Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

My Patreon: A New Story Every Month

June 11th, 2016

It’s simple: for $1 a month, you get to read a new story from me every month. If you like stories of love, monsters, and weirdness, join now!

The Stars Are Right! The Wrong Stars Is On Sale

November 7th, 2017

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Available wherever bookses are sold! Here are some places books are sold, with a special emphasis on this book:

If you want to try before you buy, here’s an excerpt!

If you like meta-thoughts, here’s an essay I did about creating alien cultures, for Uncanny magazine:

There have been some rave reviews so far. Here is one:

Go forth, and take to the stars.

The Axiom Series

September 27th, 2017

Look at that cover for The Wrong Stars, out in early November! Art by Paul Scott Canavan, who is wonderful.

It’s just the beginning. I sold Angry Robot two more space operas in the Axiom series. The Dreaming Stars will appear in Fall 2018, and book three (tentatively titled The Forbidden Stars) will come out in 2019. Early responses to the first book are so far very positive, and I’ll share some review coverage and such shortly. It’s an exciting new chapter of my life as a writer, and I hope you’ll all join me in the cold and lightless void.

The Wrong Stars drafted

March 19th, 2017

Late last year and so far this year my major project has been writing The Wrong Stars, a space opera adventure coming out from Angry Robot this November. You can read the announcement about it here:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/announcing-wrong-stars-new-hard-sci-fi-novel-tim-pratt/

Yesterday I finished drafting it. I think it came out well. In the next couple of weeks I’ll revise it and then turn it in and see what my editor thinks.

I’ve written about 90,000 words this year (not all on the novel; some stories and game writing are in there, too), which is a hell of a start for the first quarter of the year.

Next plans: write some stories (including one a month for my Patreon, but maybe more, too). Do a low-key kickstarter for a collection of Marla Mason stories, just to round out the series fully. Do a kickstarter with my wife this summer for a collection of our Xmas/holiday stories, to be ready in time for winter holidays. Write a novel, maybe about Elsie Jarrow, maybe about Shadya Shahzad.

Sometimes I’m stunned by how lucky I am getting to do what I love.

2016 in Review

January 1st, 2017

Yes, yes, years are arbitrary constructs with no inherent meaning, blah blah. So are laws, governments, borders, money, gender, race, social structures, religion, and sports. That doesn’t mean they aren’t real, and for me, the end of one year and the start of another has always been a potent time. An opportunity to look back, and look forward, and note long-term patterns, and make course-corrections as necessary.

It’s been a crap year in a large sense. You all know. But I’ve dwelled on the bad a lot; I’m going to think about the good now, in retrospect.

I read a bunch of books. I had the bright idea to finally start tracking my reading using Goodreads, which is simple, and since I started doing that in May I read or re-read about 70 books (there are a bunch of comics collections in there inflating the numbers; I average a book or two a week, as I have for decades). I did a year-in-review essay for Locus about my favorites, but I really liked I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, Hard Light by Elizabeth Hand, and The Pleasure Merchant by Molly Tanzer (the latter not new in 2016, but new to me). (People keep trying to friend me on that site or whatever. I literally just use it to track my reading. Don’t be hurt if I use it for nothing else. It’s not personal.)

A few years back I decided to spend more time with actual humans instead of sitting alone in my house and reading and watching TV all the time, and as a result my life changed vastly for the better. (Though it cut way into my video game time.) This year I’ve kept up some vitally important relationships, deepened others, and met some new people who became rapidly essential to my mental health and well-being. They know who they are. I’m cranky and misanthropic upon casual acquaintance but effusive with those I adore. What can I say: I have a limited number of settings. I had more wonderful dinners, and long talks hanging out on my couch, and strolls around nice places, and beers on patios, with those friends than I can possibly enumerate.

There were good parties too! Ais’s birthday party on New Year’s Day was fantastic and I got to talk to some amazing people who I can’t even mention without it looking like name-dropping. Heather’s birthday party was a fantastic rager as usual. The Bacchanal party at Jeff and Katrina’s was epic, as was the later vodka and caviar party. Open mic at my friend Elliotte’s Unicorn Estate was fun, too, reading some poems and singing Kimya Dawson’s “Alphabutt” with Ais to some kids. Heather and I had a great barbecue in the summer (and saw old friends we hadn’t seen in ages!). Jeff and Katrina’s hobbit-themed wedding anniversary/second wedding was a fantastic party. My birthday party (I turned 40; seems improbable, but there it is) was marvelous too and I got sooooo much good whiskey I won’t need to buy a bottle until sometime in the spring, I suspect.

Still doing WhiskeyHorror with Katrina on a regular basis. We saw many not-very-good movies, and a few great ones. (Maybe I should keep track of the movies I watch too? It’s getting a little “quantified life” up in here.) The whiskey was always good, and likewise the company. My screwball comedy-watching buddy Amy moved away to Seattle (sob) but I’m watching stuff with Effie sometimes, which helps assuage the terrible etc. I also wrote in cafes occasionally with Effie, and Erin, and Daryl, which makes me feel less cataclysmically alone as an artist and so on.

We took good trips: a couple of jaunts up to Cazadero to stay in our friend Mark’s B&B. He’s great, his kids are great, the place is great, the food is great (there’s a bakery attached!), and it’s a glory and a joy to spend the occasional weekend there. We jaunted down to Santa Cruz once or twice. Over the summer we spent a few days at Disneyland and California Great Adventure with River, who had the best imaginable time (it was pretty fun for the grown-ups, too; our hotel had a rooftop bar!). In November I stayed a week in Portland thanks to the kind hospitality of Jenn and Chris; I ate so much, drank so much, video gamed so much, and made variously merry. We had some good visitors here, too. My high school buddy Millard was in town with his family and we ate barbecue and hung out one day. Dawson did his annual visit and stayed over for a few days, and we talked of many things, and also drank of many things.

I went to a bitter Valentine’s sing-along show with Three Drink Circus, and it was great fun, and I think the only show I attended all year! Weird. Oh, no, wait, I got Heather tickets to Amy Schumer for our anniversary so we went to that and it was good too.

Saw a short film, The New Year, based on my story “Happy Old Year”: Elsie Jarrow brought to life. I should be able to send you all a link to that shortly as it’s expected to be generally available soon online. [Edit: it just went live at https://vimeo.com/169591118! Watch!]

Continued at my day job as senior editor at Locus, working with Liza and the rest of the staff to make the news make sense and tell you what you should read and highlight great writers and all that. I still like it a lot.

I took some concrete steps to get my disarrayed finances in order. Not exciting, and not super fun to talk about, but see above re: turning 40. It’s probably time to deal with all those things, so I am.

Writing stuff:

I wrote about 310,000 words this year, about a novella’s worth more than I did last year. There were two novels in there: Liar’s Destiny, the fourth Rodrick and Hrym novel in my Pathfinder Tales series. I’m not sure when that one will be published at this point; you’ll know when I do. The other book was Closing Doors, the last Marla Mason novel, which is out to Kickstarter backers now and will go on general sale around February 1. There’s an audiobook coming later this year too. I only published one novel in 2016, Liar’s Bargain, my favorite Rodrick and Hrym book.

I also sold a brand new novel, potentially the first in a series. Signed the contract and everything. I’ll tell you about it later this month, probably.

The majority of my writing was stories! This was my first full year of doing the Patreon, and that accounts for a full dozen stories: “Unfollowed,” “The Witch and the Womanizer,” “A Pathway Up and Down,” “The Doorman,” “The Downstairs Neighbor,” “Soft Open,” “Bound by Grace,” “Six Jobs,” “Barrow of Ulthar in: The Tomb of the Bibliophage,” “Invidiosa vs. the Chamber of the Dead,” “Sophie of Two Worlds,” and “Under the Tree.” (And you can read them all, and eight more from 2015, if you back my Patreon at www.patreon.com/timpratt. For like a dollar.)

Other stories include “Heavy Game of the Pacific Northwest” for Associates of Sherlock Holmes, about Col. Sebastian Moran hunting bigfoot; Marla Mason story “The Atheist in the Garden” (started in 2015, but not finished until early 2016, so I’ll count it); humorous fantasy “Kaylee the Huntress” for UFO 5; “But You Can’t Stay Here” for Mixed-Up, an upcoming anthology of flash stories and cocktail recipes; an erotica story (I dusted off my old pseudonym); “Murmured Under the Moon” for an upcoming SF/fantasy anthology; “Firecracker,” my first straight crime story, for an upcoming noir anthology; “A Sea Serpent in a Bathtub” for another fantasy anthology; and I co-wrote holiday story “It’s a Wonderful Carol” with Heather Shaw. That’s 20 (and a half) stories! Pretty good. Really nice to be centering story work in my life again. I also wrote a few book reviews, and a TV review (of Stranger Things; my first publication in F&SF!).

Going Forward

Goals, abstract and specific: Keep spending time with humans I like. Stay on top of the financial stuff. Get back to the reasonably healthy lifestyle I had going before the holiday food and booze bombs started to fall. Help my son run his first tabletop RPG games. Write an Elsie Jarrow novel. Do a collection of Marla Mason stories so I can tie a bow around the whole series. Do a collaborative collection of mine and Heather’s holiday stories. Fight against the rising tides of fascism.

Happy new year, all. May it bring you joy and peace.

 

So Berkeley

November 19th, 2016

I’m doing a Facebook fast because it was stressing me out post-election (I’m still following the news and reading stuff, just sourced differently, with fewer memes and commenty scream-fests, and I’m still on twitter because it’s way easier to control my experience there; I can mute some stuff when the howling inside grows too loud and unmute things when I’m better able to cope). The only downside is that Facebook is where I have habitually posted my too-long-to-tweet comments, but then I remembered: I have a blog.

I had a very Berkeley moment this morning at my local grocery store, the Berkeley Bowl (locally famed for its great cheap produce and expensive everything else and old hippies parking their carts sideways in the aisle to block the entire pathway as they gaze raptly at lentils and people occasionally getting into screaming matches over the limited spots in the parking lot; I live walking distance so ha ha).

I had a cart full of Thanksgiving ingredients and went to the register with the shortest line (because the joint was already jammed at 9:30 a.m.) and, as usual in such cases, it proved to actually be the longest line. There was one woman in front of me, of the down-vested fortysomething clearly hikes all the time local variety, standing at the register holding a handbasket that contained three vegetables. As I arrived she sent her clearly hapless husband off in search of some cheap berries they’d seen someone else buy. She was just… standing there. At the register. While the cashier waited patiently.

Resigned to the fact that she wasn’t going to tell me to go ahead of her (to be fair, I did have a ton of stuff in my cart), I said, “Do you mind if I start putting my stuff on the conveyor belt?” I would have simply done so, but she was standing just exactly completely in the way.

She beams at me and says “No, you can wait. You’re young.”

Reader, I did not ram her to death with my cart.

In due time hapless husband arrived, with the wrong, full-price berries, and they engaged in a vociferous whispery snipe-fest about his relative competence versus the relative clarity of her instructions. I could have told them where the cheap berries were, but, you know. The cashier could have, too, and he didn’t feel moved to do so either. She finally puts her three vegetables on the conveyor belt and I throw the divider down and load up my stuff behind it. Then hapless husband wanders off to look at gourds or something and she starts yelling across the store that he has the money and has to come back and so on. Finally they managed to pay and depart with their vegetable bounty. The whole experience only sapped about ten minutes of my life.

Then the cashier couldn’t find a price for the dinner rolls I bought and after much debate and consultation and walking over to the service desk and back again, they gave ’em to me for $1.39, which was a number they clearly and unapologetically just made up at random, but which we all knew was probably at least two bucks too cheap, so happy times.

I said to the cashier, “It’s going to be a long weekend, huh?”

He nodded gravely. “I’m just hoping the rain will keep some people away.”

 

WhiskeyHorror: He Never Died

July 19th, 2016

This WhiskeyHorror report is a bit belated because I didn’t have time (I’m trying to work on a novel, mostly), but I wanted to get to it eventually: a while back we drank, uh, some kind of whiskey, and we watched He Never Died.

I came into the film with just some vague bits of knowledge: Henry Rollins was in it, and it was about vampires or immortals or something, and it was supposed to be good. I watched with my wife Heather and my stalwart WhiskeyHorror companion Katrina, and none of us had great (or low, either, to be fair) expectations.

It’s one of my favorite films I’ve seen all year. There’s a great tradition in crime fiction and cinema for “the wrong man” plot (pretty sexist, I know, sorry, that’s what it’s called), where an innocent/ordinary person is implicated in a crime and pursued by authorities, or pursued by criminals or enemy spies for reasons they don’t understand, or both. It’s an approach that’s been played straight in, say, The Fugitive, or The Wrong Man, but it’s so fundamental to crime stories that it’s been parodied a lot too, as in The Big Lebowski.

The Wrong Man is the initial premise here, too: Rollins’s character Jack, who appears to be a depressive shut-in who does little except sleep, walk to the diner, and sit unmoving in a chair thinking about screams, is confronted at home by angry criminals who make threats and demands. This may be the first time I’ve seen a wrong man plot where the man didn’t care why he’s been targeted; Jack doesn’t ask questions, and doesn’t exhibit any curiosity about the situation: he just wearily beats the guys up and throws them out, exhibiting supernatural capabilities in both violence and endurance, but no particular joy in the use of his powers. He’s less like a monster or superhero and more like a guy who finds a puddle of cat vomit on his kitchen floor at four in the morning and resignedly cleans it up before returning to bed.

The violence escalates from there, naturally, with the criminals haplessly attempting reprisals that never quite work out for them. The stakes get higher when Jack’s teenage daughter – a total stranger to him – shows up at his door hoping to make a connection with her father (and find a couch to crash on between benders, admittedly)… but this is not a guy with a capacity for connection. For example: at first it seems like he doesn’t even realize the nice waitress at his regular diner is flirting with him, but gradually it becomes clear that he does, and he just doesn’t care, because he’s too tired for all that business. He mostly can’t be bothered to deal with anything unless it directly impacts him, and in the face of threats and ultimatums he just shrugs, or doesn’t react at all: he’s like Bartleby the Immortal.

I’ve never seen a better depiction of the terrible weariness of being an immortal, of seeing everyone you know and care about die, again and again, until it just burns you to emptiness. Jack’s not some sighing vampire looking bored at an orgy, as we’ve seen in so many films: he wouldn’t bother with an orgy in the first place. This is more like chronic depression. His performance for most of the film is just a blankness of affect, punctuated by sighs, that somehow circles all the way back around and becomes charisma again. It’s weirdly a joy to watch. I’m a fan of a lot of Rollins’s stuff, but expressiveness as an actor is not one of his strong points, so the movie plays to his strengths, and in those moments when the weariness crumbles to reveal true emotion underneath (at one point quite dramatically), he plays it well, and the contrast is satisfying.

Jack’s character has all kinds of hidden depths beneath that stoic surface, and when his routine is disrupted, the movie becomes less about depression and more about addiction and backsliding into using… except Jack’s addiction is to violence (and, um, other stuff. I’m trying to not be monstrous about spoilers here). Eventually, almost despite himself, he does get to the bottom of why people are trying to kill him, and we get revelations about who and what he is – there’s some lovely misdirection about the nature of his supernatural qualities early on that points toward the right mythic space but in entirely the wrong direction, which I appreciated. The revelation was both perfectly right and not totally obvious (at least to me, and I’m usually a good guesser-of-movie-surprises).

It’s barely a horror movie, really, though there’s some gore and shock and horror. It’s really a character piece and a meditation on the intoxicating pointlessness of violence. Recommended.

State of the Me

June 15th, 2016

I thought I’d catch you all up on my various excitements!

My new book Liar’s Bargain is available now. It’s the third book in my Rodrick & Hrym series about a con artist and his best friend, who happens to be a magical talking sword of living ice with the soul of a dragon. (For sword & sorcery fans, imagine Elric and Stormbringer if they had a relationship kind of like Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser). All the books are standalone adventures, and this one is my favorite: it’s my “suicide squad” novel, with Rodrick & Hrym forced to go on dangerous missions with some other individuals of questionable morality in order to avoid execution. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and I hope you like it.

After taking the month of May mostly off writing (apart from one short story), I’m ramping back up this month, working on my novel Closing Doors, the final book in my Marla Mason urban fantasy series. So many threads to wrap up! Who will be the new co-ruler of the underworld? Will the Bay Witch ever call in that favor? Will I reveal what, exactly, Rondeau even is? Will Marla forgive her enemies or take this last opportunity to smite them? I’m taking a full grand finale fireworks extravaganza kitchen sink approach to this last book, and it is fun. Also sad as hell, but I’m trying to focus on the fun. (There will probably be a Marla Mason collection with a new long story at some point in the not-impossibly distant future, and I’d say there’s a 85% chance of me writing a novel featuring her old foe/occasional friend Elsie Jarrow, so it’s not like I’m done with the whole world forever… but still, I’m wrapping up Marla’s story, and after almost 20 years with her, that’s big.)

I’m working on the next Patreon story too, of course, and it will be along by month’s end as well. It seems to be shaping up as something weird and cheerful and life-affirming, which seems like the kind of story we need right now.

Here’s a nice review of my story “The Fairy Library” (which you can also read for free; there’s a link in the review).

With its wry humor, imaginative world-building, and love of books ― in more than one way, as is possible in a fairy library ― reading this novelette was an absolute pleasure.

My family is taking an actual vacation soon after his school is done, spending some time in Southern California (mostly at Disneyland). I look immensely forward to not thinking about anything more pressing than riding rides and eating cheeseburgers every day.

WhiskeyHorror Report: House of the Devil

June 11th, 2016
My advice: Drink bourbon, yes. Watch House of the Devil, no.

House of the Devil is a technically impressive imitation of ’70s horror movies (some of which I quite enjoy! I’ll watch the hell out of Black Christmas, say), but in the end, it just doesn’t amount to much.

It has a few nice moments (the sudden death in the car in the graveyard gave me hope!), but was mostly a whole lot of empty time-filling. I just don’t find ’70s hair and clothes and furnishings diverting enough to make up for the lack of… much of anything at all happening. I’ve often said the greatest sin of art is to be boring…. and both myself and my longtime horror-watching partner Katrina found it dull dull dull. If it had been a half-hour-long short, it would have been great, though. (I’ve watched and enjoyed some of writer/director Ti West’s other shorts, especially “Second Honeymoon” from V/H/S.)

It was way too much about form and not enough about content, basically.

Many viewers loved it, which may be an indication that my brain is rotted and my attention span degraded and that I don’t have the patience for slow rising tension… except I’ll happily watch, like, a found-footage movie that has 70 minutes of doors creaking and curtains twitching and ten minutes of actual monsterghostdemon action, so I don’t think that’s it. I suspect the real reason this one didn’t work for me is just that I’ve just got the wrong set of nostalgia receptors.

We also watched the first episode of the Scream TV series, and while it too is largely an homage to old horror (namely its namesake, that most ’90s of slasher franchises), it also managed to be fresh and lively and self-aware in a way that I found charming and entertaining. (The cast is way too damn white, though.) We’ll keep watching it.

Sweet Sixteen

April 20th, 2016

Sixteen years ago today I started blogging, though back then we called it “online journaling.” That journal, called Tropism, evolved from a series of regular “novel dare” posts (back before NaNoWriMo started, groups of writers would get together and  “dare” each other to write a novel in a month, and post about their progress. Okay, feeling old now).

I used to keep meticulous handwritten daily journals, but the online journal replaced that almost entirely. I kept updating Tropism pretty regularly for years, moving over to Livejournal when that was the big thing (oldness intensifying), and now I’m here, where I post super intermittently. It turns out I like Twitter better for short bursts (I am pretty active there, @timpratt), and back in 2013 I started doing regular private journaling again. Writing just for myself was a good idea, because of all the mysteries and secrets in my life that must never be shared with the public, lest the Ones Who Dwell Between The Lines emerge and devour you all.

But this blog still remains, for the occasional long movie review, writer-process-post, or other very occasional eruptions of essay-like structures. It’s not what it was. None of us are who we were. (Except that one guy. Change your shirt, guy.) But it’s still something.

Anyway, that first post still dwells on the web, if you want to read it. (You can even hit “forward” and keep reading, at least until the links start breaking eventually, though I can’t imagine why you’d want to.) Twenty-three-year-old me! Ha, that kid had no idea.