17 Apr

Writers of the “Current”

I recently spent a week in Los Angeles at the Writers of the Future workshop, blogging daily for them and generally having much fun. Part way through it, Galaxy Press asked if I would do individual capsules on each writer. I loved the idea, so I said “sure!” Those went over well enough that they have now asked me to do a series of profiles on past winners. Of course, I said “sure!” again. I’ve got a list of folks, and I’m working my way through them.

It’s been great fun.

It’s also been different from writing about the current winners.

Writing about these past winners has this sense of looking through a time machine, of course. It feels nostalgic in a lot of ways, thinking back to when these names were truly just starting out. Fresh slates, so to speak. Some of them I know personally, and for those the feeling is doubled. Some I “grew up” with. Most are more successful than me, I would say (in a non-jealous kind of way), or at least differently successful. There are New York Times bestsellers here, Hugo winners, Nebula winners, and winners of many other awards.

Unlike the current winners, there is no fresh sense of wonder surrounding these people. Instead, it’s been replaced with this very calm sense of pace, a feeling of competence, a sense, almost, of watching a rock climber scaling a mountain. Seeing their records is like looking back down the mountain, looking at where they are is to see them calmly reach into a resin bag to prepare themselves for the next handhold. It all feels very meta, all tied up in dreams and hard work and random luck and raw persistence. The mere fact of these people’s existence is a small piece of performance art.

It’s fun to feel like I’m somehow a little part of it.

Here are the profiles I wrote for the new winners: (which I’ll try to update when the last two get released)

Doug Souza
Jake Marley
Andrew L. Roberts
Sean Hazlett
C.L. Kagmi
Ziporah Hildenbrandt
Molly Elizabeth Atkins
David Vonallmen
Dustin Steinacker
Andrew Peery
Ville Meriläinen
Anton Rose
Stephen Lawson
Walter Dinjos

08 Nov

The Story of Your Life, 2nd Time Around

“Have you read ‘The Story of Your Life’?” Lisa asked me a few days ago. “I want to read it before we see the movie.”

The work she’s talking about is a Seiun, Sturgeon, and Nebula Award-winning novella by Ted Chiang. It’s been made into a movie titled Arrival, which is due to be released in the US later this month. Since I know my blog readership is a cross-stitched group of folks from several backgrounds, let me just say that if you have not heard of Ted Chiang you should immediately begin reading him. The man is brilliant. His work is stunning.

“Yeah,” I replied

Then I thought about it, and realized that despite still having a very visceral reaction to the core of the story—meaning that I remembered fully how it made me feel—I could not remember many details about it. “I read it,” I said. “But I don’t really remember what happens. All I can remember is that it blew me away.”

Which was true. I remembered the feeling deep in my heart as I finished it. This is how I am with a lot of stories, actually. I often struggle to remember plot points and specific dialog. I am not one of those people who goes around and rapidly shoots off all the best catch-phrases from a story or a film. When someone quotes directly from a movie, I am likely to remember that I’ve heard the line, but I’m just as likely to be unable to place it in context of a character or a specific moment in a story. Don’t get me wrong; my brain is not a total sieve in this area. But it is true that, after a time, I often do not retain some specifics of a story’s plotline. I absorb story for how it makes me feel, though. And those that strike me, I remember deeply. The best praise that I can give “The Story of Your Life” is that now, more than fifteen years after I put it down the first time, I can still recall with great strength the way it filled me up inside when I finished it.

“Do we have it?” Lisa asked.

It turned out that, yes, we did have it. The anthology it appeared in, Starlight 2, which was edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, survived our move purge and sat on the shelf in my office. I retrieved it. Lisa read it, closing the book with a flourish and making the pronouncement that it was very good but that “I can’t see how they are going to make a movie out of it.

I immediately read it again.

Yes.

Brilliant.

Totally brilliant. Two days after reading it again, I’m still thinking about what it means to me. Again.

And, while I admit that I can squint and guess how they are going to make that movie, I worry.

I worry that this story is too big for the movies. Too intricate. Too delicate. Too … perfect.

If you have not already done so, I strongly recommend that you go read this novella. You can get it in Chiang’s collection at Amazon or Kobo. There is a reason this story won those awards. “The Story of Your Life” is what science fiction is supposed to be about. Astute use of a science (in this case, linguistics) to explore an alien culture. Brilliant pacing. Intense focus on problems we face in understanding both ourselves and the world. And, then, of course, what it means to be a part of this world. What it means to be human.

With some luck, the movie will turn out to be fine. With luck, the movie will be worthy of the story itself.

But, just in case, please…

Read the story. Read it before you go to the movie. Trust me on this. Whether the movie is great or not, you owe it to yourself to experience the novella as a clean sheet of paper (so to speak).

02 Nov

Writing vs. Typing, Hallelujah!

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It’s the season for conflict. No, not Trump vs. Clinton. I’m talking Nanowrimo fans and their opposition, a group that for the lack of a better term I’ll call the, anti-rimos.

On one hand, you’ve got something like 29.394 billion writers of various skill levels pounding out words at a 50,000 word pace for the entire month. On the other you’ve got folks like my friend Myke Cole, who is an outstanding writer, and who dropped this very valuable mini tweetstorm last night.



As you might know, I come from a background based on the idea of writing as quickly as you can. Many of the big names who tutored me suggested that writing fast helped accelerate the learning curve. Write fast, they said, and don’t go back over things a hundred times. Some advocated plotting, others advocated writing deeply into the dark, but both groups of these very successful writers counseled rapid writing. This would lead you to suspect that I’m a fan of Nanowrimo. You would be at least partially wrong.

Both ideas (write fast vs. take your time) can have problems.

Luckily, in this case you don’t have to select the lesser of two evils. Instead, you can squint your eyes and see through to the truth of the matter.

Which, to me, is that the most important thing to think about when it comes to writing is to realize that, no matter who you are—no matter how practiced you are, or how new you are, no matter if you’ve got every award known to humankind, or if you’re a twelve-year-old trying to finish your English assignment—every time you sit down to write, you’re really doing one simple thing—telling a story.

Read that again.

No matter who you are, your goal when you sit down to create is to learn how to tell the story you are working on in the most effective and efficient fashion you can.

Those two words, effective and efficient, are both important. They are the crux of the problem. They are the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Those two words whisper divergent theories, and divergent urging. Those two words send people of creative bent into mind-bending moments of self-reflection that can be paralyzing at times when things aren’t working particularly well. These two words drive writers to drink. To drugs. To quit. To begin again. To scream at the top of their lungs. To wake up in the middle of the night in puddles of sweat.

The words effective and efficient can suck the life out of artists.

So, let’s talk about them for a bit.

By effective I mean that it is important to the world that you tell great stories filled with deep characters, vivid worlds, and interesting plot lines that are well crafted. This is the whole “do good work.” thing. If your result is not “good” as defined by the commercial masses, then it won’t be read. Us writers all know this as we grab our swords, or our blasters, or our chisels and mallets, and head into the fray to hack away at the stories we’re working on. That’s the problem, right? The semi-snobbish anti-rimos’ creed of “do only the good work” feeds into another semi-truth, that being the idea that an artist is her own worst critic. Which again can serve to cause paralysis. “What is good?” is a tough enough nut for us to crack even after we’re done with something, better yet while we’re smack dab drowning in the middle of the morass that is “in process.” Get too tied up in convincing yourself that what you’re writing is “good” and you may not finish squat. I wrote about “Good” once. Perhaps it would help to review.

By efficient I mean that if you’re trying to make your living at this thing you’re almost certainly going to have to write more than one book every manymanymany months. So a writer wants to move quickly enough that you can be happy as you keep doing it. Writers get hungry, too, you know? And a writer has to pay the landlord or the bank to keep a roof over her head. Write too slowly, and you’ll almost certainly never be able to quit the day job. Yes, there are examples of writers who finish one book, and then that one book feeds them for life (Harper Lee, anyone?), but there are a lot more examples to argue that nothing is as debilitating as churning on something forever, never to finish. So, yeah, a productive writer, in general, needs to be like a shark, constantly moving forward. Heinlein’s Rule 2 is “finish what you write” for a reason.

But…

Well…

This whole “two-sides” thing is so insidious. It’s divisive. It’s put forward as an “or” thing—like either you’re with us or against us, like Batman or Wonder Woman, like chocolate or vanilla.

But here’s another truth to consider: the beauty (and terror) of this whole gig is that you get to choose what the balance of these things means to you. Not only do you get to make this decision, you have to make it. No one else can do it for you, and to not make this choice directly—to not even see it as a choice, or at least accept it as personal trait or preference—is, in my opinion, the source of a great deal of pain for a lot of writers. Among the things that frustrates us is that what we need from this balance between effectiveness and efficiency as writers and as basic human beings will change, sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly, sometimes even daily, depending on a wide set of things.

The problem here is that the question how fast should I write? is the wrong question. The issue of speed is the wrong perspective.

Want to be George R.R. Martin? Realize he’s been a very fast writer at times. Realize that Stephen King set The Dark Tower aside for years because he didn’t know how to tell the rest of the story…but when he got back to it, he moved like lightning.

A peek under the hood and into the catacombs of the Secret Society of Ultra Published Writers That I Happen to Know: the fact is that most writers I know write at speeds that are highly variable. I have written the core of a novel in three weeks. I understood how to write it the minute I sat down. I have also written a novel that took, effectively, 15 years to learn how to write. My new story “Ten Things” took about three hours when it flashed into my mind fully formed. My Derringer nominated story “The White Game” took an entire week of intensely immersive work (or 35 years, depending on how you want to talk about it).

That’s the way with stories. They come as they come.

And that’s the point I want to make. Story is not about writing speed. There is no “wrong speed,” only wrong results—and of the wide range of “wrong results” that are possible, the wrongest of results is to not have any result at all. This is the point that things like Nanowrimo address.

For me, the turning point on my thinking about how to resolve this whole effectiveness vs. efficiency thing has been to ignore it completely. To see it as the wrong question. For me, the turning point was when I began to choose stories and ideas that matter to me, and then take whatever time it takes to write them well. Come to work every day. Write words. Maybe I throw them away or maybe I keep them, sure, I measure my words because I’m curious and because the rising number says I’ve been coming to work every day. But mostly I don’t care about the numbers. Mostly, and this is what I think Myke’s tweetstorm is really saying, I care only that I’m learning how to tell the story I’m working on. When I do this, no matter how short it takes, or how much one person likes it or doesn’t, the piece I end up with is something I’m proud of. Something I’m happy with. Maybe some other people will say it’s good. Maybe they won’t. But when I come to the table every day, and when I create words, and when I use those words to understand how to best tell my story, it winds up being what I want it to be. The point is to work as quickly as you can to write this particular story you are writing. And then LET IT GO.

The message behind Nanowrimo is that it’s possible to write a novel in a month. It says to a writer that they should drive out fear of failure—which is a message I adore. The message behind the anti-rimos lies in Myke’s last line, and that is that there is a difference between writing and typing. This is completely true. There is a difference between typing and writing.

The key is to use every opportunity you have—including the use of Nanowrimo—to discover what that difference is, and make it work for you.


In that light, I’ve been listening to Malcom Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast. I can highly recommend the entire first season, but Episode 7 is a bit on creativity that, for reasons that become obvious upon listening, he’s titled “Hallelujah”. It’s an intensely interesting 35-40 minute exploration of creativity and art that is squarely focused on this question of the speed of creation vs. the perceived value of the creator’s output.

I think it should be required listening for any artistic creator who finds herself constantly swimming inside her own head and worrying that she might be doing it wrong.

18 Feb

The Horror Genre & Toni Morrison

As result of a workshop we’ll be going to soon, Brigid and I were recently talking about the horror genre, and some of the difficulties it has. Specifically, we were talking story structure, and how the key to the genre is handling the root of the terror–the “monster” as it were. I posited in that discussion that stories in the genre were often not traditional stories when it comes to their structure, that stories in the horror genre were often written primarily just to reveal the depths of the big bad thing rather than to tell a tale, and that once this big bad thing was revealed the “story” was done and the “validation” began.

I should say that I am no expert on the genre. I’m not deeply read in it, and I’m 100% certain that you can find examples of great horror being written today. But I think it’s fair to say that the great horror being written today has a lot of undertow to fight against.

Brigid, for her part agreed in general to my view, saying something like: “Once the monster is revealed, I get a lot less scared.”

Against this conversation comes a great piece written by Grady Hendrix at Tor.com regarding Toni Morrison’s Beloved and the horror field‘s reluctance to embrace it.

It’s a good read for the insider and the fan alike. And it’s something worth thinking about from all directions. I was particularly taken with the juxtaposition of the genre’s present state of playing with its tropes as a foundation vs. Morrison’s focus on the individual and the sense of terror that springs from the things we do. I’m not suggesting one thing is better than the other–though I’ll admit I personally enjoy reading stories written from Morrison’s viewpoint better than the other. But I do think there is value in understanding the difference between the two. Morrison’s viewpoint is probably harder to write, and it’s certainly harder to read (meaning it makes one become introspective in the process of consuming it rather than be more of an outside observer).

I also appreciate that Hendrix spends a moment looking at the content and the social viewpoint of something like Morrison’s work in that its content forces us to look at things that we don’t always want to look at. This is a quandary.

It’s actually a quandary that we’re seeing in the area of comic books as they transform from the printed form onto the big screen. Comics were once a field for big morality tales, in reality. Pulpy at times, of course, but they were plays on good and evil, and individual responsibility, and the cost of being a good person vs. the shame of evil. The art in these things was often glorious, sometimes not. But the stories were huge. Today it seems to me that the entertainment value of a comic is more related to the effects one can put on the screen than the stories themselves. A related area is that the social conversations around comic films are focused more on inclusion regarding casting (which I fully agree with), rather than on inclusion regarding the portrayal of cultures in fuller ways. Perhaps that will be next. I don’t know. But it seems to me that comic book movies are really just playing with the tropes of comic books rather than focusing on things that made them (for me) great.

Anyway, I digress.

If you have interest in genre, or interest in Toni Morrison’s work, I suggest you read Hendrix’s thoughts. Definitely worth the time.

18 May

Is this cool, or what?

So, this morning I have a lot of things to do. Yes, it’s busy being a self-employed writer, though it’s hard to explain how this is all the time. Among the things on my “To Do” list was to go through the galley proof copies of a future issue of Galaxy’s Edge, which will include my story “The Colossal Death Ray.” So, dutifully, I opened the file and went through it. I jotted down a couple things I found, and passed them back.

Very well. I’ve done this often, now. Processing galleys is … well … kid of oldish hat. Almost just work, you know?

Then, for whatever reason, before I shut the file down I took a scan of the table of contents.

Robert Silverberg is there. Right, I thought. My name is right there before Robert freaking Silverberg. And Jack McDevitt. Lawrence Person. Robert J. Sawyer, David Gerrold. Yes, him. And Jody Lyn Nye and Bill Fawcett. Gregory Benford, and Barry Malzberg are in there, too. And science fiction from Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin. Talk about names.

As I looked at this today it suddenly strikes me that, yes, I’m in a publication with these kinds of names.

Is this cool, or what?

And that’s before we get to a talent like Elizabeth Bear, who has a story in this magazine, too.

And flashy “new writers” (Ha! I laugh at the meaning of “new” here, but you get the point) like Dantzel Cherry, J.R. Vogt, and Alex Shvartsman, or recent Writers of the Future vet Leena Likatalo.

I’ve been doing this writing thing for … well … a few years. But I can honestly say that it never, ever, gets less thrilling to see my name on a table of contents–and especially one as remarkable as this.

25 Apr

The First Annual Rongo Awards

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been tempted at several moments to weigh in on the big brouhaha over this year’s Hugo Awards—an award which is of only vague import for the majority of the world, but is like life-blood to several people who are, perhaps, if such a thing is possible, the teensiest bit too deeply entrenched in the world of science fiction.

In the guise of preserving your sanity, I shall not link to any of it here. If, however, you have not heard of the issue, and you are interested in spending several hours of your time witnessing a community self-immolate, just go to Our Friend Google, and search on “Puppies” and “Hugo Awards.” From there on I figure you can create your own adventure.

I suggest, however, that the casual fan just stay out of the water.

Seriously.

There be sharks.

I, however, am not a casual fan. I am a writer working in the field, and have been for over twenty years. And on top of that, I tend to be a person who (as long as I can manage to avoid taking them too seriously) enjoys the whole concept of awards. As such, I admit that the Hugo Award does mean something to me.

So I have looked at the trench warfare going on within these waters (if I can be allowed to mix some metaphors) from a perch fairly close by, and have finally decided that while I am probably less intelligent than I look, I am not—and I repeat, not—a total sadist. Beyond that, I completely understand my place in this world. I understand I have no real mouthpiece or plank from which to give deep commentary that would have any chance of making a difference. (I am, however, also giving myself a self-serving pat on the back for thinking myself smart enough to assume there’s not a single person in this struggle who seems capable of providing any great commentary that has a chance to actually change anything. My opinion of human nature is that once a person digs a trench, it generally remains dug.) This doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions. Believe me. I’ve got plenty of ’em. I just don’t see how me pounding the table can help in much of any way.

Still, I want to do something, and I would like that something to be pointed toward the positive.

And after considerable thought on the matter, I’ve decided that the best thing I can do is to spend some time highlighting pieces published in 2014 that I’ve read and enjoyed, and that were clearly “overlooked” by the slate-based approach the Puppy tandem either (depending on your point of view) rightly or wrongly employed.

So that’s what I’ll do.

My intention is, about once a week, to use my little platform here to point out a work I thought award-worthy. I plan to do this until the Hugos are actually announced, though perhaps I’ll go on longer. We shall see. I may touch on stories that are actually on the ballot, but probably will not. I assume folks who care are already exploring those works. My intention is to use my little place in the world of Science Fiction to talk about work I would not have been surprised to see on the Hugo ballot, but were not. They will be stories that should be on ballots somewhere (and maybe even be on ballots for awards not named “the Hugos”). Because I tend to be a weird reader, my selections will likely be all over the spectrum. Regardless, I hope folks will enjoy them.

This is the best way I can think of to address this ongoing strife, and to help these stories and the authors thereof—to talk about the work, to highlight it, and to hold it up for people to see and think about.

Focus on the positive.

Focus on what I think is quality.

Given this, I shall be awarding this collective of stories I highlight the High Honor of “the Ron’s Good Reading Award,” or “the Rongo,” for short. It is an award of high acclaim indeed, and sure to grow to extreme import–certain to change the very essence of the lives of those to whom my fickle finger of fate shall at point.

Perhaps I’ll even go so far as to create a logo for them in my copious spare time. Or not. Why cheapen such a thing with a brand, eh? Anyway … I digress.

With only a little further hesitation, I shall now proceed to use this post to identify the first story on the list, to bestow the first-ever “Rongo Award,” as it were. Before I go further, however, I must reiterate that this is a list of stories I think are fantastic. I am not including anything here for any purpose beyond that. I admit to feeling the need of prefacing my first selection here because I am distinctly aware of how the very first story I anoint with the title “Rongo Award Winner” will be perceived in context of the Great Battle Being Waged. I understand that John Scalzi is essentially the Anti-Beale to one side of this global battle that has become the Hugos.

That’s fine.

These are the Rongos.

In making these selections, I don’t care about the details that are being fought over one way or the other. This should, I expect, become more obvious as the weeks go by and the Rongos get passed around, but since this is #1, it has no context. Hence the disclaimer.

All righty, then…

With that out of the way, I am excited to point potential readers to my initial Rongo selection.

* * *

The First-ever Rongo Award goes to …

* * *

Rongo Category: Novella
Story: “Unlocked”
Author: John Scalzi

This is why I love novellas. Just flat-out love ‘em.

Here is a piece of Science Fiction that is everything science fiction should be. It is a story, written in an oral history narrative, that brings to bear science, technology, politics, community, and fundamental human nature in ways that let us look into the near future and view who we are. Given that its basic core is built around a health crisis, I suppose it’s fitting that as I read it, my wife, my father, my mother, and my daughter were all hacking and wheezing with a flu variant that apparently wasn’t in the vaccine this year.

Shrug.

“Unlocked” is a prequel to Scalzi’s novel Lock in, but it clearly stands on its own. It’s deeply technological, but does not bear gizmodic burden. It’s deeply political, but represents its politics in open and straightforward fashion, and often delves into our past to support its viewpoints. With an investment of an hour or so, I walked away from reading it feeling like I had looked at the very complex issue of a country’s reaction to an immediate health crisis with a visceral sense of being there, and from a shifting series of perspectives that left me both upbeat and chilled about human nature.

In Scazi’s world, human beings are not one-note creatures. In this world, there is no one “humanity.” There is only each of us, and each of our views on how we would like to be or how we would like to live. It’s a world that matches our own—a strange collective of individuals that gather together to make a culture.

Given its structure, the story unfolds in layers and waves, its real purpose hidden underneath the surface of the report until rising up and taking you by the shoulders to shake you first this way and then that. Life is complex, it says. And choices, therefore, are no less. This is a deft piece of work, well done.

I’m really pleased to tag “Unlocked” as the first-ever Rongo Award Winner for being among the best novellas of 2014.

14 Apr

Three friends, three books

As I’m getting my act together for the hundredth time, I think I should take a moment and note that three writer friends of mine local to the Columbus area have recently put out books that some of my readers might be interested in. Only one, Gregg Macklin’s, fits somewhere into the SF milieu, but I figure that it’s best to assume folks have as diverse of a reading interest as I do. Besides, I think it’s also good to realize there’s such a thing a gift-giving. [grin]

Anyway, here’s a little capsule on the three of them:

Albert Sisson: A Shadow of Death in the Woods

Albert is a guy I met in one of my roles as a corporate engineer. He was a better engineer than I, and was possessed of a sense of humor as dry as a 1950s martini–though I guess I should say he’s still possessed of that sense of humor! Regardless, he’s taken his love of motor cycles and road trips, and he’s taken his particular slant on the world, and he’s crafted an intriguing little story about murder, friends, family, and survival. Nice effort for a first novel. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

Note the nifty cover. It’s another done by the one and only Rachel J. Carpenter (who, of course, has done plenty of mine).

Gregg Macklin: White Hot Skies

This is Gregg’s second book, and shows a very nice progression from his first. It’s a post-nuclear apocalypse kind of story set in the middle of Indiana. The story itself is as much commentary on personal freedom and the politics of plenty vs. scarcity as anything else, and is full of characters defined and shaped by the area. For that reason alone, folks from around southern Indiana may enjoy reading over the setting. Overall, though, I suspect the book will probably be best loved by those whose views lean a little to the right. [grin]

Having now known Gregg for a couple years, I’m really excited for him as I think he’s just now coming into his art. I love it when that happens.

Debi Stanton: The White Sofa

Full disclosure here, I haven’t read this book–I haven’t had time to grab it, and Debi didn’t send it around before publishing it. Debi coordinates our Bartholomew County Writer’s Group (meets the second Thursday of each month, ping me if you’re local and interested), is the publisher of the independent Pen It! magazine, and has been writing for some time. I understand the book is a romance/mystery/thriller (or, as Debi describes it, “has a little bit of everything in there!”). So if that sounds like your cuppa, I say go for it. [grin]

13 Apr

Kazuo Ishiguro

Often, while I go about the routine portion of my days at home, I like to listen to podcasts. I have quite eclectic tastes in this area, but in general I focus on stories and people–stories in the vein of documentaries or personal narratives, stories the likes of historical studies or discussions of scientific breakthroughs or maths or whatever, and people in the form of … well … in the form of people I think are interesting.

I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into listening to podcasts, I find the pretty much everyone is interesting if I just sit back and let them be. People have viewpoints, you see? And they have backgrounds that you couldn’t begin to expect. Given those backgrounds, they put together pieces of information and pieces of society in ways that I don’t. Interesting ways. Informative ways.

Take, for instance, this podcast of Elenor Wachtel’s interview of Kazuo Ishiguro on CBC Radio’s Writers & Company. Ishiguro is a well-respected writer, of course. But I didn’t really know anything about him at all. I knew he was Japanese. I knew he writes things others would consider “literary.” This gave me a stereotyped viewpoint of who he might be. I’m interested in art and literature, though, and even though I knew nothing much else about Kazuo Ishiguro I figured I would spend an hour with him.

I suggest you do so, also. I suggest you listen to his talk and let his existence change you.

If you do you’ll hear different takes on what love means.

You’ll hear what it’s like to grow up “other” without really realizing it (which is perhaps stranger than that sounds–Ishiguro is Japanese, but grew up British, and speaks with a full British accent, for example). You’ll hear interesting takes about Japanese history, and what it means to be from Nagasaki (a place that cannot possibly escape being deeply informed by its history with the atomic bomb). You’ll hear about how songs and lyrics relate to short stories and literature–and in between the cracks you can pick out small slices of what it means to be an artist.

And who knows what else you’ll learn, or merely think about differently. You are a different person than I am. So if you do listen to Ishiguro speak, I’m sure you’ll carry away something I’ll miss.

So, yes, I admit I like listening to podcasts. I like them because to absorb them you have to give them time. You have to concentrate. I like them because you have to listen, to actually engage with their content. And I like them because when you do that, you can find really interesting people who can teach you really interesting things.

07 Jan

I’ll have a double shot of Collins, please!

It was a very tight race, a photo finish as it were, but today I get the very distinct pleasure of reporting that the 2015 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide is now available at Amazon and other online venues. This means that the 2015 YEAG has won the race by a nose, and is now officially the very first professionally published anthology in which Brigid and I have shared the table of contents. This is soooooo cooooooooool I can’t even begin to express it. The fact that the project is such a worthwhile one (supporting inclusion in middle-grade SF) just makes it that much smore special.

At one point we thought that Fiction River’s Pulse Pounders anthology would represent that milestone, but 2015 YEAG managed to eek it out at the end.

Of course, it would be nice if these two represented the first of at least a few more, but today if for celebration of the present and that is what I shall do!

So, in celebration, here are the covers to both!

26 Dec

Nearly a dozen bits on “art”

Yesterday I ran over to John Scalzi’s site and read through a collection of posts he noted as his “Best of the Year.” If you’re one of the six people in the world who doesn’t read his site, you should wander over there. It’s good stuff.

Afterward, I scanned through my own posts this year. I wasn’t actually looking for a “best of” kind of thing. Not really. I’ve done a “most popular” posts thread in the past by just stripping data off the server logs and going with that list. Perhaps I’ll do that again at the very end of the year. We shall see. Mostly what I was looking for was a sense of where I’ve been this year–my first as a full-time writer of fiction. What struck me was the raw numbers of times I took on the topic of the art of writing–often, but not always, parsing it against the business aspect of it–or at least what it means to be a writer. (Yes, I hear the pretension in that last phrase … what the hell of it, eh?)

This theme permeated my blogging throughout the year, it seems, and to be honest, it wasn’t what I was expecting.

I come to the blog in a pretty free-form way. I don’t plan what I talk about. I write what I’m thinking about, or about what I’m experiencing, or whatever. So to see this aspect run so heavily through the posts of the past year are interesting. And, yes, I know I’ve touched on those topics throughout my 18 or so years of doing this … but man, 2014 seemed to be All About the Art.

So, in my best Scalzi impersonation (har!), I’ve decided to drop what I considered my 12 most interesting posts about the subject here. (Actually, my top 11 posts about the art of the business, and 1 other that I just liked–I’m persnickety that way).

Here they are:

Project Manager vs. Artist
Make it Mean Something
The Artist’s Career
How to Prove You’re a Man in 5 Easy Steps
Merry Clayton: The Art of a Background Singer
Dictation
Jay Lake
Writing Well
A Sort of Aesthetic Trilogy
Story Geeking
The Writer as Artist
Hard Work & Opportunity