True Blue

My very first short story comes out today on Kindle. Writing it changed my life, and I hope that reading it changes yours.

True Blue is a parable about persecution and self-discovery set in a world where the color of your eyes might just get you killed. In this parallel universe, everybody knows that people with blue eyes are lazy, violent, and stupid. Blues are absent from the halls of power, the few celebrated exceptions proving the rule. Crime dramas feature blue homicidal maniacs. Parents protect their children from the corrupting influence of blue peers. Blue travelers take secondary screening at every airport for granted. Born a blue, Kamran Tir has survived by living a lie. But his secret is about to come out.

Get your copy right now. It's a short story, so you'll be able to read it in 20 minutes or so. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can read it on any device via the free Kindle app. I'm looking forward to hearing your impressions.

Now, for some backstory on True Blue. A few months ago, I received an email from my friend David Cohen, "I've had an idea for a book for a while. Given what's going on in America, I thought I'd send it to you because I sure as hell am never going to write it." David went on to present a thought experiment: what if discrimination targeted eye color instead of skin color or any other trait?

I'll let you in on a little secret. If you start writing books, your friends will start sending you ideas. Strangers too. You'll get very good at letting people down easy. After all, you have your own dreams to bring to life.

But David's premise stuck with me, lurking in the shadows of my subconscious and rearing its head at opportunity moments. It would visit me as I took the dog on a walk or did the dishes. It made me think of my opa whose entire family was murdered by the Nazis and my oma who risked her life every day to fight in the Dutch Resistance. Every time the idea resurfaced, it took on weight and texture, building up creative momentum until I had no choice but to write it.

Speculative fiction has a secret superpower. Imaginative stories invite us to experience plausible realities unlike our own. In doing so, they empower us to confront the myriad hidden assumptions we take for granted in our day-to-day lives. We cannot explore new worlds and return unchanged.

True Blue is a story about the absurdity of discrimination, the importance of being true to yourself, and our irrepressible capacity for overcoming injustice. It's a story about standing up instead of standing by. It's a story about finding the courage to stop caring what other people think.

These are truths we need to keep in mind now more than ever. Oh, and next time someone sends me an idea, I promise to pay attention.

I may have written True Blue, but only you can give it wings. Stories live and die by word-of-mouth. Any success my books have achieved is thanks to you. Here are three things you can do right now to help:

  1. Buy a copy today. Early sales make an outsized impact on a story's success. They catapult it up the Amazon rankings, contribute to it getting featured as a hot new release, and attract attention from press and booksellers. This matters. A lot.
  2. Leave a review. Early positive reviews give stories a critical boost in Amazon's algorithms (Goodreads too!), exposing it to new readers who depend on your good judgement. It only takes a few minutes and makes a huge difference. Oh, and I read every single review so I can't wait to see what you have to say.
  3. Share it with your friends. We discover our next favorite story thanks to someone we trust recommending it to us. I can't emphasize enough how important this is. Whisper about it in the shadows and shout about it from the rooftops. If you have an audience of your own, I'm happy to answer any questions and send you a press kit. If you're short on time, here's a copy/paste-worthy example for social media: "This is worth your time. A mind-bending short story about social justice and standing up instead of standing by."

A thousand thanks, you're the best readers any writer could hope for. Your grassroots support has helped my books hit #1 in their categories, raise thousands of dollars for charity, and earn praise from major publications like Businessweek, Popular Science, io9, TechCrunch, Ars Technica and the Verge. I hope you enjoy True Blue and I can't wait to hear what you think.

Local TV interview about the power of science fiction

I was interviewed on local TV in Boulder about my books, the power of science fiction, and the social impacts of technology. It's cheesy in the best possible way: Anchorman + '80s scifi. It was particularly fun because the Uncommon Series is set in Boulder, so we were on Mara and James' stomping grounds.

You can watch the full interview right here:

It's hard to believe Cumulus came out a year ago

Y'all are the folks whose enthusiasm got it reviewed in Businessweek, Ars Technica, Popular Science, io9, GeekDad, etc., sent it to #1 in its Amazon categories, and helped the story raise more than $10k for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Chapter 510.

That's pretty darn unusual for a self published novel with no fancy publicist or marketing team. Your word-of-mouth recommendations and grassroots reviews are what put wind in its sails. Sometimes the small things make a big difference.

Thanks a million.

Kim Stanley Robinson interview

I interviewed Kim Stanley Robinson about his prescient, moving new novel, New York 2140. You can read the interview and excerpt right here.

Stan is one of my favorite authors and his books have influenced me since I first discovered his Three Californias trilogy as a teenager. In this interview, we talk about his sources of inspiration, creative process, how he imagines possible futures, the importance of science fiction, and what climate change and sea level rise mean for us and the planet.

This is the second edition of the Incoming Transmission series that explores the social implications of technology through books that illuminate the present by examining the future.

If you enjoy the interview, you'll probably get a kick out of my reading recommendations.

Speaking at GamesBeat Summit

Next week I'll be speaking at GamesBeat Summit in Berkeley. They even wrote up a nice story about it here. This is what we'll cover:

The pace of innovation is accelerating. Technological revolutions that once took millennia to play out now take decades, years, months. At the same time, science fiction has rocketed from nerdy niche to mainstream blockbuster, capturing a popular imagination faced with the hard truth that change is the only constant. Science fiction stories inspire technologists, entrepreneurs, and scientists to build a future shaped by narrative. Are we living in science fiction? Is science fiction actually the most "realistic" tool we have to make sense of the modern world? Venture capital investor Tim Chang and author Eliot Peper discuss how science fiction and real world tech influence each other, and what that means for the rest of us.

Tim is a good friend as well as an investor at Mayfield Fund. He spends his time betting on entrepreneurs and helping them build the future. Every few months, we get together and gab about what's coming and his unique perspective has had a big influence on my writing. I'll also be on a separate panel with science fiction author Austin Grossman and Thwacke cofounder Sebastian Alvarado. There are some other stellar folks coming, including Gary Whitta (first writer on Rogue One), John Underkoffler (science adviser on Minority Report and CEO at Oblong Industries), Tim Sweeney (CEO at Epic Games), and many, many other highly accomplished folks.

More details here. If you're around, it should be a good time. The event organizers tell me that if you use the code "Deantak" you'll get 35% off.

How to make an author's day

Want to make your favorite author's day? Review their work wherever you buy or discover books. You'd be amazed at the impact.

Amazon's algorithms favor books based on quality, quantity, and velocity of reviews. Goodreads points readers to new works based on ratings. Blog and social media posts weave our favorite narratives into the larger cultural conversation.

At the end of the day, we all rely on each other to recommend the stories we love. That's how we discover our next obsession!

Speaking at the Conference on World Affairs

I'm excited to visit CU Boulder next week (April 10-14, 2017) to speak at the Conference on World Affairs. CWA is an annual week-long event covering an astounding variety of political, business, and scientific fields.

I'll be on a number of panels that revolve around trying to make sense of the future (very in line with my books and editorial work at Scout): Art Without Borders (9-10:20AM on 4/10), SciFi Influencing Society (2-3:15PM on 4/11), Bioengineering: Designer Babies and More (9-10:20AM on 4/12), Singularity: When the Real World Becomes Westworld (12:30-1:45PM on 4/13), and "Hacktivism" and Cyber Security (11-12:20PM on 4/14). Basically, Black Mirror in a conference format. 😱

It will be particularly cool to talk with the students, given that the protagonists of my first three novels are Boulder-loving CU dropouts who take their tech startup from garage to IPO and get caught up in an international conspiracy along the way. If you're in Boulder next week, let me know. I'd love to see you at one of the panels or grab a coffee/beer.

You'll notice the breadth of panel topics. Nobody could possibly be an expert in all of these things, least of all me, but I love learning about them. If you've read a particularly good article/essay/book on any of them, let me know. I'd love to channel your best ideas!

Huge thanks to Bob Baskerville for inviting me to participate and to Brad Feld for making the trip possible.