Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hey, I'm in Thaumatrope today!

Or, should I say, @thaumatrope. It's a Twitter-based flash fiction magazine that publishes stories and reviews in 140 or fewer characters. Yep, that's short, but it can still be done. There's also a serialized Twitter stream from the future, courtesy of Jeremy Tolbert.

I don't know if I mentioned it here already, but I also had my second drabble (100-word story) in Norm Sherman's fabulous Drabblecast. Unfortunately, it was alongside Mike Resnick's "The Last Dog", and I just can't compete with that. :)

Nebula Awards® 2008 Final Ballot

The SFWA's final ballot for the 2008 Nebula Awards® is in. The nominees for best novel are:

Note: this post updated 4 Mar 09 to reflect the SFWA's balloting error.

  • Little Brother - Doctorow, Cory (Tor, Apr08)
  • Powers - Le Guin, Ursula K. (Harcourt, Sep07)
  • Cauldron - McDevitt, Jack (Ace, Nov07)
  • Brasyl - McDonald, Ian (Pyr, May07)
  • Making Money - Pratchett, Terry (Harper, Sep07)
  • Superpowers - Schwartz, David J. (Three Rivers Press, Jun08)
See the article for the nominees for the shorter works.

I was curious about what short fiction publications ruled. The combined totals for short stories, novellas and novelettes, the publishers having the most nominees are:

  • Fantasy & Science Fiction: 6
  • Asimov's: 4
  • Norilana: 2
  • Analog: 1

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Gary Westfahl on the Sci-Fi's Pitfalls of Prophesy

Here is a terrific discussion by Gary Westfahl about why SF fails to predict the future. He framed his thoughts with seven fallacies, each with examples and explanations:
  1. The Fallacy of Universal Wealth: all governments and individuals in the future will be wealthy....
  2. The Fallacy of Replacement: once we develop an advanced scientific method to do something, we will immediately abandon all the old methods....
  3. The Fallacy of Inevitable Technology: if there emerges a new, technological way to do something, it will inevitably be adopted....
  4. The Fallacy of Extrapolation: an identified trend will always continue in the same manner, indefinitely into the future....
  5. The Fallacy of Analogy: a new technology will be adopted and employed in the same manner as a related form of previous technology.
  6. The Fallacy of Universal Stupidity: people in the future will be capable of making incredibly stupid mistakes....
  7. The Fallacy of Drama: major changes will occur in a quick and noticeable fashion, as a result of a single major event or of the actions of a single individual....

The fallacies thus outlined, Westfahl goes on to describe "current science fiction predictions about humanity's future and debunk them on the basis of the detectable fallacies that have engendered them." The predictions involve: the conquest of space, human cloning, asteroid impacts, a world controlled by multinational corporations, the depletion of all natural resources, the decline of marriage, and the tuned-in, virtual citizenry.

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Philip José Farmer, 1918-2009 RIP

Triple Hugo winner Philip José Farmer has died at 91. He also claimed the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Grand Master Award and the World Fantasy Award's Lifetime Achievement Award.

On Farmer's web site, you can see through web links a large outpouring of sentiment for the writer.

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Evolution of the English Language

Here are some tips about how to preserve the freshness of your stories by avoiding words that will disappear from the language. (You especially might want to check your trunk novels.)

Scientists at the University of Reading have discovered that 'I', 'we', 'who' and the numbers '1', '2' and '3' are amongst the oldest words, not only in English, but across all Indo-European languages. What's more, words like 'squeeze', 'guts', 'stick', 'throw' and 'dirty' look like they are heading for history's dustbin - along with a host of others....

Thanks to the recent availability of an IBM supercomputer, they've been able to look back 30,000 years and predict winners and losers of the English language.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Gender Divide: Perception of Beauty

Occasionally, the assessments of a story in the Flash Fiction Online slush pile will become divided along gender lines. Here is an article about serious research of gender differences in the perception of beauty. I don't know that one can or should extrapolate this research on visual beauty to literary quality, but it might be a fun exercise. A snippet from the article:

In men, images they consider to be beautiful appear to activate brain regions responsible for locating objects in absolute terms — x- and y-coordinates on a grid. Images considered beautiful by women do the same, but they also activate regions associated with relative location: above and behind, over and under.

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When All Else Fails, Publish with The Orphan

The Orphan is, by their own reckoning, "incomplete, unpublishable, moloch-less, disrespected, bizarre and roundly rejected." Everyone has a bit they wrote back when, which was lost for years under the trunk where they keep their unpublishable novels. That is what The Orphan publishes. They also illustrate the stories with photographic mistakes. Way cool.

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Pen/Faulkner Award 2009

Joseph O'Neill has won the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction for his post 9/11 novel "Netherland," which has been compared (here and here for example) with "The Great Gatsby." Strangely, the Post, NYT (and this blog...cough) scooped the PEN/Faulkner Foundation on this story, which was still reporting 2008 news at the time of posting.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Flash News: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone just $15K

Perhaps one of your story submissions came in positively and you're looking for a way to protect the money from the present market climate. You can bid on a first edition "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." This is the limited first run of 200 soft cover copies, with a signed card within signed by J.K. Rowlings. Wait, I'll check who that is...he's a writer....no, he's a she. Great, so the book is a first edition AND has a signature by some author, apparently of note. Currently, the bidding is at $15,000.

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The Laws of Science Fiction

From BoingBoing by way of SF Signal, the laws of science fiction. This isn't just a list. There is thoughtful corollaries and commentary about why the law should be obeyed by writers (and why a reader might shrug and put the book down if the laws are abused). For example:

Law No. 4 Given Something an Alien Name Doesn't Make it Alien.

Raktajino is coffee. By giving it a Klingon name it sort of appears alien, but everyone drinks it like coffee. It looks like coffee. It is coffee. Don't think that by making cows into Dvigids and Horses into Pytkos that you are not writing a western....

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Interview with Four Young Literary Agents

From PW, here is an interview with four young literary agents. An example from the five web pages of the interview:

What are you people looking for in a piece of fiction?

BARER: I like what Dan has on his Publishers Marketplace profile: the book that makes me miss my subway stop. I think everybody's looking for a book that you can't put down, that you lose yourself in so completely that you forget everything else that's going on in your life and you just want to stay up and you don't care if you're going to be tired in the morning. You just want to keep reading.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Five Reports: Technorati's State of the Blogosphere

A post yesterday mentioned Technorati's top 100 blogs. (Um, this one is not in that list.) Why should we care what Technorati's opinion is? They are the Google of blogs...a blog search engine. Their criteria for assessing the ranking of blogs is arguable but reasonable. They also carry enough weight now that their prophecy's can be somewhat self-fulfilling.

But that's not what this post is about. Technorati very generously publishes their State of the Blogosphere annual report for the public. If you're looking at blogging seriously, or are just interested, you may find the report a treasure trove of information. It is published as five reports, found here. The subject matter of the reports is:

  • Day 1: Who Are the Bloggers?
  • Day 2: The What And Why of Blogging
  • Day 3: The How of Blogging
  • Day 4: Blogging For Profit
  • Day 5: Brands Enter The Blogosphere

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Holy Zombie, Batman: Jane Austen for Boys

Two (apparently) independent projects to bring boys raised on video games to Jane Austen's literary lair:

  • Quirk Books' Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, containing "bone-crunching zombie mayhem,” and
  • Elton John's Rocket Pictures project, Pride and Predator, "in which the giant alien from the 1987 cult classic pays a call on the Bennet family."
I guess I'd better read Pride and Prejudice so that I can follow these movies.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Simon and Schuster's Crossword Puzzle Play

This topic is an example of the expanding influence of the Internet on traditional media noted in today's earlier post. Simon and Schuster is offering a daily crossword puzzle application for iPhones and iPod Touches. On the surface, this seems like a good idea. However, the syndicates of puzzles and games for daily newspapers can jump all over this, if they haven't already.

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Aphoristic Flash Fiction

Here is a new genre of flash fiction, a piece by writer/bloggist Nancy Jane Moore written as a series of aphorisms. She says:

"I’m always writing down great quotations and aphorisms that I find, so I couldn’t resist the temptation to write a story consisting entirely of aphorisms."

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Listen to the Doctorow: Internet's Transformation of Popular Media

Cory Doctorow is a Sci-Fi writer and uber-Internet citizen, as editor of BoingBoing, the number one blog on the Internet according to Technorati's top 100. Here is his take on how the Internet will affect various media, including newspapers (in big trouble), big-budget movies, music and books. Regarding newspapers, he says:
The imminent collapse of the American newspaper industry has spawned entire gazeteers' worth of high-minded handwringing about the social value of newspapers and the social harm that their disappearance will unleash. It's probably all true. I love the smudgy old devils, from the headlines to the funny pages....
Regarding books:

...First, the quantity and variety of titles carried outside of bookstores has radically declined, thanks to the rise of national big-box chain stores, who do all ordering from a centralized database....

The other problem is that we're increasingly conditioned to read short blocks of text...in radically different form than you generally find between covers. Combine this with the sheer amount of read-for-pleasure text available at one-click's distance on the Net, and even those of us who worship books find ourselves reading fewer of them....

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Nominees 2009

Here are the Oscar nominees. I have little to say about them since I haven't seen one of them, except for the animated features. I've seen all three of the animated features because my movie selections are entirely controlled by a nine-year-old girl. (I'll go with "Bolt") For the best movie I wish I'd seen: "Frost/Nixon." For the best actress I wish I'd seen...never mind.

Update (the envelope please): from the LA Times.

Mystery Writers of America Election Results

Going verbatim with this press release...

Mystery Writers of America Elect Lee Child National President; Board Elects Others for Leadership Positions

NEW YORK, Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Mystery Writers of America (MWA) announced that international bestselling author Lee Child has been elected president and will serve a one-year term beginning in February 2009. Child will succeed Harlan Coben.

Child is a NY Times best-selling author of the Jack Reacher series, published in 43 countries and 30 languages worldwide. His short stories have appeared in 9 collections, including the 2006 Mystery Writers of America Presents Death Do Us Part anthology.

The MWA Board of Directors also elected Frankie Y. Bailey to serve as Executive Vice President and Larry Light as Treasurer. Each will serve a one year term ending in February 2010.

Mystery Writers of America comprises over 3,000 members in three categories of membership that include publishers, editors, literary agents, and screen and television writers, as well as authors of fiction and non-fiction books. Further information: MWA, 1140 Broadway, New York, NY 10001; phone: 212.888.8171; fax: 212.888.8107; www.mysterywriters.org.

The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.

Source: Mystery Writers of America

CONTACT: Margery Flax of Mystery Writers of America, +1-212-888-8171

Web Site: http://www.mysterywriters.org/

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Diagram Prize for the Year's Oddest Book Title

Here are the contenders for the Diagram Prize for the year's oddest book title. My personal favorite is The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais. I don't think they've looked deeply enough. Some of the titles, like Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring, make perfect sense to me, and don't belong in this list, IMHO.

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James Patterson's Chain Novel

Here is a claim for "the world's first chain novel," AirBorne, inspired by thriller writer James Patterson." Patterson will write the first and last chapter. Other selected writers will serially write the middle chapters.

However, I hereby call them on the carpet for their claim. A group of well-known Florida writers did this in 1996 in Naked Came the Manatee. The authors of this novel include Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, Les Standiford, Paul Levine, Edna Buchanan, James W. Hall, Carolina Hospital, Evelyn Mayerson, Tananarive Due, Brian Antoni, Vicki Hendricks and John Dufresne. This serial novel is a mystery parody, giving a nod to a delicious literary hoax, Naked Came the Stranger. (I happen to have a copy of Naked Came the Manatee, signed by all authors.)

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Nancy Kress on Being a Writer

From Nancy Kress's Blog, six personality traits that one must have, in addition to talent, to be an SF writer. "Talent and desire are not enough. The rest must be there, or must be acquired, in order to become a writer."

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Buffy the Bradbury Slayer

Says the SFWA: "Joss Whedon, creator of such science fiction and fantasy-themes television series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and Dollhouse, has been named recipient of the Bradbury Award for excellence in screenwriting, as presented by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America."

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Cookbook Writing--Mirror of Nations?

Here is an amusing, short summary of the history of cookbooks from Economist.com, and what they mean about the nation in which they were fried up or grilled. Here are two quotes:

"Britain and America are the two great cookbook-writing nations, which is not the same as being nations of great cooks. It is precisely because neither country can boast a coherent, admirable, traditional cuisine that cooks have such need of guidance and distraction."
This is a quote from a British cookbook which paints a picture of post-war practicality:

“Melt 1oz of margarine in ½ teacup milk, and when the mixture is warm put through a cream machine—the five shilling kind which many of us bought before the war and still, I expect, possess."

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

New Books for February, Jamie Ford

This NYT writer notes that the new books for February have love as a central theme. Those who hang around the Hatrack River Writers Forum will notice that the first novel in the list is Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Jamie is a frequent contributor to discussions on Hatrack. Congratulations, Jamie!

Jamie's historical novel addresses the interesting situation of a Chinese boy caught up in the anti-Japanese sentiment following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and a retrospective look back as an adult.

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Graphic Novels on Mobile Devices

Got iPhone? Then, according to PW, you can read Will Eisner's A Contract With God via a new application for reading graphic novels on mobile devices such as the iPod Touch. The company, Genus Corp will announce new licensed works later.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reading in the Digital Age

Did Christopher Columbus bring cell phones to the Indians? Apparently not. A digital librarian used this example of a seriously flawed Internet article to teach school children a healthy respect for the information and disinformation found on the Internet. This is the third of three articles in the NYT about reading in the digital age.

Previous articles [1 2] examined the debate over the value of reading on the Internet versus reading in print and how educators are using video games as bait to lure children to read.

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RIP: Alfred A. Knopf Jr.

"Alfred A. Knopf Jr., who left the noted publishing house run by his parents to become one of the founders of Atheneum Publishers in 1959, died on Saturday....." More here.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Does Facebook Own Your Stuff?

Since so many writers use Facebook for social networking, I think this is a critical issue: the apparent change in the terms of service that assigns the rights to your Facebook content after you close your account. Here is a NYT article about Facebook's TOS (see Licenses section). I think this is the blog article that began the controversy.

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Extremophiles and God Particles

Two articles of science to spark your imagination and world-building. Both leads for these are by way of slashdot.

The first, Extremophiles in Kamchatka, is a set of four annotated photo albums about a joint American and Russian scientific expedition to study natural life in extreme conditions in the Russian Far East, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and NASA. Some of the life they studied thrives in scalding steam baths of 90 degrees C/194 degrees F. Even if you're not interested in the science, the photography is excellent.

The second story illustrates the intense rivalry of science, the race for the "God particle" (Higgs boson). In a nasal voice: "The European Cern Lab's LHC is ahead by two lengths. Fermilab is holding tight. But wait! Cern has stumbled. Oh no! It's limping. Fermilab is catching up quickly. Will Cern regain to its stride soon enough to win the Nobel Prize? Stay in your seats, ladies and gentlemen."

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Best SF/Fantasy Books in 2008

SF Site's Neil Walsh gives his picks here for the best Sci-Fi and fantasy books of 2008. I noticed that Neil Gaiman made the list with The Graveyard Book. He's been on a roll. We wrote about the movie rendition of Coraline. I watched Beowulf on DVD recently and noticed that Gaiman had written the original screenplay for that movie.

Let me check to see if Gaiman wrote the original novel....Nope. It was an epic poem of unknown authorship written in the 8-11th centuries. Let me check my calculator to see if Gaiman could have been the author....Nope, that would make him between 1000 and 1200 years old. There is no modern explanation for such an extended life. (It would explain a lot if he were, though.)

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When Nuclear Subs Collide

A Royal Navy nuclear submarine was involved in a collision with a French nuclear sub in the middle of the Atlantic....

One of our readers could really make a go novelizing this story. Suppose one was a Russian sub instead, and there was a gripping race by Americans and Russians to rescue the boat. Wait...this is beginning to sound familiar. Never mind.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Collaborative Drawing on the Web

In December '08 I did a post on EtherPad, which can be used to collaborate with other writers over the web. Now, there is the Rate My Drawings site that has a similar "DrawChat" facility where you can collaboratively view and edit drawings while chatting. You can do this in a public or private web chat room.

This web site is primarily a critiquing site for artists and you have to be a member and have "contributed" at least one drawing to use the chat facility. You'll have to investigate the artist's rights issues before using it.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Changes in the Nebula Awards Mechanics

In this interesting IROSF review of the Nebula Award process, the author summarizes the positive changes and improvements made to the process to counter the machinations and failings of the system. One recent failing was that no YA novel received the needed 10 votes, so there was no Norton Award this year.

Some of the changes explained included: eligibility rules (changed), preliminary ballots (gone), preferential ballots (gone) and internal changes. The author also explained some of the common misperceptions of the processes.

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Realms of Fantasy Update

We reported earlier about the demise of the 15-year-old Realms of Fantasy magazine. There are new rumblings at SFScope about a potential sale of the magazine to one of several bidders. It certainly has value as a continuously profitable and respected publication.

In a related story, SFScope listed the inventory of accepted but unpublished stories and gives the publisher's final thoughts on the demise of the magazine.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Books for Visually Impaired

An Australian start-up company, ReadHowYouWant, is offering the visually impaired more options in large print editions: 16-24 point type, according to this PW article. They currently offer about 500 titles via their web site and Amazon.com.

This is good, of course. This idea seems a good fit for eReaders, too. When viewing FFO stories, your browser gives font-size options. In both recent Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers, it is under the View/Text Size menu. On Safari, it is View/MakeTextLarger.

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When Satellites Collide

I frequently see SF writers ask what-if questions on writing forums like Hatrack to check their science. What if an asteroid strikes the moon and moves it to a higher orbit? What would be the effect on Earth?

I've seen several questions about explosions in space. You've probably seen recent news about two large satellites colliding in space over Siberia. Follow-up stories about this incident might be an opportunity to get a general grounding, so to speak, on the terminology and physics of collisions in space. This one also gives insight on the scattering of debris in the presence of planetary gravity.

I don't want to leave out fantasy writers from this article. On the same writing forums, fantasy writers often ask about creatures, magic, weapons, medieval history and the like. These writers might want to follow the 111th Congress. (Just a joke, please.)

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Flash Fiction Online: SFWA Professional Market!

Flash Fiction Online reached a major plateau today. Just one year and two months after its first issue in December 2007, FFO is now a qualified professional market for prose fiction for SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.) membership. The SFWA is a professional association for science fiction and fantasy writers. For full membership in the SFWA, writers have to have three paid sales of prose fiction (such as short stories) to qualifying professional markets or one prose fiction book or professionally produced full length dramatic script. The combined sales must total at least $250.

Two other new qualifying markets are Fantasy Magazine and Grantville Gazette.

What does this mean for FFO? Writers looking for qualifying professional sales will have FFO in their sights. Professional writers will be more aware of FFO. We are always a desirable venue from the beginning because we paid professional rates...which is one of the qualifications to become a professional market: professional rates continuously for at least one year with a specified level of readership.

What does this mean for FFO's readership? FFO has been blessed from the start with strong submissions from many professional and aspiring writers. We hope now to have an even stronger selection of stories from which to choose for our readership.

Flash Fiction Online's editor-in-chief, Jake Freivald, will have more to say on this achievement in the next few days on his FlashBlog.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Kindle, but is it Legal?

Some related stories: Amazon.com has a new Kendal with a lot of nice new features, including an improved display with 16 shades of gray and a reduced size. The WSJ article doesn't mention that the wireless cost has been reduced to zero; this information came from an e-mail from Amazon: "no monthly wireless bills, data plans, or commitments." Another new feature is text-to-speech, but this has turned controversial:

"They don't have the right to read a book out loud," said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. "That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law."
A new competitor to the Kindle is the Plastic Logic eReader to come out in 2010. This is a paper-sized device, which fits with Plastic Logic's emphasis on newspapers and magazines.

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To the Moon, Alice! Which one Ralph?

You have plenty of time (until 2020) to get your anthology story up to speed for the joint NASA/ESA interplanetary mission to a moon. But which one? Saturn's Titan? or Jupiter's Europa? Both have tantalizing scientific prospects, and the Europa option could include a Russian lander (more intrigue for your story). On the other hand, those sirens of Titan....

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

After One Year: Who's Linked to FFO Now?

Flash Fiction Online has been around for a little more than a year. So...who's linked to it? Here is a partial list. My search certainly didn't find them all. Note that most of the mentioned sites have links to FlashFictionOnline.com, though some notable mentions (without link) are included:


Media links

Various links to FlashFictionOnline.com (including many blogs)

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Review of Coraline, the Movie

This Locus Online review of the 3D movie rendition of Neil Gaiman's novel, Coraline, was written by writer Gary Westfahl, who admires the novel. He recognizes, not surprisingly, that a movie is quite a different medium from a novel, and begins his review this way:

"For lovers of Neil Gaiman's novel Coraline (2002), writer/director Henry Selick's stop-motion animated film is about as good an adaptation as they could have realistically hoped for: he is generally faithful to the book's storyline...."
Of course, there is a but: he took exception to the treatment of the gentleness of the novel:
"As a whole, then, the film struck me as a bit too blunt, too crass, too bombastic for my taste."

Westphal has much more to say about the film. I've seen only the trailers and will most certainly watch the movie, but Westphal's review was enlightening and will inform my viewing.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Annual Asian American Literary Awards, 2008

The Annual Asian American Literary Awards were presented in December. These awards began in 1998. This year, the winners were:

  • Fiction Award: Mohsin Hamid for The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harcourt)
  • Nonfiction Award: Vijay Prashad for The Darker Nations (New Press)
  • Poetry Award Sun Yung Shin for Skirt Full of Black (Coffee House Press)
They also presented a lifetime achievement award to Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang, especially noted for his play, M. Butterfly.

These awards are presented by The Asian American Writers' Workshop.

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Tweeting the Globe for Clean Water for Kids

A Guardian writer, Paul Smith, will try to circumnavigate the globe relying entirely on the kindness of Twitter strangers for food, lodging and travel. Why? To raise money for a charity called Charity: Water. While traveling, he'll have the identity of TwitchHiker. This NYT times article has more of the details.

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Emerging Job: Digital Archiving

One of the emerging job categories these days is digital archiving, professional approaches to recording permanently the seemingly infinite digital information we are creating. [Leaving century] I remember waist-high 40 MB hard drives that served a small corporation. [/] Now, I have heavily photoshopped pictures that are 30 MB. [Leaving century] And I remember when photoshop wasn't a verb. [/]

The linked NYT article isn't revealing a new idea. You can study this at any level, including a doctoral program in digital curation and archiving. Digital archiving is a serious issue for individuals and nations. Finding reliable long-term media is far from trivial, when long-term is 100+ years. To return to the photography example, DVDs once seemed like the dream media. Now, they are laughably small, and can't be relied upon for even a decade. Imagine the issues faced by a large corporation or a modern government. (On the other hand, one DVD will hold about 700,000 flash fiction stories.) Transience of information is also an issue. For example: "Before Barack Obama even finished taking the oath of office, the White House site switched over to the Obama administration’s version." Dang. I meant to copy that.

There are many who lose sleep over finding a way to preserve the entire culture. I don't find that necessary. But we do need to preserve this, the Decade of Flash Fiction.

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Google Book Search Expands to iPhones and Android

Google announced a "mobile version of Google Book Search, opening up over 1.5 million mobile public domain books in the US (and over half a million outside the US)...."

These books were already accessible on Google Book Search but the mobile editions were optimized for small screens. From your iPhone or Android phone, go here to search for mobile editions of the books.

FFO covered an early debate about Google Book Search. (Scroll down the archive.) If you're not familiar with Android, it is an open source mobile phone software platform shepherded by Google.

Flash Fiction Online believes its own flash fiction archive is already optimized for small screens!

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Are Your Magazines Missing from the Racks?

Are your favorite fantasy, SF or other magazines missing from the newsstand? Locus Online is reporting a struggle between publishers and distributors over increases in cost-per-unit to deliver magazines to the retail outlets, including some of the largest magazines. Some publishers are unable or unwilling to pay the increase.

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King vs. Meyers Smackdown

Stephen King minced no words in his USA Weekend interview with Lorrie Lynch about some popular, current writers (and also a bit about Lovecraft). King says:
"Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. ... The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good."
He as more to explain her success with young girls. He also weighs in on James Patterson and Erle Stanley Gardner (okay, leave Erle alone).

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Writerly Malware

Malware is the class of software that infects computers for evil purposes...viruses, trojans and the like. The method of attacking someone with malware is its vector. One class of vectors uses social engineering to convince the victim to use the malware. The Nigerian phishing spam (Nov. 2008 archive) relies on greed.

Here is a writerly method that recently surfaced: fake parking tickets on windshield wipers with a web link to contest the parking ticket. The web site has pictures of the cars and, of course, is laden with malware. Here is a report of the vector. It is rather dry, because this is a blog of an information security company. I found the account an interesting glimpse of the malware "industry." Perhaps the malware entrepreneurs should employ flash fiction writers to construct convincing social engineering scenarios.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Flawed but Great Literature

A BBC Radio program, Today, asked AL Kennedy and William Boyd to nominate some great but flawed works of literature. What prompted this public discussion was the recent, left-hand awarding of the Costa Book of the Year for The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry, with the comment that it was flawed.

The article provides an audio link to the radio program and a printed summary of the works considered flawed, including: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway--'Wholly misguided attempt to render Spanish into English. The dialogue is full of "thee" and "thou" and therefore unreadable and unbelievable, not to say laughable.' Other cited authors of works from the body of great literature include: Fitzgerald, Dickens, Joyce, Nobokov, Melville, Heller, Tolstoy and Høeg. See the article for the explanation of the selections. Radio callers made their own nominations as well.

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JK Rowling a French Knight

JK Rowling has named a knight of the Legion of Honor. Her great grandfather was French. According to BBC News, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was the first book in English to top France's sales chart. (It was later translated into French.) Rowling felt compelled to apologize for giving an evil character a French name, Voldemort.

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Author, get thee to a bookery. This NYT article begins like this: "The point may soon come when there are more people who want to write books than there are people who want to read them." Oh, well. But it does a revisit of the ease with which authors can self-publish via operators like iUniverse, who are more involved with you (and have their hands deeper in your pockets), and Lulu, which is more of a do-it-yourself operation.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Eclectic Bests of 2008, Green Man Review

Survey this passel of eclectic bests of 2008 from Green Man Review. Their links are marked thisaway and such. Their archive contains 16,000 reviews.

Here is Green Man Review's spiel from their FAQ: "GMR provides in-depth reviews of books, printed and audio, in fiction of all sorts, non-fiction , music lore, and even quite a bit of history. What we do, we do very well -- and more of it than anyone else."


Revisiting Lincoln

This seems a good time to consider Abraham Lincoln, again. Perhaps the alternate history writers among will be interested in some what-if scenarios regarding this iconic U.S. president. This National Endowment for the Arts article briefly describes the changing view that the citizenry has had for the man over the decades.

The article, from the NEA's Humanities magazine, also has links to three related articles: Looking for Lincoln: Journalist Andrew Ferguson and NEH Chairman Bruce Cole discuss America’s love-hate relationship with our sixteenth president. Douglas Wilson's article on Lincoln’s legal papers reveals a "surprising cache of sundry clients and dramatic litigation." Lewis Lehrman talks to NEH Chairman Bruce Cole about Abraham Lincoln’s pivotal speech in 1854 (Kansas-Nebraska Act).

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FriendFeed Meta-Social Network

It had to happen. Some geeks from Google, Yahoo, Oracle, Berkeley, CMU, Cal Tech, CWRU, Stanford, MIT (and those are just ones in Birkenstocks) joined forces for a social network called FriendFeed. With this service, you can glom bits from all your other social networks into one super-aggregated masterpiece (Facebook articles, Flickr photos...).

I'm thinking of finally taking the social-networking plunge and firing up my ASR-33 teletypewriter machine (with paper tape). I've heard they even have ASCII art these days.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Top 10 Humorous (Grammar) Blogs

Top 10 Humorous (Grammar) Blogs, according to the Delaware Employment Law Blog.

Parental Warning: many of these blogs display explicit photos of public bad grammar, including total frontal signage and wide-open menus. The mistreatment of apostrophes may be especially upsetting to children.

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Interview: John Updike, Two Conversations

FFO noted the recent passing of John Updike. Via the NYT, you will find two video interviews: A Conversation with John Updike (the craft of fiction and art of writing) and John Updike: A Life in Letters.

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Interview: Jeff Vandermeer

By way of SF Signal: Joseph Mallozzi interviews writer, editor and anthologist Jeff Vandermeer.

Joseph Mallozzi is noted for his writing and producing on the Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis television series.

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Monday, February 2, 2009


Rejectomancy is Abyss & Apex's open disclosure of what their standard form letters mean for their very good, good, bad and ugly slush pile rejections. Although other publishers may use only one "not right for us at this time" form letter, I suspect they use the same basic editorial process.

I suggest that A & A add a new form letter for me: we couldn't discern whether this was a submission to our magazine or a misaddressed rant to your psychiatrist. In either case, feel free never to contact us again for any reason.

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YouTube Hollywood Deal?

Via the NYT, keeping up with publication methods these days is a full-time job: self-publishing through POD (print-on-demand) services like LuLu and iUniverse, podcasting through Drabblecast and Escapepod. Now, YouTube appears to be near a distribution deal with a major Hollywood talent agency, the William Morris Agency.


Quark of Nature? Single-Element Compound

A compound comprised of a single element? Yes, boron boride, was formed through high temperature and pressure experimentation, discovered by an international team led by Florida International University. Throw away your chemistry books; they're being re-written. Their results were published in Nature magazine.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Click and Jane: Book and eBook the Same?

Via the NYT, is a dusty book and an on-screen eBook graphically blinged up to look like a book the same? Ask a three-year-old: no. And some studies back him or her up. There is no substitute for Mommy or Daddy reading to their child...or even simply having books in the house.

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Dystopian Literature--An Overview

By way of SF Revu, here is Mary Rose-Shaffer's overview of dysopian literature. She says, "The author creates an entirely dysfunctional world posing as a functional one." This is contrast to an utopian world. Here is a list of some dystopian literature.

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