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Welcome to the Scattered Worlds, the major science fiction universe of Don Sakers.

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PostHeaderIcon Russia, Realpolitik, and Those Who Cannot Learn From History

Since Peter the Great, Russia has wanted a warm water port on the sea. In 1783, under Catherine the Great, they got one: Sevastopol in Crimea. Since then, Russians have considered Sevastopol a crucial part of their national defense.

Recently, when there was a pro-Western coup in Ukraine, there was a possibility that the new government might reconsider the treaty that provided for the Russian navy base in Sevastopol.

Facing this threat to national security, Russia occupied Crimea, and the Crimean people voted to stay allied with Russia.

Oh, the weeping and wailing! Politicians and the press in the US have fallen in step behind the banner of "Russian Imperialism." Putin wants to re-make the Soviet Union. We Must Take Action, or a domino effect will lead to Russians in the streets every US city.

PostHeaderIcon Reconsidering NaNoWriMo

In the past, I've been dismissive of National Novel Writing Month. Now, I may be changing my mind a little.

For those who aren't aware of NaNoWriMo (as it is unisylabbically known), every year uncounted would-be novelists spend the month of November spewing out text with no regard to plot, editing, or coherence. They focus on wordcount, struggling to get 50,000 words down -- at which point they feel triumphant because they've "written a novel."

The reason I've been dismissive is that I've written novels, and I know what goes into the production of a finished novel. Getting words down isn't a novel, it's a first draft...which is something like one-tenth of the job.

A good part of a successful novel is background work that isn't included in the first draft. This is stuff like notes on setting, character, plot, scenes, etc. -- all of which is strictly forbidden by NaNoWriMo rules. You don't go on a cross-country trip without a map; all this background work is the "map" to your novel.

Note that I'm not saying all this background has to be done before starting a novel, although that's the usual method -- it can (and does) go on throughout the process. But not if you're focusing exclusively on generating words.

The biggest part of a novel comes in rewriting; the critical process of editing, reworking, pruning, massaging the first draft. This painstaking process is where the rubber meets the road, and means the difference between a first draft and a novel.

Yes, yes, yes, NaNoWriMo gives lip-service to editing. They say that what you do with your "novel" after November is up to you, and imply that you might want to do a little polishing.

I suppose my real annoyance with NaNoWriMo is the annoyance of any crafter who hears, "Oh, I could churn that out in a weekend." It's the annoyance that writers feel when someone says, "You have it easy, all you have to do is sit around all the time and just poop out a novel now and then."

So why am I reconsidering?

I spent some time on Sunday scanning the battered notebook pages that make up City Between the Stars, my first "novel." This...project...took me a year to write when I was 12 and 13 years old. I made up everything as I went along; had no consistent plot, background, or characters; and focused on wordcount. (I can see estimated wordcounts in the margins, and there are stars and exclamation points aplenty when I hit my 40,000 word goal.)

Yes, my first book was essentially a NaNoWriMo "novel." And yes, at age 13 I went around proclaiming myself as a novelist. (Actually, I think the word I used was "writer.")

PostHeaderIcon Children of the Eighth Day: Prelude

Here's the first part of the novel I'm currently finishing up, Children of the Eighth Day (affectionately known as C8D). It's a sequel to The Eighth Succession, and continues the story of the psi-talented Hoister Family.

 

PostHeaderIcon Quest for (Old) Porn

At the start of my writing career in the early 1980s, I made money and got practice in my craft by publishing a number of stories in porn magazines of the period.

Now I'm putting together a collection of my queer writings (working title Meat and Machine), and I want to include those stories.

So I went to my files, where I have copies of manuscripts and tear sheets of pre-computer stuff. Except the files for the stories I need aren't there.

PostHeaderIcon Cover Art

I'm putting together a collection of my short queer stories and essays, titled Meat and Machine.

For the cover I was very fortunate to get permission to use this piece by Indonesian artist Jovi Robert:

I think this is going to be a stunning book cover, and I couldn't be happier.

PostHeaderIcon Farpoint 2014

 Don will be appearing at Farpoint 2014 in lovely Timonium, MD, February 14-16, 2014. 

Farpoint is a small, very friendly con celebrating all sorts of creative endeavors. There are activities for all ages, plus some of the nicest people you'll meet anywhere.

If you've never been to an sf con before, Farpoint is a great place to start. Come for a day or for the whole weekend, and be sure to say hello.

Don will, of course, be available for autographing. Bring your e-reader with Don's ebooks on it, and you can get an autographed digital picture of yourself with the author.

PostHeaderIcon Current Projects

Here are some things I'm currently working on:

Children of the Eighth Day: the next Hoister Family novel. Hoping to be done by mid-2014.

Meat and Machine: A collection of my queer writings - short fiction, nonfiction essays, and porn (both gay and straight). This is something I've had on the back burner for a while…when I actually sat down and started collecting stuff, I realized that I have a lot. Looks like the book may be about 350 pages. Look for it in a month or two.

Reference Library: My next book review column for Analog is for the September 2014 issue.

Short stories: I have two short stories in progress at the moment. One is for an anthology of Deco Age sf/fantasy; the other is a new idea in time travel.

PostHeaderIcon 2013 Best Sellers

I've totaled up book sales for 2013, and here are my top sellers for the year.

1st Place: The Eighth Succession

2nd Place (tie): Act Well Your Part, "The Cold Solution", The Leaves of October

3rd Place: A Rose From Old Terra

4th Place (tie): Lucky in Love, The Curse of the Zwilling

5th place(tie): A Voice in Every Wind, "The Centaur Child"

PostHeaderIcon Arisia

It's January, which means Don and Thomas are off to Boston. Specifically, we're headed to Arisia, which is accurately billed as "New England's largest and most diverse science fiction and fantasy convention."

Arisia is huge, with thousands of attendees and multiple tracks of programming. It's a high-energy, intelligent, creative environment that manages to fuse traditional sf fandom with present-day pop-culture nerd culture. Attendees range in age from old to young, and their interests span the entire scope of the sf/fantasy genre.

Don's schedule is:

Sat 18 Jan 10 am: Panel: Writing the Other

Sat 18 Jan 1 pm: Autographing (with Keith DeCandido and Charles E. Gannon)

Sat 18 Jan 4 pm: Open Discussion Group: The Legend of Korra

Sun 19 Jan 7pm: Reading (with Justine Graykin, Elizabeth McCoy, and Stephen R. Wilk)

PostHeaderIcon New Years in the Terran Empire

In the First Terran Empire, each year's end was marked by back-to-back holidays, Yulstice and Year Day.

Yulstice, the final day of the old year, was also known as Santamas and was celebrated by the arrival of Santa, a jolly old elf who brought presents to good children and turned bad children into carbon.

At midnight on Yulestice, synchronized crystalline balls dropped on major Imperial worlds, while everyone toasted the new year with their libation of choice.

Year Day, the first day of the new year, was celebrated by parties 

Both these holidays were intercalary, i.e. they were independent of the pattern of tendays. The preceding day (December 30) always fell on Terraday, a traditional day off. The succeeding day (January 1) always fell on Sunday, also a traditional day off.

The result was a four-day holiday enjoyed by all.

Many societies that came after the Empire preserved the same calendar and the same four-day year-end holiday.

PostHeaderIcon Santamas Promotion

To celebrate Santamas, two Scattered Worlds novels will be on sale this holiday season. It's an Amazon countdown sale, which means the earlier you act, the mroe you save.

A Rose From Old Terra and The Eighth Succession, both normally $2.99 in Kindle format, will be on sale at the following prices:

  • Santamas, December 25: both titles just 99¢ each.
  • December 26: both titles just $1.99.

On December 27, both titles go back to their regular price, $2.99.

Click on the titles to purchase.

PostHeaderIcon Orbital Dynamics

I'm working on the next Hoister Family book, Children of the Eighth Day. (I'm on page 148 and hope to have the book done for Balticon 2014, thank you for asking.)

Anyway, I've reached a scene set on the planet Leikeis, fifth planet of Altair. So I look up "Leikeis" on this site, and I find that I have precious little information about the world: it was colonized in 2088, it became a great financial and banking center in the Terran Empire, the planet is well-known for the quality fo its seafood, that sort of thing. There's a rudimentary map with the names of three cities.

However, I don't have anything about what it's like on Leikeis. The problem is, I've never written anything set there.

In order to describe the planet, there are certain things I need to know. How hot (or cold) is it? What does the sun look like (Altair is a good deal hotter than our sun)? What's the gravity like, how long is the day, how long does the year last, what's in the sky, etc.?

PostHeaderIcon Darkovercon

This weekend Don will be at Darkovercon in Timonium, MD.

Over the last 30 years, Darkovercon (aka The Darkover Grand Council) has consistently been our favorite con of the year. It's small (less than 300 people) and exceptionally friendly. The guests are magnificent, and many of them are among the most brilliant people I've ever met. The con is LGBTQ friendly (in fact, it's friendly to everyone) and has a strong feminist flavor.

I've described Darkovercon as "a weekend celebration of creativity in all its forms," and that's not far off. (Of course, Darkovercon is like the proverbial elephant being examined by blind people -- everyone has their own description.)

This year's con in particularly bittersweet. Judy Gerjuoy (aka Jaelle of Armida), the con's founder and patron saint, passed away in March. For various reasons, this year's con will be the last under that name, and change is inevitably coming.

There's the bitter, now the sweet: Although Thomas and I were married in Toronto (at Worldcon, actually) in 2003, our marrige did not become legal in our home state of Maryland until January 1 of this year. Since so many of our local friends were not at the original ceremony, we decided to have a ten-year renewal of vows and a big ol' party for all the local folks.

Once we made that decision, there was no question of the venue: it had to be Darkovercon. So Friday night at 9 pm we'll be renewing our vows in the midst of these people that have come to be family for us.

There will also be panels and discussions and all the usual fun. If you're in town, come by to see us.

PostHeaderIcon Jaelle Her Book

Jaelle Her Book fearures stories and essays by guest authors at the annual Darkover Grand Council, in memory of Judy Gerjuoy (aka Jaelle of Armida) and Darkovercon. This memorial volume commemorates 36 years of Darkovercon and the remarkable woman who brought the con to life and shepherded it through that time.

Stories and essays were donated by the authors. All proceeds will go to Darkovercon. This volume is only available through March 2014, after which it will be withdrawn from publication.

Includes work by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Charles Butler, Margaret L. Carter, Carl Cipra, Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald, Esther Friesner, Elektra Hammond, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Mike McPhail, Don Sakers, and Melissa Scott.

The book is now available in both print and ebook versions, but there's an important proviso. Please read the following before buying a print edition from Amazon.

If you buy a print edition for $5.00 from Amazon, Darkovercon will receive 22¢ from your purchase (and you'll pay shipping). If you buy a print copy at the con, Darkovercon will receive the full $5.00 (and no shipping charge). Since this is primarily a fundraising volume, we want to maximize the con's share.

If you will be attending Darkovercon, please wait to buy your copy/copies at the con. If you're not attending Darkovercon this year, go ahead and purchase from Amazon.

The con will make $3.50 from each e-book copy sold, so go ahead and buy them for yourself, your friends and family, and random strangers.

Here are the Amazon links: print and e-book.

PostHeaderIcon Philcon

I'll be at Philcon this weekend. In addition to being on panels, I'll also be the Emcee for the Masquerade on Saturday night.

I'm really looking forward to this con; it'll be the first Philcon I've ever attended, despite being just a little more than an hour down the road.

Come and see me!

 

PostHeaderIcon Being a Fan

I'm going to Baltimore Comic-Con this weekend. This is the first time I've been to a comic-con, and I'm going to enjoy the experience of being just a fan.

At the sf cons I usually attend, I'm there as a professional. Even if I'm not on the formal program, there are always books to promote, professional contacts to make, readers and fans to interact with. In the sf world, I'm one of the creators...and I experience everything through that role.

I don't write comics, draw comics, or do anything professional in connection with comics. In the comics world, I am purely a consumer, a fan. When I like (or dislike) a comic, I don't feel that I have to analyze, justify, or explain -- to myself or anyone else. I'm not in competition with anyone, nor am I collaborating with anyone. I have no professional goals to meet. I have no dog in the various fights that go on.

There's something very liberating about this.


 (Let me be perfectly honest here: I do sometimes analyze a good comic as a piece of storytelling. I do learn things from the comics world that I can apply in my writing. I do review sf graphic novels for Analog. And I do have several dogs in various fights, especially those involving sexism and gender issues. But the thing is, in all those matters, no one in the comics world cares what I think, nor do I expect them to.)


[I know, I know...no one in the sf world cares what I think, either. Everyone's a comedian!]

PostHeaderIcon Are Saggers the New "Long-Haired Hippies"?

Sagger in NYCAmong people my age (and even younger), there's an amazing moral indignation about saggers. It's not just that people dislike the fashion -- no, they get vehement about it. Saggers are disrespectful, thugs, criminals. There's an urban legend that claims sagging began in prisons, among men signaling their receptivity to anal sex. [Have you noticed that for some people, it always comes back to anal sex?]

There should be a law, people scream. Nobody wants to see your underwear, they rage. [Not true...I've seen a number of cute boys very artfully sagging, and fully appreciated the sight.] It's disgusting, they claim.

Yes, it's amusing to hear the folks who object sounding exactly like my mother and father (and, no doubt, their own parents) raging against long hair and bell bottoms on men in the 1960s and 1970s. However, I have to wonder at the vehement hostility. I mean, if aesthetics were the only criterion, the same folks would be raving just as vehemently against purple polyester...not to mention the attire of most folks who shop at Wal-Mart.

A moment ago I said "I have to wonder," but I don't, really. I know exactly what's behind the vehemence, and it's far more ugly than any sagger could ever be.

Why were our parents so mortally offended by long-haired hippies? Say it with me: "It makes them look like girls." If you take a few moments to unpack it all...long hair on guys, bell bottoms and psychadelic-colored ponchos, the counterculture's talk of peace and love...it comes down to sexism. It makes them look like girls.

Similarly, if you unpack attitudes toward sagging...with its roots in hip-hop, the public display of sexuality, the spirit of rebellion...you'll find racism at the base. It's not polite for people to say it as bluntly as our parents expressed their sexism, but it's certainly there.

But (the objection goes) it's not racist...I hate sagging no matter what the race of the person doing it. I hate it just as much when white guys do it. That proves it's not racist.

Sorry, no. When it's considered "disgusting" for a white guy to adopt stereotypically black fashions or mannerisms, then you're talking racism.

The overclass is always disgusted at anything that breaks down social barriers between themselves and the underclass. Anything that "pollutes" the overclass is disgusting. Men with long hair were "disgusting" in the 60s because they broke down the accepted distinction between men and women. (Hovering in the background was always the unspoken -- and unspeakable -- fear that a man might romantically approach someone he thought was a woman, only to find out it was another man!)

When the person sagging is a person of color, then the overclass person is affronted and disgusted by the fact that the offender is allowed to contaminate a safe, normal, overclass environment with the "disgusting" underclass behavior. (As you might imagine, many of the anti-sagging people I hear sooner or later get around to "...and in a library, of all places!") More simply, it's not acceptable to spread black cooties all over white peoples' space.

When the sagger is white, it's even worse. Not only is he exuding black cooties, but he's also blurring the lines. If white guys dress and act like black guys, then there's the possibility of treating a light-skinned sagger as a fellow human being, only to find out that he's really an octoroon...or worse. (To avoid this horrid possibility, it's safest just to treat all saggers as subhuman to begin with.)

"But it's not racist, because I'm black, and I still object to sagging." Right, because there are never black people who buy into the overclass propaganda....

But How Do You Really Feel, Don? Don't Keep It To Yourself...

I don't have any visceral, vehement reaction to sagging. When it's done badly, yes, it can be unattractive. (Not as unattractive as not-so-subtle racism or sexism, though...I'm just sayin') When it's done well -- on a cute guy, or with gravity-defying apomb, or with  a stunning command of the layering principle -- it becomes a minor artform. I've seen guys displaying three layers of boxers and pants worn and buckled well below the gluteus maximus, so that it makes me gasp at the wonder of it all.

I've seen saggers cavorting on skateboards, doing flips and jumps, all without losing their pants or showing anything indecent, and I can only applaud.

But then, I also have this weird belief that what's inside people's minds and souls is more important than their outside appearance...and that a kid who wears his pants low enough to display clean underwear and treats everyone with respect, is a hell of a lot more beautiful than a supposedly-grown adult who tries to conceal racist intolerant rage behind a smokescreen of indignant aesthetics.


Image by Tom Evil (Flickr: sagger in NYC) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

PostHeaderIcon Celebrate Shore Leave with Free E-books

To celebrate Shore Leave, two of Don's Scattered Worlds titles will be free in Kindle format on Sunday August 4,Monday August 5, and Tuesday August 6.

 

A Voice in Every Wind is a "novel about alien culture that echoes LeGuin" (SFRevu).

Weaving the Web of Days is good ol' space opera.

Enjoy!

PostHeaderIcon Cat Rambo Interviews Don Sakers

Cat Rambo interviewed Don for the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). The interview is posted here.

PostHeaderIcon October Reference Library Now Available

The October issue of Analog is out, and my Reference Library column is online here.

This month's essay talks about how to keep up with the changing availability of science fiction. Reviews include the latest by Connie Willis, J.E. Mooney and Bill Fawcett, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and L.E. Modesitt, Jr. as well as the new Nebula Awards Showcase.


Check out the index of my reviews, which is available here, or through the Beyond link above. You can search by author, title, year and month, and even by genre.

Have you read?
The Book That Predicted Google Glass
The final battle of the Empress
Clone paranormal geniuses against the galactic empire
Two Tales of the Scattered Worlds
Visit a world in which scent and taste are as important as vision and hearing
Opening a new chapter in the Scattered Worlds Mosaic
How would intelligent, long-lived trees judge the Human race?
Classic gay teenage romance
The Fey vs the Galactic Empire
A Datebook Like No Other
Carmen Miranda's Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three
Lucky's Life is Turning Around
An anthology in celebration of queer speculative fiction.
An anthology celebrating queer speculative fiction.
The PsiScouts: X-Men meet Buck Rogers
collection of sf & fantasy stories, essay, and poetry by Maryland-area writers
A Scattered Worlds Omnibus
a Scattered Worlds omnibus
Psi-gifted teens tackle theocracy & a threat to history itself
A collection of sf/fantasy diversions
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