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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Audies Winners for 2009

The 2009 Audies Award for audiobooks have been announced which, according to TheAudies.com website, are:

Awards recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association (APA).

Unless you are an out-of-touch Martian, you'll have heard of some of the winners:

  • Audiobook of the year: THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, Neil Gaiman, Read by Neil Gaiman, Harper Audio/ Recorded Books
  • Fiction: Tie:
  1. DUMA KEY, Stephen King, Read by John Slattery, Simon & Schuster Audio/ Recorded Books
  2. THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows, Read by Paul Boehmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landor, John Lee, Juliet Mills, Random House Audio/ Books on Tape
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy: CALCULATING GOD, Robert J. Sawyer, Read by Jonathan Davis, Audible, Inc.
  • Short Stories/Collections: ARMAGEDDON IN RETROSPECT, Kurt Vonnegut, Read by Rip Torn, Mark Vonnegut, Penguin Audio/ Blackstone Audiobooks

Note that the award web site also lists the finalists and winners.

Other categories include: Distinguished Achievement in Production, Non-Fiction, Solo Narration - Female, Solo Narration - Male, Audio Drama, Audiobook Adapation, Biography/Memoir, Business/Educational, Children's for Ages 8-12, Children's for Ages Up to 8, Classic, History, Humor, Inspirational/Faith-Based Fiction, Inspirational/Faith-Based Non-Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multi-Voiced Performance, Mystery, Narration by the Author or Authors, Original Work, Package Design, Personal Development, Politics - Judges Award, Romance, Spanish Language, Teens, Thriller/Suspense.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Doctor Who Comes to the U.S.

According to this report, BBC America will bring the 2009 Doctor Who specials and other features to the U.S. Says the article:

“The outstanding quality of the Doctor Who scripts from Russell T Davies and the on-screen dynamic that David Tennant brings to the role are a magic combination for our viewers.

Wikipedia: The programme depicts the adventures of a mysterious alien time-traveller known as "the Doctor" who travels in his space and time-ship, the TARDIS, which normally appears from the exterior to be a blue 1950s police box. With his companions, he explores time and space, solving problems, facing monsters and righting wrongs.

BBC America will also air some episodes of the related Torchwood series. According to Wikipedia, Torchwood:

...deals with the machinations and activities of the Cardiff branch of the fictional Torchwood Institute, who deal mainly with incidents involving extraterrestrials.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Ursa Major Awards for Anthropmorphic Fiction

By way of SFawardsWatch.com, the 2008 Ursa Major Award winners finalists have been announced. According to the award's web site:

The Ursa Major Awards are Anthropomorphic (a.k.a. Furry) Fandom's equivalents of s-f fandom's Hugo Awards, mystery fandom's Anthony Awards, horror fandom's Bram Stoker Awards, and so forth. The Ursa Majors are administered and presented by the Anthropomorphic Literature and Arts Association (ALAA), an organization dedicated to promoting anthropomorphic literature and arts both within and outside of the fandom....

Among the winners are:

  • Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture: Bolt/Walt Disney (other nominees: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Kung Fu Panda,Madagascar 2, Wall-E)
  • Best Anthropomorphic Novel: Waterways by Kyell Gold/Sofawolf Press, January (other nominees: Ratha's Courage by Claire Bell, Iron Kissed, by Patricia Briggs, Thousand Leaves by Kevin Frane, Stick and Bones, by Phil Geusz)
  • Best Anthropomorphic Short Fiction (mostly Adults only): "In Between" by Kyell Gold (other nominees: It's a Beautiful World, by Kyell Gold, Secrets, by Kyell Gold, Third Date, by Kyell Gold, Earth Rise by Ivor W. Hartmann, Candy and Music, by K. M. Hirosaki)

Other categories in the awards include: Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short Work or Series, Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work, Anthropomorphic Graphic Story, Anthropomorphic Comic Strip, Anthropomorphic Magazine, Anthropomorphic Published Illustration, and Anthropomorphic Game

Note that the web site has links to all nominated illustrations.

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Report on Copyright Reform Plagiarized

The digital economy is a general term for Internet/Intranet-based commerce, but the forefront of the battle seems to be the entertainment business grappling with file sharing. Canada is struggling with digital rights (copyright) reform like many other nations are. They had a bit of embarrassment, though, when a paid report on copyright reform was alleged to have been plagiarized from another report by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (a U.S.-based lobby group for the entertainment industry). According to Slashdot.org, there was some denial and then admissions about the claims. It was not U.S. lobby group that noticed the similarities of the reports, but a Canadian law professor at the University of Ottawa, Michael Geist.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Twitterzine Roundup

There are some new twitterzines. I've listed some below with a short description of what they publish (taken from the twitter bio and/or their web page info). They're shown starting with the most-recent start dates (approximately). The ones showcased are Nanoism (literary & genre), TweetTheMeat (horror), Escarp (poetry and prose), Outshine (optimistic, near future prose) and the granddaddy, Thaumatrope (genre fiction).

In addition, there is The Drabblecast, an audio fiction podcast for short stories "at the far side of the weird" but who also tweets stories that are exactly 100-characters in length once per week. Jake Freivald, FFO's editor-in-chief, has two audio podcasts there [drabblecast 97 and 102].

Bio A new, paying twitterzine for thoughtful nanofiction.

Accepts all genres. However, we are most interested in literary fiction—stories that move us with their writing, stories that stay with us longer than the few seconds it takes to read them. Fret not, we do have a soft spot for science fiction, fantasy, and other genres, but we are looking for stories with staying power: stories that leave an impression disproportionate to their length. We’ll also take a look at prose poetry, so long as it contains elements of character, plot, and—most importantly—motion.

Bio: Twitter Horrorzine. Fear in 140 characters or less.

Horror/weird/speculative market that opened in May, 2009.)

Bio escarp is a selective, twitter-based review of brief poetry and prose. Visit escarp.org for guidelines.

Bio: Twitterzine for optimistic, near future prose poems: flashforwards

Bio Thaumatrope is a twitter fiction magazine for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror fiction under 140 characters

The Drabblecast
Stories of exactly 100-characters, "on the far side of the weird," weekly.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Short-Story Writer Alice Munro Wins 2009 Man Booker Prize

Alice Munro has won the 2009 Man Booker International Prize. She is a Canadian writer especially known for her short stories. Among the panelists were Jane Smiley and Amit Chaudhuri. According to the official web site of the prize:

The Man Booker International Prize, worth £60,000 to the winner, is awarded once every two years to a living author for a body of work that has contributed to an achievement in fiction on the world stage.

In March, we noted the finalists for this prize.

BONUS!: a web sited devoted to Indie publishing information.


Amazon.com/Penguin Breakthrough Award Finalist

Here at FFO, we've mentioned some of Amazon.com's dances with the publishing end of the book trade, such as this article about traditional publishing. That article and this one about the Amazon/Penguin-sponsored Breakthrough Novel Award both feature fledgling writers, so that is a Good Thing. Amazon opened the slush floodgate for up to 10,000 submissions this year, the second of the award's history, and selected James King's Alzheimers-themed mainstream novel, Bill Warrington's Last Chance. Among the judges of the finalists were Sue Monk Kidd and Sue Grafton.

The competition does not seem to be limited to mainstream/literary novels. Penguin will publish the winning novel. Here is a bit more about the award, an earlier announcement by Publishers Weekly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stained Glass Ceiling Repaired--Poetry

FFO reported the 301-year tradition of men as the chair of the poetry department at Oxford University ("Oxford Professor of Poetry") being broken with the appointment of Ruth Padel. Now, Ms. Padel has had to step down when it was revealed that she participated in a smear campaign against her rival for the position by sending emails to two newspapers alerting them to two sexual harrassment charges against her rival. The situation has two edges since she claims she did this for the sake of students. However, she also mentioned his advanced age and the fact that he lived in the Caribbean rather than Britain, according to this NY Times report.

Ruth Padel is the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin.


Monday, May 25, 2009

World's Thickest Book

It's a mystery what the world's thickest book is: a new, limited-edition (500 copies) Agatha Christie collection containing 12 Miss Marple novels and 20 short stories. The book has 252 hand-sewn sections each having 16 pages. A picture at this AgathaChristie.com web site article has a proper lady with book in lap if you wish to see the scale of the book. This is a HarperCollins effort using a period book binding company. (If you have to ask the price, you probably can't afford it...but if you can, a HarperCollins sales rep will call you personally.)

I wonder if in their claim that this is the world's largest book that they considered the U.S. Congressional Record.

BONUS! Besides being Memorial Day in the U.S., it is Towel Day. This day celebrates towels because they are considered the most useful object in the universe, according to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Doug Adams. Don't Panic!

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Top Ten Literature Blogs

Here is a list of the best literature weblogs of 2008, based on an Internet vote taken by weblogawards.org. Internet votes are always problematic since they can be manipulated. This is especially true when one of the blogs is written by a very popular writer these days, Neil Gaiman. Even so, this is a remarkable result for Gaiman's weblog:

To put it into perspective, Neil Gaimans's 33% represents 1980 votes...not huge by Internet standards, but still impressive by comparison.

Literature is only one of many voting categories covered by weblogawards.org. According to their website:

The Weblog Awards are the world's largest blog competition with over 545,000 votes cast in 2007 edition and nearly two million votes cast in all editions since 2003.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Can Robots Go Berserk?

"If man sticks his hand where it wasn't meant to go, it will get cut off!"

Why would a supposedly intelligent network mind waste so much energy and resources indulging in cinematically grandiose personal combat in grim wastelands with loud music?

If a robot runs a task-specific program, its capabilities are very limited. It is not able to deal with any of the complex scenes in Terminator. However, robots that are capable of autonomous mental development are totally different.

The above snippets are from experts commenting on the plausibility of a Terminator movie-scenario. The main issues were the robots gone amok, time travel, and a pesky Skynet computer network taking over the world. This article is from H+ Magazine, found by way of Slashdot.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

The Longest Story Ever Told? And the shortest.

Here is an article about a conceptual artist's publishing of a story on a generational media. (Already this article is longer than that artist's story.) He's printing a nine-word story on the cover of Opium Magazine. The tricky bit: the special ink will reveal one word of the story about every century, so the unveiling will take about twelve generations. Question: has any secret been kept (other than the recipe for Coca-Cola) for more than about two decades?

BONUS!: here is a collection of some 6-word science fiction stories by notable science fiction writers (and William Shatner, too). I found this via "annepin's" post on the Hatrack Writers' Forum. I don't dare paste any of the stories here; one word would exceed "fair use" standards. I've probably violated several of them by accident. (Should I have omitted all instances of the in this article?) This puts those epic twitter stories to shame.

SF Writers at Dept. of Homeland Security Conference

Cell phones that detect virus infections, networking the information so that a spread can be mapped. A five-minute DNA tester. Science fiction writers, including Greg Bear and Catherine Asaro (who holds a PhD in physics) attended a U.S. Department of Homeland Security conference. The H. S. folks weren't necessarily looking for gadget ideas, but wanted to think out of their box. Says Harry McDavid, chief information officer for Homeland Security's Office of Operations Coordination & Planning:

"We're stuck in a paradigm of databases...How do we jump out of our infrastructure and start conceptualizing those threats?

Here is the article from the Washington Post.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Theodore Sturgeon Award for SF Short Fiction

By way of SFAwardsWatch.com. The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award is for short science fiction. It was established by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at KU and the heirs of Theodore Sturgeon.

The finalists for this year's awards have been announced:

  • Paolo Bacigalupi: The Gambler"
  • Ted Chiang: "Exhalation"
  • Charles Coleman Finlay: "The Political Prisoner"
  • Cory Doctorow & Benjamin Rosenbaum: "True Names"
  • James Alan Gardner: "The Ray Gun: A Love Story"
  • Kathleen Ann Goonan: "Memory Dog"
  • Kij Johnson: "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss"
  • NOTE: Johnson, a juror, removed story from consideration.
  • Ian McDonald: "The Tear"
  • Maureen McHugh: "Special Economics"
  • Hannu Rajaniemi: "His Master's Voice"
  • Michael Swanwick: "From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled"

I note that of the above, two are also in the Hugo finalist list.

Ted Chiang: "Exhalation"
Kij Johnson: "26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss"

The Axis of Evil in Space?

This by way of SlashDot.org.

Okay, what is the axis of evil? A Ronald Reagan notion? Yes, but that's a different one. This one is a disturbing disturbance in what's supposed to be the even (isotropic) distribution of heat in the universe. Noted by Kate Land and João Magueijo of Imperial College London, they called it the axis of evil for what it meant to the beloved standard model of the universe. This summary is from an article in New Scientist "not long ago" in 2007.

Voyager 1 and 2 to the rescue.

Just last year, researchers viewed data from the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft when the craft passed through this area. The researchers noted that "far from being spherical as had been expected, the termination shock is asymmetric, distorted by some unknown forces." Now some think this apparent malign distribution is actually a phantom caused by a much closer sharp change in "pressure, temperature, density, magnetic and electric field properties of space," called the termination shock. The termination shock occurs where our solar system's outflowing supersonic solar winds are slowed to subsonic speeds by interstellar winds. This has a lens effect that distorts our view.

Don't you love Voyager 1 and 2? I think that since Voyager 1 became V*ger and gained self-consciousness, she is trying especially hard to please us back home. Voyager 2, a jealous lass, is trying very hard to keep up with her older sister.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blog Commenters Rights

For our international readers, this is regarding U.S. law...the state of Illinois, to be exact. Your mileage may vary.

Since many writers love to blog, here is an interesting SlashDot article about a judge's ruling regarding the rights of commenters on blogs. In summary, a law enforcement agency had requested that a newspaper reveal the identities of some commenters to a blog who claimed to know information regarding a homicide case. The newspaper refused, citing Illinois' news source protection laws. The judge ruled that commenters to blogs had no such protection as they were not sources. The article gives a link to the judge's ruling (PDF), warning that the judge repeatedly used "blogger" and "blogger commenter" interchangeably and incorrectly, though he apparently knew the difference. There was also a separate legal issue touched on in the article regarding associating IP addresses with the people who used them.

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Million Writers Award Finalists

The Million Writers Award for online fiction, sponsored by storySouth magazine now has its ten finalists here where you may vote. FFO reported the long list of stories earlier, and the amusing side issue of some flash fiction sneaking into the contest. This contest is has both speculative and literary stories.

In the current issue of Flash Fiction Online is Descent, a story by Bryan S. Wang. Bryan has an honorable mention in the award this year (in the long list) with another of his stories, Flyaway Dreams.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From Whence Came Fairy Tales

I know little about this genre, but there are a couple of staffers at FFO who know quite a bit about it. So I'll point to this article and not say too much that will incriminate me, except that a lone-wolf researcher is claiming that the origins of folktales may not be entirely the oral tradition that most assume. So there. She's jostled more than one conference with her ideas.

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Hugo Ballot

We've already reported who is on the Hugo ballot, and made mention of some we're pulling for:

  • “Article of Faith” by Mike Resnick (Mike has published with Flash Fiction Online)
  • “Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Her story is a flash fiction piece)

We're hoping for a first-ever tie. If you're curious what the ballot looks like, you'll find it here. If you're handy with HTML, you could mock up a form and impress your friends (for a short while):

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    Monday, May 18, 2009

    Stained-Glass Ceiling Broken

    The 301-year tradition of men holding the post of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University has been broken. There is no one holding that position now...no, that was a subversive joke. The position is now held by Ruth Padel, great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin. According to her web site bio:

    Ruth Padel is a prize-winning British poet who also writes acclaimed non-fiction. Uniquely, she is a Fellow both of the Royal Society of Literature and the Zoological Society of London, a Member both of the Royal Geographical Society and Bombay Natural History Society. She has won the UK National Poetry Competition; individual poems from her seven collections have been widely anthologized, broadcast, and shortlisted for all major British prizes.

    Bonus! Ruth Padel's great-great grandfather may want to weigh in on this recent discovery.

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    Rejection Horror Stories

    This is for the writers among us.

    It's not about rejections of horror stories. Horror stories that make you feel good about rejection. Erm, something like that.

    Go check out Jeremiah Tolbert's blog post to see what I'm talking about.

    Sunday, May 17, 2009

    Got Backup? Wake Up Call

    Your short fiction, long fiction, photos, illustrations and other digital goodies...what if they were all gone. Here is a case of an organization, AVSIM, that catered to the flight simulation community since 1996. Now, their entire collection of software add-ons, particularly for Microsoft Flight Simulator, are gone. They're out of business. They had a server and a back-up server, but a hacker destroyed them both, apparently beyond recovery. Mirror back up servers are a Good Thing, but they are connected. A separate off-site back up is needed as well. (Also, a disk volume backs up to the mirror whatever is written, so if a mistake is made on the primary volume, it is sent to the mirror volume.)

    So, for writers, artists, musicians, photographers and others: back up and back up well.

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    Saturday, May 16, 2009

    Amazon Entering Traditional Publishing?

    Apparently Amazon.com is making a move into traditional publishing with their AmazonEncore unit. The first step, described here by Publishers Weekly, seems tentative with a first acquisition of a teen's self-published novel. The PW article gives some insight into their editorial process, but here is Amazon's explanation:

    AmazonEncore is a new program whereby Amazon will use information such as customer reviews on Amazon.com to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors with more potential than their sales may indicate. Amazon will then partner with the authors to re-introduce their books to readers through marketing support and distribution into multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon.com Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store, Audible.com, and national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers.


    Friday, May 15, 2009

    What Makes You Happy?

    Perhaps that question, What makes you happy?, is central to most literature. If you want a warm story, you write about what makes the character happy. Sure. If you want a dark story, you write about what makes someone unhappy...or about a character who is only happy if he/she is making someone else unhappy. If you want a thriller, you write about what could potentially make someone (or their relatives), permanently unhappy. If you want to write about extreme swings of happiness and unhappiness, you write a romance or war novel (same thing).

    And there is a point. Here is an article from the Atlantic about some amazing Harvard University research whereby they followed the lives of 268 men who entered college in the 1930s "through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age." They refer to this as longitudinal research. (In case you're wondering, women attended Harvard's sister institution of Radcliffe College exclusively until after WWII.)

    One multi-paragraph teaser snippet of one of the 268 cases:

    After college, you got an advanced degree and began to climb the rungs in your profession. You married a terrific girl, and you two played piano together for fun. You eventually had five kids. Asked about your work in education, you said, “What I am doing is not work; it is fun. I know what real work is like.”....Two years later, at 49, you were running a major institution. The strain showed immediately. Asked for a brief job description, you wrote: “RESPONSIBLE (BLAMED) FOR EVERYTHING.” You added, “No matter what I do … I am wrong … We are just ducks in a shooting gallery. Any duck will do.”....Your first wife had died, and you treated your second wife “like a familiar old shoe,” he said....But you called yourself happy. When you were 74, the questionnaire asked: “Have you ever felt so down in the dumps that nothing could cheer you up?”..."You circled “None of the time.”

    Another, Case No. 47: You literally fell down drunk and died. Not quite what the study had in mind.

    To see the rest of the article, go here.

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    Artificial Ethics and Intelligence

    Isaac Asimov paved the way for science fiction writers with respect to artificial ethics with his three laws of robotics, but others are taking a serious look at this topic as well as artificial consciousness. Having written an unreadable novel based on the latter topic, I have found interesting this review on SlashDot of Artificial Ethics: Moral Conscience, Awareness and Consciencousness (sic) by Jacques Pitrat. I assume that misspelling is Amazon.com's rather than the author's. (Asimov was more concise with his titles and they were easier to spell, I Robot.)

    Here's the reviewer's pitch for the book, though it is $80 and not available, yet:

    For people interested in robotics, ethics or science fiction, J.Pitrat's book give interesting food for thought by explaining how indeed artificial systems can be conscious, and why they should be, and what that would mean in the future.

    Here is the SlashDot article. The book provides insights into artificial consciousness and ethics, the scope of the software effort required, and strategies for success.

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    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    Digitital Licensing for the Little Guy or Gal

    Cory Doctorow, uber speculative fiction writer and blogger has an interesting piece on digital licensing for the little guy or gal (i.e., commercial agreements sans lawyers). His thoughts are tied to the Creative Commons family of licenses, one of which is "free for non-commercial use," such as my contribution to the Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology. With this license, you can remix the anthology and distribute it all you want, non-commercially. If you sell it, you're in violation of the license.

    Cory is talking about commercial use, which also is anticipated by the Creative Commons license family. He uses an example of a craft piece he bought, a coke bottle carved in wood by a villager in Africa. Would the Coca Cola company go after that craftsman? Of course not. It makes no commercial sense--or any kind of sense--to do so. If the craftsman felt the obligation to make a deal, the lawyers' fees on both ends would negate the point of it.

    Cory states that simple agreements are adequate for the commercial space, particularly on the community scale or lower end of the Internet commercial space, between the African craftsman example and a Sony/Coca Cola merchandising deal...probably closer to the former than the latter. He gives this example of an agreement for "your logos, literature, photos, and artwork":

    "You are free to use the visual, textual, and audiovisual elements of this work in commercial projects, provided that you remit 20 percent of the gross income arising from your sales to doctorow@paypal.com. You are required to remit these funds on a quarterly basis, or on an annual basis where the total owing is less than $100."

    There is just this agreement, with no lawyers to negotiate the details down to the gnat's behind. Can you be cheated? Of course. Could a small enterprise afford to monitor the practices and finances of their fifteen distributors of their small-volume screen-printed tee shirt business and stay in business? Unlikely. It might as well be simple, so that you can be simply shafted, rather than expensively shafted...or simply rewarded.

    Go here to Cory Doctorow's article for the five elements of his thoughts on this subject: how we got here, Creative Commons, questions of commerce, the alternative, the self-serve difference, and a built-in future.

    Cory: I only used a little bit of your piece. Please don't come after me.

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    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Tolkien and Pratchett Sales

    An interesting couple of notes at Locus Online. FFO noted in January that a new J.R.R. Tolkien story, edited by a relative, Christopher Tolkien, would be out in May. It is called The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun and is published by Houghton Mifflin.

    Locus is reporting moderate sales on Amazon.com of the book. On the other hand, the next Discworld volume by Terry Pratchett, The Unseen Academicals, is doing briskly on Amazon.com a full five months before publication and is expected to reach best-seller levels soon. It is published by Doubleday UK. FFO also noted that Terry Pratchett now may be addressed as Sir Terence David John Pratchett, OBE.

    BONUS! Here is a gadget that will let you write and surf anywhere, Novatel's 2200 "MiFi." It's a credit card-sized (but thicker) gadget that is cellular data card and personal WiFi hotspot. It's similar to the cellular data cards that you can plug into a laptop with a USB or PCMCIA port for Internet access over the cellular network. This one is self-contained. Your access is via its integrated WiFi hotspot, which you can share anywhere (or not; it has encryption). It's battery powered.

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    Paradox Magazine Ceasing Publication

    According to Ralan.com, "Paradox Magazine," a publisher of historical and speculative fiction is ceasing publication after six years. They were a print magazine with appealing graphics. (See their web site for an example...requires Adobe Flash.)

    Paradox linked to SF Reader for the details of their closing. They may do some print anthologies of past content, and conceivably return in an online format. Personal note: I've tried a couple of times to get into that magazine, unsuccessfully. Their closing is unfortunate since there are not a lot of historical fiction venues of quality.

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    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Battle of the Kids' Book--School Library Journal

    Panels for the "School Library Journal" Battle of the Kids' Books selected sixteen books and narrowed the choices to two. Finally, Lois Lowry, an icon in children's publishing, selected the winner. The finalists were:

    • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. II The Kingdom on the Waves, by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick): Gothic historical fiction set in U.S. revolutionary war period. Here, from the publisher's web site, is an excerpt from the first chapter.

    Lois Lowry's comments about her process of choosing the finalist were amusing, involving petulance, reverse nepotism, vengeance and payola.

    BONUS! Here are some astounding NASA/Hubble images (requires Adobe Flash).

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    Mommas, Turn off you Baby Monitors, Please.

    Please turn off you baby monitors, moms and dads. You're messing with my WiFi. (Oh, and don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.)

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    Monday, May 11, 2009

    IRoSF Interview with Jay Lake

    Jay Lake is a prolific writer of a couple hundred short stories (not to mention the one here at Flash Fiction Online) and five novels. He's had several honors, including the John C. Campbell Award (best new writer) and a Hugo nomination. Learn more about Jay at his personal web page and his Wikipedia page).

    The Internet Review of Science Fiction has an interview with Jay. Here is a snippet:

    I probably shouldn't admit this, but the outline for Endurance, Green's sequel, does in fact include mechanical men. Well, mechanical apes, actually, but what's a good fantasy without some punchtape-driven clockwork apes?

    For the rest of the interview, go here.

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    Sunday, May 10, 2009

    Sidewise Award for Alternate History--Finalists

    The Sidewise Award is for alternate history or allohistorical genre works of under 60000 words (short form) and greater than 60000 words (long form). Apparently, works of exactly 60000 words are not eligible. The award is sponsored by Uchronia, who has an online bibliography of alternate history works.

    This year's finalists are:

    Short form:

    • Tobias Buckell. "The People's Machine", Sideways in Crime: An Alternate Mystery Anthology
    • Albert E. Cowdrey. "Poison Victory"
    • In The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July 2008
    • Paul McAuley. "A Brief Guide to Other Histories", Postscripts #15, September 2008.
    • T. L. Morganfield. "Night Bird Soaring", Greatest Uncommon Denominator
    • Mary Rosenblum. "Sacrifice", Sideways in Crime, An Alternate Mystery Anthology
    • Kristine Kathryn Rusch. "G-Men", Sideways in Crime: An Alternate Mystery Anthology

    Long form:

    • George Mann. The Affinity Bridge, Snowbooks 2008. Also Tor 2009
    • Terry Pratchett. Nation, Doubleday UK 2008 and HarperCollins 2008
    • Chris Roberson. The Dragon's Nine Sons, BL/Solaris 2008
    • Adam Roberts. Swiftly, Gollancz 2008 (hb & pp)
    • Jo Walton. Half a Crown, Tor 2008

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    Saturday, May 9, 2009

    Top 100 English-Language Novels of 20th Century--Get Over It

    Dick Meyer is National Public Radio's (NPR's) editorial director for digital media and he has a list of the top 100 20th-century novels in the English language. It's his list and he's not apologizing for it, either:

    I am not a learned or prolific reader of novels. My taste is probably medium-brow, male and parochial in many ways. Tough. It's my list. I included two books that probably aren't novels: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Fabulous Small Jews. Lots of innovative, modern stuff didn't make it because I am not good at reading it.

    The top 10 in his list are:

    1. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
    2. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
    3. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
    4. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
    5. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
    6. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
    7. Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner
    8. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
    9. Humboldt's Gift, Saul Bellow
    10. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster

    He links to Modern Library's list, which includes their board's list and a readers' list which, not-surprisingly, differ. The latter seems to have a few more genre works in it.

    I was going to compile a list of lists of top 100 novels, but found this convenient blog post, and surprisingly, all the links worked at the time of posting. The blog is "Guldasta."

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    Friday, May 8, 2009

    Star Trek Movie (2009)

    A survey of review snippets provided by Rotten Tomatoes, a film review site, indicates that "Star Trek" (2009) has exceeded expectations. The snippets have links to the full reviews. My feel from these reviews and others is that the reviewers have not worried if trekkies will by offended by a new or missing this-or-that. The reviewers are not saying it is just an adequate me-too sequel. Some are calling it "great" or "moving," even.

    Fast-moving, funny, exciting warp-speed entertainment and, heaven help me, even quite moving - the kind of film that shows that, like it or not, commercial cinema can still deliver a sledgehammer punch. It sure didn't feel like a trek to me. --Peter Bradshaw, Guardian (UK)

    What is clear from many reviews is that the filmmakers, though they had the familiar characters, were not shackled to the past TV series or movies. The characters, due to a time shift, have different past histories and so can behave unexpectedly. They also are resigned to cope with the time change rather than somehow reversing it.

    Here is a full review, as a reality check, from the curmudgeonly NYT.

    Note bene: I haven't seen the film yet....

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    Thursday, May 7, 2009

    Audio Speculative Fiction Resource

    SF Scope points out a new web site that informs writers of venues for audio podcasts for speculative fiction, since this is a rapidly growing market. Of course, spec fiction readers may find the resource useful, too. Here is the article. The resource is called the Audio Market List (AML) and is run by SF writer Kevin Anderson (not Kevin J. Anderson).

    Bonus: I can't say I love the name, but here is a new twitter 'zine market: Tweet the Meat.

    According to their submissions page:

    Tweet the Meat is a Twitter-only, horror/weird/speculative market opening in May, 2009. No serials. No unfinished stories. You must scare us in 140 characters or less.

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    Wiki Watch Me Quote You

    By way of slashdot, this story from the IrishTimes.com of a young Irish college student who executed a social experiment. Upon the death of French composer Maurice Jarre, Shane Fitzgerald posted a fake quote in the Wikipedia article on Jarre. Some European, Indian and Australian dailies picked up the quote for their obituaries, including the Guardian (um, a frequent source for articles in this blog). Here is the fake quote:

    “One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear."

    Wikipedia is a great source when you want a quick overview of something without a lot of fuss. But as academics frequently warn, it is not a primary or reliable source. Fiction writers beware, too. From Wikipedia's own assessment:

    • However, citation of Wikipedia in research papers may not be considered acceptable, because Wikipedia is not considered a creditable source.

    Some collections of (unconfirmed) Wikipedia hoaxes: 1 2 and a funny fake hoax report (very Star-Trekian).

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    Wednesday, May 6, 2009

    Best/Worst Science in Film/TV

    SF Signal Mind Meld has a collection of opinions about the best and worst science in film and television. You can add your own comments if you wish. There is presently an eclectic collection of opinion, with fans, a Technology Review editor, a woman who has rejected several of my stories (okay, if you must know, Cat Rambo), SF great Ben Bova (but he doesn't watch TV), a former CERN physicist...eclectic.

    Bonus: a grotesque chair made from grizzly bears (note the six legs), presented to US President Johnson in 1865. Keep reading...bonuses are always possible.

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    Seuss vs Darwin

    Here is a review of a book by Brian Boyd, "the world's leading authority on Vladimir Nabokov and an English professor at the University of Auckland," who is also a great admirer of Theodor Seuss Geisel, Dr. Seuss. Boyd wrote On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction (Harvard University Press), sixty pages of which was about Dr. Seuss's Horton character, about the same space allotted to Homer's Odyssey. The book applies the notion of evolution to literature on a large scale:

    ...storytelling carries with it crucial advantages for human survival. It sharpens our skills in human interaction ("social cognition" is the term Boyd uses). It encourages cooperation. It fosters creativity.

    This is a bit of a review of a review, which is dodgy at best, but the reviewer discusses the book author's application of that long-term process to Dr. Seuss's life, the development of his art of writing and entertaining. It isn't clear what the context of this comparison is, but it doesn't persuade me (which is of little consequence of course). The review mentions Dr. Seuss's unceasing hard work to improve his craft using audience feedback. That is an intelligent process with nearly instant feedback by comparison. I don't really get the connection to the "dumb" process of evolution with mostly dead ends to such an immediate, creative process. However, if you love Dr. Seuss, you'll enjoy the article because of the high regard that Boyd holds for him.

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    Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    Our Perception of Space Aliens in SF

    Here is a fun critical piece, "Real Aliens Don't Ask Directions," from Internet Review of Science Fiction, written by Daniel M. Kimmel. Kimmel divides typical space-alien movies into those with friendly visitors who want to "guide us towards peace," such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, and the ones with unfriendly visitors, such as War of the Worlds.

    However, there are exceptions, ones in which the aliens have little interest in humans at all, such as It Came from Outer Space, where Earth was an unplanned stopping point for ship repairs. This was the focus of the criticism, so go to the article, now, Earthling. There you will see that We, um, them space aliens out yonder mean us no harm. And go watch ET again, now, before it's too late!

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    Space available in Pam Casto's Flash Workshop

    Via Pam's monthly newsletter:
    I have room for about ten more members of FlashFiction-W, my free online workshop for writers of flash fiction. If you'd like to join us, send a blank subject header message to listserv@listserv.uta.edu and in the message section write only this:

    Subscribe FlashFiction-W j.jones@email.com James Jones

    (using your own email address and your real name). Shortly thereafter you'll be contacted about joining the workshop.

    Monday, May 4, 2009

    2009 Edgars Awards Winners

    On Jan 19 of this year, Flash Fiction Online noted Edgar Allan Poe's bicentenial. This event was no less observed during the 2009 Edgars Awards banquet held by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). Here are the nominees and the winners (red, asterisks) for best novel and best first novel by an American author. See here for the other categories.

    Best novel:

    • Missing by Karin Alvtegen (Felony & Mayhem Press)
    • * Blue Heaven by C.J. Box (St. Martin’s Minotaur) *
    • Sins of the Assassin by Robert Ferrigno (Simon & Schuster - Scribner)
    • The Price of Blood by Declan Hughes (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
    • The Night Following by Morag Joss (Random House – Delacorte Press)
    • Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)

    Best first novel by an American author:

    • The Kind One by Tom Epperson (Five Star, div of Cengage)
    • Sweetsmoke by David Fuller (Hyperion)
    • * The Foreigner by Francie Lin (Picador) *
    • Calumet City by Charlie Newton (Simon & Schuster - Touchstone)
    • A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock (Random House - Doubleday)

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    Trouble at The New Yorker Fiction Department?

    Do we need to call in a swat team to The New Yorker fiction department to free the poor new editor there who has been forced at raygunpoint to publish two (I think) speculative fiction stories this year? Here's the current one, "The Slows," by Gail Hareven, translated from the Hebrew. This is a story about a group of people marginalized and threatened for resisting a hormone that greatly accelerates growth to adulthood.

    Gail Hareven is a columnist, novelist and teacher of feminist theory.

    Saturday, May 2, 2009

    SFRevu Reviews April Flash Fiction Online and Other Short Fiction

    Our friends at SFRevu have a new batch of short fiction reviews up. It is only by coincidence that we first mention that they've reviewed the April issue of Flash Fiction Online [now, after May issue published].

    SFRevu also has new reviews of print magazines, so you can spy before you buy. The print magazine reviews include Analog, Asimov's, Black Static, Jim Baen's Universe, Jupiter, Shimmer, Space and Time, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

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    Friday, May 1, 2009

    Future of Science Fiction--Bruce Sterling

    Bruce Sterling is a science fiction writer of note who helped define cyberpunk. If you visit the Wikipedia article about him you'll see the broad range of his interests. So he is a good choice to look at science fiction past, present and future, both outside and inside the box. Two themes at least emerge from this introspection: the limitations of the media conveying the fiction and the limitations--often self imposed--of the providers and consumers of science fiction.

    What science fiction’s user base truly desired was not possible in the 1930s. Believing their own rhetoric, science fiction users supposed that they wanted a jet-propelled, atomic futurity. Whenever offered the chance at such goods and services, they never left science fiction to go get them. They didn’t genuinely want such things-not in real life....What the user base genuinely wanted was immersive fantasies.

    Bruce goes further back than that...perhaps to the first known work of fiction, a collection of writings written in a Japanese womens' script for Japanese womens' consumption. From there, he goes to Worlds of Warcraft where consumers of this scripted game spend far more hours than any reader of books would.

    In essence, the article is a challenge to writers to push past the limits of the present media. To write out of the box while thinking introspectively about the box. Here is the article, which interestingly appears in a newsletter associated with a renowned professional organization, the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery).

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    Lord of the Rings Fan Web Movie Opening

    By way of SlashDot: a fan movie based on LoTR, Hunt for Gollum, opens this weekend via the web. This assumes the LoTC (lord of the courts) does not intervene in this £3,000 production. (I heard a rumor that it went over budget: £3,020 .)

    Here is a BBC article on the 40-minute movie and an confirmed YouTube trailer or two.

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