In celebration of the release of her debut novel NUCLEATION, Kimberly Unger shares this deleted scene from an early draft of the novel. This was the original scene that introduced Beauchamp. The tale stands on it’s own outside the novel.
Enjoy and when you are done, jump over to GOODREADS to enter to win the novel that is “recommended for fans of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon and Martha Wells’ Murderbot series.” (Booklist)
Like all mid to large-scale operations, catering at Far Reaches was king. Amenities were often a deciding factor when OPs or a NAVs were deciding on which of the dozen or so offworld operations they wanted to hook their star to. The commissary followed the same poured-and-painted-concrete stylings as the rest of the building, with the exception being that negative space, the black-painted walls designed to give your Insight something to read against, was nowhere to be found. Work was actively discouraged in the commissary and one brought in actual physical records at their peril.
The Chef had brought out the waffle iron, which meant the line at that particular warming-table stretched far longer than the one that ended in cold milk and brightly colored cereal.
Not that there’s anything wrong with cereal.Helen found herself sandwiched in between Catherine Beauchamp and Nikko Tsenko. Rumor had it that Tsenko had a waffle iron of his own, hidden away in his apartment. Rumor had it he made waffles for a wide variety of “morning after” guests. No Operators though, otherwise Helen was fairly sure she’d have heard far more intimate details than she needed to know.
“Drowning your sorrows in syrup?” Beauchamp bumped Helen’s shoulder by way of starting the conversation. The rival Operator was a recent transplant from BrightWinds, her contract bought up when Far Reaches acquired their mining rights and assets during the mother of all bankruptcy sales. Less than a fingertip taller than Helen, a trembling pouf of hair dyed in a color that would give James’ pattern-processors fits, and an in-your-face attitude, Beauchamp had worked her way up the ranks with a will.
“It’s the new bourbon, I thought everybody knew.” Tsenko quipped back over his shoulder, saving Helen the trouble. Tsenko and Beauchamp were both on the same rotation, and just as often at each other’s throats over a variety of minor infractions.
“Well, for those of you who’ve never tried real bourbon, I suppose.” Beauchamp’s comment was delivered with another nudge to keep Helen in the conversation. The rival OP wasn’t about to let her out of exchanging insults so easily. She’d been a pain in Helen’s ass since day one, making it abundantly clear she was gunning for Helen’s more senior position on the rotation chart. Helen had managed to stay on first-tier through a combination of experience and the ability to learn a new waldo faster than anyone else, but Beauchamp wasn’t far behind. In order for Beauchamp to move up, someone else had to move down, or out. Helen was acutely aware her seat on first-tier was in jeopardy, but damned if she was going to let Beauchamp rattle her cage when the waffle iron was out. She had bigger things to worry about.
“Chef’s waffles are harder to get. Really, if exclusivity is your thing, you need to set a higher standard.” Helen spun her empty plate in her hands, the overhead LEDs reflecting off the surface. Nonchalance played well. Normally Helen had a more even temper than Beauchamp, had a longer sense of strategy, but today it was only because Doc Hofstaeder’s custom cocktail of emotional stabilizers was keeping her on an even keel.
Whatever helps me keep her off my case. Helen reflected.
“And,” Tsenko added, “You can still fly sober after waffles.”
Helen almost winced. Beauchamp’s one mistake had been showing up for a mission with alcohol still in her system. It had been a couple of months ago, and it was one of the things she needed to work against. Helen didn’t have to see her face to know that Tsenko had toe-d across the line.
“Yeah, but the carbohydrate-coma these waffles bring on will make you sleep through your mission briefings anyway.” Helen interceded, pulling the conversation along, giving Beauchamp the chance to let it slide. She wasn’t in the mood for a fight but she wasn’t going to drop out of line to miss out on the waffles either. The waffle iron came out without warning, once a quarter, max.
Of course she won’t let it go.
“We all have our vices, Tsenko, mine just require fewer trips to the clinic.” Beauchamp returned with an unsubtle stare at Tsenko’s crotch. Aaaaand there’s the other shoe. Helen wondered, if only for a second, whether or not she should just let the two of them duke it out in the waffle-line. Tsenko unexpectedly took the high-road this time.
“Ah, but it’s worth it every time and twice on Sundays.”
“”It’s nice to see you keep things on a schedule at least.” Beauchamp allowed him the out.
Maybe she’s not really in the mood for a fight after all.
“Well, I was until the Line Drive went sideways…” Tsenko turned and focused on Helen.
Ah, I’ve been set-up.
“…now I’m back on missions checking the AI driven massdrives in the shipping lanes.” He finished sourly.
Whereas before, Helen had been in the middle with the two of them fighting across her, now she found herself flanked, with attackers on both sides.
Tsenko and Beauchamp on the same side, that’s new.
“Well, if it’s any consolation,” Beauchamp added, “three of the Senior OPs got slotted into moles for the next shift.”
Ha, there it is. Missions had been backfilled, others delayed, sidelined projects had been put back into play when the slate of OPs prepping for turns on Line Drive had suddenly been dumped back into the pool until the new mission had been outlined. Because they might be recalled for Line Drive at any time, they had all been assigned to “specials”, the kind of tedious, boring missions that you could swap an AI into on the fly if necessary. It was busywork, and every OP resented busywork.
Since getting slotted into the analyst pool, Helen had no actual say in the mission assignments. That’s not going to stop anyone from feeling like you do. She was going to have to start doing damage control if she wanted to keep any friends on the OPs team.
“There are two more openings on the moles,” Helen said mildly, casting an eye at Tsenko. “Keller wants to assign rookies, but you know how tricky those underground digs can be. I’m sure he’d love to see a few more of our better OPs step up.”
Tsenko took the bait, switched sides again, as Helen had anticipated. “You can’t assign me to the moles, I already paid Keller off this month.” He was joking, and Beauchamp’s lips tightened into a thin line. She’d clearly been expecting him to help get a dog-pile going, maybe bring a few more of the line-standers in on it. Beauchamp had misjudged his temperament. Tsenko was competitive, possibly arrogant, but it was the self-centered kind, the kind that thrived on petty conflict simply for the sake of conflict. He’d switch to the losing side in a heartbeat, just to keep the argument going.
“I’ll get you penciled in before the next buyoff, no worries.” Helen returned. “Cat, if you get in early, I can let you pick your shift.” Helen turned back to Beauchamp, but she had already stalked away now that the focus had shifted out of her favor.
Maybe waffles really aren’t her thing.
“I don’t see why she’s so testy, she’s one of the few pilots who didn’t want to be on Line Drive’s rotation.” Tsenko retrieved his waffles from the griddle and wondered off with a shrug and whistle. Helen decided against three waffles, she needed to be sharp for the next few hours and stuffing herself with comfort foods would be the wrong kind of rewarding.
Of course, that means bacon is a must.
Helen tucked the bacon under the short-stack of waffles and grabbed a few napkins to help contain the syrup. She needed to be seen, check in with the rest of the OPs while she had the time. Beauchamp wasn’t wrong about OPs being bitter about the off-plan assignments. The senior OPs would all be upset to varying degrees and, while Helen might not have direct control over who got assigned where any longer, knowing where the turbulent waters were would allow her to stay on top of any problems waiting when she got back into rotation.
She worked her way around the commissary tables, saying hello and checking in. People on the OPSs team tended to seat themselves with more people on the OPSs team, IT techs with IT techs. Conversations started at desks and in-spaces inevitably resurfaced over lunch or dinner, especially for the rookies, who had a harder time maintaining work-life balance. It meant she could get a feel for the team dynamic, even though technically that wasn’t her job at the moment. The commissary was filling up as news about the waffle-iron spread, but Helen finally ended up at a mostly empty table with a plate of waffles that was only barely warm.
Beauchamp slid her plate onto the table and took up the spot across from Helen.
Oh marvelous. Helen quashed the negative thought and gave the other woman a smile before turning her attention back to filling each waffle divot with warm syrup. You could only do half the waffle at a time or it would all get too soggy too fast.
“All snark aside, I think Congratulations are in order.” Beauchamp continued. “You managed to turn a scenario that would have gotten anyone else fired into a promotion.”
“Don’t get too comfortable, it’s a temporary assignment.” Helen returned, keeping her tone even. What had been a tolerable rivalry between Beauchamp and herself when she’d been on top, now had the potential to blossom into something much nastier.
Beauchamp retrieved the syrup from Helen’s side of the table and poured out a puddle onto her plate, careful to keep it from touching the stack of waffles.
“Comfortable? Are you kidding, I plan to enjoy the view from the top for a good long time.” The other OP ripped her top waffle into quarters with her manicured fingers and mashed it into the puddle of syrup.
“Ladies!” Nicholas Bright slid into the seat next to Beauchamp at speed, plate barely touching the tabletop. The stack of waffles threatened to keep going without him, but he tipped the plate up at the last second. Helen gave him a warmer smile than she had Beauchamp and slid the stack of jam-packets across the table in his direction.
“Still the rebel, I see.” Beauchamp turned a withering look on the other OP as he ripped the blueberry jam open with his teeth and squirted it out onto the waffle. A second waffle had already been slathered with an equal amount of peanut butter and the two halves met with a squishy clap as he married them into a sandwich.
Helen continued to cut her waffle into precise squares, eating them as she went before the syrup could make them soggy.
“Hey, man, if Chef only makes these babies once a quarter, I’m not about to waste the opportunity. I’m on a mission to try every single condiment combination.” Bright crammed a larger bite than Helen would have thought possible into his mouth.
“If you break open the mustard packets while I’m still here at the table…” Beauchamp warned.
“Hey, waffles weren’t always a breakfast food, you know.” Bright caught a splat of jelly with his pinky before it managed to hit the table and wiped it on the top of his waffle-wich. “They have a long and venerable history as a base for all kinds of meals.”
“Mustard packets and garlic pickles do not count as a “meal.” Beauchamp said icily.
“Anchovies though.” Helen suggested between bites, determined to keep the conversation steered away from her status as OP excommunicado. She wasn’t about to abandon maple syrup herself, but she was curious to see the look on Bright’s face when he gave it a go.
“Anything pickled might work.” He ruminated and stuffed another improbable bite into his face.
“Enjoy it while you can.” Beauchamp waved another torn quarter in Helen’s direction. “Waffles are for Operators, Chef’s just letting you slide for old time’s sake.”
Untrue, but the thought still stung.
“Oh shit, that means there’s an opening on the Line Drive team?” Lee managed to articulate around a mouth full of peanut-butter.
“There’s four.” Beauchamp said. “But the project is locked down because somebody lost her shit in waldo-space.”
Bitch. Helen didn’t know if Beauchamp knew all the details that had led to Ted’s death, but she was putting her typical “worst possible spin” on Helen’s involvement. And Helen couldn’t defend herself, not with the mission still being investigated. She mentally stomped on her outrage before it could get a running start.
“If anyone freaked out, they’d be on leave pending a psych eval right now.” Helen pointed out instead. Ivester’s insistence that she remain on-team could work to her advantage, giving her a shield against the rumor-mill Beauchamp insisted on feeding. Beauchamp responded with another unpleasant smirk as she gutted her second waffle.
“Leave can look like a lot of different things, Vectorovitch.”
“Leave doesn’t usually involve a pay-bump.” Bright added his two-cents. “Cat, who’s in change of the OP rotation now? Can you put in a good word for me?”
“Keller’s handling the OPs, Helen’s been “bumped up” to mission analysis while her involvement with Ted’s death gets investigated.” Beauchamp sketched the quotes with her fingers. Helen gave the younger pilot as cold a stare as she could muster. Bringing Ted into this was purely dirty pool. Helen didn’t have a glib rebuttal for something quite so base.
“Wow, you really screwed the pooch. Nobody puts an OP on mission design.” Bright said sagely and turned his attention to demolishing the last of the waffle-wich.
“Like I said, I’ll be back as soon as I get re-certified.”
“So don’t get too comfortable in that chair.” Bright ribbed Beauchamp, who took it with ill grace. “Which is a shame because I was really looking forward to seeing if your game is a good as you think it is, Cat.”
Bright’s ambition was legendary. His inability to follow the more demanding checklists was equally legendary, but Mira, his NAV, was a perfect counter to his recklessness.
“Well, I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as they’re ready to shuffle.” Beauchamp grinned and finished the last tattered wedge of waffle. “I’m meeting with Keller to work up the new duty roster in light of Helen here leaving the Line Drive project.”
“That’s funny, Cat, I just talked to Keller. We already set the roster, didn’t you get the memo?” Helen kept up the meticulous quartering of her waffles, waiting for Beauchamp to lose steam.
She didn’t want to let the idea get started that Beauchamp had been swapped in to replace her, but Beauchamp’s comments about freaking out in waldo-space had hit home. The rumor was out there that she’d killed her NAV, she was going to have to work with that.
Beauchamp gave her a nasty glare and abandoned the table, leaving her plate of half-destroyed waffles behind and Helen alone with the idea that something she’d done, or failed to do, had contributed to Ted’s death. There was no way to get around that fact. True or not, if that rumor took root, she was going to have a hell of a time getting back in the coffin again.
“Kitty Busts the Feds”
“I’m just saying if anybody should know about this, it oughta be you, right?”
Putting my elbows on the desk, I rubbed my scalp and winced at the microphone. “Yes, you’re right, of course. If anyone ought to know the effects of recreational marijuana on lycanthropes it should be me, even though I’ve never actually tried the stuff, even though I live in Colorado. I’m so sorry to disappoint you.”
I wasn’t sorry, and I seemed to be completely unable to steer the show off this topic.
“All right, checking the monitor . . . and all the calls are about pot. Okay. Fine. Matt, are we violating any FCC regulations by talking about pot on the air this much?” Pot might have been legal in Colorado, but the show was syndicated all over the country and I didn’t want to get any affiliate stations in trouble. On the other side of the booth window, Matt, my engineer, gave me a big shrug. I figured if I was in trouble, Ozzie, the station manager, would have called by now to ax this whole line of discussion. “What the hell, NPR has done a million news stories on pot, right? It’s not like we’re telling people how to get the stuff. Next caller, you’re on the air.”
“I mean, if you don’t live in Colorado how do you get the stuff—”
“I cannot help you with this. Next call, please. Linda, what’s your question?”
“Hi, Kitty, thanks so much for taking my call. There really are so many medical applications for cannabis, especially in terms of reducing anxiety and alleviating chronic pain, it seems that if we wanted to look anywhere for a cure for lycanthropy it would be with CBD oil.”
For John Scalzi’s WHATEVER, Vaughn contributes THE BIG IDEA.
Sometimes a big idea is the culmination of a lot of other ideas. Sometimes, it happens toward the end of a process rather than at the start.
I wrapped up my series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty five years ago. . .but I had some loose ends. A handful of short stories connected to the series that hadn’t yet been collected anywhere, some crazy rough drafts that needed finishing. . . I wanted to pull them all together and get them out in the world.
Collecting a decade’s worth of material is a chance to reflect on characters and a world I’ve lived with for quite a long time now (the first Kitty short story appeared in Weird Tales in 2001). How did I do? What did I miss? Would I change anything? Is there anything left to mine?
Heck, there’s always something left to mine! These are ideas, not molybdenum. They propagate. Short stories are the perfect form in which to explore maybe not big earth-shattering plots. But ideas. Weird ideas that don’t fit in a novel outline, that might not work stretched out over three hundred pages but might pack a punch at 30 pages. For example: What happens when a werewolf goes to her 10 year high school reunion? I don’t know, let’s find out!
If you missed the October 9 Book Bar virtual event with Vaughn and Kevin Hearne, the full video of the conversation can be found on the event site.
Today is the big day as Daniel Pinkwater’s ADVENTURES OF A DWERGISH GIRL is finally available from all finer booksellers.
At TUMBLR, Cory Doctorow remarks on Pinkwater in general and his latest in particular.
Few authors have had as much influence on my progress as a human being – to say nothing of my writing – as Daniel Pinkwater. The course of my life was profoundly altered by reading Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy From Mars in middle school, and I have read dozens of his books since.
I find that many distinctive authors circle themes and plots, like a cannoneer rangefinding with artillery, trying to bullseye some impossible-to-define perfect target. I county myself in that group, and I definitely count Pinkwater there.
I can’t tell you exactly what it is he’s trying to hit, but every book seems to come closer to some irreducible Pinkwaterian ideal, and his latest, Adventures of a Dwergish Girl, is the closest he’s come yet.
I take him to mean that he’s describing the world as he perceives it, not adding any weirdness. We live in a weird place. 2020 certainly proves that hypothesis.
I think there’s something to this – the thing that makes Pinkwater’s work so great is his ability to describe the everyday absurdity in terms that make it clear how weird normalcy is (and vice-versa).
That’s definitely Dwergish Girl’s charm. I read this to my 12 year old, who is way too cool to be getting bedtime stories of her old, irrelevant father’s favorite weird writers.
Every night, she insisted that she didn’t want me to read from it. Every night, she begged for another chapter when I was done (and interrupted repeatedly to ask incisive questions about the Revolutionary war, papaya juice, ghosts, radio announcers, etc).
Pinkwater’s got The Magic (whatever that is) and he keeps getting better at it.
Over at the Tachyon Publications Channel on YouTube, check out the trailer to the book.
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Today, September 1, Tachyon welcomes their new child, R. B. Lemberg’s acclaimed debut THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES, now available from all finer booksellers.
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY includes the birthday book among their Books of the Week, August 31, 2020.
Lemberg’s outstanding debut novel expands on the short stories of the Birdverse that they have been publishing for about a decade, most frequently in the lit mag Beneath Ceaseless Skies, drawing readers into a lush desert world and the two elders from different cultures navigating its wilds.
TRAVELING IN BOOKS concurs.
THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES is a remarkable story, and not simply for the heartbreaking and beautiful ways in which it deals with gender norms, cultural expectactions, family, and friendship. In just 192 pages, Lemberg weaves a multi-facted story in which two aging characters still have a lot to learn about themselves, their strengths, and their flaws. Although, while the prose is elegant and lyrical, its beauty can sometimes obfuscate the meaning. But this is a minor issue overall, as it detracts very little from the story. With elegant prose and an understanding of human nature in all its genders, Lemberg weaves a golden tale of human longing, friendship, and hope.
Then they double down with another mention in Sunday Sum-Up: August 23, 2020.
THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES is a beautifully written novella about a world where, in certain cultures, the ability of people to change gender is assumed and the transformation is a celebrated part of life, if one so chooses. But there are cultures that do not accept these changes, which makes life difficult– if not impossible– for those who wish to change. It’s also a story about love and family, and the sacrifices we must make in order to make the world a better place.
Amy Mitchell for THE /TEMZ/ REVIEW continues the love.
THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES packs an enormous aesthetic and emotional punch, especially considering how short it is. No details are wasted, and everything knits together in complicated, compassionate and dreamlike ways. It’s a mature look at how life can always still be celebrated, despite the pain and wasted time that people can increasingly feel weighing on them as their lives progress. It’s also a profoundly moving and intimate look at the harms that are specifically caused by transphobia, homophobia and gender-based violence. I highly recommend it for all readers, even if fantasy is not normally a genre you frequent.
THE NOVEL APPROACH REVIEWS joins the celebration.
THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES is an emotional story, at times intense and brutal in its telling, but nothing less than sincere. Its beauty is in its weaving of words into a fantasy steeped in its characters’ truths and desires.
MAIJA READS adds ther thoughts about the beautifully written novella.