Sekrit Projekt R&R is sekrit no more!

You may remember that last year Alyc Helms and I fell headfirst down a hole and emerged a few months later with a novel we’d written together, which I blogged about here as “Sekrit Project R&R.”

R&R, my friends, stands for Rook and Rose: the name of the trilogy Orbit Books has just bought from us.

What is it? Epic fantasy. But that sells it short. It has fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles, and I’m only sorry we didn’t manage to get a giant in there; maybe we can make somebody really tall during editorial revisions? Also the kind of worldbuilding that happens when you let two anthropologists off their leashes. It has a con artist, a vigilante, and capers as flirtation. It has weird dream shit because we love that stuff, yo. It has noble politics and street gangs and deception layered so deep I literally made a color-coded chart at one point about who knew what, which persona of theirs knew it, and whether other people knew they knew it.

It also — and this is important, so remember — has a new name on the cover. Rather than publishing under two names (which is often unwieldy), we are putting this out as M.A. Carrick. If you want to follow us on Twitter, you can do so @ma_carrick, and we also have a placeholder website that we’ll be expanding into something very shiny just as soon as we’re not both about to get on planes to Ireland.

Later I will tell you all the story of why that pen name. (Appropriately enough, it involves Ireland!) In the meanwhile, I need to go squee some more. I’ll just leave you with this song, which we posted last year as a teaser for the flavor of the thing we were working on . . .

(Oh, and also? We’ve already started writing book two.)

Books read lately

I’ve fallen out of not only posting about my reading here, but (for a while) even logging it. So this is what I’ve read in the last three or so months, minus whatever I’ve forgotten.

It’s very nonfiction-heavy. I went on a kick of that recently, in part because I realized . . . when I was in college and graduate school, my classes regularly exposed me to a motley assortment of cultures and time periods, based either on what sounded interesting to me when I was picking my schedule, or what happened to be the professor’s area of specialty in the case of the more generalized requirements. But as I finished up my coursework, I began writing the Onyx Court books — my home Ph.D. in English history — followed by the Memoirs, which weren’t as narrowly focused, but were still purpose-driven. Isabella’s going to Polynesia; I’m going to read about Polynesia. Now she’s going to the Middle East; I’m going to read about the Middle East. I only read about things I needed to know, not things I didn’t need but might unexpectedly make use of four years from now when an idea pops into my head.

I need the grab-bag approach. It’s a necessary part of building the mental compost heap from which new stories sprout. So lately I’ve been pulling random books off the shelf, deliberately ricocheting around just to get some fresh material into my brain.

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Where to find me at WorldCon!

I have my schedule for Dublin WorldCon! If you’re going to be there, do try to catch me at some point and say hi.

What has science ever done for art?

Format: Panel
15 Aug 2019, Thursday 18:00 – 18:50, Liffey Room-1 (CCD)

From the making of art materials to the understanding of anatomy, what scientific discoveries have helped to make art what it is today?

Grzegorz Aleksander Biały (Atelier Improwizacji), Tom Toner (Gollancz), Marie Brennan

The above panel was unfortunately canceled.

Stories from other media turned into games

Format: Panel
16 Aug 2019, Friday 12:00 – 12:50, ECOCEM Room (CCD)

From the transition of ‘select-your own adventure’ books to Douglas Adams’ first computer game version of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, storytellers have been happy to entice their audience to play in their worlds through games. What are the different ways they done this? Which stories have transitioned well? Which have not?

Michael Cule (M), Rebecca Slitt (Choice of Games LLC), William C. Tracy (Space Wizard Science Fantasy), Marie Brennan, Keith Byrne (Tantalus)

Autographs: Friday at 14:00

Format: Autographing
16 Aug 2019, Friday 14:00 – 14:50, Level 4 Foyer (CCD)

Victoria “V.E.” Schwab (Tor Books, Titan, HarperCollins, Scholastic), Marie Brennan, Sarah Pinsker (SFWA), Taiyo Fujii (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan), Sam Hawke, Mary Turzillo

Reading: Marie Brennan

Format: Reading
17 Aug 2019, Saturday 13:30 – 13:50, Liffey Room-3 (Readings) (CCD)

The bare bones of worldbuilding: archaeology in SFF

Format: Panel
18 Aug 2019, Sunday 10:00 – 10:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)

Whether it’s an actual archaeological dig looking for evidence of alien civilisations or fantasy characters camping in the ruins of their ancestors, archaeological evidence and research can be used to help develop a world beyond the here and now and add complex layers to a story without the need for exposition. The panel will discuss the ways in which archaeology has been used to deepen SFF worldbuilding and storytelling.

Ehud Maimon (M), Dr Katrin Kania (pallia – Mittelalter hautnah), Alyc Helms, Marie Brennan

Kaffeeklatsch: Marie Brennan

Format: Kaffeeklatsch
18 Aug 2019, Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, Level 3 Foyer (KK/LB) (CCD)

Invented Mythologies in SF

Format: Panel
19 Aug 2019, Sunday 19:00 – 19:50, Wicklow Hall 2B (CCD)

Whether it’s creation myths for sentient AIs or a pantheon of alien gods, invented mythologies can add depth and weight to SF storytelling. How have myths from our own past informed the creation of fictitious mythologies in SF? Where do you start when inventing mythology? What makes a mythos convincing, and how do you subtly weave your mythology into the narrative?

Fonda Lee (M), Marina J. Lostetter, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Marie Brennan

Dragons, wyrms, and serpents: why the myth endures

Format: Panel
19 Aug 2019, Monday 12:00 – 12:50, Wicklow Hall 2A (Dances) (CCD)

There are a lot of mythical beasts that can and do feature in fantasy, but the dragon/wyrm/serpent seems to be one of the most popular. What are the reasons for this enduring popularity? What roles does it perform? What mythic properties does it embody and why do these continue to resonate (if they do)?

Marie Brennan, Karen Simpson Nikakis (SOV Consulting LLC -SOV Media) (M), Aliette de Bodard, Naomi Novik, Joey Yu (Kino Eye Ltd. / Freelance)

It’s going to be a busy few days . . .

Too little, too late

I’ve been watching a little of the ITV Agatha Christie’s Marple series, and enjoying Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple quite a lot — she does a lovely job contrasting her mild manner and soft voice with her sharp awareness of murder and what drives people to it. But I’m burning out very rapidly, and not for any reasons to do with the show itself. Instead it’s a matter of genre — and my fundamental problem with murder mysteries.

They are, a priori, about a bad thing having already happened. The best the protagonists can do is to try and deliver justice after the fact.

In a few cases they may forestall a subsequent murder, e.g. in the case of a serial killer going after their next victim. But in many cases shows try to raise the stakes by whacking a second person along the way, so now the detective or cop or whoever is playing cleanup to two horrible crimes. Sometimes more.

I’ve been re-watching Veronica Mars with my husband (who’s never seen most of it before), and while the metaplot of season one is indeed about a murder, the individual episode mysteries are about other crimes. Somebody has been conned out of their money, or a car’s been stolen, or a father has gone missing. I think that’s a large part of why I’m able to take the show in larger doses than I can take murder mysteries these days. In those plots, it’s possible to make people whole — to not just get justice, but to undo or at least significantly mitigate the harm.

These days, I think I need that. I mean, it’s not to say that non-mystery novels don’t frequently involve bad things happening that can’t be put right; obviously they do. But it feels different to me when the entire raison d’etre of the series is to have people die, again and again, with the heroes only taking action after that’s happened.

That mode wears on me after a while, even when counterbalanced by a charming old lady. Which is why I think I’ll be turning to something else soon, no matter how adorable Geraldine McEwan is as Miss Marple.