“The Water Knife”: compelling science fiction about losing our most precious natural resource / “The Water Knife”: Ciencia ficción convincente acerca de la pérdida de nuestro recurso natural más valioso

WaterKnifeLet me say up front that I am in awe of Paolo Bacigalupi’s skill as a writer of ecological science fiction. Water scarcity! How’s that for a topic that could put the most avid science fiction reader to sleep? It takes a talented writer to make anyone crack a book on such a topic, and Bacigalupi has done it with The Water Knife. The novel has been nominated for the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction.

The Water Knife cuts closer in time than Bacigalupi’s last novel The Windup Girl (reviewed here) and puts readers into a  pre-apocalyptic American West that we could actually live to see. The climate is undergoing a downward spiral of change, and water is scarce. The federal government has limited influence over desperate state governments and populations migrating toward any promise of water. Humanitarian aid organizations throughout the south and west build water pumps that sell water by the liter to the public while robber barons build climate-controlled luxury resorts for the rich. Continue reading


Why you should not attempt NaNoWriMo when you’re writing a second draft

I had a plan in October. I was going to use the days of November (National Novel Writing Month) to focus on the missing scenes in the first draft of my novel and fill in the blanks. It was such a simple plan, elegant really. And then it snarled up like last year’s strands of Christmas lights.

In my mind my first draft was actually more than elaborate notes that stumble and trip their way to the story’s end. Now, when I’m actually re-reading and wrestling with each chapter, I find that it’s not just missing scenes, but full-fledged alternate timelines I’m dealing with. Why the heck have I sprung forward from one particular scene I liked with three different concluding scenes? Why is the same character in two different places at the same time? Why is my main character so stupid? Bertie Wooster could figure out this mystery in chapter 5!

And one critical chapter is missing. Just missing. I’ve written it. I remember it well but cannot find it now. Did I copy and paste or save as or delete it? Who knows.

This I know: I am losing time by hunting for missing chapters and trying to untangle timelines. The only way I’m going to make 50,000 words by November 30th is if I stick to the original plan. Fill in the holes. Just complete the scene. Don’t edit yet (as if you could!).

The monstrous text file I will submit for validation will make no sense to anyone else who reads it. That’s okay. It will help me get to a real solid draft. At least I don’t have to wonder what I’ll be doing in December or January, or probably March. The winter will be spent editing this mess.

Series Novels Need Their Own Category in the Goodreads Choice Awards

Among the 15 nominated titles in the fantasy category of the Goodreads Choice Awards, only two titles–Boundary Crossed by Melissa F. Olson and Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman–are not part of a series, and Gaiman’s book is an anthology, not a novel.

I have no issue with authors maximizing the marketing success they have by writing a novel series. But when it comes to contests and awards–it feels like cheating when books farther back in a series are nominated. After book one, other novels in the sequence have the wind of the series’ popularity behind them. Is any book #6 in a series really comparable to a new and unique novel experience?

As a reader who is not planning to read any of the books nominated in any category unless it’s a standalone novel or the first one in the series, I think Goodreads would encourage more reading and discovery of new authors by separating the series nominees from the standalone novels. FYI: there are three series novels whose debut novels are among the nominees. These are The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, Recurve by Shannon Mayer and The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher.

Note: In the science fiction category eight of the 15 nominees are standalone or debut series novels. And in horror, 12 of 15 nominees are standalone titles.