Hi Folks! Thank you for reading!
This next piece will come in two parts. I realized that I needed some backstory before I could come around and properly finish my point.
I’ve always been a writer. I don’t recall ever not being able to read and write. And I have always been making up stories as I go.
I have published chapbooks and zines, and finally five books with ISBN numbers that you can check out at the library or even buy from your favorite bookstore.
All of them have been successful—readers have thanked me (the best feeling ever!), I’ve won some awards—I have been blessed.
But book number five is a little different from the rest.
Each of my previous books had been published by very good, very small presses.
On the other hand, Light From Uncommon Stars is published by Tor press, the largest publisher of science fiction and fantasy in the world.
Good readers are good readers, and whether a book is from a large or small press, my desire to give them my best work doesn’t change.
But the whole process of moving from small to major press?
I was not prepared. Oh, I was so not prepared.
Even before Tor saw it, I knew my fifth book would be different. I had an agent—which was already mind-blowing—and my agent Meredith Kaffel Simonoff (the best agent ever) helped me edit and primp and clean my writing like it never had been before.
And then, I gave Tor my best work, only to be asked by my editor, Lindsey Hall, to push it further. That had never happened before.
It was exhilarating! Just hearing “You can give me more here—I know you’re capable of it.”
As much as I like writing, it can be lonely. But now, there was a team behind me—encouraging and helping me create the best book possible. And after the book was complete, Team Space Koi expanded—including Renata Sweeney in charge of marketing and Caro Perny in charge of publicity. The incredible Cindy Kay was brought in to do the audio book. There were artists and designers and sensitivity readers...shoot, someone even designed an enamel pin!
Thanks to Team Space Koi, Light From Uncommon Stars has won multiple awards and become a national bestseller. It's even a finalist for the L.A.Times Ray Bradbury Prize. I am super eternally grateful and will say thank you at time, any place, always, and it still won’t be enough.
One way that Tor helps new writers is to group them with more established writers in panels and discussions—and there are some pretty cool people published by Tor. On one such panel, I found myself chatting with the New York Times bestselling author John Scalzi.
Yes, I was starstruck. This never happened with small presses.
But good people can be found everywhere, and John Scalzi was (and is) a total sweetheart. Chatting went super well—I forget exactly what we were talking about—but it was fun, and John made me feel comfortable and even interesting!
After the panel, I continued promoting my book, happy to add our panel to my growing list of Magical Experiences in My Life to be Thankful For.
But then, a few weeks later, John sent me a message on Twitter asking if I’d be up for an adventure. After I got over the shock of John Scalzi sending me a message on Twitter, I said, "Of course! Please email me the details!"
And that’s how I ended up on the infamous JoCo Cruise.
For those who are unfamiliar with the JoCo Cruise, imagine a weeklong SF/F Convention with upwards of 1600 gamers and cosplayers and science fiction and comic fans, producers, writers, and creators.
Now imagine it on a cruise ship. In the Bahamas.
Yes, I know we’re in a pandemic. Yes, I know outside there’s war and economic disparities and transphobia and another Asian woman was horribly attacked.
Is it really the right time to spend a week with upwards of 1600 gamers and cosplayers and science fiction and comic fans, producers, writers, and creators? On a cruise ship?In the Bahamas?
I'm not sure if I can judge right or wrong. But I am so glad and grateful for this improbable week on the sea.
However, it is difficult to explain this to people, even to me. Professionally, I know it was an amazing opportunity to meet readers and network. And this pandemic has been very lonely. I miss people.
But a trans woman of color on a cruise?
In fact, when I first agreed to the be part of the JoCo, I didn’t tell some people because I was worried about how they might judge me. I knew I not only wanted to go, but had to go— but it was difficult to explain.
Coming back from the JoCo, if anything, made the experience even more difficult to explain. And yet, I am not only sure of my decision, but feel so blessed by the opportunity. And proud.
I feel so proud to have met some amazing people, trying their best to be their best. If you’re reading this and we met on the JoCo I am so grateful to have met you.
I felt welcomed, affirmed, supported. Yes.
It was more than wonderful.
It was unforgettable.
But how does one explain why?
How can I explain to people why this exists, why my doubts were dispelled, and why I would be honored to go again—despite the dangers and the seeming health and even ethical and moral questions surrounding cruises in general?
Well, that’s why I was so happy to read about a robot goat.
All photos by me, except:
* courtesy of https://www.loyaltybookstores.com/uncommonstars