Posts Tagged ‘Subterranean Press’

Adapting audio to print for Subterranean Press: Water to Wine

Last year, I participated in the audio anthology Metatropolis: Cascadia from  It was a shared world anthology, built on a story by Jay Lake about what might happen to the Pacific Northwest in the future.   Because the stories in the anthology were written specifically for audio, it shaped many of the choices I made when writing it.

For instance, I began writing it in third person, but decided to rework it into first person because I think that lends itself to audio fiction.  There are emotional nuances available to a first person narrator which are somewhat removed for someone speaking in third person.

Because I knew it would be spoken, I treated it like a giant monologue and included “stage directions” for how I wanted lines to be read by the narrator, Kate Mulgrew. [1. Allow me to insert a moment of fangirl squee that Captain Janeway read my story.] In fact, the first thing on the page was this:

[Note to reader and director. Because this is audio, please cut all the lines in brackets unless you need them to distinguish characters. I put them in to attribute dialogue lines where I thought there would be some ambiguity or, occasionally, as stage directions for how I’d like a line read.]

In practical terms that means that Ms. Mulgrew saw things like this.

Lizzie scowled. “Of course it’s the wine.” [sarcastic]

After the audio version came out, I went back through the story and adapted it to the written page.  This meant writing additional material to cover the emotional content that a narrator’s voice can deliver. So that line above now reads:

Lizzie scowled and let the sarcasm flow. “Of course it’s the wine.”

The story is the same, but it is adapted for a different medium.  It was an interesting experience to tackle the same idea for two different forms of prose.

If you’d like to read the results, the print version is now available at Subterranean Press. Here’s a teaser:

Water sprayed out from beneath the wine barrel, carrying the faint stink of sulfur with it. I suppose it’s crazy to have a fondness for the smell of rotten eggs, but that means cleanliness in the wine industry. I shut off the hose and wrestled the barrel off the ancient Gamma-Jet, rolling it to the racks outside the cellar door so it could drain in the sun. I tend to grunt whenever I heave a barrel off the ground and let it drop onto the metal frame. It’s not the weight so much — an empty barrel weighed about a hundred pounds — but the size is awkward. I’ve seen men who can’t do this, and take a certain delight in being able to heft them. My hands are constantly getting nicked from where the metal hoops at the ends catch me, and the scarring would ruin any chance at a career as a hand model. As if I would leave the winery voluntarily. Still there are days when a physically easier job would be welcome.

You can read the whole story at Subterranean Press » Fiction: Water to Wine by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Review: Publisher’s Weekly likes Scenting the Dark

Publisher’s Weekly has reviewed Scenting the Dark and Other Stories. Whee!

Scenting the Dark and Other Stories Mary Robinette Kowal. Subterranean (<>, $25 (80p) ISBN 978-1-59606-267-2

Scenting the DarkCampbell Award–winner Kowal presents a broad spectrum of stories in her chapbook-slim first collection. The heartbreaking “Just Right,” in which a family struggles with a child’s strange behavior, isn’t speculative at all. “Death Comes but Twice” edges into dark fantasy, while blind perfumer Penn is stalked by an enormous predator in SF horror story “Scenting the Dark.” The deepest tale is “Some Other Day,” in which a young scientist struggles to undo the terrible consequences of her father’s well-meant work, while “Jaiden’s Weaver” is a sweet story about nurturing and caring for a creature others think deformed. Kowal’s stories don’t always plumb the depths of speculation or characters, but when they do the results are often stirring. This excellent introduction to her work is likely to make her new fans. (Nov.)

What we tried to do with this was to put together a miniature collection of the stories which are hard to find or have never been printed in physical form.  Which means that you are getting my very first published story, ever, “Just Right” all the way up through “Jaiden’s Weaver” which came out online earlier this year.

Oh, and an intro by John Scalzi.

50% Off Sale on SubPress Forthcoming Titles.

Subterranean is running a 50% off sale and one of the titles is my collection “Scenting the Dark and Other Stories.”

We’ve been receiving a ton of requests that we run one of our 50% off sales, which we haven’t done in quite some time. Tim and I have carved a little time out of the SubPress schedule to handle the increased level of orders that usually accompanies one of these sales, so here goes. The rules are simple:

1. The special runs until the end of the day July 3, 2009.

2. You must buy at least 5 different titles to qualify for the sale prices. There is no the maximum number of titles you may order.

3. You may buy only one copy of a given title.

4. Your shopping cart total and automatic email confirmation won’t reflect the sale price. Don’t worry, we’ll apply the proper discount when processing your order.

5. If you’re using PayPal, do NOT go through our site. Please email us for an invoice.

6. Please note that only the titles listed below are part of the sale, and only editions with cover prices of $150 or less are included.

7. We’re not able to offer retroactive discounts on titles, or combine this special with any other coupons, specials, or savings certificates.

via Subterranean Press » Blog Archive » 50% Off Sale on SubPress Forthcoming Titles..

Subterranean Press » Announcing SCENTING THE DARK AND OTHER STORIES by Mary Robinette Kowal

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to my first collection, Scenting the Dark and Other Stories.  I’ve loved Subterranean Press for a long time now and can’t describe how ecstatic I am about this little book. The cover art is an original by Sandro Castelli and the book design is by Gail Cross. You can’t see the interior yet, but in pdf form it makes me long to have the pages in my hands. So beautiful.

We here at SubPress are fans of elegant small collections such as Antiquities by John Crowley or The Devil in the Details by James P. Blaylock and Tim Powers. Our latest offering fits solidly in that mode. Scenting the Dark and Other Stories, the debut hardcover by Campbell Award-winner Mary Robinette Kowal packs a powerful 25,000 words into its roughly 100 pages. Do yourself a favor and check out one of our finest new short story writers — and novelist, as Mary just sold a pair to Tor (Congrats!)

I’m just delighted.

Waiting for Rain, the original flash version

In the interview that I did with Alethea Kontis for Subterranean Press, she asks me about the funny story that goes with “Waiting for Rain.”

The short form of my answer is that I initially sent the wrong file. After we had a good laugh (thank God) he suggested that when he ran the story on his site, that I might run the original version of it on mine.

So here’s what I accidentally sent in. The original flash fiction version of “Waiting for Rain,” written in an hour and a half in one of the Liberty Hall flash fiction contests.

Waiting for Rain – 1400 words

by Mary Robinette Kowal

In the other room, Bharat could hear his wife clucking happily over their oldest daughter’s wedding holos. He stared at the screen on his ancient quarto-core processor and held his head in his hands. The weather forecast said the next week was supposed to be sunny again. Continue reading ›

Subterranean Press: “Waiting for Rain” and an interview

Subterranean Press has an online magazine which is one of my favorites, so I was thrilled when I sold them a story. It’s up now, if you’d like to read “Waiting for Rain

Mundari Vineyard 2045, Nashik (India), Shiraz

Black cherry, plum, and currant flavors mingle with aromas of sweet tobacco and sage in this dependable offering from India.

The sun peeking through the grapevines felt hotter on Bharat Mundari’s neck than twenty-four degrees. Another perfect day. Bharat scowled and worked his way down the row of vines, thinning the grapes so the remaining Shiraz crop would become fuller and riper.

Not that there was a point in having healthy vines when he couldn’t pay his weather bill. Without rain, the grapevines would weaken under the stress, and stressed grapes made poor wine. No one bought flawed wine.

There’s also an interview with me by Alethea Kontis. She saw me start the story back in 2005 [1. Later on, I’ll be posting the original version flash fiction version of “Waiting for Rain,” as a point of comparison in how stories change.] — yes, sometimes it takes that long for a story to find the right home — and you can learn the answer to questions such as, “Whom do you admire most?

Subterranean will be bringing out a chapbook collection of my short stories in June of 2009 called “Scenting the Dark.” Given how gorgeous their other books are, I’m tremendously excited by this.

Sale! Waiting for Rain to Subterranean Press

I love, love, love Subterranean Press and am so delighted to have finally landed a sale there. This actually happened a couple of weeks ago, right before Launchpad, but I was sitting on the news until I finished revisions. ((There’s a funny story here, which I’ll tell later.)) Which I just did and had accepted today. Hurrah!

Here’s the opening bit as a teaser. I’ll let you know when the story is up.

Mundari Vineyard 2045, Nashik (India), Shiraz

Black cherry, plum, and currant flavors mingle with aromas of sweet tobacco and sage in this dependable offering from India.

The sun peeking through the grapevines felt hotter on Bharat Mundari’s neck than twenty-four degrees. Another perfect day. Bharat scowled and worked his way down the row of vines, thinning the grapes so the remaining Shiraz crop would become fuller and riper.

Not that there was a point in having healthy vines when he couldn’t pay his weather bill. Without rain, the grapevines would weaken under the stress, and stressed grapes made poor wine. No one bought flawed wine.

Just to keep things in balance though, I should tell you that the night I got home from the Campbells, I had a rejection note waiting in my inbox. Doesn’t matter. My life is very, very good right now.

Shipping Coraline

Well, my three lovely ladies are leaving home tomorrow. I’m shipping the Coraline puppets to Bill Shaffer at Subterranean Press. He in turn will send one to Neil Gaiman, one to Dave McKean and one to someone who pre-ordered the special edition of Coraline.

I wanted to make certain that I had good photos of the dolls, so I went over to Ellen Datlow’s this evening and let her do her camera magic. Behold.


Coraline built by Mary Robinette Kowal

Coraline built by Mary Robinette Kowal

Coraline built by Mary Robinette Kowal

Coraline built by Mary Robinette Kowal

Coraline's bathrobe

Coraline's hand and cuff

Coraline's slippers

How many Coralines?

I’ve had a couple of people ask me if I’m going to make a Coraline for myself. No. I will keep the dud head that I made, but since Subterranean asked me to make only three, I’m making only three. One for Neil Gaiman, one for Dave McKean and one for… you?

To learn more about how you could potentially own one of the three Coraline figures I’m making, swing by Subterranean Press.

Errands and Audio

I spent most of today running errands, although I did take time out to have lunch with Ken Scholes. Such a sweetheart. Today was really gorgeous, so I did all of my errands via bike. Lovely day.

We also recorded the last of the pickup lines for Subterranean Press. I’m uploading the audio book now, but it’s giant so I’ll go to bed before it finishes.

Reading Aloud 15: Choices & Compromises while recording Rude Mechanicals

This entry is part 15 of 17 in the series Reading Aloud

When Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press asked me to read Kage Baker’s Rude Mechanicals, I was delighted, because I love the Company stories. I was delighted until I started reading the manuscript and realized that the point of view character was male. I skimmed forward, just looking at dialogue. Most of the characters were male.

I don’t mind doing some cross-gender voicing, but generally avoid it with the POV character, because I think it is confusing for most listeners. I agonized and then emailed Bill and told him that I thought he should hire a male voice artist, because that would serve the story better. He disagreed, and since I really wanted to read it, not much arm twisting was needed.

As I read the entire manuscript, instead of skimming, I realized why he wanted a female narrator. Ms. Baker uses direct address to the audience in a couple of places, so while the narrator stays with Lewis, it is clearly a separate narrative voice as opposed to an extension of Lewis. Know what I mean? So choice number one, was to have a female narrator.

This left me the freedom to pitch the narrator up, above my natural speaking voice. I also chose to make it very feminine to contrast with all the boys running around.

For Lewis and Joseph’s voices, I ran into some trouble. Joseph has more speaking time in some scenes than the narrator. Now, in the stories, Joseph is described as a bass baritone. Clearly, I wasn’t going to achieve that naturally, so we had to look at compromises.

Lewis was the less vocally dynamic of the two, so placing him at the bottom end of my range was easy; I didn’t need a lot of room to hit his emotional levels since he’s a steadier character. Joseph, our bass, on the other hand is very volatile and he talks a lot. I found that I could either nail the character or the pitch, but not both. When I pitched him down, he wound up sounding angry and dangerous, because of the audible effort involved in keeping my voice low. It doesn’t sound strained as if I were going to hurt myself, but the strain is nevertheless present as a tension that was inappropriate to the character. Most troubling, he wasn’t funny. Joseph is very funny in Ms. Baker’s story.

So after recording a test chapter with a lower Joseph, we decided to go back to the higher one because, aside from the pitch, that voicing was truer to the character.

It is true that we could have pitch-shifted my voice to get it to the right range. The software to do that now is good enough that if the voice is heard out of context, it’ll pass as real. However, in the context of the other voices I was generating, the pitch shift was obvious. Why? Because there’s this thing your brain does with a familiar voice, called psycho-acoustics, which basically waves a flag saying “Wrong! Something is wrong!” It’s a complex series of things that involve overtones, positioning, and other technical things that you have no idea that you are processing, you just know that it’s wrong.

To demonstrate, I have three clips for you.

The final Joseph choice.

Me, lowering Joseph naturally.

Joseph, pitch-shifted down 10% from the first clip.

See, even down 10% he doesn’t sound like a bass, but he sounds weird. The weirdness is even more apparent if it’s in the context of an entire chapter of natural voices.

The pitch-shifted Joseph, in context.

With all the other voices that are obviously generated by me, pitch-shifted Joseph sounds like someone else and is jarring. Given those choices, we went with the first voicing, feeling that the characterization was stronger there.

At some point, in a reading, you’ll probably have to face a similar choice and I think that you should go for the voice which will give you the most emotional range and be truest to the personality, even if you have to sacrifice some of the physicality.