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Rick Novy Interviews Luc at Entropy Central


Writer Rick Novy (FishPunk, etc.) interviewed me for his Wednesday Writer series at Entropy Central: . In the interview, we cover subjects like the origin of Codex, why I gave up music, influential writers, and what new projects I’m working on.

To my regular readers, I hope you’ll excuse how unusually quiet the site has been over the past two weeks while I’ve completed and launched the  CSA Matchmaker, which helps residents of the Champlain Valley of Vermont and New York connect with farms to get deals on great local food, and then went on a brief family vacation. The articles will start flowing again this week.

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Aikido Interviews #5: It Helps Us Dump Our Egos


This is the final post in a series  interviewing 3rd degree black belt Aikido practitioner Dwight Sora of Chicago Aikido club. While I’m interested in martial arts for their own sake, Aikido strikes me as having some unusual philosophical lessons about acceptance, change, and growth.

Previous posts in this series are Aikido Interviews, #1: Trying to Discover TruthsAikido Interviews, #2: “Lift Your Head and Say ‘Isn’t Today a Great Day?’”,  Aikido Interviews, #3: Like Learning How to Play Music, and Aikido Interviews #4: Something Had Been Activated.

Phil and Marsha

Luc: What, in your mind, are the greatest insights aikido can help teach to the world?


I think the best thing about aikido is that it offers a different way of looking at conflict: the idea that there is a positive and active middle ground between a purely aggressive forward-moving approach to solving a problem and being passive and surrendering. Now, accepting that as a life lesson assumes that you are willing to believe that the physical element of aikido truly possesses a social or perhaps psychological equivalent in the real world. Though, that’s okay with me, because aikido does not really “work” unless you are willing to believe in it conceptually in the first place.

Now, I’m not saying that I think an aikido approach to life is better or superior than any other. Would have an aikido-type strategy have worked for the Allies in their fight against the Axis? Would Gandhi have made faster progress if he approached things with aikido in mind in dealing with British colonialism as opposed to pure passive resistance (and I honestly don’t know what form that would have taken)? Who can say? That’s not what happened and not the approach that folks used to win.

I’ve also heard stories about some aikido instructors who have found themselves in actual fights (attempted muggings, street brawls, bar altercations, etc.).  And in each of those stories (which might be apocryphal) the results certainly didn’t seem in the spirit of aikido’s philosophy. One story I heard basically involved the instructor punching a guy in the face and breaking his nose. I see a couple of questions in that story. Was his ability to deliver that punch a product of his aikido training or simply because he knew how to fight on a fundamental level unrelated to aikido? Is this actually a story of aikido failing, since he didn’t really do any of the techniques we practice regularly? Does this story diminish the significance of aikido since someone so accomplished in the art seemed not to demonstrate the supposedly peaceful philosophy espoused?

I have met more than a few students of aikido, and some instructors, who say they think all the philosophical stuff is B.S. That the only thing that matters in the study of martial arts is if it is real.

My personal take: Aikido represents an ideal.  Its philosophy, its techniques and its approach represent a possible outcome to situations of conflict if we are willing to accept them.  And by ideal, I mean something that we should all strive to accomplish, but that does not mean it is something we must accomplish or even can accomplish (depending on the person or situation).  If you start doing some serious comparison and analysis, very little of aikido’s techniques are unique to aikido on a technical level. You can find stuff in common with judo, jujitsu, Chinese chin-na grappling arts and other things.  The human body can only be manipulated in so many ways.

Put simply, aikido is an attitude.  That’s why we have all the bowing and ceremony, a specific dress code and remove our shoes and socks.  None of those elements have anything to do with practical fighting.  If that was the case, we’d be training on concrete or open ground in our street clothes.  It’s an act of shedding our regular outward affectations in hopes that it helps us dump our egos and opens our mind up to new experiences.

Photo by Maggie Mui

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Aikido Interviews #4: Something Had Been Activated


This post is the fourth in a series  interviewing 3rd degree black belt Aikido practitioner Dwight Sora of Chicago Aikido club. While I’m interested in martial arts for their own sake, Aikido strikes me as having some unusual philosophical lessons about acceptance, change, and growth.

Previous posts in this series are Aikido Interviews, #1: Trying to Discover TruthsAikido Interviews, #2: “Lift Your Head and Say ‘Isn’t Today a Great Day?’”, and Aikido Interviews, #3: Like Learning How to Play Music.

Dwight and Andy

Luc: What’s the most dramatic thing that comes to mind that has happened to you outside of Aikido but because of Aikido–or to ask the question a different way, has the practice of Aikido changed your experience of the rest of your life?

Dwight: As to whether Aikido has brought about a change in my life: my answer is a definite yes.  On the most basic level, it completely changed my relation and attitude towards my physical self.  When I started Aikido as an exchange student in Japan in 1993 I was somewhat overweight, out of shape and generally disliked any kind of athletic activity.  It’s bizarre in retrospect that I even tried Aikido.  Since I was a young child, I was essentially a bookworm, was physically awkward and utterly hated gym class.  I never found much success or fun in any sport I attempted to play, which has basically lead to a general uninterest in even being a sports spectator. (To this day, I fully admit, I really have no knowledge of the ins and outs of professional sports whatsoever, a big social disadvantage in the United States of America.)

My early days of training were fairly brutal.  Despite Aikido’s peaceful reputation, college Aikido students in Japan are an ultra-dedicated, ultra-serious, borderline militaristic group.  We spent as much time doing basic physical training as we did rolling and falling drills and learning techniques.  There were days where it took all I could do just to keep up with them, and I always got the impression that they were particularly hard on me because I looked like I should have known better with regard to both training and etiquette. (To clarify, two other exchange students joined the Aikido club with me, and they were both Caucasian-looking.)

But here’s something funny: I refused to quit.  Which was also strange, because I had a bad habit of giving into defeatism through most of my childhood and adolescence.  Every time I tried something new, I was easily discouraged when I didn’t feel I was getting it right.

But for some reason, with Aikido, I absolutely refused to stop.  Something had been activated.

I remember when I returned to the U.S., several people would remark that I looked taller.  But I wasn’t at all.  My posture had improved.  I was walking upright and maintaining eye contact much better than I use to.

Also, as I continued my Aikido training, I simply got better about things like exercise and diet, and even learned to appreciate it a lot more.  Being the nerdy guy I was, I was one of those who tended to disparage sports and physical activities (partially sour grapes, I realize now).  Aikido didn’t just make me better appreciate taking care of myself, but gave me a greater appreciation of all physical activity, whether sports, dance, acrobatics, etc.  (However, to be fair, I’m still totally lost during any conversation about pro football, baseball, etc.)

Advancing in Aikido has definitely helped my confidence over the years.  It’s as if climbing over the personal hurdles of training really made me feel like other hurdles were surmountable as well.  When it has come to acting, standing up for myself, starting my own business (my main work is as a freelance Japanese document translator), my Aikido experience has certainly contributed to a sense that things can be accomplished.

Readers interested in finding physical activity that transforms you may also want to read “Finding Exercise You Love: The Taekwondo Example

Photo by Maggie Mui

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Aikido Interviews, #3: Like Learning How to Play Music


This post is the third in a series begun back in October interviewing 3rd degree black belt Aikido practitioner Dwight Sora of Chicago Aikido club. While I’m interested in martial arts for their own sake, Aikido strikes me as having some unusual philosophical lessons about acceptance, change, and growth.

Previous posts in this series are Aikido Interviews, #1: Trying to Discover Truths and Aikido Interviews, #2: “Lift Your Head and Say ‘Isn’t Today a Great Day?’”

The discussion in this post follows up on an idea Dwight brought up in the previous interview of becoming calm and not focusing on an attacker or problem.

Dwight Sora

Luc: If we’re engaging with an opponent (and I really mean this both in the literal and figurative senses), but we’re not letting the opponent take our focus, how do we strike a balance between being aware on the one hand and not getting sucked in on the other?

Dwight: First off, this is a question for which I still do not have a definitive answer. While prepping for my three degree black belt test recently, I was acutely aware that during Aikido randori (which takes the form of defending against multiple attackers) the very act of extending one’s attention to more than one attacker felt simply exhausting. Even though the situation was extremely safe and very controlled (for form’s sake, attackers during Aikido randori should be taking smooth ukemi or “receiving the technique,” not allowing the situation to turn into a knock-down dragged-out fight), I could feel my heart start to race, my fight-or-flight mechanism kicking into gear, etc. In particular, there were moments where I was aware that my back was turned to an oncoming attacker as a result of throwing aside another, and though this moment was brief, I could feel a spike in my stress level.

On one level, I do think it’s simply a matter of constant practice. You need to simply drill all those techniques into your muscle memory so that you can “think” with your entire body and respond to situations accordingly without wondering where your hand or foot is going. I really feel like learning martial arts is a lot like learning how to play music, especially improvisational forms like jazz. Drills and exercises are like practicing your scales, forms are like studying the work of other musicians so you understand what works and what doesn’t, and techniques are like chord progressions or melody lines that you can adopt, modify or riff.

In that sense, I believe the majority of those of us studying martial arts are more like musical students than actual musicians. We’ve practiced our scales a lot, have memorized a lot of pieces of music and have mastered a handful of melodies and chords; but only a handful of us really know how to make music. (To add, I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as you realize whether you’re a real fighter or not.)

Another way of looking at this question is to steal an idea from another teacher. I was once told to think of martial arts as not an external series of techniques by man, but a refinement of our basic animal instincts. Think of the way a common squirrel responds to its surroundings and possible

threats. It’s not thinking the way a person does, but it’s paying total attention to everything – sights, sounds, smells, movement. Its thoughts (whatever they are) are in total alignment with every fiber of its being, and if it needs to high tail it out of there, it seems almost instantaneous.

The idea is that maybe the study of martial arts allows us as human beings to get back to that sort of state, a kind of pure intuition. That, combined with the techniques we study, gives us a refined series of physical responses, a stronger “vocabulary” if you will, than simply running away (like the squirrel).

I don’t think this state of mind is particular to martial arts. I’m pretty sure when pro athletes talk about being “in the zone” or race car drivers feel like they’re watching their own actions in slow motion it’s the same thing.  [A note from Luc: There’s some good research to back this up. Interested readers may want to read “Flow: What It Feels Like to Be Perfectly Motivated” and “Some Steps for Getting into a State of Flow] I work as a stage actor, so I’m constantly hoping to reach that sublime moment where I can connect with the audience and really bring a character to life, while still taking care of those pesky technical details (hitting my marks, remembering my lines and cues, etc.).

For my own training lately, I’m working on “forgetting” my body. Basically, I’m trying to allow myself to trust that I actually do know all this stuff I’ve been studying over the years and to remove any self-conscious movement.

That even goes to trying not to think about getting into a proper starting stance and putting my hands in the right place, and see if it happens automatically. It’s a little strange trying to “turn off” parts of my brain, and very disconcerting (especially when you end up responding late) but it seems to be the only way I’ve been able to free myself of the crutch of thinking of technique all the time and see if I can have natural responses to a situation.

Photo by Maggie Mui

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Aikido Interviews, #2: “Lift Your Head and Say ‘Isn’t Today a Great Day?’”


This post is the second in a series begun back in October interviewing 3rd degree black belt Aikido practitioner Dwight Sora of Chicago Aikido club. While I’m interested in martial arts for their own sake, Aikido strikes me as having some unusual philosophical lessons about acceptance, change, and growth.

The first post in this series was Aikido Interviews, #1: Trying to Discover Truths. New posts will go up on the next three Mondays, February 4, 11, and 18.

Dwight SoraLuc: What’s the relationship between engaging with the world and engaging with an attacker? What approach or approaches does Aikido indicate for a practitioner who is being attacked?

Dwight: This may seem overly simplistic and reductive, but it really does seem to boil down to staying calm. And furthermore, that really seems to be what all martial arts ultimately strive to achieve.

Naturally, Aikido, with its strong philosophical component, places a lot of emphasis on keeping the body relaxed and centered and keeping your mind focused. However, I have met senior Judo instructors who emphasized the exact same points. Also, years ago I attended a series of Aikido camps in the Colorado Rockies where the guest instructor was Kenji Ushiro, a traditional Okinawan Karate instructor. It seemed odd to have a Karate instructor at an Aikido camp, until I saw what he was teaching. His technique was amazingly soft, and he never broke posture (or a sweat) and moved with total control. (Clip below.)

[Note from Luc: I don’t know if the following will be as fascinating to you as it was to me, but I do recommend checking out this short video Dwight sent.]

In terms of attitude, Aikido teaches one to respond to attackers non-aggressively. Now, that doesn’t mean passively, as some might assume from my earlier statement. The response is still dynamic, but you try to avoid ideas like “I’m going teach this guy a lesson” or “I’m going to put this person down.” And by keeping a cool head, you keep an open mind, and hopefully are able to see more possibilities (and of course, strategic openings) in a situation.

In terms of technicalities, the idea is that your body will also respond faster and stronger if your muscles are relaxed and not tense. And this does make a lot of sense even in street terms (I believe). I was once told that statistically speaking, a large number of the women who study martial arts will pick a striking art over anything involving grappling or throwing (So, Karate or kickboxing instead of Judo, Aikido or Jujitsu). The answer is understandable – A lot of women don’t like the idea of being in a room having to grab and possibly roll around the floor with men. However, I’ve also heard that if the intent of their study is self-defense against a mugger or rapist, there’s a hole in their decision-making. Most attackers on the street don’t want to fight you; they just want to subdue you or get the jump on you (often from behind) and grab on. The advantage of studying a grappling art is that you become desensitized to the fear that is induced during the act of being grabbed or choked, and learn how to keep your muscles relaxed (and flexible) while in such a situation to allow an effective response.

My senior teacher is always telling me to avoid being aggressive. He’ll even raise his head and say, “Don’t think about the other guy, lift your head and say ‘ Isn’t today a great day’.”

Photo by Janna Giacoppo


Inclusivity and Exclusivity in Fiction: Anatoly Belilovsky on Atrocities and Menschkeit


This is the eighth interview and the tenth post in my series on inclusivity and exclusivity in fiction. You can find a full list of other posts so far in the series at the end of this piece.

In today’s post, I talk with Russian-American writer and physician Anatoly Belilovsky.

LUC: Your background and origins are very different from most English-speaking writers and readers. How does that affect how you read and write fiction?

ANATOLY: That used to be an easy question, until I found at least three other Anglophone writers with backgrounds somewhat similar to mine, whose writing and criticism of science fiction and fantasy (and much of everything else) is either different from mine, to varying degrees, or, in one case (and, no, I won’t drop names here) diametrically opposite. So, in a broad sense, I am not sure how my origins feed into my weltanschauung. I think the best I can do is tell my story and let readers make their own conclusions.

I grew up in a culture whose dominant language has no words for privacy and appointment, with an entire set rules of etiquette for behaving while on a queue, with another set of traditions for communal apartments with shared kitchens and bathrooms; a society in which, for most of its history, its own government, while pretending to look out for the good of the common people, committed unparalleled atrocities against them.

It was also a culture that took art and literature seriously – as serious tools for social engineering. “Inclusion” and “marginalization” had very different meanings there and then: “Inclusion” meant membership in Writer’s Union, which opened doors to publication, and “marginalization” meant being relegated to Samizdat (“Self-publishing,” a tricky proposition in a country in which typewriters were registered with samples of output to permit matching pages to their sources) or Tamizdat (“There-publishing,” by Russian emigre markets – the route that led to highly embarrassing Nobel Prizes in literature for Joseph Brodsky and Boris Pasternak, for works never published in their native country.) The Writer’s Union also took seriously the question of publishing underrepresented populations: having praises of Worker’s Paradise sung by a variety of voices in a variety of languages was a major priority. This led to a highly amusing episode: two banned writers encountered an unknown aspiring poet who was bilingual in Russian and another, obscure, language. Forming a mini-conspiracy, the trio wrote ideologically impeccable poetry that brought in money and prizes by the bucketful, and continued to circulate what they wanted in Samizdat.

Outside of the never-never land of inter-ethnic harmony in Social Realist literature, things weren’t all that rosy:

To make a long story short, coming to America was a culture shock of which I’ll talk in another installment. Suffice it to say that, right from the start, much of what would be considered a dark dystopia by a Western reader, felt like a lighthearted satire of the real world (A Clockwork Orange, 1984.)

As for “literary” fiction, I never could bring myself to care for most of its characters and conflicts. Catcher in the Rye is emblematic of that: I’m afraid I never could see Holden Caulfield as anything other than a spoiled brat in search of excuses for his upper-class ennui.

LUC: What kinds of issues about inclusivity or disregard do you see in other people’s fiction that the authors themselves often miss?


I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent.

–James Watt

If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us,
do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

–William Shakespeare

Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels—bring home for Emma.

–Walter Miller Jr

I chose these quotes to illustrate a few points.

The second is to illustrate what inclusivity is, all too often, exclusively defined as: writing about characters whose “differentness,” and society’s callousness in dealing with that “differentness,” is the sole, or the major, driving force behind the plot and the character’s actions. That’s a perfectly valid way of looking at inclusivity, but it really isn’t mine. I look for common ground, for the universal experience.The first one is to illustrate what inclusivity isn’t. Hogwarts inclusion of the Patel twins and Cho Chang cannot be called inclusive: the twins’ roles rise barely above those of furniture, and Cho gets to break under pressure and then feel terrible about it. If plot is a river, Cho gets swept away by the current while the twins get to sit on the banks and stare at the water. Whatever roles were given to individuals who shared the panel with Mr Watt, they were clearly not the ones who rowed that boat.

Which brings me to the third quote. It bears repeating:

Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels—bring home for Emma.

Miller is writing about a Jew – never mind what happened to that Jew later, he’s certainly a Jew writing these words – who is thinking what anyone would be thinking, with apocalypse looming beyond the horizon: he is thinking of his family.. And instead of drawing a huge red arrow that says, “LOOK AT ME – A JEWISH MENSCH WHO LOVES HIS FAMILY!” he is keeping that feeling in the subconscious, the tip of the iceberg of genuine powerful love showing up as a note to self to bring home some food. Leibowitz’s Yiddishkheit quite literally shows up in the grammatic construction (of is superfluous in languages that have a genitive case) and in the food choices, the limbs and outward flourishes, while his universal, transcendent Menschkheit (which I choose to translate as “humanity,” not “masculinity”) is responsible for the caring that drove it.

Now I get to talk about my kind of inclusivity.

Ken Liu’s Nebula and Hugo-winning Paper Menagerie [note from Luc: between when we conducted this interview and now, the story also won the World Fantasy Award] is about a kid who’s ashamed of how uncool his mother is. OK, the kid is half-Chinese and his mother barely speaks English, and the descriptions are good enough that you find yourself totally immersed in the story, you can see the scenes and the characters as vividly as if they were on film, and yet it brought up memories of my late, decidedly non-Asian mother, and the catharsis of the story’s protagonist triggered one of my own. I had a conversation with Ken about that story at Readercon, and I think it surprised him, at least a little, how broad an appeal this story had.

On the same Hugo ballot was Mike Resnick’s Homecoming. It’s a universal “fathers and sons” story, relevant to anyone, and here is the funny part: I first heard it as a podcast, narrated by an African-American voice talent. I could see the characters of this story as well, in my mind’s eye, and the father came across as a very definitely African-American elderly man. Didn’t change the universality of the story, only grounded it in a very specific mental image. And I really don’t know if I would have had the same image if I had read the story in print, first.

On the subject of “exclusion,” I have a bone to pick.

There seems to be an approved list of oppressions and atrocities as subjects for fiction. The deportations by the Soviet government of a number of ethnic groups dwarf in size, in casualties, and in sheer nastiness, the Japanese internment of WWII. Seen any Anglophone stories set in the Holodomor? Me neither. No one seems to be protesting the exclusion of such oppressed minorities as Koryo-saram, Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Russian kulaks, Don cossacks, geneticists, students of Esperanto and abstract painters, all dealt with rather harshly back in the old country.

Amusing anecdote: I have my mother’s old 1950’s Soviet psychiatry textbook, somewhere. On page 100 there is a pearl the equal of which I have never seen – here in my translation:

Homosexuality is not necessarily a form of psychopathology. In reactionary societies where payment of bride price is customary, it may be the only possibility available to men of the poorer classes who cannot afford to marry.

I always wondered how drunk the editors had to be to come up with that.

I get the sense of Western civilization being singled out for criticism in both Western and non-Western literature, and I see this being accepted as the right and proper course, and I am not willing to leave this assumption unexamined in a comparative analysis. Suffice it to say that back in the old country at least, being “disregarded” was, for an individual or a minority population, the best of all possible states, and any kind of attention would have been immeasurably worse.

LUC: Now you’re bringing up a point that I don’t think I’ve really heard discussed before: prejudice and persecution of other cultures by other cultures. For instance, I suspect the reason we hear so little of Soviet oppression of the Koryo-saram (ethnic Koreans in the Soviet Union) in English-language literature is that English-speakers often have little familiarity with either Russians (and other Soviet cultures) or Koreans, to say nothing of Korean-Russians. It seems to be much simpler and more obvious for people who are trying to fight bigotry to focus on the bigotry of the people they know, yet the death by deportation and neglect of 40,000 Koryo-saram–not to mention some of the other atrocities you mention–dwarfs much of what happens in our own culture. What’s the case for learning about and writing fiction about persecution in other cultures?


It seems to be much simpler and more obvious for people who are trying to fight bigotry to focus on the bigotry of the people they know

There was an old Russian joke: a Russian and an American soldier are facing each other across Checkpoint Charlie. The American says, “It’s really better in the West. I can stand here all day yelling, “Down with Reagan!” and no one will bother me.” The Russian says, “So what? I can stand here and shout “Down with Reagan!” all day, too, and they might even give me a medal!”

I think the problem is better stated as, It seems more rewarding to focus on bigotry that affects them and the people they know. Which is a perfectly valid approach; my own activism, such as it is, is aimed at thwarting social – psychohistorical, if you will – forces that have a chance of leading us down the same terrible path as the one that had led to the 70-year Soviet nightmare, and to the crushing bigotry to which the resulting society subjected myself and my own family. And the first and most insidious of those forces is the demonization of success.

Before I get lumped in with Ayn Rand, I find demonization of lack of success equally repugnant. In fact, the only things worth demonizing are hypocrisy, in advocating changes sure to produce results opposite to those promised, and stupidity, in believing such promises.

What’s the case for learning about and writing fiction about persecution in other cultures?

Well, what’s the case against learning and writing about persecution in other cultures? Is it that it has no relevance to our world? Is it something that can’t happen here?

Or is it that, by pursuing one of these lines of thought, we…

ritrovai per una selva oscura, che la diritta via era smarrita?

[find ourselves lost in a strange and darkened forest, where the direct path is lost — Dante’s Inferno]

as we realize that, in limiting ourselves to axes of oppression that intersect upon the standard model of privilege, we have been writing exclusively about spherical cows.

Let’s start with Internationale, which I remember by heart (in Russian, of course) having had to sing it countless times:

Весь мир насилья мы разрушим
До основанья, а затем
Мы наш, мы новый мир построим, —
Кто был ничем, тот станет всем.

We will destroy this world of violence
Down to the foundations, and then
We will build our new world.
He who was nothing will become everything!

Koryo-saram, Volga Germans, and others were not oppressed because they were poor, powerless minorities. They were oppressed because they were perceived to have power and privilege (in the form of land, a sufficiency of food, and a few non-spherical cows,) for not succumbing along with everyone else to revolutionary mismanagement. They were oppressed in order to make them into poor, powerless minorities that the Soviet state could then manipulate at will.

And to those who don’t think this has any relevance to the world we live in, I say: “Blessed are they who share the Universe with spherical cows.”

Anatoly Belilovsky came to the US from the USSR in 1976, learned English from watching Star Trek reruns, worked his way through Princeton as a teaching assistant in Russian, and ended up a pediatrician in an area of New York where English is the 4th most commonly spoken language. It is perhaps unwise to expect from him anything resembling conventional fiction. His fiction appears in NatureIdeomancerAndromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine the Immersion Book of Steampunk, and elsewhere. He can be found online at

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Inclusivity and Exclusivity in Fiction: Aliette de Bodard on Crossing Over


This is the seventh interview and the ninth post in my series on inclusivity and exclusivity in fiction. You can find a full list of other posts so far in the series at the end of this piece.

In today’s post, I talk with British Science Fiction Association award-winning French/Vietnamese writer Aliette de Bodard about writing, reading, cultural divides, and the bridges that span them.

LUC: Just to bring your work to science fiction and fantasy readers in North America, you’ve had to bridge a number of gaps–ethnic, linguistic, geographical, and more. Does this affect how you choose your characters and how you think about writing?

ALIETTE: I have to admit that I didn’t quite think of it that way! For starters, I was hardly aware of the SFF market as being sharply compartimentalised when I started writing–and, if anything, I would have targeted my work at the UK market, since that’s where I started reading most of my genre. I also seldom think in terms of gaps when writing: rather, I write passionately about things that matter to me, and trust that this enthusiasm will communicate itself to the reader.

But yes, if we’re talking quite plainly–of course my origins, my personality and the milieu I grew up in and am still part of deeply and irrevocably approach how I’m choosing characters and how I think about writing. I would be a very different person if I had grown up white on the US East Coast–my family, my education, my friends, etc. have shaped me as a writer, and continue to shape me.

I tend to pick characters from non-mainstream backgrounds, mainly because I’m somewhat disquieted by how SF, which should be the literature of the mind-blowing and mind-opening, tends to over-feature characters from a certain background (overwhelmingly male, white and American or Western Anglophone) and from a certain mindset (what I would call “tech-loving” with a strong faith that science will make things better). Not, of course, that I have anything against those views myself, but the over-representation of these can be a little overwhelming in the bad sense of the term…

I approach writing as the sum of everything that I have read, which means traditional French/English/Vietnamese/Chinese literature as well as genre from Ursula Le Guin to Alastair Reynolds to Jean-Claude Dunyach. Reading so much in so many traditions has enabled me to see that the “rules” of writing (like “show don’t tell”) are deeply problematic because they enforce the conformity of a certain type of fiction–they’re a great help as you’re starting out, but taken too rigidly they can easily lead people to stifle their own creativity in the search of the technically perfect, but soulless story.

It’s hard for me to tell how much my approach to writing is shaped by my background and which specific bits are “different”–I know that I place a high importance on family in my fiction, and immigration and living between different cultures (obviously a very personal preoccupation!), but I assume there are more subtle effects on themes, characters and storylines that I’m not able to see because I’m too close to them.

LUC: There are a lot of interesting threads in that response, but let me grab onto one particular one, because I don’t think it’s ever even come up in this discussion for me until now: science fiction tending to include people of a certain mindset. I had never thought of it that way before, but it strikes me immediately as having a lot of truth to it. When science fiction stories emphasize strongly tech- and science-friendly characters, what points of view would you say aren’t getting a lot of representation?

ALIETTE: Hum, it’s one of those questions where I don’t think I can give a complete answer to, but I can provide a few examples… By and large, SF is mainstream US, 21st-Century and tech-loving, which means that anything outside those points of view is getting poor representation. I can mention a few things that struck me, beyond the most obvious ones of poor POC/female/non-US representation, but this is obviously very limited!

  • the paucity of stories where family is important, and in particular family outside the nuclear family (SF sometimes gets around to mentioning fathers and mothers, but aunts, uncles and cousins somehow seem beyond the realm of possible relationships)
  • a marked dichotomy between allegiance to a church or allegiance to science, generally failing to recognise either that the two points of view are not incompatible, or that religion doesn’t necessarily mean full allegiance to a church (in many Asian countries, people practise bits and pieces of religions depending on the circumstances, and don’t refer to a single church for prescriptions on every aspect of their daily lives)
  • a presentation of individualistic, lone mavericks who strike out to seek adventures as intensely heroic, and a deriding of people who do not follow that mindset as being cowardly (in Asian culture, people who abandon their families to strike out would be the cowards because they shirk their duties to provide for their relatives, and the act of falling out with your own family would be a tragedy rather than a cause for celebration).

LUC: Recently on your Web site, you quoted Juliana Qian:

Our cultures are exotic, fashionable, fascinating and valuable when contained within or filtered through a white Western lens – then our cultures are glittering mines. But drawing from your own background is backward and predictable if you’re a person of colour. Sometimes white people try to sell me back my culture and I have to buy it. My China is as much the BBC version as it is the PRC one. There are things I want to eat but cannot cook.

This brings up the question of how different it is for someone within a group–whether we’re talking about, for example, Russians, transgendered people, or people with physical handicaps–to write about that group than for someone outside in terms of how the writing itself is viewed. How does this affect your work, or the work of other writers whose work you follow?

ALIETTE: It’s all but inevitable that someone within a group will perceive it in different terms than someone outside a group: it’s what I call “insider” writing vs “outsider” writer. There are two different problems: who is writing this, and for whom it is intended. I’ll leave aside the obvious combinations of outsider writer for outsiders only (which is a very dodgy proposition and fairly exclusionary) and insider writer for insiders only (posing no particular issue: write what you know for people who know it as well). That leaves the “crossing overs,” i.e., outsider writers writing for an audience which includes insiders and insider writers writing for an audience which includes outsiders.

If you’re an outsider, it is possible to achieve a sufficient degree of empathy with the group to make your depiction of it from the inside plausible, but it takes a lot of hard work, and I think people don’t understand how seldom this happens: the authors who pull this off, say, for Vietnamese culture, can literally be counted on the fingers of one hand, and generally have thoroughly immersed themselves into it for years. A few more authors will produce a passable description, and the bulk will unfortunately perpetuate majority stereotypes or latch onto what seems to them shiny elements of a culture–elements that are totally natural to insiders (one of my favourite examples from Sino-Vietnamese culture includes the over-emphasis on face, which is an unconscious thing–people don’t spend their time going, “oh, I’m going to lose face if I do this” every two lines!). Hence the importance of thinking very carefully about what you’re doing when depicting a culture and of getting beta-readers from said culture to correct you.

If you’re an insider, you have a slightly more difficult problem. I’ve already said that the elements of a culture that appeal to outsiders are not necessarily the ones that insiders think most important, and also that many things that seem natural to you (like food) will require explanation in order to make sense to outsiders. There’s a hard line to draw between making your culture a little more “accessible” to outsiders, and between twisting it out of shape so it appeals to the market.

In my work, I’ve done outsider and insider depiction: when I do outsider (such as in the Aztec books), I do my best not to exoticise or demonise practises that the main characters would have found totally natural, like human sacrifices. When I do insider writing, I find myself very often having to explain behaviours and attitudes that are perfectly normal to me, but that make no sense to outsiders (like filial piety or Confucianism): the first draft of my novella “On a Red Station, Drifting” basically had every (non-Vietnamese) reader terminally confused, and I had to do my best to clarify what I meant without having the impression that I was putting the “crunchiest bits” of my culture on display for Westerners (I enjoy writing about my background, but I certainly don’t want the feeling that I’m debasing it in order to sell better!).

LUC: I was interested when you mentioned those authors that you could count on the fingers of one hand, because while we’ve all seen examples of mishandling of other cultures, examples of people who do the job really well seem harder to come by. Are there any writers that come to mind to you offhand who really do an exceptional job, whether they’re outsiders whose writing rings true to insiders or insiders who make a real connection with outsiders?

ALIETTE: It’s going to be hard for me to point out outsiders who really do insider narrative well, as I can’t really appreciate anything beyond France and Vietnam in fiction; and a lot of portrayals of both, as I said above, are very debatable to say the least. That said, one of the works I thought did a great job of evoking the spirit of 17th-18th Century France was Kari Sperring’s debut, Living with Ghosts: the intricate plot and delicately-drawn characters made me think of a modern-day, more nuanced Dumas.

There are more than a few people who are insiders and who create a real connection with outsiders: the first one who comes to mind is the unstoppable Ken Liu, whose fiction is basically everywhere, and who creates really strong stories driven by Chinese culture. I can also cite Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, whose idiosyncratic Filipino SF is bound to make a huge splash (check out her “Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life“, which tackles emigration, mixed marriages and power dynamics in a very spec-fic way), and Zen Cho, who has a knack for mixing comedy and poignancy in really well-realised stories (her “House of Aunts” is a really awesome not-quite-our-vampires story).

As far as novels go, can I point out to Thanh Ha Lai’s truly awesome “Inside Out and Back Again”, which shows emigrating to America from the point of view of a young Vietnamese girl and the resultant culture shock; and to Joyce Chng’s Wolf at the Door and sequels, urban fantasy set in a vibrant and rich Singapore and featuring a very strong main character in the presence of werewolf pack leader Jan Xu.

Aliette de Bodard lives in a flat with more computers than warm bodies, and writes speculative fiction in her spare time–her Aztec noir fantasy trilogy Obsidian and Blood was published by Angry Robot, and her short fiction has garnered her a British Science Fiction Award and nominations for the Hugo, Nebula and Campbell Award for Best New Writer. When not writing, she blogs and posts recipes over at


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Aikido Interviews, #1: Trying to Discover Truths


This post is my first in a series interviewing 3rd degree black belt Aikido practitioner Dwight Sora. While I’m interested in martial arts for their own sake, Aikido strikes me as having some unusual philosophical lessons about acceptance, change, and growth.

Dwight tests for his 3rd degree black belt (Sandan) 

Luc: My impression of aikido is that it’s a little different from most martial arts both in techniques and in general philosophy. What’s aikido about, on the most basic level?

Dwight: Ah, the classic $65 million dollar question. It’s one I don’t have a fully satisfactory answer for myself. When I consider what I myself think aikido is, I realize that my perspective has changed radically from when I first started as an exchange student to Japan in 1993. Naturally, I have my “sales pitch” answer to prospective students at the dojo to which I belong: It’s a Japanese martial art, it incorporates empty hand practice and armed techniques involving traditional weapons (wooden sword, staff, dagger), it’s based on a non-aggressive philosophy, you use the enemies energy/movements against them, etc. etc.

Lately, the idea I have been pondering the most is that although I can definitely say that aikido is a martial art, I would not call it a fighting art. Certainly, the techniques practiced and the objectives informing all the movements are drawn from traditional Japanese fighting forms, primarily swordwork and old-style grappling (the same roots of jujitsu and judo). However, I’d be the first to admit that a great deal of our regular practice lacks modern-day utility as a fighting art: We train barefoot, we wear training gear completely unsuited to modern warfare or street fighting, many of our exercises involve a level of stylization irrelevant to strict combat.

I guess one way of putting what I think aikido is, is that it’s a philosophical (and possibly spiritual) study with a strong physical component. Like any philosophical study, you’re trying to discover truths about yourself and the world around you. However, instead of disengaging into a world of your own thoughts, aikido promotes the idea of study through engagement. If meditation is the act of centering yourself while keeping your body still, then I’d say aikido is a way of maintaining that center within while your body moves about.

Now, as I said above, I still definitely say that aikido is a martial art. It’s vocabulary, etiquette, actions, etc. are all drawn from traditions and concepts rooted in the practice of warfare or one-on-one combat. So, I would never put it in the same category as certain types of dance, or practices solely identified as physical exercise.

That being said, I know in my own practice that one gains greater insight and appreciation of aikido when one occasionally explores the fighting aspect. A major part of aikido is the study of kuzushi, of breaking the balance of an attacker, thus facilitating the easy execution of a martial technique. Now, from what I can gather, a person with absolutely no interest in fighting could possibly focus all of their aikido study on this aspect, simply to study how to keep their body relaxed and stable, and how one can adjust their posture and movements in a way that affects a training partner engaged in movement. In turn, this study could be effectively practiced simply with basic grabbing of the joint targets (wrists, shoulders, etc.), skipping over punches, strikes or kicks. The result would be very much like the study of pushing hands in Tai Chi, or a kind of two-person interactive yoga.

However, for myself, actually studying the vulnerable points of one’s body and an opponent’s as they move in reaction to each other, the lines involved in executing a punch or strike, will aid in the study of the above, which is mostly focused on aikido’s internal aspects.

I think the points I mention above are why there are such radically different approaches to aikido depending on the school or teacher. There are some who take an extremely martial approach (like Steven Seagal) and insist on emphasizing the fighting aspects. Others (such as the Ki no Kenyukai or “Ki Society” of Koichi Tohei Sensei) really de-emphasize the martial part and give pre-eminence to breathing exercises, centering drills and seeking to achieve a solid mind-body equilibrium.

I think the trap that some people who practice aikido fall into (and the reason that occasionally we’re the butt of jokes from other martial artists) is that some people think they are practicing afighting art, when their training has not really provided them with any such skills. By way of analogy, I ask you to consider a championship Olympic fencer. Fencing, though a competitive sport while aikido is not, shares with aikido roots in traditional forms of fighting. However, if I was to somehow transport the greatest 21st century fencer back to Renaissance Europe and force him to engage in a duel with live blades, he’d probably be killed very quickly. Sure, he can whip a foil around with incredible dexterity, but that’s a world of difference from being placed into a situation involving life-or-death combat without the comforting presence of judges, referees or movement restricted to a plinth. However, that does not detract from the fact that fencing is excellent in developing a keen eye, fast reflexes, a sense of balance – qualities that could both serve someone well in fighting, but also might simply be good in general self-development.

One other thought I have is that I have met some real fighters, and by that I mean combat-experienced soldiers, not people who won tournaments or participated in MMA, who study aikido, and they are among the most focused and centered students of the art I have ever known. And whenever I have felt doubts about whether there is value in studying a martial art which seemingly contains so much ceremony and abstraction from the physical realities of combat, I think of them. Because despite the fact they truly know how to kill another person, and in some cases have done so, they have found something inherently enriching about studying aikido.

Photo by Maggie Mui

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Inclusivity and Exclusivity in Fiction: Leah Bobet on Literature as a Conversation

Society and culture

This is the sixth interview and the eighth post in my series on inclusivity and exclusivity in fiction. You can find a full list of other posts so far at the end of this piece.

In today’s post, we get to finish the discussion we started some time back with writer Leah Bobet.

LUC: In our first round of questions, you mentioned Poppy Z. Brite’s book Drawing Blood, saying “Besides all the vampire sex and killing, what I took from that was that gay people are just people with relationships and problems and to do lists and lives to run and stories,” and you went on to describe how that has affected how you see and understand many kinds of people in the world. Are you consciously trying to create “aha” moments like this for your own readers? Are your goals for inclusivity in your writing explicit and specific?

LEAH: I’m not, no – and I’m not sure if one deliberately can create that moment.  Every reader’s set of experiences and stories and, well, their brains are different.  The “aha” moment is when the story being told combines with the rest of your life and data and experiences in a way that tips over a realization you’ve been on the verge of making.  It’s so very rooted in the reader that I’m not sure crafting it is possible.

What you can do, I think, is present the world as you see it, or the questions you’re sitting up nights asking yourself.  And people will either agree or disagree with what you show them, or go off asking all new questions that you never could have predicted.

As for goals for inclusivity, mostly the goal for me is to have it — which could be read as extremely explicit and specific, or not at all!  But to be clearer:  I don’t write to a moral point, or to proselytize in any way.  It didn’t take more than five minutes’ experience as an editor to learn that there’s a difference between a story and a piece written To Make A Point ™, and that the latter is very difficult to make into an interesting or engaging read.

What I do try to write is the kinds of stories I want to read as a reader, and those are stories that challenge me; stories that can both sweep up my heart and make me really and truly think; stories that examine social values without trying to sell them to the reader.  The stories I write are populated by all kinds of people because I want to read stories like that, and because that’s the world on my block, in my neighbourhood, in my city.

LUC: When a writer tackles a story that includes someone from a group they’re not a part of, what tests or steps or touchstones should be used, in your opinion, to do the job right?

LEAH: Youch – I am not at all qualified in any fashion to say how one can do the job right.  You can do all sorts of recommended things and still drop the ball on this sort of thing, or do none of them and do a really productive job.  It’s all situational, and it depends, also, on what job you’re trying to do.

I think there are two main factors to look at when you’re writing characters from a marginalized group, however you choose to tackle them.  The first: What’s the existing social and literary conversation around how that group is portrayed?  What are the in-person stereotypes about them, and what are the fiction stereotypes?  Because even if you’re not aware of or writing out of that stereotype, literature’s a conversation, and your comment (to stretch that metaphor!) will be taken as part of the larger conversation.  If it’s just reinforcing that, or not acknowledging in certain ways that there is a conversation going on, then it’s very easy to do harm.

I’ve tripped on that one myself: Thinking I knew the ground around how a minority is treated in fiction, and not in fact knowing it at all.  That particular piece of work hurt readers, and I can tell you unambiguously that causing harm with your work – using the trust a reader grants you carelessly, or using it ill – is a horrible feeling.  It’s not one I personally care to repeat.

The second factor?  Remember that your characters are people.

This sounds small, but it’s actually pretty big.  Remembering someone’s a person can mean remembering that someone from group X will have things that make them laugh and cry and roll their eyes just like someone from group Y will.  It can mean that they’ll be more or less attached to the culture and religion and society they grew up in, or in different ways, depending on their personality and experiences.  It can mean looking at their reactions as not something opaque and Other and strange, but as reactions to people around them being kind or cruel, or what has been expected of them, or what success and failure were laid out to mean when they were young.  It also means that they have a personality, and that there isn’t a standard, textbook way for people of group X to react to those things: anyone who’s ever had an argument with their siblings can pretty much back that one up.

In short, you are writing a human being.  Treat them as such: as someone complete.

This means, a lot of the time, learning not just to watch, and to see, but to empathize.  Which doesn’t mean to feel bad for someone; it means to, to the best of your ability, shift your own perspective.  What might your street look like to someone with mobility issues?  What would a character who grew up on a farm notice when they walk into a city park, and what would one who grew up in Manhattan notice?

This isn’t just a tool for writing characters different than you; it’s a tool for writing any characters well.  And it’s a tool that ends up bleeding, like all the best ones do, into your life: Because real people are complete and complex humans too, and once you’ve gotten into practice in taking other perspectives and not assuming your own is the only perspective?  You’re seeing people.  And that will reflect in your interactions; in how you treat your neighbours in the small things; and in how they notice, and treat you in return.

LUC: We’ve talked a little about Drawing Blood. Are there other books or stories that, for you, stand out in this regard? If so, what did they do right?

LEAH: Actually, this might appear to come a bit out of left field?  But: Anything by Sean Stewart.  Specifically Galveston, or Nobody’s Son.

If you subscribe to the theory that every author has a couple themes or problems they keep returning to, picking at around the edges, then one of Stewart’s is about realizing that you’re actually a complete asshole, and then what you do after that realization hits.  This is useful to everyone, I think, because I have not yet met a person of any identity makeup who hasn’t been an asshole to somebody.  In activism or just in daily living, the skill of what you do after you’ve been hurtful to someone else is a very useful one to practice, no matter who you are.  They’re flawed books about flawed people, and I’m not put off by either the books or the protagonists being flawed, because they’re also clear-eyed and kind.

So, what did those books do right for me, as a reader?  Aside from being quite well-made in a lot of ways – Stewart has a real skill with subtlety and nuance, especially when it comes to his characterization – the thing that affected me about them was that they’re so non-judgmental.  They let you in close to people who are wounded and recognize those wounds as valid and real, and then show how the behaviour that woundedness causes hurts other people, and how that pain is valid, too.  And I think that’s the key: That pain is valid too, not instead.  There’s an immense compassion in recognizing that we’re all capable of simultaneously being the people dealing the hurt and receiving it, or acting out of old hurt while acting well or badly.  Rendering that into fiction is a very tricky thing – almost as tricky as practising that kind of compassion in life.  And it’s just as worthwhile, I think.

Leah Bobet is the author of Above, a young adult urban fantasy novel (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, 2012), and an urbanist, linguist, bookseller, and activist. She is the editor and publisher of Ideomancer Speculative Fiction, a resident editor at the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, and a contributor to speculative web serial Shadow Unit.

She is also the author of a wide range of short fiction, which has been reprinted in several Year’s Best anthologies. Her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling and Pushcart Prizes, and she is the recipient of the 2003 Lydia Langstaff Memorial Prize. Between all that she knits, collects fabulous hats, and contributes in the fields of food security and urban agriculture. Anything else she’s not plausibly denying can be found at


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Interview with Alex Shvartsman on Unidentified Funny Objects

eBooks and Publishing

Alex Shvartsman recently launched a Kickstarter project to aid in the creation of an anthology of science fiction humor from pro authors. It wasn’t until he mentioned his plan in a discussion that I realized I had never seen such a thing, and yet it’s a simple and appealing idea–an idea with legs, as they say.

So I made my first-ever Kickstarter contribution and asked Alex if I could interview him about the book. Here is that interview.

LUC: You’ve had some noticeable success both in writing (with sales to major markets like DSF and Nature) and in the gaming world. What made you venture into editing and publishing an anthology by pro writers?

ALEX: Although I really enjoy reading and writing speculative fiction, I’m a businessman at heart. I’ve launched several different companies over the years and it’s difficult for me to look at a business model without the question of “how would I do this differently” lingering at the back of my mind.

One of the first things I learned upon trying to get published is that content is way underpriced. Incredibly talented people work very hard to let someone publish their words for pennies per word. So why not put my business acumen to good use and let that someone be me? Even paying what’s considered pro rates I feel that I’m taking advantage of the authors, somehow. I hope to be able to pay even more, eventually, if UFO Publishing becomes a success.

Mind you, I’m not saying that I know better than anyone else, or that the way other publishers do things is somehow bad or wrong. Small publishers that make such claims come and go, and that sort of a statement is often a warning sign in itself. All I’m saying is that I’m willing to invest my time and money to put together the best book I possibly can, and see where that takes me.

LUC: Interesting. So with that in mind, why funny science fiction in particular?

ALEX: I love writing and reading light, humorous stories. Stuff that may be fun to read but won’t necessarily be considered by some of the SFWA markets. When trying to submit such stories for publication I’ve been frustrated at the lack of pro paying venues where they would fit, and realized that, surely, I’m not alone in this.

Can you think of an anthology of speculative humor published any time recently? A publisher that specializes in such material? I can’t. Yet Terry Pratchett books and, recently, “Redshirts” by John Scalzi are bestsellers. So why not short SF/F stories, too?  I believe there is a market for such books, and it may be a great niche for a fledgling company to fill.

LUC: How did you decide on a Kickstarter campaign for initial funding, and how did you address the perennial question “why is this book project worth supporting”?

ALEX: Kickstarter is a perfect platform for projects like this. It isn’t just about the money raised (though the money certainly helps!) – it’s about proof of concept. How many people will become excited enough about an anthology of humorous SF/F to support it by pre-ordering a copy, or even pledging extra money for other rewards? How many people will I be able to reach, make aware of the upcoming book, that might not have learned about it otherwise? This is marketing with an added benefit or raising money for a new venture rather than spending money. A godsend for any bootstrapping new publisher.

So far, I’m very pleased with the results. Over 125 individuals backed UFO in the first three weeks. Hundreds more learned about it through social media and are at least aware of the book, even if they didn’t elect to pre-order. By the time the crowdfunding campaign is over in September, the numbers it generates will give me a much better idea of how many physical copies of the book to print, how much to spend on advertising, etc. And, of course, an infusion of cash at this stage is supremely helpful.

As to the reasons to support the project, there are many. If you are a reader/fan who enjoys speculative humor then, I will repeat once again, UFO is the only anthology of this kind being released in the foreseeable future and supporting it helps promote light/humorous SF and support authors. If you’re a writer, you will find UFO’s systems and procedures to be very friendly — we respond to all submissions within 1-2 days, often provide personalized feedback, pay pro rates, don’t demand excessive rights, pay promptly upon contract … I can go on!

LUC: How have the submissions you’ve received so far–and especially the stories you’ve bought for the anthology–compared with what you expected? What exactly are we in for, here?

ALEX: Both the quantity and the quality of the submissions far exceeded my expectations. There have been over 750 submissions already and way more of them are excellent stories than what I can hope to squeeze into the book.

Let me tell you about just a few of the yarns that will appear in UFO. There’s a novelette by Mike Resnick about a spell-casting Albert Einstein battling the Nazis with some help from Eleanor Roosevelt. Ferrett Steinmetz writes about a wizard who powers his spells through tantric masturbation. This story is a lot more PG-13 than you might expect but still, it isn’t something you’re likely to read elsewhere.

There are also stoned computers, down on their luck vampires, omnivorous sex-maniac pandas and a zombear.

Not every story is over-the-top slapstick humor. Some are gentler, light tales, like Stephanie Burgis’ “Dreaming Harry” about a child whose dreams literally come true and the parents forced to deal the consequences of that. Or Nathaniel Lee’s “The Alchemist’s Children” about a scientifically-minded daughter’s quest to reconnect with her alchemist father. I am going for variety, but I try to avoid dark humor and humorous horror. I want the tone of the book to be very optimistic.

A great example of what’s to be found in the book is Jake Kerr’s story of an alien invasion told via Twitter. We posted it for everyone to read for free, and coded the page to look just like a Twitter stream. It can be found here: .

Let me leave you with that, because Kerr’s story is worth reading and probably a good litmus test for whether or not this book is for you. At the time of this writing, the Kickstarter project is more than 70% funded with a week to go (though less by the time you read this).

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