I should have mentioned this yesterday. For my book launch, John Scalzi graciously offered me a guest spot in the Big Idea feature of his mega-popular blog, Whatever. I wrote about the big ideas inherent in both the writing and the story of Reefs. Here’s the opening…
Big ideas are the meat and potatoes of classical science fiction, but sometimes they collide with one another like bowling balls on a pool table. In The Chaos Chronicles, I have played with some pretty cool cosmic ideas: sentient suns and sentient singularities, supernovas and hypernovas started (or stopped) by the likes of humans and their alien friends, the starstream (a cosmic superhighway for star travel), an enormous Shipworld at the edge of the galaxy serving as refuge for species who have lost their home planets… and in my new book, time travel a billion years into the past, via quantum entanglement. I love this sort of thing! They are part of the driving energy of these books.
But long before I rolled any of that into this story, I had a big idea of a very different sort… read more
Good day readers. This is Jeff’s daughter Julia, and I hope you don’t mind my taking some of your time.
We lost Terry Pratchett yesterday. It seems like a particularly unfair kind of cruelty to lose him barely a week after we lost Leonard Nimoy. My dad has never found the right Pratchett book to suck him into the series, or maybe he just hasn’t found the time, which is why I’m here talking to you about him instead.
To be entirely honest, I kind of expected to one day get to meet Sir Terry. I imagined that I would quietly say that I was a big fan, ask him to sign a book (Going Postal, probably — it was my first) and then escape before embarrassing myself or discovering too much about my hero.
I’m a little bit of a cynic sometimes, though not nearly as much of one as I pretend to be in public. (Look, the lure of “coolness” is strong, powerful. Don’t talk to me about honesty.) Terry Pratchett was a little bit of a cynic as well, and by ‘a little bit of a cynic’ I mean ‘incredibly unbelievably cynical’. He was also an incredible idealist. I don’t quite know how he managed to be those two things at once, without having Terry Pratchett to show him the way.
As I said, Going Postal was my first Terry Pratchett book. I vaguely recall receiving it as a Christmas or birthday present when I was somewhere around twelve years old, and nothing about it seemed deep or meaningful to me except for how very clever it was. It seemed like delightful, fluffy, brain candy that I devoured like, well, candy, and giggled at nonstop. The first of his books that made me think thoughts about morality and philosophy and the nature of the world was Hogfather, and it did so by hitting me over the head with a sledgehammer that was somehow full of nuance. And then I think it stole my wallet, but what can you do. It also made me think a lot of thoughts about how much I wanted to be Susan Sto Helit. And then came I Shall Wear Midnight, which is the last Tiffany Aching book but the first one I read, and it was the first of his books to reach out and take me by the hand and help me become a stronger person. I never wanted to be Tiffany Aching, I just needed her example to follow.
The best way I can describe the world as it is shown to me by Terry Pratchett is that it is incredibly possible. It’s a world where you can look true things in the eye and yet somehow not despair. It’s a world in which you can do the task in front of you, because it is there needing doing and you are there in front of it, and so it is yours to do. It’s a world in which you can become a real witch in five easy steps, by which I mean that everything important is very very difficult and requires care and thoughtfulness but maybe you can manage not to screw up too badly if you try your very best.
Terry Pratchett helped me in much the same way that going to my church helps me — in that I don’t do it very often, I’m always promising to apply its lessons more consistently, and when I do make use of it, the world looks a little different and my efforts in the world work a little better. My mother is going to be very upset with the syntax of that sentence. Sorry mother. Some forces are too powerful for good syntax.
Terry Pratchett helped me do things. He helped me think things. I understand that he was an atheist, but I hope he won’t mind too terribly when I say that Terry Pratchett was one of my favorite pastors.
I invited Gretchen, who’s been helping me as an intern for the last two weeks, to write up a post about what it’s been like for her. Gretchen is a high school student with an interest in publishing. Working for me, she’s gotten a look at a side of publishing she probably never knew existed. Take it, Gretchen…
When I began my internship with Jeff, I didn’t really know what to expect. Completing a three-week internship is a requirement to graduate at my high school, and I just jumped straight from my exam week to my internship without wondering too much what it would be like. I soon found out. The first thing I learned—of which I was very appreciative—was that I didn’t have to get up at way-too-early-o’clock in the morning every day to begin work; I got to start at a much more reasonable hour in the afternoon, unlike most of my classmates.
The next thing I learned was that publishing eBooks really isn’t at all like I thought it was going to be. There is much more of a focus on little, seemingly insignificant formatting details than I had thought there would be (of course, those “tiny details” end up more like “huge problems” if you ignore them). Conversely, the actual conversion of documents into eBook formats and the process of putting them up for sale online seemed much easier than I thought it would be.
Even though some things haven’t been what I’d imagined, working with Jeff and learning more about publishing in general has been extremely interesting. I have a clearer idea of what publishing is about now—which will be helpful for me if I decide to go into the publishing business—but even beyond that, I’ve just had a lot of fun learning from Jeff and reading his stories.
And with Gretchen’s help, I’ve gotten three stories into ebook form (the third going up today), and several more in the pipeline!