31 August 2010

New Issue and a Little Bit More About "The Devotion Egg"

Check out our new issue! I hope you'll love the new stories as much as I do.

When we started Electric Spec five years ago, the editors debated about whether to throw in some of our own stories. Eventually, we decided the pros outweigh the cons and started Editor's Corner. The price was right because we didn't have to pay ourselves for the story. Also, we tend to like each other's stories, so we thought our readers might like them, too. On the other hand, I still feel a little chagrin when talking about a story in a magazine I edit. After all, it didn't go through the same screening process that the other stories in the issue did.

That being said, I thought I'd write a little bit about "The Devotion Egg" It's kind of an unusual story for me in that I started with a theme idea rather than a plot. I wanted to see how much I could pull apart love from sexual desire. (I know, it's been explored before). I found it really hard starting with a theme because the plot came together really slowly. I ended up doing more drafts of this story than any other I've worked on. At times it was a frustrating process. My first draft didn't really resemble my last draft at all, but I was happy with the way the plot and theme ended up enforcing each other and just how far I was able to take my original idea. If you have questions or comments about the story, post in a comment and I'll respond.

26 August 2010

Coming soon: Fabulous Fiction!

In less than a week, we will be bringing you 6 fabulous new stories in the August 31, 2010 issue of Electric Spec. Author Sam Kepfeld contributed "Salvage Sputnick" with a possible legacy of the space program. Author Simon Kewin contributed an emotional military SF story "Remembrance Day". Author Tony Peak gave us sword-filled monster-laden high fantasy in "The Walls of Yesterday" Author George S. Walker supplied a unique modern-day fantasy "Fees de Dents" set in Africa. Author Matthew Howe contributed the dark tale "Pusher", featuring a protagonist with a unusual power. And finally, Editor David E. Hughes handed in a tale of love(?) in alien cultures with "The Devotion Egg".

Check it out next week!

24 August 2010

Coming soon: Jeanne Stein Interview

We, the Editors of Electric Spec, are very excited about our new issue which comes out one week from today on August 31, 2010! In addition to our excellent fiction, we have an interview with fabulous Urban Fantasy author Jeanne Stein. Of course, Jeanne writes the hugely popular Anna Strong Chronicles. Be sure to check out our new issue where Jeanne discusses topics including how she's achieved success, why we're seeing a resurgence in paranormal/magical worlds, unique twists in Anna's vampire mythology, the relationship between being kick-ass and sexy, and advice for writers.

And, oh yeah, the new Anna Strong novel Chosen also comes out on August 31, 2010. Congratulations, Jeanne! Awesome!

Check out Jeanne's webpage: www.jeannestein.com.

Check out Jeanne's blog with fellow Urban Fantasy author Mario Acevedo: biting-edge.blogspot.com.

22 August 2010

Sci-Fi's Screwed-up Priorities

The popularity of science fiction these days can't be denied. At lest in media form. Look at how many major network TV shows have a sci-fi element to them. Look at the number of movies with sci-fi aspects released in the last few years.

Meanwhile, the sales of science fiction novels and short stories continue to shrink, with a few notable exceptions. For example, the circulation of Asimov's and Analog and been steadily declining for years. Can this contradiction be explained?

I think it can, but it is an explanation many people do not want to hear, especially those who are firmly entrenched in the industry. Science fiction in the written form has become so self-absorbed that it has lost touch with the larger population of readers. The majority of books that get lauded by sci-fi critics and win awards are inaccessible to the average reader. Yes, the world in the sci-fi novel might be original or the science might be detailed, but the plot is not absorbing, the characters are not sympathetic, and/or the style is dry. While the critic or dedicated sci-fi reader might extoll the fact that the book is either different that any book that has come before or is a clever "tribute" to a book that has come before, all of that is lost on a potential larger audience that might watch a sci-fi movie or TV show. Lost or bored, they'll put the book down after the fist chapter and go back to their steady diet of mysteries, thrillers, or even fantasy. Science fiction, they will conclude, lives up to its reputation as being something reserved for eggheads.

I recently joked with some of my friends about how the fiction reviews in Locus were useful: I avoid the books that the reviewers like and read the ones they don't. This is an oversimplification, but it does bring home a point. I've given up on many highly-lauded sci-fi books. Oftentimes, I'm impressed with the ideas but unimpressed with the story. On the other hand, some sci-fi books have gotten an unfairly bad rap because they were simply entertaining, rather than super enlightening.

In rendering this opinion, I realize I open myself to some standard responses, some of which can be downright nasty. For example, those who fail to understand or enjoy a sci-fi book that has received critical acclaim are not considered "sophisticated" sci-fi readers, or else they are just not on the same intellectual level as those who, for example, enjoy reading a twenty-page explanation about how a particular scientific gadget works. "Sorry, we're going to have to kick you out of the egghead group. You belong with the mouth breathers."

My response? Unite, fellow sci-fi mouth breathers! I know I'm not the only one out there who wants a solid story with his science.

17 August 2010

Le Guin on Art and Fiction

I'm rereading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin and she has some particularly interesting things to say in the Introduction:
  • The artist deals with what cannot be said in words.
  • The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words.
  • The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.
  • Words can be used thus paradoxically because they have, along with a semiotic usage, a symbolic or metaphoric usage.
  • All fiction is metaphor.
  • ...the truth is a matter of the imagination.

Wow. My mind is blown. Is she saying the entity an artist creates is greater than the individual elements used to create it? Or maybe, art is also like humanity in that human beings are greater than the sum of their atoms/blood cells/neurons? So, art is a metaphor for humanity? Hhm. I'll have to think about this some more.

What do you think she's getting at?

We Electric Spec Editors have been hard at work on the new issue. Will there be art created with words? Check it out on August 31, 2010!

06 August 2010

the promised update

I promised an Electric Spec update by the end of the week, and oops! it got to be the end of the week. So, without further ado... We did have our production meeting, which as usual, involved a fight-to-the-death via maces/quarterstaffs/broadswords/spears over liquor to select the stories. I joust, er, jest. :) But a spirited discussion was had by all (pun intended). All the stories in hold-for-voting could have been published. It came down to issue balance--as we've blogged about before. We want to publish a variety of stories in each issue.

So, anyway, by now, all hold-for-voting authors should be contacted with a yea or nay. Thank you for submitting, we appreciate it.
Check out the new issue coming on August 31, 2010 to e-newstands near you! It promises to be our best issue yet! (And, yes, I always say that.)

Incidentally, this time, we also had a discussion of what makes a story "great". I think a great story has a concentrated story jewel at its core. To illustrate, Connie Willis' story "The Last of the Winnebagos" is about many things, the last of the Winnebagos, the extinction of dogs, the decline of print media, etc., but at its ultimate core, it's about a man who sacrifices his most prized possession/goal to save a human being. Awesome! Does your story have a core?

What do you think makes a story great?

04 August 2010

The Bechdel Test

Did you know Author John Scalzi has an SF movie column over at AMC's filmcritic.com? (Did you know AMC had a film critic site?!) If so, you're way ahead of me, which wouldn't surprise me at all. :)
Anyway, last week Scalzi wrote a very provocative article entitled: Does Your Favorite Sci-fi Movie Do Right by Its Female Characters? in which he applied The Bechdel Test. This test asks three questions:
  1. Are there at least two women characters in the film?
  2. Who talk to each other?
  3. About something other than a man?

Suffice to say, he conclues recent movies do not do too well with this test. Curious, I rushed to apply the test to the last movie I saw: Inception. There are two main female characters and one of them is <...SPOILER ALERT...> dead. Thus, initially, I assumed they never converse, but then I seemed to recall some crazy stuff going on in those dream levels, so I'm not sure... If anyone recalls better, I'd enjoy hearing about it.

Today, Scalzi's article is entitled Pondering Inception's Sequel Odds and Revisiting the Bechdel Test, so I thought I'd get the answer to the question. Alas, I was wrong. It's still an interesting article examining what the Bechdel Tests Fails imply. Hint: men are the perceived SF audience.

So, how do your favorite SF movies stack up? How about your fave fantasies? :)

We will have some announcements about the Electric Spec Aug 31, 2010 issue by the end of this week. Keep sending in those stories!