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Becky Chambers

Fiction and Excerpts [3]
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Fiction and Excerpts [3]

My Alien Family: Writing Across Cultures in Science Fiction

Here’s an activity I highly recommend for science fiction writers (or anyone, really): watch your favorite funny YouTube video with someone from another country. It’s got to be your very favorite, the one that rendered you into a weeping, stomach-aching mess. And you can’t share it by sending a link along into the ether. You’ve got to be with the person. You’ve got to be close enough to catch every muscle twitch, every batted lash. One of two things will happen. If you’re lucky, your foreign friend will laugh just as hard as you did, you’ll be reassured of your common kinship, and the two of you have fuel for inside jokes for years to come.

The more likely outcome, at least in my experience, is social purgatory. You’ll sit there for an excruciating three minutes or so, your grinning eagerness disintegrating as your companion watches humorlessly, perhaps with a puzzled wrinkle between their eyes or a smirk that suggests they get the joke but can’t imagine why anybody bothered making it. You’ll glance at each other when the video ends, awkward and confused. At this point, invite your friend to share one of their favorite videos, if they haven’t already leapt at the chance to cleanse their palate. Put the shoe on the other foot. Feel reality start to unravel as you wonder what sort of lunatics would find this funny.

Now bottle that experience, and uncork it as needed. That’s how you write aliens.

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A Closed and Common Orbit

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in a new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.

Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for—and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates. A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Angry Planet—available in the US from Harper Voyager on March 14th!

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The Things That Get On Without Us

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how and they inform the author’s literary identity!

A few weeks ago, I witnessed the unfortunate end of a caterpillar. My wife and I were driving one of many lengthy back-and-forths from our then-current town to our now-new town, and not for the first time, we pulled off the road in the middle of a forest. The trees weren’t what caught our eye (at least, not more than usual), but rather the dramatic wall of sedimentary rock layers on the other side of the two-lane highway. After a careful glance for traffic, we scampered across the lanes to the crumbling cliff. It was the sort of thing you could picture in a kids’ science show, accompanied by the narration, “But what were the bones of a fish doing in the middle of a forest?” We facetiously scanned the rock for fossils, but my eyes soon adjusted to other things, picking up more and more detail the longer we stood there.

From the car, we’d seen nothing but broad, colored stripes. Up close, however, it was clear that the stripes were made of tiny fragments, and between the fragments were gaps, and in the gaps was a whole world of flora and fauna we never would have noticed while traveling at forty miles an hour. Lichen. Spiders. Moths. It was there that we crouched down to watch the luckless caterpillar, pale green and slender, being carried away by a stream of ants. It was enormous compared to them—a mammoth. The ants struggled to manage it, even as its writhing became more and more feeble. I was unsure who to root for in that moment, in the same way that I never know whether to feel happy for the lion or sad for the gazelle. I was rapt by the little drama we were witnessing, one of countless other unseen dramas happening along every inch of the road we were barreling down, in the walls and dark corners of our home, in every shrub I’ve walked past on my way to something serious and important.

[I have a real soft spot for the things you find when you slow down.]

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful—exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful. But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

Becky Chamber’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet—originally self-published—is available now in paperback from HarperVoyager.

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The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past. The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful—exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful. But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

Becky Chamber’s The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet—originally self-published—will be available on August 18th from HarperVoyager (US) and Hodder & Stoughton (UK).

[Read an excerpt]

What the Astronaut Said

My mother’s classroom is a happily crowded place. The walls and countertops are crammed with museum posters, maps of the solar system, scientific curios—everything you could want in an astrobiology class. Public school budgets being what they are, her lab tables are often overfull, holding as many students as the room can fit. One day, a few months back, her room was even more jam-packed than usual. Every spare seat and patch of lean-able wall space was occupied by administrators, district representatives, and myself, lucky enough to be in town.

We were there to see the astronaut.

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