Home/Tag: wyrdverse


When we first start acting, brown actors tend to play “brown characters.” As casting directors and producers get to know us and trust our range, the roles we play tend to vary. And getting to play roles with white names feels like a victory. I know I felt that way when I first “graduated” from playing Khalids and Babirs to Patricks and Freds. […]

But to me, after over 13 years in the industry, these do not seem like victories anymore. Playing more interesting and larger roles is, but squeezing us unrealistically into a white box is a subtle form of ethnic erasure, and it is not a win. It is saying to the audience and to brown actors that people with white names are more interesting and relatable, and people with brown names are one-dimensional and obsessed with and/or defined by our brownness. Not only does this contribute to the continued stereotyping of brown people, it is false.

Amir Talai on brown actors playing white characters.

This reminds me that I first encountered Malek playing Brodude McBlandname #5, a.k.a. Josh Washington, in Until Dawn.1 So… yeah. About that “white names” thing.

Related: Steve Jobs has been portrayed at least four times in film and once on stage, and always by a white guy.2

For the record, in Liesmith, Sigmund was named Sigmund before this issue was something I’d really thought about. Ditto with Wayne, who’s Indigenous Australian, and Travis, who has his own set of issues.3 I’m not sure if I’d rename any of the characters now, except maybe for Travis, but I’ve certainly tried to give all new characters ethnically-appropriate names. (Which is why the protagonist in BAD MEME is Ngoc Bich Tran. Try casting Bich as a white girl. I double dare you.)

In other news: I need to watch Mr. Robot

  1. To be fair to Until Dawn; the game has a more multi-ethnic cast than, like, 99.9% of all other games out there, which is particularly notable given its characters are modelled directly off their actors. Plus, it doesn’t do that thing of having whiter-than-white characters as Josh’s family members and just hoping no-one notices. Even still, the cast have the most laughably generic names, particularly for the guys; Josh is accompanied by Chris, Matt, Mike, and Jack, for example. But tl;dr, go play Until Dawn, ’cause it’s pretty great. []
  2. For those of you who missed this memo: Jobs’ biological father is Syrian. Jobs’ relationship to both his biological parents and his ethnicity was, to put it mildly, complex, but even still. Dude’s the most famous Arab-American you never knew about. []
  3. Though, on Travis, it always kind of makes me smirk ruefully when people tell me they imagine him looking like Tom Hiddleston. And it’s like, look. I get why. But the fact Travis doesn’t look white is an explicit plot point when Sigmund is trying to decide whether or not he’s the same person as the red-haired-pale-skinned Lain. FWIW, in the future reality where Liesmith is a massively popular TV series and/or film, I have physically left casting directors in a bloody pulp for trying to cast a white guy to play Lain/Loki/Travis. The whole point of the character is that he’s not Northern or Western European so… yeah. About that. And, yes, Travis’ ethnicity is both a Jobs reference and a reference to the 13th century headcanon that the world “aesir” comes from “Asia”–it doesn’t, but whatever–and that the Norse gods were the living descendants of the king of Troy, who migrated into Europe after the city fell. []
2018-07-27T14:22:10+10:005th December, 2015|Tags: culture, gonzo author stories, liesmith, writing, wyrdverse|

NaNoWriMo 2015.

Happy start-of-NaNoWriMo, to anyone who’s doing such a thing!

True story: I’ve never actually completed a NaNo, but the month still has a special place in my black little heart, given that Liesmith was a “failed” NaNo project from 2009. Why “failed” you ask? Well, because I did manage to write 50,000 words of it… in October ’09.

My wordcount for November ’09? Zero.

Whatever works, I guess.

2017-09-05T12:53:44+10:001st November, 2015|Tags: gonzo author stories, liesmith, nanowrimo, writing, wyrdverse|

Realtalk about the ebook-to-print jump.

yellingintothevoid replied to your post “I’m back! (Belated post-NYCC ramblings.)”

To be honest, I kinda want to never become a Real Published Author ™ if I’m expected to do the whole con thing. Terrifying. Also, are there plans for actual physical purchasable editions of your books? ‘Cause I much prefer books over e-books.

“Expected” is a strong word, given that I volunteered to do it! And everyone was really lovely about everything: the people from PRH who made it all happen and held my noob hand through the process; the wonderful people who came to the signing; and the more experienced authors who offered advice and talked to me when I was the stranger in the room. It’s much easier than going to a con as a “non-professional” attendee in that regard, IMO, since there’s a bigger support network of people who really want to make everything run smoothly for you.

So it’s not that bad. Really, all I had to do was show up on time and smile and be polite. I think I mostly managed, heh.

Re. physical copies of the Wyrd books (Liesmith and Stormbringer); I get asked this a bit so, for reference, this is the Publishing Real Talk 101 time.

Basically, being able to get physical copies of the series printed hinges on exactly one thing, and that one thing is whether or not physical bookstores in the US will agree to stock the books on their shelves. (Note that, for the rest of this post, I’m talking about the US industry. Things work a little differently elsewhere, with the emphasis on “a little”. Most of this still applies in broad strokes, no matter where you are.)

That’s it. That’s the trick. Not just for me, but for every other traditionally published author out there. There’s a whole lot of history and backstory behind why this is the case (it’s the returns system), but the tl;dr is that the market for physical books–specifically, what kinds of physical books you can buy in a physical bookstore–is dictated not by what books publishers print, but what books the buyers for the big retailers will buy.

Here’s where we get to the ugly reality, because the ugly reality is that buyers for physical bookstores aren’t really interested in adult urban fantasy with queer PoC male leads. It sucks, but it’s true. Bookstores have finite shelf space, and they’re commercial entities who need to make money to survive. Making money means selling books, which means stocking books they know will sell. What books do retailers know will sell? Well, go to a bookstore and count what’s there: grimdark pseudo-medieval European epic fantasies; conservative military sci-fi; near-future sci-fi with plucky geekbro male leads; heterosexual female-lead paranormal romance. You get the idea. Write inside those constraints, and yeah, it’s very likely you’ll get a print run from your publisher, because it’s likely you’ll be picked up by a store buyer as something “new” in a niche they know sells. Write outside one of those, and, well. Things get harder, unless you have some kind of other hook in (e.g. you’re already famous from some other platform and thus come with a built-in audience).

Under those circumstances, the chances of Liesmith ever seeing a print release is pretty much nil.

So this answer isn’t entirely depressing, the next obvious question is so what’s to be done about it?

Well, easy: if you want more diverse titles to start getting print runs in physical stores, you have to start buying those titles from physical stores. And yes, I mean the ebooks. Which yes, you can do: here’s Liesmith at Barnes & Noble, for example. (No, Amazon doesn’t count for this, because, a) Amazon’s relationship to publishers is different to the traditional physical stores, and b) Amazon doesn’t share its sales data. So Amazon might know a niche is booming, but that doesn’t mean anyone else does… including the publishers. Amazon is the room’s elephant in the ebook space, but if you want to see things in print, you have to play the brick-and-mortar game.)

That’s really the only secret. If and when physical stores see a jump in demand for a particular book or a particular subgenre (i.e. diverse spec fic), then their buyers go to the publisher sales reps and ask the “what else do you have like this?” question. That’s when the sales reps bring out their back catalogue. And if the buyers see a title that’s ebook only, and want it for their physical stores, they’ll say so to the publisher, and that, dear readers, is how one breaks into the print market. I think a lot of people outside the industry think the ebook-to-print boundary is done on total sales volume (i.e. sell 100,000 ebooks, get a free print deal!), but it’s not. Total ebook sales can influence the end result, but the reality is it’s all on the buyers and what they think they can move from their shelves. Which is why both, a) you don’t see even some very popular subgenres in physical stores, and b) some ebook-only deals get expanded to print even without a sales history if a store rep shows interest.

Incidentally, none of this is a secret within the industry. We just tend, for whatever reason, not to talk about it too much to actual readers. Well, now I am. And now you know.

Tl;dr, if you want to see books with diverse leads stocked in physical bookstores (including mine!), you need to buy those books (and ebooks) from physical bookstores.

2019-04-29T11:56:41+10:0030th October, 2015|Tags: liesmith, publishing, replies, stormbringer, we need diverse books, wyrdverse|

I’m back! (Belated post-NYCC ramblings.)

Just a short post today, because I am officially back from both my US holiday, and from the awful concrud I brought back with my from NYCC.

Speaking of which, yes! I did my signing and it was terrifying and surreal, all at once. I confess I’d kind of expected, going in, that I would just kind of… be sitting there at a desk for an hour, not doing very much? So when I went to pick up my con badges on the Wednesday, imagine my horror to hear my editor talk about how the publicist would be collecting “a line” of people for me.

“A line?” I distinctly remember saying. “I didn’t think there’d be a line…”

There was, in fact, a line. The next hour is kind of a blur. I mostly remember trying to keep my handwriting legible and trying to spell both words and everyone’s names correctly.1 Special shout-outs to the excited girls at the front of the queue (I hope Liesmith can live up to that excitement!), and to the guy in the Cruella De Vil cosplay, because you were like my fav cosplay of the con and I’m still annoyed with myself that I didn’t get a photo.2 Also to Naomi Novik, who I got to fangirl over in the back of the PRH booth, and who has my Very First Signed Book Ever,3 and to Bill Schweigart, for the calming words.

TIL from this experience: I am not particularly good at signings, because I can’t write and chat at the same time. Also, handwriting is hard! I don’t do much of it any more, and it is weird.

Anyway. I signed my fifty physical copies of Liesmith, then moved on to postcards. It was a much busier hour than I was expecting, so big shout-out and thank you to the PRH/Hydra team for making it happen. Also, to all the people who showed up. Y’all rock, and I’m sorry I was kind dazed and out of it for the whole experience.

So yeah. That happened.

Other things that happened: I got an autograph from Mick Foley! Who is, like, literally my fav professional wrestler and who I totally made an idiot of myself in front of because holy shit it’s Mick Foley.4

On the other hand, things that did not happen: panels! I did not get to any panels, which was very remiss of me. There were a bunch I wanted to go to over the weekend, but we ended up sneaking out of the city to visit some friends in Connecticut. Which was also awesome, and involved a lot more wine. So things work out, I guess.

And, finally: an interview! I did one of those, too. I think. I mean, I was pretty out of it, post-signing. But it’s on the internet so I must’ve managed to stutter out something

  1. When you spell your own name with an “s” instead of a “ce”, it teaches you not to assume you know how anyone spells anything any more. []
  2. Or, like, your Tumblr or something. P.S. if you’re reading this somehow via Internet Magic, let me know! []
  3. Also, I’m sorry I stood next to you for like ten minutes without realising who you were. I’m a dweeb, it’s true. Also also, I meant to get you to sign me a book on the Monday, but utterly failed at doing so because I am a loser. Guh. []
  4. Other TIL: I am… not good at meeting people I idolise. Holy shit how I am not. []
2019-04-29T12:01:56+10:0030th October, 2015|Tags: interviews, liesmith, nycc, wyrdverse|

Post-NYCC Author Coffee Klatsch at Penguin Random House.

So hey. Are you in New York on 12 October? You wanna come meet a bunch of awesome authors, as well as yours truly? Then this is your bag, baby!

2019-04-29T12:01:53+10:001st October, 2015|Tags: appearances, gonzo author stories, liesmith, stormbringer, wyrdverse|

Anatomy of a query rejection.

Kristin Nelson breaks down query rejections.

For amusement, some of my own query rejections for Liesmith (agency names redacted):

Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to read your submission.  We appreciate you considering us for representation of your work.

Unfortunately, after careful review, we have decided that [Agency Name]  might not be the right agency for this project.  This industry is incredibly subjective, and there are many agencies out there with many different tastes.  It is for this reason that we strongly encourage you to keep submitting elsewhere, in the hopes of finding an agent who will be an enthusiastic champion for you and your work.

We wish you all the very best of luck and success with your writing.


[Agency Name]

Not even my own name injected into that one! But at least it was a reply, I guess…

Dear Alis:


Thank you so much for allowing our agency to consider your material. Unfortunately, after carefully reviewing your query, we’ve determined that this particular project isn’t the right fit for our agency at this time.  As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends. As a result, our own agents’ needs shift and change, as well; therefore, we would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate.


Again, thank you very much for allowing us this chance to consider your material, and we wish you all the best in your publishing endeavors.



[Agent Name]

This one was more “personal”, in that it used both my name and the agent’s name, but still nothing about the work itself.

I swear I got more rejections than that–although not too many more, because a lot of agencies just sent nothing if they weren’t interested–but those are the ones I can actually find in my email. Actually, I know I got more rejections than that, because at least one of the rejections I got was from Sara Megibow. Hers was the most customized rejection of them all, in that it described specific things in the story. Mostly specific things she wanted to see changed, and an invitation to resubmit if I did. So I changed the things, she offered representation, and that’s why we are where we are today.

2018-07-27T14:20:35+10:007th September, 2015|Tags: agents, gonzo author stories, liesmith, publishing, query letters, wyrdverse|

iamanelfchild asked:

I just got around to finishing Stormbringer and I just wanted to drop a line and remind you that you’re awesome. Like really amazingly awesome. *heart eyes*

Aw, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. ❤️

2019-01-17T08:04:41+11:0018th August, 2015|Tags: go ask alis, stormbringer, wyrdverse|

underthewetmoon asked:

I just wanted to say, I stumbled across Liesmith a few weeks ago and I’m utterly hooked. I actually restricted myself to only reading during my commute so that I could have something before and after work to look forward to. I’m now halfway through Stormbringer and continue to be in love with these books, the characters, the stories, and how effortlessly so many elements blend together. I’ve been telling everyone I can to go read as well.

Aw, thank you so much! I’m really glad you’ve been enjoying them.

2019-04-29T11:37:57+10:0014th August, 2015|Tags: go ask alis, liesmith, stormbringer, wyrdverse|


Science fiction is our attempt not just to learn from the past, but also to gain the benefit of hindsight for the present. To step outside of this time, and even our own species, and really look.

The vehicle for that gaze isn’t the starship Enterprise, or Voyager, or the Cardassian monstrosity re-badged as Deep Space Nine. Those are just settings. The real lens is the Outsider.

Spock was an Outsider. So was Data, and even Worf. Odo, and occasionally Quark. The Emergency Medical Hologram, and Tuvok, and from time to time, also B’Elanna Torres, and Seven of Nine. T’Pol and Phlox too. And those were just the regulars. We’d also have to mention the magnificent Q.

The Outsider is science fiction’s mirror for ourselves, who looks, listens, and implicitly judges. That judgement might be disdain (Q, certainly, and often Seven of Nine), puzzlement (Data, sometimes Worf), quiet vexation (all Vulcan characters), or something else entirely.

They watch, and they notice, and thus through their eyes they allow us to notice things that have been right in front of us all along. They bring things to light, sometimes by drawing attention to them, and sometimes by not understanding why there’s anything to draw attention to.

When we saw how unremarkable it was to have a woman (and an African American woman, at that) on the bridge, with a Russian alongside, it was because the Outsider failed to see any meaningful distinction between these various humans.

When we decried the ludicrousness of racial discrimination amongst aliens whose faces were sometimes white on the left side and black on the right, and sometimes the opposite, it was really the Outsider’s bemused eyes we were seeing though. The observer, whose quintessential alienness was just a thin veneer for the rationality and perspective we strive and yearn for.

In these imagined futures, the Outsider was the yardstick for our own progress. A way to measure it, and thus truly see it.

And progress brings hope.

–Matt Gemmell on sci-fi.

What Gemmell is talking about here is the reason I fell in love with SFF as a kid… and also why I can be quite disillusioned with it as an adult. Because this outwards-looking hopefulness has been replaced by inwards-looking defensiveness; ref. pretty much every single recent big budget comic-book style film about Aliens Are Bad Let’s Kill Them With Nukes, including, it must be said, the recent Star Trek reboots.

And, sorry, but I’m not here for that.

The idea of the Outsider who loves humanity for its follies but is also not part of–and thus free to judge and comment on–humanity is also why I fell in love with urban fantasy as a teenager. I’m talking 90s UF here, of the Interview With the Vampire and Sandman era. To alliterate for a moment, there’s a lot of Lestat in Liesmith‘s Lain. Lain, who isn’t human, doesn’t want to be human, and doesn’t have to play by human rules. He relies on us for his survival–as a god, he’s a kind of vampire of humanity’s collective unconscious–and will use us to his own ends, and our emotions and our fears and our dreams are transparent to him. He sits above us in the most literal sense–his office is in a big tower–but the minutia of our lives fascinates and enthralls him.

Lain is not paternalistically protective of humanity, a la Superman, but he is a seasoned and curious observer of us. He won’t save you from yourself but, if you want, he might take you out to coffee and listen while you unload your life’s story. As the narrator in the Wyrd books, Lain is the harbinger of change rather than the agent of it. To use Gemmell’s words, he is the Observer through which we see transformation in others; Sigmund in Liesmith, Þrúðr in Stormbringer, and Bich and Roxx in BAD MEME.

I occasionally read reviews of Liesmith that describe Lain as being incredibly human for a guy who’s essentially a seven foot tall anthropomorphic dinosaur. These, more than any other other reviews, are the ones that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Because… yes. Yes, that. That’s the kind of Outsider I love and have tried to create in Lain; the Monstrous Other who’s more human than human by benefit of being outside humanity itself.1

Well, I mean. Most of the time. Lain’s also kinda a jackhole whose overly fond of other people’s dramatic irony and is super racist against dwarves, of all things. But no one’s perfect, right?

  1. See also: Discworld’s Death, that most beautiful of beautiful cinnamon rolls. []
2017-09-05T13:36:19+10:0013th August, 2015|Tags: bad meme, gonzo author stories, liesmith, sff, stormbringer, wyrdverse|