The Intersection: Blackthorne and the Importance of Secondary Characters

17 Aug

There are many tools one can use for worldbuilding. A lot of them aren’t obvious to the reader—and in fact, I’d venture to say that the most effective techniques are those the reader doesn’t notice. This is how real life works. For example: events and cultural distinctions clearly affecting the world and those living in it but no one openly discusses are a big factor in everyday life.[1] Another of these hidden opportunities for worldbuilding involves secondary characters. One of the things I aspire to do is to populate my stories with any number of interesting characters capable of taking over the narrative. (Not that I let them.) Not only does it give the main characters people to interact with and thus further the plot, it’s realistic. Each of us thinks of ourselves as the main character of our story. Point of view characters in a novel are no different. However, we aren’t the only main character. Every “secondary character” we meet—doctors, neighbors, people on the street—is the main character of their own story in which we are the secondary character. That’s reality. In addition, well-developed secondary characters will sometimes alter the main character’s perspective of the world. This, too, is how the real world works. How many times have you encountered someone whose perspective on a situation altered your own? If you’re like me, quite a few. None of us operates in a vacuum. Characters in a narrative shouldn’t either. Continue reading

My Superpower: Chris Caldwell

16 Aug

My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Chris Caldwell.


I’ve always been fascinated by illusion and transformation; the concepts of changing a thing into something new, and something appearing to change but remaining the same, go hand in hand. My stories The Beekeeper’s Garden (Fiyah, Spring 2017) and Serving Fish (Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, People of Color Take Over Issue 2017) explicitly deal with illusion and transformation as they apply to the experiences of marginalized people. I am a skeptic who deeply wants to believe. I know the magician is palming the coin while still hoping she has conjured it from the ether.

My superpower is seeing through illusion. Not in a grandiose way, I don’t wave my hands to reveal that the handsome youth has really been a middle aged venture capitalist all along. I’ll irritate friends at the movies by figuring out plot twists long before I’m supposed to (“They’re the ghosts!” “I think he’s making this whole thing up!” “They’re really in modern times!”). I’ve used insight as a mental health worker to help people who are frustrated and feel unheard get to the bottom of what need they have that hasn’t been met. Throwing a surprise party for me is usually an exercise in futility. It isn’t infallible by any means. There are people and conditions that completely confound my insight, and days where maybe the moon has entered the wrong sphere and every observation I make falls flat. But for the most part, it’s served me well: allowing me to discern true friend from false, and helping others navigate closer to the shaky ground known as the Truth.

Continue reading

Signal Boost #15: A Conversation about Helsinki WorldCon & WSFS Business

15 Aug

On today’s psuedo-Signal Boost, Shaun, Paul, and our resident WSFS expert, Alex, recap the Helsinki WorldCon WSFS Business meeting LIVE from WorldCon (ok, so not exactly live, but it’s as close as we get). Alex shares the nitty-gritty, the grim and ugly, the wonderful and the strange, that occured at the Helsinki WSFS business meeting, including the news that we now have a YA award (which is, as of now, nameless)! Yay! Also, an update on all the fun of the anti-slate voting measures that were put into place. A lot of stuff happens at the WSFS meetings regarding the Hugo Awards, so it’s worth paying attention to and getting involved with if you can. The team also share their impressions of the Helsinki Convention as a whole!

We hope you enjoy the episode!

Note:  If you have iTunes and like this show, please give us a review on our iTunes page, or feel free to email us with your thoughts about the show!

Here’s the episode (show notes are below): Continue reading

331. Tobias Buckell (a.k.a. Captain Planet) — At NASFiC (An Interview)

14 Aug

Boats, Bungie Headquarters, and organizing, oh my! Shaun was honored to be able to interview Guest of Honor Tobias Buckell at NASFiC in San Juan, Puerto Rico, last month. It was a great conversation about Tobias’ history and identity as a Caribbean writer, what it’s like to write tie-in novels for Halo (which he’s a total geek for), and The Tangled Lands, his new book co-written with Paolo Bacigalupi. There are audience questions at the end to delve into even more fun tidbits! This was a live recording, so please forgive the audio quality.

We hope you enjoy the episode!

Note:  If you have iTunes and like this show, please give us a review on our iTunes page, or feel free to email us with your thoughts about the show!

Here’s the episode (show notes are below): Continue reading

Book Review: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

11 Aug

The second volume in Ken Liu’s Dandelion Dynasty series just had its paperback release, so this felt like a good moment to review this sequel to 2015’s The Grace of Kings. If you aren’t familiar with that start to the series, you can find my review of it here, and I would not recommend starting with the sequel or reading further in this review. The plot of The Wall of Storms actually does stand rather well on its own. However, the framework of Liu’s Chinese-history inspired archipelago kingdom/culture is built in the first book and could be harder to appreciate or grasp without starting there. Continue reading

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