30 August 2011

New Issue Tomorrow!

The editors are thrilled to present a brand new issue of ElectricSpec tomorrow August 31, 2011! For your reading pleasure we have 6 excellent short speculative fiction stories:
  • T. Lucas Earle's "Monkey Talk"
  • "Justice Like a Mighty River" by Alter S. Reiss
  • "Tooth and Claw" by Erin and Rina Gonzales
  • Rich Matrunick's "Stranded (with Pork Chop)"
  • "The Coincidence Factory" by Fredrick Obermeyer
  • and in Editor's Corner: David E. Hughes' "Give . . . Grieve"

We also have an exciting interview of Urban Fantasy Author Nicole Peeler and dramatic cover art by Karl Eschenbach.

Check it out tomorrow!

23 August 2011

New Issue Coming

We are just about a week away from the exciting new issue! W00t! Things are pretty hectic here behind the scenes at ElectricSpec. The editors are finishing up editting the stories and starting to post them--after getting approval from the authors, of course! We're drafting our fabulous Message From the Editors, and if you don't think some fist fights or arm wrestling breaks out over that...you'd be right. :) We even had a fun failure of the content management system we had to deal with. Don't ask me what the heck was going on there.

So, what do you have to look forward to in our fabulous August 31, 2011 isse? You get some great cover art, you get five--count 'em five--shockingly good speculative fiction stories. As a bonus you get a flash piece in Editor's Corner. We also have an awesome new interview with up-and-coming Urban Fantasy author Nicole Peeler, in which she talks about the latest and future books in her Jane True series, sexual teasing, how a Ph.D. in English Literature helps one write Urban Fantasy, her "super bolshy" personality and much more.

Check it out August 31, 2011!

16 August 2011

story first sentences

As you gentle readers may or may not have guessed, all of us Electric Spec editors are also speculative fiction writers. One of the things I've been studying lately is what distinguishes a great story from a good story? Of course, sometimes it takes the lens of history to tell what's great. I hypothesize, however, that one significant factor is a good first sentence. Let's look at some historical examples:
  • In "Nine Lives" Ursula K. Le Guin begins with She was alive inside, but dead outside, her face a black and dun net of wrinkles, tumors, cracks.
  • In "Light of Other Days" Bob Shaw begins with Leaving the village behind, we followed the heady sweeps of the road up into a land of slow glass.
  • Arthur C. Clarke begins "The Star" with It is three thousand light-years to the Vatican.
  • Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore begin "Mimsy Were the Borogroves" with There's no use trying to describe either Unthahorsten or his surroundings, because for one thing, a good many million years had passed since 1942 Anno Domini, and, for an other, Unthahorsten wasn't on Earth, technically speaking.
  • In "The Life and Times of Multivac" Isaac Asimov begins with The whole world was interested.
  • In "The Singing Diamond" Robert L. Forward begins with My asteroid was singing.
  • In "The Xi Effect" Philip Latham begins with For a week the team of Stoddard and Arnold had met with nothing but trouble in their solar infra-red exploration program.

If I had to summarize my reaction to these sentences, they would probably be "What the heck is going on here?" (rated-G version)
But the point is, I'm hooked. This is something to aspire to.

However, through the lens of history, many of these stories had awesome ideas and maybe less effective emotional impacts. For example, "Nine Lives" explores the idea: what if you were a clone, used to being surrounded by versions of yourself and that ended? Who or what would you be then? Could you even survive? Le Guin doesn't put us inside the head of the most affected character, however.

I think today's readers want both a big idea and a big emotional impact. What do you think? You'll have to read our upcoming August 31 issue of ElectricSpec and see if you think we pull it off. :)

09 August 2011

story logic

We had an unusual event at our production meeting last week, namely we didn't end up publishing a story that we all liked a lot. The world was neat, the protagonist was active and empathetic, there was a cool plot twist and the ending was satisfying. So why didn't we publish it? One of us asked the question: "But what was the protagonist's original plan? Why did he do what he did?" And none of us could answer the question. As far as we could tell, the protagonist's original plan would never work. Upon close inspection, the story didn't work; it fell apart. :( Bummer.

So, what's a poor author to do to avoid such situations? I think you have to try to back up and get some distance from your stories when they're done. Of course, critique groups and/or beta readers can help here. Ask the tough questions, including, "Does this make sense?" If not, figure out how to make it make sense! Make sure your story has some kind of logic. Good luck!

04 August 2011

Production Meeting Week

Wow, hi. Been awhile for me over here at this blog. I'm just emerging from what is fondly becoming known around my house as the "Busy Summer From Hell" replete with book releases and deadlines. But I haven't forgotten you, or Electric Spec!

I just read some slush recently and I noted a few things.

Quite a few present tense stories. One I even saved for voting. Wanna know why? I didn't realize it was present tense until about a third of the way in, cuz I was so into the story. Compelling character, writing, and plot. It had it all. I recently just had a review of my own present tense story that said the very same thing!

Another thing I've noticed lately about stories I've chosen to get a second reading; they leave a lot of room for me, the reader. Details are provided, but not every detail. Just enough for me to sketch a picture in my mind. I get to be the one to pick the paint colors. No paint-by-number stories pass by this editor for voting.

They also tend to rest at the intersection of Trope Avenue and Twist Road. Meaning, taking trope like known character types and putting them in a new situation or place. Or regular old Anytown, USA town council run by, I dunno, a  Garuda who just immigrated from India. In other words, give me something I don't expect. But don't stray so far I can't figure it out without your spending 1000 words to explain it to me, either.

All the stories were, well, stories. There were characters doing stuff. Cool stuff, mostly, against big odds. With stakes and stuff.

Anyway, we're deciding this week and it's gonna be a tough one. Might require an extra beer or six to work it all out. :)

02 August 2011

Writing on Reading: Robinson's Science in the Capital

I just finished the final book in Kim Stanley Robinson's so-called Science in the Capital series: Forty Signs of Rain (2004), Fifty Degrees Below (2005), and Sixty Days and Counting (2007). Most of this work occurs in Washington D.C. at the N.S.F headquarters and features scientists. With its long lyrical descriptions of things ranging from nature to buddism to climate change, this series is quintessential Robinson. These books also have a strong message.

Yes, climate change is here and it has dire and long-ranging consequences for the survival of the human rance. The series strongly advocates humanity brush off their inactivity, inertia and complacency and DO. I, personally, did enjoy the extremely long descriptions of climate change effects, consequences, feedbacks, and mitigation strategies (which are all plausible). I enjoyed the extensive discussions of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and their work. I also enjoyed the extensive explorations of Buddism.

However, I can see how this would not be to everyone's taste. In my opinion, the plot is meandering at best, and the characters are essentially the same: "the scientist". Therefore, I highly recommend it to folks who'd like to learn more about climate change, Buddism, Thoreau, Emerson, etc., but not necessarily to those who like a dramatic story.