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[Comments] (1) Situation Normal Author Commentary #7: What's Next: Welcome to the end of January, and the final entry in this commentary series. Before we get into it, I have a request of you. If you've read and enjoyed Situation Normal, please tell other folks about it, either by writing a review or just mentioning it when books or science fiction come up in conversation. If you're eligible for voting in awards like the Hugos, consider it when you place your 2020 votes—it came out late in the year but 2020 is its eligibility year. Constellation Games spread almost entirely through word of mouth and the same will be true of this book.

Today I'm raising the curtain on three things that, in different senses, come "after" Situation Normal. I do this this with some trepidation because at the end I'm going to talk about a project in progress that is exciting but far from complete. But first, something that's totally done and just waiting for the right moment to spring on you:

"We, the Unwilling"

"We, the Unwilling" is a bonus story I wrote after finishing the first draft of Situation Normal. It's a tall tale of an Outreach Navy grunt who's retrained as a superweapon after his superiors discover he's apparently immune to Evidence. There was no way to tell this story in the main plotline, and at some point we'll be publishing it online to juice sales. Here's a little taste:

The rre doctor ratcheted thons exosuit into a standing position. Kenta just sat there, unable to move, amazed that... well, he was going to die, sure, but there was a chance he'd die with his shameful secret intact.

Kenta was immune to Evidence, but the explanation wasn't physiological. It was hiding in plain sight. Evidence turned battle-hardened spacemen into cowards. It didn't work on Kenta Imura because he was already a coward.

I reused one little plot point from this story in the final draft of Situation Normal, but it's pretty minor. It's the sort of thing that probably happens all the time, whenever two people struggle hand-to-hand for control of a spacecraft. Not a big deal. Anyway, I'm looking forward to showing you the story!

Nice Doggie

Several years ago, in a fit of excessive optimism, I wrote a short pitch for a sequel to Situation Normal called Nice Doggie, a working title which I love but would surely have to change. Here is the pitch exactly as I wrote it except with spelling errors fixed:

"Diplomacy is the art of saying 'nice doggie' until you can find a rock." - Human saying

Sel has been promoted! As the colonial administrator of Resca, a Terran system captured during the war, it's her responsibility to bring ninety million humans into full citizenship in the Fist of Joy. Not bad for someone whose previous major accomplishment was running an international trade show. There's bound to be some initial trouble with some dead-enders, but once the humans get a taste of a fully functional modern economy, they'll never want to leave the Fist.

Jamey Pandit of the Terran Diplomatic Corps is starting to wonder why he even bothers saving the galaxy. Time after time he's bailed out his doddering superiors, and his reward is one punishment assignment after another. This time he's the passport officer at the Terran consulate on Resca, a planet that shouldn't even have a consulate because we shouldn't have given it away. Still, even on a backwater there are plenty of opportunities for advancing humanity's interests—and making a little money on the side.

Nice Doggie does for interstellar diplomacy what Situation Normal does for interstellar war. Inspired by Keith Laumer's Retief stories, it is intended as a sequel to Situation Normal but it can be told in a different setting as a standalone story.

You can see the Retief stand-in there, I won't insult your intelligence. I will say I gasped when I reread this and realized I'd made Bolupeth Vo's girlfriend one of the POV characters.

Is this likely to happen? Probably not. I'm still searching through new fictional universes, looking for the one that will hit it big. Except, that's exactly what I said about a Constellation Games sequel, and...

The Constellation Speedrun

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, I was about 5,000 words into a novel about a post-scarcity society that abruptly stops being post-scarcity. This was shaping up to be one depressing-ass book. Situation Normal doesn't have a traditional happy ending, but the war does end and some of the survivors are working to break the cycle of violence. This was a real end-of-the-world novel, and with the world actually ending around me, I just couldn't write it.

So I did what for ten years I'd said I wouldn't do: I went back to the Constellation universe. Constellation Games wasn't the commercial success I'd hoped for, but it's become a bit of a cult classic, and writing in that universe means accepting strict rules about how bad things can get for humanity. To quote Ariel, "we did nothing but fuck this up from beginning to end, and it probably turned out okay." Those rules gave me the guardrails I needed to face the blank page and write through what I hope will turn out to have been the worst year of my life. (I'm preemptively disqualifying the year where I actually die.)

I'm currently 30,000 words into The Constellation Speedrun. Maybe thirty percent of the way to a rough draft. It's slow going, and I don't usually talk about incomplete manuscripts, but this isn't a novel I'm writing for sale. I'm writing it for myself and for you. I hope I can sell it, but if I have to I'll self-pub or just put it online for fans. This novel is my coping mechanism and I will finish it eventually.

Any attempt to describe The Constellation Speedrun runs into the reticence that led me not to tell you about the project in the first place, so I'll just say that it takes place about ten years after Constellation Games, starring new characters who were little kids at the time of first contact, with old favorites like Jenny and Tetsuo returning in cameos or small parts. I'm trying to capture the same freewheeling, idea-packed feel of Constellation Games but with a much tighter plot and in an average word count for a science fiction novel.

Thus ends the commentary! Again, if you have any questions about Situation Normal feel free to ask, and I hope to see you again soon!


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