Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest #8

Hey, I thought you might be interested in checking out my art in Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest‘s eighth issue. I illustrated “A Place of Snow Angels” by Matt Wallace.

I say illustrated, this is almost all digital and the compositing of four different photographs. The largest is one I took of the glacial lagoon in Iceland. The other four are the dogs, the man and the child. I did some painting to blend them together and then textured the whole thing.

Pick up a copy and see how they came together. It’s on page thirty-three

Early fiction: Sinbad’s Adventures in Lewis Carrol’s Land

I have zero memory of this one. What makes me laugh about this is that right now I’m designing The Arabian Nights for McCarter Theater and they just finished building a show called Lookingglass Alice. Ah…when worlds collide. How did my fifteen year old self know?

Sinbad’s Adventures in Lewis Carrol’s Land

Sinbad was in his new palace, wandering around and wishing he had something to do when a messager from the Emperor came.

“My lord, my lord!” he cried.

“Yes, yes,” Sinbad said, “What is it?” He tapped his foot impatiently.

“My lord,” the messenger cried again. “The Emperor is ill and needs you to fetch an ingredient for his cure!”

“He does!” Sinbad leaped joyfully. “What can I fetch of him?” Sinbad thought of jeweled cups, genies and phoenixes.

“A jabberwock head,” the messenger replied.

“A what?” Sinbad looked at the messenger for an explanation.

“The jabberwock with jaws that bite and claws that catch. It lives in the Tulgey Wood and has eyes of flame,” the messenger said.

“And how may I kill this beast?” Sinbad inquired.

“With this vorpal sword.” The messenger handed him a gleaming blade.

Sinbad held the sword. “Wow…” he said. “I’ll do it.”

Sinbad set off and looked for his maxome foe a long time. After a while he got tired, so rested he by the tumtum tree and stood awhile and thought. “Why am I doing this? Is it for the fun? Naw…the glamour? Naw. I’ve still got glamour leftover from the last adventure…the girls? Yes!!!”

While he stood in uffish thought, the jabberwock with eyes of flame came whuffling through the Tulgey Wood and burbled as it came. He took his vorpal blade in hand and chopped off the jabberwock’s head.

Then he went galumphing back to the Emperor. When he arrived back, the lights were off and no sound was to be heard. “Alack, alas,” he cried in anguish. “I stood in uffish thought too long and now the Emperor is dead!”

He stepped across the threshold and heard the sound of 1,000 matches being lit. The room filled with light and to his joy, he saw the Emperor standing there. “April Fools!” he cried, and showered the bewildered Sinbad with gold.

The End

I think the April Fool’s ending is only marginally better than “And it was all just a dream,” but I like the way I used the text from “Jabberwocky.” So does this count as slipstream or straight fantasy or fanfic?

Purple Cows

I enjoy reading PuppetVision Blog and there’s this post today which makes me think about the commonalities between design and fiction.

I want to scream at my monitor every time I read about someone wanting to do their own take on Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, those ideas aren’t new or original and I don’t think people will respond to them because they are not remarkable. If your goal is just to clone what’s already been done (and the mainstream media does that a lot) by all means go ahead. But if your goal is to get attention, have a large audience and be successful you are probably wasting your time.

It’s the same with fiction, isn’t it? I wonder how much of the fiction that seems derivative is actually motivated by a desire to recreate the feeling of wonder which the original created in the reader. You know what I mean, right? “Oh! This books with chainsaws really frightened me. I want to frighten other people like that, so I should put chainsaws in my book!” Which is just looking at the surface. To really emulate these shows or stories we need to look at the roots. “This frightened me.”

Why were you frightened? Now, I think that’s a subtly but importantly different question from “Why did it frighten you.” If you know why you had the reaction then you can think about other things that would provoke the same reaction in you. That’s the thing worth emulating.

Cicada is here with “This Little Pig!”

CicadaThe mailman just knocked on the door with a fat envelope from Carus Publishing. Inside were six beautiful copies of Cicada, with my story, “This Little Pig” inside. I used to read Cicada, when I was in the right age group. Can you imagine how exciting this is for me? Not only was this a pro-sale, it’s to a magazine that I read when I was growing up.

AND it has six illustrations. Six! The artist, Helen Dardik, has a fun retro-style which plays nicely with my main character’s (Aage) obsession. I’m delighted.

I thought you might be interested in reading the article which inspired “This Little Pig.” It was in Discover magazine a couple of years back. It’s about Samsø Island, in Denmark, the inhabitants of which made a pledge to give up fossil fuels by 2008. Now, at the time of the article, they weren’t using methane producing pigs but they were considering them so I thought it was fair game to inflict upon Aage. It is science-fiction after all.

Oh. I am so happy.

The speed of blogging and oral story-telling

I biked down to Hawthorne to have lunch with Jay Lake, so that he could sign the limited edition chapbooks of his story Christmas Season. The wind was pretty ferocious and it was like biking uphill the whole way there, which was frustrating, since that’s the downhill direction.

By the time I got home, two people IMed me, knowing that I had been at lunch with Jay. Granted, he was closer to the restaurant than me, but still. There’s something a little odd about having lunch with someone in the same town, and having the news be instantly on someone’s computer, across the country.

Anyway, the lunch, as he reports, was fun. This is the first time I’ve gotten to hang out with Jay outside of a con, and he’s even more frighteningly intelligent when not sleep deprived.

During the course of lunch, we were talking about written versus oral storytelling. I think it sprang up, because I was talking about the cultural difference between a writers’ convention and a puppeteers’ festival. At World Fantasy, I told my Sleeping Beauty story, which is the tale of a puppet show gone horribly, horribly wrong. It’s always a good story, but the reaction that I got at WFC was much, much bigger than anything I get among puppeteers. At first I thought that it was because the material is familiar to puppeteers and unexpected to writers, but, after going to a party with a bunch of theater friends, I think there’s more to it. I think it’s that writers aren’t used to people who know how to tell a story, as a performance. When I was at the theater party, we all seemed to take turns telling stories, like miniature plays. We all have repertoires of stories that we trot out when they seem appropriate. I tend to tell the Sleeping Beauty story, the Stolen Van story, the Hot Chocolate story and the Time I Hurt My Wrist story with most frequency.

They do have titles. I love it when Jodi tells the Jello Salad story. Or when Sam tells the Beauty and the Beast Vomit story. It’s true in other fields, clearly. Ken Scholes’s Orange Bicycle story, is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

But none of these are written stories. I could write down any of them, but it’s not the same as telling them. Have you read Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories? He wrote them specifically to be read aloud by parents to their children. They are full of asides like, “O Best Beloved”

So the Whale swam and swam to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West, as fast as he could swim, and on a raft, in the middle of the sea, with nothing to wear except a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must particularly remember the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, he found one single, solitary shipwrecked Mariner, trailing his toes in the water. (He had his mummy’s leave to paddle, or else he would never have done it, because he was a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.)

It’s a very different style of writing. In fact, Gentle Reader, it makes me wonder if that’s why the direct address to the reader used to be in style. Was it a holdover from when stories were predominately an oral form?

I’ve sometimes wondered if the blog and audio books will bring direct address back into style. Certainly, I address you much more than I would if I were writing Fiction with a capital F. As readers become used to that, will it come back into style? The Algebraist, which I’m reading now, begins with direct address. I quite liked it. It was exciting to feel as if an author were speaking to me. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve always liked Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series; I always feel as if Vlad were sitting across the table talking to me.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I think there are some ideas that are worth exploring. If nothing else, it will help me be more aware of my audience next time I’m telling a story.

Subscription bonus

Holiday 2006 coverIt’s not too late to get a subscription to Shimmer so you can have a copy of Jay Lake’s limited edition, signed chapbook. We’ve only printed sixty-six of these. You know you want to hold that glossy color cover and turn the lovely archival quality recycled paper interior pages. Think about settling into a chair by the fire and admiring the original interior illustration by Chrissy Ellsworth.

You know you want it. All you have to do is subscribe to Shimmer by the end of the year. The offer is good for electronic and hard copy subscriptions. That’s right. This could be yours, plus four issues of quality fiction for as little as twelve dollars. For seventeen, you could be holding the glossy cover of Shimmer as each new issue comes out.

Go on. Resolve to read more small press in 2007. Subscribe now.

Sale! “For Solo Cello, op. 12” to Cosmos

CosmosWoo-hoo! Happy dancing and rejoicing abounds! I just got word that I sold “For Solo Cello, op. 12” to Cosmos. This is my third pro-sale! The story comes out in their February/March issue.

The story originated as part of a flash challenge contest at Liberty Hall. It’s now about twice the length that it was. Damien Broderick, the fiction editor, is a sweetheart and gave me a rewrite request on this story and then, bless him, had been willing to work with me during the rewrite process. It’s a much stronger story and that’s due to his insights.


Each short story is accompanied by a lavish double-page illustration commissioned especially for each piece of original fiction we publish

I love art. Oh, happy, happy dancing.

SFWA? Oh, yes. Although they don’t have Cosmos listed, so I’m filling out the SFWA qualifying form and then I’ll apply for membership. Ha ha!

Research, Writing and Etiquette

I’m having a ridiculously good time figuring out the seating chart for the dinner that Lady FitzCameron is throwing to celebrate the completion of the mural in her dining room.

I collect etiquette books and every year throw a black-tie optional dinner party with place cards and everything. The rules for figuring out precedence or are surprisingly sensible. You start with the guest of honor, or the highest ranking individual. Then the oldest. Next, the one who has traveled farthest and on down until you come to those who are regular visitors to the house.

So in my case, I’m trying to finagle the guest list so that it is inevitable that Mr. Dunkirk has to escort Jane into dinner. Will anyone care but me? Probably not, but it is making me think more about the other guests’ ranks, ages and positions in their fictional lives.

My Orycon Schedule

I just received my schedule for Orycon. Holy cow. At least I won’t have to make decisions about which panels to attend.

Panel Start Panel End Panel Title
Panel Location Panel Description
Moderator in Bold

Sun Nov 19 3:00:pm Sun Nov 19 4:00:pm How to Write About Something You Know Nothing About
Salon A The joys of research. How much detail is enough to sound credible without bogging down the story. How to avoid “facts” that are irrelevant or inaccurate. How to become an instant expert in time to meet an editorial deadline.
Greg Gorden Theresa Reed Alma Hromic Deckert Mary Robinette Kowal Sara A. Mueller

Sun Nov 19 2:00:pm Sun Nov 19 3:00:pm Love, Romance, Dark Passion and Crossing the Genre Lines
Salon G Enjoy a little romance in your SF and fantasy reading? Where does one genre end and the other begin? The blurring between romance and SF/fantasy continues apace, as romance publishers launch new “paranormal” and “supernatural” imprints and SF/fantasy editors seek the same type of story.
Theresa Reed Mary Rosenblum phyllis irene radford Mary Robinette Kowal Kara Dalkey

Sun Nov 19 1:30:pm Sun Nov 19 2:00:pm Reading: Mary Robinette Kowal
Salem A reading by Mary Robinette Kowal
Mary Robinette Kowal

Sun Nov 19 12:00:pm Sun Nov 19 1:00:pm The Great Writers Blog
Salon A Blogging — everyone’s doing it! And blogs are a great way for writers to chronicle their creative process and track their progress, interact with fans and other writers, and get free publicity. So, what are the keys to a great writer’s blog? Come to this panel and listen to some veteran “bloggers” talk about what they’ve learned.
Cory Doctorow Dave Slusher Joseph E. Lake, Jr. Mary Robinette Kowal

Sat Nov 18 4:00:pm Sat Nov 18 5:00:pm Juggling Jobs: Survival Tips for the Beginning Writer
Salon B The delicate balance of job, family, and being a writer or artist. Assuming one has to have some income, is there a right kind of day job for writers?
Rob Vagle Bruce Taylor Ken Scholes Leslie What Mary Robinette Kowal

Sat Nov 18 1:00:pm Sat Nov 18 2:00:pm Turkey Readings
Medford Find out about some of the stories that really, really didn’t make the cut. Or what happens to a manuscript from the time it arrives at the publisher’s office to the time the editor actually looks at it. What should the writer do, and what should the writer not do, to get out of the slush pile.
Mary Robinette Kowal David D. Levine Anthony Pryor

Sat Nov 18 11:00:am Sat Nov 18 12:00:pm Remember to Breathe- The Secrets Behind Great Public Readings
Salon E Table 1 You may be a good writer, but reading aloud is a separate skill.  In this workshop, learn to make your words sound as great out loud as they do on the page.  Using both demonstration and audience participation, we will explore voicing, narration and pacing.  Come with one paragraph of your own work; sample text will also be provided.
Mary Robinette Kowal

Sat Nov 18 10:00:am Sat Nov 18 11:00:am We Don`t Need Another Hero
Mt. Hood From Kimball Kinnison to Dylan Hunt, strong-thewed heroes have strode the spaceways, protecting the galaxy from evildoers. But the trend in contemporary literature is shifting from “heroes” to “protagonists” to “viewpoint characters”. What are the ways that main characters can be used in science fiction? How can ensembles and event-based plots build great story lines and lovable groups?
Mary Robinette Kowal Sheila Simonson phyllis irene radford Jean Lamb Michael A. Martin

Fri Nov 17 4:00:pm Fri Nov 17 5:00:pm Other Worlds or the Same Ol`, Same Ol`?
Salem Once upon a time, every SF story introduced us to new worlds. Now, SF can be alternate Earths or just around a too familiar corner. Why do writers use other planets? Why don’t they?
David W. Goldman Jean Lamb Mary Rosenblum Richard A. Lovett Mary Robinette Kowal

Fri Nov 17 2:00:pm Fri Nov 17 3:00:pm Constructive Critiquing
Salon A How should a colleague/friend/editor go about critiquing a manuscript? Who is qualified to do a critique? How does a critique help a writer, and how should a writer use a good critique in their writing process?
Patrick Swenson Mary Robinette Kowal Mary Hobson Dianna Rodgers Louise Marley Mary Rosenblum

Strange Horizons Fall 2006 Fund Drive

Strange Horzions was my first pro-sale. It’s time for the Strange Horizons Fall 2006 Fund Drive so, what are you waiting for? Go donate.

Since its founding in September 2000, Strange Horizons has brought you some of the most exciting and vibrant voices in the genre of speculative fiction. We believe speculative fiction is an important literary genre, and we take pride in our work, and the fact that for many of our diverse and innovative contributors, Strange Horizons is their first sale. We are passionate about publishing cutting edge speculative fiction and art, and hope to be contributing to the genre for many years to come.
Donate Now Through Network for Good

To that end, we depend on you, our readers, to keep our magazine going. All of our staff members contribute their time and energy for free, but our contributors do get paid. We are committed to paying professional rates for high-quality fiction, poetry, art, and nonfiction. All we have to do is raise $3000 in this period, which is about one-sixth of our annual budget. We are hoping that you, Dear Reader, will help us reach that goal.

Harlan County Horror

Sometime around the beginning of September, I got an email from Jason Sizemore:

Mari Adkins and I are releasing an anthology titled “Harlan County Horror” under the Apex Publications imprint. All stories will be set or based around Harlan, KY. There’s a rich mountain culture there, the Cumberland Gap,…and there’s also things like the Hatfields & McCoys, coal mine mafia, supernatural weirdness, and scary hillbillies.

I’m not looking to make fun of Harlan. I want to use Harlan and it’s bizarre, rich history to make some good horror.

Would you be interested?

Would I be interested? Oh yes. Yes, very much so.

So, I’ve been reading about Harlan county and toying with story ideas, but mostly I’ve been sitting on the news, waiting for them to make their official announcement about Harlan County Horror.

Here it is.

You guys/gals think you know everything going on with Apex? Nah, you just see the tip of the ‘berg! Our brains work overtime thinking of ways to frighten, to sicken you, the readers.

For over a year now, Mari Adkins has been sharing stories of her past with me. She’s also written a trio of novels, two of which I’ve read. And a handful of short fiction. There’s one thing all her novels, shorts, and dialogues with me have in common: Harlan, KY.

The frightening aspect of this fact? She only lived there for 3.5 years.

I’m hoping to purge Harlan, KY from Mari Adkins. You can call it an exorcism. I will call it an anthology of horror. Harlan County Horror.
Mari will co-edit the anthology with me. Mari will also have the opening story. After all, it is her soul we’re cleansing.

We’ve lined up an impressive list of writing talent to help Mari with her curse. Some names are new, others more well known. All have their own insights into the madness of Harlan Couny.

Mari, Queen of Harlan, Adkins
Cherie Priest
Scott Nicholson
Weston Ochse
Robby Sparks
Kim Colley
Debbie Kuhn
Michele Freel
Alethea Kontis
Mary Robinette Kowal
Geoffrey Girard

Who knows, I might take pen to paper and do my part to squeeze the devil from Mari.

This is slated to be released in the summer of 2007.

Seeing the authors with whom I’ll be sharing the Table of Contest, I’m even more excited and pleased to be in this anthology.

More pulpy goodness!

Rob and I headed down to the Kolaport today because I wanted to hit that booth that had the SF books again. I picked up some beauties all of which look like pulp, untill you start to pay attention to the author’s name.

Exhibit One.
The banner at the top says, “A Madcap Blonde and Her Reckless Lover Challenge a World of Rollicking Chaos”
Hell's pavement

Hell’s Pavement by Damon Knight, the founder of SFWA.

Look at these beauties.

The House that Stood StillThe Chaos FightersMonkey PlanetThe Time Traders

I’m particularly fascinated by the cover for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Star of Danger. I always think of the Darkover novels as being fantasy, even though I know it’s technically science-fiction. I’m sure it’s an effect of marketing. When the book first came out, in 1965, science-fiction was the hot thing.

Look at the difference in the 1965 original cover (which I picked up at the kolaport) , the 1985 cover, and the 2000 cover.

Star of DangerStar of DangerStar of Danger, Newest

Reading Aloud 11: Making Sense

This entry is part 11 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

Okay. At some point, every SF story on the planet is going to hit some handwavium. You know the thing I’m talking about, that magic point where you just have to make stuff up in order to cover the gap between what is possible and what you think might be possible sometime in the future. On the page, it can be fine, but then… then you have to read it outloud.

John Scalzi pointed out this clip, which provides the most beautiful example of speaking handwavium with confidence. Watch it and then we’ll discuss.

Okay, first of all, it’s very, very, funny. Second, although this goes way over the line into absurdity, the fact is that even though his words make no sense, at all, by using tricks of pacing and emphasis, he creates the illusion of meaning. The actor’s name is Mike Kraft and he writes and performs industrial training videos. If he used just one of those phrases in an SF story, you’d totally buy it. So let’s see if we can apply what he’s doing to an SF story.

For instance, he’s giving the made-up words no more weight or emphasis than the real things. Look at your sf story. The technobabble words in it are everyday words to your characters so you should treat them as such. At the same time, Mr. Kraft is also using hand gestures, sign-posting and phrasing, to give clues to what words mean.

Hand gestures aren’t an option for audio fiction, but some of his other tricks are.

Signposting, at its simplest, means that he changes the direction in which he is looking when he changes direction of the speech. You can also do similar thing by pausing before beginning a new thought.

Which is really part of phrasing. Notice how he’s using a pause for emphasis here, “Such an instrument, comprised of Dodge gears and bearings, Reliance electric Motors, Allen Bradley controls, and all monitored by Rockwell software is [pause]Rockwell Automation’s retro-incabulator.” It lets you know that what’s coming next is important. He pauses again in the next sentence before each of the “significant” parts of the encabulator.

He also uses emphasis, (which means that he gives a slight punch to certain words by using speed or volume) such as “panendermic simi-boloid slots of the stator. Every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversable tremi pipe to the differential gurdel spring on the up end of the grammeters.”

Back in Reading Aloud 1: The Basics we talked about twisting words that had an almost onomatopoeic quality to them. Mr. Kraft does some of that, but not a whole lot because it would be inappropriate for his character.

He’s also using good old-fashioned stage presence to pull this off. As the character, he believes that each of these words makes perfect sense because they are all part of his character’s world. Watch his hands; his character knows what each item does.

Your exercise for today is to try and read the transcription of this clip. Then I want you to find the most convoluted handwavium in your own fiction and see how real you can make it sound.

Apex Raffle update

Well, I closed the donations window tonight with over sixty raffle items. So those of you who were holding out until all the items were in, may start dropping tickets in the hats.

You can stop by the site for details but one of the things I added is an audio recording by me.

Meanwhile, I will go off and conjugate Icelandic. In the whirlwind of putting the raffle together I totally forgot to do my homework. So I need to skrifa spurningar úr setningum, núna.

Sjaumst á morgan!