31 May 2011

We're Live!

And we're live! The May 31, 2011 ElectricSpec issue is out! Huzzah!

In particular, check out the awesome short fiction:

  • Invasive Species by Ryan Kinkor
  • Frazee by Patricia Russo
  • Remodel with Swan Parts by Michael Griffin
  • The Turtle Wore Mascara by E. Bundy
  • Inside the Walls of East Lombard Street by Anthony J. Rapino

We've also got three-count-'em-three special features:
  • Special Feature: Author Interview with Robert J. Sawyer
  • Editors Corner: Race to Redemption by Betsy Dornbusch
  • Column: Spec Fic in Flix by Marty Mapes

Thanks, everyone, who contributed! We appreciate you. :)

And now on to working on the next issue...

27 May 2011

Robert J. Sawyer Interview

Next week, on May 31, 2011, my interview with award-winning Science Fiction author Robert J. Sawyer comes out in our own ElectricSpec. He discusses a multitude of fascinating topics, including:
  • his hardest writing task ever
  • how he does research for his novels
  • humanity's best chance for meeting a non-human intelligence
  • his favorite character out of the hundreds he's created over the years
  • how to keep track of and interweave multiple plots/subplots
  • what science fiction should really be called
  • an impending paradigm shift in human society
  • an easy and effective way to ground a story in our here and now
  • what he learned from the world of television
  • how humanity can outlive the sun
  • his next project

Check it out!

25 May 2011

Writing on Reading: The WWW Trilogy

Robert J. Sawyer's WWW trilogy, consisting of WWW:Wake, WWW:Watch, and WWW:Wonder, is his best work to date (and that's saying something). Of course, Sawyer is best known for his novel FlashForward which was the basis for the ABC TV series.

About WWW:Wake, Sawyer says, Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a genius at math — and blind. ...When a Japanese researcher develops a new signal-processing implant that might give her sight, she jumps at the chance, flying to Tokyo for the operation. ...Once the implant is activated, instead of seeing reality, the landscape of the World Wide Web explodes into her consciousness, spreading out all around her in a riot of colors and shapes. While exploring this amazing realm, she discovers something — some other — lurking in the background. And it's getting smarter ...

As you can see, the plotting here is very compelling. Sawyer also does an amazing job with characterization. In addition to the lovable protagonist Caitlin, there's a cast of empathetic and unique characters including the A.I. Webmind, Caitlin's autistic father Malcolm Decter, a chimpanzee bonobo hybrid Hobo, and many others.

Besides, excellent plotting and characterization, Sawyer fills the trilogy with fascinating "big ideas", such as the nature of consciousness, a 'flight versus sight' paradigm shift in human culture, the moral arrow through time and many others. To make a long review short: I strongly recommend this trilogy.

I'm also excited to announce I recently interviewed Mr. Sawyer for the May 31, 2011 issue of ElectricSpec and he was fascinating. Stay tuned for more information!

24 May 2011

Nebula winners

Perhaps by now you've heard the results of SFWA's Nebula Awards. There was a tie for best short story: "Ponies" by Kij Johnson and "How Interesting: A Tiny Man" by Harlan Ellison. Congratulations! Interestingly, this is Johnson's second Nebula and Ellison's fourth.

Of course, Harlan Ellison is a famous name to SF fans; he's been in the writing 'biz for a long time. Previously, he won for short stories "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" (1965) and "Jeffty Is Five" (1978) and for novella "A Boy and His Dog" (1970). He was also the recipient of the Grand Master Award in 2006. Impressive career! We should all be so lucky.

I'm motivated to get back to work...

23 May 2011

Building Character Through Dialogue

Making characters really pop is a challenge every writer faces. Many new writers try to do this with description, but that's really tough. Even if a character description is more unique that simple hair and eye color (yawn!) or laundry list of characteristics (age, height, clothing, etc), description only touches the surface. But you can introduce the essence of the character through his or her words. Dialogue allows you to introduce character through word choice (eg. hello v. 'sup), topic of conversation (the weather v. philosophy), and reaction (shocked stuttering v. witty barb). Even better, you can advance your plot, create conflict, or layer in backstory using the same dialogue.

So, if your critique partner or editor tells you a character seems flat, look to his or her dialogue first. A few key bits of conversation can make a big difference.

18 May 2011

Nebula Weekend!

Of course, this weekend (May 19-22) is Nebula weekend, and this year it's at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C. It will feature such excitement as "Using Science in Science Fiction","Warfare for Writers", "Short Story Plotting", and of course lots of "Cash Bar" and the main event: the Nebula Awards Banquet and Presentation. :) Looks fun!

Short story nominees include:

  • ‘‘Arvies’’, Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed Magazine)
  • ‘‘How Interesting: A Tiny Man’’, Harlan Ellison® (Realms of Fantasy)
  • ‘‘Ponies’’, Kij Johnson (Tor.com)
  • ‘‘I’m Alive, I Love You, I’ll See You in Reno’’, Vylar Kaftan (Lightspeed Magazine)
  • ‘‘The Green Book’’, Amal El-Mohtar (Apex Magazine)
  • ‘‘Ghosts of New York’’, Jennifer Pelland (Dark Faith)
  • ‘‘Conditional Love’’, Felicity Shoulders (Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine)

Read about the other nominees here. Congratulations to all!

17 May 2011

Great Review!

Just a shout out to Kevin over at Adventures Fantastic, who reviewed the two fantasy stories in our last issue. It is nice to hear some feedback once in awhile--especially when it is good feedback!

12 May 2011


I read a book recently that was almost all telling. The book in question was a literary novel, as you might surmise.

The show-don't-tell mantra has an interesting saga in a writer's life. Initially, we are all tellers; recall, for example, ghost stories told around the campfire. But then, beginning writers are consistently warned to "show, don't tell" once they start to get educated. As writers progress, however, they learn that some telling is a good thing; it can summarize boring bits, for example. Some writers then complete the circle and return to almost all telling.

I'm here to tell you as genre writers: do not do this. The tradition of genre writing such as fantasy, science fiction, and horror is mostly showing. This means dialogue. This means describe action. When you show, you let the reader experience things as if he/she was the character. When you tell, you impose an additional layer (author) between the character and the reader. The beauty of fiction is it is the only medium is which the reader gets to be someone (something?) else. Don't take that away from the reader!
Telling is less dramatic. Showing is more dramatic.

If I haven't convinced you with my logic, let me say this: we've never had an all telling story make it into the hold-for-voting file here at Electric Spec.

Stay tuned for an exciting new issue at the end of the month!

04 May 2011

Behind the Scenes

I said earlier we were in production mode over here at Electric Spec. I thought I'd pass along an update of what's happening behind the scenes...

We had our production meeting this week. As usual, there was lots of liquor, drugs, fried foods, fist-fights, and arm-wrestling. :) We decided on the stories for the May 2011 issue, and they look great! All authors in hold-for-voting should hear back from us very soon if they haven't already. We picked our cover artist, and the art will also be great. We have a lead on a very exciting interview, which I'll blog about closer to the issue. One of us (okay, it's Editor Betsy) is working on something for Editor's Corner.

We're in the process of sending contracts out (One of us--okay, it's Gremlin Editor--is a lawyer in real-life). Once we hear back from authors we will begin edits. Personally, this is not my favorite part of the job; it's hard for me to supersede the author's artistic vision. One of us is nicknamed the slasher and is awesome about cutting stories down to perfect jewels (okay, it's Editor Dave). So, soon we will be editing, and then all that's left is creating the web pages.

Suffice to say, this issue looks like it will be great! Thanks, to all the authors who submitted. We sincerely appreciate it. There'd be no issue without authors!

And we also started reading slush for the August 2011 issue. An editor's job is never done...