Sunday, November 30, 2008

The World of Utopia-X

The Utopian Metroplex of Regenerie, at the center of my Loose Id novel Looking for Some Touch, is the hub of the Utopia-X series. It's one of many urban centers established in the wake of a global catastrophe known as the Great Event or, by people who don't like to mince words, the Darkening. (The nature of this cataclysm will be revealed in the third book of the series.) Each metroplex is a sovereign city-state, an autonomous entity, and nominally defines itself through its primary product(s) or services.

Thus, Regenerie takes pride in being a clean, green, progressive metroplex, a model of humanitarianism and environmentalism. Its most important export is energy, entirely derived from renewable sources. "Living" medical products (e.g., laboratory-grown organs for transplant) run a close second. Regenerie's closest neighbor, the Iron Metroplex of Villius, is quite different -- a grim, dirty, rough-around-the-edges mining center. Villius figures prominently in Book Two, Seeking Something Wicked, coming February 24 from Loose Id. Perhaps the strangest metroplex of all, the Pleasureplex of Xanandru, will take center stage in Book Three.

Between these city-states are vast and largely undeveloped wilderness regions called Interzones. Humans and Otherbeings who dislike urban bustle have gravitated to these expanses, which aren't under the jurisdiction of any government. Interzone denizens live either in small settlements or isolated dwellings. Not many highways cross interzonal areas. Vehicular traffic is mostly restricted to the metroplexes; interurban travel and commerce take place via sophisticated air and water craft and high-speed, often elevated trains. More radical modes of transportation are on the horizon, thanks to the efforts of scientists and engineers in Specula and Venturus.

Aside from its political organization and advanced technology, this future world isn't terribly different from the world in which we live. After all, it has its roots in the 21st century, when the Great Event took place. Enough people, materials, and documents survived to allow civilization to pick up -- with great effort, of course -- where it left off. Languages, scientific knowledge, religious beliefs, cultural practices, and other 21st-century systems and paradigms were preserved and passed on by the planet's surviving inhabitants. Larger, more mysterious forces, working behind the scenes, were also at play in global renewal. They, too, will be discussed in upcoming books.

The series name, Utopia-X, is a kind of condensed commentary on the often misplaced optimism and enthusiasm that infect this brave new world and Regenerie in particular. The main characters in Looking for Some Touch will continue to discover that the quirkiness of thinking creatures, whether human or nonhuman, has a way of undermining the loftiest visions and best-laid plans for a perfect society . . . and a perfect self.

My next post will be on the unique beings known as hybrids and their role in Utopia-X.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The longer I'm in this business, the more tribal the writing community seems. I don't yet belong to a tribe. I'm the Happy Wanderer (or, sometimes, not so happy). Occasionally, temporarily, I sneak into tribes. Usually, though, I just circle around or amble past them.

So what constitutes a tribe? A group of writers and/or readers who are bound by a common interest or faithful to a particular leader. (Tribes have a lot in common with high school cliques, it seems.)

There are likely tribes within RWA--frequently warring tribes, no doubt. An entire stable of authors at a particular publishing house can be a tribe if that publisher is small enough. If a publisher is larger, there are tribes within it (like writers who band together to form group blogs or critique circles, or authors who've been with a company since its inception and are the revered "veterans"). Individual authors can have their own tribes, and industry bloggers have tribes of supporters and tribes of detractors. Subgenres are also spawning grounds for tribes.

It isn't easy to break into many of these close-knit communities. In fact, sometimes it's impossible. But if you want to be part of a tribe that does admit new members, you have to work at it -- earn your body art, so to speak. This is a delicate process. You can't just burst into a tribal council meeting and shout, "I want to be part of this tribe!" Oh no.

Every tribe has its own unique standards for acceptance. Maybe you have to be exceptionally sharp and witty. Or exceptionally level-headed, a natural mediator. Maybe you must demonstrate selflessness, or a happily blind devotion. Maybe you simply need to be docile but persistent. On the other hand, maybe you must shine, brilliantly and irresistibly. Sometimes, a limitless talent for schmoozing does the trick.

I've seen and read about such tribes in action, and their dynamic continues to mystify me. Maybe we writers (and some readers) are like clubby high schoolers, with our need for approbation and our silly sensibilities and our conviction of a superiority that never gets recognized quite enough. It's as if we're constantly crying, "Leave me alone to pursue my art!" -- and then, in a pathetic whimper, add, "But don't leave me alone too much for too long."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oh, GOD, that face!

My heart-throb (or something-throb) on the cover of Anna Campbell's Tempt the Devil. Damn. I mean, really . . . holy hot freakin' damn. I look at him, and I feel as if I've spent the last twenty years in a women's prison. Know what I mean? Fuckshitdamn, Nathan. Phrew!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nominate yourself, then beg for votes.

Man, this bugs me . . . along with words like trope and meme. I fully understand the impulse to tout one's achievements. Hell, we all do it, since precious few others tout our achievements for us, unless there's some kind of symbiotic promo-stroke going on. So anyway, what's up with these contests where authors not only nominate themselves but then buzz all around the Internet, intruding on loops and blogs, screaming VOTE FOR ME! VOTE FOR ME! For some reason I've seen a lot of this in the past couple of weeks, and it's worked its way under my skin like a chigger.

My immediate response to "Vote for me!" is "Why?" Or maybe, "Is there at least a free beer in it for me?" WTF? I can forgive politicians for vote trolling -- hell, it's what they were born to do (you didn't actually think they were born to govern, did you?) But when writers do it, BLECH. Absolutely the last person I'd ever vote for in any kind of contest is the one who acts like s/he is entitled to my damned vote.

This is only the second in what's shaping up to be a series of rants. Blame it on November. I've always hated November, and I especially hate it this year because I'm facing a goldanged spindly-legged Cornish game hen stuffed by Pepperidge Farm for Thanksgiving. Oh, fly me to the moon!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ponder this.

I lifted the following couple of paragraphs from "The Naughty Bits," an excellent blog and review site overseen by the incomparable TeddyPig. (To visit it, click on the post title.)

When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.

~ Inscription on Leonard Matlovich’s tombstone

TeddyP goes on to explain, "On June 22, 1988, just a month before his 45th birthday, Matlovich died of complications from HIV/AIDS. He was buried in the Washington, D.C. Congressional Cemetery because no military graveyard would [allow his interment]."

That simple, breathtaking inscription summarizes some of the incomprehensibly twisted attitudes that dominate this culture. Killing (the right people) is praiseworthy; loving (the wrong people) is damnable. And there are far too many religious, civic, and governmental groups determining who the "right" and "wrong" people are. Not only are fundamental human rights routinely swept away by these bullydozers, but most individuals either sanction the madness or just don't give a rip.

Persecution doesn't only occur in the broad abstract, in public arenas. If we look hard enough -- or even not so hard (just turn on the damned tv!) -- we can find evidence of it in our personal and professional lives, as well. I've seen that evidence on a former lover-become-friend, Paul, whose wrists bore the scars of a teenaged suicide attempt. I've seen it in a talented transgender silversmith named Fran whose pain was almost palpable because s/he couldn't afford appropriate medical procedures or drugs. Hell, I've seen it in the writing community, where even erotic-romance publishers are loath to stand up and speak out, and professional organizations stink of bias against GLBT fiction.

There's plenty of prejudice to go around, no doubt about it. All kinds of prejudice against all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. It slithers continuously beneath the skin of our society. But I firmly believe that sexual prejudice is the one remaining form of contempt that's widely and openly tolerated . . . and, often, encouraged. Even the hippest comedians feel comfortable joking about queers.

If more people were aware of Leonard Matlovich's epitaph and took the time to ponder it (fat chance, sayeth the cynic in me), this might change. If more people pulled their heads out of their asses and tried breathing in the mind-clearing air of reason (ditto), this might change. Those are, however, enormous IFs.

I hate feeling like some sour misanthrope hunkered down in a little house in rural Wisconsin . . . but, hell, I just keep seeing more and more reasons to love and admire my dogs.