Archive for January, 2007

Hugo/Campbell Nomination Deadlines

January 30th, 2007

Just a friendly public service announcement. I will try to keep the shameless self-promotion to a minimum, but there’s plenty of it on the mirror entry in my personal blog.

The deadline to submit nominations for the Hugo Awards and for the John W. Campbell Best New Science Fiction Writer Award is not until March 3, 2007. Plenty of time. However… in order to nominate someone, you must have either been an attending or supporting member of last year’s WorldCon in Anaheim, CA or this year’s WorldCon in Yokohama, Japan by January 31, 2007.

In other words… if you didn’t attend WorldCon last year, and you don’t intend to trek out to Japan this year, you have until tomorrow, January 31, to pay for a $50 supporting membership if you want to submit nominations. The official nomination page says you must be a member “before January 31, 2007.” I assume that means “before the midnight Greenwich Mean Time that occurs between January 31, 2007 and February 1, 2007,” but like so many other things in science fiction fandom, that’s not clear.

Among the eligible candidates for the Campbell listed on the Writertopia Eligibility Page are my friends Cat Rambo, Mary Robinette Kowal, Maria V. Snyder, and Joel Shepherd. Other names of note on the list include Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, Justine Larbalestier, Cherie Priest, and Alma Alexander. Also included are some folks who stop by to make comments on this website from time to time, like Elaine Isaak and Marie Brennan. And then, of course, there’s, um, me, and that’s all I’ll say about it.

So how do you get a supporting membership? Go to the Nippon 2007 Registration Page, whip out your credit card, and plunk down $50. Reading this page after January 31? Don’t despair… according to the rules, you’re still eligible to actually vote for the nominees that make the ballot if you get a supporting membership and get your ballot in by March 3.

Now let’s make this democratic. I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who have Hugo-eligible material. Go ahead and pimp your Hugo-eligible stuff in the comments thread. Or pimp someone else’s deserving work. Work it, baby, work it!

The Devil in the Details — Descriptions

January 27th, 2007

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about descriptions — what works, what doesn’t, and what resonates down to a deeper level of truth.  It’s an author’s job to notice things, and to use what they notice in service of their story, details as keys to unlock the reader’s imagination and memory and let them experience the world.

The smallest things are often the most important, touchstones to memory.  When I was thirteen, my grandmother taught me how to make a pie crust.  Everything was fairly basic and straightforward, if tricky, until there came the moment to finish the pie.  My grandmother took a knife and drew three wavy lines down the crust, almost joining at the bottom, then used the knife to cut vents on each side of them, angled to make them look like three feathers or waving shafts of wheat.  She explained that this was the pattern her mother had taught her, and her grandmother before, and all the ladies in the neighborhood had used this back in the day.  It looked old and beautiful, something that wouldn’t look out of place in a pioneer woman’s hands, or a colonial kitchen, or an old Dutch master’s still life or even before.  Cutting that pattern a couple days ago, I couldn’t help but remember my grandmother.

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I am Womb, I am Vagina: Women As Roles Rather than Characters

January 23rd, 2007

Warning:  Spoilers for ROME, the recent HBO miniseries

One of the ways I rate my enjoyment of books and filmic-visual fiction is in how the roles of women are approached by the writers and/or directors.  Certain conventions are sure to minimize my enjoyment of a narrative, and chief among them is the narrowing of women’s roles to those related to reproduction and/or Relationship to the Male.  In such cases, women are portrayed either as wombs (mother, surrogate mother, or wife) or vaginas (of sexual interest to male characters without having any other real narrative function);  that is, a female character has no existence beyond her relationship to men via sex and/or reproduction.
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My 2006 Best Short Fiction Picks

January 21st, 2007

What I do now that I am no longer writing fiction is to review it. For the last year, I’ve been the short fiction reviewer for the Internet Review of SF.

I originally had Great Plans to do a 2006 Year’s Best Short Fiction column for IROSF, but these met the usual fate of Great Plans. I did, less ambitiously, compile a list of my most highly recommended stories, and I thought it might be of interest.

This is not a totally comprehensive list. I don’t claim to have read anywhere like every piece of short fiction published during the past year; these are my picks out of those I have reviewed, which includes stories from most of the pro and semi-pro zines, both print and online, but no anthologies. I have also, perhaps unfairly, excluded those pieces that I consider episodes or outtakes from some longer work.

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New Look

January 19th, 2007

No, you’re not experiencing a spontaneous acid flashback from that really good stuff you took back in college one night even though you know you shouldn’t have and you had a test the next morning. (Or if you are, it’s not our fault.)

DeepGenre is experimenting with a new look. Be patient as we work out the kinks.

Stupid Writer Tricks: 10 Writing Tricks to Avoid

January 19th, 2007

Here are ten writing tricks and techniques you sometimes see in amateur manuscripts that I think it’s best to avoid. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, some of which I’ve noted below; there will always be exceptions to the rule. But in general, if you hew to these guidelines except in very special circumstances, you’ll be a better writer for it.

Let’s use a football analogy here. Sure, once or twice a season, you’re going to try a wacky, off-the-wall play that will completely take the opposing team by surprise. But your win/loss record is going to be largely based on how well you master the fundamentals: running, passing, blocking. The smart coach knows that the aim of most plays is to advance the ball a few yards down the field, not to make the spectacular 95-yard touchdown.

What I’m trying to say is this: If you find yourself using one of these tricks, give your story a close look to see if there’s some other problem you’re trying to compensate for. That’s all.

1. The unreliable narrator. This little sleight-of-hand has been done to death, and it doesn’t really add anything but cheap tension to the story anyway. Now, biased narrators are perfectly okay; everyone’s got a point of view and there’s no reason a narrator should be any different. But narrators that outright lie to the reader solely to throw a wrinkle in the plot should be avoided. Notable exception: Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

2. The typographical special effect. Prose is not a visual medium. Yes, the look and feel of the book in your hand can add to the experience (or detract). But I believe that typographical special effects and font changes should be used sparingly in most works of prose. Just like you don’t judge a wine based on the type of glass it’s served in, the ink and paper are just vessels to get your story across to the reader. Notable exceptions: Jeff VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen, John Barth’s “Lost in the Funhouse.”

3. The intruding author. Inserting the narrator as a secondary character in a fictional story is boring, boring, boring. We’ve all seen a million examples of the wall between author and reader breaking down a la Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo and half of Stephen King’s novels. Richard K. Morgan had one of his characters at the end of Market Forces read a novel whose plot matched that of his Altered Carbon series, and I found that it temporarily jarred me out of an otherwise absorbing story. (Keep in mind that there are plenty of good fictional stories authors have written about themselves; but that’s not the same as chucking the author into an otherwise traditional fiction just for the surprise value.) Notable exceptions: Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Breakfast of Champions.

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Song Of Fire And Ice Optioned by HBO

January 17th, 2007

HBO has acquired the rights to turn George R.R. Martin’s bestselling fantasy series “A Song of Fire and Ice” into a dramatic series to be written and exec produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

This could be incredible!

Love, C.


Pan’s Labyrinth — fairytales with blood

January 17th, 2007

Terry Pratchett has this bit in Hogfather about how all stories begin and end with blood, at least until they get all sugarfrosted with stuff that certain parents want to say “children want.”  Well, as much as I liked Hogfather, both the book and the recent SkyOne miniseries, I have to say that not only does Pan’s Labyrinth both begin and end with blood, but there’s a marvelous amount of blood throughout it.  And oh, was it refreshing.

It was also simply wonderful to watch a movie where the magic was used in service of the story, not trying to sell any variety of cute tie-in toy or get on the cover of Fangoria.

What is it?  It’s a movie by Guillermo del Toro (who I nearly fainted on top of a few years ago at Comicon when the air conditioners gave out), in Spanish with subtitles, currently out in certain cities but going out everywhere Friday.  Last Comicon, I had to crawl through a giant tree and stick my hand in slime to get a golden key as a movie promo, and this is the main character, Ofelia’s, first task as the fairytale unfolds.  Except her key is cooler, she dodges bugs and toads rather than fanboys, and this all happens against the backdrop of Franco’s Spain rather than Comicon.

I don’t want to spoil anything except to say Go.  Go now.  Go if you’ve ever loved fairytales, especially the dark ones where wicked stepfathers are actively evil, monsters actually eat children, and virtue is its own reward.

Guided Reading

January 15th, 2007

It’s not like I don’t have a lot of books on my “to be read” pile. But sometimes I find myself reading out of sequence, or reading books I’ve read before, and when it goes on for long enoughI figure there’s a purpose to it that my brain (inconsiderate object) has not communicated to my conscious mind. There are always books I re-read on some sort of repeating loop: Jane Eyre and Jane Austen, Wild Seed and Red Sky at Morning and Dorothy Sayers and, recently, Laurie R. King’s Holmes/Russell books, in all of which I find new stuff and old comforts. But sometimes I go on a bender that seems to have a purpose to it.

Right now I’m plowing through the collected ouevre of Dick Francis, the British jockey-turned-columnist-turned mystery writer. Francis writes clean, entertaining, well thought out mysteries, often set on or around the British racing world (it says something that while I’ve never had any inclination to go to the race track in the US, I’d love to go to the races in England some day. Francis has well over two dozen novels to his credit, and in the last week I’ve read five of them. I don’t generally ask why when I take down a book from the shelf–sometimes it’s just because I want something familiar, or (if I’m going to take the dog to the dog park or the kids somewhere where I know I will be interrupted off and on) I want sometime that won’t require that fierce involvement of a first-time read. But if I read a string of five books in a week that I’ve already read before, I know there’s a reason.

In this case? I’ve gone back to Sarah Tolerance Book 3, which has something wrong with it–a mechanical part of the mystery plot. I’m not one for brainstorming with other people, since usually trying to explain a plot which makes sense to me as I build it has me feeling, once I’ve stopped talking, like I’m stupid and the plot is useless. So when I have a technical problem, I often find that I’m reading to find an answer.

What’s the answer? Not sure yet. I’m not even certain what the question is. But my mind, that pesky creature, seems to feel that guidance will be found in the pages of Decider and Banker and Proof and Nerve. And my mind has a way of being right about these things in the long run.

Anyone else find they do this?

101 Critiques — 13-line critique update

January 14th, 2007

Well, DeepGenre has hit a milestone in that we now have 101 critiques in the 13-line Critiques section.  Or, more accurately, we have 95 submissions with criticism and 6 new submissions which do not yet have critiques but soon should.

“New” is also a bit of a misnomer.  What happened is that over the holidays, in addition to the usual holiday muddle, there was an absolute avalanche of spam in the critiques email box, burying the submissions until now.  If you submitted something and it is not posted, please resubmit.

 We should also shortly be creating a new email address, viewable only as a graphic so as to vex the spambots, and will then be closing down the bespammed current address.

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