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!

Tempest in front of Surel's Place sign

My November Writing Residency Starts Now! (+ Events)

As previously mentioned, I am the writer-in-residence at Surel’s Place this month. My residency officially starts on the 6th, but I slipped in yesterday so I could get settled while the local artist pop-up shop event is happening. I’m already in love with this house and I know I’m going to get a bunch of work done while I’m here. And since I spent the last month researching, my creative well is super full. I’m ready for this.

While I’m here in Idaho I’m taking part in a few events.

Workshop: Crafting Characters Who Aren’t Like You

When: Saturday, November 18th 1:00pm–4:00pm

Where: Surel’s Place, Garden City, ID

$10 Registration Fee, click here for Full Description and Tickets (There are scholarships available, just email info@surelsplace.org)


Reading: Pyramids and Punk

When: Thursday, November 30th

Where: Surel’s Place, Garden City, ID

Free and open to the public

Doors at 6:30pm | 7pm reading, Q&A follows


On Friday, December 1 I’m reading as part of Garden City’s First Friday events, details to come.

I’m also working with the local NaNoWriMo community liaison to do a write-in here at the residency house. If you’re local and part of NaNo, that information will be posted on the local board.

Egyptians Moving Large Statue

Physicists Might Be Jerks and Other Things I Learned While Researching Egypt

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been holed up in the library at Rosicrucian Park, a magnificent place that is also home to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, one of my favorite museums in the country. I needed to do some deep research for the novel I’m writing, and I figured this particular research library would be an excellent place to do just that. I was not disappointed.

One of the great things about researching there is that they have several older Egyptology books, some dating to the early 1900s (oh man… I typed that like it was some old timey century ago but that’s literally the century I was born in… ack). One of the interesting things I discovered as I went through some of these older books is that the paradigms of Egyptology that I’m used to encountering in books written in the past 40 years or so are not the paradigms that have always existed. Some scholars at the beginning of everything had different–and sometimes more interesting–ideas about ancient Egyptian culture that have fallen away. Some have fallen away due to more finds and better understanding of the language. But some seem to have dissipated for no good reason. I find it all fascinating.

One aspect of the shifting paradigms is shifting ideas about how advanced or primitive the ancient Egyptians were compared to the ancient Greeks or Romans or even modern peoples, for whatever value of modern one is talking about. I found varying views on the types of tools and simple machines the Egyptians must have had for them to have built massive monuments and temples of multi-ton granite stones, varying views on how sophisticated their knowledge of astronomy was, and varying views on the meaning of their mythologies. So much to take in!

One particular aspect of this caught my eye while researching, which I wanted to share with you. That is the supposed mystery of how Egyptians were able to move such large stones.

A few years ago some physicists published a paper called “Sliding Friction on Wet and Dry Sand,” which proved that one needed less force to pull a heavy object over wet sand than dry sand. The way science journalists got everyone’s attention when reporting on this somewhat boring topic is with headlines like “The surprisingly simple way Egyptians moved massive pyramid stones without modern technology” and “Solved! How Ancient Egyptians Moved Massive Pyramid Stones.” First of all, nothing in this research paper proves anything about pyramid stones, but clickbait headlines gotta clickbait, right?

Anyway, the reason why most people remember these articles is because of this:

It has long been believed that Egyptians used wooden sleds to haul the stone, but until now it hasn’t been entirely understood how they overcame the problem of friction. … “The Egyptians… placed the heavy objects on a sledge that workers pulled over the sand. Research … revealed that the Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet.”

Adding more evidence to the conclusion that Egyptians used water is a wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep. A splash of orange and gray, it appears to show a person standing at the front of a massive sledge, pouring water onto the sand just in front of the progressing sled. What this man was doing has been a matter of great debate and discussion.

Egyptians Moving Large Statue

Bonn [one of the researchers] wrote in an e-mail to The Post. “In fact, Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation…”

When I first read this my thought was: Ugh, typical Egyptologists/archaeologists, assuming something practical is ritualistic. Cuz, well, this happens often.

But then.

As I was going through older books, I came across that picture of the pulling of the giant stone statue several times, and every single time I did, the author explained the picture or captioned it with something along the lines of: Workers pulling granite statue of the pharaoh while someone pours water on the sand to help make moving it easier.

Um. But wait. I thought that “Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation.”

HMM.

Either the early Egyptologists were smarter than the ones that came later about these things or maybe, just maybe, the physicist who gave that quote doesn’t know what the hell he’s fucking talking about and/or made it seem like the people in a different scientific discipline than he is were being stupid.

Quite honestly, it could be either or both.

I want to run over all those articles about this thing with a giant CITATION NEEDED stamp.

Science journalism has so much to answer for.

At any rate, I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend time reading these older books and widening my understanding of ancient Egyptian culture as well as some of the people who were formative to Egyptology. This research trip was made possible by the folks who support me via Patreon, and I am so, so appreciative of them! They’ve put up with a lot of lag from me, but next month I’ll be able to get back on track and start sending them chapters again.

If you would like to read more about my research finds, I’ve been blogging about them on Patreon for all patrons. I have a few more research posts coming this week. If you’re interested in seeing them, click on over!

Originality podcast logo

ORIGINality #4 and Writing Exercises

Another episode of ORIGINality is out! This one is just Aleen and myself, and we talk about the role of practice in creative endeavors. I talk in depth about how I have not seen practice emphasized in creative writing the way it was when I learned music and the way I see it valued in other arts like drawing or dance. And yet, I come across students in every class who lament that they aren’t that good at describing setting or dialogue or writing action. To that I say: if you know you’re not good at it, then why don’t you practice?

To that end, I started a new thing on my Patreon: writing exercises. All patrons get a new writing exercise each week that’s meant to be done every day. Each will be about developing some particular skill. I encourage patrons to share the exercises with each other, but you don’t have to.

Patrons who want feedback from me on their exercises can get it if they are contributing on the Learn You Some level. All patrons can ask the other folks in the community for feedback if they want.

The idea is to have a 10 – 20 minute chunk of your day devoted to writing that is just about building a skill and not contributing to your wordcount. Not all words need to be designed to be read. You can create things just for the purpose of trying out new stuff.

Listen to me go on about this in the podcast below, or subscribe so you can listen in your favorite podcatcher.