30 June 2008
26 June 2008
Dave spoke recently about developing ideas to their fullest, and sometimes in short stories, world-building gets short thrift, because we don't have a lot of words to spend. I see this most in urban fantasies where the writer assumes the reader is grounded because it takes place on this planet--even if it is a planet inhabited by werewolves (which are apparently in, if our inbox is any indication). But there are ways to show this strange new world your characters inhabit that don't take up a lot of real estate on the page.
--Dialogue. How do your characters relate to each other? Not like you and I would in ordinary conversation, I hope! How do they show respect; what constitutes an insult? What does their slang sound like? What are the little shortcuts or accents or usage that sets them firmly inside their world?
--Focus on the most important elements that make your world different. You should know of several, but what are the two or three that inform the reader they're not in Kansas anymore?
-- Attraction. What makes for a physically attractive "person" in your world and why? What are valued qualities based on world conditions? (Clue: use them in characters you want the reader to admire).
--Speaking of values: how does your world condition affect personal values? I'm reading DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? right now. In the Real World most everyone I know has a dog or a cat. We all value our pets, of course. But Dick elevates the rather common phenomenon of domesticated animal to status symbol and it says things about his world without exposition.
--When your character is confronted with a crisis, what is the one thing he or she might do that ties her to her world? A Christian might cross himself, a sailor might curse. What does your character do that sets him firmly in his world?
--And while we're on the topic of crisis, is yours intrinsic to your world? The most interesting crises can only happen in the world where they're set.
These are just a few ideas of many; I'm sure you can come up with more. A final note: don't explain. Just show your characters behaving as they should in their world and the reader will catch on.
25 June 2008
Our next issue of Electric Spec has an article about their Best Fantasy Movie pick (good job, Marty)! Check it out on June 30! :)
23 June 2008
"A Small Room in Koboldtown", Michael Swanwick (Asimov's Apr/May 2007). Read more about it at www.locusmag.com. Congratulations to all the nominees and all the winners!
22 June 2008
- Info. repetition. In a short story, information about plot, character, world-building, or setting should only be given once. Also, information that can be inferred from the story should not be "told" by the author--trust your reader and assume he or she will "get it." If you tell or show us on page one that sprites live in the clouds and only come out at night, don't remind us again on page 6.
- "Walk the dog" actions. Sometimes authors include details that are not critical to the story and only serve to slow things down. For example, if a character is taking his dog for a walk, we probably don't need to know that he called the dog, got out the collar, put the collar on the the dog, clipped the leash to the collar, opened the door, stepped outside, closed the door behind him, etc, etc. Yawn!
- Unnecessary or distracting detail. In the above example, if you include a long description for the leash, i.e. "the leash was covered with pink and purple swirls of color that flashed in the sun as dog and master walked down the street," then there should be a reason why that description is there. If we never hear about the leash again, why did we need to know so much about it? I see this a lot with eye colors of minor characters. Who cares if the waiter in the restaurant has blue eyes? This is a tougher one to spot than the previous two bullets, but I do see it a lot.
- Adjective overkill. "The dark disk floated in the blue sky. It was as black as night against the azure backdrop, like a lapis boat floating on an aquamarine lake." Okay, this is an exaggeration, but you get the picture. Pick your best adjective and move on.
18 June 2008
It's a difficult job to compare movies from different times; the historical context of a movie is important when judging it. Nonetheless, I don't agree with AFI's choice. What do you think? What's the best sci-fi movie of all time? (My fave is Star Wars: Ep IV)
Speaking of movies...our next issue of Electric Spec has another intriguing "Spec Fic in Flicks" article. This time, Marty will be discussing a recent fantasy movie. Check it out on June 30!
17 June 2008
We've been lucky at Electric Spec. The vast majority of our authors are pros. The rest? Well, they have an important lesson to learn before they are truly successful.
16 June 2008
I find this whole thing rather odd, don't you? The perp was asking for a $10 fee--how are they going to get rich with that? And how did said perp think they could get away with it?
There's a good story in here somewhere...
13 June 2008
An Editor's job is never done, however, and we are starting to think about the next issue which will go live on October 31, 2008. Thus, it seems appropriate to say today, Friday the 13th (Boo!), that we would LOVE to get some fantastic horror and macabre for that issue. Writers, start your muses!
12 June 2008
- Laird Barron "The Forest"
- Elizabeth Bear "Tideline"
- Ted Chiang "The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate"
- Jeffrey Ford, "The Dreaming Wind"
- Karen Joy Fowler "Always"
- Kij Johnson "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs Of North Park After the Change"
- Gwynneth Jones "The Tomb Wife"
- John Kessel "The Last American"
- Ian R. McLeod "The Master Miller's Wife"
- David Moles "Finistera"
- Johanna Sinisalo "Baby Doll"
- Gene Wolfe "Memorare"
Congratulations to all the nominees!
And read more about the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas in my 2007 Electric Spec Interview of James E. Gunn. :)
10 June 2008
09 June 2008
I steal the notion from Barth Anderson, author of PATRON SAINT OF PLAGUES and THE MAGICIAN AND THE FOOL. (He's also appeared in our pages.) He said in our interview:
...every sentence is like another incremental dilation of a camera lens, letting in a little more light, information, or field of vision of what we're looking at. To me that explained what short stories can do. They're like peeking through a keyhole ... more often than not, novels are the whole room. A novel rifles through the drawers and reads the diary under the bed, but a short story is just a tiny viewing through one small aperture, and that's all.
This sounds like world building, and to an extent it is, but it also refers neatly to plot, as well. We only get to see those pivotal events, short and dirty, that directly affect the outcome of the story. All else is ruthlessly thrown in the hamper (to keep the painful metaphor going).
As editors, we're learning that shorter is often better, not because we have short attention spans, but because those shorter works often show a mastery of the form, of storytelling. And really, how many pages will your reader kneel there, eye pressed to the keyhole, before he gets a crick in his neck?
08 June 2008
06 June 2008
Anyway, I find the central theme of these works, i.e. aliens are responsible for the evolution of homo sapiens rather disappointing. In fact, this could be considered to a form of Intelligent Design!
Purely by chance, I read another book lately that supports Intelligent Design, albeit of a quite different kind, Black Order, 2005, by James Rollins. Dave blogged about this in May. This is a rollicking thriller set primarily in Europe with Nazis, spy-types, and bizarre science experiments. It really reminded me of Dan Brown's stuff--but better. Anyway, the main idea here is "quantum evolution": human minds via quantum mechanics actually cause the beneficial mutations that lead to evolution! I had never heard of this idea, but it is also clearly a type of Intelligent Design.
Who knew there were so many Intelligent Design versions out there!
Do you know of any others? (Besides the obvious!)
05 June 2008
Personally, I find the vamp/were thing somewhat mystifying. They are SO popular now, especially in novels. I wonder why that is. Do they symbolize/represent the wild animal/evil inside humans? Or is it something else? What do you guys think?
03 June 2008
We try to be fair and quantitative with our final decisions and assign each story on hold a numerical score. This time around, we editors have quite different rankings. Dave thinks it's because all the stories are so good.
Perusing the rankings, I can see some patterns... I guess I'll just talk about my own rankings --I wouldn't want to make my fellow editors cranky! :) One thing I appreciated was beautiful writing. This is writing that flows lyrically, writing that makes you feel like you ARE in the head of the unique protagonist. Another thing I always enjoy is a unique idea. This time we had some strange and wonderful problems with human culture and extrapolations of human society. I ranked those story highly.
Our next issue is live on June 30, 2008 and whatever stories we choose, it looks excellent!