28 January 2009
I was excited as a fan of speculative fiction to see a fantasy win the award this year. The book starts grim, with a wet knife and a dead family, but ends on quite the note of hope. Its hero is a little boy who keeps his head through all sorts of weird adventures. I like to think it reflects the current times: measured thought and action + a little luck and help from people who love us = hope. It's well worth a read.
My favorite thing about Gaiman is the way he never, ever speaks down to the reader, whether they're 10 or 100. It's not that he never employs telling, but he leaves lots of room for a reader's personal interpretation. I try to think of my own work that way--less in terms of what I'm trying to say but more in terms of what will different readers take away? When different readers mention unintentional themes in my work, I know I've done my job as a writer.
And therein may lay the key to beating this subjective editing business. If I find something in your story that resonates with me personally, I'm likely to want to buy it. You have no idea, as a writer, what that may be. But if you leave me some wiggling room, you've got a lot better chance.
27 January 2009
The book also raises some issues such as, what is genre? This book was considered "mainstream" rather than science fiction, despite the time travel. I think this is because of the writer's style (see above) and because of the sad and disturbing ending.
Upon further consideration, this story is really only a love story. The author does an excellent job showing the ups and downs of relationships between a romantic couple and among family members. The time travel is just the problem the couple deals with; any disease would do. In particular, I did not like that the time-traveling protagonist never tries to alter "fate"--at least we never see him try. His mother dies in a car accident and he visits the accident scene many times, but does he ever time-travel to an hour before and tell her not to get into the car? He knows about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in advance and doesn't try anything. Why not go to the towers and pull the fire alarms before the planes come at least?
Thus as a love story, this novel was lovely, but as time-travel, it left something to be desired.
What did you think?
Ooh, and they made a movie of it, starring Eric Bana as Henry and Rachel McAdams as Clare, with Robert Schwentke directing. This appears to be in post-production oblivion however? Possibly being released this year? Does anyone know anything about this?
25 January 2009
24 January 2009
21 January 2009
Emmerich and his Centropolis partner Michael Wimer will produce the film. The deal was for mid-six against low-seven figures."
Apparently it has been rather a rocky road getting Foundation to the screen...
Read more about it. I've got my fingers crossed that this time it happens.
How about you? What classic SF or fantasy novels would you like to see on the big screen?
20 January 2009
16 January 2009
- changing eligibility from a one-year rolling basis to calendar year of publication
- changing the recommendation window from "any time" to a three-month nominations period (15 November to 15 February)
- limiting members to five nominations per category
- removing the preliminary ballot from the process
- abolishing the Nebula Award juries, which had had the ability to add one work in each category to the final ballot
- replacing the script award with a "Ray Bradbury Award for Best Dramatic Presentation" (specifically including motion pictures, television, Internet, radio, audio, and stage productions)
- explicitly defining the Ray Bradbury script and Andre Norton Young Adult awards as not Nebulas
Read the complete revised and updated Nebula Awards Rules
14 January 2009
I took you in my arms, just as the music started. Initially, you were as limp as a rag doll, and clumsily followed my lead through the waltz. You were a mannequin, after all.
Then, to my surprise and utter delight, an amazing thing happened. Slowly and seeming deliberately, your limbs and joints lost their stiffness and fused together, your face became animated - your eyes, super expressive, behind those long, dark lashes. They studied me closely, as we now glided effortlessly over the old wooden floor... then, almost imperceptibly, became pitch black, with blazing reds where the irises should have been. Your arm began to tighten around my neck, your dainty hand in my callused one.
Fingernails sprouted into sharp, tapered claws, pearly white teeth morphed into cutting incisors and needle-like canines, flashing in the candlelight as those red, luscious lips parted in glee.
Despite my best efforts to resist, you practically willed my face down to where your fleshy rasp of a tongue could teasingly taunt my earlobe.
I'm going to start with yet another disclaimer. I really don't like second person, not even a little bit. I've thought about why and I decided it's because it really doesn't include the reader in any way. This writer is talking to someone who is not me, as if I'm reading a stolen letter. I have no real way, as a reader, to identify with the narrator or anyone else in the story. Another editor may feel differently, but I don't see a lot of second person in fiction these days.
Though there may be a great story in here, a mannequin (robot, droid, love doll, old doll, etc) coming to life has been done before. This might have a different angle, but I don't see it in this first page. This writer obviously has a firm hand with descriptives, and even the adverbs didn't bug me as much as usual. Plus, I love me a shallow narrator who gets his (or hers)! But the second person is such a strike, I doubt I'd read on.
Aaaand, on that happy note, I am out of candidates for the First Page Game, so it's obviously suspended until we get more. Tell all your friends and we'll hopefully play again soon. Thanks so much to everyone who has submitted their first pages so far. In fact, thanks to everyone who submits to Electric Spec! Obviously, there wouldn't be a magazine without you, and our slush seems to grow and improve with every issue.
12 January 2009
10 January 2009
This is yet another hurdle to publication that authors have no control over. :(
As editors, we want to have a well-balanced issue with a variety of types of stories. So, if we have six awesome vampire stories in the hold-for-voting pile, sadly, only one is going to make it into the issue.
What does this mean for authors? This means if your story is about something unusual, something others aren't writing about, you'll have a better chance at publication.
I look forward to seeing those unusual stories in the future!
09 January 2009
08 January 2009
People. PEOPLE! Stop writing so many great stories. It makes my job so difficult.
I had to write several rejections for good stories that really just weren't right for me or Electric Spec. These are stories that will sell to some magazine, somewhere; we're just not the right market.
That's a line you hear editors spout all the time. Not right for me. That might beg the question: what is right for this editor?
Climbing over unusual odds to save important people.
Dark hatred expressed with good reason. (Hatred can drive a character, but shouldn't define them. Give me a way to identify with them, too--just a tidge of humanity. I see a lot of flat characters defined by one past event.)
Noir atmosphere in an unusual world.
Tragic or thoughtful hilarity. (Ok, that one takes some explaining. Make me laugh, but also make me think. The world only needs one Chevy Chase.)
Science fiction with well-executed contextual jargon and culture, and characters natural to that culture.
Happy endings. (Ok, that one take some explaining, too. I don't need wine and roses and self-congratulatory pats on the back, but I want a change. Let me see the characters grow. A bad ending is fine if at least one of the characters is better for it.)
Seeing a story from someone I know! That's a particular joy.
Not right for me:
Angst--especially the teen-aged variety.
Voice over content. Make something happen.
Unreasonable, unexplained violence. (I like me some violence. Not so much the psychopaths.)
Doing bad stuff to kids.
Weird mother-daughter relationships.
Humorous takes on horror.
Tired tropes and devices like Someone Who Knows Things But Doesn't Tell, POV Characters Keeping Secrets, People Waking Up At The Start of the Story, Magical Items Ruling The Day, to name a few.
Stories that start too late. That's a biggie. Some stories have too much set-up, rather than introducing the characters and the problem in the first 250 words. I find myself getting quite rigid on that as the years go by. Voice and atmosphere and cool backstory only pulls me along so far when I'm in the midst of a fifty-story slush pile. But it's not just me. Many folks read a ton of short fiction, and there are a lot of great options out there. Choosing to not finish a story is only a click away. Let's keep their hands off their mouses, eh?
Thanks for all the great stories! I think we set a new record with our "hold for voting" file, so my reading ain't done yet. I'm going to get real busy with the upcoming issue (and hopefully a few surprises) so after the next First Page, I have to suspend the first page game for awhile.
06 January 2009
In the face of so much slush, I must admit, I do have some advice for folks...
In the interests of being positive, I'm calling it
Do's & Do's:
- Do send us your short stories, rather than your novels. We don't publish novels.
- Do include your story as an rtf attachment.
- Do send us spec fiction. This includes science fiction, fantasy, horror and any combination thereof. In fact, I'd love to see more SF/Fantasy and/or horror combos. :)
- Do send us one story at a time.
- Do send us a unique original story. The following plots will be a tough sell:
- Aliens land on earth.
- Aliens land on earth and attack humans.
- Aliens land on earth and have sex with humans.
- A person is changed into a vampire.
- A person is killed by a vampire.
- A person has sex with a vampire.
- A robot is built.
- A robot attacks one or more people.
- A robot has sex with one or more people.
Actually, this robot stuff reminds me of a really funny story I saw in The Onion: Roomba Violates All Three Laws Of Roombotics. You know I'm an Asimov fan, right? :)
- Aliens land on earth.
- Do use correct grammar and spelling.
- Do note MSWord Spell Autocheck (or whatever it's called) is not always your friend, e.g. from/form, etc.
- Do use first-person pov OR third-person pov consistently (2nd-person is a tough sell).
- Do use past tense (present tense might be okay).
- Do note MSWord Spell Autocheck (or whatever it's called) is not always your friend, e.g. from/form, etc.
- Do have your critique group critique your story. You know I'm a big advocate of critique groups, right? In the absence of a critique group, do have your buddy/mom/spouse/alien?/vampire?/robot? read over your story and make sure there are no glaring errors.
- Do include a cover letter with your name, pen name, email address, story title, story word count, previous pub credits. You can tell us about your hobbies, your kids, your insert-whatever-here, but we don't really care about that stuff.
- If you feel you MUST reply to our rejection/hold-for-voting email, do be polite and professional.
- When your story is accepted do be professional with your editor. :)
05 January 2009
First a disclaimer: I'm doing this game as an editor. I'm trying to let you all in on what goes on in our heads as we read (or, well, at least mine). I participate in a lot of critique, and that's a different animal. In critique, I spend a lot of time with the person's pages, figuring out what's working and what's not. I often know beforehand what the writer is trying to accomplish, so I can focus on whether they achieved that or not. I go into critique knowing it's not a finished product and expecting changes will be made.
Not so, editing. When I read my slush, I expect to read the best story possible, polished and finished. I expect it's already been read by people who will tell the author the truth (one of many reasons I don't crit my slush--it should have already by vetted by others). I'm not looking for reasons to reject, but I don't spend a lot of time figuring out how to fix a story either. Reading slush is not critique. It's editing.
It sounds harsh; it might sound like I'm slamming every story I read. Actually, I spend a lot of time thinking: Not for E-Spec and move on. Why do I move on? Because I'm actually looking for a reason to take a story. Call me an optimist that way.
So, I'll be frank. The structure of a few of the sentences in this piece bothers me. Sometimes the link between ideas are confusing, sometimes it's passive voice, and sometimes the subject needs to come first.
Subject-verb-object is an editor's dream, really. Solid, traditional structure is like a clean window; I can see right through to the idea. I see sentences here that feel like the author may be trying for voice and atmosphere--especially the early ones-- but they just ended up confusing me.
As for the plot, why don't we know why she can't go into the forest? Well, okay, the POV character doesn't know, but why doesn't he tell her? More importantly, why doesn't she ask? Older, wiser beings Who Know Stuff But Don't Tell is tired trope. Often, an early reveal will add to the tension of the story--if it's a good secret, that is. Right now, though, all I got are singing trees and I'm thinking "How bad can singing trees be, anyway?"
Think of the first page as roughly the first chapter of a book. By the end of a first chapter in a novel you should know the protag, their problem, at least one obstacle in their way (it's AWESOME if that obstacle is the antagonist). Plus it's cool if we get a little "by golly I'm going into that forest anyway" so we know our marching orders are coming from someone who's going in with both guns blazing. What's missing from this page are details of the problem and to some extent, a clear antagonist (though if we believe Dad, the trees might be it).
Because I had to read a couple of sentences a couple of times and because I don't know what the problem is and because I've got 50 stories in my inbox right now, I'd probably not read on. I really don't mean that to sound harsh. There may be potential here. But I don't see it in on the first page.
Thanks so much for playing along and keep them coming! A note on my slush: my goal is to get through all my stories by Friday, and our cut-off is today, the 5th, at midnight.