I’m proud to announce that Cassandra Khaw will be writing the Novel tentatively titled ‘Codemancer: The Novel’ (we’ll come up with a better title later, I promise). She’ll be assisted by editor Colette Bennett.
I spoke to quite a few candidates who impressed me, and I spent a great deal of time thinking it over. In the end, I chose Cassandra to write the book because
- Her writing samples were fantastic. The kind of prose that grabs your lapels and won’t put you down (so you dare not put it down, either).
- She’s a programmer. That was her career before she switched to writing human languages.
- She’s never written a novel before. That sounds like a reason not to choose Cassandra, but I know she’s been wanting to write a novel for a while, and I believe her pent up energy and ideas will serve the project well.
- She gets it. When I interviewed her, Cassandra was able to talk about potential influences from other examples of the genre that we both know and love. She understood the difference that computer science education can make, and the deeper problems of gender inequality that we’re just starting to address.
Cassandra will be sharing snippets of her writing as she goes along and opening up her writing process to backers and supporters whenever possible. Give her a warm welcome, True Believers!
Just to give you a sense of her style, I’ve asked Cassandra for permission to reprint one of her unfinished short stories below. Enjoy!
She looks into the mirror. Twelve, wide-eyed Eleanors emit a brief shriek and fling down their veils. Before she can word a complaint, they bolt out of the door. Four wring their hands. Two nod at their reflection, her frown mirrored on their faces; it’s embarrassing to see that some of your alternate selves could be so distressingly female.
Eleanor adjusts her bodice, willfully deaf to the ambient grumbling. The gown is magnificent. Almost all of the Eleanors were unified on this, at least. She teases her fingertips over the cacophony of diamond-beaded frills and the plunging cleavage, so different from what she is accustomed to. If someone told her five years ago that she would eventually find herself wearing a dress spun of gauze and light and fairy dreams, she would have laughed. All of the Eleanors would have laughed. Certain things were both trans-dimensional and universal.
Are you ready? Her mother calls through the door. There is a note of impatient yearning in her voice.
Ready. Eleanor sucks in a breath. About fifteen Eleanors are attempting to climb through the window. One slips and falls, the contents of her skull pureed by cobblestones and broken bone. The rest escape with minor injuries. Eleanor doesn’t turn. She learned a long time ago that watching yourself die is, even on the best of days, Not A Good Thing.
A sigh cuts in from the doorway, one that is equal parts appreciation and exasperation. Eleanor’s mother walks in, a smile painted on a face that could be anywhere from forty to sixty-five.
“I can’t believe you’re finally getting married.” Her mother brushes imaginary lint off her shoulder. (Two Eleanors chuckle obligingly, five squirm at the uninvited affection.)
There is only one person in the world who knows of Eleanor’s condition and it’s that counsellor at the school for people almost like her.
“It’s almost a proper super-power.” He told her hopefully, his hand awkwardly molding around her shoulder.
Almost, but not quite. Trans-dimensional sight isn’t particularly useful if it doesn’t come with a touch of precognition. The best it can do is help identify all the other ways you could have died. After two weeks of extensive testing, the counsellor finally relented and permitted her to go home.
“You could stay, if you want to.” An earnest, fumbling offer. The counsellor was kind, if nothing else.
Eleanor left, a smile frozen on her lips. It was one of the rare occasions where every Eleanor (at least, the ones in sight) were in agreement. Sympathy was only enjoyable if you didn’t have the ability to see into a multi-dimensional present. (Half the Eleanors heard the counsellor wheeze into a phone, “Too weak to be a sidekick, that one.” Most stormed off. Five stayed to eavesdrop on the unflattering conversation. Two bludgeoned him with a chair the moment they heard. One, struck by the need to scandalize the rest, orchestrated the beginning of an inappropriate affair. The rest tried to ignore the intense, pitying stares.)
He is handsome. Massive shoulders crowning a bear-like frame. A viking’s beard and hooded gunmetal eyes. Godly. Delicious. Especially in that suit she picked for him: soot-black, triple-breasted and bisected by a silver-blue tie. Eleanor drinks him in as she slouches against the doorframe, her tall glass of Scandinavian spring water.
“Kitty?” That rumbling European bass.
“Isn’t it supposed to be bad luck to see each other before the wedding?” He asks, smiling.
Eleanor is sure she loves him. Certainly, she understands the appeal of dark-eyed sons with eyes like chunks of the noon sky. But that doesn’t stop the prickle of discontent or her from reading smugness in his smile.
“Thought you said this kind of stuff was silly.”
“I think it’s stupid,” He snorts exultantly. “But you believe in it.”
It is his tone, she decides, that irritates her. There is something nauseatingly triumphant about his slow, doleful smirk. Like he was a magnanimous older brother waiting for his snot-nosed sister to realize unicorns weren’t real or a doctor indulging a hypochondriac. Like he was waiting for her to wake the fuck up.
“Nothing wrong with a bit of superstition.”
“Some are cute,” He adjusts his tie for the umpteenth time, his wide fingers mangling the razored lines.
Eleanor only succeeds at a wan smile, even as she turns and flees. The sound of protesting Eleanors hounds her escape.
“They have medicine for this,” He tells her, the kindliness of his voice like a cigarette burn.
He has his arms around her. Eleanor molds her spine around the curve of his embrace, desperate to fit into the space they’ve made for each other. Her arms knot around her legs, nails digging into skin. The pain makes it easier to pretend she can’t see her other selves. (In the distance, an Eleanor is shrieking defiantly. She’s not sick, she tells him. The rest bicker, seethe and grit their teeth. Two plot murder.) Eleanor inhales, her breath warbling dangerously in her chest.
“I’m not sick,” Eleanor mumbles. “I don’t need medicine.”
Her skin feels raw. His pity hurts, somehow.
“No,” He responds soothingly, broad hand cupping her jaw. “You don’t need medicine, but it .. might be good for you. It could help.”
“No.” Eleanor jerks away, smothering the encroaching tears in a pillow. Her voice, now a little girl squeak, embarrasses her. “Not sick.”
She understands his explanations. Eleanor has tried repeatedly to prove herself, but the resulting din always proved unbearable. Each attempt inevitably led to her sinking to her knees, hands over her ears, and him rushing to her side to assure her that it wasn’t real. (One Eleanor convinced him. He killed her in his shock. The rest were mortified. )
“Hi,” His smile pleats the corners of his eyes.
“Hello,” Eleanor replies, feeling for the first time like the knot in her chest could one day untangle.
He tucks a copper ringlet of hair behind his ear, his smile turning bashful. “So, how do you like everyone?”
“They get me,” Her throat pinches. “I can see across dimensions, you know.”
Eleanor flinches. The words are blunter than she intended, raw with recent humiliation. There is a part of her that wants him to leave, to go away so she doesn’t have to risk it all again. But he doesn’t. (Not a single Eleanor is moving in the periphery of her vision. They’re all staring at him, wide-eyed and wondering.)
“That’s cool. I can’t,” He chuckles, blue-gray eyes more melting ice than gunmetal. Eleanor can feel his voice singing through her bones.
“Cool,” She stammers. (Every Eleanor is holding their breath. For the first time, her world is silent. )
“Cool.” He echoes, with a grin like a new start.