KUBLAI: First Draft Complete! (Plus, Some NW Geek Love)

Office3Around this time last year, I found myself dogged by an inconvenient inspiration–for a big project that had absolutely nothing to do with the big project I was already involved in. One I hardly know anything about, but which wanted to be written anyway–KUBLAI, a feminist sci fi novel about a woman who is, essentially, the pet of a robot.

In order to justify the extravagance of starting something new, I composed this novel just a few sentences at at time, via dictation–a process that took up no more than a half hour a day, and therefore would not disturb various other projects in progress. None of which, a year later, I’ve managed to complete. And yet, the first draft of KUBLAI, composed at a true slacker’s pace, is done as of yesterday.

What a queer thrill it is to arrive at this point, never actually having seen a single sentence of this novel. To know that the whole thing (aside from some handwritten backstory) exists exclusively in sound files.


People told me I was crazy to compose this whole first draft via Garage Band. Many more, I’m sure, will endorse me as nuts for not turning to some sort of dictation software at this point. What am I, a glutton for punishment? A gal who missed her calling as a good old fashioned amanuensis?

Well, probably, yes. But through this process, I’ve tried to follow the example of John Cage when he said, “I’m trying to be unfamiliar with what I’m doing.” Sue Monk Kidd included that quote under the number-one most helpful thing she could think to tell anyone about writing, and that is to pay attention. (Thanks, Darragh Metzger.)

The way I wrote this book–a few sentences at a time-ensured my attention to detail. I have the feeling, somehow, that typing it will do the same. Because once again, I’m engaging in a brand new process, this time in excavating artifacts almost wholly unknown to me.


I have no idea what’s in there.


And what a place to begin this journey, having just returned from Norwescon 37! This sci fi and fantasy convention was a kind of revelation for me. I knew, going in, that we had some brilliant writers here in the Northwest, but my goodness, what a conversation, what a culture, and what a pleasure.

I began KUBLAI unsure about my place as a writer in the publishing world. Was I too sci fi to be literary? Too literary to be sci fi? In short, did an audience exist for this far-out book?

The answer upon returning from Seattle this weekend was a round and resounding YES. Whether or not the sort of literary world I’ve sought some place in since high school is interested in a love story containing natural language processing systems, elephants, 3D printed guns, and hot robot sex, there’s a place for me in sci fi, and there always has been.

Wherever you fall in your tastes along the spectrum of fiction, I invite you to join me on this journey via this blog–from the audio files to the drafts and beyond, with publication within another year or so being my goal. One thing I know for sure: it’s bound to be a wild ride.


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