MechaDeath

I’ve been quietly tinkering in the background on a new project with my good friend Austin (who is one part of the nothing here team). This project is a book and apparel company called Oh Nothing Press. Our plan for ONP is to create new and weird cultural artifacts, killer t-shirts, and narrative worlds you can lose yourself in.

The first of these worlds is MECHADEATH – a story of Occult Mecha Warfare on a Cosmic Scale. Think ‘black metal mecha anime’ in text and t-shirt form. You can download the zine free here. The concept sprung forth from Austin’s mind, the story bled out of my fingertips, and the stunning layout & design is done by the group Trash.Been. Honestly, check out the zine and tell me that design isn’t next-level.

Austin and I had a chat about the project and ONP in general in the latest issue of the nothing here newsletter, so if you want more info, go check it out.

We’re also selling t-shirts at the site. For a launch week special, you can use the coupon code MECHA30 at checkout to save 30% off. Coupon code expires on the 15th of October, but we plan on pushing coupons regularly for people who follow us on twitter and instagram, or just poke around the hidden recesses of the site. For a better look at the shirt designs and links to the artists, just click on the shirts. Austin hand-picked these artists to help bring the concept to life, and they all did something unique to their own style and true to the weird MechaDeath beast.

Karnak - Shirt Design by Megan Mushi Ikamulum - Shirt Design by Septian Fajrianto Tzemeger - Shirt Design by Dan Comerci Gadian One - Shirt Design by 6VCR

A Punk Rock Future

I’m excited to announce that I’ll have a short story in the upcoming anthology A Punk Rock Future, from Zsenon Publishing. There’s a kickstarter for the book, with rewards including ebooks and paperbacks (obviously), as well as music from some of the authors in the anthology, a story critique from Erica Satifka, and a bunch more.

The anthology includes stories from Erica L. Satifka, Sarah Pinsker, Spencer Ellsworth, Margaret Killjoy, Izzy Wasserstein, Stewart C Baker, Michael Harris Cohen, Maria Haskins, Kurt Pankau, Zandra Renwick, Marie Vibbert, P.A. Cornell, Jennifer Lee Rossman, M. Lopes da Silva, R. K. Duncan, Steven Assarian, Dawn Vogel, Matt Bechtel, Josh Rountree, and Vaughan Stanger.

And, if the kickstarter campaign hits its stretch goals, there’ll be another open submissions period for some additional flash stories.

NB: I have no involvement in the kickstarter, whatsoever. I’m just mentioning it because I love everything about this anthology and want the kickstarter campaign to be a success.

My story is about a lot of things, but mostly it’s about how punk-rock is for everyone who wants it, everyone who finds it and feels like they’ve found some missing piece of themselves. It’s also a ‘fuck you’ to anyone who believes otherwise, anyone who tries to act as a gatekeeper.

I don’t know what kind of person I would be today if I never found punk, but it had a profound effect on me in my teenage years. The world-weary humour of NOFX, the saccharine love songs of The Ataris, Pennywise, Bad Religion, Blink 182 and The Offspring (hey, it was 1999 and everybody loved them), anarchy, DIY, compilation discs. It was Punk-O-Rama Vol. 4 that introduced me to Tom Waits. The same compilation introduced me to Refused and The Shape of Punk to Come, my first real taste of anti-capitalist sentiment, and an incredible album that still sounds as cutting-edge today as it did 20 years ago. That album set me down a path of vibrant, complex post-hardcore that still defines a big chunk of my listening today.

If I hadn’t found Refused I wouldn’t have ‘got’ These Arms Are Snakes. If I didn’t listen to These Arms Are Snakes I wouldn’t have written Killing Gravity. I can trace who I am and what I am today right back to punk-rock. That’s why I’m excited about this anthology.

 

 

 

Skin Project

Tattoos are weird, for any number of reasons. For one thing, most black inks are made from bone charcoal, meaning you’re literally trapping dead animals beneath your skin for aesthetic reasons. For another, even though you (maybe) spent a lot of time considering your tattoo, and even though you went through a lot of pain to get it done, once the tattoo is healed, it’s really easy to forget it’s there.

Which is why I was reminded of one of my own tattoos when I listened to the most recent episode of The Allusionist. If you’re not already aware, The Allusionist is a podcast about language, usually looking at strange and interesting uses of language, the history of words, as well as detailing people’s personal stories about words and their uses. Basically, if you’re a word-nerd you’ll probably enjoy it.

Episode 85 is about Shelley Jackson’s Skin Project, in which Jackson put out a call to find people who would be willing to get a word tattooed on their body. The words came from a story she had written, and the only way to read the story is to get a part of it tattooed on your body (I have a copy of it buried deep in a box of old stuff). There’s more to it than that, but all the main points are covered in the podcast. Either go listen, or see the guidelines and FAQ at Shelley Jackson’s website.

I heard about the project in an Experimental Fictions class at Griffith University. Inez Baranay was running the class, and she told us about the project because it was nothing if not an example of experimental fiction. I was intrigued. At that point I had 2 or 3 tattoos already, and absolutely loved the idea of taking part. How many people could say they were involved in something so strange? How many people would have a story like that for when people asked them about their tattoo? (Well, 2,095, as it turns out).

I reached out to Shelley Jackson, went through the various steps required, and went and got my word tattooed on my wrist. When I showed it to Inez, she was kind of freaked out, from memory. When she told us about the project, she apparently didn’t think any of her students were going to go out and actually get tattooed.

Part of the process of having a word assigned to you is that you don’t have any say over the word that you’re given. Once you receive your word, you can elect not to have it tattooed on you, but you can’t apply for a different word. While I was waiting for the word, I thought that if I didn’t like it, I could simply get it tattooed somewhere that no one would see it, but if I did like it, I always planned to have it placed on my wrist.

The word I received: paper.”

My Skin Project tattoo, soon after it was done, and now. I’ve had the rest of my forearm tattooed since, and the lines have blown out a little.

Still now I can hardly believe it. I was studying creative writing at the time, and all I wanted was to be a writer, and the word I received through sheer chance is paper.”

It seemed like an omen then, and honestly, looking back, it still feels like one. Maybe moreso, now that I’m here at this early but very exciting stage of my career as an author.

Tattoos are weird, for any number of reasons. Sometimes they seem like magic.

Static Ruin ARC Giveaway

I’ve been waiting on my Static Ruin ARCs to arrive, and whilst the first batch very possibly went missing in transit, my fantastic editor Carl Engle-Laird organised some more for me!

Now that the books are here, it’s time for a GIVEAWAY. I am giving away 2 paperback galleys of Static Ruin, signed, stamped, and otherwise scribbled in upon request.

How to enter:

  1. Write an honest review for Killing Gravity and/or Void Black Shadow, and post it to Amazon or Goodreads. If you’ve already written a review – thank you – don’t worry, you don’t have to write a new one.
    NB: I’m not telling you what to write or how to rate the book, but it does have to be a written review, not just a rating (and I’d hope you liked the books if you’re keen to read the third, but hey, you do you).
  2. Screenshot your review and post it to twitter and/or instagram with the hashtag #staticruin
    Double check the spelling, otherwise I might miss your post! (I constantly mistype it as The VoidWitch Sage… which, come to think of it, must be what you use to cleanse your new spaceship before moving in…)
    Post it to facebook too if you want. I won’t be checking there, but you’ll be helping spread the word further 😉
  3. Entries close 12th of September 2018. After I’ve collated all entries, I’ll use an RNG to pick 2 winners, 1 from twitter, 1 from instagram. I’ll reply, comment, or DM you in order to get a postal address (you’ll be able to send that to me by email, I don’t expect anyone to publicly share their address).
    Only 1 ARC per person, so if the same person wins on both platforms, I’ll re-roll the pool with the largest number of entries.

Finer details:

  1. No regional restrictions. If I can send it there via Australia Post, I will do so. I am paying for shipping out of my own pocket, but if you live in a country with taxes/fees for receiving imported goods, you’ll need to take care of that at your end, so please be aware.
  2. No purchase necessary (libraries are magic!). No follow, retweet, or like required. Though you will have to respond when I ask for your address. If I don’t get a response within 3 days, I’ll pick another winner.
  3. Because Twitter and Instagram winners are picked separately, you can post to both to double your chances of winning. Also, Void Black Shadow reviews count double. I’m really proud of the book, but with a sequel it’s always harder to reach people.
    So, in theory, you could write a review of each book on Amazon or Goodreads, screenshot it and post it to both Twitter and Instagram for a total of 6 entries in the draw (2 from Killing Gravity, 4 from Void Black Shadow). Make sense?

Serious Writers

A lot of people offer the advice that writers need to write every day. And a lot of people call bullshit on that notion, for a variety of reasons. If you want to know what my biggest pieces of advice are for aspiring writers:

  • Live as cheaply as possible.
  • Work as little as possible.
  • Put the time you saved into writing.

This is what worked for me. It was around two and a half years from the time I decided “I am going to take writing seriously”, cut my work hours back to part-time, and started putting the hours in, to when I signed the book deal for Killing Gravity. Two and a half years. That’s nothing. At the time, it felt like an eternity of constant writing and endless story rejections, but in the grand scheme of things, it is no time at all.

Now, if I wanted to take the above advice and distill it down even further, I would say this:

  • Consciously decide to take your writing seriously.

That’s it. That’s the one piece of advice that works for everyone, because it is different for everyone. I’m not saying “write every day”, I’m saying, make a conscious decision that this is what you want to do with your life and find a way to make it happen. For me that means writing six days a week (and, honestly, Sunday I’m still working on the newsletter and other stuff), but for you it can just mean carving out a few hours a week to dedicate to writing.

I have no kids, and no mortgage, so I can live very cheaply, and I can get away with only working 20ish hours a week (yes, I still work a day job). I also don’t go out much, and I rarely spend money on anything that isn’t a necessity or books (so, just the necessities). This is the life I chose for myself. If you have chosen a different life for yourself, then you will need to figure out your own solution. Only you can know what becoming serious means for you. But I will say this – the most important thing is making that decision. Until you do that, you’ll feel lost. Trust me, I know.

People always say “I want to write…”, “I just can’t find the time to write…”, “I’ve got this idea for a book…”, or whatever, but until you make the decision, it’s only ever going to be this nebulous maybe for a nebulous future that, frankly, you’re never going to reach. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s true. Nobody accidentally stumbles into a successful creative career. (Ok, that one person did, but they’re a once-in-a-generation talent who makes everything they do look effortless, and we hate them.) If you’re not going to take it seriously, then give up. I did this too, and experienced the worst depressive episode of my life. But this was at least instructive. I learned that if I don’t write, I don’t enjoy life. Now if I ever feel like quitting for whatever temporary depressed reason, I can look back at that time and know that I need to press on.

Did I just get real? I think I got real.

So, make that decision, and dedicate what time you can to your craft. I’m not saying you’ll get published, but I’m saying you’ll write, your writing will improve, and that little voice in the back of your head that nags you for not writing will finally, mercifully, shut up. (There will be a whole new host of voices, but I’ll talk about them at some other time.)

Also, tangent: the other non-negotiable thing that writers do (apart from take it seriously), is read. If you come up to me and want to talk about writing and you don’t read, the conversation is over.

Writing is a conversation. It’s a conversation between the voices in your head, it’s a conversation between you and the reader, and it’s a conversation between your work and the stories and authors that inspired it (and if you’re lucky, it’s a conversation between your work and the stories and authors it will inspire). If you’re not reading, then you’re the arsehole at the party who loudly talks over everyone else without listening. Don’t be that arsehole.

If you think you don’t have time, listen to audiobooks on your commute, or at your job. Read novellas – they’re short enough that you can read one in a day. If you want to write short stories, read short stories. If you want to write comics, read comics. Pay attention to what works, and try and figure out why.

Anyway. When I first came here to write this, I was planning on referring to this post that I came across thanks to Ryan K. Lindsay. Go read it, there’s plenty of interesting stuff there.

REPO VIRTUAL Announced

I’ve been busily working away on a novel, and now I can finally talk about it. REPO VIRTUAL is a cyberpunk heist novel, due for publication in 2020 – the most cyberpunk-sounding year yet.

Carl said this in the announcement:

It’s a special pleasure to guide an author through multiple stages of their early career. Since I acquired Corey J. White’s first novella, Killing Gravity, I’ve had the joy of watching his craft develop from book to book. In November he’ll complete his Voidwitch Saga trilogy with Static Ruin, capping off the story of Mariam Xi, one of the most interesting and dangerous characters in space. And now I have the honor of announcing that Tor.com Publishing has acquired Corey J. White’s debut novel, Repo Virtual, a cyberpunk heist story that layers action across real and virtual realities in the hunt for the first true strong AI. Repo Virtual was acquired in a deal negotiated by Martha Millard of Sterling Lord Literistic.

And here’s my comment:

I’m so excited to be working again with Carl Engle-Laird and the rest of the team at Tor.com Publishing on my debut novel. They were a joy to work with on the Voidwitch books, and I’m thrilled to be taking this next journey with them. Repo Virtual will be a fully 21st Century take on cyberpunk, showing the environmental and sociopolitical repercussions of the rampant corporations that cyberpunk warned us about, and perhaps helped to normalise.

Needless to say, I’m really excited to be working on my debut novel. It’s totally different to working on a novella (or even three novellas), but I think I’ve got something special here. I can’t wait to share it with you all.

More news and info as it comes to hand.

Turkey City Lexicon

It’s been a while since I did a writing advice post, and I just came across this post via Cat Rambo’s twitter feed. The Turkey City Lexicon is a collection of terms that help define some common pitfalls in science fiction, as seen and defined by a number of SF voices, including some of those who were integral to the creation of the cyberpunk subgenre.

Sadly, most (if not all) of these pitfalls are still common in SF today, so it’s worth reading to see where you might be able to tighten up your prose.

And just to prove I have some ability for self-criticism, here are some I know slip into my work (hopefully most of it is stamped out before publication, but maybe not:

“Burly Detective” Syndrome
This useful term is taken from SF’s cousin-genre, the detective-pulp. The hack writers of the Mike Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne’s proper name, preferring such euphemisms as “the burly detective” or “the red-headed sleuth.” This syndrome arises from a wrong-headed conviction that the same word should not be used twice in close succession. This is only true of particularly strong and visible words, such as “vertiginous.” Better to re-use a simple tag or phrase than to contrive cumbersome methods of avoiding it.

Not Simultaneous
The mis-use of the present participle is a common structural sentence-fault for beginning writers. “Putting his key in the door, he leapt up the stairs and got his revolver out of the bureau.” Alas, our hero couldn’t do this even if his arms were forty feet long. This fault shades into “Ing Disease,” the tendency to pepper sentences with words ending in “-ing,” a grammatical construction which tends to confuse the proper sequence of events. (Attr. Damon Knight)

“Said” Bookism
An artificial verb used to avoid the word “said.” “Said” is one of the few invisible words in the English language and is almost impossible to overuse. It is much less distracting than “he retorted,” “she inquired,” “he ejaculated,” and other oddities. The term “said-book” comes from certain pamphlets, containing hundreds of purple-prose synonyms for the word “said,” which were sold to aspiring authors from tiny ads in American magazines of the pre-WWII era.

Tom Swifty
An unseemly compulsion to follow the word “said” with a colorful adverb, as in “‘We’d better hurry,’ Tom said swiftly.” This was a standard mannerism of the old Tom Swift adventure dime-novels. Good dialogue can stand on its own without a clutter of adverbial props.

Check out the full list here, along with introductions from both Lewis Shiner and Bruce Sterling.

nothing here

I have long been a fan of the newsletter as a form, largely thanks to Warren Ellis and his various newsletters over the years (I seriously think today’s Republic of Newsletters is largely built on a foundation that Warren built), and wanted to throw my hat into the ring. But, writing an entire newsletter alone seemed like too much work and too much stress. Do I have enough interesting opinions? Even if I did, would anyone care?

So, I decided to rope in some friends/colleagues/lovers to help build something that is (AFAIK) new in the newsletter space – the usual collection of links and recommendations, but from a group of people, with room for a conversational back and forth. I think of it like a podcast in text form.

If you’re here at this website, then you already know who I am, but let me introduce the rest of the nothinghere team:

  • Marlee Jane Ward – Writer, reader, weirdo. Author of ‘Welcome To Orphancorp’ and ‘Psynode’. Host of Catastropod. ADHD, spec fic, feminism, cats. Melbourne, Australia.
  • Austin Armatys – Writer/Teacher/Wretched Creature –  Darwin, Australia, Twitter, Brain Worms @austinarmatys
  • John English – Photographer – Solvent Image. Writer of upcoming comic CEL. Based in Brisbane, Australia @Herts_Solvent
  • m1k3y – Apocalyptic Wallfacer-Futurist. Resident of the alien earth. @m1k3y

Once we feel like we’ve established ourselves and fallen into a groove with the newsletter, we’re also going to open it up to guest issues. It’s been an interesting and entertaining experiment so far, and I’m hoping we can keep it going for a long while to come.

Currently we’re planning on dropping a new issue every fortnight, so go over here and subscribe. Issue 0002 will drop July 14th.

Head of the Realiser

I had a strange realisation today. Realisations are odd, because they generally seem obvious outside the moment/context/head of the realiser (Head of the Realiser is the name of a cult leader if I ever heard one).

I was idly thinking that in another 10 or 20 years when I have enough clout, I’d love to edit a short story anthology. And from that initial thought I had aforementioned realisation: I am exactly where I want to be. And fuck me, but that’s a blessing. Despite the stresses of writing, and just living the late-capitalism lifestyle, that is huge.

I mean, obviously I’m not “done”. There is still so much more for me to do, but I’m officially there on the ground floor of The Life I Always Wanted. The next bit is building a readership and honing my craft. There will be a million other things I have to do along the way, but as long as I’m improving as a writer and reaching an audience, the rest will work itself out. Oh, and connecting with other writers, because there are 2 things every writer loves to talk about – the process and books. And honestly, talking about books is one of my absolute favourite things to do.

And honestly, this fairly positive realisation probably only came about because of that other recent one – that I’ve been pushing myself too hard, and not enjoying the journey. So, maybe that means I’m successfully changing my mindset? I hope so, because it’s been pretty fucking rough in here lately.

Good Enough

I have a problem. Marlee says I’m addicted to workahol, but that’s not it. I work hard because I’m driven, but I’m driven because nothing is good enough. Therein lies the problem.

Smarter people than I have written about the many problems of social media [citation needed], but the problem for me is that I find myself comparing my work/career/success to the gestalt of Writer Twitter. They are constantly being nominated for awards. They are constantly winning awards. They constantly appear on bestseller lists. They constantly get starred reviews, and film/TV deals, and a million other opportunities. In short, whatever successes ‘They’ have, my sick, broken brain sees only in terms of what I don’t have.

This is ridiculous. This is unhelpful. This is incredibly damaging to my mental health. This is also utter bullshit. On the one hand, how fucking entitled is my subconscious being? And on the other hand, I’m comparing my singular self to a group of writers, including some who have been at it for years, or even decades.

Now, beyond the entitlement and the unfair comparisons (which are two entirely different brands of bullshit), the other side effect here is that I do not enjoy the (objectively many) successes I have had. I want to blame Australia’s tall poppy syndrome (and, let’s be honest, my depression), because I find it impossible to celebrate any of my successes for fear of being seen as a conceited arsehole. But, that’s only half of it. I also can’t celebrate because nothing is good enough. I celebrated signing the contracts for Killing Gravity and Void Black Shadow, but everything since then has been…I don’t know. Good, but not good enough, I guess.

So, I’m going to do something difficult, and I’m going to celebrate my successes in an effort to rewire my broken brain. Please don’t think I’m a conceited arsehole, because this is actually entirely unnatural for me. Here goes…

  • I have a trilogy of novellas with an incredible imprint attached to one of the biggest SF publishers in the world. Seriously, Tor.com Publishing is putting out some of my favourite books right now, and they also chose to publish me. Multiple times.
  • Over five thousand people have parted with their hard-earned money for a copy of Killing Gravity. Some of them even liked it. (Honestly, this is one I struggle with because it seems so small a number compared to…I don’t even know what. But hell, it’s my very first book, in a niche format, so 5K is a number I should be proud of. If you’re one of those 5K, thank you. It means the world to me.)
  • Warren Ellis, one of my favourite writers, took time out of his busy schedule to read and review both Killing Gravity and Void Black Shadow.
  • I signed with Martha Millard, the literary agent who represents William fucking Gibson, Ian McDonald, Michael Swanwick, and other well-known and well-respected figures in science-fiction. (Cadwell Turnbull is another early career author that Martha signed, and I feel like he’s going to be A Big Deal down the track, so check out his work now and get on board early.)
  • I’ve had the opportunity to go on tour with the likes of Terry Brooks and some other fantastic local and international authors.
  • And other exciting stuff that I can’t even talk about yet. Seriously, some big news that I should be fucking ecstatic about, but depression broke my brain.

Killing Gravity only came out thirteen months ago (give or take). That’s no time at all. My career has barely even begun, and if I let myself relax for one fucking  second I’ll realise that things are already looking bright. So maybe, just maybe, I should cut myself some fucking slack. Maybe self-loathing isn’t a healthy motivator. Maybe, if I try, I’ll find a better way.

Sorry, Marlee, I don’t think I’m going to work any less, but what I will do is try and enjoy where I’m at right now, instead of beating myself up about where I “should” be.