When We Try to Sort Writers Into ‘Plotter’ or ‘Pantser’

The more I talk to other authors about craft the clearer it is that novelists use a huge range of different planning styles. People talk about “Planners” vs. “Pantsers,” i.e., people who plan books and series in advance vs. people who plunge in and write by the seat of their pants. Each category contains a spectrum, for instance people who plan just the major plot points vs. people who plan every chapter. But even then, authors who are improvisational about some parts of storymaking can be very much plotters when it comes to others.

Characters, plot, and setting—or, for genre fiction, world building—are very visible. They tend to be what we talk about most when geeking out about a favorite book: a plot twist, a favorite character’s death, the awesome magic system or interstellar travel system. Sometimes an author will develop a world or characters in detail before ...

Writing the Distant Future of Global Politics

What if citizenship wasn’t something we’re born with, but something we choose when we grow up? In the Terra Ignota future, giant nations called “Hives” are equally distributed all around the world, so every house on a block, and even every person in a house, gets to choose which laws to live by, and which government represents that individual’s views the most. It’s an extension into the future of the many diasporas which already characterize our present, since increasingly easy transportation and communication mean that families, school friends, social groups, ethnic groups, language groups, and political parties are already more often spread over large areas than residing all together. In this future each of those groups can be part of one self-governing nation, with laws that fit their values, even while all living spread over the same space.

Readers of Too Like the Lightning have enjoyed playing the “Which Hive ...

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Chronicling Japanese Folklore: The Ghosts and Monsters of Shigeru Mizuki

Have you ever been walking along and felt the creepy, unsettling feeling that something was watching you? You may have met Betobeto-san, an invisible yōkai, or folklore creature, who follows along behind people on paths and roads, especially at night. To get rid of the creepy feeling, simply step aside and say, “Betobeto-san, please, go on ahead,” and he will politely go on his way.

What we know of Betobeto-san and hundreds of other fantastic creatures of Japan’s folklore tradition, we know largely thanks to the anthropological efforts of historian, biographer and folklorist, Shigeru Mizuki, one of the pillars of Japan’s post-WWII manga boom. A magnificent storyteller, Mizuki recorded, for the first time, hundreds of tales of ghosts and demons from Japan’s endangered rural folklore tradition, and with them one very special tale: his own experience of growing up in Japan in the 1920s through 1940s, when parades of water ...

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"Umibozu", 1985.
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"Gegege no Kitaro" vol. 1, Japanese edition.
Shigeru Mizuki, with his Eisner Award (2012)

Writing a Future in Which You Choose Your Own Nation

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What if citizenship wasn’t something we’re born with, but something we choose when we grow up? In the Terra Ignota future, giant nations called “Hives” are equally distributed all around the world, so every house on a block, and even every person in a house, gets to choose which laws to live by, and which government represents that individual’s views the most. It’s an extension into the future of the many diasporas which already characterize our present, since increasingly easy transportation and communication mean that families, school friends, social groups, ethnic groups, language groups, and political parties are already more often spread over large areas than residing all together. In this future each of those groups can be part of one self-governing nation, with laws that fit their values, even while all living spread over the same space.

Readers of Too Like the Lightning have enjoyed playing the “Which Hive ...

Print
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Help Refugees Through Science Fiction!

27736267971_da47d0caae_k Science fiction and fantasy fans don’t just like reading about other, better worlds—we like working to make this world better, too. That’s been proved to me over and over during the past five years as, every spring, I’ve teamed up with other F&SF authors, with Tor Books and Tor.com, and with my undergraduate science fiction club to run the Vericon charity auction. With books and games and nerdy baked goods, we raise money for refugees, providing medical and legal aid, and stocking a refugee library. And this year, for the first time, anyone, anywhere can help out by bidding online on books and other items donated by your favorite fantasy and science fiction authors, including autographed books, advanced copies of forthcoming books, as well as other fun and nerdy goods like alien kitchen tools and blood cake. vericonauctionlogo Craft projects, weird foods, advanced copies of forthcoming books, crazy dice, all ...
This is more than half of the team that does so much!
The group's founder Donatella (center) at work in a shelter.
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Even in the hardest times, a library is a wonderful place to spend a birthday!
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Seven Surrenders

seven-surrenders In a future of near-instantaneous global travel, of abundant provision for the needs of all, a future in which no one living can remember an actual war…a long era of stability threatens to come to an abrupt end.

For known only to a few, the leaders of the great Hives, nations without fixed location, have long conspired to keep the world stable, at the cost of just a little blood. A few secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction can ever dominate, and the balance holds. And yet the balance is beginning to give way.

Mycroft Canner, convict, sentenced to wander the globe in service to all, knows more about this conspiracy the than he can ever admit. Carlyle Foster, counselor, sensayer, has secrets as well, and they burden Carlyle beyond description. And both Mycroft and Carlyle are privy to the greatest secret of all: Bridger, the child who ...

Too Like the Lightning, Chapter 4

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Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer—a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labeling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world’s population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competition ...