5 Questions for J. Scott Coatsworth

image002I “met” Scott through his work at the Queer Sci Fi group on Facebook while I was promoting The Dangerous Type. The group holds robust discussions among writers and with readers, as well as publishing a yearly flash fiction anthology.

Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were. He decided that if there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them.

A Rainbow Award-winning author, he runs sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality — Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink — with Mark.

Scott’s newest book is Ithani:

image001Time is running out.

After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson, and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani—the aliens who broke the world—have awakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.

The ithani plans threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin, and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.

Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny, and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the ability to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani rise….

Did something in the real world inspire Ithani?

Not exactly? It’s the third in the Oberon series; the overall series started with a few short scenes I wrote in the mid-nineties, shortly after coming out. Xander was my first gay character. In a way, the whole series was inspired by my coming out.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

There’s a scene that will mean nothing to anyone who hasn’t read my other series, Liminal Sky. A cross is discovered in a cave on Oberon, which is a major Easter Egg/crossover for the two series. It was really fun to add that teaser.

What was your writing process like as you wrote Ithani?

Pretty much nose to the grindstone. When I’m good, I write for an hour or hour and a half each day and can do 1000-2000 words at a go. But I am a little ADD (at least unofficially) so I also sneak in bits here and there: in line at the post office, in the bathroom… though that may be a little TMI.

I pretty much plow straight through, not stopping to rewrite on first draft. There’s always a point about two-thirds through where I pretty much decide I’m a total hack, the writing is shit, and that I will never finish the book.

Then I make it to the end, and it’s all okay.

In second draft, I usually layer in a lot of world-building detail and smooth out the text. Then it goes to my beta readers. When I get their feedback, I incorporate it into the final draft and send it in.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

Some of the reviews were amazing: people who really got what I was trying to do. But the best part was when someone recognized one of the Easter Eggs I included and wrote me to express their amazement. That alone was worth all the effort.

What do you have planned next?

The last book in my Liminal Sky series – The Shoreless Sea – comes out in October. And I am currently hard at work on a follow-up that shows what happened on Earth after the Collapse. It’s titled The Long Redemption. It’s been hella fun to write.

I am also working on a series of shorts to help me break into the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

Get a copy of Ithani for yourself on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Ip92nD

See all Scott’s books on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IpnXy6

Or visit Scott’s homepage and find out what he’s up to next: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

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Five Science Fiction Novels that Center on Bisexuality

I grew up thinking that everyone was bisexual. When I came out in the 1980s, I believed that all people were, in varying degrees of self-awareness, lying to themselves about being straight or gay. They just hadn’t met the right person to sway their compass. I believed that, despite all the evidence in books that men were men and women were women and the differences were as clear as the ends of magnets.

Of course, as you do, I came to accept everyone as they are, whomever they love.  Still, I continued to look for reflections of my own loves in the fiction I read.

Before I share the books that were important to me, let me say that I’ve limited my list purely to science fiction.  There are many worthy books like Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, Pat Murphy’s Nadya, Tanya Huff’s Sing the Four Quarters, and many volumes of paranormal/queer genre romance, but those didn’t fit my parameters for this list.

Also, this list can’t claim to be the definitive list of all science fiction with bisexual main characters. As in life, bisexual characters aren’t easy to identify unless they announce themselves.  Please add to my reading in the comments.

THE LEFT-HAND OF DARKNESS by Ursula K. LeGuin

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Order a copy from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2IA8NX0

Genly Ai is a human envoy from the Ekumen, an 83-world collective that’s striving to broker peace in the galaxy.  Genly is sent to Winter, where the inhabitants can choose to alter their gender in order to have sex and bear children.  Poor misogynist Genly despises everything womanly he sees in the Gethenians, even as he is politically outmaneuvered and has to rely on Estraven to survive. The book was published in 1969.

When I read this award-winning novel for the first time at university, I was enraged that the main character couldn’t get over his physical repulsion to connect with Estraven, who seemed to be the perfect bisexual, completely unconcerned by the gender of his/her lovers.  (Pronoun usage is complicated, because the Gethenians are a neutral gender — designated by Genly as he — until they choose to manifest male or female attributes.)  I read the novel differently when I finally got up the courage to face it again. In fact, it demonstrates that love transcends the need for sex.  I wonder how I’ll read it in another 30 years.

DHALGREN by Samuel R. Delany

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Order a copy from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Y8v57p

Six years after LeGuin’s book was published and won the Hugo and Nebula for best novel, Samuel Delany’s main character had crazy bisexual sex in the trippy masterpiece Dhalgren.  The Midwestern city of Bellona has survived some unknown catastrophe that cuts it off from the rest of the world.  Gangs roam the streets in holographic drag.  Even the sun and moon are out of whack.  Through the chaos moves the Kid, suffering from amnesia as least and schizophrenia at worst, writing poetry and having sex with anyone who shows an interest.

The sex remains surprisingly raw, 40 years after the book’s publication.   What’s remarkable about Dhalgren, beyond how graphic it is, is the way that while Kid makes sure to get his, he also makes sure that everyone else gets theirs, too.  He’s been compared to the god Pan, which makes total sense to me.  Gender is no thing to Kid, who prefers young men but isn’t the least bit picky.  The sex has a gritty, slightly Burroughsian roughness to it, but the fluidity of Kid’s appetites is remarkable.  I found the book fascinating and liberating, but I can see how it might be too much for others.

BURNING BRIGHT by Melissa Scott

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Order a copy from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WXESRr

Jumping forward into the 1990s, Melissa Scott’s space opera novel of games players was recommended to me by members of Facebook’s Queer Sci Fi community. The book opens with apprentice pilot Quinn Lioe, who is eager to show her prowess at the virtual reality game that is the central draw for tourists to the city and planet of Burning Bright. Of course Lioe is unaware that the planet is caught between the human-led Republic and the alien Hsaioi-An — and the game she’s playing will enmesh her in the conflict.

I was thrilled to discover a civilization where everyone is bisexual and same-sex relationships are so commonplace that no one blinks.  Relationships merely display facets of the characters, not the sole determinant of how they get along in society or a mark of class or an expression of personal politics.  People have relationships with whomever they choose and no one judges. I was amazed to discover the future I have wanted to live in all along.

THE THIRD CLAW OF GOD by Adam-Troy Castro

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Order a copy from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2X231WR

Andrea Cort is an investigator for humanity’s Diplomatic Corps, traveling from planet to planet to sort out murder mysteries that could lead to interplanetary incidents.  In this, the second book of the series, Andrea is trapped in a locked-room mystery in space and must unravel the machinations of the conscience-free Bettelhine family, arms merchants whose destructive impulses threaten life throughout the galaxy.

By 2009, when this second Andrea Cort novel was published, bisexuality had had its own flag for 10 years. It had been an accepted part of the LGBT rainbow for 17 years.  Despite that, debates still continued about whether bisexuals were experimenting, lying to themselves, or simply indecisive.

So it was refreshing to me to meet Skye and Oscin Porrinyard, a woman and man who have been cylinked into a single person with two bodies.  Porrinyard falls in love with Andrea Cort and, before long, she wakes up to her attraction to them, loving each individually and both as a pair.  The relationship is complicated — or enhanced — because whatever Andrea does to one of their bodies, it’s experienced by both.   Their relationship is the highlight of the series for me.

GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Order a copy from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2N9ZIZa

Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga began in 1986 with Shards of Honor and has survived the death of one of its main characters with Gentleman Jole, which was published in February 2016.  Admiral Oliver Jole is still grieving the death of Aral Vorkosigan, his commander and true love, when the Vorkosigan’s widow offers a proposition:  she and Aral had frozen some of their genetic material in hopes of having more children some day — and she would like to give Jole the possibility of fathering posthumous sons with Aral.  As he considers the pros and cons, he falls deeper in love with Cordelia herself.

Several authors I respect have mentioned that the Vorkosigan novels — particularly this one — are their favorite depictions of bisexuality.  I’d been meaning to read the series eventually, but the buzz was strong enough that I started at the end.  I enjoyed this book immensely.  For one thing, the characters are adults making conscious, considered choices about their lives and their futures.  Jole’s exploration of his bisexuality is tender, thoughtful, and beautiful.  It makes a good place for me to end this list.

As I said in the beginning, I welcome additions to my reading list.  What other novels have thought-provoking depictions of bisexuality?


Loren Rhoads is the author of the space opera trilogy In the Wake of the Templars, which features bisexual assassin Raena Zacari.

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5 Questions for Fran Wilde

Kickstarter Creators Last month at the Nebula Conference, I had the honor of filling an hour of Fran Wilde’s time with questions about everything from how to celebrate successes in a writing career (her rewards sometimes involve socks) to the minutiae of social media to juggling work and family, which she does with grace.

As if she hadn’t been generous enough, I thanked her by asking if I could interview her for this blog. I’m so very glad she said yes.

Fran Wilde’s novels and short stories have been finalists for four Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, and two Hugo Awards, and include her Nebula- and Compton-Crook-winning debut novel Updraft, its sequels Cloudbound, and Horizon, her 2019 debut Middle Grade novel Riverland, and the Nebula-, Hugo-, and Locus-nominated novelette The Jewel and Her Lapidary. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov’sTor.comBeneath Ceaseless SkiesShimmerNature, and the 2017 Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror.

She writes for publications including The Washington PostTor.comiO9.com, Clarkesworld, and GeekMom.com.

You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and at franwilde.net.

Her newest book is Riverland:

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Riverland: When things go bad at home, sisters Eleanor and Mike hide in a secret place under Eleanor’s bed, telling monster stories. Often, it seems those stories and their mother’s house magic are all that keep them safe from both busybodies and their dad’s temper. But when their father breaks a family heirloom, a glass witch ball, a river suddenly appears beneath the bed, and Eleanor and Mike fall into a world where dreams are born, nightmares struggle to break into the real world, and secrets have big consequences. Full of both adventure and heart, Riverland is a story about the bond between two sisters and how they must make their own magic to protect each other and save the ones they love.

You can pick up a copy of Riverland from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2EJTrwR

Did something in the real world inspire Riverland?

Riverland is a portal fantasy — and like most portal fantasies, it exists so that the main characters — Eleanor and Mike — can work something out in a place that is (frighteningly) safer than their own world. It’s about magic, real and not, and family. What inspired it was the sense that many stories, especially on television and in movies, talk about children living through violent households as if they have no agency, no ability to participate in their own lives, and their own rescue. (You can see that a lot in the shorthand that shows like Law & Order uses.) I wanted to write a book where young girls get to be — in no particular order — angry, wrong, right, strong, weak, and heroes.

I think everything in the current world inspired that need.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scenes are when Eleanor begins to tell her story, when Pendra follows Eleanor, and when Dishrag gets his heart’s desire. That last one is a rush of hooves pounding and smoke curling and utter, total determination to live up to your dreams, even if you’ve always been told you couldn’t.

What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?

Two parts panic, one part determination, and a lot of terrible drafts, with puns everywhere. There was also a heap of lying about on furniture worrying that I wasn’t good enough to finish this one. And many supportive phone calls and emails from friends that I was and could.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

The letters from readers thanking me for writing it, in exactly the way I wrote it.

What do you have planned next?

Classroom visits (in person and on Skype) to talk about Riverland. A second middle-grade book that’s almost entirely contemporary. A book of poetry. The final novella in the gemworld series. And several more novels.

The Fire Opal Mechanism, the second gemworld book after The Jewel and Her Lapidary, came out from Tor.com on June 4. I’m also taking over the position of Director of the Genre Writing MFA Program at Western Colorado University this summer — which is very exciting!

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The Fire Opal Mechanism: Jewels and their lapidaries and have all but passed into myth.
Jorit, broke and branded a thief, just wants to escape the Far Reaches for something better. Ania, a rumpled librarian, is trying to protect her books from the Pressmen, who value knowledge but none of the humanity that generates it. When they stumble upon a mysterious clock powered by an ancient jewel, they may discover secrets in the past that will change the future forever.

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How Collaboration Worked for Lost Angels

Lost-Angels-Cover-Front-SmI’m doing the final push to finish the sequel to our succubus/angel novel, so I was thinking about how Brian and I wrote the original manuscript that would become Lost Angels and the upcoming Angelus Rose.

Brian and I tried to get together in person once a month or so to write.  I would fly in and out of Burbank or Brian would fly in and out of SFO, but our process was pretty much the same: Brian would pace and I would type and the story just poured out of us.

One of the most intense experiences was the weekend we wrote the chapter where Lorelei is dropped off by some fiends beside the LA River.  I’d written the stuff where Lorelei crosses the trickle of water and climbs down into a storm drain to confront Asmodeus, her boss and the prince of LA.

I remember sitting on Brian’s enormous rock-hard futon with my laptop across my legs.  I read the unfinished scene to him, up to Asmodeus’s attempt to exorcise the mortal girl’s soul from Lorelei’s infernal flesh.

“I don’t know what to do next,” I told him.  “The exorcism can’t work yet, because we’re only halfway through the book.  But I don’t know why someone so powerful couldn’t do something as simple as exorcize a human girl from a devil.”

“Okay.  Let me think.”  Brian started pacing around the room.  Slowly, but with increasing speed, he began to dictate.

It was amazing.  I’m a pretty fast typist, but I couldn’t keep up. It all came out: description, action, dialogue. He had to wait for me to catch up.  At times, we debated events. I snarked and added asides, punctuation, paragraph breaks.

We’d go until Brian got stuck, then I’d read back what we’d written.  We took breaks to walk over to Billy’s Deli for a pastrami sandwich and a chocolate egg creme, or to poke around Brand Books, or to run up to Griffith Observatory to watch the sunset.

Eventually we’d end up back in his room, the laptop open, hammering out more of that chapter.

I’m not sure how many thousands of words we wrote that weekend.  We got out of the botched exorcism through Lorelei and Ashleigh running across the 5 to the two of them climbing the hill up toward Dodger Stadium.

We wrote stuff where Lorelei and Ashleigh confront Yasmina. The elder temptress offers Ashleigh elevation to succubus, if only she’ll betray Lorelei.  It’s the turning point of all three characters.

The whole experience felt incredible.  We seemed to be channeling lightning.

Angelus Rose mockup CoverThere’s no possible way I could have written those scenes myself.  They relied entirely on Brian’s familiarity with LA’s geography, flora, and history. I don’t know that he’d actually walked the path our girls took — minus the jog across the freeway — but I know he’d explored thoroughly enough that I could rely on his research.

And that was pretty much our pattern as we hammered out that massive first draft.  I’d write us into a corner — say, LAPD pulling Lorelei and Tuan over on the highway — and then Brian would dictate us out.

I don’t know if the process would ever work for collaborating with anyone else, but it was magic for us.

Angelus Rose will be out in August.

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5 Questions for Emerian Rich

emz1smallEmerian Rich is a kindred soul, albeit with a much better fashion sense than mine. We’ve gone to conventions together, we’ve poked around graveyards together… This year we’re going to the Sinister Creature Con together!

I interviewed Emerian in 2017 about her book Dusk’s Warriors. She’s got a brand-new anthology out, so it was time to talk again.

Emerian Rich is the author of the vampire book series Night’s Knights and writes romance under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal. Her romance/horror cross over, Artistic License, is about a woman who inherits a house where anything she paints on the walls comes alive. She’s been published in a handful of anthologies by publishers such as Dragon Moon Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Hazardous Press, and White Wolf Press. She is the podcast Horror Hostess of HorrorAddicts.net.

Her new book is Kill Switch: A Horror Anthology, edited with Dan Shaurette:

As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future? Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time? Edited by Dan Shaurette and Emerian Rich, with authors Chantal Boudreau, Garth von Buchholz, Bill Davidson, Jerry J. Davis, Dana Hammer, Laurel Anne Hill, Naching T. Kassa, Tim O’Neal, H.E. Roulo, Garrett Rowlan, Phillip T. Stephens, and Daphne Strasert.

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Did something in the real world inspire Kill Switch, A Horror Anthology?

Yes, actually: the scary prospect before us of wanting to create a technologically convenient world, but at the same time building machines that have the possibility of ruining, running, or destroying our lives. When Dan Shaurette brought the idea of tech horror to my attention, I was all in.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

There are so many terrifying scenarios in this book, it’s hard to choose, but one of my favorite stories in the book is called “Mow-Bot.” It’s about a guy who buys Roomba-like mower that will do his most hated chore for him so he can enjoy his weekend instead of spending it gardening. Everything is hunky dory until the neighbor’s cat disappears and he finds fur stuck in the Mow-Bot’s wheel. This story is so “right-now” you can imagine it really happening today.

My story in the book is called “SoulTaker 2.0” and is about a game programmer in the final stages of launching a new version of the MMORPG “SoulTaker,” who finds out his employer is actually REAPING souls digitally.

What was your editing process like as you put the book together?

At HorrorAddicts.net Press, we work as a team. We have a four-person submissions team. Once the top stories are chosen, we have two people edit in depth and connect with the authors. When we are ready to go to print, our whole press reads the work, which is about five people.

What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?

This is going to sound a little sad, but the best thing hasn’t happened yet. Let me explain. Our previous Head of Publishing, Dan Shaurette, thought up this book theme a few years ago and was so enthusiastic about it. Last year, he suffered a medical trauma which made him unable to complete it. We decided to go ahead and complete his dream of publishing this book. The fact that we have finished it for him makes me sad that he was not able to be involved very much, but it also fills me with happiness that we could see it through. The best thing about this book promotion will be when I am able to hand him the print copy when I see him this summer and watch the elation in his face as he realizes his dream has come true.

What do you have planned next?

Our next submissions call is for Dark Divinations, which is a horror anthology involving Victorian-era divination stories. It closes Halloween 2019. All the submission requirements can be found here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/current-submission-calls/

Pick up a copy of Kill Switch from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Qzdgvv

Or check out HorrorAddicts.net Press: http://www.horroraddicts.net    

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