Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

Caliban Speaks!

by Daniel Abraham

Which is to say has Caliban’s War as an audiobook releasing today, complete with Jefferson May.


Valente, von Trier, and Obstructions

by Daniel Abraham

So it happened like this.  A few years back I was at Walter Jon Williams’ Rio Hondo Workshop with Catherynne Valente.  Now I’d just read her Orphan’s Tales books, and had been delighted and blown away.  Structurally there were (and are) some of the prettiest, most elegant books I’ve ever seen.  Reading them was like watching some gorgeous clockwork move through a predetermined and unpredictable course.  I’m a hard sell for books these days, but I loved those.  Working with her at the workshop was a real treat.

“Out of limitations comes creativity.” — Debbie Allen

In the course of the week, she brought up a film I hadn’t heard of before.  The Five Obstructions.  It’s a documentary of sorts by Lars von Trier.

So yeah.  Lars vor Trier.  Lemme tell you about me and Lars von Trier.  The first time I came across him, I was living on Staten Island and working in Manhattan.  The Angelika is this wonderful little movie house on the edge of Soho, and it showed films that weren’t on anyplace else.  My fiance at the time (not my wife now — long story) and I went there to see something called The Kingdom.  I knew pretty much nothing about it.  It turned out to be four episodes of a Danish miniseries directed by this fella named Lars von Trier.  It was grim and it was horrific and it was funny as hell.  The production looked like it had been done with no money, and the editing jerked and jumped.  The special effects were minimalist and surprisingly effective.  I loved it, and declared myself a lifelong von Trier fan.

It took Lars years to talk me out of that, but he managed.  I sat through Breaking the Waves, which I almost couldn’t watch because of the Blair Witch-level of unsteady camerawork.  I watch Zentropa, which I tried hard to love and managed almost up to the end.  I read his Dogme95 manifesto and wasn’t particularly impressed.  When Dancer in the Dark came out . . . honestly, I just didn’t have it in me.  The films he’s done since, I’ve just taken a pass on.  Antichrist.  Melancholia.  Nah, man.  I’m done.

Except The Five Obstructions.  Because it’s freaking brilliant.

Continue reading ›


Another Terrible Idea in Free Verse

by Daniel Abraham

The attacks are inevitable

and insure its survival

whatever the paperwork shows

whatever the paperwork shows.


Below all the mudslinging lies a real divide

We’re falling behind

whatever the paperwork shows

whatever the paperwork shows.


Half-truths and weak arguments

whatever the paperwork shows

what the numbers show

whatever the paperwork shows.

Four Pinocchios.


(All phrases in the above doggerel are taken directly from a Fareed Zakaria article and remixed, mostly as an in-joke with a former editor of mine.  Continue walking, citizen.  There’s nothing to see here.)


Where in the World is Daniel Abraham?

by Daniel Abraham

I’m going to be at Bubonicon in Albuquerque and Worldcon in Chicago by the end of the month.  If any of y’all are in the vicinity, here’s what it looks like:


Friday, August 24:

7:30 PM  55 Minutes with Daniel Abraham (Reading)

9:30 PM  PUMP UP THE VOLUME: WRITING BIG SCIENCE FICTION: D Abraham, M Cassutt, B Sanderson, WJ Williams. Moderator: S.M. Stirling

Saturday, August 25:

D Abraham, S Gwylan, S Krinard, J Saberhagen. Moderator: C. Willis

3 PM Panel #15 – ADAPTATION: FROM EXISTING STORY TO FILM SCRIPT/GRAPHIC NOVEL D Abraham, M Cassutt, S Phillips, M Snodgrass. Moderator: I. Tregillis

Sunday, August 26

10 AM Panel #18 – WHAT’S SPACE OPERA, DOC? THE FAT LADY’S NOT DONE SINGING S Broom, LJ Mixon, M Snodgrass, WJ Williams. Moderator: D. Abraham

Bubonicon also sports a mass autographing and an extra signing just for George and Brandon.


Saturday, September 1

3 PM Autographing session

Sunday, September 2

10 AM Clarion Call (Panel)

There was going to be a reading, but it was scheduled Monday morning about half an hour after I’m due at Midway airport, but if y’all are hanging out at the airport, I’d be happy to tell you a story.

So upshot?  If you’d like to see me on stage talking with some of the most brilliant minds in the industry, come to Bubonicon.  If you’d like to hang out with me at a bar or coffee shop, come to Worldcon.


Graveyard Child

by Daniel Abraham

Psst.  Want to see the new MLN Hanover cover art?

Continue reading ›


New Clarkesworld article up

by Daniel Abraham

“There’s a puzzle I don’t know the answer to, but the more I look around for it, the more I see it. Most of the time, it’s amusing. Sometimes it scares the crap out of me.

So, funny story. Back in 1998, I was at Clarion West. One of my classmates turned in a story about a woman who worked from home, writing up recipes for the local newspaper. The essential problem in the story was that the protagonist’s dog kept digging up space-time wormholes. It was a light, comic piece, and one I remember fondly. But we were there for a workshop, and critics have to criticize. We came together for the morning critique, and our comments were very consistent. We all loved the wormhole dog, but no one was willing to believe in a woman supporting herself writing recipes.”

The whole thing’s up at Clarkesworld.

1 Comment


by Daniel Abraham

Going to Readercon? So will I!

The Short List of What Daniel’s Up To (quoted from the Readercon program guide, which also has all the cool stuff that I’m not personally doing, and is worth looking over, right?):


All the cool kids will be there. Oh, and we will too…

9:00 PM G Why Is Realistic Fiction Useful? Daniel Abraham, Nathan Ballingrud, Grant C. Carrington, Liz Gorinsky (leader), Alexander Jablokov. In a 2011 blog post, Harry Connolly wrote, “If I want to understand the horrors of war, the pain of divorce, the disappointment of seeing a business fail, I don’t need to read fiction. There’s non-fiction on that very subject…. So forget about justifying the utility of fantasy. How do people justify the utility of realism?” Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried distinguishes between “story truth” and “happening truth”; O’Brien feels that fictionalizing some aspects of his own experience makes them more universal. On the other hand, reality TV, Photoshop, and CGI have proven how blurry the line between fiction and non-fiction can be. How do we tease out these distinctions, and what is realistic fiction’s place in the literary landscape?

FRIDAY 11:00 AM   RI   How We Wrote the Expanse Series. Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck. Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who collaborate under the name James S. A. Corey, discuss the writing of their mammoth space opera series.

Continue reading ›


Sword and Laser: Leviathan Wakes Book Club

by Daniel Abraham

Sword and Laser


Caliban Released

by Daniel Abraham

“You like space monsters, kid?”

Well, the fact of the matter is, it’s been getting shipped for about a week, but today was the official release for Caliban’s War.

Thus far, the response has been mostly positive:

“Compelling characters and a plot that combines political intrigue with military sf create a memorable story that begs for film adaptation.” — Library Journal

“The characters, many familiar from before, grow as the story expands; tension mounts, action explodes and pages turn relentlessly.” — Kirkus

“This breakneck tale will have readers itching for book three.” — Publisher’s Weekly

As always some folks like it better than others, and I’m sure there are going to be some folks that hate it (always are), but all in all (apart from a hacking cough that’s still lingering after a nasty cold over the weekend), things are pretty spiffy.

So tell your friends and neighbors who’ve been on tenterhooks that Caliban’s War is out.  ( amazon | BN | Indiebound )


The Dogs Project: Rewrite and Final Report

by Daniel Abraham

What is the Dogs Project?

 Well, I had hoped I’d get that one last critique in, but it’s pretty clearly not going to happen.  I have to say how much I appreciate the comments I had from the folks who did chime in and that I totally undertand not having time to ge around to it from the one that didn’t.  Scheduling is always a trial.

The final draft is due in with Shawn in a couple weeks, so I’m in the process of making the final draft (and finishing up the script for Issue 13 of A Game of Thrones: The Comic Book and the first draft of The Expanse 3: Abaddon’s Gate . . . no rest for the wicked), and so I thought I’d tell y’all what I was thinking and then (finally) open the floor to comments that I can actually read.

So having been away from the story for a while and having four, I think, very good responses to the story, the question becomes what am I going to do about it.

So, in no particular order, here’s the to-do list I built going into the rewrite:

1) I’m changing Charlie’s name to something less related to Dickens.  I’m thinking Alex.  The Charles Dickens problem came up in more than one critique, so that makes it real.

2) Adam is getting recast as a woman, and I think changing her name to something relatively gender neutral.  This isn’t something that anyone talked about in the critiques, but the more I think about it, the more comfortable I feel with the idea.  The grace of having unambiguous pronouns in the dialog was what finally won me over.

3) Adam’s exposition-in-dialog clearly doesn’t work.  That’s not a big deal.  All I have to do it cut out a bunch of it.  Fixing things with a knife is always easy.  And it gives me a place to put in some more of the emotion that Charlie’s story is missing.  I think Ian is right about him feeling numb, and I don’t think the tactic he suggested of having Charlie be *aware* that he’s numb is a cheat at all.  But I think it will work better if I have that *and* more genuine emotion.  Especially guilt about not having tried harder to make things work with Dickens.  So I can put some of that in the space I’m carving out of Adam’s on-the-nose dialog.

4) Charlie’s gone-away life.  Charlie came out of nothing, and that’s not working.  I’m adding in some things that tie him back into the life he used to have and doesn’t anymore:  some folks that he used to to the movies with that are checking in to see if he still wants to come along, an Internet dating service that he’s going to cancel his account from, a sister who lives elsewhere that will call him to check in.  Things like that.  I want to keep him isolated and alone, but I can do that by showing the connections that were there and that they aren’t working anymore.  At least that’s the plan.

5) The White Office.  What Charlie does isn’t important to the story in any way, but that he does something may actually give a lot of the heft that I see people missing.  I think he’s going to be the specs and materials guy at an architectural firm. The one whose job it is to go over manufacturer’s lists and specify what kind of paint/tile/insulation etc. for the general contractor.  My mother was an architect for something like thirty years, so I know enough about how her office worked to know that’s a real job.  And I can put in a few concrete, specific details about office life that will ground the story in reality a little better.

There are some things I’m not going to change, even though I think the criticism offered was legitimate.  The dog attack, for instance, I’m going to leave a little unrealistic because, of course, it’s not a dog attack.  That may make the story weaker for the folks who read it just on the surface level, but I think I get that back with the folks who grok it a little more.  And I don’t think having the attack be more like a real dog attack actually wins me anything but distance from the core of the story.  I’m also not bringing the original dogs back or finding them or resolving that in any way.  I’m leaving that open at the end as part of the horror.  It’s a little tricky having a story whose point is that it doesn’t resolve, and I imagine I’ll lose some readers on that basis too.  But I think it’s what the project calls for so . . . yeah. Doing that.

And that, more or less, is that.  The final result will be in UNFETTERED which has a huge list of first-rate writers in it and the proceeds of which will go to paying off Shawn’s medical debt from chemotherapy.

So that’s it.  The Dogs Project is essentially over.  I hope it was fun to watch, and I’ll be leaving all the bits and peices up if you want to come back to it later.

If there is a last thought I’d like to leave you with, it’s that at this point, I don’t have an opinion about this story anymore.  The experience I have of it is so intimate and technical and idiosyncratic to me that I can’t even say if I think it’s a good story or not.  I have written a lot of stories, and I’m always a terrible predictor of which ones will go over well and which ones won’t.  I think that’s probably true of most writers most of the time.  In the words of Umberto Eco, I no longer know what it is about.

No, okay.  One last little thing.  Rape.  Yeah.

So I know and love some folks who’ve been raped.  You do too, even if you don’t know which ones they are.  The stats are that about 15% of women and 3% of men have had someone try to rape them.  The consequences are unpleasant and long-lasting and real.  (Oh, and I know that 3% looks kind of small, but to put it in context, as I recall I graduated high school in a class of about six hundred.  Back of the napkin says half were women, and three precent of the three hundred guys means I would have picked up diplomas with nine or ten guys who’ve been victimized along with the 45 to 50 girls.)

If you’re of a mind, I’d encourage you to skip the latte a couple times this week and pass some money on to RAINN.