Writer Wednesday: Zig Zag Claybourne

Zig Zag Claybourne

Zig Zag Claybourne is the author of The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan and its sequel Afro Puffs Are the Antennae of the Universe. Other works include By All Our Violent Guides, Neon Lights, the short story collection Historical Inaccuracies, and the inspirational book In the Quiet Spaces. His stories and essays on sci fi, fandom, and life have appeared in Apex, Galaxy’s Edge, GigaNotosaurus, Strange Horizons, and other genre venues, as well as the “42” blog at www.writeonrighton.com. He grew up watching The Twilight Zone and considers himself a better person for it.

It’s his latest book, Afro Puffs Are the Antenna of the Universe, we’re here to talk about today…

No one has time for your BS…but Captain Desiree Quicho and her crew of utter badasses surely don’t. Got a universe to save. Again. Commandeer one piece of out-of-this-world tech and suddenly you have an evil billionaire and a corporate queenpin on your ass, factions scrabbling at the power grab to end all power grabs, and an ultimate AI bent on a rampage of healing. All a captain wanted was a little chill time, a few tunes, and quality barbecue. Woe to those blocking her groove. Four women; One machine goddess; a Hellbilly, Saharan elves, the baddest Pacific Octopus this side of Atlantis… and Humanity’s balance tilting toward its biggest unknown future yet.

Without context, what’s one of your favorite sentences in the book?

“Thus spake Bobo to ya.” Any time I get to riff on “Thus Spake Zarathustra” and use a telepathic octopus to do it, I’ma do it! I would’ve re-written the entire book just to make sure I could include that one line!

If you could pick one room to spend a day in, from one place in your story, where is it and why?

The library of the Silica elves. It’s the opposite of anything we think of as a library. It’s raucous in place, there’s food and drink, it has the hue of a honeycomb, and it contains ancient knowledge several magnitudes higher than our own. If I wanna learn ancient aliens or experience the full power of a fully functioning book of poetry, let it be with elves who love Prosecco and music in their libraries!

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Announcing: “Writer Wednesday” Returns!

This year wasn’t what I hoped for, in so many ways. While the “New Year” is kind of arbitrary, I like the idea of getting a chance to start over, simply because the date on the calendar changed. I don’t have a lot of goals for the next year – the last thing any of us need right now is to set ourselves up for failure by taking on too much – but one of them is that I want to use my time and platform to promote other writers and creators. It’s important to me not just because we’re friends or I love their past work, but because supporting each other is a vital part of our community. Any time I get a little bit of a leg up in this world, I want to bring everyone else with me.

Years ago, in a different version of this blog, I used to post a weekly writer interview with friends. For 2021, I’m bringing that back. Some of these new projects are books, others are story collections, or games – but they’re all unique and I’m excited to learn more about them.

For January 2021, I’ve got interviews with:

Upcoming interviews include Kelley Robson, Wendy N. Wagner, Premee Mohamed, Karen Armstrong, A.C. Wise, and a lot more. But, I still have spots open for later in the year, so if your book-length project is being published in the next 12 months and you’re interested in being interviewed, please get in touch. The earlier you reach out, the more likely I am to be able to fit you in close to your release date.

I’m particularly interested in speculative fiction novels, text-heavy games, or nonfiction that relates to SFF. Traditionally published books available on multiple platforms are more likely to find a place here because I’d like to include links to small bookstores that are local to the writers themselves, which means showcasing books you could order from those independent shops. I’ll also consider small press publications if the press is established and well regarded, and the books are available from multiple outlets (which can include buying directly from the publisher). I know Amazon is inevitable but I don’t want them to be the only source for books if we can help it.

I can’t guarantee you a spot – I am trying to keep the schedule balanced between different types of projects, with an emphasis on early career writers or writers from marginalized communities – but I can promise to carefully consider all requests. Please give me at least 30 days to respond before querying again.

Writing my tie-in novella for the Wasteland 3 video game

No Way Home was written as a companion to the Wasteland 3 video game by inXile Entertainment, and explores a beloved main character’s adventures between W2 and W3. (Available as part of the Digital Deluxe Version of the game through Steam.) The other two novellas you get as part of this package are written by Matt Wallace and Ari Marmell.

Cover art for all three novellas by Brissia Jiménez

I’ve gone back and forth about when to post this for a couple of months now. On one hand, I’m impatient and excited to talk about this project. I originally got the contract in 2019, and the finished novella was accepted by my editor last November, so I’ve been waiting over a year to share the details. I couldn’t even tell people I’d worked on this specific game – inXile’s third installment in their foundational post-apocalyptic video game series – until it was released at the end of August 2020. But that was 3 months ago, so why did I keep waiting?

Spoilers, and an NDA.

In order for me to talk about the writing part of this writing project, I have to talk about the games themselves, the lore and history, which means potentially spoiling the game for people who hadn’t played it yet. Because my novella is set between W2 and W3, I have to talk a little about the game that just dropped and a lot more about the game that came before. Wasteland 2 was released in 2014, which should be plenty of time to ensure that most people who want to play it have played it, right? Well, maybe not. See, there’s some people who didn’t grow up with Wasteland, who learned about it when they heard game 3 was coming out, and who just this year started playing game 2 to prepare.

Plus, Wasteland 2 has multiple endings. I’d played it through different ways before I was even hired to write for inXile, but I still hadn’t gotten the exact ending the studio considers to be canon history for going into Wasteland 3. So when I talk about that – which I will, in this post – it’s likely to surprise at least a few people, even on a game that’s been out for six years.

I love gaming. I wouldn’t want to anyone to ruin all the surprises on a new game for me, so I definitely don’t want to do that for anyone else. Plus, I signed an NDA when I was being considered for the job, which means I can’t say anything that isn’t public already. Because of that, I had to wait until certain plot points became public knowledge, or risk breaking my contracts (which I’d never ever do). To be safe, I waited three months after the newest game became available, and when I do talk about possible-spoilers later in this post, I’ll warn you first.

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Election Day Blues (a song with actual lyrics)

I haven’t written in forever but this morning bad captions on MSNBC led to joking with Don about “election day blues” and suddenly I knew how to write that. So I did. It’s meant to be sung, and it’s as much the blues as a poor white girl from central CA can manage (which is a lot, but maybe not enough; your mileage may vary and I’m okay with that). And yes, I’ve already voted.

Election Day Blues

I woke up today and it felt like snow
And oh it’s cold, the day before the US election
It’ll all be over, for good or bad
Or it won’t and this is the beginning
Of the end of democracy

But it’s been ending, or it’s been changing
As long as we’ve all be alive
And we can make it, if we vote now
So they tell me, but Lord I don’t know

Everywhere someone will tell me I’m wrong
For believing we could ever be better than this
Or I’m wrong for saying we’re worse than we should be
And history judge us, we’re as good or as bad as
We ever were now/I don’t know
There has to be better than this

But it’s been ending, or it’s been changing
As long as we’ve all be alive
And we can fix it, if we vote now
So they tell me, but Lord I don’t know

I want to believe that a vote makes the
Dif’rence, I want us to rise up and cast out
A monster but he’s just a weak man who hates us
For not being afraid, And we all deserve better
I want to have hope/I don’t know
There has to be better than this

But it’s been ending, or it’s been changing
As long as we’ve all be alive
And we can save it, if we vote now
So they tell me, but Lord I don’t know

But it’s been ending, or it’s been changing
As long as we’ve all be alive
And we can save us, if we vote now
So they tell me, but Lord I don’t know.

Free Flash Fiction: “A Revised History of Earth”

A Revised History of Earth

Sherla was lying on her belly on her bed, one of the two tiny singles in the tiny cabin she shared with one of the research girls that just came on board. “Mattie,” she said without looking up from her nail polish, “you can keep talking if you want but I don’t really care about any of that.”

“But the tests are conclusive,” the other woman replied, waving her tablet in the air. “I’ve got it all right here.”

“Don’t care,” Sherla repeated. She applied another strip of opaque black polish to a blank nail and watched as it slowly expanded to cover her nail perfectly. The backs of her hands were criss-crossed with faint scars, leftovers from much worse damage the regen machines back at the base had almost finished repairing, before she got called up to the ship. Still, they were good hands, she thought.

Mattie wasn’t giving up though. “You don’t care that the ruins we found on Planet X are actually older than any known civilization on Earth?” she asked.

“Nope.”

Mattie sat down on the edge of her own bed with a heavy sigh. “I mean… that’s a big deal to me.”

Sherla turned her head to look Mattie in the eyes. “I care that you care, honey,” in between blowing on her nails to set the polish. “But I think we just see this two different ways.”

Mattie shook her head, barely ruffling her close-cropped curls. “How’s that?” she asked.

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