31 July 2008
30 July 2008
Re. science: One of the authors in my critique group recently wrote an SF story that prompted a lot of discussion. The gist of the discussion was this:
- Science in SF doesn't have to be correct, but
- it does have to be internally consistent.
So, basically anything goes except contradicting yourself. However...
Re. expectations: According to convention, one thing that differentiates SF from fantasy is SF authors are supposed to explain the events/whatever using 'scientific' terms. In fantasy, the whatever-events are not explained other than to invoke the concept of 'magic'.
Authors are free to write whatever they like as far as I'm concerned. Nonetheless, reader (and editor!) expectations can impact the success of such a story. In particular, if the protagonist of a story is a scientist, one expects some scientific explanations. How did the wormhole portal open up? How is the alien traveling back in time? How is the electrically-neutral particle being affected by electromagnetic fields? How do we have negative absolute temperatures?
The "hows" are the science, but the "whys" are the plot. We need those, too. :)
29 July 2008
- Watch out for non "said" dialog tags, e.g. "You suck," she sniffed.
- Watch out for protagonist self-description, e.g. running fingers through "red" hair and casting "brown" eyes about.
- Watch out for super-overdone cliches, e.g. a female monster/alien/ghost/vampire/werewolf/etc. kills her husband/lover/one-night-stand/etc.
- Please make sense. If you read the first page of your story to your husband/lover/one-night-stand are they going to say "Huh?" or "What happens next?"
- Please be aware of the laws of physics and do not violate them--especially if you're writing science fiction (unless you have a good reason).
Personally, I advocate stories with original ideas at our production meetings. What would I love to see? I'd love to see more stories with unique voice.
Keep those stories coming!
28 July 2008
At WorldCon, ElectricSpec editors will be wearing ElectricSpec t-shirts, so feel free to come up and say "Hi".
Hhm...I should probably clear out my submissions box before then. I better get to it.
24 July 2008
I freely admit this is tricky. In a story I've been working on for like a year, my critique group said recently, 'you know, you don't need this scene'. I looked at it, and they were totally right! So, perhaps I'm changing my point to: critique groups are vital.
I could summarize the whole 300-word-ish scene with one sentence! Jeesh! You'd think an editor could see this on her own. But no. It is difficult to truly see your own writing. All authors need to be able to step back from their work and try to see it objectively. So, wait, that's my point: step back from your writing. :)
Okay, I'm rambling a bit. That's okay on a blog, but NOT in a story. Maybe that's my point: don't ramble.
I'll stop now. :) But please continue to send Electric Spec your excellent (succinct/non-ramble-y) stories. Thanks!
21 July 2008
Based on yesterday's reading session, I would also suggest writers take a close look at lengths. We are well aware we accept stories longer than comparable zines, and heck, we like 'em. Many markets prefer to cap at 5000. Remember, though, to only use the words it takes to tell your story. In my experience, many rejected longer stories are so long not because more events fill the space between A and Z, but because of narrative and exposition that does not further the plot. We have, and will continue, to accept longer stories. But remember you do have to hold my interest longer.
I think our response times are longer this summer, for a few reasons. First, it's summer. Everyone moves slower. Also, submissions are better in quantity and quality, which is exciting because it only makes for a better magazine. Thirdly, we're entering Conference Season here in Colorado. First up, World Science Fiction Convention, fondly known locally as Denvention, held in Denver 6-10 August. The Electric Spec staff will be there every day promoting the magazine, so if you want to meet any of us, keep an eye on this space and the main Electric Spec site for forthcoming details.
Next up is Colorado Gold, 11-14 September. It's a great conference, well worth attending. A bit more intimate, and the agents and editors are always top notch and generally available for smoozing (including yours truly). I'll be speaking, so come on and see me.
Then MileHiCon, our local SciFi Con, held 24-26 October. There's always a great writing track, and the Electric Spec staff are still working out details of our participation.
16 July 2008
A survey of first sentences from The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction shows the MAJORITY of the first sentences are telling, e.g. (quotation marks mine), "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.", "I live in the oldest city in the world.", "Everything felt like a dream.", etc., etc.
Thus, if you want to submit a story with some telling to Electric Spec, this editor says, "Go for it!"
11 July 2008
At Electric Spec, I must admit I don't pay any attention to the gender of an author. Glancing at the current issue, I see we have 75% female authors. Hhm... You might think since this is influenced by the fact we have more female editors than male. But, since our male editor is in touch with his feminine side, and since one of our female editors loves weapons/gore and general darkness/mayhem...I'm gonna say gender is totally immaterial at Electric Spec. :)
Do YOU think there's sexism in spec fic lit? If so, why?
10 July 2008
IMHO, the movie "Total Recall" is only superficially like the story, dealing with a seemingly ordinary fellow who wants to go to Mars, can't, and tries to get memory implants but all kinds of trouble ensues. Personally, I really enjoy this movie because it is very ambiguous. Did the protag experience the adventures or were they implanted memories? Was it real? Or was it Rekall? :) I have it on good authority that the director Paul Verhoeven was ambiguous on purpose.
Upon careful review, however, I have a new interpretation: I think the entire movie is a dream. Why? Because of Melina. The protag, Quaid, dreams of Melina in the first scene...what if he never wakes up? I don't see any other way for the SAME woman to appear in Quaid's dream, on Rekall's computer, and on Mars. If Melina is a real woman, Quaid could dream about her and interact with her on Mars--in this case the events are not implanted memories--but then how would she be on Rekall's computer? On the other hand, if Melina is an implanted memory, she would be on the Rekall computer and in the fake Mars events--but in that case how would she be in his dream before the protag goes to Rekall? Moreover, at the end of the movie, Quaid asks 'What if this is all a dream?' and Melina says, 'Kiss me quick before you wake up.'
What do you think?
07 July 2008
I have to see the end before I can start writing. Otherwise I end up with half a story languishing on my hard drive. Do you? If not I envy you. But I actually know very few published writers who don't know where they're headed when they start. This is not to say that they don't sometimes end up somewhere unexpected. I just mean that most published writers I know have a synopsis somewhere, be it in their head or a notecard, before they start to write. I can't find my direction within 2-5000 words without such a compass.
Do you like the stars, a compass, GPS, Mapquest? What's your guide from Point A to Point Z when writing a short story?