Current Progress

Skyler and I are fighting through revisions on the next Incrementalists novel (still not sure what the title will be), and I’m working on Vallista.  Vallista (set immediately before Hawk, which moves the story forward) is going slowly, but not badly.  On chapter 3 right now.

So, just for shits and giggles, if I were to write something not set in the Incrementalists world or Dragaera, what should I write?  I mean, what thing haven’t I done would you like to see me trying to do, so I can fall flat on my face and you can laugh pitilessly at my ineptitude?




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109 thoughts on “Current Progress”

  1. I was going to say ‘noir’ but you’ve sort of done that with Vlad, and I was going to say ‘a Western’ but same thing, and I was going to say something Zelaznyish, but that was The Incrementalists. I dunno – have you thought of putting your own unique spin on a YA property? What you did with Agyar was brilliant – I could see your own version of a YA being unexpected and fabulous.

  2. Jen makes good points, but I would suggest expanding the project by doing it in Paarfi’s voice.

    On the other hand, you still haven’t written that sequel to Cowboy Feng that I fantasize about constantly.

  3. Oh how I wish you could write in worlds of Zelazny’s Amber, or GRRM & co’s Wild Card. Or a first person POV of a Cthulhu cultist thinking that the Stars are Right Now.

  4. Is Serenity/Firefly considered space opera? Because you did that pretty well.

    There can never be enough stories with laser swords or particle canons or solar sails or etc etc, imo.

    None of these ideas will prevent me from fantasizing about that Cowboy Feng sequel, however.

  5. Would a short story that adds a day to Cowboy Feng where they take an evening to go to the theatre make it a space opera?

  6. Ooooo or like, Armor, by John Steakley, or Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. So, a story about people in powered assault armor fighting bugs, I mean, but instead of being about the political stuff or the psychological stuff, you can make it yours in some way that I can’t even begin to suggest.

    All of these “ideas” I’m throwing out are things that I think haven’t been done enough, and after you wrote that Firefly fan fiction, I assume you can do anything you decide you want to do.

    I’ll stop now unless I come up with something really earth shattering.

  7. Huh, the Mack Reynolds continuation idea actually kind of fits — though those were mostly shorter than novel length.

    I love space opera, of course, it’d be fascinating what you did with that.

  8. I’ll go with Space Opera… A Hungarian space colony, where colonists keep getting kidnapped by a bizarre invulnerable alien species intending to perform genetic experiments on them, on some far-off planet… :)

  9. What comes to mind, of course, is space opera informed by immersion in Patrick O’Brian. I mean, now I want someone else to write it so I can read it. Hmmm. Maybe a character will appear in front of me.

  10. Wow. See, I just came on to make some pithy remark like, “But Steven, we always laugh pitilessly at you regardless,” but then there’s suddenly 50 bajillion comments, and they’re actually good (space opera) and thought-provoking (space opera), and I’m left feeling like I missed the (space opera) boat. I would have continued my comment with a suggestion (space opera), but I think it’s already been mentioned once or twice.

  11. I love the Vlad stuff.

    How about somebody bad inventing magical/mechanical bugs to spy and take over people’s bodies? Mind control? White magic being perverted? Giant impervious slugs that appear benign except they are slowly eating everything? Animals gaining intelligence and complaining about their roles in life? People getting dumber by the day and society grinding to a standstill along with extreme and unprovoked violence?

  12. Obviously you need to write a True Crime book.

    The only difficulty will be deciding on whom to convince to commit which crime….

  13. An established-universe collaboration (or solo series extension) with any major Baen author. Preferably in the space-opera vein (e.g. the Harrington universe), though zombies (Ringo’s Black Tide series) or Mil-SF or thriller (Ringo, Kratman, etc.) would be fine.

    The number of exploding heads would be worth it.

  14. As a devout fan of both the great Steve himself and many Baen authors I would pay so much money to watch those heads explode.

    Seriously though, you need to do space opera.

  15. Have been in a space opera mood all year (Norstrilia, Snow Queen, Dosadi, Ancillary Justice) and with the mentions of Paarfi, now all i can think of is Aubrey/Rosencrantz and Maturin/Guildenstern in space.

  16. I was going to post SPACE OPERA like that in all caps before I read the thread. Now I will do it anyway. Ideally some kind of enormous-scale ultra-high-tech story too with properly exotic transhumans in some properly exotic far-future, not lame character and setting ripoffs of Horatio Hornblower and the Napoleonic era… I keep on trying to come up with some sort of compelling storyline of my own for this kind of thing, but then I just write a fantasy story instead. Sigh.

  17. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking of some of the writing Mack Reynolds did in near futures where workers weren’t needed for production and most people had to live on public stipends. What happens when workers are no longer very useful to the powerful? Nobody seems to be preparing for that possibility.

  18. And wow, Mack Reynolds — what a mention, it’s been a long time since I last saw that name. He seemed like he’d be a cool guy to talk to, I must say.

  19. Well, if we’re really swinging for the bleachers here, you should co-write a space opera with someone! Your co-written work is always tremendous fun. Maybe a complete unknown, someone who hasn’t broken into traditional publishing yet…someone who you’ve met…

    No, I’m kidding. I mean, unless you’d like to co-write a space opera with me, in which case I’m deadly serious.

  20. An erotic Hungarian space opera could be just the thing to tie all your works together, while explaining your socialist vision to those of us who don’t understand the transition from bloody revolution to functioning society yet.

  21. A space opera with no reference to anything previous body of work EXCEPT your anti hero has his/her ass saved at some point by Devera for unexplained reasons.

  22. @Matt – I already had that idea, I just figured he’d want to actually see my work first to determine how well we’d integrate, and to prove that I can actually follow through on something like this. (:

  23. Perhaps you could get permission from your friend Joel Rosenberg’s estate (may he rest in peace) to finish up his Guardians of the Flame series? He must have left notes or something. I don’t know who else they might trust with it.

  24. Historical fiction. I’d like to read a story by you set in Central or Eastern Europe, perhaps Turks versus Magyars. I am really tired of recycled Celtic/English medieval-based fantasy. Central/Eastern Europe is full of great stories. For example, the historical “Vlad the Impaler” is fascinating, but I’m not asking you to grind out another variant on that trope.

    I’ve always suspected that Easterners and Elves is a bit of a metaphor for some of that anyway. Whether I’m right or not doesn’t matter — the role of the Hungarians, Poles, Romanians in holding the European line is overlooked (and probably full of fresh color and characters).

    But I’m weird. So I have no idea if it would sell without a hook to Tsepes or a Bathory with bloody bathtubs.

  25. Superheroes. Not because I’m a big superhero fan, but because I’d love to see your take on the genre.

  26. A regency romance where all the characters are talking animals.

    You know what? Never mind. I didn’t get enough sleep last night.

  27. Contemporary urban sci-fi about an agent charged by the powers that be to covertly protect the citizens from Horrible Things From Beyond. The agent uses secret super-science. The story’s primary focus is the agent making changes to the system as he rises through it, in order to decouple the elite power hierarchy from its notions of condescendingly protecting people who could protect themselves if given the chance.

  28. Dragaera has aliens… that should be explored more, off-planet, with new characters that don’t know what’s going on in Dragaera

  29. Steve Chesney and Vaminion: Those are both really cool ideas. I could actually see myself doing one or the other or both.

  30. I’m in that category of people that will buy anything you get printed. So pretty much go-to-town; i’m on-board. But if you really wanted to stretch your legs, so to speak…

    – Forget the space opera, try *hard science* sci-fi. I’m talking hard-core sci-nerd stuff. Think Stephen Baxter’s Manifold series.

    – Non-fiction. There’s more than a few topics that I suspect you could write about that would be an interesting read. (cooking, music, hungarian folklore and writing-about-writing all immediately come to mind)

    – tween Vampire/werewolf non-sense. But, you know, do it for real – not a parody. I’d actually kind of like to see what would happen if a really skilled storyteller took a crack at this genre. Can one use what-has-been-overused and still make it *good*?

  31. Have you read Agyar? It’s pretty much the best novel of that sort I’ve read (without ever actually using the word that I have also avoided using).

  32. I’d like to see a tragedy, just because it seems they’re impossibly difficult to write well without cliches. I doubt it could be a novel, since the level of emotion would be so hard to sustain over that length, but a short story, about innocent people caught up in circumstances that crush them without their being in any way foolish or stupid or evil – I’d like to read that from the right author.

    I suggest this because I am so tired of writers who basically tell the reader what to feel instead of making them feel it by using trite set ups. Two people were killed on the way to a birthday – that’s sad because one *knows* it’s sad, not because one feels it. Ho, hum.

    Since there’s a sci-fi theme going on here, consider Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations” or Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon”. We know nothing at all about either the pilot or Charlie before the stories begin. The pilot barely even has a name; it’s only used once. But the first chokes me up whenever I read it, and while “Algernon” is less intense, it’s just as heart-rending.

    The genre really wouldn’t matter much, although I think a war would be a tiresome setting – friends or family killing each other, unknowingly or not, comes across in print as trite more than anything, although Bierce manages a good treatment of it with “The Coup de Grace”.

    Superhereos or Slavs would both be suitable; it’s the tone and the author that make the art, not the set dressing.

  33. Not a setting but a style: I’d enjoy seeing you do something in the Jim Butcher sort of style where every damn chapter hits hard and advances the storyline farther than most whole novels do.

  34. I would be very interested to see what you’d do with one of those multi-generational novels, you know, the ones sent in a confined location that cover the sins and virtues of a family for at least three generations, with the sins of the fathers falling upon the grand-daughters. Fuck there’s a term for them, what is it?

    Or, of course, a paranormal romance. That could be funny.

  35. This would be hard to do, but I’d like to see it.

    A main character who consistently tells the truth. It gets him into a whole lot of trouble. Various people persecute him or rescue him, and he watches as every one of them lies to him and to each other. They lie about why they are persecuting or rescuing him. They lie about their own business. He gets to see this because he is more observant than they think he is. And when he tells the truth about them everybody gets embarrassed and passed him on to some new trouble.

    Somehow, people are managing to get by in a society where everybody lies all the time. Somehow the economy sort of works etc.

    Finally at a climactic moment he finds the perfect lie that makes his troubles fall apart and he gets to lead a quiet life.

  36. Lydy, I don’t know the term for those, but yes. A sprawling epic about generations of a family — their secrets, their romances, their drama. Also the family business is working as servants to superheroes. And the family is all were-leopards, so when the plucky granddaughter decides to hunt vampires for a living, ructions ensue.

  37. …and then, just when all seems lost, there is a fluffy kitten tea party, and the velociraptor realizes that the magic was inside of him all along, then the pterodactyl comes to understand the true meaning of Christmas.

  38. I like the Patrick O’Brian space opera. Hero with surprising politics (communard in a mercantilist universe, uptight Heinleinian militarist-libertarian in a Burning Man/Culture culture, etc).

  39. A dream-quest, ala Dunsany’s dreamworld stories/Lovecraft’s Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath?
    (Space opera does sound cool too, and of course you’d do something cool with just about any genre).

  40. How about a philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity?

  41. Historical fiction – the Hungarian forty-eighters who came to the United States and supported the Union during the Civil War.

  42. Write any or all of them. We’ll read them, Except maybe the kitten tea party.

  43. Sci Fi with Mech suits, and lasers, and interplanetary war, and ridiculously powerful aliens, More mech suits, large explosions, etc.

  44. “What comes to mind, of course, is space opera informed by immersion in Patrick O’Brian. I mean, now I want someone else to write it so I can read it. Hmmm. Maybe a character will appear in front of me.”

    Have you read the Seafort Saga by David Feintuch?

    The first few are space opera a la Hornblower rather than O’Brian, but a good read and might scratch that itch.

  45. I was going to say Space Opera, but how about something set in a universe like the one Pohl & Kornbluth used in Space Merchants? Update it to a few years from now — or start with now and go on from there (here?).

    Dark. Really, really dark and mordant.

  46. I’d love to see your take on the Tom Clancy-defined “modern spy” genre. There’s not enough smartassery in the wake of Ian Fleming, and given this tends to be a “you can tell the author’s politics” genre, I’d like to see a viewpoint other than what has been out there.

    This isn’t to say I agree with you on political and social subjects all the time, but you present your views well and thoughtfully, and even behind the veil of fiction the thought comes through. I’m confident that, at the least, you wouldn’t start from predefined assumptions about how modern spycraft and “dirty politics” work… you’d do your research and acknowledge that the more you look into this subject, the greyer the morality and should/should-not becomes. I like how you portray this sort of conflict, and it would make a great read.

  47. Two words. Cyber. Punk. Um, wait, or is that one word hyphenated, cyber-punk? Whatever. Something in the style of William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” or Neil Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”. I think it would be an excellent back-drop for the historical fiction everyone is clamoring for.

  48. I second CryptoKnight. It would be extremely interesting to see your take on cyberpunk. There’s not a lot of cyberpunk around. The two most famous seem to be those that CryptoKnight mentioned: “Neuromancer” and “Snow Crash” (and also “Diamond Age”).

    The “Neuromancer” is the “Citizen Kane” of cyberpunk and, just like “Citizen Kane”, it doesn’t age that well. And while “Snow Crash” is certainly awesome, it does suffer from the same problem most Stephenson’s books do: they don’t really end, they just stop.

    In short, we desperately need some “new blood” in cyberpunk :)

  49. “I must register respectful disagreement about how well “Citizen Kane” ages.”

    How well do you think Neuromancer ages?

  50. Never cared for it in the first place. Well written on many levels, but I never believed in the world-building (it felt like it was written by someone who believes food grows in grocery stores), and I wanted all of the characters to fall into the well and get drowned.

  51. Thank you!

    I’ve never ready Neuromancer and given your judgement I probably never will. I did read Snow Crash which was very funny. It pulled too many rabbits out of the hat for my taste. Many times people suddenly came up with some hi-tech weapon that their enemies had no idea how to deal with. Like there were so many different kinds of hi-tech weapons on sale to individuals that nobody had heard of very many of them…. But the daffy jokes made it mostly OK. It’s OK if the scenic background for a Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd comic has some plot holes.

  52. To be honest? I’d love to see you write some non-fiction. I’m fairly far from you on the political spectrum, and I learn quite a bit from you when you write on those topics. History, perhaps?

  53. Canterbury Tales / Black Widowers / World’s End – tales told of an evening, short stories interweaving, where each piece is affected by the tale following it, so on re-reading only do you understand the storyteller’s relationships.

  54. Not entirely sure how you’d make it sf or fantasy (although I expect you could do it, knowing you), but: a cop at one of Kesey’s Acid Tests =thinks= he sees a crime committed (murder? some other significant crime?) … but he’s not sure. Because, you know, he was perhaps off-duty and he’d … uh … joined in the spirit of the event.

  55. Some title suggestions for the next Incrementalists novel:

    The Incrementalists 2: Electric Sex Boogie
    The Decrementalists
    The Incrementalist Who Loved Me
    The Incredible Mentalists
    The Incredibly Mental Dentists
    The Ink Really Meant Tall Tents

  56. You know what we haven’t seen the likes of for 4 decades, that would be a real challenge? A story like Ralph Bakshi’s “Wizards”.

    You want that to be a Double Jeopardy? You haven’t done a graphic novel yet, either…

  57. Sir, I just want to say write the damned book already! I wouldn’t mind helping, I could provide teckla scraps for your continued motivation to not be distracted by other “genre’s”. You are you own genre, a book I could read in an hour maybe even a whole series in a day. I don’t know how many times I’ve read your books over the years, but its some number that most people wouldn’t believe. I’ve read a lot of books, a lot of times if I enjoyed them enough, sometimes if I was bored in the mountains I read a book I didn’t like. Now chapter three is a wonderful start, don’t get me wrong, but authors are FINITE, this is a fact that I do not like and without a Great weapon around to store some soul of value to me I feel like asking you for progress or to put the damn thing out already is very fair. And wow I was cruising through my scribd books and happened to find you adaptation of Firefly and well you have to be joking me if you don’t think you can handle whatever is thrown at you. Compliments to the chef, for he alone can write well enough to actually make me a little upset he’s not putting them out like pier’s Anthony and Stephen King. I mean pages per book, you’ve actually managed to keep pace with George RR martin, and that guys sluggishly dangling over what must be writers block and dementia. Games of Vlad would of been much nicer on the senses. Well I am done misspeaking about my better’s, I shall retire once again into obscurity.

  58. +1 for the return of Anthony Villiers though I doubt skzb is in train for a sequel. Still I hope Panshin is sitting on at least one ms to publish eventually.

  59. Since I have been on a Brust re-read and blog rampage during my current holiday downtime (the books in approximate order in which I first read them, which is a weird, but cool session; starting with Phoenix, then the first 3 Taltos books, then The Phoenix Guards before To Reign in Hell…but i digress) I now cast my vote for a sequel to To Reign in Hell, told from the points of view of Michael and Mephistopheles, that eventually somehow serves as a prologue to The Millennial Contest series by Zelazny & Sheckley. Of course this novel would at least attempt to explain how the contest came into being and introduce Azzie Elbub and Babriel. Hey, you asked ;-)~

    Happy Holidays to all and here’s to Vallista for Christmas next year?!

  60. For the love of all that is cherished and meaningful in this world, an apocalyptic To Reign In Hell sequel set about 100 – 200 years in the future, when the shit hits the fan, and Michael and Yahweh are stumped on how to fix their lost paradise… enter Mephistopheles, teaching mankind to build a utopia from the flux.

    I mean, Vallista first, because Vladsday can’t ever come soon enough, but Jesus that would be a fun read.

  61. Thanks, Emily. Thing is, man, I tremble at the thought of wading through all the apocalyptic literature I’d need to study to do even a minimally competent job.

  62. Wow – it took a while to get to the end… I have nothing to add about a specific genre or type of book (sequels to both Cowboy Feng’s and To Reign in Hell – I would *love* either or both; space opera, specifically, as one person noted a Culture novel – because you could get the post-scarcity politics right… Historical fiction – so many possibilities. So many good suggestions!)

    I will say that I will continue to read everything you produce, as I have for the past 30 years or so – and be thankful for the delightful worlds that you invite us in to see.

  63. How about an apocalyptic battle/ comedy set in the future with a female protagonist, or on another topic – a book completely from Loiosh’s point of view

  64. here’s my 2 cents. post-apocalyptic. a madmax or fallout kind of thing would be really fun to see through your storytelling. and yes a case could be made that the vlad novels are a magic post apocalypse, but i want shot guns and bizarre vehicles. WITNESS ME.

  65. How about three volumes’ worth of novelettes about a future in which a genius has figured out how societies evolve and has set in motion a thousand-year plan to replace the Galactic Empire with pure communism–but after some initial successes, his plan is derailed by a conquest-hungry telepathic mutant?

    After you finish the Vlad series, of course.

  66. Jerry – then he’d need to write another series that seemed to be a stand-alone series at first, but several books later you find out that everything is connected and it is really the *spoiler* that set everything in motion.

  67. But he has written two stand-alone series. It might be interesting to read them in terms of robots. Well, it might not.

    The connection part can be omitted, if you ask me.

  68. I think the you could satisfy a lot of these various (great) suggestions by beginning to fill in the blanks from how humans left the earth up to the time of Vlad. There’s aliens, dragons, genetic manipulations, more aliens, goo that produces magic (like, magical oil) and transforming swords. That’s a lot of interesting material to get through and could be done in many different styles from many unique viewpoints. Just sayin. Love your stuff.

  69. Looking back at this….

    “a book completely from Loiosh’s point of view”

    Oh, that has such potential.

    Loiosh could comment on how many human females were in heat from the smell, and which of them talked to Vlad, and the sexual tension that the humans all pretended to ignore.

    Loiosh could tune out on important Vlad negotiations because he just wasn’t interested. “Blah blah blah more human stuff.” The reader has to get a sense of what’s going on from clues and snatches of dialogue that Loiosh bothers to mention etc.

    Loiosh can be listening in and commenting to the reader while a villain is having a long insulting conversation with Vlad before killing him. “Sthik. I trained Vlad not to do that kind of thing before his first hit with me. It ought to be obvious that when you kill somebody, you don’t discuss it with them first. Their opinion doesn’t count. They’re three seconds from being scavenger food. But all these other humans do it. Why doesn’t Vlad just kill him? Why put up with this? Vlad has gotten really good at shielding his inner thoughts from me. I can’t tell anything about his plan or even that he has a plan. He’s acting like he has nothing better to do. They think they’ve taken all his weapons and clothing and he’s hanging by the ankles from the ceiling while they both do all this boring talk about who’s smarter. Come on, Vlad, just kill him and let’s go.”

    Loiosh might do a lot of detail about specific attacks, but it shouldn’t be enough to bore readers. Like, there are 7 guys about to attack Vlad on the street, and he’s going to distract the guys with the bows first but once the others have closed in enough that the bows aren’t very effective he’ll go after them instead. Easy. Swoop on the first archer from behind, pull his cap over his eyes and if possible knock him over, then head straight for the other using loud distracting wingflaps, either straight from the first archer or from another so if the guy gets off a shot it might hit them. Hit hard with talons, try for a bite on cheek or hand, then climb and review, check whether archers have recovered oh! a teckla just came out of that sewer pipe! Food! Food! What scared it out of there?. Where could a human get out of the sewer to attack?

    At some point Vlad has been captured by a Bitch Patrol member. She hasn’t killed him yet but it doesn’t look good. Loiosh points out that she is in heat and she’s making all the moves that show she’s trying to impress him with her sex. Why not mate with her, which will delay things for a good long while, and maybe during that time he’ll think of something? “Stop joking, Loiosh. I’ve got to come up with a plan.” More human stuff. He didn’t even consider it. He hasn’t been picky before about which females to mate with. Why now?

  70. Frankly, I’d be impressed and concerned that the act of writing anything caused a seizure severe enough to land you on your face. The topic wouldn’t be the first thing on my mind.

    But, if I were to take your question less literally, I’d…well, I can’t think of anything that might interest me more than Dragaera. But I would like to know how mankind got there, assuming the backstory is similar to that of the Pern novels; i.e, humans migrated to Dragaera from Earth a long, long time ago.

    If you’re deadset against anything like that, my second choice is a graphic novel. About mice who steal babies and turn them into cyborgs.

    I dunno. You aren’t gonna read this anyway.

  71. Keep thinking Patrick O’Brian. If you haven’t before, read Two Years Before the Mast, and maybe do an historical drama set in early 1800s California, about a Zorro like character (or Zorro himself), but maybe on a ship. Have the Mexican view of the US immigrant invasion of Mexico leading to the annexation of California as a subtheme.

  72. I have always loved Vlad’s voice. It’s a unique combination of sarcasm, realism, fatalism, and optimism. Sorry if I missed any isms. If you’re not too burned out on Vlad, it would be fun to have his voice translated to a new setting. Maybe a future setting, where everyone is connected, everything is seen, and every missed heartbeat results in EMTs and police. Murder is impossible, so someone manages to channel Vlad in order to figure out a way to commit the impossible.

    Seems like the kind of frustratingly impossible task that Vlad always finds himself in. I have no idea how he’s going to do it, but I promise to pay at least $7.99 for the ebook.

  73. Two suggestions about what to write:

    1) A post-mortem report by and for the Jenoine regarding the genetic experiments they conducted on humans to turn them into Dragaerans. What were they trying to test and were the results favorable or unfavorable . . . was this all just a grad student’s doctoral thesis?

    2) Assume that all the different fairy worlds (English, Norse, Roman, Hungarian) are in the same physical world and have a human magician wander among all of them showing the differences and similarities of the various mythologies from an outsiders veiwpoint. You’ve done some of this using Vlad as the outsider in the Dragaeran socieity.

  74. Is this post still open? A campus novel ! Or a campus murder mystery. Though that could be set in Dragaera… with Daymar as a professor… Arg! Now I’m dreaming about this already…

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