top of page
Illustrations Collage single line.png

Space Wizard

Space Wizard

News and Announcements

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Note: I'll try to avoid major spoilers here, and will talk generally about the stories nominated for the 2021 Hugos. You may intuit some plot points as I do so.

Current Novels List:

#1 - The Relentless Moon – Mary Robinette Kowal

#2 - The City We Became – N.K. Jemisin

#3 - Network Effect – Martha Wells

#4 - Black Sun – Rebecca Roanhorse

#5 - Piranesi – Susanna Clarke

#6 - Harrow the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir

Overall Thoughts

Another amazing entry in the Lady Astronaut universe! Following a different character in this story gives us some great new perspective on other characters, and develops some people who were secondary characters in the first books. It's also very interesting to have a different (older, female) protagonist with her own personal challenges to get over. I think Kowal is one of the only writers who can reliably get me to tear up at some point in every book she writes. I'm ready for more exciting Lady Astronaut adventures!


This book has the advantage of building on two other “Lady Astronaut” novels as well as a couple short stories. That said, Kowol weaves together and engaging alternate history of what might have happened if a catastrophic event pushed Earth to band together in a space race to save humankind. The alternate history is very well researched, and Kowol makes sure to go to real sources such as astronauts for space research and lots of history books for how the space race started. Kowol also tackles such weighty problems as racism, women’s rights, segregation, civil rights, and addiction and depression without the book becoming preachy or overburdened.


Elma had been the main character in the previous two novels, but here the focus switches to another lady astronaut: Nicole Wargin. This again shows Kowol’s skill in writing many types of characters. Wargin is so unlike Elma I actually didn’t connect with her right at first, but by the end of the book, I was totally enthralled by her deep well of experience and trauma.


The other two Lady Astronaut stories so far were about the race to space and staying right at the top of technological progress to help mankind survive. This is not that sort of book. Yes, there are still space-related technical challenges, but this is a full-on thriller/mystery, on the moon. Just like the best mysteries, this one keeps the reader guessing until the end. Plus, there are cyphers to solve!

Rating: 1 of 6

Overall Thoughts

I see a lot of conflicting reviews on this book, simply because it is so weird! I'm going to fall on the "like" side. This is an amazing response and criticism of the Lovecraftian mythos, and especially to the racism and colonialism inherent in that whole genre. So yes, there is a fairly blatant message in several parts of this book, but that's also sort of the point.

Now, that doesn't even get into the great story and characters contained in this book. I really don't want to spoil a whole lot because once you get into it, there are some really big ideas included, as expected for otherworldly plots. I thoroughly enjoyed this and I'm really looking forward to another in this series.


Ok, now a slightly deeper dive, and there will be a few spoilers in here because it’s almost impossible to talk about the story without doing so. You have been warned!

The plot, as usual for Jemisin, is intricate and compelling. Five people representing the boroughs of New York are drawn together because of events far beyond their control. There are POVs from all those characters and more, layering on different views of what’s happening and how events are perceived in different way. It’s an awesome ride.


Jemisin’s characters are all fighters, in different ways, and I love the amount of diversity on show. Many of the cast is POC, female, and queer. They’re all broken in different ways, but there is also someone nearby who is willing and able to help them heal. We get to see the Call to Adventure and the Refusal, and Acceptance played out in multiple ways, making the second half of the gripping as we see everyone come together.


This is the section where I’ll have to reveal some spoilers, just because Jemisin has invented an absolutely amazing universe, drawing from the Lovecraftian mythos (and even mentioning it by name) while subverting it and returning the concept to many of the people Lovecraft hated. The big thing here is the concept of cities as living beings, and not only that, but people acting as their avatars when they “awaken.” I can’t say too much more without getting into major spoilers, but Jemisin knots these concepts together seamlessly as New York itself awakens, leading to a climax that made me think about the universe in a different way.

Rating: 2 of 6

Overall Thoughts

A word of warning here. I have not read Network Effect, as I haven’t read the two books previous. I have read the first two novellas in the series, and based on how much I enjoyed them, this is the position I’m putting this book in. I will try to get the other two novellas and this book read before the Hugos, but no promises!

Rating: 3 of 6

Overall Thoughts

Roanhorse's worldbuilding is consistently great. I loved the Native American non-colonized civilization displayed here, as well as great LGBTQIA inclusion including several other genders. I also really wanted to like the story more than I did. As I said, the worldbuilding is fantastic, but I had trouble getting invested in the plot. This was similar to my reaction to Trail of Lightning. I just didn't have a great connection to the characters’ movement through the story. Especially with trading between several different characters in the first few chapters, I wanted a little more immediate punch to the story.

I am, however, very interested in how the story unfolds from here. I can't say much without spoiling, but the story is definitely not conventional!


This is the part I where have the biggest problem with Roanhorse’s works. I just wasn’t as engaged as I wanted to be. I can see characters moving from one place to another, and even though there was a ticking clock in this story in the form of days to an eclipse, I never felt an urgency to the plot. Several climactic events happened, but I felt like they had the same importance as all the other sections of the book. I’m not sure if this is a prose problem, or pacing, or editing, but it affecting my reading of the story.


On the other hand, I absolutely LOVED Roanhorse’s Native American-inspired world, bringing aspects of Quechan, Incan, Aztec, Mayan, and other Native American people’s cultures. There is a large focus on creation myths and animal gods, a city built into a massive cliff, where people are separated by a sort of caste based on height, and ritualized magic using tattoos and powders. I’m very much looking forward to a second book where some of these aspects might be expanded.


The characters are so intriguing here I really wished the plot did them justice better. A lesbian/bi quasi-mermaid pirate ship captain. A voluntarily blind celibate martial priest who literally has a god bound inside him. A third gender assassin who is so skilled they can disappear from a council meeting with no one the wiser. A noble son who has a mental connection with a gigantic raven. There’s just so much cool stuff here, and the arcs for at least two of the characters are barreling toward an ending you hope won’t happen but know can’t be avoided.

Rating: 4 of 6

Overall Thoughts

I waffled whether to give this three or four stars, but finally settled on four just because the writing is very evocative. I think is one of those books that either makes a big impression on you or doesn't. For me, it didn't really. There's a mystery in this story, but because of how it's narrated, it's pretty easy for the reader to unravel and then they are forced to follow a protagonist who is unable to rationalize simple clues laid out before them. It's interesting to see the mind of the protagonist develop, but only for so long. In the end, I felt this book could have been about 25% shorter, and not covered some of the aimless wandering that happened between revelations. That said, the writing is well done and I know there are readers that enjoy this type of story, so YMMV.


The plot here is actually fairly simple, though it’s unclear where it’s headed right from the beginning. Because the main character is shortly revealed to have some sort of memory loss, there are only a few places the plot can go. Either he can find out more about his old self, or stay stagnant. I’ll let you guess which happens.


Clarke’s setting is one of the best parts of this book. Almost the entire story takes place inside what appears to be a giant house, filled with an infinite number of rooms, each holding countless statues in evocative or descriptive poses. There is weather, rain, and tides in the house, and there are birds that make nests and scavenge for food. We learn more about the house during the story, and eventually why it exists and what it is in general, but by that point it’s almost not important.


This is my largest problem with the book. The main character, called Piranesi, has very definite memory loss, to the point where he imagines common words, places, and items from our world to be fantastical in nature. It’s both interesting to watch him piece little bits of information together in the right (and wrong) order, and at the same time incredibly frustrating. The reader can easily make the conclusions that Piranesi stumbles over, so much of the plot is spent urging him to just get on with it and figure it out. Once a few other characters, without memory loss, make an appearance, it’s fairly easy to deduce what’s happening from their words, and so in the end I wished this was a little shorter just so the reader doesn’t have to wade through the same confusion Piranesi does when we already know the answer.

Rating: 5 of 6

Overall Thoughts

Sooooo....this is a hard review to write, because this is an incredibly hard and frustrating book to read. I'd probably give it 3.5 stars, because it works REALLY hard in the last quarter of the book to redeem the first three-fourths. Does it do it? I'm still not sure. I'm still annoyed at it, so maybe not.

This would have been a really good first book, because it basically rewrites the entire first book in addition to ignoring the romance developed until way past when you've decided it's never going to be addressed. I almost would have preferred this be half again as long and taken the time to develop the emotions it did in the first book to shore up the story in this one.

Several friends of mine either DNFed it or were similarly annoyed, so I was at least warned that there might be things I wouldn't like, so if you want to read this, be warned that it takes an effort to get through the story. The ending is really good, but I'm not sure it's good enough to make up for the first half to two-thirds of the book.


If you’ve read the first book, you’re likely a fan of Harrow and Gideon trampling through the tests to become Lyctors. Well, much of this book is spent denying and rewriting that gleeful romp with, instead of the instantly likeable character of Gideon, the dour and fawning Ortus, from the first book. Yeah, remember him? Me either. This is continued as Harrow learns more of how to be a Lyctor, as well as sparring with the much older and variously corrupted previous Lyctors of the Emperor, as well as the Emperor himself. There are absolutely NO hints to the complete turnaround about three fourths of the way through the book and darn it, I really enjoyed the triumph. But if I was not as determined to finish books that I start, I would have given up long before that.


This is one of Muir’s strong points, with awesome gothic space architecture, dying planets, a ghostly plane of existence, necromantic legions, and even hints of what’s going on outside the reach of the Emperor. We get to see the full decaying might of this interplanetary organization, rather than just one house. The setting is one of the main reasons I would even attempt to read the next book in the series, because it’s so original.


Again, Muir has fascinating, broken, healing characters. Harrow is as curmudgeonly as ever, but without the irreverent humor of Gideon, it often starts to spiral into nihilism. The other characters around her are all very very old, and their outlook is often just as gloomy as hers. Added to the confusion of the plot in the first half of the book, I really wanted to hear just from Gideon again and recapture the tone of the first book. But this one is very different, and while I did enjoy it in the end, I didn’t like it nearly as much as the first book.

Rating: 6 of 6

So…I had a writing plan for early 2021, and it’s already changed, five days in (it was actually by two days in…). I figured I’d write a little here on the writerly reach for excellence (and possibly masochism).

I’ve just come off recording two audiobooks between October and December 2020. These are the sequels to The Seeds of Dissolution, which I recorded in 2019. Seeds was a decent recording. It gets the job done. I had a few complaints about the sound quality.

You can find it here, if you’re interested (although it may be an updated version if you read this a while after it’s posted).

Then I recorded the next two books, Facets of the Nether and Fall of the Imperium. You can find those below and wherever else you consume audiobooks. What better thing to accompany this thread than listening to the end product!

While recording, I got a better microphone, I learned how to control my breathing and pacing better, and most importantly, I started recording in our walk-in closet with blankets covering the door and window.

(I got a lot of jokes from friends about how I was going back in the closet…)

The resulting audiobooks are MUCH better than the original, so much so that I worried readers listening to The Seeds of Dissolution might be turned off by the sound quality and not want to continue listening to the rest of the series.

Here’s a sample of the difference in quality, with the first chapter of Seeds, and the first chapter of Facets (beware the chapter of Facets has some spoilers for the end of Seeds).

The recording for Seeds is very hollow sounding and there’s a strange echo, because I recorded in a larger room. There are also a lot of incidental sounds, clicks and even a few road noises.

It also took a LOT of effort to get it just to this sound quality. The original was terrible. It took me and my spouse several weeks of constant work editing all the files to clean them up. I don’t regard that as wasted time, because it served its purpose. But I wish I knew then what I know now.

So, fast forward to October 2020, when I started recording Facets of the Nether. It went a lot better, and I improved through recording that book and into Fall of the Imperium.

(Oh yeah, I also have some outtakes, if you want to listen. There could be some minor spoilers in here, but mostly it’s me just tripping over lines.)

I uploaded Facets and Fall primarily to Findaway because of the whole Audiblegate hubbub going on. Basically, Audible isn’t paying authors or narrators if readers return books, even after listening to the book. They’re also pushing for listeners to use the exchange function. The new books will be available on Audible eventually, but I’m no longer exclusive.

At this point, I knew the sound quality in Seeds was bad, but was determined to clean it up a bit and then also upload that one to Findaway.

Reader, it took me seven chapters of editing before I broke. It was taking me almost as much time to clean up the files as it did to originally edit them, and the end product still wasn’t that great.

So, being me, what did I do? I decided to re-record The Seeds of Dissolution. I was already in the groove from the last two books. (This was the big change in my schedule for 2021)

And you know what? I’m about six chapters in now, and it’s actually pretty fun. I think I’m getting better at voices, too.

The raw files are pretty darn clean too, because I’ve spent the last three months improving my recording quality and learning how to edit files much more efficiently.

I can basically record, which takes about 1.5 times the chapter length, then edit, which takes only a little longer than listening to the chapter again.

I get a recording to my new benchmark of satisfaction, get a better recording for readers, and it takes only a little longer than trying to edit the original files.

So the files I upload to Findaway, when I finish, will be much better quality than the files originally uploaded to Audible. I’m going to update those files too, but it will take longer to get them approved.

My schedule for the beginning of 2021 *had been* to start on a new SF trilogy I’ve been looking forward to. But instead, I’m going back to recording. I don’t think it will be wasted time.

To top it off, I have one other book in the Dissolutionverse that I was planning on recording later on, because I was running out of steam.

But now I’m just going to do all four books. You can look forward to Tales of the Dissolutionverse in audio format in a few months!

So what does all this mean, in terms of sticking to a schedule and settling for something that’s not top quality?

As we all progress in the things we want/are paid to do in life, we get better. Sometimes you look back and leave the things that were not so great behind you.

Other times, you get a unique chance to make something better that you were never quite happy with. I’m glad to get this chance to re-record The Seeds of Dissolution with better sound quality and better voice acting.

I hope you will get that chance too at some point. It’s nice to look at something and say “I can do better,” and then have the chance to do exactly that. So I’ll leave you with links, if you want to listen along with my journey as an audiobook narrator!

Facets of the Nether (also available wherever you consume audiobooks)

Fall of the Imperium (also available wherever you consume audiobooks)

If you want to see more behind-the-scenes on how I write books and record audio, check out my Patreon! There are outtakes for each chapter of Facets, and nearly half the full book is posted as well. I’ll likely post some more comparisons of Seeds v1 and Seeds v2, once I get more chapters complete.

Share List

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Are you gearing up for NaNoWriMo next month? If so, I’ve got a great tool for you to use: 4thewords. 4thewords in an online writing platform that gamifies your writing and helps increase word count by fighting monsters, going on quests, and leveling up your character. It’s really fun, and I’ve been using it for over a year to make sure I write every day. All throughout October, you can unlock hidden items using special code words, found on online writing resources (like this one). If you haven’t tried 4thewords before, use the code word hidden in this article to unlock a surprise and a free month of play time! If you do decide to join, you can use my referral code (BUAZU92189) when you sign up for some bonus crystals at your first payment. Hope to see you in the game!

So you’ve heard all about how you’re supposed to be inclusive when you write and include a diverse cast of characters, right? But now you’re staring at that page, wondering how you put this into practice. Or maybe you’ve written three chapters and you realize all your characters are male. Or white. Or straight.

What you do?

Furthermore, why are you now listening to a white dude “well, actually” you about your writing? I hope to provide a good example, and also give you a little information that might help you on your way to writing while including a more disparate cast of characters.

First off, appearances are deceiving. I’m a cisgender white male, I’ve been married to a cisgender woman for fifteen years, and until recently, I never really thought I had any say in the social issues where some people have to work to be accepted in society.

Except, we all face marginalization in some way or another, though it may not be in as large a manner as others. For example, I’m vegetarian. I’ve been vegetarian my whole life. I dealt with a lot of bullying and derision in lower school because I was the odd one out, and brought my lunch every day. While this isn’t as extreme an example as, say growing up a person of color in the United States, it’s a start. While vegetarianism is a lot more commonplace nowadays, I still have to deal with others saying “well, we have to find somewhere where you can eat,” even though several of my friends are pickier eaters than I am.

However, I’ve started to understand the distinctions of scale in diversity a lot more in the last couple years. In June of this year (2019), I came out as bisexual. I’m still happily married and I don’t plan to change that, but as I’ve gotten older I decided I no longer want to bend over backwards for society to hold up a “norm.” I want to be myself. I can be bisexual, and in a committed relationship, and happy.

Enough about me, though hopefully I’ve convinced you that I do at least have some worthwhile opinions on the subject. (And hey—if you want to read a space opera series with symphonic, music-based magic, a whole cast of diverse characters including a bisexual main character, and a bunch of cool aliens with multiple genders, you can check out my books here!)

I’m sure you can find something about yourself that is different from the “norm” of society, whether it’s a very small detail or something that defines your everyday life. No matter how small it is, it can help you start to understand what people facing pressing social issues of, for example, trans rights, LGBT acceptance, or racial inequality might feel like.

Look back at the work you’re writing. Let’s address the gender balance first, as this is one of the simplest things to correct. How many people in your story are male, and how many are female? And no, I’m not forgetting non-binary people. That’s the next step.

Even if you identify as female, you may end up putting a lot of male characters in your story, where there’s no need to have most or all male characters. Pick a male character at random. Why are they male? Do they need to be? Even if you think they do need to be specifically male, try this exercise: change their gender to female, or non-binary, or trans. continue writing the same character, with no changes to their personality. I bet you’ll find you have to do very little editing of your story. Continue to do this with characters in your story, until you have a more balanced set of genders. Even if you think you’re not capturing different nuances of character because of a different gender, keep going. Remember, you can always add more detail or change things later. The first step is to try it out. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t do the exercise at all.

You can do the same challenge for other features of your characters, though keep in mind this may have a greater effect on the tone of your story and your character’s choices (more on that in a minute). Are they all the same skin color as you? Do they have the same sexuality? Do they have the same gender? Do they have the same/any religion? Are they on the same monetary level as you are? Do they come from the same geographical area? Are they all neurotypical, or neurodiverse? You can think about all of these attributes as sliders, because few people are fully at one end or the other of a range—they’re usually somewhere in the middle. There are a lot more sliders you can come up with, if you think about it. Not all of them will always be applicable to what you’re writing, so pick a few that are more pertinent.

If it helps, you can even make a chart of these axes or sliders for each of your characters. Remember, I only gave you some examples. There are always more. Each character you write will be in a different place on at least one of these sliders. That’s how it is in the real world. You can find somebody who is a lot like you, but you’re never going to find somebody who is exactly like you. The differences are what make us interesting.

Once you do this, you may find a character at a very different place on these sliders from you will make completely different choices on their arc than you intended. Just as with any character, you will need to consider their background and what affects their choices. You may need to include things you haven’t thought about, like a family with darker skin doing an activity that may have been historically restricted in the U.S., or how a person wanting a same sex relationship would look for a partner versus one wanting a heterosexual relationship.

That brings me to my last point. While these are really good exercises to try when you’re still in the drafting or writing phase, I’ll leave you with a word of warning. You should strive to place characters that come from many diverse backgrounds in your writing, but you also need to do your research. You can’t be familiar with every single part of these sliders I’ve been talking about—that’s the whole point of diversity and including others. The danger, then, is to write somebody on the other side of the slider than you, and get it wrong, or even worse, write something that another person finds offensive. You want people to enjoy your stories, after all, don’t you?

So do your research. Put in as many diverse characters as you possibly can, but if it’s a characteristic you don’t have any experience with, find someone who represents that characteristic and is willing to help you learn about it. Offer to pay for their time and emotional labor. Be aware they may refuse. Please don’t randomly go up to people you don’t know and expect them to share information with you. It may be best to look for online sources first (and not just Wikipedia) about the culture a person different from you experiences, whether that is sexuality, skin color, neuro-diverse issues, or whatever. Take a stab at trying to portray the character correctly. Again, remember that you can always go back and change the words you’ve written. I’ve done my fair share of badly-depicted characters that my writing group helped identify and improve.

Don’t throw it in the graveyard if you get it wrong. You have to be willing to accept that if you do make mistakes, and are called on them, that you can accept the criticism in the style that was given and let it help you become a better writer.

The more diverse people you know, the easier it is for you to observe how they think and act. This also means you may have more people willing to help your writing become better. But if you simply cannot find somebody who is able or willing, or cannot find a good source of research for what you’re trying to do, there are people called sensitivity readers. A lot of them are similar to paid editors, where they will read your work and giving feedback on the type of issue that you are having trouble with.

So in conclusion, be diverse in your writing! Include people of every different persuasion. Your stories will become more colorful and more exciting in consequence. Your plots will go to places you’ve never thought of before. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but also be aware that you will probably get things wrong. Just keep trying. The only real failure is not trying to be inclusive at all.

Hey! You made it to the end! If you didn’t spot it already, your code word is: graveyard. You can redeem your code in the 4thewords dashboard section on the Account Page

Also, if you do want to do some research, here are a few helpful places around the web I’ve used personally:

bottom of page