Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Flash fiction sale, hopeful exercises in futility, and sf news

I'm doing the happy dance! I sold a story! That hasn't happened as often this year. I think it may have something to do with the fact that the number of stories I've submitted this year can be counted on one hand. I'm still selling some, which speaks well of my sell-rate. :) You can read "Troll Games" at flashquake now. It's an urban fantasy tale of two young brothers who encounter a troll on a bridge who has come to collect his due.

You might have noticed I have a new page. The cookbook review request was the last straw. I now have a whole page outlining what I will and won't review, who I will interview and what kind of press releases I'd like to see. Just click on the Request Guidelines tab above if you're considering sending something or know someone who would like to send me something. Unfortunately, since I'm some sort of mega reviewer database, I'll get the email without a thought, let alone a visit to my guidelines page. Maybe someone, somewhere will actually update the thing to include a link to my guidelines. I can hope, right?

I don't know if it will make its way to the States, but the lucky sf fans across the pond will be treated to the Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently series - as a series - on BBC4. Way cool! Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently detective novels adapted for TV - Science Fiction World

While browsing through Science Fiction World, I also learned that Lucas reveals Star Wars TV series on hold then gives away half his wealth - Science Fiction World

And here's a peek at a new breed of Monster movie. Now THIS is the request I want. Come on, publicists, don't you see my raised hand? Been a while since I've attended a preview.

And alien invasion...

vote it up!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Building momentum - keeping the sf train rolling

Well, I finally revamped the blog a bit. If you scroll down - way down - on the right, you'll see my new blog roll of sf authors. What's really handy is it includes the title of their latest entry. Hey, I'm using it to see what they're up to. You can, too. I tried to add more, but Blogger no longer wanted to play. I'll try again another day. Meantime, there's about 25 excellent author blogs to choose from and 11 other science fiction blogs higher up. Don't forget that all the author interviews (nearly 40 of them!) are listed by name in alphabetical order as well. Still can't find what you're lookin' for? There's a Google search box on my page, too.

I noticed that my 42 Blips button is missing from my blog directory buttons. I googled 42 Blips. When I clicked on their site I got this message: Thank you for your interest, but the website you are trying to visit is no longer being supported. Hmmmm. Poof. Gone. Lock, stock and barrel. Just like that. Anybody know why? Wish I could offer the scoop on this, but I can only speculate. And I had climbed to 33 in their ranking. Oh, well. It was nice while it lasted. At least I finished near the top of another list. :) While deleting the code I realized there was yet another button missing. The blog directory "um yeah" vanished without a trace.

I'm almost caught up on book reviews. I was IMing with a friend on facebook earlier and I lamented the fact, yet again, that there are so many older books that I don't have time to read. I read the latest books to deliver timely reviews. I have an embarassing number of classic science fiction novels sitting on my shelves that I have yet to read. I'm thinking I should devote a few months a year to reading oldies, but goodies. I'm not going to review them. Those reviews would be superfluous. But I could review sci-fi TV and movies those months while I'm indulging myself and filling in those embarassing gaps.

Right now I'm devouring Peter F. Hamilton's The Evolutionary Void.

And when do I find time to write? Yeah. About that. It's pretty much been relegated to a couple days a week. On the plus side, I have a contract writing job and can quit chasing freelance work, which will give me more time for my own writing. How appropriate that as school is back in session, I have to return to a more structured schedule. You know how they say if you need something done, give it to a busy person? I seem to get more accomplished when I'm busy and have to budget my time carefully.

I'm wrestling with what I think will be one of my better stories, but it has been nothing but trouble to get just right. I'm back to rewriting again and putting back some things that I too hastily deleted. And I'm going to throw in some dangerous fauna. If I can't whip this thing into shape and send it off by the end of this year I'm going to scream. It's resisting my attempts at shaping it into a short story when it really only wants to be a novel. Why can't I have both? First the short, then the novel. I can do this!

I must get poor Horace (Awesome Lavratt sequel) through his next hurdle as well. He really is too fun to torture.

And in my inbox this morning is the panelist questionnaire from Conjecture programming. Conjecture is a little con that can in San Diego. This year's GOH is Rob Sawyer. My friend and fellow Broad (Broad Universe), Trisha J. Wooldridge made GOH for

vote it up!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

U Minus 90 - sf flash

Char rubbed the back of her sore neck. She'd been poring over the jigsaw puzzle of variables between universes without a break ever since the Cornerstone indicators and three quantumly-tagged people ceased to exist twelve hours ago. Something — or someone — changed the timeline. She had to determine when and how. Who would be nice as well. She told herself to get up, move around, hydrate, eat.

Hearing a thunk behind her after a brief whir of a generator and a flash of light, she nearly jumped out of her chair. Everyone had long since gone home and the underground lab had been as quiet as a church on Monday. Her heart raced. No one was expected through the U-Gate. She whirled around, registering a scuffling sound and a sharp, burnt toast odor.

A man pulled himself to his feet just outside the U-Gate. His blond, shoulder-length hair stuck out in every direction. A filthy khaki uniform clung to his gaunt frame. His blue eyes darted around, then stared at her from over his stubbly cheeks.

"Who..." he rasped. He swallowed hard and licked his cracked lips.

"Who is in charge?" he said.

Char gawked at him. There hadn't been an incursion for thirty years. The QPP (Quantum Purity Protocol) Lab didn't even post guards any more; just left motion-sensor cameras running 24/7. The troops will be minutes away. Judging by his obvious distress and condition, whatever U he was from wasn't a good vacation spot.

"Not me," she finally answered. "Military personnel are en route. My name is Dr. Charlotte Banner. Who are you?"

"Randall Stevens. Water. Could I..."

"Of course." Char was glad for the normal request and the excuse to move away from him and collect her thoughts. She went to the sink by the wall, pulled down a clean mug from a peg and filled it with water. Is he the first of a steady stream of refugees from a troubled world? Is he a forward scout for an invasion force? Is he a mad scientist who just found the way between the Us? He doesn't appear to be armed. That's a good sign.

As she came toward him with the mug, he seemed to struggle to stay upright, his body swaying slightly and his feet shifting frequently.

"There's a cot over here. Would you like to recline? You don't look so good."

"Thanks. Yes." Her visitor gulped the water and gave her back the mug with a shaking hand. He collapsed onto the cot just as the grunts rushed through the door, guns at the ready.

"What's the situation, Doctor?" said the Sergeant.

"Easy, Sarge. We're just talking. He's unarmed. Are Doctor Schilman and Professor Einstein on their way?"

"Yes, Doctor," said the Sarge. He shifted to parade rest and signaled to his men to stand down.

"Good. You boys have a seat." She sounded a lot more confident than she felt.

Char got the man another mug of water while she thought about what to ask him first. And what she could reveal. She handed him the refilled mug and brought a stool from one of the computer stations to the cot. "Can you answer a few questions now?"

He nodded. His eyes darted around again, lingering on the soldiers squatting on the floor like loaded springs.

"Mr. Stevens," Char asked in what she hoped was a calming voice. "How have you come here?"

"Through a World Splitter. I've come from an alternate reality. A world like yours, but not yours. Do you have this capability here?"

"The leaders of this project will get to your questions in due time. First, why have you come here?"

"To seek your help. Our world has undergone a shift. A faction from another reality has taken someone from our world. No, taken is not the right word." He rubbed his stubbly chin. "He was eradicated. Removed from our history. Never born. Do you understand?"

"Let's say that we do for now. Go on," she prompted.

"Without him, our society is lost. Now my world is a stagnant police state filled with video-addicted sheep. The people let the government tell them what to do, what not to do and even what to think."

"But this is your world, is it not? How do you see these changes?" she asked.

"I was off-world when it happened, you know, in another reality. I can't go back because my world no longer has a World Splitter to receive me. People in the alternate reality I came from can move between realities, but not through time."

"And you think we can?"

"That is my hope," he said. "That man needs to be born. Our enemy erased him by having his mother miscarry."

"I see."

"Do you?" His eyes sparkled and the corners of his mouth turned up.

Gazing at his eager face, Char believed him. But it didn’t matter what she thought. And it could still be an act.

"Hypothetically speaking, how far back in time would you need to go to prevent this miscarriage?"

The Sergeant cleared his throat meaningfully. Char had just crossed a line and she knew it. But the words were out there. She couldn't take them back.

"1920. Their agent put something in his mother's morning tea on March 22, five months before he would have been born."

"Who was this guy? A scientist, politician, world leader?"

"He was an author. He predicted all of it! He warned us what could happen."

Happy 90th Birthday, Ray Bradbury!

vote it up!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lazy Linkage - or leanin' on my friends

Where did the week go? Whilst I prepare my own tribute to Ray Bradbury for his birthday, I leave you with some great blog entries written by my friends. Enjoy!

According to Geekscape, George Lucas announced that Star Wars is coming out on Blu Ray. This is their response. "Top Ten Things I Want on the Upcoming Star Wars Blu Ray Set"

Is their list complete? Is it too complete? What would you add?

You might also be interested in their "The Top Ten Strangest Film and TV Adaptations to Ever Happen".

Speaking of strange, Jason Sanford has something to say about SF getting stranger than ever. He's even dubbed this new trend: SF Strange. And he's helped it along with his "The Ships Like Clouds, Risen By Their Rain". You can read the PDF and see for yourself. Other contributors include authors Nnedi Okorafor, Eugie Foster, Gareth Powell and Paolo Bacigalupi. Read "The online SciFi Strange anthology" now.

And speaking of trends. E-books are ubiquitous. Will we lose our precious hardbacks and dog-eared paperbacks to e-readers? Will Fahrenheit 451 just take a different avenue? Here's Tor's answer to the future of books from a science fiction perspective: "A Fondness for Antiques: The Future of Books According to Science Fiction".

And what of science fiction? I see this question bandied about on a regular basis. If we're still posing the question, I guess the genre is still alive. ;) See what Paul Goat Allen has to say in "Seasons of Wither: Is Science Fiction Dead"?

vote it up!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Max Headroom and Ray Bradbury get it right

Next Sunday, August 22, is Ray Bradbury's 90th Birthday. Few science fiction authors have contributed as much to the genre, or for as long. His contributions have impacted a wide audience between his books and TV series.

UCLA posted A Bruin Birthday Tribute to Ray Bradbury this week.

Farenheit 451 reaches many students, as it is so often chosen for required reading. He makes us think and challenges us to fight for our right to information.

Yale National Institute, today, posted a paper on the subject by Elouise E. White-Beck. Our Right to Read, to Learn, and to Think: Ray Bradbury's Prediction

And here's his take on the dangers of technology from Ray Bradbury Theater.

And somewhat less academic, but nevertheless entertaining, is an article at I09 on the various ways in which one of my all-time favorite Brit shows, Max Headroom, predicted the future (our now) accurately. Max Headroom predicted my job, 20 years before it existed

If you haven't been following me long, perhaps you haven't heard me urge everyone to give Max Headroom a go. For those who have, forgive the repitition. But I LOVE that Max. There are some great clips in that I09 article.

On my own writing front, I received another lovely rejection today. The blow, however, was softened by the arrival of an ARC of the final book in the Void series, The Evolutionary Void, by Peter Hamilton. I've already dived in.

I also had the unique opportunity this week to meet a distant cousin for the first time face to face and introduce her to my 88-year-old Great Aunt who's visiting from Arkansas. They are first cousins once removed from the Younger branch of the family. Remember the Younger Brothers? The bank and train robbers who rode with Jesse James? They're distant cousins, too. Actually, it was really the Younger gang before Jesse came along. But people remember Jesse.

It's tidbits like that that make genealogy interesting. And I friended a fellow Fowler (Grandpa's side) who is also a fellow Every Day Fiction author just this week on Blog Catalog. Good stuff. Check out In medias res.

There are some interesting stories behind those genealogy names and dates. Perhaps they'll show up in my sci-fi one day (the names changed to protect the criminals, of course :).

vote it up!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mary Robinette Kowal - sf/f writer and puppeteer

I just finished Mary Robinette Kowal's new novel, Shades of Milk and Honey. It was like stepping into a Jane Austen novel in an alternate Regency England. One in which among the other parlour arts a woman learns like playing the pianoforte or needlework, she also learns "glamour", a magic that enhances the beauty of existing surroundings or creates a tableau all its own from the "ether" to delight guests.

The protagonist, Jane, has exceptional talent in glamour while her sister has the looks. I kept hoping that the glamour would somehow save the world – such have been the novels I'm accustomed to reading. But I realize that in Jane's world, one's station in society and prospects all depend on looks and talent. Not being endowed with good looks, her glamour is everything. And it does save the day and possibly a life on more than one occasion.

Romance isn't my usual genre, but Mary Robinette Kowal has captured that world of Jane Austen and beautifully embellished it with a fantasy element. Her prose is lyrical and smooth. I can see how Mary's other talents have heightened her ability to convey the emotion of her characters, as you'll read in the interview.

Since this interview was conducted, my friend, Gareth Powell (see interview herein), announced the anthology table of contents he's featured in. And there again, was Mary Robinette Kowal, listed at the top with her story, "Birthright" http://www.ricknovy.com/2010/08/2020-visions-author-1-mary-robinette-kowal/. The anthology is 2020 Visions.

Read more about Mary on her Web site where you can also hear her read an excerpt from Shades of Milk and Honey.

AW: Why do you like to write science fiction and fantasy?

MRK: For me, science fiction and fantasy hold the same appeal that puppetry does. They are both the theater of the possible. I'm not limited by gravity or physics or anything else. They also allow me to rotate the familiar view of humanity to see different angles. I think viewing things from the side, as it were, lets me see things more clearly sometimes.

We get used to seeing things one way and science fiction and fantasy, and puppetry for that matter, move past that.

AW: Did you go to Readercon?

MRK: I did! It is on my list of "don't miss" conventions.

AW: Can you give us some personal highlights?

MRK: I have to admit that the weekend was dominated for me by the fact that I got my first hardcover copy of my novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, on Thursday night. The rest of the weekend passed in a wee bit of a hazy glow from that.

I also got to meet Samuel R. Delany when I moderated a panel we were both on called Drop Out, Write On. There were five panelists, Samuel R. Delany, Barry Longyear, Elaine Isaak and Nalo Hopkinson and we are all college dropouts, with varying reasons for leaving. It was really inspiring to realize that non-traditional routes work too.

The funniest moment on the panel, for me, was when an audience member had asked if we thought that the non-traditional route worked better than the traditional one. I demurred, pointing out that Campbell winner David Anthony Durham was in the audience and that he had a degree in English and a Masters in Creative Writing. From there we realized that there were three Campbell winners on the panel so from that sample, three out of four Campbell winners are college dropouts.

Of course, there was another panel on advanced degrees later that also had Campbell winners on it, so that sample isn't proof of anything but it was still a funny moment.

AW: Which conventions are your favorites and why?

MRK: Readercon, World Fantasy and the Nebula Award weekend because there's a focus on fiction and a high percentage of conversations that really get into the nuts and bolts of the genre. Or the spells and wands, depending on your genre.

AW: How has your voice acting and puppetry affected your prose? And vice verse?

MRK: In puppetry there's an emphasis on specificity. Because a puppet generally has no facial expression, which means that every movement it makes carries the meaning. When I write, I find myself using the same sort of language of movement. For instance, in puppetry we say, "Focus indicates thought." In other words, what your puppet is looking at is what it is thinking about.

This is also true for characters on the page. The thing that I have a character notice is what she is thinking about. Added to that is the fact that in fiction I can only show my reader one thing at a time and must rely on them to build a picture based on that. So the order in which I show things also has an impact. I'm essentially manipulating the focus of the character and the reader simultaneously. So, as with puppetry there's little ability for facial expression and every movement, thought and action becomes important.

I'm not sure how writing affects the puppetry to be honest. Largely I suspect that it's because there's 20 years of puppetry experience, which rather outweighs the five or so years of writing.

AW: Why shouldn't all authors read their own works for audio books?

MRK: A lot of writers aren't comfortable with the spoken word. It's a very different skill set than writing. Now, I think that it's a skill most people can be taught but it's not something that comes naturally to everyone. Nothing can kill a beautiful piece of prose faster than a flat, affect-less reading. Where most authors fall down, in my opinion, is that they worry about the words they are reading rather than the story they are telling. Written language developed to record spoken language.

So when someone is reading for audio books, they approach the text the same way one approaches a script, with an eye to using the sound of the voice to enhance what is on the page. Not every author has the tools, or the interest in developing the tools, to do this.

AW: You have tips on your site for reading aloud, don't you?

MRK: I do. http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/category/reading-aloud

AW: As soon as I saw what your novel was about, I had to have it. Even more so after reading the title of your "Evil Robot Monkey". I'm reading Android Karenina now. Why are so many people attracted to Regency England with its uncomfortable clothes, strict conventions and lack of indoor plumbing and electricity?

MRK: You could ask that question about any pre-industrial historic period or fantasy world. The Regency clothing for women are actually much like wearing a nightgown and are significantly more comfortable than anything preceding it in Europe or the Victorian era which followed. The social restrictions were also much looser and the Victorian era was a reaction to the moral looseness of the Regency.

My own personal reason for setting a novel there were twofold. When I wrote it in 2006, no one else was playing with the period in fantasy. I also found the intimate nature of Miss Austen's novels very appealing and wondered why there weren't any fantasy novels that focused on the story of just one family without an Epic Quest.

AW: Do you have a Shades of Milk and Honey book tour scheduled?

MRK: I do. The list of dates is in the sidebar on my website. I'll be in NC, NYC, SF, Atlanta, and Portland. People can RSVP to events via my author page on Goodreads.

AW: So you're concentrating on the coasts, then. Are you living on both coasts now?

MRK: It feels that way! But no, we moved back to Portland, OR, in September of 2009. I'd like to visit other cities. My publicist and I are talking about a train tour through the south and southwest.

AW: Do you use first readers or critique groups?

MRK: Yes, I use both. They serve different functions for me. Critique groups focus on writer ticks while first readers give me more information about the reader experience. I also will sometimes post rough drafts in a password protected area of my website and invite comment there. I find that very valuable because I get a greater cross-section of feedback.

AW: I read somewhere on your Web site a mention of Iceland. Did you liver there for a while?

MRK: I was a puppeteer on a show called Lazytown, which was filmed in Iceland. I lived there for part of 2004 and all of 2006. That's actually where I wrote Shades of Milk and Honey.

AW: What was living there like?

MRK: It is the most unearthly, beautiful place I have ever lived. I would move back there in a heartbeat if we could figure out how to afford it. Reykjavik has all the benefits of a European capital while being as accessible as a small town. It is clean and sophisticated and at the same time completely in touch with the land. As soon as you leave the city it's like stepping into a saga or Middle Earth.

AW: What about the language barrier?

MRK: Everyone in Iceland is multi-lingual. In school they learn Icelandic, English and a third language. I did make an attempt at learning Icelandic while there, but it's studio Icelandic. I could speak on the set and understand what was happening, but if you asked me to go buy oatmeal, I was sunk. It's an insanely difficult language.

AW: What are you writing (or rewriting) now?

MRK: I'm finishing a novella that will appear in the Cascadiopolis anthology from Audible.com and also the revisions for Glamour in Glass, the sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey.

AW: Any ballpark pub date on the sequel?

MRK: I think Spring 2011, but nothing firmer than that.

vote it up!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Science fiction and fantasy TV - old and new

After nearly a week of the creeping crud (AKA summer cold), I'm starting to return to the land of the living. And I couldn't even catch up on my reading! My head hurt too bad. I hate that. So I watched some science fiction. Would you believe I saw Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie) for the first time? It was great. I love Donald Sutherland. Next time I have that much TV viewing time on my hands, I'm going to watch the series. I AM a Browncoat after all. Joss Whedon rocks.

And the new season of Being Human started Saturday. That was a plus! It's on BBC America and it's must-see TV. And then last week, we had the lovely crossover between Warehouse 13 and Eureka.

Here's a clip from a ComicCon panel with the Warehouse 13 cast.

Allison Scagliotti's character, Claudia Donovan, on Warehouse 13 reminds me of Percy Montana from Starhunter. Any Starhunter diehards out there? I keep looking for Tanya Allen. What happened to her? What did we do before Google? I just looked her up. Apparently, she was on Silent Hill. I would have known this if I'd watched it on Sunday when it came on. And she's in a movie called Magic due out some time this year.

Here's a great look at Percy.

I just begged for a review copy of The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton. The literary mash-ups with vampires, werewolves and robots have been fun, but now I need some meat.

I'm revamping my blog lists. So far, I've eliminated "author buddies" (sorry guys). My buddies who write science fiction and have updated blogs will reappear in the new SF Author Blogs list which will happen later this week. My blog seems to be growing out of its bounds. I might even add another page for submission guidelines and author resources. How many people scroll to the bottom of this monstrosity?

Brian Gilmore over at Ranker loves lists as much as I do. Today, he sent me this one: Top 8 Geekiest Things Ever Sent Into Space .

vote it up!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hasselhoff roast and regrettable music video

Comedy Central is going to roast David Hasselhoff on Sunday, August 15th. Why am I telling you this? Well, there's Knight Rider, I guess. My hubby said this deserves a mention. He's the Knight Rider fan in the house. These videos are rather amusing. And Comedy Central keeps sending them. OK, yeah, that means I'm a sell-out, right? Going commercial. Well, I gotta pay the bills somehow, so here's your commercial.

The Roast of David HasselhoffSunday, August 15
Tease - What to Make Fun Of?
Roast of David HasselhoffIt's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaRussell Simmons Presents Stand-Up Comedy

The Roast of David HasselhoffSunday, August 15
Tease - The Hoff's Sexy Carwash
Roast of David HasselhoffIt's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaRussell Simmons Presents Stand-Up Comedy

This is just down-right painful. Could no one talk him out of this? There can't be anything more embarassing in the roast than this music video.

The Roast of David HasselhoffSunday, August 15
Tease - Do You Really Want to Hurt Hoff?
Roast of David HasselhoffIt's Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaRussell Simmons Presents Stand-Up Comedy

vote it up!