Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie

Author of Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Mercy

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 20, 2015

Discussion

Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
Hi, I'm Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy. Got questions? Thoughts? Ask me!
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hi Ann - thanks for taking the time today. When and how did you decide that Science Fiction was what you wanted to write about? And which came first, a love of Science Fiction or a love of writing?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@corleyh Of science fiction, definitely. I was a science fiction reader before I thought of being a writer. And when I did write, it was pretty much going to be science fiction or fantasy that came out. If I tried to write a "mainstream" thing with no spec it probably wouldn't be long before the alien invasion turned up.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
What are your thoughts on @winklevoss favorite books? https://www.producthunt.com/live... Also, what book that you didn't write do you totally "fangirl" over?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@andrewmettinger He likes a lot of good books! I enjoyed The Martian a lot, it was a super fun read. Dune is a classic for a reason. I have to admit I've never been able to really get into Stephenson, though.
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@andrewmettinger Also, I totally fangirl over Cherryh's "Foreigner" and more recently over Mieville's "Embassytown." I hadn't liked much of Mieville that I'd read, until I read The City and the City and was blown away. And then I read the description of "Embassytown" and it was like "Now that I have Ann's attention, I'm going to write something just for her!"
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
Hi Ann, thanks so much for joining us today. Would love to hear what your solution is to writers block? Any tips or tricks on how to get the most out of the time you spend writing? Would love to hear your thoughts!
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@harrystebbings So, I find block is often a matter of not feeling like I can go forward because either I'm missing some sort of information, or because I've taken a wrong turn somewhere and my subconscious won't let me go forward because of that. So--reading lots of (almost random) nonfic is a big help to me--I tend to just walk library shelves and pull down whatever sounds interesting, honestly--and also stopping to go over what I did last, just before I stopped being able to write, to see what feels off to me.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Ann thanks for joining us today. Where does the inspiration for your books come from?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@ems_hodge It's difficult to say, really. Generally my projects don't come from one idea, but from a combination of them. The bigger the project, the more things need to go into the mix, for me. I find ideas in real life--things people do or say, sometimes mishearing something or turning it backwards or sideways in my mind, but also from history and anthropology, and sometimes (for me this has mostly happened with short fiction) in an impulse to "argue" with other fiction I've read.
SheSavesTheDay
SheSavesTheDay@morganegh · Student/Writer
@ann_leckie Hi Ann, how wonderful to be able to ask you a question like this! I was wondering how your process of world building works. Do you start with characters and their relationships, or even scenes, and then build from there? Or do you start with a larger concept for a society? Thank you in advance for taking the time.
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@morganegh You're very welcome! It's my pleasure. And it really depends. I don't usually start with scenes, though--I'll start with a couple of characters and maybe a fragment of setting and build off of those. I rarely start just with the society and then add people, now I think of it.
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
Hi @ann_leckie - can you speak on the Sad Puppy movement last year (and now?) and have you ever read Dan Simmon's Hyperion series? I hear that there is going to be a mini series.
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@jeffumbro I haven't read Dan Simmons, though I've heard great things about his Hyperion. It's definitely on my list of things I want to read. I'll say this about the puppies--I think it's a shame that some writers feel that the best or only way to promote their work and engage with their audience is to spew venom at other writers--or worse, those other writers' readers. I am saddened at the lengths they've been willing to go to in order to crowbar their works (and their friends' works) onto the Hugo ballot, in the hope that this would give them a career boost. I don't wish ill toward any other writer, and I don't like seeing them self-destruct that way. I do, however, wish they would stop insulting my readers by accusing them of lying about enjoying my work.
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
@ann_leckie Can you give an elevator pitch about them, for anyone who may not know what's happening?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@jeffumbro honestly, I'd rather not. Folks can google "Sad puppies" and "hugo award" if they like, and if they have a few hours or days to dive into it.
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Hello Ann! Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@jacqvon That's difficult to say! Five or ten years ago I might have had an answer for you, but if you had told me then about what was happening now, I would not have believed you. :D
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
Who are your heroes in contemporary science fiction and do you think it's difficult to come up with new ideas when it seems like so much has already been done?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@jeffumbro I have to admit I'm not as up on contemporary SF as I'd like to be! Ironically, I write partly because I love to read so much, and having been a bit successful, now I have very little time to just read! I tend not to worry about whether an idea has been done before, but rather on how an idea can be done. I think if you look very carefully at an idea, and dig into it--why does it attract you? What about that idea interests you enough to actually sit down and spend hours or even weeks writing about it? How has it been done before and what do you think about that?--you'll come up with something that only you could have written.
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Who are your favourite authors? What's on your reading list?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@ems_hodge I grew up reading Andre Norton, and remain a huge fan. I'm also a big fan of C.J. Cherryh and Jack Vance. More recently I've come to really appreciate what China Mieville has been doing--I didn't like Perdido Street Station much, but The City & the City blew me away, and so did Embassytown. I'm only just beginning to get acquainted with Banks (people often compare my work to his but I'm not terribly familiar with him, actually) and looking forward to reading the rest. Lately a lot of my reading list is books that are yet to be released, that editors hope I'll blurb. I've just read Cat Rambo's Beasts of Tabat (too late to blurb, sadly, I am behind on all my reading) and really enjoyed it. I also recently read Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown, which I loved.
Bradford Shimp
Bradford Shimp@bradford_shimp
Hi Ann - Where did the inspiration for a character who is both one and at the same time many come from?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@bradfordshimp I honestly have no idea! It just kind of came to me in the course of playing around with characters and ideas. But once I had it, I liked it a lot!
Steve Shea
Steve Shea@editswithcleats · Project Manager
@ann_leckie @bradfordshimp The ancillary is a great idea. I like what you said about ideas not needing to be unlike anything else, but simply good in their own right [bad paraphrasing].
Steve Shea
Steve Shea@editswithcleats · Project Manager
@ann_leckie Hi, Ann. What would it take for a book by an author you'd never heard of to jump ahead of all the other books on your to-be-read pile? (I'm taking notes...)
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@editswithcleats Hah! :D It's difficult to say. Probably a really compelling premise. Certainly a very well-done opening. And, btw, that doesn't necessarily mean an opening heavy on the action or suspense, but something very confidently written, with a strong voice.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Hey! What would the you of 5 years ago think of you today?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@bentossell She would be astonished! Five years ago, I wished forlonly that I was a big enough name to get invited to submit to certain short fiction anthologies (I was mostly writing short fiction at the time). Now I get the invitations! And then I say "Oh, sorry, I'm way too busy!" and Five-Years-Ago-Me would have been appalled. On the other hand, she would probably think I was lying to her about Present-Day-Me, because there was no way you could have convinced me that I'd actually win a Hugo, at any time.
SheSavesTheDay
SheSavesTheDay@morganegh · Student/Writer
Do you think that questions of gender will remain (ir)relevant in your future writing? That is, is contributing to genre fiction's overcoming of gender stereotypes something you actively strive towards?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@morganegh In the process of writing the trilogy, I became more interested in the issues surrounding gender than I had been previously. Which is saying something, actually, but I also learned a lot. I think gender is going to be something I think a lot about in the future, and I don't doubt that will come through in my fiction in one way or another.
SheSavesTheDay
SheSavesTheDay@morganegh · Student/Writer
@ann_leckie Have you gotten a lot of feedback from the academic (specifically literary and gender theorist) world? When I read your book I immediately thought that it would and should be featured in a lot of papers testing gender theories.
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@morganegh I've actually seen two academic papers! It was an amazing thing! I've also heard from several folks who have assigned the book for class--in one case, a philosophy class, in another for freshman comp. I know of someone teaching a space opera class who's assigned it this semester! But I haven't heard much about gender studies, aside from those two papers. (I think they're both available on academia.edu which is how I ran across them)
Joshua M Diller
Joshua M Diller@joshuamdiller
Hello Ann. Do you think it's important to have a manuscript professionally edited prior to querying agents? Thanks!
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@joshuamdiller No. I do, however, think it's important to make your manuscript as clean as possible before you query agents. Honestly, go over that sucker as much as you can and make sure it's as polished as you can get it. If you find the comments of others helpful or necessary, by all means join a critique group. If the best way for you to do that is to hire an editor, then do that--there are some excellent writers who double as editors or critiquers, who you can hire to help you out if that's something you feel you need. But whether you need one or not depends on you and your abilities and your process and your situation. I will say, if you're self publishing, it's probably a good idea to get (at the very least) a professional copyeditor to look over your work. A good copyeditor will save you a lot of heartache, and catch things you miss before your work hits the public.
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@jacqvon Hmm. My first reaction is "not really" but then, there's probably a reason I don't have any actual sex scenes in my work so far! Aside from that, action scenes, particularly with lots of moving parts, can be tricky, and often I have to spend time blocking them very carefully before I ever put my fingers on the keyboard.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's the biggest advice you have to others who want to write science fiction?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@eriktorenberg First off, read a lot of science fiction. Then read a lot of other things--"literary" and mystery and romance and anything else you can get your hands on. Read a lot of what you're wanting to write--if you want to write short fiction, get a few years worth of Years Best anthologies from the library and go through them. And then--write. Finish what you write. Submit it, and start on the next project.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Hi Ann, do you listen to any podcasts? If so, which ones are your favorites?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@alexcartaz I don't listen to many! I enjoy Coode Street, and Galactic Suburbia, though I'm behind on both of those. I was involved with Podcastle for several years and had great fun doing that. I also sometimes listen to Stuff You Missed in History Class and always enjoy it a lot, though I'm way, way behind.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Do you think in the future (5-15 years), video games and science fiction storytelling might intersect such that the most popular narratives evolve into complex interactive plots, possibly in VR? or some derivative thereof?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@alexcartaz It strikes me as very possible! I know that games like Portal, or Mass Effect, can have really effective plots, and that's a medium that can potentially become very complex and offer a really wide range of narratives in one package. I think to some extent that's a thing that's already happening, which I think is really cool.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Can you talk more about how you came up with the concept for Ancillary Justice? Did the idea just come to you, or did it grow over time? How did you nurture the details of the writing as you were working on the book?
Ann Leckie
Ann Leckie@ann_leckie
@melissajoykong The idea grew over time, from the idea of a character with lots of bodies, who could be several places at once. I kind of just kept playing with it, and putting it aside, and then picking it up again, and after a while I was like "I've picked this up a lot and still find it compelling, I wonder why that is?" So I began to work more intentionally with it. But a lot of work got done in the back of my mind, really.