31 July 2012

stay tuned...

This week things are cranking into overdrive behind the scenes at Electric Spec. We have our production meeting and will pick stories for the August 31, 2012 issue. So, stay tuned until later in the week and we'll post more.
We're also gearing up for the thirtieth annual Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference September 7-9. We, the ElectricSpec Editors, will be teaching a short story workshop among other things. I highly recommend this conference and there's still time to register, although some events are booked up. Read more about it here.

In the meantime, for your reading pleasure, Professor Gunn pointed me to a fun article in the New York Times Sunday Book Review: How to Write by Colson Whitehead. It has some good advice and some which is good for a laugh. :)

24 July 2012

is your story memorable?

Here at Electric Spec we are very busy behind the scenes working on the next issue: August 31,2012. What's going on, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. :)

We've scheduled our production meeting for next week. Some of us are frantically trying to get through their slush. Some of us are already pondering the relative merits of the stories in hold-for-voting. We're thinking about possible movie columns, entries in Editor's Corner, cover art and author interviews. We're setting up the issue in our content management system. If it seems like a lot of work, it is.

I find picking amongst the stories in hold-for-voting to be hard. In the first place, if a story gets in hold-for-voting it is publishable. So, it's tough to think that we might end up not choosing it; I definitely empathize with authors. Not only is writing difficult, getting published is difficult. In fact, this is why we started Electric Spec--to give authors another possible market. I've been trying to pinpoint what makes me prefer a story in hold-for-voting over other stories. Yes, it has to be well-written with an intriguing protagonist that does something. Yes, there has to be some kind of interesting speculative fiction element like a neat new world. I think the extra something is being memorable. After I read the story, does it stick with me? Do I ponder it on my commute? That's a story I'm going to pick.

Of course, the next question is: how do you make a story memorable? Writing is an art so there are no tried-and-true formulas. But you might consider a never-before-seen world or a unique character with a one-of-a-kind problem. Nailing the character's point-of-view also helps; if I feel like I am the character, that's more memorable. Good luck!

Do you have any tips for writing a memorable story?

17 July 2012

science geek-out

Maybe it's the influence of Comic Con, or maybe it's just too hot outside to think straight, but I'm a geek and proud of it. Along those lines, there's been some really exciting and interesting announcements in the world of physics in the past year. The Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus (OPERA) Project in Italy announced they'd measured neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. If true, this would have been beyond shocking. Of course, this was disproved when they turned out to have systematic errors... But it's still good story fodder. :)

Lately, a discovery that appears to be true is the discovery of the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). I studied the Higgs Boson while I was young and impressionable. What you need to know is bosons are the particles that mediate or carry forces. To use an example you might have heard of, photons are the bosons of the electromagnetic force field. In other words, photons carry electromagnetism. So, the Higgs Boson works like this: it mediates or carries a force, namely, the Higgs field. The Higgs field is basically the field that gives particles mass. Cool! Again, there are a lot of story possibilities here.

Recently, I found a neat blog that discusses such topics: Quantum Diaries: Thoughts on work and life from particle physicists from around the world. This site is (mostly) comprehensible to normal folks. They have a ton of stuff on the Higgs Boson and what the big deal is. I particularly liked the post from last week on Dark matter: No model, just guesses. Enjoy!

11 July 2012


No doubt some Electric Spec readers are busy getting ready for, or traveling to, Comic Con 2012. (Please feel free to drop us a comment about your experience.) But also coming up this summer is the 70th World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, August 30 to September 3, 2012. The is the preeminent world-wide conference for Science Fiction and Fantasy. One of the Electric Spec Editors will be there (I'll let s/he tell you about it him/herself).

Of course, one of the best things about WorldCon is you get to vote for the 2012 Hugo awards, and that means you get free electronic copies of most of the works. Nominees for the best short story include:

  • “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld, April 2011)
  • “The Homecoming” by Mike Resnick (Asimov's, April/May 2011)
  • “Movement” by Nancy Fulda (Asimov's, March 2011)
  • “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2011)
  • “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue” by John Scalzi (Tor.com)
Congrats to all the nominees.

Personally, I've only been to one WorldCon and that was when it was in Denver in 2008. It was very awesome and very crowded. There were tons of programs and parties and panels. A highlight for me was the SFWA suite, where I volunteered. It was neat seeing and rubbing elbows with all the stars of the SF/F world. In particular, I seem to recall Editor Betsy sitting on George R.R. Martin's lap...

Anyway, I bring all this up because

  1. You should go! and
  2. Author guest of Honor Mike Resnick has posted his Worldcon--A Beginner's Guide
He gives at lot of really helpful information, so check it out. And if you go, have fun and keep and eye out for Electric Spec!

09 July 2012

guest post: Renata Hill

Today, we're pleased to have a guest post from one of Electric Spec's founding editors: Renata Baron Hill. Among Renata's many talents, she is an excellent editor. She shares one of her tricks with us...

When I’m up at two in the morning, typing a promised post for a blog, or for that matter, two in the afternoon writing a query letter or, more likely, responding to a Facebook IM, sometimes I rush to click Publish or Send without reviewing my work. Say, what? Yes, it happens, particularly if I have not devoured my daily ham-and-cheese Lunchable.

Now, Ginger, a nifty FREE download from Ginger Software helps me out. Sure, it checks spelling, but among its coolest features is the homophone checker. I’ll give you a hint if you were sick that day in sixth-grade English: homophones are words that sound the same, but have different spellings and meanings. So, when I suggest to my online friend, “Let’s grab a bear after work,” Ginger understands the context and automatically corrects my sentence to, “Let’s grab a beer after work.” Now, my friend knows that I don’t want to don camo, but actually quaff a delicious malty beverage.

Plus, for all you harried writers out there, Ginger also checks subject/verb agreement, singular/plural nouns, consecutive nouns, and basically makes you sound more like Arthur C. Clarke than Arthur Dent. Try it. There are no strings, no secret malware, and it works for PCs and Macs.

Renata, a founding editor, recently switched to a new medication that has enabled her to better appreciate the rich weirdness of China MiƩville's novels, the complex settings of Frank Herbert's earlier worlds, and the strange, feminist-loves-phantasm themes in the works of Laurell K. Hamilton. When not researching obscure marketing facts about Fords for wealthy corporate clients or writing scintillating software documentation for moody SQL developers, she adores reading the genres of fantasy, science fiction, alternative history, and the macabre. She was first published at the tender age of 6, spent adolescence and young adulthood plumbing the depths of life's ironies in short story form and non-fiction articles, and some day hopes to nestle into the mantle of "famous novelist".

03 July 2012


I've been writing and rewriting a story for several weeks now. And I keep begging my critique partners to take "just one more look" at it. Frankly, at this point, I'm surprised they haven't shot me, or pushed me into one of the wildfires. I'm dragging my feet about submitting it to the market I wrote it for because I know the editor won't change it. It has to be perfect when I send it in or she won't buy it. :(

But you are in luck. We, the editors of Electric Spec, do work with authors to make stories the best they can be. They don't have to be 100% perfect when you send them in. That should be a bit of a relief for you all. What's the most common thing we do? Besides spelling and grammar issues, we often end up shortening a story. Short stories, in particular, need to be as short as possible to tell the story. :) Yeah, I know, easier said than done.

Speaking of perfection, the awesome writer and writing teacher Kristine Kathryn Rusch, has a really nice article posted on her website: The Business Rusch: Perfection. Ms. Rusch basically says no story is ever perfect to every reader. So, at some point, quit sweating it and send it in! Good advice.
By the way, Ms. Rusch is an excellent resource for writers. Check out her archive of 'On Writing' posts.

Oh, and FYI, we close to submissions for the August 2012 issue on midnight July 15, 2012 (U.S. Mountain Daylight Time). So you still have time to send your story in. :) Good luck.