My flight was further delayed, but that was just fine. I sat down and this charming gentleman settled into the seat next to mine. I noticed that his reading material was Naomi Mitchison’s Travel Light, from Small Beer Press. Naturally, this merited comment, as it made it almost certain that he was also coming from WisCon.
Indeed. My seatmate was Ron Serdiuk from Pulp Fiction Press out of Australia. We knew so many people in common that it was almost comic that we hadn’t met before. The flight seemed almost too short, so we shared a cab into the city.
I must say, I was not expecting the flight home to be one of the highlights of the trip, but it was.
The next highlight happened at home. My beloved husband had picked up season three of Battlestar Galactica. And Chinese food. Mmm…
Half-consciously, Kim put a hand up to cover her new nose ring. She knew it pissed her parents off no end that she could tolerate cold iron and they couldn’t, not like there was that much iron in a nose ring.
It still made her break out sometimes, but didn’t burn her like it did them. “Kimberly Anne Smith,” Mom’s voice caught her in the foyer as surely as if she’d been called by her true name. “I’ve been worried sick. Do you know what time it is?”
“11:49.” Kim dropped her hand and turned to face Mom, her Doc Martens making a satisfactory clomping sound on the hardwood floor. “I’m here. Home before midnight. No one with me.” Sometimes she thought about bringing friends home to show them what her parents really looked like after their glamour dropped.
So a funny thing happened on my way to Wiscon. I mentioned that my flight was oversold and I volunteered to go on a later flight, right? The airline gave me a food voucher so I wandered over to the nearest kiosk. As I was standing in line, a woman said, “Mary Robinette Kowal!”
I turned, in some surprise. She looked familiar, but I couldn’t immediately place her so I cleverly said, “Um… yes!”
“I’m [editor]. I just had lunch with your agent.”
My jaw dropped. She’d spotted my name on my luggage tag as we were standing in line. And this, my friends, is a good reason to have a distinctive name.
We realize that we’d actually met at World Fantasy last year and ridden back on the same train. This time we did not have the same destination, so running into her was totally random. She was on her way with her boyfriend to spend the weekend with his family. And then she said, “Your manuscript is one of the ones in my bag. It’s sort of Jane Austeny, isn’t it?”
“Jane Austen with magic!” I said.
“What could go wrong with that combination?”
“Well, lots of things go wrong. Chaos ensues. And then matrimony.”
So the lessons learned today are:
Volunteer to be bumped
Distinctive name is good.
Have the elevator pitch ready.
I mean, now I’ve got a free round-trip ticket from the airline and had the bonus of making a connection with an editor right before she reads my manuscript. I think that’s worth the price of being late to WisCon.
IAFAuctions.com is part of the fundraising arm of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, a notâ€“forâ€“profit organization dedicated to the study, support, and promotion of interstitial art.
Currently, we’re auctioning off jewelry based on stories from the first Interfictions anthology.
The story is, in turn, playful and charming, well thought out and deliberate, and Kowal appears to have written her own version of an O Henry story.
O’Henry was really my first love in the world of short stories. Sure, I’d read others and enjoyed them. Really, my first love should have been Ray Bradbury, but I think O’Henry captured me because his stories were deceptively simple. There were no elements of wonder, like Martians or rocket ships, just people living ordinary lives. And then, with one turn of phrase, he could change the entire meaning of everything you’ve read. When people want to write twist endings, what they really want is to write an O. Henry story.
Jason Sizemore, editor of Apex Digest, is holding a subscription drive. Since I’m in the next issue, I have a vest interest in helping him get the 150 new subscribers he wants. Like science-fiction and horror? Then this is your magazine.
Subscriptions are a measly $20 for 4 issues in the US. $24 for Canada/Mexico. $34 for the rest of the world.
We’ve re-initiated the APEX FOR LIFE subscription option that gives you Apex until you die. This goes for $100.
If you’re interested in the magazine, but want to check it out before taking out a subscription, then take a look through our ample back catalog.
Or, heck, if you’re wanting to show your support but not necessarily want a subscription, check out our ample back catalog.
Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Evil Robot Monkey” is an affecting snapshot in the life of a chimp with an implant in his head that increases his intelligence. Unfortunately for him, that lands him in the “hellish limbo” of being “too smart to be with other chimps, but too much of an animal to be with humans.” He becomes the subject of ridicule of children in what is presumably a school where he spends his time behind a pottery wheel. The interesting premise is delicately overlaid with emotion by having a single human show the chimp some compassion, resulting in a quick-and-dirty sf short story that is both charming and memorable.
One of the many perennial arguments in the science fiction blogosphere centers on the health of the short fiction market, so we turned the Mind Meld microphone to people in the field and asked them:
Q: Nobody questions the relevance of genre short fiction, but there is some debate about the health of the market itself. From your perspective, is the short fiction market in trouble? If not, why the debate? If so, what is the cause?
Jennifer Jackson is answering questions about agenting, on her LJ. And today she was talking about the role of net-working and conferences. It’s worth reading, but she basically says that all the net-working in the world won’t make a difference if the book isn’t good. Then she says:
On the other hand, Elizabeth Bear introduced me to Jay Lake, who in turn set up a meeting with Ken Scholes, and he recommended Mary Robinette Kowal, who became a new client of mine last month. (That makes it Mary’s turn….) So, it certainly has its advantages. They still all had to write really, really, really, really ridiculously good books.
Which set me thinking… See, the thing is, that Ken’s introduction let me jump the slush pile. BUT if I’d sent in my first novel, Jennifer would have rejected me. The novel I signed with is the fourth that I’ve written.
The evolution goes like this:
Novel 0: Took ten years, starting from high school, to write. It is well and firmly trunked. (Shape-shifting cat/human aliens with wings anyone? Did I mention my D&D character has the same name? Yeah… trunk. TRUNK.)
Novel 1: Middle-grade Fantasy – Six months. I think this has potential, but there’s a flaw in the first three chapters that I can’t seem to fix. I sent this out to publishers on my own for a while, and always got requests for partials but no requests for fulls. Now. This is book one in a series. Did I write the second book in the series next? No.
Novel 2: Science Fiction/Murder Mystery – Four months. Better. It needed revisions, so I set it aside to think about before diving into it. Meanwhile, I wrote:
Novel 4: Regency romance/Fantasy – Three months. Good! This immediately felt stronger than the others and I had a clear view of what changes needed to happen. So I didn’t wait on the revisions. This is the one I signed with.
The point being, that it took a while for me to learn to write something salable and that if I’d sent in any of the others, I think I would still be without an agent because those books aren’t there yet. I do think they can be, but the course I chose to take — and mileage varies — was to write novels in several different genres to see which one stuck. I have sequel ideas for all of them, but until I knew that I had a book one that worked, it didn’t make sense to invest time in a string of books in the same world.
At the moment, I’m doing revisions on Novel 2 and continuing to work on short stories. Right now, I’m at a point in my career where I have the luxury of taking a year off from a novel before doing revisions. Since I’m a better writer now than I was a year ago, waiting to revise the novels is like earning interest on my skills. Seriously. I re-read Novel 2 and it was dead easy to see where it had gone astray. The revision process is like swimming downstream.
Now, let’s say that Ken offered to introduce me before I’d written Novel 4. I knew Novel 1 was flawed, so sending it in would have been wasting that opportunity. What’s more, it would have been embarrassing to Ken.
I’m sure that someday I’ll introduce a writer to Jennifer, but I can almost guarantee that it won’t be with their first novel.
Mary Robinette Kowalâ€™s â€œEvil Robot Monkey,â€ the shortest piece in this anthology, is a smart tale about monkeys with implants and a cautionary tale of how intelligence can sometimes be very lonely.
Every sale makes me happy, but some sales really tickle me. This is one is a very happy thing.
My first three sales were to The First Line so I have a very soft spot for them. The magazine has a simple premise. The first line of a story is so important, but if you asked Mark Twain to write a story starting with, “Call me Ishmael,” you would not get Moby Dick. Every story in an issue of the First Line has the same opening line and the stories differ wildly.
So, when the editors contacted me and said that they’d like to use my story, “The Shocking Affair of the Dutch Steamship Friesland,” in their anthology The Best of the First Line I was thrilled. My contributor copy just arrived in the mail. It’s a handsome thing. I’ve just started reading the stories and so far they are good across a wide spectrum of styles.
The clockwork chickadee was not as pretty as the nightingale. But she did not mind. She pecked the floor when she was wound, looking for invisible bugs. And when she was not wound, she cocked her head and glared at the sparrow, whom she loathed with every tooth on every gear in her pressed-tin body.
The sparrow could fly.
He took no pains to conceal his contempt for those who could not. When his mechanism spun him around and around overhead, he twittered — not even a proper song — to call attention to his flight. Chickadee kept her head down when she could so as not to give him the satisfaction of her notice. It was clear to her that any bird could fly if only they were attached to a string like him. The flight, of which he was so proud, was not even an integral part of his clockwork. A wind-up engine hanging from the chandelier spun him in circles while he merely flapped his wings. Chickadee could do as much. And so she thought until she hatched an idea to show that Sparrow was not so very special.
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]