Monday, October 29, 2007

The Future of Storytelling?

There's actually nothing terribly profound in this article itself, but reading it did get me thinking about various experiments I've seen in hypertext- and interactive-stories. Slate had an experiment last year that was interesting, but not profound. Farrago's Wainscot has a fascinating one going now--I've enjoyed what I've read of it, though the last time I tried to catch up on everything I'd missed for a couple of months, I got mind-boggingly lost in a labyrinth of cross-links. And Ideomancer also had something similar not so long ago, one that was a bit easier to follow. Oh, and one from a few years back that was set on a train, and you could click on the different passengers to see who each was. I forget the title, something with a number in it, though.

None of those, as interesting as they might be themselves, seems likely to change storytelling. But I am always fascinated with those who are willing to try and see what happens.

The one thing the article did get me thinking about is that all these experiments are basically textual only--the occasional image, but that's all. And I love text, so nothing wrong with that. But I do wonder about other ways to expand it. They create myspace pages for the characters mentioned in the article--I wonder if anyone's tried doing that with a fictional character from a speculative work. I could definitely see that appealing to certain readers. It could even be fun to see an entire pseudo-myspace network made entirely of fictional characters. I mean, will Frodo friend Paul Maud'dib? What message will Steerpike leave on Elric's page? And what kind of music does Ged listen to? (Yes, this is tongue in cheek...and yet, only sort of)
Story accepted by Reflection's Edge

I had another fun little story accepted by Reflection's Edge over the weekend--"A Winter Solstice Sun." It'll either appear in a few days in the November issue, or (especially fitting, given the title) in the December/January issue. I'm looking forward to telling the story of how this one came about once it's out, as it came from two very different sources of inspiration.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My sister-in-law in Washington Post

I just thought this was fun--there's an Ausema featured in an article of the Washington Post. She's an art conservator.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Let's go Rockies!

I'm off to some friends' house to watch part of the game soon (as much as I can watch while also watching my son). Here's hoping it's a better game than the last two...

Today was also the opening of a new park in town, and it was a huge event with scarcely enough parking--in fact the people they had directing parking added a line in the grass where I parked, and later there was another line in the dirt where the grass (or probably actually native ground cover) hasn't yet come up. But it's an amazing park. The playground, which is designed to be largely wheelchair accessible, is incredible, though with the numbers of people there, my son was too overwhelmed to fully appreciate it. It's at the end of one of the bike trails, so we'll be going back later this week when older kids are in school and the weather is warmer.

Also...we went to the library this morning for a special Día de los muertos celebration. That was pretty cool too. I even got to drink some horchata, which I haven't had since college, and melon juice that reminded me of my time in Venezuela (it's not specifically Venezuelan, but Mérida is where I first had something like that).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Any exercise science types or simply avid bikers reading this?

I've been biking a lot recently. I already noticed (and mentioned on this blog) last year when I took out my bike a few times that compared to running, biking is a lot more about muscular endurance and a lot less about cardio-vascular endurance. At least for me it is. Is this how it should be? Am I not getting as good a workout because my heart and lungs aren't feeling as challenged? Though of course muscular endurance is an important part of overall fitness too. Does it depend on the way I bike? I tend to shift to the highest gear that's comfortable--would I get a better overall workout if I left it a gear or two lower and pedaled faster?

My goal, as with running, is not to get into competitive shape but simply to keep healthy, if that has any bearing on the answers. Though, I have toyed with the idea of doing some 5k runs...I just haven't gotten around to signing up for any. I have absolutely no idea what I'd be able to run today. I only ran a 5k once, and that was in high school--I think it took me about 20 or 21 minutes. There was a time in college when we were running about an 18 minute 5k pace for training runs that were twice as long, so I'm sure I could have been around 15-16 minutes given a couple races to get used to it. But today all my running is with a jogging stroller, and I don't bother paying any attention to my pace.

There is a mini triathalon some friends of mine did here in Ft. Collins this summer--that would be fun too, though the swimming would probably wipe me out. I used to be a lifeguard (for 9 years!), but I was never great at the swimming endurance tests--I always passed them, but they would leave me dead tired. I'd probably just breast stroke the whole way--slower, but I'd come out and still be able to bike and run.

Oh, one more question: anyone know how to compare mileage biking to mileage running. My workouts for running are usually 4.5-6 miles, depending on the route. I've been biking anywhere from about 8-16 miles, depending on which park we bike to.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some Pictures

I uploaded a bunch of pictures from our camera just now and decided to post a few here (some I'd uploaded already but was looking at and decided to toss in the mix)


(It was my son's birthday last weekend, so these are of the cake my wife made--yes, she's amazing with things like that--and of his new tricycle.)


And then a few pictures from the last month or so:



These are from Michigan--Camp Roger at the top and Greenfield Village on the bottom, where my son is already showing his astounding reading ability...or at least the ability to pretend to read.


And this is from Red Feather Lakes, which I mentioned in a post a couple weeks back:


Sunday, October 21, 2007

All Possible Worlds closure

I realized that I hadn't mentioned this yet--I was very sad to learn of this last week. They published one of my stories in the premiere issue, and they'd just released the second issue, so things seemed to be going well. I know there were some real life issues that had the editor (team?) behind on submissions, but it still came as a shock when I saw it mentioned on a forum that they'd closed. I wish Jason and everyone else involved the best. And of course I'll still leave the link up on the right so you can buy a copy of issue 1 or 2, if you're inclined. (The cover art for issue 1 is especially cool, so do check it out.)

Though actually, I suppose the better response is to take that money and support some of the other small press zines and various venues--those in my list on the right or any others. Electric Velocipede, LCRW, Sybil's Garage are a few that jump to mind that haven't published me--yet--but that strike me as worthy print zines to support, and you can always donate to any of the great (or even just good) ezines that give so much content for free. And of course I'm partial to those that have published my stories... (And speaking of, I should be posting something about Kaleidotrope 3 soon)

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm mentioned in an online casino blog...

I just noticed that my story "Stellar Roulette" at Every Day Fiction got a pingback from an online casino as something for its members to check out. Actually it looks like the blog is computer-created and simply links to anything that might possibly tie in to gambling. Even so...I'm laughing.

The Last Unicorn

I'm rereading Peter S. Beagle's classic story right now--for years I've been referring to him as one of my favorite fantasists, but I hadn't yet reread any of his books. And it's probably been nearly 10 years since I read The Last Unicorn the first time. So I'm enjoying it...and I'd forgotten how absolutely funny some parts of it are--scenes, snippets, even individual sentences, I'm just laughing out loud (during his breakfast this morning my one-day-shy-of-three-years-old son asked me what I was laughing about, and I couldn't really explain why the appearance of Robin Hood and the reactions of Captain Cully's men was so funny).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Have you read any amazing stories recently?

Jeff VanderMeer is asking his blog readers for any Short Fiction That Blew Your Socks Off. So if any stories you've read have really been amazing (especially if you think they'd be the type of story to impress that crowd), then go share them there. I've already shared a few that I'd mentioned on this blog in the past.

The broader context of this question is in a variety of discussions on the state of short fiction, which so many people seem to believe is dying. I must admit to feeling overall optimistic and excited about the state of the short fiction field--from a reader standpoint, I'm just discovering a lot of writers doing exciting things. Some of those have been writing for years, so my more recent discovery of them skews my overall impression. But usually when I see people lamenting the death of short fiction, it's all about rosy-tinted nostalgia for the type of stories they liked when they were wee lads, and what we really need is for writers to forget any ambition when it comes to craft and style. That's easy to dismiss. But of course, it's also not VanderMeer's take on the issue either, so his comments are something worth a lot more consideration.

(It's a bit of a side issue, but from a writer's standpoint I'm also optimistic--I'm finding a lot of venues that I'd love to be in, that are doing exciting things, and that seem to be surviving just fine. Yes, there have been some disappointing closures, but it seems there are as many new venues that open as those that close. I've only been actively paying attention to the market for a few years, so I have little to compare it to...but also no nostalgia for supposedly better times that probably actually weren't.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Doris Lessing--Nobel Prize

I didn't feel, initially, that I'd have to say anything about Doris Lessing winning the Nobel Prize...it's the Nobel Prize, after all. Surely everyone knows. And this is an author who wrote science fiction, so certainly her winning should be sparking some dialogue here and there within the SF Internet community, right? Well, nothing I've seen so far. Now a part of me says my basic stance on literature, on speculative fiction, etc. means I shouldn't be making any bigger deal out of this than any other Nobel winner. I don't consider my allegiance necessarily to SF as a genre but to great writing regardless of genres and labels. I personally am more likely to prefer the speculative works, but that's where my allegiance is there, to the speculation whether it gets labeled as genre or not. But I guess my response to myself is that we should be paying attention to the Nobel Prize winner every year anyway--so why does no one even bring it up?

To be honest, I read (part of ) Lessing's Canopus in Argos series earlier this year and didn't care for it, and that's the work that's most clearly science fiction. But I read another of her books a few years ago--The Fifth Child--and enjoyed it. It's certainly speculative...though just as certainly doesn't belong classified with other genre works. It's probably closest to horror, I suppose, which is usually a type of story I don't like as much. I'm far from qualified to give an in-depth response to her winning or analysis of her writing. But I'm just disappointed that the Nobel Prize for literature (any year) goes by with so little acknowledgment in the speculative community. So now at least you're aware of her win. What you do with that is up to you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Fix, including a review of mine

The Fix is a new (or rather, newly resurrected) review site for short fiction, similar in many ways to Tangent. It does have in addition to the short fiction reviews, monthly articles on speculative poetry, on podcast stories, and on film, but the focus is on short fiction. The managing editor is Eugie Foster, and it just went live today.

I have a review among those that open up the now-live site--New Genre #5. So if you're curious what kinds of stories they like, you can check it out there.

I also discovered a very fun story through browsing through the other reviews that are up--Yoon Ha Lee's "Notes on the Necromantic Symphony" is great fun, a story tucked into the program notes for an imagine symphony. When they work, I love stories like this that stretch the way the story is told. Farrago's Wainscot, which published the story, is a good source for strange stories, so do check it out. (Warning though, it always seems to crash Firefox on my computer, so I have to view it in awful IE.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Staffs & Starships

I'm finally allowed to announce that I have a story appearing shortly in issue 2 of Staffs & Starships. This is (obviously, since it's only issue 2) a new zine that's available for purchase both as a pdf and in print. I'll say more about the story once the new issue is available.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Anthologies

Jeff VanderMeer has a blog post about closed vs. open anthologies in response to Jay Lake's post on the same topic. (Ellen Datlow joins in the discussion at Jay's livejournal, as do some others whose names might be familiar.)

Now, as I'm at a stage where I'm not getting invited to closed anthologies, obviously I like open submissions...but that's simply selfish reasoning and should be taken with its own grain of salt. I do like Jeff's reasoning--including his caveats of when it does make sense to keep in antho closed.

There's one thing that I wonder if it needs to be thrown into the discussion, and that's the question of whether having an open submission increases awareness of the antho and therefore sales. A question is all it is at this point--I'm not saying that it does. But I know a number of aspiring and beginning writers get most or all their market knowledge from two places--hearing about it from another writer at a similar stage as themselves, and Ralan's. I try to be a bit more aware, with Nightshade forums and some author and editor blogs, but I have to admit that's where I get a lot of my info too. So if an anthology never appears on Ralan's, it seriously decreases the chances I'll learn about it.

This same things applies to magazines and ezines--I'm much more likely to pay attention to Strange Horizons and Clarkesworld (and soon, Fantasy) than to Subterranean Online--and that is actually what got me thinking about this question. I do try to remember to check out the new issues of Subterranean, and the fact that it's only quarterly hurts it in that respect, I think. Though it does mean that when I remember, I probably haven't missed an entire issue or anything. But I tend to only remember to check it when I see a link from someone's blog that they have a story there or if a fellow writer recommends a story from it, whereas Strange Horizons is always one of the first things I look at Monday morning.

So, I'm positive that having an open anthology increases awareness among certain groups of aspiring writers (and that pool of aspiring writers is very large). What I don't know is if that really translates into any difference in sales, or are the majority of those aspiring writers not likely to have the money to buy the anthology anyway? Are aspiring writers, as I've seen someone argue on a certain forum, too tight-fisted and miserly to bother attracting? There may be a slight risk that someone who's been rejected gets bitter and doesn't want to buy the product...but I'd think (again, just a hunch with no evidence to back it up) that it's more than countered by the much greater awareness.

Jeff's post focuses on the artistic benefit and whole-field benefit of open anthologies. This is more on the business side to add to the pro/con tally when considering the question from that perspective. It may not fully counter-balance the question of time required to read slush for a given anthology, but it at least can possibly mitigate it somewhat, maybe enough that the other questions from an artistic standpoint can take over.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bar book club--report

It's been a little over a month since our last meeting at the bar--we were supposed to hold it last week, but very few of us could make it. I'd known for a while that I wouldn't be there, so I hadn't read the book...but with the reschedule, I suddenly could, and had to read a long and dense book on the history of Scotland (and Scottish people abroad) from about late 1600s to late 1800s. I read nonfiction differently than I read fiction, though, especially nonfiction like this (a nonfiction Annie Dillard essay I might read more like I'd read fiction), so it wasn't too difficult to get it finished on time. (I rediscovered how to get a sense of what's going on just by reading the first sentence in each paragraph in some sections...)

We had a good discussion, sometimes about the book itself and often about other things that something in the book made us think about. One member of our group is actually from Scotland (he was the one who'd brought the book as a possibility), so that made from some interesting discussion about Scotland in general. And I now know (through him, not the book) that people from Glasgow are called Glaswegians and their accent is the Glaswegian accent. The Edinburgh accent, on the other hand, he described as a faux-posh accent. He grew up, it should be noted, exactly halfway between the two cities, but he said the Glaswegian accent extends to just a few miles from Edinburgh, and most of the people between there seem to identify more with Glasgow than Edinburgh (at least by his account).

There was no single drink of choice, but I went for the Cask-Conditioned Punjabi Pale Ale. I usually like the darker beers better, but that's one I'll have fairly often too.

Next month...all of the options looked good, including The River Why, which I've read and loved, but our final decision was an account of illegal immigration in the 1980s called Coyotes. Here's hoping it inspires us all to defend immigration from the extremist (/racist) voices that dominate so much of the discussion...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tying up loose ends

I've actually taken a brief break over the past two days from revising my novel and spent a bunch of time revising and submitting a number of short stories. And I expect I'll be doing more of that for a little while here, though while also working on novel revisions (I'm about a third of the way through the first set of revisions).

One thing that's come up in the novel revisions is the question of how neatly the ending of a story ought to be tied up. I have to admit I'm very suspicious of works that tie up too neatly. I like the implication that life continues, that we've reached a new version of normal, but that uncertainties remain. I may overreact on those counts, though. And I suspect there's a certain correlation between the length of a work (and therefore how much time a reader has invested in it) and how much you need to wrap things up neatly. A short story can more easily end abruptly, when that snippet of an event or life is over, but a multi-volume series may require a longer resolution to leave the readers satisfied. Maybe--I haven't thought this through too carefully, so it's merely a suspicious rather than a belief. My novel is not part of a(n overly long) fantasy series, just a stand-alone, though I may return to it at some point. But I will have to think about the ending and how it all wraps up.

What do you think, my faithful blog readers? The person who brought this up in regards to my novel* mentioned that things left unresolved may be more true to life, but true to life doesn't necessarily make better fiction. Any definite preferences in terms of how resolved you like a story to be?

*Actually, what she was referring to in my novel was that I have a tendency to introduce a certain tension or rivalry or motivation in an earlier chapter...and then not resolve that by the time that character's role in the story is through. That's definitely a failing on my part, and something I'm glad she pointed out. I'll fix that in revision. But thinking about that brought up this more general question in my mind.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A couple of markets closing down

I'm changing two of the links in the sidebar to "defunct." First a couple of weeks ago I received an email from Spinning Whorl editor that he was shutting down the magazine and associated projects. I'll leave the link up for now--it gives an email address, so if you want to order issue #3, which has my story, or one of the other issues, you can see if he has copies left. The former editor, Samuel Tinnianow, has a blog chronicling life after getting an MFA in creative writing.

The other market apparently shutting down is Mytholog. I can't find anything stating that on the actual site (and as that means archives are still up, including my "Turtle Car" story from last fall, I won't be deactivating the link), but Ralan's lists it as "closed by editor."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Red Feather Lakes

I grew up in a type of area where people from a ways away drive to to see the fall colors. Michigan can get some stunning views of red and yellow and orange mixed with the green of leaves that haven't changed yet and the darker green of pines. But it's hard to claim that as better scenery than what you see in the mountains right now--the splash of a yellow so vibrant it almost hurts against the dark evergreens. Some of the best views are in those places where there's just a few aspens, so that when their leaves were green you'd hardly know they were there among the pines, even though it's such a paler green...but turned yellow, you can't miss them. And then there's views like this, coming down today from Red Feather Lakes to the Poudre Canyon:

PS Did you know that a stand of aspens is considered a single organism, rather than each tree being a separate organism? This makes it the largest single organism on the planet--for a while a collection of mushrooms in Michigan's Upper Peninsula was considered largest when they first thought to consider that such a thing could be one organism instead of many--I remember that story from back in high school or college--but they must have realized or decided to consider the aspen groves in this way more recently than that.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Stellar Roulette

My brief (exactly 100-word) story, "Stellar Roulette," is up at Every Day Fiction today. Welcome, anyone who happens to swing on over here from there. I typically say something about the origins of my stories as they're published...but I don't really recall much for this one. It makes me smile to read it every time, but all I really remember is that I was setting myself the challenge of writing a handful of stories that were exactly 100 words. (Another of those appeared last January in Shantytown Anomaly.)

Hope you enjoy it, and feel free to comment over on their site about the story.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"Up-and-coming writers-to-watch"

Kaleidotrope 3 now available. The announcement on the blog includes my name with two others I recognize quite well as "up-and-coming writers-to-watch." And to see my name so close following World Fantasy Award-winner Bruce Holland Rogers...that's very cool.

You can check out the complete table of contents (which includes some other writers whose work I've enjoyed) and then purchase the issue for yourself.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The return of the one-hour quick write

I've mentioned a few times how one of the critique groups I'm part of does a weekly one-hour challenge where you're given a topic and have one hour to write a story, or the germ of a story at least. We'd taken a break from it because our attendance was down and some members were feeling burnt out...and I'll admit that I often hadn't been participating either.

Well, tonight was the first time to do that since we took a break. I wasn't able to make it on time (so I missed the chat and all that goes along with it), but I did come and do it later. And it was really good for me. I like what I wrote, and I intend to finish it up (it'll probably be pretty short, maybe twice as long or a little more as what I wrote already), but that's not really the main thing. What I noticed was that I kept getting to a certain point and thinking, "Well, that's a good point to take a break--I'll just stop here and post that." But I still had some good time left, so I made myself keep going.

See, that's been my struggle in other writing too of late (especially with all the revising I've been focusing on this past month or two). I get to what my brain says is a good place to stop...and I stop. So now we'll see how much these writing exercises carry over into the discipline I need to get done everything I want to accomplish.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fantasy Magazine going online

I've been saying for some time now that if I decide to take out another magazine subscription, it would likely be to Fantasy. Well, I guess that won't be happening now--this announcement came out a few days ago, and I just learned about it on Saturday.

I think it's a good move, very much similar to some of the ideas I'd thrown out a while back here on the blog about what I thought the best ways to have an ezine would be--frequently new (and free!) content and a variety of different things included. I'm definitely looked forward to that. It can join Strange Horizons as one of the things to look forward to each Monday (and other days as well).

I'll guess I can save that subscription money and use it for one of their anthologies (or one from Clarkesworld) or some other book or magazine. And add Fantasy to the list of quality magazines with free stories.