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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Friday, 18 November 2022

So, I Forgot to Mention - My Book is Out!

 This is a short one, because I just got back home from the book launch at Analog Books here in Lethbridge - a fantastic independent bookstore that everyone should check out. 

It was small, just myself and a few friends, but the bookstore was open a bit late tonight and I did a little reading for people! I also served up this delicious pineapple cake, in a vegan version (we used an egg substitute). 


Photo by Liza Fleischmann. My dumb ass forgot to take a picture.

But you're not just here for the (virtual) pineapple cake and apple cider - you're here for the book. 

As mentioned, The Meaning Wars Omnibus is finally out - not only in ebook form, but also as a paperback and a hardcover! 


It's exclusively on Amazon right now, for KDP and promotion reasons, but I may change that if people speak up. (Amazon really likes to lock authors down with exclusivity, sadly.) 

I'm so proud of how this turned out, and Kateryna Kyselova did a bang-up job on the cover! Christy Foster was of tremendous help on the formatting. You couldn't go wrong by hiring either of them. 

I have a few blog articles on the backburner, but my biggest priority right now is actually my NaNoWriMo project - Monsters and Fools. That's right - it's taken ten years, but I'm planning to release the long, long-awaited sequel to The Underlighters in spring! 

Look, it took a long time to figure out the plot...but I finally got it done. Stay tuned to this space for more updates on what I'm doing - when I get time for 'em, that is. This has been one crazy year so far...

***

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partners-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * * Tumblr * Facebook * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Wednesday, 5 October 2022

The End of an Era

Releasing soon, it's the final book in the Meaning Wars series - A Jade's Trick! 

I've been hard at work on this, and I'm so excited to be this close to the finish line. 

"Outgunned. Outmanned. Outnumbered.


But out of luck? Not yet...


Crystal has left her abusive husband, and Sarah and her crew have successfully rescued rebel leader Patience Ngouabi. As Patience and Sarah connect, they begin to see a life beyond their struggles in the rebellion. Now this queer found-family crew just has to fight the tyrannical Human Conglomerate into submission. But fighting an interstellar empire is going to take more than big guns. They need funding and allies. Could a renegade - but unionized - group of pirates be their unlikely saviours? A sinister, shadowy political figure back on Ganymede may also be willing to help - and that means going right back to danger's heart.

Fans of Ruthanna Emrys' 
A Half Built Garden and Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series will enjoy this emotional, high-risk finale to the Meaning Wars series."



Preorder here!

It'll be out soon, but help me get those preorder numbers up by grabbing your copy now! Around the same time, I'll also be releasing an omnibus collecting all five books, which will be available in hardcover (a first!) as well as paperback. 

I hope you'll all enjoy seeing the destinies of these characters play out as much as I've enjoyed writing them. Coming to the end of a book series is always bittersweet, but I'm so proud of these characters and how far they've gone. 

***

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partners-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Thursday, 25 August 2022

In Celebration of the Mary Sue


Source. Complete with jealous unicorn. 


When the ninth Star Wars movie came out, Rise of Skywalker, a particular term from writing communities online started to become ubiquitous. Horribly, it made its way around the internet's Manosphere, as particularly oafish chuds keen for low-hanging fruit reached for this easy prize. More happily, a backlash to the liberal and overused weaponised term became circulated, and we've now hit the saturation point of the wave where the term "Mary Sue" has fallen out of the limelight. 

When you hear the term "Mary Sue," which originated in Star Trek fan zines to call out a particular type of wish-fulfillment writing, you might have a variety of ideas. Some of them might be vague assocations - "isn't that a thing from that movie?" - or, if you're an Extremely Online person like myself, you might break out in compulsive shuddering and hives at the mere utterance of the phrase. 

But now that people have broken down the inherent sexism in the concept of the Mary Sue, to the extent that its creators have renounced its creation, we may have hit a point where we can just consider the Sue in isolation - and not only offer ways to accept and write around the wish-fulfillment character, but appreciate her for what she is: an often goofy fantasy that may help people process their powerlessness in real life and real trauma, offer escape from the weight of reality, or both. 

Who is Mary Sue? 


For an overview of this long-spanning trend and a glimpse of this essay's inspiration, this video is absolutely mandatory. For those who don't like Youtube, or just don't want to stop reading, the Sue is a personification of a criticism of a couple of writing problems. They're often conflated together, but they should actually be teased apart - despite how often they co-occur. A Sue is, 

Mar·y Sue
noun
nounMary Sueplural nounMary Sues
  1. (originally in fan fiction) a type of female character who is depicted as unrealistically lacking in flaws or weaknesses.
    "she was not a ‘strong woman’ so much as an insufferable Mary Sue"

Even the Oxford Dictionary's definition showcases the inherent special-case pleading and sexism applied to Sues. The original argument against Sues went thusly: 

1) Sues are badly written (inherently) because they 

2) Warp the plot, setting, and characters' actions around themselves; 

3) Have an unrealistic number of positive traits,

4) A corresponding deficit of actual negative traits (with the exception of tropey or common flaws that may or may not be actual flaws, such as "being too beloved") 

5) Get too much focus and attention in the story, 

6) Don't have to pay the price for their successes,

And 7), which often goes unspoken, "have wish fulfillment girl cooties all over them in some indefinably repulsive way." 

Now, I went through my own "anti-Sue" phase as a teenager and young adult; I used the Mary Sue Litmus to "make sure characters were balanced and well-written" as much as anyone. But now that I'm old, tired, and much more experienced as a writer, my perspective on this has changed drastically. 

And part of the reason for that is simply that I watched a show with an honest-to-god Mary Sue character, and it was great fun. 

The Chilling Adventures of Mary Sue 


Netflix's Riverdale and Sabrina have both had their moments, but despite being an avid fan of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch back in its Melissa Joan Hart era (when Disney Adventure Magazine advised copying her look by wearing an "earthy choker", a phrase that confuses me to this day) I had held off on watching either series. For one thing, the Archie comics series' lack of character development in its original form struck me as a type of perpetual purgatory worthy of The Good Place' s original demon pits. 

(As always, I'm late to the party, but Russian Doll and The Good Place are every bit as good as people have been saying they were. Give them a watch, or a rewatch, for some delectable afterlife paperwork tropes, fascinating philosophy, and heartfelt existentialism.) 

Being sick with COVID, as I mentioned in my last post, made this an ideal opportunity to catch up on some TV. I was in for quite a surprise with Sabrina. 

The magically-talented girlboss skips and bounces over third and fourth-wave feminist issues while literally and figuratively battling the patriarchy, showcasing phenomenal cosmic powers, being an absolute Chosen One to whom others are attracted or obsessed over, and is generally compassionate, friendly, serious, clever, and a great leader. She's also small, conventionally attractive, and the focus on attention for universe-bending powers. And here's the thing - she's great fun, and the show is great fun. 

Who's afraid of Mary Sue? 


Because the show takes itself just seriously enough and has just enough campy fun in the mix, it works like a Long Island Iced Tea - an easy-drinking alchemical mix of delight. Seeing the way the show worked perfectly fine, however, got me thinking about the ways in which Sabrina was a Sue - and it was perfectly fine. 

In turn, I reflected on my own D&D campaigns and writing, and considered how my players had made their own super cool wish fulfillment characters not only bearable, but actually fun to play with. Now, the rules for writing with others and writing solo are a bit different, but there is some overlap. 

Because the term is so stigmatized, it may be more comfortable for readers to hear about the negative instances first, before we ease into how Sues can be worked with and even weaponized for good in the plot. 

Bad Sues 


Of course, everyone online or who plays tabletop games has some kind of a story about that one bad player whose self-insert character absolutely destroyed the game, or a DM/GM (Dungeon or Game Master) whose NPC (Non-Player Character) was just the most obnoxious piece of crap ever to grace the wet-erase maps. These people are real, and they exist in many spaces - but the problem with them is generally not what they're creating, but how they interact with others. We tend to project that negativity from the experience onto their writing, but the real sin was just being selfish and a bad sport. 

In two different roleplay groups, I had players who wanted to portray similar roles - the stone-cold, stoic badass who takes epic kill shots and gets to be at the centre of the plot arc. One of these players was bad with consent and paying attention to fellow players, and ultimately ended up getting the boot from that group. The other player, however, remains a good friend to this day, and actually did get the kill shot on the Big Bad Evil Guy of that adventure because she a) was and is always well-mannered to other players, b) put the work in to make her badass character get better, and c) went with the fun twists that the DM threw at her, rather than resisting them or bickering. 

Fixing Mary Sue 


Let's get this one out of the way - the problem with Mary Sues is not actually their existence, but their contextual existence with others. Balance is a bit of a myth when protagonists are involved - and something that, as many other writers have noted, never becomes a concern or comes into play when male characters are protagonists - but when working with an ensemble cast, making sure that existing characters either a) get their moment or b) have a really good reason for not getting their moment, is vitally important. 

There's a wonderful Star Trek: TNG episode called "Disaster" in which Deanna Troi gets to be leader for a day, while Captain Picard is stuck in an elevator with a cadre of children. It's surprisingly heartwarming and adorable - partly because for once, Troi is taken seriously and permitted to be useful and competent. However, the way Picard is removed is absolutely excellent, and very much recommendable if one wanted ways to neutralize other main characters: a common ailment + their greatest weakness = an existing MC out of commission. 

In a roleplay game, making sure that every player character gets some kind of moment during the game, whether it be an acting or emotional beat, a cool fight move, a clever problem-solving section, or even just a great assist for another friend, is a great way to create a sense of symmetry. Symmetry is better than balance, because all too often, "balance" becomes a reason to throw a wet blanket on fun, exciting, over-the-top moments - when the real solution is not a wet blanket, but consequences. 

Does Mary Sue have every type of elemental bending power without being an Avatar? Cool; make her a fugitive, and send horrible politicians and scientists after her, trying to weaponize her strengths. Is she an orphan? Have a situation come up where her family connections backfire on her or the lack thereof creates some kind of disadvantage. This turns the sometimes overstuffed backpack of traits and tropes that Sues tend to lug around into a handy-dandy kit of tools for storytellers to use. As long as there are consequences for characters' actions or advantages, the audience will feel the illusion of balance, and a sense of symmetry will be created. 

Embrace the Sue


Ultimately, Mary Sue is the daughter of Joy and Enthusiasm, and the problem isn't her rainbow Converse or fairy wings or super duper magic powers - it's cases of bad manners. And while some might consider it unmannerly to be tacky, which the Sue often arguably is, I would counterpoint that part of writing and creative activities is inherently about fantasy. The smallness of someone's imagination should not be the boundary of other people's creations. 

Watching a bunch of one's friends get to play out the ideal versions of their best selves isn't a buzzkill - it's actually fantastic and delightful. Ultimately, that's what a Mary Sue can be and can offer: a chance to glimpse our ideal selves and our fantasies, and sometimes, to pursue that in our real lives. 

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Apex Published Me!

 I've currently got COVID - it doesn't look serious so far, but it's certainly annoying, and I'm homebound. However, I thought you all might enjoy having a look at this. 

My article on polyamory and OT3s

I'm hoping to get more articles out this year (I know, again) so stay tuned to this space for more writing advice, media thoughts, and the occasional bit of personal stuff. 

***

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her spouses and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.

Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

Friday, 17 June 2022

I'm Getting Married!

 ...And that's where I've been. The last six months have been hectic because of it. However, you can look forward to an article that mentions my marriage in July's edition of Apex. Keep your eyes peeled! 

Although this isn't a wedding blog, and although I try to take a light touch with mentioning personal things, I wanted to take some time to talk about what I'm putting together and how it's happening. Because my wife-to-be is in a sensitive field, I will keep photos of her out of this post. 

Some of you may have read "The Underlighters" or "The Loved, The Lost, The Dreaming," which features an alternate ending for the storyline of the same book. A central feature of that tale is the triad romance between Janelle, Una, and Nathu. Polyamory, the practice (and orientation) of having multiple romantic or significant relationships, is also going to be a theme that I explore in all of my series in other ways. When I wrote that book nearly a decade ago, I didn't expect that I'd find myself in a similar relationship some day, but to my great joy and surprise, that's the case. 

Who, what, when? 

My long-time male partner Andrey (aka Disarcade) has been mentioned a few times. Some years ago, when we moved from Calgary to Lethbridge, we made a friend, whom I'll call Starling. Our friendship continued through Dungeons and Dragons and art, and when the pandemic hit, we were close enough that we decided to share a small bubble, with a couple of other people. 

The pandemic meant that we spent a lot of time together, and only grew closer. There was a personal incident with my family that she was very supportive through, and that was an immense help. As the dream of home ownership was offered to us and then snatched away, talking to her made us all realise how well our life plans dovetailed. 

Between the time and the converging goals, love had rich soil, and sent down its roots. It's been an exhilarating, sometimes challenging ride, but I couldn't be happier that in January, when  I asked her to be my wife, and marry us both, she said yes.

But marriage is between two people, isn't it?

Although plural marriages are not legally recognized - mostly due to the stigma surrounding polygamous marriages, which are different and often based in oppressive religious structures - we're having a handfasting ceremony to recognize our connection to each other. 

The blog More Than Two has some great resources and information about what polyamory is and how it works, but for those not acquainted, it's a type of non-normative relationship structure that can take many forms - including non-monogamy, relationship anarchy, and many other shapes. In our triad, all of us have relationships with each other and together, but that's not the only way to love, either. It's also not the same as swinging, which is generally about sexual interactions, but not emotional ones. 

Although polyamory is seen as non-normative (and is not just a lifestyle, but is an orientation which is discriminated against, meaning that it's on the LGBTQ+ spectrum), polyplatonic relationships are very normal - most people have more than a single friend or even best friend. Anyone wondering "how that works" on a basic level should consider how they can feel affection for multiple family members or friends. It's a good reference point for the similarities. And just as caring about one friend usually doesn't reduce your affection for another - unless there's a problem in the other relationship - loving two or more people doesn't mean loving each person any less. 

What comes next?

I might diverge from my usual pop culture, politics, and writing technique content to mention some of the creative stuff; let me know if you readers would be interested in an article about how we put together an unusual outdoor summer wedding for under $5000. 

We've been DIYing up a storm - and if I was cleverer, I'd have posted a bunch of tutorials and progress shots on here - but preparations are almost ready.  I've had a very messy release schedule for a long time now, but my mental health has been improving, and I'd like to put out more articles. I'm hoping to get some more published articles out as well, with places like Apex and even possibly other magazines. 

But for the next couple of days, until the solstice and the ceremony, my biggest focus is going to be on finishing up some final details, making food for guests, and cleaning the apartment! You would not believe the amount of glitter my fiancée produces. Seriously, there's so much glitter stuck in the carpet, on the couch, the dresses...

Oh, and book 5 is still coming along, too. I have an author event at Analog Books on August 30th here in Lethbridge, AB, so if you're a local, come out and see me that night! I'll have copies of the books mentioned here, and will be reading excerpts from those and my upcoming work, the fifth book in the Meaning Wars saga, the grand finale. When that's done, an omnibus paperback edition will be released, containing the whole series. 

Yeah, that's a lot. It's ambitious. But if my girlfriend, and soon-to-be wife, has taught me anything, it's that it's worth living life adventurously. 

***

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer and editor. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partners-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and learning too much. She is currently working on other people’s manuscripts, the next books in her series, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.
Find her all over the internet: * OG Blog * Mailing list * Magpie Editing * Amazon * Medium * Twitter * Instagram * Facebook * Tumblr * Paypal.me * Ko-fi

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