Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Apex Online and Me

Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest has relaunched their online extension.

In this issue, we place the spotlight on Mary Robinette Kowal with an interview and her story “Horizontal Rain.” Apex Publications executive editor Jason B. Sizemore steps up to provide relaunch content with his pagan-based dark fantasy piece “Blue Lights.”

Southern IcelandI’m delighted to be featured and especially to have “Horizontal Rain” up there. It’s one of the two stories that I took out of Iceland with me on my first trip. It’s also my only story where the title came first. A couple of the folks at the company I was working for started a band and had a contest for the band name. I suggested Horizontal Rain, because that’s what the weather was doing outside. We get Horizontal Snow too. Sadly they went with another name, which was so lame I can’t remember it. I loved the word combination and kept thinking that I should write a story to go with it.

The nice thing about Iceland is that really, that title could apply to any story there. The wind is so strong it can push you down. I remember a day when I turned so the wind was at my back. The coat I was wearing had a hood that funneled the air around my head, creating a perfect vortex of stillness in front of my face. I had trouble breathing, as it ripped all the air away from me. This is Iceland. This is where my story is set.

Here’s a teaser of “Horizontal Rain.”

Maxwell Sanders pressed the phone closer to his ear as if that would somehow bring comprehension. “Did you say trolls?”

“Yes, Max.” With her words, he could picture Amalia’s rigid posture.

He ran a hand over his scalp. “I can’t redo the aluminum plant blueprints because your foreman believes in fairytales.”

In the silence, static hissed faintly on the line, reminding him that she was in Iceland. “I know what it sounds like, but eighty percent of the population here believes in fairies, elves, and trolls. So when the foreman tells me they won’t continue construction of the plant because we’re intruding into troll territory I can’t just ignore him.”

“So negotiate.”

She was silent long enough that Max thought he had lost the connection, then her voice crept across the ocean to his office in New York. “I think we’re beyond that.”

Read the rest of the story.

7, Dadaism, Lake and Men

Rob and I recorded Chapter 7 today. We started into Chapter 8, but I realized that because of travel I hadn’t spent enough time with the text and was stripping the meaning from the narrative. Nice. So, Rob trotted off to get us some lunch and I read the chapter aloud to get it more settled. We’ll record 8 and 9 on Saturday.

I got some work done at home and my nephew came online and wanted to chat again. I’m not quite sure what to make of this. He’s writing what I can only describe as Dadaist Science-Fiction.

Then it was off to have dinner with the witty Mr. Lake. He has a shiny red convertible and the weather was perfect.

Rob and I saw Children of Men tonight. Oh, that’s a good film. While I had a very nice date, I can’t recommend this as a date film. It’s very moving, but pretty bleak.

Father and Son, Brother and Nephew

The apple does not fall far from the tree in my family. We tend to have such strongly recognizable stamps from generation to generation that one could accuse us of cloning.

The point here? I went to watch my brother teach World Civ at the local college. He’s good at it, but he’s the kind of zany teacher who makes wise cracks that everyone loves. His lecture on the Byzantine Empire was fast but thorough and I learned stuff I didn’t know. That was cool. HOWEVER I also know that if it wouldn’t get him fired that he’d just lie through his teeth to these kids for the sheer fun of it. I mean, he’d fess up eventually, but the urge to see how far he could push the lie would be very tempting.

This comes to mind now, because I just got off the computer after spending an hour hanging out with my nephew IMing. My nephew enjoys being off the wall just for the sheer fun of it. (I would show you some of his fiction, but he was very quick to claim copyright.) But they also both enjoy being smarter than the other person.

What’d we talk about? I showed him this puzzle, which took me a couple of days the first time I solved it. He just finished it. Now, it’s possible that he found a spoiler sheet, but he also learned to play chess over a weekend from reading a book.

Lord knows when he’ll show an interest in me again, or why he did tonight, but I’ll have another puzzle waiting for him. I’m not even going to try chess.

Apex Publications – Apex Digest Issue #9

Apex Digest #9Apex has released their next issue, which has my story “Locked In.” It looks like a good line up, huh?

“The Sum of His Parts” – Kevin J. Anderson
“The End of Crazy” – Katherine Sparrow
“The Gunslinger of Chelem” – Lavie Tidhar
“Locked In” – Mary Robinette Kowal
“Projector” – Daniel LeMoal
“At the 24-Hour” – William F. Nolan
“Pyramus and Thisbe” – Jeremy Adam Smith
“Sufficently Advanced” – Bev Vincent
“Don’t Show Your Teeth” – Rob D. Smith
“Cain XP11: The Voice of Thy Brother’s Blood (Part 1)” – Geoffrey Girard
“Poppet’s Left Impression” – Brandy Schwan

Parting Shot: “Sonorous” – Paul Abbamondi

“Unspeakable Horrors: The Legacy of Darkness in the Visual Arts of Western Culture” – Deb Taber
“Kill Me Then” – Alethea Kontis

Kevin J. Anderson
Liz Williams

All art in this issue was created by Paul and Mike Bielaczyc of Aradani Studios.

Submitting to non-paying venues

While I’m posting free fiction, I’d also like to say why I generally don’t. I’ve been a puppeteer, professionally, since 1989. When I first started out, I did some freebies for exposure and you know what? I didn’t get a single gig from any of those. I have yet to see a venue that offered exposure as its only form of compensation, which has had any impact on my career.Where I got gigs, was from referrals from people who paid me, even a little.

So, let’s take fiction, which for me, is just one more of my freelance jobs. We all know that advice to start from the top market down, when submitting, right? Now, why do that instead of submitting to a non-paying market while building up your chops?

For me, the bottom line is that one should not be sending out stories unless one thinks they are good enough to appear in a paying magazine. Consider this, if it’s not good enough to appear in a paying magazine but one gets it into a non-paying venue for the exposure, what is being exposed? Work that is not one’s best.

That’s not how one pays dues as a writer. Those get paid by working with critique groups, studying, going to conventions and most importantly, by writing.

So, what if it’s a good story? Then send it to the highest paying magazine that takes that style of story. Otherwise, you’ve given up your First Serial Rights, and there aren’t that many publications that will take a reprint. Basically, what you’ve got now is a good story that’s been used. Imagine trying to sell a used car at new car prices. The moment a story has been published, it loses its value to most other publishers. The publishers of magazines and journals maintain their audiences by presenting material that the audiences can’t get anywhere else, i.e. unpublished stories.

Now, there are cases where a non-paying market is worthwhile. Take the Elemental anthology. That would have been worthwhile because the proceeds went to charity and the authors in the magazine were very high profile, so if you got in, your own stature would rise. But that’s an anthology and a rare exception.

So why did I post my first sale here? Because I think it’s a good story, but it’s a used car now. You know, it’s been around the block and there’s not really a resale market for its model. But I like it, and given a choice between sending it to the landfill and recycling it here, I’ll put it up here. But I thought about it a long time before I did. If I thought there were a resale market, I would have done that first.

Just Right

John Scalzi has posted the first chapter of The Android’s Dream on his website, with the following notice.

Happy March 12! As you all undoubtedly know, March 12 is the day that Coca-Cola was first sold in bottles, which means, for a Coca-Cola fiend such as myself, it’s pretty much a national holiday. As you all are no doubt also aware, it is customary on Coca-Cola Bottling Day for science fiction authors to celebrate by decanting an excerpt of their latest work for their thirsty audiences.

I had been thinking about posting the first story I sold, because I’m fond of it and don’t think there’s a reprint market for it. So in honor of March 12, I decant “Just Right”, my first sale, for you. I sold this to the First Line. I should warn you, it’s not genre fiction so may not qualify for the festivities.

Just Right

“Why are you always so cynical?” Celia asked, as her husband came through the door and headed for the toaster-oven again. She could not help laughing a little while Lou tried to balance his bagel, a cup of coffee and make sure that he had turned the toaster-oven off. Turning back to the cupboards, she set their son’s Cat in the Hat bowl on the table.

Lou shook his head. “I’m not cynical.” He checked the switch again. “I’m cautious. I just wanted to make sure I turned it off after I toasted my bagel.”

She laughed. “Which is fine, love, but you’ve checked it already.”

“Do you know how many houses burn down each year because of toaster-ovens?”

“And this isn’t cynicism?”

Continue reading ›

Voice and Voice

Mental note: Do not have a voice lesson on the same day as booked to record a chapter of audio fiction.

On the other hand, the vocal fatigue probably helped my male characters sound a little deeper.

Actually, the voice lesson was interesting today. We were working on “Summertime” and at the end of it I’m supposed to shoot up to a B and then float there before glissandoing back down. When I’m in shape, it works, but it’s been well over a year since I’ve sung this and I told my voice teacher, Sue, that I thought I sounded more like a whistling teakettle.

She was trying to come up shows where producing a whistling teakettle sound would be useful. I said, “Actually, I was in the Teakettle of Good Fortune.” As we’ve discussed in previous entries, I can’t whistle, at least not the conventional way. So I demonstrated the whistling teakettle sound that I used in the show, which involves saying “Woo!” on a rising scale, and then my voice suddenly pops up to this impossibly high note.

Sue starts laughing and tries to find it on the piano. It’s an A. The one that’s two and a half octaves above middle C. Which is ridiculous. Apparently I’m using what’s called “whistle voice,” to make this sound. It’s when the vocal folds come together down to a little hole and one essentially whistles through them. It’s nice to know what I’ve been doing.

Also, don’t ask me to do this for you at a con (you know who you are) because it’s full volume or nothing.

Edited to add: I realized that I had recorded my voice lesson, so you can listen to the whistling teakettle sound, here.

Audio fiction at Subterranean Online

Ready? Guess which upcoming item at Subterranean Online is the secret project I’ve been referring to.

For two years, Subterranean magazine has brought you the absolute finest in science fiction, fantasy and horror, from names like Harlan Ellison, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Bear, Joe Hill and Cherie Priest. Now Subterranean magazine is moving online — and continuing to bring you the best new fiction as it moves from print to pixels.

Here’s what you can expect from Subterranean Online in the near future:

* An entire novella by Hugo and Nebula Award winner Lucius Shepard

* A full-length original audio-book by Kage Baker

* New and original short fiction from Subterranean Press authors Poppy Z. Brite, Joe Hill, Joe R. Lansdale and John Scalzi

* Columns and opinion from Elizabeth Bear, Norman Partridge and Scott Lynch

* Weekly reviews of the best new fiction from Dorman T. Shindler.

All new, all compelling, all right there on your screen. It’s what you expect from Subterranean magazine — and a taste of what you can expect in the future.

I’ll be recording through next week. Basically, for each hour of listening pleasure, you can figure about five man hours of working time; that’s counting my work and the engineer’s work together. He has to do things like edit out the places where I try to say “Mazaltlan” and come out with “Mazeltlof.”

Now aren’t you wondering how Midsummer Night’s Dream and Mazaltlan both occur in one story? Just you wait. I will tell you, though, that this is a really fun read. I love Kage Baker’s work and this is a hoot.

Cosmos contributor copy arrives!

CosmosI got my contributor copy of Cosmos in the mail and it’s lovely. This marks two firsts for me; first full-size magazine and the first time my name appears on the cover. (It’s in the lower right corner) As promised in their guidelines, there’s a two page spread of art to go with my story, “For Solo Cello, op. 12.” Mmmm… art. In color! Ooo. That’s also a first. My heavens, this issue is full of so much excitement I can’t stand it. Not only that, but the rest of the magazine is really good.

The title of the story comes from a piece of music called, The Cellist of Sarajevo, A Lament for Solo Cello, op. 12 by David Wilde. In my story, I don’t touch on the creation of this piece of music, but it is a fascinating story in its own right.

“On May 27th, 1992, a grenade was thrown into a bread queue at the bakery in the pedestrian precinct Vase Miskina in Sarajevo. Twenty-two people were killed. Every day after this tragedy, the cellist Vedran Smailovi?, until recently with the Sarajevo Opera, went to the spot, in full evening dress, at four o’clock precisely, and risked his own life by playing in memory of the dead, regardless of mortar and machine gun fire and the risk of further grenade attacks. The report by John Burns the New York Times of this heroic musical declaration made an impact more immediate than any political statement up to that time. I first read about it on a train from Nürnberg to Hannover. As I sat in the train, deeply moved, I listened; and somewhere deep within me a cello began to play a circular melody like a lament without end…”

“A circular melody, like a lament without end,” is exactly the right piece of music for my story. Here are the first few lines; please pick up a copy of the magazine and read the rest.

For Solo Cello, op. 12

His keys dropped, rattling on the parquet floor. Julius stared at them, unwilling to look at the bandaged stump where his left 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.

But it still felt like his hand was there.

The shaking began again, a tremelo building in his hand and knees. Julius pressed his right hand–his only hand–against his mouth so he did not vomit on the floor. Reaching for calm, he imagined playing through Belparda’s Étude No. 1. It focused on bowing, on the right hand. Forget the left. When he was eight, 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.

Don’t think about the fingering.

Reading Aloud 14: Stumbling and the Sagan Diary

This entry is part 14 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

Early on, I talked about the importance of selecting the right piece for a reading. Some pieces of fiction naturally lend themselves to being read aloud, while others are meant to stay on the page.

In John Scalzi’s The Sagan Diary, I ran smack into that difference. Scalzi asked me to read the preface, which he wrote as if it were a memo, in addition to chapters which were written as if Jane Sagan were talking.

The preface, though undeniably well-written, was not meant to be read aloud and at times seemed well-nigh unto impossible. Consider that the final cut of the chapter is five minutes, but the raw tape is nine minutes long. Here’s a sample of what the session sounded like.


Yeah. Staggering, isn’t it. That was the worst of them, and this is something that I had practiced before going into the studio.

Let’s look at what’s going on here.

The only data of ana–[stumble. I was expecting the emphasis to fall on a different syllable because in several of the previous paragraphs I had read “analysis.”]

The only datal– [I was focusing on analytical, and moved the L forward.]

The only data of analytical note are Sagan’s notation of The Third Bat–[I thought, Yay! I got past analytical, and then saw “Provence” and didn’t prep for it.]

The only data of analytical note are Sagan’s notation of The Third Battle of Provence and the Special Forces retrieval [stumble] of the Bat– [The first stumble was thinking ahead about Baton Rouge, and the second stumble is that even with thinking ahead, I still didn’t prep for it.]

The only data of analytical note– [Damn. Analytical again.]

The only data of analytical note are Sagan’s notation of The Third Battle of Provence and the Special Forces retrieval [stumble, but I’m trying to bull my way through it] of the Baton Rouge’s [stumble, still trying to fight through] ill-fated Company D, about which of course we have a wealth of information, thanks to all the BrainPals that encounter sent our way, and a
discussion of her relationship with prisoner of war named Cainen–[On the page, Cainen was at the top of the new page, and I wasn’t properly prepped. I could have bulled through because I hadn’t actually mispronounced it yet, but I knew how many other mistakes were in that one so I gave up.]

[pause to say the words that keep tripping me up.]

The only data of analytical note are Sagan’s notation of The Third Battle of Provence and the Special Forces retrieval of the Baton Rouge’s ill-fated Company D, about which of course we have a wealth of information, thanks to all the BrainPals that encounter sent our way, and a discussion of her relationship with prisoner of war named Cainen Suen Su, whose stay with and work for the CDF is classified but otherwise well-documented. [hurrah!]

Now some of those stumbles are because of words that are not of English origin. Provence, Baton Rouge, and Cainen Suen Su. It’s not that the words are hard to say in and of themselves, it’s because they require different mouth shapes than one uses with most English words. Plus, “Rouge’s” is just plain hard to say gracefully.

By contrast, Scalzi says that the Sagan chapters were written, “to reflect to some extent how someone might communicate with themselves in their own brain, and specifically what I think Jane’s internal monologue would be. This includes, for me as a writer, a focus on the flow of words, which I tried to make less like dialogue or conventional storytelling and more like a person remembering events and commenting to herself.”

These had a natural flow so even though the sentences were complex, the words led very naturally from one to the next. Chapter 8, which is about eight minutes long, was read in one take. I think there were two internal pickups, both of which were for performance. Swing by Scalzi’s site to listen to all the chapters.

So,the lesson to take from this is that when you are looking for a piece to read aloud, actually read it out loud as part of the selection process. If you stumble a lot, chances are that you should look for a different cutting. The other thing to learn from my mistakes is that when you are in a public reading, keep going and don’t look back. If you think about the mistake you’ve just made, chances are you’ll make another right away.

The Sagan Diary: The Audio Version

Remember that audio gig that I was saying I was really enjoying recording? Now I can tell you about it. I was one of the six women that John Scalzi asked to record an audio version of The Sagan Diary. He has the recordings of each chapter of the The Sagan Diary up on Whatever, to coincide with its release at Subterranean Press.

I have something special for you today, and something I am extraordinarily proud of. To celebrate the release of “The Sagan Diary,” (which you can get through Subterranean’s Web site and through Amazon) I and Subterranean Press have arranged for a reading of the book — the entire novelette — here on the Whatever. But it’s not me who will be reading the book. “The Sagan Diary” is meant to be the thoughts of Jane Sagan, as she looks over her life after the events of The Ghost Brigades and prepares for the life which will be detailed in The Last Colony. I wanted voices closer to hers than my own.

So I asked some friends if they would speak for Jane Sagan: I asked Elizabeth Bear, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ellen Kushner, Karen Meisner, Cherie Priest and Helen Smith. Happily for me (and for you) they said yes. Each of them recorded a chapter (or more, in the case of Mary Robinette Kowal), and took the words I wrote for Jane and gave them extra dimensions — made more of them than I would be able to make of them myself. If you’ve wondered what Jane Sagan sounds like, she sounds like this. I was delighted to hear her voice coming through these readings, and deeply humbled by the efforts these women provided in letting Jane speak with them and through them. Without prejudicing your own hearing, let me say that I found myself getting emotional listening to these words given voice. Listen to it; you’ll figure out where.

This is a wonderful piece of fiction and I could not be more delighted and honored to get a chance to read it. As a reader, there are some stories which it seems impossible to read aloud without stumbling, and others which flow without stopping, as if the words are part of your tongue. This is one of the latter. With the exception of one notable sentence in the preface, I can not remember a story which was easier to read. I think this is because, besides being beautifully written, this is something which Jane is “speaking” and so inherently wants to be read aloud.

I encourage you to go and listen to each of the chapters.

Hugo/Campbell Nomination Deadlines (DeepGenre)

Hugo/Campbell Nomination Deadlines (DeepGenre)

The deadline to submit nominations for the Hugo Awards and for the John W. Campbell Best New Science Fiction Writer Award is not until March 3, 2007. Plenty of time. However… in order to nominate someone, you must have either been an attending or supporting member of last year’s WorldCon in Anaheim, CA or this year’s WorldCon in Yokohama, Japan by January 31, 2007.

In other words… if you didn’t attend WorldCon last year, and you don’t intend to trek out to Japan this year, you have until tomorrow, January 31, to pay for a $50 supporting membership if you want to submit nominations. The official nomination page says you must be a member “before January 31, 2007.” I assume that means “before the midnight Greenwich Mean Time that occurs between January 31, 2007 and February 1, 2007,” but like so many other things in science fiction fandom, that’s not clear.

Among the eligible candidates for the Campbell listed on the Writertopia Eligibility Page are my friends Cat Rambo, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maria V. Snyder, and Joel Shepherd. Other names of note on the list include Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, Justine Larbalestier, Cherie Priest, and Alma Alexander. Also included are some folks who stop by to make comments on this website from time to time, like Elaine Isaak and Marie Brennan. And then, of course, there’s, um, me, [David Louis Edelman] and that’s all I’ll say about it.

Besides the coolness of actually being eligible for the Campbell, I’d like to point out that you can nominate Shimmer for a Hugo as best semiprozine.

ETA: Thanks to Kevin Standlee for correcting my misinterpretation of the Hugo definition of semiprozine.

Victorian Bestsellers – Field Trip!

Ooo! Ooo! Who wants to go with me to the Morgan Library & Museum to see the exhibit on Victorian Bestsellers?

Although today’s public may think of the bestseller as a relatively recent development generated by modern mass marketing, many of the literary formulas and publishing techniques of the bestseller actually date to the nineteenth century. Victorian Bestsellers explores the rise of this cultural phenomenon using original manuscripts, first editions, illustrated editions, and rare printed ephemera, drawn largely from the Morgan’s renowned literary collections.

The period covered by the exhibition (1837–1901) was a time of rapid social change and enormous economic upheaval, when new technologies, improved transportation systems, better living standards, and rising literacy rates greatly increased the market for fiction and other types of popular reading matter.

Early fiction: A fable

While we’re on the wayback machine, I thought I’d share something I just found in the process of packing the house. A fable I wrote when I was 14 or 15. There are some other short stories in this folder, but this one makes me laugh. I have no memory of writing it.

Once upon a time there was a small squirrel who was convinced that the world was round. Daily he went leaping through the forest proclaiming, “The world is round like an acorn!”

And all the other animals would shout and hit him over the head, “The world is flat like your head!”

Then the little squirrel would wait till the next day when he would do it again.

One day, he didn’t come by and the other animals became worried and looked for him, but he was nowhere to be found. Since they had a large supply of things to throw at him, they began to wish that he would return. After a time, they appointed a new squirrel to proclaim that the world was round and the business went on as usual.

Moral: Even an unwished for habit may be called upon to return.

The earliest thing I remember writing was in kindergarten (I think). I wrote and illustrated a story for Mom as a Mother’s Day present. All I remember was the dutch iris that turned into a space ship. I thought it was cool because each part of the iris represented a different part of the ship. No idea at all what the plot (if any) was.

How about you? What’s the earliest piece of fiction you have?

IROSF reviews Shimmer’s autumn issue

Autumn 06 coverInternet Review of Science Fiction reviewed our autumn issue of Shimmer. Many thanks to all of our authors and artists and hearty congratulations to Silvia Moreno-Garcia, whose story “King of Sand and Stormy Seas” got a recommendation from Lois Tilton.

A man’s life comes full circle as he returns to his origins. When he was only a fisher boy, the sea had given him a gift.

The blade was blue with fine letters spelling conjures of protection. Once Lysander had taken the sword to a magician. He told Lysander the writing on the sword predicted that the man who wielded the weapon would become a hero. The magician, it turned out, had been a charlatan.

A nice depiction of the contrast between dreams and reality, and the pain of disillusionment.