Celebrating the Equinox (an excerpt from The Copper Scarab)

The autumn is upon us, and it’s time to celebrate the harvest and wave goodbye to summer ~sniff~. I try to mark the quarter days (equinoxes and solstices) with something special. And there is stuff to celebrate! Those of you who backed the Sunspot Jungle Kickstarter should be getting your hardback copies of the book very soon! The paperback and eBook editions will be out on December 1 (and are already up for pre-order!).

I have a story in volume 1, a reprint of my Pyramids and Punk tale The Copper Scarab. When I was writing it I had this vision of how I wanted the last section of the story to go. I knew the sphinx at Giza would be involved, but needed some other element to make it all click. I went poking through all my research files and found an article I’d saved talking about the connection between the sphinx and the eastern horizon and the timing of the inundation of the Nile (which is a plot point in the story) and everything fell right together into this passage below.

This is from the last section of the story but does not include the end. It’s minorly spoilery, but I doubt the reading of it would be “ruined” for you if you read this.

Excerpt: The Copper Scarab

In the darkness before dawn on the equinox, Khemetans who came from across the delta and White Fortress region gathered around the base of the Great Lioness. Their voices quiet, reverent; their bodies newly wet with water from the still anemic Nile. They sat with eyes trained on the eastern horizon. Like the giant stone Lion of the Horizon, their faces would greet the dawn directly on the day marking the beginning of the harvest season. Most of them tried not to think about how poor that harvest would be this year, just as last year, and possibly all the years to come. Instead, they waited for the life-giving rays of the sun to warm their skin and remind them of the first eternal truth: Everything changes, but the dawn always comes.

Half a shade after the sun disk pushed fully over the horizon, the Lioness seemed, impossibly, to shudder. Sounds emerged from under the ground that ricocheted around the still quiet crowd–vibrations that didn’t make sense.

They had begun to murmur when the copper scarab emerged from the sand between the stone paws, hissing and clicking and gleaming in the sunlight. The people’s silence held for one breath, two, before everyone reacted at once. Amatashteret watched from a short distance as some scrambled away in fear, some fell to their knees in shock or in reverence, and some ran to get a closer look. The engineers surrounded the scarab, lifting the copper wings to the right position and ensuring the steam pressure stayed at the right level. Once they gave the ready signal, she and the other chariot riders rolled past the machine, heading into the desert and upriver toward the capital.


Pre-order Sunspot Jungle to read the whole story.

Goth Rose

Story Notes: August Patron Fiction

Sometimes inspiration comes from unexpected places.

Earlier this week I took an out of town friend up to the International Rose Test Garden here in Portland. In the Shakespeare Garden area we sat to chill and my friend, Shveta Thakrar, read to me from a book of faerie stories.

One of the stories she read was The Lothian Farmer’s Wife, a tale I hadn’t heard before.

The wife of a farmer in Lothian had been carried off by the fairies, and, during the year of probation, repeatedly appeared on Sunday, in the midst of her children, combing their hair. On one of these occasions she was accosted by her husband; when she related to him the unfortunate event which had separated them, instructed him by what means he might win her, and exhorted him to exert all his courage, since her temporal and eternal happiness depended on the success of his attempt. The farmer, who ardently loved his wife, set out on Hallowe’en, and, in the midst of a plot of furze, waited impatiently for the procession of the fairies. At the ringing of the fairy bridles, and the wild, unearthly sound which accompanied the cavalcade, his heart failed him, and he suffered the ghostly train to pass by without interruption. When the last had rode past, the whole troop vanished, with loud shouts of laughter and exultation; among which he plainly discovered the voice of his wife, lamenting that he had lost her for ever.

When she finished I said: “It’s a reverse gender Tam Lin except, when a man has to do the bold brave thing, he fails. This is why men ain’t shit.” And we had a hearty laugh.

Then I kept thinking about the story, and about Tam Lin, and about how I have never thought that dude was all that great despite really loving some arrangements of the ballad, such as my favorite one by S.J. Tucker[1]:

The more I thought about how the people in this story might have known the people from the Tam Lin ballad and how Tam was probably not the best husband a Janet could ask for, the more I started to spin a backstory on why the wife got taken and then the first draft of this month’s microfiction poured right out of me.

It is, as some of you are aware, not all that micro! It’ll likely get a bit shorter once I polish it and send it out into the world for publication. Patreon patrons get to read it right now.

Footnotes

  1. P.S. You can buy the studio version of this track, which is excellent, on Sooj’s website []
Onyx Pages booktube

Watch My Interview on the ONYX Pages Booktube Channel

Back at WisCon I met a wonderful Canadian booktuber named Njeri whose YouTube reviews of books and interviews with authors are a delight. You should definitely subscribe after you finish watching this interview she did with me. She got me talking about social justice and art, spirituality and the role of the artist, Black Panther, Afrofuturism, and my own work.

mother of invention hardback cover

Mother of Invention Essays on Gender, AI, Androids, Allegory, and the Other

Next month the fabulous Mother of Invention anthology comes out and I highly encourage you to pre-order this fabulousness if you did not get in on the Kickstarter. It features stories about gender as it relates to the creation of artificial intelligence and robotics by Nisi Shawl, John Chu, Seanan McGuire, Soumya Sundar Mukherjee, EC Myers & many more. Editors Rivqa Rafael and Tansy Rayner Roberts did a fantastic job with it (I know cuz I’ve read my contributor copy already :D ).

mother of invention anthology coverAs a companion to the antho Rivqa and Tansy asked me to write a non-fiction essay around the same themes as the fiction, and I immediately knew I wanted to write about androids and race. It helped that Janelle Monae dropped Dirty Computer in the middle of the editing process, allowing me to go deeper into her contributions to androidified fiction. I also got to namecheck Chesya Burke and talk more in-depth about her work, which is always a treat.

Mine is not the only companion essay. Katherine Cross wrote about The Gender in the Machine and Aliette de Bodard wrote about AI as the Other, AI as Family. Both essays are fantastic and have me thinking more about what I might want to say about AI in future projects. (And by that I mean far future because I’m gonna be in Egypt for the next long while…) Same with the stories in the anthology. They all have me considering aspects of AI I had not before.

Bottom line: read the essays and pre-order the book!

background of books on a shelf in sepia tone with the words steampunk dollhouse on top

The Copper Scarab mentioned in the Steampunk Dollhouse podcast

Clockwork Cairo, the anthology where my first Pyramids and Punk story “The Copper Scarab” was published, hasn’t gotten many reviews. The few it has garnered are pretty positive on up to glowing, which makes me happy. Still, I was really glad when the person behind the Steampunk Dollhouse podcast (her nom de plume is Bluestocking and I am here for this) said they were going to devote an entire episode to the book.

You can listen to Episode 12 “Walk Like a Windup Egyptian” over on the Steampunk Dollhouse website or subscribe to the podcast. If you don’t want to hear a discussion about recent sexual harassment allegations in the steampunk community, you can skip to the 40 minute mark, which is where they start going through the book. Bluestocking devotes a few minutes to each story. If you haven’t read the book yet you’ll get a good sense of everything. Since my story is last she talks about it at the end. And hooo let me tell you all the blushing was going on once I got there.

Bluestocking loved the story and spoke highly of what I was trying to do with it. I haven’t been sure how steampunk fans were going to react to my milieu (I’m using many French words today), so it was a happy surprise to find that she enjoyed the story in part because it’s not “Anglo at all” as she put it. She also compared me favorably to Ken Liu and therefore is now my favorite person.

If you haven’t bought the anthology yet but do like steampunk, have a listen. It may inspire you to grab a copy.

Cover for the Sunspot Jungle next to text from the backer reward level

Get a mini Writing the Other class if you back the Sunspot Jungle anthology

Rosarium Publishing is celebrating 5 years of existence with a mega anthology called Sunspot Jungle. Two volumes, over 100 stories, and authors from all over the world. If you don’t know about Rosarium and what they publish, this anthology will be an excellent introduction to the kind of press they are. Later this year volume 1 will come out in eBook format[1] and volume 2 will follow in 2019. However, if you want a hardback version of the books you need to back the Kickstarter campaign going on right now.

The campaign only has a few days to go and is so close to its goal! I’m here to urge you to back it by talking up my contribution to the Kickstarter. Back it for $200 or more and you can choose an intimate Writing the Other class as your backer reward. There are only four spots in this tiny class available and, as of right now, two are already spoken for. Here’s why should you scoop up one of the other two:

Nisi and I charge $300 – $425 for the various versions of the full Writing the Other classes. Back Sunspot Jungle for $200 and you get the whole class. Plus, you and the other backers can choose your format — weekend intensive, 2 week intensive, somewhere in between… not the 6 week version, though — and the date/times the class will run. Big bonus: you only have to be in the class with a max of 3 other people.

If you’ve been wanting to take a Writing the Other class but have held back due to timing, due to price, due to being nervous about messing up in front of a bunch of strangers, this mini class is perfect for you and only available for a limited time.

Plus, you get two big books full of amazing fiction. Rading fiction by the authors in this table of contents is something Nisi and I recommend to our students, anyway. You’d already be on the path to greatness!

If this sounds good to you, go on over to the Sunspot Jungle Kickstarter, scroll down until you see WRITING THE OTHER course, hover your mouse over it, and click Select This Reward. Easy!

Footnotes

  1. I’m in this volume![]
a picture of the great pyramid of egypt with sunrays emananting up to a golden sky behind it and text showing that I am halfway to my goal superimposed

Egypt Trip Fundraiser: The Big Push to $3,500

Thanks to my wonderful friends and fans I’ve raised half the money I need to go to Egypt! YAY! You are all so awesome and amazing and thank you so much! Here, have one more exclamation point!

Can’t stop pushing the fundraiser now, because there’s a big deadline coming up.

I need to pay the tour company on March 1 to ensure I have a spot (tour is in May). That means I need to get to $3,500 in the fundraiser since I have about $1,000 of my own money saved. Once I pay for the tour I can concentrate on raising the other $1,500 for flights and other needs.

So, another $1,000 in 20 days. Let’s do this.

My first goal is to get to $3,000. When I do I will finally do the thing I’ve been threatening to do since this adventure started: watch The Gods of Egypt.

I got through Exodus: Gods and Kings without too much lasting psychological damage, so I feel I can handle this. I’ll have help, though.

Poet and provocateur Scott Woods has agreed to do a livetweet watch of the movie with me. If you’re not familiar with Scott’s work, you should at least read his review of GoE, which I pointed to way back when I first posted about this garbage fire of a movie. If you read his piece and watch my video about it, you’ll get an excellent sense of what our color commentary is going to look like. You’ll also understand why doing this is a huge sacrifice. Bless you, Scott.

After we watch the movie, we’re going to do a reaction video wherein he will try to hold back laughter as I scream from my fetal position under a table WHY! WHY GODS WHY!?

You know you want to see this.

And you can once we hit $3,000. To make that happen faster you can donate to the fundraiser and/or you can share stuff about it all over the Internet. Either one helps!

The direct link to the YouCaring page is here: https://www.youcaring.com/ktempestbradford-1014406

Or you can share one of the videos I’ve made about the book or about the fundraiser, including this new one in which I sing:

Thank you again to all the folks who have already helped me get to this point. My first newsletter is coming this weekend, as well as backer rewards such as free fiction! Folks on Patreon: Same!

Pyramids and Punk

Help Me Get To Egypt, Get Cool Stuff

If you follow me on social media you likely know that I am finally planning to go to Egypt to do research for my AfroRetroFuturist series in progress. I found a tour that’s going to all the places I need to go, including one that package tours rarely go to, and it’ll cost me about $6,000 dollars all told. Some of that will be taken care of by the money I get from my (amazing, wonderful) Patreon supporters, but I have to raise the bulk of it outside of that. Thus, I set up a page on YouCaring.com.

I’m really eager to get this series of books and stories right. With it I intend to challenge ideas about gender roles in the ancient world and explore what a matrifocal, technological, and unquestionably African Egypt could look like. I’m doing it with characters that exist beyond binary sexualities and beyond binary genders, and whose problems don’t arise from those identities. And I’m doing it with queer Black women as my protagonists.

I need to go to Egypt because experience has taught me that in order to capture the sense of a place, a structure, or a monument in my writing I need to experience it firsthand.

In college I traveled to England for a class, and our teacher was able to get us special access to Stonehenge. We were allowed walk among the stones instead of settling for only getting tourist close. All my life I’d seen images of Stonehenge, heard from experts and visitors about how impressive an achievement it is, read about the height and weight and makeup of the stones. But it wasn’t until the moment I was standing next to them, touching them, and craning my neck up to see the top that I grokked the magnitude of the accomplishment Stonehenge represents.

I had to experience the truth of those facts myself before I could begin to understand and then convey them. I need to stand next to the pyramids for the same reason.

If you’d like to support this trip and my work in general but don’t want to do the monthly thing via Patreon, now you can send me a lump sum. All donors will get added to my new monthly newsletter mailing list, and depending on how much you donate, you get some of the same content my Patreon supporters get each month.

$25+ gets you a 30 minute video chat ask me anything session, $50+ gets you a piece of (very) short fiction every month, $100+ gets you chapters from the work in progress once a month, $200+ gets you a critique of a short story. There are some more levels and more rewards Click over to the YouCaring page to see them all.

As of this blog posting I’ve raised over $600, but I’m not to $1,000 yet. When I hit $600 I promised to do a live rewatch of The Prince of Egypt and a vlog with my reactions to it. That is coming up this weekend. When I hit $1,000 I’ll do the same with Exodus: Gods and Kings. With every major goal I hit — $2,000, $2,500, $3,000, etc.–I will do a live watch of some movie set in Ancient Egypt and very likely rip it apart for being inaccurate, whitewashed, or nonsense. It’ll be a good time.

And yes, one of those levels will unlock a live watch of The Gods of Egypt, which I have never seen. I will suffer through it for money.

If you’re able to donate, thank you! If you’re not ale to but want to help, please share this blog post or the direct link to the YouCaring page via social networks, email, directly to friends. Anything and everything helps.

Pyramids and Punk

Watch The #PyramidsAndPunk Reading from Surel’s Place

My month long residency at Surel’s Place is almost over, and on Thursday it was time for me to show off my work for the local Boise artist community. I read from three of my works set in AfroRetroFuturist Ancient Egypt — The Copper Scarab, the current novel in progress, and a short story in progress — all set in different times about 100 years apart. At the end I also took questions from the most excellent audience, who braved the cold to see me.

I livestreamed the event and trimmed the finished video so the boring parts are all gone.

If you enjoy the reading, you can support ore of the same either by becoming my patron on Patreon or by contributing to my Trip To Egypt crowdfunding campaign. With both, you can read more of the work in progress (depending on what level you donate) as I go.

WX Cruise Caribbean boat

Why You Should Attend The Writing Excuses Cruise & Help Others Do So As Well

This week the fine folks at the Writing Excuses podcast announced the next cruise and retreat. In 2018 I’m joining the team as an instructor alongside Amal El-Mohtar, Maurice Broaddus, Piper J. Drake, Valynne E. Maetani & more. The workshop starts on 9/22 in Houston, and the cruise sails from Galveston, TX and goes to Roatan, Honduras, Belize City, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico before docking again on 9/30. It’s going to be a fabulous trip and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Before I tell you why I’m so excited for this based on my experiences over the past couple of years, I want to ask for your help with something. Every year, alumni of the Writing Excuses retreats raise funds for a full ride scholarship to the cruise. This is in addition to a scholarship funded by supporters of the Writing Excuses Patreon (the $20/month level). The more money they raise, the more people who can’t afford this cruise get the opportunity to experience this. Please consider donating to the Alumni fund before December 15th, or giving ongoing support via Patreon. I’ll give details on how to do that at the bottom of this post.

But first, let me tell you why I think going on this cruise is an awesome opportunity for writers.

I first came on the cruise back in 2016 when I was invited to be a staff member. That year we sailed around the Caribbean, and it was my first time on a cruise ship. The nature of cruises like the one we took is that we only spent a few hours on each island, and so there wasn’t much time for seeing more than one thing and certainly not enough time to get a real sense of the place.

WX Cruise Caribbean zoo

That said, having one distinct experience in each place, getting some time in places I’d never been, being exposed to even the slightest hint of something outside of my life, was powerful. It made me want to have more time, to visit the places for real. But I also appreciated those few hours floating in clear, warm ocean water and allowing myself to just be and breathe and listen.

WX Cruise Caribbean beach

This year’s cruise was very different. We went to the Baltic sea with stops in Sweden and Denmark and Estonia and Russia. There were no beaches! But with each city there was time enough to again have a distinct, capsule experience.

WX Cruise St Petersberg

And it was on this trip that I discovered how even a small amount of time in a place can provide inspiration for my writing and fodder for my creativity. I talked about this in episode 13 of ORIGINality (skip to the 1 hour mark for the stuff on this trip in particular). I was able to turn experiences I had in Europe into useful reference points for the novel I’m writing set in Egypt. And I know down the line the places I’ve been will bubble up in some other way. Everything one does can benefit ones writing.

WX Cruise Stockholm

Beyond that, the cruise instructors all offer classes, there are critique groups and other workshops, the chances for one-on-one discussions with amazing authors, editors, agents. There’s networking and craft working and skill building and the opportunity to get to know some amazing people. I have felt so very lucky to be part of it the last two years and to get to be part of it going forward.

I want more people to have the opportunity to be part of it. And so I’m asking that if you have $5 to spare or $10 or $20, please donate to the alumni scholarship fund. You can donate via PayPal to wxralumscholar@gmail.com by December 15th. If you donate via credit card, please mark it as a gift and not as for a good or service, so they won’t be charged a fee. If you really hate PayPal, email that address and they’ll work something out with you.

If you have $20 a a month to spend, consider supporting the scholarship through the WX Patreon. You get cool extras if you do.

And if you’re a person who would love to come on the cruise and would benefit from it but cannot afford it, keep an eye out for when the scholarship applications open. It’ll be announced on the Writing Excuses website, social media, etc.

Finally, if you’re a writer and you can afford the time and price of the cruise, please join us! I have no doubt this year is going to be as wonderful as the last two. The ports we’re visiting have the potential to offer inspiration or relaxation, and the instructors are going to teach you amazing stuff.

Come on a boat!