Now Zero, December, 2022

Pretend you’re good at it.

– Neil Gaiman, via Jenny Lawson

And all the rest

I’ve decided to bring these monthly updates to a close. The fact is, I’m not a full-time writer, I don’t always have things to talk about, and this is just another self-imposed duty I’ve assigned to myself whether I have anything to say or not, whether I want to do it or not. (Also, the blog is basically dead as a marketing or communication platform, and I never quite blogged regularly enough to build up the habit, so it really is a slog for me. But [see below] basically everything is at the moment.)

So instead I’m thinking about overhauling my website at some point and pushing the blog to the rear. But I want to do it properly, and that means paying for art and paying for web design (as well as finding people who can do what I have in mind for both), and it’s hard to justify that expense at the moment. I’ll take care of it when I sell my next book, if not before then.

That’s about all I have in me for this update. About 8 weeks into a particularly low mood, so you can imagine why I’ve decided it’s not worth doing these updates… Maybe they’ll return next year.

Enjoy whichever holiday it is you celebrate around this time of year, even if it’s just using the holidays as an excuse to spend time with your loved ones.

Now Zero – November, 2022

So why try to predict the future at all if it’s so difficult, so nearly impossible? Because making predictions is one way to give warning when we see ourselves drifting in dangerous directions. Because prediction is a useful way of pointing out safer, wiser courses. Because, most of all, our tomorrow is the child of our today. Through thought and deed, we exert a great deal of influence over this child, even though we can’t control it absolutely. Best to think about it, though. Best to try to shape it into something good. Best to do that for any child.

– Octavia Butler

Above comes via Mandy Brown’s A Working Letter.

The Writing

SYTI is on the desk of my editor at tordotcom, so now let’s hope he likes it enough to want to publish it. I’m really proud of the book and have big ideas for where the story is going to go, so it’d be amazing to work with tordotcom again to bring the series to life.

Other than that, not a great deal to report. Early in October I had an idea for how to improve the main subplot in OS, and I gave the manuscript a full edit. It’s better, it’s tighter, but I still don’t know if it’s there yet. For now I’m setting it aside (again), and focusing on what’s next.

I’d previously mentioned a new idea that I was excited to work on, but just this past week I’ve figured out a way I could merge that new idea with the ideas I’ve been collecting and composting for a follow-up to Repo Virtual. It wouldn’t be a real sequel, more like how Gibson’s “trilogies” are always connected but standalone stories. I’ve been making notes for an eventual follow-up for years, so at some point soon I’m going to collate all those and see how it all starts to come together.

I’m not in a huge rush though, because first I want to loosely outline the full series that SYTI kicks off. It’d be great if it was another novella trilogy, but I’ve got a lot of story to tell, so we’ll see what happens. Could be 4 novellas, could be 5. Or maybe the sequels will be novels? Too early to say, but I’ve been making notes on where the series could go since before I even started writing SYTI. So, I need to set some time aside to also see how this series could come together – bash out a very loose outline for the full series, and a solid outline for book 2. I’m hoping I can keep working on this series while my subconscious keeps thinking through the RV follow-up.

So nothing of substance to report, but I actually feel like I have a plan in place. Wish me luck.

Oh, and still no contract for the short story I mentioned last time, but hopefully I can announce that next month.

Nothing Here Newsletter

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but each newsletter ends with a great selection of memes – dessert for getting through the poorly-cooked vegetables that is life in these times.

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The weather has been crazy here. Remember when talking about the weather was a sign of bad conversation and/or a deeply boring person? Well, that was before we could expect wild weather at irregular intervals. In Melbourne it has been raining constantly for weeks now – it’s like we’re in Blade Runner but without all the neon and the promise of an off-world colony.

The shitty weather extended winter right up until early October, and after a week of decent weather we’re back to more rain. I like the rain, but I would like it more if it wasn’t a sign of a weather system in upheaval thanks to climate change…

Look after yourself. Look after your loved ones. Find some joy.

Now Zero – October, 2022

I’ve got a bone to pick with capitalism
And  a few to break.

– Refused, Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull

The Writing

Another short story sale this past month. Still waiting on the contract, so no official announcement yet, but I will say it’s one of the big, legacy SF markets. The story in question is the first one that Andrew Dana Hudson and I collaborated on together. I was confident it would find a home somewhere because I think it’s a great story, but I’m still excited about exactly where it has landed.

That makes 5 short story sales so far this year – 1 reprint, 4 originals 2 of which were collaborations. 3 anthologies and 2 magazines.

SYTI is finished for now, edited and polished and ready for submission. I sent a query to my editor at Tordotcom, so fingers crossed he’s interested in taking a look. I don’t take anything for granted in this industry.

I also gave another pass to the prequel short story and the flash piece I mentioned previously. I’m done with them until someone else can give them a look, I think.

I was hoping to gear up for Octowrite (8 weeks, 40,000 words of prose, take it sleazy), but I lost the last week (in writing productivity terms) to depression and don’t really know what I would want to work on. I’ve got a complete TD outline, but it needs another look and I don’t know that I’m feeling it right now. Then there’s the couple of comic ideas I could put some more energy into, and the new idea that’s taking up some headspace. I’ll figure something out. Just hoping the depression passes soon.

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Ella had another ultrasound and blood tests and she remains in remission, which means we can start weaning her off some of the meds she’s been on for the past year and a half or so.

It was my birthday last month. Not dead yet. Speaking of, I also went and visited my 98-year-old grandfather this month. The last time I saw him, he seemed more or less just as spritely as he had for at least the past 10 years, but he’s properly old now, worn down by his time on Earth. Getting to your late 90s before you start to really seem old sure is something. And to keep your faculties all those years is impressive. Doubt I’ll make it to 98, but if I do, I hope I make it look as easy as he has.

Now Zero – September 2022

It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.

– Philip K. Dick, Valis

The Writing

Been a busy month on the writing front, actually. I wrote the first draft of a flash piece I’ll submit to an anthology (submissions close in November from memory, so plenty of time to hone it still), and then wrote a SYTI prequel story that takes place immediately before the opening of the novella.

My thinking is the story could be used as a sort of teaser prior to publication of the novella, kind of inspired by the way Peter Watts has stories related to his longer works available to read on his website. Had the prequel idea kicking around for a while and decided to just write it – otherwise I might have lost steam by the time I was finished with the next draft of the novella.

Speaking of, the rewrite of the opening chapters went well. Difficult work, but the book will be much better for it. I thought that was going to be the hard part, but the next section which I also want to overhaul (but not quite to the same degree) is even longer than that first chunk, so still got a bit of a slog left. After this section, I think the rest of the edits on this draft should go quite quickly. SYTI is the first book I’ve written (or, to be more precise, edited) where the first quarter needed the most work – usually it’s the ending that starts off as a placeholder in the first draft and needs a couple more drafts before I nail it.

Hoping to have a “final” draft and a pitch ready before the end of the month so I can send it out and still have time to finalise my outline for TD before the beginning of Octowrite. Paraphrased from my twitter:

Join me this October for Octowrite!

  • 8 weeks
  • 40k words or 8 short stories, whichever suits your writing aims.
  • Take weekends to do whatever
  • Nah, it’s all good
  • No hashtag, fuck that
  • You’re more than a words machine.

In case you couldn’t tell, it’s a minor stab at Nanowrimo. I think it can be useful, but I also think it can encourage unhealthy writing habits and give you an excuse to beat yourself up for not hitting completely arbitrary goals. And plus, even if you can write 50k words in a month (and even if they’re reasonably good words), it’s still not a novel. Unless you’re working in the literary sphere, 50k is a very awkward length that you’re going to find difficult to sell.

So yeah, hoping to do Octowrite, and hoping to get about half of TD written in that time, but we’ll see. My brain might decide it’s time to work on something completely different.

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I finished reading Virginie Despentes’ Vernon Subutex III the other night. Across the trilogy, Despentes proves she’s adept at creating and giving voice to distinct and three-dimensional characters, swapping POV with each chapter across a large ensemble cast. They aren’t all likeable (indeed, some are repugnant), but they’re all well-realised and that’s probably the first book’s greatest strength. It’s greatest weakness, for me, was how fucking bourgeois most of the characters are, but by the end of book I that’s addressed in a matter of speaking, and book II explores an interesting and odd new status quo, and is probably my favourite of the trilogy.

Book III is the darkest of the three, and precisely how dark it can get shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve seen her 2000 film Baise-moi, but I’d be lying if I said the ending didn’t leave me feeling depressed. Not only for what happened, but because that’s the way it had to end. It’s a story about the real world in so many ways, so not only do the bad guys win, but they get rich and famous thanks to their villainy. I’m being deliberately vague and reductive because the books are worth reading and I don’t want to spoil the ending here.

I will say though that the epilogue is needlessly SFnal, and didn’t read as though it belonged to the rest of the series at all. But maybe that’s just me – for obvious reasons I get irritated by well-known, highly-regarded, best-selling, and wealthy literary authors fumbling with SFnal ideas.

They’ve started adapting the series for television, but if you’ve read them all you’ll know why I feel dirty just thinking about watching that…

Now Zero – August 2022

Your art is as big, as powerful, as beautiful and dangerous as you yourself are able to conceive of it as being.

– Alan Moore

The Writing

I got a second round of feedback on SYTI and thankfully it lined up with the first. I was waiting on a third, but doesn’t look like that’s coming, so I’ll get started on the next draft shortly. Current plan is to write the prequel story and roll right into rewriting the first couple of chapters of the novella (or, writing whole new opening chapters, really).

In the meantime I’ve been planning a YA novel, to be called TD here for the time being. I don’t love the name, but it’s still the best I’ve been able to come up with so far. I’m not sure if dystopian YA is “in” anymore after the Hunger Games-inspired flood of it a few years back, but the focus of this book is dystopian cli-fi – a look at the world teens today might be inheriting and reasons/ways to push back against the fossil capitalist hegemony.

I hope to have an initial outline for the book by the end of this week, then work on SYTI until it’s ready to go out on sub, and then back to TD to rework the outline after I’ve had a break from it. Wish me luck.

Also, I mentioned yesterday that the TOC for Interzone #295 has been announced, including a new short story from me titled Hollywood Animals.

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Some good news, from my twitter:

After almost 18 months of treatment, this little old lady is in remission. One of the vets did a little happy dance when we picked her up.  And that’s despite the fact that Ella would try and murder them all if she wasn’t so sedated. Here she is, very stoned.

Near the start of the year when we started on a new chemotherapy program (new type of chemo, different schedule, more blood tests, etc etc) we were told that remission was extremely unlikely. The vet and oncologist made it sound like we only had a few months with her. But either medicine is complicated (nah) and/or she responded extremely well to the new program, and her recent ultrasound showed no sign of the cancer in her bowels.

It’s hard to celebrate it as much as I probably should because it’s not a cure, only a respite. But it’s enough just knowing that we have more time with her, and will hopefully be able to wind-down the treatment and related vet visits (as mentioned above, she hates the vet) so that her quality of life is improved.

I dedicated Killing Gravity to Ella because Seven was based on her. Seven is functionally (kind of) immortal because I can’t properly comprehend Ella dying. Thankfully it’s something I won’t have to comprehend for a while yet.

(But, goddamn, it took a lot of money to get to this point. Buy my books.)

Hollywood Animals in the upcoming Interzone #295

Just a quick not to say that my short story Hollywood Animals will be in the December issue of Interzone, issue #295. Preorders are up now, with full TOC at the link.

It’s the first story I’ll have published that sits under the banner of Crisp SF. Crisp isn’t just about genetic engineering (taking its name from CRISPR technologies) but about genetic engineering in a world struggling under the weight of rampant capitalism and/or catastrophic climate change. The cli-fi angle is non-existent in Hollywood Animals, but it has a heavy emphasis on labor relations. To my mind,  a resurgent union movement is one of the best current real-world examples of the little people (here workers specifically) pushing back against the constant grinding demands of the same capitalist system that is both driving climate change and standing in the way of us making timely changes.

I’m excited to have a story in Interzone and to have something else out in the world. Strangely enough, 2022 has been the year of short stories for me – Night, Rain and Neon, Phase Change, and now Interzone. Now I just have to hope that I can sell a novel or novella by the end of the year.

Now Zero – July, 2022


I think the sirens in The Odyssey sang The Odyssey,
for there is nothing more seductive, more terrible,
than the story of our own life, the one we do not
want to hear and will do anything to listen to.

– Mary Ruefle

The Writing

I got my first bit of feedback on SYTI this past month, and it was very encouraging. This friend isn’t necessarily a reader of sci-fi books, but will read my work because she’s a great friend and super reliable (I think she’s maybe consistently been the first person to get back to me with feedback on every big project I send out). She was, however, a big fan of Anne Rice’s books when she was younger, and she seemed genuinely excited about my SF vampire novella, which is great, and helped me feel a little more excited again as I gear up for the next draft. Just waiting on further feedback from one or two more people – that way I can see if they have the same issues, or entirely different ones.

She wasn’t sure about the opening couple of chapters, and neither was I to be honest. Overhauling those could be a big job, but it’ll be worth it.

I mentioned Peter Watts’ Freeze-Frame Revolution last month and one thing Watts does is write additional stories in the universe of his novels and publish them on his website (sometimes directly, sometimes after they’ve been published in a magazine). I’d already planned to write a direct prequel story to SYTI, but this month I scratched out some notes on some other potential stories I could write in the world. There are always multiple projects I want to be working on, but I’m considering planning out the rest of the series SYTI belongs to…

Another thing I did this month was spend a few days collating all of my loose story and writing notes into Obsidian. There are countless notes programs out there, but I went with Obsidian mainly because it’s not cloud-based, subscription-based, or proprietary – it just sits on a bunch of text files that are formatted in Markdown and ties everything together neatly for you.

I’ve got a few projects where I have so many notes that I didn’t think it was worthwhile moving them into Obsidian – they’ll go into their own Word/Scrivener docs when I’m ready to start work.

Generally my way of making notes in the first place is to email them to myself – which is handy because you can do it from any device you’ve currently got your hands on, and if you’re trying to do it in bed, you can turn your phone brightness way down, instead of needing to turn on a light so you can write in a notepad. Having a folder in your email client for a project is a pretty good way to keep track of everything, but when it comes to loose ideas and random snippets, I needed something a bit more organised.

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I found out the other day that Gareth Jelley is taking over Interzone Magazine. I’m keen to see the magazine continue to grow and evolve, and I’m certain it’s in good hands because Gareth is a super knowledgeable, hard-working, and passionate sort. The interviews with SF authors he conducted for Intermultiversal were some of the best I’d read (and experienced, as I was one of his early test subjects), and the only downside I can see to Gareth running Interzone is that he won’t have time for the podcast too.

Alright, it’s been a big week, and I’m tired, so I’ll leave it here. Look after yourself, look out for those closest to you, and be prepared to throw bricks at cops for the sake of civil rights, human rights, and queer rights. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

Now Zero – June, 2022

It’s all in your head, you just have no idea how big your head is.

 – Lon Milo Duquette

The Writing

I got the current draft of SYTI off to my beta readers early in May and have done a pretty good job of pushing it out of my mind while I wait (patiently – other people have lives of their own) for them to get back to me.

The hunt for an agent continues with OS.

I wrote the first chunk of a collaborative novella I’m writing with Marlee Jane Ward, who’s brilliant Orphancorp series is well-worth a look if you’ve not taken my suggestion to read it before now. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the project yet because it’s early, but I’m excited to see how it develops. Part of the impetus for wanting to write it is that Marlee has struggled to write since the pandemic (and the isolation of Melbourne’s lockdowns), but when she does write her work is as brilliant as ever. I’m hoping that a collaborative project will help her get back on the horse, and I just want to see what comes from our combined styles, foci, obsessions, experiences, etc. I’m hoping we might have a first draft by the end of the year, but I’m also going to sit back and let Marlee take the time she needs.

I’ve started planning work on two projects that could both be short comic series (my understanding is that anything longer than 4 or so issues is unlikely to get picked up unless you’re a known quantity, plus I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew). One would be comedic, in the same vein as an old collab project, the other would be a synthesis of Killing Gravity and Repo Virtual in some ways. I’ve been writing notes on this project for a couple of months now, and that comparison only occurred to me today. In some ways I worry, but it’s a different story, different world, different medium, it’s just that I’ll also be treading some familiar ground. It’s odd what we find ourselves drawn to again and again.

My contributor copy of Phase Change arrived and it looks/feels great. The contents are pretty amazing too.

Buddies without Organs

We’re currently on a MH hiatus. I won’t say more now except that I hope we’ll be back to it soon. Working on this podcast with Sean and Matt has been a real highlight of the past year or so for me.

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There’s some people I really respect who spend a lot of time on twitter actively promoting the work of other people – finding and boosting great works in the SFFH space, while keeping their own self-promotion to a minimum. It’s not something I can really do – I struggle to read new books in a timely manner (I pre-ordered Cassandra Khaw’s latest and still haven’t cracked it open eight months later) – but I do make an effort to give detailed feedback on manuscripts for people in my close circle/s. I don’t know how much reach I would have in terms of promotion, but I feel confident in my ability to pick out the issues with a book and be able to advise people on ways to address them. And also why those issues are issues – why and when some writing rules are necessary and why and when others can be disregarded – because sometimes a concept/rule/guideline won’t click until it’s been explained.

Also, I finished reading Peter Watts’ Freeze-Frame Revolution the other day which is, unsurprisingly, brilliant. I wish I’d picked up Blindsight the first time I’d heard it mentioned as Watts has quickly become one of my favourite authors working today (and possibly that last caveat isn’t even required). He has a number of short stories as well as 4 entire novels available to read for free on his website.

I think that will do for now. Pretend I said something hopeful and gently encouraging here, because we could all do with a bit of that these days, couldn’t we?

Phase Change – Available to Order

I just wanted to share this briefly – I got my contributor’s copy of Phase Change, and it is a hefty slab of hopeful energy futures, coming in at a bit under 450 pages.

It’s available for order now via the Twelfth Planet Press website, in ebook and paperback. Even if I wasn’t involved I’d be excited about this book – it’s exactly the sort of fiction we need for the current moment.

Catastrophic climate change sparked by the fossil fuel industry leaves us no choice: we must decarbonise. To create another world we need different narratives. With visions spanning from transhuman planet-hopping through post-cyberpunk paranoia to solarpunk ecotopianism, this collection dislocates our present energy regimes to imagine energy transitions and futures in all their complexities. These are stories of phase change.

Paolo Bacigalupi • Eugen Bacon • Carmel Bird • Grace Dugan • Thoraiya Dyer • Greg Egan • Tom Flood • Andrew Dana Hudson and Corey J. White • Sid Jain • John Kinsella • Rosaleen Love • Andrew Macrae • Nick Mamatas • Paul Graham Raven • Simon Sellars • Cat Sparks • Molly Tanzer • Ben Walter • Jo Lindsay Walton • Wendy Waring • David Whish-Wilson • Jasper Wyld

‘Wildly imaginative, heartrending, furious and hopeful, the stories in Phase Change are a reminder of science fiction’s vital role in helping us imagine a new and better future.’

— James Bradley, author of Ghost Species

‘From transformed planetary ecologies to transhuman altered genomes, from ubiquitous drone surveillance and widespread mass extinction to prison abolition and a people’s history of ecoterrorism, Phase Change is your handbook for the next century (and beyond).’

— Gerry Canavan, editor of Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction

Now Zero – May, 2022

Mandela’s Sermon

Blessed are the dehumanized
for they have nothing to lose
but their patience

False gods killed the poet in me. Now
I dig graves
with artistic precision

Keorapetse Kgositsile (2002)

This month a poem instead of a writing quote.

The Writing

Edits finished on SYTI and I sent it out to my beta readers. After some hefty cuts I got it down to 42k which is still too long to technically count as a novella. Oh well, that’s a problem for future Corey.

Usually I get about 24 hours of pride at being finished followed by a week of depression (because I’m not working on anything and therefore not being productive and not living up to my own expectations? I dunno, but there’s a reason I’m in therapy), and this time was no different. Less obvious this time around, but a definite low mood. I give myself a couple of weeks off after finishing a big project, so tomorrow I should be back at it, planning the next thing (actually potentially 4 next things…)

One niche genre I love is that of ‘broken man breaks bad men to rescue an innocent’ – think You Were Never Really Here (film over book, but both are great), Galveston (book over film, but both are great), Man on Fire (the Tony Scott film), and others that aren’t quite worth the mention. I finally came up with my own take on it, which also feeds on a sci-fi element I’ve been wanting to use for a while now, so I’m excited to bash something together for that. I’m thinking it’d either be a 20k word novella, or a 4-issue comic. Been meaning to write a comic for years, so maybe now is the time…

I saw Everything, Everywhere, All at Once over the weekend, and it’s a brilliant film, likely the best sci-fi action comedy ever (and not just because I can’t remember any other films with a proper dose of all three), but the annoying thing is that the way it uses the multiverse overlaps with some of my tinkering for a multiversal spy series I’ve been slowly growing over years. I don’t know that it really matters because the breakthrough I mentioned in the last update should make the idea different enough from Everything… but it’s always annoying to get beaten to the punch. Though I have to say the film’s approach to comedy was something I never would have considered, but when you’re talking about literally infinite universes it would be a missed opportunity not to have fun with it.

Buddies without Organs

On this episode, the buddies revisit Fisher’s blogpost “Terminator Versus Avatar” and explore its extended implications for the contemporary.

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Latest batch of issues from the NH team.

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I mentioned seeing a movie, which in this instance translates to a visit to the cinema for the first time in over 2 years. I know that many people have been happily out in the world for months already, but I’m still approaching things with trepidation (and a mask). It’s a difficult balance to strike, and I’m aware that there are people who would think a trip to the cinemas now is still reckless even as the majority seems primed to pretend that things are “back to normal” even with daily case numbers telling a very different story. I thought this piece at Scientific American was interesting and useful, even as it’s geared toward the American context.

One of the key points that stuck with me was this:

She considers community risk high when there are more than 50 weekly cases per 100,000 residents. When the risk is lower than that, Jetelina—a healthy, young boosted person—feels comfortable taking off her mask indoors. “I will say it’s taken a lot of time for me to be comfortable with that,” she says. “Once transmission rates of those indicators start increasing a bit, I’m putting my mask back on.”

And despite the relief people may feel, we’re still at figures much higher than 50 weekly cases here in Victoria. The good news though is that the cinema is highlighted as a safe venue due to the high ceilings, so I don’t feel like I’m being careless with my close ones and community more generally.

If you’re struggling as much as I am with striking that risk balance, have a read over that piece because it’s probably going to be clearer than whatever messaging you’ve been getting from your government.

I’m going to call it there for now. I’m tired. Everything is tiring.