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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
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20th-Jan-2018 02:18 pm - [sticky post] "Semiosis" has its own site
Semiosis

If you’re here because I wrote the novel Semiosis, welcome!

You might also enjoy the website devoted entirely to the novel with scenes and information that didn’t make it into the book, associated fiction and essays, the full Constitution, and a blog.

You can find it here:

https://semiosispax.com/

Let me see..
In 1996, when I was at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Workshop, each class traditionally made a commemorative T-shirt. (This may still be the case. I hope so.)

Ours featured a design on the front evoking a video game. The boy mannikin in the illustration had certain sentimental significance.

The back, in keeping with tradition, listed remarks taken out of context from critiques. Critiquing stories was a main activity at the workshop, and we tried to be kind and helpful, but context is everything. One of these remarks was mine by the way, and I’m not going to own up to it. One of them was about a story I wrote, and it was actually good advice.

• I would really like to say something nice about your story.
• You should use a lighter shade of foreshadowing.
• The story was dances with wolves, bears, deer, and thunderclouds.
• Spirals down into madness and incompetence in a lighthearted sort of way.
• This story is about Emily Dickinson’s pivotal role in the space program.
• What do we want? THE PRESENT! When do we want it? NOW!
• You have everything you need; it all just needs to be changed.
• I also like gratuitous incineration.
• This story is Waiting for Godot, but without all the action.
• I'm not sure that this story needs to have exactly what you want to say in there.
• What we need are some Zombie rules.
GameOverCloseup.jpg• This story is so well-written I bet you've written something I’d like.

— Sue Burke
13th-Jun-2018 09:57 am - WisCon 42 report
Let me see..
WisCon.jpgWisCon, the world’s leading feminist science fiction convention
May 25 to 28, 2018, Memorial Day weekend, Concourse Hotel, Madison, Wisconsin


Friday, May 25
Chicago to Madison


Since my husband needed our car to get to work, I hitched a ride with a friend to get from Chicago to Madison. At one point a detour for roadwork sent us on some gorgeous little country roads. We entertained ourselves by birdwatching, spotting lots of turkey vultures along with more elegant species.

We arrived a little after noon, and I checked in, got my credentials, and went to The Gathering, a fair-like welcoming event in the hotel’s Capitol Ballroom. It offered activities including a nail polish swap and hair braiding salon, but I mostly browsed through the clothing swap and found two sweaters, a dress, slacks, top, and scarf, at which point I decided to stop because my suitcase would be stuffed. Then I visited The Gathering’s Gadget Petting Zoo and marveled at the extensive variety of fidget spinners.

My only panel at the convention started at 2:30 p.m., Speculative Fiction in Translation, which I was also on last year at WisCon. We discussed the joys and obstacles (mostly financial) to translation, and some tricky cultural and linguistic challenges. I moderated, and the panel included Rachel Cordasco, who runs the Speculative Fiction in Translation website. She passed out a 14-page catalog of works recently translated into English from around the world; the information is available at her website. We also gave away chocolate and books, as we did last year.

Next stop: a Neopronouns workshop – words like “they,” “zhe,” “ze,” “xe,” “e” and “per.” As we discovered, even people who favor such pronouns sometimes find them awkward, and the grammar cases can be troublesome, but they serve an important purpose.

After dinner in the Con Suite, greeting old and new friends, I cruised through the Meet the Artists event in the Art Show and indeed met some artists. Then I attended “What Does It Mean to Be a Good Fandom Citizen?” which was about fanfic and creating an environment to support an attitude of “live and let live” (or “ship and let ship”; “to ship” refers to initiating a romantic relationship).

The hotel bar was well-stocked with Fantasy Factory, a beer by a local brewery, Karben4. The label depicts a fire-breathing unicorn being ridden by a ninja cat. I enjoyed it as I spent the rest of the evening at parties, laughing and getting a hug from a dragon, and was in bed by 1 a.m.

Saturday, May 26
Madison Concourse Hotel


Feeling better than I had a right to, I bought a coffee and a breakfast pastry as I toured the Farmer’s Market at Capitol Square near the hotel. Asparagus, morel mushrooms, and seedling flats served as proof of springtime. I bought some fine cheddar as a gift for my husband, who was stuck at home doing homework for his master’s degree.

I arrived a little late to “Alternatives to Patreon: Direct Support to Creators.” The discussion concluded that despite its flaws, there are few alternatives to Patreon, unfortunately.

I left the convention briefly to go to A Room of One’s Own bookshop to sign some of my books. I came back and bought some art, specifically a matted photo by Katie Clapham, whom I’d met the night before. Then I bought a book and trinkets in the Dealer’s Room, and finally I ate some tasty salads for lunch at the Con Suite.

“Subtle Dangers of AI” considered the biases in machine learning and algorithms, which are compounded by the tendency to use them to make money rather than practice any sort of ethics. At “Arab-American Fantasy,” guest of honor Saladin Ahmed told how he incorporated the importance of older people in Arab culture into his novel Throne of the Crescent Moon. “Female Friendships in Our Stories” compared the differences between friendships, romantic relationships, and familial ties, and discussed female friendships in specific works.

After dinner at a Peruvian restaurant with an old friend where we argued over familial ties in novels, I was back for the Tiptree Auction. Auctioneer Sumana “brainwane” Harihareswara, a stand-up comedian among other career choices, was surprised by some of the bidding. A red plastic inflatable fish skeleton was sold for $145. “I’m exceedingly aware that this is ridiculous,” she said as bidding escalated “for a thing you never needed ... this goddam fish ... that I got helping a friend move” because the friend was going to discard it. The winning bidder received a standing ovation.

Next, to Sumana’s greater amazement, a 2002 O’Reilly manual, Essential Blogging, Cory Doctorow’s first book, sold for even more, $355, despite its discussion of highly out-of-date technology. Perhaps the proximity to the temporary bar in the hallway had something to do with all this.

After that, I wandered through parties, including the Haiku Earring Party, where you select a pair of earrings, then the hostess, Elise Matthesen, gives you a topic, and you write a haiku. My earrings were made of large gray and black beads, and my topic was “mixing up the night.” After overcoming writer’s block, I produced: “about to ignite / hydrogen coalescing / into primal stars.”

That night, I conscientiously went to bed before midnight.

Sunday, May 27
Madison Concourse Hotel


Wearing my new earrings, which matched my outfit perfectly, I snatched some coffee and Racine kringle pastry at the Con Suite, then attended various panels. “How Writers, Editors, Teachers, and Publishers Can Encourage Positive Social Action” talked about “changing the shape of the box rather than the shape of the writer” and how to subvert narratives. “Epigenetics Book Club: What It Is and How It Will Affect SF Plotting” dealt with themes I am plotting about in my current writing project.

After lunch with a friend at a breakfast-all-day restaurant, the panel on “Uncommodifying Culture” pondered whether speculative fiction might be more branded and commodified than other genres. The panel “Biology Breaks Binaries: More Wild Alien Sex” was cancelled, so instead I went to “Constellations of This and Other Worlds.” The presenters couldn’t get the AV equipment to work, so we used our smart phones to access the star charts on their Google Drive document.

Next I went to a nearby coffee shop for “The Alchemy of Diversity: Poetry Open Mic,” where the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association celebrated its 40th anniversary; I am a member. We entertained ourselves with round-robin readings.

At the Dessert Salon, held immediately prior to the guest of honor speeches, we all got a choice of two desserts, and I went for maximum chocolate. As the event began, we were saddened to learn that Gardner Dozois had died. Saladin Ahmed said how much he’d miss him, and then read his speech: “I hope we can feel like guests in each others stories.... How we mythologize matters.” The other guest of honor, Tananarive Due, told how Gardner had published her early works, and then described how science fiction, in particular Afro-futurism, can “weave the future today.... We need to help young readers imagine a better world.”

The Tiptree Award ceremony presented chocolate and other gifts to Virginia Bergin, author of the winning work, a British young adult novel Who Runs the World? which will be published in the US as The XY.

Then I attended some parties, but none of them had alcohol, so eventually I gravitated to the bar, met old and new friends, and suddenly it was 1 a.m.

Monday, May 27
Madison to Chicago


I got up, packed, checked my luggage with the front desk, got coffee and a sweet roll in the Con Suite, and went to panels.

“You Are (Probably) Not As Progressive As You Think” discouraged would-be allies from getting angry or confrontational on behalf of marginalized groups because that makes the marginalized group members seem angry and confrontational, even if they aren’t. “Future of Fiction Formats” considered works such as 17776 by Jon Bois, as well as the question that the “Alternatives to Patreon” panel also pondered: how to get paid. “There’s no magic way to get paid through crowdfunding,” panelist Alexandra Erin said, “but there’s no magic way to get paid for anything.”

The convention ended with The Signout in the Capitol Ballroom, where about thirty authors signed their books. I was one of them. The guests of honor got a lot of attention. I chatted with friends, had Naomi Kritzer sign a book for me, enjoyed snacks elegantly provided to authors by the convention (thank you!), but I only signed three books, two of which were not my own.

And having said goodbye, I got my suitcase from consignment, walked to the nearby University of Wisconsin campus, and soon caught a bus back to Chicago, reading the latest issue of Asimov’s magazine on the way.

Next year’s WisCon guests of honor will be G. Willow Wilson, author of the Hugo-winning Ms. Marvel comic, and Charlie Jane Anders, author of the Nebula-winning novel All the Birds in the Sky.

— Sue Burke
Semiosis
I’ll be at the East Branch of the Milwaukee Public Library at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 16, to talk about Semiosis. The library is at 2320 N. Cramer Street. Boswell Books will be on hand to sell copies of the novel.

I’ll read a short piece about whether your houseplants hate you. (Spoiler, they don’t. In fact, they’re very worried about you.) I’ll also read a brief excerpt from the sequel to Semiosis. Bring your questions! I’ll also sign books, and with any luck meet old and new friends. If I’ve never met you before, here’s your chance.

Milwaukee is where I was born and spent my first four decades of life, so coming back will be a return to my old stomping grounds. I’m excited to be coming home with so much to share.

— Sue Burke
4th-Jun-2018 09:34 am - Review: “Lingua Cosmica”
Let me see..
My review of Lingua Cosmica: Science Fiction From Around the World is posted at SFRevu.

This book of essays by the University of Illinois Press takes a scholarly look at important authors in eleven countries. Little information is available about international science fiction, and this book helps fill a sizable void.

— Sue Burke
24th-May-2018 10:02 am - My post at Asimov’s blog
Seedlings3
My essay “We Lost Control a Long Time Ago” is available for your reading pleasure at From Earth to the Stars, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine’s blog for authors and editors.

In my post, I discuss Barry N. Malzberg’s sometimes uncomfortable idea about what sets science fiction apart from “literary” fiction: external events matter more than individual self-realization. Literary fiction tends to focus on one kind of change, increased self-understanding and self-control, as a means to gain control of your life. Science fiction says that you might achieve self-realization, but technological change is and always has been out of control, and that change and our inability to control it matters more to our lives.

This is what makes science fiction a dangerous and plot-oriented kind of literature.

— Sue Burke
23rd-May-2018 09:10 am - I’ll be at WisCon this weekend
Sue the Chicago T-rex
I’ll be attending WisCon, a feminist science fiction and fantasy convention in Madison, Wisconsin, from May 25 to 28. I’ve been attending off and on since the 1990s, and it’s always a fun, exciting weekend.

On Friday at 2:30 p.m., I’ll be on a panel for Speculative Fiction in Translation with Rachel S. Cordasco, Arrate Hidalgo, Crystal Huff, and S. Qiouyi Lu. Find out about the obstacles and joys of translation, the effect of the internet, and anecdotes about what’s hard to translate. We’ll also give out chocolate and M&Ms, translated books, and a catalog listing recently translated works.

On Sunday at 4 p.m, I’ll be at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association 40th anniversary round robin reading.

On Monday at 11:30 a.m., I’ll be taking part in The SignOut, a autograph/chat session. Come say hello if you haven’t already. Wind down after the fun-filled long weekend. On Tuesday, we have to go back to work — fully charged with WisCon energy.

— Sue Burke
21st-May-2018 09:26 am - “Semiosis” will have a sequel!
Semiosis
The contracts have been signed, the manuscript has been accepted, and the novel Semiosis will have a sequel. In it, Earth sends a mission to the planet Pax, and — no surprise — things don't go well, for a variety of reasons. Stevland is forced to act.

I’ve begun revisions with my editor at Tor, Jen Gunnels, who is a delight to work with. The novel should come out in 2019, and the title has yet to be decided. It’s been referred to as Semiosis: Pax, but in my computer, it’s just “Pax II.”

In addition, Tor wants to buy a third, unrelated book, and I’ve begun work on that. It will be about perfect human clones and their struggle to fit into an imperfect world. At this stage in the process, which is still the zero draft (not even close to a first draft yet), it’s hard to say more because I’m still exploring the story. It should be published around 2020.

I want to thank my agent, Jennie Goloboy at Donald Maass Literary Agency, for all her work to make this happen.

— Sue Burke
13th-May-2018 06:40 am - Thanks, Mom. I was so sick...
Toddler
My mother and father passed away more than two decades ago, but I want to thank them now for helping me at a time when I couldn’t say thank you.

I was nine years old, and I got the measles. Back then, there was no vaccine. There were epidemics, and they were dreaded.

I have never been so sick before or since. I remember looking in the mirror, and the sight of my rash-covered face almost made me throw up. In fairness, I was throwing up a lot. And I had a fever, a very high fever.

One night, I woke up with fever-induced hallucinations. Worse yet, I had thrown up in my sleep. Vomit and hallucinations do not mix well, and I wish I could suppress that memory. I was terrified and had no way to help myself. Soon, though, my parents came and cleaned me up. In addition, as I recall (I was hallucinating), my favorite cartoon character appeared and said very comforting things to me. I still wonder who, if anyone, said that.

From there on, I began to recover. I was better at Thanksgiving, and I came down for dinner in my bathrobe and ate as much as I could, which wasn’t much. Mom even got my favorite vegetable, asparagus. I enjoyed it a lot, although I couldn’t eat even a single full stalk. I left the party before dessert was served and went back to bed, exhausted. I had reached my limit, and I climbed the stairs to my room bitterly disappointed that my limit was so low.

I don’t remember saying thank you to Mom and Dad for all they did when I was so ill. I didn’t fully understand what was happening at the time, and getting well might have been thanks enough, actually. Measles can cause lasting health problems or even death. A boy at my school died in that epidemic. Parents who don’t vaccinate their children may not understand how dire the disease can be.

So, Mom, thank you for helping me on that night when I was in so much trouble and utterly helpless and frightened. I still remember how thankful I felt to know you had come and would make it all better.

— Sue Burke
Semiosis
Left Bank Books and Archon will present a SciFi STL and Tor #FearlessWomen event at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 10, at the St. Louis Public Library - Schlafly Branch, 225 N. Euclid Ave.

I’ll be there with Tessa Gratton, author of an epic fantasy about deposed kings and betrayed queens called The Queens of Innis Lear, and with K. Arenault Rivera, whose historical fantasy series The Tiger’s Daughter features an infamous warrior, a spoiled empress, and encroaching demons.

You can learn more about the event here. Free and open to the public, followed by a book signing. If you can come, I’ll be glad to meet you.

— Sue Burke
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