Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Story a Day in May Debriefing

It's May, so I've done Story a Day in May again. As usual, it's been a fun and enlightening project, and I've probably gotten at least a couple of small, saleable stories out of it.

I actually started out quite poorly. I've been transitioning some work stuff, and while I was writing every day, the stories were all turning out too long to finish in a single day. Stuff I liked, mind you, but I wasn't hitting my numbers. So I backed away from the nice ideas that I was taking several thousand words to explore fully and instead I picked a single theme that interested me (in this case Superheroes) and resolved to write a load of little flash pieces about it, which worked fantastically. Planning to do more than one story on the subject eased up the pressure to make sure I was covering everything in each piece, so I could be more focused. Working in a subgenre with very clear rules and conventions gave a nice iceberg effect where I only had to show the 10% above water and the reader could collude in the other 90%. And it doesn't hurt that the subgenre is, by its very nature, picaresque (look at me, using grown up writer words!). Detective fiction probably would have worked well for this too.

Also, there was a point at which I typed the words “the office building was over-run by inter-dimensional werewolves,” and I stopped and sat back in awe of the revelation that I really could write ANYTHING. Anything at all. No matter how silly or irrelevant. It didn't have to make any damn sense whatever. I was completely free. It was awesome.

(It might seem to the casual observer like this was something I already knew or believed, which is true as well as not. One can certainly believe something full and still be surprised when confronted with the profound truth of an already held conviction.)


Anyway, I had a great time, and that's really the most important thing I get out of Mays. Sometimes it's so easy to get caught up in craft and seriousness that one can forget what riotous fun a good bit of writing can be.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Unburied Treasures!

Lydia Kurnia and Erika Wilson have put together a fantastic anthology of stories from myself and several other long time writer friends. It's $2 on Amazon, and it can be yours right now!

Aside from the stories inside from Daniel Ausema, Barbara A Barnett, Nyki Blatchly, Lindsey Duncan, Indigo Dylis, Jonathan Pembroke, Erika Wilson, Lydia Kurnia, and myself, I want to draw your attention to this fantastic cover, which is the fine work of Lydia Kurnia and Armando Barnaba, and contains references and nods to every single story in the book. Seriously, if you're looking here and thinking "hey, I could really use a cover for my next book or magazine" go talk to these people. They're amazing. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Vignettes from the End of the World!

Vignettes from the End of the World is now out! With the awesome tag-line: "This is how the world ends. Not in a bang, but in a book."


58 individual apocalyptic flash pieces, including one by me. Do go enjoy it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Some Math

Today, my insane project was to try to figure out about how many speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) stories are published per year at a pro rate.

Obviously this count is not remotely scientific.

Counts here are derived from using reported frequency of publication times either the number of stories in the last issue or the average number of stories in the last set of issues. Question marks are presented when content updates on an irregular schedule, even if it's frequent. This count excludes anthologies (even annuals), magazines for children, stuff open only to Australians or Canadians, and magazines set around a shared pre-set world. It does, however, include magazines which are not currently accepting submissions, magazines open mostly to Canadians and Australians, magazines with narrowly themed issues, some magazines that have only put out one or two issues, and some magazines that have missed an issue or two. The count does not include novellas and novelettes, as a rule, though several of the bigger magazines totally do these. It doesn't generally include flash either, though there's a big giant asterisk on that generally for Daily Science Fiction, which publishes 260 stories a year and tends toward low word count.

Again, I want to stress. These are rough numbers. This is a guess.

AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review- ????
Analog- 12x a year 6 short stories- 72
Apex- monthly 6 stories- 72
Asimov's- 12 x 6- 72
Beneath Ceaseless Skies- 26 x 2- 52
Cemetery Dance- 6 x 10 - 60
ChiZine- ???
Clarkesworld- 12 x 6 = 72
Crossed Genres- 12 x 3 =36
Daily Science Fiction- 260 x 1 = 260
Escape pod- 52 x 1 = 52
Fantasy and Science Fiction- 6 x 10 = 60
Fog Horn* - 12 x 4 = 48
Inscription*- 12 x 1 =12
Jamais Vu - 4 x about 7 =28
Lightspeed -12 x 10 = 120
Lore -  2 x 9 = 18
Musa - 12 x 5 = 60
Nightmare - 12 x 4 = 48
One Buck Horror- ? x 6 = ??
Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show- 4 x 5.5= 22
Phobos - ?? x 15= ?
Shimmer- ? x ???= ?
Shock Totem- 2 x 13= 26
Strange Horizon- 36 x 1.75 = 63
Tor 12 x 5 = 60
Unlikely Story- 3 x 6 - 18
Waylines- 6 x 3.75 = 22.5
Wily Writers- ??

So. 1353.5, even without the magazines I didn't get a total for.

There (probably) are AT LEAST one thousand three hundred and fifty three professional rate speculative fiction stories published every year.

That's not an exact number (it's not even a whole number). But it is a big number.

That number's slightly less big when you look at the tables of contents and see Stephen King, Ted Chiang, Neil Gaiman, Laid Barron, Joe Hill, Michael Swanwick, Jack Ketchum, and other big pretty names on the front covers. But it's still a big number.

It's a big enough number to sneak away a tiny fragment of, certainly. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Shakespeare in the Bush

 “You Americans,” said a friend, “often have difficulty with Shakespeare. He was, after all, a very English poet, and one can easily misinterpret the universal by misunderstanding the particular.”

Shakespeare in the Bush is Laura Bohannan's classic anthropological field-notes-turned-parable about trying to paraphrase Hamlet for her West African Tiv hosts. I read this back in college and loved it, and recently it came up in discussion and I read it again, and thought "well this is a thing I should share on my blog."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"Privilege at the Classics Cafe"

Rachel K. Jones gives us a parable about unpalatable parts of (cult) classic literature. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Latest Podcast Recommendations

Right, so it's been over a year. Here are some new podcast recommendations, if you're coming to me for that sort of thing, which, you never know, you might be.

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History- War! Tactics! Great Men! National Character! Will Durant! This podcast is everything I'm glad no longer dominates standard history curriculum, but as one voice among many it is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. Carlin is an incredibly knowledgeable amateur historian who is madly passionate about what he's doing, and what he's doing is making you feel like you were there, like you knew the people involved. Like you could smell the blood on the wind. These are very long, but if you're writing any kind of epic at all, I recommend you listen to all these twice.

Welcome to Night Vale- It's basically like if Lake Woebegone was set in a Lovecraft story. It's my favorite thing in the world. Bizarro radio drama.

Cody's Cuentos (website is now defunct)- teach yourself Spanish through fairy tales in audio! This one no longer updates, but what's there is pretty useful, and good for an intermediate learner.

Tales to Terrify- it's Starship Sofa, but for horror!

The Coode Street Podcast- Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan interviews top folks, and engage in in depth discussion about Science Fiction.

Terra Incognita Australian Speculative Fiction- What it says on the tin. Antipodal goodness in story bundle format. It's finished up, but there's a lot to listen to in the archives.

WNYC's Radiolab- this will be a series of semi-related journalism pieces centered around an interesting theme. They're mostly human interest stuff, but they're very interesting. A word of caution- this podcast appears to be crafted by audiophile editing students, and so there will be cuts and sound mixing out of all proportion to necessity. But if you can sit through that, it's super fun. Sewage treatment, medical chimerism, interesting brain damage, church for your pets, it's all here.

Knifepoint Horror- Story podcast. Stories are long and slow, but in a good way. It's very slow burn stuff, but it's quite creepy. Like a very good campfire story. It went on a long hiatus, but it appears to be back now.

Geeks' Guide to the Galaxy- John Joseph Adams and David Barr Kirtley do fantastic in depth interviews with genre and media professionals

And of course the increasingly long list of podcasts I have already recommended:

Fiction
Escape Pod - science fiction
Pseudopod - horror
Podcastle- fantasy
Drabblecast- weird short fiction
Clarkesworld- science fiction/fantasy
Beneath Ceaseless Skies- fantasy adventure
Tor.com- fantasy, seems defunct now
The New Yorker- literary fiction with commentary
Bound Off- literary
Cast Macabre- dark, on hiatus
Lightspeed Magazine- science fiction and fantasy (now incorporates what was Fantasy Magazine)
Dark Fiction Magazine- dark, british
Cast of Wonders- young adult, fantasy
Hooting Yard on The Air-  All Frank Key all the Time.
Toasted Cake- weird, flash
Flash Fiction Online- general, flash, seems defunct
Dread Central Station Dreadtime Stories- horror, camp, not updating
Strange Horizons- Science fiction and slipstream, emphasis on underrepresented characters, plus poetry!
Small Beer Press Podcast- stories plus interviews plus beer
Nightmare Magazine- awesome horror
Starship Sofa- science fiction, often classic

Writing/Craft:
 Writing Excuses- fifteen minute topic specific advice
I Should Be Writing- inspiration, interviews, feedback, market analysis. The Good Cop/Bad Cop is a personal favorite.
Locus Roundtable- round table discussions
Odyssey Writing Workshop- lectures from Odyssey
K.M. Weiland's Word Play Podcast- short advice
Roundtable Podcast- long story workshopping plus interviews
Speculate!-story discussion plus interviews

Science Fiction and Fantasy, More Broadly:
SFSqueecast- positive recommendations for books, movies, games, podcasts, comics, and more
Outer Alliance- QUILTBAG issues in Science Fiction

General:
Stuff You Should Know- trivia, various topics
Stuff You Missed In History Class- fun, light, trivial history



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Anti-Economic, Irrational Evolution of Joy

David Graeber examines the intellectual relationship between the assumptions underlying market capitalism and competitive evolution and asks: why are we assuming this?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Metal Albums with Googly Eyes

If you ever felt like you don't understand postmodernism in art, I feel like this is a good primer. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ted Chiang Interview

Why yes, I am going to post every single one of these I find. Man's a genius and he says some interesting things about process here. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Rejectomancy

C. C. Finlay dissects the results of the two week long experiment in which Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine was open to electronic submissions. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Looking at Workshop Options

I've only ever heard one person say they were dissatisfied with their Clarion experience, and that person indicated it was mainly the personality mixture of the group (though I guess you do always hear stories about the people Harlan Ellison has sent to the hospital with panic attacks). Everybody else has sworn by it.

Everybody keeps saying it's two years or more worth of writing experience crammed into six weeks. And as someone who knows they need to get better and wants it to happen sooner, I covet that.

I very rarely want expensive things. Expensive things- ipads, nice cars, boats, giant houses- float distantly above me like big puffy clouds, so that I can look at them and admire them in a sort of aesthetic fashion, but never expect to touch or interact with them. Actually wanting something stratospherically expensive is a new sensation for me.

I cried when I found out how much Clarion cost. Cried. Like a child. It was ridiculous. I was finally in a situation where I wouldn't lose my job and my apartment if I went somewhere for six week, and until I'd cleared that hurdle, it hadn't seemed important to look at the price.

With time having taken the burn of the idea that this is a thing I simply can't ever have, I figured I'd go back through more calmly and see if maybe there's a way to get it after all. What follows is going to be a series of numbers and figures, so if you're into that, enjoy yourself, if not, thank you for reading this far.

Clarion

Writers in residence:
Gregory Frost
Geoff Ryman
Catherynne Valente
N.K. Jemisin
Ann VanderMeer
Jeff VanderMeer
which is awesome. 

Cost:
$65 application fee
$4957 workshop fee (includes housing and meals)
miscellaneous "incidental expenses"

$5,022+ total plus travel expenses. 

Potential Scholarships:
...huh. Clarion is incredibly coy about how much their scholarships are actually worth. They "range in size from $100 to over $3000, though most are between $500 and $1500." Of the 14 potential scholarships listed I'm eligible for 10 based on my race, age, student status, and county of origin. Which, given the information available, is as little as $1000 out of those $5000 dollars, or as much as $30,000, but probably between $5000 and $15000, assuming I were to take all 10. Further Google-Fu isn't turning up any specific amounts on most of the scholarships, though I did find someone who mentions receiving $500 on the Marjorie and Walter Farrell Scholarship but not finding out how much they would receive from aid and scholarship until after classes started, which is.... not ideal from a financial planning standpoint. 

Okay, so looking at this another way, there are typically 18 students accepted, with some amount of scholarships that could pay a full ride for between 0.2 and 6 of those students (but probably 1 to 3), or between 0.01% and 30% of the expenses for each (but probably 0.05% to 15%).

So. There's a notification of scholarship awards March-April, with a hard final date of pulling out with a refund of April 30th (the full balance of the $5,022 being due two weeks after acceptance and conceivably before you find out how much scholarship you're getting... and it looks like well before you scholarships pay out.)

Verdict:
Okay. So there is enough scholarship money that I could conceivably do this if I won enough scholarships, which is by no means a set thing, but I would have to pay the balance in credit before I found out if I could do it, and drop out and reapply later if I didn't get more than half the cost in scholarships, which would require me to be both better and needier than 17 other Clarion-eligible writers. Verdict: dubious.


Clarion West

Instructors:
Paul Park
Kij Johnson
Ian Mcdonald
Hiromi Goto
Charlie Jane Anders
John Crowley

Cost:
$40 application fee
$3600 (including room and most board)

Scholarships:
Wow, okay, this is much more useful information. 7 full housing and tuition scholarships our of 18 students (Eight if you count the Octavia Butler one, which I'm not eligible for). One additional full tuition, two partial tuitions, and one each for disabled and New York people. That's incredibly encouraging.

Verdict:
This actually looks pretty do-able. Significantly cheaper in the first place and with a much better idea of what scholarship money is available. Still couldn't go without a scholarship, but it looks like at least a third of the people going are going to get one. 


Odyssey

Lecturers:

Melanie Tem
Steve Rasnic Tem
Catherynne Valente
Elizabeth Hand
Alexander Jablokov
Delia Sherman
Ellen Kushner
Gordon Van Gelder

Cost
$35 application fee plus postage 
$1965 tuition
$100 textbook
$812 housing (food not included)
$400-600 suggested food budget

$3312-3512+ plus travel expenses

Scholarships:
Full tuition, $500, and $300 awarded to character writers
$2500 available from HWA (deadline passed)
$750 for work study

Verdict:
Cheaper, overall, which is nice, but much lighter on the scholarships. Possibly worth waiting the year anyway, and applying for that HWA grant. 

So I guess, at the end, it's nice to feel like going to one of these is actually possible, if still unlikely. Clarion West looks like the best chance, or, if I can get another pro-horror publication of size between now and next year, trying for the HWA scholarship at Odyssey. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Oldest Living Cancer Genome

I tactfully did not title this post "Dog Genital Cancer" even though that's what the article is about. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Finding Naomi Mitchison

Amal El-Mohtar talks about discovering one of Tolkien's lesser known contemporaries. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

On Coming Off Hiatus

When I looked on several of my writing friends' year end round ups, it was comforting to see I wasn't the only one who had experienced a bit of a dry spell this winter. For both happy and sad reasons (and sometimes no reasons at all), there have been multiple weeks over these last few months where I wrote nothing at all. I'm not one of those people who will tell you that if you're not waking up every morning excited to write, you shouldn't be writing, but at the same time I spent a lot of time looking back over the amount of time I was doing literally anything else and it's been an uncomfortably powerful argument against me being any type of writer at all.

(I want to get in right here and pre-empt any sympathy responses here. I'm not saying that because I want cheering up. I'm just trying to talk honestly about what's going on in my head.)

For the last year, I've had both weekly and monthly goals. I fell short of both much more often than I hit them, which was discouraging because, while I designed them specifically to be a stretch, they were things I knew I could do. I also let some small things get to me last year, and outweigh the frankly larger portion of awesome things that have happened.

In terms of big things, someone I love very much died, and I've been told I'm not cutting myself enough slack about my productivity in the wake of that.

I'm doing better so far for January. Part of that is that I'm cutting myself a bit more slack, and doing a bit more playing in areas of my writing where I feel comfortable and competent- speed writing from prompts. Part of it is recognizing that while I feel like I didn't do much with the last third of my year, 2013 saw more publications for me than all previous years combined. Part of it is knowing that while I finished fewer stories this year, the some of the ones I did finish are among the best I've ever written. And a large part of it is recognizing that I spent a huge part of this year beating my head against aspects of writing (long form, rewriting, etc) that are my weakest areas- and while I'm still not great at them, I've vastly improved.

It's hard, sometimes to find the balance. I want to be critical of myself. I don't believe I'll improve if I'm not. But there's a narrow line between productively critical and self-flagellation. I'm also trying to be more trusting of myself and more intuitive, but there's always the danger of that leading to a rut of safe, lazy choices.

It's 2014. It's a new year. The bibliography's updated. There's a new blog post. I have a deadline list. I've already hit some of my targets.

This year I'm going to try my damnedest to hit them all.