30 August 2007

Interview with Author Lesley L. Smith

We've managed to tear Lesley away from her work at a shadowy government agency to answer a few questions. Lesley L. Smith is the author of "MyMind's Eye," which will appear in the September 30 issue of ElectricSpec. Lesley-this is actually the second story you've had in ElectricSpec. The first was nominated for Prego and Nebulous awards. Do youthink it's possible to top the last one?

Gosh, Dave, that's a really good question. Of course, it was a HUGE honor to be nominated for the Prego and Nebulous. I don't want to seem cocky, but I do have high hopes for "My Mind's Eye"; in fact, I'm hoping for an Extra-Spicy Prego nod this time. In all seriousness, I wrote "Entanglements" well over a year ago and I would like to think my writing skills have improved. Reading all our fabulous submissions at Electric Spec can only have helped. I also have an excellent critique group, which is something I highly recommend for all writers.

I hate to leave readers in suspense, so tell us what is a "mind's eye"?

I consulted my mind's eye for something funny to say here but I got nothing. So, I'll just say, 'mind's eye' refers to our ability to imagine, remember, and "see" things with our minds. Actually, now that I think about it, this might be a metaphor. What do you think, Dave?

I’m sorry, I’m having trouble seeing it. Anyway, I’m the one asking the questions here. Keep talking, er, typing.

Anyway, in the story, the protagonist can't see with his eyes very well, so he uses his mind's eye a lot--which ends up being beneficial.

What happens if you have poor mind's eyesight-can you get correctivelenses for that?

Sure. For the low, low price of only $1000 I can sell you some.Since you asked the question though I'm guessing you don't need any.

What inspired you to write "My Mind's Eye?"

I can tell you it was not that old Star Wars novel, "Splinter of the Mind's Eye". I was inspired by...wait for it...physics. I know this must shock you, Dave. Physics is filled with some truly bizarre ideas. One of these mind-bending ideas is that the universe may consist of more than the four dimensions humans perceive.The most popular number of dimensions is ten advocated by string theory.


I see your eyes are starting to glaze over, so I'll just say, the math makes us think such things. It's truly mind-boggling to try to imagine such more-than-four-dimensional things. And yes, I do use my mind's eye to do it. Of course, different numbers of dimensions isn't a new idea in SF. Way back 1884(!) Edwin Abbott Abbott wrote"Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions". As an aside, on the surface Flatland seems super-sexist, but I guess it's supposed to be social satire.

Why did you choose to have it published in Electric Spec rather than,say, Asimov's?

I think you know I really enjoy Asimov's (and Analog), and in fact The Good Doctor had a huge impact on my life, but what can I say, ElectricSpec is my fave zine.

I know—I hear it all the time. The editors over there are constantly e-mailing the editors here requesting that we stop snapping up all the good stories. There’s one that got away and is going to be published at Analog, but I can’t remember whose . . . oh yes, another one of yours! Anyway, I digress. Part of "The Mind's Eye" takes place in a particle accelerator. Is it true that you did some of your research for this story in your own personal particle accelerator that you constructed in your basement?

Good question. I did not use the accelerator in my basement this time around. Instead, I used the one at the national lab where I work. It was really interesting because [MATERIAL DELETED IN THE INTERESTS OF NATIONAL SECURITY].

Oh. So that’s why those guys in black suits were -- What guys in black suits? Why did I type that? Oh, well. Next question. Do you personally prefer two- or four- dimensional pancakes?

Four-dimensional pancakes, of course! The bigger the better! In fact, think I can say with confidence that all pancakes in the history of pancakes have been four-dimensional.

[Interview cut off here because the rest got too syrupy]

26 August 2007

Thinking about POV

Once again, I love Crapometer and its thought-provoking comments. When someone questioned me recently about an opinion, I thought, yeah, why do I really think that? To my surprise, I actually had legitimate reasons backing my opinions. You can tell me different if you want. I love when readers and writers make me think!

I'll have to think about that whole POV thingy... When someone tells me what readers want- I need to ask "How do they know?"

I don't know if this is directed at me, but I can answer why I think the way I do about POV. Most of my opinions derive from the experience of editing a short story magazine and reading other magazines. I'm fairly confident that what I think is widely accepted because I'm not a one-woman show at Electric Spec; I work with two other highly competent, professional, published authors. In the process of reading the magazine I read a slush of 20+ stories per month. I also speak regularly with several editors, by virtue of my own submissions and just plain ole internet chatter.

But I heard Robert Sawyer talk about POV recently and it really put words to what I already knew. He spoke about the mentality of people today, especially those in America and other free-thinking, free-press countries. We no longer just take something for granted as Truth just because someone in authority (ie--an omniscient voice) tells us it is so. Consider the news (CNN, argh!): We try to understand the bias so we can filter through what is said and not said--sift through opinions and agendas find some semblance of Truth. Sometimes we even modify information to better fit our own Truth. (Wikipedia, for example.)

Thinking, feeling, opinionated readers need, by virtue of POV and character development, to understand the particular filter through which they view the author's world. That's why single POV can be so powerful, and also why effective multi-POV can be so difficult. Just like every scene counts, so does every POV. You have to consider, as a writer, what message you are trying to put forth by using a particular POV and what bias accompanies it. In short stories in particular, you've very little time to engage the reader to your way of thinking. Switching up POVs can be really disorienting and make the reader lose faith in your message and in their own ability to understand your characters' bias.

This is my opinion. I write and edit by my own opinions; others might have differing views. It's your job to figure out what works for you. Hope this helps.

I must admit I pulled 20+ number on the fly--we haven't added up this issue's submission rate yet. Right now, though, we have 30 stories in our inbox and that's just since August 7, so I might not be too far off!

24 August 2007

The Locus Index

Speaking of the Hugo Awards.... I thought I'd remind our writers and readers about a nice resource The Locus Index: everything you possibly want to know about speculative fiction awards. Check it out! :)

22 August 2007

Hugo Awards website

There's a new website for The Hugo Awards. All spec fic authors should be aware of the Hugo Awards. How else will you win one? :)


I don't often do this, but check out The Onion's A.V. Club Interview of William Gibson. Gibson is an author (e.g. Neuromancer), a SF 'seer', and apparently 'invites the zeitgeist in to tea'. :) I must admit The Onion is a guilty pleasure; it may have something to do with the fact I have to pass 2 of their hard-copy machines on my walk to work.

Got any noirish prescient stories? Send them to Electric Spec!

21 August 2007


I read a couple of stories recently at Electric Spec in which the protag's gender was quite mysterious. It wasn't until pages in that the author referred to the protag as female or male; I found this rather irritating. I vaguely recall my fave author Connie Willis did this in one of her early books, so it CAN be done. (Was it Uncharted Territory?) But please don't do it unless it's intentional. Often, in real life, men and women use language differently because they've been socialized differently. Authors need to be cognisant of such issues--while being careful not to lapse into stereotypes.
Yes, 'authoring' is difficult! :)

Speaking of Ms. Willis, she has a new book coming out September 25, 2007 The Winds of Marble Arch. Hurray!

16 August 2007

Awesome stories!

We are starting to put together the Sept 30, 2007 issue of Electric Spec.
I have to say, there are several awesome stories in contention.
Huzzah to our authors! You rock! :)

Thank you for sending in your stories, and keep 'em coming!

13 August 2007

Judgment Words

Since we had some good comments on the last post, I thought I'd elaborate a little more on what I called 'judgment words'. Judgment words are words that contain within them value judgments, e.g. pretty, handsome. They can work effectively for first-person pov, or very close third-person pov. In such cases, they primarily give us information about the character uttering the judgment, not about the item/person being described. For example, if your character says 'Auschwitz-Birkenau was beautiful.' that says something entirely different from 'Austria was beautiful.'

Feel free to send Electric Spec stories with judgment words.

09 August 2007


Sadly, our fall 2007 Electric Spec deadline has passed. :(
If you made the deadline: Thank you for your submission!.
If not: Please submit for our next issue, coming out in winter 2008.

I was reading through submissions earlier and came across the word "beautiful". I have to admit this word does not impress me. Beautiful, how? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? So, "beautiful" is full of judgment and short on details. It is a 'telling' word, not a 'showing' word. Show us through description, deeds, or even better, how people react, that the person or item is beautiful.
Keep in mind, though, judgment words can work effectively for first-person pov, or very close third-person pov.

07 August 2007

Today's the day!

Hopefully everyone out there knows midnight (MDT) today is the deadline for story submission for the fall 2007 issue of Electric Spec.

Send those stories in!

And if you've already sent us a story: Thank you very much. We appreciate it! Electric Spec is only as good as its authors.

Some relevant dates:

  • August 26, 2007, our editorial production meeting
  • approx August 27, 2007--August 31, 2007, editors contact writers with the good (or bad) news
  • approx September 1, 2007--September 15, 2007, editors and writers prepare stories for issue
  • approx September 15, 2007--September 29, 2007, editors and webpage gurus put issue together
  • September 30, 2007, the next issue of Electric Spec goes live!
There you go; more information than you probably wanted!

03 August 2007

Deadline looming!

Only 4 more days until the cutoff (Aug. 7, 2007) for our fall 2007 Electric Spec issue! Send those stories in!

In other news, I notice yesterday was our 1-year blog anniversary.

Happy blogiversary to us! :)

02 August 2007

Later, but not goodbye, to a founding editor

I've always relied on Renata for copy editing--she's the definitive word on grammar and spelling in my work and as an editor. I'll also miss her instinct for good, solid stories--we share a liking for military sci fi, but she has a literary slant that always encouraged me stretch my tastes.

As a crit group member, she made me stretch my own writing wings. She was kind enough, and experienced enough, to tell me not only when I hadn't produced my best work, but how to fix it. She also knew how to point out what I'd done right, which is an oft-neglected, valuable quality in critique.

I'll miss my roommate at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer's Conference, too!

Thanks, Renata, for everything you've done for Espec, and for my own writing, in the past two years.

The Writers In Our Lives

As solitary as writing fiction can be, it is rarely done in isolation. Just look at the “acknowledgements” section of most novels. A wide variety of people can influence your writing: editors, agents, research assistants, spouses, friends, teachers, and critique group members, just to name a few. A smart author will listen to advice wherever he or she can get it—then try to make an objective decision about whether it is useful.

But every once in a while, we get really lucky. We find someone who not only gives us a useful writing tip here or there, but also helps us grow as writers in profound ways. He or she gives criticism, praise, support, and friendship that lasts longer than a single class or a writer’s retreat. Usually, he or she is a writer just like you and (hopefully) gets the same from you in return.

I proud to say that Renata was one of those people in my life, and I am very grateful. Even though she is leaving Electric Spec, she will always be a part of it, just like she will always be a part of my fiction. Thank you, Renata—I’ll miss you.

Thank you, Renata!

Recently one of our Electric Spec founding editors, Renata Baron Hill, resigned from the ezine. I'll be sorry to see her go, but I understand she has new challenges to take on.

So, I wanted give a shout out for her years of excellent service:
Thank you, Renata! I sincerely appreciate all your efforts, and I'm sure the ezine is much better for your participation.

Good luck with those new challenges!

01 August 2007


Please make your world(s) believable, Electric Spec writers. If your characters are going around in their shirt-sleeves, make sure it's a habitable planet--unless, of course, your characters aren't human. :)

An excellent free reference for world-building is "Habitable Planets for Man" by Stephen H. Dole, the famous RAND Report from 1964. This 169-page (!) document was prepared for the U.S. Air Force and includes such things as Human Requirements, Probability of Occurrence of Habitable Planets, The Nearest Candidates, and even a nice glossary. Granted, some of it is dated, but it's all fascinating. Enjoy!