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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Behind The Scenes of Short Fiction Anthologies

SF Signal has an excellent three-part series of articles about the process of producing speculative short fiction anthologies. This should be of interest to readers and writers.

  • Part 1 Contributors: Jeff VanderMeer, Ellen Datlow, Mike Resnick, Nick Mamatas, Vera Nazarian, John Joseph Adams, Jonathan Strahan, and Allan Kaster
  • Part 2 Contributors: James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, Mike Allen, Jetse de Vries, Julie E. Czerneda
  • Part 3 Contributors: Rich Horton, Nick Kyme, George Mann, Lou Anders, Ann VanderMeer, and Jack Dann

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Disney Online E-books Play

Through DisneyDigitalBooks.com, Disney Publishing Worldwide is offering an online e-book service for readers from 3 to 12 years of age. This is a no-device service (ie, no e-book reader such as the Kindle required). Disney has about 500 books online now and intends to continuously expand the offerings. This includes traditional storybooks and chapter books and newer material, such as Hannah Montana material. The service will include features such as storybook creation and a personal space.

Some industry observers [1 2] claim this is an attempt at an industry-defining move, marketing directly to parents, and requiring no special devices. The annual subscription is about $80. There is a monthly subscription of about $8. These subscriptions are for up to three children in the household, according to the DisneyDigitalBooks.com. They have a free trial, presently.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Status of Science Fiction: 1951, Life Magazine

Various SF fandom bloggers, including Mike Glyer at File 770 have raved about an article, published in 1951 by Life Magazine, about the status of science fiction. The bloggers were especially impressed by the author's understanding of SF fandom.

The reason this article surfaced was Google's publishing of 1800 digital copies of Life Magazine, from 1936-1972. The photography is great. The advertisements are fun. (Tip: you wives or hopeful girls filling your hope chests will find the kitchen gadget ads quite helpful. And men: where else can you shop for a Desoto?)

(Cough.) Here is the article on science fiction publishing and fandom in 1951 from the May 21, 1951 issue of Life Magazine. Zoom in and be prepared for lots of article continuations. Added bonus: this is a summer beach fashion issue (whoo hoo), and includes photos of a B-36 crash.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Are You Smarter When You Write?

Are you smarter when you write than when you speak? Essayist Arthur Krystal thinks so. Writing is a different process than off-the-cuff speaking. He uses an anecdote about seeing a film of Vladimir Nobokov on a sound stage being interviewed. He had made an impressive reply to an question, but Krystal then noticed that Nobokov was using canned answers from index cards. Krystal says:

Hazlitt...remarked that he did not see why an author “is bound to talk, any more than he is bound to dance, or ride, or fence better than other people. Reading, study, silence, thought are a bad introduction to loquacity.”

Like most writers, I seem to be smarter in print than in person....I’m expressing opinions that I’ve never uttered in conversation and that otherwise might never occur to me.

Krystal also points out that writing is a more deliberate process, which may account for the differences in spoken and written communications. Here is the full New York Times essay on the question: are we smarter when we write?

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

National Punctuation Day: It Came/Went; We Missed It.

September 24 was National Punctuation Day. Dang'it'all; I missed it. The web site has basic punctuation information and gruesome photographs of public punctuation errors (and basic grammar errors that they couldn't pass up) on signage. My favorite: Danger: Explosive Dog Training in Progress. Poor dogs. It would seem that the poor apostrophe is the most abused mark.

Here is an article about the man who started National Punctuation Day.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Robert A. Heinlein Award Winners

The Robert A. Heinlein Award winners have been announced. They are Joe Haldeman and John Varely, both Hugo and Nebula award winners. According to the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, which administers the award process for The Heinlein Society, this award is:

for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings to inspire the human exploration of space.

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Best Science Fiction Stories

Thanks to Rusty for recommending two of our stories on Best Science Fiction Stories!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Flash Fiction SF Stories & Contest at New Scientist

New Scientist has declared the present time the golden age of British science fiction and published, online, eight flash fiction SF pieces by noted writers. These were invited pieces and are in the range of about 300-500 words, shorter than those published by Flash Fiction Online. The authors were asked to set the story 100 years in the future. The authors include: Kevin MacLeon, Ian McDonald, Geoff Ryman, Nicola Griffith, Stephen Baxter, Paul McAuley, Ian Watson and Justina Robson.

New Scientist also is sponsoring a similar flash fiction SF competition. The stories must be 350 words or less and set about a century from now. The competition appears to be open to all. The stories are due by 5pm BST on Thursday, 15 October. The winners' stories will be published in New Scientist. The competition will be judged by a panel headed by Stephen Baxter. See the article and rules for more details.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dan Brown Plot Generator

Dan Brown is in a love-to-hate crowd I wish I were in, which includes Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling, among others. I don't care to participate in the discussions that boil down to, yeah s/he sells millions, but s/he can't write. (I do enjoy it when one in this elite crowd criticizes another.)

(There has to be a) but...this is funny: a Dan Brown sequel generator. You select a bustling or history-soaked city and a scheming group (like the mafia, U.S. Postal Service, or Boy Scouts of America) and more quickly than lightning strikes on a dark and stormy night, you have a plot to a sequel.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

British Fantasy Awards Winners

The British Fantasy Society has announced the winners of the 2009 British Fantasy Awards, including:

  • Best Novel (The August Derleth Fantasy Award): Memoirs of a Master Forger, by William Heaney, aka Graham Joyce (Gollancz)
  • Best Novella: The Reach of Children, by Tim Lebbon (Humdrumming)
  • Best Short Fiction: Do You See, by Sarah Pinborough, from Myth-Understandings, ed. by Ian Whates (Newcon Press)
  • The PS Publishing Best Small Press Award: Elastic Press, run by Andrew Hook
  • Best Magazine/Periodical: Postscripts, ed. Peter Crowther and Nick Gevers (PS Publishing)
  • Best Artist: Vincent Chong

See the article for the complete listing. Here is the earlier list of nominees.

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Google Book Search Rattled by DOJ

It is probably best not to comment too often on the Google Book Search controversy as it has many twists and turns. This Google Book Search article by Wired and many other publications suggests that the U.S. Department of Justice's opinion will likely delay a federal court ruling:

The Justice Department, which began looking into the proposed settlement over monopoly concerns, suggested that the settlement seeks such broad changes in copyright law that the court needs to be very careful and should reject the current version.

From the DOJ's web site news article on the Google settlement:

"Given the parties’ express commitment to ongoing discussions to address concerns already raised and the possibility that such discussions could lead to a settlement agreement that could legally be approved by the Court, the public interest would best be served by direction from the Court encouraging the continuation of those discussions between the parties and, if the Court so chooses, by some direction as to those aspects of the Proposed Settlement that need to be improved. Because a properly structured settlement agreement in this case offers the potential for important societal benefits, the United States does not want the opportunity or momentum to be lost."

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Depression: What the Doctor Ordered for Writers

Maud Newton, editor and writer, former practicing attorney, and college loan payer, blogs that depression is useful for writers. Rather than something that needs fixing, depression promotes highly analytical thinking:

Depressed people, they contend, tend to “dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.”

As an added bonus, it's a two-way street; writing is good for depression (quoting from Scientific American):

...expressive writing promotes quicker resolution of depression, and they suggest that this is because depressed people gain insight into their problems.

I can see a new book from this: 7 Habits of Highly Depressed Writers

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Buy Gene Roddenberry's Mac Computer

By way of Slashdot: you may participate in an auction for Gene Roddenberry's Mac computer. The auctioneer say it was the first Mac Plus off the assembly line, but Technologer disputes that, saying it is an original Mac upgraded to a Mac Plus. (They don't dispute Roddenberry's ownership of it.)

The auctioneer says the value is in the $800-$1200 range, but one would guess it will go for much more. The auction site is interesting, graphically and otherwise. It specializes in items with historical provenance (including entertainment industry items like M. Jackson gloves). It has a clever but annoyingly slow film projector motif to show featured items. A search will go more quickly.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Harry Potter Going to Florida

According to the Orland Sentinel (and every other newspaper on the planet) , Harry Potter is going to the Universal Studios theme park in 2010. The Orlando Sentinel reporter claimed some special consideration in the dispersal of information, no doubt due to his proximity to the park.

The venues include: some reworked roller coasters, some themed stores (that's a shocker) from the books, the Forbidden Forest (probably), a ride within Hogwart's castle, and no doubt much more. Here is the full article on Harry Potter Goes to Universal Studios.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hugo Semiprozine Category Safe for Now

Internet Review of Science Fiction reports that the category of "Semiprozine" is now safe from extinction in the Hugo Awards, at least for a few years. This was an early August story that *someone* (moi) missed. The semiprozine category was under the axe for a while, partly because some considered its definition weak, and perhaps because Locus Magazine seemed to have patented the award.

Several magazines in that category began a save-the-semiprozine campaign. Here is the full but short article on the saving of the Hugo semiprozine category.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol

Yes, Virginia, of course there are puzzles to be solved. And there are Egyptians and Scottish Rite Freemasons and other ancient lore...this time in America.

This muted comment, from the L.A. Times reviewer, seems to be a common thread in generally positive reviews of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, the long-awaited sequel to The Da Vinci Code:

...And yet, it's hard to imagine anyone, after reading "The Lost Symbol," debating about Freemasonry in Washington, D.C., the way people did Brown's radical vision of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in "Code." That book hit a deep cultural nerve for obvious reasons; "The Lost Symbol" is more like the experience on any roller coaster -- thrilling, entertaining and then it's over.

Here is Mr. review of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Age Book of the Year Award: Debut Novel

The Age, an 150-year-old Australian newspaper has awarded the 2009 The Age Book of the Year award to a debut novel by Steven Amsterdam for his post-apocalyptic Things We Did Not See Coming. He won the fiction award as well.

Guy Rundle won the non-fiction prize for his account of the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Down to the Crossroads.

Here is a nice bit for writers:

Amsterdam's novel evolved from a couple of short stories that Sleepers published in its annual Almanac. While the first one was rejected 17 times before it found a home in The Sleepers Almanac, he didn't have the same difficulty with the novel, which is a suite of linked stories narrated by the same character as he negotiates life in a dramatically altered but unidentified landscape and society.

Here is a full account of The Age Book awards.

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Ralan's Fund-Raising Month

This is ralan.com's fund-raising month. If you use Ralan to find venues for your stories or for your reading pleasure, consider throwing them a few bucks or euros. They are one of the primary sources for finding out the status of publications: their reading periods, special themes, special issues and the like. You'll find announcements for new publications there (and disappearing publications, as well).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Web Trend: Charge for Premium Content

We've had several posts about online media services, particularly newspapers, struggling with finding a viable business model. The Wall Street Journal and others likely will start charging for "premium content." Derivative services like Media Bistro have taken this approach as well. Now, one of the top blogs, Ars Technica, will begin charging for premium content (about $50/year).

In line with this trend, this blog will begin charging $0.05 per century, payable at the end of the century. It's on an honor system.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wiretapping for Writers and Readers

Wiretapping, to use a generic term that includes wired, wireless and other means of snooping, is a commonplace part of thrillers, mysteries and other genres. (Has anyone wiretapped an ansible, yet?) Here is a concise article on wiretapping, that includes modern forms (such as IP/Internet Protocol tapping) and addresses some of the ethical/legal aspects of it. The article has some related sidebar articles on data collection/sensing technology used in mobile phone systems and DRM (digital rights management).

By the way, the article is in acmqueue, one of the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM's) publications. ACM is a respected professional organization for engineers in the computing industry.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Pining for a Discworld Movie?

Are you pining for a Discworld movie? Would you settle for a fake trailer for a non-existent film. By way of SF Crowsnest, here is a fake Discworld trailer for the non-existent Guards! Guards! film, based on the actual, same-named Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett.

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James Patterson a Writer or a Book Factory?

That was the question posed in a Forbes (online) article, prompted by James Patterson's $150M, 17-book deal with Hachette Book Group. Mr. Patterson will produce a mix of adult and YA books under this arrangement.

I have a comment: hey Hachette, you could've had me for $50M.

On the other hand, Mr. Patterson has a track record. Speaking of the CEO of Hachette, the Forbes article writer, Lauren Streib, said:

But Young got a bargain. Patterson's not a writer. He's a fiction (and non-fiction) factory. In 2008 he authored or co-authored seven books and in his 33-year career as a published author he's written 57. He sells an average of 20 million books per year.

The article has interesting comments about James Patterson's continuing hand in the design of his books, based on his ad agency background.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Review of Short Fiction--September 2009

Internet Review of Science Fiction has their review of short fiction up now for September, which, depending on the periodicals' publication schedules, ranges from August to November. This month, they've reviewed a mixture of print and online magazines:

  • F&SF, October-November 2009
  • Asimov's, September 2009
  • Analog, November 2009
  • Jim Baen's Universe, August 2009 (online)
  • Clarkesworld, August 2009 (online)
  • Strange Horizons, August 2009 (online)
  • Fantasy Magazine, August 2009 (online)
  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies, August 2009 (online)
  • Apex Magazine, August 2009 (online)
  • Abyss & Apex, Third Quarter 2009 (online)

Our friends at SFRevu are taking the month off for short fiction review.

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T.S. Eliot and Mickey Mouse in Same Sentence?

T.S. Eliot and Mickey Mouse in the same sentence? Yes, if you order the new, 1100 page New Literary History of America, from Harvard University Press. The reviewer at Boston.com (associated with The Boston Globe) had difficulty finding a one-sentence description for the work. It's not his fault; it apparently defies such a description. It has over 200 essays, and includes many mash-ups. Says the reviewer, Alex Beam:

So what’s here? It’s all about counterintuitive pairings: T.S. Eliot and Mickey Mouse; Harry Truman and Vladimir Nabokov; “Henry James finds himself in bed with Edgar Rice Burroughs,’’ Marcus and Sollors promise, to which one can only say: Wow, I’d like to see that.

Despite its girth, the book is about $50, so you should be able to tolerate some eclecticism and still have good bang for your buck. Here is Harvard University's web page on New Literary History of America.


Bonus! At the time of publication of this post, there was a sidebar link in the article to some amazing Hubble Telescope photos (requires Adobe Flash).

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tolkien Estate Settles LoTR Suit; Hobbit Films Unchained

According to Variety, the Tolkien Trust and HarperCollins have settled a lawsuit with New Line, which had hobbled the production of New Line's Hobbit films. The suit was over no small matter. The Tolkien estate claimed they were due over $200M from the LoTR films.

Here is the full Variety article on the Hobbit films lawsuit. Here is The Hobbit Movie website. (They have Hobbit bling you can buy, and stuff about the movie, too.)

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Edgar Allan Poe Digital Collection

This is still the bicentennial year of Edgar Allan Poe. If you're a Poe fan, you'll be interested in a Resource Shelf article about a digital collection of and about Poe's body of work. The collection includes, for example, letters about Poe and his writings by Arthur Conan Doyle and other notables.

The Edgar Allan Poe Digital Collection is hosted by the University of Texas, and includes these categories of documents:

  • Poe manuscript works
  • Poe letters and documents
  • Letters to Poe
  • Related letters and manuscripts
  • Books belonging to Poe
  • Poe editions
  • Sheet music for songs based on Poe's poetry
  • Poe portraiture and photographs
  • Poe miscellany
  • Poe newspapers

Resource Shelf is itself interesting. It is "a daily newsletter with resources of interest to information professionals, educators and journalists." I'll toss writers and readers into that list.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Chapter of New Wheel of Time Book

After Robert Jordan's passing, his widow selected Brandon Sanderson to write the last three books in the popular fantasy Wheel of Time series. Publisher Tor is now offering a free read of the first chapter of the first of these new books, A Gathering Storm (requires registration). This blog has a variety of WoT news, including the fact that the entire original series will be published in e-book format.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

WordPress Bloggers: Update!

This post falls into the public service category. Since many writers and avid readers have WordPress-based blogs, we wanted you to be aware that there is a very nasty worm quickly infecting WordPress blogs with out-of-date WordPress software. The worm is known to destroy the blog. While updates to WordPress used to be difficult, it is now a one-click process.

According to a WordPress.org blog:

...it registers a user, uses a security bug (fixed earlier in the year) to allow evaluated code to be executed through the permalink structure, makes itself an admin, then uses JavaScript to hide itself when you look at users page, attempts to clean up after itself, then goes quiet so you never notice while it inserts hidden spam and malware into your old posts.

WordPress.org is associated with bloggers who put WordPress software on their own or rented hosts, as opposed to the free blogging service hosted by WordPress.com. WordPress.com users might also need to upgrade their blogs; this you need to verify via WordPress.com.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Subway Readers

What do subway readers read? The New York Times wondered and did a survey. In their article, "Reading Underground," they have anecdotes from interviews and a link to their subway readership survey results, the latter of which includes the top ten books, top ten magazines, and top ten newspapers.

Some routes, it seems, are suited to certain The New Yorker articles, because of the reading time. In this New York City-centric survey, the top three in each category are shown below. The magazine and newspaper categories are probably stable. The books will change frequently.


  • Magazines: The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and The Economist.
  • Newspapers: The New York Times, AM New York, and Metro
  • Books: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Infinite Jest, and The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Heinlein Short Story Contest Winners

By way of SF Scope: the winners of the Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Story Short Contest have been announced. The Heinlein Society promotes all things Heinlein, including this contest:

Three prizes will be given for the best original short stories
reflecting the spirit, ideas, and philosophies of Robert Anson
Heinlein.

The winners include two Americans and a Brit who collectively have a JD, almost a PhD, a BSc in marine biology, and one is a software engineer (no degree mentioned but may well have one):

  • 1st Place, "Under the Shouting Sky," by Karl Bunker.
  • 2nd Place, "In the Shadows," by (Ms.) Charlie Allery
  • 3rd Place, "Salvage Sputnik," by Sam S. Kepfield

If you're considering entering this contest in the future, here is a hint from THS president David Silver:


"Bunker's story perfectly captures the quintessential Heinlein story of quiet heroism and duty fulfilled whatever the personal price."

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What TV Shows Are Space Aliens Watching?

FFO's KayTi posted a link at the Hatrack writers' site to a blog that posts unusual maps, called Strange Maps. One of the maps shows what television shows would now be arriving at various points in the galaxy. They have over 400 maps, now, with a book coming out soon.

The first map shows the "Hospital districts for insane in Pennsylvania." Here is the Space Alien TV Guide (What's on Earth Tonight?). A sampling of the other maps includes:


Bonus!: a site that shows how to make a flat-Earth globe and has lots of map-related links.

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