So I’ve scored a bi-monthly column with your friends and mine at Hugo-winning semiprozine Clarkesworld under the title Another Word. The first one has gone live.
I came to the same conclusion that all authors reach: the reviewers who liked me are intelligent, deep-souled bastions of wisdom, and the ones who didn’t are a bunch of weak-brained punks. Mystery solved.
But here’s the thing. Once the initial emotional rush plays out and my amygdala calms back down to its natural state, I start to think that maybe something else is going on here. That maybe I’ve misunderstood what reading is.
If you’re of a mind, take a look. And if you’d like to weigh in, please consider commenting there so my new bosses can see what folks are thinking.
Coming soon to a shelf, or possibly e-reader, near you.
Worldcon last year was, y’all may recall, in Reno. So not long after Ty turned to me and asked which of us had thought driving from Albuquerque to Reno would be a good idea, we got on to the final outline of the third book, then called Dandelion Sky, now retitled Abaddon’s Gate (not related to Warhammer 40,000, but thanks for asking). And the big question was this: is this it? Is the whole show over? It was weirdly melancholy to have Leviathan Wakes just out, Caliban’s War edited and turned in, and be looking at the end of the project.
Well, funny thing about that…
Your friends and mine at Orbit have signed on for the three more Expanse books that we’d hoped they’d take and surprised us by asking for five novellas (!!) in the same universe to go along with them. So the big arc story that we only hoped to tell when we started Leviathan Wakes is going to get told.
And a couple weeks ago, Ty came up with the last line of the last book. I can’t tell y’all how much I’m looking forward to reading this.
First drafts are supposed to suck. Seriously, it’s their job. Trying to make everything that comes out the first time perfect is the way to writer’s block, frustration, and madness (as, it turns out, is trying to get any freaking work done in the waiting room at Carmax, but that’s another story). If y’all have been following this, you’ve seen how the first draft came out. Now, we’re going to talk about the actual *important* part: planning the rewrite.
Living without a dog felt strange. It felt wrong. It felt better than living with one. Maybe later, Charlie told himself, it would get easier. But days passed and flesh knitted. The last stitches came out, and the low, grey skies of winter settled in. Thanksgiving came and went, and Christmas began its low, flat descent. He had nightmares sometimes, but less. He had moments of profound and crippling fear that came like bad weather and then moved on. His doctor put him on antidepressants, and they seemed to help some.
He didn’t hear Adam’s footsteps, only his sigh. Charlie looked up. Adam was in the doorway, a handful of pale green printer paper in his hand, a grim expression on his face. Charlie tried to smile. Tried to wave hello. His body wouldn’t comply.
“Rough day,” Adam said. It wasn’t a question.
Charlie felt a tear on his cheek. He hadn’t realized he was weeping.
“I can’t do this,” he said. His voice was weak. Adam squatted down next to him, carefully not touching.
The downtown streets were thick with bodies, each one moving through its own peculiar path, its own life. Charlie hunched down into his clothes, hands in his pockets, and head bowed trying to seem like one of them. Trying to seem normal. And maybe he was. Maybe the thick-bellied man with the navy blue suit and gold tie was just as worried about seeming strange. Maybe the woman driving past in her minivan had the same sense of almost dream-like dislocation. The kid bent over the bicycle weaving through stopped cars at the intersection might be riding hard and fast so that no one would see the tears in his eyes or ask him to explain them. How would Charlie know? There weren’t any signs around their necks to say I’m frightened or I don’t want to go home if no one else is there or I’m broken and I’m afraid I will never be right. Even if there had been, people would have taken the signs off. Charlie would have.
A bus huffed by, throwing out a stinking wind of exhaust. The cars started moving again, following the autonomic signals of the stoplight. Charlie paused at the corner, waiting his own turn to cross. Across the street, the glowing red hand meant he had to wait. A little crowd gathered around him — an older man with skin the color of mahogany and close-cut hair the color and texture of snow clinging to stone, a woman in a tan business suit with the empty stare of boredom, a man Charlie’s age tapping at his smartphone and glancing up occasionally to make sure the world was still there.
The man behind the counter seemed amused, but Chartlie couldn’t guess why. Outside, the street traffic was thick. Cars and busses and pedestrians locked in the perpetual daily struggle of lunchtime at the edge of the business district. Inside the pet shop, birds shrieked and complained and puppies yapped. The display cages ran down the wall, little rooms the size of closets with stainless steel bowls for food and water, oversized cushions to rest on, and in each one at least one dog. The walls facing the shop’s main room were thick plexiglass, claw-scratched and pitted but clean.
“Thinking about it,” Charlie said.
The days since Dickens left had been much like the days before, only a sense of isolation had grown up where there had only been guilt before. He’d found himself looking at pet shops and animal rescues online like he was testing too see whether a wound had healed by pressing on it. More and more in the past week, he’d found himself daydreaming at work or at the office, thinking how he could have done things differently or telling himself that it was the change that had made the difference. A new dog would never know what kind of person he’d been before, and so wouldn’t be disappointed in who he was now.