sexual abuse and the things that happened to Eve Dallas as a child. At first it was a slow unpealing of the abuse, the revealing of layers of stuff hidden from her own mind and the nightmares as each book came out.

I started the series again as part of general reading for the PhD. In the later books, her past gets a mention in every book. The character of Dallas is a survivor of some pretty horrific stuff and sometimes the crime she investigates triggers internal conflict, more nightmares. New York to Dallas was a particular grind for both the main characters.

I like the character of Eve for many reasons but there are some kick arse ones. I think the books are very feminist and also challenge gender norms. Dallas, for instance, prefers to be called ‘Sir’ rather than ‘Ma’am’. If you compare to Janeway in Star Trek Voyager she preferred Ma’am or Captain but not sir,

Eve Dallas doesn’t do girl. It’s alien to her and I find that funny but also interesting. She is attractive and often has to get dressed up for functions with Roarke, but she doesn’t get shopping, do shoes, think about makeup and handbags. The handbag curiosity always has me laughing. She wonders what her friends put in this handbags like elephants. Dallas likes to look good when it’s called for but it’s not a priority, as it’s frivolous. Consider the way in which she treats Trina and the goop. It’s amazing they don’t tie her down to the chair in order to give her a facial.

Some of the in death books made me cry. When Crack’s sister died and he’s viewing the body. Sob! When Roarke meets his aunty in Ireland. Sob!

Issues that I think Robb does well or that are interesting in her future world are that guns are outlawed. Cops use stunners. It doesn’t mean people don’t kill but there isn’t this right to carry arms like there is now. Considering how the USA is with this right now, I think this particular concept is revolutionary. She has a past where there were urban wars and boy I can see this happening soon the way things are going in the here and now.

The other thing she has in this world is professional parenting payment. It recognises the main carer (not always the mother) is doing a job and gets a payment for it. I like that a lot.

There is tech-such as a device that identifies victims and another that estimates time of death. They also have’ seal it’, a substance that stops contamination of the scene. Although, criminals use it, too. Generally buildings have security but these are often compromised or removed during a crime. I don’t see a lot of surveillance cameras in Robb’s future New York in the streets etc. At times some shops might have some of the street, or a loading zone will have some. So nothing along the lines of what they have in the UK-there are cams everywhere. I often read the books and think what about surveillance cameras?

I don’t know how Roberts is so prolific. I read she has a work ethic and I am ashamed I’m not as busy as she is. I know don’t how she does it, but I’m glad she does.

Writers write and they then need to find readers by being published somehow.

Right now I’m trying to get an agent for my PhD book. It’s a crap shoot as they say. I’ve tried this before in the past with other books. My first, Relic, which I never published but did kind of get an agent for but then decided to part ways mostly because the book was flawed. Then I tried for Dragon Wine and got feedback but no representation until after I cut a deal. I had an agent for Ruby Heart and the book never sold. So here I am trying again.

What is different this time?

My mental state

My preparation

The amount of resources available to assist.

Let’s start with my mental state. I still have impostor syndrome as usual but I’m not in the ‘I’m not worthy’ mindset I had early on in my writing and believe me it is not good to query agents when you are thinking like that because there are rejections and there is silence and that doesn’t help at all. It can make you depressed or at least reinforce those feelings. And there are reasons for rejections that have nothing to do with you or your work. Of course, there are rejections that have to do with your work (not you personally) and your query letter too, but we will assume not.

You might ask why am I querying now? I’ve been there and done that. Well I think I’ve written a break out novel. It’s a novel I would not have written without the research I’ve been doing with my Phd candidature in creative writing. However, I also believe it is going to be a hard sell because it’s different. I have to believe there is an agent out there who will understand it, or if that doesn’t work a publisher. Also, I’m not in a damn hurry. I’m not racing at this as if I need to publish this before I die as I did in the early days.

The bottom line is I accept I may not get an agent or a big five publisher but trying for it costs me nothing but my time and a little battering to my ego. I accept the worst case scenario. I say this but it doesn’t mean I have no hope or I’m not a stack of nerves and so on. This is a mental position I’m trying to maintain through the next few months.

My preparation is not just preparing my brain. The manuscript is written, edited, and checked again. I also had a sensitivity read done by a non-binary reader, which was really helpful and informative. I’m not saying that I won’t tackle the manuscript again and try to refine it. I think it’s good as it can be at the moment but if I get enough rejections where the query includes the first pages then I’m thinking I might have to look again.

I also had an idea who the top agents are so I had somewhere to start. I also prepped a spreadsheet, started to work on my query letter (after some quick research) and a synopsis. I also changed the labelling on my spreadsheet from ‘rejection’ to ‘pass’ because no one needs to see ‘rejection’ all the time to reinforce those negative feelings. Despite the mental preparation discussed previously, there are negative feelings. Such as this other person I know got an agent and I haven’t so my work must suck type thinking. Yeah, forget that stuff. You don’t know what they did, what they wrote, what the agent was looking for, what gap there was in the market or whether their book sold or will sell – so forget that crap. This is what I tell myself too.

What is also different this time is that there are a lot more resources out there to help you write a query, find an agent, research an agent and so on. I have a link to Agentquery.com on this site. I have used it before and it’s a start. My problem was that there were so many agents that I didn’t know anything about and whether or not I should approach them.

I went to an intensive writing workshop last year in Dublin. David Farland suggested that we sign up to writer’s marketplace and use the information on deals to target agents who are selling our genre, selling the big deals and so on. He made me believe it was possible for the first time in my life. Okay, maybe that was on overreaction but yeah…here I am trying it out. I’ts $25 US a month and you can quit anytime.

I did some quick research on the internet to refresh my mind about how to write a query letter. I sent out two queries to my top agents. Probably a big mistake because I needed to do more work on my query letter. Thank god I didn’t sent a shit query to 100 agents. My partner, Matthew, suggested I look at Query Shark and I’m all well I know what I’m doing but I did go there and on my God! That Janet knows her shit. I’ve read most of the archive and I learned heaps even about writing because the tips she gives apply to all writing. I’ve done 9 versions of my query letter, in addition to some agents that ask for things to be done differently. I’ve also sighed up for Query Tracker because it’s free and if I want to upgrade it’s like $25 US per year. I still have a spreadsheet and I’m keeping that.

Next thing is go to each agent’s website and read about which agent you should target for querying. Some of the good ones are closed to new queries and I’m like damn, so I either query someone else at that agency or leave them for another round. That sent me to Twitter to follow all the agents I could find because they often say it there first when they are open again. There is no shortcut here, you must do this: don’t just blanket send your query to everyone because they all require something different. Just a query letter or Query letter and synopsis, Query letter and sample pages, query letter and fifty pages as an attachment, no query letter just a synopsis etc. A few agents are using Query Manager forms and at least that way you get an email or you can check the link.

The bottom line here is there is no excuse not to write a good query letter and follow the requirements because the information is there and free. There are also blog interviews with agents and manuscript wish lists that can help.

I have been reading a lot of these agents’ pages and some I think I’d really like to work with them but I’m not getting my hopes up because there are many reasons why I might not get where I want to go. Not least is the current pandemic situation and the precarious economics surrounding that. Publishers Marketplace are publishing deals so I know they are happening but many may have been in train for some time and some new deals follow the market like non fiction books about Covid 19 and political memoirs etc.

I don’t know about you but I can’t bring myself to write a post-apocalyptic novel right now because we are living very close to one so I think it will be hard to sell one.

Years ago I tried to make a goal of getting 50 rejections because that meant I would have queried 50 agents. I think I stopped around 12 because I couldn’t cope. This time I might take 100 queries before I give up or am successful. My current count is 40 queries. I try to do a couple each day. I’m also trying to revise another project because I’m taking a short break from the exegesis. All this activity will wind back when I get back onto the PhD in September.

I’ve made mistakes too, even when trying to be careful. Called one agent by the wrong name, left out the sample pages, said something really stupid and so on.

The other thing to think about is the questions to ask an agent if they offer to represent you. At first I was dumbfounded. Then I tried to think up a few things. Agent Jim McCarthy has a tweet linking to a post on this. They are good questions.

Also I should note that this approach does not take away from the Indie publishing. It’s perfectly all right to choose that path if that’s what you want. I just think that this Phd Book won’t suit.

Apologies for my absence. I’ve been head down working on the second draft of my exegesis to a deadline. The deadline was my supervisor going on long service leave until early 2021 and so if I wanted his feedback I had to get the damn thing drafted by mid-July. Phew! I made it.

The novel for my Phd was mostly done before, but I had a sensitivity read by a non-binary person and managed to make some changes while checking over the manuscript. For the purpose of the PhD that novel is done. It’s parked until it’s time to submit and copy edit etc. This means I am now free to try to shop it around. If it sells there will be two versions. The one I’ve parked won’t change and there will be a published version.

I’ve started the ball rolling on selling the novel. I have to mentally prepare for rejections and silence. On the bright side, I have a bit more time to work at a slower pace on the third draft of the exegesis so I’m taking a short break to work on other projects. I’ve been dabbling in family history and that’s so addictive. It’s like a puzzle game. I’ve had to stop now or so I tell myself. And I’m working on a science fiction romance I drafted years ago and I hope to get that into shape for submitting or publishing before I have to get serious with the PhD again. I have a few novels in progress and one I should be drafting but I can’t do it all with a PhD on the boil.

I’ve started the intermittent diet because wow social isolation, iso baking and sitting on my arse! Oh dear. I may not succeed but as I’m getting older, the weight just goes on quickly.

My son has been staying with us and hopefully will be able to return home to China soon. He works and lives there. It has been lovely to have him around and he cooks too so ‘oh dear’.

I’m hoping that y’all are coping okay with the pandemic restrictions. I feel like I don’t have friends anymore. It’s weird. There’s Facebook and stuff but it still feels distant and strange. The restrictions in Canberra are easing but with the outbreak in Victoria and New South Wales I can’t help but be fearful and careful about exposure. It is also gut wrenching when I come up against the Covid-19 conspiracy stuff. I’ll just not start on that.

I chose not to participate in the New Zealand World con, mostly because I was head down and busy but I anticipated stress so bowed out. I was a member but I didn’t attend. I’m sad for New Zealand. What a blow!

This time last year I was at David Farland’s fantasy workshop in Dublin the week before Worldcon.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with a picture of this bread I made. I sort of made up the recipe and the method. I used a biga (preferment) but only a part day but man did it get big. Bigger than my head.

Still here

Sorry to be so absent. I’m buried in PhD land at the moment. I’m hoping to get a break from it next week, when I send this draft up the line. There will be other drafts, but not as rushed as this. My supervisor is going on long service leave so I have a deadline. Covid19 sent me into a bit of a tizz and I couldn’t focus and so on.

I’m behind on saying things. Black lives matter!

I’m experimenting with different methods of sourdough, which is fun.

I’m staying home as much as I can. I was going to go to Ikea on Sunday to check out kitchens and then rethought that move. It would be crowded and so I postponed.

My major sin this week is forgetting my older sister’s birthday. First time in my life!

I hope to catch up with meaningful content soon.

Keep well.

I haven’t done a review in a while and those that I have done for other websites and magazines over the years are gone  from the web. I did download a whole lot of them with the view to put them here but I haven’t got around to it.

I enjoyed The Interdependency Trilogy a lot. I’m sort of writing this as a form or procrastination from working on my Phd exegesis. Here goes.

The Last Emperox (Audible Edition)

By John Scalzi

Performed by Wil Wheaton

I had been hanging out for this third book in the Interdependency Trilogy so I was keen to listen to it. Published in April, 2020, I was entertained by the Audible Version. Wil Wheaton was excellent as the narrator and performer of the characters. I enjoyed listening to the Last Emperox so much that I immediately went back to listen to the whole series again. Combined, Scalzi’s words and Wheaton’s performance was so good that I want to buy the print versions as well to add to my collection, just so I can savour this series.

Scalzi has outdone himself. I understand that the MRAs (The men’s rights activists) the sad and very sad puppies, are against Scalzi’s stand as a feminist, as a social justice warrior and as an science fiction author. Well he has stuck it to them with this series with the content as it contains a lot of things that those detractors hate and apparently he earned big bucks from it. I feel like cheering here.

The Interdependency Trilogy is a critique of the globalised Neo-liberal capitalist society. At least that is what I thought it was. In addition, it is feminist or at least I read it that way. The heroes are female and the dastardly baddy is a female. Also, most of these leading characters are descended from people of colour. Cardinia Wu-Fitzpatrick’s paternal line is from China originally. She is Emperox Grayland II, a shy, sensitive and passionate leader, thrust into power and who unlike the rest of the court, cares about the everyday people. Feisty, sweary Kiva Lagos’s family were from West Africa and she just powers through the narrative, starting out a little self centred and self serving and focussed on profit but then learning how to try monogamy and developing a social conscience. I’m not sure where the villainess, Nadashe Nohamapeten’s family descend from but the name sounds exotic enough to complete the picture. There are male characters in the series but they aren’t the big characters sketched by Scalzi in the starring roles. There’s Lord Marce, the mathematician, sensitive and normal and Grenny (sp) Nohamapeten, the arch villain who is barely competent and the puppet of his sister, Nadashe. He’s stuck on the planet End in the last part of the trilogy.

The Last Emperox was a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. To my mind, Scalzi has some great ideas and also great characterisations combined with narrative grace. His work is accessbile. He’s does not appear to be trying to dazzle the reader with heavily constructed or artistic prose, but rather telling a fast paced narrative, with lots of reminders of key events so the reader doesn’t have to remember too hard about what happened. At times, these reminders serve a dramatic purpose, even comedic, when the baddy, for example, doesn’t understand why someone doesn’t want to join the new scheme.

With the Interdependency, Scalzi has built a system of interconnected systems that depend on ‘the Flow,’ a naturally occurring space/time phenomenon to interact, trade and so on. A number of times, Scalzi points out in the series that you can’t go faster than the speed of light, but the Flow allows this travel. Not a worm hole, but maybe something like a series of them, but not just allowing passage between different points in the systems, but also playing around with time as well. The crunch is that the Flows are collapsing and that these systems that are so interdependent won’t be able to continue as normal but they will die out as the various worlds are in systems that can’t support life, except for the planet End.

I was listening to The Last Emperox and the whole series in April/May while in social isolation. It was really profound. In The Last Emperox, the interdependency is going through a crisis, on the verge on the collapse and the leaders of the great houses were in denial, more denial and even more denial and then they panicked. When Scalzi wrote this there wasn’t a hint of pandemic and that our globalized economy would suffer from a major disruption. So in the real world that denial, more denial and then the powers that be trying to keep their money and economies going juxtaposed with keeping people safe resonated between the novel and real life. I actually laughed when I heard that in the story. The societal elements of the science fiction were coming true.

For me, I see another piece of popular culture responding to the issues in society and discussing them. It is ironic that The Last Emperox landed during a pandemic, which shut of most of the travel between nations, gutted world economies, required dollars from governments to support workers and had a strong right wing agitation to get back to work and make money and some left leaning government support to keep people going.

With a deft hand at intrigue and political machinations, Scalzi had me on a roller coaster ride. There are secrets, lies, mathematics, coups, murder, scheming and betrayal all so Nadashe can become the Emperox. It’s a kind of fixation for this character, a goal without a good understanding of what that means–just power, give me power. Nadashe sort of represents those right wing elements in society who are out for the money and power and damn the rest of the world. Emperox Grayland II is trying to save everybody and her enemies think this is: one not possible; and two crazy as they just want to get to End with their money and their lives and leave everyone else for dead. Meanwhile, with the support of Grayland II, Lord Marse is trying to find a way to save everyone or as much of everyone as possible, and he has an idea, but how can anyone get anything done when there are coups, assassination attempts, murder and so on.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I want to assure you that this is a fast and satisfying ride. It made me think deeply about things and I guess that makes it a great book, but I also laughed with along with this story and hung on every word.

In a talk last year in Australia, Scalzi said that Old Man’s War was a response to Starship Troopers by Heinlein, which was in turn a response to War of the Worlds by H G Wells, the first of its kind. I’ve been trying to think what the Interdependency Trilogy is in response to on the literature side, possibly The Expanse (TV series name), in part, but the novels by James S. A Corey. Why I say this is that Corey’s series discusses capitalism and exploitation and differences in wealth also known as the human condition. It has the sweary older woman of Indian descent, Belters who live substandard lives, multiple races and an alien invasion that upsets the status quo. There is also a hint of Iain Banks Culture series in there too. Whether this is conscious or unconscious or not, this response to the previous works has made something exciting and new.

The books in the series are reasonably succinct too. The Audible versions were under ten hours. I like this aspect too because I’m not committing 20 to 30 hours into a narrative which can at times make me guilty. Thank you John Scalzi.

 

PS this review is by no means as thinky and analytical as it was in my head. I blame real life on that and my brain.

It’s now May 11.

I’ve been marking assignments and have another two weeks, at least, of marking. All the tutorials for this semester for me are done and I’m relieved. Teaching online is not the same as in person. These were drastic measures for drastic times and getting up to speed was stressful.

So things though have proven okay. I sat in on some seminars and they were good and apparently the attendance rate was better than the face to face ones. So maybe I should withhold judgement. I also got some ideas about my redraft of my exegesis. Also because of said marking I don’t have much brain power to tackle it. I am positive though and that’s a good thing.

It’s getting close to Winter here. It was one degree C this morning. Lucky our Tesla battery had some charge and I could run the heater to get out of bed. We are trying to minimise using the gas central heating as it costs thousands to run and I’m the only one home and I’m not usually home so it will cost thousands more than the usual thousands. Lucky we have reverse cycle in most rooms and that runs off the solar if it is sunny and cold.

I’m a bit stiff from filling the skip with rubbish. We are doing the home isolation clearing up and landscaping the yard thing. I’ve sort of given over baking mostly although I’m still baking sourdough regularly as I have been doing for over a year. The impetus to landscape the yard is mainly coming from my daughters. My younger daughter pledged 6 hours yard work for my birthday and she’s nearly fulfilled that. My granddaughter Y also pledged time and she did a bit of work yesterday too.

Next step is getting the skip removed and ordering in a mountain of soil, mulching and garden edging. I look into my crystal ball and see lots of work on the horizon but a nice garden come spring.

In other pandemic news, my son is coming back to Australia. He’s been hold up in Edinburgh as he couldn’t get back to his job in Asia. He had to do two weeks quarantine in Melbourne and the he’s coming here to stay in June.  I see the potential for an extra pair of hands.

I have been saving for my half of a Tesla 3 EV car but production has stopped and I don’t know when we can or will buy one. Maybe 2021 now or later. So I want do use some of the $ to remodel the kitchen. You tube is great for this stuff.

I watched hours of Youtube tutorials on repairing or refurbishing the BBQ grill. I did all those things suggested and the damn thing is still blowing flames out of the air hole and not the actual burner. Last ditch effort is to use a brush and then look at the valves. OR throw the damn thing away and buy a new one. The only thing I can think of is that maybe the burner/valve got damaged when we moved as it hasn’t worked since we moved here. We had to be a new cheap bbq for the housewarming. But then, the new grill did the same thing. Flames came out the dial instead of the burner. Perhaps I’m cursed. It was enjoyable however in learning about the BBQ as it was like a car engine for me-I knew it was there, didn’t know how it worked and didn’t want to. Now I feel a little liberated and less scared for all the bits. The actual grill looks great and is much cleaner. I still hold hope that it will work.

The kitchen is more like a pipe dream because of the floors. I need to do the floors and we want to do the whole ground floor so that $$$ and TIME and backbreaking work no matter which way you look. If we do wood we have to move all the furniture out into the garage and you can’t walk on it while you are varnishing for at least a week, maybe two. If we do floating that is easier but they need to be replaced more often. If we do tile then it’s more durable, but cold and we’d need a tiler as I know from experience I can’t tile anymore. It kills the knees, the back and the hands and I’m not that young anymore.

Anyway, I may just be social isolation crazy. I’m still staying home as much as possible. No vaccine. No mixing. Lucky for us in Australia we have only a little of the virus and I’m hoping it will stay that way.

In other news, I’m still weaving. I finished these and it was hard. I totally stuffed the winding and didn’t realise until it was being warped. I tried to just adjust things without taking the unwanted threads away, then when I wound it up I couldn’t unwind the threads as the unused ones went round and round, so I had to undo it all (way fiddly) and then rewarp. The actual weaving part was very quick.

New project is a plain weave, cream and green checks for my son. But I have ideas for new projects!!