22 December 2006
I also finished a nice draft of that story I'd been pondering (no more Homeland Security!).
I hope everyone else's forced vacation was as nice.
Happy holidays to all!
20 December 2006
Some say you should Build Characters Through Adversity.
Some say We care about characters when they have problems and drives.
Some say characters must have consistency, complexity, and individuality.
Some say characters need to be believable and interesting.
Some say characters should be admirable but pleasantly flawed, in adversity but not whiney and should be incredibly real.
A lot to think about! What do you think?
18 December 2006
For example, the short I'm working on involves a woman who uses the Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics to save her family. When I wrote it originally I included this whole thing with Homeland Security (HS). After pondering it for a while, I realized the problem with the story was the HS part was totally superfluous. So, it's back to work for me!
What's the essence of your story? Are there any superfluous bits?
15 December 2006
American Geophysical Union Meeting in San Francisco. He makes several excellent points.
I say additionally fiction writers should play a more active role in warning the public about global warming.
What will the world be like in twenty years? fifty years? a hundred years? Show us!
14 December 2006
This is a particularly sad and disturbing state of affairs.
Apparently some members of the US government believe 'Ignorance is Strength'.
What's next? 'Freedom is Slavery'? 'War is Peace'?
13 December 2006
What kinds of stories did we pick? Several seemed to speak to the times, indirectly: the war, terrorism, race relations. One amusing story contains unwanted guests--maybe we were subconsiously thinking of the upcoming holidays?
Overall, I noticed a theme in our conversation, even about the stories we did pick. They all could be shorter. I've written this here before, but a solid rule during editing is to cut ten percent. (I'm not making it up: Stephen King, for one, said an editor told him that early on and he's always followed the advice--obviously to great advantage.) This exercise belongs in a later revision, when you're quite sure what you're trying to say. Then, search out ways to be concise. Eliminate adverbs and maybe even adjectives. Study your descriptions. What purpose do they serve? Do they propel the plot and character development, or only ground the reader so we're not floating in space? Good descriptions do all three.
You might not make the ten percent, but in general every story needs cutting. The new year is coming; time to trim the fat.
12 December 2006
11 December 2006
What do you think? Should we do this? Would you move to the moon?
09 December 2006
My girls, however, preferred the automatic sno-cone maker and the s'more machine--especially the free samples. Hey--as long as it gets them interested in science and engineering, I'm all for it!
08 December 2006
The winter 2007 issue will be out on e-newstands on January 31, 2007.
It looks to be excellent (if I do say so myself)!
We have some awesome stories in the mix and an exciting article which I'll blog about when it's a little more developed.
07 December 2006
06 December 2006
04 December 2006
Beginning December 8th we will consider submissions for our spring 2007 issue.
Good luck submitters!
30 November 2006
CNN also has an article on this:
Ancient astronomical device thrills scholars, including a picture.
This is awesome story material!
29 November 2006
Churchill's words were science fiction!
Check out how Dr. Richard Toye of Cambridge University finds similarities between Winston Churchill's speeches and earlier works by H.G. Wells.
Louisa May Alcott of Little Women, you say? She wrote sensationalized stories about duels and opium addiction and mind control. I haven't read any of them, but I'm interested enough to google around after I get my two thousand words in today.
Remember the loving family in A Wrinkle in Time? L'Engle's parents weren't very interested in her, only each other, so she imagined happy families for herself. What does your life lack that you make up for in your writing? That's your niche--go for it!
And, C.S. Lewis said, "You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me."
28 November 2006
Congratulations, Jim! You rock! :)
I've mentioned him before here. Among many other things, Jim founded The J.Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at The University of Kansas. He also teaches an Online Writers Workshop in Science Fiction through the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.
27 November 2006
According to the Nov. 26, 2006 Washington Post, they're all 'On the Move to Outrun Climate Change'. Read their full coverage on 'The Threat of Climate Change'.
This topic is rife with story ideas!
26 November 2006
Have you slaved over a cover letter that will get your story noticed by the editors at Electric Spec? Well, don't. We'll read your story unless it is clear from the cover letter that the story does not meet our guidelines. However, I do grow tired of seeing certain things in cover letters that really don't belong there, such as:
1) personal information: age, marital status, number of children, or day job
2) information about the plot of the story (we are going to read it, after all)
3) the phrase, "I've been writing since I was (fill in the blank) years old"
4) requests for comments about the story
5) information about how much you love to write
Please DO include the essentials listed in the Electric Spec submission guidelines, including the name of the story and author in the subject matter line and a word count. A short summary of past publication credits is helpful, but not essential. Be aware that if you include a link to your biographical information, I probably won't go there. I usually don't have time to follow links around.
Here's a sample over a cover letter that would be just dandy:
Dear Electric Spec Editors:
Please consider the attached 4000-word
story, "Hayward the God's Eye Wanderer" for publication in Electric Spec. My
short stories have previously appeared in IGMS, The New Yorker, and Static
Movement. Thanks for your
Edward E. Egglsby
Pretty easy, huh?
21 November 2006
Does your story begin where it is supposed to? This is a common problem with rough drafts of novels, but I also see a lot of stories that should have started with the narrative on page two. The writer thinks he needs to take the time to introduce me to his world, or he's so enamored of it he thinks I want the four-hour tour, rather than just slipping in references at appropriate moments. In the narrow slice of life provided by a short story, I think it's most effective to throw your reader right into the crisis. But the crisis action must be plot-provoking, evocative of your world, and show me your character in clear terms. Sounds a lot to ask for, eh? Just know that I hold Electric Spec writers under the same constraints I put on myself.
And to make it tougher, I expect that every paragraph of your action/narrative meet those stringent standards. Think of every scene as sitting on a three-legged stool, the legs being plot, setting, and character. If it doesn't touch on each one your writing isn't tight enough for a short story. (A solid recommendation is once you think you're finished, make a goal to cut your word count by ten percent.) I think some scenes in novels can lean a bit, but a short story reader will topple right out of your story without these three elements propping up each scene.
The best short stories are often more about what you don't say.
20 November 2006
There are a couple nice articles about him in the Portales News-Tribune: 'Williamson considered one of science fiction's greats', and 'Local writer remembered'.
There's a nice audio segment on NPR: 'Science Fiction Writer Jack Williamson Dies at 98'.
There are some nice photos from Nov 16th, 17th Memorial Service at the Eastern New Mexico University, and their news release: 'World-Renowned Science Fiction Writer Jack Williamson Passes Away'.
See also the SFWA obituary, and the
Albuquerque Tribune obituary.
So long, Jack. We'll miss you.
17 November 2006
The editors have a production meeting about a month and a half before the next issue comes out. There, we discuss all the stories that have been held for voting. Although the quality of the story is paramount, we also look at how stories will work together in each issue to create variety and balance. After the production meeting, we e-mail the authors and let them know whether we have selected their story for the next issue.
I should mention that the process does not stop there. Our editors actually edit the stories we’ve selected. These edits can rage from very minor revisions to significant ones.
Is there something else you are just dying to know? Just ask and we'll try to address it in this blog.
16 November 2006
15 November 2006
Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury (Nov 9 entry), I should be thorough and mention the Hatrack River Writers Workshop. This is a great resource for speculative fiction writers and includes several discussion areas including a writing class! Enjoy!
14 November 2006
I guess they used Google Earth for some of their studies.
It sounds like great story material.
13 November 2006
Anyway, MSF happens to be one of my favorites, and it's always interesting to compare older works with those being published today. How the market doth drive readers' tastes!
Wiki has a definition of military science fiction that I would agree with except for the interplanetary/interstellar conflict part. I think MSF can occur at a global level too without bringing in star systems or galaxies. Anyone else have an opinion?
If I compiled a MSF reading list, it would have to include Herbert's Dune (yes, that could be considered sociological too), Heinlein's Starship Troopers (Casper Van Dien's and Denise Richards' acting in the movie did NOT improve on the original story so, don't go there), Card's Ender's Game, and Drake's Hammer's Slammers. I'd add in books from Burroughs' Mars series and McCaffrey's Pern series too.
Anyone else have a list of "classic" MSF every other fan should read?
11 November 2006
09 November 2006
For example, the October 2006 issue contained:
- "SHORT STORIES: BEGINNINGS, ENDINGS, AND DEATH" by Janet Le Clair
- "SAFER REVISING: by Diana Carolyn Ice
- "WHY JOIN A CRITIQUE GROUP?" by SC Bryce
- "SEVEN TOP WRITING TIPS" by Andrew Rey
- "THE REVENGE OF MAISY THE TIDYBOT (aka The Gripes of Reading)" by Lynn S. Light
- "WE ARE NOT ALONE" by Fran Giuffre
- "WORKSHOP, THE WORKSHOP, AND ME" by Robert Nowall
- "THE ICE PICK (review of STORYTELLER : WRITING LESSONS AND MORE FROM 27 YEARS OF THE CLARION WRITERS' WORKSHOP, by Kate Wilhelm)" by Diana Carolyn Ice
However, they do plan to post the back issues on the web. I highly recommend them!
08 November 2006
06 November 2006
Here are the first lines for the first issue:
- "Open the pod bay doors, Hal . . . Do you read me, Hal? . . . Hello, Hal, do you read me? Do you read me, Hal? . . . Hal, do you read me?"
- The bedside phone trilled, dragging me though several layers of warm slumber.
- I sank needle-tipped buckyfibers into the boy's naked chest, connecting the Steel Diagnostician to his metabolic system.
- "I must go, Mrs. Hansen," said Helen. "I'm late as it is."
- Looking out through a broad window into the cheerless gray sky of nineteenth century London, I realized I hadn't turned off the simulator last night.
- Simple things.
And issue number 2 . . .
- Rhonda Minestra walked into the office, and after shutting the door, grinned and bounced on her toes.
- Catching God is the tough part.
- Matirsutrus shone full on the waters of Malibar, his face mournful and pockmarked as he crept along the canals.
- Edward thought he knew every part of the library, but he was perplexed to find he was wrong.
- "Small people are tragic," Rain said.
- Kyril Ague, the only Diplomat Class passenger aboard the starship, hefted his zipbag and stepped out early from the exit valve, hoping to see a standard local reception committee.
- Ursula sported quite a shiner when she arrived at work bright and early the Monday after her vacation.
Yup, no adverbs. What else do these opening sentences have in common? Very few adjectives, lots of strong verbs (except for stories starting with dialogue), and an element of mystery that draws the reader into the story. They all match the tone for the rest of the story as well, but you'd have to read the story to verify that. Can anyone spot other similarities?
This list also highlights that many approaches work. You can start with setting, dialogue, or character. You can start with complex sentences or short fragments. You can include world-specific words or everyday vocabulary. Lots of choices.
This should not imply that first lines are more important than the rest of the story. I've read first lines that I've loved only to be disappointed later on. A sure rejection. I've also read stories that didn't work well at the beginning but were worth trying to fix because of the rest of the tale.
- Six years Federal Police Force, last two on Homicide.
- In her cold bedroom chamber, Atana re-read her letter, then pressed the send button on her console.
- "So what's the crisis?" Duram Karr sighed as he slid into a lounge chair in the VIP Room of the Commander's Club.
- "Who gives a shit what the surface track is?" asked Kalypso.
- My hand brushed the shoulder of his jerkin before he twisted away.
- "Sol, it's time. They're ready to see you now."
- WELCOME TO CYBERMATE, THE ONLY WESTERN HEMISPHERE GOVERNMENT-SANCTIONED MATE CERTIFICATION SYSTEM.
I am intrigued. How about you?
05 November 2006
02 November 2006
Although he was not a speculative fiction writer, I thought we should mark his passing. I really enjoyed his work, especially Sophie's Choice.
Of course, Electric Spec focuses on short stories, so I thought I'd look at some short story first lines. I must admit I cheated and just looked in my 2005 "Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction" Edited by Gardner Dozois with a forward by Robert Silverberg.
Here are some intriguing short story first lines (YOU MUST BUY THIS BOOK. It truly is the best of the best.)
- There is a principle in nature I don't think anyone has pointed out before.
- I awoke this morning to discover that bioengineering had made demands upon me during the night.
- It all started when Cletus Jefferson asked himself "Why aren't all blind people geniuses?"
- So the white men are back!
- Mae lived in the last village in the world to go on line.
What's your idea of a good short story first line? :)
01 November 2006
NaNoWriMo:National Novel Writing Month and NaBloPoMo: National Blog Posting Month. I'd enjoy hearing any success (or not!) stories.
Does anyone else wonder why November? Doesn't it interfere with eating turkey? :)
Good luck writers!
31 October 2006
I'm not posting this just to whine (I DO feel better now, thank you), but rather to make a point. As Betsy said in her earlier post, it's sometimes hard to judge the quality of digital magazines. Authors get important services from websites like Duotrope and The Black Hole, but you can never be certain about a magazine's reputation.
Eventually, magazine reputations spread by word of mouth (or word of blog). When fellow writers ask me for suggestions about where to submit their work, I tell them about the 'zines that paid me promptly—and those that didn't.
30 October 2006
"Today's announcement heralds the beginning of increased title availability andHow does all this apply to us? Well, I believe in some standardization, even for e-zines, and focusing on distribution is a good start. I think the internet fosters a valuable free-for-all attitude, but when you download a file from Electric Spec, even for free, you've got to know that you're getting what we advertise: a well-written, bug-free, tightly edited story. I think we're achieving that so far, but some of the e-books and e-zines aren't always so stringent. I'd hate for them to put a black mark on the e-publishing industry as a whole, and standards will help the maintain the quality people have come to expect from print zines and books. I'm a firm believer in the power of blogs and e-zines and e-books, as well as more traditional forms of print, because I believe in words and communication. More writing and more reading and more availability can only improve the human condition, and, used wisely, the Internet is a path in the right direction.
lower costs for publishers entering the eBook and digital reading market,"
stated Neil de Young, Hachette Book Group USA...Over forty publishers,
technology companies and organizations were involved in the OCF Working Group,
the committee responsible for the creation of the standard, including Adobe
Systems Inc., Benetech, DAISY Consortium, eBook Technologies Inc., Hachette Book Group, Harlequin, iRex Technologies, Mobipocket (An amazon.com company),
netLibrary, OverDrive Inc., Random House, Simon & Schuster, WGBH and many
28 October 2006
For those of you who haven't been to a "Con" before, it's probably not exactly how you picture it—and certainly not how it is spoofed on The Simpsons. Sure, the hotel lobby features a cast of colorful characters who look like they just walked off the sets of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, but you don't have to slap on pointy ears to attend. I fit in just fine in my jeans and long-sleeved t-shirt.
Three features of the Con impressed me right from the start. First, at any given time there were four or five workshops and author readings going on. They were designed to fit a variety of tastes and interests, but several times I wished I could be two places at once. Second, the quality of the speakers was quite impressive--more on that below. Third, the setting of the workshops was intimate, with most of them having 10 to 20 attendees. This made it easy to hear the presentations and ask questions.
This post would be way too long if I shared everything I learned or found interesting, and so . . . now for the highlights. Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell Memorial Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer did a reading from his forthcoming novel Rollback. (It is currently being serialized in Analog and will be released in hardcover by Tor in '07). It was actually more like an "acting" than a reading. Standing in front of the audience with a PDA cupped in one hand, he used voice and gesture to help make the book come alive. Afterwards, he took questions and talked about several interesting topics, some of which I'll probably revisit in later posts.
I also enjoyed the author reading by Daniel Abraham. He he's an up-and-coming author who read from a project he's working on that's coordinated by one of my favorite authors, George R.R. Martin. Mr. Martin has created a shared world anthology called the Wildcard series, and Mr. Abraham's work will be featured in a new triad of Wildcard mosaic novels that will be released from Tor beginning next year. After the reading, I'm already hooked. Melinda Snodgrass , another Wildcard collaborator, also revealed in her excellent screenwriting workshop that she and Mr. Martin will be pitching a Wildcard movie. Let's hope Hollywood is interested!
After my positive experience, I'm certainly hoping to attend next year. Maybe it can also be an opportunity to promote Electric Spec. I'm sure a lot of the attendees would enjoy our 'zine.
27 October 2006
|The Vampire Novel|
Hmm, very interesting! You scored 139!
|People are addicted to you, as you make such entertaining and sexy reading material. You get people’s imaginations flowing and make for the type of book people want to read more than once. Cults have been inspired by the likes of you.|
26 October 2006
24 October 2006
There is also a Hatrack River Writers Workshop Forum containing several discussion areas and more. I'd love to hear back about experiences with this.
I personally believe Mr.Card is among the best writers of all time. Right now I'm reading his "Maps in a Mirror", which is excellent! Not only does it contain most (all?) of his short fiction, but it contains the intriguing backstories on the stories, and amazing essays on topics such as what fantasy is and why it speaks to the human condition. Awesome!
And I promise I get no kickbacks of any kind from this endorsement. Really. :)
23 October 2006
The Nerd Factor
In a recent interview in Locus Magazine, Betsy Wollheim, president of DAW books, said:
We're also striving to make the packaging more sophisticated, although it's hard because we don't want to lose our core readership. But I'm finding that many middle-aged people still want to read fantasy and science fiction -- they just don't want to be seen doing it! So one of the tricks of the trade is to make the books look a little more upscale.
Do you think it's true that people are judged by the cover of the book they're reading? Is that one factors that hurts speculative fiction readership? Maybe spec fiction would sell better if it was displayed behind opaque covers, like Cosmopolitan in my local grocery store.
All stories have to do primarily with protagonists. I’m seeing their world through their filter, so they have to make sense in and of that crazy world. I have a predilection for dark stories and especially for dark characters, which are difficult to make likeable. I’m particularly fond of the anti-hero, who does things in his own, selfish way and saves the world anyway. Think John Constantine. I think the defining factor for a successful anti-hero is cool. I have to admire him even while disagreeing with him.
However, if the protagonist isn’t an anti-hero, then I want him to be strong in his own right. Give me a protag who will fight, who knows his path through the rubble of a broken life, who has his own firm morality. Bottom line: I don’t have to like your protagonist, but I'd better respect him, and I’d better understand why he’s doing what he’s doing up until the last word.
Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
Avoid cliches like the plague.
Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
Be more or less specific.
Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
No sentence fragments.
Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
One should NEVER generalize.
Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
Don't use no double negatives.
Eschew obfuscation, and ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
One-word sentences? Eliminate.
Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
The passive voice is to be ignored.
Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
Kill all exclamation points!!!
Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.
Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
Puns are for children, not groan readers.
Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
Who needs rhetorical questions?
Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
(Someone sent this to me without attribution. If anyone knows who wrote it, I'd be happy to give credit where it is do . . . er . . . due).
21 October 2006
This is not because the first paragraph has to have a "hook" (although a hook can be a big help), but rather it is the author's first chance to exhibit his or her facility with language and story telling. If an author has an awkwardly worded sentence in the first paragraph, then, chances are, I'll find more and more as I go along. Similarly, if I'm lost about the basics of the story after the first paragraph (i.e. who is the protagonist, where is the action taking place, what is the tone of the piece), I'm likely to become even more lost by page 12 (if I make it that far).
If our blog readers would like, I think I and my fellow editors would be willing to look at the first paragraph of a story from a brave volunteer and tell you and the rest of the blogosphere our reactions. Since our blog is pretty new, we might have to wait until we have more readers that know about this opportunity, but, if you're lurking out there and would like to give it a try, let me know.
20 October 2006
The reason I mentioned online critique groups is critique is an essential part of writing a good story, IMHO. As editors, we would love to do back and forth interactions with authors and help them polish their stories. Unfortunately, time constraints just don't allow this. There are actually a lot of critique options out there in cyberland, some even free. For example, Critters Workshop is a well-known and well-respected on-line workshop/critique group for serious writers of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. I'd love to hear about experiences with Critters Workshop if anyone out there has any. :)
Writing World has a bunch of good articles and links related to critiquing. Again, comments welcome.
There's also Crapometer, a famous blog critique site.
I think at least one of the other editors has tried this. Comments anyone? :)
19 October 2006
Since you mentioned it, I just wanted to add that the Clarion Workshops are awesome
opportunities for speculative fiction writers. (Although I personally have never been
lucky enough to participate.)
Oh my God! I just saw they now have a Virtual Clarion Workshop!
I might have to sign up! It does look a bit pricey however ($25 for a critique of 7500 word or
less story). If anyone out there has tried it, I'd love to hear about it.
Since I brought up the topic of online workshops, I have to say I took the Online Writers Workshop in Science Fiction taught by James Gunn, Director of the Center for the study of Science Fiction through the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame and it was a good (but tough!) experience.
A successful short story is a marvel of compression, nuisance, inference and suggestion. If the novel invites one to enter another world, the short story
invites one to peer through a peephole into the world, and yet the world has to
have the same reality as in a novel. It truly is the universe in a grain of
sand. This is done by compression and implication. Every single word has to help
the story, or it hurts it. The short story is the least forgiving form of
narrative fiction, with no room for redundancies, for backing up to explain what
was meant before, for auctorial intrusions that may be perfectly allowable in
Does every author we end up publishing accomplish this? No, but they’re much closer than the ones we reject. We also try to get them closer to this standard through the editing process. There have been a number of times where I’ve cut words from stories where extra words “hurt” the story. I realize this guidance is still pretty general. In later posts, I'll try to be more specific, and maybe my co-editors will want to chime in as well.
So, while, in most instances, we can't tell you why we rejected your particular story, we can share common reasons for rejection. Here are a few of the major reasons, and maybe some of my co-editors will want to add to the list:
1) We've seen it before. We get quite a few submissions from people who do not seem to be familiar with the genre they are writing in. So, the plots of many of the stories we get don't hold our interest because we've seen the same or similar terminate before. Sometimes, we get stories that are hard to put in the rejection pile because they are really well-written, but they're just not unique enough to make the cut.
2) We saw it coming. Most of us are not opposed to an "O'Henry" twist at the end of a story. That being said, it is very hard to pull one of these off. Many of the stories with twist endings have twists that have been done before (see #1 above) or the whole story seems like a set-up for the twist ending. Even if the ending is really good, the rest of the story better be engaging, too, or it probably will not make the cut.
3) We didn't see it coming, but we should have. We get a number of stories are good up until that last line. These are stories where the ending is just not satisfying. This is not to say that every ending needs to be a twist (see #2), tied up in a neat little bow, or happy. However, we don't want to feel like we've been left hanging, the plot has not been resolved to a reasonable degree, or we don't know why we just read the story.
4) Poor writing. This one is a bit tricky to talk about because it is hard to define. We're not talking about grammar and spelling (which is important, but not usually the problem). Instead, we're talking about the tools writers use to make a story engaging. Even with a great plot idea, you need to be able to set it out in a way that pulls the reader in. Common traits that could go in the "poor writing" category include: Too much detail not important to the story, too little detail about the characters or setting, too much narrative (i.e. telling rather than showing), writing that is vague or confusing, too many adverbs, too many exclamation points, unrealistic dialogue, not enough dialogue, poor character descriptions, too much backstory, and flat or trope characters.
Given all this, we'll probably need to post something about what we do like in a story. That will be upcoming.