Here are my links and such for the month of August. There aren't as many as there could have been, as I've had to become a bit more discriminating this month due to big projects and short deadlines. But hopefully everyone who reads this will find something of interest. These links are all from my previous tweets. I've listed them here, all in one post, and with additional detail and comment. You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter.
- I'm co-editing a theme anthology on the Fermi Paradox, to be published next year by DAW Books. One of my contributing authors, Paul Di Filippo, sent me a link to an article from MIT's Technology Review entitled "Fermi Paradox Points to Fewer Than 10 Extraterrestrial Civilizations." Making a number of assumptions, such as advanced civilizations will send out probes first to investigate other worlds (just as we have sent out the 10 Mariner probes, for example), and if "these probes can leave longer-lasting evidence of a visit -- evidence that remains for 100 million years -- then there can be no more than about 10 civilizations out there." Intriguing reading.
- SF Scope reports: "This October, the Library of America will be celebrating the foundations of fantasy and horror in American literature by publishing the two-volume American Fantastic Tales, edited by Peter Straub." The two volumes -- 86 stories plus an introduction to each volume by Straub -- can be purchased separately, or as a boxed set. The article lists the complete table of contents, including the story title, author, and original date of publication. The stories date from 1805 to 2007.
- Kristine Kathryn Rusch continues her online Freelancer's Survival Guide. Now that she's finally completed her seven-part discussion on "Money" (in all its glory -- and pain), she's begun a new topic: "Employees (Part One)" -- or, "People You Hire To Do Stuff for You." Kris writes: "Here's the most important thing to remember about anyone you hire for any task: No one else will care about your business as much as you do. No one else will work as hard as you do. No one else will ever have as much at stake in your business as you do." Kris repeats this mantra in "Employees (Part Two)," but she also concludes this section with: "Finally, my advice on all things -- the more informed you are, the better off you'll be. That goes for employees, workers, finances, and just about everything else covered by this Freelancer's Guide. Stick to that principle and you'll do well -- even when hiring others to help you keep your business afloat." (via @KristineRusch)
And one of the most important aspects of freelancing: "Time": "So I have a monthly nut—the amount it takes me to live every single month.... You need to figure out what your time is worth. You need to factor in the intangibles as well as the tangibles. (I don't take a lot of pain-in-the-ass projects; nor do I take projects that'll require me to leave home for months at a time.) You'll need to make sure you make your monthly nut plus some profit. And you'll need to factor in how much work you can actually do versus how much you think you can do."
And, of course, "Deadlines": "Keep your deadlines. Be on time for your appointments. Open your stores on time and don't close them early. Respect your clients. Then they'll respect you in return."
And "Patience": "You have to be so patient that at times it feels like you are doing nothing but being patient."
- The New York Observer headline: "Note to Authors: Make Your Deadlines!" Evidently, in these difficult economic times, publishers are now starting to require that authors make their deadlines! Gawd, what a unique concept! Publishers are using late deadlines as reasons to renegotiate contracts, and even require that authors repay the advance. And if the book is way past deadline, publishers are now considering whether or not they still want the book. But as the article quotes at the end: "The reality is, you don't have to worry about lateness if they want your book. You only have to worry about lateness if they don't." (via @powells and @jay_lake)
- The website "Marooned - Science Fiction Books on Mars" has compiled a list of 20 links to online stories about Mars. Authors include Kage Baker, Mary A. Turzillo, and Liz Williams. The blogger is calling it The Mammoth e-Book of Mindblowing Mars SF. Good -- and free -- online science fiction!
- And speaking of "mindblowing SF," Matthew Cheney's blog, The Mumpsimus, has a list of "mindblowing" SF stories -- all but two by women authors -- that have knocked his socks off, so to speak, over the years. I was pleased to see my friend Judith Moffett's story, "Tiny Tango" (Asimov's, February 1989; reprinted in Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction: Seventh Annual Collection, and Pamela Sargent's Women of Wonder: The Contemporary Years anthology) included in the list; it was a finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula awards. [Disclosure: I helped Judith with a bit of PR for her latest novel, Bird Shaman, and I acquired reprint rights for her first novel, Pennterra, for Fantastic Books.]
- Unless you've been hiding underground, I suspect you've heard that director John Hughes passed away on August 6 at age 59. Hughes directed such wonderful movies as Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Some Kind of Wonderful, Sixteen Candles, and Home Alone. Evidently, he began a "pen pal" correspondence with a young girl between 1985 and 1987, and that young girl, Alison -- now, obviously not so young -- shares her thoughts and those letters with us, including a telephone call she received from John Hughes in 1997, during which he explained why he left the Hollywood film rat race. Wonderful reading; guaranteed to bring a little moistness to ye olde eyes, no matter how much of a curmudgeon you are. As of this writing, there are over 1,330 comments, some just as wonderful -- just awesome. Enjoy! And thank you, Alison, for sharing with us this tribute to director John Hughes.
- Author Jeff VanderMeer discusses why all authors need to have an online press kit available; and Jeff even provides examples of press kits for his two forthcoming books, Finch and Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for 21st-Century Writers. Jeff writes: "Are [the press kits] purty? No.... They're simple and functional, because they're not for readers -- they're for reviewers, review editors, interviewers, and other people associated with the various and sundry media outlets out there."
- Jeffrey Zeldman, of Zeldman.com, says: "Write when inspired; rest when tired." That's the title of his blog post; he goes on to say: "You are writing for readers, a duty as sacred, in its way, as parenting. If you don't believe the previous sentence, if you think writing is mainly about getting paid, I'm sorry you wasted your time reading this page, and I hope you find another way to earn a living soon."
- Iain M. Banks, one of the most popular writers in the UK, has a new novel forthcoming, entitled Transitions -- science fiction that borders on mainstream... or is it mainstream that borders on science fiction? You'll have to read it -- or listen to it -- and be your own judge. Which brings me to my point here: Banks's UK publisher, Little, Brown Book Group, is making the book available as a free serialized podcast download from iTunes, in both the US and the UK, beginning September 3. A further 22 episodes, each 15 minutes in length, will be available every Thursday and Saturday for the next 12 weeks. "According to the publisher, the iTunes promotion is about 'trying something new and ground-breaking' to commemorate 25 years since Banks's debut novel, The Wasp Factory. They said each podcast would have a 'cliffhanger' ending." Transition will be published in hardcover in the UK on September 3 (my copy is already on order!) and in the US on September 23. Details can be found in UK's TimesOnline.
- Author Dean Wesley Smith is also a professional poker player, and in a recent blog post he categorized the four stages of poker players; he then applied this thinking to his writing profession and has thus categorized the six "Stages of a Writer." Are you this type of writer? -- "They think that constant rewriting makes a story better instead of actually killing it. You hear these people tell you proudly that they have done a dozen rewrites on something. Of course, they have no idea in each rewrite what is better or worse, but they believe that rewriting always makes things better." And be sure to read the lengthy comment by Brad R. Torgersen. (via @DeanWesleySmith)
- Dean has also just begun a new blog series entitled "Killing Sacred Cows in Publishing." The first chapter is on "Speed," i.e. Writing slow equals writing well," or the flip side, "Writing fast equals writing poorly." Remember, this is a "myth." Dean lays out the numbers: "This chapter when finished is going to be around 1,750 words. That is about 7 manuscript pages with each page averaging 250 words per page. So say I wrote only 250 words, one page per day on a new novel. It takes me about 15 minutes, give-or-take (depending on the book and the day and how I'm feeling) to write 250 words of fiction. So if I spent that 15 minutes per day writing on a novel, every day for one year, I would finish a 90,000-word-plus novel, about a normal paperback book, in 365 days. I would be a one-book-per-year writer, pretty standard in science fiction and a few other genres." So, Dean asks, if you know one-book-a-year authors, "What did they do for 23 hours and 45 minutes every day?"
- Here's a worthwhile writing exercise, as suggested by author Pinckney Benedict, "Creating a Writer's Manifesto." The discussion about this writing exercise appears on the Writers Community blog, and the article itself was written by Denton Loving: "Benedict believes once you recognize what kind of items keep popping up in your work, you should embrace them. 'Only obsessive interests are interesting,' he said. Maybe it will help you to investigate why your mind is triggered to bring these subjects back to the page. Or maybe it will work for you to not examine it too closely but to just go forward with it. That's up to you and the writing."
Note: In my ten or so years in editing and publishing, I've only had one author provide me with a "manifesto." I can't honestly say that it meets Benedict's requirements for what a manifesto should be, because it doesn't spell out the author's recurring themes and obsessions. But rather this manifesto is written by the main protagonist of a series of novels entitled "The Codex of Souls." The character is Landis Michael Markham, a creation of author Mark Teppo; and the manifesto, as by Markham, is entitled "How I Came to Magick." You might want to seriously consider adding Teppo's Lightbreaker, The Codex of Souls, Book 1, to your reading list. [Disclosure: I edited Lightbreaker for Night Shade Books, and I'm currently working on Book 2, Heartland.]
- And speaking of Lightbreaker, The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf & Book Review blog had this to say: "Lightbreaker effortlessly melds many styles of magic such as Hermeticism, Shamanism, and Western magick with a healthy dose of Aleister Crowley and tarot symbolism. The story gets bigger and bigger quite unexpectedly, especially towards the end. What starts as an unusual chase develops into a soul stealing cataclysm….Fans of strong male protagonist Urban Fantasy are sure to have an immediate connection to Markham and the world Teppo has concocted."
- Transreal author Rudy Rucker taught at Clarion West in Seattle in July, and shares some "How to Write" pointers on his blog. But even more important, you need to sift through this blog entry and find the link to Rudy's 25-page "Writer's Toolkit" PDF document. Chapter 5 is entitled "Power Chords"; Chapter 6 is entitled "Gnarl." What is "gnarl" you ask? Rudy writes: "I use gnarl in an idiosyncratic and somewhat technical sense; I use it to mean a level of complexity that lies in the zone between predictability and randomness. The original meaning of 'gnarl' was simply 'a knot in the wood of a tree.' In California surfer slang, 'gnarly' came to be used to describe complicated, rapidly changing surf conditions. And then, by extension, something gnarly came to be anything with surprisingly intricate detail. As a late-arriving and perhaps over-assimilated Californian, I get a kick out of the word."
- One of my favorite writers is Bradley Denton, but alas he's not very prolific and in the past 20 years, he's only written five novels. His first, Wrack & Roll, was a finalist for the Campbell Award, and his most recent, Laughin' Boy, was published by Subterranean Press in 2005. Denton isn't a prolific short story writer either, but if you can snag his tandem collection set -- The Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians and A Conflagration Artist (both 1993 from Wildside Press and winner of the World Fantasy Award) -- then please do so: you won't be disappointed. Anyhow, Denton's novel Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede (a Campbell Award winner) has been optioned for film to be scripted and directed by Robert Rugen. Denton has thus made the novel available as a free download; his website has it in four PDF files, but you can also find it on Scribd, if you have an account there, or in more than 20 different file formats on Manybooks.net. Enjoy! (via BoingBoing.net and @sfsignal)
- I have acquired and edited over a dozen short story collections: five of those collections received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly with two of those selected to PW's "best of the year" list. In addition, two collections have won the World Fantasy Award, and one of those also went on to win the William L. Crawford Fantasy Award. So I am certainly an advocate of short story collections. Is the author and publisher going to get rich off a short story collection? Not likely. But it is the short story in which the craft of writing can truly be seen, taught, and learned. Larry Dark, on the Story Prize blog, has this to say on the subject: "The point is, story collections aren't poison, and agents and publishers should stop treating them as such. Collections by established writers with strong followings will still sell. And debut collections probably perform no worse than debut novels.... In addition, I have no doubt that the digital age is going to be a boon to the short story, as shortness becomes a greater advantage."
- Jodi Meadows writes "books about adventures, true love, and aliens"; her LJ is (W)ords and (W)ardances. And her July 21 blog entry, which I didn't see until August, is entitled "I'll show you why you're so much more than good enough." Jodi describes the two (actually, three) types of "it's good enough" writers. I'll let you check out the details but I'll leave you with this quote from the blog: "...there are a lot of writers who need to take a second (or tenth) look at their manuscripts before submitting. But there are also a lot of writers who need to stop twiddling with sentences and send the darn thing out. They need to move on and write a new story, and they can't do that while they're searching for the elusive perfection in the novel they wrote five years ago and have been revising since. You can, in fact, twiddle the life out of your story."
- Author Cory Doctorow is interviewed by Mur Lafferty on Tor.com. Many folks are already familiar with Cory because of his connection to BoingBoing.net; Cory was recently a finalist for the Hugo Award for best novel for Little Brother. Mur is an author and podcaster, and you can find her projects on Murverse.com. In this interview, amongst other things, Cory talks about a new audio and print self-publishing pay-as-you-like and POD venture entitled With a Little Help. Many of you may also be familiar with Cory's stand on publishing online via Creative Commons licensing -- I believe all of Cory's novels and short story collections, to date, have been available for free online (I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong). So a new venture such as With a Little Help has the potential to greatly influence the market and publishing, specifically self-publishing and POD. "I just can't explain why no one's done it before. One is that if you send me a typo, I'll fix it in the next copy, that's kind of a natural, but I'll footnote you on the page. You'll get a thanks on the page for [fixing] the typo, and then I'm going to [update] an appendix every month with all the finances for the book..." Of course, there's also a hand-bound, elite limited edition of the book that will be available as well, but alas, not for free. (via @doctorow and @tordotcom)
- Andrew Fox's The Good Humor Man is reviewed by James Crane on Electric City: "Granted, this all sounds like the type of dreams you have after eating bad shellfish rather than a believable story, but in a way, that's my point. Fox paints a picture of a future where these things are real and no more fantastical than cell phones. In The Good Humor Man, Fox creates an America in which junk food has been made illegal to combat America's growing health problems. States deputize their own Good Humor Men who root out the contraband wherever it's found and destroy it.... The Good Humor Man keeps the pages turning with scene after scene of conflict and clues with a fair amount of grit.... I'd suggest playing "Heartbreak Hotel" and grabbing a bag of chips for ambiance." [Note: I introduced Andy Fox's manuscript for The Good Humor Man (originally titled Calorie 3501 in an homage to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451) to Jacob Weisman at Tachyon Publications; Jacob liked the book enough to acquire it for publication, and I had the joy of editing it.)
- Kathleen Duey, author of the YA novel Skin Hunger, a 2007 National Book Award finalist, is currently writing a novel, entitled Russet, in 140-character bursts on Twitter. In her introduction to Russet: A Twitter Novel, Ms. Duey writes: "This is an experiment. Russet is telling his own story on a twitter account. He talks. I type. I don't know what happens next. He's 18, just trying to figure out his complicated life. You can follow him on twitter." Or, you can read the story on her "Russet: One Wing" blog: the site is updated constantly. Or, read the Russet blog, get caught up, and then follow Russet on Twitter. (via @kathleenduey)
- Scott Lynch, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora, is publishing a pulp adventure serial online in weekly installments. The serial, entitled Queen of the Iron Sands, is actually based on a dream that he had which he explains in the "About This Story" section, which also includes the setup for the story itself. In addition to the online HTML version of the story, Scott is also making an RTF file of the story available for download for readers who prefer to print out the story instead of reading it online. Thanks, Scott -- the RTV version is much appreciated! Chapter 1: "My Father Brought the Sky Home" is currently available. I won't be including this serialized adventure in further postings, so if this interests you, please check the website regularly; you can also follow Scott on Twitter: @scottlynch78.