Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Interests

Today we are supposed to discuss our interests. Since I’m not particularly interested in að dansa or að iþrotta (sports) I looked up the things I was interested in. You’ve already learned the term for puppet from me, so here’s a new one.

Ég hef áhuga á vísindaskáldskapum.
Translation: I am interested in science-fiction.
[audio:sciencefiction.mp3]

A Writer’s Vanity – Hunting for Hubris

Jason Sizemore, at Apex Digest, has been very supportive of me and of Shimmer. This was on his blog today.

A Writer’s Vanity – Hunting for Hubris

This is my own personal horror story. In it, I play the guy whose pride won’t let him ask for help when he sees that he needs it. I might have waited too late, even now. Hubris can be a complicated personality trait. It’s one that I’m struggling with at the moment.

See, I’m having to come out to the public that Apex Digest needs help. That I need help. Like, within two weeks.

Those who know me that my hubris is a personality flaw.

But this damn magazine means too much to me.

The story starts out well. A nice guy, me, starts a science-fiction and horror magazine. He loves it. He puts his own money into it. To his delight, the critics respond well to the stories. It goes into Barnes and Nobles. It starts breaking even. Who cares if he has some debt from starting it? He’s paying that back and things are golden. He is proud of his magazine.

You see where this is going, don’t you? The word “pride” is your cue that things are about to go south.

This nice guy loses his job. He has four months of unemployment, but he keeps putting the magazine out. That small debt starts to get bigger. But he keeps his writers and artists paid and delivers the magazine on time. The printer is understanding and lets him slide on payments.

If the nice guy had asked for help then, he wouldn’t have needed to slide on payments. But he has a lot of pride and thinks he couldtough it out. Then the nice guy gets a new job, which proves his point. He starts paying down the debt to his printer.

If this weren’t a horror story that would be the happy ending. There would be butterflies and fuzzy kittens. But this is a horror story.

We never see the printer’s POV, so we don’t know why the email is sent. All the nice guy knows is that the printer wants all of the money and wants it now. He doesn’t have it.

At the moment, I don’t know how this story will end.

All of Apex’s distributors rightfully expect their copies of the magazine within the next couple of weeks. Apex subscribers rightfully expect their copies within the next couple of weeks.

If I fail to get Apex #7 out to the distributors and subscribers, the story ends. I’ve begged and borrowed as much as I can. Now I’m dropping my pride and admitting that I need help publicly. I need 200 new subscribers to create the revenue required to pay off the debt to the printer.

Tell me how my story ends. Think of this as one of those “choose your own adventures.”

Do you buy a subscription?

Apex Shopping Mall

I’ve renewed my subscription and picked up extra copies of Issue Six, which has Cerbo en Vitra Ujo in it. If you have any doubts, you should also read Maggie’s article on her blog about karma and publishing.

Pulp goldmine

The Stars My DestinationWe biked to the Kolaport today because the weather is gorgeous. In the course of browsing, I found a booth that was selling off someone’s entire collection of science fiction. 500 kronur for seven books. I managed to limit myself to seven, which was not easy.

I now have first printings of:
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, which was originally 35 cents.
The Planet Buyer by Cordwainer Smith, which is billed as “Something New in Science-Fiction!”
Falling Free Lois McMaster Bujold
Some Will Not Die by Algis Budrys

Danger PlanetI also picked up three books just for fun. The Big Book of Science Fiction, Stories of Detection and Mystery, and one genuinely pulpy novel, Danger Planet by Brett Sterling.

The cover copy on Danger Planet is priceless.

Introducing Captain Future
ONE STRONG MAN BATTLING THE GALAXIES OF EVIL

On the back it says:

One million years back in the swirling, shrouded past, evil ultra-beings ruled Planet Roo. Suddenly, unbelievably, they are alive again, threatening the universe with total destruction.

Only one man dares challenge the Evil Ones. He is Captain Future, inter-galactic agent of justice, whose identity is top secret, whose strength is ultimate. He sets out alone to stop the deathless menace creeping ever closer. . .

Could you leave that on the table? I sure couldn’t.

Reading Aloud 7: Breathing

This entry is part 7 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

In puppetry we say that breathe carries the emotion. The only time a person notices another person breathing is when it’s important, when it’s carrying information. The simplest example is what happens when you look at someone lying down. You automatically notice if they are breathing, to make certain they aren’t dead.

But there are other things that breath comunicates. If you see someone, whose chest is heaving then you know that he’s just exherted himself. Laughter is a form of breath. And how many characters do you know who have gasped in surprise. The quality of breath indicates how someone feels.

When you are performing a character this is good to remember, but it’s also important to remember when you are speaking as yourself or as the narrator. If your breath comes rapidly, you will convey an unconcious sense of panic to the audience. So let’s talk about how to breathe while speaking.

This is a fairly mechanical way to remember, but it is where I breathe and will help your reading in general. Breathe after every period. If it’s just a quick catch breath, then you’ll convey a sense of urgency so think about whether that’s appropriate. Besides improving the flow of oxygen, it will force you to pause after periods which is generally a good idea.

Really, what I’m asking you to do is to inhale before beginning your next sentence. It’s something you do naturally when you speak or act, because your brain a) stops to gather its thoughts or b) knows how much air you need for the next sentence so it catches it.

The period acts as a stop sign. While you are in that tiny space between sentences, read ahead quickly with your eyes. You’re cueing your brain on how big of a breath it needs to take.

You are also setting the emotional tone for your piece. A thoughtful passage might have longer pauses, while a shorter one will be more clipped with less space for breath. You know when you’re writing an action sequence and reach for the shorter sentence? In part you are doing that because it gives the impression of faster breaths. Allow me to demonstrate. I’ll read the same passage with even breaths and then again with faster ones. Naturally, this affects pacing in general.

Normal:
[audio:dullcomputer.mp3]

Frantic:
[audio:franticcomputer.mp3]

See how much the tone changes by picking up the tempo?

So, unless your fiction is full of spine-tingling thrills, remember to breathe. In some ways, you can think of that space between sentences as the space for thought. The more the thought changes between sentences, the more space you’ll want to allow for it.

And really pause for a couple of nice good breaths at section breaks. Not only do you deserve the oxygen, you also are cueing the listeners that things are changing.

Of course, in an ideal world, this would only be for cold readings. You will have practised this at home and will have built the breaths in. In fact, when you are preparing your manuscript for reading, you can use the singer’s mark for breath. Put an oversize apostrophe anywhere you know that you really need to take a breath for the emotional content of the piece.

And deep breath before you go on stage, just to get rid of the tension.

Now. Here’s a special treat, just for Jason. One more way that breath can change a reading.
[audio:sexycomputer.mp3]

For Solo Cello, op. 12

I need a couple of readers for this before I submit it. 1450 words, science-fiction. Any takers?

His keys dropped to the floor. Julius stared at them, unwilling to look at his outstretched left arm. At the bandaged stump where his hand had been two weeks ago. He should be used to it by now. He should not still be trying to pass things from his right hand to his left.

The shaking started again. Julius pressed his right hand–his only hand, against his mouth so he did not vomit on the floor and breathed through his nose, reaching for calm. He imagined playing through Belparda’s Étude No. 1. It focused on bowing, on the right hand. When he was ten, Julius had learned it on a cello as big as he had been. The remembered bounce of the bow against the strings pulsed in his right hand.

He tried not to think about the fingering.

“Jules, are you all right?” Cheri’s voice made him jump.

Krafla, Mývatn and Glaumbær

Krafla We left Dettifoss and rejoined the Ring Road heading back west. On the way we passed by Krafla, which Rob was very interested in for the geothermal power. None of my photos do justice to this giant science-fiction landscape. On one side of the valley, the hills are barren, on the other side, they are lush green. Steam vents everywhere, and a creek winds across the landscape with steam blowing off of it. Amid the endless pipelines, sheep wander. We headed up the mountain under an arch of pipes. Seriously, they’ve arched the pipelines over the road like a gateway.

At the top, we peeked at Víti which is a giant geothermal lake. Apparently people will make their way down the sides of the bowl to paddle, but it didn’t appeal to us. The sides are really, really steep. While I’m sure that the climb down is fine, climbing out sounded less than relaxing.

Cowshed Cafe
We went from there to Mývatn which means Midge Lake. The small midges are so thick that it honestly looks like steam swirling around. Fortunately, this is not the case at the Cowshed Cafe. It’s a delightful little cafe in a, yes, cowshed. They still use the cow-shed for milking and make ice cream on the premises. The day was sunny and hot. I was wishing I had a short-sleeved shirt with me. For lunch, I tried two of the local specialties, a smoked salmon and hverabrauð. Hverabrauð is a very dense black rye bread which is baked in an underground oven. In several places in the region, the ground is so hot that if you put dough underground it will steam and become bread. Astonishing. The salmon was also tasty, although I had to put the process by which it is made out of my mind. Because of the shortage of wood here, for the smoking they use sheep dung.

Yes. You read that right. Sheep dung.

GlaumbaerFrom there on, we had nothing remarkable until we reached Varmahlið, where we detoured about 5km off the ringroad to head up to
Glaumbær, a farm established in 1000 and in active use until 1947. Remarkably, the buildings are constructed of turf, clearly it’s not 1000 year old turf, but apparently a well-constructed turf building can last a century or more. This was the most amazing place to tour. I highly recommend it, should you find yourself in Iceland.

GlaumbaerAmong other things, the curators have not installed any artificial lighting so you get a good sense of what it was like to live there. To my surprise, it was not as dark as one would think a dirt house would be. In fact the main living area was positively sunny. As they explained in the brochure, the women slept and worked on the side of the room with the windows because their work required more light. The other thing I had not expected was that it was virtually soundproof. You would not hear marauding raiders easily if you were inside a turf house. There are more photos here.

From there, we headed back to Reykjavik. Ah, home.

More science fiction in real life

Wired News: It’s Alive (ish)

When Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” the philosopher probably didn’t imagine a stamp-sized clump of rat neurons grown in a dish, hooked to a computer.

Following the article back to the home of the project, NeuroLab > Potter Group, I learned about Meart.

Meart (Multi-Electrode Array art) is a hybrot built in collaboration with the Symbi-oticA Research Group. The project explores epistemological, ethical and aesthetical issues concerning the use of living neurons for ethno-centric end.

The Semi living artist
Its ‘brain’ of dissociated rat neurons is cultured on an MEA in our lab in Atlanta while the geographically detached ‘body’ lives in Perth. The body itself is a set of pneumatically actuated robotic arms moving pens on a piece of paper.

Shimmer Summer issue on sale

Shimmer

Summer 06 cover

The Summer 2006 issue of Shimmer: Available August 1.

Heat makes the air shimmer. It’s too damn hot to write marketing text. Buy a copy of the Summer 2006 Shimmer. Read it.

Why? 8 new stories, art, and an interview with writing team Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta.

Angela Slatter, Tom Pendergrass, Paul Abbamondi, and Marina T. Stern return with stories of books, bureaucracy, blood, and heartbreak. Amal El-Mohtar and Stephen Moss make their fiction debuts. Beverly Jackson tells a fish tale, and Michael Livingston talks about gnomes. (Check out our Featured Author page to hear Michael read the story.)

Bonus: after reading, the print version works as a fan! Our pdf readers are on their own.

Okay, so the heat wave hasn’t hit Iceland, but for the rest of you this all holds true. Go buy the magazine. Better yet, subscribe.

Summer 2006 issue of Shimmer is now on sale

Keeping honest

To keep myself honest, I’ve decided that every day I will post the first and last sentence of whatever I’ve written that day, along with the wordcount. I’m finding it too easy to get distracted by work and other bright, shiny things.

So, starting with today. I’ve begun a new science-fiction short called, The Bride Replete
First:

When the matriarch announced that she was sending Pimi’s family across the ocean to settle in Repp-Virja, Pimi thought it the end of her life.

Last:

The captain lowered a special winch to bring Jirir on board as it was impossible for him to navigate the narrow plank spanning the gap between the dock and the boat.

225 words–wow. I felt more productive than that. Clearly, this guilt thing is going to be a good motivator.

Readercon, Day 3

Waking up was hard. I had planned on going to the ten o’clock panel, but by the time we checked out and put our luggage in the car it was 10:30. We wound up catching up with some folks and chatting until the eleven o’clock panels started.

I went to the Interstitial Arts discussion, which was talking fiction that falls between the cracks of genre. I have to say, that I felt as if I were hearing conversations about the role of puppetry in the larger theater context. Puppetry tried to coin the term “figure theater,” which some people still use, to suggest puppetry for adults. I think that coming up with a term is not about creating the art or fiction, but about trying to expand audience. The most effective things that puppetry has been doing to expand its audience is to work to become incorporated into mainstream fiction. Take Lion King, it’s a great big puppet show, but no one thinks of it that way. They think of it as theater which incorporates puppetry and mask. Even so, it opened up Broadway to Avenue Q. So to me, it makes the most sense for someone whose fiction falls between the cracks to say, “I write fiction which incorporates elements of fantasy, science fiction and…” or “I write literary fiction through the lens of classical mythology.” I mean, why make up a new term knowing the definition will shift? Why not just make the definition shift of the existing words?

Anyway. After that, I went to a panel called, “Social Class and Speculative Fiction.” The program description said, “Any completely satisfactory imaginary world will include some sort of class structure (not necessarily rigid or hierarchical), or an explanation for its absence. Are all novels without social class utopian by definition?” I thought this sounded very interesting, but the moderator shifted the focus to the mythology of social mobility in America. While this is an interesting topic, it is not what I came to hear. It was frustrating. China Mieville did touch briefly on some things about the myth of the single protagonist that causes great societal change. Which made me want to ask a question I’ve long wondered about, but I couldn’t get it in so I’ll ask it here. Why there are so few small-scale fantasy novels? I mean, it’s all “the pig boy who became king,” why aren’t there more novels which are “the pig boy who fell in love with the miller’s daughter?” The same for science fiction. Everything seems to be about “the fate of the universe,” but clearly it is possible to support novels with smaller personal stories, or the vast majority of literary fiction wouldn’t exist. What is it about the speculative genres which encourages these sweeping plots?

I had lunch outside with Joy. It’s so nice to eat outside. Ah, warmth.

During the lull after I ate, I took advantage of the hotel shuttle to run to the mall and pick up shoes for the wardrobe department. It was interesting watching the sales clerks try to figure out why I was asking about a shoe size which I clearly did not wear.

David Louis Edelman
David Louis Edelman
Once I had the shopping finished, I went back to the hotel to say goodbye to everyone. David Louis Edelman offered to share the cab that he and John Scalzi were taking to the airport. This was the best offer I got all weekend. David is funny, charming and a real gentleman.
John Scalzi
John Scalzi
Scalzi was ridiculous, fun and if you can make him blush, the tips of his ears turn red. The conversation ranged from astronomy to Civil War to book tours to the World Cup. And then they had to catch a plane.

I spent the time waiting for my plane catching up on email and instant messaging. I was so tired it hurt. I got lucky on the plane. I had asked for a window seat, so I could lean against the wall and sleep. Instead, I got a seat in the middle aisle but no one else was in my row. As soon as we reached cruising altitude, I stretched out across all three seats and slept.

Submissions, updated

Short Fiction

Locked In – Samuel, a man afflicted with ALS and locked inside his body, has hopes of communicating when his son brings home the BioDym 3000.

Ginger Stuyvesant and the Case of the Haunted Nursery – In 1924, a young American heiress uses her powers as a medium to solve a haunting in an English Manor house.

Waiting for Rain – In India, a winemaker has beggared himself to pay for his daughter’s wedding and can no longer pay his weather bills.

Body Language – Near-future. Saskia, a puppeteer, is called in to help solve a kidnapping because the only witness is eDawg, a toy for which she did the motion-capture work. The kidnappers demand that the ransom be sent in on eDawg, and Saskia has to manipulate the puppet while pretending to be nothing more than a toy.

Some Other Day – Josie’s father managed to rid the world of mosquitoes when she was little. The unintended consequences still affect both the adult Josie and the world.

Trip, Trap, Tripping – The three Billy Goats Gruff retold in a NY walk-up, with a single mother and her tap-dancing daughters as the goats, and the guy downstairs as the troll. (I want to do a series of these, but darn, where do I market them?)

My Friend Anna – 61 word flash involving a tapeworm, bathtub and pregnancy.

Horizontal Rain – A New York contractor discovers that his job in Iceland is being held up because the crew believes in trolls.

Birthright – Near-future flash. In a world with severe birth control regulations, a couple has to decide whether to give up their birthright in exchange for enough money to finish college.

Death Comes But Twice – Epistolary short. A Georgian-era Doctor has discovered a cure for death, but it only works for twenty-four hours.

The Promise of Chocolate – An unhappy single mother makes cupcakes for her son’s birthday. One of them contains cyanide.

Changed Itinerary – UFOlogist is abducted by aliens.

Salt of the Earth
– On a sodium-poor world, where every scrap of salt is saved, a salt merchant’s daughter is killed by a salt-overdose.

Chrysalis : The Husiths undergo Chrysalis to become an adult, but the enzymes involved in the process scramble their memories. As a culture, they are obsessed with documenting their pupaehood, which is when the serious work takes place, before becoming a playful adult. Geroth is determined to put off his Chrysalis so he can finish his mathmatical treatise. He hires a human documentarian to help him retain his memories after Chrysalis.

Novel

Journey to the East: The Legend of the Monkey King YA Novel – Two American kids find themselves caught up in the oldest legend in China as they struggle to rescue their baby sister from the Bone

Happy mail day

I got a big batch of mail from the U.S. today. I got my copies of Apex Digest, which was a lot of fun. The folks in the green room are reading it and making various horrified faces. It’s fun.

At the opposite end of the writing spectrum, I also got my official acceptance letter from Cicada.

Some excerpts which particuarly made me smile.

Thank you for sending ‘This Little Pig’ for our consideration. It’s a refreshing departure from the usual dark, futuristic fiction we see and we are delighted to accept your story for CICADA. A Danish pig farm may not smell great, but in terms of setting, it’s a breath of fresh air!

She went into some technical stuff and then closed with:

I’ll look forward to hearing from you! And when you reply, would you answer a burning question: have you personally worked on a Danish pig farm? We are so curious.”

Nope. My grandfather was a hog farmer, but the rest was all research.

Anyway, the combination of the two pieces of mail had me grinning like an idiot. I guess it’s the actor in me that needs some form of external validation to believe that I’m really any good at a thing. Although I’ve sold stories before, I somehow forget that until the next acceptance letter comes or I get to see the story in print. Know what I mean?

Cheesy, I suspect, but there it is.

Now, I’m off to read the rest of the stories in Apex.

Wired News: You Dirty, Healthy Rat

Wired News: You Dirty, Healthy Rat

Gritty rats and mice living in sewers and farms seem to have healthier immune systems than their squeaky clean cousins that frolic in cushy antiseptic labs, two studies indicate. The lesson for humans: Clean living may make us sick.

The studies give more weight to a 17-year-old theory that the sanitized Western world may be partly to blame for soaring rates of human allergy and asthma cases and some autoimmune diseases, such as Type I diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. The theory, called the hygiene hypothesis, figures that people’s immune systems aren’t being challenged by disease and dirt early in life, so the body’s natural defenses overreact to small irritants such as pollen.

See, Mom. All those times I didn’t clean my room, I was promoting a healthy lifestyle choice.

Challenged immune systems — such as kids who grow up with two or more pets — don’t tend to develop as many allergies, said Dr. Stanley Goldstein, director of Allergy & Asthma Care of Long Island.

Thank heavens, you let me have a cat when I was five or I’d be doomed now. Good thing you’ve got Buster for the grandkids.

Parker said he hopes to build a 50-foot artificial sewer for his next step, so that he could introduce the clean lab rats to an artificial dirty environment and see how and when the immunity was activated.

That may be the biggest thing to come out of the wild and lab rodent studies, Platt said: “Then all of a sudden it becomes possible to expose people to the few things (that exercise the immune system) and gives them the benefit of the dirty environment without having to expose them to the dirt.”

Ooo! I think I may have just found the trigger for my next science-fiction story.